Sunday, February 27, 2011

January and February 2011
Okay so I skipped last month. Sorry no real good reason except that time got away from me and the next thing I knew it was mid-February and then I thought oh well might as well do two months at once now!
So this one is a long one, you are going to have to click on the right hand corner "older posts" once to get down to December, then you are all caught up.
I am going to try to get back to either the last or first Sunday of the month to write the monthly update of our lives. I love just typing all afternoon while sipping organic green tea and munching on dark chocolate.
One of these days I might actually start a blog that pays! (maybe, perhaps, we will see) and then you won't have to see the posts about my frugal finds no more. But for now family and friends you are my outlet for all thoughts and finds! Cause I can't figure how to do all that computer geek stuff to start a paying blog! So till then you get both pic's of the kids, and my pic's of the frugal things that excite my simple mind!
Started to paint at the renovation home this week, so I will hopefully post pictures of the progress next month!
Till then read on and catch up! Oh and you kid loving relatives, most of the kid's pic's are on the second page!
Our new Passions!
I was just a little bored of my current list of patterns I knew and wanted to learn something new, yet I wanted it to be simple and do able within no more than a few days. I have enough in my life that seems to bog me down I wanted something that made me feel like I could conquer it in little time. When I saw a girlfriend of mine making a spiral scarf like the one I am holding in this web cam photo, (hence the shadow and poor pixel detail) I knew I had found the pattern for me. I have already completed the one above and given it away as a birthday gift to a dear friend. Since then I have done one more and am now on my third. Thinking of posting a few for sale soon on my facebook craft corner, cause these are addicting and I am soon going to run out of friends to give them too since right now I am finishing 2 a week! (yarn bought with 40% off coupons or more of course! love coupons!!!)
This is a picture of Jack's new passion. It all started one stormy day when I brought him grocery shopping with me.

I hate grocery shopping and the two treats that get me through are good coffee and good company!

This day I choose good company. And since here 2 or the 3 stores I hit are big box stores Jack doesn't mind tagging along occasionally and checking out the other departments.

We were in the freezer aisle together, when a friend from Jack's work sees us. We start to talk and some how get on the topic of salsa making. Now this gal can make some good salsa Jack has brought me home some before.

20 minutes later (ya trips to the store with Jack take way way way longer, he talks a lot, but I don't mind it turns a chore into a social gathering ) He ends up with her recipe.

By the time we finish grocery shopping, we end up with not just groceries but a new $60 food processor that does the works! Not that I have used it much, it's mostly Jacks baby. (ya trips to the store with Jack often cost more, but I don't mind they are useful items or tasty ones)

Since then Jack has made salsa for us and for potluck gatherings with friends. Just this Friday night he made up his first batch to give as a gift.

My New Saving Finds!

These cards add up to $35 and are representative of one months worth of FREE CARDS from mypoints, swagbucks and my banks rewards program. I spend probably a few minutes a day clicking through surveys and polls to help boost my points, while doing other chores, the rest I earn through regular Internet searches or Internet shopping. (want to sign up and earn, send me an email or comment below and I will send you the links, I would love the referal bonus if you wish to do so)
These cards are just a few of those purchased by us since January through and where you can get gift cards from 7% to 10% off the value of the card.

In two months we have saved $52 using the above listed gift card sites.Mostly we have used them for Lowes our local home improvement store. But we also used them to save money on my running shoes, and to save money at McDonald's. The trick is to pick stores you use on a regular basis and to not spend more than you normally budget, otherwise you are not saving anything.

In the top picture are just a few of $45 in FREE cards, we received in the past 2 months due to spending our Christmas card money through point giving sites, and my searches and poll taking. And we also have another $35 coming our way in FREE cards this month.

Now most months we won't earn that many FREE cards it just that most of the 5 of us got more Christmas money than gifts and what we wanted was available on line for FREE shipping and we got points for FREE gift cards by buying on line so why not!

I am planning to keep track all year long just how much we save at the discounted gift card sites, and just how much we receive FREE from the point sites. I will post those details with you. I am interested to see just what they will be.

