Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

May you and your family have a blessed and safe 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

A New Year Approaches

Can you believe 2011 is almost over? It's been a wild year with a lot of emotional upheaval in my life. I'm hoping 2012 will be a little less crazy and a little more mellow.

One of the biggest things that hubby and I have discussed is our eating habits. They are atrocious. I am an emotional eater and have been all my life. It wasn't a big deal when I was in high school and weighed barely 100 pounds. I would come home from school and eat an entire box of Macaroni and Cheese by myself. I can still do that today and still be hungry.

I've basically doubled in weight. :( And it's depressing. I've tried working out in the past and we start and stop on the eating 'healthy' bandwagon. But we always seem to fail.

Maybe it's because we aren't usually on the same page with our eating habits...having a hubby work night shifts can be challenging for making dinner plans.

On top of our eating challenges I am struggling with my future. Should I be a stay at home mom? Or should I cut my hours at work and stay home more days a week but still work. This year may be one of transformation.

Hubby and I have also started talking about having another little kiddo...and that will have a huge impact on my decision to work or not. I cannot imagine paying for care for two children. Paying for one child is hard enough. But I think we could arrange to pay for part time care of two kids.

One of my goals for the coming year is to blog more often and consistently. I'd really like to be able to add value out here in the big world wide web and perhaps earn some extra income for my family through small unobtrusive ads or affiliate links.

Lots to think about and blog about.

Here's to a great New Year! Be safe!

Monday, December 5, 2011

More Gift Ideas - Christmas 2011

For some reason this year I haven't got a huge list of people to buy gifts for...there are some depressing reasons for this, but also just fewer gift obligations.

If I could, I'd love to get these gifts for people...but maybe you could find them the right home.

Don't tell, but I may have to order one of these for a stocking stuffer for a certain sister in law. These big Twig colored pencils are so cool.

Well, you can't have this particular one 'cause I'm getting it for hubby's stocking. But SoFino has lots of other options that are sure to meet your needs. And it's such a unique and cool idea.

Have a stressed mom, grandma, aunt, niece, or really anyone? This eye pillow is the perfect calming gift.

And this is the ultimate cool gift for any Harry Potter fan. Although I don't love the idea of an HP book being mutilated, I love this idea...a secret safe made from a Harry Potter book!

Happy Shopping!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Gymnastics with a Two Year Old - Stretching

Marshal started doing gymnastics a few months ago. It's been an interesting experience.

He wasn't quite two when we started...and had only had one month of daycare so his "classroom" experience was extremely limited. It's a mom and tot class so I'm "lucky" enough to participate as well (please read the sarcasm there).

Class starts with the stretch circle where all the kids have to go get their carpet squares (or circles). Marshal picked this up pretty quickly and can pick out and then put away his carpet pretty easily.

Stretching is a foreign concept to a two year old. But moving his knees up and down like a butterfly is fun. And pointing out the butterfly catcher and then ducking is fun. So is smelling your stinky toes.

Oh, and stretching with your legs straight out is actually making a pizza or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or chocolate chip cookies. It's fun.

Especially when you get to pound the peanuts to make the peanut butter. Then you "slice" your pizza or sandwich so you can eat one side and then the other.

Marshal isn't quite there but last class he held his stretch for the count of ten...which was a first.

I'm not sure how our teacher Katrina has the patience to put up with a class of two year olds and their parents. I barely have the patience to last the 50 minute class. Especially when Marshal is grouchy. But it's a fun experience.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Jewelry Gift Ideas from Low to High

Can you believe it's already December?

If you're looking for something special for that special someone may I suggest a jewelry piece from my shop?

These copper focused earrings are beautiful waves with sparkling Swarovski crystals swaying below. At only $19 these are a great affordable gift option.

I love these pretty sterling silver ball earrings. I added a natural faceted Rock Crystal rondelle on top for an affordable gift at $25.

If your special person loves the ocean, fish, the tropics, or the colors of a tropical sea this is the bracelet for them. Made using Swarovski crystals, handmade glass beads, and Sterling silver as well as a cute little turquoise blue sterling fish charm, this bracelet is $67.

I generally focus on silver toned jewelry, but this golden inspired bracelet is a beautiful exception. Three strands of random patterned freshwater pearls in ivory and gold accented with gold filled and vermeil gold beads, this bracelet is $57.

There are many others pieces listed in my Etsy shop. And if you'd like a custom created piece feel free to contact me through my shop. Custom orders can only be guaranteed to arrive by Christmas if placed by December 10.

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What's On Your List?

While I love shopping at stores like Coach, Target, and other big corporations, I still have a soft spot for small, local, and handmade. One of my goals is to do as much gift giving from artists who create with their hands. Here are some beautiful gifts you may want to consider for your friends and family.

I ordered from Bellamiababy a couple of years ago. I got a blanket for my mother in law and my little cousin. I liked them so much I ordered one for myself last year for my Christmas gift to myself. My son likes it so much I am probably going to end up getting him one too! The craftsmanship is second to none and she also does custom orders. I ordered a larger sized blanket for myself. :)

I think this canvas wrapped print would look so beautiful in our home. It's on my favorites list too.

These glossy lip tints would make great stocking stuffers!

I bought hubby a hummingbird mug last year for Christmas and he loves it...these folks are talented. I'm seriously tempted to get the Chickadee mug this year.

I'll keep my eye open for more gift ideas. Get your family and friends something unique - buy handmade!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Champ is Hilarious

Every time this commercial comes on TV I crack up. It helps that I'm a huge fan of Target.

Seriously. This lady and her facial expressions crack me up.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Giving Thanks

It's been a crazy Thanksgiving week. Strokes. Heart Surgery. Alcoholism. My family has some stressful moments.

