Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Unexpected BIG Discount, A Pretty "Cool" Freebie, and Snow



Last week we placed an order to purchase the digital downloads of all the pictures from G1's senior photo shoot.  The online gallery is due to come down today.

I hadn't heard back yet from the studio, and, being the worrier I am, I wrote off a quick email yesterday  just to make sure the order went through okay.  The last thing I wanted to happen was to somehow lose all the pictures!

Anyway, I got a very nice email back stating that we were all set except....

The amount we were being charged was LESS THAN HALF the online price!  So, instead of $500 plus tax for all the pictures, we are being charged $200 plus tax!  That's a huge savings!  I am still excited even though it's a gift from my parents for Papa & me because hey it's nice when they can save money too!

The email went on to ask permission to use a few of G1's pictures in the studio's portfolio and advertising campaigns too!  G1 was thrilled beyond belief!  She didn't believe them at the photo shoot when they were complementing her so I guess now she does!  LOL 

Papa & I wonder if they offered us the deep discount in exchange for the use of the pictures.  It's just speculation.  But, it's a pretty sweet deal no matter what - a whole chunk of change saved and a boost to my daughter's self esteem!  =)




Yesterday evening, Papa came home with this freebie....




A soft pack cooler with a TON of reusable freezer bags!  There are 12 of the white - which are perfect size for Papa's regular lunch bag, 2 medium blue, and 2 very large blue.  I'm thinking the cooler and freezer bags will come in very handy once the warm weather comes and we head to the beach and farmer's markets.

Go Papa!  =)



It feels like Connecticut (at least my part) has barely gotten any snow this winter so far! And, while I have complained about wishing there was more snow on the ground here, I didn't want it today!

The weathermen are predicting about two to three inches this afternoon...barely anything for most New Englanders.

But, schools are getting out early due to the timing of the storm...

And G2 has a therapy appointment today so I'm feeling a little anxious about driving the mile up the main road to get there....

Yeah, I am a total wimp I know!

Papa suggested that if I am that nervous we could just walk there because, like I said, it's literally a mile away.  When I brought it up to G2....well let's just say it wasn't well received!  Haha!

Guess I should be careful what I wish for right?

Hope you all are having a great Tuesday!


Monday, January 30, 2017

Crockpot Confessional...




In yesterday's post I shared with you that I was going to make chicken soup in my crockpot.

And, I did.

But, guess what?  It was inedible!

The chicken was rubbery and the broth virtually tasteless.

The dog is going to be a very happy puppy this week since I diced up the chicken and added it to the rice treat I made her yesterday!  LOL

The rest of the "soup" sadly went down the drain.

Am I the only person in the world that has trouble with the crockpot?

It seems like it would be so easy.  Put a bunch of stuff in, turn the sucker on, and have deliciousness waiting for you at dinner....

Yeah not so much for me!

I have a very small list of things I can make rather successfully in it....

Chili
Beef Stew
Pot Roast
Poultry Stock

That's it!  FOUR THINGS!

I follow the instructions.

I make sure not to over or under fill the crock.

My crockpot is even "dummy proof" and will switch itself off to warm when the cooking time is up.

Why can I cook on the stove and in the oven but not in the easiest appliance ever?!?!

Does anyone have any tips/tricks that can help?

Does anyone else share in my absolute inability to master something so simple?

Happy Monday!

P.S.  My family didn't starve last night as I had the ingredients on hand to whip up baked ziti with bread.  LOL


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Prep




I have spent too much quite a bit of time these past couple of weeks mentioning that my family keeps passing crud and germs to each other.  Whelp, it would appear that now Papa has a mild case of the flu (sweats/chills, body aches, cough, congestion, exhaustion, fever, etc). 
I woke this morning with a bad headache and some body aches - which still could just be from the MS cramping I have been experiencing lately.  But, who knows since Papa kept cozying up to me last night when the chills came on.  Poor guy but please don't get me sick!  LOL
So, anyway,  I downed a dose of Tylenol to ward off the pain and got to work in the kitchen to help this week go smoothly in case I am "lucky" enough to catch what Papa has.
Here's what I did....

I made a new batch of pasta salad.  It's a no-brainer, super easy, and well received by the family!

While chopping veggies, I decided to make another batch of roasted veggies.  Easy to eat plain or stuffed in a pita or an open faced sandwich.

Then, inspired by Carol over at CT On A Budget and her post today about soup, I decide to make Crock Pot chicken soup for tonight's dinner.

After searching my freezer for homemade chicken broth, I  found I only had turkey left - and it looked pretty freezer burned.  I decided to defrost it in a pot and give it a taste.  Yup, totally had that freezer burned taste.  Rather than waste it, I grabbed odds and ends of different rices from the pantry and boiled it down to make a special "treat" for the dog this week.

Needing a "grab and go" breakfast for during the week, I looked at a new recipe for Oaty Maple Breakfast Cake in Jessica Fisher's book Good Cheap Eats.  I'll post my review of this recipe on Wednesday's Project Me 365 post since it's a new one!

Besides kitchen stuff...

I filled in/set up this week's calendar so I know what's going on for the week...Especially good since we have a few appointments this week!

I also did four loads of laundry and I'm now off to iron (hopefully) a week's worth of Papa's work clothes - since he is planning on getting to work if at all possible.

Then some more Tylenol and possibly a nap!

Hope everyone is having a great Sunday!

What's Cooking?



Sorry about taking last week off with this post....

Let's talk about what we ate this week!

Monday

Breakfast:
Me:  Apple muffin and small bowl of dry Lucky Charms
Guppies:  Apple muffins
Papa:  Cherry yogurt with granola

Lunch:
G1: Scrambled eggs & Toast
G2:  Pasta salad
Papa: Leftover homemade macaroni and cheese, brownie



Me:  Leftover mac n cheese with roasted veggies


Dinner:
G1 & me: Pierogis in onion/butter sauce
G2 & Papa:  Pasta salad



Tuesday
The Guppies had a two hour delay due to snow/rain/sleet/ice so we all slept in a bit.  Also, G2 had her BFF sleep over last night due to boy drama - this time it was G2 who broke up with the boyfriend.  I think this is it for the two of them.  Thankfully, G2 seems very much okay!

