Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rambling through...

Ok, not enough mental organization to do a real post, but just in case any of you are wondering if we've dropped off the face of the earth, here's a quick bullet-point style update to bring us up to speed. Maybe one of these days I'll become a good blogger again...

*The weather in Wisconsin has been surprisingly un-snowy. When we moved here everyone told us how little snow south-central Wisconsin receives, but two of the previous four winters we've been here we've had record snowfall, so we haven't really believed them. But, it does seem that we've received much less snow this year than I was accustomed to growing up in western Michigan.

*Lydia's chatting up a storm and has something to say about everything! We have a high-efficiency washer and I usually use the extra spin feature to get extra moisture out of the clothes before popping them into the dryer. I set the extra spin cycle and walked away. Lydia began tugging on the washer door (it was locked) and saying "Mama, not yet, you forgot the Oxi-Clean." She cracks me up, what 2 year old watches the laundry process so carefully that she's worried when you start the washer without the usual products...

*Joshua's VERY into letters and the sounds they make and the way they go together to form words. I don't want to put any pressure on him to do so, but I'll actually be very surprised if he's not reading by the time he turns 5. He also knows the letters and order of not only his own name, but Lydia's as well. We didn't realize this until yesterday when we noticed she had writing down her arm...sure enough...L-Y-D-I-A, and he had the matching J-O-S-H-U-A on his own fore-arm. Future star of Wisconsin Ink???

*We found short-term renters for our other property during the off-market break we were taking. It sounds like such a good deal for everyone, they get a place to live, we get some help with the mortgage in a place we weren't occupying anyway. All seemed to be going fairly well for the past month. However, this week has had it's fair share of challenges and re-assured me that we do not want to be landlords any longer than we have to. It's bad enough to have something break in your own home and be stuck with the repair, but to be expected to fix something in a home someone else is occupying and on their schedule to boot is even less fun. And it's hard to plan and communicate when phone calls and emails are rarely returned in a timely fashion...So we're looking forward to this portion of our housing adventure being wrapped up (hopefully) soon!

*We interviewed realtors in anticipation of our re-list this week. I really liked one of the agents we met with, felt like we clicked, and think the person would be great to work with. I did not so much gel with another one we interviewed. Perhaps I'm just cynical, perhaps the generation I'm a part of has a very different vision for what selling a home looks like and what value should be attached to services provided, perhaps it was just a difference of personalities, but I came away from the meeting thinking of all the things I dislike about the real-estate commission-based process. But, we feel like we tried the limited-service/for sale by owner route last fall and are already spread as thin as we care to go from a time standpoint and don't really have the energy to do all we should/could to make a sale happen quickly on our own, so I think a Realtor is in our future. Furthermore, it would be much easier if there were general consensus about what makes or breaks sales in this market. To stage, or not to stage. To list right away, or not until the tenants leave. Pictures, websites, mailings, team-based sales, individual agent...ahhh, does it really even matter?? On the plus side, it looks like the market and sale prices have continued to improve over the winter. :)

*We're traveling next week: James for business, the kids and I for pleasure. We're excited about seeing (hopefully) everyone in my family, and having some down time at my parents place while Daddy's on his business trip. We are not looking forward to the many hours in the car that trip will require. The kids did really well over Christmas-time, but I wouldn't say any of us enjoy that length of a trip and last time Lydia didn't sleep AT ALL even thought the entirety of our travels were at nap and bedtimes. We're hopeful she'll get more cozy with the zzzzz's on this trip, but we shall see... And of course there's all the laundry before leaving, packing, loading, unpacking, laundry, re-packing, loading, un-packing, and of course more laundry when you return...

Well, I think that's the highs and lows. Again, maybe I'll be able to catch up with something more interesting and positive next week, or at least some fun pictures!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Who doesn't love a bargain?

Ok, so everybody pretty much knows I'm always looking to score a deal. Or two. Or five.
I will freely admit I get a huge rush when I know I've found a way to make a good deal even better. And this deal is pretty good, if I do say so myself. :)
So, I thought I'd share it here in case any of you a.) haven't heard about it. and b.) have an interest in taking advantage.

Walgreens is having a Friends and Family promotion today, where by printing a coupon off their website EVERYONE gets their employee discount (15%) off their total purchase. If you buy any of the Walgreens branded products, you get 20% off those items. You can find the coupon here. There's some fine print, but basically it tells you that it's not valid on prescriptions, booze, stamps, gift cards, or items prohibited from being included by law...pretty standard.