But life continues, despite our challenges. Marshal is as adorable as ever. We had Thanksgiving at my grandpa's and it was a lot of fun. We played Bingo for scratch tickets and everyone really had fun, even grandpa. We're going to do it at Christmas too!

Thank you, Alycia Morgan for the gorgeous picture!

Jewelry designing comes and goes. I made five new pairs of earrings in a day...and then I'll go for a week without even sitting down at my jewelry table. I think when life gets really hectic my creative juices get bunched up and sour. Then again, sometimes that chaos inspires.

The season is upon us and life will surely continue to be crazy. We're almost done with our Christmas shopping already. Thank you Black Friday at the Outlet Mall. :) If you still have some shopping to do, may I suggest Etsy? Support handmade!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Shop Early and Save

My Open House was a lot of fun and way easier than actually hauling everything to set up at a craft show. I'm thinking of having another one in November but haven't decided for sure.

In the mean in October and get FREE shipping on your purchase. Just enter HAPPYHALLOWEEN at checkout and get your order shipped in the United States for free.

Good through 10/31/11. Shop now and avoid that pre Christmas or Hanukkah rush! =)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Success in Failing

Are young people (and by young I mean 30 and I'm no longer considered young) today taught about the need to fail? And why is it that we even need to "teach" such an idea. I'm sure my grandparents never were "taught" how to fail...their parents let them fail plenty.

As a Recruiting Manager I see a lot of failure. The associates who succeed in the end don't let that failure stop them in their tracks. The ones who see the temporary failures as permanent will never make it any further. It seems that a lot of younger, and sadly some of the older associates, that we hire see failure as a bad thing.

I understand that failure can be a letdown and an impediment. In reality, we need to see "failure" as an opportunity to learn. Why did that approach fail? What could I have done differently? What can I learn and do different in the future?

One younger associate came in dejected recently because of a particularly hard business loss. Could it have been avoided? Possibly, but probably not. It affected him and another, slightly older, associate. Guess which one picked himself back up and kept on going?

Yup...the older guy.

Failing doesn't make you a loser. Quitting after you fail does.

I'm sure Bill Gates or Steve Jobs failed a lot. A LOT. As did Thomas Edison, the man who's invention is now being outlawed, and who found 1,000 ways to not make a light bulb (aka failing) before succeeding in giving us the miracle of electric light.

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Up, Daddy, Up

Marshal is a cowboy at heart. And daddy makes the perfect horsey. Daddy was laying on the floor and Marshal sat on his back and said "up, daddy, up". lol It was so cute. Daddy said he was "broken". =) I love seeing them play together.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What a Week

Last week was painful. Horribly painful and exhausting.

I took my mom to surgery on Monday. She had both knees replaced and is doing awesome...way better than anyone expected. She's in the rehab unit now but already ready to go home. She is walking well - they had her walking the first day after her surgery.

Tuesday my grandfather had open heart surgery. He's doing ok...still in the hospital and having some pain and nausea but all things considered he's doing good. He is 84 after all.

The biggest drama came from my little brother...little as in 30 years old. He's trying his darndest to kill himself. He's an alcoholic and has been admitted now four times in two weeks. The first time my grandpa took him in they admitted him with Pancreatitis. And a blood alcohol of .43. He was discharged after four days and taken to my moms house.

When she went into the hospital for surgery he somehow found money and walked to the liquor store and drank a fifth of vodka. My aunt called the ambulance (severe abdominal pain) and I ended up at the hospital until midnight. He was discharged Wednesday around noon...and by 4 p.m. he was back in the hospital with abdominal pain.

Alcoholics lie. He swears he didn't drink Wednesday when he got home. Yeah. Blood alcohol of .2 tells another story. He was admitted until I took him home on Friday.

He was admitted again Sunday. My mom's neighbor saw him walking down the street and asked him where he was going. To get booze.

I'm not sure how to handle this situation. I'm exhausted and emotionally drained. He's supposed to go into rehab on Wednesday. Whether it will do any good I do not know. I'd really like to have my brother real brother. Not the alcoholic, lying, a**hole who has taken over his life.

Monday, October 10, 2011

To The Angry People Behind Me at Walmart

It wasn't my fault!

Walmart has a Price Matching policy. Part of that policy is that you don't have to actually bring the ads in with you...just tell them the price of the product you want to price match and the ad it came from. The staff are supposed to have the ads in the store for their local area.

The last couple of months I've had great success doing price matching...I just write up my list of price matches, what stores they were from, and took that list with me to Walmart and they adjusted the prices.

Today was a different day. I got in the line of the lady who I think is the front end manager...and a lady who I "fought" with several years ago over the coupon policy. I'm sure she doesn't remember me...although I was right and she was wrong.

So I had half a dozen items to price match, some of which were really great deals. Instead of going to multiple stores, I love being able to get stuff all in one place. Albertsons had Nestle Morsels on sale for $1.49. Safeway has Barilla Pasta Sauce for $1.69.

It was a very busy time at Walmart and after waiting in line at least 10 full minutes it was my turn...and there were at least four people with full carts behind me.

This lady INSISTED on checking the ads for each and every item I was price matching. Seriously.

I realize why...and I get it. But it didn't make the people behind me any less annoyed. I could hear the comments. It only added, maybe five minutes, but that's a long time in line.

On the plus side. I saved more than $21 using coupons and price matching. I love getting Chocolate Chips for $0.99 and S&W Beans for $0.24. Enduring a few grouchy comments is worth it for me.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Coffee Maker for People Who Don't Drink Coffee

For Father's day I decided that hubby needed a new coffee machine. Our office got a Keurig coffee maker as an open house gift when we first moved in (the boss' wife bought it for him). It was so cool that I knew we had to have one.