Breakfast:
G1:  Homestyle "Egg McMuffin" with sunny side egg, bacon, and cheese
G2 & BFF:  really wanted Mozzarella sticks - I gave in because I would rather have something in her belly than nothing
Papa:  Instant oatmeal and an orange at work
Me:  Homemade "McMuffin" with bacon and cheese only

Lunch:
G1:  Scrambled eggs and toast
G2:  Pasta salad - this kid loves pasta salad!  LOL
Papa:  Pasta salad, brownie
Me:  "Snacky lunch" composed of sliced bell peppers, celery, broccoli, bleu cheese dressing, and 4 small wedges of cheese with a few Ritz crackers

Dinner:
G2: Chicken noodle soup
G1, Papa, & Me:
Spicy Udon
We all had brownie sundaes for dessert.



Wednesday

Breakfast:
G1: Requested another "Egg McMuffin"
Papa:  I sent him off with a McMuffin too since it was easy to do both at the same time
G2:  Said she wasn't hungry.  Got a few saltines into her anyway to settle her stomach
Me:  Buttered English muffin

Lunch:
G1: Crackers & Laughing cow cheese, fruit
G2:  lunch out with friends afterschool at coffee shop
Papa:  Leftover Udon, brownie, orange
Me:  Grilled veggies on pita with a side of pickled peppers/artichoke hearts

Dinner:
G2:  Chicken nuggets and fries
G1, Ramsey, Papa, & Me:  Flank steak gyros with Tzatziki sauce*
*It was another new recipe and I forgot to take a picture before I ate it!  I thought the seasoning on the steak needed to be amped up but everyone else loved it --- INCLUDING RAMSEY the food critic!!!  On the plus side, I have discovered I loooooove tzatziki sauce --- yummy!


Thursday

Breakfast:
G1 & Me:  English muffin with peanut butter
G2: Croissant with butter
Papa:  Yogurt with granola at the office

Lunch:
G1: Crackers with Laughing Cow cheese, fruit
G2:  Bacon grilled cheese & chips
Papa:  Seafood salad on pita and dill pickle chips
Me:  Roasted veggies, American cheese, and Tzatziki sauce on 1/2 pita and dill pickle chips

Dinner:
Migraine and MS cramping in my legs was kicking my butt!  I really wanted to order a pizza but trudged on instead!  We were all home together...
Choice of chicken cutlets two ways: 
White Wine Sauce & Capers
or BBQ Sauce
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Scalloped Potatoes (from box)

That yellow plate isn't going to win any food beauty pageants but it was yummy and saved us from takeout!



Friday

Breakfast:
G1, G2, & Me:  English muffins with butter
Papa:  not sure because he had to travel to Rhode Island  He said he would get something at the hospital there

Lunch:
G1:  Eggs & Toast
G2: Leftover sweet potatoes
Me:  Leftover BBQ chicken breast sautéed with onions and put in 1/2 pita with American cheese
Papa:  Turkey wrap at his meeting

Dinner:
Impromptu pizza party for G2 & Friends!
G2 asked if her best friends could come over and hang out.  After the tough week she had with her breakup, I gave in.  They are all good kids and I want to keep G2's spirits up.
Papa & I split a small white veggie pizza.
G2 & friends had a large mozzarella pizza and a large bacon pizza.


Saturday*
*G1 away for the weekend

Breakfast:
G2: woke up late and wanted leftover pizza for her "brunch"
Papa: cereal with milk
Me:  Dry Malt-O-Meal "Lucky Charms"

Lunch:
G2:  see above regarding "brunch"
Papa:  Grilled cheese and Doritos
Me:  last two pieces of veggie white pizza from last night

Dinner:
G2:  Went out with friends to the local burger joint

*At home Mexican date night for Papa & Me*
Vegetarian chili with sour cream, cheese, and scallions over chive Belgian waffles
There is a waffle under there!  I promise!  LOL

Home made fried ice cream



And that's what was on our table this week! 



Saturday, January 28, 2017

January 2017 Grocery Totals


I'm back to keeping a tally of grocery expenditures!

What do I consider "grocery"?  All food (including dog, rabbit, and ferret food/supplies), toiletries, paper products, and cleaning supplies.

My goal is to spend an average of $550 per month.

In February, I am thinking of doing a weekly post on groceries (maybe including pictures) with an end of month recap.  I think that a full month in one post is information overload for how much/the way I shop.  LOL

January 2nd:  Stop & Shop  $24.29
1 package of 8 sesame seed hamburger rolls
1 package store brand cheese singles
1 round of Laughing Cow cheese wedges
1 package Arby's curly fries
1 1ltr bottle of regular Coke
1 package of 4 premade fresh burger patties
2 packages of Perdue chicken nuggets


January 3rd:  Dollar Tree  $7.44*
*while some of this was needed, some was "extra" because our dishwasher stopped working and I had to wash everything by hand!
1 50oz bottle of dish washing liquid
1 2pack of sponges
1 box (5 count) trash bags
1 25ft box of aluminum foil
1 dish drying rack
2 bottles of body wash

January 4th:  CVS  $2.12*
*combination of ECB and a coupon

2 (46.5oz each) All laundry detergents
1 deodorant


January 5th:  Big Y  $27.73
2 dozen large eggs
1 lb Deli American cheese
1 box maple sausage
1 (12 pack) diet Snapple
3 packages of boxed mac n cheese
1 loaf of Vermont brand white bread
1 1ltr diet Coke


January 8th:  Stop & Shop  $15.19
 1 16oz container of sour cream
1 8oz bag of shredded cheddar cheese
2 8packs of PowerAde
4 2ltr bottles of Pepsi products

January 10th:  Dollar Tree  $6.06
Hairspray
Popcorn
Pretzels
1 box of Malt-O-Meal "Lucky Charms"
1 box Malt-O-Meal "Frosted Mini Wheats"
1 package of 3 Instant Cup O Noodles

January 10th:  Stop & Shop  $20.89
2 packages of reduce steak tips (totaling a little over 2lbs)
1 canister of corn starch
1 1ltr bottle of Pepsi
1 10oz bottle of soy sauce
2 bottles of diet Snapple
2 lbs of broccoli crowns
1 bunch of scallions


January 12th:  Massive Shopping Day!
I was close to having a mutiny on my hands if I didn't restock the house fast!  LOL  So, I bit the bullet and spent the morning shopping! 

