Friday, January 31, 2020

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Thanks for the e-mails and things asking how I was doing with my cold.  I'm on the mend, I hope.  I still have a residual cough, but I finally have my voice back for the most part and the cough is coming and going instead of just being there all the time, so that is something good to report.

I have to say that when it came to money saving things that happened this it was a mixed bag.  I spent more money than I would have liked to have spent, but I did it with the plan that I can pay back said money when our tax return comes in, so while it hurts now, it'll pay off in the end.  I hope *laugh*.

So, let's get to the few money saving things that happened this week.

1.  I got some freebies this week!  I had a coupon that I could load to my Carrs card for a free cauliflower crust gluten free pizza and I was able to redeem it when I went shopping.  I also used 1 grocery reward before the rewards changed for February to get a free container of ice cream and I redeemed that as well (seen up top).

2.  I was able to order some female undergarments from Amazon for really cheap this week, which was great because they were needed :).

3.  A friend of mine sent me a nice little package with some embroidery floss and an embroidery hoop that she wasn't going to use.  It was a nice thing to find in a week that got pretty hectic.

4.  My mom sent me a packet of coupons in the mail and I was able to use a couple of those when I went shopping, which was a couple pennies saved.

5.  I found something at the used store that I was thrilled to find.  I'm a Downton Abbey nerd and I have wanted a jam/jelly serving jar since I saw the first episodes a few years back.  I found a few on Amazon, but they wanted nearly 20.00 for them and I just didn't want a serving jar THAT much to spend that kind of money.  So,  I just put them in my shopping cart, saved them for later, and then just kept looking around the used stores to see if I could find something similar to use to serve jam, jelly, honey or the like when I wanted to do a fancy type of breakfast for fun.  

Oddly enough I was at the used store looking for picture frames.  I had started to clean out my desk looking for my art pen (long story *laugh*) and I knew it was in the desk.  While I was at it I started to organize things and put them into file folders since I have this thing called a "filing cabinet" now.  While I was doing that I found a ton of old photos from when the kids were younger, when my husband and I were younger, etc and I thought it would be nice to be able to put them up in some nice frames on the gallery wall I have made over the years.  

I didn't find much in the way of frames, but we cruised through the rest of the used store while we were there (we were wasting time until my daughter got out of dyslexia therapy) and I saw it.  Sitting on a shelf with a bunch of other decorative glassware.  And I thought to myself, "Nah, that can't be what I think it is."  I decided to pick it up and be disappointed, so I reached over and picked it up and immediately saw the slot that had been built into the jar to fit a spoon and was thrilled and amazed that I'd actually FOUND a jam/jelly serving jar!  At a used store!  For 1.99!!!  And it was in great shape *mutters under breath, "Even after I accidentally dropped the lid as soon as I decided to buy it"* and everything!  So, the jar is now cleaned up, has a 

6.  I finally started getting back to making menu plans again which is really nice being able to know what I needed to pull out to make dinner any given night.  With how our schedule has been of late and how crazy life has been, this has been a real God send.

And yeah, I know the list is short, but that's really all I have to report at the moment.  How about you all?  Anything neat to report on the money saving front?

Thursday, January 30, 2020

What's for Dinner: This Week's Menu

Well, after taking stock of my freezers I have to say that I was kind of depressed at my meat options.  Unfortunately, the sales on meat just haven't really been there in any "wow I need that" type of way, so I've just been steadily eating down our stockpile of meat in the freezers.  So, when I went and took stock I realized that I have a decent supply of hamburger and chicken and otherwise we're kind of down lower than I want on everything else.  I did pick up some shrimp and a meal's worth of fish while grocery shopping yesterday as I was completely out of fish, but still...I need to keep an eye out for things to put in the freezers in the coming months.

But, yeah, since I have a good amount of hamburger AND hamburger still seems to go on sale decently cheap, be prepared for a lot of hamburger recipes in the coming months as I'm really trying to cut down the grocery budget (which seems to be impossible with the way the kids are growing like weeds) and still making food interesting to eat.

Oh and as an aside, the photo above is actually a Jello No Bake cheesecake I made the other night.  I put about 1/2 tsp of ground ginger into the crust when I made it and then I made the topping from this recipe, although I used apple juice instead of apple cider and I had to use about a tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken it to pie filling consistency for the top (not called for in the recipe, but just a personal preference).  It turned out awesome and we enjoyed it for a few nights for dessert :).

So, here we go, this week's menu!

Wednesday (since I made my list yesterday):  Leftovers/help yourself night
Thursday:  Pizza night 
Friday:  Homemade soft pretzel twists and Knockwurst (from the freezer...this is a REALLY, REALLY late Octoberfest type of meal that I promised to make for the husband ages ago) 
Saturday:  Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura and salad 
Sunday:  Easy Mongolian Ground Beef over rice with edamame on the side 
Monday:  Swedish Meatballs (I'm going to use straight ground beef for these and use up the other 1/2 of the package of ground beef that I didn't use for the Mongolian Beef the night before) over noodles, salad 
Tuesday:  Baked Chicken, rolls or bread, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy

Breakfasts:  I'm hoping to make pancake muffins, blueberry muffins, cranberry orange muffins, some breakfast bowls and things to give us some quick and easy breakfasts to choose from, but it all depends if the kids give me time to get that stuff done.

Desserts:  Lemon Bars (Sunday), bread pudding (Tuesday...Use up odds and ends of home made bread in the freezer to make).

And there you are folks.  My menu for this week.  How about you?  Having anything good?

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Well, first off, thank you to the people who have e-mailed me and messaged me and things asking how I'm doing with this cold.  So far I have avoided going to the doctor, but, per usual it seems, my cold went directly into a chronic cough and I'm still really tired, so I've decided that if this isn't better by the time my husband is off work next week I'm going to the doctor just to nip the cough in the bud before I'm sick for months with it.  I'm praying it doesn't come to that as I just had to put a pretty significant chunk of change on my credit card to pay off the first wave of medical bills that have come in (I'll pay off said credit card as soon as the tax return comes in, so at least there is that), but we'll see how it goes.  With the kids being home schooled now, me remaining healthy is even more important than it used to be.

