September 30, 2010

It's Homecoming!!

My husband and son - Cross Country Rocks!!!

If you live in a small town in Iowa, when Homecoming comes around you might as well put all other plans aside as it is a really big deal.  I grew up in a city in Western New York and although we had homecoming, I don't ever remember it being as big as it is in the Midwest. 

Our youngest son is the President of Student Council and the Student Council organizes the Homecoming Parade which takes place tonight.  There has been a whirlwind of activity at our house this week while he along with his committee get ready for this event.  Of course, after the parade there is the crowning of the Homecoming King and Queen.  Last night was a late night in getting the gifts ready for the Homecoming Court and then getting the parade line up ready, judges instructions and other details finalized.  I finally sent him off to bed close to 11:00 p.m.  He did all the work and he only asked me to put the gifts in the gift bags as he wasn't really great with the tissue paper and making them look good. 

That is what has been going on this week in his life.  As for me, I have been working every spare moment in our back yard on the "infamous" fence.  Last Saturday we started to construct a shed and even though we had always picked this one piece of ground in our backyard to place a shed, we didn't think one thing through.  We constructed or should I say, partially contructed, the shed near a tree.  Then I realized that while it was half done that the birch tree was the wrong place to put the shed near.  In our Iowa winters, if we get a really, really bad storm, the birch tree gets covered with snow, the snow weighs the branches down and the branches bend clear to the ground.  If we kept the shed in that location and we received a bad snow storm, it is very likely that a birch branch would crash through the roof of the shed.

We had marked out the dimensions of the shed, but had forgot about the heighth.  Sooo... after the Homecoming Parade tonight, our neighbors, a few football players from the local college are coming over to help us move the shed.  Since we only have the walls up and the platform that it sits on, it shouldn't take too much work to move it about 30 feet across the yard.  At least, let's hope so. 

As a side note, when you see college football players moving in next door to you, you wonder what kind of parties and such they will be having and what kind of neighbors they will be.  Well, they have lived next door to us for 1 year and they are wonderful guys.  The only loud noise we ever heard coming from their place was an argument over who was supposed to wash the dishes that week.  I send cookies over to their house and we let them borrow our lawn mower.  They are a great bunch of guys.  I plan to send a couple of pasta casseroles over to their house tomorrow for supper in preparation for their big homecoming football game on Saturday. 

Back to our day.  My DH is picking up a load of dirt during his lunch hour at noon and dumping it in the spot where the shed will now be located.  We need some dirt to level the ground.  He wears casual business clothes to work so he will have to come home, change clothes, get the load of dirt, unload it and level the ground, wash up and change back into his work clothes.  In the meantime I have to paint the fence that the shed will be against, about a 12 foot piece of fence.  Also, I am to bake 8 dozen cinnamon rolls for tomorrow's cross country practice.  Why did I ever start the tradition of the coach's wife baking for the team?  Then after that is done, I am to be at the homcoming parade line up by 6:00 p.m. to walk with the team through the homecoming parade and then I will head back home to finish cinnamon roll baking.

At least we bought tickets to the Rotary Club's BBQ dinner, so I don't have to worry about dinner.  They have a drive thru set up near one of the grocery stores and you simply drive up to the picnic tables, show them your tickets and they package everything up and hand it to you.  I love convenience, especially today.

So here is how my day is lining up:  paint a fence, help hubby get dirt off his pickup truck to level the ground, bake cinnamon rolls, pick up our BBQ supper from the Rotary, walk in the Homecoming Parade and then finish the cinnamon rolls.  Sounds simple enough.  I know that somewhere in between there will be a homecoming parade emergency that the Student Council will have to deal with and may include my having to have on hand any duck tape for float troubles and more.

There is no question in my mind - that these are the best years of our lives.  

September 27, 2010

Home Office for a Homemaker

This weekend we began the building of a shed.  I will post more about that when it is completed.  Let's just say that it has been a real learning experience. 

In the meantime, in between painting and scraping the fence and only on the rainy days, I am starting to set up a home office for myself in a space off our bedroom.  The upstairs of our house has a lot of gables and I am using one for my sewing nook and I am going to use another for my office. This gabled area of the upstairs is higher in the center than in my sewing nook area.  Honestly, I would prefer a space on the main floor of our house but there isn't any space, so here is the space I will be using. The only drawback is that it isn't a separate room and I can see this area when I am in bed.  So it will be a challenge but once I get this set up, I must keep this picked up. 

 When I took these pictures I didn't bother picking up as it seemed pointless to pick up the area in order to take a picture and then start to pull things out, rearrange the room and so on.

The loveseat is from our old living room set from 1997 and the old round table and chair we have owned since 1986.  To the right of the windows are my bookshelves of cookbooks.  This is how this area has looked for a while.  I used to scrapbook and stamp cards here in this area and lately it has become a dumping ground. 

Yes, the skylight windows are nice but when we put a new roof on the house we will be having those windows blocked and completely enclosed and roofed over.  They are nice for light, but they leak during a rain storm and the only way to fix the leaks is to get a ladder and climb up on the roof and caulk around them.  It is dangerous and not worth it.  Notice the strategically placed plastic wastebaskets in the lower right corner of the picture.

