Friday, March 20, 2009

Ahh Friday...

The weathers turned chilly but it still can't bring me down. It's Friday and it can't come quick enough for me! The past few days have been really busy for me at work and with the weather being so nice, I have stayed away from the computer. The house is seriously suffering for this!

The kids have been playing outside everyday after school and it's so nice to see them playing. But of course as soon as Jeffrey Michael walks in the door he gravitates to the computer or his nintendo ds. Oh well.. at least he is going outside!

I do have to vent though. I recentley posted about us cleaning out the garage on Sunday. We loaded up the truck for my husband to bring to Salvation Army after school, but he has not taken it!! Drove by it several times this week!! Uggh! That drives me nuts. It's just as bad as when he borrows tool from other people. He never returns things and they end up in the garage in my way. He's response is "they'll call me when they need it." Does your significant other fall into this habit? How do you deal with it?

Monday, March 16, 2009

What a beautiful weekend!

Oh what a great weekend. The weather here in Western PA was gorgeous. Plus my husband helped me clean out the world's largest toy box- also known as our garage. I was so excited that he agreed to help that I forgot to take pictures! In my house you don't wait too long or minds will change!

I am going to try to take an after picture because I am just so proud. Our garage was a complete disaster with piles of molding from remodelling the dining room and old toys/garden decorations that were long past there due. Jeff even loaded up the Envoy with the Salvation Army pile and our neighbor has a dumpster that I think they will let us use for the garbage. I think this month is the garage homework on Oprah's Clean Up Your Messy Home. Yay for me! I actually completed a task on schedule. That's a first! We may actually be able to fit both cars in the garage this winter if we can keep it organized. I would love that!!

I also got out and walked the dog Saturday and Sunday. Little guy needs to lose a couple of pounds- who am I kidding so do I! I just don't think there is anything better than opening up my windows and shoving ever body outside to enjoy the weather. I even got a little sunburn/windburn on my nose.

BUT- I did miss Mass again this Sunday. Not good. And then Sunday night I stayed up way to late watching a Disney movie with my son which really made this morning a rush for all of us. Bad move on my part, but we had fun snuggling and watching "Ice Princess." Tonight I do have to get some more laundry done since I spent all weekend outside. I didn't even get any baking done. Once the novelty of warm weather wears off then I can get back on track. It's just too hard to stay inside on these first few warm days.

Have you been taking advantage of the first few warm days? Isn't it exciting?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Catching Up

Wednesday was a half day at work for me and so I rushed home to get as much done as possible before everyone came home from school. I was able to run into the local Aldi's and I can't say how much I love that store. They have been stocking so much more fun things including their new 4 pack probiotic yogurt. Years ago when they first came to our town the selection was very limited and I wasn't able to buy a lot of items but now I do all my shopping with them and supplement what they don't carry. Saves me a lot of money.

I also was able to get some recycling to the bins. We have curbside recycling but not for cardboard. Plus plastic bags do sometimes end up coming home from the kids or my husband so I do like to save them and drop them off at the local grocery stores pickup bin.

Then I almost forgot to watch Oprah! I was so busy cooking and getting some little organizing projects done and it wasn't till a little after 5pm that I remembered. It was really a great show and I may have to try the cinnamon chicken recipe. And the pizza...mmm!

Yesterday I was so tired after work that I slept most of the evening, ate, got the kids homework checked and then went right back to sleep. The weather has turned cold again- though no snow - and it was just nice to snuggle in bed with Peanut.

Today is payday for both me and Jeff and so we will have to sit down and review our debt plan. We put together an excel spreadsheet with the balances of any outstanding bills to pay off and estimated when they should be paid in full. So far we've been on goal and it's really nice when we can print out an updated sheet after a bill is paid off. We own some rental properties and the past few months we've had tenants not pay. One of which we may have to evict due to non-pay for several months with no communication. I don't want to do this but since they've ignored our attempts at contacting them I guess we have no choice. The loss of their rent forces us to use our own savings. That's ok once in a while but now it's become a pattern and I would rather sell the home than lose our money. So our debt reduction plan has hit some bumps here and there but we aren't too far off track. We set up our budget based on our salaries and only use the extra money from our rentals as bonuses toward repayment. Even if we didn't have the rentals, our budget would remain the same. We aren't as strict as we should be but then I don't think it would work for us. Check out some other great ideas from Pheobe's website.

