August 29, 2008

Frugal Friday - Cleaning Rags

Mr. Right and I closed on our house this past Tuesday. It was a foreclosure, built in 2005. Unlike most of the foreclosures we looked at, this one was in relatively good shape. We're having to hire a carpet cleaner, and Mr. Right and his father had to make a few minor plumbing repairs. Beyond that its all cleaning and painting.

Because something is broken in my head (I'm your friendly neighborhood germophobe blogger), once I clean the other people's dirt and germs out of the house - I'm not going to wash the rag and risk keeping them around. I'm giving the house a good scrubbing and then the rags are going promptly into the garbage.

I certainly don't want to go out and buy rags that are just going to going to get thrown away, so I'm acquiring these cleaning cloths in a couple of standard and one creative way.

Mr. Right collects t-shirts. Not the souvenir kind that you get on vacation (I'm a reformed former Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt collector), but the cheap t-shirt kind. You know the ones you get for free when you participate in a charity event. Not to mention the kind that sell for $0.50 at the thrift store. Only he wears them so much you wouldn't even give a quarter for them. I'm taking this excellent opportunity to assist him in weeding out the collection (he honestly has at least 100 t-shirts, many that either have holes or red clay mud stains, or both).

I'm also going to tear up a few towels that probably should have been retired a long time ago. He has about 10 nice white Egyptian cotton extra large bath towels. Then shoved in the back he has about 4 or 5 towels that probably were in their prime in the 1970s. They never get used and have lost their absorbency, making them just perfect for scrubbing the sink in my new kitchen.

My favorite kind of rag, however, is in limited supply. My mother was cleaning out her basement, excited about getting to give me my stuff and free up room down there, and came across old cloth diapers that she use to use on my sister and I. She saved them from one child to another and then just packed them away. We ripped them up and made them into the perfect sized rag. But I'm not going to tell Mr. Right their original use. He'll probably have wanted to frame them and keep them forever.

August 28, 2008

Update on the Job situation

Things have been tense all week, but hopefully they'll start to ease up as we start fixing up our new place! :) It'll be disappointing for me to have to leave every evening to go back to my parents, but its awesome to think that come November, I'll have very little moving (well if you count a closet stuff with clothes) to do.

Short version of the story - Mr. Right still has steady income, he just lost his benefits. He has, however, gained more of his commission pay. Hopefully that will more than cover the benefit loss. (I have a job with excellent health benefits, so thankfully that's not an issue.)

Thank you for your prayers and concern. I claimed Romans 8:28 and did my best to encourage Mr. Right to know that no matter what happened we'd be okay. And (as always) God provided.

Things I Love Thursday: Caffeine Free Pepsi

About 5 years ago I was having stress related stomach problems that required me to go off of caffeine (including, temporarily, chocolate!), among other diet changes. I like to eat. I like the food I eat. I enjoy it more with a frosty carbonated beverage. Only sprite/sierra mist/7up gives me flashbacks of having the stomach virus as a child.

I started trying the different "regular" caffeine free sodas. And while I've always been a fan of Coca-Cola products (making me the black sheep of my Pepsi family) - their caffeine free drinks taste very flat. Like a can that's been open several days.

I decided to make my family happy and try caffeine free pepsi and caffeine free mountain dew. Amazingly enough you can barely tell a difference! My stomach got better and eventually I made the switch back to the hard stuff - I recently stocked up. I figured with all the stress of the wedding and moving (and packing and painting) my nerves could use a break!

For more great products, check out Things I Love Thursday!

August 26, 2008

Prayers please...

Please pray for Mr. Right's job situation right now. I can't say much as far as the details, other than this time tomorrow he might not have a steady paycheck. Also, help me be a good encourager through all of this.

The new house

We were supposed to close yesterday, but the bank we're purchasing from didn't complete their paperwork. We're waiting to hear back today from them. That's the joy of getting a deal on a foreclosure. In the mean time Mr. Right and I picked out our paint colors. As the decorator, I chose what color family we would be using, but allowed him to help when it came to tone and shade. I'm very pleased with the result and can't wait to get it on the wall!!

