August=Spending freeze

August is upon us already. That means a spending freeze for me. July was filled with multiple birthdays and other expenditures this year… that means spending extra money. I will have one exception for this spending freeze though… wedding expenses. I am retraining my brain to frugalness by not spending on anything frivolous or uneccessary.

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I know I’ve already done the rundown on spending freezes in a previous post. This month I’m going to heed my own words. IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN. I’ve already had challenges this month, and it’s only the fourth! I went shopping with my daughter today. She wanted some company. Of course I said I would go.  I had to put back several items as we wandered around multiple stores. They were great deals. I sure wanted to take them home!  I had to keep reminding myself… “I don’t need this. Self control, self control, self control”. It worked! Chalk one up for me!

Bills, minimal wedding expenses, and bare essentials/groceries… That is all I’m purchasing. This month, for some reason, I’m finding this really difficult. I’m not sure why. I do spending freezes several times a year. Having MY birthday in July probably didn’t help. I usually buy myself a few things… Things I’ll use, but not solely needed items.  They were random, spur of the moment items. Maybe that’s it? I wasn’t as careful with my money and my steadfastness waivered.  Yep, I’m going with that.

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Yes, this month will be tough. I have company coming to town for the wedding. I’ll have four extra people in my house for five days. I’ll make it work! I think I’ll use some of my food storage to compensate for the added food costs. That way I don’t blow my grocery budget. I’ll be sure to make menus choices that everyone will enjoy.  It’s going to be pretty hectic, so I will be using my crock pot and instant pot the majority of the time. These will save me a lot of time, giving me the freedom to visit with my brother and his family, along with decorating the wedding venue. I’ll say it again… This will work!

So, my money IS going to stay in my wallet. Amazon WILL NOT get my business this month. I am not going to the store unless I’m grocery shopping or getting items for the wedding. Repeat after me…. Self control, SELF CONTROL!!

Laughing at and loving your imperfections

I’m going to be brutally honest here. I am one of the most awkward people you will ever meet… With the exception of my kids anyway… (They inherited their awkwardness from me. Sorry kids!) You may not notice my awkwardness right away, but at some point it WILL show up. Just you wait! Not only do I tend to be socially awkward, I’m physically awkward… Vertically challenged… Clumsy… Whatever you want to call it is okay with me. It’s the truth. Seriously, I fall down. A LOT. I have been this way for as long as I can remember, and it hasn’t gotten any better with age. I still trip and fall, and I still bruise just as easily. I could be completely embarrassed by tripping all the time, or running into things. I could wear jeans and long sleeved shirts 365 days a year… Where’s the fun in that? I have embraced it. I have accepted it. I only hope to have an interesting story to go along with the usually incredibly colored bruises. Half the time I don’t even know what happened to get the bruise. I’m sure people assume that I’m in an abusive relationship… No. No I’m not. If you know me at all, you know the truth. All I can do is laugh at myself… A song title comes to mind… “Oops, I did it again”.

All of this awkwardness could totally leave me wanting to hide in my house for the rest of my life. It did, at one point VERY long ago. I’m over it. If nothing else, it is definitely a conversation starter. Most of the really good ones DO have hilarious stories to go along with them. Somehow, they usually involve one or more of my dogs.

That one looking at me? That’s Maya, the adventurer. Good thing she’s adorable!

My most spectacular one of this year? Oh, let me tell you all about it! It was a Thursday. I was just arriving home from work. I pulled into my driveway, and pushed the garage door opener on my sun visor. As the door goes up and I start to pull in, I notice the man door going to the back yard is open… (I’m positive I closed and latched it shut when I left.) Uh oh. I see all three of my dogs racing to the garage to see me. Wow, they run really fast! I pull in as fast as I can, pushed the garage door opener again to close the door, and fling my car door open to try and block them from running past me and getting out to the front of the house. (You see, they’re all very spirited, and two of them we rescued earlier this year. They don’t go out front without leashes. EVER. Open yard and a busy street. We just don’t do it.) Well, I thought everything would be fine, until I see Maya, the adventurer, start to go under my garage door with about two feet left before it closes. What’s a girl to do? Dive after her, catch her tail and hold on, obviously. Of course, just as I grab her tail, the door closes the rest of the way… on my arm. I’m talking an over-sized, very insulated, double garage door closed on my arm. BUT I STILL HAVE A GOOD GRIP ON MAYA’S TAIL. I didn’t let go. So there I am, laying on the nice, cool floor inside the garage while Maya is stuck sitting there on the other side because I have her tail. I’m starting to inwardly panic because I’m stuck down on the floor with no way to open the door, and my arm is starting to tingle a bit. About twenty seconds go by before the garage door comes back up because it apparently hadn’t shut completely… Just got to love those safety features. (I think.) As the door comes back up, the other two dogs make a run for the front, and my grip on Maya’s tail falters… And away they all go… in three different directions. I scramble up off the floor and start chasing dogs. I’m yelling and carrying on like a crazy woman as the dogs run across the street to two of the neighbors’ houses. Luckily one of these neighbors is outside and I frantically yell, “GET HER!” as I go and chase down the other dogs. I get Joshua and Masco rounded up, and put them in the house. Then, I go back for Maya. The neighbors, bless their hearts, have her on their patio. She’s so happy to see me. I talk to (wheezed is more accurate) my neighbors and thank them repeatedly for quickly catching Maya. I grab her collar and she and I head back over to my house… as I’m not so nicely telling her that she and I are NOT friends right now. I get her in the house, and the garage door is now closed… and my husband is mowing the lawn in the back yard. Clueless. SERIOUSLY?! I go inside, quickly tidy up the house, do some vacuuming, and then my friends show up for our weekly girls night. We’re all sitting there eating snacks, laughing, and I got a chill and rubbed my arm. I am startled. I have a HUGE goose egg on my arm.