This is just one more avenue available to the at home mom. Never think that you have no economic value because believe me, you make all the difference in the world as to whether your family thrives or dives economically.
Still Selling
The last 2 months I have not gotten through as much stuff as I would have liked. But I have made progress, and that should be celebrated. I went through all our books that my kids have outgrown and managed to sell 90% of them through my facebook friends community.
I have also sold Courtney's old gymnastic outfits, and have now started going through the homeschool curriculum we no longer use.
I have sent out inquires for when the local homeschooling sale is, and plan to get a table at it, and have applied for a con igners number at the local children's consignment weekend sale and the ladies consignment weekend sale.
So things will soon pick up. And month by month the house is getting lighter. Of course month by month the kids are getting bigger and out growing more and more, so really its a never ending process, but lets not think about that!
What my kids do in their Media free hours

This is the stereo Courtney bought with her Christmas money and her savings, it has a place to plug in her i-pod. That gal is such a super saver! She hasn't made an new money goal yet, but I am sure when she does, she will accomplish it. She is one focused gal that way!
The boys current CD player, they seem to go through them quickly, probably once every six months, so if I see them at yard sales and I can plug them in there and see that they work I snatch them up and store them till their current one dies.

Sometimes I think people wonder, if my kids are done their school day between 2 and 3 and if they only get 1 hr of media on school days, and have no homework (one of the great things about being a home school kid). What do they do with their evening hours?

Well they have chores, usually about 1/2 of daily chores and another 1/2 hour, 3 times a week of larger chores.

They also have activities like soccer, church, swimming and gymnastics (starting again this month).

Once a week the boys do a trade with another homeschooling family that has two sons their age. One week Aiden and his friend are here, and Thomas and Gavin are over at his house. The next week Aiden and Evan are at Evan's home and Thomas and Gavin are here.

Courtney doesn't seem to have home school friends yet, but on Friday afternoons or Saturdays at least once a month she has a friend over, I wish it could be more often but public school kids seem to live such busy lives in comparison to homeschoolers. In the summer though her friend visit more often.

The rest of the time, my kids love hanging out in their rooms listening to books on CD. Aiden builds Lego up there for hours listening to "magic tree house" or "Percy and the Olympians".
Courtney creates art out of recyclables with "Junie b. Jones" or "Jonathan park" in the back ground.

I guess technically this is "media" but it really works on their listening skills and engages the mind more than video games and TV.

The rest of the time, they read real books that I have assigned them for the week. Wish they would voluntarily do this but so far no luck!

Our Favorite Family Day Find

Can you guess which is mine and which is Jacks?
Did you guess right?

Below you will read about our family day in Fort Wayne in honor of Thomas' birthday.

While we in target, I had the need for some good coffee, I only drink coffee once or twice a week, the rest of the time I stick to organic green tea. But the afternoon low was hitting me and we still had a few hours out and about, and target conveniently has a Starbucks in their store.

While I was ordering coffee, my hubby says "wow I love that mug, it would be great for tea". The man asks for such few things, I thought the least I could do was use my FREE with swagbucks coffee cards to buy him a mug for his tea, since my dishwasher helpers have broken his few favorites this year.

Well next to the mug he liked was an even bigger mug! And I just could not resit, I got the server to wrap up both. How cute would it be to have matching mugs of hot tea in the morning I thought. Well okay so they don't completely match mine is bigger! and in his cup you will find weak earl grey with lots and lots of sugar and milk, and in mine you will find steeped for 1o minutes organic green tea with Stevia (the only sugar substitute that doesn't give me migraines or numb half my face) .

Now each morning you will find exactly that, me and the hub's chatting on the couch, him with his and me with mine! Ah now that's the life!

(can't help but wonder though do you think the mugs are missing coffee, do you think that they are sad that they are not being used for their intended purpose, man maybe I best brew myself some coffee this week, just to make sure my mugs are living a satisfied life! LOL !)
One More Year and He Can Drive?
Started the morning with gift opening. Well more cash envelope opening really, He had one new Lego set and several cash envelopes
I think the Lego set ended up being more enjoyed by his smaller brother! who spent hours putting it together for his brother.

