Sunday, February 18, 2018

How I Did With Doing Things In January

Since my goal for the year is to actually do things, instead of just talking about things I want to do and making plans that never happen, I thought I’d try to do a monthly post with how I did the month before.  Since February is more than halfway over it seems past time for a post on how January went.  I didn’t have a picture that really went with this post, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share this one of Howard.  I think he looks adorable. 

I don’t think it was a stellar month, but since it’s my least favorite month and it was crazy cold for a large part of it, I don’t think it’s too bad.  That’s what I’m telling myself anyway.

On the blogging front, I did ten posts in January.  Considering the fact that I  only did twenty-five posts total last year, I think ten in a month was a definite improvement. 

For going and seeing new things, we finally went to see the Poinsett Bridge.  It was something we had been talking about doing for years, so it was nice to finally go out there.  That’s the only new place we went in January, but a lot of the places we want to see are outdoors, and it was just too cold to do much outside. 

On the getting rid of clutter in the house front, we did a Pantry Challenge.  We did really well in sticking to it, so we did manage to thin things down, at least in the kitchen, a little bit.  There’s a long way to go, but it’s a start.  I think that also counts toward the goal of saving money/getting out of debt, since it meant we spent significantly less than usual on groceries.

And that’s pretty much it.  I didn’t really do anything toward any of the other goals I want to accomplish.  I’m really not sure whether to call January a success, a failure, or maybe just a neutral.  I guess it depends on how you choose to look at it. 

So how about you?  Did you set any new goals for the year, or choose a word for the year?  How did you do with that in January? 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

It Was Nice While It Lasted

On Thursday we enjoyed temperatures in the mid seventies.  It was sunny and beautiful, and it was wonderful. 

I wanted to enjoy every minute of the beautiful weather, so I ate my lunch outside, and took this picture of these tiny little wild flowers that are blooming in the yard.  I was so happy to see something colorful and blooming.

After work Nick and I loaded the dogs in the car and went to the cemetery to walk.  It’s not as weird as it might sound, I promise!  It’s a really big cemetery; lots of people walk and jog there, and bring their dogs.  It was fairly crowded Thursday evening.  I think a lot of people had the same idea.

We also walked through the neighborhood near the cemetery, and Nick showed me the house his grandparents lived in when he was born.  They moved from that house when he was five, but he still remembers quite a few things from when they lived there.  It was fun to picture a little version of Nick playing in the yard. 

We walked until it started getting dark.  We knew the nice weather wasn’t going to last, so we wanted to take advantage of every minute of it.  I think the dogs enjoyed the long walk, too. 

Yesterday started off sunny and warm, but the temperature started dropping in the afternoon.  It dropped twelve degrees in between the time I went back to work from lunch and the end of the day when I left.  It continued to drop last night.  Today has been cold and rainy.  The temperatures haven’t gotten above the mid forties, and it has been raining all day.

Fortunately, it doesn’t look like we’re going to drop down to freezing, so hopefully the little flowers will survive.  The beautiful weather was so nice while it lasted!

So how about you?  Have you had any warm days?  Any sign that spring might be on its way?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thrifty Thursday - Send A Free Military Care Package

Do you ever have posts that you just absolutely have to do on a certain day?  Posts where everything just comes together in the right way, on the right day (or at least really close), and it’s the only post you could possibly share that day?  It doesn’t happen often for me, but this is one of those posts. 

Yesterday would have been my grandfather’s (a.k.a. Dad Dog) 89th birthday, and he was retired from the Air Force.  Recently I found an opportunity to send free care packages to troops.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity for a Thrifty Thursday post about sending a free care package to troops the day after his birthday!

Crown Royal has teamed up with Packages From Home to send packages to troops serving overseas.  You can access the site here.  You have to be 21 or older to access the site, you have to provide your date of birth, and you have to provide your email address.  However, there is absolutely no cost to you.

Once you’ve accessed the site, you can choose four items from the most requested list to be sent to troops.  I chose cookies, nuts, lip balm, and tea.  Of course I have to choose tea any time it’s an option!  Dad Dog was also a tea drinker, so it seemed like an appropriate choice.  Coffee, oatmeal, chips, and pretzels were some of the other options.