I have been really good this week with cooking dinners and keeping the house clean. Even when I came home on Tuesday to find my father-in-law had come into town and was spending the night. Just a quick clean up around the house was all I needed to do. I haven't had any yelling matches with the kids so that is AWESOME! I am really learning to read my warning signs and halt them! I was able to take the dog for a walk twice this week due to warm weather so I think once the weather turns warm consistently this will be no problem. Still haven't worked my faith time in- plus we slept in on Sunday and missed church with the time change. I need to work this into a priority.

It's Friday the 13th -second in two months so looking forward to the fun today!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Extreme Hoarding

I have always been fascinated (nosy) about other people's stuff. I can remember at a young age going to a friend's house only because I loved to look at the way the house was decorated. I am drawn by people's things and my family is very aware of my desire to snoop in drawers. Although I am able to restrain myself, when I was little I could not. I would spend hours looking in the drawers of both my grandmother's house. I was intrigued by what people kept, how they stored things, and how each person organized.

To this day, I am always quick to help a friend clean and organize. This feeds my secret desire and helps my friends and family. I don't judge anybody or their things, I am just a nosy person. I love to walk the dog all over the neighborhood just to look at homes and how the yard is maintained. Queer isn't it?

My one grandmother has become a hoarder as she aged. She is really my step-grandmother, so technically I don't have to worry about any genetic pre-disposition. It was amazing to see the things she would save and store. Before she moved in with my uncle, I would go over to check on her and help clean her house. My dad and I would secretly try to remove things as it became evident she would be needing round the clock care and the house would need sold. Our fear was that if we let her continue to acquire things without removing some of the things already in the house, we would end up with an unbelievable mess. So much was removed but when the time came to sell the house, there was still so much that she wanted to keep. Much of it was taken to storage but most of it was either donated or thrown away.

So when I stumbled upon RML site and read her post on the film "Seven Dumpsters and a Corpse" I just had to see this film. It only costs $1.42 US through Paypal to watch it and I couldn't pry myself away. It is a really engaging story of two brothers who were unaware of the hoarding problem of their mother. Neither had been inside her apartment in years and it wasn't until she died did they find out. Unfortunately, she died in the home and was not found for some time so the beginning may be too much for those with weak stomachs. It reminded me of a story of the Collyer Brothers of Manhattan from the late 1940's. They too were extreme hoarders. So much so that the one brother was killed when he was crawling through one of the elaborate mazes on his way to his bedridden brother and he set off one of his booby traps. He was smothered by the debris and his bedridden brother died sometime after ward from starvation.

For me it would be like heaven sifting through all the stuff. I am surprised that I am not a hoarder. It's funny but when my house gets messy it's unnerving to me. Things out of place make it hard for me to concentrate as my eyes move from item to item. Why it bothers me at home but not at other people's homes is beyond me.

On another note, I can't wait to watch Oprah tomorrow -well dvr it to watch. All about saving money in the kitchen with recipes and a must have grocery list. Mmmm. Hopefully some really good stuff!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Soo Tired!

Why can't we turn our clocks ahead on Friday nights? We were all dragging this morning!

Friday's post never happened. It was such a crazy day at work. We kept joking about our office being in the Bermuda Triangle and at any moment a spaceship would be hovering over the roof ready to beam us up! I don't know if there was a full moon or the fact that it was over 40 degrees but the craziness never stopped. Then I went home to my personal Bermuda Triangle so I went to bed nice and early.

