Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Anniversary on the cheap?

This is one of those pictures that when we take it I like to yell out, "OK now lets pretend that we like each other."

This weekend Dr. J and I celebrated six years of happily married bliss. My DH bought me the broach I so desperately wanted (aka - the little ipod shuffle that clips to your clothes so I could have it for running) and I bought him a new dwelling place (aka - a tent so he can do the father son camp out). We had a nice breakfast together and then Dr. J worked on his dissertation while I took the kids to a few garage sales (including the awesome one below). Then at five we met up again. Our awesome babysitter showed up with a friend and took the kids to the playground. We headed off to the Japanese House with a picnic basket full of food and a football. We ate on a blanket by the lake and had fun pretending we were young and crazy for each other like all the other couples at the lake are :) Then we headed over to the Moonstruck Cafe for hot chocolate. Finally we ended up at Pages For All Ages (a local bookstore) reading books and listening to accordion music. We saw our home teacher and the dean of Dr. J's college, Reggie, while we were there. Both asked what we were up to and when we told them we were celebrating our anniversary they both had shocked looks. I could see Reggie thinking, "Wow we must not be paying him enough." See here is the thing though. We got married the day after finals but finals at BYU are several weeks earlier then finals anywhere else. That means that pretty much every year since we got married Dr J has had to teach the night of our anniversary, or is proctoring an exam, or is at the hospital, or is at class, or we still have a breastfeeding infant. So we have had these awkward, rushed, sometimes over compensating for the lousy timing anniversaries that just stink. This time we were able to be relaxed and enjoy each other company along with the ever improving weather. We were able to hold hands in the park. We were able to play catch without a three year old stealing the ball. When Dr. J put his hands on my sides while we were waiting in line for our hot chocolate I about jumped out of my skin. It's funny how when you have kids and you are busy hauling things and rushing and prodding people and junk around you forget the power of a simple touch, of a quiet moment, of a lazy afternoon where no one has to rush. So I guess what I'm saying is Reggie you don't have to worry about me. Singing along to an accordion at the book store was exactly what I wanted for my anniversary...well that and the IPOD! That little clip ROCKS!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Why I do what I do...

When you are married to a grad student/medical student and you are a stay at home mom there is not a lot of wiggle room in the budget, so Dr. J and I have gotten creative to do what we want to do.

1) Netflix is our dates. We also rent movies for free from the library but for 9 bucks a month we have access to all the new releases. We get at least one new movie a week, sometimes two and that is our date for the weekend. Saturday after we've put the kids to bed we pop some pop corn, sit on the couch and veg out with a movie. Right now we're going through the planet earth series but we've also done Dirty Jobs or just any random new release. Another great thing about Netflix is that it has a lot of TV shows and older releases that you can watch online. When I need a Law and Order fix I just power up the laptop and I'm good. No reason to order TNT.

2) We use coupons. I have to admit I didn't understand coupons until recently. I always thought why would I use a coupon when stuff goes on sale for such a good deal. Now I get it. You save those puppies for when things are on sale and then you use your coupons to buy dirt cheap. And no you don't have to buy things you wouldn't normally buy. I try to just hold on to coupons for products I love and use. Here is an example of why I use coupons. I got all the items below for 23 dollars and 9 of those dollars were for the little sandals alone. That means everything else cost me $14. The post cereals were free, the toilet brushes were free, and the barbecue sauce was free. The shampoo and conditioner were 1.30 a piece but they come with a free pedicure. The KY jelly had fifty cents overage and the lays crisp crackers cost me 50 cents a bag. So for 1.50 I bought three of what normally cost 2.50 a piece. Oh and because of coupons the clean wipes came in at 6.70 for twelve containers. Not bad! We also shop at Aldi's. For things you can't find deals on and coupons they have low prices.

3) I take advantage of rebates to save money for our kids. Walgreens has new monthly rebates, some of which give you items for free and some of which just give you items for a good deal (check out the easy saver catalog). An example of this is last month Palmolive items were buy twenty dollars and get ten back. I bought twenty dollars worth of items, using Walgreens coupons so they came in closer to twelve and I was able to put that on my rebate form. In fact I have about 45 dollars in rebates coming back for toothbrushes, makeup, medicine, soap, etc. I then cash all my rebate checks and split them between #1 and #2's savings accounts. So for money I would have put in the bank anyway I get extra products for a great deal.