Progression of garage door bruises. Does this only happen to me??

I hadn’t even done an assessment of the damage to my arm in my haste to get the house in order for guests. I had completely forgotten about it. I guess it looked pretty bad. The girls were staring nervously at it for the rest of the evening. I put an ice pack on it. The next day I had to fly to Montana for the first time to help with a new computer system launch. My arm looked HORRIBLE. At least I had a great story! That broke the tension and awkwardness of meeting new people. They had a good laugh over that one. Ha ha!

My social awkwardness is pretty hilarious. I get nervous talking to people. Evidently I anticipate what people are going to say…  and then I blurt out things that have absolutely nothing to do with what they just said. I get the weirdest looks from people as they try not to burst into nervous laughter. I’ll be at the store buying groceries, and the cashier is overly chatty. I try to be polite. We get done with my transaction, and then I think they’re going to say “Have a nice day”. They actually say “Thanks for shopping with us”, and I say, “You too!”  Wait, what?? Good grief. The cashier gives me an oddly strained look, and I make my way to the exit shaking my head. Yeah, I did it again. It happens all the time. WOW. I do laugh loudly when my daughter calls to tell me she had a “You too!” moment. I can relate.

So, what it comes down to is this… We can either be embarrassed and ashamed by our many imperfections, or we can embrace who we are and own it. At this point in my life, I’ve accepted the fact that I am one big casualty waiting to happen. I make sure to announce this to new people so they aren’t surprised. Trust me, they are usually surprised anyway. It’s okay that I have awkwardness every minute that I’m awake. It’s okay that I have to look down and watch my feet when I walk. It’s okay that I can trip on a completely flat surface. It’s okay that I have random bruises. It’s who I am. Not accepting it ISN’T going to change it. I can laugh and joke about it. It’s either that or cry. I don’t like to cry… No one wants to see THAT.

LOVE YOURSELF FOR BEING IMPERFECTLY PERFECT.

Revisiting the past: Class reunion update

The day is long and warm… the breeze is gently blowing through the trees… and the sounds of laughter, conversations, and excited screams flow through the parking lot as I step out of my car in the “secret parking lot” behind the Deluxe Brewery. I take a deep breath, grab my camera, and head to the entrance. My anxiety is running high as I step inside… the thought of so many people is getting to me. I am greeted by familiar, friendly faces and hugs. My awkward and nervous conversation starts keying down to a tolerable level almost immediately as I find my name tag and see a few of my friends that I see on a fairly regular basis. After a few minutes, I find my way over to the bar and get myself a tasty adult beverage to calm my nerves. Breathe…. Ah, delicious.

I look around and realize that there is no one taking photos of our event. I was originally just going to take a few, but hey, I brought the only camera! I’m so glad I did! Not only was I able to take photos of everyone (I think), I got to give myself a task that takes me out of my comfort zone. I did things I wouldn’t normally do without a camera attached to me… I talked to just about everyone there… Hell, I stood on a tall table and took pictures until the staff told me get down. HA!

I saw people that I went to school with since the first grade. I was curious how many would be there from way back then. Actually, I was curious how many would be there from my entire graduating class. I wish more could have come, but, it was really loud in the building with all the talking going on. Imagine if it were six to seven times the amount of people!

My circle of friends in school was pretty small. I was so shy that I didn’t talk to most people unless it was absolutely necessary. I recognize the faces and the names though! It was incredibly magical to me. Thirty years later, and all the social walls have fallen. Everyone is happy to talk to everyone else… genuinely asking how they are, what they’ve been doing, and where they live. The majority of us wore name tags with our yearbook photo on them. Some people looked so different that I did a double take when I looked at their name tag. Others really hadn’t changed at all. It was pretty mind blowing.  I had only planned on staying for about two hours. I ended up staying for an extra hour and a half. I had an amazing time.

