"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Fortune's Cover Boy

>> Monday, June 30, 2008

Is it me or does anyone else find it ironic that the cover of the latest Fortune magazine (at least the one we received) has Barack Obama on it?

Isn't this the same guy who proposes more government spending, higher taxes on the "wealthy", raising payroll taxes on higer-income earners, increasing capital gains taxes and reinstating a 45% estate tax?

So, in essence, isn't he anti-Fortune?

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Side Projects and Sales

Doug has a “side project” he work on with a physician friend of his. Back before we had kids I worked with them a bit, doing sales and presentations at medical trade shows. I learned a lot about physicians at those shows… Especially how frugal they are. Seriously, they really don’t want to spend any money- even if it will make their work more productive and save them from the possibility of law suits. It’s amazing.

So you can imagine working with a frugal physician who is also trying to become an entrepreneur. It’s agonizing. He has a great product but until he puts money in to trade show display graphics and presentation he’s destined to be overlooked.

Really, it’s amazing the presentations that have to be put on to get noticed at trade shows. It’s an industry in itself. And if he ever comes around to my way of thinking (which he will one he thinks it’s his way of thinking) I’ll send him straight to the Godfrey Group for a professional display that will have even the most frugal physician standing in line to see what he’s got. Because, honestly, I would really love for Doug to make some money off all the work he's done with this.

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Budget Friendly Fun Snacks

I don't know how many of you have cruised the snack cracker aisle at the grocery store lately but it seems that Teddy Grahams are making a new snack- Trail Mix. Yep, those tasty little bears are doing their best to get every dollar you have.

Unfortunately for them I'm doing Dave and their tiny box of goodies that lasts 3 days (if I'm lucky) just doesn't fit into my budget.

But I'm not a fun-hating mommy. I mix up my own trail mix with whatever happens to be bite size and on sale or on a coupon (once in a while there are even Teddy Grahams in the mix!)

Today's mix includes M&Ms, some pretzels that I got in a goody bag this weekend, marshmallows, peanut butter baking chips and some off-brand cheese crackers.

assorted 170

It's just as tasty (actually more so), costs less per serving and lasts a couple of weeks instead of a couple of days.

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My PSA for the H2O

We live quite close to the main lake in our area. In fact, when there is an emergency call to the lake we know about it right away- the emergency vehicles go past our house. I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I see the rescue boat and divers pass as I know someone has been hurt, or maybe died, in a boating accident (often due to alcohol).

People who would never drink and get behind the wheel of a car are much less careful on a boat. Since we have a long weekend coming up- a weekend when more people will be out on lakes and rivers, I want to share a bit with you about Boating Operating Under the Influence. Fact: the legal limit for operating a boat is the same as for operating a car. Fact: you face the same penalties for operating a boat while intoxicated as you do a car. Fact: law enforcement will be out in full force on our waterways this weekend.

If that doesn't get your attention watch this short video:


Boating Education should be just as important as driver's education. Be safe this weekend. Just because it's on water doesn't mean you're safer...

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How Is It 3 O'Clock?

Where has my day gone? I want it back!

Honestly, I don't think I've gotten anything done. Well, except for a visit to my dermatologist... A load of laundry washed (but not yet dried)... Dishes put away and the dishwasher reloaded for another round... Kids fed and put in bed for quiet time (which will be ending soon)... A post up at Have Kid Will Travel... Bank accounts balanced...

But really, in the large scope of things, that's not much. I still have to go grocery shopping and I'm sure the girls will want to play in their pool today which means it needs emptied, rinsed and refilled as the lawn guys were here earlier and I'm relatively sure it's filled with grass clippings.

What do I need to do? Ugh. I don't really know. But something that makes me feel like I've accomplished something today would be good...

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Anyone Else Thinking What I'm Thinking?

>> Sunday, June 29, 2008

While I was overjoyed to see that the Supreme Court is actually following the Bill of Rights instead of trying to decide how they interpret it (by overturning the DC gun ban) I'm just wondering... Has anyone else had the conversation Doug & I had today in the car:

Me: "So, I'm really impressed that the Supreme Court overturned the DC gun ban and I know that I told you (many times) that I don't ever want a gun in the house but... I'm thinking that if Obama gets elected that we should probably get a couple of guns."

Doug: "OK."

Me: "I'm thinking a couple of handguns and a shot gun. You know, just in case you have to go out and kill some food."

Doug: "Highly probable."

Me: "And the best childproof gun cabinet we can get."

Doug: "Of course."

Me: "And then we'll have to make sure the girls have gun safety when they are older."

Doug: "Always a good idea."

Me: "You know, maybe we should do that before the election. Just in case."

Doug: "Just in case other people have the same idea and there is a run on guns?"

Me: "Exactly."

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A Short- But Long- Weekend

We took a little roadtrip over to the Amana Colonies this weekend with a small group from church. As we have been there multiple times and the other never had we were the official tour leaders. Which is fine, but the Amanas don't really require leaders. You just sort of meander and "take it in", if you know what I mean. I think everyone had a good time...

My little family stayed at the waterpark hotel just a few minutes from there. Brenna had a great time on the big waterslide and Caelan even splashed around a bit in the wading pool. Doug accompanied Brenna on her waterslide adventures and I waded with Caelan. Yes, the hotel was not in the budget but I'll write about it over at Have Kid Will Travel so it's a write off, at least.

Of course even small trips can take a lot out of you and I am exhausted. So I'm off to bed. No, it's not even 8:30 yet; what of it?

Just a reminder- scrap bribing ends at midnight. I've got a Shutterfly gift certificate up for grabs... Get your comment in and posts up! Link is just above in the Not To Miss section of the blog.

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Gotta Get A Gown

Doug just got asked to be an usher in a wedding. He has to go in for a tux fitting soon. Yep, the ushers are wearing tuxes… It’s an evening wedding and it sounds like it’s going to be fancy. Which means I’ll need a new dress… Of course we are on our new budget so I’m checking out cocktail dresses priced below retail at ElegantMart.com. Even priced below retail I will probably spend more than I did on my own wedding dress… $99 plus tax. lol

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Stuff For You To Do This Weekend

>> Friday, June 27, 2008

We'll be vacating the premises tomorrow morning not to return until Sunday evening and (gasp!) I won't be checking in while we're gone!

So I have a few things to keep you busy- just in case you check in.

First- (Non)Scrap Bribing ends Monday. Get your entries in and your posts up!

Second- Check out this article from Dave Ramsey- the one called Butt Scratching and Bass Fishing. And while you're at it check out the info about ditching your cable... Funny that we did that a few weeks ago and people were shocked...

Third- try a new recipe. I've got healthy stuff, gooey stuff, chocolately stuff and moo-ey stuff (hey, I had to make it rhyme... And beef is cow which moos...) over at Fab Food Friday. Use one of the easy search tabs on the right to find a great recipe approved by the toughest critics- my family!

Have a great weekend! And don't forget- it's a short week next week!

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It only took me a minute to come to the same conclusion

I mean really...what government run bureaucracy is more efficient than the private sector?

If a private sector organization fails or does really stupid things, it should go out of business (cough, cough Bear Sterns). That makes room for people with a better plan or product to get the job done. The private sector has an incentive to do things better and with a smiling face. If they don't, customers find someone else.

If a private sector company gets a bad reputation, then people stop going there and they go out of business. This is a good thing.

Government bureaucracies are not allowed to fail. If they are in crisis, more money and/or people are handed over to the people that caused the failure. If a government bureaucracy has poor service or even kills people, it's takes extra-ordinary public outcry to make even cosmetic changes. Poor managers are rarely let go, except as political scapegoats.

Private sector hospitals and clinics compete for skilled staff. That means that health worker wages are guaranteed to be higher than if the government has the monopoly. If wages go down, people will stop doing the work or less qualified people will do the work. There are plenty of doctors from India, Canada and the UK practicing in the US for that very reason...they are allowed to succeed.

I mean really, it took this guy 40 years to come to this conclusion?

via Powerline, via Moonbattery...

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So Civilized

For Mother's Day I got a great silver plated tea strainer from Caelan. I absolutely loved it (it was on my Amazon Wish List, after all. The only problem was finding loose leaf tea. The grocery stores I shopped at used to carry it but stopped; as did World Market. I had heard of a tea shop in downtown Des Moines but, honestly, I don't venture into downtown.

