Saturday, September 28, 2019

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Please Excuse Our Mess!  We Are Under Construction!

I looked at the date on my last post and feel terrible that it has been so long since I last blogged.  It's just been so crazy busy around here that time has passed at warp speed.  Or so it seemed to me.

Geez, what has been going on around here.  Lots.

So, let's start from the first things that pop into my mind.

One of the big ones, for me, is...

We finally have a working chimney!!!!!!!!!!!  Woohoo!!!!!!

The past couple of weeks my husband has been burning the candle at both ends getting the chimney done and the furnace up and working again and it was so awesome to fire it up.  It is making more noise than it used to (I desperately need to deep clean the furnace and we might have to jack it up to get it more level as I think the earthquake knocked it off of some shims it had under it.  It's doing its job, though, so I'm happy :).

The second thing that has been going on is that we are still not officially starting home school yet.  It has been a crazy last few weeks going to one appointment after another, one meeting after another and getting the paperwork all in and processed to begin home school officially.  With Alvah being special needs the process takes a lot longer with the sheer amount of paperwork attached to him.

And then, long story, but after a lot of talking and a lot of soul searching and then more talking with the daughter, we finally decided to home school her as well.  She has a lot of holes in her education that you could drive a truck through and struggles with math and reading.  I've tried to get her tested for learning disabilities, but the school has always said that since she wasn't flunking they weren't overly concerned about it.  Even though she still has letter reversal and other problems going on.  I was going to go and get her independently tested as she's behind in reading and math, but I was going to keep her in school for social interaction.

And then she was listening as my husband and I were talking about the field trips and other get togethers that the home school does on a regular basis and asked if she was homeschooled could she go to those get togethers and make friends.  I was confused and drilled her about her friends that she had kept since elementary school that were in school with her now and in some cases were in classes with her and she explained that she never really got to talk to her friends or do anything with them because of the way the school was run.  That scratched my brain and I remembered talking to her about her friends and how they were doing more than once, only to have her tell me that she had eaten alone at lunch because she couldn't find any of her friends even if she was in the same lunch as them and stuff.  I realized very quickly that my little girl had been really lonely since she had left elementary school  (which she also explained after we got her to open up about it) and had been toughing out the feelings of social isolation so she wouldn't bother us with stuff like that.  At that point we were done and enrolled her in home school last week.  I go in this coming week to order curriculum for the kids with their contact teacher (which I already got Alvah a really good reading program called "All About Reading" and stuff, but am looking forward to the help with putting together a learning program for Armina).

I have been working on researching everything and working on learning "units" for the kids so I can teach both kids with similar topics on the surface but then go in different paths to better teach their different needs.   I'm actually kind of enjoying it.  I'm determined we are going to learn, yes, but we're going to have fun while doing it!  And I'm incorporating cooking lessons and feeding therapy into their lessons, so both kids will pick up life skills (I hope) while we are learning about standard and metric measurements and mainstream schoolwork types of things :).

Right that leads into the next thing that has been going on which is that I had to think of a place to set up a school room area that the kids could concentrate in.  I immediately realized that the den was the best, and only really, choice to do it, so I've been working on repairing the walls and ceiling and then repainting the den.

This is a huge undertaking for painting and things as the den is pretty much the same size as my kitchen and living room combined and is our catch all room, so it's got a lot of stuff to move around.  After painting is done we are going to get rid of the falling apart couch, get rid of some other stuff and then build bookcases everywhere to turn the den into a library and school room.  Bright side, I'm nearly done on the painting end!  So, yay for that!!!

Now that both kids are home, I've been waking up early the past few days and getting as much done as I can before the kids wake up for the day, which has helped me to get painting done or household jobs before I have to worry about juggling other things.  I'm hoping to keep up the schedule (which is kind of hard as I've been staying up really late too), as I find I like the alone time to get things written down for the day or other things and, of course, just getting more stuff done period.

Right, so a few frugal things that have happened the last couple of weeks.  I'm just going to cover a couple and see about going into more detail, perhaps this coming Friday as there's a lot going on around here and I haven't had time to make a list of it all.

1.  I took advantage of a free event in our area and we went and took a walking tour of our local experimental farm.  The son had a blast, the daughter got cold and was having a hard time concentrating (the temps were in the 30's and there was a lot of standing around and listening, so your ears and nose got cold if you weren't moving and then her feet got cold and she was cold by the end of the tour for sure), I learned a lot and got excited about some of the stuff they were working on, the husband had a good time as well.  While there I learned of another free event happening this week that I've already signed up to attend.

