Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'm overdue for an update

Joe and I had a great trip to Utah. We arrived on Christmas eve a little later than expected because of delays (possibly weather related), but we were greeted by my sister (sister #1) and her family and whisked away to the house of another of my sisters (sister #2) for dinner. People were ready to eat (and a few already were) when we arrived, and so we didn't have to wait for food, which was nice. We had some really great food (pork tenderloins, stuffing, potatoes, etc) and it was like no time had passed since I saw my family. Dysfunctional as we may be, I love them so much! I wish they could've all been there! But I digress...

We stayed at the new home of another of my sisters (sister #3) for the first few days of our trip. Even though she has a 3-year-old and a 9- or 10-month-old, it wasn't too hectic, and Joe and I found it enjoyable and relaxing. She and her husband were wonderful hosts and they kept us well fed.

On Christmas, we watched their kids open presents and the adults all got some presents too. Joe and I were expecting to maybe have one or two presents to open (from my parents, since we'd already exchanged gifts with his family and each other), but in addition to the gifts my parents gave us (one to him, two to me, and one for both of us), I got a gift from sister #2 later that day. Sister #3 (the one whose house we were staying at) hosted Christmas dinner, and we enjoyed pasta, homemade pizza, and lots of spinach & artichoke dip. Then we played some games and chatted and had a great time.

The following night was dinner at sister #1's house, which we got to after being dropped off by sister #3 to sister #2's house to carpool (are you lost yet?). My parents and another sister (sister #4) and her family were staying with them. We had Mexican food. Again, everything was delicious! I could've sat there and eaten tons of homemade tortillas, but I decided to stick with a more well-rounded meal. We played more games and then headed back to sister #3's house to sleep.

Saturday we went to PF Chang's for dinner after running some errands and relaxing at sister #3's house. We switched places with my parents for the rest of the trip, so we were now staying at sister #1's house with sister #4 and her family while my parents stayed with sister #3. We did this because we had plans to go to Joe's sister's house to spend Sunday with her and her family.

We went to church with Joe's sister and had lunch and dinner there. We also played some games with her family and then headed home. Once arriving back at sister #1's house, we played the Newlywed Game with sister #1 and sister #4 and their spouses. It was a lot of fun.

Because of a late night on Sunday, Joe and I slept in until about 9:30 am (which was far less than 8 hours of sleep!). We decided we needed to have some Sonic on our trip, so my brother-in-law drove us there. About two hours later, he and my sister (sister #1) took us to Salt Lake to have lunch with one of my other sisters (sister #2) and her husband before being dropped off at the airport.

We were exhausted when we got home, but we were glad to have that vacation and get to see so much family. We were happy to be home sleeping in our own bed last night, and we were happy to see our kittens. They survived and didn't tear the place up while we were gone, which is a good thing. And other than a few very small patches of snow, that is all melted, which was another nice thing to come home to.

In other notes... we played a game called Scruples, which is referred to by members of my family as "the sleep on the couch game." There wasn't a whole lot of arguing between couples, but I did get frustrated and quit at the end when everyone ganged up on me. In my defense, I was so sick of playing and just wanted to win (which I apparently wouldn't have).

Also, I ate more than enough junk food (candy and fudge, mostly) to make up for my lack of such indulgences the rest of the Christmas season. I wouldn't be surprised if I gained 3-5 pounds this trip.

In addition, I disobeyed the doctor's instructions to wear an ace bandage and use a crutch to help my healing ankle (a snow-related accident with a horribly boring story). It still hurts on occasion, but it seems to be doing a lot better.

I played Guitar Hero World Tour for the Wii and found it quite fun. If I had that sort of game or even Rock Band for the XBox, I would probably play a lot more, so I guess it's a good thing I don't.

Pre-made plans don't always work out, and that's okay. We were supposed to do some scrapbooking, but we never got around to it. I did, however, come prepared with the 2 pages that were suggested to give to my siblings for their scrapbooks. One of those pages was our Christmas letter with the picture on it, and the other was a picture collage I put together into a word document. I found it quite humorous when I heard the following from my oldest sister (sister #1): "Lisa (sister #2) called me and said she was very concerned about you because of the picture in your Christmas letter." Apparently, she wasn't sure whether or not I was serious in that photo and thought I was turning into my mother or something. So, I wanted to assure everyone that the picture was taken in jest and is in no way, shape, or form serious. In fact, we have decided to start a new Christmas tradition of awful sweatshirt/sweater pictures to include with Christmas cards. I already have a great/awful idea for next year's photo.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Storms

They're coming my way. I may lose power. I don't know how long, but apparently power was lost for up to 8 days for some people living near me in 2006, and this storm is supposed to have a bigger impact than that storm. We could get anywhere from 3-8 inches of snow. So church will probably be cancelled again. We now have firewood for our fireplace if the heat goes out, and some food that doesn't need to be heated. Whee! So, I'll write more when I can. TTFN!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I haven't written for a while because I've been busy and yet nothing has really happened. Last Sunday, we woke up to snow and church was cancelled. Joe was sort of bummed, because he was all ready for church and just about to head out the door when he got the call, so he had to make several phone calls to pass the word around.