So you can imagine how wxcited I was when our newest mall got a Teavana! Of course they have a wall of teas that I will never try as I am boring and just prefer a nice cup o' Irish Breakfast of a morning (and I don't really take to all their mystical tea drinking voodoo). They did talk me in to a much more expensive type to try, Assum Gold Rain, a single large leaf black tea that is one of the components of the Irish Breakfast.

So now I am able to enjoy a civilized cup of tea in my wonderful little tea set with my leftover Spinach Quiche from last night's dinner.

Fab Food Friday 107

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So if I'm a father...there's a baby involved?

>> Thursday, June 26, 2008

Jody shared this with me from Red State. It's a quick clip... Take the time to watch it.



Ya know... I'd really like a response to that question, Senator.

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Not Again

Ugh. The sky is dark, rain is falling, the creek is flooding. At least there is some fun...

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I'm Hittin' the Road,I'm Off to See the World

One of the dreams Doug and I have is to buy an RV and spend time touring the US. It’s something we discuss a lot and we really hope to be in a position, financially, to do it within the next 5 years. We talk about having it set up so Doug could work when he needed to and I could write about our trip. And when we retire we talk about just keeping a small place to call home but spending as much time as we can traveling.

Yes, it’s a pretty lofty goal but I think we can achieve it. Especially if we start small- like a Class C (on a van chassis so I don’t have to get a different driver’s license!). There are some really great deals if you buy RVs and Motorhomes used (yes, we’ve looked… many times) and if we really liked it we could upgrade when the girls moved out. You know… Spend their inheritance.

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You'll Have to Excuse Me

>> Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I've been working on my other blogs, you see. I'm getting Have Kid Will Travel added to some groups as well as writing reviews and linking them back to me.

I've also been posting daily over at IowaMoms.com. Have you been there yet? It's not "officially" done but hopefully it will become a big meeting place for Iowa Moms (and Dads) as well as those who have left our verdant state but still have it in their hearts. I just finished a bit about Iowa festivals for this weekend. Go over, please ignore the random nails on the floors and half finished walls and take a look around.

Maybe later I'll have something new and fun here. But until then go check out my other offerings and- for goodness sake!- enter my contest!!! (it's in the post below!)

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Why Haven't You Entered Yet?

>> Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We're half way through a new contest here at Iowa Geek and I really thought there would be more entries by now... What? You don't like Shutterfly???

Go! Now!! ENTER!!!

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Take A Little Trip

When we were in the Twin Cities a couple of weeks ago we made a stop at the Mall of America for one thing- a stop at Nickelodeon Universe.

The girls had a great time on the rides and we got to meet Dora! Hop over to Have Kid Will Travel and check out the pictures and tips for your next stop at the Mall of America.

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Smart Travelers Find a Way

I subscribe to tons of travel newsletters, websites and magazines. Of course predictions for summer travel are dire… Blah, blah, blah. I just don’t see so many of these terrible things happening, though. Sure, prices are up but smart travelers know how to make adjustments to their travel plans to afford vacations.

So maybe a European vacation is out of the question with the dollar being so weak against the Euro. So maybe a Caribbean resort just isn’t in the cards with all the add-on fees they have. So maybe the cruise sicknesses have you worried.

There are still options. Take Mexico… Your dollar will still stretch if you visit our southern neighbor. And you can rent a condo (like these at Las Palomas Rocky Point from oceano-rentals.com) for much less than a hotel and still have plenty of amenities like ocean views, golf courses, beaches and great food.

You can choose your room and amenities side by side with other offerings so you get just what you need… Whether it’s a break for the family to enjoy the white sand beaches or a romantic getaway for two at a bed and breakfast with a couple’s massage you’ll be able to find what you need at a price you’ll be willing to pay.

And, with all the “terrible travel” predictions right now there are dozens of free night specials.

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The Worst Mess

This makes several points worth making.

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Cutting More Costs

Well, we are on day 2 without TV (can't even get the local channels without some sort of antenna) and I have noticed a couple of things. 1) Brenna eats better when there is no TV and 2) I don't have cartoon songs stuck in my head all day.

My "assignment" for today is to call our cell provider and cut our bill down. I have no idea how it keeps creeping up but I think it may have to do with small children playing with my phone and connecting to the internet or downloading things.

I also have to call our home phone provider and get rid of it. Of course they will do what they can to get me to keep it... Ugh. I hate the hard sell...

And I have to call our investment guy and cut our monthly IRA and SEP deposits. At least he's expecting it so I don't have to talk my way through it again.

As a side story... Brenna and Caelan will both be in preschool this year at the same place where they take gymnastics. I asked the ladies at the front desk what I would be paying so I could figure my budget. "Are you doing Dave?" they asked. Of course that led to stories of budgets, successes and overcoming denial. I told them yesterday's story of the habit of pulling out the debit card at the grocery store...

It's funny... When you "do Dave" you seem to meet lots of others who "do Dave", too.

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What Do Your Endorsements Say About You?

>> Monday, June 23, 2008

Ok, so most of us won't have to worry so much about being endorsed for much more than a spot on a mud volleyball team (and that may only come because frienemies want to see you sputtering mud) but what does it say to you that Obama has received the endorsement of Kim Jong Il, as reported by OneFreeKorea (with the original Korean translated).


This coming, of course, after Hamas endorsed Obama (which they then rescinded) as did Libya's Qaddafi (there is a link to the video here).

While I'm sure that these are not endorsements the senator from Illinois is proud of (or even accepts) doesn't it make you stop and think "Why would tyrants such as these want this man as leader of the most powerful nation on earth?"

If you really stop to consider it the answers should scare you.

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How Long Does Wicker Last, Anyway?

Right now I am sitting outside on some very old wicker furniture while the girls splash around in their wading pool. How old is the furniture? Well… I don’t rightly know as Doug had it when we were married. I don’t think wicker furniture is made to stand up to Iowa’s outdoor elements for 5+ years. Or has it far exceeded it’s lifespan? I really don’t know. What I do know is that we will be lucky if one of the chairs survives this summer.

I’ve been perusing new Outdoor Living Sets online for a while. I want something comfortable- maybe even a lounge chair- that I can relax in with my laptop. Because you know I have to do something while the girls play. When we do purchase Outdoor Furniture again I want some high quality stuff that can stand some rain and sun without breaking down in a few years.

I’ve found a website, BuyOutdoorFurnitureOnline.com, that I keep going back to. I really like a 4 piece teak set they have. It’s spendy (as teak always is) but they have free shipping (which is a significant savings in itself).

Of course we are not in the position to afford such things right now but I can plan to save for it next year. Maybe by then I can get one of their beautiful Patio Dining Sets , too.

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Pages and Pages of Budgeting Goodness or... Getting Used to Paying Cash

Our assignment from our FPU class for this week is to do our complete budget. This is pages and pages of info. This includes our consumer equity sheet (painful to do as our home lost about $20k in the past year!), listing our income sources and estimating our self employment income as close as I can, figuring our lump sum payment planning (for those things that aren't paid monthly), a 3 page cash flow plan and percentages of what we pay vs. income.

Whew! That's a lot of numbers!

We're also going to try the envelope system for things like groceries, haircuts, "fun money" and clothes. That's gonna take some getting used to...

This morning I went and pulled cash out of the bank for groceries. I was writing down the amount I was spending as we went along so I didn't go over my budget. I even skipped things on my list that I figured weren't absolutely necessary.

And came in under my budget. Woo-Hoo!

ButI gotta tell you, the habit of swiping the debit card is pretty thoroughly ingrained in my system... Because that's what I did! Luckily I was able to cancel it out before the total was complete and pay with the cash I had.

Getting out of the plastic habit (of the debit card!) is going to be tricky. One thing I did notice, though... I know how much I spent on groceries today. Usually I don't because I just swipe the card and don't look at the screen.

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Money Saving Tips for Car Rentals

Wow, this budget thing we’re doing really makes you look at how you spend your money. It’s almost painful

Especially when it comes to “extra” things- like vacations. Obviously vacations aren’t a necessity in life. I don’t recall vacationing as a child except one trip to the Black Hills. It just wasn’t a priority.

Which is why I am probably such a travel freak now. I love to go, I love to experience, I love to do…

And now I am digging to find a way to travel on a budget. Kind of tricky with the prices of everything heading up and the treasury printing money (which makes it’s value go down).

