Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My sweet, sweet laptop...

New to our way-too-technological household as of Sunday, I finally have a laptop that can keep up.

And as of today, I get to use it!

My amazing husband took possession of it for the first 48 hours so he could do whatever super-secret things computer geniuses do to make them work. I frequently gave him the hairy eyeball because I wanted to use it so desperately, but there is no fast-forward button when it comes to setting up a new 'puter.

But as I walked into the office this morning, I saw it. *imagine celestial light and triumphant music* It was sitting alluringly on my desk, patiently awaiting my love and affection. Ooops... I mean my speedy and impatient demands. (Heehee!)

With 4 GB of RAM, there's finally enough memory to run the applications I need for work. Wahoo!

I won't have to sit and wait... and wait... and wait... while the computer debates if it should work. And, almost as important, the heels of my hands will no longer get burnt from the heat of its desperate attempts to keep up!

My last laptop, an ancient and well-loved machine, had decided to retire. No retirement party thrown, though, since I was so disgusted at the constant "not responding" message.

So here's a toast to the newest computer-based device in the D___ household. *clink* And to my saved sanity, my increased production as an employee and the loss of sore shoulders from carting around an ancient clunker. *clink clink*

Monday, September 28, 2009

In a bit of a fog...

My parents left this morning after a quick weekend visit and true to form, as soon as they left, I collapsed into bed for a three hour nap.

Now I'm up and moving, but I'm not sure I'm awake. I seem to be moving in slllloooowwww motion and doing an awful lot of staring into space.

I think dinner is going to be scrambled eggs. Maybe pancakes. Something so easy I can make it even when I'm mostly asleep. If I happen to perk up a little? Well, then we might just get some bacon out of the deal. LOL

Saturday, September 26, 2009

On the art of blogging...

Someone out there is reading. To someone, I'm making a difference.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I didn't rob the grocery store... really!

It just *feels* like I did!

"Why?" you ask?

Because... I brought home $50 of groceries today for the grand total of $8.90!!

That's a savings of 81%!

Yay, me! (Doin' a little happy dance!)

I bet you want to know how I did it, huh?

Super Couponing, baby, Super Couponing. Go to www.supercouponing.com to find out all the details, but basically, it teaches you how to keep track of sales so that you can use coupons for maximum savings.

It also talks about using more than one coupon per item, Internet coupons, tracking the pricing cycles, etc.

At first it sounded completely overwhelming to me, but once I saw all the tools available online, I realized it's totally doable. There are some really fantastic sites that link coupons to sales at your favorite stores, so *you* aren't doing most of the work!


I also did the Super Couponing thing at Rite Aid. It was more challenging than at Alberston's because of the mail-in rebates, but when all is said and done, I spent $5 for $30 worth of goods.

Totally worth looking into, my friends, so go click on that link above.

Thanks to MommaSchoob for telling me about this! (MommaSchoob, get on it, girl! You know about it--now you have to do it!)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Perfect Day, Perfect Photos

Saturday morning, we felt the need to get out of Dodge. To do something crazy and exciting and completely non-work related.

We finally decided to head to Cannon Beach for the afternoon. It's a two hour drive, through beautiful green farmland and densely forested mountains. Then all of a sudden, you come over a hill and there's the great Pacific, in all it's delicious, shining glory!

Cannon Beach is a tiny town with boutique-y stores, lots of ice cream (seriously important!) and the beach just one block off the main street. Once the girls saw the sand and the waves and the Ecoli River emptying into the ocean, it was all over.

There was no stopping them. And sometimes, they shouldn't be stopped.

Scott and I just stood there watching them run and laugh and splash (fully clothed, of course). It was such a picture perfect moment, one that left me filled with thanksgiving that God entrusted these two amazing children to me.

Look through these photos and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about...

Pizza Drunk

You know when a baby finishes nursing and her head lolls back and her eyes roll up a little and she gets a goofy grin on her sweet little drooly mouth? And you know that she is unequivocally satisfied?

That's exactly the way Scott and I felt on Saturday night after eating the most *amazing* pizza in the history of all pizzas. As we finished stuffing ourselves silly, we sat back in our chairs, looked at each other and felt completely drunk on pizza.

Good thing for us (and our checking account) that this itty-bitty little pizza joint is a two hour drive away in Cannon Beach, OR. It's called Pizza a' fetta. Their sauce is perfectly sweet and spicy, their combo of cheeses is to die for. Who needs extra toppings when the basic is anything but basic?

Scott needs more than just cheese on his pizza, though, so he order a bbq chicken basil. Oh my gosh... I have not seen that man devour so much pizza in three and a half years (since he found out about his 28 food allergies). He didn't care about the allergies. Savoring this unbelievable pie was worth every discomfort. (Actually, he didn't have any! Bonus!)

