Saturday, January 15, 2011


I love surprising Todd with dates.  I am always looking for something new and interesting to do on our weekends together (after all, we only get every other weekend together.)  Some weekends, we just go to lunch, do a little shopping, and go home.  Other weekends, we go to lunch and a dollar movie.  Sometimes we spend the weekends with our families.

Well, this weekend, Todd and I are going on a tour of a local brewery!  Todd likes beer.  Cleveland has an awesome brewery called Great Lakes Brewing Company.  They have seasonal beer that is excellent, but very pricey.   On Groupon several weeks ago, I noticed there was listed a local brewery that I’d never heard of offering tours of the place, a t-shirt and a pint glass with their name on it along with samples.  So I bought it for $15!

Todd has no idea what we are doing, but I told him I have a surprise for him, and that we had to be there at 1:30.  I cant wait to go!  We love to learn and to take tours, and I doubt he knows that there is one right in our back yard (OK…about 20 miles away.)  I cant wait to see his face when we get there and I tell him what we are doing.

New Years Aspiration - Update

In mid-December, I made a list of New Years Aspirations that I wanted to work toward this year.  So, how have they gone so far?  Let’s take a look:

  1. Daily Devotionals  - going well!  I do my devotionals by listening to the Daily Audio Bible podcast (for kids) on my way to work and then reaffirming everything when I get home by reading my Bible
  2. Lose 2 lbs a month – the first week was rough to try to lose weight.  Between trying to eat all the leftovers from the parties, and getting Aunt Flo, it was difficult to moderate ANYTHING.  But I am trying to do just that as I type this.  Portion sizes are getting smaller, and I am trying to be more aware of what I put in my mouth.
  3. Will – Done! (recommended by Dave Ramsey,) had a sale at the end of the year.  I bought the forms on the last day of the year ($25 total for the two of us,) and I just have to fill in our names and choose who gets what.  It is SUPER-EASY.  I have a friend who is a notary public, so she will notarize for us, and we will be done with it in no time.
  4. One Crock-Pot Meal every week – Success thus far!
  5. Read 24 books for the year – I am currently on track! I read Dave Ramsey’s book in no time, and am working on my second book of the year (this one not on the list, but a book I got from the library.)

So, all in all, I think I am on track.  I need to stay focused and knock ‘em out as much as possible.

I also wanted to purge items this year.  So far, I’ve sold 5 books on’s Marketplace.  I am really excited about that.  I may do this as a “hobby.”  Buy books that look new and list them on Amazon’s website.  Of course, that’s exactly what I need - another distraction.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Last week, our adorable little puppy chewed through our phone lines outside!  I was warned by a dog trainer that I had met that around 8 months old, puppies are THE WORST.  The trainer mentioned they forget everything you taught them the first 8 months of their life, and they are just beasts.  Well, the trainer was right.  Lana has been such a bad puppy lately.  I wonder how long this lasts.

At any rate, she chewed through the phone lines and we were without the internet for a couple of days.  Todd was able to fix it, but then I realized something – I didn’t want to get online!

I’ve been bored of being online.  I go to the same 5 sites all of the time.  They include: (my email) (I rarely post anymore) (see what everyone is up to) (our bank) (to keep track of our finances)

I pay our bills, but that is easy. I can set them up through our free online bill pay.  But lately, I have felt NO NEED to get online in the evenings.  If I do, it is to check in for about 15 minutes, and then I’m done.

I have no desire to email those I should be emailing (friends and family.)  And even though I love SwagBucks, but if I don’t have to surf the web to get points, sobeit.  If that means I get less SB’s to put towards gift cards, I’m OK with that. 

Instead, I am getting something done every night.  Whether it be unload the dishwasher, put away laundry, play with the puppy, piggy and kittens, or just reading in the bedroom.  I would like for Todd to turn off the boob tube and for us to spend time together, but he hasn’t gotten to that point yet.  Hopefully one day.

So, I must admit, it’s been nice without being too “connected.”
Do you go through phases like this as well?

Gas Prices

Ever since Christmas, gas prices in Ohio have been above $3.00/gallon.  I drive a lot to and from work (90 miles a day / 450 miles/week.)  So does Todd.  However, Todd drives 15 days a month.  I drive 20 days.

