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Monday, November 28, 2011

Green Beans ... MY Way

Anyone who has read this blog for a little time KNOWS that I'm not a huge fan of veggies.

I know.

BUT on Thanksgiving, my lovely sister-in-law made some green beans that were sitting on the counter to be reheated and I snagged one to try because they looked good.

Strange behavior, I know.

And man, oh man they were good! Sue told me how she makes them and here's how I made them:

1 can of french cut green beans ... she used fresh, but I only had canned
garlic, Hubbys special minced stuff
a sprinkle of dried onion flakes
a dash of red pepper flakes
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in frying pan. Add all ingredients and saute til beans are tender.

There you have it. Easy. Quick. Amazing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - So Good To Be Home

After being away from the castle for 6 days, I'm glad to be home again.

Princess flies out again in the morning back to the midwest to see some friends in from overseas on leave. It's kind of cool as it's a few people that she trained with in Arizona ... Should have made life easier for her and changed her ticket to just fly straight to where she's going instead of Florida then back up ... oh well.

So of course, I'm SO very motivated to get back in the kitchen and cook, cook, COOK. Plus getting ready for the holidays and the BIG EVENT (no, that link is not for Christmas!) ... apprehensive? Anxiety? Excitement. All of those emotions!

I'm still trying to avoid any major grocery shops, trying to clear stuff out and bring in new, fresh stuff that is more health-minded and less processed.

So here's what we have planned for the week ...

Sunday - ummm, hmmm. Left over Giordanos pizza that we took on the plane with us from Chicago. Seriously ... yummy.

MondayRaunchy Chicken (ranch chicken) in the crockpot ... gonna be a long day at the office (chicken in freezer rest in pantry ... 2 other ingredients!) Adding a side of Green Beans just for kicks!

Tuesday - salad stuff baby, gotta get back in the groove. This evening we are having Cobb Salad. Sent Hubby to the store today to replenish the salad supply (he came home with ICEBERG lettuce ...) and need to dig around for some lunchmeat in the freezers ... know I have some in there!

Wednesday - our usual night out however we may just stay in as the expense from last week was high. Again, thinking of chinese which has NOT happened yet. I've got stuff in the freezer to make just about anything, I'd think!

Thursday - the first day of December! And I'm opting for soup even though we are still experiencing summer like weather ... soup of the day? Why Potato Soup of course ... just because the original looks so yummy ... will have to stop and get hashbrowns (I have a coupon) but have the rest of the stuff. So hoping this is as good as it looks ...

Friday - most likely getting together with some friends ... thinking appetizers like shrimp cocktails, cheese and crackers and spread, maybe some hot spinach dip in the mini crockpot. I have shrimp in freezer, cheese in fridge, crackers in pantry, I can make the spread and spinach stuff in freezer and pantry.

Saturday - we will be having our neighborhood garage sale today ... I've got a couple of porterhouse steaks in the freezer that I think I'll pull out and make a mushroom and blue cheese sauce to go over ... yummm ... if I could just find that recipe I had loaned to a friend years ago ... if I did this, I'd need blue cheese ... so maybe I'll hold off as that's a little pricey.

2 crockpot meals in one week with a 3rd proposed appetizer? I'm going for it! I've got 3 large ones and 2 small mini ones so why not?

What are you planning on making this week?? Hop on over and check out what 100's of other bloggers are cooking up at Menu Plan Monday.

Being Thankful

The long holiday weekend is coming to an end and I am sitting here, being thankful.

Thankful for many things. And not so thankful for others.

But the key is to remember those things that I do give thanks for.

Thankful that we were able to feed a houseful of teen boys this morning even though we've been gone for 6 days.

Thankful for my friends who teamed up and worked out a schedule (without me knowing) to play with the cats, check the mail and garden and such.

Thankful for my Hubby who made our trip completely possible with as little fuss as possible.

Thankful for the love his family shows ME.

Thankful that I have a job to look forward to tomorrow (and a paycheck is waiting).