One way I save money is to do a lot of research on my car rental. I’ve recently bookmarked ArgusCarHire.com, a company that searches car rental suppliers and finds the best price for you. They handle vehicles worldwide, offer collision damage waivers (which you need to get if you are driving in a foreign country) and you can pay in US dollars online and in advance (definitely a money saver!).

So whether you want an exotic sports car in Italy or cheap car hire in Spain let Argus Car Hire handle the search for you.

And another tip for saving money on car rental: if you can rent from someplace that isn’t an airport you’ll save a bit. This is especially easy to do in large cities with great public transport (London, Dublin, Paris, Rome, etc.).

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I Got a Lot Done- Not That It's Noticeable Anymore

>> Sunday, June 22, 2008

With the girls at Grandma's and Doug gone camping I was able to accomplish quite a bit this weekend.

My wood floors are clean and sealed. They look fabulous, I must say. I even washed all the cabinets and wood furniture. And I cleaned the appliances. Well, except the inside of the fridge. I was getting ready to do that when the power went out. And by the time it came back on (3 + hours later) I really didn't feel like cleaning it out.

I also made quite a few of the girls' toys "magically" disappear. Not that they will notice. Until,of course, they reappear at the next garage sale.

Laundry was washed and folded. Beds were made. Floors were vacuumed.

And then everyone came home.

At least my wood floors still look good...

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So... The Goal is to Put the Little White Ball in the Hole?

One of my favorite travel magazines started publishing a “sister” magazine about girl’s getaways. Because I am a subscriber they always send this magazine along. And, I gotta be honest, it bores me. I like a spa as much as any other girl but come on… Let’s have a little fun and adventure.

Guys, however, get targeted for getaways with fun, pampering and exercise- like these Las Vegas Golf Vacations.

It shows you the difference in marketing. Women get fed pampering, lounging and frothy drinks; men are set up with hotel, golf and assistance planning an exciting getaway. I’ll take the guy’s trip, please. Never mind that I don't golf... It sounds like more fun.

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If You Enjoy Historical Fiction

When I read for pleasure it tends to be history or a novel. I absolutely love it when the two are combined in a really well researched historical fiction. One of my favorite authors is Philippa Gregory. The amount of research is evident in her stories.

I completely enjoyed "The Other Boelyn Girl" when I read it a couple of years ago. Because I am a history freak I knew about Mary Boelyn, the fact that she had been a mistress of King Henry VIII and had borne two children (one a son- who survived to later aid his daughter Queen Elizabeth) to him.

Because I enjoyed the book so much the movie of the same name and loosely based upon the book made it's way to my house this weekend via Netflix. Let me say that,overall, I enjoyed the movie. The costuming was magnificent and the storyline wasn't too far fetched.

Unfortunately the timelines were all shortened and the children's ages didn't really match up with proper time lines. But if you aren't a history nerd like me you won't notice it. It's definately a movie worth seeing. Just don't expect your husband to sit through it with you. ***



***Three strikes on the "not a man movie" scale:

  1. It takes place in Tudor England.
  2. Historical Romance
  3. British accents

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As the Waters Recede

Here in central Iowa we are seeing the flood waters recede and the devastation they have left. Up until this weekend you could drive Interstate 35/80 and see waters right up to the road. Covered by those waters were baseball fields, homes and businesses. As I drove by them yesterday I saw piles and piles of furniture, dry wall, carpeting and once treasured parts of every day life were. It is heartbreaking.

I honestly thank God that we only experienced land damage. I have no idea how people even decide where to begin that kind of disaster cleanup. I have recently heard about a company, WaterRestoration911, that can provide help and is covered by insurance (if you have flood insurance, that is). They have a 24 hour hotline and can usually arrive within 30 minutes.

If you don’t know where to begin, let people who do help you. And God be with you as you begin rebuilding from this mess.

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State 29: Iowans Are A Great Example Of How People Should Behave In Times Of Crises

As I was waiting for my floors to dry I was perusing State 29, a blog Doug reads regularly but I don't. If you follow Iowa politics this is a great read.

Anyway... As much as Iowa is overlooked I have to say that I love my home state. It's a jewel that is rarely used in our country's crown. Which is ok as we don't need any whiners moving in and mucking us up.

The New York Daily News noticed:

State 29: Iowans Are A Great Example Of How People Should Behave In Times Of Crises

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Pretty It Up a Bit

>> Saturday, June 21, 2008

I was looking at my page numbers the other day and saw that Google knocked me down from a page rank of 4 to a 3. Ouch! For a blogger who makes a bit of income from her writing that is a pretty big hit to the pocketbook.

So I was doing some reading on hints to keep your blog “fresh” and one of the tips was to change up the template. And then I realized that, other than changing from a two to three column, the look of Iowa Geek has not changed since Doug started it when I was pregnant with Brenna! Yikes!

So I got online today and began browsing templates. I have an idea of what I want, which I’m sure I won’t just find; it will have to be custom designed. But you know me… I’m frugal cheap. But I found some amazing free wordpress templates. You gotta love free. If you use Wordpress go check them out. They have quick stats so you can see what you're getting and an easy download button. (Be sure to save your old template first- just in case!)

If someone uses the Rainbow Garden theme please let me know. It’s incredible. I can’t use it because it just isn’t geeky. Oh, and it’s too "girly" for Doug. Fun-hater.

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On With The Work

Poor Doug. He called last night after being on the Ozark land for about half an hour to tell me that they were leaving. It seems that some washed out (we hadn't heard that there was a problem there) and he was also attacked by ticks. In the half hour they were there he pulled off 36. It was enough to freak him out. Not sure what his plans are- I'm going to assume he'll head home but who knows. Maybe they will find a campground for one night...

I snuggled down last night with Mike ('s Lite Hard Berry) and settled in to watch The Holiday. I'm assuming grandma wore the girls out as I didn't hear a peep from them last night.

And now it's time to do the second step of my three step floor cleaning process. The first step was

Let me just say if you have wood floors this stuff cleans all kinds of gunk off. My kitchen floor is very abused. I'm not even sure the people who lived here last ever care for it correctly. It definately needs a sanding and refinishing. Unfortunately I don't have the time or money to have it done right now. But this stuff cleaned so well. Even before I get to the polishing they look amazing.

Next step- rinse with water. The cleaner does leave a bit of tackiness and that has to be off beofre using
No, I don't know why Doug picked up two different brands when I asked him for wood floor stuff. Maybe the Home Depot guys recommended them? No matter... We'll see how it works out.

Later.

After the wood is completely dry.

My scrapping tonight got cancelled as only 3 people signed up. Not to worry- I'll go sit in their workroom for a bit this afternoon. Maybe it won't cost me as much!

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Just Me and the (BIG) Dog

>> Friday, June 20, 2008

Yep, Grandma just came and took my girlies and Doug hit the road a couple of hours ago.

Excuse me for a minute while I shed a few tears. (Yes, I miss my babies but I'm also soooo happy!)

Ahem...

And now- let the cleaning begin!

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(NON) Scrap Bribing

Ya know, I wonder just how many people come to my little giveaways and think, "Yeah, ok, its nice stuff but I don't scrap."

Weeelllll then... How many of you take pictures? Ah, all of you. Excellent. You'll really like this month's prize. How do I know? Because you get to choose it!

Your first option is a Flickr Pro Account.

I use Flickr for all my photo storage (and I back up on CD ROM as well). The Pro Account gives you unlimited storage, unlimited sets and collections and video uploads. It's easy to upload photos, easy to edit them and easy to post or share them.

Your second option is a Premium Picnik account.

I use Picnik exclusively for my photo editing. It's so easy! No huge manuals and stuff you can't quite figure out. I absolutely love it! It can pull photos from my computer or Flicker (and practically anywhere else), edit them and put them back, automatically. The free version is amazing (it has text and "fade" so you can watermark all the photos you post- then noone can steal them!):

Free: Dozens and dozens of fonts, shapes, frames, all the effects and the
touch-up tools are yours. Plus, all the Edit tools, the ability to undo
everything you've ever done to your picture, and it remembers the history of the
past five pictures you worked on!