Speaking of the kids, we went in for the daughter's first dyslexia tutoring session at therapy Friday.  She did really well and is getting along really well with her therapist, so here's hoping she starts to improve quickly :).   My new lesson method with the son is to work hard on one skill at a time while doing school and right now the main thing I'm focusing on is the tripod grip to improve his writing and his ability to use utensils when eating.  It is going well and his therapist is thrilled that he wrote his name pretty much 100% by himself with a normal pencil last week.  It's wonderful to see forward momentum with him and I'm really proud of him.

So, right, money saving things I did this last week, let's get to those!

1.  For the first time in a long while we went to the used stores on Friday, mainly because the daughter and I had worked ahead on school work a bit to accommodate the first day of dyslexia tutoring, so we had a bit of time we could kill.  Anymore, when I go to the used stores I go in with a set list of things I need and see if anything I need is there.  I did find a few things that were on my list this time.  

I got a small Pyrex bowl as I love the small sized bowl to do things like beat eggs and things in when baking and it seemed like I was always running out of the small bowls when doing any significant amount of baking in a day.  I found one for 1.50 so I picked it up.  I kind of kicked myself for not getting a few more in larger sizes as I run out of those sizes of bowls too, but for now this was enough.

I also picked up a dish drying mat that you can just throw into the wash when you are finished with it for the day.  I have wanted one of these things forever as I'm always washing my non-stick or other items that can't go in the dishwasher and I'll just put them down on a dish towel on the counter until I am done with washing them all and then I dry and put them away.   Inevitably the dish towel is just not thick enough and I end up drying up puddles.  The drying mat, on the other hand, works awesomely well and I have found I can hang it up on my towel hanger on the front of my sink cabinet to dry next to the dish towel and it'll last me through a few days before I throw it into the wash.  It sure beats the collapsible drying rack I was thinking of getting for a lot more money.  The drying mat cost me .75, which was definitely a cheaper option :).

2.  The last few things in the photo above were not used store finds.  The first is actually something I ran into online while watching YouTube videos.  I watch SteveMRE1989 on YouTube every once in a while as he taste tests MRE meals and gives reviews.  I find stuff like that fascinating and I've run into some cool, shelf stable, products through him.  One video I was watching he had something he called "fruit soup" which was a powdered mix that was basically thickened fruit juice when it was reconstituted that you could drink as a hot liquid or turn into a soup for like dessert.  I was fascinated as I kept going back to Alvah and feeding therapy and how awesome it would be to be able to introduce fruits to him that he would have a hard time spitting out.  I hate to make the comparison as the poor guy is far from a baby anymore, but it is kind of like the idea of introducing flavors through baby food purees.  I was just enthralled with the idea, but really wanted to try out the texture of how the Kiesel (or other names depending on what country you would hail from) would turn out before spending a fortune on actual fruit to turn into the soup.  

Amazon had the powdered version of the fruit soup, but it was TERRIBLY expensive.  Like 12.00 for six servings expensive.  I kept reading up on the fruit soup and found out it was very popular in European countries, including Eastern European countries and I had a light bulb over the head moment.  So, while the daughter was in dyslexia therapy the husband and I jaunted off to our local Eastern European Deli and I found what I was looking for!  I got one of each flavor that they had of the fruit soup/drink to give a try for myself and to mess with the consistency to see what would work best to try out on Alvah.  Best part was that each flavor cost me 2.50 versus 12.00, so it DEFINITELY saved me money doing it that way!

3.  The other thing in the photo is a six pack of Corelle lunch plates that I ordered from Amazon.  The lunch plates always seemed to be unavailable in white, or anything remotely affordable, so I would just pop onto Amazon once every day or so and do a search to see what would pop up.  And I hit pay dirt.  Amazon had gotten some lunch plates in that were being sold through Amazon via Corelle and the white lunch plates (which match the dinner plates I bought) were 14.00 for a six pack of plates after a coupon was applied that they had on the item page.  I ordered them before they went out of stock again and was happy to get them in the mail in one piece.  I will miss my old dishes, but not the cuts I was getting from them I have to say.  

4.  One benefit to the children being home for lunch most days (the son gets out of therapy early enough that I can just cook him a late lunch/early dinner when we get home, or he goes just late enough that he can eat a large breakfast/early lunch before he leaves, so he just tends to bring snacks to therapy) is that I have a big pile of reusable lunch containers that I'm no longer blowing through in a couple of days.  So, instead, I've been trying really hard to start putting left overs in those instead of using plastic wrap, freezer bags or  the like to put the left overs away.  It's been working well and it's nice to be able to just throw them into the dish washer and reuse them instead of having to throw some wrapper away.

5.  As part of an effort to get more organized to hopefully save some money this year and get bills paid down, I cleaned and organized the freezers this last week.  I now have a much better idea of what I have for meat in the house (I was surprised to find I used up all of my whole chickens, for one thing) and my fridge freezer, since I've been working really hard to save money by eating down our freezers of late, is downright bare compared to what it was before I reorganized everything.  I'm hoping to keep up on keeping the freezers organized in the coming months so I don't end up overspending on things we don't need, having lost said item in the depths of a freezer somewhere.

6.  I went searching online for a set bunch of things I wanted for the son for home school types of work sheets.  Not finding anything that fit the bill for what I was looking for, or if I did the site wanted me to pay for the privilege of printing it, I decided to Heck with that and have started making my own work sheets as needed.  I am working on some simple cooking visuals to help with feeding therapy right now and they will literally cost me my time and some computer paper.  Which to me, is definitely worth it.

7.  I finally finished one late Christmas gift this week.  I finished up the embroidery on one of my daughter's pillow cases I made for her.  Since I had promised her a purple fox about three years ago and just doing the gift is now two years later than I wanted, I was super happy to finish it and give it to her to see.  The shot above is before I washed out all of the old colored pencil marks from the pillow, so I apologize for the kind of sloppy appearance of the pillow case :).

The pillow case cost me .50 originally and the embroidery floss was floss I had around the house that my step mom had sent me, so making this cost next to nothing, except my time.  This did take quite a while to do as the design is actually rather large and there was a lot of fill work to do.  The daughter absolutely loves it, though, so I was happy with how it turned out in the end.

8.  My truck was running on empty in a big way the other night.  We stopped off at a Chevron to get gas so we could make it home and found that we were able to use our Carrs fuel rewards there, which was a nice find and saved us some money by being able to use them.

9.  We took advantage of a free field trip the home school was putting on to go and tour our local fire station.  The son wasn't overly impressed, but it did get the kids out of the house and the daughter enjoyed seeing the fire man putting on all of his gear and sounding like Darth Vader *laugh*.

