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Archive for May, 2015

Planning a Frugal Summer

May 31st, 2015 at 10:43 am

I just went through websites for all of the events coming up where we live. The goal is free or at least low cost things to do.

1. We join an outdoor pool every summer (since it's outdoor, it's only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day). It should get up to 75 today, so we're going! And we'll continue to go all summer especially when F has half day camps.

2. Kickoff Party for our Tuesday Farmer's Market; lots of music and activities for kids - FREE

3. Festivals at El Rancho de las Golondrinas (a living history museum Spanish village) - there's one Fiber Arts festival with lots of sheep and another is Viva Mexico and then there's the Wild West Festival - $8 adults and free for kids

4. Santa Fe Bandstand on our Plaza - evenings in June and July - FREE

5. Music on the Hill - meet our friends, bring a picnic dinner and listen to music while the kids play - FREE

6. Movies in the park - they set up a big screen - this year among others they're playing Grease, Wizard of Oz, the Commitments and Goonies! FREE

7. Parade downtown to promote our Rodeo (we don't really want to go to the rodeo, but it's nice to see the horses and the huge paper mache bull with the flashing red eyes) - FREE

8. Folk Art Market - family day - $10 adults, kids free

9. Storyteller Joe Hayes (a New Mexico treausre) - tells wonderful stories and tales about the Southwest in a really pretty outdoor setting - FREE

10. Hikes to the waterfall and Nambe falls - $5 parking fee

Have you made a list of summer activities where you live?

Birthday Party Today!

May 30th, 2015 at 06:59 am

F's tenth birthday is in a week and a half, but her party is today so that one of her best friends can attend (she is leaving for sleepaway camp in the middle of next week).

F determined what she wanted her party to be like, and once again she's proven to be pretty frugal!

We're having 7 girls plus F of course.

We'll start off in the park and have a bunch of soccer games. We're playing jailbreak, splat, lightning, king of the ring and the numbers game and also having a scrimmage. We bought pop up goals as part of her birthday present (since we play in the park almost every Sunday night, these will be super useful and I think she'll be really excited). We'll use them today, and it's a surprise!

Then we'll go back to our house and the girls will have veggies/dip/crisps and ice cream cake. Because there really aren't a lot of costs involved in this party, we were able to get her dream cake: a soccer ball cake from Baskin Robbins. Their cakes aren't cheap, but I guess my theory is to save and then splurge where you really want to splurge.

Then the girls will use F's microphone and do commentary for funny soccer clips that D found.

Party favors have nothing to do with soccer, but are pretty fun - they are story dice (have you seen these?). I like favors that aren't junky plastic toys that'll be thrown out, and there was a huge price cut on these on Amazon. They aren't cheap, but it's another good place to splurge in my opinion.

Then the parents will pick their girls up, except for one girl who is both one of her best friends and really more like a cousin. She's staying for dinner (tostadas). This will be great for F and also gives her parents (who are some of our best friends!) an opportunity to go on a hike or whatever.

So...
goals - $85 (part of her birthday gift)
food for party - $21
cups/plates/thank you cards/napkins with soccer theme - $11
cake - $35
favors - $42

Less than $200, and I've saved up $240 (party only, not gifts) throughout the year (I save $20 a month).

Snowflakes, Birthday Budget, More Soccer

May 28th, 2015 at 06:08 pm

Small snowflakes... we sold our old composter for $15 and I got a $15 swagbucks amazon gift card. So I paid down the mortgage principal by $30 today.

For the record we've paid of $5730.27 this year. We owe $54,318 on our house (so quite a lot of equity at this point! about $500k!).

I am still under budget for F's birthday. I bought some veggies to cut up and some hummus and ranch dip. Also crisps and lemonade. I so hope the weather is ok on Saturday afternoon!

F had her last appointment with the psychologist today (at least until something else comes up). She's doing so well, so essentially she's graduated! And now my friend's daughter is going to the same place (for anxiety), and the son of another friend is seeing someone because (at 10 years old!) he feels like he's stupid (he's not! he has some learning issues, but he is one bright boy!). It's making me sort of sad, but also happy that parents are getting help for their kids and hopefully giving them tools to cope.

