Friday, May 31, 2013

Celebrating Hubby's Birthday

We don’t do much for birthdays around here, but birthdays have always been a big deal for me.  This is probably because my mother spoiled us rotten on our birthdays with breakfast in bed, a gift with breakfast (I always had a flower in a vase and a piece of jewelry) and anything we wanted for dinner.  Mom took special requests for our birthday dinners and I vaguely remember french onion soup and crab legs for dinner for one of my birthdays and everyone had to suffer through it.  We also went out that weekend for a birthday meal as a family to our favorite restaurant where we could order whatever we wanted.  My brother and I both always chose Red Lobster.  So yes, my mother made birthdays extremely special in our home.  As a teenager, my mother had balloons and flowers sent to high school, and even as an adult, she had them sent to work and she always made me feel special on my birthday.  For my 31st birthday, mom took me to get my first (and only, thankyouverymuch) tattoo.  The best part – she got one too.  We have them in the same inconspicuous location and the same design.  (Side note: Mom wanted to do this for my 30th birthday; however, I was on blood thinners due to some medical issues I had 6 months before my 30th birthday.)

Todd’s family is quite the opposite.  Birthdays are just another day to them.  When my birthday rolled around a few months after we started dating and nothing was planned, I was upset.  It took only that first birthday for Todd to realize how important they are to me.  Todd wishes we (my mom and I) would forget his birthday altogether.  He doesn’t want to get any older and doesn’t want to have to feel any more aches and pains.  I should probably honor his wishes, but I don’t.  For his 40th birthday, Todd got to fly a plane!  He will never forgive me for that gift, but I will tell you, it was a lot of fun. J

On the in-between birthdays, I try to make his day as simple, carefree and special as possible.
This year, I made him a nice dinner with foods that we don’t generally buy.  Unfortunately, he had to work on his birthday this year, but this was his menu.

Breakfast: Glazed doughnuts (his favorite)
Lunch: He ate whatever he took to work for lunch
Dinner: Steak with mushrooms and onions, shrimp, pasta salad, corn on the cob and a baked potato
Drink with dinner: Sparkling Apple Cider

Yes, I went all out for his dinner.
I am suffering from the worst case of poison ivy I’ve ever had and Todd mentioned that we should just go out to a local restaurant for a burger on his birthday to make it easier on me.  Though I appreciate his concern, I enjoy preparing for birthdays as much as I enjoy celebrating my own!

This is what dinner looked like on his actual birthday yesterday, May 30th.  Yes, it was a feast.  After all, we like our food!

We ate like a king and queen on Todd’s birthday and enjoyed every minute of it.  This meal cost a total of $18.38 (including his breakfast), which is steep, but well worth the splurge.  We wouldn’t have been able to order two burgers from the local restaurant for any less than this large meal.  The best part is that there were leftovers to enjoy!

How do you celebrate birthdays in your home?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Garden Update : May 2013

The garden is coming along well this year!
It was my goal to start everything by seed, and so far, I have been able to do just that.  Not only is it less expensive, I am able to see what each vegetable looks like when it comes out of the ground (so I can recognize them in the future, or even in the compost pile!)

For the first time ever, Todd is helping out with the garden and it has made a huge difference.
In the beginning, he would do the brunt of the work and leave me to pulling weeds, planting, and picking the veggies which I would grow tired of pretty quickly.  Now, he is helping with tilling, pulling weeds, planting, and tilling some more because this is the biggest garden we have ever grown (I say that every year, but it’s true!). 

Main Garden Area May 2, 2013
A few weeks back, I mentioned to Todd that I didn’t think our garden was going to be big enough for all the seeds I purchased and planned on planting.  At the same time, he was complaining about a part of our yard that always flooded when it rained and he was tired of dealing with it.  So…he got out the tiller, built up the ground (with some ashes from a few of our burn piles) and made a new area for me to plant the huckleberry bushes (by seed), cantaloupe, watermelon and pumpkin! (I forgot to take a picture of this new area.)

I was able to plant peas, broccoli, cauliflower, mustard greens, brussel sprouts, onions, carrots, leeks and several different varieties of lettuce in early May.  This is what we have coming up in the garden now:

Grape Vines (and a dog tail)
Peas (2 rows)

Mustard Greens / Lettuce


Green Beans (130+ seeds!)


Squash (2 varieties)

Added Bonus from last year.
Either pie pumpkin or spaghetti squash.

Added Bonus #2 From Last Year : Peas
 (many of them throughout the garden)

I love this time of year when the trees get their leaves, the garden is beginning to grow and the sun is showing its face longer throughout the days.

There is still a lot of work to do in the garden and many weeds to pull, but we are enjoying it!

How is your garden doing so far this season?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

An Alternative to a Smart Strip

Photo Credit

A couple months ago, I was making a comment to my husband about how I was tired of the electric bill being so high.  I had cut down the amount we use our dryer significantly, washed the majorityof our dishes by hand, lowered use of our stove in favor of a crock pot and convection oven and did not notice much of a difference in our electric bill each month.  I was frustrated, and my husband came to the rescue.

