Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Say it Ain't Broke!

Okay, before I get started--yes, I'm fully aware that's not proper English! Haha!

So last week I was using my laptop (in fact I think I had just finished doing a post here), when all of the sudden it started making a horrible rattling sound. My heart stopped as I stared at it in horror, both waiting for and fearing what would happen next. When the noise continued, I hurriedly shut it off and set it down. I looked around for some assurance that I didn't hear what I just thought I heard. It's nearly Christmas, my laptop can't be broken now! How inconvenient--not to mention potentially expensive!

The only one who could offer any assurance was my one year old....and let me tell you, I wasn't all that comforted by her toothy grin at that moment. I picked my laptop up, gave it a gentle shake to see if there was anything rattling around in there and heard nothing. Hmmm....curious. So I took a deep breath and pushed the button to turn it back on. I started to let out a sigh of relief when it came on, with none of the awful rattling that prompted me to shut it off in the first place.

Well, that relief was short-lived. A message popped up saying that there was a dysfunction with my fan and if I continued to use my computer it would blow up in my face and all would be lost forever! Okay, okay, so it didn't word it exactly like that, but that's about what I got from it. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'd already had the fan replaced six months ago. It just figures that it would go out again, now that the warranty was up LAST MONTH! Ugh!

I knew that sending it to the manufacturer with no warranty was going to cost mega-bucks. I don't have mega bucks. I don't even almost have mega bucks. After much hmm-ing and hah-ing, I decided to check on KSL classifieds. I mean, you can find just about anything on there. There had to be a repairman for sale right? You know what I mean....

Turns out there were multiple listings for computer repair. I narrowed down the search to my area and found one in my very town. That's when those cautionary tales started to come to mind. How did I know this stranger I was about to call could really fix my laptop? Just because he called his company Computer Nerds Consulting didn't necessarily mean I should trust him with my computer, right? Well, I figured I would call, get a feel for the person while talking to them about my laptop issue and then decide if I felt comfortable going that route.

Turns out I was in good hands. Funny enough I'd called a friend of ours whom I didn't know repaired computers in his spare time. Anyway, we had a good laugh about the fact that I hadn't recognized his number when calling it (or his voice when he answered said number), and then he assured me that he could indeed fix my laptop.

Well, I now have my laptop back and it's working better than ever (no more overheating either). I thought I should share my good fortune in finding an affordable and trustworthy computer repairman with others who find themselves in my shoes. They service Utah Valley to Salt Lake Valley all the way to Bear River Valley from east to west (to quote their website). The best part? They come to you at no extra charge! Oh, and they also say that if you're outside of their service area to still give them a call to see if they can help you.

You really won't find more affordable--and more importantly--trustworthy hands to fix your device. Oh and they help with other things too, check out their website for more information.

So if you are in need of some help, give them a call:

Computer Nerds Consulting

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Even Better than I Thought

So as you may remember, we decided to get rid of our satellite service to save some money. We went ahead and ordered the Netflix streaming service too after a while. The verdict? We love it! We don't do the DVD plan with it, because really, we already have quite the collection as it is--and also, they've raised their price on the combo from what it used to be (which was only two dollars extra if you subscribed to both streaming and DVDs, but now the price is double at $15.98).

We've discovered new series to watch, as well as got to catch up on episodes we'd missed out on with old favorites. Our new favorite is Psych. Too funny! We try to watch an episode each week together if we can. There's also some old movie favorites they offer on there too. They're not always the more popular movies you hear about, but we've found a lot of good ones nonetheless.

As for the new episodes of any series that we can't get through Netflix yet, we can usually find those on the network websites. It's free to watch, but the downside is that we do have to watch the commercials. Perish the thought! Yeah, I remember the day when that was a given. Oh how DVR has spoiled us over the years!

I hadn't realized how satisfied I was with the way things worked out until this week when Dish Network started calling us to get us to come back. Keep in mind that we were happy with their service for the most part, and they were very generous with the discounts because I'd call them and remind them that I was a longtime customer (about 10 years long!) and ask for them to give me a better deal. They would every time. I always had a discount on my bill. In fact, I even wrote an article letting people know how they could do that themselves. You can find it on Hubpages here.

Anyway, I wasn't even tempted to go back. The kids are happy with what's available to them on Netflix. Hubby gets to watch all those History Channel shows he loves so much and I get to find all those romantic British period pieces based on the novels I've loved and even many that I didn't know about. Win-Win!

Oh, and I thought I should mention that Hulu is another option you can look into for new episodes for many TV shows. It's free to use their regular service, or they even have a paid service that offers even more called Hulu Plus. I've only ever used the free service though.

So I just thought I'd let you know how great it's been working out for us. Maybe I've even inspired some of you who looking to save some money to make that jump too.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Throw-away Box

My 3 youngest children getting ready
for the day....sort of!

As you can imagine, having five children can create a lot of work around the house. Things can get out of control rather quickly if I don't stay on top of things, and getting sick can be a way to turn the house into a disaster area!

Since it can be a lot to handle for me, and because I believe in teaching my children responsibility which they can carry with them into adulthood, I've come up with several tools to get a handle on the mess. The latest tool is "The Throw-away Box." Doesn't that just make you cringe? No? That's okay, it's not meant to make you cringe, but I hope it gets my children's attention!

Believe it or not, it's easier for me to keep the house clean during the times school isn't in session. The kids all know what they have to do so they can hang out with friends, play video games or other such things. So they generally accomplish this at the start of the day and then do their fun things after they're finished.

