Friday, December 9, 2016

Preparing for a White Weekend

Sunday was just a glimpse of snow. The warm temperatures later in the day and Monday left just little traces here and there. Tuesday though, the cold came in and even pup, who loves it outside, did his business then wanted back in. It's the wind he doesn't appreciate blowing on his bits when he lifts his leg. Poor little fluff ball. We had blizzards in the far northeast corner of our state, Canada and northern North Dakota border. We held a state wide meeting on Wednesday and one of our colleagues was participating on-line/phone and mentioned she couldn't see anything out her windows but white. We are expecting 4-6 inches between Saturday late afternoon and Sunday morning. We had fluffy flakes yesterday, but they just seemed to blow around like flakes in a snow globe, nothing accumulating.

No furniture delivery as one of the three parts of the sectional still has not arrived at the warehouse. I'm really annoyed, disappointed, and frustrated that  it has been nearly nine weeks since we ordered, and still no delivery date confirmed as they won't until the final piece gets in and they won't commit to a date for that. I'll go ahead and get the living room tree set up, the stockings, a few other things, but won't do the village as that is where the risk of breakage would come when the furniture gets delivered. I probably won't bother now as it takes so much time, for so few weeks.  We'll see. 

I'll make a run tomorrow morning for the odds and ends for my Christmas baking and settle in for the weekend. Here's my baking-preparing list. I need it to stay cold now as I use my porch as an extra freezer. I have decided for my immediate work team to put together small boxes, Chinese food container like, of sweets and treats. I have the boxes and that will just be seven. Once I've cleaned up up my kitchen, I'll post my versions recipe of each of the treats, indicating which are (or can easily be) vegetarian, gluten free, or vegan.
  • Mounds bar truffles
  • Oreo Truffles
  • Nutter butter truffles
  • Caramel corn
  • Chex mix (always different as I wait to see what things are on sale to include)
  • Pumkin bread 
  • M&M cookies (DD will make these) 
  • Peanut blossoms
I have a change of plans tonight. My brother in law won tickets to see White Christmas at St Paul's Ordway. My sister was surprised he actually wanted to go. I got a call yesterday from my sister. He decided she might enjoy it more with a daughter, friend, or sister. Her single daughter had no interest, her other daughter had no babysitter, and she knew I would enjoy so I'm the lucky guest. She would have brought DD with her, my little musical lover if DH had not been willing to forgo wine club tonight. He really does wine club for my benefit any way. I borrowed a photo from the Ordway site to show how spectacular the venue is at night in December.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas Savings

Eee gads, a post filled with consumerism. I apologize in advance. I'm plugging away against my Christmas giving, wrapping and cards budget, determined to come in less than my original budget by $200. Some strategies I've used so far include deferring the use of the free Target gift cards  given when a certain number of certain products are bought. Again, I have to be careful not to count the savings twice. I don't count until I use the gift card for a new purchase,. My total sits at $30. I've bundled Kohl's cash and Reward points, layering with a birthday promo, and percent off spending coupons. Kohl's cash/Reward bucks are also at $30. I shouldn't count this, but I will since it's money back to me. I finally returned wrong size t-shirts for DH and DS form last year, and was credited back $27 on my Kohl's card and received $20 in Kohl's cash (what I must have used towards part of cost last year.)

Sunday I took advantage of the 10% of gift cards at Target, and bought a $100 one for $90. Tonight I will use with a $10 of $50 clothing purchase and get a pair of jeans and shirt for DS. The balance I'll use towards donation shopping and Oreo's on sale and in cartwheel, for making truffle candies.I have another $10 off $50 purchases, but hope to bundle with some freebie bonuses and items for donation (a separate budget, but want those to stretch as well.). When done, I will have spent $90 for $120 in purchases, a 25% savings before any other coupon is applied. Yes, another $30 towards the budget. 

Clothing gift certificates at a small business boutique for my girls were a Black Friday week special, so $50, bought $60 for each, for another $20. The remaining $53 in budget reduction I'm working towards though pure deal shopping through price comparison and using store sales. Options like finding Goodie hair items 2 for $1 at the dollar store, using 30% off book coupon on a book for my daughter, and using my other daughters help with her employee discount on a gift.

