Thursday, September 29, 2011

Christmas Idea - Photo Albums

As I’m sure most of my regular readers know by now I’m working really hard to make this Christmas is stress free is terms of money and time. After last Christmas I started a Christmas club, I’ve already started buying presents plus I’ve been looking for other ways to add money to the Christmas fund.

My most recent endeavor is creating photo albums for the kids. I’m sure my next statement will make some of you gasp in horror but…..I have all my photos stuck in a tote in the basement and I’ve never done baby books or photo albums. Don’t worry, the kids have photos of various ages stuck around the house and we do pull out all of our photos occasionally to peruse but I’m not organized about it. I decided this Christmas to do something about it.

Since I discovered Mixbook earlier this year I’ve been hooked. I can get the custom look I want without the mess of actually scrapbooking. Don’t get me wrong, this is taking me quite a bit of time but it’s not nearly as much time as the few times I’ve attempted scrapbooking. Plus, I can order multiple copies of the books which I couldn’t do if I was scrapbooking.

Last week Groupon offered a coupon where I was able to get a $50 Groupon for Mixbook for only $15. These certificates can’t be used with other offers but I figured that was still quite a deal. Plus, Mixbook offers a lot of promotions (I generally post a link to their current special over to the right) that I’ll take advantage of.

To be a little more efficient I’m actually doing both books at the same time. While I’m customizing the books for each child, a lot of the pictures come from the same event so I only need to review the CD’s once to add photographs.

Giving the gift of a photo album or photo calendar I think is a great (and potentially inexpensive) way to share the events from the previous year with your loved ones. While I like Mixbook, there are many other options out there including Walmart, Shutterfly, etc.

Check the box, two more presents paid for at $15 apiece. I still haven’t ordered them because I’m still not done, but I’ll get there. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Other Frugal Christmas Posts
Saving for Christmas
Preparing for Christmas
Present Idea - White House Ornaments

How is your Christmas shopping going?

I'll be linking this up over at Life as Mom

Monday, September 26, 2011

Crispy Italian Chicken

Crispy Italian Chicken

½ cup cornmeal

½ cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 ½ tsp Italian seasoning
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp black pepper
1 (2 ½ - 3lb) whole chicken, skin removed and cut into pieces
½ cup milk
Nonstick cooking spray

Combine cornmeal, flour, cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and black pepper in a zip-top bag. Dip chicken in milk, then add to bag with cornmeal mixture a few pieces at a time. Toss to coat. Place chicken on a rack in a shallow pan. Spray chicken lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 400 for 35 – 45 minutes or until chicken juices run clear.

Makes 4 servings

Nutritional Information:
Calories 295
Total Fat 9 g
% Fat 28
Sat Fat 2.7 g
Cholesterol 92 mg
Sodium 138 mg

Recipe is from the Anthem Heart Smart Recipes book

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Weekly Menu

We really did a pretty good job last week following our menu plan with the exception of spaghetti; we never did get around to having it. I even had the meatballs already prepared so I’ve just thrown them in the freezer for sometime in the future.

My husband worked over the weekend so he has a few days off during the week.  He'll be the one responsible for getting dinner on the table which means we may have some substitutions if he doesn't feel like cooking what I've planned.

Breakfast sandwiches
Cinnamon Rolls
Blueberry muffins

Kashi frozen lunches
Sandwich, Gogurt, string cheese, mandarin oranges, brownies plus a granola bar for a late morning snack (daughter’s lunch for school)
Bagel sandwiches
Lunch out
Barbecue for my dad’s birthday

Crispy Italian Chicken (this is a new recipe for us, I’ll let you know how it turns out), rice, mashed potatoes, biscuits
Chicken and Stuffing, glazed carrots, salad, homemade applesauce
Spaghetti & Meatballs, strawberry salad, corn, bread
Brats, grilled potato, onions & mushrooms,
Fend for yourself (sandwiches, leftovers, frozen pizza)
Dinner out

What's on your menu?  Feel free to post a link to your menu plan in the comments.

I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

You might also like:

Project List Update
Cleaning out the Refrigerator
Saving for Christmas

Weekend Plans - Update

Homecoming on Saturday went really well.  I was hoping to be able to drop the girls off at the hair salon for their two hour appointment and then go home to get some stuff done.  However one of the other mothers wanted to be there, then the third friend called her mom to show up so I stayed and enjoyed a total mother/daughter day.  I just had to share a picture of my girl, she looked absolutely beautiful.


My nature is to not relax and enjoy the moment but to work my hinder off to get everything done.  I really had to remind myself yesterday to relax and just enjoy the time with the girls, which I did.  Time goes by so fast, I won't to enjoy these moments when they come.  A couple of them ended up spending the night so we had a nice time this morning chit chatting about the evening while I worked in the kitchen.  The down side is that they ate all the strawberries I was preparing for the freezer.  Oh well, I can always buy more strawberries!  The important thing is that the girls enjoyed themselves and wanted to be in the kitchen talking with me.

One of the items on my list was to prepare any items that were set to spoil.  When I did my Pantry Challenge earlier this year I was quite appalled by the waste.  I throw a lot of items away on a semi-regular basis.  As I like to do when presented with a problem I asked myself why we always throw so much away.  Here are a few things I came up with.

