Monday, January 30, 2012

11 Facts About ME You Probably Didn't Know

Jessica wrote a post called "11 Facts About Me You Probably Didn't Know" which I liked, so I stole it! Actually, the point is to tag people and get them to do it, but she didn't tag anyone and I won't either. I don't know what the rules are, since she's a rebel :-) and didn't post them.

So. Here we go.

  1. I might write a lot about religion and faith, but I really don't consider myself a super holy person. Yeah, I go to church every week, I believe in God, I pray, etc, but in the presence of all these really great bloggers out there, I feel like I am a sinner or a joke. It's OK though, no one is perfect. All that is important is that my intentions are good and I'm open to learning more.
  2. Here's a good example: I've never said the rosary. Truth.
  3. My left thumb is shorter than my right, due to thumb sucking. I stunted my own growth. I also have two different sized feet, and it's obvious when they are right next to each other, with shoes off. I also have a wide width. Needless to say, I hate shoe shopping. 
  4. When I was a rising junior in college, I applied for a summer internship at a local newspaper, and didn't hear anything back. I got really pissed because of this, and to get their attention, I took the most recent edition of the paper, went through it with a red pen and copy-edited all of the errors. Then I wrote a scathing letter about how the paper needed me and priority-mailed it to the publisher. The next day, I got a phone call for an interview. If only I could be so fearless now!
  5. When I was little, I sucked my thumb (see #2). Once, after I pet a cat, my uncle joked with my 3 year old self that I would grow fur in my mouth from sucking said thumb. For the next few weeks, I was The Girl Who Couldn't Stop Washing Her Hands.
  6. I learned to read when I was 2. My parents thought I'd memorized my books, and when they gave me something I'd never seen before, they were SHOCKED. I was really ahead in school in my younger years, however, I was not a child prodigy. I leveled off around 5th grade. Sorry Mom & Dad ;-)
  7. I belong to a private message board that spun off from a public message board. I've known these people (mostly women) since 2002, yet I have only met a few. They probably know more about me than some of my friends.
  8. My real name is Jennifer, but you can call me Jen. C's name is Christopher, but he goes by Chris. And yes, we know they sort of rhyme. Most of the time, I call him Toph. Yeah, I just told you our names, I thought it was time, haha.
  9. My husband was my first boyfriend. I went out on dates with other guys, but it never developed into anything.
  10. I grew up always having dogs and now that we're in a place where we can actually have a dog, I don't think I want one anymore. Cats are so much easier!
  11. I never got a speeding ticket or cavity until I was in my 30s. Now I've had two of both.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Small Victories Sunday

I weighed myself this morning and was shocked. I lost two pounds! I'm not really sure how, but I'll take it. I'm still over where I was a few months ago, but not too much longer until I'm back where I started.

Today while C was at work, I got so much DONE! I went to my parents' house for breakfast, ran to CVS, got invitation supplies for my dad's SURPRISE 60th birthday party at the end of March, came home and COOKED. I made minestrone soup, steamed broccoli, made rice, cut up celery for snacks this week, prepped some other things, just to get ahead a bit. Dishes, cleaned a bathroom (and a litter box), did a load of laundry, and ate dinner. Now I have the rest of the evening to myself...even though I sadly might do some work that I brought home.

I spent less than $100 at the grocery store yesterday. We're still over our goal for the month, but everything for this week's dinners we had on hand in the freezer or pantry. What I bought yesterday was produce needed for the soup and for snacks, and other odds and ends, like vinegar and milk. I was also quite pleased that I got in and out and HOME in less than an hour. But when I grocery shop, I am no nonsense. I get what's on the list and GET OUT. C is more of a browser--we drive each other nuts with our styles, so we don't go together too often. Thankfully I have a husband that actually enjoys grocery shopping. I don't think my dad has ever been REAL grocery shopping on his own and goes to the store more to buy flowers for my mom than anything else!

Also, yesterday, I was lazy. And it was nice. I woke up late, C and I got lunch at our local coffee shop, and I spent a few hours writing up some posts for this week and next.

Back to work tomorrow...blech.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Some Friday night randomness

OK I'm waiting for some water to come to a boil, so I thought I'd kill some time.

C is sick and I'm trying to make egg noodles for him, which will go nicely with the venison stew that I pulled out of the freezer that I'll be eating later.

This water is taking FOREVER and I don't know why. I'm not even watching it!

One of our cats sounds like a human when she's coming down the stairs. Yet she's not that big. The biggest one walks like a ninja.

Now that the Christmas decorations are down, the house looks really empty. I'm reminded how much decorating we haven't done.

Oh, but the tree is still up, fully decorated. It's real, too. You should see how good it looks!

That's a joke, our tree is fake. But it's still up.

Everything is NOT put away, it's all over the dining room table. Maybe I'll get to it tomorrow? The bad thing about having a dining room table is that it can be a catch all for things.

There is a donkey braying just now. One lives across the street, but the farm is set back from the road so I've never seen him/her.

Finally. Water is boiling.

Sent from my iPad

ETA: Hey, this was the first post from my iPad! 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A different kind of thought for this Thursday

I'm taking a break from my story, "We weren't always Byzantine Catholic," because I want to talk about something that came up in the news the other day. It's also relevant because "March for Life" rallies/demonstrations? have been going on recently. Before I begin, please note: I'm not a political scholar. I took two courses in college, because I thought I wanted to be a political science major. Also, this is not an endorsement of any political candidate.

Rick Santorum spoke with Piers Morgan last week about his pro-life stance, including when a woman is pregnant because of rape or incest. Santorum's comments are getting a lot of flack, especially his reply to Morgan asking what he would say to his own daughters, had they been raped and found themselves pregnant.  I understand why: while they might see children as a wonderful thing and even be parents themselves, it is difficult for most people to accept that something good can come out of a horrible situation, and that the hand of God was involved in this most heinous of acts. I have trouble comprehending this at times myself. How can a loving, benevolent God let things like this happen?

Growing up, I pretty much always thought I was pro-choice. While I might not personally choose to have an abortion, what right did I have telling someone else what they should do? Later, I changed my views, I was then pro-life except in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother's life was threatened.

I later dropped the "if the mother's life was threatened," since most of the time, the interventions that would be made to save the mother would not involve actual abortion of the child. Sadly, while the treatments might result in the child's death, that was not the goal; these treatments would cause death indirectly and not intentionally. (I might be mistaken on this, I am also not a doctor!)

So then we have rape and incest. Both are horrible, disgusting events that I have not personally experienced. I cannot begin to imagine what it is like have either happen, beyond your control and then find out you are pregnant as a result.

Then something happened to me, I was personally touched by rape. One Christmas Eve, C's grandmother told us a story that I will never forget. It might have not come up had I not asked a specific question, but the truth came out. She told us that when she was 16, Russian soldiers invaded her town in Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia, this was shortly after World War II) and she was raped by one of them.

She later found out she was pregnant.

With C's mother.