I don't drink coffee. The great thing about the Keurig is that it brews way more than just coffee. I got ours at Costco. They sell them at other stores, like Kohls. But at Costco they sell it with extra accessories and extra coffee cups, called "K" cups.

To brew a cup, you literally just push a button. The K cups make a good standard size coffee cup and if you want to make more you can brew through one just makes it a little weaker the second time. And alternatively you can pop in a second one to brew. 

The K cups are awesome. Hubby used to make an entire pot of coffee and waste three quarters of he can make one cup at a time. And choose different flavors depending on his mood.

I'm still buying coffee beans though because one of the accessories is a reusable K cup - you grind your beans and put the coffee in the the reusable cup. It's the best of both worlds. lets us brew yummy hot chocolate and tea (although I don't drink tea either).

If you're in the market for a new coffee maker, and can shell out $150, go for it. We haven't been disappointed.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I'm Not Easily Offended

And I'm not sure if this rises to the level of offending me, or just makes me shake my head in wonder. An online degree is worse than no degree at all?!? Excuse me!?
"although hard to admit, when I see someone received an online degree, I question it so much more than a traditional degree.  Here is the kicker…. I sometimes question it more than if someone had no degree at all. "
It took me almost six years to get my Bachelor's degree. Now, it hasn't done jack squat for me career wise, but I love school and I enjoyed getting my major in Political Science with a minor in Business Administration. I'm not even sure what those two things really mean. But I worked hard...getting a degree online was NOT easy.

I went through Washington State University...hopefully a "real" enough school for the likes of this author.

As a Recruiting Manager I don't really care what kind of degree someone has, or if they have one at all. I'd rather see someone's motivation, ability to work hard, and interpersonal skills.

I'm glad the author distinguishes between degree "mills" and universities that offer online programs. And that she places value on networking, experience, and volunteering.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Do You Like to Send Out Cards?

I'm a card-a-holic. I have always loved greeting cards. Have you noticed how ridiculously expensive they've gotten!!?? $5 for a card? Insane!

Last year I ran into a couple of folks who were part of this awesome company called Send Out Cards. It's not an e-Card company like some of those out there where they send e-mail links to people. Nope. These are real, US postage paid, cards. And they aren't chintzy or cheap cards either. They are the quality that would cost $4 at Hallmark.

The best part? They are totally customize-able! Even with photos. I love sending cards to Marshal's grandpa and aunts and uncles as thank you cards. I didn't have to go to the store, or print out pictures with my own ink. I just uploaded them and put them in a card...typed out my thank you message...and they were printed, stuffed, stamped, and mailed for me.

These are the insides of two different cards I sent recently:

Oh, even better, each one cost me less than $1.75 WITH postage.

If you'd like to learn more about this great opportunity...head on over here. Yes, it is "my" Send Out Cards link. But I believe very strongly in this company and I LOVE to Send Out Cards. =)

* Fine Print - Send Out Cards IS a Multi-Level Marketing opportunity HOWEVER it is one of the best ones I've ever seen. It has an actual product that is awesome. And a retail option for those who want nothing to do with distributing (i.e. selling the opportunity). So you can use the website without paying the extra fee as a distributor. It's a win, win.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Where Did All the Grownups Go?

Is it just me, or are twenty somethings really pathetic now-a-days? And not all of them, obviously, because my two little cousins are entirely responsible in their early twenties, both now married, one pregnant and a special ed teacher, the other married and manager at a coffee shop.

But this just strikes me as pathetic.
I am turning 22 and I have no idea what to do. I am living at home with my parents and four younger siblings. I am unemployed and have only worked a few odd jobs since high school. I have taken a few courses at my local university but do not have a degree, let alone any idea what to get a degree in. I was never able to decide if there was any point in going back to school without a real focus.
And I can't imagine this guy is the only 20-something with these same feelings. How did we get here?

At 22 I was dating my now husband, working at a Fortune 500 company, and paying my own way through college - "attending" classes virtually on nights and weekends. I didn't necessarily know what I wanted to do professionally, but I knew my calling was to get a degree and I've always loved school.

The idea of living at home with my mom was horrifying, though I did do a few week stink between moving out of my apartment and getting married and buying our own home. It was rough and both my mom and I couldn't wait for me to move back out.

If my son acts like this when he's 22 I am not sure how I'll be able to be a "good" mom. My instinct is to tell this loser to man up and get over it. What does he expect? For wealth to just be handed over to him without having to work? But then I re-read his letter and he really does seem to be clueless as to how to change.

Have we so pampered our children that they are going through mid life crisis before they're even a quarter of a century old? My grandpa was married and in the military during WWII by the age of 22. And I'm pretty sure they had kids soon thereafter. At age 18 you were considered a man. At that age you either went into college, more likely, you joined the military and got training for a real profession.

My grandfather never went to college. He sucked at school. And yet he ran his own business...two of them actually...successfully. Where has that individual sense of entrepreneurship gone?

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Zombie Apocalypse Approaches

Well, I don't know if there will be Zombies, but apparently the End of the World is Nigh. Mark Steyn is one of my favorite writers. He's witty and makes even dry and depressing read funny.

As mainstream media, and every other media outlet, seems bent to proclaim the end of the world, Steyn has a positive take...

"But, if you’re not in the general vicinity of the world, you should be okay. "

Heh.It's a serious topic. Greece is financial dead and yet Western countries somehow feel the need to prop them up. I say let them go. If the moochers want to riot, lock them up. It's been a long time coming, but there is no more free lunch or free ride. There are consequences to living off the dole...because eventually you run out of other people's money.

