Staycation?

I am not really sure if this is a staycation or not. The reason, this is my second week of Christmas break.  Most years I get two weeks at Christmas from the school system, so it is really not unusual.  The difference is that currently Matt is unemployed, so he is also at home during the break. So, is it a staycation?  Still not sure but anyway, here is what we are up to during our staycation or second week of Christmas break.

Put away all the Christmas decorations- We are 50% finished with this. Yesterday, Monday, we took down and put away the outside decorations.

Clean out and organize my building- This is actually part of putting away the decorations.  Matt made a trip to Goodwill two weeks ago with the first load of stuff from my building. I found 3 large totes of clothes that he has missed as well as several other items. We ended up taking another car full of items to Goodwill to donate.  Even with getting rid of a ton of stuff, we still did not have room to store several large decorations. We decided to try and find some unused space under the house… JACKPOT. We used a cinder block and huge sheets of cardboard (previously stored in my building). This made an awesome shelf for holding large outside decoration that just needed to be protected from the elements.

New rain barrel for Greenhouse. Under the house we discovered a 55 gallon plastic barrel, neither Matt nor I remembered it. It is actually the perfect size for using as a water supply for the greenhouse. We switched out the trashcan and it worked perfectly.

Install a new monitor for Matt. This is in anticipation of him beginning a new job and also some additional project work. You know that it can’t be as simple as just hanging a monitor on the wall. We had to move the cabinets above his desk by 4 inches. This meant that the notorious junk cabinets that have been a catch all for many (7ish) years needed to clean out and organized. In the process we ended up re-arranging the storage shelves in my office as well. Because we are use to doing the one touch method (if you touch it put it where it goes and not just move it to clean) both of our office areas ended up being straighten and cleaned!

Kendall and Zach are spending Monday and Tuesday in Durham. Lily will meet them for Ice Skating on Tuesday.

As you can see, we are extremely busy with some not so fun stuff!  My goal is to get all this done and organized so we can continue our camping adventure this spring and have some much-needed rest time on the weekends!

Let’s Talk Food!

Food is always a huge part of any celebration for us!  This year did not disappoint!  We started on Wednesday morning with a trip to Cracker Barrel for breakfast!  Lunch/ Dinner was a really cool burger bar in Asheville called Juicy Lucy!

We enjoyed microwave breakfast meals in our camper both Thursday and Friday mornings!  These are a huge treat for us and at $27 for both mornings way cheaper than eating out! On Thursday, we enjoyed lunch at the Stable Cafe at Biltmore.

Christmas Eve, Friday, was our usual Pork BBQ with the addition of baked beans and mac and cheese!  This is definitely a repeat.

For Christmas morning/ lunch I made cheddar bay sausage balls, cream cheese cresant rolls and a hashbrown casserole.   For dinner we simply ate from the fridge with the healthy addition of deviled eggs, fruit and a veggie tray.

Sunday or the day after Christmas continued our food celebration, my Sunday school class had a pot luck breakfast, lunch was at La Caretta (Mexican) and dinner is appetizers at a gathering of friends.

After all this, I am sure a food coma is going to occur soon!

I have also had a chance to view out grocery spending for the year. I am very excited to announce that we spent $6,312.75 on groceries this year which is an average of $526.06 a month!!! This is actually a decrease in the overall average from last year.  I have been doing some thinking and planning.  I want to challenge myself to keep grocery spending to $50 a week for the months of January, February, March and May. We are travelling to Disney in April so I am not sure if that is realistic to even attempt to keep this same budget in April.  This will allow us to hopefully use up the majority of the food that is in our freezers so I can spend some time next summer, restocking with items that we currently are enjoying and make a bunch of prepared meals.  It will also allow me to get a realistic idea of what we need to spend on a weekly basis for fresh food and diary items.

5 Things Friday

  1. My Christmas break starts today and last for 2 weeks. Zach and Kendall actually have school on Monday and Tuesday next week and they get an additional 2 days off after New Year’s. Lily does not start back to school until January 10th!
  2. We have our first official camping trip planned for next week. We are headed to Biltmore to enjoy the lights and an art exhibit!
  3. The greenhouse is being productive!  We have around 10 containers growing cooler weather foods. I am so excited about this and can’t wait to try some. Based on trial and error we have decreased the temperature for the heater to come on at to 45 and we are waiting to start watering again because some of the plants looked drowned.
  4. Our electric bill rose by $100 with an increase usage of 22% from last year. We are currently in the process of trying to determine how much of this we can control and what is to be expected with the greenhouse and camper. The good news is that it did not exceed the budgeted amount but is close.
  5. We started making Christmas treats last night… Reindeer crack and candied pecans.  I may work on cookies today if I get MOTIVATED!