All of this came out from me asking when she came to this country and how old she was. She told me that she was 20 and needed to get here before she was 21, to claim her US citizenship. (Since her father had received his and she was born after that, she had legal rights to be a US citizen as well.) Having known that C's mother was a little girl when she came to the US, I asked, "How old were you when you had Maggie?" While I'd always known that his grandmother was a young mother and that C's mom had the same last name as her maternal grandparents, I never thought it was rape. I had thought maybe she was a teenager who got carried away and the guy wouldn't marry her or that he died in the war or by the hands of the Russians. How "romantic" were my ideas. In the back of my mind, knowing what I know about Eastern European history (I took more courses on that in college than polisci!) and what C had told me about the Russians being worse than the Nazis, I always thought that there might be a worse truth.

And there was.

There were no abortions, she told us, as we sat at her kitchen table after the Vigil Divine Liturgy in shock. Months later, in late September, she gave birth to a baby girl, Magdelene.

I don't know much else--I was too embarrassed, too sad, too shocked to ask her anything else. I don't know if she wanted to kill herself. I don't know if she hated her baby when her little girl was born or if it was hard to grow to love someone who was conceived out of a need to control a weak minority population. What I do know is that she did her best to raise Maggie. I believe she had a supportive family--while her mother had died when she was nine, she had a stepmother to whom she was very close, and a few sisters. Her father had moved back and forth between the US and Slovakia, but was in frequent contact. When the time was right, she and little Maggie, all by themselves, boarded a plane to the US to join her father and stepmother and to have a better life. She worked hard to provide for her daughter, working at a "buckle shop" (factory), while leaving her with her stepmother, who helped raise her. Later, she met her first husband, who raised Maggie as his own.

While I never met C's mom, I have grown quite close to his grandmother. She's more of a grandmother to me than mine had ever been. I know she loved her daughter, regardless of how she was conceived. I bet that looking back over her "career" as a mother, she would be so pleased that she chose to have her baby. And so am I.

If Maggie wasn't born, I wouldn't have a husband.

Needless to say, how can I now be supportive of a woman who was raped and wants to have an abortion? Would I be a hypocrite to say, "yes, I respect your choice" even though that baby could be someone important some day? Or even "just" someone's mom? I'm sure it was much easier in rural 1940s Slovakia to "get on with it" than it would be for a woman in a city in 2012. Would it be easy for me to go through? No. Even leaving out the rape part, I cannot imagine having to tell my coworkers "yes, I'm pregnant and I might be giving up the baby for adoption." People would wonder...

I didn't write this to sway you one way or the other, or to start a debate about abortion, or to make you feel badly for my husband and his family. I only wrote this to show that the political truly is the personal and how a story can change your life and your views.

Honestly, I am still torn about incest, especially because of genetic problems. I know that these are children of God. I know it's wrong to take an innocent life. There is a small part of me that's very...creeped out by the act itself. And I know that it's hypocritical because rape is just as horrible as incest. So, if you choose to comment, please don't hate on me. There is too much of that in the world.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Small Victories Sunday

As you know, I worry about money--a lot.

Yesterday, I went through our tracking sheet for January (an Excel doc that I use each month to track what we're spending and in which categories) and I'm REALLY happy for a few reasons:
  1. We haven't had to transfer any money from savings!
  2. One of C's paychecks was saved!
  3. I was able to pay off all of the bills that are due in the next two weeks without touching savings to cover those bills or to have on hand for regular life expenses! 
I don't know about you, but January is a tough month in this house. The second half of our car taxes are due and they are a hefty sum ($333.10 to be exact). Most states don't have this, ours does--your municipality levies a tax on the value of your car, just like they do your house. The other half was due in July, but the July payment isn't as much of a hit as the January one. I think it's because the January one is due after Christmas and while we usually don't overspend, it's still one of those "oh yeah...we have to pay that, huh?" things. We also have dues to pay for C's Sportman's Club (as a hunter, he needs a place to target shoot and to sight in his scopes on the rifles), and this year, his dad offered to pay half of the dues since he also uses the club as C's guest. That was really generous of him!

We did have some credit card bills to pay this billing cycle: when C was towed (did I write about that?) last month, he accidentally gave the guy at the impound lot his credit card instead of his debit card. Our oil company bills my credit card so we can get a better discount and my Christmas present from C was also charged--all of these credit card bills showed up in the same week and of course, are DUE around the same time!

I was shocked to see that everything indeed worked out. Especially after last weekend, going to Walmart to purchase a small microwave for C's office. His work doesn't have one that's JUST for staff and he doesn't want to use one that his clients use...and I don't blame him. He's been spending a lot of money on take out for lunches because he gets tired of cold sandwiches from home; sometimes you have to spend a little money to save some money ;-) I've never seen him so excited about lunch at work now! He was like a little kid last week, packing his lunches each night, "Look! I can now have soup!!!"

Maybe this should be called SUPER Victories Sunday, just this week?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Shopping Saturday

Sorry for the disjointedness of the blog these past few days (if you've noticed). I didn't go shopping this week nor was it done on Saturday. C went yesterday, on his day off (he has Fri & Sat off), and only spent about $79!!

What did he get? I don't know exactly. He lost the receipt in the parking lot when the wind kicked up. It's fine, I don't know if I was getting much out of these itemized posts and I don't think anyone out there really cares about what we buy, ha!

While I wanted to only spend $300 on food this month, here is it January 21, and we've spent almost $500. The good news is that at least $100 of this was stuff that's been frozen for later. There was also a huge amount of canned goods purchased one week. I am willing to bet that we'll CONSUME about $300 worth of food this month.

I feel so...wasteful? for spending so much money on food when I know people are feeding much bigger households on the same amount or even less. Why does food have to cost so much? Rhetorical questions which will never be answered...

We weren't always Byzantine Catholic, part 2

Last week, I started my Thursday series (which will NOW be called "Thursday Thoughts") and began the story about how C and I weren't always Byzantine Catholic. You can read part one, here. Today, I share with you part two of our story, albeit on Saturday. Priest's Wife, if I've made any errors in explaining church law, please, jump in!!! :-D

We met Fr. G, C's parish priest, at the rectory, one sweltering evening in July or August (we'd gotten engaged in June), and the only reason I remember this so well was that there was very little air conditioning, if any at all. We sat in Fr. G's stuffy office; he knew why we were there, but C reminded him of the topic. Fr. G looked at C and smiled.

"Well, first we have to figure out if you truly are Byzantine rite."

C's face dropped. "What, what do you mean???" he sputtered.

Fr. G went on to explain that he had his suspicions about C and his family because C's last name is a very common Irish one, and knowing his parents and other family members, there was little doubt that his father was born and baptized Roman Catholic. He said, "Most people with Irish last names in our churches join via marriage. As you know, we're predominantly Slovak here at St. J's."

C nodded, taking in what Fr. G was saying.