Saturday it rained on and off all day, but I was able to get Peanut out for a nice walk. I really hate exercising but when the weather is nice I love going for long walks and Peanut is in need of losing a few pounds from winter. Yes, I know, so do I. We even got the Christmas lights down from the gutter and I trimmed some of the tall grasses in the landscaping. I do want them taken out as they are not in the right spots so I do hope this year Jeff can dig them out.

Yesterday it rained so hard all day that I couldn't get another good walk. But I did work a lot in the office going through a lot of paperwork and files. I am looking to buy another file cabinet as mine is so old and it's not a hanging file cabinet. I saw a really cute one at Target, but wasn't sure if it was big enough and now that I have cleaned everything out it should work.

Friday is suppose to be my Lent update and I have to say that I have really been doing good. We did make it to church last Sunday, but I still have not scheduled my reading in. Have been doing really well keeping up with cleaning and cooking- but not so good at holding my temper with the kids. I just can't get rid of my impatience. I am not yelling and screaming at them, I just get frustrated and impatient as I feel they are old enough to do certain things for themselves at their age. It really seems as though they are lazy about finding their things or getting their own drinks, easy things that at 10 and 7 they are able to do.

Any way, that's why it's a process.

I did find my coconut oil at Wal-mart -thanks Rachel! Now all I need to find is a form. I have some old things out in the garage. I tried to look Saturday but couldn't find anything. I can't wait! Even my son is excited to try it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Auto Insurance 101

The past few months have been rather busy at our insurance agency as our policyholders are trying to find ways to save money. I thought I might share some information that could possible help you save on auto insurance. Each state is different in what coverages are called and/or offered so I am going to be as general as possible. I was licensed in all 50 states years ago and with the exception of New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and California, insurance policies are fairly the same. As always, talk to your agent about reviewing your policy. This should be done on a consistent basis -usually every 2-3 years to make sure the information is correct. It is amazing how many people set up their policies and then only call when they need to change vehicles or sell their homes. I have been trying to go through our book of business to proactively look for unnecessary coverage that could save our insureds money, but not all agents do this.

When it comes to your auto policy, there are certain coverages that are mandatory based on your state. Usually this is called your liability. It is broken down into 3 numbers and will look like this AA/BB/CC (ie 100,000/300,000/100,000). The liability portion of your policy are the limits you selected to payout in the event you cause an accident. The first number AA is the maximum dollar amount the insurance will payout to any 1 individual injured in an accident. The second number BB is the total dollar amount paid out to all individuals injured in an accident. What that means is when there are more than 1 persons injured in an accident, the insurance company will not pay out more than the limit selected for all their injuries. So if your limit is 300,000 and 4 people are injured in an accident with medical costs of 450,000, the insurance will only pay 300,000 (more on that later). The last number CC is the property damage limit. Property damage includes hitting another vehicle or object such as telephone pole, guard rail, house, etc.

Another item on your policy that is usually mandatory varies in name based on your state. Most states will call it First Party Coverages but other states call it Personal Injury Protection, Tort, etc. This coverage determines your ability to seek financial compensations for injuries caused by others. Basically it is your right to sue and you can choose to have the ability to sue for all injuries and pain and suffering or you can limit your right to sue for only death, permanent disfiguration, drunk drivers, out of state drives. What you can sue for varies from state to state so the previous may not be valid for your state. Medical payments also falls under this coverage and this pays for for your injury arising out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle.

The following coverages may be mandatory in your state, but for many these are elective. They include the following:

Funeral benefits
Loss of income
Death,Dismemberment,Loss of sight
Uninsured motorists (pays medical expenses to you if injured by driver without insurance)
Underinsured motorists (pays medical expenses to you if injured by driver who carries insurance but their limits do not cover your costs)
Comprehensive (also called Other than Collision)
Roadside service
Rental Reimbursement

So how do you determine how much insurance you need? Well, that's hard. When it comes to your liability limits, if you cause an accident and the damages are above your limit, you can be sued for the difference. With courts awarding higher pain and injury claims it is wise to select liability limits as high as you can afford or supplement with Personal Umbrella Policies. Insurance companies consider anyone over the age 25 as an adult driver and if you have a clean driving record it is not highly expensive to carry higher liability limits. Just ask your agent for a quote.