For the kitchen/breakfast nook/living room/dining room area/hallway, we're going with khaki. We'll have one red accent wall in the kitchen to liven it up a bit.

I'm letting Mr. Right choose the color for the two guest bedrooms. He'll probably either go with khaki in there as well or just opt to put a fresh coat of white up. I would be okay with not painting in those rooms, but they are scuffed up pretty bad so they really need it.

In the bedroom I went for a blue/green color. We've registered for a charcoal bedspread, so I think the rich color will go great and keep the charcoal from looking too drab. The lightening decides if its more blue or green.

August 25, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Can you believe after all that work on this week's plan, I've got nothing? I tried to plan out what could be made on an electric skillet, george foreman, or crockpot since we're closing on the house today and will be working there for the next week with no appliances.

With the planning stage done, I comment to Mr. Right before I start laying everything out and packing up the necessary supplies. Bad move on my part. I expected to be praised for my hard work. Instead I was told that we wouldn't be over there every evening and he wasn't sure how much time we would be spending over there.

In his language, that means that at the last minute our plans may change and we might have something else to do after work. In my language he was telling me my hard work was for nothing. This control freak doesn't like plans changing at the last minute.

I got all huffy and quit packing, and now we have nothing for this week except for sandwich meat that I purchased last week.

Monday & Tuesday: In-laws visiting (we typically eat out)
Wednesday & Thursday: Whatever we can catch
Friday: Dinner with friends

For this week I get an A+ in stubbornness and a D- in thriftiness (we'll at least do the dollar menu for Wednesday & Thursday).

For some actual ideas on planning your week, check out Menu Plan Monday.

August 22, 2008

Frugal Friday - Lunches

My dad has been slacking the past few weeks on packing my lunch, so I've been on my own again. Last week I'll just say that I did less than stellar. I didn't stick to my $15 cash only system. I think I ended up going over by $5 or so. Not bad over all, but if I did that every week that's an extra $20 a month I'm wasting on fast food. This week I made up for it, so far I've only spent $2.18 for lunch (but I am going out with my mother this afternoon).

Monday: SmartOnes entree and pretzels
Tuesday: McDonalds w/Mr. Right - he paid (I bought the $100 ring, he can get my $1 double cheese burger
Wednesday: Texas Roadhouse - my boss's treat
Thursday: ZMex/Bellicino's with Mr. Right - EPO (each pay own) I had a coupon for a $1.99 kids meal. Zmex portions are too large anyway so the kids meal was just right.

My mom and I are going to a bistro for lunch (it just recently opened) so we're going to splurge a little - but I think we're going to share a meal, so we'll still keep our costs around $5 each.

Maybe I'll feel less restricted if I budget myself $30 a paycheck (I get paid every other week) rather than $15 a week. That way if one week i feel like eating out a little more, I can just make up for it next week.

Limiting (or eliminating) fast food is definitely a good way to cut your budget (and mostly likely your waistline as a result!) For more frugal tips check out Frugal Friday.

August 21, 2008

Things I Love Thursday: Durable Wedding Bands

When Mr. Right and I first got engaged, we had several friends recommend that we get him a tungston wedding band. We were going for the white gold look anyway, and tungston was just more practical for a guy that is active. Not only does it cost less (easier to replace if its lost), but tungston is also more durable. Its scratch resistant and is even so tough that it can't be resized.

After reading up on it (and hearing the rave reviews from the guys we know that have them) Mr. Right was convinced that tungston was for him. I found them online for around $80, but before I ordered, he had to get his finger sized. He's never worn jewelry before, and since the ring can't be altered, we had to make sure we got it right.

We met for lunch on Tuesday to go to a local jewelry store, and while we were there we took a peak at what they had in stock. He tried a few on and found one that he liked, but then the sales lady suggested he try on a titanium ring. While he liked the style of the tunsgton ring slightly better, he loved that the titanium ring was very light weight. And since he's not use to jewelry, he like that the ring didn't feel too cumbersome.

We ended up buying the titanium. A friend later pointed out that the ring is made of the same material of Lt. Dan's legs and the space shuttle. But its the ring that Mr. Right wanted. He did his best (and he did very well) trying to design a ring that I would love, so I let him have the final say.