Money is not finite but neither does it grow on trees. Yet, we worry about trivial matters.

"On Thursday night, there was a question on gays in the military but none on the accelerating European debt crisis. It is certainly important to establish whether a would-be president is sufficiently non-homophobic to authorize a crack team of lesbian paratroopers to rappel into the Chinese treasury, break the safe, and burn all our IOUs. But the curious complacency about the bigger questions is disturbing."

Heh. Again.

So what can we do? Nothing. It's beyond my skills to solve such  massive problems. All I can do is try to prepare my family to live within our means, stock up on necessities, and keep our bullet supply up. After all, when the stuff hits the fan, those who are prepared will be targeted by those grasshoppers who decided to party instead of prepare.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Halloween Art Project - Jar O Lanterns

Carving pumpkins has never been my idea of fun. It's messy. And stinky. And just generally gross. Plus, with a two year old who knows what sort of knife injuries we'd have to endure.

So it was with great pleasure that I found an article in a magazine...pretty sure it was Women's Day but I can't remember now. It showed how to use canning jars, masking tape, and paint to create an alternative lantern for Halloween.

Marshal LOVED it...and so did I.

Start with clean Mason Jars...use a variety of sizes to make a "family".

Using Masking Tape create face shapes...I discovered after making the first one that using scissors made for better (sharper) designs, but maybe isn't as OCD as I am. 

Add one little one, orange paint, paint brushes, and an old shirt for a smock...let the chaos, I mean fun, begin.
It took us three full days to finish. Day one was the first coat of paint. Day two was a second coat of paint. Then the third day we removed the masking tape...and by "we" I of course mean mommy. And finally we added candles for glowing, smiley, Halloween Jar-o-Lanterns.

Another tip...make sure your candles will FIT in the jars before beginning. Our baby pumpkin is too small for a tea light. But the two big ones look awesome all lit up.

Happy Halloween!!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Free Razors, Chocolate, and Gum, Oh My!

It only took me about 30 minutes to figure out my Sunday shopping trip. Luckily, Hip 2 Save had a perfect post for Walgreen's deals. For anyone who says they don't have time to coupon...I counter with sites like Hip 2 Save. When someone else does all the work for you, how can you not take advantage of the savings?

My out of pocket was approximately $9.00, give or take. I received $10 back in Walgreens Register Rewards.

The retail value of all items pictured is around $32. I got it all basically free *with the usual caveat that Register Rewards still have to be spent at Walgreens, but I'll use them to get other stuff for very little out of pocket.

I was pretty jazzed by this particular purchase. The gum was entirely free and the broth was $0.50 a can which is a good price and I use it a lot in the winter. The razor blades will be used when I can find a good deal on the actual razors (they were out) or I'll sell them at a garage sale. And the candy bars...won't last long in our house.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Don't Blame Disney

I read an interesting post the other day, where the author blames Disney movies, and other Hollywood dramas, for us gal's unrealistic expectations for relationships.

" As a little girl grows up, she hears story after story about how she needs to be saved by the prince on the white horse or knight in shining armor. These stories unknowingly paint a picture that in order for a woman to live happily ever, after she needs a man to rescue and save her. She learns that her ultimate life happiness depends on a male hero."

After thinking about it though, there's several movies I watched as a girl where the female character wasn't so much "saved" by the male as the other way around.

Take Beauty and the Beast. Who saved who? She went by herself to search for her father, found a scary beast in a haunted castle, and made the decision to sacrifice herself to save her father. The Beast was certainly not perfect, nor handsome.

Now when it comes to Snow White I can see where being saved required a handsome prince. But with Cinderella I think there was a little more to it. I've been reading Cinderella to Marshal every night...sometimes twice. It's currently his favorite book.

She is a strong woman. The invite comes from the castle, and despite her cruel step family, she decides she will go too. She has a fairy Godmother...not a man...who helps get her there. And then defies her step mother to make sure she gets her true love.

I get the article's point though. Women do have unrealistic expectations of what Happily Ever After really is. But I don't think we should just blame Disney. I love Disney movies.

One part of her article I definitely agree with...

Many little girls grow up and dream of finding their prince. They grow up dreaming about being the princess and wearing the white dress. Years are spent focusing on the fantasy of the wedding day and what it will be like. For many, that day comes and once it is over they realize that true love and having a successful relationship is much more than they realized.

Focusing on that ONE day is short sighted and naive. It's a great day. A fun day. But ultimately just one day. The idea that people spend tens of thousands of dollars on that day boggles my mind.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Baby! Marshal Turns Two.

How could this have happened? Two years ago I held a tiny little infant in my arms. Now he's a little boy turning much too quickly into a little man.

We had his birthday on Saturday and he was a riot. He did somersaults all by himself for the first time...before he always needed help. He got all shy when we sang him Happy Birthday but loved his special little Thomas the Train cake.

I decided against a traditional big cake for our guests got to make their own ice cream sundaes. It was awesome...and yummy.

I think I got practically every type of syrup topping available. 
I also made butterscotch Oatmeal cookies the night before. They are SO good!

Happy Birthday my precious angel. I don't know how we ever lived without you.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Love My Incandescent Lightbulbs

It boggles my mind how intrusive government gets in our lives. Instead of letting the markets dictate an Incandescent light bulb burn out.

If CFLs and other light bulbs were so great the market would phase out incandescents automatically. If they gave the same beautiful soft light, if they actually lasted longer (they don't), or cost the same I may be convinced to switch. But until then, the government needs to back the hell up.