And the premium version is more so!
Premium: All that and then some! You get ALL the effects, frames, fonts, shapes,
plus NEW advanced editing tools Curves and Levels, which have all the power
found in expensive software packages but with one-click defaults and the added
shine that all things Picnik have. You also get Priority Help Support, new
feature previews, professional FontShop fonts and other exclusive content, the
ability to access all your favorite photo sites at the same time to use Picnik
to transfer photos between them, unlimited Photo History, a completely ad-free
experience, AND the warm fuzzies of knowing you helped support a little
photo-editor startup!
You get to choose one: each has a value of $24.95.

Neat, huh? What? You expected MORE?

Really?

Well, you're in luck because I have more. In addition to your choice of the above accounts you also get:

A $25 gift certificate for Shutterfly!

I told you that you get to choose... You can get lots of prints made of all those great photos. You can make a photo book or a calendar. Maybe you want to make cards or a set of luggage tags. Maybe a mug and coasters. Or a tote bag. Ooohhh, exciting!

I hope that's enough because here's the rules:

1) Leave me a nice comment. That gets you entered once. (PS- If you don't leave me a way to contact you then you can't win. Make sure you leave an email or you are signed in with Google and I can reach your profile page.)

2) Write a nice little post on your blog. Link to this post. That gets you another entry.

3) Make sure you tell everyone who visits from your blog to let me know you sent them. For every comment that mentions your name I will give you another entry.

So easy! And the more people you send me the better your chances to win. So give me some linky love and get your readers over here!

The random number generator spins on July 1 so get those posts up and keep reminding your readers to visit and drop your name!

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Way Too Much Time in the Bathroom

I was in a restaurant bathroom not that long ago… I think we were in Minnesota, now that I think of it… And, in that bathroom was a flat screen monitor. And across that monitor scrolled news, weather and ads.

And I leaned back against the wall and watched it, for heaven’s sakes!

I am a person who reads everything. Those back of the door ads in restrooms- yep, even if I’ve read them before. Cereal boxes while I eat breakfast. The freakin’ Happy Meal box while the girls and I have lunch on Wednesdays. So this digital business signage kept me glued to it. There was no “ok, I’ve read it, I’m done” as it changed every minute or so. I was stuck. In a bathroom. Sad, I know. But it worked.

And you can do more with these signs than just keep people in a bathroom. A restaurant could use it as a menu board; a spa could use it to detail services; an office could use it to keep employees “up to date” with news both in and outside the office. I'll have to admit that I was so intrigued with this kind of business signage that I actually visited the website for SmarterSign (http://www.smartersign.com/) to learn more. It's just that cool! It's completely web based, easy to update and control, has live data feeds and you can load video and photos. Really, you can do almost anything you want to with this.

The endless possibilities make my mind spin. I think my chiropractor could really use something like this in his new office…

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Here's Something You Haven't See in a While

>> Thursday, June 19, 2008

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That, my combustion engine loving friends, is what I paid today for a full tank of gas in my SUV. Truly.

Of course I had to wait in line to do it...

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Unlike a gas line of the 70s (oh how the environmentalists want to see those again) people were happy to wait. E85 (85% ethanol) was $1.85 a gallon and regular (10% ethanol) was $2.50. Who wouldn't wait for that???

My wait wasn't too bad, though... I was close to the front. We were only there for about 25 minutes.

Of course a cheap gas event draws a lot of people. There were plenty of police on hand to manage the traffic.

This lucky guy got to point people to the back of the line. All the way back. After a while I don't think he could actually see it...

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Here's a bit more evidence of the police presence...
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The deputies were actually standing at the pumps. As were people to pump your gas, run your money and swipe your card. It was all about volume and traffic. The event was incredibly well organized, though. They even "tagged" your car if you were getting E85. Don't worry, it was a magnet. (Now it's a frisbee that can stick to the fridge.)

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We were prepared. The girls had snacks and sippies. And "CARS" was in the DVD player. (Yes, it was fitting as this whole thing was a promotion for the Iowa Corn Indy 250. Yes, it's a real event.) And while you waited there was Edgar, the "E" Man, to entertain the kiddos. (And if you visit their Flickr slideshow you will see me in photos 56 (our truck being visited by Edgar), 62 & 63 (I got a high-five for using E85).

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Caelan was less than thrilled when he visited our truck.

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Like I said, the event was very well organized and the line moved quickly. With one way in and one way out

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there weren't too many traffic problems. Well, except for people who had to back in to their pump and almost hit others. I'm not saying that happened to me, but I'm not not saying it, either. The gal who pumped our gas was incredibly kind and talked to the girls while the nearly empty tank was filled. For $31.01.

Not that I'm rubbing it in or anything...

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My Big Weekend ALONE!

Tomorrow Doug leaves for a guys camping weekend on our land near Lake Ozark in Missouri. It's going to be the final camping trip to this land as Doug told me last night that we are going to let the land go.

I have to credit the FPU classes with this as I have mentioned getting rid of the land in the past and was told that "land is an investment". That said, I know that it was a big decision for Doug to let it go (we talked about it but I ultimately left the decision to him) and I am thankful that Doug values our security (and my peace of mind) more than a piece of land.

The girls will be off to their grandmother's house for the weekend. Yes, I completely planned it that way. As soon as they leave Friday I am going to empty my kitchen and super-clean the wood floor. In all honesty it need stripped and resealed but I don't have the time for that because I'm also going to clean out my refrigerator, sort through toys (keep, donate, sell), clothes (ditto) and deep clean the girls' bedroom.

And then I'm going scrapbooking Saturday night.

Speaking of scrapbooking- tomorrow is scrap bribing. I've got a great prize lined up- even if you aren't a traditional scrapbooker you're gonna want to enter for this one. Trust me- it's good.

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Wise Decisions Now Will Save Money in the Future

>> Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Home from another FPU class. Whew! This one leaves us with lots of homework- we have to set up our budget and allocated spending plan. Talk about really looking at where your money goes.

Unfortunately we have too much debt that has been built up in credit cards. Isn’t it funny how at one point in your life credit cards are a status symbol and at another you are embarrassed to admit you have them? As the commercial goes,”Yeah, I’m there.”

I actually found an article that talks about just that over at CreditCardsClub.com,an online source to compare and contrast credit cards. The article, aptly titled What is the Downside of Using Credit Cards, talks about fees and interest rates- even charges for checking your credit.

While credit cards can feel like a blessing quite often they can end up a curse. If you must have one make sure you choose wisely. Check out CreditCardsClub.com for all the information you need to make the right choice.

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Post Turtle- Good For a Laugh

I got this from my grandmother and just had to share it! I needed the laugh.

While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75 year old Texas rancher, whose hand was caught in a gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Obama and his bid to be our President.

The old rancher said, “Well, ya know, Obama is a 'post turtle’.”

Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a ‘post turtle’ was. The old rancher said, 'When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a ‘post turtle'.'

The old rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor's face, so he continued to explain. 'You know he didn't get up there by himself, he doesn't belong up there, he doesn't know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a dumb ass put him up there to begin with.'

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Closer to Home

I read a lot of travel stuff. A lot. And while I am noticing a change in travel I am not necessarily noticing a decrease. People are still planning getaways for the summer, they just aren’t going as far away or for as long.

One of my favorite “easy” city getaways is Chicago. It’s only a 45 minute flight from here and there are hundreds of things to do in Chicago.

If it’s your first time in Chicago their Hop On Hop Off Trolley Tours are wonderful! I love having the freedom of taking my time at a site (or shop) and knowing I’m not going to miss anything.

And you can’t visit Chicago without going to “the lake”. That would be Lake Michigan. A bike ride along the lake is a wonderful way to spend your morning. Be sure to stop at Navy Pier and enjoy the amusements.

One of my favorite memories of Chicago is a dinner Doug & I had at Lawry’s The Prime Rib. Yes, the season salt Lawry’s. Delish. I recommend dinner but if you’re watching your pennies go for lunch. Same great food, it just costs less.

If Chicago isn't close to you check out Trusted Tours & Attractions online travel guides for other ideas.

They can set you up with great offerings from Madame Tussard's in Las Vegas to the Metropolitan museum of art in New York.

And if you're planning your next vacation- or just dreaming of one- be sure to sign up for Trusted Tours & Attractions newsletter- you could win a hand held GPS.

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AlGore going green - uses more energy than before

Story

So Al Gore decides that the cure to his $1,400 (monthly) electric bill is to add some solar panels, geothermal and replace windows. These are all good. The problem is that now, Al Gore spends even MORE on his electric bill. So, he gets more efficient, adds a new source of energy and his energy usage goes above and beyond those changes.