When it comes to your First Party Benefits- medical payments, right to sue, etc there are several things to consider. First, with medical payments, do you carry private medical insurance? If so, does your private health insurer cover auto accident injuries? If you have good medical insurance that does cover accident injuries then you may only need to carry the minimum mandatory coverage or in some states opt out of it. BUT first find out if your medical insurance will cover auto accidents before electing to opt out of it! As far as your right to sue, it is a personal decision. You do save money by electing to limit your right to sue versus being able to sue for all medical damages and pain and suffering, but again it is something you have to ask yourself. It is hard especially if you have never been in an accident to know how you would react or if you would want to sue.

Many states offer uninsured and underinsured as optional benefits while others have it mandatory. It is not very expensive and many states allow you to stack the coverage if you have more than one vehicle. So if your limits are 50,000/100,000 and you have two cars with the stacking option it then gives each vehicle medical coverages of 100,000/200,000. There are a couple of states that include property damage to this coverage as well. I always suggest to my policyholders that carry this coverage to select limits equal to your limits of liability. You should insure yourself with the same limits as you insure for others.

Funeral benefits, loss of income, and death coverage are usually the most inexpensive coverages over all, sometimes only a few dollars a year in premium. But when you are trying to save money every penny counts!

Collision pays for damages to your car when you cause an accident and comprehensive covers damage to your car caused by lightening, wind, animals (deer,etc) and others. It also covers damage to your windshield. Comprehensive and collision may be mandatory coverages if you carry a loan on your vehicle. If so, look to see what deductibles you carry. The higher your deductible the lower your premium. But make sure you can afford the deductible -have in emergency fund- and also many finance companies may not allow you to have deductible over $500 for the very reason mentioned. If you cannot afford the deductible you may not get the damage fixed and the value of the car goes down. If your vehicle is paid in full then you may not want to keep comprehensive and collision. The best way to determine this is to find out how much the vehicle is worth. Then compare that to what your deductible is and what you are paying for that coverage. For example, lets say you have a 2000 Pontiac worth $1500. You carry a $500 deductible for collision and pay $500 a year for the coverage. If you have a total loss of the vehicle you will only get $1000 after you pay your deductible. Although that sounds good as it could be used as a down payment for another car, if you think about it you could take the $500 deductible and $500 premium you pay and put that away in a savings account. Plus each year your paying $500 which could be put in a savings account. As usual, it does come down to being a personal decision. Comprehensive is not too expensive even when you carry a small deductible or no deductible. Most people will still carry comprehensive even when they take off collision especially if you live in area like me with a lot of deer and roads that need snow and ice plowing in the winter.

Whew... only a couple more coverages. Rental reimbursement and towing may also be offered. Rental reimbursement will only cover rental vehicles for you when you have a comprehensive or collision claim. It does not cover maintenance issues or breakdowns. Also if you do not carry comprehensive or collision coverage then you may not even be eligible to have the coverage. Same if your state offers towing. This is similar to having AAA coverages but you may see limitations regarding how much your insurance will pay for a service or if you have a tow - how far they will tow as it does not cost you much to carry.

Another important thing to look over when it comes to your policy is discounts. Each state varies in what they will offer or age limitations but the common ones include the following:

Multicar discounts
Multipolicy discounts
Defensive Driver Course (usually anyone over age 50/60)
Accident Free/Forgiveness
Driver Training (usually from age 16-25)
Good Grade (again 16-25)
Anti-theft (if your car has one- and no The Club does not count!)
Air Bags (if your car has them)
Low Mileage (usually less than 7500 miles driven per year)

Plus insurance companies may have different policies depending on your driving record and other factors. Usually they will have a standard rate policy (higher premium) and a preferred rate policy (lower premium). Ask what policy you have and if you are in the higher premium policy review why and when you may be eligible for preferred. Many times it may be due to driving record, lapse of insurance or other factors. Some insurance companies will write the policy at the higher rate and after some time it may be eligible to be put in the better policy.