Outlawing incandescents has cost America jobs.
"...GE's Winchester Lamp Plant, which the company shuttered in September 2010 after 35 years of operation, citing a "profound transformation" in the lighting business. It was GE's last American plant producing traditional A19 incandescent bulbs..."
For now I'm stocking up.

And I admit...I have bought CFLs. We use them mostly in places that aren't main living spaces - the garage, outside lights, and a few lamps that aren't used a lot. There is one in Marshal's room and as soon as it burns out it's getting replaced. I hate it. It takes forever to light up. 

Once again, government overreaches. Where will it end? When owning an incandescent light bulb is a crime then I guess I'll be a criminal. And I'll definitely support the black market unground light bulb market. *grin*

Friday, September 23, 2011

We Need to Deal with Fraud

As a Recruiting Manager, I get a lot of inquiries for job opportunities. I call each and every one of them back. I'm constantly amazed, though less so now than when I first started, at the number of people who, in this economy, don't call me back.

I can see a few who decided after they applied that they weren't interested. But this is a lot more than a few.

A few months ago I started a log of every single person I call, when I left a message, and what the result of the call was (interview, not qualified, etc). I'm starting to see duplicates now. People who applied a few months ago and never responded who are applying again.

*insert warning bell here* I can't help but think that some of these people are fraudulently applying to continue to get their unemployment. It frustrates and infuriates me because there is very little I can do about it. I can't necessarily prove it.

What I am planning to do is find out who I can send information to at the state. Whether or not they'll do anything with it, I don't know. But I feel like I have an obligation to report these people. It's the state's job to investigate to see if they really are employable and not truly searching for jobs, or if there were legitimate reasons for not responding or applying more than once.

It's not like it's an unheard of phenomenon.
"... as jobless claims increase in this jobless recovery, abuses in unemployment insurance have hit record levels.   States paid out a whopping $16.5 billion to ineligible individuals last year."
My question is, if the government knows that $16.5 BILLION (with a B) in payments went out to ineligible individuals, why aren't they stopping those payments? Is it just an estimate? It seems like a pretty solid number so somewhere people must know who is taking advantage of the system. And it seems like the government is just sort of shrugging "oh well, what can we do?"
"Whether it's intentional fraud, or omitting or misstating information on an electronic claims form is a dubious distinction.   Labor Department officials told The Fiscal Times that the overpayment explosion is more a natural consequence of rising unemployment insurance rolls inundating overwhelmed state systems—not rising fraud."
Isn't omitting or misstating information fraud? What am I missing here? It should be an even bigger priority to reduce and rid the system of fraud in these economically difficult times. It's a form of theft in my eyes - people taking advantage and taking money that doesn't belong to them - possibly preventing others from receiving benefits they are eligible for and need.

I was on unemployment for maybe a full month over a decade ago. I was so paranoid and conscious of every single application and inquiry...I filled out all my paperwork to a T. It's not that hard to do and get correct.

Getting off of unemployment was a huge relief for me too. Another reason I cannot understand people who want to wait to get a job until their unemployment runs out. It seems so dishonest to me.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

They Should Have Gone to Costco

Have you seen this? Our tax dollars at work...spending $16 on a muffin and $32 for cracker jacks and candy bars (per person).
.. conference attendees received Cracker Jacks, popcorn, and candy bars at a single break that cost $32 per person, including service charges and indirect costs... [There was also] a "deluxe" ice cream assortment that cost $10 per person including service charges and indirect costs... When one event planner applied an approved 15-percent indirect cost rate to the price of food and beverages at a conference, the cost of one soda increased from $4.84 to $5.57.
Clearly, the people providing these services are friends of politicians. It's the only logical reason I can think of for allowing such outrageous charges for food that can be bought at Costco for less than $1 per muffin. And why do government conferences need to be so fancy? Have a secretary run to the grocery store. Even shopping at Whole Foods they'd spend less than these event planners charge.

I realize that a $16 muffin is small potatoes (so to speak) in the grand scheme of government spending. But I do think it's a symptom of the blatant disregard for watching costs and spending responsibly that most government officials have.

I remember working for the State and not caring one whit about what things cost...the more the better because the more it benefited us as employees.

It's wrong and should be stopped.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Thought Everyone Used Cold Water

Apparently I'm in the minority...but I wash our clothes with cold water 90% of the time. The only time I use hot water is if something got particularly dirty (Marshal's clothes after a blow out) or our towels and bedding. Everything else gets cold water.

But apparently this isn't normal. I have always felt that there was no point in wasting hot water. Cold water works just fine and isn't as hard on the clothes. Plus the shrinkage factor is much lower.

"...customers cling to mom’s age-old advice that hot water washes best — squandering energy and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions."

Seriously? I could care less what my hot water use contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. I just didn't want to waste the energy because it costs more.

And I don't remember my mom teaching me to wash in hot or cold water. Honestly I didn't learn how to do my own laundry until I was almost graduated from high school.

"...predicted that cold-water detergents would remain a niche, unless the government provided incentives to use them or the industry waged a major campaign."

While it wouldn't surprise me if the government tried to provide incentives for cold water detergents, it would be a huge waste of tax payer money and government overreach at its best. If I want to buy cold water detergent (and I often do) I will do so on my own without the government providing corporate welfare.

Do you wash in cold or hot water?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

More Stockpiling Fun from Sunday

So, in my post yesterday I wrote about my Saturday shopping trip to Target where I saved over $70 with clearance, sale, and coupons.

On Sunday I ventured out once again and headed to Walgreens and Walmart. Walgreens is hit and miss for me. Sometimes when there are "free" items people get there really early and clear the shelves and there's nothing for me by the time I get there. Sunday that wasn't the case and I was pretty excited.

