Saturday, December 4, 2010

We Are In Hollywood, FL

We made it to Hollywood, FL very late last night.  After nearly a full day of traveling, we got to the hotel around 9:30 and we were hungry.  We decided to go scope things out around the hotel.  We found the WalMart, a Burger King, and a great Cuban restaurant.  Neither Todd nor I had ever had Cuban.  Our waitress was great, giving us meals that were traditional Cuban meals.  We had plantains (spelling?), yuka, rice and beans.  The food was GREAT!

The hotel is absolutely beautiful.  However, we have had more problems here than we have EVER had at the $70/night hotels we've been to.  There is NO WiFi!  We are plugged into the ethernet right now, and it's just inconvenient.  Every room was supposed to have a hairdryer - ours didnt.  The "plush robes," that were listed get one.  So we BOTh cant wear robes down to the pool and hot tub.  It's just things like this that are a bit irritating. 

I feel completely out of place in this hotel and uncomfortable.  People walk around in business attire and Todd and I wear our jeans and shirts.  I feel very on edge here.  All of this just goes to show that we are NOT "high-class" people.  I really AM more happy in the cheap, more "lived in" hotels. 

Right now, Todd is making breakfast.  Everything here is expensive.  We spent nearly $15 on breakfast foods here.  Bagels, egg beaters, ham, cheese and OJ.  We have enough for each of us to have one ham,egg & cheese bagel a day until departure.  The cheapest thing here is REAL OJ!  Florida, OJ! :-)  That was less than $2.  Everything else was nearly $3 or more.  Oy!

Todd woke up in the middle of the night and thirsty.  There is only ONE vending machine on the 6th floor.  $2 for a drink.  SO...we went to Seven11 this morning on our walk and bought 2 - 2 litres for $3.

I was out cold last night.  We didnt get back to the hotel until 11:30 after eating the Cuban food and going to WalMart.  He woke me up at 6:30 and asked if I wanted to go to the beach to watch the sun rise.  I threw on some clothes and we went walking.  It was really nice.  I love the ocean and the beach. 

It's 7:45 and the sun is shining, and the palm trees are gorgeous.  We have to meet with the professionals this morning in the lobby at 10.  We had a hair dryer delivered to the room because ours was missing, and I am still exhausted from everything.  I think we're going to relax a bit before our meeting this morning, and then we are going to be out and about all day seeing what Hollywood, FL has to offer.

Again, I'm so glad we got this trip for free...because we wouldnt be able to enjoy it on our own on our budget.  There is just no way.

Pictures to come at a later date!

Dining Room

This is our Dining Room.  There is nothing special about it at all.  Yes, there is a sliding glass window in the back that is covered with a baker's rack.  There is no deck back there, and the sliding glass window doesnt even open.  We are planning on boarding it up and putting in a large window one of these years. 

View from the Kitchen

 View from Living Room area

View from Family Room's hallway

As you can see, it's nothing special, but it feels like "home" to us.  We spend quite a bit of time in the Kitchen and Dining Room.  I love that we get together every evening together to talk about our days and plan the future in the Dining Room.  It is a very special room in our home.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mileage or Age?

I like to drive Bianca everywhere we go because she gets such good gas mileage and is so fun!  We used to take her everywhere we went because hubby had two beater vehicles that weren’t very reliable.  Now that he is spoiled with his new(er) vehicle, he likes to drive his car everywhere.  Well, there is a 12-15 miles per gallon difference in gas mileage.

We drove Bianca to my mom’s house on Thanksgiving to help save money on gas.  Todd brought up the point that we should take his vehicle because it has lower miles (35,000 miles on his 2008 versus 113,000 on my 2007.)  He asked if I wanted Bianca to get the most mileage or last longer?

My answer was (and is) BOTH!  I never thought about it in those terms.  I want Bianca to hit at LEAST 250,000.  If that’s the case, I will have at least 4 more years with her.  But to be honest, I want her to last a MILLION miles if that means I have her for 10+ more years.  I really like this car THAT much.  She is absolutely adorable and has not done me wrong in 4 years of ownership.  Plus, I love that she doesn’t have a payment.