It was so nice to all the smiling faces…. all the bright eyes, laughter, and intense conversations. It has been 30 years since I have seen the majority of these people, but at least for one night, we were all long lost friends. Thank you my fellow bulldogs for a delightful evening!

HAIL WEST ALBANY HIGH!

Planning a wedding on a budget

I have a lot going on this summer. It’s the season of beautiful weather, vacations, garage sales, outings to the river with my doggies, and a wedding to pull together. It seems like just yesterday, not 6 months ago, that my lovely daughter, Carmen, got engaged. The happy couple is planning on paying for the majority of the wedding themselves. Of course my husband and myself are pitching in a bit, but, keeping the expenditures to a minimum is top priority. The wedding is coming up in just under 6 weeks. There is so much to do!

I have spent hours upon hours on Pinterest saving pins for frugal ideas on decorations, floral arrangements, backdrops, themes… Oh my goodness there is so much information out there! I absolutely adore Pinterest… way more than I should.

HOW IT ALL STARTED…

The official engagement Facebook post

 

 

THE ENGAGEMENT: Christmas day, 2017, Carmen’s boyfriend, Jacob, popped the question. (He’s such a great guy! We are absolutely thrilled to have him officially join our family!After a few weeks, it was decided to have the wedding in August of 2018. That gave us 8 months to plan a wedding.

 

Grange hall down the street. A more inexpensive venue with lots of perks

 

 

THE VENUE:  Carmen and Jacob wanted to have a smaller wedding, and the place they picked was perfect. Carmen already knew where she wanted to have the wedding. That was good since our timeline was pretty short. There is a grange/community hall just down the street from where I live that she picked. It’s a mile away from my home. It was nicely priced to “rent”, and there’s ample parking. She wants an outdoor wedding, and it has these two trees out front on the right side that will be perfect for the ceremony. It’s also a neat old building with a nice kitchen/dining area in the basement. It has a nice space upstairs for dancing, and a stage as well. There is a lot of history to that old building for me. I went to the school across the street from it when I was a child. I ate lunch in that grange hall every day in grade school for 4+ years. We had Christmas programs and talent shows there. There are so many good memories. I’m happy to have a wonderful one as an adult too.

Doing the engagement photos yourself can save you literally thousands of dollars.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Photographers can be one of the biggest expenses for a wedding… Engagement photos… the wedding itself… Hours upon hours are spent taking photos and editing. Since I am a photographer, it was a natural decision for me to do the engagement shoot. After all, IT’S FREE if I do them. We picked a spot and set up a time. I brought some props, and so did they. The photos turned out really nice. We were all pleased with the way they looked. We decided to use one of these photos for the wedding invitations. I had originally thought about doing the photos for the actual wedding myself, BUT… I am the Matron on Honor, (seriously LOVE this girl for choosing me!) and I just can’t visualize how that is going to logistically work. Besides, I am going to have enough going on that day…  I don’t need to worry about that too. I have quite a few photographer friends, and I hired one to do the photos. The photographer and I went to high school together, so there’s some history there as well.  He does great work, and gave me a great deal. It KILLS ME to have to pay someone else to do it, but, after some very serious internal struggles and conversations with my family, I agreed. I paid for the photographer. It was still quite expensive, (but about half the price from if I were to hire a stranger), so I didn’t want the kids to have to fork out the money for that part.

THE WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENTS AND WEDDING BOOK: I am a HUGE fan of Shutterfly. They have an excellent variety of choices for wedding announcements and books (and pretty much anything else you would want). You can use your own photos, and fill everything out the way YOU want, and their turn-around time is pretty quick… We received the announcements within 4 days! They are ALWAYS having sales and promotions. I was able to get the wedding announcements for around 75% off, thanks to all the coupon codes I found. They offer rectangle shapes, and ones with rounded corners. Rounded corners look very elegant, but it costs extra… by 20¢ per card! I only ordered 90 cards. Just imagine the cost for several hundred!

This little tool, that I already had, saved me $18 on wedding announcements!

Lucky for me, I already had a paper cutter for rounding corners. I was able to save $18 by spending 30 minutes and rounding the corners myself. Definitely worth a half an hour of my time. Score one small frugal victory!

Carmen and Jacob created an event on Facebook and used that as their “Save the Date” in lieu of purchasing and mailing out cards. They invited their family and friends, and I was able to invite my family and friends that I wanted present as well. We used that forum to get all the addresses that we needed for the official invitation. This also gave them a general idea of how many people would be present on the day of their wedding.