4) Another thing we do is use the library A LOT! The kids love to play there, they enjoy story and preschool time. And finally get to read tons of books and watch tons of movies each week for free.

5) Jason rides the bus and we carpool to preschool which with gas on it's way to 4.00 every bit helps.

6) We rarely go out to eat. I keep pancake mix on hand so when those nights come where I just don't have it in me to make one more dinner we eat breakfast foods for dinner. They are fast and take very little prep or clean up.

8) I like to make a lot of things from scratch, bagels, pizza dough, rolls, bread sticks, Popsicles.

9) I always read the grocery store adds and keep my menu flexible so I can take advantage of deals. My kids get to eat the fruit that is on the best deal that week.

7) Finally my personal favorite I LOVE GARAGE SALES! You know my mom used to shop Garage Sales and Thrift Stores when I was a kid out of complete necessity and I thought it was humiliating. Now that I'm a mom and in a similar boat I get it. Why would I pay full price for stuff my kids are at best going to only be able to wear six months and if it is my son will most definitely wear out. Garage sales do take work since you often will have to go to many to find what you are looking for but when you find a good one it is worth it. I got all these clothes below for #2 at a garage sale this weekend for fifteen dollars. That means that for the price of one old navy outfit I bought six dresses Five shirt/pants or short outfits, two skirts, two shirts, two pairs of gap pants, one swim suit, one sweat suit with pants a shirt and little sweat suit coat, one sweater, and finally a pair of brown cords. That is 28 pieces of clothing! Their are a few downsides to garage sales. 1) Driving around. We try to carpool or stick to one neighborhood to cut down on cost that way. 2) Time. It is time consuming although I think it's fun so for me it is like spending time on a hobby. Often times I have my kids so I can only do a few but I've learned to read the paper looking for key words and I always bring snacks and toys to keep the kids entertained. 3) Seasonal. Garage sales happen when it is warm so I have just a few short months to get a years worth of clothes...winter and then the beginning of summer for the next year. 4) Availability. You can't always find what you are looking for. As #1 gets older I find it harder and harder to find pants his size. I have had to buy him a few pairs at consignment stores and even a couple of new pairs...so I do keep my eyes out for pants a size above him that are being clearanced out. So I guess the hobby isn't without it's flaws but the benefits for me still greatly outweigh the cost. I mean I now have to deal with #1 picking out his own clothes but pre that my kids got to look pretty great on not a lot of coin!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fresh - Baked Bagels

So this lovely little recipes came out of the Family Fun Cook Book and is so worth every second it takes to make them! Don't forget to add the sugar to the water!

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 packet (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
(not quick-rising)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups flour

Glaze and Garnish
1 egg white
1 1/2 teaspoons water
Sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)
1. Pour 1/4 cup of the water into a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir with a fork, then let the mixture sit for 5 minutes so that the yeast can thoroughly dissolve.

2. Combine the remaining 1 1/4 cups of water and the dissolved yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the sugar, then stir in the salt. Add 2 cups of the flour and stir by hand for 100 strokes to blend well.

3. Stir in enough of the remaining flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, to make a dough that's firm enough to knead.

4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it with floured hands for about 10 minutes, using as much of the remaining flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. When fully kneaded, the dough will be firm but supple and should hold the imprint of your hand.

5. Transfer the dough to an oiled glass or ceramic bowl, turning it a few times to coat the entire surface. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place it in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

6. When the dough is ready, punch it down. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it for 1 minute. Divide the dough in half, then divide each half into 4 equal pieces.

7. Shape the 8 pieces into balls, placing them on a floured work counter and dusting the tops with flour. Let them rest for 2 to 3 minutes, then flatten them slightly with your fingers.

8. Fill a large soup pot about two thirds with water. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and begin heating the water to bring it to a boil.

9. Working with 1 ball of dough at a time, press your floured thumb down through the center to make a hole. Stretch the dough slightly so the hole is about 1 inch in diameter. It will look like a doughnut. Set the bagels aside on a floured surface, covering them loosely with plastic wrap or waxed paper.

10. Let the bagels rest for 10 minutes while the water comes to a full boil. Meanwhile, grease a large baking sheet and set it aside. Heat the oven to 400°.