Pizza a' fetta is rated number 33 out of all the country's indy pizza parlors. If number 33 is mind-blowingly good, what's number 1 like? It must be simply orgasmic.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Up for another challenge?

I'm not even sure I'm ready for this challenge, but it's intriguing nonetheless...

I read an article the other day in Good Housekeeping. It was written by a Portland woman who decided to take her family (including children) "on a shopping hiatus — to tame our impulse buying and refocus our energy on things that gave all of us greater contentment. In a word: happiness. Or the quest for it."

Socks, for example. She taught her family how to darn socks so they would not need to buy new.

They washed all their baggies, saran wrap, tin foil, etc. and used them till they could be used no more.

How 'bout vacuum bags? Emptying and reusing them makes sense, doesnt' it?

You get the picture.

Here's what intrigued me about their efforts: making due. Learning to live without new socks or a new pair of jeans or a less obnoxious dishwasher. Working with what you have to create something new, something different, something exciting. Teaching our children that "store-bought" isn't always better.

Sounds like a New Year's resolution that lasts approximately 37.5 hours. Grandiose, but just too dang difficult to pull off on a daily basis.

I, for one, don't have the time to darn socks (although with my girls' abhorrence of most socks, I'd do well to mend the ones they actually wear.) Nor do I think I'd succeed a whole year without stopping for a McDonald's Coke or buying pretty new fabric or paper.

Or going to Target. 'Cause we all know that Target is just the coolest and there's way too many things we all want as we push our plastic red carts in and out of aisles filled with things that make us happy.

So here's what I'm thinking, my challenge to all my readers...

The money-sucking, time-grabbing, Pepto-demanding holidays. Is it possible to not spend money? Not entirely, I'm sure, but here's what those magazine parents did...

They joined with other families and together, they exchanged unwanted or unneeded items from around their homes.

Imagine the possibilities! Last year's cell phone; a digital camera that's been replaced; an outgrown bike; camping supplies no longer used; forgotten cds and outgrown dvd's... Are you seeing the opportunity here yet?

Here's the challenge I'm presenting you with. Who's up for a holiday gift co-op? A save-the- earth-and-our-bank-accounts-and-our children's-morals collective? The official regifting society?

I'm serious here! Doesn't this sound awesome? I *really* want to do this. Who'll do it with me?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Well, a short sale is certainly not short on paperwork...

Bleck. No fun at all.

But, in the end, it's what we have to do with our beautiful and amazing home in Rochester Hills.

A short sale is not so bad, it turns out. You stop making payments on your house for at least two months. That drops your credit score about 50 points, but it's only affected for 12-18 months. (Could be so much worse, right?)

Then you wait for an offer on the house and when you get one, the mortgagor has to approve it at the sale price. That can take four to eight weeks. Talk about painful waiting!

When they do approve it, they include all costs, including realtor fees. And your done.

It's like an insurance policy for the mortgagor. They get the most money they can without the risk of losing most of what they've invested in it.

We walk away with nothing -- no equity, but no mortgage either. It's like starting over from scratch -- something I've wanted to do for a very long time.

See, there's that silver lining again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Taking stock of the freezer stock

Remember how I said a couple posts ago that I'm generally pretty adept at looking for silver linings after bad news pours down? Well, here's a silver lining when there is no paycheck forthcoming...

It's time to discover what lurks in the far reaches of my freezer!

Today I took stock. I pulled everything out, made note of it and reorganized it all so I can actually find what I now know resides in there!

Here's what I discovered and what will be the basis of our meals for the next couple weeks... (And I do *not* want to hear even one comment about the large amount of carbs!! LOL)
  • Ravioli
  • Blueberries
  • Girl Scout cookies
  • Fruit Chillers
  • Stouffer's Mac and Cheese
  • Pretzels
  • Corn dogs
  • Hot dog buns
  • Waffles
  • Sub buns
  • Break apart rolls
  • Cinnamon raisin English muffins
  • Garlic bread
  • Croissants
  • Meatballs
  • Flank steak
  • Bacon
  • Pie crust
  • Breakfast sausage
  • Pork roast
  • Whiting
  • Flounder
  • Shrimp (large and small)
  • Salmon
  • Strawberries
  • Catfish
  • Rosemary roll
  • Peaches
  • Raspberries
  • 3 bags of hash browns
  • Tater tots
  • 1 New York steak
  • Lil Smokies
  • Cauliflower
  • Friday's meal in a bag
  • Corn tortillas
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Pork sausage
  • 4 lbs. frozen chicken breasts
So there are definitely some dinner possibilities in there! I made out a menu for the next week, with the provision that I could buy nothing dinner-related at the Walmart trip I was prepping for.