If you sit at the table facing the skylight windows, this is to the right of the table.  This is hidden from view until you approach the table and look to your right.  Hence, this is a dumping ground for papers, items to put in scrapbooks and things to file away and by now I should just throw away. 

One of those file cabinets is completely empty from when I purged some files last year and I know that I could easily purge another one.  So, I am blessed with a special area that I can use for sewing and now a separate area for a "Homemaker office."  Again, I would prefer my office to be on the main level as I like being around my family, especially in the evening, but if I can set up an office area upstairs and keep my stuff organized in that area, then I can easily grab a file and my laptop and work on it at the diningroom table whenever I want. 

My main goal is to keep my calendars, cookbooks, projects, coupon book, craft items, and other things I work on in one area.  I can always pick up one thing and work on it at my diningroom table whenever I need to but I really need one space to give all of these things a home and keep them organized. 

This is the end of the extra space in our house.  Every other space in the house has a purpose.  My new office space is perfect and I am sooo blessed.  I have found ways to use up those gabled spaces in the upstairs of our house.  My sewing nook area has been perfect except I have to remember where the gable is in relation to where my head is when I am moving around up there.

As for office type supplies for my office, I don't have to worry.  When we closed the law practice that I worked at, I was told to take anything and everything.  I have staplers, staples, scotch tape and dispensers, paper clips, pencils, filing trays, a paper cutter and more.  I am set.

Every woman needs a place to call her own, an office.  I remember back 25 years ago we lived in a two bedroom house and I found a corner next to the furnace in the basement. I squeezed in an old dilapitated desk and a file cabinet and used a "trouble" light for lighting.  I tacked up a poster on the wall and it was my space.  It didn't matter how rustic it looked, I loved it because no one was going to bother what was in my space.  Oh, and I didn't even have to leave the room if I wanted to throw a load of laundry in or change the furnace filter. 

Find a space to call your own, even if it is next to the furnace.  Every homemaker needs a separate space from the kitchen and her bedroom to have a home office.  I really believe it.  I know that I am fortunate to have this area to call my own, but if you are able, find a corner in your home that you can use to keep your papers, projects and cookbooks, for example.  We all need this.  If I didn't have this gabled area off our bedroom to use for an office, my next step would have been a small card table and a folding chair put up somewhere in our basement.  Our house was built in 1892 and the foundation is brick and there is a poured concrete floor.  I am constantly fighting the cobwebs down there, but I would make a space for an office down there if there wasn't any other space.

September 25, 2010

Aging Healthfully

I have not been feeling well for a couple of days.  I have mainly felt worn out and agitated or anxious, having trouble staying asleep at night and I have gained a few pounds over the past couple of weeks.  I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in January and have been taking a synthetic hormone to replace what my thyroid isn't producing.  With how I had been feeling I made a call to my doctor and I was able to get in within 30 minutes of my phone call.

We live in a small town and this doctor has a small practice which I appreciate more and more from the standpoint that he is easy to get an appointment to see, his office is a mere 4 blocks from our house, he has a great repoire or bedside manner and he goes to our church.  Also, he asks a lot of questions when I am in to see him.  Yesterday he took a vial of blood for the lab to test to check my thyroid hormone levels.  Perhaps I need my medication adjusted which is what I had thought.  But then after asking questions I told him that I had not had a menstrual cycle for 6 weeks and was feeling as if I might be entering pre-menopause.  I was worried about the weight gain and not being able to sleep through the night. 

We talked about my diet, exercise and sleep patterns.  He is a bike enthusiast and I have been biking a lot lately.  While I may be entering menopause, that alone does not explain entirely how I have felt.  After talking with him I am going to change my exercise time to early afternoon instead of late afternoon and when I feel really tired or sleepy, instead of drinking another cup of coffee, I will take a cat nap. I need to keep my exercise time away from the evening hours as this will hamper my sleep. Then before bedtime he recommended that I take one tablet of Melatonin which would help me sleep better and would most probably take care of my Restless Leg Syndrome.

He will contact me on Monday with the lab work and to see if the Melatonin is helping with sleep.  Here is what I have learned about myself, getting enough sleep is important.  When I worked I would get about 5 hours of sleep each night and had done that for years.  Since I have been home I have tried to get more sleep per night but it has been interrupted sleep which can happen as you age and approach menopause. 

Also, I didn't gain the weight that I thought I had gained.  When he weighed me I weighed only 1/4 lb. more than I had when I was in for my last visit in April.  So, my scale must be off.  I'm not sure if it is or not but I am definitely a little O.C.D. about my weight.  Gaining weight has been my biggest worry as I age and that is why I am so conscientious about exercising.  As a side note, I hate to exercise and I am constantly looking for forms of exercise that I enjoy, hence biking. 

I have been very conscious over the past months of getting more and more fresh fruits and vegetables into our diets.  I am the primary consumer of fresh foods in our household, my husband would be second and my son is a distant last.  It is frustrating to get my son to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and the best I can do is to buy them, make fresh fruit and vegetable salads at mealtimes and encourage him to eat them. 