Here he is with the finished product and instructions to his brother of "never ever take it apart" apparently is was the toughest Lego set my expert Lego builder has seen to date.

Thomas told his sister she could decorate his cake for him.

She used the entire 1 pound bag of M&M's but loved every minute of it. Here is a picture of the
finished product in my one of my favorite January clearance finds a $4 glass cake keeper , no more upside down pot for our cakes.

Thomas had a family over for dinner who have several children his age that he likes to spend time with this is Gavin, they get together once a week to play "halo" and talk dinosaurs and computers. Pizza and Coke was the menu.

Here is the birthday boy with his cake. He still lets me play up his valentines birthday with a heart shape cake on two conditions, the icing can't be pink and the candy on it can't be girly! I can live with that!
We took a 4 day weekend in honor of Thomas' birthday, on his day we just hung out at home and then had friends over for dinner that night. The next day Jack was off, so we headed to Fort Wayne for a family day in Thomas' honor. We took in a movie at the last run movie theatre where seats are $2 all day on Tuesday. Then grabbed a snack at dunkin donuts before heading over to Chuck-e-cheeses, to play video games.
Before heading home, we hit target to pick up the spores expansion pack he wanted, and then had dinner at Chik-fil-la.
He spent the rest of his money on a new (yet older title) Halo game he didn't have yet, and a few
accessories for his air soft gun he got with his christmas money.

Valentine's Gift's!
I love any occasion to give and receive gifts. I love creatively thinking of what to make for the person with my own two hands.
Now obviously this is not a picture of what I made. Nope this is what I got!! 2 years ago I gave my hubby a 20% off purchase coupon to bath and body works, and told him anything lavender would be greatly appreciated! I also told him if he already had an idea that was fine, but since we had a new claw foot tub, I wanted bubble stuff.
Little did I know that the only thing lavender in bath and body works is their most expensive line! When I saw the credit card statement after valentines I was shocked. Yet I enjoyed ever single soak, and 2 years later the bottle is just about empty, turns out this stuff is super concentrated (that and I don't have much time for leisurely soaks)
So this year knowing there was no way I could bring myself to pay that much for bubble bath, I sent the man in that would. Why? cause he loves me and likes to indulge me, and over the years I have learned to accept that, and indulge me he did, splurging this time, for the lotion and body spray too! and a little gift for his little gal as well. (oh and he used a 20% off coupon I conveniently left in his wallet)
My gifts to him are usually smaller and contain some act of service, for instance this valentines, I made him a batch of his favorite gingerbread cookies an had them out waiting for him when he got home. I also had another surprise waiting for him that was more romantic in nature. Why? cause I show love to him by respectively living within our means, so that he isn't forced to work hard than he has to.
It use to bug me when year after year his gift would be bigger than mine. When I would give him so much cash for gift spending and he would go over. But now not so much. I have learned that spoiling me gives him pleasure and who am I to spoil his good mood.
I don't even give him a budget any longer, I just simply hand him the credit card, and promise not to look at the statement till after the big day. Now don't go thinking, but the after day sting! No Jack knows our financial situation and he knows what we can and cannot afford to pay cash for once the statement arrives.
As for returning a big gift with a big gift! I have learned my hubby doesn't like gifts much. Nope they don't thrill him. He would rather be treated to time away ( I once surprised him with an overnight at a hotel, just for him, when we had non-sleeping infants in the home, he grabbed his book and slept and read all by himself for almost 24 hrs, to him that was better than any gift item), or special cooking, or ..............! (things that shall remain untold for the sake of those who read this and changed our diapers on occasion when we were just little tike's) And that tickles my creative side, so I am happy with it, and so is he!

Modern Day Childhood
I looked back in our car one day and saw this and just had to snap a picture. Now the Starbucks cup is full of hot chocolate, so those of you in a panic that I am ruining my 8 year old by pumping her up with caffeine BREATHE.

I just couldn't help to think, what my parents saw in the back seat when I was this age. It would have been me, staring out the window, bored out of my mind!