It takes less than two minutes of your time, costs you nothing, and maybe makes life just a little bit more pleasant for someone in harm’s way, away from their family and loved ones.  If you’re so inclined, please take the time to visit the site and select four items to send.   If you participate, I hope you’ll share your choices in the comments.  It’s always interesting to see what other people choose.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

We Went to Saint Augustine

I doubt anyone noticed I was gone last week.  I had a few posts scheduled, so things didn’t go completely silent here.  Thanks for all of your visits and comments while I was gone.  I am working on catching up with everyone’s blog posts.

As part of our plan to actually do more things, rather than just talking about things we want to do, we took a trip to Saint Augustine, Florida last week.  It had actually been in the works for a while.  Our neighbors go almost every year and love it.  Last year, they spent a week there in January.  It was their Christmas gift to each other.  Being the type of people to copy a good idea when we hear it, we decided to do something similar.

We made the decision not to give each other any gifts for our birthdays or Christmas last year, but instead to save the money up for a warm weather vacation during the winter.  We reasoned that we really didn’t need any more stuff, we want to travel more, and our neighbors seemed really happy doing that.  And if you’ve been visiting here for a while, you probably know that I absolutely hate the winter.  I don’t do well in the cold, gray months.  I’m mostly miserable during the worst of the winter weather, and unfortunately, I think I tend to make those unfortunate enough to be around me miserable as well.  Poor Nick.  So an escape to someplace sunny and warm was particularly appealing to me.  Nick tends to wilt in the heat, so is much happier visiting beaches in the off season when it’s warm, but not hot.  A winter getaway to a warmer climate seemed ideal.

We chose Saint Augustine based largely on the neighbors recommendation, the fact that it was reasonably affordable during the off season, the fact that it has a lot of history, the fact that it was less than a seven hour drive, and the fact that it would be warm enough to make me happy, but not hot enough to make Nick miserable.

We take the dogs with us on our Folly Beach, SC vacation, but chose not to take them to Saint Augustine.  Folly Beach works well for them; we go there often enough to have taking them down to a science.  We rent the same house every year, so we know what to expect, where we can take them, and where we can’t take them.  It’s much more difficult to find a pet friendly place to rent, especially a place that’s okay with two dogs, and one of them being over 90 pounds.  We’ve also learned over the years that some places aren’t as dog friendly as they claim to be, so it usually works out better not to take the dogs with us the first time we go somewhere.  Honestly, it’s also nice to have a little break sometimes, too.  The dogs stayed in the kennel at their vet’s office, and seemed to have a good time based on the pictures the vet sent while we were gone.

We rented a condo that wasn’t at all dog friendly, and took full advantage of all the amenities it offered including a hot tub, heated pool, and Jacuzzi.  I would have preferred the weather to be just a little warmer, but it was warm enough to wear shorts most days; we both came back with a tan.  We walked on the beach, did some tours, spent time in the pool, visited some museums, and ate a lot of great food.

We had a great time, but I don’t think Saint Augustine is a place that we’ll go back to every year, or over and over again.  A lot of it was much more of a tourist trap than what we typically like to do.  Some of the tours and museums felt more gimmicky than educational.  I’m not saying that we didn’t enjoy a lot of things.  We really did, and it was wonderful to have a winter vacation.  I plan to post about some of the highlights later on.  It’s just not a place that we think of as “our place”, like the Charleston area.

We’re definitely hooked on the idea of not buying birthday or Christmas gifts for each other in favor of a winter trip to somewhere warmer and sunnier than home.  There’s definitely something to be said for experiences over stuff.  At least for us, right now.  We’ve decided to start researching other places for next year.  Maybe another beach in Florida.  We’ve also heard good things about Jamaica.  If anyone has any suggestions for a place that’s nice and warm in January or February I’d love to hear them.

I’m working on getting caught up with all of your blogs as soon as I can.  I’m looking forward to catching up and seeing what I missed while we were gone.

Monday, February 12, 2018

We Slept Through All of the Excitement

Normally, not very much goes on in our neighborhood, and we’re very happy with that state of affairs.  We live at the end of a fairly quiet dead end street.  With one notable exception, most of our immediate neighbors are fairly quiet.  Most of the people on our block have been here for a long time, we know each other, and we tend to look out for each other.  I don’t think I’d describe anyone as especially nosey, but we all tend to notice if there’s a strange car or something unusual going on.  I know some of you probably think that sounds awful, but we’re very happy with it.  Maybe it’s a southern thing. 