As for approaching menopause, I am not worried about it.  I just want to make sure that I am taking care of myself as I age by eating healthy foods (no more bologna sandwiches that I had been craving), getting plenty of sleep and exercising.  I have no idea if  I will breeze through menopause or not, but I want to be a healthy "prime time" adult so I will take care of myself and when I am not feeling well, I will call my doctor. 

I slept great last night and I didn't wake up much.  Today I had planned on being outside working on projects but it has been raining and is very overcast and cloudy.  Looks to rain more later on.  My husband is outside right now building the base for his new shed.  I in turn plan to stay inside doing housework and working on a home office for myself.  Every homemaker needs their own office in my opinion and I have got to find one place to call my own. 

September 22, 2010

The New Homemaker??

We are in a busy time of the year for our family.  It is cross country season and my DH is the coach for our high school team.  It seems like I never get a lot done during this time of the year as there are meets to go to and I bake 9 dozen muffins for the team for breakfast once a week. 

Because my DH spends a lot of time on cross country and he also has a full time job, he doesn't have extra time to help me around the house.  I understand.  Tonight after supper he washed the dishes and wiped the counter tops.  He did it without saying anything, he just got to work.  Then he made some coffee for the two of us.  Do you have any idea how that made me feel?  Absolutely wonderful.

I need to finish painting the fence, finish painting on some other areas of our house before winter and my DH plans to build a shed to put in our backyard plus bust up the side steps and pour new concrete steps.  Probably not the best time of year to tackle these projects, but that is how it is playing out due to the wet spring and summer we had. 

In the meantime I am in "minimum" house work mode.  You know, tidy up, keep the laundry up, cook some simple meals and clean the bathrooms as needed.  The one thing I will not cut out of my schedule is my daily bike ride as I need the fresh air and time to enjoy nature and let my mind wander.  Today as I was biking I started to think about the phrase I keep reading on the internet and other blogs - "the new homemaker."  Am I a new homemaker? 

It's interesting how we have to put labels on things and perhaps "the new homemaker" is one of those new labels.  I consider myself a homemaker and am not afraid to tell people that I am one.  Perhaps I should now say that I am a "new" homemaker or a "new and improved" homemaker.  How about "homemaking on my terms." 

I have watched episodes of "Mad Men" and it is very interesting how they portray the 1960's homemaker. It is not how I want to be perceived.  Women had "their place" and there were certain expectations of how a house was kept.  I grew up in that era and I remember very well the homemakers in our neighborhood and they were nothing like what is shown on "Mad Men."  I remember that the majority of the women wore housedresses during the day, they hung clothes out on the line and kept their houses moderately clean.  I remember playing in many backyards in the neighborhood and that many of those homemakers would stop and watch us play with a neighbor.  They would sip coffee and talk about was going on in each other's lives and watch us kids run around and play. 

The ladies in our neighborhood took pride in their homes and did their best but they weren't perfectionists.  When there was a tragedy, the neighborhood homemakers would get into action mode.  There would be calls made, cakes delivered to a family and babysitting services offered.  If a kid got hurt and needed stitches there was no need to ask, those women would in a heartbeat drop any plans they had for the day in order to watch another neighbor's kids or drive someone to the doctor.  I remember recipes being shared.  The recipes were simple.  All of the familes in our neighborhood were one income families with the husband being a blue collar factory worker and living on a small income. 

And there were those coffee times.  A couple of times a week 3 or 4 of those ladies would gather at another lady's house and they would have coffee and maybe cookies.  The cookies didn't matter as long as there was coffee and conversation.  They would talk about what was going on in their lives and advice was given.  It would last at the most an hour and then they would go back to their homes to face the laundry, cooking and the cleaning. 

I learned a lot from these neighborhood homemakers. One lady taught me to sew, another would listen to me when I was a teenager and went through that "I don't like my mom phase."  She listened, didn't say much but she listened and it really helped. 

That is my role model for being a homemaker and it isn't new.  I aspire to be the kind of homemaker that lived in my neighborhood when I was growing up.  Someone who was willing to help another, who did the best she could with her housework but wasn't a perfectionist, who laughed and shared a cup of coffee with another woman and encouraged each other.  That is in my opinion the best kind of homemaker and it isn't new. 

September 21, 2010

I Smell Gas!!!

There is nothing that sends me into a frenzy than a home emergency.  Yesterday I was down in our basement in the only room that has a dirt floor.  I store items on a shelf in that room and I was reaching for my crockpot when I smelled it --- natural gas or at least I thought that's what it was.  My DH didn't smell it and thought the room smelled more like a musty basement but I wasn't so sure.  So it nagged on me for the better part of the day and finally I decided to call the utility company and within 30 minutes a utility worker was in my basement with some kind of instrument that "smelled" for any leaking natural gas. 

And guess what -- we had a natural gas leak in the gas pipe that supplies the kitchen stove.  The worker shut off the gas to the stove and before he even left the house I called a plumbing and heating business and set up an appointment for one of their employees to come by this morning to fix it.

