What's it all about?

It's a little about me and my five sugar cubes.
Never a dull moment.
Sit down, buckle up and enjoy the ride....



Thursday, March 25, 2010

I'm not cheap, I'm a "Frugalista"

Not until lately has it been so cool to be "cheap".. If a tanking economy is what it takes for people to wake up and stop wasting money, that's great.

I love to save money. Who doesn't? Fortunately, I was lucky enough to be born with the "gift of thrift".. My mom used to tell people that she could send me to the mall with $20 and I would come home with 2 outfits and change.  I've always had the ability to spot deals. Not to mention, later in life, I worked retail, in the sales field and behind the scenes as a buyer, so I knew what the markup was on most things.. RIDICULOUS.. I do not like to pay full price for anything.

When I had disposable income, I never went without, but rarely did I buy things that weren't discounted. I spent what I wanted, put 10% of my pay in savings, but never thought about "budgeting" my money, or even really preparing for the future. Aside from my father's subtle attempts to stress the importance of the 401k (which I ignored,  because then I would have less money to spend on clothes and shoes) I really didn't have guidance about money or saving or planning for the future.  When I met Mike, he was financially stable because he adhered to a budget. This was foreign to me. I had used Quicken on my computer, mainly because it was fun to hear that "flushing" sound when I entered my receipts, but never set aside specific money for food, clothing, entertainment, etc... I had money and I spent money, and I saved a little. I was doing good- or so I thought. Then Mr "Financially Responsible" comes along, and put things in a whole new perspective. I would shop sales, and look for discounts, but never did I ask people for a further discount (save the time I was in Mexico on Spring Break and tried my hand at bartering..). Well, Mike didn't hesitate to ask people to "sharpen their pencil". I was so embarassed the first time we went shopping at Penney's and he asked the clerk "is that the best you can do?" I was like "SERIOUSLY? Did you just ask a retail salesperson for a discount? You're not buying a car!" Guess what? The girl gave him an additional % off. JUST FOR ASKING!!! I admired that. I knew I wanted him with me the next time I bought anything. I really thought that question was reserved for the car lot. Silly me. He's done it with everything, and you would be surprised how many people will give him more off. What surprises me about this whole thing is, sometimes he will NOT ask for a discount, and when I question him, he will explain that he thought the price was fair. (I guess JC Penney's price was NOT FAIR?... sorry hon).

Anyway, before you start asking what my point is (see my prior posts), I have been asked to share some tips on saving money. There are a billion and one websites out there that help, and I have not even BEGUN to scratch the surface of what some of those sites consider "saving", but I think I do a good job for myself and my family. We are able to be a one income family, we don't dress like hobo's (not that there is anything wrong with that), we eat healthy, and don't need much. (Although, I'm wanting a front yard and back yard right now- but that's not much though, right?!? Oh, and a new TV, and some new clothes, and shoes- my favorite boots are starting to show wear, and a pedicure b/c it's flip season..and..and..and........and I keep reminding myself that those are "wants" not "needs"..)
Moving right along....

I tried Coupon Sense - great concept, but I wasn't crazy about stockpiling 130 boxes of Cheez-its and 95 bottles of Suave shampoo. Even if it they were free. And I'm not a big fan of going to multiple stores to shop. I do draw the line at some things. (I already shop Fry's, Trader Joe's and Costco). I do ♥LOVE♥ their blog and have gotten a TON of tips there. For example- Tropicana OJ- if you sign up for their reward program  you can get coupons for a BOGO. Pair that with a coupon from the paper- like a $1.50 off 2 and a sale price (Fry's has it on sale for 2.88 right now) and you end up getting 2 OJ's for a little more than $.60 each. I know it sounds confusing, and I am nowhere near the expert, but I am learning how to maximize savings and am enjoying it so much. I scored on diapers at CVS the other day- pair a sale price with coupons and get Extra Bucks back, then use EB + coupon + sale price for the next transaction and I got diapers for next to nothing. Stacking coupons has got to be the best trick ever. If something is on sale for buy one get one free, most people think that's a deal. BUT what if you have two coupons for those items? You can use a coupon on each item, plus it's on sale for bogo. Badabing-badabogo, you got a smokin' deal. I also tend to do big grocery spends when they have coupon specials. Fry's always doubles coupons (*random mid sentence thought* do you say Q-pons? Or coo-pons? I say either, depending on my mood), and sometimes (like now) Fry's has ALL COO-pons are worth $1. Very good deal.

