Saturday, February 5, 2011

Kids These Days

A couple of weekends ago, I went to go see my niece, Natalie.  I love that kid more than anything else in the entire world.  She can make me laugh just by looking at me. 

When I went over, Natalie wanted to watch Pippi Longstocking on Netflix.  Pippi Longstocking was my FAVORITE MOVIE as a kid.  I watched the VHS tape over and over and over again.  I watched a bit of it with Natalie, and I still enjoyed the movie 20 years later. 
It like the fact that some kids these days like the same things I grew up enjoying.  It cracks me up watching Natalie swoosh around the kitchen acting like she’s mopping the floor…JUST AS I USED TO DO!

He’s Coming Home Early!

My baby brother, Derek, is coming home from Afghanistan earlier than expected.  I’m not sure the reason, but I found out last weekend that he will be home on my 30th birthday.  By “home,” I mean back in the United States.  I couldn’t ask for a better birthday gift than having him on American soil and away from the war.

Six or seven years ago, I was flying to Paris Island to watch my brother graduate from boot camp on my birthday.  There were a lot of tears that weekend.  Some seeing how grown up the military made my brother (who was generally a really bad kid growing up!) but also A LOT of them due to flight delays because of a horrible snow storm.  I was crying to the lady at the counter telling her I COULDN’T miss my brother graduating from boot camp.  It was a long, long night to get to Paris Island, but I made it, around 2AM.       

Even though my brother and I don’t see each other often, nor do we talk much (my brother is not much of a talker,) I love him so much.  We’ve been told that we are two of the closest siblings people have met.  That strikes me as odd, because I don’t see us as that close, especially since he’s been in the military for nearly 8 years.  But I know that if I ever need him, he’d be here for me.  I hope that he knows the same is true for me.

I’m so glad he’ll be home soon!

Book Review: The Purpose of Passion by Kurt Bruner & Jim Ware

The Purpose of Passion by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware is a great book reviewing Dante’s  La Vita Nuova, and comparing the book to what the Bible teaches us, along with real-life examples to help solidify the teachings.  The book also helps to reflect on the stage of love the reader is in at the moment, and how we can grow the love into what God wants love to be. 

 The book is divided up into three sections; Love Kindled, Love Gone Astray and Love Fulfilled. After each chapter, there is a summary about love that made me laugh at times, and other times, it made me contemplate a little more into the love that I am experiencing.

The book was a quick read, but a very deep, thoughtful book.  This book is something I could see reading more than once to get the full effect and learn as much as I can from it.  Also, The Purpose of Passion has made me want to read La Vita Nuova  and reflect on it as well. 

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

"I Dont Cook, I Eat!"

Todd and I met on a dating website.  I remember his profile stating that he loved to cook.  My response to him was, “I’m glad you like to cook, because I like to eat!” 

Prior to Todd, I lived by myself.  I definitely ate, but I went on kicks.  One week, I’d have a craving for baked potatoes, so I’d eat a whole 10 lb bag of baked potatoes within a few weeks; breakfast, lunch AND dinner.  Other times, it was spaghetti.  Sometimes, it was hotdogs (which is ironic, because I think hotdogs are nasty.)  Sometimes it was pizza, chilli or homemade tuna noodle (my mom’s recipe.)

Since meeting Todd, I have really ENJOYED cooking.  I made a new pasta dish a few weekends ago, and Todd was really impressed.  He said, “…and this is from a woman who said she didn’t cook!”  This got me to thinking.  I think the reason I now enjoy cooking is because I realized that it really ISNT that difficult!  Not only that, I get to share my meals with someone else.  It’s not as fun to cook when it’s just for yourself (in my opinion.)  Todd is an excellent cook, and he ENJOYS cooking.  On his days off during the week, I get to come home to one of his concoctions, as we call them.  He enjoys making very large batches, so we are usually eating his concoctions throughout the week or freezing them for a later date.

I think the reason I have come to like cooking so much is because I don’t have to do it every day.  I get a break several times throughout the week.  If anything, I make anywhere from 2-3 dinners a week.  Todd makes 1-2, but we eat leftovers the other days.  Also, I am finding new recipes all the time online, and most of them are pretty awesome!

Friday, February 4, 2011


Since marriage, Todd and I have always filed our taxes separately.  Married filing separate, that is.  We have always made within $3,000 of one another, and we are the FEW that actually do better when filing separate versus together. 

