Monday, December 30, 2013

Giant nerd

I got a new set of bamboo knitting needles for Christmas. I also got a little cashola. What do those two things together mean? Yarn!

 I am about 2/3 of the way done with a baby blanket for my friend and her shower is next weekend. I will be glad when it is over. The yarn is beautiful. The pattern is interesting. I am just tired of making blankets!  I think as long as I make sure I remember to work on it everyday, I will be done in time. 

In time for what? My Downton Abbey mystery knit along. So in a week or so I should get a couple skeins of this in the mail. 
I worked hard at editing that picture. Don't judge. 

It is an alpaca silk blend. I can't wait to touch it. Anyway, during the new season of the show, Jimmy Beans Wool will release instructions on their blog with what to do everytime something happens on the show. In the end, I will have decoded the pattern and made something. It is supposed to be some kind of shawl but I have no idea what it will look like.  Justin is a little surprise at this level of knitting nerdity.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Huddle up!

Alright team, huddle up! Things are about to get serious.  Oh wait.  I don't have a team.  It is just me!  Ahhhhhh!!!!!!!  As some of you may know, I like to live life as if I am floating down a river.  I like to lay back and enjoy the quiet parts, reading, knitting, doing nothing productive when nothing is going on.  And then we hit the rapids.  I like that too!  I like to paddle as long as I can.  I like the adventure of it.  I like the non-stop busy and to challenge myself in the area of how much can I take on.  I like all that as long as I know the rapids are just a section of the river.  Know what I mean, Vern?

I think around the holidays, life is a pretty big section of rapids for just about everybody.  We have school parties, Christmas performances, friend parties, family parties, work parties, decorating, shopping, and wrapping.  I went and had a baby in December so we get to add in celebrating the existence of my favorite little guy.  My work always gets crazy around the holidays.  People always want to serve others around the holidays which is awesome, but it makes for some tired elves.  In addition to regular work duties, we are coordinating parties that other people are throwing, gift wish lists, delivering gifts, etc.  I also do this while working part time while my kids are in school for the most part. And then they have the audacity to take two weeks off for winter break!

This is where I get to me calling for my team that I don't have.  In September I started planning and prepping for a budget modification proposal for the grant I work on.  It would allow me to house two more families and work a few more hours a week.  It was submitted finally, in November.  It was just approved today.  So.... that means the week before Christmas I add on 3 more hours a week of work.  The first 2 weeks in January I move in 5 new clients and do all the things that go along with that (which is a lot).  And it is also end of the quarter and halfway through our fiscal year. So I will be doing monthly, quarterly and semi annual reports at the same time.  Oh and the powers that be are also releasing the application to extend the grant at the same time.  Isn't it sometimes not convenient to have Christmas and New Years midweek?

In addition to all this fun, I got a second job!  It was a necessity and I was going to be looking elsewhere, but this amazing opportunity fell in my lap.  I am going to be watching my nephew three days a week.  I think it is seriously the best possible situation to still allow me to do kid school stuff and spend time with them and make some extra cash that is seriously needed.  (I don't enjoy the financial rapids section of life.) I am also very excited to get to form a close relationship with my nephew and get to hang with him. I will be working one way or another, full time +.  I am going to be the master juggler of responsibilities until I figure this whole thing out.  But I do get to sleep at night and that is nothing to scoff at.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hello technology

I used to be a faithful poster. Then life happened. Then there were computer issues. Then I spent less time on the computer. Then I spent even less time on the computer. Then my phone took over the majority of my computer needs. Look at what happened! I got around to looking for an app that lets me post from my phone. Does this mean I will post all the time? Who knows. I have many apps that I never use. But chances are a lot better now that I can post while sitting in the car one of the many times I sit waiting. I don't promise fun. I don't promise intrigue. I don't even promise complete sentences.  But here I am. 

Friday, August 9, 2013


Is this thing on?