Last night was apparently one of the exceptions to the “not much goes on in our neighborhood” statement.  Nick and I went to bed fairly early.  He has to get up at 5:30 in the morning for work, and I get up around 6:15 for work, so we’re usually in bed well before 10:00 most week nights.  We’ve also taken to silencing both of our cellphones before bed, which we did last night. 

This morning we woke up to various missed calls and texts from two different neighbors.  After texting different neighbors this morning, I found out about all of the excitement that we slept through. 

Apparently when our next door neighbor, Steve, came home from work last night (he works odd hours, so is typically coming home much later than the rest of us) he smelled natural gas and called the gas company.  His wife, Lori, sent us a text letting us know that the gas company was coming. 

The gas company sent one person who walked around the yards with a flashlight.  Deana, another neighbor a couple of houses down, saw a man outside our house with a flashlight.  She called us, but neither of us answered, and no lights came on.  She saw our cars, so assumed we were both home, so her next call was to the police. 

Meanwhile, Steve went outside to talk to the man from the gas company, who told him that there was a leak, and a crew was on the way to fix it.  While Steve was outside, he saw that Deana was definitely awake and about, so walked down the street to talk to her and let her know about the gas leak.  Deana was still on the phone with the police when Steve arrived, so she was able to assure them that all was well before anyone made it to our street to check on things. 

Lori then sent us a text that the gas company was sending a crew to fix the leak, and that’s what it would be if we heard any large trucks coming down the street.  She told me today that they did come and fix the leak last night.

We slept through all of it.  I’m not sure how, especially since the dogs were in the bedroom and usually bark at pretty much everything.  Maybe they were just really tired, and so were we.  Somehow we slept through all of last night’s excitement.

Of course we were very happy that Steve noticed the gas leak and called about it, and we were very happy that Deana cared enough to call the police when it looked like something was wrong at our house.  Like I told her, I’d much rather have a neighbor who calls the police when it turns out that nothing was wrong than one who doesn’t call anyone when something is wrong. 

With any luck, that will be all of the excitement our little section of the street has for a while.  Even if we did sleep through it.

So what about you?  Have you had any excitement in your neighborhood lately?  Or do you sleep through it too?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Thrifty Thursday - The Valentine’s Day Edition

Yes, I know it isn’t actually Valentine’s Day yet, but talking about a holiday on the actual holiday usually feels like I’m late for blogging about it.  I also feel like I need to preface this post by saying that I am not at all anti-Valentine’s Day.  I absolutely believe that we’re all allowed to choose our favorite holidays and celebrate them in ways that make us and our loved ones happy.

When I was single I had this idea that once you were happily in a relationship Valentine’s Day was this magical day full of hearts and pink flowers.  I thought it was incredibly romantic, and that of course anyone who was truly in love would go all out for it.  I was sure if you were happily in love it had to be your favorite holiday.

I’m not sure where I got those ideas from.  Maybe it came from years of working in offices that looked like a flower shop on Valentine’s Day, reading so many romance novels, or watching too many romantic comedies.  I’m really not sure.  As usual, reality has turned out to be very different from how I thought things would go.

I really think that Nick and I are just bad at Valentine’s Day, and I’ll freely admit that I’m definitely worse at it than Nick is.  I’m not sure what it is.  We’ve tried.  We’ve really tried.  It’s not that we don’t like holidays, and I think we’re fairly good at most other holidays.  Nick is great at birthdays.  Nick’s mom is great at Christmas, enough so that the rest of us can just kind of follow her example and be pretty good at it.  I like to think I’m fairly good at Thanksgiving, which, for the record, remains my favorite holiday of all time.  Valentine’s Day is just a completely different story for us.

It seems that most years at least one of us is sick on Valentine’s Day.  We’ve both had the flu on Valentine’s Day.  One year Nick left work with a stomach virus, and I ended up going to get the frozen bananas I’d had delivered to him at work.  Some years the weather has wreaked havoc on our attempts at Valentine’s Day celebrations.  There was the year that Nick sent me a gardenia plant at work.  It arrived right after they closed my building ahead of a major snow storm, so it sat in its box in the security room for four days.  It was a dead, crusty lump by the time I got it.
Emma’s birthday was the day after Valentine’s Day, and we always made a big deal out of her birthday, so last year was a little hard since it was our first year without her.