It was an easy fix - replace the pipe and refit it.  As the worker explained to me the turning on of a gas stove automatically releases pressure in the gas pipe and alternately when not in use, a normal amount of pressure builds.  Over time it may result in some minor leaks. 

What did I learn?  Even if you are the only one that smells a possible natural gas leak, call it in.  Next, learn where the natural gas, and for that matter the electric and water shut offs are to the house so that you can shut things off in case of an emergency.  In case of a natural gas leak, don't turn on any light switches or anything electrical and it is best to leave the house and call from your cell phone outside or go to a neighbor's house. 

Grocery Deals in September

I haven't done this for a long time, so I am posting my grocery deals from last Friday.  There were some great deals and here are the highlights.

Charmin 12 double roll toilet paper was $4.74 after coupons;Tidy Cat was $1.00 and I had four $1.00 off coupons so I got four 10 lb. bags of cat litter free; the salad mixes were 50 cents; red peppers were 3 for $2.00, brown sugar was $1.00 for a 2 lb. bag, the milk was 79 cents, potatoes were $1.00 for a 5 lb. bag, and yes, there are some processed foods in there.  Banquet chicken patties - $3.99; bologna was $1.00 for 16 oz.

I rarely buy the chicken patties but sometimes you have to have something like that in the freezer for a quick Saturday night lunch or supper and as for the bologna, well.... I have been craving bologna sandwiches for the past few weeks.  I haven't had them in years and no, I am not pregnant!!!

I also bought a 26 oz. container of Tide "Release" Laundry Stain Booster for 49 cents after I used an in store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon.  This is a good example of teaming up those coupons.  The in store coupon had Tide Release for $3.49 and I had a manufacturer's coupon for another $3.00.  Normally I wouldn't buy this product but I still clip the coupons and file them away in case this type of scenario happens.  I won't pay full price for this product.  I won't even pay the full price less the $3.00 manufacturer's coupon but I will pay 49 cents when I team the in store and the manufacturer's coupons to try this product. 

More good deals:  A 5 lb. bag of all purpose flour was on sale for 79 cents and I was able to get Playtex tampons - 18 count for $2.00 after using a coupon. 

At Wal-mart Wisk laundry soap was on sale for $4.97 a 32 load size and I had two $3.00 off coupons.  When it is this low I buy it and alternate using my homemade soap with the commercial detergent.  My teenage son likes men's body washes and I had some coupons.  BOGO for the Axe body wash ($2.97 each normal price and with BOGO were $1.49 each) and $2.00 off the Gillette body wash (came to $1.50 net) which also came with a free small deoderant.  Body wash is one of those unnecessary items since a bar soap will clean you just as well and for a lot less.  But, if you find a product that your teenage son likes and that product helps him get clean and smell great, I'm all for it - as long as it's on sale and I have a coupon.

Why I bought what I bought.  When toilet paper, tampons, soaps, flour and sugar are on sale, I buy these items no matter what.  These are items that are going to get used up in a relatively short time so why not stock up and save?

I haven't bought this much in a long time as I have such a stocked pantry and freezer and it hasn't been necessary, but I really wanted to take advantage of some good sales on items that I know I can donate to the food pantry.  Have you ever thought about donating items such as tampons?  They are expensive and when I can get them for $2.00 a box, I buy extra to donate.  What about dish soap or laundry soap?  All of this adds up and can be very helpful to someone who his living on a very limited income.

What grocery deals have you found in your area? 

September 19, 2010

A Movie Review - Hidden Places

I highly recommend this Hallmark movie.  It is absolutely a wonderful, family friendly, good moral, great values movie.  There - so you must rent it from Netflix.  It is set in the 1930's depression.  Eliza is widowed with two children and lives on an orange farm owned by her father in law.  Her father in law's sister lives on the farm also.  The father in law dies suddenly and the bank calls the loan.  In order to pay off the loan, they have to pick the orange crop by themselves.  Gabe appears one day, riding the rails, looking for work.   I'll leave it at that except for one more thing, Gabe prays in the movie as does the Aunt.  When the going gets tough, they turn to prayer.

It is a pull together type of family movie.  I loved it so much that after renting it a couple of times from Netflix I bought it (used - less than $5.00 of course) to add to my home library. 

Gotta Laugh at Yourself Sometimes

Yesterday I decided to bake an apple pie for today's lunch.  Seem's easy enough, right? 


and another view

This is what is remaining of the big rubbermaid bin that I use to store the 8 dozen muffins I bake every Thursday evening for my DH's cross country team for breakfast on Friday mornings. 

The before picture

On Friday when he came home from practice I put this large container in the oven for safe keeping.  There were about 1 dozen muffins left and I didn't want our dog to get into it while I was taking a shower.  There it set in the oven, unforgotten until yesterday when I started to preheat the oven to bake the apple pie.

So in about 5 minutes I started to small something funny and I opened the oven door and there were gobs of plastic melting in my oven.  I did what every other woman would do, I screamed.  My DH ran into the kitchen while I grabbed two potholders, pulled the oven rack out with the melting plastic bin.  My DH held the back door open for me and I ran out in the back yard with the mess. 