Fr. G continued, "The reason I'm bringing all of this up is because of Canon Law, a child follows the rite of the father, regardless of where they were baptized." He paused for a second. "So technically, you are canonically Roman Catholic. Even though you were baptized in this parish, and raised here. Do you know if your dad was raised Roman or Byzantine, and if he ever switched his rite officially? I can't find anything in our records."

"No, I don't think so," C answered, still amazed. "I'll have to ask. I mean, I know he said he liked Mom's church better than the Roman rite, so I am assuming he was raised Roman, plus, he was born in Louisiana [ed. note: mostly Roman Catholic, especially back when C's dad was born]. He never had a problem going with her when they were dating and then after they got married..." He trailed off, looking rather sad.

"It's actually quite common. It happened to me," Fr. G announced.

Both C and I looked surprised. Fr. G went on to explain how both of his parents were Byzantine, or so they thought, but only his mother really was as his paternal grandfather was Roman Catholic. It was only when he was getting ready to enter the seminary did he discover this little issue. To rectify it, he had to petition the Roman Catholic diocese for a rite transfer, as well as the Byzantine eparchy. It was a matter of paperwork and keeping track of numbers; he compared it to moving to a new town and re-registering to vote.

"Of course, it's a bit more serious," he explained, "especially because it's Canon Law and you'd be dealing with the bishops in both rites. But it's not impossible. Here's what you should do: first, go home and talk with your father about this. Then you'll know one way or the other. If he didn't change rites, you're going to have to get married in the Roman rite, which solves the problem of where to get married. " He smiled. "If he did change rites, then you'll be getting married here, since the rite of the groom determines where the ceremony is to be held."

I groaned, inwardly.  We left, in search of answers. C felt completely blown away.

To be continued...

Here is the Canon Law that the priest was referring to regarding children, baptism, and which rite to which they belong:

Canon 29 -
§1. By virtue of baptism, a child who has not yet completed his fourteenth year of age is enrolled in the Church sui iuris of the Catholic father; or the Church sui iuris of the mother if only the mother is Catholic or if both parents by agreement freely request it, with due regard for particular law established by the Apostolic See.
§2. If the child who has not yet completed his fourteenth year is:
     1° born of an unwed mother, he is enrolled in the Church sui iuris to which the mother belongs;
     2° born of unknown parents, he is to be enrolled in the Church sui iuris of those in whose care he has been legitimately committed are enrolled; if it is a case of an adoptive father and mother, 1 should be applied;
     3° born of non-baptized parents, the child is to be a member of the Church sui iuris of the one who is responsible for his education in the Catholic faith.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

I think there are a lot of people out there in the blogosphere who use Mondays to post their meal plans. I know Cate Linden does.

Here's what we're eating this week:

Saturday was pan-fried flounder (lightly breaded with corn flour, herbs and spices), brown rice, and salad.
Sunday was bay scallops served with pasta and pesto made in the fall from our basil plants. Bread and salad.
Monday: leftovers from Sunday
Tuesday: huevos rancheros con chorizo. Maybe some fruit?
Wednesday: steak, salad, either brown rice or baked potatoes.
Thursday: Fend For Yourself. I'm getting my hair cut after work and probably won't be home until 7. I'll most likely eat a late lunch and have a snack before I leave work to tide me over.
Friday: pork souvlaki, thanks to my pita find on Saturday! This is pretty much a meal in itself.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Small Victories Sunday

A quick one, this week.

Even after a not-so-great week of eating (especially towards the end of the week), I managed to lose 0.1 pounds this week, but I'll take it. Also, at an endocrinologist appointment during the week, she commented that I'm down 6 pounds from my last appointment in October. Fasting blood sugar was 86.

I think I have more to comment on, but not much time! 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Shopping Saturday

Last Saturday, I had what we'll call a "soft launch" of what is now my new Saturday series: Shopping Saturday, as well as what will be my new Sunday series: Small Victories Sunday. I just came up with those name like 5 minutes ago. So here we go again!

This morning, I did the near-unthinkable. I got up and out of the house before 7:30. While I do that (or try to) at least every day for work, today is Saturday. Friday night, I decided to make our meal plan and grocery list all by myself, and then, because I wanted to hit up two grocery stories to take advantage of the sale items, I figured it'd be better to get up super early and go when they first opened. C thought I was nuts, but since he did the meal planning and grocery list last week, he was happy to have a week off. Especially since I was going earlier than we did last week.

I got to the first store by 7:30. They open at 7, but the store was pretty dead. I was done and back in the car by 8:15. Was at the second store by 8:30; they open at 8 and the store was also not to busy. I only needed  a few things there, so I was home just before 9. The best part? C was already up, and was in the garage before I finished pulling in the car. Hooray for help!

How'd I do this week?

Store 1
This group of items were purchased with store rewards (different from the cards on your keychain), so they were really good deals.
  • 2.85# bananas for $1.54
  • 1# deli ham $3.99
  • 1# deli turkey $6.99
  • 1/2 # slicing cheddar $3.00
  • 1/2 # Swiss cheese slices $3.23
  • ciabatta loaf for Sunday's dinner--FREE w/ store special
  • half gallon of milk $1.98
Other items (again, all bold items are store brands and italics are things that were on sale or that I saved with using my store card):
  • lite sour cream (2 @ $1.87) $3.74
  • dozen eggs $2.89
  • Aloutte (sp?) light $3.98
  • breakfast sandwiches (2 boxes of 4 @ $6.59) $13.18*
  • frozen muffin tops (2 boxes of 4 @ $4.69) $9.38
  • small can sliced olives $1.49
  • beef broth (6 @.86) $5.16
  • refried beans $0.80
  • potato chips $3.99
  • bread (2 @ buy 1 get 1 free) $3.99
  • salad dressing $3.49
  • flour tortillas $2.99
  • cranberry juice (2 @ $2.50) $5.00**
  • V8 6 pack $4.99
  • small can sliced jalapenos $0.89
  • pasta (3 boxes @ $0.77) $2.31
  • conditioner (2 bottles @ $0.99) $1.98***
  • 2.72# pears $2.67
  • 3# apples $3.99
  • celery hearts (2 packages @ $2.28) $4.56
  • strawberries (2 packages, buy 1 get 1 free) $4.99
  • escarole $1.46
 Total $108.78

Obviously not everything I bought was on my list.  I wasn't sure how much deli stuff I was going to buy, and the escarole was definitely an impulse purchase. I wanted to experiment!  The pasta was a "grab a few boxes since they're on sale" type of buy. The V8 is for work--good for chugging while having a busy day.

*I'm not sure how healthy these things are but I don't eat them. They are for C's breakfast, since his habit of going to the neighborhood coffee shop or the bagel store near work is costing a lot of money. The frozen muffin tops are for me and are low calorie, low fat, etc. 
**Anyone want cranberry juice? Guess who forgot what we bought last week...we have PLENTY now.
***It's a hard and fast rule in our house that we never buy health, beauty, pet or paper items at the grocery store. BUT...the conditioner was cheaper than it is at CVS.  