5 Things Friday

  1. We are continuing to focus on our electric usage. There are certain things that are beyond our control such as needing to connect the camper to the house when someone is staying it in.  And the need to keep a heater in the greenhouse in order to prevent the plants from freezing and of course our usage will be greater with Christmas lights. We also have discovered ways to save electricity in small ways. Unplugging the camper even during the daylight decreases our usage and we are beginning to experiment with the temperature we must keep the greenhouse at. Turning off lights and using the dishwasher and dryer at night continue to save us.
  2. I have realized that a year can change things completely.  This year which has been our best year ever financially has also brought more changes and twist than are even imaginable. Matt is currently unemployed but yet the goal is to end the year with our only debit being the house and Tahoe payment.
  3. Our final project of the year is going re-organizing and re-arranging our master closet.   We have started making some simple changes which already make it feel much lighter and more open. We will be installing a new closet organizer on one side and continuing to sort through clothes which will finish this project. I am projecting that the entire project will end up costing less than $200.
  4. We have several count downs going on in the house right now. First up is our first “camping” experience in Asheville right before Christmas, followed by Christmas and New Year then our January trip to Mrytle Beach which will be for 4 days instead of 2 and a longer drive. Finally our Disney trip in April. It has been an entire year since we have been to Disney! Plus this will be our first real experience camping at Disney.
  5.  I am starting to look ahead at some major home improvement projects for next year. These will be expense that we will pay out of promised money.   We will likely end up spending around $20k on these so I want to make sure they will be exactly what we want and of top quality.

5 Things Friday

  1. Wow how things change yet they remain the same.  Last Thanksgiving, Matt and I both had COVID-19. At least we were on the recovery side but still it was not fun.  We missed Thanksgiving almost completely.  This year we celebrated at my brothers for a big family lunch. Haley and her crew spent the night at our house.  Today, we find out that Braxton’s father has COVID so Amanda and Braxton will be spending the next 7 days with us.
  2. I wanted to decorate outside this year. Zach has complained for the past two years that we leave his window dark.  We spent a couple hours on Wednesday and finished up yesterday. I saw or heard the idea of using tomato cages for Christmas trees so we now have 4 small trees on our front yard as well. I  am planning to get some pictures to post this week.
  3. Lily really enjoys decorating especially trees. So I let her do most of the tree decorating and fluffing. We have 2 large trees along with each kid has a smaller tree in their room.
  4. I really did not do any Black Friday shopping this year. I did order from Bath and Body Works on Thanksgiving and a white shirt for Zach from Amazon today.
  5. Lily turns 16 in a week.

Christmas Day

I have spent a good hour this morning reading over past Christmas post.  I am so grateful to have this blog to help recall our crazy life. Interesting things I re-discovered by reading that I had forgotten was Kendall got her glass at 14 months. She did not walk until 18 months and was not potty trained until 2 and 1/2. Next is that Zach has always had stomach issues.  He would randomly throw up. I am beginning to realize that this is most likely due to food intolerance/ allergies.

Now back to where I started Christmas Day. Haley is still in Florida with her boyfriend and his family. She did call last night while we were eating at Mom’s and again this morning. Amanda is working today, so we will open gifts with her on Saturday. I prepared sausage crescent rolls, cream cheese crescent rolls and a Cracker Barrel hash brown casserole on Christmas Eve. They went straight in the oven between Santa presents and opening parent presents.  We added scramble eggs, 2 kinds of link sausage, orange cinnamon rolls and bacon to complete the breakfast. For lunch, we had left-overs and added a yogurt bar. Dinner was left-overs and bagel bar.

We all stayed in jammies and enjoyed a quiet day. Lily even said she likes a smaller number of gifts but better items! Santa brought a echo dot and smart plug for each. Kendall got a fit bit watch. Zach a remote control Lego set and Lily 2 pair of Nike shorts. Each received a Disney pin for trading.

5 Things Friday

  1. I am full and over the top full in Guam.  I am currently serving 15 schools in Guam and attempting to attend all OT related IEP meetings. What this means is 10-12 hours a week currently.  I have been told that i should be able to reduce my hours by January. I am waiting to decide if this is something I want to do or just continue at the rate I am at.  Currently, I am able to handle most of it but my leisure time and blog posting will be very limited for the next month.
  2. Lily, Kendall and Zach are spending the weekend in Durham with Haley. This is the first time in YEARS that Matt and i have had a free weekend.  Last night we went on a date to Applebee’s  Today we are going to attempt to update the front door.
  3. We are definitively in Fall.  My goal is to go without heat until November 1st.  Our October electric bill was significantly higher than usual due to the summer heat lasting well in September. So far so good as the house is currently sitting at 70 and the outside temperature is 47.
  4. I did a fair amount of shopping on Amazon prime day. Since we are updating our front door including a new keyless entry, we decided to go ahead and start moving toward a smart home. I purchased several echo dots which came with a couple of smart plugs and smart light bulbs and  2 echo flexs (one in my office and one in the kitchen). So far we are enjoying the novelty of them. I also purchased several Christmas gifts and cheap ear buds.
  5. Our December trip will include Braxton, Haley, her boyfriend David and his kids!  We are currently at 60 days!

Saving on Saturday

    • We spent around 3 hours outside today working in both our flower beds and our garden!  The saving part comes in that we did not pay someone to come and do this. A second way we are saving is that by cleaning up the garden we are able to extend the growing season and continue to save on our grocery bill.  I had to take pictures just so that I could remember the differences.

Before

  • Mom and I made a trip to the Dollar Tree today. I was able to purchase new items for my sign for a total of $5.  I am so happy with the way they turned out!
  • Zach wanted Taco Bell for his birthday.  I decide to download the app in order to save time and headache for me placing such a large order. It actually worked the way it was suppose to and we have already earned two extra tacos for Free!
  • We had decided several month ago to have a much less than usual Christmas this year in order to be able to afford our trips to Disney.  I have started working on purchasing gift for the kids and I have decided that I am going to limit it to 3 gifts from Matt and I. The little ones at home will also get a Santa Claus gift but that is all!   Now to stick to this!