  • Diets change - we tend to buy the same items every week until everyone gets tired of them.  I'm then left with a bunch of items that spoil and go bad.
  • Buying for a specific recipe - When making recipes that require something I don't keep on hand regularly I tend to overbuy "just in case".  This leads to items I don't use that spoil
  • Pre-packaged quantities are to large - Not everyone in the house eats the same items.  Take glazed carrots for example.  My daughter and I love them, the boys not so much.  I typically buy frozen carrots already prepared but we end up throwing half of them away because it's too much for the two of us to eat.  I then throw away raw carrots from lunch or baking because they don't get eaten.  By making my own glazed carrots I can freeze them in quantities we will eat without wasting either the fresh or frozen produce.
  • Menu changes - I buy strawberries specifically for my strawberry salad and then don't make it.  We forget about the strawberries and they go bad.  This tends to happen quite a bit.
I ended up doing more 'freezer' cooking than what I planned this weekend, here is what I did;
  • Carrots - I had some carrots I bought for lunch that didn't get eaten so I made glazed carrots
  • Potatoes - My big bag of potatoes had a bad potato in the bunch.  Once one of them start going bad I get a little nervous so I pulled three of them out for dinner this week and then I made mashed potatoes for the freezer with the rest
  • Bananas - Usually I just throw the banana in the freezer with peel still on.  However, peeling the banana gets pretty messy as they thaw.  I want to start making smoothies so this week I peeled the banana, sliced it and then threw it in the freezer, we'll see how that works out
  • Strawberries - My plan was to core them and use them for smoothies.  The girls ended up eating the whole pint of them I don't have any left :(  They enjoyed them and that's the important thing.
  • Mushrooms - I was planning on cutting them and then freezer them for future meals (i.e. mushrooms) but Sarah at A Real Housewife of NYC mentioned in the comments about drying them.  That got me thinking so I went on the internet to look up mushroom drying.  Here is the recipe I followed, they still seem a little moist so I don't know how great they will be.  I'll let you know once it's complete how it turned out
  • Applesauce - I was given some apples from my MIL plus we had some starting to go bad in the refrigerator.  My kids love homemade applesauce so I made up a batch and stuck some in the freezer
  • Tomatoes - I received two big bags from a friend a work.  I simply wash, core, dry and then put about five tomatoes in a freezer bag.  I throw the bags in the freezer and then use them for future recipes.  Because there were so many tomatoes in the bags and I let them sit for a few days I did have to throw out some of the tomatoes that had split and were starting to go bad.
Here is the status on the rest of my list:
  •  Grocery shop
  • Clean family room for homecoming 'get ready' day
  • Wash, core and freeze two bags of tomatoes I received
  • Make applesauce with apples I was given
  • Go through refrigerator and pantry; prepare/freeze food getting ready to spoil (carrots, mushrooms and potatoes)
  • Buy blinds and window treatments for living room
  • Pick up paint samples for living room
  • Finish striped cushion covers (still have a floral pattern to make)
  • Take girls for manicures & up-do’s (our house is dress central for the dance)
  • Chauffeur kids to park for pictures, dinner & dance
  • Stop by parent’s house for miscellaneous tasks
  • Clean master bedroom - I've started this but I'm only half way done.  I'm trying to do a deep clean so it will take a little longer than the usual lick and a promise.
  • Start working on photo books I want to give as Christmas presents (I bought a Groupon for $50 of Mixbook products for $15) PLUS Mixbook is offering 60% off all products through 9/29/11.  Not done but I've gotten a great start.
  • Thin flower beds & flowers for neighbor as well as work friends (rained so I wasn't able to do)
  • Pull flowers out of planters (rained so I wasn't able to do)
  • Replant flower bed on side of garage (rained so I wasn't able to do)
  • Finish writing business plan for new venture
  • Write a few posts for the upcoming weeks
I'm absolutely exhausted right now.  My plan for the rest of the evening is to sit hear with my husband chit chatting while I work on my photo albums some more.

Did you have a good weekend? 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lipton Tea Stock Up

While I don't want to say "I'm on a diet", I have been trying to cut back on certain types of food to reduce my calorie intake.  One way that I've been doing that is to stop getting the Sweet Tea from McDonald's.  I don't have many vices in my life, but a breakfast burrito and Sweet Tea from McDonald's is one of them.

To wean myself from that very high calorie meal, I've switched to a breakfast sandwich at home and a bottle of Lipton Tea.  Yes, I know that it's significantly cheaper to make tea myself and that I would then be able to control the sugar added but right now I need the convenience of the bottled tea (plus I love it!)

What I don't love about Lipton Tea is that it is a little expensive.  At our grocery store it runs about $6 for 6 bottles.  You can imagine my excitement when for the last three weeks my Lipton Tea has been on sale 3/$12, basically it's buy two get one free  I typically only like to buy one per week so that I'm forced to limit myself to one bottle a day, but since this is such a killer sale (that doesn't come along very often) I've been stocking up. 

So - that's my great find for the last three weeks.  Not as exciting as some of the deals I've gotten but since this one is so near to my heart it's one of my favorites :)

What great deals have you found this weekend?

You might also like:

DIY - Updated Shelves
Christmas Shopping Update
They Call Him Captain America

Weekend Plans

This weekend is the homecoming dance at my daughter’s school. It’s also my husband’s weekend to work which is when I typically try to get a lot accomplished around the house. Between homecoming and keeping my mom company (my dad works this weekend too and we don't like leaving her alone yet) I don’t know how much I’m going to get done around my house. As usual I’m going to aim high and hope to get at least ½ to ¾ of the way there. Keep in mind this isn’t my usual weekend list, this is the husband working weekend list.

Goals for the Weekend
  • Grocery shop
  • Clean family room for homecoming 'get ready' day
  • Wash, core and freeze two bags of tomatoes I received
  • Make applesauce with apples I was given
  • Go through refrigerator and pantry; prepare/freeze food getting ready to spoil (carrots, mushrooms & potatoes)
  • Buy blinds & window treatments for living room
  • Pick out paint samples for living room
  • Finish striped cushion covers (still have a floral pattern to make)
  • Take girls for manicures & up-do’s (our house is dress central for the dance)
  • Chauffeur kids to park for pictures, dinner & dance
  • Stop by parent’s house for miscellaneous tasks
  • Clean master bedroom
  • Start working on photo books I want to give as Christmas presents (I bought a Groupon for $50 of Mixbook products for $15) PLUS Mixbook is offering 60% off all products through 9/29/11
  • Thin flower beds & split flowers for neighbor
  • Pull flowers out of planters
  • Replant flower bed on side of garage
  • Finish writing business plan for new venture
  • Write a few posts for the upcoming weeks

I know – it’s an ambitious list but I’ve found that if I make a list like this I’ll actually get through a lot of it. If I don’t write it down these things seem to never get done. I’d rather do some of these things when I’m home alone so I can enjoy time with the family when we can all be together. I had hoped to start the list last night (Friday) but all I got done was grocery shopping.  It was after 7pm when I walked in the door.  My husband and I sat down to watch Judge Judy and eat Panera's, after which I was completely shot.