Olivers:  $42.31
10lb bag of boneless skinless chicken breast - $1.49/lb!  Can't beat that price around here!
3 lbs of fresh ground 80/20 beef
2 8oz containers of Daisy sour cream
1 pint of blueberries
1 large canatalope
2 grapefruit
1 4pack of Hershey pudding
1 75oz bottle of Xtra laundry detergent
2 jars of Tuttorosso tomato sauce
2 cans of Starkist tuna

Dollar Tree:  $9.38
Paper plates
2 boxes (40 ft) aluminum foil
1 box of garbage bags
1 box of Cheese Nips
1 box of pound cake - new item to me!  Never saw it sold here before!
1 bottle of shave cream
1 toothpaste
1 package of almonds

Aldi's:  $23.73
1 32oz container of vanilla yogurt
1 Ortega taco kit
1 package of cherry tomatoes
1 2lb bag of carrots
1 package of 3 yeast
1 package of celery
1 2lb bag of red onions
1 bag of mini sweet peppers
1 container of organic lettuce
1 bag of lime chips
1 bag of tortilla chips
1 bag of AP flour
1 bag of mini Hawaiian rolls
1 dozen eggs

Stop & Shop:  $68.34
1 bottle of Trop 50 orange juice
1 package of 4 Hershey pudding
3 blocks of Cabot cheddar cheeses
1 can of Reddi Whip
1 package of ready made pizza dough
1 bag of rabbit food
1 bag of popcorn kernels
1 bag of dill pickle flavored potato chips
1 bag of regular potato chips
1 bag of pretzels
1 bag of Baked Lays
1 bag of pizza Goldfish
1 bag of Sweet Chili Doritos
1 bottle of diet Coke
3 Perdue Chicken nuggets
1 bag of popcorn chicken
1 5lb bag of potatoes
1 eggplant
1 yellow squash
1 package of white mushrooms
1 sleeve of 5 garlic heads
2 bananas
2 pints of blackberries

ShopRite:  $116.95
2 12 packs of Diet Snapple
5 12 packs of Pepsi products
Cottonelle toilet paper
2 boxes of Giorgio mozzarella sticks
3 boxes of pierogis
1 bag of frozen French fries
1 package of cheese tortellini
1 package of cavatelli
1 carton of Friendly's cookie dough ice cream
2 Friendly's single serve sundae cups
1 lb butter
4 lbs of bacon
2 blocks of cream cheese
2 packages of Cabot Mozzarella
2 packages of Cabot Double Cheddar
2 boxes of Cap N Crunch cereal
1 jar of Hellman's mayo
3 bags of Doritos
1 bottle of Aunt Jemima syrup
2 bags of bagels (6 each)
1 roll of paper towels
1 bottle of Hershey sundae syrup
1 bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce
1 8lb bag of oranges
1 dozen eggs
1 double pack of Thomas English muffins
1 quart of strawberries


January 14th

Farmer's Market:  $23.30
1 bottle of whole milk
1 bottle of heavy cream
1 pint of blueberry yogurt
1 pint of cherry yogurt
sweet potatoes
beets


Walgreens:  $6.89
2 packages of Luden throat lozenges (G2 has a sore throat/cold brewing)
2 tins of Altoids for Papa to keep in his car/at work


January 17th:  Stop & Shop $3.88*
*majorly offset by some bottle returns and meat being marked down considerably
1 package (10) small flour tortillas - didn't make them from scratch yet after all
1 package (8oz) shredded Mexican cheese
1 lb deli American cheese
2 packages (almost 2 lbs total) boneless ribeye steaks


January 19th:  Big Y $68.26
Big Y butter
2 bundles of firewood
1 large pack of toilet paper
4 cans tomato soup
1 small jar of capers
1 small jar of Skippy
1 box of organic chicken broth
1 bottle soy sauce
4 packages of Udon
1 loaf of Vermont bread
2 packages of pepperoni
2 lemons
1 bottle Marie's blue cheese dressing
1 bunch fresh parsley
2 bagged lettuce mixes

January 23rd:  Big Y  $38.74
1 half gallon whole milk
1 pint heavy cream
1 half gallon chocolate cookie dough ice cream
1 bottle salad dressing
1 bottle BBQ sauce
3 bottles of Ice lemonade
1 jar of orange marmalade
3 six pack bottles of Coke products
1 package of ravioli
1.5 lbs of broccoli crowns


January 24th:  Dollar Tree $18.56
1 package of napkins
1 roll of paper towels
1 4 pack of gum - treat for G2
1 package of mini Kit Kats - treat for G2
1 box Scotties
1 box of Malt-O-Meal "Lucky Charms"
1 box of Malt-O-Meal "Frosted Mini Wheats"
1 bag of cupcake liners
1 box of Q-tips
1 peppercorn grinder with peppercorns
1 container of onion powder
1 container of garlic powder
1 container of dried basil
1 container of rainbow sprinkles
1 bottle of bodywash
1 can red beans
2 cans of diced tomatoes

January 24th:  CVS  $32.94*
*earned $7 in extra care bucks
2 bottles of Garnier hairspray
2 boxes of Cheez-Its (Buy one/get one)
2 boxes of Saltines (Buy one/get one)
2 packages of makeup remover wipes (30 count each)
1 large jar of Ponds
1 Elf brand makeup setting spray


January 25th:  Big Y:  $115.76
1 5 pack of croissants
1 lb store brand butter
.5 lb antipasto items from olive bar
1 container of cucumber & garlic tsatziki
1 container spicy hummus
1 lb deli American cheese
2 packages of pitas (8 total)
1 package of curly fries
1 box of egg rolls
1 box of hashbrown patties
3 6 packs of Pepsi products
1 bottle of white vinegar
4 bottles of Ice lemonade
1 14oz bottle of Heinz ketchup
1 12 pack of store brand English muffins
2 6 packs of Gatorade
1.5 lb flank steak
1 package fresh chicken cutlets
1 5lb bag of yellow onions
1 2lb bag of red onions
1 package white mushrooms
1 5lb bag russet potatoes
1 cucumber
1lb of sweet potatoes
4 kiwi fruit


January 28th:  Farmer's Market   $23.50
1 quart whole milk
1 pint cherry yogurt
1 pint blueberry yogurt
1 lb of raw honey
1 loaf of artisan bread



January 28th:  Big Y   $17.56
1 half gallon cookie dough ice cream
1 half gallon vanilla ice cream
1 box store brand corn flakes
1.5lb of red peppers
1 lb of green peppers
1 lb of summer squash
1/2 lb of zucchini
1 large cucumber
1 container of seafood salad



January Total:  $713.82
Over goal by $163.82



Some belt tightening needs to be done for February!  To get back on track to come out to my $550/month average, I will need to try to keep spending to $386.18 or less!  It should be interesting considering I know that I am going to need to grab more dog food early in February!