10.  I needed rice, but found that Carrs no longer sells the large 20 lb bags of medium grain rice.  I sat and compared prices on the smaller bags (the son prefers medium grain to large grain, so I try to get him what he likes as rice is one of his major food groups) and found that buying two five pound bags versus a ten pound bag was a lot cheaper and would save me a good 3.00.  So, that's what I did for now.  I'm going to see about shopping around to see what other options I can find to buy rice in bulk, but in the meantime this was the best deal I could find.

And there you go folks.  Some of the things I've been up to of late.  How about you?  

Friday, January 17, 2020

Shopping Goals: January 2020

Right, first.  "Where's the Frugal Friday post?" you may ask.  Well, the answer is simple really.  I didn't do much at all this week.  Period.  I started Alvah on antibiotics, which I have to do a huge shout out about how proud I am of my young man on taking those.  He doesn't "do" pills, so they had to give him liquid antibiotics and the stuff he had was grainy, nasty, super duper bitter and just horrible stuff to take, but he took it like a champ and we got through all of the doses without losing any from it coming back up, which honestly positions reversed...I don't know if I could have done that. 

Anyway, we started him on antibiotics, what, Sunday?  Monday I started to get sick.  And I was MISERABLY sick till today.  The only time I've been more miserably sick was with the flu.  I can say that the only real money savings I did this week was I was determined to not get take out as my husband had to go to the doctor on Sunday for various really worrying issues (turns out it was probably his blood pressure meds he was taking.  They gave him an EKG and things and found that was the most likely culprit for his symptoms.  He's on a new med now and is doing a lot better) and with that and my other medical bills staring me in the face, and a potential new one if I couldn't kick this thing, I was determined to save money where I could.  But, yeah, other than that, there wasn't a lot of anything going on around here in any department.  The son took antibiotics and slept a huge lot.  I got through school work for the day with the kids and I would crash for an hour or so before having to start dinner and that was the extent of my day.   The husband and the daughter got us through the week house work wise and I'm just starting to pick up some of the slack tonight and trying DESPERATELY not to overdo it, which is hard to do since I'm feeling way better than I was 24 hours ago.

So, let's get onto something that I did manage to get done so far this month, which was an actual shopping goals list.  And believe it or not, yes, I am still working on goals for 2020.  We got sick and it got waylaid, but I am working on it.

Now, before someone chimes in about Ramen, yeessss I know Ramen isn't exactly the most healthy of options when it comes to food.  BUT, when it comes to good old emergency rations, it is great to have around as Cup of Soups only require boiling water to reconstitute and they will fill you up.  And when it comes to rotating out food storage, at least eating Ramen won't make you wonder why you dared to choose to put it in your food storage (okay, I LIKE Ramen, so that helps.  I grew up on the stuff and it was a staple of my child hood diet.  Sad, but true).

I did feel pretty good about having food in the house as I guess our one ship we get a week this time of year with supplies for the grocery stores was late last week and the stores ran out of a bunch of stuff, including fresh chicken, produce and other stuff.  Since we had just gotten milk (thank goodness for that) and the few things we needed a couple of days before that we were able to ride out the late shipment without hurting because of it. 

So, onto the shopping list.  I am not including any associate links with this post, I'm just sharing :).

Maruchan Instant Lunch Chicken Flavor, Pack of 12  (these were even CHEAPER when I ordered them.  They were like 3.25 for a pack of 12!  Beats local prices for these by a long shot!).

Jello Instant Pudding Mix, Chocolate Fudge (pack of 6) x 2.  I bought this for texture tolerance exercises with Alvah.  He reacts badly to a lot of products normally used, like shaving cream, so this seems like a good option and he has a terrible aversion to anything soft and squishy texture-wise when it comes to food, so this seemed like a good place to start.  We shall see.  And if I can get him to try chocolate pudding, all the better. 

Maruchan Flavored Ramen Soy Sauce, pack of 24  I got these to add vegetables and things to to make quick Ramen noodle bowls with when people are sick and things around here.  I haven't seen the Soy Sauce flavored Ramen in years, so I now have enough to last me for the next 20 years or so I think.

Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent Packs, 90 Loads  I have tried everything on the market, tried soap nuts (I was allergic to those believe it or not), magnetic laundry systems (spoiler:  It didn't work and made laundry stinky), laundry balls (did help to agitate the laundry more), made about 18 different recipes for home made laundry detergent and these are the ONLY thing I've found that the whole family will tolerate without breaking out and still get the laundry clean without any build up of stinky residue (which the liquid free and clear Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent does with our water).  I have to put the laundry through an additional rinse to make sure it is rinsed out completely or Alvah's skin will start to protest, but overall, these are the best option I've found. 

I got these decently cheap with a coupon, but since I used said coupon I don't know if it is still available.  Since those coupons don't last long (25% off) I'm assuming it's probably gone.

PG Tips Tea, 240 Ct.  I got off way cheaper for this than it is showing now, I got mine for about 10.00, but the 460 ct bag is now a lot cheaper if anyone likes this tea.  I've been sticking to one cup of coffee in the morning and then switching to tea during the day more and more, so I needed to replenish my tea stores.

McCormick Brown Gravy Mix, 21 Ounce  This stuff has been magic when it comes to getting my daughter to eat home made mashed potatoes, so to me it is worth keeping it in the house.

Non-Food Items:

Corelle Dinner Plates, 8 piece, Winter Frost White 

I was lucky when it came to the earthquake and dinner plates, really.  They were in the dishwasher when the earthquake hit.  Unfortunately, since then the plates have chipped on the edges more and more to the point that I was cutting myself when I washing them or pulling them out of the cupboard.  I talked to family members who used to work at the Corning plant in Charleroi, PA back in the day and they basically said when Corelle starts to chip it gets really unsafe and to just throw them away and get new.  So, that's what I did with a small tear in my eye. 

I didn't want to get a whole new dish service because I don't need cereal bowls, those are still in fine shape, or dessert type of plates, so I just bought these for now and will work on getting some smaller salad plates/lunch plates later when I can afford to replace those.  I ended up getting the plates for free due to Amazon shipping things awful, which was nice not having to put any money for these on my credit card.