11. Working with the first bagels you shaped, gently drop 2 into the boiling water (a parent's job). They should float, but don't worry if they sink initially - they'll quickly rise to the surface. Boil the bagels for 30 seconds on one side, then carefully turn them with a long-handled, slotted spoon and boil them for another 30 seconds on the other side.

12. Using your slotted spoon, transfer the bagels to a clean tea towel to drain. Wait a few seconds, then transfer them to the baking sheet, leaving space between them. Repeat with the remaining bagels.

13. Make the glaze by whisking the egg white and water in a small bowl until frothy. Using a pastry brush, coat the surface of the bagels with the glaze. Sprinkle on sesame seeds or poppy seeds, if desired.

14. Bake the bagels on the center oven rack until they are deep golden brown, about 22 to 25 minutes. Then transfer the bagels to a wire rack to cool. Makes 8 bagels.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Office Update

So the first episode back from the office was a major bummer. Even last weeks started out a little slow for me but I have to admit there was one moment that made me happy...and yes it did involve a swear word...but it made me happy. Dr. J says I'm such a sap but I can't help. I love when best friends are together :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Aldi Meal Planner

For those of you who shop at Aldi's here is a super cool site that does a meal planner using all of their food.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Family Fun Cook Book

So I got this great cookbook from the Library that combines all the Family Fun magazine recipes. The kids loved this potato chowder with corn bread.

They were also a fan of to the tortellini soup with bread sticks.

Tonight though I topped them all by making homemade bagels. I never would have thought to try this on my own but they were delicious. I'll try to get the recipe posted pronto. When have an enrichment tomorrow night where we are suppose to bring something ethnic. I'm thinking about bringing the bagels. I guess I'm going as the New York kind of ethnic...who knows. They are just so easy and so yummy though...I just want an excuse to make some more :)

Because I Love The Office

Because I love The Office and cake I fussed my two loves last week and made this lovely post-it-note cake reminding my family not to forget to watch The Office. The only sad thing was that after so many months I guess I was expecting more. I'm not going to say I didn't laugh...but I definitely didn't laugh as much as I had hoped to. There were just way to many seriously awkward moments. DEFINITELY TIME TO GET RID OF JAN! I mean how can Michael be the excellent antagonist that he is if you have to spend so much time feeling sorry for him because he is in that train wreck relationship. OUCH!

Things I Know

When someones entire life revolves around doing things to keep yours going smoothly and one morning because you are grouchy you tell them they aren't helping you enough, well lets just say it doesn't make them happy. And if you should happen to make such an error you will probably end up having to pay. And if you should happen to make such an error right before your anniversary you probably are REALLY GOING TO HAVE TO PAY!

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Blog About Money - The Good and The Bad

The Good Side:
Small Money: This week I went to County Market to pick up some of their coupon items. While there I figured I'd pick up some General Mills Cereal. The cereals were 1.69 and with my 1.00 off two I was able to pick up six boxes of cereal for 1.09 a piece. Not a totally horrible price. Well that is until I got home. Then I realized they had charged me three dollars a piece on two of the boxes. For quite some time I debated over what to do. If I went back to the store I'd be going for about three dollars. It didn't really seem worth it but it was three dollars that was mine and I wanted it back. So the next day while daddy was babysitting #2, #1 and I headed back to the store. I went up to the customer service lady and told her my problem. She squinted her eyes and said, "Well obviously you bought the wrong size." Let me tell you. That obviously really bugged me. So in my best mother tone I said, "I do NOT think so." She gets on the phone and checks with the price check guy. Turns out gruff mom is right. They did overcharge me. So to compensate me for my time and efforts :) they gave me the full price back on both items. I walked out of the store with my six dollars back and the two boxes of cereal were now free!