Thankful that I have clothes to wear this week without necessarily HAVING to do laundry today if I choose not to.

See. There are plenty of things to be thankful for, things that you just take for granted. Because it's so easy to say "woe is me" and feel sorry and discontentment.  Trust me, there are PLENTY of things that I can complain about, that I can change around up above .... such as yeah, I have lots of clothes to wear, but they aren't everything I want them to be (so why did I buy them then???), that I have no bread or muffins left in the house (but the boys were truly appreciative that WE took the time to feed THEM), that the trip was a little 'stressful' in family ways, but it's family.

I am truly thankful for EVERYTHING I have, regardless if it's at the quality or quantity I want it to be at.

This will come in handy for the Next Big Adventure. Positive attitude covers so many things!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hoping everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving with food to grace your table, and family and friends to share with.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Close Your Eyes and Just DO IT

Heh. Yeah. I went for it.

Regardless of the WTF factor, I'm gonna do this.


Shaving Cream

Warm water and towels.

30 minutes of my valuable, precious time.

Yeah. I did it.

Can't be any worse than the last manicure/pedicure I had.

The outcome? Not so bad.

Shaving cream was the Schick Hydro stuff and I probably was not generous enough with it.

I measured 1 cup of listerine and 1 cup of warm water and mixed in a medium size bowl.

Then used two washcloths.

Sat and read magazines for 30 minutes.

Gave gentle scrub then rinsed well in tub. Dried and then applied coconut oil. Put on socks and still pretty hours later.

I will do it again next Sunday as I still have lots of listerine/water mix going on. But here's what I'll do different:

Use lots and lots of shaving cream. Toss the washcloths in the microwave to warm them up after I wring them out. My feet got pretty chilly sitting there.

Did it 'cure' the cracked heels?

No. It didn't. I don't think anything will, short of shaving off the dead skin.

But it DID make my feet softer and some of the dead skin came off ... I mean, no matter what you used, if you wrapped your feet in a damp towel for 30 minutes, I think it would soften the skin enough to remove.

This could fit in with Rule #10!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Potato Soup - Crockpot Style

Apparently, this is compatible to Outback's potato soup, but I wouldn't know because I haven't been to an Outback in years, seriously, like 8, maybe even 10??

But with a blog named Pearls, Handcuffs and Happy Hour, you have to trust the girl, nod your head, and say Amen Sister =D.

But all kidding aside ... it's fast approaching December, the most magical time of the year and well, them damn Target employees were wearing Santa Hats on November 19th ... so I felt the need to bookmark the recipe and make it as soon as December rolled around.

December 1st, to be exact. Yes, that would be Thursday coming up. No, no, NOT Thanksgiving, but the following Thursday. Geesh.

The original recipe is here. This is how I'm planning to do mine ...

1 large bag of frozen, shredded hash browns. I will have to hide as Hubby will automatically assume that is breakfast food.
2 cartons (32 oz each) of chicken stock (pantry, Costco buy)
1 can cream o' chicken soup (real deal, campbell)
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1/4 tsp ground black pepper (although I'm considering white since I have some)
1 8oz pkg of cream cheese. Sorry, apparently NO FAT will not melt, so don't use unless you want clumpy stuff
Optional for topping: bacon bits, shredded cheese, chopped green onions, diced red onions, etc. Personally, you gotta have toppings! So we will have all but red onions as I'm not buying THOSE.

So just toss everything except the cream cheese in your crockpot. Mix it up a little (just because), set on low, and go to work for the day.

Come home 8 hours later, praise the Lord that you thought to make dinner before you left this morning and throw in the cream cheese. Personally, because I'm different, I cut mine up in cubes. Go ahead, be different with me. Put the lid back on and wait another hour (more or less) til the cheese melts.

Note: Next time, I think I'll try the country style diced potatoes ... just sayin.

Serve it up and top with choice of toppings! Enjoy!