2.  I went and looked at a few places before purchasing some school things for the kids so I would get the best price.

3.  I found some textbooks I wanted to buy for myself on feeding therapy (I couldn't find anything at the local library in the vein I wanted) and asked on a Special needs group I belong to if anyone had a copy of the books I could borrow.  One of the ladies in the group had both books I wanted to read and was super kind enough to convert the books to PDF and e-mail them to me!

4.  We got to start swimming again the last few weeks.  The kids are loving being back again and I'm super glad that the son hasn't lost any skills while we were on break.

While talking to her swimming teacher my husband found that she is going to have a "boot camp" for people interested in becoming lifeguards where they will learn CPR and things.  My husband, knowing how much my daughter loves to swim and how much she loves to teach others, brought up how good of a job being a lifeguard is again to the daughter.  Their swimming teacher, who considers the daughter one of her favorite people, offered to let her come to the boot camp for free and learn CPR and just see what the program is like so she's informed for the future.  We're really encouraging the daughter to go if for no other reason than knowing how to do CPR (even if not certified or anything) is a really valuable skill to know.  And to learn it for free would definitely be worthwhile!

5.  One of the things I found that I really wanted to get the son for homeschool was a device that integrates technology and it called for an I-Pad or a Kindle.  I didn't want to use his talker I-Pad for it and our other I-Pad is way too old to be compatible, so I decided to get a Kindle and was able to jump on a sale where the Fire 7 was on sale for 29.99.

6.   I made banana bread tonight to use up a couple of bananas that were definitely over ripe.  The daughter was at a friend's birthday party with her dad and the son acted interested in what I was doing, so he helped me make banana bread :).  He even smelled the bananas!!!  I know a lot of people would be like, "Smelling?  Really?" but seriously with him just letting it near his face was a big deal, so I am super happy and proud of him.  And hey, the bread came out awesome, so well done, Alvah!

And, yeah, that's about where I'm going to call it good.  Sorry I don't have more to wow you with, but it's been crazy busy around here just covering the few projects I mentioned above.

How about you all?  How are things going around your places?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Frugal...Um...Wednesday! Money Saving Weekly Recap

Okay, first I gotta admit I don't remember how long it has been since I posted up a recap, so I'm just going to go with what has happened lately and go from there :).

Well, the first big news that I can share is a big first for me.  I am in the process of enrolling my son in home school.  The change wasn't something I just came up with on the spot or anything, but things have fallen into place in a way that I was finally convinced to make the leap.  The biggest thing that helped push me over the top was that his therapist started her own home school tutoring program where you can bring in your home schooling curriculum and the kids work in basically a classroom together during as long of a school day as you'd like them to work, but each student is one on one with a therapist and they work on therapy AND school work together.  This all the while they are working on your custom made home schooling curriculum.  That is so much like what I've been wanting for my son for a long time now as I know how bright he is, but in his current class environment I felt like he was just kind of stagnating, so this new way of doing things might very well help him to break out of his shell more.  Which would be a wonderful thing indeed.

I'll be home schooling him at home as well as them working with him at therapy, so I'm hoping between the two environments we'll be able to push him in a new, and good, direction.  Wish me luck there!  I'm scared, but excited at the same time :).

In other news, despite back to school germs and things hitting the kiddos, we have been getting stuff done around the house and things, which I'm feeling pretty good about, I have to admit.  I'll get more into what I'm working on in my monthly goals post, but feels good to be getting things done and accomplished.  Baby steps truly do add up to big steps once they are all added together :).

So, yeah, let's share more good news shall we?

The husband got the bottom half of the chimney on last week!  He's still got to put flashing up around where the chimney went through the roof, but yay for getting there!!!

We are finally getting the rain that would have normally fallen in August any other year, which has definitely been helping to get the wildfires under control, which was wonderful news for everyone around here.  I've never seen so many Alaskans thrilled at rain falling from the sky before.  I've been doing what I can for food drives and others things in the area to help aid victims of the fires as a bunch of people have lost their homes to the fires, especially in the Talkeetna area.

So, now that I've shared a bit of local news, let's get to the money saving things that have happened the last bit!