The really sad thing is this is Octoberfest weekend and I won’t be able to go. My husband and I usually go to taste all the unique food and shop the really cool craft booths. Since he’s working this is the first time in years that we haven’t gone together. I was going to go by myself (to Christmas shop) but with homecoming it’s just not going to be possible. Oh well, there’s always next year 

What are your plans for the weekend? 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Benefits of a Large Freezer

When we were on vacation last week we went out and bought ourselves a chest freezer.  I've been wanting one for a while, but like everything else you 'want' there always seemed to be a need that had to be purchased first.  Plus you need a spot to put it, you can read about that fun project here.  I'm so glad we bought the freezer when we did since we had car repairs a couple of weeks later.  My freezer would have been put off - again!

I had a few reasons for wanting a freezer.
  • Freezer cooking is easier if you have somewhere to put your food
  • Freezers in the garages don't work during winter in cold climates.  The food spoils and all your hard work needs to be thrown out
  • The bananas are hidden from your husband so he won't throw them out before you make banana bread
  • The husband won't complain about the vast amount of frozen tomatoes sitting in cold storage
So far I've been stocking my freezer with freebies.  I've received tomatoes, zucchini and apples from friends and co-workers that I have processed and stuck in the freezer.  This is on top of all the strawberries I purchased earlier in the summer . 

Now that I have the space, instead of throwing away items as they reach their peak freshness I'll be able to freeze them for future use.  Some of my ideas (that need to be taken care of this weekend) are:
  • Carrots - I bought these a few weeks ago for a carrot cake and they're starting to look a little sad.  I'm going to make homemade glazed carrot and freeze them for family dinners
  • Mushrooms - We have some mushrooms that are starting to look a little sad too.  Since I love mushrooms and put them in a lot of different things (stuffing, meatloaf, etc) I thought I'd cut them up and freeze them for future use.  I'm not quite sure how that will work but since they're going into cooked items I would think they should be fine.  I'll let you know!
  • Potatoes - I rarely make mashed potatoes from scratch (my friend Betty - Crocker that would be) does it so well.  However, I got a little overzealous in my purchase of potatoes a couple weeks ago and will need to do something with them.  I plan on making mashed potatoes and freezing those in dinner size portions too.
Before we bought the freezer I would just throw this food out.  I wouldn't recommend going out and buying a freezer just to try and save money (it will probably be a while before it pays for itself) however if put to good use I think the freezer will save us quite a bit of money and help us to stop being so wasteful.

I know I'm repeating myself, but please bear with me.  We have 19 more days of this :)  One of my kind readers nominated me for the top 25 home management blogs at Circle of Moms.  If you go to the top of this post, to the right is a button that would take you to the Circle of Moms voting site.  My blog is about halfway down the page.  I'd appreciate your votes!

What sorts of items do you put in your large freezer?

I'll be linking this up over at Life as Mom

You might also like:

Freezing Strawberries Plus Strawberry Shortcake Recipe
Freezing Tomatoes
Banana Bread Recipe

What do You do When You’re the Only One in the Family Purging?

Oh, were you expecting me to have an answer to that question for you? I don’t have the answer and it’s something I’m struggling with right now. If you’ve read any of my organizing posts you’ll know that I’ve been trying to purge and streamline my stuff. The problem is getting the rest of the family on board.

As I’ve continued my purge process I’ve been nagging gently reminding my family to go through some of their stuff. As an example, when I finished the laundry/storage room I had a basket of winter wear. For a family of four we had the following;
  • 15+ hats
  • 10+ scarves
  • 15+ pairs of gloves
  • 8 gloves missing a mate

 I finally cornered gathered everyone with the intention of all of us picking out 1-2 items to keep. You would have thought that I was asking them to give up their most prized possession in the world. There were all kinds of excuses of why they needed to keep the items. 
  • Why do you get to keep four pairs of leather gloves (because I’m the mom and two of them are never worn)
  • But that’s an Abercrombie scarf
  • That scarf was made for me by……
  • But what will my friends wear when they are over and they need a hat or mittens?
  • Those small little gloves are cute; I don’t want to get rid of them!

 I did manage to pry a number of items from their clutches but we still have more winter wear than what we need.  My plan is to go ahead and donate the items that we're all in agreement can be donated.  The rest I'm going to stick in our winter wear basket and monitor it.  In the spring I'm going to make the kids get rid of whatever wasn't worn this year.  I could go ahead and just get rid of the stuff but I want the kids to see the benefit of purging.  When they see what they kept but didn't wear hopefully they'll see the light and understand what I'm preaching.
For some reason we tend to hold onto stuff we don't need.  Maybe it's our caveman instincts trying to hold on to stuff during the good times for times of scarcity.  Whatever it is the change has to come from within.  I'll keep working on the kids and make them get rid of stuff they don't need, I am their mother after all.
 and I do have some pull.
Also - if you would be so kind head on over to Circle of Moms (button located at the top of the post to the right) and vote for me.  One of my kind readers nominated me for the top 25 home management blogs over there and I could use the votes.  I really would appreciate it.

I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie
You might also like:

White Chicken Chili

My husband and I love chili.  At Christmas we usually have family over for a chili dinner.  White chili as well as red chili are always on the menu.  Many years ago I received this recipe from someone who was doing Weight Watchers, at that time 1 cup of chili was worth one point.  Since I don't know how their system works now I can't guarantee that is still true but it gives you some idea.

My recipe is super easy, I sometimes add more mozarella cheese than the recipe calls for. 

White Chicken Chili
1 16 oz jar Great Northern Beans
2 cups chicken broth
3 chicken breasts - cubed
8 oz salsa (thick and chunky works best)
1 cup mozarella cheese

Add all ingredients to the crockpot, turn on high for about 1-2 hours making sure chicken is fully cooked.


Do you have a chili recipe you'd like to share?  Feel free to link up a recipe in the comments.

I'll be linking this up over at Life as Mom

You might also like:

Tuscan Chicken Stew
Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Review - FYI For Your Improvement by Michael M. Lombardo & Robert W. Eichinger

Success rests with having the courage and endurance and, above all, the will to become the person you are, however peculiar that may be. Then you will be able to say, “I have found my hero and he is me.” – Dr. George Sheehan

Self knowledge is both powerful and scary. I believe that few people like to really dig deep and acknowledge their strengths and their development areas. However if you can honestly looking inward, acknowledge those areas and form a plan to strength the weak areas you will become a better parent, partner, friend and employee.

