Not so Wordless Wednesday

This past Saturday prior to the huge, historical, massive snow storm we had family pictures done. I scheduled these several weeks ago. Here are some of the tips I have learned and a peek at some of the pictures.

#1 I have learned over the years that we need to have these done at home or someone’s house we know to save stress and headache. We had an awesome photographer who was as happy as we were to do pictures inside and outside the house.

#2 Prepare food that can be eaten the entire time, no one makes good pictures when you are hungry.#3 Coordinating outfits make awesome pictures. I was luck enough to find us all coordination outfits at Old Navy this year. Unfortunately, Zach decided he did not like the “feel” of his matching shirt but I also had matching ties for him and Braxton which he liked better.

#4 Some times you need causal pictures just to keep it real

#5 Christmas pajamas are a must

#6 Babies make awesome pictures when they are asleep

#7 Black and white pictures make me look better

And finally this is my absolute favorite picture so far

Monday Menu Planning 12/10/2018

From the weather forecast of last week, I knew that I need to plan on all of us being home this week, which means extra sweets and treats needed. Amanda is also staying with us during the snow. I made a trip to Walmart on Thursday night and purchased all the things I thought we would need. So far after 3 full days at home we are still doing really well. My best guess is that the kids will be out of school all week. I will have a workday on Friday or maybe both Thursday and Friday.  My goal is to make a  batch and have some left-overs to use again.  Soup is always a big hit on these cold snowy days.

Breakfast- Saturday- Pancakes and Sausage balls   Sunday-Sausage, Egg and Cheese Biscuits, Monday- Gravy and biscuits,  Tuesday- Sausage crescent rolls and left-over pancakes, Wednesday- Waffles, Thursday- Muffins  and Friday- Choice of any available left-overs oatmeal, grits cereal, toast or eggos waffles.
Lunch-Saturday-Sausage dip, taco dip, Crock Pot wieness, with fruit and vegetable trays.   Sunday-Chicken and Rice .  Monday and Tuesday- Sandwich or choice of Left-overs. Wednesday- Mac and cheese or pasta, Thursday Sandwich or left-overs, Friday- Soup of choice 
Dinner – Saturday-Leftovers, kids had pizza at church. Sunday- Left-overs from Olive Garden,  Monday-Stuffed Green Pepper Soup Tuesday- Country Style steak, fried squash and green beans Wednesday-Instapot Potato Soup  , Thursday- Beef and Broccli in the crockpot Friday-Pizza.

Lily’s Birthday

Birthdays are always a big deal around here. Lily’s 13th was no exception. I always think/assume that her birthday will not be as special as the two that she has spent at Disney but she tells me differently. One of the best traditions we have around birthday is picking your favorite restaurant and the entire family going to eat. This year Lily chose Olive Garden. Granny was not able to go with us on Lily’s birthday, so Lily decided we would wait until Friday to eat out.

Lily did get to chose her favorite food for dinner, baked ziti. She also started the day early around 6:30 opening her last present. She received and used a make up travel bag prior to our trip to Michigan.

She open an Lego advent calendar. It was a huge hit, every morning is up to finish the piece for the day.

A fun filled Birthday Celebration!

Traveling on a Budget

Our family tends to travel a lot. Some of this travel is by choice and some is by necessity. Most of our travels are planned well in advance which allows us plenty of time to save. However this was not the case for our Thanksgiving trip to Michigan. We decided that this was an important trip on November 3rd, two week before we needed to travel. Here are the ways we used to save money on this short notice trip.

1. I spent around 4 hours or more trying to find a hotel on priceline and the other “cheap hotel sites”. I had two huge things working against me, first we were two weeks away from the trip and the second was this is a holiday weekend. I finally decided to call the hotel we usually stay at. I was able to get a room for all five of us and the dog and breakfast for less than $100 a night which is our good price. After having success calling the first hotel, I called the second with the same results. The average price per night was $100! Tip#1- Call the hotel direct and ask for pricing.

2. Gift Cards- We continue to attempt to use Swagbucks on a regular basis. Each month the first gift card is discounted to 2200 or $22 for a $25 card. Starbucks is always a favorite so we try and keep around $50 loaded to it at all times. I also took advantage of some promotions, and this helped our budget a great deal. We had around $150 in gift cards for this trip and even managed to combine with sales to stretch it a bit further. My suggestion is to purchase gift cards ahead of time an keep a stash for trips and other surprises.

3. Pack a Cooler- The average price of a soda is between $1.50 and $2.00. Just by packing drinks and water, we saved at least $100. I also packed sandwich items and frozen burritos in our cooler. We were able to eat breakfast in the hotels and then ate one meal from the cooler or even left-overs so we ended up eating an average of one meal a day out while traveling. Even if we would have eaten fast food for each meal we saved at least $40 a day by bring a cooler.

4. Pack snacks- We like to eat while driving and crunchy snacks help keep you awake. I have a snack bag that stays in each vehicle but for a trip we ended up making individual size bags of chips and popcorn. This worked well and was much easier than trying to carry large bags and eat from them.

5. Check gas prices and make a plan. We discovered that it was cheaper to buy gas ahead of time then waiting to fill when we had to.

Wordless (almost) Wednesday- Snow Village

I am planning to upload each picture individually so that you can enlarge if you like. This will be a picture heavy post!

The beginning!

Started on November 12th the night Amanda went to the hospital. Stayed this way until November 27th.