During the school year, however, the older kids are so bombarded with homework, projects, music practice, sports and activities of that nature that they just come in, throw off their backpacks, take out all their papers, books, instruments, etc; take off shoes and socks and any jackets they may be wearing, run for a snack and then dig in to their homework/lessons/practice, etc.

So regardless of how clean the house is before they get home, it quickly looks like a tornado hit it within the first 15 minutes of them being home. I tried to keep up, but it just made me grumpy. Imagine that! So I decided that even though they have other work to do outside of home, that shouldn't exempt them from cleaning up after themselves! Right? Of course! I don't imagine they'll have a maid with them at college, so they better learn this lesson now.

Here's where "The Throw-away Box" comes in. After a long day of canning and all that entails, and taking care of my younger two children, I was exasperated to watch my freshly picked-up living room become littered in the flurry of my returning school children.

"That's it!" I said. "No more!"

They momentarily stopped in the process of shoveling papers out of their packs and discarding them willy-nilly, to look at their wild-eyed mother. But those wide-eyed, innocent looks weren't going to stop me from laying down the law.

"Tyler, go get me a box." I commanded my teenager.

"A box?" He asked, clearly confused.

"Yes, a box," I affirmed. When he came back with it, I set it down in the middle of the mess in my living room. "You see this box? This is where everything that I find out of place is going to go." I started to pick up their belongings and shoved them in the box.

"Okay." My seven year old didn't seem bothered by this one bit. The older two just watched me warily.

"I'm not finished," I told them. "If, by the end of the day, your things are still in the box, I will assume you no longer want or need them and will take them out to the trash. No exceptions, no second-chances."

They all look horrified and immediately started to grab for the items that I'd already put in the box. I stopped them for a moment to add one last warning: "And if I find any of those items that you've taken out of the box out of place again, they will go straight to the trash. Understand?"

They all ran to put their things where they belonged and at the end of the day, the box was empty. Does that mean I haven't had to put things in the box since then? No. It's only been a few days of this new rule, and so far they've been catching their items before they end up in the trash, but haven't quite stopped them from making it into the box in the first place. On the plus side, the box hasn't been getting as full as it did the first day. Progress? I like to think so!

Anyway, we'll see how this goes. Somewhere we need to find the right balance of work for everyone. School can be demanding, and so can the other activities the kids have going on. That's why I limit their extra-curriculars so they don't get so bogged down. But with five children, that still makes for a full schedule most weeks.

So what do you think? Am I just a mean mom? Or maybe some think I'm a pushover? Haha! What do you do in your family? I'd love to hear your ideas and solutions!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Get rid of Garden Pests Naturally

I've never really considered myself an environmentalist, though I do believe in being responsible. What we do today affects future generations, so I do agree it is important to think about that when making decisions that have an effect on our planet. I try to balance being green without pushing our family decisions on our friends and neighbors.

Anyway, this year we faced a few pests during our gardening ventures. Some of them were recognized and returning foes (such as squash bugs), some were newly recognized problems (like aphids) and some were new and terrible surprises (more on that in a moment).

The squash bugs are my sworn enemy. They feast on the juices of my zucchini and pumpkin plants, while at the same time poisoning them. They mate constantly too, causing their numbers to explode if you don't catch them quickly. Last year was the first time we encountered them and I scrambled for a way to get rid of them.

I nearly went the pesticide route, but a combination of not really wanting that on my fruits and veggies and  also considering that one of our neighbors has bees made me change my mind. Instead I squished any bug I found immediately (and tried to ignore the pungent odor that filled the air afterwards) and destroyed the eggs I found on the undersides of the leaves. I think the presence of a garden snake might've helped to push things in our favor too. Keeping ahead of these bugs was tedious, but eventually, the balance was restored and only one of our plants wasn't able to recover.

This year I only found a few squash bugs and killed them immediately, so it wasn't a big deal. Unfortunately, the aphids took their place. I first found those nasty little aphids on our plum tree, which I treated with a mixture of Dawn, canola oil and water to kill the buggers. We saved the tree, but didn't get any fruit from it this year. Next year, we'll know what to look for and nip them in the bud sooner. The aphids caused the leaves to shrivel and curl, and when I uncurled the leaves I found dozens of them hiding there.

Then the aphids made their way to my zucchini. Yes, that squash seems to be a favorite among pests. I actually noticed some lady bugs hanging about, along with some damsel flies and lacewings, so I decided to see what would happen. Those beneficial bugs won out and I finally got to harvest some squash without so much as a single drop of pesticide. Turns out you can order these beneficial bugs on the internet or they may even be carried at your local greenhouse if you find that they're in short supply in your yard.

I feel good about the way we handled these pests because I know we haven't harmed any of our pollinating friends, especially the honeybee! This is no small thing considering the current plight we're facing with the vanishing bee population due to Colony Collapse Disorder. The current data points to pesticides (especially systemics) as a possible culprit, and yet despite the compelling evidence, many of these pesticides are still being used liberally. Well, not by our family :)

If you want to know more about this, we recently watched an excellent documentary on the subject called Vanishing of the Bees and they have a great website where you can find more about it.