A good place to look for self knowledge is a trusted friend, family member, peer or leader within your company. Please keep in mind though, if you are seeking feedback you will not always like what you hear. Hopefully the message will be delivered in a constructive way versus destructive way but it’s important to remember that this is their perception of you. Whether you think it’s true or not, their perception is a reality for them.

FYI – For Your Improvement is a book that I use extensively at work and home for my personal development, my career development as well as my employee development. This is not a typical book that you would read from cover to cover but a reference book that you can peruse and find resources for a specific issue. In addition to using this book for personal or career development, this book would be an excellent resource for parents as they work on developing their children.

The book starts out with two tables of contents. The first lists by specific competency while the second lists by skill. This allows you to search for the specific skill rather easily.

Once you have identified the skill you are interested in, you can go to the specific page and find examples of what that skill may look like.

We’ll use “Lack of Composure” for our example:

Does not handle pressure and stress well
Gets emotional, subjective and unpredictable when things don’t go as planned
May become hostile or sarcastic; withdraw from people as stress increases

Not a problem
Cool under stress
Can take conflict in stride
Can absorb criticism and sarcasm without losing control

Easily overwhelmed
Lack of self-confidence
Over your head

First about emotions
Decreasing triggers
Delay gratification
Count to 10

Suggested Readings
Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct
The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scard, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate
Stress for Success

There is obviously a lot more information in the book as they go into details about each category. Lack of Composure takes up six pages so there is significant more help available than the high level I gave you above.

I try to break the book down into different areas depending upon what I’m development area I’m working on. Some of them are:

Personal Growth
Written Communication
Motivating Others

Professional Growth
Business Acumen
Work/Life Balance
Strategic Agility

Employee Development
Team/Unit Contribution
Overdependence on an Advocate
Poor Administrator
Quality of Work Output

Where applicable they will also list what an overused skill looks like because sometimes too much of a good thing is bad. At the end of the book are some worksheets for you to use for your own development plan.

Overall an excellent book for someone who is looking to development themselves or others.

Note:  The above link is my referral link.  There is actual a newer edition of the book at a significantly higher price.  The link in this post will offer you the opportunity to buy the book used at a discount.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

At Home Hair Coloring

Before I start my post I'm going to do a little campaigning.  My blog is one of the entries over at Circle of Moms.  If you like Wonder Woman I'm Not please click on the button to the right and vote for me, I'm about half way down the page.  Thanks for your support!

I don't even know if I remember the real color of my hair.  Back in the day, high school that is, we would put streaks in our hair with peroxide - I know there are some of you out there that did that too!.  As a broke young mother my husband became very adept at putting highlights in my hair using a cap and pick.  Now as a mature woman I've graduated to an all over color with a few strategically placed highlights - which I still do myself.  Of course, if I don't have time to color my hair my husband reminds me.  It goes something along the lines of "Wow!  I can't believe how gray you are.  You should probably color your hair."  I sure do love that guy :)

My haircuts are one of the areas I don't scrimp on, however I will color my own hair instead of paying the salon to do it.  It's actually quite easy and I probably save about $500 a year.  For me the biggest advantage is I can do it when it's convenient for me and don't need to spend a lot of time in the stylist's chair.

Are you thinking about coloring your hair?  If you are, here are some tips for first timers.

  1. Start with a non-permanent color, these should wash out in about 30 washings.  Once you've determined the color move to a permanent color.
  2. Start with a color close to your natural color.  You can always go more dramatic once you get the hang of it.
  3. Wear an old t-shirt or something that you don't mind ruining, this includes a towel.
  4. Rub some conditioner around your hairline (not in your hair), this will help you keep dye off your skin.
  5. Remember to use the conditioner they give you once a week, this will help keep your hair soft.
My favorite hair color is L'Oreal Couleur Expert.  This is an all over color with highlights added at the end.  They have recently improved their applicator so that it fits over the top of your finger making it pretty easy to add the highlights.  It takes me about 45 minutes start to finish to complete.

If you are wanting to experiment with color but don't want to fork over the big salon bucks I say go for it!  As long as you start with a non-permanent it will wash out eventually :)

Note:  I have not been asked to talk about this product or received any compensation or free product for discussing it.  I just love the product and wanted to share it with you.

You might also like:

Re-Organizing the Laundry/Storage Room
How I Save Money at the Grocery Store
Preparing for the Week

I'll be linking this up over at We are THAT Family

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Menu Plan

I'm certainly glad last week is over, it was a pretty craptacular week if I do say so myself.  In addition to my mom have her little episode last Saturday, our car broke down on Monday, my grandma had a stroke on Tuesday and my dad severely cut hit finger (hit an artery) and needed to go to the emergency room on Wednesday.  I was a little afraid to crawl out of bed on Thursday.  The good news is my mom is suppose to leave the hospital tomorrow, my grandma didn't have to much damage from the stroke, our car is fixed and my dad's finger was stitched up and will be good as new.  I guess sometimes we just need a reminder of how fortunate we really are.

This week is going to be pretty crazy too so I'll be keeping it pretty simple.  Here's the plan for the week:


Breakfast sandwiches

Sandwich, Gogurt, mandarin oranges, string cheese and brownie for my daughter's school lunch
Kashi frozen meals
Bagel sandwiches
Lunch out

Baked chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, salad and focaccia bread
Spaghetti & meatballs, Strawberry Salad, glazed carrots and garlic bread
Brats, grilled potatoes, Tomato Salad, regular salad and corn
Potato Soup and Beer Bread
Fend for yourself (usually consists of macaroni & cheese or pizza)
Dinner out
Cooking dinner for my parents at their house (I don't know what I'm going to cook yet)

That's my menu for the week - what does yours look like? Feel free to link up your menu plan in the comments.

I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Emergency Preparedness

If the events of the last few days have taught me anything it's that we are not at all prepared for an emergency.  On Saturday my mother suffered an event (you can read more about it here) that created quite a panic among the family.  As we've been dealing with the aftermath I've reflected on what could have been done better and made some of my phone calls a little easier.  Here is the list I've come up with, if you have anything to add please let me know.  I'm starting to create an emergency kit for us and it would help if I've forgotten something.