So my question to you is, which would you prefer?  A higher mileage car of one that will last longer?  Would you start driving the lower mileage vehicle more to make the higher mileage car last longer? 


This is our kitchen.  Todd re-did everything in this room.  He took out the carpet in this room (yes, carpet was in the kitchen,) redid the cabinets, the countertops, the floors, everything.  He added the cabinets with the stools as well as the ones on the wall (we call it the "buffet" which is a catch-all as you can see) with the microwave.

View from the Dining Room

 View from the Family Room hallway

 View from the Master Bedroom / Living Room hallways

View into the Dining Room from the other side of the kitchen

Thursday, December 2, 2010


So, I told you that I was surprised that I got everything into the backpack.  Well, this is what fit into that tiny backpack.

We are so ready to go!  Only a few more days left!

Christmas Spending

I was listening to Dave Ramsey's podcast sometime last week and it was stated that the average family making an income of $50,000 spends approximately $800 on Christmas.

Does that seem like a lot of money to anyone else but me?!?

The truth of the matter is, though, I calculated the Christmas spending one year when I bought Todd the Wii, and we spent around $700.  That was for everyone though.  Between his parents, my parents (remember, I have 4 of them,) step brothers and step sisters, nieces, friends, and Todd's sister and her husband and three girls. 

This year, Todd and I arent buying large gifts for each other.  I bought my own gift (a nice scale) for $38, I bought him a new keyboard for his computer and a docking station for the Wii remotes to charge after use.  For both of our gifts, I spent less than $100.  Usually, that is our budget per person.  And we are cutting back on gifts for everyone else too.  We should be at about $550 for everyone this year.

We make a little more than that "average family" figure, but we spend a little less than "average."  In my personal opinion, we spend too much on Christmas.  This year wasnt too bad, but in years past (the $750 years,) is a bit excessive in my opinion. I would love to one day take my family on a nice trip, all expenses paid, for Christmas.  There is nothing better than spending time with the ones you love...whether it be on Christmas or in March!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I have had my hair cut twice at a “Best Cuts” or “Great Clips” with coupons ($12 or less per cut!) in the past and have always had to go home and fix the cut.  My mother was a hair dresser which is why I never had my hair cut, permed or highlighted professionally.  If I ever needed anything done, she would do it for me.  When I moved out, I started doing it myself (with an occasional cut from her here and there.)

Todd has become a master at cutting the back of my hair.  Before our trip this weekend, I asked him to cut my hair.  There is a length in the back that my hair curls under nicely without me having to do anything to it.  It is “above the mole.”   So…he did it!  A few snips, and voila!

Since I got out of the hospital last year, I started to lose a lot of my hair.  It was coming out in clumps in the shower, every time I would brush my hair, I’d have to clean out the brush, and I shed all over my clothes, my coats, everything.  I lost a good bit of hair.  Well, now that it’s coming back (thank goodness,) it’s a bit wavy!  I never had wavy hair in my life.  It is very thick and very heavy.  But for some reason, it likes to flip out like this!  This is my hair after a blow-dry and some hairspray.

It is definitely not perfect, and I will probably find longer strands for the next week that I will snip here and there, but to me, there is nothing like a free haircut! J  And it’s so easy to do (especially with layers, because you cant really screw up layers!)

((Please dont mind no clothes in the above picture. I probably should have put a shirt on before the picture was taken. Oh well, maybe next time.))

Grocery Budget Results for November

Our grocery budget for November was $150. We went over that mid-month.
The total spent on groceries: $186.76.
Considering we have three huge turkeys in the freezer, I think that is pretty good.  We have been eating what we have for the past week or so, and the fridge is pretty bare.

Grocery budget for December: $300 because we are entertaining 4 days out of the month.  I would really like to keep it at $250, but I gave us $300 just to be safe. 