Other sites that I found to be useful are Money Saving Mom and hip 2 save. Also, did you know that Bed Bath & Beyond takes their own expired coupons? NEVER EVER EVER throw out a Q-pon from them. You can also use more than one per transaction. I've used one for each item, although some stores have a limit of 8. Usually the salespeople will help you figure out which is a better deal, the $5 off $15 or the 20%. I always have a thick stack of discounts for them.

Another great idea is to sign up for reward programs, or emails from companies that usually don't have a lot of coupons in the paper (Earth's Best, Horizon Organic). I have also gotten FREE food coupons for just writing a company and telling them that I like their products. People want to get products into your home, you'd be surprised how much they will give to have you try.

I could go on and on about saving. I'll save you the reading. I'm sure you have more important things to do than read my blaahhhhg all night. If you take anything away from this, know that usually there is a better deal out there, don't be afraid to ask, and it's good to be thrifty. That doesn't always mean that you are a cheapskate. Consider yourself a "Wise Frugalista". I do.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Copy Cat Blog...

Are there really any "original" ideas left? I mean, after all, I'm sure that mankind has been around long enough that someone, somewhere has pretty much thought of it all... Noone can claim originality, because someone has already "been there, done that". For example, if I want to eat an apple- TOTALLY not my idea. It may seem like my idea at the time, but rewind back to Adam and Eve and *sprinkle-BAM* I've stolen an idea. Albeit a simple innocent hankering of fruit- still a stolen thought. What I like about this theory, is it helps to eliminate ALL guilt when I steal borrow ideas and incorporate them into my life.. or in this case, my blog. I have to be completely honest, I have never been a "blogger", not even a blog reader- I never even browsed a page until the DAY before I started my own. I might have stumbled upon one purely by chance, but never did I intentionally go visit someone's blog. Frankly the thought of setting something up like this up for myself scared me, especially after talking to a friend (you know who you are SF) who has a techy hub and they were having a hard time figuring it all out. If Joe Computer Whiz had a hard time creating a blog, then for sure this mamma wasn't going to do it.. I imagined affairs with the Geek Squad, and endless amounts of time and money to do what!?! Share my crazy life? Then I hit up Google, and realized "Whoa! I can do this!"  My page is very generic in comparison to some, I chose the FREE route (*shocking* to those who know me, right??) but so far I am pleased. I like having my music and my fish.. and of course pictures. It wouldn't be my page without music and pictures. I could probably have done without the fish, but aren't they cute? And plus they remind me of my kids- following me around and looking for a snack..
So where is all of this going? I promise, I'll get there.. (I learned my lesson early when I used to tell  stories and my friends would say "is there a point to this story?" Now I try to get to it sooner than later)
My point is, I feel I need to confess a few things..
These are the ideas that I have stolen borrowed to make my own blog more appealing- even if it's only appealing to me:
  1. this song 
  2. my signature
  3. my fish
  4. 101 ideas in 1001 days because that's just AWESOME! (I haven't stolen that yet, but trust me, I'm gonna)
  5. Picture of the Day (again, not stolen BORROWED (sheeesh!) yet, but only because of time constraints)
I'm sure there are plenty more stolen borrowed (i really have to get a grip on that) components to my page, but that's all I can think of right now. Phew! I feel so much better having gotten all that off my chest.
I will continue to hunt for new ideas to BORROW, and hopefully when I have been blogging for a few years, I will have an AWESOME blog like Katie's and be able to share not only my wit, but also pearls of wisdom.
ps My wit is my own.. as are my good looks and charm. (-;

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Grandparents

My Dad and Donna were out here for a long weekend.. and it was so hard to see them leave. I exhausted myself trying to convince them to stay.. They were probably happy to go just so they didn't have to hear my begging anymore. Oh what I wouldn't give for them to live close...