I just completed Todd’s return, and he is getting back $1300!  I know that financial guru’s say that we need to change his withholdings because we are letting the government keep an extra $100/month with no interest.  But we haven’t changed it.  It seems like every year, there is something that comes up around this time that we need the money for.  This year is no exception.  We both need new Spring/Summer tires on our vehicles.  The tires I’ve used for Spring & Summer are hand-me-downs from an old kit-card Todd had.  They are completely bald because of the amount I drive.  The other tires before the kit-card tires were the originals.  And, of course, we have studless snow tires for Winter (we DO live in the snow belt.)  We have yet to replace these because there is no need.

We buy our tires from  They have great prices and the tires are shipped right to our door.  Todd then takes them to WalMart to get them mounted and balanced on rims, and then he puts them on when the time is right.  Oh how I love my handy hubby.  He saves us so much money!
The other $500 is going toward our debt payoff.

We do not itemize.  We haven’t itemized in years, and that is perfectly fine by me!

One tax return down, one to go.  Mine is going to be a little more difficult this year due to the business expenses.  It shouldn’t be TOO bad, but it will most likely take longer than the 10 minutes it took to finish Todd’s online. 

We do our taxes FREE with a company that is registered with the IRS for those of us who make less than $58,000/year.  I love doing our taxes online because it is SO EASY, and the money is direct deposited into our account within a couple of weeks.  Cant beat it!

How Low Can You Go: Cinnamon Rolls

Todd always says that he’s not a “sweets” person. He has told me this since we started talking in December of 2005.  HOWEVER, he LOVES homemade brownies  (recipe from Rachel @ and can devour a batch in no time.

I recently found out that he likes cinnamon rolls!  Who woulda thunk it (I know that this is not proper English, but I say it all the time)?  Not me!  He seems pretty happy with eggs, ham, taters, grits & biscuits for breakfast.  I did not find this out until New Years Eve when I bought prepared cinnamon rolls from Aldi’s to serve when company was staying over. 

I was on a mission to find a recipe to make my own, homemade cinnamon rolls They were pretty darn easy, and turned out super-yummy (even without the frosting!) 

I wanted to compare pricing.  I was floored that the prepared cinnamon rolls from Aldi’s were $1.89/tube.  That tube makes 8 rolls.  This equates to: $0.24/cinnamon roll.

This is what it cost for the homemade ones:
Flour: $0.17                
Sugar: $0.05
Brown Sugar: $0.06
Powdered Sugar: $0.06
Butter: $0.22
Milk: $0.08
Cinnamon: $0.05            (pennies, really)
Baking Powder: $0.10 (again, pennies based on the amount used.)

This made exactly 16 cinnamon rolls. 
I thought they were really small, but then I baked them, and they were BIGGER than the ones I got from the store!

I don’t believe it. 
$0.79 to make a batch of 16 cinnamon rolls!!!
That is a nickel a piece.

Originally, when I started to calculate the prepared, I thought, “Oh, a quarter a roll isn’t that bad.”  But heck, a nickel a roll is a WHOLE LOT BETTER!

We have another keeper!
Next time, I may make a couple of batches and freeze them for quick and easy breakfasts to take on the go if Todd wants to take a few to work in the mornings.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Engagement Ring

I was listening to Dave Ramsey's podcast the other day, and he gave this younger gentleman the suggestion that an engagement ring should cost no more than  a month's income.  This got me to thinking about my engagement ring.

I am NOT conventional at all.  I bought my own diamond a couple of years before I met Todd.  I have always liked trillion cut diamonds, because they were different, like me.  I also saw how much they cost - it was unreal!  I found this diamond online from a diamond wholesaler in California.  They had a jewelry store very close to where I work, so I asked them to send it to the local store to see if I was interested.

It came about a week later, and I LOVED IT!  It had inclusions (imperfections) and it was not the clearest diamond I've seen, but it was beautiful.  I absolutely loved it.  It was perfect for me...because I am not perfect.

Fast forward a couple of years.  Todd knew that I had bought the diamond.  It was something we discussed when we talked about getting married.  We went to the same jewelry store that I bought the diamond and took a look at settings for an engagement ring.  I liked a plain and simple one.  He knew where the loose diamond was located to take and get set when he was ready.

Then, on July 7th, 2006, Todd surprised me on our way to my aunt's house for my cousin's graduation party.  We passed the Salamanca, NY exit and kept going past Buffalo and up to Niagara Falls.  He took me to this amazing restaurant, and then told me we had a suite overlooking the Falls.  After dinner, he took me to the suite, and proposed with a beautiful ring. 

((Please excuse the fact that our camera is on it's last leg.  It did NOT take very good pictures of my ring.))