And finally, there is the nasty surprise we got in our corn crop this year. I kept finding knocked over stalks and partially eaten cobs of corn littering the ground each morning when I went out to the garden. I couldn't figure out what was causing this problem, so I decided to research it. Turns out it was raccoons. So not only did we have to be careful of them getting into our chicken coop, but we also had to keep them out of our garden. We were able to get rid of them successfully, so I decided to write an article about it on HubPages: How to Keep Raccoons out of a Garden. Hopefully it will help others who encounter the same problem. I never knew raccoons could be so troublesome until this last year. At least we figured out how to handle it without too much trouble.

Well, I just thought I'd share what we learned this year. Hopefully it will help some of you out there facing the same pests!

Garden Goodies!

We've been gardening for several years now with mixed success. Our very first garden was amazing, and it's what got us hooked to begin with. Tasting those home grown tomatoes and cucumbers was heavenly and addictive! Nothing from the store has been able to match up since!

When we moved to our home six years ago, we had to start everything from scratch. Our soil was terrible, but we didn't realize how terrible until we tried to grow stuff in it. Then there was the matter of the weed field behind us. It makes for a nice view (strange that it would, but it really does), but the seeds blowing constantly into our garden area made for poor turn out in crops. There were so many weeds growing at once that it was impossible to keep up the large garden area we'd planted.

Some of our neighbors, upon learning of our troubles, told us about a product called plastic mulch. It's not really mulch, persay, but a very thin sheeting used for agricultural purposes that keeps the weeds from growing up, but lets your garden plants thrive. Last year we used it with great results, though our soil still wasn't up to par (but it was much improved from throwing in our compost and yard clippings).

We continued to condition the soil and used the plastic mulch again this year and the results have been amazing!!! I've canned a lot of salsa and have the makings to do even more.

I've got enough cucumbers that I've started giving them away by the bag. We had about thirty or so melons, and even though our family loves and eats them like crazy, I've not had to buy any for quite a while and don't think I will have to for the rest of the year because I'll be able to cut up and freeze all the extra we have.

I've made a lot of tomato sauce and will be canning even more due to our enormous crop of tomatoes (we did multiple varieties and have lots for snacking too).

I'm thinking of doing some vegetable juice in the next week or so, since it will give us more of a variety in the pantry.

Our pumpkins have really taken off too. I have more than enough for all those pumpkin cookies and pies I love so much. I'm going to have to figure out some more uses for them! We did the Orange Smoothie variety, which like the Sugar pumpkins, are the best for baking needs because they aren't as stringy and are more dense than the carving pumpkins used at Halloween.

We also jumped into growing our own herbs this year with gusto! We've got sage, chives, oregano, and basil. We plan to do even more next year, since we discovered how easy and delicious it is to grow our own. I dry the leaves in my dehydrator and then grind them up. It's better than store bought and it's much cheaper too!

Besides all of that, I've been making peach, apricot and berry jams and syrup. We go through a lot of that around here, so it makes sense to make it so we don't have to buy it. Plus, we know what goes into it and it's much tastier than anything on the market.

Though I feel extremely blessed with the bounty the Lord has given us, I have to admit that I'm more than a little overwhelmed at times. Believe it or not, it was easier to do the canning when the kids were out of school because 1) I had helpers who wanted to learn 2) I had someone to talk to during the long process of seeding and chopping all those peppers and tomatoes 3) I didn't have to worry as much about schedules.

I've gotten a lot of my canning recipes for free on  Pick Your Own and The National Center for Home Food Preservation. Then I also have Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and Canning and Preserving for Dummies for even more recipes, procedures and ideas.

Anyway, I am thankful for all that we've been given and for the ability to be able to preserve so much and save my family money in the long run!

A Way to Get Freebies

I'm sure I'm not the only one to notice the rising prices of groceries over the last year or so. It seems crazy to me that wages are frozen, jobs openings are down, and yet prices of food and services continue to rise. It's because of this that so many have started couponing.

There are so many sites out there that can help you find all those deals out there, so I won't go into that part of things. But I will tell you about a site you can join that will occasionally send you out coupons for free products or large value coupons to try products on the market (like salads, fruit snacks, breakfast foods and laundry products to name a few). If you haven't already, think about joining Vocal Point.

I joined up about two years ago, and haven't regretted it. I'm not as active in the forums over there as I could be, since I have my hands pretty full as it is. But I still get clued in on the freebies and other offers they have going on. They give you a place to talk about what you like and don't like about the products you're buying too. This is so the consumer can point the manufacturers in the right direction when making products.

And no, I don't get paid or rewarded for referring anyone there. I'm just here to help those like me who are always looking for ways to save. Though if they offered to pay me, I'd hardly turn them down! Haha! Anyway, I thought I'd let you know, in case any of you were interested. After all, every dollar saved means more in your pocket--no small thing in a down economy!

Friday, September 9, 2011

What Makes a Good Mom?

Somebody said something to me several months ago and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since. I think he meant it as a joke, though I didn't take it as one. I mean, I laughed, but that was because I didn't know how else to react. He really struck a nerve--not that he meant to--but it happened nonetheless.

So what was this statement that haunts me? Well, upon learning how many kids I had (five!!!!), he said that nobody with five kids is going to be a good parent. Okay, honestly, I'm biased here. Those may not have been his exact words, but that's how I heard them. I laughed him off, said something about I'm not doing too bad, in my humble opinion, and the subject was changed.

Anyway, it stayed with me. Everytime my teenager forgets about an assignment, I remember that comment and I think I should've made sure I asked him about every class instead of the idle chit chat about who he saw and what he did.

Everytime my tween shows her painfully shy side, I  remember what he said and think I should've done more to help her become more self-confident so that she knows how amazing she is.