Hmmm, it's almost as if “Actions speak louder than words, and Gore’s actions prove that he views climate change not as a serious problem, but as a money-making opportunity,” Johnson said. “Gore is exploiting the public’s concern about the environment to line his pockets and enhance his profile.” Gore has made over $100,000,000 from his overreaching on global cooling...err...warming.

Most people's electric bill goes down (or is non-existent) with the addition of solar, geothermal and bumping up the insulation in windows, ductwork and attic. Just saying.

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Not The Way My Day Usually Begins

Today is odd... The girls woke fussy and asking to have their water cups filled.

After taking care of that and setting them up with cereal Brenna began complaining of a sore hand. Then a sore knee. Then a sore elbow. I said that if her body was so sore maybe she should go lay down in my bed.

And she did.

Then she wanted cuddled, so Caelan and I layed down with her and napped til about 8:30. At which time Brenna got out of bed, deposited herself on the couch and fell asleep again.

Too much sun yesterday? Too much time outdoors? Or not enough sleep overnight? (8pm - 7am)

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Losing Weight Slowly

I’ve been doing pretty good about getting out of bed in the morning and walking the dog. It’s especially easy in the summer because the sun is up nice and early and it invigorates me for the day ahead.

Another change I’ve made is keeping a food journal. I write down everything I eat (I even wrote down that I licked the batter from a cake I made Sunday) in hopes that I can see what I may be doing wrong with my diet. I’m not sure if it helps or not. I can see that I need more fruits and veggies but overall I don’t think I’m eating too badly or overeating.

Although I had a bit of gain when we were in Minnesota a week and a half ago I'm down again, just below my starting weight. My first goal is 5 lbs below my starting weight. When I hit it I get to buy a cycling skirt and shirt.

I know that some people have issues staying “regular” when they begin exercising and make changes to their eating habits. Luckily I seem to have the opposite problem. I can practically tell time by my bathroom visit.


Which is good- I won’t have to turn to a Colon Cleanse product. Which I would do. There is nothing worse than being constipated. Not only is it uncomfortable but it impacts your moods, appetite and drains your energy.

I do know people, however, who swear by a good “washing out” for weight loss and energy. Do you have any tricks that never let you down?

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It Will Just Have to Wait

>> Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I was going to share a rant about either a commercial I have saved on TiVo (the line that got me up in arms: "You've earned it". It's a commercial for Iowa's free or low cost health care. How do you earn assistance?) or this insane "letter" from Congressman Boswell telling me how opening the Federal Gasoline Reserves is a good thing (nope), not drilling in the US is a good thing (nope again) and some other assinine bit about saving polar bears or some such crap.

I was going to do that. But now I'm not. You see, my wonderful Vista OS keeps deciding that things must stop working. So I have restarted my computer a few times just to get this much out.

And, on top of that, while writing with pen & ink during the restarts I ran two pens dry.

I think it's a sign that I need to stop writing ANYTHING for tonight.

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Brazil's new oil strikes

Brazil found yet another large oil field.

They will also start drilling in known fields close to...wait for it...Florida. Fields that US companies can't use, but Chinese, Venezuelan and Brazilian can....

So can India. India, for the love of pete, knows they need to produce oil. But the US... We're blocked by the few who are more concerned with the purple spotted sucker fish than the price of oil affecting the majority of our nation. The cries of the few are louder than the whispers of many.

Remember this in November.

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Saving My Place

The renewal for my domains will be coming up soon and I want to make sure I am still getting the best deal. It’s funny how web hosting sites reproduce like bunnies (a Google search yields 124 million results) but only a few can stand the test of time. I want to make sure I don’t choose some take-your-money-and-run outfit just because they have a deal that is too good to be true. (You know what they say about that.)

I turn to WebHostingChoice.com when I want to research the best web hosts. I like that they update their site regularly (the most recent update was today) and you can search for specifics with your host- like cost, bandwidth and disk space.

All web hosts are listed in the host directory (12 pages) but if you see they’ve missed one you can submit it.

I also really like their monthly newsletter because I’m not so knowledgeable as I sometimes think I am. HebHostingChoice.com also has great FAQs if you’re new to web hosting, a quick start article and info about scammers and other resources. They even have a “Make Money Online” resource. You know I’m checking into that!

All in all it’s a great place to learn about having your own little piece of the World Wide Web.

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Russia's Grizzly Coast at the Minnesota Zoo

>> Monday, June 16, 2008

We got to visit the Minnesota Zoo's new exhibit a couple weekends ago... I have to say that it is wonderful! If you are thinking about a trip "up north" be sure to put the zoo on your list!

You can see my post here, at Have Kid Will Travel. Lots of pictures and video featuring sea otters and a great close up of a grizzly.

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Breathe Deep

My sister in law suffers from nasty allergies. It’s almost impossible for her to leave the house comfortably in the spring and fall. So when I saw this guide to buying air purifiers I totally thought of her.

I know people who swear by their air purifiers. Myself, I’ve never noticed the difference when I’ve been in a room with one. Then again I live in the Midwest. The air is cleaner here. (Oh yes it is! There are tons of Amish in Iowa- they are so “carbon neutral”- Al Gore should take lessons!) But I can see one of these being almost a necessity someplace like LA or New York.

Do you have an air purifier? Love it or hate it?

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Who Bikes in Heels?

OK, so this story out of Manchester,England (warning: page contains nudity) is funny for a couple of reasons.

First, this nude bike ride was to draw attention to global warming- but it was unseasonably cold. HeHe.

Second (and you have to link to the article and look at the photo to get this) , why is the nekkid woman wearing thigh high spike heeled boots? Who bikes in heels???

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The Name Game

My church seems to have baby booms every few months. I’m in charge of scheduling volunteers for our nursery and we seem so have busy times and slow times. Right now we are experiencing a downswing, kids are aging out of the nursery and we are having fewer little ones to watch.

Fortunately my church has lots of young families and more babies are expected to join us soon. We’ll have no births for a while and then- bam- half a dozen in a few days. It’s fun.

What’s also fun is hearing the names that are chosen. Because we are a very faith based church there seem to be many names chosen from the Bible. It’s kind of cool.

I remember when I was trying to find just the right names for my girls. Before I knew their sex (oh, yes, I wanted to know so I could prepare. Please, I’m a control freak.) I had no problem assembling lists of boy names. There were a couple that showed up on the Top 100 Baby Boy Names list (Logan and Aiden) but most were taken from Irish lists, books and documents.

But girl’s names…. Argh! I had the worst time with girl’s names. I wanted names that were unique without being strange (we have a friend who named her child Nevaeh- heaven spelled backwards. I think it's awful.) I checked out the Top 100 Baby Girl Names but none were right.

I ended up finding the perfect names in Nora Roberts novels (a couple of her Irish novels, to be exact. Go figure.)

How did you find the perfect name(s) for your kid(s)? Did you use family names? Did you search high and low?

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Can This Be?

Not only is the sun shining.... It's supposed to shine for the NEXT 4 DAYS! We haven't had 4 sunny days IN A ROW since... Well... Since.... Ummm... February?

It's 7:51 am and my girls are still in bed. Very rarely do they sleep past 7:15. It's kind of nice to enjoy my tea and Bagelful without anyone begging for bites. (I like the cinnamon, the girls prefer the "pink" (strawberry).)

Big plans for today... Hmmm, well, I need to grocery shop. Which is no easy thing. I have to check the weather for each day, decide if we will eat at home or in a park, figure out what I have on hand, check the grocery sales circular, cross reference recipes (remembering that 2 meals per week are meatless), make my list, check for any coupons that may be expiring soon, finalize my list, print my list, load up the girls, the reuseable bags and any empty milk bottles that need returned and go. Then there is the actual shopping. Luckily the bakery gives out cookies to good little girls so they are occupied for a minute or two.

Ahhh, 8am and I hear little voices. Happy little voices. Yea!

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How to Make Cash Personal

>> Sunday, June 15, 2008

We just attended a graduation for Doug’s cousin. She isn’t going to college, nor is she moving out of her parent’s home (she has developmental issues) so we really didn’t know what to get her. When we called to ask we were told “Cash, she wants a laptop.”

Cash is all well and good and everyone like is, but I hate giving it. It just seems so impersonal. I wish I had known that you can get personalized Visa Gift Cards. I could have gotten a picture of her and made the cash personal.