Wordless Wednesday : Tired Edition

A couple of weekends ago, I was home alone with the critters, and everyone seemed to be exhausted.  Here's proof:

Red (aka Buddha Belly)

Tux (aka Tuxford or Quarter Pounder)

Chance (aka Chauncey)


In many posts, I have mentioned that I come from a split family.  I decided that I may as well tell my story. Be warned, it’s a long one.

Growing up, I felt we had the perfect family.  We were considered the Partridge Family.  I thought everything was perfect. I thought everyone was happy.  My brother and I had great childhoods and we were very close.  Family dinners every night, morning cleaning routines on Saturdays while dad was at work, and Sundays were family time.  We went to brunch and then did something as a family, whether it be roller skating, ice skating, skiing, hiking, driving around looking at leaves, driving around looking at houses, etc.

We moved quite a bit when I was growing up.  I was born in New York, we moved to Pennsylvania, then to Ohio, Pennsylvania again, New York, and then Ohio.  All of this from birth to age 15.  On our last move, from Buffalo, NY to Akron, OH, my father had an affair with a co-worker.  Apparently, this was not the first time it had happened, but he fell in love with this woman. 

My parents didn’t tell me about the affair or the divorce.  I found out on my own.  My mom had sent an email to her girlfriend, and I found it in our family email account.  My mom was upstairs reading to my brother in my parent’s bedroom, and it was a story about family.  She started crying while reading the story to my brother, and I walked in the room crying.  She asked what I was crying about, and I told her that I knew.

The next several years were rough for me.  I was old enough to know about everything going on.  My father moved into and out of our house three times trying to decide what to do and who he wanted to be with.  There are things that my mother did to try to save her marriage that I don’t agree with.  It wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t know about it…but that wasn’t the case. I am very intuitive, and I pick up on a lot of things. 

I hated my father in the worst way for doing this to us.  My mother and I had a decent relationship before-hand, but it was very strained through the divorce.  I decided to live with my mom, and my brother lived with my dad (you could get away with murder with my father.)  The weekends were for me and Derek to be together alternating parents. 

Through all of this, I spent many nights crying, begging that my parents become one again.  I found the Lord on Father’s Day thanks to a new friend of mine from school.  I became a believer and God did some major work on my heart.  A couple of years later, I was kicked out of my own home (with mom) and lived with a man (10 years my senior) in a not-so-good relationship.  I had nothing to base what a healthy relationship should be because from what I could tell, there was no such thing.  It was all a facade.  I mean, after all, I THOUGHT everything with my parents was peachy, and then a monkey-wrench was thrown in.

To this day, my mother even mentions that she never knew that my father was unhappy in the marriage. 

At any rate, I had been in two long-term relationships (3 ½ years each) after my parents divorced.  I was out of the house before I graduated from High School and living on my own. I was able to reflect a bit more on my parent’s relationship and their decision to divorce.

I learned several years ago that this is the way it was meant to be for us as a family.  It bothers my mother, but I had mentioned that as a child, I never remember her smiling.  It’s true.  She didn’t smile in pictures and I don’t remember her laughing often when my parents were married.  She said she wasn’t unhappy, but she feels awful that I cant remember her being happy. 

My mother is now married to Doc, a man she worked with and who helped her to see how beautiful she really is, on the inside and out.  She was Doc’s Medical Assistant BEFORE my parents had problems.  Doc helped her through so much.  My mother always wanted to travel the world, and Doc gives her this.  She is so much more happy with him than I can remember her ever being with my father. 

My relationship with my mother is so much stronger now than it ever was before.  We laugh so hard together that we both have tears in our eyes and we hyperventilate.  She enjoys life so much more now, and I’m so happy for her. 

 My father married the woman he had an affair on my mother with.  I have come to accept what my father had done.  Todd and I were over at my father’s house just a few days ago, and it is so much fun over there.  Trina (my step-mom) is so much fun to be around.  We are always joking and having a good time.  She and my father are a good match.  And if it weren’t for Trina and her family, I wouldn’t have been blessed with an awesome niece, Natalie.