Todd is a very handy man who knows how frugal cheap I can be.  I have been talking about purchasing and installing smart strips on all of our electronic devices; however, I never pulled the trigger because I did not want to spend the money not knowing how much (if any) it would save in the long-run.  On a weekday that I worked and Todd had the day off, he came up with a better plan to cut off the electricity to all of our electronic devices when not in use at a much lower cost: install a light switch at each device.  The cost for supplies was less than $8 and we have these switches in 4 places around our home.

Switch for the TV, Roku and DVD Player in
the Family Room

When we are ready to watch anything on TV or a movie, we turn the switch on and go about our business.  Having the light switches has not been an inconvenience at all.  We also have one connected to our microwave.  The microwave was glitching out and blowing the circuit for some reason for the first time in the 6 years we owned it.  I really didn’t want to have to go shopping for a new microwave and shell out $200+ for a decent one.  Instead, Todd installed a light switch to the microwave and whenever we use it (we use it a lot less than I thought we did!), we turn the switch on and go about our business.  Since installing the switch, the microwave has not glitched out once nor has it blown the circuit breaker. 
The Switch by the Microwave (can you see it?)
The real question is whether or not this has saved us any money on our electricity use.
My answer is yes!  I was amazed the first month to see a $35 drop in our electric bill (during a really cold month).  The second month, there was a $65 drop in the electric bill (the weather was starting to warm up a little bit, so the furnace wasn’t running as much)! Just this past week, we had another bill cut and we are under $100 for the month!  The lowest electric bill we've had in this house was $77, and this past month was $99, just $22 more than our lowest electric bill.

I am anxious to see how low we can go in the summer months.

For me, lowering our electricity consumption makes the use of solar panels and wind-energy to power our home more attainable.

How do you lower the use of electricity in your home?  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Celebrating 6 Years of Marriage

 Each year of marriage, Todd and I try to get away to experience new places and focus on one another.  We have had some pretty awesome trips over the past 6 years of marriage (including our honeymoon to Seattle & Alaska!).  They include:

Honeymoon: Alaskan Cruise (in-credible!)
1st Anniversary: GatlinburgTN
2nd Anniversary: Lancaster, PA 
3rd Anniversary:  WashingtonDC  and Chesapeake BeachMD
4th Anniversary: BeverlyWV 
5th Anniversary: Las Vegas and The Grand Canyon

This year, our big trip was to Aruba with family so we didn’t want to take another week off for our anniversary (nor did we want a big price-tag for the trip).  Instead, we chose to go to Columbus, OH to visit family friends (my friend from high school and her mom: both who were integral parts of my life during my parent’s divorce) on the opening weekend of their new Bed and Breakfast.  Not only did I want to support them in their new business, but I wanted to spend some time with them before they got too busy because I am confident that the Bed and Breakfast is going to be a huge success.

As with all of our trips, we try to do things as frugal as possible but also make the most of the time we have together.  I am lucky to have a father who likes dogs and especially adores our dog. When I asked if he would want to take our precious pup for the long-weekend, he quickly accepted.  This alone saved us $99 in the cost of taking Lana to the pet resort she enjoys going to.  (We took dad and the family out to dinner as a thank you when we got back.)

On our actual anniversary (Friday, May 3rd), we were up bright and early packing our bags and preparing the animals for their weekend without us.  We dropped off the pup to my dads and made the 2 ½ hour trek to Columbus.  Before we got to Columbus, we stopped off and got some lunch at one of Todd’s new-found favorite restaurants: Red Robin. After that, we headed to the Columbus Zoo.  Oh how I enjoy animals; however, it saddens me that they are caged up and kept captive. Side Note: If you are ever in the Columbus area and would like to find an animal reservation, please go to The Wilds.  They don’t have all of the exotic animals and monkeys, but the animals are given thousands of acres to roam and live naturally.

After walking around the zoo for nearly 5 hours, we were exhausted.  It was time to check into the Bed and Breakfast and grab something to eat.  We ended up eating at a really nice restaurant for half the price thanks to a coupon that we bought for 30% off (a $50 certificate cost us $14!). The food was delicious, but we were pooped.  When we got back to the B&B, we went straight to bed with our throbbing muscles and passed out.

The next morning, we were up bright and early to have tea and sweet rolls for breakfast before we had to head out to our Segway Tour around Columbus.  Oh my goodness…this was so much fun!  Naturally, after we rode around on Segways for two hours, we both wanted one of our own!  We saw so many beautiful homes and historic places around Columbus, it was great!

After the Segway tour, we went to a topiary park which was so beautiful.  It was one of the few things to do that was free in the area.

