Wednesday, March 30, 2011

April Savings

April is a month of changes.  From the celebration of Easter and the true beginning of Spring, to rising temperatures and the unveiling of snow white arms, April is all about evolution.

And this April will include the evolution of our budget.  For this year, we are putting a stop to all unnecessary spending.  This means no car washes, no eating out, no snacks, no movies, no lip gloss, no sodas, no Spring clothes, no Winter clearance, no cravings for Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs (well, cravings are OK, I just can't give in).

NO!

If it's not NEEDED, it's not getting purchased.

Exceptions:
  • Food from the grocery store
  • Medications
  • Gas
  • The regular monthly bills
Special Provisions:
  • If we have a gift card, we can use it.  Ex: The kids still have a couple of $5 McDonald gift cards.  If they are dying by the middle of the month, we can go to McDonald's, but can't spend more than what's on the card. 
  • We can't stock up in anticipation.  If we are out of it & need it, we can buy it now, but no more than exactly what we need.  
  • If something unexpected arises, we can discuss it.  For example, there seem to be lots of Spring birthdays.  If Big Sis is invited to a party, we will talk about gift options and how we can budget/ spend appropriately.  (hello coupons!)
  • We can't blow our savings at the end with a celebratory "I bought this/ we had a big meal out because the April experiment is finally over!". 
I'm actually excited about this.  We've talked about it as a family, and discussed why we think it's a good idea.  Since everyone is involved, it makes me feel like we've got a good chance for success.  I don't expect that we will save a bucket of money, but I believe it will make us all more thoughtful about what we need vs. what we want.  Let the savings begin!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sick Day


After church on Sunday, I had a salad for lunch* & immediately started feeling sick.  Upset stomach, the chills, achy - I was a mess.  I skipped dinner and went to bed at 9pm.  

Nine!

I woke at my usual time on Monday morning & had to drag myself out of bed.  Despite a delicious 9 1/2 hours of sleep, I was no better.  I rallied long enough to put on sweatpants and get Big Sis to school (but not enough to actually dress Big J).  I returned home and..... went back to bed. 

Yes, I committed the Cardinal Sin of Motherhood and took a sick day.  

I booted up Netflix, made sure Big J had a water cup, and then collapsed under my flannel sheets.  

Big J was awesome. 

He would check on me every half hour or so, but never asked for anything.  As I drifted in and out of sleep, I heard him switch to Thomas, then Dora (yes, at the age of 3 he has mastered Netflix).  I finally rose at almost 11 am.  I found train tracks strung through the living room, Big J wandering the house without pants, and three cheese wrappers on the living room floor.  

I still wasn't feeling better, but downed some Motrin and tried to get excited about lunch.  

Didn't work.  

The husband suggested I have something to eat with my Motrin, and after a few Saltines & an episode of Veronica Mars, I was feeling tremendously better.  

By the time I was ready to pick up Big Sis, I managed to clean a sink full of dishes, start a load of laundry, and dress myself - and Big J - in something other than pajamas.  

Then I foolishly did my workout (stupid, but at least I'm still on schedule), and ended up in bed by 10pm.  

It's amazing that 21 hours of sleep over 2 days can make you feel like a brand-new person.  

*I think my husband is right, and winter is NOT the time to indulge in salads.  The risks have not made it worth the rewards.  

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekend Sharing

My husband laughs at how excited I get when Friday rolls around.  Being a SAHM, I can see his point - every day is a little like the weekend for me.  I just love that I don't have to get up and whip myself into a frenzy trying to get everyone out the door on time.

I am also loving......


  • This project would be perfect for a grandparent gift or Mother's Day. 
  • We are trying to make an effort to eat (be) more healthy. So of course, I can't stop thinking about this recipe.
  • Maybe Big Sis is due for a bedroom update when we make our next move.... because I am crushing on this butterfly mobile.  
  • As someone who is a fan of both spray paint and re-using what you have, I LOVE this idea for a Spray Painting Tent
  • Farewell, Ms. Taylor.  You are an icon of movie star glamour, style, and excess.  I will never forget visiting your house in Beverly Hills.  It was pure Hollywood.    

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Multi-Tasker


It's a step stool!
It's extra seating!
It's a lunch table!
I love the Bekvam Stool from Ikea.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Product Review: ModBod

Did I mention that I am almost famous?

Indeed, 'tis true.

One can be famous by association, right?  I mean, if Gayle King, Kelly Ripa, and Dr. Phil can do it, so can I.

For you see.... I am a WINNER.

Specifically, I won a giveaway from the famous blogger Natalie Holbrook aka Nat the Fat Rat.