Luckily, Bianca is a gas-sipper.  Todd’s vehicle (we call him “Big Red,”) is an “average” vehicle in my opinion.  It gets 28 MPG on average.  When I fill up, it is about $28. When Todd fills up, it’s about $40.  Bianca has an 11 gallon gas tank and I’ve never had to fill up over 10 gallons.  Todd’s has a 12 or 14 gallon tank.  I cant remember which one of the two it is.

I generally cringe when I see anything over $35 on the debit card from a gas station.  But I have to put it into perspective.  We no longer have car payments.  Is a fill-up of $40 every week going to kill us or the budget?  Nope.  Heck, we were paying for 5 ½ fill-ups per month in payments alone.

Todd gets an incentive for being on time at work and not calling off.  Every quarter that he’s on time, he gets a $250 gift card to choose from.  He chooses gasoline.  We usually have to pay for gas only a month every quarter.  In December, Todd went to work, but had to go home early to go to the doctor due to a problem with his jaw.  He ended up going to the emergency room per his doctor’s orders. Because of that, he will only get $100 in gas cards, meaning, we will have to pay for gas much more than we are used to. 

 Many people ask why we travel so far for work.  For me, I travel because the area I work is not affordable to purchase a home based on our income.  Heck, property taxes in this area are about what we pay for our mortgage every month!  I get paid decent money and I live in an area that is a lot less expensive to live.  Not to mention we have an acre of land, I can have a piggy without a permit and we are not on top of our neighbors.  I happily pay less than $30/week in gasoline to get to and from work, and spend some time in the car catching up on podcasts.

Neither Todd nor I could find a job in Warren or Youngstown (the two closest cities to where we live) making what we make with the benefits we have.  Jobs in our area are about $10-$12/hour tops.  We live really close to the Chevy plant that produces the new Chevy Cruz, but it is VERY difficult to get a job at the plant.

For now, we will deal with the gas prices and traveling to work.  As I’ve mentioned many times before, I am waiting for us to get in the financial position where Todd can quit his job and find something making a lot less but doing something he loves to do (even if it is at $8/hour.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Todd and I are both very rough on our clothes, which is one reason we buy the majority of our clothing from the thrift store.  Todd has pretty much purchased all of his clothing from a particular thrift store that we love in Akron.  I buy my shirts from the thrift store, and buy my work pants / jeans at Kohl’s or WalMart.

Todd likes to go see his parents every couple of weeks to make sure everything is OK, help them out around the house if they have any projects that need done, and just to visit.  He went to the thrift store before seeing his parents on Tuesday, and was able to purchase 5 pairs of jeans for $13.74!  That’s right, $13.74.  Less than the price of new Wranglers from WalMart, he was able to get 5 pairs.  2 black and 3 blue. 

I cant tell you how happy I am that he found these.  The last couple of times we’ve shopped there, there was nothing in his size.  He really hit the jackpot this time.  Now, he should be good for at least another year or two.  5 pairs of pants would last the NORMAL person a couple of years, but not my husband.  I would be happy if they last until the Summer of 2012.  He works on cars, houses, outdoor projects, everything in his jeans.  They get dirty and stained, REALLY quickly.  I’ve asked him to set aside one or two pairs that are to be worn ONLY when we go out, but that never happens.  Oh well.  I’m just glad they are less than $15!


I talk about wanting to be self-sufficient, but when I talk of self-sufficiency, I mean in the way of food and energy-usage.  There is no way I would make my own clothes or tools.  We buy the majority of our clothing from a thrift store.  And there is no way I could ever raise chickens, cows or pigs and have them butchered.  I could never own an animal without falling in love with it. So, we will be buying our meat from the store.

Every year, I am doing better with the garden to produce enough to eat throughout the summer.  However, my goal this year is to grow enough food to last us through not only the summer, but also the fall, winter and spring!  There are some vegetables I have determined are not “worth it” to grow. They include potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower.  I tried growing potatoes one year.  I bought $10 worth of “spuds,” and ended up harvesting only 3 lbs of potatoes.  Oh, and they were really gross.  For that same $10, I could have bought 5 – 10 lb bags of potatoes on sale for $1.99/bag.  Broccoli and cauliflower, I’ve tried to grow, and got just one head per plant.  If you don’t know when to pick it (I don’t,) it tastes nasty.  They take up too much space in the garden and don’t get enough produce to make them worthwhile for me.