This deal becomes even sweeter if you already have coupons or take advantage of their sale prices. Yep, it works on top of whatever the price would have been, even if it's already FREE or better-than-free after Register Rewards (RR). And you can use a coupon as well. This makes a good deal a killer deal!

Some of my personal favorites:

Dove Men's (new line) body care products are on sale for $5.99 this week and a $6 off your next purchase coupon prints at the register. So, anytime this week you'd MAKE one cent to purchase it. Well today only (Feb 12), you'll get 15% off the $5.99. So, you pay ~$5.10 for the product and get $6 back!

Huggies Diapers/Pull-Ups trainers jumbo packs are on sale for $8.99 this week and at the register a RR for $3 off your next order will print. I don't know about the rest of you, but every few weeks I get coupons in the mail from Huggies. So I usually have at least a couple lying around for between $1-3 dollars off. So, all week long, $8.99-$3RR-$2 coupon means you could get these diapers for about $4/pack. Not bad. However, today with the employee discount coupon they'll ring up at $7.49, use your $2 coupon to bring the price to $5.49, and then you'll get the $3 RR, so basically you can get the diapers for $2.50/pack!!

And, if you don't have any coupons, you're not a man/mom/you only use Pampers/you cloth-diaper exclusively this could still be a great deal if you need any household items (toothpaste/deodorant/shampoo/cleaning products) especially since it seems there's always a sale on at least one of the brands at any given time. Or, re-stock your medicine cabinet with Walgreeens branded supplies (they've been just as effective as the name brands for us) and save even more. And no, Walgreens isn't giving me anything to promote this, but boy I wish they would!

Happy (Bargain) Shopping!!!

Monday, February 8, 2010


I love, love, LOVE these pictures, taken at Christmas-time! Just a bit delayed in posting. :)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fast French Bread

This bread is really fast, only an hour or an hour-and-a-half from getting out the ingredients to eating warm, crusty, soft French Bread! What can beat that?
I found the recipe on this great mommy-blogger site and let's just say we'll be making it again! It made three loaves, of which we ate about 1/2 loaf at dinner that night, saved the other half for the next day and froze 4 half-loaves (just let thaw on the counter for a couple of hours wrapped in foil and pop in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes and it's like fresh-from-the oven bread again). Yum!! Not bad work for less than 2 hours total prep-work including rising and baking time.
Don't our pictures make you want some for yourself?? For those of you who love photos, doesn't James' new lens make you want one for yourself??

No Fail Quick French Bread (Found at Gourmet Mom on-the Go)
1 T shortening
1 T salt
2 T sugar
1 C boiling water
1 C cold water
1/3 C lukewarm water
1 T yeast (cut your yeast in half if you are at a high altitude)
4 1/2 C - 6 C flour
1 egg

1. Place the 1 C hot water in the microwave for 3 minutes to get it boiling.
2. Dissolve the yeast into the warm water. Stir it around until it is all mixed.
3. Combine the salt, shortening, and sugar in the bottom of your mixer with a fork. The dough hook doesn't work very well.
4. Pour the boiling water over the shortening mixture.
5. Pour the cold water over the mixture.
6. Pour the warm water and yeast into the mixer.
7. Begin to add the flour, one cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the side of your mixer.
8. Let the dough mix on high for 8 minutes.
9. Let the dough rise in the mixer for about 20 minutes. (This step can actually be skipped if you are in a hurry!)
10. Separate the dough into three parts and place on a large jelly roll pan sprayed with cooking spray. Let the dough sit for about 5 minutes. Letting it sit will make it MUCH easier to shape.
11. Spread the dough out into a large (12"x18" or so) rectangle.
12. Then roll the dough up on the short side--you should know have an approximately 18" long rope of dough.
14. Turn the loaf so the seam side is down. Repeat these steps with the other 2 parts of dough.
15. Spray a sharp knife with cooking spray.
16. Make your egg wash by whisking the egg until frothy.
17. Cut three diagonal slits in the top of each loaf. Cover with the egg wash being sure to get it into all of the slits.
18. Place the loaves in a warm 170 degree oven and let rise for about 15 minutes.
19. Turn the oven up to 375 degrees for a convection oven, and 400 degrees for a regular oven. Leave the loaves in while the oven increases in temperature.
20. Bake for 10 minutes convection or 15 regular oven, or until the loaves are golden brown and crusty.
21. Turn the oven down to 325 for convection, 350 for regular and turn the pan around in the oven. Bake for another 7 minutes convection or 10 minutes for regular.