Ava turned 7 this week.  I am not sure how that happened exactly but I know that she has really grown up a lot in the last year. I notice differences all the time. She has turned into a great reader. Her top teeth are finally starting to come in. She has hung out with friends from school and Daisy Scouts.  She talks about being an art teacher and a singer when she grows up.  This summer she went to a theater day camp.  Poor kid missed the cut off by a week to be in the older group with all of her friends from school and she didn't even complain.  She put on a performance at the end of the week.  I have never seen her more confident.  She clearly enjoyed herself and wanted to do well.  She has signed up to take a theater class this fall.  She is so excited.  When she is 8 she can audition for a part in the big shows they do.  I am sure she wishes she could now but I am ok with easing into the after school activities.

Anyway, the say of her birthday she had a friend spend the night and we had cake.  She had a great time.

Rhys, of course, needed to make himself part of the sleepover. 

Ava is having her first school friend party this weekend.  Family and school friends are all going roller skating.  I am going to ignore the fact that this causes me an insane amount of anxiety and just show up and let the party hostess we are paying for run the whole thing.

School starts in a little over a week.  It has actually been a pretty good summer.  I feel like we have had a good mix of hanging out with friends and being home.  I know we have had some crazy weekends that have caused the kids to just want to sit and play at home for a day.  I have been working one day during the week.  It makes a long day for me but it works well for our summer fun schedule.  I am looking forward to school starting only so I can have more of a routine again.  I am not looking forward to having to find a place for Rhys to go for my hour long afternoon meetings.  I hate to even think of rushing him growing up because they are both turning into such kids instead of babies, but it will be nice for him to be in school only for work purposes.  

Speaking of Rhys.  He is a maniac. He is so sweet and helpful.  And then so sneaky and destructive. This summer he has carved up the coffee table, cut holes in clothing, and attempted to cut holes in screens. He is so frustrated that he doesn't know how to read because he can see the difference it makes for Ava.  He will figure it out soon enough.  Justin, my sister-in-law, and I are all doing a workout series.  (We are a week in, Justin has lost almot 4 pounds, Diana -2, and me +1.) Rhys will do the whole thing right along with me.  It is so funny to listen to him try to breathe like he is working out.  I don't think any of it is really that hard for him though.  He is convinced that he wants to take Karate classes.  We are looking into it but all of the local places are apparently stupidly expensive. We need to redirect his energy!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I refuse!

A while ago I had printed out a year plus of my blog into a book format.  Ava has always liked to look at it because there are a lot of pictures of her in it.  It is more or less her first year of life.  Interesting thing happened yesterday.  She decided to READ the book.  I suddenly felt a little bit panicky.  What had I said? Is it ok for her to be reading it?   She seemed to really enjoy it and sat there reading it for over an hour.  It inspired me to keep going. 

Life around here is just busy.   My 31 business has been pretty constant.  I am still working part time aside from that and now most of the hours are actually during the day which is really different.  I am also babysitting one morning a week.  The weeks just are over so quickly.  I have so many random jobs from around the house that don't quite get done and are put off until the following week.  Sooner or later I realize it has been a month or two or more.  

Spring starts tomorrow and I am definitely ready for winter to be over.  I know we have a few weeks before the weather actually changes, but just knowing we are close is awesome.  

So anyway, today was a day that just tried to be bad.  I was supposed to help out in Rhys' class.  I signed up a couple months ago.  I couldn't remember the details of when I was supposed to be there, just that today was the day.  So I had no plans to go into work, like I normally do while he is in school.  I drop him off and ask the teacher who got him out of the car (not his teacher) if I come into help now or if it is later. She said it is the last hour of the day.  I go to Target and get some cleaning supplies I had run out of and cat and dog food.  I come home, feed the cats and go back to the school to help.  I knock on the door and the teachers were like "Oh, you were supposed to be here the first half of the day." I explain what happened and they felt really bad.  I am going to have to find another day to go in.  Anyway, I then go out to the car and decide to just call some clients and things like that while I wait instead of driving back home.  Rhys gets in the car and is a mess.  He had been up late the night before and just couldn't handle life.  This continues on for the next hour or so.  He finally falls asleep while watching a show.  Meanwhile, I find that a cat puked up the new food and the dog peed on the floor.  Then I notice it is really chilly in the house.  I look and the heat is up to 70 but it is 63 in the house.  The furnace is broken again.  It seriously breaks every single winter, 6 years running. Fast forward a couple hours and I have a doctor's appointment.  It is supposed to be pretty fast, in and out.  A friend so nicely agreed to watch Rhys and Ava so they didn't have to go with.  An hour and 45 minutes later I finally get called into a room.  I leave and text my friend to say I am finally on my way and get stuck in stand still traffic because of an accident.  We end up getting fast food for dinner because it is now almost 7 and we are hungry and I have nothing made for dinner.  I end the night with finding that the kids had thrown out their garbage including the melted ice cream they had for dessert into the garbage can with no bag in it.  I felt like the day wanted me to be in a bad mood and I just wasn't feeling it. I did not want to be in a bad mood! I don't know how much longer I could hold out, but it worked.  I didn't let the day beat me. I was probably a little crabby here and there, but not overall.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