Also review each driver and car they are listed on to make sure the information is correct.

Again, this information is meant to be a general review of what to look for in your policy and to ask your agent. This is not by any means meant to be used for any claims nor am I endorsing any specific coverage or insurance agency. Just general information to help you better understand your auto policy.

Hope this helps!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Soap Making & Video Games

Yesterday when I got home from work there was a cardboard box on the dining room table. It was like Christmas morning for me...except it was missing one of my items. Uggh. I don't get mad about these things. Mistakes happen and I am the first to admit if there is something wrong - I probably did it. I just don't like it when it happens on my first order with a company. I get nervous that they are going to think I am lying to them to get something for free. Luckily, the company I ordered from has a system in place where they weigh the order before shipping. From that information they were immediately able to determine the error was on their end and are shipping my lye. Yay! The company I ordered from is called The Soap Dish and I found them through Rachel (thanks for answering my emails!) at She has an amazingly easy to follow step by step tutorial and I am busy getting my supplies together. I can't wait.

Last night, Jeff and I were trying to determine how to handle our children's use of the computer and their video games on school nights. They can spend hours upon hours a night on the computer and games. It really drives me nuts. We are in search of a way to alleviate the arguing between them (and us) when it comes to setting limits. Angie at talked about organizing her gamer family on her post today -coincidence?- but since I have the organization in place for the toys, I need ideas on how to handle limiting their time playing.

How do you handle your kids (or husband) use of the computer and games?

ps - if you can't tell from the above post I finally figured out how to add links. I am embarrassed at how easy it was once I looked at the tool bar!! See- I told you I am still learning about blogging!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mondays are bad enough

Wow am I glad yesterday is over. Really bad day for me at work as I spent most of the afternoon alone in the office. Most of the time it's not the end of the world but for some reason yesterday was not a great day to be here alone.

But I got through it and went home and straight to bed. Yes- can you believe it? Well, my family can since I have this habit at least once a week where I come home around 5:30pm and fall asleep until around 8 pm. I think it's due to the fact that my kids- even at age 10 and 7 still get in bed with me during the night and I don't sleep very well. Then it kind of hits me all at once, though usually it's not until Wed or Thurs. So nothing got accomplished at home yesterday and I feel as though my week is really starting bad.

Last Friday I was suppose to post an update regarding my Lent obligations but completely forgot as I was trying to figure out how to link my post to another blog. I'm not the most computer literate as I was already out of college when the Internet was beginning to rock the world. I remember those early days of dial-up and simple web sites!

Anyway, I have been really good working toward many of my goals. I did get to Ashes on Wednesday and we we at church on Sunday. I did not do well regarding disciplining Paige. She just doesn't get that she's the child and Jeff and I are the parents. Plus it seems that she only responds when I scream at her which I hate to do and want to find another way to make her understand. Although she is respectful to other adults and her teachers, she constantly wants to debate our decisions. No is never an enough of answer and it usually ends with either her father or I screaming at her. I also did a lot of baking on Sunday- made granola bars and breakfast burritos. My family really likes them and it was so easy!

I am currently on a mission of making homemade soap for my husband. Several years ago he developed a reaction to parabens found in soap and deodorant. I switched him to organic deodorant and soaps and it has really worked well for him. Except he only likes bar soaps and Walmart discontinued carrying the bar soap. Wal-mart was the only store in my area that carried organic bar soaps, so I am now ordering supplies to make my own. I am able to find/buy everything except for coconut oil. I can find it online, but it seems rather pricey.

Is anyone else making their own soaps? Do you use coconut oil or can I substitute something else?