Everytime my six year old shows her temper, I remember it and I think I should've done better in teaching her anger management.

When my preschooler cries over every little thing and acts out at her baby sister, I remember again and I think she's gotten lost in the shuffle and I need to give her more of my time and attention.

When my baby gets sick, I think that I should've done better at sanitizing the house and then maybe those germs wouldn't have reached her.

When I take the time out to write, read or watch a movie, I can't help but feel guilty because I know there's something more important I could be doing with my time. I just can't seem to do it all. The more I try, the more impossible it seems. And these are the moments that statement rears its ugly head once again.

I suppose most parents have doubts about the job they're doing--especially mothers. I mean, we're supposed to be wired to be these wonderful, nurturing, caregivers, right? We're supposed to know what everyone else needs before they do, right? Seriously though, I really have no idea how to guage what a good mother does.

I love my mother more than I can say. She made some real sacrifices to bring me into this world, when it would've been much easier for her to make another choice. She was fifteen when she got pregnant with me. Barely sixteen when she had me. I can't imagine how difficult that must've been for her. She was so sick she spent much of her time in the hospital. Her marriage to my father didn't last beyond the early months of my babyhood-- and then came the rollercoaster of different homes, fathers and a lot of other things I won't go into just now.

Suffice to say, that I had a different plan for my life. I wasn't even sure if I ever wanted to get married, let alone be a parent. I didn't even think I was capable of trusting a man. God had other plans for me though, and I met the only person in the world I could share everything with and not want to run away and hide afterward.

I sobbed when I found out I was going to have our first child. It happened on the same day I found out I got the full scholarship I'd worked so hard for. I was terrified! I didn't know how to be a mother! I wasn't one of those nurturing types that wanted to hold those tiny newborn babies. I hated babysitting. I didn't know the first thing about what to do with a kid. I only knew the extremes of what not to do.

Well, I made a decision. I decided to put college on hold and see what this new life would bring. I knew I wanted to be the one to raise my baby and be there for all of the important things--and to protect him from all of the horrible things I knew all too well were out there.

I was sure I didn't know what I was doing, but I figured that knowing the things I wasn't going to do would be a good start. I got a subscription to every parenting magazine in existance and I did what I do best--research.

Fast forward to more than fourteen years and five kids later and I love my life. Yes, I know that sounds cliche, but that's something I never thought I'd be able to say. I'd certainly never said it in the years before my family. I love my children. I can't breathe when I think of anything happening to them. I miss them when they're not here, I want to know everything about what makes them who they are.  I want to help them overcome every obstacle that comes their way. And more than anything, I don't want to be an example to them of what not to do.....

I make a lot of mistakes. My body and my mind can't always keep up with all the demands that are put on me. But despite that, I'm happy. I have a good husband and I have very good kids. Are they perfect? No. But they're mine-the good and the bad.

I need to stop measuring myself by those perfect TV moms...or even those moms in my neighborhood who seem to have it all together. Maybe I'm not the perfect mother, but I love my kids more than life. I'd give anything for them. Just maybe that's enough. I hope it is..............

Friday, August 26, 2011

Deciding on My Focus Here

It's been hard to decide exactly what I want this site to be about. When I first started it, I wanted to help people avoid some of the financial pitfalls that we've learned about the hard way. I also wanted to help people become more thrifty and save money. It seems though, that there are plenty of sites out there that can tell you about all of the good deals a lot better than I can (mainly because they're a lot more dedicated to the task of looking for all these deals). I have no idea how I could find that kind of time with five kids to raise--at least not if I wanted to have time to enjoy my family!

I've thought long and hard about what I wanted to do here. Do I want to earn money? Sure I do! Who doesn't? Do I want to help others avoid some of the mistakes I've made? You betcha! Do I want to share some helpful tip I've learned to get through hard times? I'd love to!

But I also don't want writing to feel like a chore. It's always been a sort of release for me. It's something I love to do. I think that burying myself in coupon, saving and freebie deals (and other such things) and then focusing my writing on mainly that would suck out any excitement I get when I sit down to blog. Does that sound terrible? I'm sorry if it does, but that's how I feel.

I want to enjoy the time I spend here. I figure that if I'm enjoying writing what I do here, then it's more likely that people will enjoy reading what I've written (at least I hope that's the case). I like talking about my family. I like talking about what we're doing in our lives to survive in this tough economy. But I don't really like talking about each and every coupon, freebie or other such deal. Haha! Go figure!

So I think I'll leave most of the couponing know-how to the professionals like The Thrifty Couple, Freebies4Mom, Freebies2Deals, CouponMom and the many others out there who are so much better at it than I am. Though if I find out about something that's too good to keep to myself, I'll be sure to share it. But that isn't going to be my main focus here. My focus here is about family life, trials, successes and failures. They say to write about what you know best and my family and our lives together are what I know best.

I hope that works for my readers (few they may be right now), because that's what I do best. So there is my new focus! God Bless :)

My eHow Divorce...

As some of you know, I started writing for eHow a few years ago. At first it didn't pay anything, since it all has to do with ad-generated revenue, and you have to have traffic to make anything off of that. Anyway, eventually I started making a little money off of the articles there, and even mentioned that I wished I'd written more before the changeover to Demand Studio's new program of only on-staff writers and flat pay rates for articles.

The way they first handled the changeover was that you were still paid off of ad revenue for your initial articles, but had to become a staff writer and accept the new payment terms to have any other articles published on the site. I believe that they made this change to improve the quality of articles published on their site.