Do I love it? Of course. He's got a ring that he won't wear out, scratch, or not want to wear because its not comfortable. Of course I can't help but also love the price - $100 for a wedding band that he loves.

August 19, 2008

Menu Plan Tuesday!

Mr. Right and I close on our house (finally) this coming Monday, but our appliances won't be delivered till the following Tuesday. I have an electric skillet and a george foreman grill.

I plan on prebrowning all the ground beef needed this weekend, as well as cooking the rice and noodles. Please let me know if i forgot any details like utensils or things to help me clean up!

Tuesday night - pancakes
need: pancake mix (check box for necessary ingredients), eggs, syrup, bacon, butter, george foreman, plates, forks, napkins

Wednesday - alfredo
need: alfredo mix pack (check back of envelope for ingredients), preboiled noodles to heat in electric skillet

Thursday - Texmex Shells and cheese
need: ground beef, shells and cheese, diced tomatoes, scissors, can opener

Friday - Taco Hell
need: $$$ from Jay

Saturday lunch - Sandwiches
need: bread, ham, cheese, mustard, pretzels

Saturday dinner - taco rice skillet
need: electric skillet, spoon to stir, ground beef (double everything), taco seasonings, refried beans, rice (precooked) shredded cheese, sour cream? (would it last okay in a cooler from about 5 till 11?)

Sunday lunch - McDonalds
Need: $$$ from Jay

Sunday dinner - Sandwiches
need: bread, ham, cheese, mustard, pretzels

Monday lunch - sandwiches
need: bread, ham, cheese, mustard, pretzels

Monday dinner - Chicken n Dumplins
need: bag o ckn n dumplins, crockpot

Taco Rice Skillet
1 lb ground beef 2 cups white rice, cooked
2 cups water 1can diced tomatoes
1 pkg. Taco Seasoning Mix 1/2 cup Mexican Style Shredded Cheese
COOK crumbles in large nonstick skillet as directed on pkg. ADD rice, water, tomato and taco seasoning mix; stir until well blended. Bring to boil. Sprinkle with cheese; cover. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 min.

August 18, 2008

Dinner Suggestions

Next week Mr. Right and I will be closing on a new to us house next Monday. Since it was a foreclosure, the only appliance it came with was a dishwasher. We have ordered our new appliances, but they won't be delivered until Sept. 2nd.

Priority #1 will be painting - we'll be over there after work through the week painting and cleaning cabinets and getting everything ready before we start moving stuff in.

His apartment is about a 40 minute drive from the house, as is my parents house. So going home first for dinner would be ridiculous. And I don't want to do fast food every night. Beyond sandwiches (I can make them at work or at my parents house and just cart them to the house in an insulated cooler) what can I make for dinner until we get our appliances?

I think I have an electric skillet boxed up somewhere. And I know I have a george foreman. but no microwave, stove, or oven.

Help please!!

Menu Plan Monday

Trying a new recipe this week, hopefully it'll turn out well.

Monday: Broccoli Pasta Toss - a favorite of mine, using frozen broccoli so it doesn't have a taste but we still get our veggies. the recipe calls for chicken, but i leave it out and neither of us seem to notice

Broccoli and Chicken Pasta Toss

2-1/2 cups penne pasta, uncooked
3 cups fresh broccoli florets
1/4 cup Italian Dressing
1/2 lb. Chicken breasts
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups tomato-basil spaghetti sauce
1 cup KRAFT 2% Milk Shredded Reduced Fat Mozzarella Cheese
COOK pasta in large saucepan as directed on package, adding broccoli to the boiling water for the last 3 min. MEANWHILE, heat dressing in large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add chicken and garlic; cook 5 min. or until chicken is no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Stir in spaghetti sauce; cook 5 min. or until chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally. DRAIN pasta mixture; return to pan. Add chicken mixture; mix lightly. Serve topped with the cheese.

Tuesday: Veggisaurus Chili Mac new recipe

Wednesday: fast food - basketball with the guys, so i won't be going back to his place to cook.

Thursday: Spaghetti and french bread, the girls are coming over to help with wedding flowers, so it'll be a double batch.