I love Love LOVE to hear my kids say "Grandma" and "Grandpa". It's so sweet. I grew up with my grandparents- and have a very special relationship with them. My grandma is now gone, but lives forever in my heart, and my grandpa is the most incredible man I know. He's my #1.. He was the first one to hold me when I was born, and I absolutely adore him. I think there is a special bond between grandparents and grandchildren. I once heard that the reason that grandparents and grandchildren get along so well, is because they have a common enemy.. So true. I can talk to my grandpa about anything (aka "my mother") and he gets it without really having to say much at all.

I don't really think anyone has a vision about parents in a "grandparent" role until the time comes. You never really know how they will be. My dad is very mechanically minded, engineer-type, linear sequential thinker- NOT the mushiest guy around, yet I can see he loves my babies and gets all warm and fuzzy when he sees them and their antics. It warms my heart. Even when he was on the phone with my Nana, and Cole decided to take his diaper off and poo on the ground, then pick some up and try to "share" with him, he might have hollered "911!" to Donna for help, but he still wasn't turned off...He was loving on Cole a few minutes later (after he was cleaned up by Donna, of course). I never thought he could be the kind of grandpa that he is.. but he's turned out to be one of the best.   Of course Donna is such an awesome grandma. Her world stops when she gets around the kiddos. She makes time for each one, individually and together- endures countless reruns of "Cars", stays up late for movie night, makes snacks, lunches, cleans up poo, wipes noses, changes diapers, folds laundry... and does it ALL with a smile on her face and not one single complaint.. She was born to be a grandma and my kids are so lucky to have her. Mike and I are also lucky to have her.. and my Dad..
I will NOT stop trying to convince them to come to the desert.. I'm not asking for full custody, I'm willing to share them for part of the year with my step-sis Jennifer. I'm not greedy, and it's not for me- it's for the kids.. (okay, so maybe it's a LITTLE for me)..

   

Friday, March 12, 2010

importance of friends

Someone once "defriended" me because she didn't like the competition in our group of friends. She actually defriended our whole group via me. That was fun.. not to mention totally unexpected. After pondering that situation and spending much time dissecting my responsibility in it, I came across a few realizations. My friends are my extended family. I don't have siblings to go to for advice so I go to my girls. I do not look at my friends like they are competitors, I look at them as resources. If I have a friend that has a beautiful house, I go to her for decorating advice, if I have a friend that is an awesome cook, I go to her for food advice. If I have a friend that is stylish, I go to her for fashion advice and so on. I would be crazy to give up any of my friends. I understand that sometimes in your life you come across that occasional toxic person, who starts out to be a friend, but ends up being an emotional vampire, and you have to end the friendship or the friendship dissolves on its own.  This was not the case. I was hurt, shocked and felt like I had lost a part of my "extended family". In the end, I realized that in this situation, it was "her" and not me. I had to be okay with her decision and move on. I am still close with the group that she broke up with. They have been my "go to" girls and I am thankful for them daily.

I can't talk about friendship without bringing up my ABSOLUTE BEST BEST sister-friend Stacy, who knows more about me than I do myself, and I can't imagine life without her. Nothing could keep us apart, not miles, not marriage, not kids.. not nothing. We are soul twins, separated at birth (by a few years) and she means so much to me. We used to work together and after spending all day side by side, the first thing we did when we got in the car was call each other and talk they whole way home. It has been 20+ years and we are still that close. She lives across the country, but I do not hesitate to call her if I need her. She is usually (okay- always) the first one to know things about me and the family. I don't know the feeling of having a biological sister, but I do have a great understanding of the value of sisterhood thanks to her.

Like I said, I have close friends here, and they are involved in my day to day. I treasure them dearly and although they know me NOW, they don't have the historical perspective that Stacy has. That "before I was famous" place in my life that molded me into the person I am today. We have new memories, new stories, and strong relationships. I value them, and would be sad if they ever broke up with me. I think when Forrest Gump said "Life is like a box of chocolates" he really meant "Friends are like a box of chocolates". You never know what kind you'll end up with.. Some stick with you, some you realize you don't like when you open them- you eat them anyway, but are so glad when it's gone, and some are your favorites that you will savor forever....

