A blog about "nothing"!

Monday, December 30, 2013

2014--The Game Plan

Another year almost over--wow!  2013 went whizzing by, overall I think it went pretty well.  A few things didn't go quite as planned, a few things happened that I wish hadn't, but we made it through unscathed.  Bring on 2014!

I am one of those few people who actually enjoys the change in the year.  To me the New Year signifies a new start, a chance to change and improve.  I don't believe in resolutions as everyone tends to set ones that are hard to attain and set themselves up for failure.  I think that's why I love the "choose a word" thought.  It's akin to a lifestyle change as opposed to a diet.  Something you can live with in the long term.

My biggest thing this year is to continue moving forward with our plan to clean out our home of stuff we don't need or don't use.  Last year I started by going through one room top to bottom and it worked well.  Unfortunately part way through the year I kind of strayed from this plan, and as a result a couple of rooms didn't get cleaned out as well (or at all!) as I had hoped.  Those are the rooms I am going to start with.  The dining room is probably going to take me a while, we have a lot of expendable stuff in there.  Our entertaining routine has changed drastically over the last couple of years, and we simply do not need all these dishes, table cloths, etc.  I'd also like to paint in there and make some other changes, it would be a whole lot easier without all the extra stuff.

I'm also going to put myself on a thrift store "schedule"--no more spur of the moment shopping, but shopping with a plan instead.  It's going to be hard, I know that many of the best bargains I've found were from just popping in, but the truth is I NEED nothing, not a darned thing.  Perhaps a pair of jeans that fits better, but not even sure about that. 

Clothing has always been an issue for me, ever since I started working.  I love clothes, I won't deny it.  I did reduce the amount I had since my work situation changed, but I still have too many.  And now because I've been working on losing weight, I have some that don't fit--outta here!  I went back and re-read some of the Project 333 website, hoping it might inspire me.  The concept is great, but for a clothes horse like me a bit extreme, and I don't know that I could follow it to the letter, but I'm thinking perhaps a variation on it would work.  There was some excellent advice there that did steer me towards a direction in clothing reduction.  I do need to set out some bags this week, one for donation, one for consignment and one for trash, it's easier to do this as I do laundry. 

We have a lot of things planned for the coming year--a couple of trips, a bathroom remodel (eeek!), a wedding to attend.  That's just what we know about already!  I would also like to get back in to golfing, we keep talking about it but then it never happens, too many things get in the way.  We live in an area where golf is not expensive and we have a plethora of courses within a 30 minute drive, so there is no excuse.  Even if we just go once a month, it is a day out, exercise, and something we both enjoy.  I also want to try something "new"--not sure what it is yet, I have some ideas, but nothing concrete yet.  Stay tuned ;)

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year! 
 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Boxing Day! (or for those who don't celebrate that, Happy Day After Christmas!)

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!  We had a nice, low key celebration.  My husband and I decided several weeks ago that we weren't going to buy each other a bunch of stuff.  Truthfully, neither of us needs or wants a thing, we are truly fortunate to have a roof over our heads, food in our tummies and money in the bank, something that so many families are struggling with these days.  We opted instead to buy tickets to Cirque Du Soleil which is coming to our area in February.  To me, experiences are every bit (if not more) important sometimes than having a physical item in your hands. In all honesty, there aren't many things that I have received as gifts that have given me the same "wow" factor as much as seeing the hot air balloons at the ABQ festival, the sound of the engines at the Indy 500, seeing "Rent" live with two of the original actors, the chills up my spine hearing Michael Crawford sing "Gethsemane" in person--those are the things that will stick with me for the rest of my life.  Even having to hitch-hike to a Moody Blues concert in the rain has it's special memories for me (LONG story) that I will never forget.   Special times spent with children, family, pets--the list is endless.  Sometimes we forget that those kinds of experiences are what make us who we are, not the things that we own. 

This morning it all really hit home with me, even more so than usual, when a friend posted about her frustration with Christmas.  She's been struggling with the whole "Christmas spirit" thing all season.  It didn't help any when she went on Facebook and it seemed like all of the posts were people either bragging about what they got for gifts, or whining and complaining about what they didn't get, how spoiled this person or that person was, and just a general dissatisfaction overall.  Why?!?!?!  Where did things get so out of line, our thinking so messed up on the true feelings of the season?