Linking up with Ultimate Recipe Swap ...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cobb Salad

This is Hubby's favorite salad that he will almost be guaranteed to order if we meet for lunch during the week for about the price of oh ... say, $8.99 plus tax and tip (and the ice tea)  ... so I need to make it more often at home for a fraction of the price!

It's pretty easy to do too, just a little bit of chopping and lining up and you are D. O. N. E.

Head of romaine lettuce, chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
Cooked chicken, turkey or ham, chopped
bacon bits
cheddar cheese, shredded
olives, chopped (for Hubby's)
Additional items that you like (avocado, onion, etc., just chop)

Lay lettuce out in the bottom of a shallow, smaller dish. Then simply make a row down the middle with the meat, then cheese on one side and eggs on the other. Then bacon bits on one side and olives on the other side.

Serve with either ranch or honey mustard dressing and be happy!

Linking up to Frugal Fridays and GCC and wishing we were going to have leftover turkey to use in this!

Ranchy Chicken in the Crockpot

I wanted to type Raunchy Chicken but figured not too many people would find it funny UNLESS you knew me and my friend Cat ... Cat always has a hard time putting the right word in and most likely would have said raunchy ... especially if there had been a glass of wine or two involved.

Any ways.

The original recipe is modified from the Real Mom Kitchen  ... (which, thanks to Pinterest, I've discovered!) and since I had chicken on hand, figured why not? Bonus for me: I had EVERYTHING on hand ...

So, I give to you, my readers, fans, followers, stalkers, what have you:

Raunchy Chicken

6 normal size b/s chicken breast (freezer)
1 packet of dry ranch dressing seasoning mix (Aldi's for i think 49 cents?)
1 can of cream o' chicken soup (the real deal, Campbell, picked up for ... 50 cents with coupon)

Toss all in crockpot, cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Yeah, that's it! Of course, if you are thinking clearly, you will toss the soup in the pot, then the ranch dressing, give it a quick stir, then toss in the chicken, sort of bury them a little and then walk away.

Ummmm... yeah, too easy, huh? When serving, feel free to sprinkle with some chopped parsley to make it pretty and special =D

NOTE: on the other site, she served hers up with some garlicy mashed taters to serve with the gravy. IF you are planning on serving with something that gravy will be good on, then by all means, use 2 cans of soup and another packet of ranch!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Modifying a Smoothie

Well, I say modifying it but it could also be relayed as making it better?

I have a few of those Yoplait smoothie things in the freezer from when I picked them up for $1 a bag ... they are good and all but really, not as healthy as I'd like to think. They were to be for the kids, but for whatever reason, they didn't dig into them as much as I thought (perhaps its the fact that it calls for 1 cup of milk??)

So in my efforts to use what we have on hand this week (week 2 and not doing so very bad) I made a smoothie for my breakfast this morning (no bagels OR sausage patties left for my favorite breakfast sandwiches) ...

1/2 cup of 2% milk
3 tbs non fat instant powder milk
1/2 cup water
1 bag of Yoplait smoothie
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 tbs ground flax seed
Put all in blender and let it rip til smooth. (used the Cuisinart because I gave the bullet to Sonny Boy for his apt).

Pretty tasty. I think next time though I will do the oatmeal and flax seed FIRST in the blender to make it powdery THEN add the remaining ingredients. I suppose I could even just do 6 tbs of milk powder and 1 cup of water next time too.

*The reason I did the half milk and half reconstituted stuff is basically to conserve the milk. Milk is costing around $3.75 a gallon around here and we still go through 2 gallons a week so I’m trying to use the powdered stuff where I can because I have like 8 packets (each packet makes a quart but I don't mix it in that amount, I’m the only one who’s using it)

*The reason I did the ground flax seed is because I HAVE some and I just read that omega 3 fatty acids help against inflammation. And as you know, I have issues with this so it’s kind of a trial and error thing at this point. Also, contains a LOT of fiber and getting to the age where fiber is GOOD for me.

Linking up with GCC Recipe Swap (been awhile since I've visited there ... forgot how fun it can be!)