They did initially accept me as a staff writer, but I hesitated to accept these new terms and so I never did become a part of their staff. I still received payments for my original six articles though, until early this year when they discontinued even that part of their terms. They offered me a dismal amount of money for the rights to my articles (it wasn't even an amount I'd have accepted for one article, let alone six) and said if I didn't accept the purchase terms, then I would retain the rights, but my articles would be removed from their site. Well, I refused the terms and kept the rights. So, I'm no longer an eHow contributor. Ah, well, life goes on.

I'll be moving those articles I wrote over to HubPages soon. My earnings there have started to increase over the last month or so, and so I have the motivation to get back to work! Now that the kids are back in school, I'm hoping to have more time to write. We shall see.

I'm loving these chicken eggs!

I've been meaning to update you all on how our adventures in chicken raising are going. We did get the coop and yard all finished and it looks great. I would say it's more of a chicken palace than a coop. Tony has really done a fantastic job.

Also, I'm so happy to tell you that it's going great! I love my hens. All 14 have grown up healthy and are laying eggs for us regularly. We average about a dozen a day now, and have even had 14 twice this week so far (a first!). They're about six months old now and so funny to watch.

We let them out of their yard daily for a while so they can scavenge around for bugs and what not (this adds to the nutritional value of their eggs and also lessens the amount of feed they go through (we still keep their feeders full though, just in case). We bring them out scraps now and then, and so whenever they see us step outside, they assume we've got a treat for them and all come running. It's funny how important you feel when you see 14 hens excitedly running towards you with their wings partially extended whenever you step out on the porch. Yes, we really do love all our girls.

We have a few hens that will lay double yolk eggs a few days a week. And can I tell you how good these eggs are? There's nothing like fresh eggs from healthy and happy hens! They are yummy! We're producing more than we thought we would, so we've been selling the extra eggs to friends and neighbors (making it so that it's virtually free to maintain these chickens! Yay!)

So I guess you can tell that we have no regrets. This is one learning adventure that's been a pleasure to go on thus far :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Freebie Deals on Amazon!

Amazon is giving away a free $5 credit for on-demand movies for those with Twitter accounts who will tweet about it. If you want to Tweet for $5, they make it easy by providing the link and the tweet for you with just the click of a button. Thank you, Pinching Your Pennies, for the heads up on this one. But you better hurry. This deal is only good until tomorrow, July 19.

Also, you can get a free $25 credit to My Habit, which is a branch of Amazon that specializes in men, women's and children's clothing, shoes and accessories. Their deals change daily, so if you don't see what you want today, check back again. With this credit, you can get some things for free. You have to be quick though, since these deals go fast. They refresh at 9:00 a.m. Pacific time. The promo code is SUMMER25, and is only good until August 1. Thank you, The Thrifty Couple, for sharing this one.

So go save yourself some money!

Bye, Bye Dish!

I finally did it. I made the jump. For some, this may not be such a big deal, but for us, this is major. In all of our married life we've had either cable (for the first four years) or satellite (for the last 11 years). Now we have neither. It's not like we're couch potatoes or anything (at least not all day, haha). But we do like to sit down, relax and watch something just about everyday in the evenings.

With times being tight, we'd talked about getting rid of our service quite a bit. But Dish Network has been so good about giving us discounts everytime I'd call to talk about turning off our service, that we've always changed our minds. Well, this time we didn't!

I came close to wavering when talking to customer service, I'll admit it, but in the end I held firm. We can always get service again later if we so choose. But right now, I feel like we need to give life without TV a try. Not just for the money savings, but to see how much more productive we can be as a family.

Anyway, we haven't made the jump to Netflix yet. I don't know for sure if we will, but we're playing with the idea. I don't think we will for  a while though. Let's just give this TV turnoff a chance first. :)

Have any of you tried this? Are you thinking about it? Share your thoughts here!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Get a Free Coupon for Fresh Express Salad!

I've been a member of Vocal Point for a while now, and as a result I've enjoyed free samples and coupons occasionally. Today I got an email from them about another great offer, a coupon for a free salad kit! Get yours now!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Goodbye, World?

It seems the world is abuzz with news of Judgement day, the Apocolypse and even....zombies? It's been on TV, all over the internet and even the kids came home from school talking about it today. When is this all supposed to happen? Tomorrow! Don't ask me what time though, as I haven't a clue.

I don't know about anyone else, but I plan to just go about my day as usual tomorrow: weeding my flower beds, getting our garden in if the weather allows (assuming there's no earthquake knocking us off our feet and lifting those little plants and seeds out of the ground as soon as we plant them), and taking my 6 year old to her last soccer game this season. Doesn't that just all sound so exciting?

Should zombies start roaming the streets though, it seems the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has us covered here in the good ol' United States. They've been coming up with a Zombie Preparedness Plan to keep us safe. No, I'm not kidding. I came across a news story link from The Wall Street Journal floating around on Facebook and it clued me in about this plan. I was all for checking it out. You should too!

Okay, okay, so you've probably figured out by now that I don't believe the world is coming to an end tomorrow, and so it seems that opinion is shared by those agencies whose links I just shared (gotta love their sense of humor!).