It’s a great idea for any occasion- or even for businesses(or blogs!) Very cool.


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Happy Father's Day!

I'm afraid it hasn't been a very relaxing Father's Day for Doug...

Caelan woke up crabby and whining and the nursery at church was short workers so he had to corrall other people's crying kids, too. Luckily he was ableto escape... I had to stay.

Then the girls were not listening at the grocery store and I was getting a bit tense. He sat with them in the restaurant and ate while I shopped.

His day hasn't been all bad, though He got a really great hammock to hang under the deck in the back yard for relaxing (probably not alone- lol) and a framed montage of photos of Caelan to match the set I had made for him when Brenna was the same age.

Now he is sitting at his computer playing some sort of strategy game and amusing the girls as they color Dora pictures. I have to go upstairs momentarily to make some Super Easy Bean Dip and frost fudgy chocolate cake for our family gathering in- UGH!- less than an hour!!

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We "Geek Out" Together

Doug and I have a very good marriage. We understand each other pretty well and we aren’t afraid to say something when we have a problem. But our marriage isn’t perfect… It takes a lot of work and there are definitely areas that could use a bit more of our attention. Yeah, that area…

But just because we don’t have marriage problems doesn’t mean we don’t work to prevent them. I take tips on happy marriages from everyplace I can: books, other couples and even websites like LightYourFire.com.

Marriage is never what you dream it will be- quite often it’s better! But you have to work at it to make it work. What's your best tip for a happy marriage?

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Where is This Coming From???

>> Friday, June 13, 2008

My spy sweeper keeps popping up with a notice that reads like this: File System Shield has quarantined a potential threat that was trying to install itself.

When I open the spysweeper I see that exp/ms04-028 is in my quarantine file. Now, I've deleted this quite a few times and it just keeps reappearing and trying to install itself.

My question: it is being stopped as a virus. Is it? I can't find anything on it but my virus software is up to date so I am assuming it knows what it is "talking" about. And, if it is a virus, where is it coming from? I have deleted all my deleted files. What else should I do so it stops trying to lodge itself in my computer?

Anyone?
Anyone?

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Finding More Money

So… Doug and I are trying to work Dave’s plan. We’ve made our budget and are now looking to see where we can make cuts. One thing that has gotten out of control is our cell phone bill. I’m not sure how, but our bill has been steadily climbing. I can see where the money is going but I’m not sure why.

Right now we are on a family plan but that could change if I can find a better deal separately so I am, of course, looking online for the best deals. I found a site called BestInCellPhones.com. They have all the deals from all the companies so you can find the best fit for you- whether it be pink cell phones or the coolest new smart phone. (I'm also interested in finding free wireless internet cards but I figure that can wait until I get the phone thing figured out.)

OK, anyway, I'm checking out all the options, from free T-Mobile cell phones to the Sprint Instinct by Samsung and, of course,checking out what new phones are on the horizon. Not that I'll get one.

Right now I'm all about the best deal. I want my phone to do just a couple of things: make phone calls (duh), allow me to text Doug (most of the time it's easier than talking to him, especially when he's busy) and I would really love a scheduler that will sync with Outlook so I can have my schedule with me all the time. I don't need an MP3 player or internet, a navigation system or a restaurant guide.

Anyone have a phone they love? Or a provider that doesn't annoy you on a daily basis?

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We're Like An Old Married Couple

Doug and I seem like an old married couple. When people find out we haven’t even reached our 5 year anniversary and are still in the “honeymoon” phase of our lives they are surprised. I suppose it’s because we “fit” so well. We both knew who we were when we got married so we didn’t have to worry about “finding ourselves” while we worked on building a good marriage.

It took a long time (and bad relationships for both of us) to find each other. I even tried internet dating for a short time. This was when it was new and there weren’t as many sites to meet gorgeous single men or women. Or in my case a decent man with a job and no baggage.

Now there are so many sites… How do people choose?

I actually have bloggy friends (quite a few) who met their spouses on eHarmony. Because it is a site for people who are serious about long term relationships you don’t get the creepy “hook up” people.

Perfect Match is another site I have heard success stories from. The focus here seems to be toward career oriented people who want to meet someone with similar drive and interests.

Match.com is really widely known and probably has the biggest name recognition of any matchmaking site out there.

PrimeDatingSites.com has reviews of these sites and many more. If you’re looking for your perfect partner the internet is more accepted and viable an option than ever. It’s worth a try.

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Not Sure This Is Helping

So... I broke down and bought a pedometer to help myself figure out how much I was walking and how much I should step it up. (HA HA, step it up... Walking... Get it?)

Anyway, I wore it all day yesterday and was rather appauled that it read just under 3000 steps for the day. Surely that can't be right since I took a walk to the park (which, according to Google maps, was a 1.4 mile loop) and around the park. According to Walk For Life's website one mile is about 4526 steps for me...

Something is definately wrong. Today the girls and I have been garage sale-ing. One area was a neighborhood sale- just under a mile of walking yet my pedometer is showing only 1074 steps. It's discouraging.

I bought a pretty good pedometer. It has a case so it can't get bumped and reset. I have it clipped to the waist of my jeans, in the "crease line", just like I'm supposed to. But it's not seeming to track my steps.

Any one out there use one of these things? I hate to waste the money I spent on it- granted it was on sale but it wasn't so cheap that I'm willing to throw it away. (I need to go pull the plastic box out of the garbage in case I decide to return it.)

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A Flood of Cars & Trucks

Insurance is just one of those things you can’t be without. I can watch the news and see hundreds of cars and trucks damaged beyond repair in the floods we are having. In fact, my brother was out for over a week around Parkersburg (he’s a lineman) after the first batch of rains and storms came through. The parking lot his truck was parked in flooded. His truck has been declared “totaled”. That was before the news people began using the “Flood of ‘08” tag every time they spoke of the weather.

Helpful tip: Don’t buy any used cars or trucks from the Midwest!

Another tip: Make sure your vehicle is properly insured. Sure, you don’t really care if someone hits you (unless they don’t have insurance… or they don’t have enough insurance… OK, you care a lot if someone hits you…) but what if something else happens? You should have enough insurance to replace your vehicle- or enough coverage to pay off the loan if you get totaled.

Autonet insurance guarantees the lowest rates for car, truck and Van Insurance out there – with a 48 hour guarantee: if you find a lower price in 48 hours they will refund your money.

OK, after popping around their site I see that they also do pet insurance. Definitely something I’ll be getting on our next pet (especially I want another big dog. They can get spendy.)

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Roam If You Want To

>> Thursday, June 12, 2008

I was invited the other day to be a part of the new IowaMoms.com. Of course I said yes! Who doesn't want to be included in something fun that will (hopefully) become a big happy Iowa meeting place. There are lots of ideas floating around for what it will have and become and I want everyone to check it out and watch it develop. Even if you aren't from Iowa!

Don't be surprised if you see me sending you over there for fun stuff... I think it's going to be great (because I've seen who is invited to take part!)

Today I shared a bit about how we are trying to beat our cabin fever. If you're in Iowa you know how messy it is outside- and if you're not in Iowa you've seen how messy it is here on the news.

So take a gander at the photo below and then visit my post about Hours of Indoor Fun over at IowaMoms.com. And be sure to bookmark it- or subscribe to the feed. It's gonna be good!



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Sweet...

You know how you sit down at the computer with plans to get something done and then you get sidetracked? Yeah, it happens to me a lot. Which is how I ended up on a website about Brazilian sugar.

Now, I like sugar. I like the powdered stuff lightly dusted on my pancakes, I like the small crystals for baking, I like the Raw Sugar sprinkled on top of muffins. It’s sugar- what’s not to like?

A few facts about Brazilian sugar- just in case it comes up:
Brazil is the largest sugar producing nation in the world.
Sugar Cane is harvested from May to November.
Brazil created ethanol from sugar (about half of their sugar production is held back for ethanol.)
The United States is Brazil’s top trade partner, importing almost 20% of it’s exported sugar crop.

Consider yourself ready for the Brazilian sugar questions in Trivial Pursuit.

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Really, It's Not That Important

>> Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We had our second FPU class tonight. During the discussion time we were asked about our budgets and what was important on them.

While I didn't share what was important I did share what wasn't: cable. When I said that we were having it disconnected there was an audible gasp in the room. Our leader asked about it, as he works with Doug and has (probably) a decent idea of what Doug makes, because, as he put it,$70 per month really isn't that much.