The wedding book I ordered was also 75% off with all the coupon codes. I was able to use all my own pictures and create a completely personal book for guests to write in and peruse. I am excited to see the results.  ONLY TWO MORE DAYS UNTIL IT’S HERE!

 

THE OFFICIANT: Carmen and Jacob weren’t sure who was going to perform the ceremony. They did quite a bit of thinking on the subject and everyone they could think of was either busy or out of town. At this point, with less than 6 weeks to go, I was getting a little bit nervous about finding someone, so I did something crazy… I went online and became an ordained minister, able to perform weddings in Oregon. Yep, I really did! I just received all my official paperwork in the mail last week. I texted my friends in my music circle and told them what I had done. They were VERY surprised to say the least. Haha! (That sparked a round of interesting thoughts for future adventures… THAT will be for another post!). I explained to them that I was creating a backup plan just in case the couple couldn’t come up with someone. One of my girls said that if they couldn’t come up with anyone, she would be willing to get ordained and perform the ceremony. I mentioned this to Carmen, and she said she would absolutely love to have my friend perform their wedding. She knows her, and really likes her. The next day, this same friend got hold of me to ask if I would be willing to do her daughter’s senior pictures, and how much would I charge… We had a brief discussion, and we decided to trade services. She is going to become an ordained minister, and then perform the wedding ceremony, and I’m going to do her daughter’s senior pictures.

Just…. WOW

THE DECORATIONS: Carmen has been gathering items to use for decorations for quite awhile. She has bought most of them during extreme sales or in the clearance section. I had an idea for lighting and using my canning jars for subtle lighting.  I have the wire hangers that go around the lip of the jars, so they could be hung up if we chose to go that route. I will use them on our front and back porches after the wedding. I wanted to have nice subtle lighting out there anyway. Carmen chose to have a retro/vintage themed wedding. We have a lot of friends with vintage cars, so we kindly asked if we could “borrow” their cars for a few hours on a Saturday evening. One of which she will arrive in just before the wedding. She has a lot of Matchbox cars that she is going to put on the food tables for decorations. We are going to be making the centerpieces for all the tables with fabric that she purchased on clearance several years ago. Carmen doesn’t want a lot of flowers at her wedding, so she will have a bouquet to walk down the aisle with, and that is it. As for the ceremony outside… The background behind the trees is not exactly ideal, or romantic… two streets join, street signs, a house, and a school. After talking it over with my husband, we decided that we are going to purchase two 4’x8′ sheets of wood lattice and place them between and slightly behind the two trees. We are going to attach fabric, in one of their chosen colors, to the backside of the lattice to hide the eyesores behind it. My husband can reuse the lattice after the wedding for some projects he is working on. MULTI PURPOSE ITEMS ARE FANTASTIC!

Draping made out of tool is simple and pretty inexpensive. USE YOUR COUPONS!

We are then going to make a nice flowing drape out of tool on top and flowing down the sides to frame it. We have several fabric stores in town that have coupons weekly. We should be able to get this at 75% off regular pricing, making this a nice frugal item. Carmen suggested reselling it after the wedding to recoup some of the overall costs of the wedding. If we can do this with many of the items we are purchasing strictly for the wedding, that will be a big help in the long run. All in all, the decorations will come in well under $300, and most will be re-purposed after the wedding.

THE DRESS: Carmen was all for buying a wedding dress second hand, however, her fiancé insisted that she buy a brand new dress… it’s their wedding, after all. After doing some research, she decided on a store. They were having a sale, and the beautiful dress she picked was $500. Considering how much many wedding dresses cost, it was a price that she could live with. She cringed as she pulled out her debit card to pay for it, but, considering the woman next to us was spending over $2000…  (Sorry, there will not be a photo of the dress until after the wedding, for obvious reasons.)

THE BRIDESMAIDS/MATRON OF HONOR ATTIRE, HAIR AND MAKEUP: Carmen wanted to choose something that her chosen friends could wear later… not something that will sit in their closets and gather dust. She decided on vintage style dresses that the girls will purchase for $30-$40. The colors can vary as long the chosen wedding colors are in there somewhere. Same for the shoes… Something within the vintage theme that are comfortable and they can use at a later time. I already have a dress and shoes that fit the criteria. Each of the ladies will do their own hair and makeup, and Carmen will help with any last minute details if the need arises. She’s an expert with vintage hair and makeup.

THE MEN’S SUITS: My understanding is that the men are going to wear suits, which they already own. The ties will have the wedding colors. The groom will be wearing a suit as well.