Regular Stores:

  • Toasted Sesame Oil

  • Rockit Apples (6 lbs)  I got some of these on 5.00 Fridays last month and my husband absolutely fell in love with them and has been taking them in his lunch to eat with some cheese sticks and some crackers and things for a quick breakfast before he heads home from work.  Doing this stops him from going out to breakfast most mornings and is saving me a bunch of money, so that in itself would be totally worth it.  I am also working on keeping a small bowl of fruit in the center of the table in case the son wants to spin and chew on an apple (which has been randomly happening), so these are perfect for that as they are small so if he wastes one experimenting with food I'm not crying over a 3.00 per lb, on sale, honey crisp or something.  Since they work out to 1.66 lb when on the 5.00 Friday sale, it was worth getting to me.   I had my husband pick up a couple boxes of these on 5.00 Friday today, so we'll be set for a while.
  • Stir Fry noodles  I got a cast iron wok and some wok oil for Christmas and want to try my hand at making something resembling Mongolian BBQ at home.  We have a Mongolian BBQ place in Anchorage that my husband and I used to love going to before we had kids, so I'm hoping to get something even remotely close to those wonderful flavors at home.
  • Edamame 
  • Open Nature Cashew Butter (the best peanut butter alternative I've found that isn't soy based and it isn't cross contaminated, so I'm sticking with this for the time being :)
So, there is my shopping goals as they stand for this month.  Since the mortgage went up 100.00 nearly a month and we have other bills that are going to be higher (like utilities) due to the time of year and things...I'm really not sure if I'll be getting anything other than the things I've gotten so far (like the stuff on Amazon and the apples), but we'll see how far the grocery budget will stretch.

How about you all?  Needing to get anything this month?

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

Well, this week has been eventful on the being sick front.  The kids came down with a cold last weekend, especially the son, who started feeling pretty ucky by Monday morning.  He missed therapy all week and the return to home school after the holiday break was definitely a scattershot affair this week just because there was no way I was going to make the son do school work with how horrible he was feeling and the daughter and I did school work on her end when she had breaks in feeling yucky and wanted to get stuff done.  We did manage to get tests done this week and concepts buttoned up, which I give her a lot of credit for doing as I know how difficult it is concentrating when you have a cold.  The son ended up going to urgent care today as he just wasn't getting well it seemed and he has an ear infection so for the first time since he was about three he's going to have to take antibiotics starting tomorrow.  I'm praying that this goes well as he doesn't take medications well at all.  Bright side is I have the garlic willow ear oil and I put some of that in his ears early this afternoon, which seemed to lead to immediate relief for him.  He then passed out after that and slept all day, so hopefully that's at least a positive sign.

So, yeah, this weekend was a loss on getting anything done in the way of painting or other house types of things as I was cuddling sick kids, which was way more important anyway.  

There were, however, some money saving things that I got done this week, so let's get to those.

1.  Since I was monitoring kiddos and things, I sat down and cut up all of the Christmas cards we got this year and turned them into gift tags for next year.  Since we completely ran out of gift tags by the end of Christmas, I figure this will give us something special to put on gifts next year and I don't have to go running and try to find any Christmas clearance sales that might still be going on to try and find some gift tags (with the kids getting sick that wasn't really an option).  A shot of the "as finished as they are going to get until next Christmas" gift tags are seem up top :).

2.  The husband got his cell phone switched over from a business plan and got it switched to a prepaid plan.  It will run us 30.00 a month, but will have unlimited talk and text on the phone and will be covered by the company with the best cell phone coverage in the state.  We will have to set up auto pay to get the 30.00 a month versus 35.00, but I don't mind doing that to save 5.00 :).

3.  I needed to get bar soap for the first time in years and I was thrilled when I had a 10% off soap coupon that I could load onto my Carrs card.  

4.  I had a coupon that if I spent so much on cold and cough medication that I would get a free two pack of chap stick.  With the kids being sick I DEFINITELY spent more than the allotted amount on the coupon and I ended up getting the free chap sticks.  All the of the store generic cold medications were also buy 2 get 1 free.  Since I needed a decent amount to get the kids through their colds, I took advantage of the sale and saved a bunch of money doing so and will also have a little bit of cold medication put up for the next cold.

5.  Before Christmas I had ordered a two pack of Glogg from Amazon, but the package got lost in the mail.  I had requested a replacement, but the Glogg was back ordered, so Amazon gave me a refund.  Then, suddenly, I got a notice that they had sent my replacement order this week (and recharged my card for it, but I was like, "Eh, I wanted the Glogg anyway, I suppose, so no big deal.").  Turns out they had put the Glogg into a box with an 8 pack of dinner plates I had ordered (I'll get into that more later) and a wiggle cushion I'd ordered for my son, both things heavy and they just put everything loose in the box.  I ended up getting a Glogg saturated box in a plastic bag and a box full of broken glass.  I called Amazon and complained and they actually refunded me the cost of the entire order, which I kept telling them wasn't necessary as the Glogg was the only thing that actually broke, but the guy was insistent as I'd been waiting for the Glogg for a long time and then to get it broken like that was just awful and he felt terrible about the mess I had to deal with because of it.  He also asked me straight out if I was 100% sure the cushion and the plates were okay and I couldn't say that as I hadn't really been able to assess how those things were when inflated (on the cushions part) and washed (on the plates part), so he insisted that they could be damaged and I should get refunded my money.  So, hats off to Amazon for doing excellent customer service on their end on this one.  I just wish their shipping department would get better about packing things logically together or not, but oh well.

6.  I don't know if it saved me money, but I was lucky to go shopping last week for milk and the few things we needed at the store before the ship that was carrying all of the grocery store restocks didn't make it into port, so I didn't even have to pop into the store to find the empty shelves and no produce around, chicken being completely gone and other issues.  Times like that being stocked up on meat in the freezer, making sure you buy ahead on good storing fruit (like apples) and keeping boxed milk and things around becomes invaluable up here.  

7.  I went and applied for PFD's this week.  I'm not sure if we will even get a dividend this year the way politicians are going, but I applied anyway.  We'll see how it goes.

8.  I went to Alvah's IEP and his three year ESER at the home school this week.  Goals are set for him for the year, they were able to double up the meeting for both events to save us all time and I was able to combine my trips into town to pick up a technology order at the home school, which saved me gas. 

9.  My check card got nailed with fraud right at Christmas and someone had charged nearly 100.00 worth of charges to with my card number.  I called the Visa fraud hotline and got the card immediately shut off and then called Apple the next day and they were VERY nice about immediately refunding me my money on the card and they even double checked my I-tunes account to make sure that only the card had been compromised and the people hadn't hacked into my I-tunes account to get there.   They warned me it could be nearly a month before refunds could process, but I looked at my bank account a couple of days after Christmas and the refunds had gone through.  Thank goodness for that!