But still, this whole thing has got me thinking. What would I do if the the world was ending? Would I do anything differently? Do I even want to know when our/my time is up? I guess the short answer is: I would want all my loved ones to know how much I love them (I hope they know that already, but I could always do better, I'm sure). I would want to keep living in a way that wouldn't make me too nervous to meet our maker (there's always room for improvement there too). And as for knowing when the clock stops--no, I wouldn't want to know when that day is (I'm sure I'd obsess and fixate and that just wouldn't be fun for anyone!).

Anyway, I guess my point is, none of us really know when our time is up--apocolypse or no. We all have a number that's waiting to be called. So we don't need to quit our jobs (unless we can afford to) or start freaking out about some magic number on the calendar (even the Mayan one). We should just go on with our lives, live them the best we can in a way we can feel proud of so that we don't have to worry about feeling ashamed when that final day should come. Oh yeah, and we should make sure to thank God for each day we're given. :)

God bless you all and may you have a fantastic weekend! And make sure you're always prepared for an emergency, as you never know when one will come up! ;-)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Note for the Toothfairy

So my six year old, Ashlyn, lost a tooth last night. The Toothfairy was not prepared for this, as she had no idea that the tooth was so wiggly. But alas, an hour before bed that tooth popped out. Ashlyn was so excited, she scrambled for a sandwich bag to put it in under her pillow and then went to bed with no fuss at all.

So the Toothfairy scrambled in her purse for something to exchange for that tooth. Finally, she found seven quarters and happily put it them in a sandwich bag to make the switchout go more smoothly (a lesson learned after getting caught in her earlier years of making the exchange using the same sandwich bag).

She put her hand under the dreaming little girl's pillow, and carefully felt for the bag with the tooth. She found it! She pulled it out slowly, trying not to wake the sleeping child, and then just as carefully slipped in the bag of quarters. She cringed as the quarters jingled together, but Ashlyn slept on. The Toothfairy gave a sigh of relief as she tiptoed out of the room after a job well done.

She noticed something odd about the bag she now held in her hand. Something was in the bag with the tooth. She couldn't make out what it was in the dark so she tiptoed into the bathroom, closed the door and turned on the light. It was a note. How sweet! Ashlyn had written her a note!

She took it out of the bag and started reading the kindergartener's thoughtful words. She'd expected something along the lines of "Thank you for giving me money" or "Are you real?" or maybe even "I love you" but that was not what the mischievious little girl had in mind. Nope....instead what was scrawled out on that small piece of paper was "Dear toothfary, ples giv me 10 dolerz." And under that short little note was a smiley face.

The toothfairy had to clap a hand over her mouth so as not to wake the sleeping household with her laughter. She hadn't seen that one coming! Well, Ashlyn, you might not have gotten the ten dollars you wanted, you dear sweet girl, but you will get an extra hug, kiss and chuckle in the morning.

You've got to hand it to her though, it was worth a try!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Chickens Have Left the Building

We finally moved the chickens out into their coop last night. It's still not 100% done, but it's done enough they can go out there. Thank goodness! I wasn't too fond of waking up to the aroma of chicken manure in the morning. My garden might love it, but I certainly don't! Haha!

We still have to touch up the paint and get some weather stripping to help hold the heat in better, but they spent the first night out there as it is, and are doing just fine. Last night was freezing, so I was a little worried about the transition. The chicks are fully feathered, as they are all six weeks old now, so we figured that with the heat lamp on out there, they'd be fine. We were right.

Painting turned out to be quite the trial. Saturday started out nice enough and hubby was able to finish up the inside before getting started on the painting in the afternoon. I went out to help him, but had to come back inside to bundle up because the wind was bitterly cold!

We were making great progress, but before we could finish the rain started, then quickly turned to snow.

Thankfully it all melted pretty quickly and we were able to get the doors on and get it ready for the chickens' big move.

We filled up the feeders and waterers after getting the heat lamp installed out there. We've got it plugged in to a Honeywell Winter Watchman, which will turn the lamp on and off according to the temperature. Where they are so young and coming from a temperature of 68 degrees, we set it to come on when it falls below 60 degrees. Which basically means it will stay on constantly for now...

So now all that's left is the minor touch ups here and there. We took the chicks out in a box and put them in their new home.

So far so good. This has all been quite a learning experience, but one we've been thoroughly enjoying. We can't wait until we start getting some eggs! Of course, that won't be for a few months yet. We figure it will be about August. Still, we're one step closer on that path to being self-sufficient.

Trading Satellite for Netflix

So most of you know by now that saving money has been my main mission in life, especially since the economy tanked a few years ago. We've managed to keep our satellite service with Dish Network for years now, and I have to say that we are still happy with it.

We've downgraded our service quite a bit in the last two years and they've given us plenty of discounts too on top of that. We have two dual-tuner DVRs in our house and subscribe to the Dish Family package with our locals. It's a total of about 50 or so channels, and most of them are pretty good. We get channels like Nick Jr., Investigation Discovery, Animal Planet, Hallmark and several others that our family really likes. Still, even with the discounts, because of our two DVRs, we are putting out about $40 a month.

We were thinking of completely getting rid of the satellite (no small thing when you realize we've had a DVR for about 10 years now) and saving that money. We've heard good things about Netflix, and were told that for about $8 a month we can download unlimited content to our computer, Xbox or Wii. For a few dollars more you can also get DVDs sent to your door.

We're big movie fans. We don't do the pay-per-view though, unless they give us the free certificates for them (which does happen now and then). If it's not a movie we're sure we want to buy, then we usually get it from Redbox. So really, the idea of having new movies so readily available to us sounds great. But I'm wondering if there's a downside?