Friday: Fish sticks and fries, my usual standby Friday dinner. Eventually they'll get eaten and be out of my freezer forever! in the mean time, i'm just trying to eat a few at a time to make room for something else.

For other meal plan ideas check out Menu Plan Monday

August 15, 2008

Wedding Planning

As I mark one thing off my wedding "to do" list, it seems like 4 more show up. I know that will happen more and more as the wedding gets closer, but its very difficult for me to not let it stress me.

Right now stress #1 is the guest list. We have nice tables/chairs for 144 people. We have 210 invited. We can always bring out folding chairs and long tables, but I'd rather not. No way to cut it though so I need to just let this one go and wait on the response cards to come back to determine a course of action.

#2 is the wedding musician. He also is a peewee football coach and wants to wait on his football schedule before committing. If it were up to me, we'd move on and find someone else. But he really is the best that we could hope for and I think Mr. Right has his heart set on this guy.

Mr. Right and I were supposed to go to the jewelry store so that I would know what sized wedding band to buy. He's already picked out his ring and everything. I seriously doubt that he's a size 13 and I'll luck out and get it for that price, but I'm glad to know that I'll be able to keep it within the $100 or less range and he'll still get something perfect for him (tungsten-carbide is very durable).

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Right now I think I'm just stressing because I'm overwhelmed. According to my checklist on The Knot I'm not really behind on anything (excluding the musician of course), so I shouldn't freak. I'm almost done addressing the invitations - my project to finish this weekend - so that puts me ahead of the game on that by about 3 weeks.

For whatever reason I just have trouble remembering what the Bible says about worry/anxiety.

August 14, 2008

Ceramic Curling/Straightening Iron

Since I tend to have multiple personality syndrome when it comes to my hair - I have several different ways I can fix it. My two lazy ways include scrunching it curling and a ponytail. Not sure why, but Mr. Right loves my hair pulled back in a ponytail. Lucky for me because most of the time he sees me right after I get finished at the gym! :) I use a great curl product - but I'll save that for another TILT.

Today I want to blog about my Conair curling iron as well as my straightening iron.

I purchased the straightener about 3 years ago after using a friend's. Its high powered heat gave my hair that polished, straight from the salon look. The main problem was that she had to have a glove on her hand as she did her hair. The iron gets so hot that you can't touch your hair immediately afterward for fear of burning yourself. I suppose that's why on the makeover shows, the stylists are shown with a comb in their hand to hold the hair.

I didn't consider we had two different hair types, so I started using my straightener on high heat. She has very coarse, curly hair, so in order to get her hair straight - the high setting is a must. My hair is thick and full, but not at all coarse (thanks to my mother keeping her hair genes to herself). When I went to the stylist for my next cut, he told me that the heat was damaging my hair. I cut back to half heat and its more than enough to do the job, but not ruin my hair.

As I started growing my hair out, I purchased a fat barrelled curling iron. Since I loved my straightener so much, I opted to get the same kind - Conair, paying close attention to make sure its ceramic. And I produced wonderful results. I've even been told my hair looks like Hayden Panettiere - that chick that plays Claire on Heroes.

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Not quite, but I'm not going to argue! :)

Check out the Diaper Diaries for more great product tips!

August 11, 2008

Count your blessings

That's certainly something I need to take a step back and do right now. I'm getting a little stressed over some of the wedding details I'm having a hard time finalizing. Like those distant cousins my mom says I should invite, but I can't find their addresses any where.

Of course making a blessing list would just seem like another chore on the wedding "to do" list. Actually I have a list for the wedding, one for the house, one for work, and one for misc life type stuff.

My #1 and #2 blessings are my family and family friends - this weekend I learned of two very generous ways people want to help me with my wedding.

Friday night my sister called and told me that the lady who babysits the Princess and Critter is going to make his bear ring (as the Princess calls it) outfit. She's already letting us borrow a dress that her youngest wore in a wedding several years ago, and adding a sash to coordinate with the bridesmaids dresses.