So here's what's on the menu this week:

Monday: Fajitas (with the chicken)
Tuesday: Friday's meal in a bag (with garlic bread)
Wednesday: Quiche (with the pie crust)
Thursday: Meatball sub sandwiches (with tater tots)
Friday: Marinated flank steak
Saturday: Pork roast (with cauliflower)

Now, Delicious Readers, I'm challenging you!!

Refuse to buy dinner-related groceries next time you go grocery shopping! Take stock of what your freezer holds and plan your menus by mixing and matching.

Then... I want to hear to how much moola your bank account is still padded with!!! (I saved about $50, I'm guessing. Sweet!)

Aren't we so fortunate to have freezers to preserve food? We don't have to dig cellars and line them with straw and ice. We don't have to worry about the methyl chloride used in the first fifty years of freezers. (Several fatal accidents occurred in the 1920s when that lethal gas leaked out of the freezers.)

Here I am, thinking about saving money as a silver lining. And all of a sudden, there's another shiny spot--appreciation of my freezer. We are blessed to have such a luxury, aren't we? And we are most certainly blessed to have a freezer full of food to fall back upon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's still pouring bad news...

I finally heard back from the agent I met at the writer's conference last month. The one who was so excited about my book and said "I can't wait to work with you!"

Yeah, well, she doesn't want to work with me after all.

Who knows why? I only received a form letter via email saying my book wasn't right for their agency at this time.

I'm so shocked. I feel kind of dazed and confused, like I'm in a cloud of Vicadin... seeing the world, but not understanding it.

I certainly won't give up trying to publish my book. Of course not. Rejection is part of the writing game and I'm fully aware of that.

But I'd be handling it a lot better if she hadn't been so excited and positive when we met. She even talked about spin-off books!

It's my nature to be optimistic about things. I'm usually able to find the proverbial silver lining in just about any situation. I'm sure there's one here. I'm just too stunned to look for it yet.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's pouring...

Not rain, though. I like pouring rain.

What I don't like is when it pours bad news and then the phone rings and it's more bad news.

It's been a couple of those wet with bad news days.

Yesterday we heard from our MI realtor that he thinks we should short sell the house. We don't know anything about that, but according to him, we stop paying our mortgage in order to start the short sell process. Huh?

I have never paid my mortgage late and am not planning to start now.

But then again, do I want to work 160 hours a month to pay the mortgage and taxes on a house that we continuously lose money on? Not so much.

If we do a short sell, our credit will be affected for the next three years. We have almost perfect credit to begin with, so it wouldn't be the end of the world, but still. A credit score affects everything!

After dinner Scott told me that he doesn't know when we're going to get paid again.


Maybe this is a good time to stop paying my mortgage after all. *insert wry smile here* It's been almost three weeks since the last payday already.

I was so upset by all these mind-twisting, gut-kicking, alcohol-fantasy-inducing thoughts that I took a peaceful, relaxing bath.

And then the phone rang.

It was the MI renters. Something about sewage water in the basement.

I don't even want to know.

Scott is going to have to stop working long enough to find a plumber and call the realtor for more info 'cause I'm done. Cooked. Finito.

Enough already, world!!! Where'd all the good karma I reap go???

Monday, September 7, 2009

o/ Happy Birthday, Dear Emma \o

As of 1:50 pm, Emma is officially 9!

We had a wonderful day of orange rolls, lunch out, pedicures, a Rachel Ray steak dinner and Cold Stone cupcakes!

Emma has been wanting to "experience" a pedicure for the longest time, so I suggested we do it today. She was overjoyed! All the polish colors to choose from... the big, comfy chairs... the cute little flowers they painted on her toes...

Oh, life is good!

Before the pedicures, we had lunch at Olive Garden -- Emma's choice. Unfortunately, it was not the best experience. We were there almost an hour before our order was even taken. Scott's blood sugar level plummeted and although he was staying calm, I could see it wasn't going to last. Then Emma started to lose it.

I hunted down the manager and so apologetic was he, that he comped our entire meal and gave us a $50 gift card. You better believe we ordered extra dessert, even in addition to the birthday cake they presented Em with. It all worked out... It's all good...

Come on along and enjoy the birthday photos.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

For the Love of Pink!

If you know me even a little, you know that I adore the color pink.

And you know that I'm slightly obsessed with Scrabble.

So what was I to do when, at Toys R Us, I saw...

Pink Scrabble??!!