Walgreens is also a little tricky when it comes to getting good deals. They do something called "Register Rewards" buy something or multiple somethings and after you've paid the bill a little printer next to the register prints out "rewards" for dollars off your next order. Sunday I ended up earning $21 in Register Rewards.

The "savings" part can be misleading though if you're buying things you don't need...because those Register Rewards still cost you money. You don't get to take them and spend them anywhere else. They are used as credit on your next purchase at Walgreens. So while I "saved" $21, technically Walgreens still gets their $21. I just get to use my money to buy more stuff at their store.

I was able to get two "free" Hyland Kids Nightime Cough Medicine...$4.99 out of pocket and $4.99 back in Register Rewards. (And by the way,  you have to do split your orders if you to get more than one deal...only one RR per order). This is something that we will end up using so the $5 I spent out of pocket I get to use "again" to purchase something else that I need later.

I also got four big bags of M&Ms for $ four for ten dollars, I used two $1/1 coupons, and got a $5 register rewards back, which I used on my next order.

Then I got Herbal Essences Shampoo and Styler for $1 a piece after coupons and register rewards. I actually prefer to get my shampoos free but I'm okay paying $1 a piece. Especially when regular price is $4.99.

All told, at Walgreens I ended up saving $21.12 and getting back $21 in RR. I have $9 more RR to use this week and will go use them to get stuff for Marshal's birthday party.

On to Walmart...only now I was getting a little tired. It's sometimes exhausting to make sure you get all the price matches and coupons lined up.

But I found small bags of Skittles on sale for $0.50 and I had two coupons for $1/2 so I got them for free. Free is my favorite!!!

I used $18.55 in coupons and used price matching to save an additional $21.00 for a total savings of $39.55.

So for the whole weekend I saved more than $150.00. My out of pocket at Target, Walgreens, and Walmart was around $260 (I was buying things that weren't on sale and I didn't have coupons for like hair rollers, a birthday gift for Marshal, etc...things we needed). Percentage wise I saved around 37%. Considering I probably spent $50 on items that weren't on sale or had coupons I think 37% is decent.

Was it worth the effort? Depends. If we had an infant I probably wouldn't be doing much couponing except for diapers. Putting my lists together took a couple of hours spread out over a couple of days after Marshal had gone to bed. The shopping itself took around 4 hours spread over two days. For me, that was alone time away from home.

Definitely worth it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekend Score for my Stockpile

I'm a couponer. I used to be an obsessive couponer but having a baby made me focus on other things, obviously. Recently though I've started paying more attention to my former couponing ways and making a greater effort to carefully rebuild my stock pile.

So this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, I went shopping with a carefully written list and all my coupons organized. My goal was to save $50 on Saturday going to Target and at least that on Sunday at Walmart and Walgreens.

Couponing to stock pile can be hazardous to your cupboards. In the past I have bought things that we didn't need or never used because it was free or too good a deal to pass up. Now I attempt to strictly adhere to a need-only purchase policy. If we need an item now and I can get it for a good deal I will buy it. If I know that within the near future, or before an item expires, we will use an item and I can get a good deal, I will buy it.

So I headed to Target because they were having a sale on Kashi cereal. My hubby eats this cereal day and night. I bought twelve boxes. Regular price I would have paid $41.88. They were on sale for $2.99 a piece and if you bought 5 you got a free box. And I had $1.00 coupons for 9 boxes, $1.50 coupon for one, and two $1 Target coupons. I paid $17.40 for twelve boxes...$1.45 a box saving $2.04 per box ($24.48 total).

For my family this is a big score. I saved more than half on cereal that will get eaten within a couple of months. I now don't have to go pay full price every week for a couple of boxes of cereal for hubby to eat.

The cashier acted like I was insane and signed and made little snotty faces as she checked me out. My total savings was $71.38, taking into account price drops, clearance, sales, and coupons. I even got a baby gift for $1.12 on clearance.

I'll describe my Sunday trip in another post.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ice Box Muffins

Discovering my grandma's recipe box, means discovering old favorites, like her Ice Box Muffin recipe. These are the tastiest, most wonderfully delicious Bran muffins you will ever taste. Yes, BRAN muffins. Warm with butter they melt in your mouth.

I can't quite read her handwriting but I think her note says it is originally from Janice Deniston...but I could be totally butchering that name.


  • 1 1/2 Cups Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Shortening (I've experimented with lower calorie options like apple, just ok)
  • 1 Cup boiling water
  • 1 Cup 100% Bran (she specifies Nabisco)
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1 Pint Buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 2 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 2 Cups Kellogg's All Bran


  • Cream together Sugar and Shortening.
  • Pour boiling water over mixture.
  • Add Nabisco Bran, Eggs, Buttermilk.
  • Sift Baking Soda and Salt into Flour and add to mixture, mixing until moist.
  • Add Kellogg's All Bran.
  • Raisins or cut up dates can also be added (yuck).
  • Bake desired number in greased muffin tins 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Makes 2 quarts.
The mixture can be kept covered in the fridge for up to six weeks.

So...fresh muffins every morning should be easy as cake.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Learning to Cook - Slowly

Slowly but surely I am teaching myself to try new things, including learning to cook. We canned peaches last Sunday and while down at Grandpa's house I discovered grandma's recipe box. She was an AMAZING baker and I'm excited to start going through her box.

Grandma's Treasures
My goal is to type out every recipe and create a special little book for me and some of the other grand children. Odds of me finishing by Christmas?