We started to carefully scrape hot plastic off of the oven rack.  We got as much off as we could then we soaked the rack in a steamy hot bathtub of water to try to make the plastic more pliable.  While it soaked I inspected the inside of the oven.  There were just two small pieces of plastic on the bottom of the oven and they came right off.  Well, in order to get the rest of the plastic off of the rack we resorted to heating up the oven with the rack in it (the hot water in the bathtub didn't work).  Then when the plastic started to melt again we pulled it out, ran into the back yard again and was able to pry the rest of the plastic off the rack. 

One hour after first discovering the plastic mess, I started to bake the apple pie.

The pie was good and there was no plastic aftertaste.

September 16, 2010

Helping those Living in Poverty

Today the government released a report from the Census Bureau reporting that the percentage of Americans in poverty has risen to 14.3% in 2009, the highest in decades.   
As a reminder from one of my posts from back in July, what follows is a portion of Ann Curry's Dateline report on poverty in America.

I know I have talked about this before, but I don't believe I can say enough that those of us that have plenty, need to help those who don't.  Please give to a charity this month that helps those living in poverty.  I will be donating food to our local food pantry.

September 15, 2010

Wednesdays are Grocery Planning Days

Wednesday is the day that I go through the grocery sales circulars and look at what is on sale, compare it to The Grocery Game's list and go through my coupons to match up with a sale.  I love to go through the circulars to see what deals I can get to add to whatever I already have on hand.  I also love when there aren't a lot of sales as it isn't a problem as I keep a stocked pantry and a stocked freezer. 

I am continually amazed that in my small town, population around 11,000, that our two grocery stores offer wonderful weekly specials that you think you would only find in a large metropolitan area.  Those stores are Fareway and Hy-Vee.  We also have a Super Wal-mart that sells groceries but I rarely buy groceries there. 

This week I wasn't planning on buying much as my freezer and pantry are full, until I saw the sales circulars.  2 lb. packages of brown sugar are on sale for $1.00.  Tones' spices in the small containers are on sale for 50 cents.  Time to change my grocery plan for the week.

At this time of year we start to see the beginning of sales on baking supplies.  I can always count that from now until Christmas I will be able to stock up on sugar, flour, chocolate chips and other baking items.  If you check the expiration dates on these baking essentials you will find that the majority of them have a date that is one year ahead so I always buy a year's worth of baking supplies from now until Christmas.  By January 1st I will have plenty of flour and sugar, all kinds of chocolate, white chocolate, butterscotch and cinnamon baking chips, and all different kinds of almond bark, nuts and cocoa that will last me until one year from now when the sales begin again.

I love to bake cookies for my family and to give away to friends, so buying these supplies at rock bottom prices is a necessity.  Storing these supplies properly is equally important because if, for example, I get bugs in the flour by not storing my flour properly then it didn't matter how much I saved when I purchased the flour, as it is now wasted.

I store all of my flour and sugar in big Rubbermaid Bins.  Before I put the flour in these bins I freeze the bags of flour for 24 hours.  I read somewhere that this will prevent the flour from getting bugs.  Then when I put the bags of flour and bags of sugar in their own separate Rubbermaid Bins, I also toss in several bay leaves to keep any bugs away.  Since doing this, I have never had any bugs in the flour or sugar.

I buy coffee in the large plastic canisters which are approximately 33 oz.  When the coffee is gone, I wash, rinse and thoroughly dry these canisters and I use them to store all of my chocolate chips and other flavors of baking chips.  I make a lot of chocolate chip cookies and a year's supply for me is about 5 coffee canisters.  So you can see why I buy these items in bulk when on sale.

I love being a homemaker.  Honestly I thought the thrill of it would wear off after a year and I would get bored, but I haven't.   I am very busy and I enjoy keeping a home and taking care of my family.  I also love taking the time to look through the grocery circulars each week for some great deals that help me keep my pantry and freezer well stocked and my grocery expense down.

You know what else I love?  A gift.  I received a $75.00 Hy-Vee gift card this week and I felt like I had won a sweepstakes. Some people get excited over receiving a gift card to a clothing store.  I am above excited at receiving a grocery gift card.

September 13, 2010

Retirement on One Income

When women find out that I am no longer working, they usually make a comment about having money for retirement is why they work.  It is almost as if they are saying to me that I am not saving for retirement by not earning an income.  This is not true.  I contribute to our family's financial well being by making conscious decisions about our money - finding ways to spend less on items that we need and thereby being able to save money.

When I "retired" from my former job, I had a small retirement fund. Right now it is at $14,000 and I quit contributing to it when I quit working.  Instead, we fund my husband's retirement account since it is matched somewhat by his employer.  So after working for 27 years or so, I came away with $14,000 in retirement.  I know, more and more working women are offered 401K plans from the start.  When I started working in the early 1980's, there weren't many retirement plans out there.  In fact it wasn't until the late 1990's when my employer began a 401K plan for his employees.

How we live now is how we plan to live during our retirement years.  We live conservatively and that will not change in retirement.  When you listen to any financial "expert" on a news program they give an outlandish amount, in my opinion, of what everyone needs to have in their retirement fund.  I know that we are living longer and that in turn will require more income in retirement, but when is it overkill?  Actually I think that a lot of parents are not only considering retirement savings but have included an inheritance amount that they would like to leave their children. 