Know your family's phone numbers:  Seems like a no-brainer but my sister needed to call my aunt 500 miles away to notify me that my mom had a heart attack.  She didn't have my phone number since most of our communication is either over e-mail, through my mom or in person.  Neither one of us had the other's phone number and I'm not in the book.  I also took the opportunity to add extended family members and my parents friends into my cell phone book so that I'm prepared for the future.

Know the emergency numbers at work:  We had trouble reaching my dad because it was after hours.  It took the police a while to find a way to reach him.  I've realized that my own children wouldn't know how to get a hold of their father if something happened to me.  They probably wouldn't think to look on the top of the fridge (where I keep the emergency number) if I was unable to communicate.  We've all added alternative phone numbers into our cell phones.

Finances:  My mother takes care of the finances, my dad doesn't know the passwords to any of the accounts or what bill is due when.  Honestly, neither does my husband or the spouses of a number of people at work.  Having a list of all your bills, log on names & passwords, bank accounts, etc is critical.  Luckily my mother is able to communicate, this evening was spent with her telling me what I needed to know to take care of their finances while she's in the hospital.

Personal Data:  In dealing with the medical insurance, disability insurance, etc I needed social security information, DOB information, etc.  Since I do their taxes I was able to look up the social security information fairly easily and I knew what her date of birth was, but someone else wouldn't have been able to access so quickly (at least without bothering my dad)

Medical Information:  Knowing who your doctor is, medical procedures you had (i.e. you have a metal clip in your brain and can't have a MRI), medicines you are on, etc are important pieces of information for emergency personal to have.  Physician information is also required when filing disability insurance claims.

Who needs to be notified:  If something happens, who do you want called?  Who is your supervisor at work, who is your insurance agent, etc.  I made as many calls to people that I knew but I did end up missing one of my mom's good friends.  Yes, she was a little insulted and upset with me.  What can you do?  Having a list of people to contact would have made the job a little easier for me.  The way things spread on Facebook these things need to be done fairly quickly to avoid the 'grapevine' effect.

I'm in the process of putting together my list of the above.  I will make sure that my husband, the kids and my parents know where I have put it so that if there is ever a problem they will be able to access our information.  Keeping it updated is important also, I figured that since we're getting close to daylight savings I might put this on the same 'review' timeframe as the changing of the fire alarm batteries.

Do you have an emergency kit?  I'd love to hear what else you put in it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Weekly Menu

The menu I'm posting this week isn't the menu I planned - at all!  I guess that's what life is about though, punting when you need to.  We had quite the emotional weekend.  On Saturday my mother collapsed and was without a heart beat.  My sister's boyfriend was able to do CPR until the paramedics got there but she was still considered a "pulse less non breather" when she got to the hospital (amazing how quickly you learn the medical terms)

Saturday night we weren't expecting her to make it.  After working on her for about two hours they were able to stabilize her, put her into a hypothermia state and medically induced coma.  The only glimmer we had was when they let us see her in the ER she briefly opened her eyes (she doesn't remember any of this) and we saw that she recognized us. 

Yesterday (Sunday) they were able to wake her up and remove the ventilator.  She has no brain damage and is doing remarkably well.  Everyone in ICU is amazed at how well she is doing, we've heard it from the doctors, nurses and Chaplain who was called in to sit with us Saturday night.  According to the ICU staff 19 out of every 20 patients who arrive in the same condition either don't make it or suffer some form of brain damage.  For her to have non of that is amazing and quite exciting.  They said it was good for them to have someone responding so well since they are dealing with such traumatic circumstances.

My mother still needs tests, a surgery and a long road of recovery but she is expected to make a full recovery which is quite the miracle.  Thank you for the thoughts and prayers over the weekend.  God definitely heard.  One a side note, while this was pretty traumatic the timing couldn't have been better.  My dad was at work and the only reason my sister was over is they were getting ready to leave for St. Louis with my mom on Sunday.  My sister and her boyfriend had actually walked out the front door, my niece (12) saw the collapse and called her mother in.  If my niece wouldn't have been able to catch my sister and if they weren't taking the trip my mom would have been home alone and would not have made it.  Even worse is if she would have not collapsed until she was driving the next day.  I can't even think what could have happened if she was on the freeway when her heart stopped.  God truly had the whole thing orchestrated and her angels were definitely watching out for her.

Ok - thanks for bearing with me as I got that out of my system.  On to the menu.

Breakfast (hasn't changed from the original)
Breakfast sandwiches

Sandwiches (bagel & regular bread)
Frozen meals

Dinner (Since I will be at the hospital all week I'm not going to be cooking)
Chili (from the freezer)
Macaroni & Cheese (from the freezer)
Brats (my husband will grill and we'll eat when it's convenient)
Frozen pizza (hey - sometimes you got to take the easy way out)
Potato soup & Beer Bread (Tastefully Simple - one of the kids favorite meal)
Dinner with friends
Take out

Feel free to share you menu plan in the comments.

I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Friday, September 9, 2011

Updated Shelves

I’m frugal by nature but due to circumstances don’t always exhibit the behavior. I’ve found that I have a finite amount of time and sometimes I’m better off buying something instead of repurposing it. However, when I worked on my laundry/storage room issue I had some perfectly good shelves that were an awful color. I bought them used from a co-worker so I only had a couple of dollars stuck into them. Over the course of re-organizing the room I did a lot of searching for organizational tools and found some really cool stuff, for really high prices. Since this is not a public room but a laundry/storage room in the basement I really didn’t need to have all that really cool stuff but I did want to neutralize the awful yellow paint and have it match the clothes racks that I had bought so the area had a cohesive feel to it.

Enter Krylon spray paint! My last foray with spray paint was when my 20 year old was in middle school and we had to make an atom. We tried spray painting Styrofoam balls with spray paint. Do you know what happens when you paint Styrofoam balls with spray paint? You get little melted balls of nothing. However I was game to try it again.

I went to the store and found some paint that matched the clothes racks and bought a couple of cans. Note to self, it always takes more than you think so save yourself some time and buy more right from the start! When I got home and started painting my husband took pity on me (he gets twitchy when he sees me with paint) and spray painted the shelves for me. Krylon is great because it adheres to plastic (which is what these shelves were) and has so many cool finishes. In my area the cost of a can runs from $3.47 for basic flat paint to over $7 for the decorator finishes.