1.  Well, we got the Halloween decorations put up last week.  With the husband's work schedule, I found that he doesn't get to celebrate Halloween much with the family before it's just over (it's hard to watch movies with the family when you work nights and all) and since Halloween is one of his favorite holidays, I figured two months of Halloween decorations would definitely be a good idea.  We put up the same Halloween decorations we put up every year, but with the few new editions from drawings or projects the kids did last year, so that was fun :).  We ended up retiring a few decorations that just died due to age or whatever, but overall, it's looking pretty Halloween-y.  Well, upstairs anyway.  I'm figuring on doing the big open main part of the house last when it comes to painting (since it's all going to be white), so I figure putting the decorations up there will save me from having to take decorations down and putting them back up later on *laugh*.  A shot of some of the decorations are seen up top :).

2.  I noticed that the living room curtains were pretty much officially dead.  Between just age on them and then having the electric heat going all winter last year, it seemed that the curtains didn't take it well and were all discolored on the bottom because of it.  I tried taking a few things to them to see if I could shift the stains, but they didn't budge, so between that and the big blind in the living room having issues due to probably age, I figured I'd have to try and find some thicker and better looking curtains for the living room.

Now mind you, I have searched for YEARS at the used stores for curtains that would fit this window as the window is huge and hadn't had much luck, so I was kind of resigned that I would have to buy panels full price and flinch while I did it.  I dropped off a bunch of donations at the used store last week and decided to stop in really fast to see if I could find anything on my list of things I needed and I hit major pay dirt!!!!  I found some nice, thick, machine washable curtains and between the four panels they had the curtains would fit the window!!!!  Oddly, probably due to different employees finding the curtains at different times, the curtains had four different price tags and four different measurements on them (I ended up doing a crude "move the curtains through my arms after putting them together to see if they were the same" test and found that all four panels were the same size...whatever that size happened to be in the end).  I took them to the front and the gal decided to give me the curtains for the cheapest price tag on all of the panels!  So, I was able to get all four panels for less than 20.00!!!  And they are in brand new shape!!!  I was more than a little thrilled =D.

And the various shades of gold and things in the curtains goes with the house and furniture well, which was a double bonus!  A close up of the curtain pattern is seen above there, but the curtains are actually dark brown, not medium brown.  The only way I could get the circles to pop was to lighten the picture :).

I did hem the curtains by about four inches to get them off of the floor and such, but I was really happy with that purchase.

3.  I mended two shirts, a pair of pants and a comforter.

4.  My sister-in-law gave us a bunch of clothes that no longer fit or were not to her husband's taste.  As a result we got a bunch of men's jeans in brand new shape and I got a few shirts and some jeans that fit me well as well :).  I will have to hem some of the pants to fit my husband a bit better, but it was definitely a nice windfall!

5.  My step mom sent me another pinata box.  The most welcome thing in it was some hats and a scarf that she crocheted for the kids.  The kids have been growing like weeds of late and had outgrown a bunch of winter hats and things and I was wondering if I was going to have to get some yarn and knit them some new ones, so that was not only really cool of her, but it also saved me a bunch of work :). 

6.  So, I mentioned on my last post about more things breaking.  Well, this time it had nothing to do with the earthquake...least I don't think it is.  The numerous repairs I've done on the love seat and the couch downstairs over the years were just finally not enough and the pieces of furniture just decided to start self destructing on me to the point that I wasn't going to be able to repair them (support wood is cracking and things...not pretty).  I was so worried that I was going to have spend a ton of money to replace said furniture because we definitely use it and I was stressing about the debt I was going to accumulate as I couldn't find any great deals locally.  Until my mom, bless her, turned me onto and I found, awesomely enough that Target will ship a bunch of stuff, EVEN UP HERE, for free if you spend 35.00 or more!!!  So, I have a love seat, bought on clearance and a couple of club chairs (which will replace the couch downstairs and hopefully give us more room in the den) getting delivered by the end of the month (with some generosity on my family's part as well for ordering some things for me) and for a lot cheaper than if they had been purchased through a store up here.  Hopefully it is furniture that will last a while :).

7.  Here's a tip for people trying to save a few pennies.  I NEVER go through my virus scan to renew for the coming year.  I always go through Amazon and see what a download of said software costs (and in the case of mine I just purchase the new "software package" and then just get the new product key, input it into my software and I'm good for another year) and go that route.  Better still try not to buy new virus software at the beginning of the year, but toward the end of the year.  The virus scan will update when you purchase it and you'll pay a LOT less than if you buy it as a new release at the beginning of the year.  So, I needed to renew my virus scan, went through Amazon for my new product key and saved myself 100.00 in the process.  Just wanted to pass that along.