This weekend, she let my sister know that she found a pattern in a knitting store for an infant tux coat with tails. Its for a child, size 12 months, so the store owner offered to help her size it down for Critter (he'll be 5 months for the wedding). She's also making him a bow tie, and a cumber bun out of the same material as the Princess's sash. And she's making him black pants and sewing a black ribbon down the sides to make them look like tuxedo pants.

The next day, the mom of a friend I went to college with called, offering Mr. Right and I their timeshare for our honeymoon. They have facilities all over the country, so he and I are going to take a look at the web site tonight to see just where we'd like to go.

Menu Plan Monday

Monday: Leftovers

My tomato-basil meatless dish wasn't well received, but it was decent enough that we'll be finishing it off (with homemade irish soda bread and green beans) for dinner tonight. I'm adding a little ground beef and another can of tomato sauce to try to stretch it a little more (he said it was too dry first time around).

Tuesday: Tuna Helper, Cheesy Pasta

Only I put in chicken rather than tuna. There is a reaason I don't use chicken helper, but I can't remember it at the moment.

Wednesday: Monthiversary!!
Mr. Right and I met on October 13th, so the 13th of every month we celebrate! This always includes him taking care of dinner for the evening.

Thursday: Chili

Mr. Right's favorite dish

Friday: Brocoli Pasta Toss

Our meatless effort for the week, as well as my attempt to make us eat veggies.

August 08, 2008

Wedding Shoes

My mom and I decided (as we often do) to go shopping after our doctor's appointments Wednesday afternoon. One of the stores we hit was Marshalls where I got some great deals. I found Mr. Right a pair of dress shoes (that he desperately needed) for $20 and a pair of casual slacks for $10. With Christmas in mind, I purchased a cute Calvin Klein 3 piece outfit for Critter (my nephew) for $15 and a got the Princess (my niece) a Scooby Doo snorkle set for $10.

My big find of the day, however, was for my wedding. Shoes were starting to creep up pretty high on my priority list, since I'll need them soon to start my fittings for the dress. The style of shoe didn't really concern me so much, since the only time anyone will see them is during the garter toss.

Wedding shoes must be:

1. Reasonably Priced
2. Comfortable
3. Appropriate for pictures

To be honest I even considered doing something crazy - like getting a red shoe so I could wear it again, but when I found these shoes at Marshall's - I knew I found the ones.

How much did I pay for them? $35? $19.99? Not even close

August 07, 2008

Conquering Life's Pathetic Challenges

Okay so parallel parking isn't a big deal for most people, but its something I avoid like the plague. Unfortunately, I went to pay my deposit on my wedding flowers and the only nearby spots are parallel spots. The "normal" spots are over a block away.

I pulled up, backed in and got it perfect on the first try. Although I probably shouldn't admit that the handicapped spot was right in front of it, and the van had left a considerable amount of room toward the back of the spot.

And, no, I don't have another item marked off my to-do list. My florist wasn't in, so I'll have to face this challenge again on another day.

Things I Love Thursday: Splenda

After sending off for a free sample, I'm hooking on Splenda for Coffee sweeteners - specifically the french vanilla flavor. No, they aren't paying me to say this, unless of course you count the free sample they sent me. ;)

I swear its like heaven in a cup! I've also tried the hazelnut and mocha flavors, which are also good. I've tried making my own, since I'm too cheap to buy it. Our office breakroom has plenty of regular splenda packets stocked, so I combine that with some creamer that I got for free (free sample coupon) and its pretty good. But "pretty good" just isn't in the same league with heavenly, especially when heavenly has no calories!