So I am both a WINNER and FAMOUS BY ASSOCIATION.  Yes, life is nearly complete.

And what did I win?

Why, a ModBod Cami Kit!

I chose black & white (I know, you're surprised), and I am very impressed by the product.


The camis are designed to be extra long to keep your stomach and back covered. 
Perfect for me, as I haaaaaate cami creep.  You know what I mean.... when you don a comfy layering piece, then spend the day tugging it down and tucking it in? Yeah, that.  No worries here!  These cotton pieces are smooth, comfortable, and they STAY PUT.  And even better - they are on sale now for the low, low price of $19.95 for 2.  Yes, a near 2-for-1 offer.  

I highly recommend.  And not just because I am a WINNER.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Apple Delight


(I guess I should be happy he is focused on getting his daily allowance of fruit & fiber)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Three!

I am boggled that not only are we halfway through March of 2011, my Baby Boy is also 3! 

We started our day with donuts & presents. 


Frog Pillow Pet from Grandma Huff.  A HUGE hit. 



More Thomas from Mom & Dad


3!


During errands that morning, he got the special treat of riding with Bob the Builder. 


Buzz Lightyear, Space Ranger. 
Big Sis loves to play dress-up.... 
and in the interest of keeping him out of high heels & feather boas, 
we thought a costume of his own would be most fitting. 


As requested: fried rice for dinner. 


Flingsmash cake!



 Happy Birthday Big J!

Memories of age 2-3:
  • His vocabulary is huge & he loves to talk.  
  • He is still small for his age.  Because he is small - but very verbal - strangers often have no idea how old he is.... guesses range from a tiny 4 year old to an incredibly advanced 2 year old.  
  • He is potty trained!  He uses a pull-up at night, but we're going to wean him off that after the move this summer. 
  • He is outgrowing his nap.  Although Mama isn't thrilled with it, it usually means a solid 10 hours of sleep at night (which Mama LOVES).
  • He has begun to mimic some of the things we say.  Ex: "Um, excuse me, I'm talking here.", "Hello?  Can you hear me?", "Mama, I just need a minute."
  • He loves to jump, run, and swing.  He loves the slide, goes nuts at the bouncehouse, and can kick a ball really well.  He is learning to catch a ball.  Loves the water, and will jump in without hesitation.  Does not like to float on his back. 
  • Favorite toys: Thomas trains, Buzz, Woody, Hot Wheels cars, Legos.  
  • Likes to be read to.  Favorite Book: Go Dog, Go.  
  • Questions everything.  "What's this?  Why?  Where are we going?"  Sometimes makes us feel like this is the Spanish Inquisition (without the Rack, of course). 
  • Is very social.  Loves to play with friends and visit other people's homes.  
  • Wants to be in the middle of whatever we are doing.  If I am exercising, or in the kitchen, he is right next to me - either copying what I'm doing, or playing close by.  
  • Knows all his letters and can count to 10.  Knows colors, shapes, and almost any animal you show him.  
  • Is a picky eater.  Enjoys strawberries, macaroni & cheese, fried rice, peanut butter & jelly (likes to make his own sandwich), chicken nuggets, bananas, nectarines, milk.  Will pretend to gag if he is encouraged to eat a bite of something he thinks he doesn't like (broccoli). 
  • Favorite color: Orange!
  • Is fascinated by the current Red Lobster commercial & will watch it, eyes unblinking, until the end when he asks when we go there.  

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Weekend Sharing

Another week conquered.  Hard to believe we are nearly half-way through March, but it's true!  2011 is nearly one-quarter down.  Hoo-ray.

(image from Whisk Kid.  I am drooling!)


  • I am not much of a party go-er or throw-er, but these Party Tutorials make me want to whip up something fun and festive.
  • I'm sure you've seen the lovely Rainbow Cake by Whisk Kid, but I can't get it off my mind.  Wouldn't it be fun for St. Paddy's Day??  
  • A good recipe is art, isn't it?  Now you can make your favorite recipe into art!  Toast and Sip can take your favorite recipe and turn it into a beautiful printed canvas.  I think this would be a lovely gift for a newly married couple. 
  •  As someone currently battling an almost 3 year old over food, I thought this article on Not Tricking Your Kids Into Eating Well was interesting.  It reminded me of how much easier our bedtime prep goes when we make it into a game (a current favorite: James Bond, nighttime spy).  
  • I love the sweet & savory of this DIY Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate.  Addictive! 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Home Sweet Home



Although we are far, far out from our summer move, my mind reels with the minutia of the homebuying process.

Bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, lot size, and of course: location, location, location.

But there's more to buying a house than just the fun stuff.

It's WORK.

And this work is reviving memories of our previous home-buying experience.

It was less-than-stellar, and because I love both my readers, I am here to help you learn from our mistakes.


  1. Use an agent.  Never use a double agent.  Your agent should represent you and only you.  If you use an agent who represents the seller too, consider who is paying them.  THE SELLER.  So do you think they will really have your best interests at heart?  Hmmm?   A good agent can make this an enjoyable process, while a bad agent will make you want to rip your eyelashes out.  
  2. An agent should be willing to work within your parameters.  If they are showing you houses that are $20,000 above what you want to pay, are they doing you (and your checking account) a disservice?  Oh and PS - just because the mortgage company approves you for a maximum amount of money doesn't mean you have to home-hunt in that range.  
  3. Don't trust the pictures.  I have looked at a lot of houses that look cute & charming online.... and not so much in person.  Do your homework, take measurements, drive around, talk to the neighbors.  And don't think that just because the neighbors say the broke-down '85 Vanagon parked on the side lawn is going to be towed next week... that it actually will be.  
  4. It's more than the mortgage.  You MUST factor in PMI, property taxes, and homeowner's insurance.  This can EASILY add another $150-$350 a month to your mortgage.  This mortgage calculator is a great way to estimate what you'll actually pay each month.   
  5. And then.... don't forget about gas, electric, water, sewer, and garbage.  Maybe as a renter you've paid some of this.  Or perhaps you've never paid for any utilities.  But moving from a 2 bedroom, second floor apartment with gas paid into a 1,500 square foot house with no attic insulation will be a shock to your budget.... especially if you live in snowy climes. It never hurts to ask to take a peek at a gas/electric bill from January or February.  Better than a brain bubble induced by a $300 gas bill.... right after Christmas.  
  6. Closing costs can add up fast.  Sure, you can sometimes ask the seller to take on some of the closing costs - if your mortgage allows that.  Or you can roll them into the cost of your mortgage.  But some things must be paid up front - such as earnest money, inspection costs, and appraisal fees.  Budget for them.  Then add 20%.  This is a great list of items within closing costs.  
  7. Don't drain your savings for the down payment.  If you can fork over 20% so you don't have to pay PMI, that's great.  But if you don't have the 20%, don't spend every penny before you even move in.  You still want a buffer. 
  8. Ask for a home warranty.  This will cost the seller about $350, and gives you the security to know that if your furnace/water heater/ fridge dies 2 months after you move in, you are not stuck with the full replacement costs.  
  9. Negotiate.   Hate the wallpaper?  Love the playset?  Think the butcherblock island is perfect right where it is?  If you don't ask, you have no idea if the seller is willing to include it with the house. 
  10. Are appliances included? Yes? No? Some?  Budget for a refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washer, and dryer.  You can craigslist them, but you takes your chances.  And shiny new appliances will again add thousands to your homebuying investment.  
  11. Did you buy a house with a living room, family room, formal dining room & eat-in kitchen?  Do you have furniture to fill them?
  12. It is really easy to become emotionally invested.  Don't.  You will make poorly-considered decisions, and have REGRET.  It's a house.  It's not a home until you move in. 
  13. The tax write-off is worth it.  

Lent

Lent began yesterday.

And while I am not Catholic, nor a fan of deprivation, I have decided to give something up in honor of the Lenten season.

Soda.



I don't drink it every day, but I find myself drinking it more often than I'd like should.  A Diet Coke here, a little lemonade-Sprite mixture there.

I have been preoccupied with other things & find myself consuming these bubbly beverages simply because they are there.

So, no more!

Here's to willpower, thoughtfulness, better choices, and fewer hiccups.

PS: I am still a huge fan of the idea of a soda tax.  Too bad it seems that our government is not.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday

Did you know today is Fat Tuesday?  

(aka Paczki Day here in metro Detroit)

In honor of a holiday which has no bearing or impact on my life, I decided to make a King Cake!

Really, it was all for our Cajun Princess, born in the heart of Acadiana.

Ok, really really it was just a reason to make cake.  


(check them out!  lots of yummy stuff to be found!)


Know what works to cool off your proofing mix when you're out of ice?  

Snow!


Rolled out, slathered with cherry cream cheese filling. 


Pre-bake


Baked, iced, & sugared.  

PS: I left out the baby.  I thought it might be too traumatic for the little ones.  