When I opened up my lock box, the money for the diamond was in there.  The cost of my ring was less than $500.  I would never want or need a ring that costs one month of Todd's income.  There is no way.  I am perfectly happy with my  3/4 carat trillion-cut ring.  I love it, and I love my husband for understanding WHY I bought my own diamond.  I didnt want my future husband to spend thousands of dollars on an engagement ring.  My partner and the love I felt for him was what was most important to me...not a ring.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How We Save on Groceries

Todd and I try to be as frugal as we can on groceries.  One of the more expensive items we get is cheese.  Cheese prices are astronomical (in my opinion.)  We like to go to Gordon Food Service where you can buy a block of cheese and they will cut it for you for free. 

This is what 6 lbs of cheese looks like sliced.  This is mozzarella.  It would have been less expensive if we got the skim milk cheese, but we got the whole milk cheese instead ($0.20/lb more.)

Todd divides these slices into 3/4 lb or 1 lb bags.  This cheese will last us 3-4 months.  We keep one out, and the rest goes into the freezer.  Todd counted, and this is 101 slices of cheese.  Dont ask me why he counted.

We also get a 5 lb. bag of shredded cheddar cheese.  We like this over broccoli, omlets, quesadillas, over chilli, etc.  This 5 lb. bag was $10.99.  That is $2.19/lb. 

This is what it looks like when it's almost all divided up.

Do you think Lana is waiting for cheese to fall?  I think so too.

On the same shopping trip to Gordon Food Service, I saw prime rib on sale for 1/2 off.  It was $2.49/lb (versus $4.99/lb.)  We ended up getting two large chunks of prime rib.  I was just telling Todd during lunch that we dont eat alot of red meat and I was craving a steak.  Not 30 minutes later, we were buying prime rib.

We bought the chunks and Todd wanted to cut it himself into steak sizes of his choice.  We have 16 - 8 oz. steaks from each prime rib we bought.  This will make 16 VERY NICE meals for us over the next 6 -9 months.

 Lana is hoping daddy drops some prime rib on the ground too.  Not likely, pup...not likely.
Packaged and ready to go to the freezer.

We left one out to eat this week with a baked potatoe and vegetable.  I cant wait. YUM!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I've Sold My 7th Book on Amazon!

I have sold my 7th book in the month on Amazon.  No, selling books on Amazon is not going to make me rich and be able to quit my job, but it's a nice passive source of "play money."    It really only took me a few minutes to list the ISBN numbers and put them online.  It is nothing like Ebay or Craigslist.  Amazon does it all.  The only thing I DONT like is the amount of "commission" Amazon gets.  If I get into selling books in a larger quantity, I think I'll pay the monthly fee and not have to pay the "commissions."  I havent hit the "break even point" yet to justify doing that.

Another great thing for those unsure of if you should sell books on Amazon.
1.) You can use their Media Mail rates and ship the books from your home.  You just print it and put it in the mailbox.
2.) You pay NOTHING to list the books until they sell.

So, book #7 will be going out in the mail.  I will get my $6 for the sale. One more book is out of my armoir and everyone is happy. :-)

Frugal Yummy Food Day!

This past Saturday, Todd and I had a great, FRUGAL, yummy food day!

In the morning, I made grits (for Todd,) eggs, toast, ham, potatoes and homemade cinnamon rolls.  It all turned out really good, if I may say so myself.

Then, for Dinner, Todd made a homemade pepperoni pizza and some BBQ chicken drumsticks that we had in the freezer.  It was AWESOME!

Other than eating all day, we watched a couple of movies that we got from the library, played games on the Wii, I finished a book, and we just had a nice, relaxing day.

I love to compare meal prices versus going out to eat.
Todd LOVES the "Old Timer's Breakfast" at the Cracker Barrel.  It is a little over $7, I think for pretty much everything we had for breakfast (minus the cinnamon rolls.)  It cost us a fraction for two breakfasts together here at home.

Then for dinner, it would have cost us about $15-20 to have a  deep dish pizza (with extra cheese) and a dozen drummies.  The drummies were $0.99/lb, and we had 2 1/2 lbs worth.  So $2.50 for the drummies, and I would say no more than $1.50-$2.00 for all of the ingredients for the pizza.  So, a $5 meal...that feeds the both of us more than one day.

Not to mention, it was just as good (if not better!) than a restaurant!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Property Taxes

I cant believe I'm writing about our property taxes, but I am.  I was actually EXCITED to get them this month, which officially makes me WEIRD!  I have been working to get our property taxes lowered on the house next door since we bought it in October of 2008.  The auditor kept charging us $450 for the house that has no septic or well.  It was appraised at nearly $60,000 for tax purposes.