All in all, everything worked out for the best.  It took many years for me to realize that.  It is a bit odd when my parents are together (like at my wedding or at Derek’s graduation from Boot Camp.)  My mom still has some hard feelings towards my father.  They will never be friends again, in my opinion.  But they come together when it is important.  For instance, through my brother’s nasty divorce, through a nasty break-up I had with my ex (the man that I moved in with at 17,) when I was in the hospital, weddings, and I’m sure the birth their grandchildren.

I have dreams that my parents are still together, and when I wake up, it feels odd.  It’s not right.  I also have dreams where I am angry at my mother, which I think stems from the issues I had towards her as a teen.  I feel those issues have been resolved, but maybe they are lingering subconsciously.

All in all, we are one big happy family.  One dad, one mom, one step-father, one step-mother, one brother, 3 step-brothers, one step-sister, one niece, four step-nieces, one step-nephew and a partridge in a pair tree. 

You know the show “Modern Family?”  I live it, and it’s not so bad.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Todd's Vehicle Payoff Update

Well, another month has gone by, and I am STILL freaking out worried that we wont be able to pay off Todd’s vehicle.  As I write this (Monday, November 29th,) our balance on the vehicle is $1929.66.  I get paid on the 30th, and the majority of my paycheck should go toward the payoff of Todd’s vehicle.  Assuming Todd doesn’t spend any money out Christmas shopping with his mom today, we should be able to pay approximately $700 out of this paycheck which would leave a balance of $1229.66 at the end of November.

Why weren’t we able to pay more?  Because I am an idiot, that’s why.  Two reasons.  I jumped the gun and bought WAY TOO MUCH STUFF ON CREDIT for the craft business not knowing what would sell and what wouldn’t.  So that was $500 that could have gone toward the car instead of paying off the credit card.  Another reason is because I am a REALLY BIG idiot who got a ticket while going through a yellow light a few weeks back.  That was $124.  Right there is $624 wasted, which would have paid off half of what we currently owe on the car.

We are getting a fill-up on our propane tank sometime in the next week, which means we will owe over $650 to the propane company.  We have put that off for as long as we could but we are below 20% which is not recommended. Also, we have property taxes that will be due in January (approximately $1200 for the two houses.)  We cant forget about Christmas.  I still have to purchase a few more gifts to complete my shopping.  Oh, and a 4 day weekend get-a-way this weekend! 

There are some positive’s that I have to keep in mind.  December is a month that Todd gets paid 5 times, and I should receive an extra week’s pay in one of my paychecks (I get paid 24 times a year: 15th & 30th.)  Not to mention I sometimes get a bonus at the end of the year.  I’m not sure if I will this year because of sales, but it is a possibility and any little bit helps.

We are really going to have to watch where our money goes this month.  And I am committed to getting rid of my credit card once and for all.  It has done nothing but get me into trouble with impulse purchases.  When the gift items sell, it will generate more than what I purchased the items for, but I went way overboard on what I bought.  Live and learn – never again.

Can we pay off over $1200 in December?  We’ll find out!!!


I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing about my brother who is in the Marines, but this is another post about him.  If you’re sick of hearing about him, please feel free to close the web browser. I gave you a heads up.

The poor kid (yes, he is still a kid in my eyes - a 25 year old kid, to be exact.) is in Afghanistan for yet another holiday season, and I HATE IT!  Since he has been in the military, we have missed quite a few birthdays, Thanksgivings and Christmas’ together.  Even though my brother and I don’t talk every day or even when we do, it’s nothing of importance, I love the kid to death. 

I spoke to him for the first time since he was deployed to Afghanistan a few weekends ago.  It is like pulling teeth talking to him.  He says all he does over there is work.  He works 12+ hours a day with not much down-time.  Apparently, the base over there is not like bases he’s been to in the past with a Subway or McD’s.  I guess that’s probably because we are AT WAR!