And, honestly, it's not. But that extra $70 per month will help get us out of debt just that much faster. And I don'tknow about you, but I'd rather get out of debt and have my cash vacation than sit on my butt and watch a show that I will forget about before it's over...

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Plans... All Down the Tubes

I had big plans to share the new Minnesota Zoo Grizzly Coast over at the travel blog today. But the fact that my computer couldn't start just a few minutes ago has forced me to rethink that plan.

Now I am going to make sure all my photos and videos are transferred to the hard drive or CDs for safe keeping.

Grrr.... I really, really don't like Vista. (No, I don't know what, exactly, caused the problem. But I'm sure it's Vista related. Even if it isn't directly Vista related I'm staill blaming Vista.)

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Here We Go Again



Look at all the nastiness coming our way. The predictor (from our local CBS station, KCCI) is showing heavy rain. Just what we don't need in Iowa- or any of the Midwest.

The floods of '93 taught us a lot here in Des Moines and we were well prepared in case it should happen again. The reservoir at Saylorville Lake was fitted with an amazing wall that was put up to allow Des Moines time to prepare for the water that would have to come. Last night the Army Corps of Engineers began lowering the walls and letting the water through (you can see a great slide show here).

They say the water from the reservoir will hit Des Moines about 10am. Here is what the downtown bridges looked like before the water arrived (photo by JOHN GAPS III / THE REGISTER) .

Of course it isn't 10am yet, but I'm guessing those bridges won't be visible in a couple of hours. They have been closed and sandbagged and any businesses and homes along the river have been vacated.

With another two days of predicted rain on the way they could be displaced for a while.

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I Know My Credit is Safe

I got a phone call the other day. It was from one of the credit agencies. Because lifelock keeps the fraud alerts current on my credit reports I know if credit is being opened in my name. Which is great- especially if I’m not the one opening it. This time it turned out to be a current creditor wanting to issue a second line of credit(without consulting me first)- which I didn’t want or need. But next time it might be someone trying to open an account in my name for a car or credit card.

I believe in lifelock and their services. So does AAA Pioneer Valley. They recently selected lifelock to provide identity theft protection to oer 173,000 of their members.

Lifelock is the leader in identity theft protection and, as the leader in a growing field, they need more employees to keep up with their growth. If you’re looking for a job you can feel good about, check them out.

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Could Someone PLEASE Tell Me Why This is Bad?

>> Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Back in April 2006 Nancy Pelosi vowed that a Democratic congress would bring down gas prices. At that time the average was $2.91 per gallon.


With prices now averaging $4 per gallon I'm wondering just where that Democratic relief is...


Obviously taxing the oil companies more will do the trick! Ummm, no. Do our elected officials in Washington not understand the "trickle down" effect? If more taxes are imposed on oil companies they will make up for it by raising prices. Which will, in turn, raise taxes. Even I can figure that one out. Thankfully a handful of those elected to watch out for us are actually doing so and blocked the bill. Of course it's an evil conservative conspiracy. Something about polar bears and caribou, I'm sure.

And speaking of stupid politicians...

Did you know the US Seante has it's own network of restaurants? Yep. And they have been losing money - more than $18 million since 1993. And now, without a $250,000 subsidy from taxpayers the Senate won't make payroll this month.

Are you kidding me? But wait, it get's better:



The embarrassment of the Senate food service struggling like some neighborhood
pizza joint has quietly sparked change previously unthinkable for Democrats.
Last week, in a late-night voice vote, the Senate agreed to privatize the
operation of its food service, a decision that would, for the first time, put it
under the control of a contractor and all but guarantee lower wages and benefits
for the outfit's new hires.

The House is expected to agree -- its food
service operation has been in private hands since the 1980s -- and President
Bush's signature on the bill would officially end a seven-month Democratic feud
and more than four decades of taxpayer bailouts.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein
(D-Calif.), chairman of the Rules and Administrations Committee, which oversees
the operation of the Senate, said she had no choice.

"It's cratering,"
she said of the restaurant system. "Candidly, I don't think the taxpayers should
be subsidizing something that doesn't need to be. There are parts of government
that can be run like a business and should be run like businesses."
Hmmm, I wonder what the wages and benefits are now? And, maybe it's just me, but shouldn't our entire government be run like a business? It's that what it is? One big corporation? (Glenn Beck's take on this is hilarious- check the next to the last paragraph.)

And wait, there's more...

In May the jobless rate jumped from 5% to 5.5%. Why? Kids got out of school and went looking for summer jobs. Jobs that pay minimum wage. Which has risen. Remeber this great government idea?


The minimum wage was hiked 14% to $5.85 an hour last July. Next month, it will
go up an additional 12% to $6.55 an hour. In July 2009, it's slated to rise
10.7% to $7.25 an hour.

So now the people who usually work minimum wage jobs can't get them because it costs too much for employers to employ them. So minimum wage jobs are being cut and we are seeing unemployed teens. Great idea, Congress.

And these are the people that want to be in charge of our health care???

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Saving Money on Everything

With our recent conversion into the world of frugality I am searching everywhere to get the very best deal I can on everything. Whether it’s travel bargains for Europe, Florida, Mexico, Las Vegas, Hawaii and the Caribbean or stuff I need around the house I’m not going to spend more than I have to.

Recent necessities at Casa Geek include:

A sun shade for our back deck. The gazebo top tore and replacing it is proving difficult. Hence the sun shade at “the O”.

A Netflix subscription for my dad for Father’s Day. He doesn’t have a computer but my brother, who lives close to him, does. I figure they can help him navigate the website so he can watch movies he wants to see.

Oh, and the DVD player for him to watch the movies on. Gotta love electronics clearances…

BestOnlineCoupons.com has hundreds of online coupon codes and discounts. It’s easy to use and makes it super easy to grab coupons before the expire, find the newest coupons and search by category or merchant.

It’s a fact of life that we need stuff. It’s a fact of my life that I won’t spend more than I have to. If I can't get a deal I guess I don't need it all that bad...

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Yikes!

OK, I'm not a fan of snakes so finding a snake in my child's crib-let alone wrapped around my baby's leg- would freak. me. out.

Eeekkk!! And I thought the mice were bad...

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I Wanna Be Rich

As the US moves ever closer to socialism (a terrifying thought, people) more and more countries are moving to capitalism (which works… That’s why they want it. Duh.)

For determined Americans who aren’t afraid of a little risk with their money may I offer you a few ideas that led to people becoming one of the Nouveau Riche:

  • Building WiFi networks for Brazilian resorts. Charles Brown, president of California-based Wireless Networks has hit on this one for tourists who can't leave their work at home.
  • Opening an American restaurant in China (hey, it worked well the other way). Josh Pollock, 31, had experienced so many culinary disappointments in the southwest region of China where he and his wife were living that he decided to do what any aspiring entrepreneur might: open his own restaurant.
  • Import the next great wine- from Greece. Wine makes need money to back their marketing. (No, Doug, you can't jump on this train.)

So while the options here in the states are looking a bit dim the options outside our borders are growing. Better hop on it before our government passes the bill to tax ex-patriots (oh, yes, they're working on it right now.)


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No Poop!

>> Monday, June 09, 2008

During my morning walk with Toby I pass this sign. It pretty much sums up my feelings towards politicians- local, state or federal.



I don't care which party they are with, most times you can't tell.



Blame, blame, blame.



"Oh, the CEOs are making too much money."

"Oh, the poor people were scammed."

"Oh,people can't care for themselves."



Well, politicians make too much money, too, but I don't see any of you voting down your pay raises or incentives.



And our elected officials scam with the best- hiding "pork" in bills so they will get passed and taking money from one fund to use in another and calling our budgets "balanced".



And maybe people would actually care for themselves if we actually expected them to instead of assuming a need and offering a hand out.


Just so sick of our government. And terrified of what is coming. McCain or Obama- either way we all lose.

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A Trip? Now That's Incentive.

Once upon a time I worked for an insurance company. I didn’t enjoy the “corporate-ness” of it and I really sucked at selling products I didn’t believe in. Even when there were sales incentive programs involving travel I just couldn’t get myself excited about selling enough to win the trip.

What I never realized was that there are companies out there- like Bellwether Rewards- that specialize in setting up these trips for corporations. They handle all of the incentive program- from trip websites to travel profiles, confirmations and communication.