On the plus side, I still have quite a bit of chips left in the pantry as they didn't go as quickly as I expected.  I still have five or six chicken breasts from that deal I got at Olivers - and these suckers are HUGE!  Two breasts can feed the four of us plus leftovers!  Plus 2 packages of ground beef, 2 lbs of bacon, and a whole chicken are still stashed in the freezer with the aforementioned chicken breasts.

It's gonna be challenge but I am going to try my best!

How did you do with your grocery budget this month?

Friday, January 27, 2017

DayBook: Friday January 27th

One of my favorite pictures (without G1 in it) from the photo shoot last fall.



Outside my window....
Kids walking to the corner to catch the school bus and cars going by.  There was a gorgeous pink sunrise earlier as I drove the Guppies off to school.

I'm wearing....
A blue cowl neck sweatshirt and black leggings

I'm feeling....
Physically and emotionally exhausted. Everyone in the house still has some form of a lingering cold!  It's so frustrating for all of us!  Can't wait for the gunk to get outta here!  LOL

I'm hearing....
Cars going by, the washer and dryer running, the furnace kicking on, and the dog snoring away.

I'm creating....
Nothing at the moment....although I may start writing a short story later today or over the weekend.

I'm hoping....
Aside from all of us feeling better, I want a nice, smooth, fun weekend!  Also, I hope Papa gets back and forth to Rhode Island today safely!  He has an afternoon meeting at a hospital that Yale purchased recently.

I'm reading....
The second book in the series No Safety in Numbers

From the kitchen....
I may make some chili in the crockpot today for dinner.  Easy peasy.  I have to check with G2 to see what her plans are tonight and figure out something else for her to eat if she is home since she's not a chili lover.  Other than that,  I don't think I will be doing a whole lot of work in the kitchen today.

To laugh, get angry, or cry....
Last night Papa was on the phone with his brother last night and said something that piqued my curiosity.  So, Papa's older sister doesn't believe I actually have Multiple Sclerosis. Yeah you read that right!  Ummmm....tell that to my body and the lesions on my brain and spine!  She also doesn't believe that Papa's brother needs a liver transplant either so go figure.  I have no idea what she is basing any of this on....Well besides the fact that YEARS ago Papa's brother did have the potential to heal part of his liver but, after all that has happened, that ship has sailed.  As for me?  I have no idea where she came up with that!

Weekend plans....
Like I said above, I'm hoping for a very relaxed weekend! 
There are some Netflix documentaries Papa & I would really like to watch.
G1 is spending the weekend at Ramsey's house - They have a spare bedroom where she sleeps.  I'm not stupid and know that "things" may happen but, on top of being G1 being 18, Ramsey's grandfather is also pretty vigilant since he knows Papa!  LOL
G2 hasn't told me what her plans are yet so who knows?  With the boyfriend now an "ex", she may spend  a lot of the weekend with her friends.


And, there you have it!  Hope you all have a nice weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Happy Birthday, Mother's Day, And Father's Day to Papa & Me!





It's only the beginning of 2017 I know!  But, Papa and I are receiving all our gifts from my parents in one tidy little package!

I know I tend to complain sometimes about my parents.  And I know it's a weird relationship.  But, I am super grateful for them nonetheless....especially right now!

We had G1's senior pictures done way back in October.  An online gallery was posted and we have until January 31st to make our decision as to what pictures we want/what sizes etc.  (Her senior picture for yearbook was submitted in October.) 

So, I thought we could buy digital copies of the pictures we liked for $2/piece.....I have no idea why I thought this!  I could have sworn I read it!  But, nope!  Digital copies for each picture are....wait for it....

$50 each!

I could have cried when I saw that!

And, I wasn't financially prepared for this either!

To further break it down, each picture we wanted printed through them would be:

$12 for 4x6
$15 for 5x7
$25 for 8x10
going all the way up to
$175 for 24x36

My original plan (using the wrong $2/digital download information) was to pick out around thirty of our favorite pictures - there are over 240 total.  Buy those downloads and print pictures later as our budget allowed.
Those plans were completely out the window obviously.

However,

There was one final option....

Buy the downloads for all the pictures....

for...

$500!

Yeah, we don't have that kind of money laying around this month!

My parents have offered to purchase the $500 download package for us as our presents for 2017!  When my mom told me that yesterday I actually started to cry!

Now, for anyone who thinks I have completely lost my mind (then again most of you probably already think I have before this anyway!  LOL), this wasn't a normal senior photo shoot.  It was a full blown on site shoot at G1's favorite abandoned mansion!  And, so many of these pictures are breath taking of not only G1 but the grounds/house itself.
It was seriously a once in a lifetime photo shoot.

Now, when we have possession of all the downloads, we are free to print them out at our leisure, in whatever sizes we want, from whatever place we want.

And, they are extremely precious to Papa and me!  So they are the absolute best presents that my parents could have ever gotten us!

And I am beyond grateful!

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Weighing In and Project 365 Progress.....

Very late post today...which coincides with my uninspired and cranky mood today!



I really didn't want to get on the scale this week...Like REALLY didn't want.  But, I did and, in the end, it could have been much worse.  I stayed the same as last week - which was surprising as I know I haven't eaten well nor exercised enough.  I am trying to give myself a bit of a pass but quite honestly I realize that the entire month of January has been a waste weight wise. 
I WILL get this going in the right direction though!
For the past few days I have been focusing on trying to get more fruits and veggies in - and have been pretty successful at that.  It's a good step in the right direction.


Project Me 365:

2473 Miles:
With bad weather, sickness, and just plain lack of motivation, I haven't had much success this week.  I only logged a total of 15 miles!  Less than I normally walk!  I'm hoping that I can make a big difference this week!  I plan on trying to get a mile or two in on my treadmill on top of walking the dog.  My theory is that I can stop and hop off the treadmill at any point I need.


Be Good to Myself:
Nope.  Been in a spiral of negative self talk.  Charging my Kindle as we speak to see if I can find any motivational books to read - I am a major hoarder of free/very inexpensive E-books so there should be something there to help.


Random Acts of Kindness:
I paid extra special attention to G2 as she broke up with her boyfriend on Monday night.  This time I am almost positive it's for good.  BUT, I'm not sure if this counts as a "random act".

