Thursday, July 28, 2011

Update WLJ

I updated the Weight Loss Journal with my latest picture. The scale said 165 today. I'll take it. And, I'm wearing size 10 shorts (cough). Yes, I'm being snarky and if you want to know why then read this. Onward and downward.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stickin' It

No, I'm not telling anyone to do anything rude, I'm talking about driving a car with a stick shift. Up until now, I've never had to drive a stick because all of my cars have been automatic. I learned to drive a car using an automatic and it never occurred to me to learn to drive a stick because (1) I lived in a city environment and (2) I later got a job commuting 45 minutes each way and who wants to drive a stick in rush hour traffic?

My husband, however, learned to drive both and so I asked him to teach me to drive the Bug. He graciously agreed. As there is no "power" anything in this car, all I can say is it's a "raw driving experience" to quote my husband. And when I'm behind the wheel and shifting the stick, that's a scary thought. Actually, in fairness to myself I can shift just fine from 1st to 2nd to 3rd to 4th. It's the shifting from a dead stop to 1st that I have the most trouble. In fact, over at Car Talk, they mention that moving from stop to 1st gear is the most difficult. Yeah, no kidding.

Like learning any new skill, practice makes perfect (tell that to my kids when they're in the backseat.) There will be moments of frustration and times you will want to quit. And believe me, I have had moments where I would like to tell this car where to...stick it. Shifting is getting a little easier everyday as long as I avoid stopping on a hill; or congested streets; or pedestrians.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fab and 42

No, I'm not talking about myself because I'm not 42. I'm talking about the "new" car that we just bought: a 1969 VW Bug. If you're one of my FB friends then you know that I actually said "#@%$ it", learned to drive a stick, and now bought a Bug. What in the world is wrong with me? Throughout this whole experience, the most traumatic part has been learning to drive a stick a Bug. Honestly, I felt like I've needed my inhaler every time I've gotten behind the wheel. All I can say is thank goodness I already know the rules of the road so I only had to concentrate on shifting. The second most traumatic part has been searching for a Bug that is in decent driveable condition with minimal to no rust. We weren't searching for perfection, but we didn't want a project either. It can be a tiring and disappointing process.

Sometimes, however, all of that frustration is really just preparation to help you recognize an opportunity when it comes your way. That's what happened to us. Last Saturday evening I was out doing a 5k run (more like walk) with some friends. My husband took the boys to church and in the process he lost his sunglasses. He lingered a little longer than usual in order to look for them. (Had I been there, I would have hurried him along.) Giving up, he piled the boys in the car when my oldest son said, "Daddy, look! There's a Bug and it has a For Sale sign on it!" He pulled up alongside the other Bug and noticed what good condition it was in. He wrote down the information and made arrangements to go see it and test drive it.

While it's not in mint condition, it's in pretty darn good condition for being 42 years old. And get this: it still has the original engine with only 28,000 original miles. Maybe I'm easily impressed, but our 11 year old van had 148,000 miles. The person we bought it from was the second owner. He said that the first owner was literally the little old lady next door who mainly drove the Bug around town. He gave us the original manual with the salesperson's business card from the VW dealership in San Francisco in 1969. Niiice. So there you have it. Our car dilemma is over, for now.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

You Spent How Much on a What?!?!

Yes, it's true. I spent $86 and some change on a new swim suit. I know, not very frugal. My old swim suit was a size 18 and it had to go because it was no longer wearable. I had every intention of taking my time, but summer vacation and the warm weather caught me by surprise last month. I knew I needed a swim suit but I wanted one that was durable and not flimsy, a two-piece that wasn't a bikini.

Let me back up. We don't have a pool so I purchased a summer swim pass to our local high school's swimming pool through our Parks & Recreation department. The boys needed something to do and swimming is perfect. Our local high school's "aquatic center" has two pools: a beach entry pool that goes up to 3ft, and a competition-size pool that goes up to 14ft with diving boards. Niiiiice.

After purchasing the swim pass, I had every intention of taking the boys to swim...until I realized that I didn't have a swim suit. Doh!! I panicked. I had an hour and a half before summer school was out. Keeping my swim suit criteria in mind I desperately tried to think of where to get a swim suit. As much as I love Target and Kohl's, they did not have what I was looking for. Then it hit me: Land's End. While their stuff may be spendy, it's also usually pretty good quality. I have some Land's End shirts that are over 10 years old. I raced on over to Sear's to their Land's End department and found this cute combo. Every time I put it on I feel like I should be getting ready for a tennis match. Of course, each piece is sold separately so it was pricey.

I realize that if I continue to lose weight then I won't be able to wear this next year. That's precisely why I'm taking every opportunity to go to the pool this summer. It's a bit spendy, but the fit is terrific and the quality is awesome. All in all, I'm happy with my purchase and more importantly, I'm using it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

BFD - July '11

For this month's BFD I really wanted some comfort food in the form of cinnamon rolls and something with scrambled eggs. Yeah, I know, it's the middle of July but it's been surprisingly cool where I am - a mere 80+ degrees this week. That's downright frigid for this time of year. Since I've already done cinnamon rolls I hunted for another cinnamony bread-type recipe. And boy did I find one. For this month's BFD we had:

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
Breakfast Burritos/Tacos
Strawberries (Like I said, they're in season)

All I can say is holy Toledo this bread is good. If you're hesitant to make your own cinnamon rolls then give this bread a try. In a nutshell, you roll out the dough, spread it with melted butter and cinnamon sugar, then you cut it into six rectangular strips. I used a pizza cutter and it was easy. You then stack the strips of dough and cut out six stacks of squares. Put all of the squares in a loaf pan and bake. My only advice would be to put a cookie sheet under the loaf pan to catch any cinnamon sugar drippings.  Follow the link for the recipe because it does a much better job of explaining the directions - and it comes with pictures that are much better than mine!