And how did this save me money...well with the exception of not having 100.00 charged to my card that I didn't do?  Always keep track of your bank account, even if you only have checks and no check card or anything.  It's amazing what random numbers hackers can come up with and use for their own selfish means.  I was really glad that I check my bank account nearly every day in this case, because God knows what the people who hacked my card were going to charge on it the next day when they discovered that it worked.

10.  I went and registered my stove before I completely forgot about it.  I now have a limited warranty through the manufacturer and a full warranty for five years from the store I bought the stove from (and if I don't use the the warranty in five years I can go in and get my money back from the store that I paid for the initial warranty), so hopefully now the stove will feel pressured to keep working and work well for at least five years.

And there you go folks.  Some of the ways I saved money this week.  How about you?    

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Some Favorite Things from 2019

I see lists pop up all the time on Pinterest and things with "My Favorite Things" from this or that and you click on it and it's just a bunch of different things linked to a ton of products with associate links embedded in the post.  Which, hey, there is nothing wrong with that and I don't mind people doing them, but I got kind of inspired this year to do one of my own posts on my favorite things that I discovered this last year.  A quick disclaimer:  There will be no associate links in this post.  If you want to support the blog by ordering through associate links, turn off your internet security software temporarily and there will be a nice little link on the right side of the blog marked "Amazon" and you can order through that link to buy your stuff on Amazon and I'll get a small commission for pushing the sale Amazon's way (and if you do order through that link, thank you, I really do appreciate it!).  Otherwise, though, just read through, click through and enjoy a random list of things I discovered (and really do use and/or buy) that I came across in 2019 :).

Right, so let's start with something near and dear to my heart.  Cooking!  So, here's a few recipes I discovered this year that I really loved!

Recipes/Cooking Things I found in 2019

Budget Bytes Easy Homemade Teriyaki Sauce or Marinade   One of my readers, and thank you whoever it was as I can't remember who suggested it, advised that I check out Budget Bytes and I stumbled across this recipe nearly immediately.  I seriously use this recipe about once every week or two as I found that the daughter loves teriyaki sauce on thin cut steaks and will eat rice and edamame (I prepare it by boiling it in salted water, draining it and then coating the edamame lightly in toasted sesame oil...yummy stuff) to complete the meal.  This stuff beats anything you can buy in the supermarket.  I use 1/8 of a teaspoon of ground ginger instead of the fresh ginger in the recipe and use 1/4 tsp of garlic powder instead of the fresh garlic and it turns out great every time!

Instant Pot Chicken Gyros  Another favorite of the daughters that I love to make as the leftovers are superb!

Instant Pot Hamburgers  I have only made these a couple of times (during the summer when it was HOT out), but they were really good and I have definitely bookmarked the recipe!

Saute Chicken Lyonnaise  Okay so TECHNICALLY this was found in 2018, but I made it at least three times in 2019, so I had to mention it.  So, so good!

Simple One Hour Homemade Bread  This too is an older recipe I use, but I use it TONS and it is a great bread recipe,  I actually have it memorized by now.

Frozen Blueberry Muffins Recipe  This is an invaluable recipe if you need to make blueberry muffins with frozen blueberries.  The best part is by using frozen blueberries your muffins don't turn purple :).

1-Hour Light and Buttery Dinner Rolls  I made these for Thanksgiving because they called for instant yeast and the recipe was definitely a keeper.

Related to recipes that I really fell in love with this year is I have found a real love for my Gourmia Electric Pressure Cooker (seen above).  This electric pressure cooker was WAY cheaper than an Instant Pot when I ordered it (it was around 50.00 on Amazon) and it is a great appliance.  I have found myself using it at least once a week to make bone in pork chops (as they come out so moist in the pressure cooker) or if I need to throw a frozen beef roast into the pressure cooker so we'll have a nice dinner while I'm working late on school work or something with the kids.  I by no means am a "rabid instant pot" guru or anything, but I have found that this great device is a wonderful thing to have in the kitchen to make dinner super easy when you need it to be.

When it comes to baking I am utterly in love with USA Pans and hope that I can one day replace my old pans with these awesome pans.  Every single one I own is a treasured possession.  

And now onto other stuff...

This mug is one of the coolest gifts I've ever received.  I love 18th Century Cooking and religiously follow Townsends on YouTube, including their live streams (well when I can watch them replayed later on as they have them early in the afternoon on Friday here and I'm never online then, it seems) and one of the things they come out with once in a while are special order mugs with their "Nutmeg Tavern" logos on them for their fans.  I have wanted one forever, but never had the money to just blow money on a neat looking mug, but I ended up getting one for my birthday as a gift.  And I LOVE it!!!  This is my new official coffee and tea mug *laugh* and I am very protective of it.  I try not to get attached to things much anymore, but do put up little hopes that my new mug will live for quite a while so I can enjoy it :).  It is hand made and great quality, so hopefully that'll help it live for a long, long time.

Just as an aside, my happy stations on YouTube are definitely the aforementioned 18th Century Cooking/TownsendsThe Victorian Way and I have been enjoying watching Northern Heart as well. 

Speaking of Northern Heart one of my blog readers who used to live in Sweden contacted me and told me that I HAD to try Glogg as it was onto a religion in Sweden during the holidays and there was a good reason why.  My sister actually backed up that I had to try Glogg after she tried it herself, so I did end up trying some and oh my GOSH!  I love, love, love this stuff.  Mind you the stuff I got was non-alcoholic so it would ship through the mail (and I love it because it doesn't make me sleepy and stuff) but I keep thinking that I might try my hand at mulling some Glogg with some recipes I found online to drink when I am sick.  I am a hot drink lover, so finding a new hot drink that I love is a big and wonderful new world for me *laugh*.  And of course hot drinks are a big necessity right now as we are in January and are experiencing our yearly cold snap, which is resulting in temperatures well below zero out.

So, onto entertainment other than the above YouTube channels.