There was a crotchety cashier at Big Y one morning....Like really bad.  If a manager had heard the way she was talking I am pretty sure she would have been spoken to about it.  I was in her line and tried my best to be super nice when it was my turn.  Not sure I made a difference, but, hey I tried.


52 New Recipes:
Kicking butt with this challenge!

I tried my 7th new recipe of the year on Sunday:
Macaroni & Cheese
which was super yummy and easy!

And tonight I am trying out my 8th new recipe:
Eating Well magazine's Flank Steak Gyros with Quick Pickles from the January/February issue.
I'll let you guys know what I think about it next Wednesday!


Anyway, that's where things stand.  I'm okay....just cranky.
This will past....hopefully soon!

Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Frgual Attempts in the Kitchen




I mentioned on Sunday, Papa had to go to work for awhile so I tackled some stuff in the kitchen to get myself ahead for this week.  I think I did an "okay" job....until my energy crashed around three.

Anyway,  here are some frugal accomplishments from the kitchen this week:

1.  When I went to make muffins, I saw we were completely out of milk.  Being too lazy to run out and grab more ultra resourceful, I grabbed a lurking bag of powdered milk from the pantry and go to work....without letting anyone know what I was using.  Final verdict:  Both Guppies found the muffins to be "a little dry" this time.  Not sure if it was because of the powdered milk or not.

2.  Feeling on a roll after baking the muffins, I looked up recipes for macaroni and cheese using powdered milk and found this recipe from Hillbilly Housewife to try out.  Again, not letting anyone know "the truth".  I made one tweek to the recipe by substituting one cup of American cheese instead of using all cheddar.  Final verdict:  Delicious!  I have a little powdered milk left and plan on using it up on this recipe!

3.  I had some veggies in my fridge that were getting a little old - I'm looking at you eggplant!  So, I roasted them up with a little salt, pepper, olive oil, brown sugar, and splash of balsamic vinegar.   Really yummy!

4.  For the veggies that were still decently fresh, I chopped them up and made a pasta salad - which is always appreciated and gobbled up in this house.

5.  I cleaned up the kitchen afterwards, rather than "waiting" until later.  While that might not seem like an immediately frugal thing to do, it actually is around here.  If my kitchen is relatively clean, I am more willing and able to move around in it and not order out!  LOL

How about you?  Any frugal victories in your kitchen lately?


Monday, January 23, 2017

The Death of a Friendship....



I have debated for two hours about whether or not to write this post....

Obviously you can see what I have decided....

If you chose not to read today's post, that's okay.  I won't be offended.  While this blog is mostly about my attempts at frugality, it is also about my life in general.  And, this is a big enough event to be included.

So.....

The Freebie Fairy and I are no longer friends.

And I am COMPLETELY okay with it!

Yeah, you did read that right.

You see, when we became friends so long ago at age 18, we were a LOT alike!  At least that's what I always thought.  When we reconnected via Facebook (and found out how close in proximity we lived), I was under the impression we still were quite a bit alike - even though I was married with kids and she was not.  I truly believed we had the same core, fundamental values.  And, sadly, we do not.

If you are asking yourself if this has to do with the election....


Freebie and I haven't ever shared the same political party.  In the past, that has never been an issue.    But, it's just something I cannot do anymore with her.  It came to head last night and this morning on (of course) Facebook.  Yesterday she took a direct shot at me which Papa decided he couldn't ignore.  So, he responded in a very eloquent and non confrontational way (because he can keep his cool and he had me read it before he posted it to get the okay).  She responded back this morning in a very scathing post.  And, it was the last straw.  I am done with it.
In the interest of full disclosure, yes I have been posting A LOT on Facebook with my displeasure in what has been happening.  But I have NEVER called anyone out by name.  The closest I came was in a Facebook conversation with a young lady I feel very motherly towards and used the words "extended family". 

I don't plan on this becoming a political blog.  And, if you voted for Trump, I am not going to automatically bash you or hate you.  Freebie's actions spoke more loudly than her ballot to me.  I cannot be friends with people who are against the rights of women, immigrants, minorities, and the LGBT community.  I just cannot.  Especially with the Guppies looking at me to be a role model during all of this.

Anyway...

Poor Papa.  He feels so badly.  He thinks he's the one who ruined our friendship.  He's called me twice this morning from work to say he's sorry.  I told him both times that it wasn't his fault.  And, it truly wasn't.


This "death" has made me more grateful for the things I do have...

I have Papa who has my back no matter what and does his absolute best to take care of me and our family.  I never have to worry about him not being there when times get tough.  If I ever "get sick" enough to need a caregiver, he will be there no questions asked.  As I would for him.

For the Guppies....who are more than challenging but each have individual talents/traits that will help them go far in life.

For this leaky, drafty, and messy house of mine.  It may not be a showroom or palace but it's filled with a whole lot of love.

If you have read this far, thank you.  I'm stepping off the soap box now and will hopefully not feel the urge to hop back on in the near future.

Back to our regularly scheduled posting tomorrow.....

I hope you will join me and keep reading.


 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Saturday and Setting Up for a (Hopefully) Successful Week





How can it be Sunday already yet it felt like yesterday draaaaged on?!?!?

Anyway, about yesterday.....

Papa & I attended the baptism in the end.  And, let me tell you, those four and a half hours seemed like a week to me!  Papa & I kept mostly to ourselves and chatted for a long time with his aunt, mom, brother & brother's family, and our nephew who is visiting from the Midwest.  Even so, there were a few awkward moments...

Like when our niece's grandmother came up to us and told Papa she had to come say Hello to him and ignored me besides giving me the stink eye!  LOL  This woman and I had a HUGE fight over 18 years ago when, while at my inlaw's house,  she was instructed (by my father in law NOT me) to kindly smoke outside because I had my infant there.  The lady went BALLASTIC and neither my father in law nor I backed down on the issue.  She has HATED me since then....no big loss to be honest.

And like when I mentioned to our niece (the baptism child's mom) that I thought it was cute her little family  dressed in coordinating colors....only for us to be told that she in fact is no longer involved romantically with the baby's father since before Christmas....that she caught him looking for women online but they are still living in the same apartment for financial reasons....  Papa and I were at a loss for words.

After we got back home, we just tried to decompress and had a little "date night" for ourselves while the Guppies were out by renting the movie "Meet The Joneses".  The movie was okay but, truthfully, I think they showed all the funniest parts in the preview.  Still a nice few hours snuggling on the couch with my honey.



