Thursday, January 30, 2014

No Spend February (well at least we're going to try it)

Pinterest is amazing in the ideas that people have and share. One that I've seen going around is a 'no spend month'.  Different blogs have different ways of doing this, but the gist is -- don't spend on things that aren't necessary and spend less on things that are necessary. Here
are  a couple of blogs where they did this successfully: Click here (small Notebook) and here (motherhood on a dime) There's a ton out there, just google 'no spend month' -- or get on Pinterest.

For me this is a reminder about what is necessary.
And to teach my spoiled, entitled children the difference between need and want. (I write this like it's all them, but in truth this was totally a parenting fail on my part)
(If I am going to be totally honest, I too am a little spoiled and also need to know the difference between need and want -- ugh).

For us our family rules are going to be:

No lunches out (I work nights, so this isn't a problem for me -- now for Jason? We shall see)
One dinner out for Jason and me which will include paying our older son for babysitting (it's for Valentine's) We did get a gift certificate to PF Chang's for Christmas and we saved it knowing this was coming up.
Minimize our groceries -- by 1. shopping our freezer and pantry (it'll be a good way to figure out what's in the back of our freezer and get rid of stuff as well as save money). 2. More vegetarian meals. 3. Eat more basic meals, no fancy 20 ingredient fancy spices meals. 4. Limit entertaining --we do cook extra meals every week for my sister and brother in law, as she has MS and they could use the help -- so we will continue to at least shop for two meals a week and double the recipes for ourselves -- but this experiment is a lesson on how we can get on less, not how to stop helping those we love). 5. We also got a gift certificate to Sprouts for Christmas, so we've got a couple of dollars to go towards groceries this month.
No clothes shopping this month, we have enough. Period.
We prepaid Jake's batting lessons, and there are no tournaments in February, so we should be good there. We decided on reducing his pitching lessons to two days this month instead of four. (That'll save us 80$ right there). We've already paid for league fees and most of his uniform (there will probably be another payment in February, depends on how well the team did in fundraising).
Isaac's karate tournament is in April, so we probably don't have to pay until March.
I will wash our own dog and clean my own house this month (I did mention I was spoiled -- feeling that as I type right now).
We will pay  however for someone to clean my in-laws house, because I don't have time to do both.
No new home projects, instead we will use what we have to clean the house up (touch up paint, clean baseboards etc). We will also clean out our basement this month.
I will have tuition and books to pay for this month, that's an expense we will just have to deal with, unfortunately (my long term plan, however is to continue to nurse and work part time as a nursing instructor until I have paid us back for the tuition, THEN just be a nursing instructor).
No more pay-per-view movies, but we will get Netflix -- we also already got rid of our premium cable channels.
Yes on the Kuerig cups, NO on Starbuck's (although again, we both got gift certificates for SB at Christmas and have been saving them for this month -- but for getting together with friends or if we can squeeze in another date night).
Reduce our heater temperature control to 66 at night and during the day, kick it up to 68 when we're home. I'm the only one that's cold, and I can put on a sweater. Don't run our fire place. TURN OFF LIGHTS (I type as I reach over and turn off the lamp next to me)!
Wash our own cars
For this month, I'll buy some box hair dye, and catch up with the highlights in March. I was kicking around the idea of growing my hair out, so this will be a good opportunity to get a head start.

I'm also going to add how to bring in some extra income -- during this month:
1. I signed up for extra shifts -- however we've been over-staffed so I haven't been working any that I signed up for, in fact have been getting my actual scheduled shifts cut too.
2. When we clean out basement we'll need to set things aside for a big garage sale -- and Ebay/Craigslist

It's not that I want to suck the joy out of life -- I just want us to get back on track. We need to remember
what the important things are in life -- it's not what we can buy, spend etc -- it's about family, friends.

With that said, I'm in no way one of these people who think money is bad, or even corrupt. I just know that I have become relaxed about our debt, our financial goals, and what money really means -- it's just too easy to spend, even when we don't have it.  This month will help us all come to terms with what money means to us, what we need to sacrifice if we want to achieve our goals (and wouldn't it be nice to achieve paying off our house like this blogger did? Or even get our credit cards paid off (AGAIN) and maybe NOT run them up (AGAIN).

We'll see how it goes -- I'll keep you informed.
and Pray that our garage door opener lasts until March -- it's been acting up.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bunco Girl's Night Made Easy

Bunco night is such a fun way to get together, hang out with some fun, talkative, gossipy (in a good way) women. It's girl time. It's get the husband and the boys out of the house time. It's getting to entertain time (this is actually fun for me, I get that not all people think entertaining as fun). I belonged to this Bunco group a few years ago but had to quit when I started nursing school. I since got asked to come back and I got January as my month. Even though I really like entertaining, I don't have a lot of time. So I thought I'd share some of my time saving tips.