I needed about 5 cans so my total expense of the product about $25 (I got a little bit of shimmer in my paint) but I could have done it for under $20. Since the shelving units that I was looking at to match my clothes racks were running about $40 - $50 I thought I did pretty good!

I wish I had a picture of the before to show you since the color was awful.  If you really want to see the color you can click the link above of the organization project itself, in the left corner of the before pictures are the shelves

What have you found to save you money when you want to redecorate or organize?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Laundry/Storage Room - The Finished Product

TA-DA!  It's been a long process but I am done, finished, complete, finite with the laundry room/storage room.  There were times on the journey that I thought I would never finish.  Many times throughout the process my husband would question what I was doing because he couldn't see my vision, but here we are on the other side with a room that both of us are happy with and should be SUSTAINABLE!

Let's start at the beginning.  Here is what we walked into when we went to do laundry.

Here were my fundamental problems with the room:
  • I felt like we were being overrun with clothes.  Hanging clothes, clean but unfolded clothes, off-season clothes, clothes that didn't fit
  • My shelves were ugly (I picked them up from someone at work), unorganized and not always used (Let's play Gardens of Time.  Can you find the paper towels in the above picture?)
  • We couldn't get to the treadmill, even if we wanted to
  • There was no room for the freezer I wanted to get
  • Due to hanging clothes and laundry supplies I could barely see the top of the washer & dryer
  • My husband did not have a dedicated space to hang his uniforms to dry
  • I had no room to work on my projects (I need to sew new cushions for my couch and love seat)
  • There are more issues but I think you get the idea
My first step was to start sorting. I picked up an item and put it in a pile in another room.  I had the following piles going:
  • Donation
  • Kitchen Stuff
  • Books
  • Winter Gear
  • Sewing/craft projects
  • Don't know what to do with junk
Here is what the area looked like in the middle of the sort process

Once I completed the "Sort" process I started the "Shine" step.  I don't have pictures of this but basically I dusted everything, got rid of all the cobwebs (of which there were many) vacuumed/swept the floor, cleaned the washer/dryer (including vents and junk catchers). 

Next I "Set in Order".  Typically when doing the 5S process this would include labeling and outlining items.  I didn't do this now but depending on how well the "Sustain" process goes I may need to.  I did give specific instructions to each member of the family as to how this new system would work.  Here are the different areas that I set up
  • Laundry shelves:  I have added shelves next to the washer and dryer which allows me to get the 'stuff' off the top of the washer and drying. There should be nothing on top of those appliances unless the laundry is being folded.  Once the folding is completed the items are to immediately be put away
  • Hanging racks and canvas bags:  My husband likes to hang all of his clothes.  He did create hanging areas a few years ago but I felt like they were in the way since they were over the washer and dryer as well as to the right of the entry way.  I bought two hanging racks with canvas bags.  My husband hangs his uniforms and extra SWAT wear on the one rack while the rest of his clothes go on the other rack.  My son get two canvas bags (one for his clean clothes and one for his uniforms), my daughter gets a canvas bag for her uniforms and the other three are for out of season clothes.  You can see our old hanging racks in the washer/dryer picture down below
  • Storage Shelves:  I painted the storage shelves a sparkly brown color to match the hanging racks I purchased (I was going to go with black but when I found the matching paint I decided to go with that).  While the different colored shelves don't add any functionality it does make the area look more cohesive.  I also stopped at the dollar store and picked up a few more baskets to keep the items organized
  • Sewing Area:  I've moved the table out of the center of the room and for now am using that as the storage area for my sewing material.  Once I complete my sewing project all I'll have is my sewing machine and sewing kit.  I will need to find a better place to store those items but I'll cross that bridge later.  Right now I need everything on the table.  We can also use that table for other craft projects as well as an area to organize all of our pictures (that's another item on my project list) that are in the storage totes next to the hanging racks
  • Freezer:  I've made room for the freezer which we purchased but still need to pick up.  Right now we have a table in the area as a place holder.  Remember the old Formica tables with the duct taped legs?  Yep, that's what is the place holder and was our first kitchen table.  When we moved into our first apartment everything was a hand me down.  That table was given to us by my husband's parents who received it from their parents.  I was planning on putting it on the curb but my husband isn't ready to part with it yet.  We are going to dismantle the table and slide it behind the furnace for now.
I skipped the 'Standardize' portion of the 5S process.  Typically this would involve taking a picture of the area and hanging it in a conspicuous place with instructions as to how to sustain.  Once again, I've given those explicit instructions to my family and they better follow or else :)  If I have problems with the sustainment I may need to re-address.

The last step in the process was 'Sustain'.  What changes were we going to make so that we didn't fall back into our old habits? 
  • Step number one was to change our laundry routine.  My son was the official laundry folder but he wasn't doing a very good job of keeping up with the laundry washer.  This is one of the reasons I felt like I was drowning in clean clothes.  We've relieved my son of his laundry folder duties (don't worry - he was assigned new ones) and now my husband and I fold the laundry right out of the dryer. 
  • Step number two is my husband has a specific drying rack for his uniforms, he is not to dry his clothes any where other than that rack.  Once the clothes are dried they are to be hung up.  Since my husband is pretty disciplined I don't think this will be a problem since he has specific areas to do this. 
  • Step number three is still a work in progress.  We need a donation area.  I have three storage closets in our family room that need to be organized.  My plan is to create a donation area in one of those areas that I can neatly stack items we no longer need until we can make a donation run.
  • Step number four is to make sure that the our stock up area remains neat.  Instead of throwing the items haphazardly onto the table we will neatly add the products to their appropriate shelves.
That's it!  Below are pictures of the finished area.  Enjoy!

Main area of laundry/storage area.  Table will be used for craft projects.  I'm not sure yet what the treadmill will be used for :)

Area where the new chest freezer will go.  The table was our very first kitchen table, my husband isn't ready to get rid of it yet so we'll be taking off the legs and storing it behind the shelves.  

Shelves that I use for storage.  The shelf on the right will be kitchen items while the shelf on the left is for my stockpiled items.  The top of the shelves are usable also but I wasn't able to get them in the picture.  These were a bright yellow that I painted brown to match my clothes racks.