Thank you ALL for the friendships- old and new. Anyone who can accept me for who I am has a special place in my heart and my life. ♥
 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

just so that there is no confusion...

After reading my last post about the tv, and how we handled Connor, I just wanted it to be clear that we did NOT give him the Gestapo treatment. There was no waterboarding, no bright lights. We were upset and raised our voices, but didn't bully him or intimidate him in any way. I would hope that anyone that knew me would know that the whole "arms flailing and finger pointing" was more for dramatic effect than it was for real. My intention was not to point out our bad parenting, but more vent about a situation that in the bigger picture (obviously not an LCD picture now...chuckle, snort) was really just a blip on the radar.  So before anyone gets their grannies in knot, and comes to take away our "Parents of the Year" awards, please be assured that we are still the same loving, caring, trying to do our best, parents that we were before this incident.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

tv

So I am guessing I should talk about the TV incident, although I'm really okay with letting it go. For some reason I am surprised that I am not crazy mad that our NEW tv is broken. I guess I am not in LOVE with the television. I use it, as a method of escape, but really could care less if it's there. Especially now that Guiding Light isn't on anymore. (Whatever! that's TOTALLY an entire post in itself.. I'll never get over that)... I am more upset at how Connor handled his anger. I think everyone questions their parenting skills at some point, and somehow I feel it's my fault that he didn't have the tools to vent his frustration in a different manner. I have to own some of that. I have thrown the occasional tantrum (close your mouth, it's not that shocking)..and when I was young, I broke a window out of frustration. I didn't mean to break it (or did I?) and I remember after it happened I knew I was going to be in trouble. I knew I had to tell my mom and I wasn't sure what was going to happen. I can't even remember how she handled it now. As an adult I try hard to remain calm and remember to breathe and to model that for the kids, but I can't help but think back to that broken window, and the impulse to smack it with my hand.
He woke up this morning and was sick- vomiting. I really think it had something to do with him worrying about the tv. We were upset and we lit into him. At one point, I felt like we were giving him the Jack Bauer treatment. We were both pointing our fingers and flailing our arms and yelling about how "Now it's broken, do you realize you've ruined it for the whole family?". Madness. It's a tv. And while I agree that throwing is not an acceptable way to show your anger, I do think in the grand scheme of life, this is a mole hill and NOT the mountain we were making it out to be yesterday.
One of my favorite books is Scream Free Parenting. It's good for a laugh, and to help put your attitude toward parenting in perspective. It's got some really great tips on how to not go out of your mind when raising kids.
I believe that it's not hard to be a parent.. it's hard to be a GOOD parent. Your kids are little sponges- mini mirror images of you and if you aren't careful they will turn out exactly like you don't want. I can remember one time I was on the phone with my bff and she heard one of the kids yell for the dog. "Pepper- get in here".. It was the SAME tone that I used, same way to get the dog's attention, and she pointed it out how funny it was.. I thought it was funny, but at the same time realized that these little mini-me's are exactly that, and that I was in complete charge of most of their behavior. Children learn what they live- fo sho.
I know that I am going to work with Connor to help him find a different way to express his anger. It's okay to get frustrated, it's not okay to throw things. And it's not okay to break an expensive television- (break the cheap one in the playroom next time).. (-:



these are a few of my favorite things

I know that EVERYONE is dying to know what my favorite things are. I'm thinking this will have to be a series.. if I get more interest, I will post more (not like I've gotten interest yet.. but I like to think inquiring minds want to know) and it's MY blog, so I want to share my fav's.

I'll start with  FOOD..
Some of the things you can make, some of them you have to buy.. all of them are good- in my humble opinion.

One of the things I started eating when I was pregnant with.... one of them.. was a
Banana wrap. I'm still addicted to them. Here's how it goes:

Whole wheat tortilla
banana
honey
flax seed
peanut butter
wheat germ
I lay the tortilla out flat and smear PB all over it. I like Kirkland brand organic PB- some people don't like it because it's very plain- no sugar or anything but peanuts in it. So, schmear and then banana- I don't cut it, I just lay it on the tortilla in the middle. Sprinkle with flax and wheat germ and then drizzle with honey. Roll it up like a burrito and YUM. I guarantee if you are a pb and banana lover, you will be back for more.  It's also a great snack for the monkeys in your life.