I personally blame a lot of it on Madison Avenue and all of the advertising of what a "perfect" holiday is supposed to be like.  So many unachievable expectations of what the perfect gift is, the perfect meal and all of that crap presented to us in a barrage of advertising that now starts even before Halloween is over with.  ARGH!!!!  I can honestly say that I'm glad that the holiday is over with so I don't have to watch another stupid advertisement.  THIS ISN'T WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT FOLKS!!!  And we wonder why we are so stressed at this time of year?!?! 

When it comes to growing up and Christmas memories, I have some really awesome ones.  Christmas caroling with the church youth group, family get togethers, special school events, holiday parties--between Thanksgiving and New Year there was so much going on, but it didn't revolve around shopping.  It was more about getting together with friends and family, eating great food, enjoying the company of others and getting in to the spirit of Christmas.  One of my favorite memories was something our student council did every year when I was in high school.  Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh does a major fund raising push every year around the holidays and many of the schools in the area did a variety of things to contribute.  Our student council came up with a wide variety of ideas to raise money--a "sexy" legs competition, a candy cane sale, "slave" day where you could purchase one of the student council members and make them do a variety of things from cleaning out your locker to carrying your books.  They raised a ton of money, the students were so in to it, and it went to a terrific cause.  I doubt these days that they are even allowed to do this as we have become so politically correct, you can't even say the word Christmas in some of the schools for fear of offending someone.  Give me a break. 

I would be curious to know just how many children of the current generation even know what the true meaning of Christmas is?  "Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men" seems like such a foreign concept anymore, in this age of social media, war, celebrity and mass consumption.  We are always wanting more More MORE instead of being satisfied and happy with the blessings that we have.  And it just seems like it is getting worse every single day.  We've forgotten what is important, the difference between a need and a want, being thankful for our good fortune and how to be nice or gratious.  We are in a sad state of affairs.

That said, think about the true meaning of Christmas.  It isn't about perfection, it isn't about accumulating possessions.  It is about the ultimate gift, given to all of us who believe in the Christian faith, that gives us the ability to keep moving forward.  It's not a tangible, physical item, but something that resides in your heart.  We need to quit comparing ourselves to others and instead work on things to improve the quality of life for everyone, even in the smallest ways.  And we need to re-learn how to enjoy the holiday for what it is, not what the fat cats in media want us to think it is. 

Have a great weekend everyone, and I hope that we can all use the next few days to de-stress and refocus :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

1 Week/2 Weeks

Yes, it's one week left to finish your Christmas shopping!   Are you done?  Is anyone ever totally done?  I've been mostly finished which is a good thing, I haven't had a car for a week and a half while the one that the tree branch attacked was being repaired.  Today I have to make up for lost time, I have a couple of things I need to pick up and then I am finished. 

Two weeks to the New Year--where did 2013 go?  Have you been thinking about resolutions?  Last year I didn't make any resolutions, I went with a word that I wanted to represent my thinking through the year.  I got the idea from someone else, but I thought it was a really great idea--my word was minimalism.  Lately I've been reflecting on how I did with that.  Some areas I did better than others, but overall I think I did pretty well, particularly later in the year.  I want to keep moving forward with that idea, so my word for 2014 is continue--continue to get rid of excess possessions, continue to work on losing weight, continue to move forward, continue to try new things. 

I've also been thinking about my strategies to accomplish these goals, particularly the getting rid of things.  I do have a bit of an advantage now with my Ebay selling, last year at this time I was just thinking about getting started.  I have a whole year of it under my belt, I've had time to try different things out and see what works.  I hope to hit the ground running in the New Year.  I'm already looking at things that can go, and I will probably have at least a box of stuff every month to donate to charity as well.  I truly think we could easily live with half of the items we currently have in our house right now.  Wish me luck!