Menu Plan Monday - Using It Up

We will be heading out next week for a visit with the family ... so excited about that (and a little apprehensive as Sonny Boy is flying out of Orlando and I have to drive back to the airport to pick him up on Tuesday evening) ... so I need to stay focused and use up what we have in the fridge and such ...

Sunday - Kashi frozen pizzas (got them for $4 a piece) and small garden salad on side. Wanted to make some ciabatta bread to go too but that seems a little excessive.

Monday - chicken and broccoli (using the philly cream cheese stuff) with pasta

Tuesday - chef salad

Wednesday - normally our night out but I think we will be staying in ... if so, I'd like to suggest stirfry or something (3 weeks now?)

Thursday - Going to have to be another salad IF there is salad stuff left over still. If not, I'll do the corn/black beans/chicken salad stuff (quesidillas??)

Friday - hoping to toss a chicken in the crockpot and maybe some mashed potatoes to go along with it?

Saturday - Ahhh....I'm betting any money we will get together with some friends. If so, I will contribute a cheese and smoked summer sausage platter with crackers ... only because I KNOW that I will have this on hand!

I wouldn't normally toss another Sunday on the list but since we leave on Monday, I am ... leftovers OR soup and sandwiches ... whatever I have that needs to be used up. Somehow, I think I will hear hubby saying something about "nothing to eat in the house" which ALWAYS makes me laugh :)

Linking up with Menu Plan Monday ... check it out!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Casserole

Its a once in a blue moon type of thing for me to say that I made a casserole.

But today, I did. But it's not for us to eat at the house.

It's for Hubby to take with him to the office tomorrow. He has a new employee who JUST moved here from the other coast, and he thinks the guy is flat broke and living in his car til his wife comes and a few paychecks roll in.

That makes me sad. Very very sad. But there is hope in that Hubby must be coming around and be a little more sensitive =D which is a joke, yet not really.

Anyways. When we made dinner Saturday night, he insisted that we double the meat for the grill and made an extra side dish.

To take to work "as leftovers" and to tell the gang that it's too much food for us at home. Hmmm. That's pretty nice honey.

This morning, we were talking about the status of chicken in the freezers and if I wanted to make some more stuff.

Hmmm...How about a casserole type thingy? He just looked at me, well, because, well, read the first line of this post again ...

I googled and came up with this:

Chicken, cheese, rice and broccoli casserole

2 cups water (which I totally spaced off!)
2 cups uncooked instant rice (I used brown) cooked
2 10 oz cans of chunk chicken (have!)
1 cream of shroom soup (had!)
1 cream of chix soup (had!)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup milk (I did half milk and half reconstituted milk)
16 oz broccoli (frozen)
small onion, chopped (used dried onions)
1 lb cheese food {shudder} (used 1 cup of shredded cheddar)

Mix all together in 9x12 pan (sprayed with Pam first) and bake 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Stir halfway to mix up.

So I covered mine half way and it started to dry out a little. Ummm....gee, think that's because I forgot the 2 cups water?? Also added a bit of black pepper and some (1/4 tsp) garlic powder (go easy, that stuff is potent). Definately needs MORE seasonings so be sure to add more for your taste ...

It's good though. And I think everyone will enjoy at the office.

I've declared this a Pantry Meal since 98% could be from the pantry!

Original recipe from All Recipes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veteran's Day

It's November 11th, and I pay homage to all our Vets who have served our country and kept us safe.

Every year, Pompano Beach High School JROTC have led a very moving and special Veteran's Day Ceremony, which they call Fallen Heroes. Because PBHS does not have class on Friday's they have the ceremony the Thursday of that week (this year, it's on the 10th).

They honor local vets, and those who have fallen. They've presented a flag in honor of a fallen soldier to a family member.

They also do a retiring of a flag which is very emotional for me.

I just want to give, yet again, a hats off and a job well done to LTC Johnson and 1SG McGruder ... 

for the excellent job that they do with the kids who opt to take JROTC.

Each year, the ceremony and attendance grows larger and the number of flags grow too as a flag is place for each fallen soldier.