As for today....

Papa went into work for a few hours to oversee some more of the project he is working on.  This project should be over by the first week of March and just cannot wait for him to be able to take a day or two off.  We are both still so thankful he has this position that he loves but are also looking forward to him having a bit of down time too.

While he is at work, and I actually have some energy!, I am going to try to tackle some things around here like....

The mountain of laundry waiting to be washed
Ditto on the ironing
Searching the pantry and whipping up some sort of muffin for the Guppies to grab in the am
Loosely coming up with an idea for the week's meals
Overall tidying up of the house

This should be an interesting day considering that my energy is up but my dexterity is NOT!  I have dropped no less than six items already!  (Luckily nothing fragile)  This is nothing completely new as I have been dealing with this MS side effect from the beginning of my diagnosis.  It's my body telling me to make sure not to overdo it because I'm not completely done with whatever virus I have been fighting over the past week or two.  Papa calls it my "barometer".


With that, I'm off to see what I can do!

Have a great Sunday everyone!

Friday, January 20, 2017

This & That....

What I wish I could be doing today....


Sorry for the lack of posting yesterday.  I'm still here!

Wednesday night's concert was extremely good!  I wasn't expecting much....Guppy 2 has kinda clubbed me to death with Twenty One Pilot's music before this!  Haha!  But, I was pleasantly surprised at the showmanship and artistry!  It was quite a cinematic experience....plus they can truly perform well live.  We got home about 45 minutes earlier than I was anticipating which made me happy since the kiddos still had midterms the next day!

Guppy 1's Wednesday night was a bit rougher...Her plan had been to spend the day at Ramsey's house (since his schedule was open Wednesday).  I dropped her off there after her midterm and Papa was to pick her up at nine that night.  Well, around 5pm she called me looking to be picked up because she was sick.....with the stomach bug!  Poor kid!  Papa had to leave work and get her since I was already heading to the concert.  I felt awful for her and Papa both since Ramsey lives 45 minutes away!  She was still sick on Thursday but only had one last midterm which she emailed the teacher about.  Thankfully he allowed her to turn it in online since it was a written essay.

I guess I should be careful for what I wish for though since I am not feeling "right" at all.  My MS symptoms usually flare before I get sick and my body has been buzzing all day today!  (I think I may have a fever too but cant tell for sure since I found out today that the thermometer needs to batteries!)  I guess all I can do is see what happens.  Lucky for me that Ramsey is coming to visit G1 this afternoon and offered to cook us dinner.  I'm happy that is taken off my plate for tonight.

It seems like a lot of my favorite bloggers have all caught a case of the blues....and I'm right there too!  Maybe part of it is lack of sunlight lately.  Maybe part of it is the fact that my dog kept me up quite a bit last night.  Maybe part of it is just the MS rearing its ugly head.  Who knows?

I refused to watch the inauguration today because I'm quite sure that would have made me feel much worse.  A lot of people whom I care for very much are in peril under this new administration and I am deeply worried about them.  Part of me would really love to take part in one of the marches taking place tomorrow but, unfortunately, I don't think I will be able to do it.  (especially with the dreaded baptism tomorrow too)  I WILL find a way to be productive and make a difference towards the causes that are important to me over the coming months/years however.



On a brighter note, I did have an "aha" moment yesterday....which is probably going to make most of you laugh.....

Ready?

I realized that I can watch YouTube videos about walking The Long Trail (one of my long term goals)!  There are so many to choose from!  And it seems I can learn virtually everything there is about taking on overnight/long distance hiking!  I was so excited that I told G1 about it.  She looked at me like I was an idiot and said "Geez Mom!  You didn't know that?"  Well no, G1, your mom was a little slow on the uptake.  I love reading all about it but there is something to be said for WATCHING someone demonstrate a water filtration system or pitching a tent or...you get the picture.  Watching those videos have helped my blues a little bit and have bolstered my motivation to get into shape.


Well, I guess that is it for now.  Sorry for the extremely boring post...hopefully I will be back with something more exciting this weekend?  Haha

Happy Friday!
Hope you are all well!





Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Weighing In and Project Me 365 Progress.....


I'm joining Rachel over at Living Better One Day at a Time on losing weight!  Come join us!


(((Sigh)))

I'm going to be completely transparent here and let you guys know that I have gained .4 pounds since I last weighed myself on January 1st.  But, I feel like I *may* have lost weight this past week....I would have known if I wasn't so chicken to get on the scale last Wednesday.
The beginning of January isn't an easy time for me to start a weight loss program....There's too much leftover Christmas goodness (looking at you bags of chocolate!) and, then there is G1's birthday the first week of January.  Truth of the matter is that I have continued to overindulge....plain and simple.

But...

I'm also not going to give up!  Yes, I have had a rough start but that is certainly no reason to give up on weight loss for 2017! Onward and Upward and all of that!  LOL

Seriously though, I KNOW I can do this!  And I hope you all know that YOU can do it too!  Whatever it is that you want to achieve!  You fall down and you get up again...It's all part of the learning and growing process, right?



Project Me 365

As for the other areas of Project Me 365....

2473 Miles!
I have logged just 45 miles in so far.  I have been having some MS issues and a foot problem (which may or may not be MS related).  But, again, I am not going to despair!  It's January and I am sure to be able to make up some distance when I feel better and when the weather improves.  Until then, I will do what I can and be satisfied.  45 miles is still closer than ZERO!


Be Good To Yourself
Lately, I have been trying to work on forgiving myself when I'm not perfect.  Also I have been trying to allow myself to rest when needed.


365 Acts of Kindness
This week I gave my cart to an elderly lady at Aldi instead of returning it - of course not accepting the quarter from her either.
I helped another elderly lady get a case of soda off a large display in the grocery store.

52 New Recipes
I tried two more, bringing my total up to five for the year.

A copycat version of PF Changs Mongolian Beef which I give a solid five out of five on!
PF Changs Mongolian Beef

And, another Asian inspired beef dish...
Beef with Broccoli Stir Fry
which earned a five out of five too!



As I mentioned yesterday, G2 and friends have Twenty One Pilots tickets for tonight.  I spiked a fever overnight and have just been feeling super crappy overall so Papa offered to bring them instead of me.  But, fever is gone this morning and I am just really tired so I will push since  G2 really wants me to bring them.