But since we had the day free, it was nice spending some time together. We even invited over a few friends from the ward and played games. We had a great time, and I was more than happy to share my chocolate chip cookies with others so I didn't end up eating them all!

The whole week has been cold with icy and/or snowy streets, so I have stayed inside more or less all week. Today there's sun out, but the cold is keeping the snow around. In fact, a lot of it may turn to ice and then we're expecting more snow and freezing rain on Sunday which can make the roads slippery and dangerous. No thank you! I'm glad I work at home so I don't have to brave the streets like I did last year when I swear I almost killed myself.

And on the plus side, Joe was let out of work early yesterday because of the weather. He drove slowly and carefully home and stayed here the rest of the day. It was kind of weird having him here while I was working to have him greet me after my work day, but it was nice. He got today off because of the weather too, and I'm sure he's been playing Xbox games just about all day long.

Since we finally got our Christmas letters out, I figure it's safe to post the picture we sent out with it here. I hate this picture, but I love it too. Yes, it was supposed to be purposefully bad, but I was still hoping for something a little better. Still, you can see most of the awesome badness of my holiday sweater I found at the local thrift store (we got the mugs and wreath there too). I already have a great idea for our next Christmas letter photo, and I'm keeping my eye out for some tacky/festive/bad/scary sweaters to replace these, or we might be sporting them next year too.

We've had a memorable year, with our honeymoon, move, break-in attempt, job changes, kittens, and everything else life has thrown at us. We're excited for Christmas and the chance we have to spend it with some family, and we hope to be able to spend time with our family next year too. We hope next year is full of fun surprises for us and you as well.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Saving Money, Saving Sanity

My friend Katz posted a blog here where she shared some of the things she's doing to help save money. She asked others for their input, and when I started thinking about what to write, I realized it was enough to fill a post, so here goes...

I am not the most frugal person. I am not very thrifty at all. But some of my mom's good habits have rubbed off on me. To be honest, when I think about being good with money, I often think of my sister Karri as my role model. She got almost the same degree as I did without student loan debt at the end of her program because of her thrifty ways. And she and her husband have some really good financial ideas and investments. I want to be like her in so many ways.

Anyway, I feel like a big part of saving money requires organization and planning. I remember my mom used to cut coupons and scour the grocery ads for deals, often going to many different grocery stores. I tend to stick to one grocery store, but I have been known to hit up more than one and bring coupons to help cut some costs. In addition, I've recently started doing some menu planning. I used to eat solely based on what I FELT like eating, making food related to how I was feeling. But food isn't supposed to replace therapy or friendships or other things that affect your mood. It's supposed to sustain you. Planning has helped me remember this, and I can plan based on what I already have in the house as well as what I have coupons for or what's on sale, which is a bonus. And, planning ahead helped me get some Martinelli's apple cider for Thanksgiving (what we were told to bring) at $2 a bottle instead of the later sale price that was $2.50 at one time and $3.00 at another time, or even paying full price when it's not on sale.

Joe and I used to each get $20 a week for lunch and $20 a week for allowance. We've stopped both those habits (although I think the allowance is a good habit we should restart to avoid over-spending), and we instead talk about purchases before making them (usually). Instead of spending $40 a week on lunches, we now spend significantly less. I buy frozen entrees for Joe to take with him to work. They are usually $1-$2 each, which is a heck of a lot cheaper. And with me working from home now, I grab leftovers or a sandwich or something like that for lunch, which also helps me avoid the snack machine temptations and other temptations that were around my office (HELLO Specialty's Cafe & Bakery!).

We use Netflix, and we use it enough to justify the expense. The movies we watch take up time we would've spent watching movies anyway, but we're often watching at home instead of spending just shy of $20 by going to the theater.

I also combine my errands to try to make fewer trips, another habit I picked up from my mother. If I know I have to go to a certain area for something, I see what else I might need to do/get in that same area.

We reviewed our cell phone plans and joined into a family plan, saving us quite a bit of dough. When we found we weren't using nearly as many minutes as we had combined, we saved money by switching plans yet again. We downgraded our cable bill by comparison shopping (it's amazing the kinds of deals you can get when they think they'll lose your business!) and getting rid of some channels we never watch. We tend to drive my car instead of his car (mine has better gas mileage and uses cheaper gas than his) when we're together. We take the bus (sometimes, but not frequently) or we walk when we can and it is feasible.

We don't eat out nearly as much as we used to. We don't go out for dates tons, and we don't spend tons of money usually when we do. And we're currently working on a budget. With the money we save, we set it aside so it doesn't just get spent on something else. Saving money helped us buy a lot of (needed!) new furniture recently (which is finally being delivered this week!).

Lastly (for now), I purchase some things off-season and shop second-hand stores sometimes during a particular season. We're thinking about buying a pre-lit Christmas tree after Christmas so we'll have it for next year. I've bought a lot of discounted decorations that way. We still have some candy canes from last year that were super cheap (and they give hot chocolate a great flavor when melted in it!).

But I'm not super thrifty by any means. And I know some of you are. What do you do to help you save money and your sanity?