Store 2 (also, all bold items are store brands and italics are things that were on sale):
  • giardeniera $2.39
  • marinated eggplant $1.99
  • local soda still made with real sugar, we buy a few bottles when we shop here as a treat (3 @ $1.05) $3.15
  • 1# American cheese $5.87
  • flatbreads (more like authentic Greek pitas; 2 packages @ $2.49) $4.98
  • 2.82# broccoli $2.79 (was $0.99/lb--haven't seen it so cheap in a long time!
  • 2# baby carrots $3.00
  • cucumbers (4 @ $0.69) $2.76
  • 2.64# green grapes $5.25
  • romaine (2 heads @ $1.29) $2.58
  • grape tomatoes (2 pints @ $1.49) $2.98
Total $37.93

When I went to this store, I had planned on only getting the produce and the cheese. But I do love my giardeniera and I wanted to surprise C with the soda. Plus, we're always on the lookout for these pitas and now we have dinner for Friday!


Honestly I'm very pleased with what I was able to buy for this amount. Granted, there is no meat/poultry/fish, but that's OK. Lunches and breakfasts are taken care of for at least a week, if not more. There's plenty of good, healthy food with all of the produce. Bread is in the freezer for later on, the accidental over purchase of juice is on the dining room floor. Bought everything necessary for this week's dinners, so no mid-week trips to the store in a rush after work. Now, can we finish it all before it goes bad? This is something I still struggle with, even after not really shopping with my mom for food in over 10 years: how to buy for TWO PEOPLE, not four. I'm sure I'll figure it out, oh, right about the time when my future kids will be eating adult portions of food ;-)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

We weren't always Byzantine Catholic, part 1

Today, I'm introducing my new Thursday series, which is not-yet named. I had thought about Theology Thursday, but I'm not a theological scholar and my posts will be more than that. On Thursdays, I'll be talking about faith, religion, my experiences with both, stories involving them, etc. Anything that can fall under this topic will be discussed. So here we go...

For a long time I've been hinting, both here and on other blogs (mainly Priest Wife's) that we weren't always Byzantine Catholic. I kept saying "I've gotta tell the story!" but haven't taken the time to write it all down. Some of you who have paid close attention might be thinking you've heard me mention things about C being raised Byz Cath or attending his church.

Aha. Just because one attends a church doesn't make them a member of that religion.

I'm going to tell the story as I lived it, instead of at the beginning, just because it makes more sense to me and I wasn't alive at what would be considered the beginning. Neither was C.

When I met C, I found out he was Byz Cath, and quickly got educated in what that was. I met his priest while C was in the hospital, and he looked just like any priest that I'd known growing up and in college. After C's recovery, we attended some divine liturgies at his family church. Very different. I didn't like it. It was "weird" and not what I had grown up with.

Then we got engaged. Where to have the wedding? I, of course, wanted it at my family church, where I'd received all of my sacraments up to that point. C wanted it at his church. I argued that it was always at the bride's church. C felt that we'd probably have to raise our kids Roman,* so why not at least get married at his church. While I really liked C's priest (he was young and friendly, and reminded me a lot of the priests I had gotten to know in college) and would have wanted him marry us,** I wasn't so sure about getting married in a "weird" church, not to mention most of the people attending would be Roman and familiar with my church. C thought what better way to teach more people about the Byzantine rite than a wedding, when people WANT to attend? On the other hand, my attendance at my family church had been sporadic (see, I'm FAR from perfect) and we had a new pastor, who I hadn't met. I had my aunt ask her good friend (a Roman priest) if C and I could get married in the Roman church, or if we'd need any paperwork. He said there would be no issue.

We decided to go talk to each priest and see what they had to say about the issue of where to get married. We started with Fr. G, C's priest...which is where we found out something very interesting about C and his family.

To be continued next Thursday!

*We weren't sure where we'd live or have a family, but we probably knew we wouldn't be near any Byz Cath churches, hence the assumption.
**I know, in all Catholic wedding ceremonies, the priests don't marry the couple. The couple marries each other.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Thinking about having a few "weekly" posts

You know, the ones you see on other blogs. I had noted in my goals for 2012 that I wanted to develop more of a focus on this blog. But what to focus on?

Originally, I had set out to chronicle out house projects, but that didn't turn out so well, as we did them very spur of the moment and often sans camera.

I thought about my crafts, but those aren't being touched much...sadly.

Then I went back to what my favorite teacher always said to me, even years after I was his student and even years after I was anyone's student: Keep writing. (By the way, he was a history teacher, not an English teacher.)

If I take his words and apply them here: it doesn't matter what I write about, as long as I write from the heart and about things I know. There's always an audience. He, among countless others, have told me time and time again that I'm a good writer. In my opinion, a good writer can make a story out of anything. "They" also say "write about what you know."

Okay, so applying both rules here, a new rule might be: keep writing about what you know. Not hard, right?

What matters to me?
  • My home and my family
  • Trying to "get it all done"--be it at home, work, life, etc.
  • My faith

I can write about all of those things still, but perhaps on a more structured basis.

  • Mondays--meal planning and organization for the week ahead (have no fear, I'll probably write this on Sunday and schedule it to post on Monday, ha)
  • Thursdays--something about faith
  • Saturdays--my small victories over the past week, especially as I aim to get healthier

There might be other posts on other days, especially when we go grocery shopping; there might be rants and rambles thrown in here and there. I hope you'll stick around!

Monday: Meal Plan

I think I've written a few of these posts before, but why not try again?

We've always been pretty good at meal planning. While I didn't grow up in a house with a formal plan for what was for dinner which night (somehow, food just appeared), I now believe it's crucial to have something written down, so that there are no guesses, no surprises, and no grabbing for the take out menu folder.

Here's what's going on in our house for dinner this week:

Monday: mushroom soup leftovers from Sunday, if not a total FAIL, rolls, salad
Tuesday: chili verde (made with pork and our tomatillos grown last summer, now frozen in a sauce) and tortilla chips
Wednesday: leftovers
Thursday: flounder, frozen vegetable...not sure what else. Baked potatoes? Oven fries?
Friday: steak and risotto (C has Fri & Sat off so he tries to make something special on those days), with a frozen vegetable

That's all we have planned so far, but I'm sure we'll have leftover risotto in there. The weekends are usually done mid-week, when we've received the store flyers for next week's sales. Then we can make our grocery lists and plan for the next week.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Two more shopping trips and thoughts on food

Last night, after Mass*, we went to do our regular grocery shopping.