magic and other updates

I finished straining my yogurt.  Won't do that again because the thicker chunks grossed me out.  I don't think it made that huge of a difference.  Ok I shouldn't say I won't do it again, because I probably will at some point, but I need a better system.  The picture below is how much I got for $1.15.  Not too shabby.

I am still waiting on my first shipment of my yarn of the month yarn! I know other  have gotten theirs but I haven't.  I am waiting patiently.  In the mean time I made a square.  I received a book of different patterned stitches for Christmas and decided that in between projects I would make random squares out of leftover and probably new (at some point) Spud and Chloe sweater yarn.  I made Ava's blanket out of it and it has held up beautifully, even through washes and regular use for a couple years.  I think it has great stitch definition and feels nice to use.  This is my square in the sand stitch.  It is really a cream colored yarn.  The lighting was bad and I take all my pictures on my phone.

Here is the picture of a sweater I made for my friend's baby this summer.  Nice to see what it looks like on a baby.  I really liked this yarn and pattern and wouldn't mind making it again.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I like to make things into different things.  Like I think it is awesome to turn flour, water and yeast into a sticky growing dough.  It is just amazing to me.  My newest conquest: yogurt.  I set little yogurty bacteria loose in some warm milk and they turned the milk into a fermented gooy semi-solid.  Best part is it tastes good.  My yogurt tastes have changed over the years.  I used to only like the custard style.  Now I don't like the feel of it.  I don't like fat free stuff either because they seem gritty. I really have gotten to like the Dannon All Natural Vanilla.  It is a lot less geletin-like in its consistancy.  The cost of yogurt is usually about $1.00 for a 6oz cup.  Or you can get in a quart for $3-$6, depending on the brand and type.  I have now sucessfully made two batches.  I was worried that I wouldn't want to eat it.  That I would miss all the processessing, but I don't. I actually have been looking forward to my yogurt and granola lunches.

I have seen quite a few sites that make the whole process seem very complicated. I didn't find it to be at all.  I got a gallon of whole milk for $2.39.  I poured half of it into my clean crock pot and put the other half in the freezer.  I put the lid on the crock pot and turned it on high for about 3 hours.  You are supposed to heat it to boiling or 180 degrees.  I have a candy thermometer but I cheated and used Justin's laser thermometer that he has for beer making.  I turned it off and let it cool for a few hours.  (One time I took the lid off to help it cool faster and it formed a skin, I don't think I will take the lid off again.) It cools to 110 degrees and I scooped some of the warm milk up and mixed it with about half a container of plain greek yogurt with live cultures.  I then poured the mixture back in to the crock pot and stirred it up.  I put the lid on, wrapped it in a bath towel and put the whole crock in the oven for about 12 hours.  Next thing you know, you have a half gallon of yogurt.  I froze one container of the original batch for a starter for the next round. 

I have eaten the first batch.  I do NOT like plain yogurt and I don't like it with honey, so that is always an option.  I put in about a quarter tsp of natural vanilla extract and half a tsp of agave nectar to one cup of yogurt.  It was perfect.  I have also used organic cain sugar and it was fine.  No chunks, no grit, just creamy goodness.  I am straining the second batch through cheese cloth.  Apparently all the liquid will drip out and make the yogurt thicker.  I am fine with the original thickness so I probably won't do it again unless other people like it more.  I am just taking that step to make more of an experiment.  So far my only hold up is having containers to store it all in.  I thought I had a lot more mason jars than I really do.