Oh - one more money thing, and this is a happy thing that I've budgeted for just in case! F made the select soccer team! This is a really big accomplishment, and I'm so happy for her! It's $350 per season and $250 for the kit (which lasts until she grows out of it). The first tournament is in August.

Expenses, expenses...

May 26th, 2015 at 05:13 pm

Expense #1
They are almost done restuccoing our house; it had to be done (cracks which were soon going to mean leaks). And it looks amazing. And it's our biggest investment, so an important maintenance item.

Expense #2
Went to the dr. today about my low back pain (which I've been trying hard to ignore). She wants 8 weeks of PT 2x/week and also wants me to get an xray. I'm almost at my deductible so I guess that's the bright side, right?

Expense #3
I have a certain chunk budgeted for F's birthday, and due to her not-very-expensive tastes (and desire to only invite a few girls) we'll be well under our budget. She's having a soccer party. I was able to splurge on soccer plates and napkins. And we bought her pop-up goals as a birthday present that will be used at the party (a surprise!). We got cool favors, too, thanks to what seemed to be a big sale on Amazon (storytime dice). And an ice cream cake at Baskin Robbins (soccer cake; what else?); used a coupon.

Expense #4
We got tickets for three shows in Las Vegas (Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil Beatles, Tournament of Kings at Excalibur). We don't gamble, so the basic structure of our trip will be:
morning - breakfast in our room, walk around and see weird stuff for free
afternoon - play in the pool, lunch in our room (we have a kitchenette)
evening - see a show
We're saving on the things we don't care about (expensive meals, expensive hotel, gambling, roller coasters) to spend it on shows (which we don't have access to where we live).

New Recipes

May 19th, 2015 at 03:51 pm

Since we watched the BBC show "Back in Time for Dinner" I've been thinking about how eating has changed over the past several decades. We eat 95% of our meals at home, and they're prepared from scratch. We do use some processed/convenience foods (bread, tortilla chips, canned beans, etc.) which I'm fine with.

I have a system for planning our weekly dinners that I've described here before: eggy/potato night (spanish omelette, mexican eggs, baked potatoes and brocoli), cheese/bread night (grilled cheese, tuna melts, quesadillas), chicken night, something from the freezer (that was made in our crockpot and stashed for soccer nights usually) with a salad, pasta night, fish night and one night out.

Although many of our meals are vegetarian, they aren't always full of good vegetables. We usually have a salad or broccoli as side dishes.

I am trying to incorporate more and more varied vegetables, so I went on a hunt last night for recipes.

Here's one that's basically veggie meatballs (and I LOVE fennel):
http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/roasted-fennel-pine-nut-polpette/#OgKuExCesmlMEqrI.97

This one is basically a beet salad to eat with bread and it doesn't have a ton of ingredients:
http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/roasted-fennel-pine-nut-polpette/#OgKuExCesmlMEqrI.97

I would make this curry recipe with carrots/broccoli/bamboo shoots:
http://rasamalaysia.com/thai-green-curry-recipe/2

Maybe something like this curry:
http://minimalistbaker.com/30-minute-coconut-curry/

So we'll be trying out some new recipes in the next few weeks...

There are a few that we already make regularly that are full of vegetables:
- crustless quiche with broccoli, sundried tomatoes
- a stirfry with courgettes, broccoli, carrots, ginger, cilantro, jalapeƱo and mint (and a little soy sauce)
- socca (which is like a courgette/zucchini pancake) with red onion
- frittata with onions and lots of spinach
- red onion, red peppers and courgettes with a really great sauce that we make in the oven and usually eat with chicken, but would be great with some crusty bread

Do you have any veggie-full recipes that you love?

A Snowflakes and Found Something to Sell

May 18th, 2015 at 05:45 pm

I cashed in $15 in swagbucks for an amazon gift card (which I'll use for something I am going to get anyway, then put $15 toward the mortgage). Won't it be weird when the mortgage is paid off and I have to actually decide what to do with those snowflakes?

We are restuccoing our house right now. I didn't realize how disruptive it would be. I know they'll clean up, but they had to dig down 6" around the house and then powerwash. I can't wait until everything is back to normal.

In the meantime, they had to get everything out of our trash enclosure, and in there was an old composter which we never used because it needs to heat up to work, and it's too shaded in the trash enclosure. There really isn't anywhere else to put it. I think I'm going to sell it.