We have estate plans in place if we would die when our children are young, but I have never included the plan to have more money than I need in retirement in order to leave my children an inheritance.  Our inheritance for our children is that we have and are going to pay for the majority of their college education and to also pay for a portion of their weddings.  Our feeling is that this "inheritance" at the beginning of their young adult lives is far more beneficial and gives them a head start than any inheritance later in their lives.

If a married woman wants to be home with her children and make a career at home, never joining the workforce, is she making a financial mistake which will lead to disaster in retirement because she has not earned an income?  I don't think so as long as she and her husband make good financial decisions along the way. 

I know there are families out there that have lost a lot of their retirement due to the Recession and there is a need especially if they are near retirement age to put more money in retirement.  I recognize that scenario.  I am talking about women who get married and want to stay home with their children but feel the pressure to work so that they can fund a retirement account. 

When did we get to this point?  I really think that if a woman wants to be home with her children or for that matter wants to be a stay at home wife without children, that if she and her spouse/partner make good financial decisions, that they will be just fine in retirement.  Being in the workplace is not for everyone.  Living below your means so that you can put money into retirement and other savings can happen on one income.  You just have to embrace a different lifestyle. 

When others are buying homes that have 4 or 5 bedrooms along with 3 bathrooms, you have to look at a home that perhaps has 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom that is well within your price range.  When others are buying a brand new gas guzzler SUV, you look at a more modest priced used car.  When has comfortable living been equated with bigger and better?  When has retirement savings required two incomes?

It goes back to quality of life and being happy does not go hand in hand with a large income.  I cannot imagine being miserable in a job I do not like for the next 15 years in order to have more money for retirement.  I'm all for delayed gratification but not when it means I am unhappy for 15 years.  I would much rather live below my means and fund our retirement through my husband's retirement account and our cost cutting lifestyle in order to put more into savings. 

By the time we retire, our mortgage will be paid.  We have looked to the future and know the approximate amount of monthly income we will have in retirement and it is enough to live the conservative life we are presently living.  Honestly I could see my husband working a small part time job if it involved an area of interest such as continuing to coach cross country, but only if he wants to.

Living in a modest home, driving a used car and thereby living below your means will serve everyone for their lifetime.  Even though I am not earning an income, I contribute financially by making conscious decisions on how I spend our money.  Spending less, means saving more for an emergency fund, for savings and for retirement. 

September 10, 2010

Let Us Not Forget - September 11th

In honor of those who lost their lives 9 years ago tomorrow and in honor of my father, a World War II veteran, who loved this country and the flag that he held dear to his heart. Michael W. Smith's "There She Stands" says it all.

Check Those Grocery Receipts

There was a time when I could catch the checker as he/she was scanning the groceries if I noticed a mistake in a price.  Now they scan things as fast as I can put them on the conveyer belt, so I don't notice anything until I am out of the store. 

Today at a grocery store I noticed right after the checker handed me my receipt that I was not given a package of a dozen pastries for free.  Okay, to anyone who is eating right and watching their weight which is also me, I rarely buy pastries.  Since tomorrow is the Iowa Hawkeye vs. Iowa Cyclones college football game - big rivals - I decided that this would be great for breakfast - a real treat.  I used a free pastry coupon as I knew I would be purchasing over $35.00 of groceries from that one store - the required amount to spend to get the freebie. 

The checker reviewed the receipt and sure enough even though she had entered the coupon code, it was not taken off my amount so she gave it to me in cash - $7.00. 

Then I loaded my groceries in the back of my car, got in the driver's side and decided to take another look at the receipt.  I was not given $1.00 off on a package of toilet paper from an instore coupon and I was also charged full price and not the sale price on two bottles of dish detergent.  I went back in the store to customer service, showed them my receipt and was promptly given $1.50 in cash. 

It is definitely worth checking my receipts for any errors.  There have been times that when I have been charged full price instead of the sale price, I have been given the full amount back in cash. 

Perhaps I am a little compulsive/obsessive, but if I go through the sales ads, match things up with a coupon so that I am really getting the most for my money and then being charged the original full price - well it makes me a little crazy.  Today I would have been out $8.50 if I wouldn't have checked my receipt. 

So I am now in the habit of sitting in my car and taking a minute to look over my receipt to make sure that I have received the correct price.  And yes, I have gone back into the store when they have under charged me.  They have never asked for their money back, but I would be willing to hand it over to make it right.  It goes both ways. 

What have I learned?  Grocery store managers want to know if there has been a mistake as they do not want to overcharge customers.  They want to keep their customers and if a customer thinks that they are shopping at a store that is cheating them, they will spread the word and not shop at that store. 

So, check your receipts. 

September 09, 2010

The Fence Project

I'm tired and need to go to bed, but I wanted to post pictures of my "fence" project. Scraping, priming and painting an old wooden picket fence is quite a job.

Yes, it's a lot of fence.