Monday, March 7, 2011

Twofer


Because, really, who doesn't like Dum-Dums?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lazy Saturday

After watching a Scrubs episode featuring "Dr. Acula", my children decided to do this:



10 points for creativity!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Did You Know Mortgage Companies Hate Almost-Doctors?

image from popwatch.ew.com


It's true.  So very true.

I spent the week hearing words like "risk" and "contract" and "interest rate" and "underwriter" and "employment history" and "debt-to-income" and "guaranty".  

These words make my head hurt.

And it turns out that they make a mortgage broker's head hurt too!

Because guess what?  Banks Loooooooooooooove doctors, but they haaaaaaaaaaaate almost-doctors.

A signed employment contract and a shiny clean credit report don't make a difference.

A bank account rife with dollar signs might make a difference, but we don't have one of those right now.

But wait, there is more!

Did you know that there are mortgages just for almost-doctors?  Indeedy, there are.

For if it is on Google, it must be true.

So I ended the week hearing words like "good" and "end-of-May" and "pre-qualified" and "no PMI".  And these words made my heart sing a tiny showtune.  

Now if only those Leprechauns would lead me to the pot o' gold, we'd be all set.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Weekend Sharing

I don't know if it's because we enjoyed a weekend away, or if it's because I can see the signs of Spring, but I certainly hope that all of March passes as quickly as this week has.   

image from JCrew.com
  • Although we're having a bit of a thaw, winter's chill is not yet gone.  I would adore this Heated Mattress Pad to warm my freezing toes.  
  • Wouldn't this Sandwich Cutter be so cute for a baby shower or kid's party? 
  • I am not a fan of bright colors, but this pillow would be perfect on my sofa. 
  • I am in love with the new Spring line at J Crew.  I think the dress and sandals above would be my perfect summer outfit.   
  • I am dyyyyyyyying over this Chevron Dresser.  You can believe this is bookmarked on my computer and filed away in the too crowded craft folder in my brain.  
  • I had to wipe away a touch of drool while reading this.  Oh, I do miss my In-n-Out!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Junkie

I think I have an addiction.

I confess, I love mascara.

I was not born with the luxuriant lashes my children have.

Mine are average.  Average color.  Average length. Average density.

And so my quest for lushness began.  Something that would give me length and depth and frame my peepers with the crowning glory they so richly deserve.

And of course it had to be waterproof.  While I am not prone to impromptu bursts of emotion - complete with showers of tears - I have been blessed with ocular moistness, which mostly displays itself as a shadowy ring beneath my lids.

Not exactly the look I am aiming for.

image: forthemommas.com

I started with this.  
I used it for years and years and years.  
It's a classic for a reason, but one day I yearned for something..... more. 
Thicker. Richer looking.  More waterproof.    

image:beautyjunkieinsf.com

I began using this.  
It was good.  
Very, very good.  
The thick brush layers your lashes with an even coating. 
The appearance of volume doubles, and sometimes triples. 
But the "waterproof" version was not always so. 

image: viewpoints.com

Then I tried this.
My lashes were voluminous and thick.  
It was less prone to run, but seemed to dry out more quickly than I like. 
It was satisfactory, and in fact, often my go-to choice.  


image: thebuxxy.com

But one day, I acquired a sample of this.  
The heavens parted and I may have actually heard a chorus of angels.  
It glides (glides!) on with ease. 
The brush is not as bristle-y or thick as others, but with such a fine formula it does not need to be. 
It is black, black, black and offers an inky contrast to my pale eyes. 
I have the non-waterproof version and am impressed with how secure it is on my lashes. 
I would looooooove to try the waterproof version, but am almost afraid to.  
Could it live up to the glory of the original?  
Or will it be just a sorry second?  
I only have a small tube and am doling it out with care.  
At $24.50/ tube, I am hoping that perhaps the Easter Bunny will tuck one into my basket.  
And if the EB purchases at Sephora, I can rest easy with the knowledge that if it does not meet my sky-high expectations, I can return it with no questions asked.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Over the river and through the city....

Did I mention we took a quick jaunt out of the country?  

Yes, how convenient - Canada is just a short drive away.  


The skyline looks lovely..... from the other side. 


The Ambassador Bridge.  


The loooooooong line at the border. 

Oh yes, our quick trip was topped off by a visit with Border Patrol.  

Because this is the (potential) new face of terrorism: 


**Definitely worth noting that Border Patrol was efficient, professional, and speedy.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Favorite Breakfast

Have I ever shared my favorite at-home breakfast?

No?

Let me enlighten you.


What we have here is a Bagel Thin (110 cals!) with cream cheese and tomato slices, topped with a light sprinkling of sea salt.  Y.U.M.