This has got to be our favorite new series that we found this year.  Little Witch Academia is a Japanese anime series that is about a young girl who really wants to become a witch and goes to school to study magic but she has absolutely no natural ability to do magic.  Think of it like Harry Potter, but with an all girl's school and some really great lessons to learn on friendship, working together and, most importantly, that anything worth doing is worth working really hard to accomplish.  The series was a great one for the daughter and learning about not giving up and even if you fail the first, second or tenth time at something, if you really want to do it, if you keep working hard at it, you'll eventually get there.  It is great having an example I can bring up to her when she gets discouraged about not catching onto something as fast as she would like and about how Akko (the main character) would get discouraged too, but would never give up.  

I was able to order ours before Christmas with a gift card on Amazon, but it isn't available on there at the moment...still I wanted to mention it anyway :).

Other YouTube Stuff...
I am in love with a few series that are available on Amazon Prime, so I wanted to mention them here too...

Sense and Sensibility (BBC).  I watch this series late at night when I have a son who isn't sleeping.  I really enjoy the love stories and how they are portrayed in this version and love all the shots of the coast as well :).

If You Give a Mouse a Christmas Cookie  My son is completely addicted to this special and I do have to say it has rather soothing music in it, so it's not a bad thing to run in the background when you are trying to get something else done and want to keep a child entertained *laugh*.

If You Give a Mouse a Pumpkin  The son loves this special as well.  Oddly enough he doesn't care as much about the regular episodes, but he loves the holiday specials.

And of course, Poldark is a great series.  Until season 5.  I actually invested in Season 5 because Armina and I both loved watching the other four seasons so much together.  And we both agreed that Season 5, with the exception of the last episode, was disappointing and not up to the same level as the other four seasons.  I think part of that was that seasons 1-4 they took their material from the original Winston Graham books, but in Season 5 they branched off into their own material and just kind of tied it into the Poldark universe.  Armina and I were both hoping that for Season 5 they would follow the books and have a 12 year gap and then you'd follow Clowance and Jeremy and all of the kids at the same age that the original Poldark series started out at.  But, they didn't.

The soundtrack to Poldark is also available on Amazon Prime for free if you have a Prime membership and the daughter likes to listen to it while we are doing school work :).

When it comes to trying new food items I might want to keep in the pantry year round, this soup is one of them.  I bought some of this soup when it was cheap on Amazon as an alternative to the Campbell's tomato soup and this stuff is waaaayyyyyy better!  I love how the red pepper in the soup just adds a depth of flavor to the soup that puts tomato soup up to the next level and it is super yummy.  My husband really likes it too and we've found that eating tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch isn't a last resort anymore :).  I add this stuff to my cart on Amazon and then save it for later and then wait for notifications to let me know that it has dropped in price so I don't pay over 1.00 per container for it.  You can buy the big cartons of the soup on Amazon, but we don't eat that much of the soup at one setting, so I just buy the small containers and we make up a few as needed instead so we don't waste any.

And lastly is just one of those tools that I had to link to as it has been invaluable in helping Alvah with his tripod grip.   He is learning a lot better on technology than on paper as well, so it is a double bonus in that I can use it with him to navigate various apps on the I-pad to help him learn all kinds of things.

Some of our favorite apps to use with this is "Write My Name" as you can create name tags and things with the app and then use the pencil to write them out every day.  It sure helps to cement not only tripod grip and writing but also name recognition and face recognition with whoever you are working with (you take a picture of the person you are making a name tag for to associate the name with the person).

We purchased ours with a portion of our home school allotment and I am SO glad that I took the chance on it.  It's been an awesome addition to our learning arsenal.

So, there you have it.  Some of my favorite things from 2019.  Sure, there are other things I'm sure, but these are ones I noted *laugh*.  Sorry it isn't like nice and segmented into different organized sections, but I have two kids sick with colds right now and concentrating becomes a bit difficult sometimes.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

2019: A Year in Review

Ironically enough, I think last year was the worst year I had for consistent blogging in my entire time I've blogged on the internet.  But, looking back at the last year, I can't really fault myself letting blogging slide a bit.  It's been so, so busy and crazy this last year.   When I started looking back on the year for this post I was like, "Man, do I really have a lot to talk about?" and it turns out I surprised myself.

So, let's get to this last year.  The good and the bad and everything in between.

Big Events that Happened in 2019:

1.  We started home school with the kids.  It was a tough decision to make, but both kids are doing SO much better in home school than they were in public school, especially when it comes to anxiety and general mood.

2.  Speaking of home school, now that I didn't have to worry about keeping the daughter on the school's schedule and she could learn at her own pace, I got her tested for dyslexia and learning disabilities.  The test came back positive on the dyslexia front, so we'll be starting up tutoring for it this coming year. 

The daughter has really started to take off in home school and is actually catching up rather well when it comes to reading (she's slow, but she's not going at a snail's pace and getting frustrated every two seconds or so on a word) and I was thrilled when she actually started to want to get books to read for fun.  We've always struggled with her when it came to reading things for enjoyment, so I was really happy that she asked for books for Christmas on her own.

Homeschooling Alvah has been a bit of a bumpy ride as I tried to navigate through the dark, essentially to try and figure out where he was at academically and where to start him on a learning path.  We are getting there and he's enjoying his time at therapy (which increased a lot since public school is no longer in the picture) a LOT more and is really starting to make forward progress between therapy and getting schooled at home :).

2.  Another big thing that happened this last year was home repairs.  Lots and lots of home repairs.

We (well, I say "we" but it was all my husband's doing) got the old chimney torn down and the new chimney installed.  No mean feat considering a lot of it had to do with carrying VERY heavy concrete bricks down a ladder and then down a flight of steep stairs to get them down to the ground (actually we still have some out on the deck just because my husband got the bricks down to a point that he could get things done without the bricks being in the way).

I managed to repair a lot of sheet rock and got three rooms repaired and repainted before home school kicked in and I just plain ran out of time.  One was the downstairs bathroom (seen above) after we got the damaged old cabinets replaced.

The upstairs bathroom post new vanity being installed...

In other news, as time has gone on I find that the paint in the upstairs bathroom came out thin in places and I really need to go over it with another coat of paint.  Pray for me that I don't screw up the new vanity when I do it.  I'm not a naturally good painter and I'm always praying that the painting tape will not bleed through to show my goof ups.

I also bought that towel cabinet seen on the left there this year, which has ended up being a real great addition to the house.  I can actually store quite a bit of towels and other items in it (such as additional toilet paper and wet wipes and things) and it fits perfectly where I put it so you don't end up clocking yourself on it all the time.

And, lastly when it comes to painting and repairing (so far) is the den...