Pictures along with rank and name and place of birth are placed on each one of these flags. Then the cadets set each flag in rows around the courtyard.

I am thankful that my daughter, yes, the Princess, was a part of this.

Remember our true heroes and what they are doing for YOU. And if you see a member of the United States Service or a retired veteran today, please do give them the respect that they deserve along with a Thank You for all they've given.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Finally, Printing Options!

I'm fortunate in that one of the attorney's in my office has asked if I'd like to do a little side work for him at home.

Sure! It's the Holidays approaching, Sonny Boy is in school, extra rent being paid for him, plus his ordinary living expenses (trust me, he's NOT living high on the hog by any means!), real estate taxes coming due and so on.

So I am getting about $400.00 extra a month at the moment doing searches and reports for him.

Of course, it's a LOT of printing so I'm thinking I should look into a new printer.  He's offered to buy me a new printer, which I just sort of looked at him like, "Huh? Why would you do that??" Really, that's too generous and I will not allow that. Sorry, my friend.

Then I started to notice these "XL" ink cartridges first. You know, the ones that say "Up to 3 X More Pages"?

I've priced them and they are a little over twice the regular price. So really, besides the fact that it's less timing to swap them out when they run empty, less waste, not a whole lot of savings though as I can't say for SURE that's it 3 times more ink.

Hmmm. Monetarily, not a GREAT bargain. But less waste and less time? Yeah, worth it. $14.99 for a regular ink cartridge, or buy a 2 pack for $29.99 or buy the XL for $35.99.

BUT to make things even better, I've finally, FINALLY figured out how to print in black only and bypass the color! Want to know how?

Go to your start button and select printers.

Right click on the printer and select printing options.

Click for fast draft printing and then there should be another selection under color options where you can click for black ink only (typically in the gray scale area).

SAVE this option as a default and there you have it. I saved mine as CG ... of course, the initials of the attorney =D.

Of course, every printer is different, but holy ink Batman, this works for me! Now if I could just figure out why I lost my wireless connection ... that's my next project!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

When You Receive Bad Service

What do you do?

Recently, I 'ahem' caved in and did a walk in for a pedicure and manicure. Heck, it was $30 and my feet have been killing me with the cracks and callouses from wearing sandals (its south Florida, we wear them 11 1/2 months a year).

I've not been to this particular place in YEARS (which now, maybe I remember why!) but it wasn't busy for a Saturday morning so I waited the 15 minutes.

Ummm...the fact that it wasn't BUSY on a Saturday morning should have alerted me.

3 employees working.

Me in the pedicure chair.

Water is HOT and I jerk my feet out. He (pedicure man) says it's ok, and goes to work on clipping the nails (ummm, what, no soak? Bummer). Then SHE (manicure lady) comes over and starts clipping my fingernails. Again (ummmm, what, no soak?).

Now they are both clipping the cuticles. Ow! Ow! OW!! I'm bleeding here folks. Seriously.

Pat pat pat. There there, all better.

I try to settle in to the massaging chair. Difficult to relax.

Light lotion. Light rub.

Huh? No massage? Really? Seriously? Come on. This is my NUMBER ONE reason for doing this. Really bummed now even after I tell them it's my FAVORITE part.

Smile. Pat. Pat. pat.

Color on, usher out of chair to drying station and told $30.

My one finger is still sensitive and I'm sure will produce a hangnail any day now.

My feet are still dry and peeling but now red on top of it.

I did give a tip only because I wanted the heck out of that place.

So. What would you do? Not that I can particularly send a letter to the owner as these places are owned and operated by the people themselves.

Send a letter to the state? For careless and injuring work? Sloppy workmanship? What?

I just can't believe I paid money for this. The only good thing is the color is pretty and now I feel the need to go find it at ULTA for my own stash (BEFORE the Year of Zero comes in).