Shelves to the left above the clothes dirty clothes baskets are new, previously the items were stored on top of the washer & dryer.  Clothing was previously hung above the washer & dryer but are now being stored on the clothes racks.  We use the quilt rack right now as a drying rack.

I will be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake Recipe

This past weekend I had my parents over for a belated turning 60 party for my mother.  Her actual birthday was in the middle of the week and she worked late so I dropped off the most beautiful bouquet of flowers and a red velvet birthday cake for her and my dad to share.  Since this was the big 6-0 I wanted to make it a little extra special by also having a barbecue for her.

The meal itself wasn't fancy; brats (is that a surprise?), potato salad, tomato salad and some corn on the cob.  However, I did create one of my piece de resistances for desert.  I made my Triple Chocolate Bundt Cake, a favorite of the chocolate lovers in my family.  This is a super easy recipe but tastes like a lot of time and effort has been put into it.  The secret is starting with a cake mix.

1 package Devil's food cake mix (without the pudding)
1 4oz package of instant chocolate fudge pudding & pie filling
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix together cake mix, pudding, eggs, oil, sour cream and  water.  Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until just blended.  Beat on medium speed 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl often.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Turn into a well greased 12 cup bundt pan.  Bake 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester (tooth pick) inserted in center comes out clean.  Note - this can be tricky because of the chocolate chips.  Let cool 10-15 minutes in pan, then invert to unmold.  Let cool completely.

At this point you have your choice regarding toppings.  A lot of people like to just sift powered sugar over their bundt cake, not in the WWIM household!  We go for cream cheese frosting!

Mix 1/2 pound cream cheese, 1 stick butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla & 2 cups powered sugar (you can halve this portion of the recipe if you would like) until blended.  Thin with milk until it can be drizzled over the top of the cake. I like to take a portion of the frosting out and stir in some powered chocolate (hot chocolate or whatever you have laying around) and then drizzle the chocolate frosting on top of the white frosting.  Gives it a little special panache.

I hope you enjoy it - I'd love to hear how it turns out for you.

You might also enjoy:

Carrot Cake Recipe
The Water Park Cake

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rock Star Mom Moment

There have been times at work that I've lamented that I'm the worst mom in the world.  Fortunately I have a friend who will remind me that my children are clothed, fed and clean so while I may not win mother of the year I'm certainly not the WORST mother in the world.  Don't you just love good friends :)

Seriously though, I think most mothers question whether they are doing a good enough job for their kids.  Have we prepared them well for the future?  Are we shaping them to be self-sufficient adults that we would like whether we are related to them or not?  Will they look back on their childhood with fondness and contenment or will they resent us for the opportunities they never received?  As a working mother it gets even worse.  Do mothers who quit their jobs to stay home love their kids more than I do?  Is daycare going to scar my children forever?  Is my kid going to resent forever that I missed the 3rd grade Christmas program because of a business trip?  Need I go on?

As the mother of older children I'm starting to get a glimpse of who they will be in adulthood and I'm quite pleased with what I'm seeing so far.  My 20 year old son (soon to be 21) is really growing into a wonderful man.  He works hard (at least at work!), he's considerate to his elders, he watches over his sister and helps her fit in at work (yes - they do still bicker as well), he shares his feelings with me (at least some of them) and he can talk to me like an adult.  Yes, I am liking what I see.

This past weekend was pretty busy for me.  We had one barbecue to host and two to attend so there was A LOT of food to make.  What's a mother to do but drag her son into the kitchen to help cook.  My son was rolling the Lil Smokies for bacon wrapped weiners while I had a cake cooling and was making meatloaf for the freezer.  As we worked together he was quite talkative (something about working together in the kitchen brings out the chattiness of my kids) about his dating situation, his favorite childhood memories, the 'fun' we had doing last minute school projects, etc.  During the course of the converstation he says to me "Mom, you've set the bar quite high for my future wife".

What!?  Did my ears deceive me?  My child, the one that I have fretted over for 20+ years that I was a 'good enough' mother for him, actually said that his future wife would have a high hurdle to cross.  Be still my heart, isn't that what every mom wants to hear?  He went on to say what a great cook I was (have you seen my menu plan?) and how awesome my baking was. 

My adult child has just shared with me what I great mom I am and how hard of a time his yet unknown wife will have living up to the standards that I've set.  Maybe I'm not the worst mom in the world!  I'm a Rock Star Mom!

Now I just have to navigate my young daughter through the teenage years to really be a success!  I have a wonderful product to work with so I'm sure we'll come out the other end fine.

Note to my future daughter-in-law:  Don't worry, my son will love you and think you are wonderful no matter how great of a cook/baker you are.  Plus, if you want I'll share some of my secrets with you so don't worry about the bar that has been set :)

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Lion King Costume
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Monday, September 5, 2011

Menu Planning

When grocery shopping, what are the appropriate tools to have?  Some some of us use a shopping list, some of us like to use coupons, I think all of us can agree that money is important.  Guess what I forgot to bring with me to the grocery store this past weekend?  Yep, the money.  What a dork.  The even worse news, we drive about 30 minutes to the grocery store.  The good news, I got dinner at Panera's before I realized we didn't have any cash.

I'm sure that there are a few of you wondering why we didn't use a credit card.  Unfortunately (or I guess fortunately depending on how you look at it) we shop at a store that keeps its costs down by using cash/debit card/checks only.  The account that my husband has a debit card to was pretty much empty and I left all my stuff at home.  Fortunately I discovered this while we were at the beginning of the store and not in the check out line with a cart full of groceries.  Surprisingly my husband wasn't upset, but I did have to go back myself the next day since he had to work.

This is a pretty crazy week for the family schedule, I don't think there's one night where all four of us are sitting down together.  With that in mind I've kept the schedule even simpler than normal.  Giving a nod to the new school year (aka fall coming) I did add meatloaf back into our rotation.  Here's the plan for the week.

Blueberry muffins

Note:  The yogurt, bananas and omelets aren't new but I realized I never really listed them before.  I view the bananas and yogurts as a 'side' item and my husband makes his own omelets.  I figured I'd throw them in though since it is part of our menu.

School lunches
Kashi frozen meals
Lunch out
Bagel sandwiches

BBQ with family
Fend for yourself
Dinner with friends

That's my menu for the week - what does yours look like?  Feel free to link up your menu plan in the comments.