Which the den actually looks better now because I got some cleaning and reorganizing done, but I'll share shots of it later on.  Hopefully we'll be able to build shelves in the den soon so we can finally get books out of storage as with home school I can use all of the knowledge we can get our hands on to help me.

Now that the holidays are over, I'm really hoping to get back to repairing and painting as there is still tons to do around here.

3. My husband still loves his job as an electronic technician.

I just had to mention that as I don't think I'll ever get tired of him actually enjoying his job and the people he works with and everything in between with the job he has now.

4.  I battled my health this last year a bit, especially toward the end, but I am hopefully doing better now *knock on wood*.  But, I am looking at goodness knows how much in medical bills in the next bit, so I'm a bit anxious to see how that all shakes out.

5.  Shani, after a long struggle with cancer, finally succumbed in April.  I still miss talking to her and can still hear her voice in my head talking to me excitedly about this or that she read about children overcoming their speech challenges to live fulfilling lives or her filling me in on this or that all natural trend she'd found that she wanted to me to get involved with (every time I look at my 'H2O at Home' scrubbing pad and dish towels, I think of her).  She was an exceptional human being, and I still grieve for her loss.  The one comfort is that she was so sick and in so much pain, that at least she is at peace now and free of all of that and I am glad that I was able to tell her how much I loved her and how much she had touched our lives before she left for a better place.  I pray I gave her some comfort in her final days.

6.  My husband and I lost another friend to suicide this year.  He was a good friend of ours and it's still tough to believe that he's gone sometimes, let alone that he took his own life.  We grieve his loss and grieve for his poor parents, who are just wonderful people and are suffering so much.

So, now that the big stuff is done (sorry to end on a depressing note there, but it took me a bit to get up to writing it) in overview, let's get to some other things that happened.

Equal Pro and Con :

I know, an odd way to do this bit, but these items are like a mixed bag, but definitely have some good mixed into them, so I figured I'd just put them in once. 
The House:   

Well, this year saw a lot of changes around the house, basically due to damage things sustained in the earthquake that were not immediately readily apparent (or were very apparent, but I waited to replace  or repair things until I could afford to do so).  For instance, our stove was acting really bad after the earthquake, but we limped it along until we couldn't anymore and then had to replace it.  I have replaced a ton of small appliances this last year and at least one recliner due to earthquake damage as well as dishes, baking pans, pretty much every TV we had in the house and other things.  Then other furniture we had for nearly a decade pretty much just gave up the ghost after a lot of years of repairing it to keep it going, so we replaced the love seat and the couch on top of the recliners.   
I'm expecting to have to replace a few more large appliances here soon, unfortunately, like my washing machine was full and running when the earthquake hit and ever since if you breathe in it's general direction it goes HORRIBLY off balance and I've spent many an hour taking out sopping wet laundry and having to reorganize it ever so carefully back into the washing machine for it to finish its cycle.  Not fun.  My husband is hoping to take apart, figure out what is going on and repair the washing machine, so hopefully he'll find time to do so at some point before something major in it goes.   
We still have a ton of things to work on and do around here to get the house up to snuff, but at least we are making progress and getting there.  Baby steps are steps after all :).
Also, when it came to the house, to get things replaced and repaired we ended up with a combination of a small disaster grant from FEMA to help us repair the chimney and then we ended up taking out an SBA (Small Business Administration) loan to try and cover the rest of the repairs.  We have just enough of the loan money left (I hope) to get the gutters done in the Spring and hopefully afford new person doors for the garage as the other ones are NOT in good shape after the earthquake and need to be replaced very badly.  As a result of the loan we have accumulated another 24,000 dollars in debt, which is on a 30 year repayment schedule, so yeah, trying to get that paid down and off in the next couple of years is a priority.  Hopefully I'll be able to save money here and there to do so *fingers crossed*. 
The mail:  
I know, this is an odd one to put down, but it did add an expense to our yearly expenses.  We got utterly tired of having to run down to the postal annex constantly to pick up packages for this or that (it's hard when I have to order things like Seventh Generation products from Amazon and having to run down to pick them up) and then finding that there was NO reason why our postal drop off person could not have put said package into the drop off lockers by our mail box.  So, when the Christmas lines started getting super long at the end of September, we decided we were done and decided to pay for package drop off service to a mail depot right down the road from us.  It costs us 80.00 per year, but has already been one of the best purchases we've made ever.  We are picking up packages in much better shape, lines are never super long and the staff is always super nice when we go in.   With home school and having the son in tow a lot when I have to go and wait in line to pick up a package, the service has been invaluable! 
Home School:   
Well, I ended up adding a bunch of expenses due to home school.  For instance now a days I have to leave the heat on in the kid's rooms during the day as they are, well, home, so that is going to increase the electric bill and between the kids being home for meals and growing like weeds, on top of the cost of living up here increasing with the cost of groceries and things, I've seen my grocery budget explode.  I'm hoping to find more ways to try and keep the grocery costs down in the coming months, but I'm not really sure if I'll be able to do it.  But, I always loved a challenge, so we'll see how well I do. 
On the pro side of the home school spectrum is, of course, the benefit I've seen with the positive changes in the kids.  Alvah no longer screams and cries when we head in the general direction the school is located in and is enjoying heading to therapy instead of dreading going to it as he knew he would go to school after therapy before and he's making slow progress when it comes to feeding therapy and other things at home, which every little step forward warms my heart.  
Armina's confidence continues to improve and she really is loving being able to move forward in learning at a pace where she can actually learn things instead of just worrying about getting through the next test.  It took her a while to get used to the fact that she's not in competition with anyone and if she doesn't do well on something and doesn't understand it that we can just do it over again in a different way until she understands what she is learning and there is no judgement attached when that happens.  I've noticed my anxiety has gone down a lot since the kids went into home school as well.  There were a lot of concerns I had with how Alvah was doing in school this year and was especially worried that they were not keeping a close enough eye on him and when you have a child who can be a random flight risk and has a life threatening doesn't help your stress levels, let's just put it that way.

So, now then let's get to more black and white pros and cons shall we?