When I talked to him, he was telling me about how people go from one base to the other to do jobs, and that is how people are getting blown up.  There are bombs that explode on the roadways from one base to the other.  He talked about it so candidly.  He was saying that it is pretty much a way of life over there.  He was oblivious to it.  And then I thought about how LITTLE we hear about it here in the states!  How many families are without their sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers this year?!?

Our family is not political at all.  We are still at a loss as to why Derek joined the Marine Corps.  He had such a promising welding career here in the states lined up for him after high school.  He VOLUNTEERED to go to Iraq a couple of years ago as well as Afghanistan!

Since Derek has joined the military over 6 years ago, I have become a bit emotional.  The first Christmas without him was rough.  The 4th of July parades absolutely kill me when I see the soldiers marching with the flag.  Luckily, Derek has been home and at our house for the past two 4th of July BBQ’s that we have for our family. There is nothing better when he is home. 

I miss him and I don’t know what I’d do without him.  I pray that ALL of our troops will be coming home soon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

We're Packed and Ready to Go!

This morning, Todd and I were up early.  I neglected to pack my bag for Florida this weekend, so I decided to do it this morning.  I had a pile on the dresser that needed to be folded and put into the backpack. I was looking at the clothing and the backpack, and I was getting a little nervous.  How in the world would it all fit?  Well, low and behold, it fit!!! WITH ROOM TO SPARE!  And it is so light.  It’s great!  I was dancing around the bedroom with excitement…and I was (and still am) proud of myself for going “bare bones” on this trip.

All of the paperwork is printed for the parking deck, the itinerary, our passports are in my bag, and I have printed brochures of the local trolley schedule and maps in Florida.  The weather looks like it will be nice (upper 70’s) the whole time we are there.

The only thing left is to write out my “Squig-structions,” (Squiggy Instructions) which have now turned out to be “farm-structions” since getting all these additional animals.  Our neighbor is going to feed the “granimals” as we call them.  We have a pig-sitter that we love, but she lives a few minutes down the road.  The neighbor works construction, so he is up early and home early…not to mention work is getting slow for him right about now with the weather.  Plus, he’s known all the animals since we got them as a piglet/puppy/kitten.  We met them because Squiggy ran away and we always found them in their yard eating the birdseed off of the ground from their birdhouses. Squiggy is the only reason we know as many neighbors as we do! 


I have only one blood niece.  She is my baby-brother’s daughter.  Her name is Annabelle (or as I call her, Annabelly or Bella) and she is 2.  My brother, Derek, is currently in the Marine Corps.  He is doing his tour in Afghanistan until February.

That being said, Annabelle is currently a “child of the state.”  While my brother was in Iraq in 2008, his pregnant wife (now ex-wife) was unfaithful.  Derek was not able to witness his first daughter coming into the world because he was serving our country.  After finding out about his wife’s unfaithfulness, he came home to meet his baby girl and to get a divorce.

Because Derek is in the military, he is required to live on-base.  Right now, he lives in Camp Lejeune, NC.  His ex-wife decided to move back to Ohio with the baby during the divorce.  Someone called Child Protective Services on her (rightfully so,) and the baby was taken away.  When a child is taken away in a certain county, they are not able to cross over the county line until everything is resolved or with approval.  Annabelle’s aunt & uncle (from Derek’s ex’s side) currently have custody of Annabelle and have had custody for over a year now.    Actually, since having custody, Derek’s ex got pregnant from another man and had another child (who was also taken away from the time she was released from the hospital and is in the custody of the same aunt & uncle.)

Derek has been unable to obtain custody of Annabelle because of being deployed.  There is another court date in December, but he will not be able to make it.  He is fighting for full custody but is not sure how he is going to do it seeing as he’s been deployed twice in 2 years.  My mother absolutely loves Annabelle.  This is her first grandchild and she has adored that little girl since the moment she was conceived.  My mom was able to be in the hospital room when Annabelle was born, and even cut the umbilical cord.