I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

You might also like:

August Financial Check Up
Banana Bread Recipe
Christmas Shopping

Saturday, September 3, 2011

This Week's Goals Update

Two days left before I go back to work.  I thought this would be a good time to do a check of what I still need to accomplish:

Go through Belle's clothes

Make a list and shop for school clothes
Go through Belle's dance stuff, make list and pick up anything she needs
Go through Belle's shoes, make list and pick up whatever she needs
Take Belle to orthodontist
Get Belle's tooth pulled (this is a new one from her ortho appointment yesterday)
Call flexible spending account to verify availability of funds (this is also a new one from her ortho appt)
Go to concert - we skipped the concert.  I was to tired from cleaning :(
Go to baseball game (this was suppose to be a water park but plans changed)
Buy a freezer
Finish basement cleaning project
Switch purses
Organize Goodwill pile and take to Goodwill
Write some guest posts
Write ahead my own posts
Get my custom domain name working
Buy new blinds for living room
Look at paint for living room
Fix sewing machine
Plan mom's 60th party barbecue
Buy new picture frames and switch out pictures on living room shelf
Thoroughly clean my bedroom
Start new couch cushions
Organize kitchen drawers and cabinets
Pick up birthday presents for two of my nieces' birthdays
Lose one pound
Exercise 2X this week

I'll let you know Tuesday what else I can cross off the list!

How's your to-do list coming?

New Domain Name

I'm moving up in the world - I've finally got my blog pointed towards my own custom domain name!  You can now find me at  It's been a few months since I've purchased the name, but I've got to be honest with you.  This programming stuff scares me a little bit and it took me some time to figure out how to get my blog pointing there.  Luckily there's a lot of step by step information on the internet that helped me walk through the pretty easy process of re-pointing my domain name.  Just don't ask me to explain what I did :)

Next up will be moving my blog from Blogger to Wordpress.  I've already bought the hosting, I just have to work up the nerve to try my hand at designing my blog.  If you've had good (or bad) experiences with some of the custom blog builders out there I'd love to hear them.  I may be breaking down and hiring someone if this gets to be to time consuming for me.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Shopping for School Clothes

School shopping - it's enough to strike fear in the strongest of mothers.  I tremble at the thought of having to actually venture out and get the kids ready for school.  Now that I'm down to one kid it's a tad bit easier but still painful.  I'm not a huge fan of shopping (I know - it doesn't always show), that combined with my time constraints means that we only shop for clothes in fall and spring (maybe a couple of items at birthday or Christmas).  This leads to an EXPENSIVE August. 

I've found that the best way for me to tackle back to school is to take some vacation and just 'get er done'.  Much to my daughter's angst, I picked the last three days before school started to take those vacations days.  Since history has told me that a) this is going to be expensive b)we tend to buy more than we need c)shopping with a teenage girl with no pre-set boundaries can turn into a nightmare I decided to take a more purposeful approach to this shopping trip.

Here was my plan of attack:

  • Sort through existing clothes.  Note:  make the kid actually try on the existing clothes.  There were a number of items that we thought 'fit' until I made her try them on.  14 year old girls tend to grow fast and the jeans that fit them in spring won't necessarily fit them in the fall.
  • Discuss what is needed and make a list - do not stray from the list.  This is the time to let your kids negotiate, not in the store.  My daughter really wanted a new backpack (the one from last year was in still in good shape), I told her that if she wanted a new backpack she had to cross something else off the list.  She decided she didn't need a new backpack.
  • Pick a day/time when I wasn't rushed or stressed.  Shopping for a new wardrobe is stressful.  Choosing a day when you don't have other items/time constraints stressing you will make the day much more enjoyable.

We actually had a pretty enjoyable trip and I'm happy to say we didn't stray from the list (I'm not counting the picture frames I picked up :).  There were only two 'teaching' moments and they actually weren't bad since we had already set the ground rules.

  • I did have to coach my daughter away from the full price jeans over to the sale rack
  • When she wanted a third long sleeve shirt I told her she was free to get it with her own money.  Amazing how suddenly it wasn't that critical to buy that shirt!
Lest you think my poor daughter has nothing to wear based on the short list above, we did pick her up a couple of t-shirts a couple of weeks ago when Aero had their half price sale. I also had a friends and family card so we did pretty good.  She also has some clothes from last spring that still fit so she is well set.

The good news, pretty much all of the items we bought were on sale.  I picked up the jeans for $8 a pair - what a steal!

How did you do with your school shopping?

I'll be linking this up over at Life as Mom 

You might also like:
August Financial Check Up
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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Financial Check Up - August

This was not a fun month for us financially.  We had the unexpected bee situation plus the dogs annual vet appointments, all of which cost us about $1,000 this month in vet fees.  Topping off the month was back to school shopping with my daughter, school fees and the financial assistance we offered our son with his tuition and books.  I also spent some money buying organizing materials for my laundry/storage room project , that was money I would normally have spent on debt reduction.  While our results are pretty dismal, the bright lining is that we didn't go backwards and I think we should make some decent headway in September.

Add three months to our emergency fund

No progress, we will be focusing on this fourth quarter

Redecorate our living room

I was hoping to start the redecorating this week while we were on vacation but that's not going to happen.  After I finish the laundry/storage room I'm hoping to start on the new cushions.  I should have enough fabrice so that won't cost me anything.

Reduce our debt by 34%

We are only at 22% for the month which is not very good.  To make our 34% reduction I'll have to average a 4% reduction every month for the rest of the year.  The good news is December is a three pay check month, the bad news is I was hoping to use that 3rd pay check for the emergency fund.  My plan is to kick up the debt reduction for September.

Start a Christmas Club

In addition to the Christmas Club I've been doing a series about preparing for Christmas.  Yes, I know it's early but time has a way of sneaking up on me.  I've already procured six Christmas presents and one birthday present for next May.  I'm hoping to be done with the bulk of my shopping by the middle of October.  There are a few presents I'm not going to be able to buy until December because they are play tickets.
Plan a family vacation in Q1 2012

No payments made on the trip.

That's where we sit for the month. How about you? Is your budget going as well this year as you had hoped?

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Christmas Shopping Update
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