But, for right now, I'm going back to bed for a little bit.

Happy Wednesday all!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Day Book for Tuesday January 17th

I am feeling so grouchy this morning!!!


Out my window....
It's very gloomy here at 7:45am!  There are cars driving by and a few kids scurrying off to the bus stop at the corner.  Other than that, no one is really out and about.

What I'm wearing...
Giraffe print flannel PJ bottoms, one of Papa's old sweatshirts that I use for sleepwear because it's comfy.

What I'm hearing...
Cars driving by, the dishwasher cycling through, and the dog snoring.

What I'm feeling...
I'm unbelievably tired and cranky today!  I hope I get snap out of at least the crankiness soon!

What I'm creating...
Nothing at the moment....unless you count my weekly spread in my Me and My Big Ideas planner.

From the kitchen...
I have been doing really well with my 52 new recipes for the year challenge!  I am thinking about trying out another new one today....Homemade tortillas!  We will see what the day brings and if my mood lightens.  I HATE trying new recipes while in a bad mood because they never seem to come out right! 

I'm reading...
the same book as last time I posted....No Safety In Numbers.  I just haven't been feeling the "reading bug" lately.  I'm going to bring it with me to G2's therapy session so maybe I can get a good chunk read while I wait for her.

From the high school...
It's midterm week here through Thursday so there are half days with only two periods per day.  I am a little peeved at G2 today because she has her math midterm and let a good friend "borrow" her $110 calculator on Friday and didn't get it back yet.  G2 needs it for today's test!  She texted her friend to bring it today so hopefully they will meet up before the test begins and G2 will be good to go.

Upcoming events this week...
Tomorrow I am taking G2, her BFF, and her boyfriend to the Twenty One Pilots concert.  In all honesty, had we known that the concert would fall during midterm week (tickets were bought last May or June), we probably wouldn't be going.  But, this is G2's favorite band and my parents bought these tickets as her 8th grade graduation gift.

There is a baptism this weekend to which I am completely not looking forward to attending.  It's Papa's side and I already received a very snarky text regarding having "all" of family coming...I guess some people are still angry that we didn't push the Guppies to attend Christmas there.  We aren't planning on making the Guppies go to the baptism with us so I'm sure comments will be made again.   It's going to be a complete waste of a weekend day and sure to be full of drama because of stuff currently happening with Papa's brother.  I wonder if there is any way I can talk Papa out of having us attend. 


On my To Do list today...
Laundry
Ironing
Take the dog for her walk (2x)
Clean the kitchen
Unload the clean dishwasher
Straighten family room
Make tortillas
Pull something out of the freezer for dinner
Take G2 to her appointment
Run to the library to pick up a book on hold
Pick up the Guppies from school
Sweep the downstairs
and
I'm sure there must be stuff I am missing/can't remember right now!


So, that's where my Tuesday stands....

Hope you all have a wonderful day!





Sunday, January 15, 2017

Fixing Papa's Phone & A Perfect Timing Freebie




In case you didn't see it in the comments from yesterday's post, we did end up fixing Papa's phone rather than doing an upgrade.  He actually likes his 5S so we researched a place to bring it to for an estimate.  We put a spending cap at $100.  The place we went to took a look at it and told us it would take 15 minutes and would be $85.  Done deal and Papa is happy.  I'm happy as well because I really didn't want to do another upgrade on top of the phone upgrades I did for the Guppies at Christmas!






Yesterday afternoon, after her friends left, G2 decided she really wanted to go to the mall to go shopping with her Christmas gift cards!  It's not all that often she wants to go shopping so off we went!   She can make me laugh sometimes....She has a $200 GC to Victoria Secret and, unlike most teenage girls I know, she was super careful with it!  As in she bought ONE thing!  A VS Pink brand bralet for $34. I am happy that she is doing this way and only buying what she really wants each time!  Spring will be here (hopefully?) before we know it and I would love for her to have some $$$ left to spend then.

Anyway, onto the freebie....

With a purchase of $30 or more in VS Pink items, you get a free glass water bottle.  I was kind of shocked that it was actually glass and seemed like decent quality!  Another bonus is it didn't  have the funky top with a built in straw or anything that can be a pain in the butt to clean!  I have been looking for a new glass water bottle because I am not a huge fan of plastic (BPA, etc).  G2 didn't want it so SCORE for me!  I got to spend one on one time with G2 and got a needed item for free!

On the topic of freebies, I am heading over to my parents' house this afternoon.  They have been holding onto G2's 8th grade graduation present....tickets to see Twenty One Pilots this coming Wednesday.  (Yup! She did have to wait a LOOOOONG time to get that present!  LOL  But she did know about it of course.)  I guess my mom also has a turtleneck sweater she bought online that's  too small and won't bother to return.  I'll take a look at it and, if it's not  something I would/could wear, I'll bring it home to consign.

With that, I'm off....



What's Been Cooking?



Let's see what I have been able to piece together for dinner this week!


Sunday
Just Papa & me for dinner since G1 was in NYC to celebrate a birthday and G2 was at her boyfriend's.

Crockpot Chili
Homemade Corn Muffins


Monday
The four of us were home for dinner.

I had defrosted 1/2 a pork roast which ended up being extremely small.  So rather than cook it as a "roast" and possibly OVERcook it, I cut it into pork cutlets...

Pan-fried Pork Cutlets
Homemade chutney (made from leftover frozen berries lurking in freezer)
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Brussel Sprouts


Tuesday
Some marked down strip steak became the inspiration to try another new recipe...

PF Changs Mongolian Beef (copycat recipe)
Jasmine Rice
Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies


Wednesday
  I have way to much pasta on my shelves!  With that in mind, I made...

Baked Ziti


Thursday
Four of us home for dinner...although no one was feeling super great.  Knowing I would be doing take out on Friday night, I chose something quick and easy:

Tacos with the fixings


Friday
Guppy 1 was out for the evening.  Guppy 2 had a bunch of friends over so:

Pizza



Saturday
Papa & I decided against going out for dinner...The biggest determining factor being we had a bigger late lunch.  So, we stayed in with G2 and we all had various soups purchased from The Soup Girl store earlier in the day:

G2 had Chicken Noodle
Papa had Sweet Potato Chowder
I had Broccoli/Potato/Leek



On a side note......I think I am going to revamp these posts a little.  I am going to add back in breakfasts and lunches (at least for what I eat).  And, I am going to try to add pictures when I remember.  I don't know about you but I kinda love looking at pictures of what other bloggers cook/eat!  LOL


Enjoy your Sunday!