Hard to believe the first day of winter hits this weekend, especially since we've already had snow for at least 3 weeks.  So what is it going to do here?  RAIN!!  Have a great weekend everyone and don't let the stress of the holiday get to you. 

"Oh no, it's almost here!!!!"

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tech Update--6 months in

Over the summer I posted several times about our "cutting the cord" experience and some of the stuff that we were discovering in the process.  I thought it might be nice (and helpful) to update where we are on all of this.

One of the most common questions I get is "do you miss it?"  Not really.  Once in a while, usually on the weekends, we have to actually think about what we want to watch and instead of just flipping through the channels looking for something, we have to make a true decision.  Other than that, it really hasn't been an issue.  And I don't miss that $90 Directv bill every month!

We've hopped around from different services--when we started out we subscribed to Netflix and Hulu.  I cancelled the Hulu membership rather quickly when their service seemed to be subpar and included commercials.  I do have to say that Hulu has GREATLY improved their streaming feed over the past couple of months, but there is still plenty of free stuff for us to watch on Hulu without paying their fees.  Netflix was cancelled at the end of the summer, they really need to improve their library if they want to compete or they are going to find themselves in the same place as Blockbuster.

I have discovered that quite a few shows have their own websites, I was really excited to find Cook's Country and America's Test Kitchen online, I just stream those via a laptop.  Crackle is also completely free, they offer some different stuff from other places, and about the only place that I've found Seinfeld for free.  You don't get the entire series at a time, they select 10 episodes every month--but hey, if you can't find a good Seinfeld episode out of 10, you're not a Seinfeld fan!  And PBS offers a free feed via Roku and online.  Even QVC can be streamed if you are really bored and can't think of anything to watch. 

The winner (to me anyhow) in the streaming services that you pay for is Amazon Prime.  They have the biggest selection of both Television and Movies available, and it isn't all old stuff.  The only drawback is you can't buy it on a month to month subscription, you have to pay for an entire year at a time.  They do offer a month free to try it though, so by the time you pay for it, the price works out to $6.15/month--and if you are a regular Amazon shopper, you also benefit from free 2-day shipping on a huge selection of items they sell.  I am very impressed with how quickly they make some of the more popular movies available as part of the subscription, just this week Skyfall and The Hunger Games showed up.  Not the case with Netflix streaming.  And if there is something on the list that isn't part of the Prime subscription, you can still stream it for a fee.  I imagine if you are patient and wait, a lot of those items eventually end up part of Prime once the excitement wears off. 

I am still very impressed with the Mohu Leaf antenna, I was afraid once the weather got yucky and snowy it might not work as well, but not the case at all.  My father-in-law even commented on how clear our picture was on our TV.  It's nice to get true HDTV feeds without having to pay extra for it, I feel like we are using the TV to it's true potential.  The only times we seem to have an issue is when a large piece of equipment is in the area-ie. the helicopter coming in to land at the hospital, the snowplow, etc.   Reminds me of when I was a kid and the snowmobiles running around would create static on the screen.  Not a major issue by any means.  I consider the Mohu Leaf as one of the best purchases we've made all year.

VPN--well, I can't say it was a total disappointment since I got to watch Downton Abbey as it was being broadcast in the UK.  That was a definite plus.  As for the security, I'm still not 100% convinced it works via a subscription type service.  When I first subscribed I noticed a huge reduction in my spam e-mails, but over time that changed, and when I did virus scans and such on my computer, I saw absolutely no difference in what was found.  Needless to say, as soon as the last episode of DA was shown, I cancelled it.  It may just have been the particular company I went through, they came highly recommended, but this natural born skeptic wasn't totally sold on the whole idea before it was over with.  I think the only way to truly be absolutely safe is to have a private VPN, not one through a subscription service.  Oh well.

I am getting a chuckle out of Directv--they send us something on a regular basis, trying to lure us back.  "$200 towards cancelling your contract" and "$24.99 a month for 12 months" seem to be the offers lately.  How come they couldn't do this BEFORE we cancelled?  Wouldn't you think that it would be nice to reward your longtime customers before they got fed up?  Sorry guys, not falling for your line of crap.  Just keep wasting that postage money..................