Today's purchase: almond flour. They were having 20% off sale, and I want to make a cake!

And in free/cheap news:
- F got a letter from her Irish pen-pal (my friend's daughter)
- D is making frittata (yum!)
- I turned in a project for County review and rewarded myself by cleaning out the spare room closet (and at this point it's not done; it's just a disaster!); this is all to unearth my dollhouse from when I was a girl (F and I are going to renovate together!).

Food, Food, Food

May 17th, 2015 at 03:43 pm

Not spending much, except on food!

We took our coach out for dinner on Friday night; we were supposed to go out after practice, but practice was canceled due to (abundant) rain.

Yesterday's game wasn't canceled, though. The weather from 9 am to 10 am (game time!) was beautiful! And just as we turned around to walk back to our cars (it's about half a mile walk to field 5) there was a hailstorm! Blizzard like winds, icy hail hitting out heads and faces! I couldn't look up, but I had one arm around F (partly to keep track of her, and partly to keep my camping chair over her head to protect her). F was screaming "Ow! Ow!" and "Are we going to die?" I could hear other kids screaming. We all made our way to the tunnel where there was at least some protection. Some people just fell to the ground and stayed there huddled under blankets! We finally made it to the tunnel where about a hundred stunned people were stuffed together looking bewildered. There were inside-out umbrellas and shivering children. Our car later said it was 33 degrees F! And the hail continued.

After having my head down for so long, I felt kind of sick when I finally straightened up in the tunnel. We stayed and waited for the hail to stop, but it kept coming. So we finally made a run for the car (on the other side of the tunnel). The parking lot was chaos, and we just turned on the engine so that F could warm up her hands and feet, then waited for cars to leave so we could get out. Our clothes were soaking wet, so I had F take hers off and put on some dry things we had in the car.

When we finally got home, there was snow all over the ground. It finally stopped snowing and hailing, the coach who is staying with us showed up (he was also in the hailstorm) and we had pasta for lunch.

We decided to just get a pre-cooked chicken for dinner. Not on the meal plan, but much easier.

I did the grocery shopping today and we're having a goodbye dinner for our coach who leaves tonight. Frown

We're having baked cod with aioli and roast potatoes (D makes the best!) and the cod was $10 but who cares! It's a special dinner. Oh, and peas. An English "Sunday dinner."

But first.... Sunday afternoon soccer kickaround (now that the weather is ok again!).

A Weird Week

May 13th, 2015 at 05:04 pm

It's been a very weird week...

1. F's soccer coach was not asked to coach next year's select team; I didn't think he would be because they don't like parent coaches for select and his daughter is on the team. He, apparently, did think he would be, and is pretty upset right now, and has decided to leave our league for another one that is just starting up. He said he wouldn't take the girls to the Memorial weekend tournament, so D stepped up and said he would do it. Select tryouts are next week; I guess the coach's daughter won't be trying out, but I think most of F's group will.

2. F's school has a committee that deals with retiring teachers and other transitions. Our much-loved school secretary is retiring and they asked the Parent Association to help collect memories for a scrapbook and also cash. And then some of the teachers wanted me to include another teacher who is leaving... it's turning into a big deal. I don't really have the time to do this, but I'm going to figure it out because I love both teachers.

3. I have a big deadline on Friday and I'm in good shape for it, but yikes, it's taken a lot out of me.

4. The British soccer coach is still staying with us. He's great, but we're eating a lot later because I want him to be able to eat with us. Which means after we eat, I'm exhausted. And after the dishes there really isn't time to unwind.

5. I spent a ton of money stocking up on staples because Sprouts had the bread and flour and tortillas I use on sale. But after the coach leaves, we won't have a ton of money left for groceries for the month. I'm going to have to meal plan really carefully.

6. We want to take the coach out for dinner on Friday. Not budget-friendly, but luckily we have the money in our dining out category.

7. So... Memorial Weekend will be soccer, soccer, soccer! We'll need to pack lunches and have easy dinners.

8. And the following weekend is F's bday party (not her birthday which is in early June, but she has a friend that is really important to her and she can't come unless it's before June 5). It'll be a soccer party (what else?) and we'll have it at the park.

9. I can't think of anything else... need to go make dinner.

Free Plants!