8.  Carrs gave me some awesome deals the last bit, mainly through giving me tons of bonus gas rewards points.  Like they gave me 10x the gas rewards points a few weeks in a row and I accumulated a ton of them, so I cashed in a bunch and got some cool free groceries.  I got:

A free gallon of ice cream
A free package of breakfast sausages
A free container of sour cream
A free thing of cream cheese
A free loaf of whole wheat bread

The ice cream and the sausages were put into the downstairs freezer so they didn't make the photo :).  The half and half is in the picture because Carrs gave me a personalized price on it of .85 this week!  I was thrilled to be able to add half and half to my coffee again and in a way that fit my budget!

We are also eating a ton of bananas this month as Carrs gave me a personalized price of .51 lb on them this month!  Since bananas are running .95 lb regular price up here, I am happy that banana snacking and banana bread are budget friendly this month :).  The bananas didn't fit in the picture up above, so I left them out as well *laugh*.

9.  My husband and I were at the used store one day and found another thing on my list of things we needed.  My daughter had plain outgrown her desk that she had and desperately needed something a bit bigger to do homework on and loe and behold we found a desk at the used store for 15.00!!!

My husband had to tighten up a bunch of stuff on the desk when we got home and I cleaned it really well and waxed it, but we were both thrilled with the purchase as the desk is real wood and should last for a good long time.

Course typical kid, as soon as she had a new space, she filled it *laugh*.  I ended up rearranging her room and moving the bookcase from the laundry room into her room so she had some extra space (I forgot to take a picture of that) and had to get creative storing kitchen things that used to be on the shelves in the pantry and kitchen, but I did it and now she is much happier with her room and homework environment.

10.  I've been working on repairing and patching cracks and things so that I can paint and such and was wondering how to do around the door in the den as the door, for lack of a better word, shifted in one direction in the earthquake while the wall went the other direction and both things just mutually decided to stay in their separate locations permanently.  As a result I had a pretty big crack around the door that I didn't know how to patch without some major work involved.  Studying how things had settled, though, I realized that if I took the trim off the frame of the door and moved all of the trim over that I could substantially cover the crack on the side of the door to the point that I could patch it as the door was still working okay.  So, I did.  And after a couple of tries it didn't look off kilter and worked out okay.  I repaired the crack to the point I can paint over it and we are good to go on that part of the den. 

And I'm sure there is more that I'm forgetting about, but for sure I'm going to leave it here as I need to start dinner soon.  Side note as well, I AM working on back e-mails to people, so if you have e-mailed me in the last bit and I haven't responded, be patient as an e-mail will hopefully be coming your way soon :). 

So, how have things been going with you guys?  Well, I hope?

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

End of August Trip the Portage Wildlife Center (Plus, notes and updates)

Well, Happy September everyone!

I was going to just go ahead and post up a "Frugal Friday" recap post for the long it has been, but instead of going through my crazy life at the moment, I thought I'd share something fun we were actually able to do last week.  Since the earthquake I've felt like I've been trying to play catch up on a global scale and at times failing miserably and the last bit more things have been breaking, things I'm going to have to go into debt to replace (yay more debt) and I have really found myself singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen.   This part really got caught in my head (with a slight lyric change by me)...

"Is this real life?  Is this just fantasy?
 Caught in a landslide (Note:  I replace "earthquake" for "landslide"), no escape from reality"
Anyway, warped humor aside, it's been crazy around here.  My husband really wanted to take a trip, but where do you go when 90% of the state is on fire (no, seriously, the majority of the state was on fire as of last's been crazy and smokey and scary...we even had a fire down our road one day which made over an acre go up before the firefighters could contain it)?  Well, my daughter really wanted to go to the zoo, smoke or no smoke, but my husband really wanted to go to the Portage Wildlife Preserve.

The day we were going to go, I checked the weather/smoke reports and found that Portage, due to a change in wind direction was going to be relatively smoke free for that day while Anchorage was supposed to be REALLY smokey (which here are some pictures showing the smoke in the Anchorage area...they don't look too bad, but keep in mind these were the only pictures that showed up on my phone with any decent resolution to them).  So the husband and I convinced the daughter to go by saying we were going to the "big zoo" instead of the "small zoo" worked fabulously.  But, yeah, it was smokey on the drive until we got past Anchorage.