How I feel right about now

After 3 months without my period, I'm all messed up now!

Monday, December 8, 2008


Joe and I usually only have Sundays off together, but we were able to spend Friday evening and Saturday together this past weekend as well, which was quite nice. Because of this rare opportunity coupled with stress we've both been experiencing, we decided to take a mini-vacation. It was very nice being able to spend time just the two of us together.

We drove to Seattle on Friday and stayed in a hotel not far from the Seattle Center and Westlake Center. We were fairly hungry shortly after we arrived, so we decided to walk to a nearby restaurant for dinner. We looked at the list of suggested places to eat that was provided by the hotel, and we decided on one we actually knew how to get to from walking without looking up directions. It was described as a 24-hour diner, so we were thinking it'd be something like Denny's. The name of the place is 13 Coins, and it far exceeded any of our expectations. Joe had a philly cheesesteak sandwich and I had some spinach stuffed ravioli. Delish!

Saturday we went on the Duck Tour. It wasn't as informative as I had hoped, but it was nice being able to see different parts of downtown Seattle and spend some time on the water. We did get to see the house on the water that is the Sleepless in Seattle house and some other historic sites. After the Duck Tour, we visited Pike Place Market and had some amazing donuts (the tour guide from the Duck Tour recommended the donuts) and did some browsing. We stopped by a toy store in Pioneer Square and got a great lunch at Speciality's Cafe & Bakery. Then we headed to Westlake Center and walked around. I saw a store the offered extra dark hot chocolate, and it was like heaven in my mouth! Afterward, we went back to the hotel and hung out a bit before going to see a disappointing Christmas show (we left in intermission). But we had a very nice day.

My mother-in-law asked me yesterday what my favorite part about the day/trip was and it was just being able to spend time with my husband making some memories together and just relaxing. It was just the kind of mini-vacation I needed.

We are excited to take a vacation later this month to see some of my family and some of Joe's family for Christmas, but it was nice to be able to spend some time together alone.

If anyone wants a mini-vacation (or longer) and needs a place to stay, you are always welcome here!

It's nice having today off work too, but there are lots of errands to run, and the kittens are currently at the vet getting immunizations, fixed, and declawed. I'm sad that they might be in pain, but it'll be nice not to have our couch (or curtains or other furniture) scratched up any more than they already have been by the kittens.

I'm also excited that I've made a new friend at church. We're going to start walking together (starting today) and she's really sweet and cool.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Parenting Tips

I grew up in a home with about a billion kids. We kids joked that my parents must've been looking for cheap(ish) labor when they had all of us. After all, replacing the roof was probably a lot cheaper (even if it did take approximately 242 times as long as it otherwise would have and required a trip to the ER and surgery when my sister fell off the roof), and I'm sure adding 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a basement would've cost more than it did too (I was too young to remember the injuries sustained there, but I'm sure there were some then too). Then there are the everyday and weekly chores we completed, gardening when we were younger, and free babysitting that the older siblings provided for the younger siblings. Hello child labor!

I often find myself thinking about how I was raised. I think I turned out okay, despite what my therapist might think (just kidding; I don't have a therapist...yet).

Anyway, I honestly believe that the people I know who are parents do the best they can with the skills and resources they have. And they seem like really good parents, for the most part. Of course, that doesn't mean they don't make mistakes. I can think of several things I'd like to do differently than my parents did, but maybe that's just me and this psychobabble I've been brainwashed with in school. That doesn't mean I think my parents were terrible parents (and they still play the parental role quite frequently, although I am weaned off the teat and the wallet for the most part).

My mother-in-law and I recently had a conversation about the different ways we were raised and it sounds like she thinks the way she was raised was much better than the way anyone else in the universe could possibly ever be raised. She wrote down some parenting basics from her mother, her father, and herself and emailed them to me and others. I can imagine what she was thinking: "My unborn grandchildren are in grave danger of being neglected/abused/raised by a monkey! There is work to do, and stat! Gotta do some flinging at the monkey in hopes some will stick before the monks/monkettes are being fermented/scarred for life!" Then one of her far superiorly raised sisters added some tips of her own and emailed them (this was promptly forwarded to me as well). I realized people like to talk about how much more they know about things than I do. After all, I'm almost a certifiable idiot! I make up words like superiorly and monkettes. Help! Do it for the chilluns!

So, my question to you parents is this: what words of wisdom do you have to share with a gal like me who wants to emulate things I've seen/heard others do? I guess the non-parents can respond too, because we don't only have terrible ideas (right? Or is this idea another one of my dur-dur-dur flashes of "brilliance" only a mother could love tolerate?).

Tell me what you do that is wonderful. I want to learn from your experiences! I want to take your knowledge, wisdom, creativity, etc and soak it in like a sponge so I don't end up a horrible failure as a parent (no, this isn't an announcement). After all, I'd like your kids to want to babysit for my kids one day, and we all know how much it can suck the life out of you to babysit someone who is a terror in motion! Hopefully they'll allow me to pay them with baked goods or something. After all, I believe in supporting child labor but don't want to break the bank! More money for me to save for a therapist. We all know I could use some therapizing.