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!