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Farmer's Market Finds, Broken Phones, and Saturday Plans





The indoor market started this week and, man, was it ever PACKED!  We "lost" our last outdoor market right before Christmas due to bad weather and the market takes a few weeks off after that.  So, yeah, a lot of people seemed to be itching to get their farmer's market fix!  lol

We didn't stay too long because of the crowds but here's how we did....


Total Spent:  $23.30*
*dairy expenses were very low due to the five bottle returns this week!

1 bottle whole milk
1 bottle heavy cream
1 pint cherry yogurt
1 pint blueberry yogurt
three large sweet potatoes
6 medium sized (loose) beets
1 loaf of olive bread



Papa is extremely happy to have his weekly yogurt back in the mix for work breakfasts!  He has grown partial to this farm's yogurt and will do without when we cannot get it.

It was interesting to see that a certain bakery (ahem...Ms Sandie) wasn't packed with people at all while we were there!  Papa was going to look for their veggie tarts but, at like $5 for a small one, I told him I would rather buy a loaf of bread from another vendor.   The loaf of olive bread we bought was $6 but we will get more than one serving from it so it was a more frugal buy.....oh and did I mention it is absolutely delicious?  =)



Yesterday afternoon, Karma came for Papa.  He is always complaining about how he doesn't understand how much we drop our phones, he has had his for three years and nothing has happened to it, blah, blah, blah. 

Whelp, I got a text while making dinner that he shattered his screen....as in shards of the screen were falling out!  And he just doesn't understand how it could have happened that badly when it didn't drop all that far out of his pocket to begin with and had its case on....Oh really?

All joking aside, he was very upset with himself that it happened.  We did some research and will be heading one town over to an independent shop to see how much it will cost to fix.  If it's too much, we will probably upgrade his phone....He has a 5S currently.  It's not what either of s want to do, but he does use it quite a bit for work -although not enough to be issued a work phone.  We'll see what the estimate comes in at for the repair...




Papa and I are behind on my goal of 52 dates this year!

Tonight we *may* head over to the Irish pub for which I have a Groupon.  Remember that one I wrote about back in early December?  Still haven't used it yet!

I really want to go but I have to see what G2's plans are for tonight.  (G1 is at Ramsey's.) 

I guess we will just play it by ear.

Either way, I would definitely like to take Papa down to the used book store one town over to browse....I have $29 in credit there and, while I have a good deal to read thanks to the library, I would love for him to take a look around.  So, maybe we will do that this afternoon and can call that a "date" if the restaurant thing doesn't pan out tonight.



Happy Saturday everyone!



Friday, January 13, 2017

Yesterday's Adventure & Other Miscellany


My house had become dangerously low on supplies....Dangerous for ME that is since my grumbling family was planning a mutiny I swear!  LOL
Seriously though, if it were just Papa & me, I would have tried to trudge on a little longer and not have done a big grocery shop.
But, fearing for my safety ;), I summoned my "inner Natalie" from Imperfectly Frugally and spent the entire morning shopping!  For those of you who do this weekly, I don't know how you do it!  I know I wouldn't have the energy to do it every single week!
While I am doing a full run down at the end of the month in my January grocery post, I'll give you guys the highlights of yesterday's adventure...

7am: Dropped Guppies off to school and then headed straight over to Stop & Shop.  Best deals here were:
5lbs of Russet potatoes for 97 cents
1 bag of Goldfish for 99 cents
Utz chips for $1.99/bag
3 Cabot cheese blocks for $1.99/each

7:45:  Dropped off Stop & Shop groceries, put away perishables, drove to Oliver's - small independent supermarket with amazing meat!  I got a couple of GREAT meat deals there:
10lb bag of BSCB for $1.49/lb!  Amazing price for around here!
3 lbs of freshly ground 80/20 beef for $9.87 - definite difference with freshly ground

8:30am:  Back home to drop off perishables and walk the dog

9:15am:  CVS to deal with a prescription screwup and then Dollar Tree

10am:  Aldi's

10:20:  Shop Rite where I was able to get:

5 12 packs of Pepsi products for $10.88!
and a LOT of other items to make my family happy again!  LOL

11:30am:  Finally back home and beat!  Finished putting all the groceries away, breaking down the large packages of meat into smaller meal sizes.   Then quick lunch and off to get G1 from school at 1pm because of senior privilege.

Whew!  It was tiring!  I am in awe of people who do weekly shopping to multiple stores!  Yes, I saved a considerable amount - as you will see in the full grocery post - but I couldn't do a marathon shop every week!  I guess the good news is that I don't want to have to step inside a grocery store again for as long as I can hold out!




Other News...

Starting this morning, my schedule for the next week is completely screwy because of the Guppies midterm exams.  They have half days with two test periods per day.  Because of classes that don't have midterms (ie gym and study hall), it appears I will be running them back and forth to school multiple times in the am - you can come in late/leave early if you don't have a test scheduled for that period.  So this should be interesting...

I haven't talked much about my brother in law lately here because, quite frankly, I cannot handle the stress of the situation anymore.  I decided this back in December when he was possibly going to be homeless when he was released from the rehab center and was hinting to Papa that he wanted to come here.  Papa & I talked and agreed that he couldn't come here and I left it alone.  It's better for my health and Papa & my relationship if I just let him deal with it....unless he needs to talk/vent.  Anyway, Papa's brother is still on the rollercoaster ride of being admitted/released from the hospital for myriad health reasons.  Honestly, I doubt he's going to recover completely.  His body is too broken and he is unwilling to follow through with the medications he is required to take.  It's not that I don't care and love him, because I truly do.  I am just resigned to the fact that he is the one in control of his life...for better or worse.

I have been toying with the idea of re-vamping this blog a little bit.  I want to add some side columns (like my favorite blogs to read).  I also want to possibly add a few adds (gasp!  I know this is a controversial subject because some readers HATE adds.). I am considering expanding to other social media too (like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) but I a tad wary of this since my parents/inlaws/etc don't know I have this blog.  Basically, I think I am just in need of blog help!  LOL 
Anyone more experience have any advice for me?

With that I guess I'm off!  I have to straighten up the house - with Guppy 2's help - because I told her she could have a bunch of friends over tonight since Guppy 1 will be out....What was I thinking?  haha

Hope you are all having a great Friday!