Over the years we’ve lowered our expectations for Valentine’s Day.  For a few years we just did cards, but it seemed like even that was a hassle that had at least one of us, usually me, out buying a card on the actual holiday.  Again, I don’t know what it is with Valentine’s Day.   I have several Christmas presents for this year already.  I’m capable of cooking two separate Thanksgiving dinners on the actual holiday and having them both ready on time.  I’m not usually the person running around trying to do things at the last minute.  I don’t know why I can’t seem to get it together for Valentine’s Day.

This year, we’ve agreed that we’re not doing anything for Valentine’s Day.  We have no plans for going out to dinner.  We’re not sending each other flowers, candy, fruit, or anything else.  We’re not even planning to exchange cards.

We briefly considered cards, but then decided against them.  Honestly, it felt more like yet another thing on a to-do list than something we were excited about doing.  We don’t save cards, so they just would have ended up in the recycling bin in a few weeks anyway.  That seemed like such a waste, especially since Valentine’s Day cards seem to be anywhere from $5.00 and up.  That’s admission to some museums or state parks, and since we’re trying to make more of an effort to do things this year we thought we’d be better off putting our time, energy, and money into going to a museum, state park, or even just trying a new coffee shop.  Obviously not on Valentine’s Day, though, since our plans on that day never seem to work out.

It doesn’t sound romantic or exciting I know, but it has taken away a lot of pressure to plan, to spend, and to try to live up to expectations.  It’s not that we’re anti-holiday.  I’m sure that we’ll do our usual big events for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Everyone has to choose how to spend their time, effort, and money.  We’re just choosing to acknowledge that Valentine’s Day isn’t the holiday that’s worth it for us to go all out for.

So what about you?  Is Valentine’s Day a big event for you?  Do you have better luck with it than we have?  Or is there another holiday you prefer to make a big event of?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Very Late To The Craze

I never seem to be one of the first people to join in any sort of trend.  In fact, I usually seem to be one of the last.  That’s fine with me.  I don’t typically choose things based on their popularity.  Honestly, there have been a few too many “must see” or “must read” movies or books that have disappointed me.

For example, I will never understand the craze over The Help.  The book that is.  I absolutely understand the craze over the movie.  It starred Viola Davis.  Enough said, right?

So I didn’t start reading the Outlander series until last fall.  I had heard of them, of course.  I think you have to be living under a rock not to have heard of them.  I had thought about reading them, but time travel stories aren’t typically among my favorites.  I didn’t want to read books I didn’t think I would enjoy just because they were popular.

Then one of my co-workers, Kim, found out that I hadn’t read them, and said I needed to.  She was actually very surprised to find out that I hadn’t read them.  In my defense, though, I was nine years old when the first book was published.  If you’ve read the series, you know that it is in no way appropriate reading material for a nine year old.  If you haven’t read the series, and you’re in charge of a nine year old’s reading material, you do not want them reading Outlander.  Trust me on that one.

Lots of time has passed since I was nine years old and the first book being published, but I was still pretty stuck on not liking the time travel aspect.

Kim is who recommended Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series, which I love, so I tend to trust her recommendations.  I didn’t think I’d enjoy that series, either, and it has become one of my favorites.  If she says I’m missing out by not reading a certain book or author, I tend to believe her.

The waiting list at the library had about a million people on it, so I ordered a paperback copy from Amazon.  I don’t typically buy books by authors I haven’t read, but Kim’s recommendation carried a lot of weight.

I just started The Fiery Cross, which is the fifth book in the series.  I’m totally hooked.  Voyager was a little dry and drug in places in my opinion, but overall the series has been great so far.  I haven’t watched the show yet.  I’m told it’s good, but we don’t have Starz.  I’m sure I’ll watch it one day, but probably not until after the craze has died down.

So what about you?  Have you read the Outlander series?  Or watched the show?  Do you read or watch something because it’s popular?

Saturday, February 3, 2018

What Are The Neighbors Going To Think?