Have any of you subscribed to Netflix? What can I expect to find if we make this jump? I've heard we can download stuff to our laptop and then hook it up to our TV to watch it on the bigger screen. That would be great, since it would mean that we could still watch our favorite TV shows off the TV station websites. Am I right? Or is it more complicated than that?

Anyway, if we go ahead and do this (and we're about 80% sure we will right now), it would mean a savings of over $30 a month. It might not seem like a lot to some people, but for a family of seven, saving any amount of money is a big plus! They do have a free trial, so I guess we'd have nothing to lose on trying it.

So what do you think? Does it sound like a good idea?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Building that Coop!

Hubby has been soooooooooooo busy these last several weeks building the chicken coop. It's crazy how big this has turned out to be. He's doing a great job though, with minimal help from me. I only help with the heavy lifting when he asks. In my defense though, I have little-to-no building skills. Haha!

I though some of you would like to see how this has been progressing, so here are some pics:

This is the wall with the main door:

Here is the window wall:

Here's the floor or platform of the coop:

He just got the trusses up after putting all the walls together:

Here's the wall where we'll have four doors that access the back
of the nesting boxes so we can gather the eggs.

Here's a view of the front when he got it ready for the shingles:

And here it is with the roof on. Still a lot of work to go, but it already looks great!

We've still got to do the inside (roosting rods, nest boxes, more trim on the outside and painting to do--oh yeah and then there's the chicken yard), but my hubby has accomplished a lot! I can't wait for it to be finished so we can move the chickens out there. They're a month old and that brooder he built for them is getting way too small.

If' you're interested in finding out more about what we've learned about the chicken process so far, I've written several articles on Hubpages:

What to Know Before Getting Chicks or Chickens
Supplies to Get for Your Baby Chicks
Raising Chickens for Beginners Part 1

No regrets on our part at this point. I'm really looking forward to this whole adventure!

Friday, March 4, 2011

We're Going to Watch Hockey Tonight!

Our kids are so excited, and I have to admit I'm looking forward to it too. Tonight we're going to watch the Grizzlies as a family with our good friends and neighbors. The best part is we don't have to pay a cent for any of our tickets, though we do have to get there early to make sure we get them.

We got free entrance to a few Griz games, Real Salt Lake soccer Games, Utah Blaze football games and Rocky Mountain Raceway too. We also got a season pass for each of us for Seven Peaks Water Resort. Normally we don't do things like this because it's too expensive for all of us. But we decided to go ahead and jump on the deal when it came up on Groupon for the Salt Lake County Pass of All Passes for about $40 each.

I'm not telling you this to rub it in. I just found out that City Deals is offering it too! So if you want to get in on the family fun for a great price, I'd jump on this deal before it's gone.

Utah county has a similar deal going too. You can find it here.

As for us, we're going to go enjoy some good fighting...er, I mean playing tonight. I've only been once before, but I really had a great time. It was exciting, interesting and very entertaining. So if you haven't gotten your passes yet, jump on it now before they're gone!

Friday, February 18, 2011

We're Getting Chickens!

I'm sure I've mentioned here before that we've been working to become more self-sufficient. We started canning and preserving a few years ago (easy, fun and so delicious). But we've decided we can do more than grow fruit trees and plant a garden. So.....we've decided to get some chickens.

We have a huge yard (almost half an acre), our house is in a residential agriculture zone so we don't have to pay for any permits. We only have to make sure we stay within the allowed number of chickens for our lot size (probably about 12) and we have to build their coop at least 50 feet away from any structure. No problem!

We did some online research and then we got a book: Raising Chickens For Dummies from Amazon. Right now we're trying to decide what breed of chickens we want. We know we don't want any roosters (I'm sure the neighbors wouldn't like that much, especially since they already get annoyed by our rebellious and overly energetic dog--who's nearly 8 but still acts like a puppy). We'll probably go for the chicks, but that will mean waiting several months before getting any eggs.

At best, we'll get more eggs than we need and sell the extra to neighbors, all the while decreasing the amount of those pesky squash bugs and other pests in our yard (which will be eaten up by prowling chickens). At worst, this will all be a great learning experience--whatever the outcome--for us and our children. That's my story and I'm sticking to it! I hope....

Hubby is building a coop this weekend based on the information we've gathered from our research thus far. It's all very exciting. We'll see how it all works out though. I'll be sure to keep you all updated!

Getting Back to Life

So I decided, after several weeks of moping about and being decidely unlike myself, that it was time I realize all the blessings I have and move forward with my life. It's amazing how, once you decide that you need to move on, and then tell yourself that life is good, how it actually really does change your perspective and mood! Positive thinking really is a powerful thing, and I just confirmed what I already knew, but had momentarily forgotten :)

It's good that I remembered it too, because these last weeks have been trying, to say the least! I won't go into the family drama (extended family), but I'm sure everyone knows how stressful life can be after a death. There's a lot of adjustment and the whole greiving process that everyone goes through in their own way.

We've had influenza here (bad idea on skipping those flu shots this year!) and a multitude of other illnesses, several of which our sweet baby girl has fallen victim to. We had a week of no sleep, and she got her first taste of antibiotics after her respiratory infection gave her a nasty ear infection. She's finally sleeping again now, so hopefully we can get her immunity built up.