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trying To Do Good

I ran into my neighbor at the grocery store a few weekends ago. I haven't seen or talked to her in several weeks and had been meaning to call her and hassle her about the fact that surely, at the age of 70, she wasn't going back to work since I've noticed her car gone every morning by 7:30am. (She lives next door to me and my one kitchen window looks over her carport.)

I should have known something was up as soon as we made eye contact.

First off, her dog passed. Which is sad. Thor was such a good dog, old, but still. Good Dog. I thought that was the bad news.

Poor Joan. Her eyes were just wide and empty.

Remember, this is my neighbor who just had her kidney removed in June. 70 years old. We garden side by side over the fence. Every year for the past 11 years.

She's now undergoing radiation 5 days a week and chemo once a week.

For lung cancer.

This, after she quit smoking AND drinking 10 years ago for throat cancer. Which she did radiation and surgery then and beat it.

Now this.

It breaks my heart. Devastating. Makes me cry when I think about it.

Angry. She's been through enough already.

The part that really bothers me is that she's not told many people, and that she drives herself to her treatments, by herself, 40 minutes each way, every stinkin day.

Does not want her husband to go with her.

So this morning, I ran into V, another older neighbor (who is a retired hospice nurse that recently went through breast cancer). V knows about it and confirmed that this was not a mild case.

We both agreed that one of us should go with her for the chemo treatments since that is a little long to be by yourself. We discussed doing it on a rotation basis, me this week, her next week.

But now, more than anything, I want to do something for her. Just her.

But I'm afraid. I keep tearing up just thinking about it. And that's the last thing I need to do as I know she does not want sympathy ... she only wants to see Christmas, her grandson, her daughter and all those other things in life that make her happy.

Oh my heart. It feels like someone is just tearing it out piece by piece.

So this past weekend, we got in her car (she insisted on driving) and drove to the nursery, picked up some tomato and pepper plants, and browsed around to look at the huge selection of outdoor plants. We had a very nice, leisure stroll, much longer than an average shopper would have taken.

We pay for the plants, take them home, and plant them, me on my side of the fence, and her on her side of the fence. And we laugh and talk about everything, but THAT.

We finally finish up and hold the hose for each other to wash our hands off. And finally, I tell her, I'm not at all happy that she's doing these trips by herself and that I would be more than happy to go with her for the 3 hour chemo trips if she'd like me to.

Said no. That she wants to do this while she still can. That she wants to remain independent as long as she can. And at this point we are both holding back our tears, because now, she's telling me that it's inoperable and final.

I get it now.

Which makes me all the more glad that I went ahead and did the gardening stuff then instead of waiting til next weekend.

She has her 84 year old brother coming in this week and he will go with for her treatments for the 7 days he is here. Then her daughter comes in for 5 days and she will take her. The Husband, Mr. Bill, will step in when needed after that.

Sometimes, you have to follow along when someone is trying to live life "normally". I think I get it now. I really do.

Say a prayer for my friend, I will be. And perhaps wish us luck with these tomato plants this year. This is the year that they should be everything and more, just for Joan.

Menu Plan Monday - Using What I Have

It's Monday, again and at last.

We had a busy weekend around here with the weather being a little cooler and the breeze blowing a little stronger. Hubby cleaned the exterior of the house and screens and I mopped the whole inside of house AND planted my garden, AT LAST. See, here in South Florida, late October signals gardening season ... and with the little cool front that came through, it gave me and my neighbor the motivation to go shop for plants! We did that Sunday morning and by 2pm our gardens were set up and ready to go. I still have to plant the lettuce seeds in the starter boxes but that's ok. *My neighbor, who is like my close to home Mom, is currently undergoing radiation and chemo so this is, hopefully, good therapy for her. She's trying so hard to be strong and independent that it breaks my heart {sob}*.

So back to the Plan ... nothing too exciting going on this week, except it's 2 more weeks til we head out for the holiday. I'd like to stick with a reduce spending plan but we shall see ... it's also getting to the home stretch for the Year of Zero ... and keeping my fingers crossed that I can keep the attitude!