I found the ham I was hoping to buy at $3.99 per pound, a little over 7 pounds. This will be one of three meats for Christmas eve so should be more than enough, and hope even some leftovers. I might have been able to hold out longer, and found cheaper, but it's in my freezer, and included in my $400 grocery challenge, and that is done. I'm still on the look out for cheap crescent roll dough, but all other baking items were bought Sunday at rock bottom prices with the exception of Oreo;s and cream cheese, on sale at Target. I'm not sure yet what my Christmas day contributions are beyond a couple Stromboli type appetizers, wine, punch ingredients, and treats, but I'm reserving $50 of the budget to prepare, leaving me with an ample $46.33 per week for regular groceries, plus the use of a fairly stocked pantry, fridge, and freezer. The holiday shouldn't be about how much I spent or how cheap I got things, but I'm sharing to maybe give an idea or two to others on how they can stretch their own budgets. It also is a reminder to myself that I can orchestrate a Christmas focused on bringing joy to others without resorting to over spending.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Seasonal Reflections-No Should Be's

Three Christmas's ago I came down with the flu of all flu's. It started the Sunday before. We had taken  my in laws to a play, followed by a nice dinner just around the corner. The play was a little community theater in the round type production of A Christmas Carol. The restaurant was beautifully decorated for the season and had delicious homey meals plus  cafe fair like risotto, flat bread pizzas, and main dish salads. When my Mediterranean flat bread came, I could do little more than nibble on the crust and drink massive glass after glass of water. I crawled into bed after a heavy dose of flu and cold meds. I got up, dragged myself to work the next day trying to convince myself I wasn't sick. A day later, Christmas Eve, I was woozy  in church, ate nothing at my sisters, and was drained, knowing I was truly ill. I was not going anywhere on Christmas Day. This was the first year neither older kid was home for Christmas, so DH and DD2 went off for the day to his parents, leaving me in a flu med induced lethargy and BBC America marathon of Doctor Who on the TV. 

DD had a good time, still  child enough then to enjoy the loud and chaos. I got the rest I needed. Later, when feeling better, I got to Skype with DD1 in London, and talk with DS in Florida. They liked their gifts. They both made the most of Christmas with friends, DS making the appetizer I always make for Christmas Eve, and binged watched mindless on-line programs, both being poor students again, using the day as a break from home work. We all did just fine with everyone doing and being where they were, and Christmas was still Christmas. The point I'm trying to make is that so many people put way too much store on Christmas as  a "should be," myself included. I love the Christmas story, the lights, the decorations, the music. I didn't enjoy any of those things less because I was sick and I was without two children home on the day itself. The day is not the end all be all. If observed or not, the holiday should not be defined by any one elses expectations or standards, and I'm slowly letting go of my own expectations.

 My children already live in two different states and are bound to have people in their lives as important as us. Maybe we'll decide late December is the best time to take a big trip and instead of a lighted pine, we'll sip cocktails under a palm tree. I am happy my kids are all going to be home this year, but not because it is for Christmas, but because the opportunities to just be together as a nuclear family will be fewer and fewer as they build their own lives. If that includes being home from time to time, and at the same time as their siblings, terrific. If not, we'll Skype, we'll talk on the phone, and we'll trust that we're all doing Christmas not as we should, but as we are. 
All five of us, a rarer and rarer picture.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Generic Gifts Teen Boys and Other community Needs

I need help and ideas. Those of you with teen or tween boys, do you have suggestions for generic presents to donate to our local family service organization to fill in for last minute requests from families? I've got oodles of things for girls like leg warmers, bath sets, jewelry,  and hats and scarves that I've picked up or the DD's were gifted (lovely just never used), but want to put some of our end of year giving in this direction. It is highly needed for a group of kids that need to know that their family and community cares about them. Families usually need to register weeks, sometimes months in advance, but each year, Family Service does their best to support late requests, or beef up where donations are lean. Teen boys is always a struggle. I think they will also just take cash specifically for gift card buying, so that is my fall back, but if I run across items,I'd love to purposefully scoop up a few bargains to help stretch my giving. Please leave me your ideas in the comments below.

I'll do a plug as well for now being the time of year in the northern hemisphere when heating bills rise, gas in cars seems to burn faster, and it just seems to cost more just to live the most basic of life, and donations for basics are needed. Items that are necessities like toilet paper, shampoo, soap, and cleaning products can't be purchased with SNAP cards, even if the family receives that benefit. I'm going to be particularity diligent about finding the two for ones, the extras, that I can bundle and drop off. I love my community and want all who live here to feel welcome and supported. We have a beautiful store looking service center where families actually get to shop for the items their family needs and prefers. It costs nothing to help foster dignity, so I want to do my part in supporting this terrific organization.

I missed out on participating on the Thanksgiving Day run/family walk, but DD got  in on it and got her shirt! This year, a record breaking $126,000 was raised, over 1/4 of their annual operating budget, plus food and supply donations. However a holiday is celebrated,  I plan for  me and mine to keep service and giving as a focal point.