People have walked by and told me that I should buy one of those plastic fences that requires no maintenance. Sure, I would love to, but I don't have around $6,000 for the plastic fence so the wooden picket fence will do just fine.

I am thankful to whoever invented the MP3 player. I love to listen to music or the radio while I have been working on that fence. Seems to make the project move along a little faster.

Really it isn't just working on the fence that has me tired out, but I went for a 10 mile bike ride this afternoon on the bike trail that goes around our town. My DH and I have been biking each evening but last night we left too late and came home in the dark. We have lights on our bikes, but still, it was poor planning. So if I am going to get my bike ride in I have to do it during the day now. Why is this so important to me? Riding a bike through the woods on a bike trail that circles around beautiful scenery is just soothing to my soul AND it is the best workout for me.

Then this evening after making supper I baked 8 dozen muffins for my DH's cross country team for breakfast tomorrow morning.  Oh and when I ran out to get some more baking powder, I came across a great in store sale at a grocery store - Ragu pasta sauce - 26 oz. jar for only 69 cents - limit of ten.  Yahoo!!!

Yes, I am tired, but I will definitely sleep good tonight.

September 07, 2010

Spinning My Wheels

When I was a pre-teen there was a popular song called "Spinning Wheel." 

For the past week I have been spinning my wheels. You can't be a homemaker, Head of Home Management, CFO of the Homefront or whatever you want to call yourself, without spending some days wondering if you are getting anything done. The key is to get over it and do what you can to get back on track. Nothing, including a home, is perfect all of the time.

The weather is absolutely beautiful here in Iowa. The days have been in the upper 70's and low 80's. The nights have been in the 50's and the weather has finally cooperated so I can be outside and scrape and paint a fence and the house. The problem is that the inside of the house tends to get ignored - meaning it is a mess and also needs cleaned.

How do you get a major project done and still keep up on the regular housework? Well, either you don't sleep all night and work round the clock, you have your family help you (except right now they are equally busy), you let it all go and hope no one drops by or your find the happy medium.

I'm finding a happy medium. Today is cross country meet day which means this afternoon I will be heading out of town to watch my DS run at a meet that my DH also coaches. Since I would only have a morning to be outside working, I have decided that I should instead spend it inside picking up and doing some maintenance cleaning. If I were to let the "downstairs" of our house go another day, there will be big trouble for the rest of the week. I can't find things because of such disorder and it will only make my week worse if I don't tackle it.

I think the surprising thing about this week is that people would look at my being home and make the judgment that my home is always perfectly clean and put together. That would be true if we didn't live in the house.

Working in an office I learned when there was a major project we were working on that we only did whatever else was necessary to keep the office going and focused on the major project. The same is true at home.

So this morning it is a couple loads of laundry, picking up, tidying up the kitchen and bathroom and a quick vacuuming and I should be good to go for the rest of the week.

September 04, 2010

Preparing Sunday Lunch

I make a priority of having a nice meal on Sunday after church.  It does take some planning as we are gone to church from 10:00 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m.  This means that I have to spend time Saturday night preparing some of the food in advance. 

My oldest son and his wife attend church with us and they have lunch with us on Sundays.  It's becoming a tradition and I love it.  I don't prepare big menus for Sunday but I try very hard to make sure there is a dessert.  Tomorrow's meal is simple - spaghetti with meat sauce, tossed salad, italian bread and ice cream for dessert.  Tonight I browned the hamburger, allowed it to cool and put it in the fridge.  When I get up tomorrow morning I will put the meat and two jars of spaghetti sauce in the crockpot to simmer.  I just finished cooking the spaghetti noodles and have cooled them and put them in a tupperware container.  Lastly I chopped up cucumber, carrots, fresh basil and chives for the salad.

When we get home from church tomorrow, someone will set the table while I warm up the spaghetti noodles, slice the bread and add lettuce to the chopped vegetables I prepared tonight.  And that is that.  A simple meal for us to enjoy after church.  The best part is that I won't have a lot to clean up as I have done the majority of the cooking tonight. 

Other menus that I have prepared on past Sundays:  any simple meat on the grill such as pork loin chops, hamburgers and hot dogs, chicken breasts and small steaks.  I have put a spiral ham in the oven before we leave for church and I have also put a chuck roast in the crockpot.  I make salads the day before such as pasta, potato and broccoli.  I try to put any side dishes such as hash brown casserole and baked beans in the crockpot.  I make a dessert the day before and it could be something as simple as brownies to something more complex such as pie. 

Keep it simple.  Take some canned fruit such as fruit cocktail and add some chopped apples or take those chopped apples, add some chopped celery and raisins.  Stir in a little Miracle Whip thinned with milk and sweetened with a little sugar and you have a quick Waldorf Salad or as I have come to call it - apple salad.

It is very feasible to have a meal on the table in a reasonable amount of time after church on Sunday.  There is something wonderful about attending church with your family and then going home and sharing a meal with them.  What a great way to start the week. 

September 02, 2010

Homemaker Mentor Links

I had a few comments about the Homemaker Mentor site that I wrote about on September 1st, so I have added to my sidebar two links to the Homemaker Mentor.  The first button will take you to the site and will offer a free download after signing up for the newsletter.  I have also added a second button if you would be interested in ordering any homemaking lessons for girls. 