Total bill $160.95 (bold items are store brands)
  • big bag of shredded cheese $6.48
  • huge block of Romano cheese (used for shredding/grating instead of buying packaged Parmesan) $11.46
  • small personal sized desserts (a treat since we rarely have dessert in the house and didn't have a lot of "junk" around during the holiday nor did we attend any parties; 4 @ $1.68 on sale) $6.72
  • box of ditalini (pasta used in pasta fagioli, good to have on hand--quick & easy soup to make with ingredients that are non-perishable!) $1.53
  • box of orzo (pasta used in mushroom soup) $1.53
  • diced tomatoes (4 cans @ .99) $3.96
  • canned mushrooms 4/$3.00
  • tomato sauce (4 cans @ .69) $2.76
  • chicken broth (10 cans @ .40) $4.00
  • beef broth (big cans, needed for mushroom soup, no store brand beef broth available. 2 @ $3.43) $6.86
  • can of hominy (for green chili later this week) .99
  • canned soup, 8/$10.00
  • cream of chicken soup 5/$5.00
  • cream of mushroom soup 5/$5.00
  • low fat microwave popcorn $2.19
  • tortilla chips 2/$4.00
  • potato chips $4.99
  • "regular" microwave popcorn $3.19
  • crackers $3.99
  • snack crackers 2/$5.00
  • chicken boullion packets (2 @ $1.29) $2.58
  • Jane's Krazy Salt--my new favorite "spice" $2.83
  • ground chipotle pepper $8.69
  • cranberry juice (4 big bottles @ $1.88 each) $7.52
  • soda (3 12-packs @ $2.00 each) $6.00
  • seltzer (5 1-liter bottles @ .77 each) $3.85
  • herbal tea 2/$4.00
  • 8 oz pkg sliced mushrooms (2 @ 1.28 each on sale, cheaper than the non-sliced! Will be used in mushroom soup I'm making today) $2.56
  • pint of grape tomatoes $3.99
  • 2# bag of carrots $1.99
  • dried mushrooms (for soup, 2 @ $4.99) $9.98
  • 2# pollock loin $12.26
  • bottle deposits $2.05
The receipt said we saved $44.15, between sales and using our store card. Looking back, there were more than a few things that we didn't have to get--or we could have gotten less than we had of certain items. I know we could have spent less had store brands been available in the pasta shapes needed for the recipes, as well as the beef broth.

Sometimes, it's hard to say no to a spouse, especially when it's something like food. Also, when a spouse is a foodie and loves to cook, there's the desire to experiment or the need to restock items that have been used. The tea is for me for my desk at work; I realized on Friday that all I have left is caffeinated and I can't be drinking that all day, I'll never sleep!

When we got home, I realized that the mushroom soup also calls for fresh dill and parsley, which I had on my list, but thought was for another soup and decided to pick those up next week. FAIL. I had to go back to the store today, but this time I brought back 4 big bags of empty bottles and cans that I hadn't gotten around to taking back.

I ended up paying ONLY .68 for a bunch of parsley and a bunch of dill, as well as a few more onions that I thought to grab. How? My bill was originally $7.33, but I "made" $6.65 at the bottle return room. I felt funny when the cashier told me my final total, as I didn't have anything smaller than a $10 bill on me, so I decided to put it on my debit card. (I used to work retail, I know what a pain it is when someone "robs" your drawer of all your change!)

Originally, when I made up our budget for January, I thought it would be good to try and spend $350 on groceries. I don't know if this is going to happen. One week into the month and we're already at $265.16. Granted, we have a LOT of non-perishables, and many of these things will last for a long time, especially those 10 cans of chicken broth! Even most of the produce we bought will last for some time. We also have a good amount of salad stuff in the fridge, which I can use for lunches this week, with maybe a half can of soup, which is really one serving. We also have a lot of things in the freezer, including bread, so even if we go over the $350, it won't be too bad. (I don't think.)

Besides having a problem with spending too much (at least to me, it's too much), I know we also have a problem with not using things up before they go bad. I've stuck my hand in the veggie drawer to be met by a slimy cucumber. I hope that we can avoid that as well.

A note about this soup I'm making. While it doesn't call for meat, these mushroom are PRICEY! I haven't cooked too many things with mushrooms before, and if I have, they've been the fresh white button type. Not these fancy dried ones. I think this pot of soup costs $21.61 (not counting ingredients I already had on hand, like flour and sour cream) but the recipe says it serve 8 to 12. When you figure out the cost per serving, it's not so bad: more like $1.80-$2.70 a serving. Oh, I hope this isn't one of those "so gross, we can't make it better and we end up tossing it" dishes!!

*Yup, we went Roman this weekend. Friday night was Theophany (Epiphany); after serving in the almost 2 hour liturgy, plus the 40 minute drive each way to our "old church," C was happy to stay local, instead of driving another 40 minutes one way in the opposite direction to our "new, regular church" that has a divine liturgy on Saturday nights. If you're confused: for a few years we attended one church and got really involved--C served on the altar, I sang in the choir. When he started his new job in November, we had to give up going to that church because he had to work Sundays and they didn't have a Saturday night DL. The one we attend now is the church C grew up in and while they are seriously lacking many things, they do have a Saturday night DL and we can see C's grandmother each week. Our goal is to go back to the "old church" for holy days and if C ever has a need to take a Sunday off. Thank God we're Catholic and have this choice. I don't know what Protestants would do.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tracking food in a different way

I already track calories, but this is about MONEY, since I think we spend way too much on food.

C went shopping yesterday at a market that is in a more urban area and has more "exotic" foods (you know, like duck and different cuts of pork besides chops and roasts).

He spent $93 even and this is what he bought:
  • frozen duck $12.35
  • frozen duck $12.30
  • beef spareribs $6.91
  • beef spareribs $7.96
  • fresh pork shoulder $10.46
  • fresh pork shoulder $12.51
  • smoked pork hocks $7.02
  • broccoli & garlic sausage $5.24
  • broccoli & garlic sausage $4.82
  • steak seasoning spice mix (3 bottles @ .99 each) $2.97
  • roast beef (cold cuts) $7.27
  • onion rolls $2.99
Most of this went into the freezer and will be consumed throughout the next few months. But that's a lot of money, not to mention, we still have to go "regular" grocery shopping tonight. I'll be back to post on how much that trip cost. Fortunately, it's mostly canned things (broth, tomato products) and some pasta, so hopefully not too much.

Small victories

This week, I got to work early every day and was able to work (to the minute) the exact number of hours that we're "supposed" to work. I had a problem with working up to 42.5 hours every week, and while I wasn't given a talking-to, I wanted to get back on track.

I also tracked my WW points and stayed on target all week. I'm down a little over a pound since my last weigh in about 2 weeks ago, and since I wasn't on target after my last weigh in, I think I'm doing well. I walked for 25 minutes in the afternoons on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday--even in the cold and wind that we had!

I felt SO much better all around, but especially after coming in from my walks. They helped break up my work day this week and were certainly a wake me up. Speaking of waking up, I haven't been drinking any coffee. I did have some black tea mid-morning one day, and half of a can of Diet Coke one morning, but I did pretty well without it. I did have some on Friday and didn't walk that day, but I wasn't feeling great.

Goals for next week: keep tracking my food and get out at least 4 days for a walk.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Why I worry so much about money

I've alluded to this many times here, but I think it's time to be honest with you readers. Most of you don't know me in "real life," so for a few people, this will be old news, and you can skip this post.