Every week for the last month I've had someone home from school because of being sick. Yuck! Where's that Immune Fizz when you need it (a drink we used to buy, but haven't been able to get for a while)? And I can't believe how much homework there is for each day a kid misses! Yikes! I had to send my son back to school while he was still sick or he'd have never caught up. His grades still haven't all recovered. That's okay though, because I know he's still the smart and responsible kid he was before he missed two days of school.

Anyway, through the trials of being sick and losing loved ones and the others stressors that come with life, I've had to try harder to see all of the many things that we've been blessed with. I have a great husband who loves me and I love him. I have five beautiful, mostly healthy and very good (though not perfect, by any means haha) children. We get to stay in our home after a successful loan modification. My husband still has a job, when so many others have lost theirs. We have good friends who are always there when we need them most. We have God in our lives.

I'm sure I must sound mushy about now, but I have to say that even with the trials our family has been going through, I still have so many more good, compared to bad. It can be hard to remember that when the other stuff in life becomes overwhelming. I just have to keep in mind that saying, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans," and make sure that my plans stay flexible! I'm also counting on the belief that our trials only make us stronger. So watch out world, because I'm really getting a workout! But I'm sure I'm not the only one :)

I know a lot of people out there are going through much worse right now. My only advice to those people is to try to stay positive, be strong, ask for help if you can't do it alone, have faith and the rest will follow.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hard Times

Just when I was actually doing better than I have in a long time in keeping up here, I got the wind knocked right out of me. My stepfather, Stub, died a few weeks ago. It was something I saw coming in the weeks before, but really it all happened so fast. In September he was sitting in my kitchen eating the salsa I'd made and laughing with me over this and that. Then in the following months he lost his ability to drive, then walk, and even, in the very end, his ability to talk.

I know that death is a part of life. I also believe that he has gone to a better place where he can again do all those things that he'd been unable to during his last days on earth. I know that it's only those who have been left behind that are having a hard time with this. But it's still difficult nonetheless to realize that I can't just pick up the phone and get him on the other side of it anymore.

I have to remember though that I truly have been blessed to have him be a part of my life. In fact, I've come to realize while reflecting on all of this that I've been twice blessed in such a way. You see, my biological father was never a part of my life. The first man I called "Daddy" was my sister's father. He had the most beautiful heart and opened his arms to me when I was just a baby. Despite his turbulent relationship with my mother he always kept his arms open to me, as if I really were his natural daughter. He was an alcoholic though, and didn't care as much for himself as he did for his children. He died almost exactly 15 years ago. He was the fun one. Easy-going to a fault and open-hearted to the end. He was what I needed as a young girl to feel wanted, loved and accepted.

I wrote this for him: Forgive Me, Daddy

And then there was Stub. He was opposite in nearly every way. With the exception of whole-heartedly accepting another man's child as his own. He was responsible, hard-working, stable...he was a rock. He helped to show me what a father's role was. He helped to guide me the right way on the path to womanhood.

I wrote these for him: Shadow Of a Man and Mourning a Loved-One's Passing

Both these men filled a role I needed at the time I most needed it. Both have inspired me in different ways. Both are gone now. I am now truly without a father. But I can't leave it at that. It would devalue the lasting impression they've left with me. I have to think of the immeasurable gifts they gave me before they left this world.

I hope I haven't confused you all with my rambling thoughts here. My history is hard to follow, I know, but it has shaped me to be who I am today--and so I can't say that I'd change it. Everything happens for a reason. And I guess it's time I remember that and do my best to move forward.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

More Free magazine subscriptions from ValueMags!

ValueMags is offering two magazine copies to Family Circle for January and February issues again. Jump on it fast or you'll miss out. On top of that, they also have a few other magazines to choose from, such as:  Bridal Guide, Sport Fishing, Yachting, Backpacker digital, and Yoga Journal digital. These are all no cost, no obligation offers so be sure to check them out.

The Inside Scoop on Those Credit Cards

Did you know that according to CreditCards.com 98% of the revolving debt (which is well over 800 billion dollars) is from credit cards? While the amount of debt carried by the average American family might be surprising, the fact that most households utilize credit cards is common knowledge, and I'm no exception.

If you've wondered how credit cards can affect your credit rating, then I've got the perfect article for you. If you've found yourself in over your head with credit card debt, then that makes this article even more perfect for you. If you're ready to become more financially fit then read my article on HubPages: The Truth about Credit Cards.

Getting a handle on credit card debt and taking control of your credit score would be a perfect New Year's Resolution! Good luck to all of you who have this goal in mind.

Time for a New Year!

Yes, it's that time again. It's the time of year when we promise ourselves we're going to be thinner, stronger, healthier, smarter, kinder, richer and just plain better! I'm no different than anyone else when it comes to making those resolutions. Some of them I've been successful at keeping, others get lost by the wayside when I just can't figure out how to fit them into my day-to-day activities. So what does that say about me? Perhaps that I need a better schedule than the fly-by-the-seat of my pants one I've gotten so used to! Hmmmm...was that a resolution?

Any good resolution starts with a thought or idea. Whether or not you're successful at keeping that resolution you set depends a lot on what you tell yourself about the importance of that goal and what you're able and willng to do to acheive it. So, the more positive you are in your thinking, the more likely you are to accomplish what you want. Are you ready to Change Your Life with Postive Thinking? If so, be sure to check out my article about it on HubPages!

If you're looking for some ideas for good resolutions this year and tips on how to achieve them, I've got another great article for you: Why Do We Make New Year's Resolutions?

I'm ready to improve my life! How about you?