THE MUSIC/DJ: The ceremony itself will have pre-recorded music through speakers. She didn’t feel the need for live music. As for the reception, she has a playlist put together on her iPod that she is going to play through the speakers inside the building. She can play whatever she wants, and it will be all the music she loves and likes to dance to.

THE FOOD: The couple has decided on a potluck style for food for the guests. They wanted something simple with variety that all the people could enjoy. As for the cake… They are going with a very out of the norm item… Pizza. Different? Definitely, and I love everything about it. Why be traditional?!

THE SETUP AND TEAR DOWN: Family and friends will be doing the wedding setup and tear down of everything. We get the keys to the building two days before the wedding, and have them until two days after the wedding, to get everything cleaned up. We can do all the inside decorating in the two days before and set up the outside Saturday morning, since the ceremony doesn’t start until early evening. Then we will have the two days after to get everything cleaned up.

Things are slowly starting to come together. I’m sure there are things we haven’t thought of yet. When they come up, we’ll deal with it accordingly. You don’t realize how short 8 months really is, until you are trying to plan a wedding. The engagement happens, and then suddenly, there’s 6 weeks left to go. Now it’s a mad dash to get all the details done. It will happen, the wedding day will arrive, and everything will be fine… and even if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned, that’s okay. It will generate a wonderful set of memories to share later on! (My wedding was at the Justice of the Peace, it took about 10 minutes, with three guests, and they forgot to charge us for the ceremony. We wore regular clothes, and my husband had a mullet. We will never forget that, and we love telling the story!)

LET THE FESTIVITIES BEGIN!

 

 

 

 

Having an emergency 72 hour kit

No one wants to think about the possibility of a natural disaster or some kind of emergency that causes us to have to evacuate our homes for a period of time. I know I don’t want to think about it, BUT WE NEED TO. We need to be prepared to leave at a moment’s notice with items to sustain us… For every member of our family living in our home… Pets included. Think about all the things that have happened in recent years… Forest fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes…  It seems they happen more and more frequently. It also seems that they are more severe. Many of these events are requiring evacuations, and they need to happen quickly. Are you ready for that?

By no means am I the guru “know it all” when it comes to emergency preparedness, BUT, my parents were adamant about having a 72 hour kit, and at least a 6 month supply of food. (I’ve mentioned that I live in the house that I grew up in… I STILL have close to 1000 pounds of wheat in my basement! 😳) I watched my mom take sheets, make them into bandage strips, sterilize them, and vacu-seal them for our kits. I watched her buy 5 gallon plastic buckets to store our kits in… Waterproof and durable. She crocheted large doilies to go over them and set houseplants on them in the living room… Close and ready to grab if needed.

Being prepared is critical

I do things a bit differently than mom did, but yes, I have kits for two adults, two children, and three large dogs. I don’t have five gallon pails though. I purchased two backpack kits, and added in dog food and clothing. I also have an emergency “bug-out” backpack that stays in my car at all times. (Thank you, my co-workers, for putting that one together when I was preparing for a long road trip with a very questionably nasty winter forecast possibility. It’s nice that people worry!)  Purchased kits can be spendy, but I don’t feel bad about this purchase. For me, peace of mind made this an easy decision. The backpacks are designed to hold everything that comes in the kits, and has first aid items as well. Do your research, and I’m sure you can come up with something to fit you and your family’s needs. It was just simpler for me to do this than try to gather up all the different items, and pray that I didn’t miss anything important… I worried about that.

It’s also a good idea to have a stash of emergency funds… as in cash money. If there’s a disaster, are debit/credit card machines going to be working? Maybe, but maybe not. Do you really want to take that chance? I know I don’t!

One thing my parents always did routinely was to fill up the car when it got down to half a tank. I will be the first to admit that I am not good at that. Call it laziness if you like, but, that requires getting gas more frequently. In the long run though, you’re still going to be spending the same amount for gas every month. You’re filling up half a tank instead of a full one. Think about it for a minute though… If you have to leave in a hurry, are you going to need to wait in line for gas along with everyone in the town you live in? No thank you, not me! I’d rather be heading away from whatever disaster is coming!

One of the other very important things to have is a plan. Have a family meeting and discuss what to do in the event of an emergency. Talk about what to do in certain circumstances. If the situation applies, have an escape route… Have a meeting spot… Have a code word. Make sure everyone knows what to do, where to go, who to call, and who to trust. I cannot stress this enough. HAVE A PLAN!

Lately, emergency preparedness has been repeatedly creeping up in my thoughts.  I want to be prepared, and I want YOU to be prepared. What are you waiting for? Make your list of things you need. Do some research if you need to, and get it done! https://www.ready.gov/ Personally, I would rather have my kits and not need them, than have the emergency and have nothing to survive on.