There was no choice but to buy it. Honestly, had it been full price, I wouldn't have done it; but it was 50% off! And, as my wonderful friend Melanie, always says, "It just fell in the cart!"

(And another perk? I was in Portland at the time, so there was no sales tax! Whoohoo!)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

If this photo doesn't say "birthday party success"...

... I don't know what would!

After last minute, Plan B planning, Emma's birthday party was fan-tas-tic!

The girls painted small wooden boxes and add some pre-painted wooden decorations. They chatted away as they painted, talking about school and teachers and pepperoni (Helen's crazy obsession) and cheese (Emma's continuing obsession).

As the boxes dried, the girls played hide-and-seek and a board game, then it was CAKE time!

Oh, duh! I should have thought to take a picture of the cake! We used a bundt pan in a castle shape and it came out perfectly. At least until I was lifting the pan off the cake and dropped it on the cake. I caught it before too much damage was done, but a couple turrets broke. Emma didn't care, thank goodness.

By the way, Emma made the cake and the frosting all by herself! I did nothing but oven-duty. She is such a great cook!

We all know what comes after cake. PRESENTS!! Oh joy!! I don't think a girl could have been more excited about her gifts. Check out these pix!

Helen gave Emma the *much* coveted Silver Soft Kitty Webkinz!

Kailee gave her a Barbie toy and two fairy books!

Brittney gave her a Planet Earth panda bear.

And get this...
Ashlyn gave her a block a Tillamook Cheddar! Ahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!! Just look at her laughing! She turned as pink as her sweet little Smurfette shirt!

Here's the two of them together...

All the last minute stress was totally worth it. And, hey, now that the kids are older, the party was no big deal.

What exactly was I worried about again?
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Friday, September 4, 2009

Thwarted yet again...

I apparently floated right past the "easy" line when the Big Guy Upstairs was handing out adjectives for life.

Tomorrow (Saturday) is Emma's birthday party. We called four friends last week and invited them to go glow golfing, then come back to our house for cake.

Easy. Inexpensive. Simple. Very little prep work.

And not to be.

I had to go to the mall today and while I was there, I walked over to the Glow Golf place to find out long it would take to play a couple rounds of hitting a very small glowing ball into barely lit holes.

Guess what?

Glow Golf is No. Longer. There.

Gone. Finito. Extinct.

I just stared at the empty storefront, causing a traffic jam of last minute school clothes shoppers.

What to do now... There is no Plan B!

Home I came to research options. What do to, where to go, how to create a fun birthday party in 18 hours. (Keep in my, Delicious Readers, that the whole point is to *not* have this at our house!)

Thank goodness for the internet and a very intelligent 11 year old daughter.

After brainstorming and researching for two stressful hours, we had three viable options:

1. Michael's had party openings available. Average cost: $12 per child, plus $50 for instructor and use of party room.
2. Young Art (a local art class place) could squeeze us in as a group of drop-ins. Cost: $28 per child.
3. Swimming at community center. $3.75 per child (but way more stressful than either of the other options.)

Emma, during all this, was at a friend's house. So by the time I got her back, we needed her to make a decision asap.

She nixed swimming immediately. She loved the Young Art idea, but was intrigued by Michael's because we had to go there to decide if, and what, she'd want to do there.

As she and Hayley perused the aisles and contemplated all the grand possibilities, the manager gave me the policy rundown. As an after thought, he threw in the little detail about the $50 fee. Ok, for what it was adding up to be, the girls could do a fantastic session at Young Art.

Long story short, we finally decided to buy little wooden boxes for the girls paint/decorate. And we'll just do it here at home. *sigh*

I guess I have to straighten the house. I guess I have to prepare. I guess I'll have to clean up the paint disaster.

It's so not as easy as it should have been.


That was my forehead hitting the table.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I'm Free! I'm Free! I'm Free! I'm Free!

Just loaded Emma onto the school bus and I'm free!!!!!

We survived the summer months in tact (miraculously!) and though they were a little reticent, the girls were ready to enter the routine of the school year.

Hayley is an experienced middle-schooler now, starting her second year.

Emma starts this year in the fourth grade. She's my social girl, so she's really more interested in friends than in schoolwork. She likes learning, of course, and is a great student, but she gets bored with it so easily.
After Scott and I waved Emma down the street, I danced myself into the house singing "I'm Free!"

I'm going to spend the next six hours of peace and quiet working, cleaning, hopefully playing FB Scrabble with my mom and making our traditional first day of school chocolate chip cookies.

Everyone take a cookie and lift up your big glass of milk! Here's to the first day of school, to moms who somehow made it through the summer and to the teachers that are blessed with the desire to teach!