Slim. But I will make an attempt.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

House Upgrades

This year is a big year for our house. We started the year with a kitchen remodel. And now we're preparing for a Heat Pump installation. Our house gets SO freaking hot when it's warm outside. Marshal's room stays around 80 degrees. We have a window AC unit in our bedroom but it does nothing for the rest of the house. I'm looking forward to a programmable thermostat and having an even temperature in the whole house.

We're also getting blinds for the kitchen and that will help some in keeping the heat down.

Since we moved in 10 years ago we've...

  • Replaced all the windows.
  • Replaced the roof.
  • Torn out the Living room Carpet and replaced it with "wood" (not real wood, mind you) and painted.
  • Replaced flooring in "baby" room...and painted it blue.
  • Installed a new gas fireplace.
  • Added and replaced various plants and added Japanese maples.
  • Added a large shed in the back yard.
  • Built a large dog run in the back yard.
  • Replaced the fence.

Phew. And this year the kitchen and heat pump. I sure hope the housing market goes back up in the next few years. With all the work we've put into the house I'm hoping it'll add quite a bit of equity.

Still on the "to do" list...

  • Replace the carpet in the master and spare bedroom.
  • Landscape the front yard.
  • Remodel the bathrooms - replace the 1980s style light fixtures.
  • New Hot Water heater

It's a lot of work being a home owner.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ruby Drops

Way back when, well, a couple of years ago, I went on a long buying spree. It lasted several years. One of my acquisitions was a strand of large ruby faceted tear drop gemstones. I was mesmerized. I hadn't ever seen rubies that large in person.

Instead of taking away from their intrinsic elegance, I made a necklace using a single drop, with 14k gold filled chain and clasp. I love gold and ruby together.

The color is difficult to describe. It's not red, but it isn't pink either. The closest color I can think of is a bright sweet raspberry. Or the color of some of my favorite fuchsias.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Adventures in Canning - Peachy

It shouldn't be legal to get out of bed before 6 a.m. on a weekend. But I did it and even woke Marshal up early so that I could drop him off on a Sunday with his nanny. My mom and I headed down to Onalaska (no, it's not in Alaska) to grandpa's house to can peaches.

He had 7 whole box of which was mine. They are $25 a box but are supposed to be the best peaches for canning (according to the experts...aka my mom and grandpa). I had to buy two boxes of large mouth jars which came to around $20. I only used 14 of them and grandpa bought the rest. So my out of pocket expense came to around $35.

My mom provided the sugar and the sure fresh (the stuff that keeps the peaches from browning) as well as the big pots for boiling the jars.

Peaches waiting to be boiled. These are almost not ready but we went ahead and  canned them anyway.
Today I learned how to blanch peaches - putting them in boiling water (in a sort of colander like thing) for a few minutes and then dumping them in cold water.
Right after boiling...dumped in cold water.

Boiling them makes the skin come off easily and I got into a good rhythm - even taking entire skins off without ripping them into pieces. It became my goal.
Skinned Peaches...ready to halve and put in the jars.

It's amazing how HOT the peach pits get after being boiled. Just trust me. And did you know that inside the pit is a seed that looks like an almond. Apparently it's poisonous.

When peaches are ripe they will break right in half after having their skin removed. I used a knife most of the time but towards the end I just split them right in half with my fingers.
Aren't they pretty.
Mom made the syrup, which requires a lot more sugar than I ever imagined...even the light syrup. We had every burner on high. The lids had to be boiled too.
Waiting for the Hot Bath.

Before you put the lids on you have to wipe the mouth of each jar to make sure there's absolutely nothing to prevent them from sealing correctly.
Into the Hot Bath they go.

It takes 30 minutes of BOILING...but you can't put the jars into the boiling water. So you put the jars in warm water and have them heat up to boiling and then start the timer.

Did I mention it was over 90 degrees today and grandpa's air conditioning wasn't working?

We canned 77 QUARTS!!!

That's a lot of peaches. We canned from 9 a.m. to almost 5 p.m. My fingers hurt and are dry from being in water all day long.

Is it worth it to can your own peaches? Absolutely! Although you can probably buy them cheaper at the store they do not taste nearly as good. In fact, Marshal won't eat the store bought ones.

I figure, cost wise, it costs about $2.62 a quarter...not including the cost of sugar or sure fresh. Considering the jars at the store are shrinking (when was the last time they sold a full quart?) it's really not too bad. It's just amazingly time consuming. And exhausting.

And ultimately totally worth it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Still Remember

This day bothers me. Not because it's the 10 year anniversary of the day the towers were struck, "Let's Roll" became a new motto, and the Pentagon was hit.

No, it bothers me because I remember it ... all the time. It affected me very emotionally, even though I didn't know anyone who died. Nor did I know anyone who lost anyone. I remember the fear. My job had an office in New York and we were all frantic to find out if anyone had been in the towers that morning. Several had been scheduled there but for some reason had their meetings delayed. Several had been there just the night before.

One of our Money Managers was actually on the phone with some financial people in the towers when the plane hit. They were alive and spoke as the chaos broke out and finally the line went dead.

I went home early that day in a fog.

And now I hear politicians and newscasters talking about today as a day of unity, a day to go out into the community and help each other.

That's great. Except those are things we should be doing every single day. Not just on one day in September. Today we should be remembering those who were lost...who were murdered by evil men with evil hearts. There's no sugar coating it. We should be celebrating the firemen, policemen, medics, chaplains, and all first responders who lost their lives and who survived. Instead our politically correct politicians are declaring "Chaplain Free Zones" at Ground Zero.

I don't need tv shows or documentaries. I don't need news men and women blathering on about this or that. And I certainly don't need politicians of all stripes trying to cash in on today as some sort of publicity stunt.It's kind of comforting, in an odd way, to see that we haven't really changed all that much, since World War II at least. Though perhaps in some ways we've changed too much.