 

What will you be doing this summer?

Summer is upon us! There are so many things to love about summer.  Ah, the sun, the barbeques, the vacations, and… THE GARAGE SALES!

I love shopping garage sales for the incredible bargains, but I’m going to focus on the HAVING garage sales. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m not overly fond of putting on a sale, but I am on a mission this year. I desperately want to pare down my possessions. I make progress every week, which is good, but I’m gearing up for sale day. I still have a few weeks to go, and that’s great! I’m looking forward to filling up all my large boxes with items to be sold… which means more stuff leaving my home! I’m even taking this a step further. I’m planning with my neighbors and we’re going to have our sales on the same weekend. How awesome is that? Neighborhood sales attract more attention, which hopefully means more people and more of my stuff going away!

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I know I keep focusing on items going away. Yes, that is intentional. There are a few reasons why…  #1- I need the ongoing pep-talk. I’ve been making excellent progress, and I would like it to continue. In this case, I am my own personal cheerleader.  #2- I am trying to change my mindset. I am trying to reverse 40+ years of keep, save, and buy multiples of everything. I’m tired of storing so much. I’m tired of having to find bigger totes and shelves. When I’m asked if I have big plans for the weekend, and my response is all too often, “I’m going to be cleaning and organizing my music/computer room… AGAIN”, then obviously, things need to change!

I started following a Facebook page called Becoming Minimalist a while back.  I am inspired by Joshua Becker. His posts are not only interesting, but I find them to be quite insightful. I love the little sayings he posts. I can relate. I take them to heart. I’m trying to embrace this way of thinking in order to take my home back and not let my stuff own ME.

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Let’s buckle down and go through our stuff! Call your friends and neighbors and get to selling! (And don’t forget to donate what you don’t sell!)  Less stuff means less cleaning and less stress. Let’s take back our evenings and weekends, and do the things we really want to do… ENJOY LIFE.

LET”S DO THIS!!

 

Mason jar mania: My obsession

I have a confession to make. I am, and have been, obsessed with anything and everything related to mason jars for quite a long time. Many just think of mason jars as what our moms and grandmas used for canning their peaches, cherries, and strawberry jam. It goes so far beyond that for me. I inherited A LOT of canning jars. When I say a lot, I mean HUNDREDS. I have too many reasons for loving these jars to list every single one, but I’ll address some of my favorites in my post.

My basement is full of mason jars

One of the main reasons I love canning jars so much is that, especially for me, they are readily available. My mom religiously canned every summer… Peaches, tomatoes, apple cider… you name it, and it’s entirely possible she canned it at some point. I have so many jars. Granted, I have given quite a few away to friends who can, but I still have so many! I decided quite awhile ago that I needed to use them as much as possible. So far, I have done a fairly decent job.

Yes! These really exist! Sleeves, coffee lids, etc.

Another reason I love jars so much… They are so versatile! The amount of accessories that are available for jars now is mindblowingly amazing. Several years ago I found some neat lids that could be used for drinking out of. I really like them. Recently, I have looked online, and the accessories are everywhere. This makes me so very happy!

I can use my jars as coffee cups, with real lids. No sloshing or spilling. Ingenious.

Use with your vacu-seal to extend the “life” of your dry goods

 

 

I use my jars for food storage. Not necessarily in the actual canning sense though… I use them in conjunction with my vacu-seal machine. I have the canning jar attachments that suck all the air out of the jars and seal them. I use them for most of my dry goods… flour, oats, pasta, nuts… the possibilities are endless.

 

I take my fruit salad to work in my mason jars. WHY NOT?!

I also love to use my jars in the fridge. They don’t take up as much room as other containers, since they’re more vertical. I also enjoy the fact that I can put them in my lunch box and take them to work. I decided to try and glue several lids together to make yogurt and granola more portable. I love parfaits… I sure hope it works out like I hope it will! I’ll let you know if it does!

 

Just…. WOW

 

The next reason for my love of jars is decoration. My daughter’s wedding is coming up in about 6 weeks, and trying to come up with elegant, frugal, and simple decorations are a must. I found a nice item that I think will be nice for the reception, and then be useful at home as well. These solar charging light strands screw to the top of the jars and look so beautiful. They make wire holders for hanging, so they could be hung up by my patio for a nice relaxing evening after dark.

 

 

If this self watering indoor herb garden works, I will be overjoyed.

 

My last, and newest reason for my mason jars… planting herbs for an indoor, self watering system. I read about this concept on Pinterest, and I was instantly intrigued. I have “the black thumb of death”. I am horrible with plants of every kind. I can kill any plant… just give me time! I either over water, or forget about them entirely. It’s totally unintentional, but it happens EVERY time. I do tend to get very distracted. So, I’m hoping that this system will forego all my plant flaws and let me grow things!