I'm going to try and stay OUT of the store, with the exception of lettuce, cat food and milk, for the whole week until Saturday OR Sunday, maybe even into NEXT week. I've got a $3 off $30 coupon and granted, some good deals to be had at the moment at the store, I really don't need anything more. The coupon is good until the 15th of the month so I've got another week.

So again, back to the Plan (why, no, I don't think I have a problem with staying on task. Why do you ask?)

Sunday - Chili (hubby made) with dinner franks (massive hot dogs, freezer and from Costco)

Monday - Stirfy (veggies in freezer) with chicken (fridge) with a side of rice (pantry)

Tuesday - Chicken (freezer) with broccoli (fridge) (both of us will be home a little later than normal from working out). Seriously considering tossing a WHOLE body in the crockpot and letting it do its thing.

Wednesday - Date Night (under $40) for Hubby and I. Not sure where we will go and may even try to convince him to stay in ... either way, I still want chinese.

Thursday - Soup (leftovers hopefully) and salad (chili if any left, otherwise I will toss something easy together)

Friday - Grillin and chillin night ... chops (freezer) and veggies (fridge) (bumped a few times, still have them in the freezer)

Saturday - Ranch steaks (freezer) with taters (pantry)

It should also be noted that we are in the season where people start coming back down (snowbirds) and other friends (who split time here and elsewhere) so we increase our likelihood of guest for dinner during the weekends (generally Friday and Saturday) ... so these plans can be changed or even just DROPPED at the last minute!

Got a plan for the week? Hop on  over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday and link up with hundreds of others!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Reviewing the Monthly Bills

Isn't it amazing how many bills are really generated a month for household expenses?

First off, we do have cable, satellite radio, internet, landline, cell phones, exterminators (it's south Florida, folks), pool service and lawn service and the list goes on. And I know, all these items right there do NOT need to be part of the household budget, but here, they are.

Some bills stay the same, like the exterminator, pool and lawn guy.

Others fluctuate, like the electric. Which, thankfully, is finally $270 for the month (after peaking out at $450 a few months ago), and the land line, which really, should stay the same, but once in a while someone (ahem) calls their mommy on that instead of the cellphone on a Saturday morning (which by the way, the cell is FREE long distance AND FREE time, especially on a Saturday morning).

The cable bill SHOULD be the same each month too. Except when you change your service, like we just did.

AND that is when you need to scrutinize it. Very. Very. Carefully.

There were so many charges and credits that I immediately said No Way.

1. I added 3 HD boxes. $8.50 a month additional (yeah, excessive, I know, but this is the one thing Hubby truly enjoys AND he did just buy the new toy). This, I hope, will keep us home more frequently and provide cheap'er' entertainment (hey, the remote has a netflix button that takes you STRAIGHT to netflix, no more jockying around with the Wii to get it up).

2. I've been on the same basic "starter" program for so long, that I felt the need to ask the guy at the counter if there was any kind of special going on that we could switch to. Well there was, $69.99 for the internet and cable (as opposed to $99 we were currently paying). I opted out of the phone program. So he switched me over to that.  Which technically, should have put me at the same amount I was currently paying since I added on $25 in monthly boxes. (FYI, I'm truly curious as to how much it is for premium channels, you know, HBO, Showtime, etc. but afraid to look).

Ummm. No. The bill was $150 plus.

Review. Review. Shake head. Review some more. Ahhh. Installation? Internet installation? $99? Really. Oh there, it's credited.

$25.90 installation times two. Really? I don't think so. Review. Review and review. Hmmm. There's a $51.90 credit, but nope, that's not it. (At this point, I'm getting angry because why would I have TWO installations and not three if I got THREE boxes?)

I finally called. I hate calling Comcast. They are soooo scripted and well, just not right. Not to mention, after we had to switch to those dopey little digital boxes, we had so many problems with outages that my call log is probably an hour in the making to load on their system.

Anyways, I was asked five times, if I did NOT have someone come to the house to install the boxes.

Uh. No. I'm sure I would remember that because we spent a WHOLE weekend and into the week too doing this.