So, this year’s focus is to grow fruits and vegetables that produce in abundance using very little space.  Green beans, cucumbers and soybeans on a trellis, larger-sized tomatoes (last year, I had a trillion and a half romas taking up too much space in the garden.)  I love growing zucchini.  Even though they take up a lot of space, they produce for so long, it makes it worthwhile for us.  I have killed most of my strawberry plants, but hope to re-plant some new ones this year for future years.  We have red raspberry bushes that this would be their 3rd year.  They did great last year, and I look forward to picking them again this year.  They spread quite a bit every year, so I am hoping we get even more than last year. I am looking forward to planting some blackberries this year, and more blueberry bushes (I have only one blueberry bush right now.)   Todd and I love to eat corn but I’m not quite sure where I’d put the corn to keep it away from the deer.

We have two pear trees that we bought in 2010.  I’m not sure if we will get any fruit this year, but we should have some by next year.  The same goes for our dwarf plum tree and our apricot tree.  I would like to purchase 2-3 apple trees when they are on clearance in 2011 for future produce.

As for becoming self-sufficient with energy usage, I’d like to get solar panels and a few small windmills one day.  Right now, we cannot afford them, but we are making our house as efficient as possible.  We plan on adding more insulation to our home, replacing the old 80 gallon hot water tank with a 30 gallon, installing another new window, and continuing to heat our home with wood and propane on the cheap.

The more efficient we become, the less we have to spend monthly on things like groceries and utilities.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Our Home Has Never Been So Clean!

Because of our vacation in early December (we don’t like coming back home to a messy house,) company for Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, our house has been cleaned 3 times in the month of December.

Let me tell you, it was nice!  By New Years Eve, it took no time at all to sweep the floors, and dust a bit around the house.  It was great!

Now, the question is, can we keep it up?  Only time will tell.

Daily Audio Bible Podcast

One of my “aspirations” for the year was to do my daily devotionals, grow in my faith and attend church more regularly.  Last year, I did some research to see how I could go through the Bible in a year.  I decided that the best thing to do was to download the “Daily Audio Bible Podcast.”

This may sound stupid, but it was WAY over my head.  I couldn’t keep track of everything that was going on, who did what in the Bible, etc.  It was very overwhelming for me to listen to, and it got to the point that I kind of blocked it out on my way to work (thinking about how much over my head it was, and then praying while the podcast was going on in the background.)

So, this year, I decided to try the Daily Audio Bible Podcast for Kids.  These are 10 minute excerpts for kids, but they are PERFECT for me.

I swear, I have ADHD (undiagnosed,) and these 10 minute blurbs every day, read by two children with comments from their father (the creator of Daily Audio Bible Podcast) are perfect to keep me motivated, and able to understand what is going on in the Bible.  I love it!

So, if there is anyone out there that is new on their walk and want to get familiarized with the Bible and devotions, I highly recommend this podcast on iTunes. 

Not only do I listen to the children read the Bible, but then I reinforce what they say and go back to read it myself while I’m at home.  It has worked out great so far (even though I’m only a week into it.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Review: Izzy's Pop Star Plan by Alex Marestaing

Izzy’s Pop Star Plan would be a great book for a girl in her early teens.  Izzy is a teenager with a plan to become a pop star in the Pop Star Challenge (kind of like American Idol.)

The book is written more as a daily blog written by Izzy Baxter about what she is going through in audtions and actually becoming a contestant on the Pop Star Challenge. The blog goes through 90 days of Izzy’s life.  Each entry has a mood meter (I love it!  Reminds me of my tween years,) the actual blog post, “My Heart,” and “Good Night, God.” 

I like the fact that the book was very real.  Izzy has been dealt with a tough deck of cards, losing her mother, but being very close to her father and her brother, Anders.  The Baxter’s live in an apartment in California where Izzy is home-schooled due to audition schedules.  Her best friend, Maggie, had been a great support system for her, as well as her Pastor and a woman who Izzy knows from the apartment building.