I even tried to take a snapshot of the inlet where the smoke was thick to make a "smoke on the water" type of joke, but the pictures didn't come out.

Anyway, after a well-enjoyed-by-the-son drive we arrived at the wildlife preserve, bought our passes  and somehow found a parking spot (which was a miracle with how crowded it was).  The son immediately went, found a shady spot at the food court, sat down and didn't want to move.  Not a great way to start a trip.  In his defense the eczema on the bottom of his foot has been awful of late and he was limping from it, so I imagine the idea of walking around all day was NOT what he wanted to do.  The husband took him for a walk to see some of the animals and I guess Alvah maxed out after a few of them and wanted to go and sit in the car and play on his I-pad for a good portion of the rest of the trip.

Meanwhile the daughter and I split up from the son and husband team and went looking at the animals...

We had obviously gotten there at feeding time because the porcupine kept trying to show everyone its empty food bowl.

It was really up close and personal and would give me great photogenic poses...until I would click the picture.  So, I did my best *laugh*.

The poor black bear was panting and just wanted some water.  It was very personable and really wanted someone to feed it or give it a drink.  They were coming up with the equipment to feed it as we were leaving, so I was happy to see it would get relief from its predicament.

I'm honestly amazed that so many of my photos came out.  I was using my phone and it was so bright that I couldn't see ANYTHING when trying to focus my camera when taking photos.  Sometimes it worked out well (like above) and other times I had mixed success...

If you look WAYYYY at the top of the photo you can make out part of two brown bears.  I got a great shot of a tree though *laugh*.

Some animals were nicer than others about getting their picture taken.  The moose refused to pop out of the barn and parked himself against the wall so you couldn't get a picture of him if you tried.  The reindeer stayed in their barn and weren't coming out in the sun and heat for anything.  The guys above were just kind of "meh" about life in general, but were at least out in the open.
The wolves tried their best to remain hidden in the weeds as they slept.  Not the best picture since I had to focus in so far to get them to pop out from the weeds, but hey, I found them!  It was like a grown up game of "Where's Waldo" with a lot of the animals.  The arctic fox alluded me completely even with a nice gentleman trying his best to point out its tail in the rocks to me.
We checked out a few more of the animals and then, finally not able to find the husband or the son anywhere, called to find out where we could meet up with them.

We found them over by a boardwalk that led to a nice walkway overlooking the inlet.  From the information boards I guess you can whale watch from the platform during high tide, but we were definitely there during low tide during a really dry year, so all we really got to see was a bit of water over lots of mud.

This was BY FAR the son's favorite part of the trip.  The wind had picked up a bit and started blowing wild growing grass around (which my son loves things like that) and he loved the play of the water over the mud.  I think we spent about an hour on that stretch of boardwalk with the son running back and forth laughing and having a great time while we chased him to make sure he stayed safe and didn't try to get down to the water or something.

I even got a good shot of the glacier from a different angle up the mountains.  I was totally mean and quizzed my daughter on glacial advancement and what the different parts of the glacier were called as we looked at it.  I was happy that I actually remembered so much of daughter wasn't as thrilled with my memory *laugh*.

The husband the the daughter then took a side trip while I waited in the car with Alvah and warmed myself up (the wind was colder than I thought it would be and I hadn't brought my coat to walk around) to go and see the remains of Earthquake Park.  Earthquake Park is an area where during the 1964 quake an entire town had sank into the ground and had been abandoned.  The remnants of the town have been around ever since and they made "earthquake park" around it.  Unfortunately we checked for the remains of buildings that even I had seen when I first moved up here, but the buildings are pretty much gone, rotted, decayed and fallen in.  All that was left was pictures on the information board for the most part.  The husband was disappointed there wasn't more to see, but was able to explain to my daughter about the severity of the earthquake and things that had happened during it.  He even shared with her stories of his grandparents being in the J.C. Penney building in Anchorage during the 1964 quake (the building lost a side in the earthquake).  She was suitably impressed and we talked a bit about our own earthquake experiences on the way home, which was good for her to work through some of the trauma she's still dealing with on and off by talking through it.

Overall, I think the kids had fun on the trip, the husband probably didn't have as much fun as I would have liked (but did enjoy his buffalo bratwurst he got himself for the ride home) and I had a pretty good time.  I'd like to go back again and hopefully get some better pictures next time :).