May 12th, 2015 at 03:30 pm

We got an email from our neighborhood association to let us know that they were redoing the plantings near the entry to our streets (we have 66 homes total and a big sign out front). They said that they'd be taking out some feather grass and we could take some if we wanted. This was the plant I was planning for the area along our driveway anyway, so D went down and got three plants.

Feathergrass tends to self-propagate, which for us is a good thing since that area is so barren. I want to plant some allium, too.

It's hard to grow anything here. It's not just the water; it's the terrible soil, too.

I'm starting to get excited about our garden despite the fact that it is really cold, and it's supposed to be cold all week. It snowed last weekend. I'm ready for summer!

Meal Plan and Yard Work

May 10th, 2015 at 02:58 pm

We spent a few hours weeding the yard today (D didn't have a choice since it's Mother's Day and this is what I wanted to do!).

F is playing at a friend's house, but we'll leave in half and hour and pick up F (and the friend!) to go have a soccer kickaround in the park.

So, not an expensive day.

I did go to the store today to do the grocery shopping for the week. We still have the soccer coach staying with us, so I had to buy a little more of everything.

Here is the menu plan:
S - tortilla espanola with salad
S- taquitos with corn on the cob
M - lemon-crumbed fish with broccoli
T - chili with chips, lettuce and sour cream
W - quesadillas with quacamole
Th - freezer with salad
F - out to dinner with our coach!

My hands smell like cilantro and cumin from mixing up the taquito filling - yum!! It's a great recipe - chicken, cream cheese, green salsa, spices, lime...

OK, time to go gather up the soccer stuff now... hope everyone had a great weekend and happy mother's day!

The Past Few Days

May 9th, 2015 at 04:45 pm

I haven't written anything for a few days because I've been dealing with a big deadline (next Friday!) and an exasperating plumbing problem.

The deadline is going well.

The plumbing problem... we'll see. I won't go into it, but the gist is: our shower valve is messed up. We need a new one because no one seems able to repair it (paid $75 to a plumber for a temporary fix), but I can't figure out what to order. I went to the office today and found the original cut-sheets for the original valve. I found out Friday at like 5 minutes to 5 pm that the woman who originally sold it to me is still in town and works for a different plumbing supply place. I'm hoping she can help when I send the original info.

In other news:
- big gluten-free sale at Sprouts so I bought extra bread and baking flour
- we have a soccer coach staying with us for two weeks. He's so tired from all the games (and sun and rain and hail!) today that he's upstairs napping.
- our free entertainment today was F's soccer game. She played so well; I'm really proud! Two goals and one setup for another girl who then made a goal. Select team tryouts are in a few weeks, and she's nervous but excited.
- I went to our cheesemonger (I love that Santa Fe has a cheesemonger!) today and bought ridiculously expensive cheese for mother's day. That's all I really wanted was some nice, ridiculously expensive food. Also bought cherries (also spent too much).
- I'll need to reign in the food spending once the coach is gone and mother's day is over, but I'm okay with splurging on food once in a while.

And now it's time to make a budget (but kind of fancy) dinner: tortilla espanola (spanish omelette) with salad (with goat cheese). Yum! F went to a bday party today, so she asked me to save dessert for tomorrow (she said she'd had enough sweets - funny kid!)

April Recap

May 1st, 2015 at 07:58 pm

Last month turned out not to be as terrible as expected despite medical and dental bills.

And then, guess what? We got a check from D's insurance company today to reimburse part of the dental bill (it was $120.80 - not bad!).

Even without that check (which will go in this month's accounting) and despite the fact that we spent 17% more than this month last year (medical bills), we spent $269 less than we made. We saved about 1% more than this month last year, too.

So, overall a successful month.

The bad news is that I was working so hard today I didn't go to the bank to deposit my gym money. Which means I didn't get the bank popcorn, which was supposed to be F's after-school snack. So I had to buy her crisps. And we forgot to refill her water bottle at school (which she needed for soccer) so we had to buy water. And I was working so hard all day that I was craving a candy bar. Total at our mini-mart stop: $5.26. Not terrible. And I got a lot of work done, so my disorganization today in everything else was worth it.

Tomorrow:
- soccer game
- another soccer game
- evening circus performance (F's best friend is in it so we got free tickets!)