As a side note, the more things I have learned to do or make from scratch the more I think of how many "necessities" and skills the city or suburban life has made obsolete.  For some reason a while ago, I was thinking of what would happen if infrastructure as we know it ended and we were forced to fend for ourselves.  Like you couldn't just go to the store and buy clothes.  You couldn't just go buy bread.  You didn't have money for those things or the money you had couldn't even buy it.  We would be in a bad situation.  It isn't like I want to go stock piling or anything like that, but I do like the little bits of knowledge and skills that I have aquired would make us a little bit more ok.  And then I would be sad about the lack of internet where I have stored all the recipes and instructions on how to do everything...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The year of the crack down

Brace yourself. This is about to get honest.  Not a woe is me kind of honest, just a real glimpse of where we are at. 

Almost a year ago Justin lost his job.  He was able to get a new job right away and never missed a day of pay.  The new job paid 1/3 less than his previous job.  It had potential for bonuses here and there.  With the economy the way it has been and other reasons, they haven't quite been what had been discussed when he took the job.  Overall this has taken some adjustments at home.  There have also been some unexpected medical expenses in 2012.  It was the year of the medical bill.  I don't think we have ever spent so much in one year on medical expenses. My job also changed this year.  It has been for the better, but it still had us adjust things financially. Our insurance just changed so we will be able to stop accumulating medical debt.  Justin finished is master's degree six months ago so it is time to start repaying loans. Tax rates just changed so our withholdings have changed.  Overall it is a good spot to revamp and make plans.

Debt plan: No more debt.  This plan was actually instituted a couple months ago.  I actually froze our credit cards in ice.  We can't use them.  I don't want to close them out yet because of our credit score.  I do want to pay them off.  I got an app that actually helps keep our debt pay off plan front and center and easy to track.  It shows me different debt pay off options when I enter all of our credit card, car payment and medical debt and when they will be done and which costs the least in interest or which speeds things up.  I paid all of January's bills today.  We have 31 months left! In order to make this plan work we have to stick with it and keep household expenses low to put our money towards the debt.  Our biggest struggle is changing our lifestyle.  I don't think we have an extravagant lifestyle, but we definitely are impulsive and there is no room for that right now.

Student loans: They are a huge looming burden.  Undergrad loans went into forbearance when Justin lost his job and have stayed there.  I just set up a repayment plan for the grad school loans. Adding the extra bill to the already tight budget is a little intimidating.  Ok, more than a little.  A lot.  But in reality, just putting them off forever was not a reasonable option.  It was just us avoiding it.  As soon as I agreed to it, I wanted to take it back, but I was really just nervous.  I know in the end, this is the best plan. 

Private school:  Ava is only in 1st grade.  As much as I hate the idea of her changing schools, now would be the time.  None of us want her to change schools.  I can't think about 2 of them in private school.  I will deal with that when it comes.  We have 2nd grade figured out.  I just can't think about 3rd grade, or 4th.  I have no idea what life will be like by then.  It does seem crazy when I look at everything I mentioned before to even be considering paying for private school for the next 11 years (Rhys included).  It isn't really a logical decision.  Ava doesn't want to change schools at all.  It isn't even about the friends.  She said that she wouldn't have chapel at the public school and she was right.  And then we started thinking of the education level and were reminded of why we chose to start her in private school in the first place.  Justin says we will sacrifice to keep her there.  I knew we would and reality have been.  I guess now it is really put up or shut up time.

Cutting back: The only real wiggle room we have is in the household grocery budget.  We need to get cheap.  Really cheap.  I think it means real meal planning again for me.  I need to consider saving money my job. I also need to figure out a good balance of cheap and healthy meals and make more things from scratch.  I have been earning little bits of money here and there and they have been adding up.  I get free shipping through shop runner.  I shop sales at for things like shampoo and stuff like that and I get cash back through ebates for it.  I actually have a check for $52 coming to me in February. We have also said our only resolution is no fast food.  No eating out unless it is pre-planned and a special occasion for a year.  Convenience eating is really our lifestyle indulgence and it has to stop. 

Earning extra: We are just going to earn little bits of extra when we can.  I am babysitting once a week this spring.  I am selling Thirty-One.  Justin is refocusing on his t-shirts. 

Are we alone in the financial crack down?  I know we aren't. What does yours look like?