If you’re a head honcho looking to reward your sales team or employees with a trip you should really check out the travel rewards packages Bellwether has available.

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Money and Necessities

Last week Doug & I began Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. I had already been following his Total Money Makeover books so I had figured out our net worth (not so good since our home has lost about $20k since we bought it two years ago) and had our debt snowball laid out.

On our way to Minnesota we worked on our first class assignment- our quickie budget. As we looked at how much we spend on "necessities" we began to see just how much of it might not be necessary and what we might cut out.

Like the DirecTV at $70 per month! Yikes! For the most part the TV is on the Disney Channel or Nick Jr. There are a few shows Doug & I enjoy but after an online search I found that most of them can be watched online after it aires on TV. So I called DirecTV to cancel. They don't make it easy...
"But what will you do without a TV?" I was asked.
"We don't watch much- only about 6 hours a month; we have lives."
"But what about your kids?"
"They are 3 and 1. They won't notice if they are watching a DVD or TV."
"But how will you keep up with what's going on locally?"
By this time Doug and I are both laughing as I had the phone on speaker, "The internet."
The poor lady had to give in and cancel our subscription. She tried though, even to the point of offering $10 off our bill each month for the next year. (So, if you want to save on your DirecTV tell them you're going to cancel.)

The next thing we did was pay off our Best Buy bill. Doug had to get a new laptop late last year and got an 18 month same as cash. I had it set up to pay off before the interest set in. But it was our smallest bill and we figured that, since we set back money for taxes, we would cut our quarterly payment back, pay off the Best Buy card and put a big lump into our HSA.

So that $60 payment has rolled into the payment on our washer and dryer- which will be paid off in September now, instead of December. Our snowball is rolling and boy, does it feel good! Because both of our vehicles will be paid off in less than 10 months we actually figured that we can be debt free (except for our house) by next June. That's huge (as is our debt right now- I'm ashamed to tell you what it is).

We're making a few cuts to our phone bills- we'll probably ditch the home phone (that we never use) and make some adjustments to our cell phone plan. And I'm trying to cut our grocery bill, too. I'm going to up us from one meatless meal per week to two. I already use all the coupons I can and shop from the sale circular. No stores in my area offer double coupons and the savings aren't so great that using 3 different stores for my shopping would make a difference (especially with gas being so expensive (and I use E85 which costs almost $1 less than regular unleaded).

I've got lots of "extra" stuff listed on Half.com (thanks to Green3) and I have a huge lot of girls summer clothes ready to go on eBay. And another garage sale is in the works for July (since my first one go rained on and had less than stellar turn out).

Our goal is to get all the debt paid off and take a nice vacation next fall (paid for with cash) to Ireland (of course). Of course we should use it for paying on something but after a year of living like no one else we're goinna take a vacation like no one else.

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Daddies Like Chocolate, Too

It used to be that you could tell a holiday was approaching by the presence of the big Fannie May candy kiosk in the center of the mall. Well, I suppose you can still gauge holidays by the candy maker’s offerings but now you can get their goodies online- quickly and easily.

Their website is enticing, the decadent chocolates and nuts so well photographed you can almost taste them.

With a click of a button you can order Father's Day chocolate or an Eli’s Cheesecake right now. Or you can very easily create your own one pound assortment (ooohhh, that’s fun!) for someone you love (like yourself!!!)

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Isn't There a Drought Somewhere That Could Use This?

>> Sunday, June 08, 2008

To say we've had a lot of rain is a complete understatement. We've had torrents of rain dump in mere minutes, taking our quiet creek to a raging river.



We arrived home just a bit ago and the lack of rain yesterday was completely negated by storms that came in very eary this morning and have continued all day. More storms are on the way tonight and probably for the next few days. The creek is just as full as it was when we left- if not just a bit fuller.

sigh

My brother has been called out for storm duty again- I'm not sure if he's in "waiting" mode or if he's gone somewhere, we haven't heard from him since he got called to show up. It was difficult for him to go as his basement is flooding. The ground is saturated, the storm sewers are filled and the water has nowhere else to go. But he didn't have to worry too much as my dad, my brother and my BIL all went over and installed two sump pumps and have been running wet/dry vacs. Doug took over our large dehumidifier when we got home so they have three running. Now the rain just needs to stop so it can actually get dry.

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Stupidest Headline Ever

>> Friday, June 06, 2008

World Environment Day calls for end to CO2 addiction

Err, what? I rather like breathing. I also like eating all those carbon based life forms like grapes, apples, and grilled veggies (mmm, with steak on the other half of the plate). I'm sure those plants don't want to end their CO2 addition either, considering that they require it to live. And didn't I see somewhere that one volcano in Chili has pumped out more greenhouse gasses in a few weeks than all of human kind in all of recorded history? I also like wearing carbon, like cotton and leather. Then there's that carbon that falls all over the floor when I get a haircut. Well, you get the idea. What do you think topsoil is composed (or should I say composted) of?

Brought to you by the UN, of course. Though, our Senate is trying to be equally moronic.

For a brief dose of facts and reality, of which the UN and Congress seem to have in short supply, see Watts Up With That.

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I Think It Just Needs a Focal Point

The main level of our home is a bit more, well, “executive” than we are. It’s one of those homes that I was in awe of growing up; one that I never imagined I would live in. It’s a really big step mentally to get away from “dirt poor” to “upper middle class”.

But, here we are, in our lovely home. With all the same furnishings from our smaller, less fancy house. And while it doesn’t look bad there are a few rooms that could use something to bring fancy them up a bit. I was perusing clocks blog the other day and thought that an elegant wall clock could really do wonders in our more formal living room. An affordable one, of course. There's a reason we still use all the furniture from the old house...

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The Last Bit of Ireland... And Now We're Off to Russia!

I just finished writing the last bit of our Irish holiday: Doolin and the Burren. It certainly took me forever to get to the last few days. I always hate having to end my Ireland series and tend to put it off. But because we are leaving for our next adventure I had to get it wrapped up.

"And what is up with this Russia thing?" you are thinking, "And why hasn't she mentioned it? Not even once..."

Well, you know how some things just sort of pop up and happen really quickly? That's kind of how this came about. One of my very best girlfriends is a "nature" sculptor. She sculpts rocks and trees and stuff for zoos and wildlife habitats. You can see her work in the Bronx Zoo, Disneyworld, and the Netherlands to name just a few places... And now Russia's Grizzly Coast. She invited us as her special guests to the preview before the official opening. We are all very excited.

And I still have much to do before we leave at noon. I should get on it...

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Right in Front of Your Face

There are days I spend looking for my camera. I know I left it on the desk but I can’t seem to find it. Usually it’s right in front of my face.

That’s kind of the point of the witness protection program- you move people, change their hair, give them a regular job and plop them into a new life. Right in front of your face, so to speak.

That’s the premise of USA Network's new original series In Plain Sight and to help you get the idea I have hidden the image of their character Mary on my blog, in plain site. She’s somewhere here on the home page but easy to overlook.

Kind of like us in Iowa… Fly-over land, you know. Little people who cling to guns and religion. I wonder how many people have been relocated to our tiny towns? It would explain some of the restaurants...
Sponsored by USA Network's new original series In Plain Sight

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Who Are You? I Really Wanna Know...

>> Wednesday, June 04, 2008

OK, the title may be a blast from the past but, seriously, can you even tell sometimes? And are you allowed to? Have we become so PC that coed bathrooms and locker rooms are considered normal and necesary?

I may be a fear monger but what is to stop a man from dressing as a woman to gain access to ladies rooms and harming a woman, or, God forbid, a young girl? Do you really think that someone sick enough to rape a woman wouldn't stoop to wearing women's clothing?

Or how about the man who is pregnant? Of course he isn't really a man... He's a woman who was born in the wrong body... He always knew he was a man. But he kept his uterus so he could have a child. Doesn't having a uterus make you a woman? Isn't that the difference? I, quite honestly, feel sorry for the child. I pray her life would be normal- but how can it be? When your parents draw so much- seem to relish, infact- the media attention, how can your life not be lived under a microscope?

I see these headlines and wonder just how far these type of things will go before our country collapses upon itself or, possibly worse, splits and wars break out. Then again all the people who believe in guns and war will be on one side and the peace activists and anti-gun owners will be on the other so I suppose it would be a short fight...

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