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Winter.............blech.................

We had an early start to winter and it isn't giving up--we are under yet another winter storm warning for the weekend.  I'm just hopeful this isn't like other years when it started early and went on and on and on--clear in to April!  I came across this on Pinterest, and it pretty much sums up how I feel about now:

We woke up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit a few mornings ago (for those of you not in the US, that's -13 Celsius!).  YUCK!  It's supposed to be cold overnight again after the weekend.  Some areas are going to get some serious snow before the weekend is out too, luckily we aren't in that area.  Something to be thankful for.

Stay warm my friends!  Have a great weekend. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Merry Christmas To Me!

How are your Christmas plans coming along?  My shopping is mostly done, waiting for a few things to arrive so I can wrap them.  I need to concentrate on getting my Christmas cards finished up so I can mail them.  I'm not doing a lot of cooking this year, it seems like when I do, no one eats it anyhow and the hubby and I end up eating it instead.  Neither of us needs it, so I'm limiting what I make to two things.  It does seem a little weird, but our waistline and blood sugar numbers will thank us later.

I have my decorating all done--I don't do a ton of it, but I do have a couple of things that come out every single year.  This year I decided to really go through all of my decorations and weed out the things that we haven't used for a while.  I ended up taking a box full of decorations and ornaments to Goodwill over the weekend, and now I feel very organized.  I usually end up buying a couple of new things each year, this year I did really well and only bought three things.  The first--a Wedgewood ornament that I fell in love with.  I have several of these in the traditional blue, and one in a reddish tone, but I had never seen one in this color scheme before, I just had to have it!
The next item I blame on my friend Gwen--she has had this really neat wire tree that I have been coveting ever since she got it.  A couple weeks ago I got a text from her that she had noticed trees like this at Tuesday Morning where she lives.  I decided to go check at the one nearest us and success!!!  Not too long after that I was in Kmart and came across this cute little bird that I thought would look adorable beside it.  He kind of influenced my idea of decorating the tree with my collection of bird ornaments and glass pine cones/walnuts.

Gwen decorates hers for different seasons and has come up with so many clever ideas, I'm going to have to check out her pictures for more inspiration.
 
While Heather and I were on our girls day out, we stopped by the LLBean store.  We saw lots of nice stuff, but the only thing I bought was this adorable wellie keychain!  I haven't decided if I'm going to actually use it for my keys or not.............
 
Last but not least--a couple of nights ago I ran to TJMaxx to pick up make up remover wipes--yeah, you read that right.  They have the best prices on them, way cheaper than Walmart.  While I was there, I of course had to check out what else they had.  I couldn't believe my luck when I came across these:
Yes Lilly, there is a Santa Claus!  I've been wanting one of these interchangeable watch sets, but we don't have any Lilly Pulitzer stores or outlets near us.  I about fell over when I saw it--they actually had quite a few things, IPad covers, photo albums, etc--I could have gone bananas but I was good, just getting these two items.  I think the watch will be adorable for summer.  And it was only $10! 
 
Back to getting ready for Christmas, but I just had to share :)  Check out Gwen's metal tree decorating ideas at:
 

 
 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

"What I'm Giving You For Christmas" by Garrison Keillor

I am a huge fan of Garrison Keillor, he can tell a story like nobody else.  I've listened to his radio show, read his books and whenever I come across something that he's written for something else, of course I read it.  About 10 years (or more) ago he wrote a wonderful piece for Lands End that both my mother and I got such a kick out of.  I was so excited today when I actually found a link to it, someone had actually scanned the old catalog pages and posted them on their website.  I thought I would share it here for others to enjoy! 

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thrift Store Finds/Girls Day Out

Heather and I had a shopping day planned for about a month and a half.  I kind of panicked after the incident with the car happened, I was afraid I might have to cancel.  Fortunately it all worked out and we were still able to go.  Our plans were to hit both Red White and Blue stores in Pittsburgh and maybe go somewhere else.  Best laid plans.....