But my kids have not just Nintendo Ds's that they can shoot bad guys on while traveling down interstate 69. Nope now thanks to their sister, and her saving habits, they have a i-pod touch to watch movies on and play games on. And if dad and mom are in a sharing mood, which they normally are they have one for each of them as well.

I also love the brotherly and sisterly love shown in this picture. Most of the time my boys are begging me to adopt another girl to entertain their sister so she stops bugging them!!! But when forced to sit, side by side in the family car (cause the van is on its last legs and doesn't make long trips) they actually get along!
Cooking Lessons
He made the crust from scratch too!
Hot out of the oven!


Enjoying the fruits of his labor
Up until just recently my eldest has only known how to cook chicken nuggets and fries for he and his siblings. Of course he can also do the sand which thing as well. But he and his siblings decided maybe it was time to branch out.
So one or two evenings a month now, I am working with Thomas learning how to cook some simple meals on his own.
He decided to start with my quick crust pizza. the recipe is available at (click highlight). Go the her recipe section and you will see it listed there.
The first night, he watched, the second night, I watched him do it. The third time, he made it all by himself with me in another room. The next time, I plan to be out, but with cellphone, and within only a few minutes drive.
So far he is doing really well, and claims his pizza is better than mine! Oh the humility of a 15 year old!

Our Favorite Thrift Store Find of the Year So Far

My kids may not read for pure entertainment much. In fact this school year I started assigning 2 books per week for each child to read, just to get them to read something. But one on thing all three of them will read (especially Thomas and Courtney) is Archie comics.

These comics are hard to find in stores, I managed to grab two for Christmas stocking stuffers at Christmas. They are also expensive at almost $4 a comic now. Up until now I have not found a single Archie comic at a thrift store or yard sale in probably over 10 years.

But Late January, the kids and I hit the Jackpot 13 Archie comics, all in like new condition on half price for .25 cents a comic. Believe me that was the most silent ride home from the thrift store I have experience ever!!! all I heard was pages flipping, and the odd giggle or two.
An apology and another reason to never say never

I think about 2 months back, when I last blogged, I said that Indiana doesn't get deep snow. Well I guess just to prove me wrong, Indiana decided to have a few weeks of deep snow. The first of the storms, started in January, on a day that I had for months planed to go to Fort Wayne with the kids to a Jr. Achievement day workshop.

The weather man had spoke of coming snow for 24 hours and when I awoke we still had not seen a flake. So I packed up the kids and went ahead with my plans. 45 min's. later as we pulled into the parking lot, the first flake began to fall, and then another and another. By the time the day of workshops were over, we had about 4 to 5 inches of very deep and wet snow! not pretty! And traffic was going at a snails pace.

To top it all of my window wipers were not working right and the only way I was able to see was to pull over every 15 minutes and wipe the gathering snow off myself. And then within minutes I was down to a shoebox size opening of visibility.

Which caused me to go to plan B. See my family reading this knows, I am a west coast gal! and on top of that I didn't learn to drive till 21 my experience with snow especially deep fast falling snow is minimal. So before I left I grabbed a bag of clothes and swimsuits, cause my hubby had said "if it gets bad just stay". So stay we did.

My kids enjoyed their first real snow-in! We hung out all evening in the hotel room while it actively snowed venturing out only one block for burgers and an after dinner snack to be enjoyed later as we curled up under the blankets watching our fill of mind numbing TV.

The kids were very nice to me and let me indulge in Biggest Loser, and in doing so decided maybe mom might really have something when she says you shouldn't eat past being full, and that 3 pieces of pizza is enough for anyone and just why I don't let them drink pop more than once or twice a week.

The rest of the evening was cartoons and a hour and a half swim in the pool. The next morning we woke up to bright sunshine, and enjoyed sleeping in, eating from the free breakfast buffet, and another swim in the pool, followed by more mind numbing TV, till check out at 11.

Since then we have had two more big dumps of snow, each one melting almost completely before the next one arrives! Its almost like Indiana is saying "see Victoria, I can make snow!!!" Yes Indiana enough I get it already!!!