Finally, the customer service dude says that he will submit for the removal of the charges. I had to repeatedly ask how much the credit would be.

"Oh, not a credit. We will remove the charge. Um. Hold on, let me see how much it will be" ??? "$25."  "$25.08". Oh my ... I finally told him how much it should be ($51.80).

My point is, not to bash Comcast (well, maybe a tiny bit) but to say that you need to review your bills each and every month.

The phone bill at work for the elevator? We have it restricted toll access as we had a problem where people were making long distance calls on it (yes, really. People who didn't have permanent addresses were using it). So we pay $9 for that. Then AT&T started charging a minimal long distance fee of $12 a month (includes tax, fees, etc.) ... 2nd month in a row I've had to dispute it. This last month they also charged us a fee for changing our long distance provider. Yeah, amazing, huh? They can't tell me how or why this keeps happening, but now that I'm aware of it, I will keep following up.

So even IF your bill is within $5 each month, review. And call if anything seems odd, or you have any questions. Seriously.

Linking up with Frugal Fridays because paying $50 for something you didn't have or need is totally NOT saving money!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dry Cleaning - an at home alternative

I work in a law firm. Granted, it's small, we are very laid back and I can get away with casual attire. No, not shorts and tank tops, but I can wear jeans, nice tshirts and clean sneakers (notice the key words on those last two items? Very fine line here folks).

However, there are also times where I need to be a wee bit more professional, which is generally when I grab one of my thrift store finds ... because heck, if it's not something I'm wearing weekly, I'm not about to pay full price (I'd prefer that be the way of everything, honestly!).

With the thrift store stuff, and the nicer, more professional clothing, a lot of times, it's says "dry clean only". I'll be perfectly honest. I've WASHED these things in the washer and then line dried. Ummm....not always with great success, and sometimes, EPIC failure. But regardless, I at least tried.

So when I saw Fake It Frugal do a post on the at home stuff you can buy, I figured, what the heck. I've had a black jacket and skirt in a pile in my closet for oh, 3 months (??!!) to go to the dry cleaners, but have been holding off (??!!) because I know it's going to cost me at LEAST $15 to clean. Heck, I can buy a big 100oz bottle of Tide for that! So the other night, I stopped at Target and picked up TWO 6 packs of Woolite dry cleaning stuff. They were $9.99 each and had $1 off coupon, so figure $8.99. Each packet will wash up to 4 items (I bet more if they are thin).

I pulled the jacket and skirt up off the floor. Shook them out and looked for stains (always fun on black) and grumbled about the damn cat that sleeps in my closet and ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS sleeps on my stuff, leaving black and white hair everywhere. Anyways. Also grabbed my pretty black dress off a hanger. Heck, I'm not going to waste the sheet on two measly items. I looked for a 4th item but just couldn't find anything.

Off into the dryer they went with the sheet. 20 minutes on medium. Do not leave the items in dryer when done (oh doh, I always do this!).

20 minutes later (ding!) and out they came. Hmmm. Ummm. Uh huh. Nice. Mmmmm they smell nice. All the kitty hair is gone. That white spot (deodorant?) is gone from the dress.

I'm sold. SOLD!

Now, I can imagine that if this is stuff worn on a consistent basis, you may still want to fill in with dry cleaning because surely there's more to it than this! I mean shirts and blouses will eventually need some pit treatment of sorts, not just for odor purposes, but the oils from skin and deodorant.

So yeah, it's definitely something I'm going to continue to do. Hubby's got a few slacks that we always take to the cleaners whenever he travels (nice, EXPENSIVE ones, I ruined ONE pair washing which was the EPIC FAILURE episode) ... so I'm anxious to try. I'm actually really EXCITED to try some other items but am holding out til I have enough to utilize the experiment to it's fullest extent =D

By the way, I was worried about the shrinking and wrinkle factor on the linings of the jacket and skirt. No issues. I would guess it's the water from the washer that causes the shrinking and wrinkling.

Linking up with Works For Me Wednesday because it WORKS!