 

And there you have it… many of the reasons I love my jars. Jars are everywhere you look… Garage sales, thrift stores, attics, and basements. Let’s utilize what is already out there. Reuse, reuse, REUSE!

6 months until Christmas… are you getting ready?

I love the Christmas season… It’s my favorite holiday. I absolutely adore the music. I love the lights, the baking, the tree, and the smells associated with it. I love getting creative with gifts, and coming up with the perfect present. I love the look of surprise and joy when my gifts are opened. I love watching people selflessly give to others. It would be nice if everyone was so caring and sharing all year long, don’t you think?

I hate to break it to you, but Christmas is officially less than 6 months away! I know, right? This year is flying by! Blink again and black Friday will be here. I know it seems very far away, but trust me, it really isn’t! I don’t know about you, but I’ve already got a game plan together. It’s ALWAYS good to have a plan.

There’s a few things to plan for as you’re gearing up. THINK LISTS! You know how much I love my lists. Obviously, I start off with a list of the people I need to buy for. By each name, I write down their favorite color, things they collect, and the snacks they love. Next, I start brainstorming ideas for gifts. I keep an ongoing list in my notes app on my phone. That way I can keep up with the little things I notice as they come up.

Reuse, reuse, reuse!

Oh so lovely, and easy!

Next, I write down gift wrapping ideas. Those of you who know me know that I am obsessed with meticulous wrapping. I feel that the wrapping should be just as beautiful and exciting as what’s inside. A few of my favorite ways to wrap presents… Repurposing Pringles chip cans. They make great boxes. (Pinterest has excellent diy ideas!)  I also enjoy making used greeting cards into gift boxes. I used to ask all of my friends to save their chip containers and little boxes for me. I love using cell phone boxes too. I love this type of wrapping… easy yet elegant… And recycling things just makes sense!

Instead of throwing cards away, repurpose into gift boxes

One of the most important things to add is my budget. I HAVE to have a budget. Millions upon millions of people go deep into debt every year because of the holidays… buying everything under the sun… buying every single thing on children’s lists.  Personally, I absolutely despise the idea of being in debt, especially because of Christmas! I write up a realistic budget, and use all my frugal skills to ensure that my budget stays in check. Coupons, coupon codes, membership bonuses, gift cards, store rewards, ebates… the list goes on and on! As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the resources are out there for the taking. MAKE YOUR MONEY WORK HARDER FOR YOU! A little bit of research can save you hundreds. If you come in under your budget by Christmas, that’s great! Set it aside for a jump start on next year. You could even get presents and clearance Christmas accessories in January. Save 75%+? Um, YES!

Another thing I do a lot of is homemade gifts. I love the creativity of making the perfect gift for someone… made with hard work and love. It could be beaded jewelry, gifts in a jar (cookies, etc… there’s actually cookbooks specifically for this!), a framed photo you’ve taken, a knitted scarf, the possibilities are endless. Make it, and make it personal! I thoroughly enjoy receiving these kinds of gifts. One of the things I do for all my employees is make each of them a Christmas stocking. Every year we hang stockings on the front of our counter for everyone to enjoy. Each fabric is picked for something that they love, and it makes me so happy to see them all hanging up. (When the holidays come around again, I’ll show you the counter. It’s absolutely lovely!) Things like that, to me, makes me appreciate the effort that was put into a gift.  It truly warms my heart.

LOVE personalized things!

I scour the thrift stores for wrapping paper, ribbon, and bows for pennies on the dollar. I save the majority of the colored tissue paper (used for gifts) that I get throughout the year. I have a little box specifically for it. When it’s full, I stop collecting. I do the same with gift bags. I have a container dedicated to gift bags. When it’s full, I’m done. If you find nicer ones, swap out for the less attractive ones in your stash. You honestly CAN have too much. Set a limit and stick to it. 

One of the things that I have realized as I have gotten older is this… you don’t have to buy EVERYTHING for everybody. I have always had a humble approach to gift giving. When my kids were little, they had very long lists of items they wanted to receive. I know, I know… that’s what kids do. I know I did. (I recently found one of my lists from way back. So THAT’S where my kids got the hilarity from!) Just because our kids ask for a hundred things DOES NOT mean you have to get them all. Remember that budget? Take the time to find out what they REALLY want the most. Pick out 3 or 4 things, and let them be happy and satisfied with what they have. My kids had a ton of toys, but yet could still be bored. How is this possible?  Well, I found out that the overabundance of toys results in a lack of appreciation for what they have. Totally true! This could be said for so many things in our lives. I appreciate my things so much more when I have to work to get it. I don’t get everything I want, and I’m honestly glad I don’t. When, and if, I finally get what I wanted so badly, I am much more likely take better care of it… use it more often, for a longer length of time.