What we don't see...and what we should see ... footage of the towers falling, of people jumping to their deaths to escape the fires. We won't see the people in the Arab street dancing for joy as America wept. That's too provocative. Though it is reality.

But I remember. And I won't forget. We have enemies who hate us and want us dead.

"Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe.

They forget that in time of danger, in the face of the Enemy, they must trust and confide in each other, or perish.
They forget, in short, that there has ever been a category of human experience called the Enemy. And that, before 9/11, was what had happened to us. The very concept of the Enemy had been banished from our moral and political vocabulary. An enemy was just a friend we hadn’t done enough for — yet. Or perhaps there had been a misunderstanding, or an oversight on our part — something that we could correct. And this means that that our first task is that we must try to grasp what the concept of the Enemy really means.
The Enemy is someone who is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is true that the Enemy always hates us for a reason — it is his reason, and not ours."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Elementary School Graduations are Stupid

And when Marshal is in Elementary school I will tell him so and might even refuse to attend if they make a big deal out of it.

Since when is graduating from Kindergarten a big deal? I don't recall ever having a party for moving up a grade. We had a kind of 6th grade graduation, but it wasn't super fancy. I remember riding away from the Elementary school on my last day feeling a little sad...but at the same time excited because I was moving on to Middle School.

In middle school we got to go to Wild Waves Theme Park for our 8th grade "graduation"...but there was no ceremony, caps, or weird ceremonies.

And now schools are throwing celebrations for the start of school.

I'm sorry (not really) but that is just stupid. What a waste of time and money. School is about learning. If my property taxes are paying for this kind of useless crap no wonder our schools are turning out sub par citizens who think they deserve everything handed to them on a platter.

Students are treated as if they are kings and queens who deserve the world. Reality could not be further from their school experiences.

I'm not saying to beat kids down and drum misery into them...but reality is not all lollipops and roses. Life is difficult and only those with a HEALTHY self esteem, not over inflated and self aggrandizing, will be successful.

On my way to work every day I see an elementary school electronic sign that says "Every child is capable of Success" or something of the sort. I disagree. Not every human is going to be "successful" (and who's definition of success are they using?). It's just part of the human experience. People fail. Failure is not a bad thing. It teaches us.

Didn't Thomas Edison "Fail" 9,999 times before succeeding in making the lightbulb? Why should we be taking those failures away from our kids?

I hope I can be strong enough for my little man to allow him to fail.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just Keep Swimming

Bright colors. Smooth lampwork glass beads. Sterling Silver.

The fish charm inspired me to create something tropical. This bracelet reminds me of snorkeling in Maui. And really makes me want to leave this state for Hawaii.

The name is, of course, from Finding Nemo. Just keep swimming...never give up.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Son is Not a Flight Risk

Stories like this curdle my blood. Government has gotten so big, so powerful, that we little folk are seen to be at the mercy of those wielding the power. It's ridiculous.

And if anyone tried patting down my son I might have a melt down. What if a pedophile got hired as a screener? How am I as a parent supposed to say No and still be allowed on the plane? I'm supposed to allow some pervert (whether I know they are or not isn't the son isn't a terrorist and how do I KNOW they aren't pedophiles using their job to feel up kids?) to "pat down" my son in a potentially invasive manner? Because the government says so?

We are considering taking a trip to Florida next year but the thought of have a cavity search just to board a plane is almost too much.

My husband is an officer and he has less leeway when dealing with potential criminals (i.e. searches / pat downs) than TSA agents do with the flying public. How is that okay?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Keeping Busy in All Facets

Hope everyone had a fabulous Labor Day weekend. I took Marshal to a local craft fair where we ate Shaved Ice, Mini Donuts, and hot dogs. Oh and a Gingerbread Man Cookie.

On Sunday we went to Walmart...together...trying to coupon and price match with an almost two year old is quite a challenge but we survived and I saved at least $50 on our grocery bill.

Monday brought us to grandma's house to play in her kiddie pool. She got him a new Fire Truck with lights and noise.

But the busiest stuff for me was actually jewelry stuff...finally! I took a ton of pictures and spent several hours editing. On Monday I worked on posting ten or so items to my Etsy shop. They have a great new feature that lets you save items as Draft listings before posting them live. I'm so glad they added this feature. It lets me work on listing multiple items but spreading out the listings for going live.

"Birds of a Feather" - Even though this is actually a leaf.

New Model Photography by Genevieve Ruth Photography.

Fine Silver Floral Pendant Necklace

I so dislike this part of selling ... the photos and listings...maybe someday I'll be big enough to hire someone to do all that for me. LOL Yeah my very unreal dreams.

I'm having a jewelry open house / trunk show on October 15 and have so much to get ready for. And it's the start of the very busy season for us at Aflac. Oh and Marshal's birthday is September 26. I cannot believe he's turning TWO!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New Jewelry New Pictures

Taking photos of my jewelry designs is the most boring and least enjoyable part of "making" jewelry. Thankfully, a high school pal is a wonderful photographer (Thank you Genevieve Ruth Photography!) and has been using my jewelry in some of her shoots. So instead of paying for a photo shoot, my jewelry is a free accessory for her to use and I can purchase some files to use on my website and blog.

I'm so excited for these. :) They are GORGEOUS and finally give an idea of what the jewelry looks like being worn. That is the hardest thing for me to convey...what it looks like ON.

What do you think???

Keep in mind, these aren't meant to be close ups or detail shots. They're meant to show the jewelry on someone. I have close up "product" shots as well.

She was able to capture the gorgeous shimmer on those pearls.

Thank you, Genevieve!!!