Big Money: Dr. J has these sketchers shoes that he must really love. He's owned them in brown, black, and dark brown. They hold up well and he often wears them to church or for work related occasions. The only problem is the fact that while the main body of the shoe holds up exceptionally well, the padded heel cuff is made of plastic and flakes off. It DRIVES ME CRAZY! First we threw out the brown shoes but when the black and dark brown shoes started to go as well and the soles had plenty of life left in them I wrote the company a letter stating I thought their product stunk. The shoes were great but that particular part of the shoe made them ridiculous looking and I wasn't going to let my husband wear them to church anymore. Probably embarrassed by the fact that some guy was wearing their falling apart product in public they responded. They sent me a letter stating I could send them the failing product and if they deemed it a manufacturing fault they would replace the shoes. So I packed those puppies up and sent them of to Sketchers Inc. A few weeks later Dr. J got a letter in the mail stating that he needed to call the company. There agreed the shoes had a manufacturing error and told Jason that since they no longer carry that brand he can pick out any two pairs of Sketcher shoes he wants up to 69 dollar a piece (138 dollars total) and they will send them out to us no charge. So for my time and the twelve dollars it took to get the icky shoes to them Jason will get two new pairs of shoes. LUCKY BOY! I'M SO JEALOUS!

The Bad:
Small Money: As mentioned above I made six dollars back on my groceries. The money didn't get to stay long in my wallet though. While we were on vacation I got a letter from the library telling me I had a "very" overdue library movie. Apparently I had forgotten to return Open Season. When Dr. J got home I sent him looking for it and sure enough he found it hidden behind the very back of the couch. Because of the extremely late nature of the return I was charged half the original purchase price! So sad. So those six dollars joined four others in my purse and paid off a library fine.

Big Money: Half way through the drying load on Wednesday night our dryer started making a horrible clacking noise. I finished out the load and Friday morning called one of two dryer repair shops in town. They happened to be still closed so I called the second, a small shop by our home that had been recommended by several people. The owner told me he might be able to squeeze me in that afternoon or not until Wednesday. He came by this afternoon and delivered the bad news. The parts to fix the dryer would be 120. The labor close to 90. I wanted to be sick. We bought this dryer two years ago for 150 dollars. I called Dr. J to see what he thought and he was like forget it, let's just buy a new dryer. Then a thought hit me. I turned to the guy and asked him how much the cost of diagnosing would be if we didn't fix the dryer. 50 dollars he says. I wanted to choke. What happened to Miss Consumer Savvy. Why hadn't I asked him that question before I asked him to come by the house. So we ended up fixing the dryer. It wasn't what we wanted to do but we would have had to have added fifty bucks to the price of a new one and that was just not a cost we felt we could stomach. To add insult to injury I called the other shop after he left and found out they would have only charged me fifteen dollars to come out and then the price for labor would have been industry based. No hourly based on a minimum of an hour. And why might I ask does a dryer repair man get to charge ninety bucks an hour for fifteen minutes of work? The only silver lining is the fact that I watched the Grinley guy like a hawk while I was working so if our dryer ever needs a new fan, new rollers, or a new belt...well I'm going to install them myself...and then maybe I'll buy myself a ninety dollar pair of shoes :) Look people I'm trying to find something positive. It's not every day you screw yourself out of 200 dollars. It really did just make me sick.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Our April 1st Dinner

My friend Jackie put up a challenge for an April 1st dinner that looked like something it wasn't. She apparently usually makes this meatloaf cake. I thought hey that sounds fun so I made meatloaf cupcakes with mash potatoe froasting and pea and corn flowers on top. Then for desert I made a brownie meatloaf frosting mustard and ketchup and ice cream mashpotatoes and carmel gravy :) It was all working off the ideas whe had previously posted. The humorous part is that my friend April did the exact same meal only she made a pie with her meatloaf :) That was fun Jackie. Thanks for the idea. I did something two years ago with breadstick french fries and banana, peanut butter, and gramcracker nuggets. My mom said it looked sick :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Office Party!

Well an end to my misery is here. This Thursday night the drought will end. A new episode of The Office will be shown. Hurray! We are totally throwing a party.

8/7c TV-PG
GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER - Pam (Jenna Fischer) and Jim (John Krasinski) find they have run out of excuses and are forced to go to Jan (Melora Hardin) and Michael's (Golden Globe winner Steve Carell) house for dinner. When Andy (Ed Helms) and Angela (Angela Kinsey) are also invited to dinner, Dwight's (Rainn Wilson) jealousy gets the best of him. Leslie David Baker, Brian Baumgartner, Kate Flannery, Oscar Nunez, Phyllis Smith, Paul Lieberstein, Mindy Kaling and Creed Bratton also star.