Izzy is fortunate enough to travel the world with her Manager (her brother, Anders,) and her father and takes the reader through her travels, trials and tribulations, meeting lifelong friends and making a difference the whole way through.  This book was very encouraging and a pleasure to read. 

I received this book free from as part of their Blogger Review program.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book List: L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad

I have decided to list all of the books I read (other than the Book Reviews for Bloggers) under “Book List.”  This way, I can keep track of what I’ve read outside of the books that publishers send to review for the blog.

I have watched a season or two of The Hills with Lauren Conrad.  I always thought of her as the “girl next door” who tried to keep the peace with everyone, only to get her heart broken and friends to walk all over her. When I saw her book at the library, I decided to check it out.  I’m glad I did!

The book is fiction, but it is about an ordinary girl who was chosen to be on a reality TV show.  I wonder how much of what went on in the book happened in Lauren’s life.  I was surprised at how well this book was written!  And…of course, it is a cliff-hanger, so you have to read her second book.  Good thing a local library has it available.  I am waiting for it to come in to get some closure.

To me, it was just what I needed to read.  Not too serious or deep, a little romance, a lot of friends.  It was a good read.

Now…back to reading the blog books.  At any given time, I have anywhere from one to four to read along with a couple of books from the library.  Right now, I have 2 blog review books to read and 3 from the library (none of which are on my 2011 Book List.)  I better get to it!


I know of people who get physically ill when they get their Aunt Flo visits monthly.  Even in High School, I knew of girls who would have migraines, some would be doubled over in pain, others would vomit profusely. 

I am lucky enough that I don’t have any of those symptoms.  However, my monthly brings out the worst in me.  I get terribly moody several days before Aunt Flo decides to come visit.  The first day of my cycle, I have the patience of an ant.  If someone LOOKS at me the wrong way, I can lose my temper.  I get the feeling of being overwhelmed with the simplest of things. 

Thankfully, I am on Lexapro, which they say is for “anxiety,” but I really feel it is for depression as well.  Without it, my mind races five thousand miles a minute and I cant concentrate on any one thing.  Because of this, I get exhausted because my brain never stops.  I have a hard time watching what comes out of my mouth, and I have a tendency to push away those I love. 

When Aunt Flo is on her way, I know that I have to prepare.  I have to prepare myself to bite my tongue as to not get into an argument with Todd.  I have to learn that when I feel like we will fight, I have to remove myself from the situation and do my own thing in another room, or with the critters.  Then, on the 3rd day, there is an unusual peace that I feel.  I get very lovey-dovey and very “chill.”  Anything goes.

It is a strange cycle, but we have learned in our house how to prepare for it and deal with it. 

One tip that I’ve learned (thanks to research done by Todd,) is that if you drink lots of water before the visit, you will be less bloated and have minimal cramps.  I don’t know how or why, but it has definitely worked for me!

Does anyone else have these same issues?

Monday, January 10, 2011


As you know, we’ve been thinking about where we want to go for our 5 year anniversary in May 2012.  I have been part of a frugal message board for many years now, and one of my friends from the board is from Australia.  Apparently, she and her husband married in May as well, and they were thinking about a nice vacation away.  It was mentioned that we could possibly go see them in Australia in 2012 with free accommodations at their house, and then another year, they could come to the States. 

I was originally really excited about the idea, until I saw how much flights are!  They would be approximately $1600/person, and we’d lose 2 days off the bat between travel and time changes.  If we were to leave on a Thursday, we wouldn’t get there until Sunday morning their time.  They are 16 hours AHEAD of us.  I never noticed this, but from Cleveland, OH to Syndey, Australia is nearly 10,000 miles away!

My mom and Doc went to Australia and they weren’t really impressed.  I would hate to spend that type of money on flights and not be impressed.

So, the offer is out there from my friend and her husband. Todd is going to research to see what we could do there and what there is to see.  But then we may have to figure out how to nicely say that we do not want to take them up on their offer.

However, it is great having friends in other countries to be able to have the opportunity to go on a trip like this.  I may see if Todd would like to go to cross it off of “the list of places to go” in our lifetime.