Some of my posts might be seen as contradictory--we have no debt, don't make a lot of money, but live in a big house, have a boat, can put away money for retirement, etc. I don't want anyone thinking I'm lying or making something out of nothing, hence my desire to "come clean."

Here's the deal: when C was injured years ago, he sued the employer of the woman who hit him. I'm not going to get into details (partly because confidentiality clauses) but lets just say that the woman was working for a large employer with good insurance policies. So yes, he won money. The reason he sued was because the scope of his injuries was so severe that certain job fields would be forever closed to him. He had wanted to become a police office, and prior to the accident, he was thinking about starting up his training again so he could take the physical test.

He received one-third of it up front and will receive a monthly payment from the remainder for the rest of his life. Even if he dies (God forbid) before he's 60, I will get that money every month until what would have been his 60th birthday.

With that one-third, he was able to pay off his car loan. He bought his boat. Then we got married and my car was slowly dying. We were able to buy a car and pay it off sooner. (We took out a loan to help boost our credit, I know, it makes NO sense to me, but then paid it off after a few months.) When it came time to buy our house, we used a significant part of that one-third as a down payment. The monthly payment covers our mortgage, with a little leftover.

We try not to touch the remainder of that one-third, because what if something happened to C where he couldn't work anymore? What if something happened to me? We've already been through two layoffs, and fortunately we haven't had to touch much of the remainder. Also, I don't like touching something when it's hard to put it back. We don't make much, so it's not like "oh let's take $5,000 from that account and when I get my year-end bonus, we'll repay ourselves." C works in non-profit human services and with a Master's degree, still makes less than I do. I work in publishing for a small company. Publishing is notoriously low paying, even though people think it's super glamorous.

We try to live on (and save!) what we make, but I'm constantly feeling like this isn't enough. I've heard from many different people, on all parts of the salary spectrum, that no one feels like they make enough. It still feels like we should be doing better or have more to show for what we bring home. I can't be the only one to feel this way. I will say, however, that I'm not up all night worrying about how I'm going to pay for a bill. My worries are more long-term: will we have enough to pay for day care? Will we have enough to retire? What if something happens to us/the house/etc?

Do you worry about money? If yes, what about exactly? If no, how are you so lucky to avoid this? :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Budget

Here it is, our 2012 Budget post.

How I came up with this year's budget:

In November, I read this article by Liz Weston (MSN Money) about how you should split up your income in the following categories when it comes to spending and saving.
  • Savings: 20% (this includes any retirement savings)
  • Needs: 50% (housing, utilities, food, transportation--anything you MUST have to live)
  • Wants: 30% (vacations, clothing, dining out--you don't have to have these but are nice)

I loved this because I was one of those people who never knew how much was a good amount for saving, were we spending too much on groceries, and so forth.

Our expenses--the needs and the wants

When I looked at our expenses, I was shocked. While we were at or near the 20% for savings, our needs and wants were all over the place. I took a hard look at what were really needs and what were really wants and made the following categories:

  • health insurance
  • mortgage (our taxes and home owner's insurance are escrowed into our payment)
  • home repairs/services/oil (necessary things, for safety, such as having the furnace cleaned or the septic pumped, not cosmetics!)
  • gas
  • groceries
  • electric
  • phone & internet (some might say that internet is a want, but since ours are packaged together, I'm leaving it)
  • auto insurance
  • auto taxes & registration
  • auto repairs & maintenance
  • pets
  • medical--doctor copays and prescriptions


  • durable house goods (tools, furniture, anything that we'll use a long time)
  • consumable house goods (cleaning supplies, paper products)
  • cell phone
  • TV
  • boat insurance
  • boat maintenance and repairs
  • boat taxes and registration
  • cash withdrawals
  • personal needs (all those random CVS trips for shampoo, contact solution, etc.)
  • donations
  • entertainment (dining out, movies, parties)
  • clothing/shoes
  • gifts
  • haircuts/waxing
  • vacation fund (ha, maybe someday?)
  • memberships/licenses

Reality kicks in

Even after I did that, I was shocked and saddened to see that our needs were still well over 50%. There are a few reasons that were out of my control then, and hopefully will be better in 2012. C's commute was 50 miles one way for a few weeks. This was when he first went back to work and then another position opened up in a facility closer to our house (and even closer than his last job, pre-layoff). Our gas bills should be much cheaper, unless the prices go up again. We have some of the highest prices in the nation (yes, sometimes more than Hawaii) because of the state's tax on the gas. Also, groceries tend to be pricey where we live. And if you're trying to eat healthier, you can be out of money quickly.

I decided to tweak the numbers just a bit, due to our circumstances. This was my goal for December (green) and the results (red).

  • Savings: 20% 4%
  • Needs: 63% 69%
  • Wants: 17% 27%

What happened? Well, at first, things were fine, and I put the 20% into savings. But we had to pull some money from the savings later on in the month to pay for things. I was a little bummed to have to do this, but on the other hand, we didn't go into debt because of speeding tickets or deciding to be social and have a party.

Planning ahead

I also started plotting out 2012's expenses in November. It helped that I have kept good records of our bills and expenses for each month since we've lived in this house, especially when considering the annual or semi-annual bills that often take people (including me!) by surprise. I realized that in some months our needs would be different. For example, at the end of January and July, our car taxes are due.

For most of the year, I've plotted out our expenses and figured that I could keep the same goals for December 2011 for most of 2012.

  • Savings: 20%
  • Needs: 63%
  • Wants: 17%

For January and July, the budget will look like this:

  • Savings: 20%
  • Needs: 68/69%
  • Wants: 11/12%

I'm not sure how much the taxes will be in July, but I'm figuring higher, just in case.


These numbers still make me sad. I know we don't work in the most highly paying fields and we try to keep our expenses low, but it really hits home when you see how much your everyday needs cost. I wish there was a way of getting them closer to 50%, but we both have to travel to our jobs (no working from home) and health insurance for the two of us is 10% of our take home. I'm supposed to be getting $25 more towards my health insurance from my company for joining a wellness plan, so we'll see if that helps. (Probably gas will start going up again!)

I think this budget is a work in progress. I would love to put more money into our retirement funds and when we put money into our savings, we LEAVE it there. But then the unexpected happens and you have to pay for it... I also don't know where we'd find the money to pay for day care, and no, one of us can't stay home. And people wonder why the birth rate is falling?

I have a lot to be thankful for, so I shouldn't make this post entirely all doom and gloom. We have no debt besides our mortgage, we pay our bills off every month. I think we'll just have to keep a closer eye on things and do our best to lower the needs so we have more money for the wants (and savings too!). We have a significant amount in savings; perhaps I shouldn't beat myself up for transferring a few hundred into checking to pay for things for the party and Christmas?