Caprese Salad..
Tomatoes
Mozz
fresh basil
olive oil
balsamic... Oh how my soul salivates for you...This has to be my favorite anytime "go to" food. Best with fresh everything. Someday I will have a garden and will grow my own tomatoes and basil, and what the heck, I'm an overachiever, I'll even grow mozzerella. Can't be THAT hard.

Cannoli.. (usually prefaced with "Holy")..
There are no words to describe this heavenly treat. And with that, I'm rendered speechless.











OREOS!!





I was actually asked by a friend (Shout out to APRIL) to put some kids friendly recipes on here..
I am a HUGE fan of Deceptively Delicious  I think you can put a veggie in just about anything. Expand your kiddos palates early and you will be amazed at what they will eat. Keep serving different things, they will eat if they are hungry. We as moms are NOT short order cooks, and everyone can eat the same thing if they are sitting at the same table. Connor ate 4 falafel pitas last night for supper. My kids love hummus. When the little ones start on finger food, they always get tofu, kidney beans, avocado, mango, lentils, garbanzo beans.. You will be surprised what your kids will eat. And then they will grow taste buds, and as long as they try something new, it's okay for them to say (and I'll quote Chloe here..) "I tried it, and I don't care for it".
I like to try and make everything from scratch- it's just something I do. If I make it, I know what goes in it, and I feel much better about serving it to mi familia. 
More to follow..                                                              


 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Peepee on the pott-tay♪♫ (or Number One)

Connor was 2 1/2 when we started potty training him. I had all the necessary equipment: Potty? check. Undies? check. Potty book? check. Potty video? check. Clock? check. Stickers, Charts, Incentives? check. check. check. Toddler? check. (remember, he was the first one, so we had to have all the "un-necessaries").. I thought it would be a very easy process. I started off by putting Connor in undies and letting him know that it was time to be a "big boy". I put him on the potty every 10 minutes so he was basically naked from the waist down most of the day. Also, the potty went everywhere- in the living room, in the kitchen, in the hall, in the playroom- wherever he was at the time, there was the potty, like a mini plastic dust catcher (luckily we had mostly tile floors at the old house). Finally we got him telling us when he had to go, and he started to do well with it. That's when we flew back east, and he had to pee at the airport. He almost got sucked down by the automatic flusher and was so scared he wouldn't go near a toilet for a month. He had to pee in the sink. Even if it wasn't an auto-flusher, he still wouldn't sit on the pot. Yikes. Now that he's 8 we can laugh about that. (ha. ha. ha...........)
Chloe was too easy in the potty department. At 18 months, she came and said "no mo bi-pers". She took her diaper off, put undies on and that was it. Angels actually came out of the sky and sang. It was that beautiful. She just wanted to be a big girl.
Collin wanted to pee in the pot, but had to have a diaper on to poop. I had heard about kids who had a hard time..."letting it go" but never realized or thought that it would be one of my own. That was fun. Cole has been showing lots of interest in the potty. He pees in the shower, pees outside, pees in the tub- he even once peed on the floor in the bathroom, because he can't reach the potty. He's even getting out of bed at night to take his diaper off and put shorts on commando. He likes to be "nuda buddha" or "nudie booty" and his little cheeks are the cutest things.. Yesterday he peed on the potty once, and the WHOLE family did the "Pee Pee On the Potty" song and dance. Loud! We all clap and dance and sing. Anyone passing by our house would think we were the Von Trapps on crack. Today he peeped on the pot again (he just likes to go and do it on his own) and again, we did our jig. Even Mike came down from his office to sing. He has the CUTEST movements to the dance. (I'm talking about Cole- not Mike, although I do like it when Mike shakes his booty...) I think Cole will be an easy one- so far I've done nothing but buy some undies and get out the potty.. (See the difference? Started out as a freak, and now I'm like "Mommy's blogging, go ahead and go on the potty. You can do it by yourself.."... of course we still do the song and dance.. it's fun for everyone.)

Music Moves Me