I don't as a rule include ads on my site but I have added these buttons and links as I truly believe in what the Homemaker Mentor is all about and acknowledge for myself how valuable the lessons have been for me.  So, click on one of the buttons and check out Martha Greene's Homemaker Mentor site.

Baking for Others

Last night my daughter in law and I baked about 7 dozen cookies.  It was her idea.  You see our church got a group of people together to leave this morning to drive to a small town here in Iowa and help with the flood recovery.  My DIL came up with the idea that since both of us wouldn't be able to go and help, we should bake some cookies to send with the group to hand out to people in the small town of Colfax.  This small community sustained a lot of damage from the floods last month and they are still in the process of cleaning up.  We had a great time baking those cookies and felt like it was one small way that we could bring a little bit of comfort to that community. 

It was a beautiful morning today.  The temperature was in the 70's, the sky was a beautiful blue and it was such a wonderful relief from the heat of summer.  I decided that it was the perfect day to finally begin to scrape the picket fence in preparation for painting it.  My son had dropped his dog off early this morning so the dog could run around our yard and get some exercise.  I will have to post a picture of Brody.  He is a mixed breed, gentle loving animal.  He would run around the yard and come over and sit next to me and watch me work.   We have a considerable amount of painting to do before winter sets in and I was feeling discouraged as with all the rain and then the heat it was impossible to get the job done.  But today gave me hope that over the next 8 weeks we should be able to get the majority of the painting done. 

I received a phone call this morning from a lady in our church.  She wanted to know if I could bake some bar cookies for tomorrow.  There is a funeral at our church and the family requested a coffee time after the services.  I baked some nut bars.  The recipe called for mixed nuts but I substituted pecans instead since I had them on hand.  Since mixed nuts have salt in them I sprinkled a little salt over the pecans.  I had to sample one and they were very, very good. 

When I get a request from our church office to prepare a meal or dessert for someone, I always apply the rule that my mom had.  Give your best to the church, so I always do my best to make a special meal or in this case special bar cookies.  Chocolate chips wouldn't do - something about pecans on top of bar cookies that says "special." 

After the cookies cooled I baked 8 dozen pumpkin muffins for my DH's cross country team for breakfast tomorrow. 

By the time the afternoon was over, this is what my kitchen looked like:

Ah, but it didn't stay like that for long.  Twenty minutes later:

I always make a big mess when I am baking and I delight in it.  My mom used to get upset when I would bake and make a mess.  Now I delight in having my own home and making a big mess in the kitchen anytime I want to.

Thank goodness we were having leftover sloppy joes, watermelon and tater tots for supper.  After all of that baking I don't think I would have had the strength to cook a meal from scratch. 

This best part of my life at home is that I am available.  Baking is something that many women don't have time to do but I enjoy it and make the time.  It is almost like therapy to me.

September 01, 2010

Changing Focus, but still Frugal

I started this blog almost one year ago and after a year of talking about my lifestyle change to frugal living, I feel that while I can still learn more, I have said as much as I can say about frugality in several posts a week.  I remember when I was trying to come up with a name for my blog I initially wanted to title it "The Path (or Journey) Home" but that was already taken. I knew that coming home and saying goodbye to the work force would require a frugal lifestyle and I had a lot to learn, but I also knew that the main reason for coming home was so that I could finally be a full time homemaker. 

One thing that has really surprised me is that it has taken me a year to get used to being home.  I talked with a friend at church last week and she confirmed that when she retired 3 years ago it took her quite a while to get used to being home and available to finally do the things that she wanted to do. 

I want to change the focus of my blog from primarily a frugal focus to one of a "first time homemaker at the age of 51".  Can that be my new title?  I don't think so.  Besides I like the name of my blog and I will keep it.  I will still post about frugal topics but I want to move my focus to more of homemaking and my learning new homemaking skills. 

The only training I received when I was growing up on keeping a house was that my mother taught me how to bake cookies and I learned to sew in Home Economics. There is more to keeping a home than cookies and sewing. 

In May, 2008 I was surfing the internet and came upon the website The Homemaker Mentor and later The Homemaker Society.  Both sites provide mentoring lessons and encouragement for homemakers.  I subscribed to both websites and started to receive monthly lessons on homemaking.  I would print these off and store them in a binder for later use.  A sample of the lessons I received were on sewing, cooking, canning, storing clothing, care of clothing, food storage, knitting and more.  My plan last year was to start going through those lessons and actually put them into practice in my own home.  Now I am going to do it and I will report on how I am doing.

The Homemaker Mentor is now providing mentoring lessons for girls.  If only I would have received this training when I was younger. 

I am a homemaker, but I'm not very good at it at times.  No matter what our chosen profession, we are never 100% great at our chosen careers 100% of the time.  I'm no different than anyone else.  Women get an education so that they can go out into the world and work in some chosen career.  Why shouldn't those of us who choose to stay home and be homemakers also receive some training? 

So, while I am still on a Path to Frugality, I am also on a path to becoming a better homemaker.