Right now, I only put about 6.5% of my pre-tax salary into my 401k. I'd love to be able to put away 10% and have C do the same with his 403b. (First, we need to get him re-enrolled) I just did some math, if my salary stays the same, but I get another $25 towards my health insurance costs and put 10% of my salary into my 401k, my take home would only go down by $20 a month. That doesn't seem TOO hard to do.

(I should note that I've always been a worrier when it comes to money. I am sure people would look at our financial records and laugh at me, telling me I have nothing to worry about. The reason I worry is for another time, but partly because of the fact that costs keep rising and we don't work in great paying fields.)

My hope is to report back each month and review the previous month. We'll see if I can keep this up.

What are my 2012 goals?

Ah yes. The year ahead. I do have goals (don't we all?), but my hope is that this year, I'll be better about keeping on top of them.

So, let's begin! I have 4 categories this year. And I just taught myself how to make these page jumps, so I'm super excited. You can skip around, instead of having to read all the way down, if you'd like.


1. Healthy weight. Off certain meds.
At my "annual exam" a few weeks ago, my midwife asked me what my plans were, "you know, for a family." I smiled and said that these days that was definitely more of a topic of discussion and thought at our house. She also smiled and said that I really really needed to have a baby in the next year or so, since the risks go up and fertility goes down when you are over 35. (I'll be 32 in March.) By the time I have my pre-conception visit/exam, wean my body off of certain medications and switch others, that's another 3 to 4 months and not everyone gets pregnant their first month of trying. She was concerned about the timeline. I was more concerned with my weight, and she was realistic. She asked me if I thought I could lose X pounds in a year and I didn't think so. She didn't think so either (she was nice about it!) and suggested more like 20 pounds to start. Her point was that there are risks for everyone, but she'd rather see me get pregnant overweight and younger, versus older and thinner. I'm not happy--I didn't want to be a fat pregnant person, with the risks and general discomfort, but I did a lot of this to myself, so I can't be mad at anyone.

So back on track with WW (counting those points) and weekly weigh ins. And more Pilates--I forgot how much I love doing this--I rediscovered a DVD after Christmas and was sore for 3 days after a 20 minute workout!

2. Relax! Slow down!
I don't relax enough. I'm always on the go. Even when I come home from work, I do tons of chores. I need to ask C for help more--he doesn't just pitch in because he doesn't know what I need help with...because I don't ask! I also need to literally slow down--I just got a $259 speeding ticket a week ago. I know I procrastinate horribly and lose track of time--if I planned things better, I wouldn't be in a rush.

3. Have fun
That goes along with #2, but I need to do more of this. Nothing crazy, but things for me, things with C, and things with friends.

4. Read more
Yes, I work in publishing and hardly read. I find this is not uncommon in the industry. When you read all day (even email and reports) and a lot of that reading is ABOUT books, you don't always want to come home and crack open a book! The owners of my company gave everyone $100 as a Christmas present, so I took that to my local bookstore (my previous job, actually) and spent it. Here's what I got:
  • Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
  • The False Friend, by Myla Goldberg
  • In Country, by Bobbie Ann Mason
  • In Search of the Rose Notes, by Emily Arsenault
  • What to Expect Before You're Expecting (hey, forewarned is forearmed!)

Of course I have a ton of other books half finished or waiting to be read, but most of them were non-fiction. I wanted something to grab me and take me away, like books used to. I miss that.

5. Pray more.

6. Have more of a focus, or point, on this blog.

1. Dial it down a notch.
This was mentioned in my review, but I have a tendency of getting REALLY aggravated about something and the blowing up. It's because I have a passion and ownership for my work and want to do well. While that in itself isn't bad, it's more of how I express it. It's not professional, and actually the owner who oversees my department was hesitant to sign off on my promotion. Both she and my boss are right--I just need to calm down a bit and not take things so much to heart.

2. Get in EARLY instead of on time or barely on time.
My boss still drives me up.the.wall., so the more time I put in without him there, the less time I have to spend with him. :) Hooray for flex time. He doesn't stroll in until 8:30/8:45 and works til 5:30 or 6, so if I can get in by 7:30, I can leave at 4/4:30 and all will be well. Getting in early also allows me to start my day slowly, going through email, putting things on my to-do list, wake up, haha.

3. Keep my inbox (email), desk, and folders clean.
On Friday, I spent a good chunk of my afternoon cleaning off my disgusting desk, going through my drawers, throwing out things, reorganizing, etc. I also archived almost all of my email (the IT department should be happy to see that I'm not near the top of their offenders list now), sorted other emails into new folders. The goal is to keep very little in my inbox. Either delete it or move it. I've also started using the tasks area of Outlook instead of writing down a to-do list (that can be forgotten to be added to). All I need to do now is organize my paper files (most of which I don't use anymore) and the files on my computer. I organized our departments shared drive's folders in the spring, but my own stuff got neglected. I usually do an OK job with that, but I think some things could be renamed, moved, etc.

4. Get away from my desk more, including my half hour lunch.
At a WW meeting, I learned that people who move every hour, even if it's lame like walking 10 feet to a water cooler, have better blood sugar levels? metabolic rates? (crap, I forgot what it is) than those people who don't do any extra moving during the day. I think it would do wonders for my mental health as well, not to be chained to my desk in my dungeon.

1. Mantel for our "library."

We don't have one, the previous owners never put one in, even though they custom-built this house. It's not that bad looking, but the room balance. Where to buy one though, is turning out to be the challenge. We don't feel comfortable buying one online, so this might be something to hire a carpenter or someone who specializes in millwork.

2. Kitchen floors redone.
They are wood, which is lovely, but badly scratched in some places and worn out in many. Seriously, it looks as though someone might have ice skated across the floor in one spot! Thankfully the rest of the wood floors in the house are FINE.

3. Rest of the upstairs painted.
Two regular sized bedrooms, a little closet of a room, and two full baths. Shouldn't take that long or be too expensive. I plan on using the lady I used last year.

4. All carpet ripped out and replaced with wood.
I haaaaate carpet. HATE IT. Not only is it bad for our allergies, but who knows really how clean it is? We didn't put it down. I had it cleaned before we moved in, but ugh, who knows what is lurking in those pads and...I'll stop there. The only rooms with carpet that we use right now are our bedroom and the TV room. All of the other bedrooms have it as well, but I'd rather get it up and out before we have kids since, well, I've never had to clean human bodily fluids out of carpet and I don't know know to. I grew up in a house entirely made out of wood. (I'm not sure if this will actually be accomplished in 2012, but it's nice to dream.)

5. New doors for the two bedrooms upstairs.

6. Buy some more furniture.
End tables for TV room, possibly new nightstands, a new mattress (yes, already, we don't like ours anymore and it didn't hold up that well). Outside chairs too.

7. Power wash house, back deck, and front porch.
Not a huge thing, but it needs to be done.

8. Hang some more things on the walls.
Still feeling a bit empty, sometimes. I'm not one to run out and buy something just to have it, though. It has to feel right, so I don't mind waiting. We've talked about blowing up and framing pictures from our honeymoon, but I don't know about big color pictures.