After the park, we decided we were exhausted.  We headed back to the B&B and took a 2 ½ hour nap!  For me, this isn’t a big deal because I can do that anytime, but my husband is not a big napper nor does he require much sleep, so for him to get 2 ½ hours of sleep means he was beyond exhausted.  When we woke up, we got ready and headed out to dinner with my friend and her husband.  It was so great to just sit and talk with them for hours. 

Sunday morning, we woke up, had breakfast and went to church with my friend and her husband.  After that, she surprised us with a mini photo-shoot (she is an awesome photographer) for our 6th anniversary. 

I say this every year and I will say it again: marriage is not easy.
My marriage with Todd is less than perfect with highs and lows.  
We have gone through a lot together, and through it all, we still choose to work on what we have.
As a marriage counselor has told us in the past, “Plan for tomorrow…you haven’t screwed that up yet.”
When those days and weeks are really bad, we plan for tomorrow.  We try to live for today but sometimes, planning for tomorrow is all that keeps us going.

I listen to the following podcasts that help me keep my marriage moving in the right direction.  I highly suggest listening to them if you ever feel like you could grow in your marriage.

We had an incredible weekend that was precious in so many ways.  Not only did the time with Todd strengthen our marriage, but I got to spend time with two (very) strong women who inspire me with the way they live their lives (in faith) as well as how they handle struggles in their marriages.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Battling Sickness

It feels like Todd has been sick for most of 2013.  Every time he gets better, within two weeks, it’s something else.  To say that he has been miserable is an understatement.  I am not used to being sick (I rarely get the flu or a cold; however, when I get sick, it usually ends up with me in the hospital.) or dealing with someone who is sick for what seems to be all the time.  Admittedly, I am not very empathetic when someone is sick more than twice a year, which is not a good attitude to have especially toward my husband!

This past illness (a trifecta of flu, sinus infection AND spring pollen allergies), I started to think about what I could do to help Todd avoid getting sick so frequently. This is what I am going to be implementing in our family to {hopefully} cut down on the amount of times we get sick each year.**

I honestly believe that we are what we eat.  That being said, I am a big glob of sugar and Todd is a big vat of grease.  Can you tell what foods we enjoy most?  We were doing awesome last year on a Paleo-type diet.  We felt great, didn’t feel deprived, and had more energy than we'd had in a long time.  I think it is time to get back on the Paleo-type eating plan with more vegetables, less meat and fewer cheat days.  I would also like to incorporate more juicing into our diets.  To me, raw fruits and veggies are imperative to health and fighting illness. 

Even though we always have fruits and vegetables in our home, I need to make them more accessible to eat when we are hungry or in a rush.  For instance, right now, I have 3 head of cauliflower (Todd’s favorite vegetable to eat raw) and 2 cantaloupe.  I need to prepare these items to keep in the fridge ready for those evenings when we get hungry or just need a snack.  This way, we can avoid going to get ice cream (my favorite food of all time) or picking up something that we should not be eating.

Please note that I am awful when it comes to moving my body.  I need to make a habit of trying to get Todd out of the house before work or after work in the evenings, even if it’s for a short walk around the block with our precious pup.  We have a basketball hoop that has yet to have a single basketball go through its net, we have two bikes, a canoe, and a lot of sticks out in the yard that need to be gathered and burned.  We have plenty of opportunity to exercise…we just need to get off our butts and do it!

Side Note: We have recently decided to take a 485 mile pilgrimage between St. Jean Pied de Port (France) through Santiago de Compostela (Spain) this time next year.  You can read about our journey of preparing for this trip at a new blog I've created here.

I am not the best housekeeper.  I need to keep up with the dusting and sweeping better than I have been.  I like to see results but I feel so discouraged two days later when I see the dust starting to accumulate again.  This may help with Todd’s allergies and to keep the pet dander at bay.

Essential Oils / Natural Remedies
I have been reading a lot of great information about essential oils and natural remedies.  I am looking into diffusers and what the best brand of essential oils would be for our home to keep sickness away.  If you have any information on essential oils or the diffuser you use, please forward it my way!

A Reliable Family Physician
With the referral from a neighbor, Todd tried a new doctor this past bought of illness and he really liked the doctor.  This doctor takes the time to talk with his patients to get the full background and is not about pushing pills.  Instead, he is all about natural alternatives to those medications!  The older (and more educated) I become about healthcare, medicine, and how prescriptions affect us, the more I am interested in natural ways of healing and staying healthy, so this sounds like the perfect family physician for us.  Todd and I have two different medical plans because we never combined our medical insurance when we married; however, this particular doctor is on both of our plans.

How do you help fight illness in your home?

**DISCLOSURE: I am by no means a doctor.  If you are ill, please seek the assistance of a trained medical professional.  Also, please note that Todd and I have a long way to go to being healthy.  We are both overweight and though I am striving to feed my family healthier foods, getting out more to exercise and doing what we can to stay healthy, we are by no standards even close to perfecting this area in our life.