Check out more wonderful products at the Diaper Diaries Things I Love Thursday

Wedding Photographer

Last Wednesday Mr. Right and I met with our photographer for the first time in person. I had reviewed his work online and he and I had spoken over the phone on several occasions. He offered to do a free engagement portrait session, and being one to never turn down free, we accepted. Mr. Right and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get a good feel for our photographer's style and what it would be like to work with him.
We scheduled the meeting at 6:30, to give Mr. Right plenty of time to get off work and get to the location without being rushed. It gave me plenty of time to waste, since I get off work at 5, and the location was less than 5 minutes from my work.
Thankfully I have plenty of wedding books to read. So after primping in the office bathroom for 30 minutes, I found myself a park bench and began reading Dazzled to Frazzled and Back Again by Ginger Kolbaba. At about 5:45, I saw a gentleman get out of his car and start circling the court house (where we had decided to have the pictures taken). I wondered if it was him, but decided that it was too early.
About 15 minutes later he approached me “you’re name wouldn’t happen to be Brooke would it?” Score one point for the photographer for arriving early to prep and scout out spots as well as being able to spot the bride on a park bench reading a wedding book ;). He and I talked for another 15 minutes or so just trying to get to know one another better as well as speaking of things specifically that I want him to catch on the day of the wedding.
Earlier this week, we saw the proofs and they turned out great! Mr. Right and I need to sort through them and decide which one we’re going to send to the paper.

August 04, 2008

Blessings from Above

My 4 year old nice woke up this morning before I left for work. She, her parents, and her baby brother were in town this past week and are going home today. She snuggled me on the couch and we did puzzles for a few minutes. Then I had to get dressed and head out the door. As I was getting my final hugs she looked up and me and said "you're beau-t-ful aunt boo"

How's that for a perfect start to a day?

August 01, 2008

Grocery Store Deals

Several months back a friend of mine got me into the drug store game. Its truly been a Godsend. It gets me my shopping fix w/o spending lots of cash AND I've been able to give out these cute gift baskets to my family full of free goodies I've collected along the way.

I also like to save at the grocery store, although that's not quite as easy these days. When Kroger first ran their gift card promotion (allowing you to purchase a $300, $600, or $1200 gift card and they would add 10%) I immediately jumped on it. Since I normally just spend about $40-$60 a month on groceries, I only got a $300 card. Smart move, since I still have a $240 balance.

Mr. Right is the economist and I'm the shopper. After doing some research on the value of the dollar and the way prices are headed, he asked that I start to stockpile food. He's convinced that the value of the dollar will continue to decrease and that food prices will continue to increase. And since most savings accounts aren't keeping up with inflation, what better way to combat the problem them filling the cabinets with non-perishable foods?

Even if the economy was more stable - I agree its a good idea. I'm going to consider our stockpile sort of a backup emergency fund. As a true Dave Ramsey fan, I have my 3-6 months worth of expenses in the bank. Side note: Mr. Right and I need to do a budget and see if combining our emergency funds would work or if we need to increase/decrease the amount.

When he suggested buying a lot of food we would use any way, I thought it would be a great idea. If something unexpected happened and one of us couldn't work, how great would it be if we could mostly eat out of the pantry and just spend $20 or so a month on groceries?

The plan will work okay because we eat a lot of spaghetti, chili, and other canned tomato/pasta meals. Also, I'm OCD enough that I will rotate stock when I buy groceries each month. Once I get the stash built up, I'll continue grocery shopping each month as normal. But I'll be careful to use the oldest item first. I would hate for 2010 to roll around and all my pasta start to go bad.

I noticed that I was a few weeks late, and prices had already gone up again. A box of Kroger brand rotini pasta jumped from $0.99 to $1.15. Sure, an extra $0.16 isn't going to make or break my budget. But raising the price by 15% price is quite a large increase.

My mom isn't a Kroger shopper, so ever so often they send her coupons. This month was $6 off a $60 purchase for 4 weeks (starting this week). Since yesterday was the last day of the gift card promotion, I took my coupon for this week to the store. After buying my $300 gift card I spent $58.47 on the following:

4 cans cream of chicken soup
4 cans cream of celery soup
4 cans chicken broth
2 cans enchilada sauce
2 cans refried beans
2 cans tomato sauce
4 beef broth
5 cans sketti sauce
5 lbs rice
10 packets sketti mix
10 packets chili mix
4 packets alfredo
4 2 lb boxes sketti noodles
2 boxes rotini pasta
2 boxes penne pasta
1 container salsa
1 large container peanut butter

Next week's items will include ramen noodles and more canned tomato products. We use a lot of tomato sauce, paste, and diced tomatoes.

Any other suggestions for food that save well? I've got 3 more $60 trips to go!

Check out other money saving suggestions at Frugal Friday.