1. Get back on track with saving at least one of C's checks.

2. Split up our savings account into different accounts.

3. Change some accounts to have both of our names on them (leftovers from before we were married).

4. Buy life insurance
Our financial guy gave us a worksheet to help figure out how much money we'd need. This is hard, since you have to try to assign a dollar value on what your lifestyle and family size would be when one of us died. The morbidity part doesn't freak me out, it's just so hard to say "this is how much money C would need if I died" or vice versa. I have no idea! The worksheets are just so he can figure out which policies to show us, but still, it's hard to figure out a dollar amount.

5. Stick to a budget!
More on this soon.

I'm going to TRY to post monthly about my progress. It's great to have goals, but not if you don't DO them!

Happy New Year! (2011 Goal Wrap Up)

My last post was on November 22, whoops. What happened? Like most people when they take a blogging hiatus it's because they got busy. I have more to say on where I was and what I was doing that made me so busy, but I think that will be explained in my 2011 Goal Wrap Up.

Last year, I wrote down these goals and gave updates on them in February and July. Nothing since then, but no time like the present...

Personal goals:
1. Like everyone and their mother, work on exercising more and getting healthier.
And like everyone and their mother, I've had my ups and downs. I joined W e i g h t W a t c h e r s in June, and was doing well with the online tracking, then fell off for a bit. I've started going to the meetings, which have NOT been as horrible as I thought they would be. While I don't like showing someone else how heavy I am, there's certainly a motivation in knowing someone will see the number!

2. Enjoy my free time more, by working on hobbies, taking classes, etc.
As you know, I took a sewing class last winter, but that's about it. The summer was full of gardening, so that was a lot of free time spent on a hobby. I also started stripping varnish off of an antique sideboard/hutch that my dad bought for $10 at an estate auction. Don't know if I posted about this here, but I do have pictures to show my progress...coming soon. I think I could have enjoyed my down time more or made better use of it.

3. Make more of an effort to be social.
YES! We had a party! We hosted a St. Nicholas Open House in mid December, and asked almost everyone we knew, including our neighbors who we don't know so well. We asked everyone to bring non-perishables for our local food bank. We did this because 1) the food banks are always in need of food 2) since for most people, this was their first time in our home, we didn't want people to show up with hostess gifts or housewarming presents 3) we need NOTHING! Really. We have enough junk as is. The party was a success--we had over 30 adults (and 8 kids) at our home, everyone raved about the food (I believe C has missed his called and I keep TELLING HIM that he needs to explore this more), and we brought 2 big boxes and $45 dollars of donations to the food bank.

In other areas: I tried to get some coworkers to attend an author event at a local bookstore, but that fell through. I organized a happy hour for a long-time coworker who left in August. I reconnected with an old friend--we'd been in touch via email, texts, and Facebook, but hadn't seen each other. Even though she rents an apartment from my father. Yes. So we finally met up in the fall and it's just like old times.

4. GET OUT of my hellish job that I've been at for over 4 years and MOVE ON with my life.
Nope, still there. BUT. I have news!!!! I had my review before Christmas and I am being promoted! (Can't remember if I mentioned here that I approached one of the owners about one, and it was taken well, but it was one of those "wait and see" things.) I'm happy, but it's still very surreal; that's probably because it hasn't been made official yet. (And if you're friends with me on FB, that's what I was referring to yesterday about my last little bit of good news.) Will I get a raise? That remains to be seen--they always do the reviews and raises separately. When my boss and I spoke about my possible promotion (after I approached the owner), I told him my goal number, salary-wise. I'm hopeful that they will be able to meet me, especially since the company has had a great year.

5. Keep improving my relationship with Turtle.
Of course, still working on this. We've had some major hurdles in 2011--not only his second layoff and crazy job moves, but I've had some health issues that have impacted daily life in this house. All of those things can make for waves in a relationship.

6. This goes with #4 but find a new job that allows me to shine and share my talents with others; where I am appreciated for who I am and what I contribute. Also, one that is family-friendly and has great benefits.
This didn't happen, but maybe someday?

House goals:
1. Really finish fixing up and getting settled into our house.
I think we're finally starting to get there?

2. Getting this house PAINTED top to bottom. I can do a lot myself, but for some rooms, I will need to call in the pros. The kitchen and our bedroom need to be done by pros b/c I take a long time, and we kinda need those two rooms to live in.
The entire first floor is now painted! Upstairs, just the hallway and our bedroom. But SO much better than it was when we moved in :)

3. Start our garden in the early spring. We're already looking at seed catalogs (DORKS).
We did this. We had an AMAZING garden, some days TOO MUCH produce, but we made lots of different sauces and froze them. We shared with family, neighbors, and coworkers. Will we do it again? YES.

4. Buy new doors for the two bedrooms where the previous owners' sons bashed them in.
Not yet.

5. Paint our basement hatchway door.
Yes! Right before the frost, I finally did it.

6. Figure out a new/better method for firewood storage.
Yes. Lots of racks and piles of firewood now. Hopefully none will fall down, which happened after Christmas 2010.

7. Possibly build a shed in our backyard.


8. Continue to keep things neat!
Ehhh, getting there?

9. Put up some kind of tile/backsplash behind the stove. It gets messy back there and what's th
e sense in painting it if it's just going to keep getting gross?
No, but the paint is durable so it's helping. But I think tile might be coming someday.

10. More planting! Especially some trees.
No trees were planted, but we did plant tons of bulbs and some perennials around the house. Oh, two hydrangeas also (more like shrubs, I guess).

Financial goals:
1. I've been trying to put away ~$500/month into savings, and I'd like to keep that up, if not increase it.
Not every month, especially when C was laid off a lot.

2. I've been socking away ~$150/month for a vacation, which I'm still going to do. We were going to go on a "big trip" in 2012/13 for our 5th anniversary, but I think instead we're going to try and go to Maine this summer. Besides a long weekend in Philly for our 1st anniversary, we haven't been away ANYWHERE since our honeymoon. We can still go away for our 5th anniversary, but not a "big trip." Maybe another small one. Who knows where things will be in 2 or 3 years?
Didn't happen.

3. Get Turtle enrolled in his 403b or whatever it's called. His company matches!
Yes! And then he got laid off.

4. Get us in to see a financial planner and have him help us make the best of our money.
In July, I wrote that we did this. He's still working with us and we're enjoying and appreciating his help.

5. Keep avoiding credit card debt. We've done GREAT with this for years, and I just want to keep it going.
Yes. Although I did charge C's Christmas gift, which was the first credit card purchase I've made in...months? Ugh, I hated doing that, but I didn't have my "personal" account's debit card with me when I bought his gift. So it will be PAID OFF. IN FULL. when the bill arrives.

6. As I'm looking for a new job, I hope to be making more money (don't we all!). I want to increase my retirement contributions AND sock more into savings instead of going crazy with more money. Of course, then I'll be too paranoid to spend the money, haha.
On my list for 2012.