The husband has steadily increased his income every year working his new job, due to a guaranteed pay raise every year.  It's not a big increase in income, but it IS an increase, which every little bit helps! 
Dental bills:  
You know, I look forward to the year I don't have to mention dental bills.  I know it won't happen, but hey I can wish.  The pros when it comes to dental bills this last year was definitely being able to pay off my long standing dental bill that I had been paying on for nearly five years.  It was a relief and a joy to get that paid off finally. 
Credit Cards:  
I, at one time, swore I would never possess another credit card, but this last year I've found the benefit from having the few we have.  I like the rewards programs that credit cards have now as charging things and then paying off the credit cards has allowed me to rack up a decent amount of money the last year in credits which allowed me to purchase Amazon products, gift cards for both Amazon and restaurants and the like.  It's a nice little bonus I have to say and I do like that when I had to purchase things for home school (like the "All About Reading" beginning stages), which cost a pretty significant chunk of change up front, but I would get reimbursed for with the home school later, I was able to put those purchases on credit card, put in for the reimbursements and then wait for the money to come in before paying the credit cards off.  If I had to pay all of the purchases I made out of pocket up front, it would have really, REALLY hurt the balance in the checking account, probably to the point that I would not have been able to do it. 
SBA Loan:  
The definite pro to the SBA disaster loan we got was the low interest rate and the long repayment period, which makes the payment doable every month and will hopefully allow me to pay down the loan ahead of schedule.  I also have to say I've thanked God for that loan more than once as it has allowed us to replace and repair things without panicking about where we were going to find the money to do so.


Dental Bills:  
I guess I should put "orthodontist bills" instead, but since I am hoping to finally get to the dentist myself this year (the first time in a lot of years) and figure out what it is going to take to get my mouth up to snuff, I decided to lump everything together.  Definite con we found out a few months ago is that the daughter has to go in for bottom braces here soon, which is going to rack up another dental bill to pay off.  Hopefully having dental insurance (which I am grateful for!) will make a difference this time around.  I can pray anyway. 
I did find a dentist for myself in town that will work with our insurance and supposedly you can get things like a cap done for free after insurance and their lower prices.  So, I am definitely going to give them a shot and see if I can slowly start to get my teeth done without being out a ton of money. 
Another bright side is we went to the dentist for the kid's six month check up and they are both doing good.  No cavities, all adult teeth are coming in nicely and the dentist remarked how clean both of the kids teeth were, which was good to hear. 
Well, a pro here is that now with the chimney being replaced we have more than electrical heat this winter (yay!).  The downside is that with the earthquake taking the chimney out, budget billing got completely screwed up beyond recognition, so I had to turn it off for at least a year.  So, bills this time of year are definitely hurting.  
Also on the utility end we found out from our phone company that our bill will be going up 3.00 about per month with a "rental fee" for our modem.  Basically it's a rising cost of doing business increase, but it's still an increase. 
We are going to watch our mortgage go up about 100.00 per month this next year, primarily due to a hike in property taxes.  It can't be avoided, but it's going to be rough having to a bill go up that much every month. 
We still have a ton to do around the house when it comes to repairing and replacing things, so it's going to be another busy year.  Hopefully we can get it done without stressing ourselves out too badly or going into much more debt.
Really, when it came to finances last year it was astounding the amount of money we ended up having to spend to repair things, but we at least we moved forward instead of taking two steps backward.  I'm facing the oncoming year determined and hopeful that we can hopefully get the rest of the things we need done and start to move forward financially again, but we'll see how it goes.  At least I'm not facing the year really depressed or traumatized like I was last year, so hey definite improvement!

So, silver linings for 2019!  Let's do this!

1.  With the kids in home school I'm watching my kids become way happier and more confident in themselves as human beings and while it is definitely a challenge making sure we get out and do things to get the kids around people and get socialization (which luckily with the home school we ended up with it has been actually a  really great environment to do that), it has so far been totally worthwhile and I'm really, really glad we made this choice for our kids.

2.  Not mentioned before, but I still want to mention it.  My half sister, who has been wanting to live a normal life for a lot of years (she has delays which prevent her from doing so) finally left home and is living with a very nice family until she can learn all she needs to learn to move into her own apartment and take care of herself.  She's going through a lot of growing pains and a lot of struggles as she goes through this coping period in her life, but I think she's where she needs to be and I'm very proud of her for tackling the challenges bravely and working really hard to achieve her goals.  I'm also very proud of my other half sister who started a new full time job recently and still finds time to have a good relationship with her sister (she hasn't seen much of her in a lot of years) and she even bought her own home, which for a woman in her mid twenties, I am impressed with all she's accomplished in her life so far.  She has learning disabilities and things she has to overcome on a daily basis, so I'm definitely proud of her for everything she's done in her life so far.

3.  Since quitting public school the kids are a LOT healthier at least when it comes to stomach bugs, colds and flu.  Which has been a great side benefit for me for sure.

4.  We had a really great Christmas and the family all loved the gifts they got from each other as well as from others.  We found time to do gifts for extended family (and got to see some extended family we hadn't seen in forever), contact teachers and therapists and had a lot of fun this year.  We were even able to do a gingerbread house, which was a LOT of fun for the kids and made me feel good that we were able to do activities that we hadn't been able to do last year.  And we were able to try some new recipes and traditions this Christmas, which was a lot of fun and educational at the same time :).  I was really pleased with how the Christmas season went this year.  Super busy to the point I nearly forgot to breathe, but fun all the same!

5.  I may have needed to get reading glasses this year, but at least I didn't need bifocals yet :).

6.  It's been a real joy watching the kids loving their swimming lessons and it has been a huge treat watching my daughter discover a love of swimming to the point she's seriously thinking about becoming a life guard when she gets older.  Considering how terrified she was when she started swimming it shows how far she has come and how great her teacher, Ms. Tina, truly is :).

7.  We have had a roof over our heads, food on our table and clothes on our backs.  After the earthquake, fires last summer and now flooding this winter (ice dams gave way on Willow Creek and is flooding homes and it hit just a few days before's terrible)  there were other families who were not so lucky.  I definitely count my blessings in that regard.

8.  I was able to give this year with food donations and other things and more than I have been able to give in years because of the way things worked out with Amazon messing up food orders (so I ended up with extra things and kind of different things that I didn't expect to purchase) and just the way things like mail in rebates worked out (which I sent in for the rebates and then saved them to donate later) and other things.  I was never more thrilled to do it as so, so many people have been angels to me over the last few years that I pray that hopefully I was able to make someone's day even a little bit brighter and give them hope in the middle of despair.

So, yeah, 2019 was a decent year overall I'd say.  Lots of changes, LOTS of work, but forward progress.  So, upward and onward to 2020!