I called the auditor's office last year to see what we could do to get the taxes lowered.  I was told the auditor would come out and do an appraisal on the house and it would be reflected on the next bill.  The next bill came, and it was still $450.  I called again.  I was told I have to write a letter and show proof of the septic being crushed and the well capped (otherwise we'd have to pay $16,000 for a new septic system) along with the purchase agreement that the house cost us $8,000.  I sent it immediately.  The bill came last week, and it was STILL $400!  Yes, it went down, but the house was still appraised at $56,000!

So, I called, yet AGAIN!  I was a bit peeved.  I was as nice as I could be and told the lady who answered the phone what has happened, and I didnt know what to do to get the value to reflect what we paid for the house.  She sent me directly to the auditor.  I spoke to the gentleman and explained everything (again.)  I asked him if he needed Todd to come down with proof of everything, and he said, "No, that's not necessary.  I just changed it for you.  You will receive a bill in the mail next week.  Disregard the old one."  I thanked him over and over again, but thought, "I'll believe it when I see it."  Two days later, we got the tax bill.  It went from $400 to $45.  I am tickled pink!  This is a savings of $710/year!  YAY!

I can now HAPPILY pay the property taxes every half.  I was thinking about paying the full year, but I really want to pay off our last debt.  When the next property tax bill(s) come in the mail, we should be out of debt.  Then we can pay it yearly.  I want to free up as much cash as we can to get the last debt paid off as soon as possible.

As a side note, I think it is amazing that we are paying LESS taxes than what I paid in Akron for 1/8 acre lot...and we've got a full acre in this great, quiet, wooded area with lots of great neighbors and wildlife.   

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Newton Falls, OH

Todd and I live in a town called Newton Falls, OH.  We live in the township (the outskirts,) but there is also the city of Newton Falls (if you can call it a city.)  Total population is about 5,000 people.  Our little town has two stop lights.  Yup.  That’s right. Two. 

When you drive through town, it consists of two rows of old buildings on each side and is about 1/10 of a mile.  That’s it.  If you blink, the town will pass you by.

We love this little town. We love living on the outskirts of town even more.  Only 3 houses are on the street, and we own two of them.  Our neighbor is in her 80’s and the only problems we have are when her grandson comes for the 4th of July and he sets off firecrackers and scares the little pigger.  Otherwise, we have no problems with our neighbors. 

I am at the library so much, everyone knows me by name.  We have two grocery stores, a Rite Aid, an Ace Hardware, a Subway, Pizza Hut, Arby’s, McD’s and a couple mom and pops.  One full-service gas station, and one that doesn’t even accept credit cards at the pump yet.  Oh, and then there is the Dairy Queen.

The town closes down at 8 pretty much every evening.  Good luck trying to find anything open on Sundays.

If you are ever driving through Ohio on the turnpike (80,) give us a holler.  We live within miles of the turnpike and would love to have you over.


I read a great book this past weekend entitled Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on ¼ Acre by Brett Markman.  I am dreaming of Spring already, but mainly, starting to work in the garden. 

Todd says that I’m an outdoor person, which I find funny, because the only reason I am ever outside is to soak up the sun while reading a good book (lazily on a rocking chair,) playing with piggy and/or puppy, and tending to the garden.  I don’t quite consider that being an “outdoor person.”  I’m outside because I have to be.

I’m not sure where my love of the garden came from.  We never had gardens growing up.  I love the fact that I can plant a seed, and within a few months, reap the rewards of watching over the plants.  A lot of people say that they don’t garden because it is too much work.  I don’t see it that way at all.

Yes, it may take an hour to till the garden, and then another hour to plant the seeds, but after that, I don’t see it as work at all.  Maybe this is because I have “farm” animals that I tend to twice a day.  I do the same with the garden.  I go out in the mornings before work to check on the garden.  Sometimes, I turn the sprinklers on to water the garden before the sun shines too bright.  Then, I check again in the evening when I get home from work.  I love going out in the morning and seeing a zuke flower, and then coming back in the evening and seeing it shriveled up and starting to turn into a zucchini. 

I am sure Todd gets sick of me calling him outside from the house to “look!” at what was growing.  And when it starts to grow, I get so excited that I have to show him the progress every few days.  He stops grumbling about it by the time harvest comes and he gets to eat the produce. 

I received my Gurney’s seed catalog a couple of weeks ago.  It came with a coupon to buy $25, get $25 free.  I was convinced I’d buy some of the items, but talked myself out of it.  Why spend that amount of money when I can get seeds from the store?  I still have to go through my stash to see what I have, but I know I will be planting: zukes, cukes, green beans, maters, strawberries and brussels.  I’m sure there are more, but I cant think of them right now.  I would love to try to plant cantaloupe this year if I can find some seeds at a good price.

Anyone else looking forward to their garden yet?