Here's the Bunco layout, you need three tables for four. I had to borrow a card table and one table got a hodge podge of chairs.  I have a collection of vintage table cloths and it was fun to add some color and pattern by using them. I'll drop them off at the cleaners and they can deal with cleaning and ironing them (time savings here is worth the expense of the cleaners -- and we're talking 10$ for the three)

Table "1" in the family room

Table "3" in the dining room
Table "2" in the kitchen

So the food and drinks -- a lot of time this is what takes a lot of time. I decided to go really simple and only make a couple of things and buy everything else pre-made.  A total cheat and really if I had a lot of time I would have put more effort in this area because I really do enjoy cooking.
Drink choices -- bottled water, wine (including chocolate wine-yummo), and a variety of coffees and teas (I love my Keurig) I included some creamer and sugar etc for the coffee.

Okay, so I did take some extra time to fun up the water bottles.
  I admit, this is way over the top, but what a fun detail. I found the free pattern here (man I love Pinterest) and Jason (amazing husband) changed the pink to red and the kids were brow-beaten, bribed and guilted into helping me attach them (cut them out and scotch tape them to the bottles).
The starters -- another way I took the easy time saving way out. I bought some frozen Spanikopita and some pre-made some cheese and salami/prosciutto roll ups for the appetizers and filled it out with a relish tray.

The main meal -- nothing's easier than a crock pot and the cooler temperatures of January just scream soup -- so made a simple Italian sausage soup, salad with a store bought citrus vinaigrette, and cut up some yummy bread with a nice crunchy crust.
You won't believe how easy this recipe is. My friend, Shannon, who always makes cooking, baking, decorating seem so easy, gave me this recipe (to which I added peppers the peppers) and it's become a family favorite. I doubled the recipe for Bunco and still had a lot left over:

Italian Soup:
1.5-2 lbs of your favorite Italian sausage
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 tbs of minced garlic (I use the jar stuff)
1/2 carton beef broth
2 cans, with juice, of diced tomatoes (it's really good with the Hunt's fire roasted tomatoes)
1/2 bottle good red wine (if you won't drink it don't cook with it)
2 tbs of Italian blend spices
1 - 2 cups of pasta

saute peppers and onions together
brown sausage
place in crock pot with all other ingredients (except pasta)
cook on low for 8 or so hours
add pasta last 1/2 hour-45 minutes

serve with parmesan cheese

see -- really really easy.

The salad:
romain lettuce
red onion
red pepper
yellow cherry tomatoes
grated mozzarella cheese
citrus vinaigrette 
Tres Leche Cake  - I made it in a 9x13 baker and added a ton of fruit on top. You can find the recipe here (I posted the recipe awhile ago -- again, pretty easy recipe and a family favorite)

Now for some of the fun details:
It's obvious I'm not a teacher, I can't seem to write on a chalk board in straight lines -- but I thought I'd fancy up the menu. I so wish I had that ability to do the whole chalk art stuff -- but I don't. Even sans talent anyone (if I can, anyone can) can make it a little fun (everyone can draw hearts and squares - right)

Didn't make these, found them on ebay after a google search on Bunco decorations (wasn't even looking for them)

My living room -- nothing to do with Bunco, but it was actually clean, so thought I'd post pictures. Jason did such a great job with my book shelves -- they're an Ikea hack that I should blog about some time.

Another time saving tip -- didn't clean the upstairs because who cares! Just concentrated on the first floor.

Most importantly it's not about the house, about the food, the cute decorations, or really even about the game -- it's about an opportunity to spend time with people, to open your home and be gracious, and to carve out some time to do something you love.


Saturday, January 04, 2014

Spending the day in the 'big' city -- Well big city Colorado style

So we spent the day in Denver today and stayed for First Friday. The kids did their normal amount of whining.  They did have fun though, even if they won't completely admit it.

 We walked by Coors Field and Union Station (which was closed for construction) and then stopped by Tattered Cover a very cool Denver book store in Lodo. And what do my kids do -- my non-book-loving-must-have-been-switched-at-birth children do? Well they play on their phones. UGH, I am a failure as a parent.
 Welcome to Colorado, where pot is legal -- should have taken a picture of the line in front too.
 Good plan, especially for those partaking in legal pot (see above), also good for really tired nurses.
 These are cool, mosaiced concrete forms to play checkers and chess.  
 Playing some 'drums' on the 16th street mall
 Denver Pavillions

 Brown Palace Lobby. I've lived here all my life and only just now learned the Brown Palace has nothing to do with Molly Brown, another Brown family -- whadayaknow.

 Trinity Methodist

 So some local news guys were out looking for people to interview about the Broncos. My non-sport-loving son was wearing a Broncos sweatshirt and so they stopped us. We forgot to watch the news last night to see if they were on. Of course even though we live 40 minutes away from downtown, Jake saw one of his class mates as this was happening -- Denver really is a small town.

 First Friday is when the 'art district' (10th and Santa Fe area) open up their galleries and private studios and let people wander in and out and see what's going on in the Denver art scene. There were some pretty neat, beautiful, quirky things. There a bunch of food trucks (of which we did not partake because we were going to Jerusalem's later - awesome and cheap Middle Eastern food).

 So in one of the galleries they had a make up artist who does zombie effects.  Jake decided to have him  paint a 'bite' out of his face.

 Not bad and really gross. When I said, "oh my gosh that's gross"The artist said, "Normally I would take offense, but in this case 'gross' is a compliment"

Linking up here:

Unknown Mami
Our Beautiful World