My breakfast burritos were actually tacos because I had a multitude of corn tortillas. I did not use the exact recipe from the linked web site, but I did use it as my inspiration. I used scrambled eggs and bulk chorizo and believe me, with the spiciness of the chorizo you don't need to add anything else. And the strawberries? What can I say? They're in season. All in all, a good BFD with just the right amount of sweet and spicy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Biting the Bullet

I rarely talk about my finances even though from time to time I will blog about frugality. The topic of finances is very personal and I think it's very easy for people to become offended, jealous, or defensive while discussing personal finance. The problem as I see it is that if you're not independently wealthy, then you have to make decisions based on what you can afford not necessarily what you want. In short, you have to choose between wants and needs and very often the two are confused.

Without going into alot of detail I will say that due to a combination of financial blessings and frugality we are able to be debt free. Does that mean we are wealthy? No, we're not. We still have to choose between needs and wants and it has been a long learning process. But, the freedom that comes with being debt free has made this process worthwhile.

The only reason I mention any of this is because we are currently having to decide between needs and wants - our minivan, a.k.a. "The Crapmobile" has finally died. I am no longer Minivan Mom. We are deciding whether to buy a new car (I like the Honda FIT) and take on a car payment, increased insurance and increased licensing fees or to buy a used car and take on someone else's problem. A third option is to remain a one-car family.

After my husband's car wouldn't pass the smog test a few months ago, we got rid of it and bought a 1973 VW Bug. It's definitely a no-frills car, but it gets him to where he needs to go and there is always a cool factor to driving an older Bug. A decent older Bug will run us in the $3000 range with the added bonus of cheap insurance. Another bonus, is that since it's an older vehicle, it is exempt from having to pass the smog emissions test in California. Yet, another bonus, is that we can pay for it up front and not make payments.

Some may ask, "What about the kids? Won't it be uncomfortable for them? What about road trips?" My reply is that honestly, it's not always about the kids and besides we can always rent a larger car for vacation. We may have to do that when we go to Yosemite. My oldest son looooves the Bug. He calls it the "Bugmobile" and wants to ride in it every chance he gets. My younger son is happy when he's riding in any car. For now, we're still mulling our options and weighing the pros and cons of each. I'll keep you posted.

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Isaiah 55:2

Monday, July 11, 2011

Through the Nose - A Day Trip

Last month, we took the boys on a day trip to San Francisco to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. This month we took them on a day trip to Squaw Valley and Lake Tahoe. I have been to Lake Tahoe, but since I'm not a skier, I've never been to Squaw Valley. I was reading online about what to do with the kids while in Tahoe, and noticed that one of the web sites mentioned Squaw Valley's tram - or Cable Car. Huh? I've never heard of that. I went to Squaw Valley's web site, and read all about the Cable Car. I knew I had found the perfect activity. The price was not cheap and as the title suggests you can pay through the nose (or up the waz) for all of this fun. But, I reasoned that it would be a fun activity for all of us to do and since I have blown at least that much at Target on more than one occasion, then Squaw Valley was surely worth as much as the crap I bought at Target.

Seeing the Cable Car in a picture is one thing; seeing it up close and in-person is another. My 11yo became a little apprehensive when he saw the Cable Car making a return trip - the realization that he would be lifted 2000 feet was dawning on him. In spite of this, he sucked it up and he enjoyed himself. As a bonus, we got to play in the snow at the top of the mountain a.k.a. High Camp. Totally cool! Snow in July!

After the return trip to Squaw Village, we made our way down to Lake Tahoe. The blueness of Lake Tahoe takes my breath away. It's simply gorgeous. We sat on the rocky shore and tossed rocks into the lake just to relax and enjoy the scenery. All in all, a fun albeit expensive day. No, I take that back. It was an investment in making memories that will last a lifetime.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Load a Day Keeps the Mountain Away

Years ago, when I was in college, the pre-1930 apartment building I lived in did not have a washer or a dryer.  So, I hauled my gigantic load of laundry to the laundromat once, maybe twice a week. It didn't make sense for me to do laundry more frequently because no matter how much laundry I had - whether one load or several - the amount of time it took to wash it and dry it was always the same: an hour and 15 minutes, give or take a few minutes. I didn't include folding time because I didn't always fold my clothes at the laundromat; sometimes, I didn't even fold them at home either.

Even when I eventually moved into an apartment and later a house with a washer/dryer, I still had the concept of "laundry day". It took me years, literally years to break that mindset. I think it was after I had my first child that I began to do laundry every other day. I used cloth diapers on him so that was a huge motivator to do laundry more frequently. It wasn't until my second son was about two or three years old that I realized I could stay on top of the laundry mountain by washing it every day. Duh. A load a day is easier to wash and fold than three or four loads twice a week. Like taking a shower or brushing my teeth, doing laundry is now part of my daily routine. Plus, instead of filling me with a sense of dread, I now feel as though I've conquered a monster.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Independence Day!!

My day is going to be filled with family, fireworks, and fun...and a BBQ! Hope you have a safe and fun holiday!


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