First of all, I don’t think it’s a very good idea to live life constantly worrying about what people are going to think of you.  Of course most people want to be liked and respected, but worrying too much about what other people think just seems like a recipe for a lifetime of stress and unhappiness.  It has occurred to me, though, that sometimes there are perfectly innocent things that look pretty bad from the outside looking in. 

At Thanksgiving I made a pumpkin pie for one of the security officers at work.  He and Nick work for the same agency, he’s super nice, and is Duke’s honorary uncle.  His Thanksgiving dinner menu didn’t originally include pumpkin pie.  He wasn’t happy about it, and it sounded like sacrilege to me, so I told him I’d make him a pie and he could pick it up on the way home from work.  It’s not a big deal to make one more pie when you’re already doing lots of baking.  And we live close to work, so it wasn’t a big deal for him to come get it. He came over to pick up his pie after work the day before Thanksgiving, so he was in uniform, and driving a work car.

Later on I started to wonder what the neighbors might think if they had seen him come by.  The kids next door are the best neighborhood watch you can possibly imagine.  Seriously, if anyone is ever tasked with investigating anyone or anything from our neighborhood, they need to talk to the kids next door to us.  Because of that I was pretty sure they had seen.  So when they came over on Thanksgiving I made sure to tell them that it had been a co-worker of ours picking up a pie.  They had seen, and told their parents that the police were at our house.  Fortunately, the kids thought it was pretty cool that we got a visit from a uniformed officer, and the family knows where we work, so they realized that it wasn’t for anything bad.  I’m not sure what the neighbors we don’t know thought if they saw.

I’m also wondering about some of the people from the fire department Nick volunteers at.  We live too far outside of the district for them to come here for any of the holidays, but it’s not uncommon for the department to go to someone’s house for a holiday meal, with the understanding that they may have to leave in a hurry.  Now I kind of wonder what their neighbors think when the fire department shows up at their house every Thanksgiving or Christmas. 

So what about you? Are there any goings on or visitors to your house that might make the neighbors wonder?  Or are you re-evaluating anything you’ve seen going on at your neighbor’s house?   

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Thrifty Thursday - How We Did With The Pantry Challenge

I didn’t really have a good picture to go with this post.  Let’s face it, pictures of a bunch of cans of tomatoes are kind of boring, so I thought I’d share this picture of Caroline.  I think she looks adorable, and I’m always happy to share pet pictures.  Now, on to the actual post.

It’s finally February.  January always seems like the longest month to me, but it’s finally over, and we’re a little closer to spring.

With the end of January comes the end of the Pantry Challenge.  I think we did fairly well with it, though we still have a long way to go.  I have a serious grocery shopping addiction, and an extreme habit of overbuying groceries.  Not for the last month, though.

Our grocery total for the month of January came to $63.85.  Not bad for a whole month.  I think it actually could have been lower had a couple of our grocery trips been to Aldi instead of Wal-Mart, but convenience won out twice.  Once when I went to buy cold medicine and picked up a few grocery items while I was there, and once when Nick went to buy a retirement card for a co-worker and picked up a few grocery items while he was there.

I wish I could say we kept our total so low because we’re just that good at buying groceries cheaply, or because I got really creative in the kitchen, but that’s just not the case.  It was really because I’ve stocked up on so many things.

We ate out an average of once a week in January, which is about normal for us.  We also made more of an effort to use up leftovers, rather than letting them get shoved to the back of the fridge, and we made more of an effort to use things up before they expired.  Other than that, it was pretty much cooking and eating as normal.  We bought eggs, milk, yogurt, sugar (because no one wants me to run out of sweet tea) bread, produce, lemon juice (because fresh lemons are way too expensive and pitiful here right now), and probably a few other things that aren’t coming to mind at the moment.  No meats or canned items, though.  All of that came from the freezer and cabinets.

We’ll probably do a modified version of the Pantry Challenge in February, but haven’t decided yet exactly what that will entail.  I’m not in favor of not keeping a very well stocked freezer and pantry because it is nice to have things on hand.  I like being able to make a meal for someone with very little notice, I like not having to rush to the grocery store ahead of bad weather, and it’s nice not to have to go out for things if we’re not feeling well.  That being said, I do need to find a better balance.  It’s probably possible to be well stocked, but not overstocked.

So what about you?  Did you do a Pantry Challenge in January?  Or have you already found the perfect way to be well stocked, but not overstocked