The whole situation is very frustrating for everyone.  Derek wants his child, but barely knows her due to 2 - 7 month stints out of the country. Annabelle knows all about her daddy, and when Derek calls, she talks to him (I got to witness this last week when Derek called.  She says, “I loves you daddy!”) and loves to be around him.  However, she is in a home with her sister and her cousins.  When my mom takes Annabelle for the weekend, Annabelle starts to miss her cousins and the children from daycare.

My mom has considered trying to fight for custody of Annabelle, but she said that knowing that she is with other children right now, and her own sister she couldn’t possibly take her out of that environment to be pretty much an only child.  My mother’s biggest fear is that she will lose contact with her grandchild.

So, if I talk about my mom “picking up” Annabelle and “checking to see if she can get” Annabelle, you now know why.  Even though this child is considered “a child of the state” right now, she is loved by so many of us.  I am glad she and her sister were taken out of the situations they were in and are loved so deeply by their family.  However, the battle of custody will most likely take years to sort out. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Todd is definitely nesting lately.  I’m not sure what it is with him, but he has been a cleaning machine!  I am not complaining, but it’s amazing how long it takes to clean the house, and then how quickly items can accumulate.  OK…I will admit, most of it is my fault.  I open the mail and don’t know what to do with the statements, so I just leave them in a pile.  I take off my shoes and leave them wherever.  When I get home, the first thing I do is take off my pants and leave them around the house.  Sometimes they are on the bathroom floor, sometimes I take them off in the kitchen and hang them over a chair.  (I could be a semi-nudist.)

I feel bad that the house is accumulating “stuff” again.  If I were to do a quick sweep of the house, everything could be put away within 30 minutes flat (if I don’t get distracted by adorable fuzzy kittens or make my way to the laptop.)  I don’t understand why I cant do that every night before bed!

So…that is my goal for the week.  Pick up every evening before bed-time.  We’ll see how that works out for us.

Book Review: Let's Do Lunch by Roger Troy Wilson

I am surprised that I zipped through this book in a day (actually, less than 5 hours which is not the norm for me.)  Let's Do Lunch is a bit misleading, if you ask me.  It says on the cover, "Eat all the calories and carbs you want to lose weight!"  Umm...yeah.  Eat all the calories and carbs you want, but try not to eat sugar, breads, potatoes, nuts, dairy, waffles, pancakes, cheese, pasta, and the like.  Oh, and if you want to slow down your weight loss, consume wine while trying to lose weight.

I was so ready to jump into this book.  After working so hard for the past few months to lose weight by portion control and watching what I eat, this book seems a bit off.  I am all for trying to get rid of the cravings of some foods (pizza, chocolate, bread,) but the solution to everything seemed to be "eat more fruit."  I want to eat "normal" foods that I love, whenever I want to eat them.

The book's title is mainly because Wilson suggests you eat your "protein-rich meal" at lunch.  I understand his reasoning behind this; however, I enjoy having dinner with my husband in the evenings after a long day's work.  I have tried having fruit-smoothies at dinner while he eats his hamburgers, or chili, and it's just not the same. 

There are so many restrictions to this book that it's not for me.  I am losing weight slowly by eating the foods that I like to eat and counting calories.  If that means I wont lose 75 lbs this year because I am eating my "protein rich meal" at dinner with my husban with a glass or two of wine or I have a large breakfast with my husband before work, sobeit.

The opinions for this book are my own.

I Give Up On Personal Finance Blogs

I used to love Personal Finance blogs ( and to name just two.)  I would read them every day, religiously.  And then one day, they just got BORING to me.  I had no interest in hearing the same thing over and over again. So I stopped reading them.  To be honest, I don’t feel like I’ve missed a thing.

I now enjoy reading more REAL-LIFE blogs (not that the blogs listed above aren’t real live people, but Trent & JD blog for a living) and absolutely love it.  I like to get to know all of you and I chose your blogs in my daily reading because I feel like I can either learn from you or relate to you.  At one point, I felt that way about the personal finance blogs.  I am still interested in personal finance and cutting down debt, but now it is on my own terms. 

Do you feel that you’ve shied away from the more “commercial” sites?