All the house are on the ladder. This is usually the longest step for me as I work to make it fit and look like a real scene.

Finally I add the people and trees

The next scene is directly across from the ladder.

Finally this year we added the “Mickey Shelf”

November in Review

I have been debating even writing this post for several days.  November was a month that was busy, frightening and unforgettable but I also want to stay true to myself and have documented some of the reasons that things happen. First we decided to take a trip to Michigan to visit over Thanksgiving.  I am a planner and two weeks is never enough time to plan a 7 day trip. But this Amanda was sick and the two weeks turned into 3 days. I spent 5 solid days at the hospital with her and ended up eating several meals just to make the days go faster. I don’t regret spending the time at the hospital and would do it again if needed but it made the month really short.  I don’t even think I have actual numbers this month but best guess has to work for now.

Financial- I did fairly well for our trip expenses and I still plan to write a blog post about that.  I did end up spending money on more new clothes and shoes. The good news is that we paid all our bills and we have no real needs. 


Grocery budget $500- I did end up staying under this amount I am positive.  However I am going to guess that I spent around $200 this month on groceries. I am going to plan a HUGE grocery trip at the end of December but the goal is to stay well under $100 prior to that. 


Gas-  Our trip to Michigan cost us 7 tanks of gas for around $250. I have absolutely no idea what else was spent in gas for the month except $15 on parking for the hospital. 


Kid/Summer expenses: Kendall gymnastics $60 was the only required spending for the month but I am thinking I also paid $20 on a fieldtrip.
Earned $100- I have gift cards left for Christmas and we used $70 for trip expenses .
Personal-
Blogging-5 for the month. I had many things to think about an little time to blog this month. 
Exercise- Zero… no explanation.

What happened?

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and changes that I could had no way to prepare and plan for.

First, Matt’s stepmother, fell and broke her hip.  After some discussion and thought, we decided that we needed to travel to Michigan over Thanksgiving. In fact, we are currently in a hotel in Claire Michigan. My goal is to get a post over the next day or so that gives some ideas on ways to save on last minute traveling.

Next, Amanda, my oldest daughter, has spent 5 days in Cardiac ICU and 5 days in an regular hospital room. She developed a complication from pregnancy that caused her heart to fail, which in turned caused several blood clots in both lungs and one in her heart. The first days of this episode, were the most scary thing I have ever experienced.  I stayed with her for almost a solid week. We are all thankful and blessed that she is home, and expected to make  a full recovery.  The recovery will be slow but still is expected to be full. It was a tough decision for us to leave her and come to Michigan but it was the right one for us. Amanda was very supportive of this.

Luckily, I have purchased most of our Christmas gift, and did not plan to spend much time shopping over Thanksgiving.  We had a menu plan in place and Matt was able to stick to it and keep things functioning at home, while I focused on Amanda.  This trip although short planned and much debated, has given me some time to sit, relax and catch up on some sleep, which I would not have completed at home.

This is the short explanation of the last couple of weeks.  I am praising God for walking beside me and carrying me!

Monday Menu Plan 11/12/2018

Things are starting to slow down a bit. Lily had three performances this weekend and Kendall has her last art class this week. Matt will be out of town at a work function on both Monday and Tuesday nights.
Breakfast- Saturday- Sausage, eggs, grits, toast and hash browns  Sunday-Biscuit Monday  Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday- Choice of oatmeal, grits cereal, toast or eggos waffles.
Lunch-Saturday-Left overs  Sunday-Mexican.  Monday- Sandwich  . Kids have lunch packed including soup, uncrustables and chicken nuggets. I will be in a conference with lunch provided Wednesday and Thursday. So just a couple days of food for me.
Dinner – Saturday-Leftovers Sunday- Roast- Hawaiian style Monday-Potato soup Tuesday- Chicken Enchiladas, Wednesday- Chicken nuggets  , Thursday- Salisbury steak Friday-left overs.

Tuesday Thoughts

  • We will be heading to Michigan over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I spent most of Saturday attempting to find hotels that were reasonably priced. I am very happy to say that I was able to locate and book two hotels both including pools and breakfast for around $100 a night including the pet fee!
  • Our plan for meals includes free breakfast, lunch in the room. on the go including pasta, mac and cheese, burritos and sandwiches. We will plan to purchase one meal a day and hope to cover at least 2 of these 7 meals with gift cards.  Definitely need to step up my swag game.
  • The house is finally getting cleaned!  I arrived home from work yesterday and we were able to spend a couple of hours cleaning floors and rearranging furniture.  I have even made a list of extra cleaning I would like to accomplish in the next week.
  • My goal is to be able to set up my snow village this weekend (Veteran’s Day). I am becoming excited and I love the anticipation of this.
  • I am tired, bone weary tired. I am not sure if this is related to the time change, the fact that I am home 3 night in a row and should be for another 2, stress or a combination of all three. But I seriously could go to sleep at 8pm tonight.
  • With our trip coming up, I want to reduce and leave very little in our refrigerators in the house.  We actually ended up eating left overs for 3 full meals this past weekend. I can see a little at the end of the tunnel but also hear some grumbling as we are out of pop tarts, instant oatmeal, shredded cheese and soon grits. I have no intention of replacing these items, Wish me luck!
  • I still LOVE my new job but it has become a lot more work than initially. I have been attending at least one meeting a week but it is still by far much less work and stress than the hospital.
  • Braxton is one month old, he is awesome and growing daily! I LOVE being a grandmother or baba, much easier than I could have imagined.