So, what it comes down to is this… Take a little time, and start preparing now. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the majority of your shopping done before December comes? Think how nice it would be to actually relax and enjoy the season instead of stressing out about it. Wouldn’t it be comforting to know that your Christmas fund is already where it needs to be, since you’ve been saving a little every month for it, right? If it’s not where you want it to be, now is the time to start!

Make your lists. Have a plan. Let yourself look forward to the holidays.

Why music is my passion

Everyone has their “thing”. You know, that something that has always been there… The thing that puts you at ease, that calms you down, relaxes you like nothing else can. For me, that thing is music. I don’t mean just listening to it. I mean creating it. Sure, I have other things that I truly enjoy doing… Writing and photography… but music is my first love.

Music has been my passion for as long as I can remember. My mom used to say that I would sing harmony when I was a toddler. I don’t even remember when I started playing the piano… It was that long ago. I have always had a song in my heart… A tune running through my head. It is a bit distracting sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Sometimes I feel it’s easier for me to let people hear how I feel, rather than just use my words. I am fortunate enough to be able to put those feelings on paper.  I was so fortunate to have parents and music teachers who pushed me to follow through with my music education when I wanted to quit. I’m grateful now that they saw my potential. I feel so blessed.

I wish I had more time to do what I love. I would love to dedicate all day, every day, to my creative outlet. A few hours a week just doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Just when I’m getting into “the zone”, it is time for bed, it seems. At least I get some time. I try to make the most of the time I have. I’m making progress. I am starting to spread my wings.  That’s the important thing.

I have also been blessed with amazingly talented friends. They are my soul sisters. These ladies are so creative and fun. I’m a lucky girl. Together, I think we have the potential to do something wonderful. I don’t think there isn’t anything we can’t accomplish. Someday, I hope, with the poetic partnership of my gifted friends, to be able to bring OUR music to life. Our whimsical interpretation of adulthood could bring a new perspective on life. Sure, it might have been done before, but I think we have some unique experiences to bring originality to the table. I have faith that our time will come. (I will let you know when it happens. Trust me on this!)

There’s something about the whole creative process that brings me so much satisfaction and joy. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.  I lose myself in the notes, and it transports me to a wonderful paradise. It really is a part of my being, and I am so thankful for it.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq6hSvcwoz6LrNZwvuz7Eaw

Enjoy your life. Make the most of the talents you’ve been blessed with. Lose yourself in what you love.

 

 

 

My class reunion – reflecting on my life

This summer marks a pretty significant event in life… My 30 year class reunion.  It just doesn’t seem possible. 30 YEARS? In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday. In other ways, it seems like several lifetimes ago.  To be honest, I’m pretty excited about it.

As I reflect on my life, and what I’ve done with it, I start to ponder… Have I lived up to my potential? Have I left my mark on the world? Am I satisfied with the things that I have accomplished? Are those things actually noteworthy? I have experienced a lot of very different things in my life since school… both good and bad. Marriage, kids, divorce, death, among other things… All those events have helped make me who I am. I’m stronger. I’m more opinionated and outspoken. I’m confident. I’m a very different person than I was. I’ll bet most of us are, and that’s the beauty of living in this crazy world.

I haven’t accomplished as much as I wanted, but I feel that I have made significant progress. It seems like most of those forward leaps have happened just in the last couple of years. I feel like I’ve contributed to society. I feel like I have made a difference. That’s really what life is about, right? Making a difference?

What I find the most fascinating about the anticipation of my upcoming class reunion, is that I am genuinely looking forward to seeing all those people I graduated with. I am looking forward to seeing and visiting with the friends I had. Were we all friends? Absolutely not. Will I recognize all of them? Maybe. I don’t expect everyone to recognize me. I certainly don’t expect for all of us to become best friends. I AM expecting to find that, at this point in our lives,  we have gotten past all of those social boundaries. As I’ve mentioned before,  I was a very socially anxious and awkward person. I’m excited to see how we have all changed. I know I have. I am excited to hear about everyone’s successes. It all sounds so wonderful.

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Do I know what I’m going to wear? No. I know I won’t be dressing to impress anyone. That doesn’t matter to me. I’m a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl, so maybe I’ll show up like that. I don’t know yet. What I do know, is that I want to have enlightening conversations with all my fellow Bulldogs, and hear about all the great things they’ve done.

So, as our big day approaches, I wish all my fellow classmen and women well wishes and safe travels.  I look forward to seeing all of you, and catching up. May we be united in happy memories, and look to the future with excitement.

Hail West Albany High!