We got to the first Red White and Blue about our usual time and it was already busy as all get out.  Crazy busy, although not as bad as a Saturday.  We both found a couple of nice bargains but agreed that it was more frustration than it was worth and skipped the second one, going to the mall instead.  As Heather said, it was nice to just get out, even if we didn't find the best bargains on the planet.  I have since found out that Wednesdays at that Red White and Blue are Senior Citizen appreciation days--combine that with the fact it was right after the 1st of the month, and that November had 5 Fridays (meaning some people got an extra paycheck)--it all made sense then.  Oh well.

What did I find?  Some nice tops for spring, and two other things I was looking for.  First, the tops:
A cute striped boatneck style top, Ralph Lauren, tags still on--$6.48 after the 50% off.  A pale blue cable knit top, Croft and Barrow, tags still on--$2.98 after the 50% off.
A lovely watermelon pink Tommy Hilfiger Polo shirt, maybe worn once--$2.98 after the 50% off.  Unfortunately the polo shirt is a bit on the tight side, but I'm going to hang it in my closet anyways, hopefully by the time spring or summer roll around, I will have lost enough weight to wear it.  Worst case scenario is I'll end up flipping it.  I'm trying not to buy any winter clothing as I'm noticing that I have lost enough that some of my stuff is starting to look kind of baggy.  I didn't realize how bad my jeans are fitting me until yesterday in a fitting room with a full length mirror--eeeek!  It was a combination of a good/bad feeling--good that I've lost the weight, but bad that I look like a slob.  I have a lot to go yet, so I'm not anxious to go out and buy some new stuff, I'm just going to try and figure out a way to either alter them or wear them differently so I can at least get them through until the spring, then I'll think about buying a new pair or two.  Another good reason to shop mostly at thrift stores!!!

My next find falls in the "something I was looking for" category--an entire bag of Christmas garland for $2.95.  YAY! 
The picture doesn't do it justice, the plastic bag kind of disguises just how pretty it is.  And it weighs a ton!  A couple of weeks ago I was at a thrift store and passed up some like it made from wooden beads, later kind of kicking myself that I did, so I was very happy to find this.  There is way more than I will need for our small tree, but I'm thinking maybe I can use it for decorating other places in the house as well--or even outside.  When you get it that cheap, you don't care if it gets damaged.  I was amazed at how many Christmas trees they had there too, it was like a friggin' forest.  That's one thing I definitely don't need, but good to know for future.
 
Last but not least--my favorite bargain of the day.  Towards the end of the summer I posted about a dollhouse project I was working on.  It sort of came to a screeching halt due to too many things going on.  I haven't forgotten about it though, and I actually have some pictures to share in some upcoming posts with stuff I have done towards it.  I'm still more in "think" mode at the moment on it.  I tend to do that so that when I'm ready to work on it, I turn in to an obsessed person and won't finish until it's done.  I've been researching/buying various things on Ebay so I had a pretty good idea of what this would sell for on there.  I just haven't been willing to part with the money, and so glad I didn't.  As I was perusing the kids toys, I found this for $4.95--less than just the shipping price for the same item would be on Ebay:
 


It's a Barbie fold up dollhouse--and it's in beautiful condition, it doesn't look like it was played with much.  The only issues it has is some of the stickers were poorly placed, are ripped, or coming off, but that is a non-issue to me, I will get my trusty bottle of UnDu out and remove them, replacing them with my own stuff anyhow.  It is just too cute for words, now I just have to decide exactly how I'm going to incorporate it in to my ideas.

We had a nice afternoon at the mall, neither of us bought much, just window shopped.  We also ate lunch at the food court.  I hadn't been to the food court at that mall in ages, so I was kind of excited to see that they had put in a Five Guys Burgers place there.  I've been wanting to try it for ages.  First, was impressed that on their sign it says "all burgers and dogs can be ordered without a bun".  As someone with wheat allergies, this is always a concern.  Then I was even more impressed when I placed my order, the girl taking my order even asked if it was because of an allergy.  No cross-contamination worries then, huzzah!  They cook everything fresh, so my order was nice and hot, hadn't been sitting there waiting for someone to order it.  As for the food--it was good, but it wasn't WOW--I can make a burger that tastes just about identical for a whole lot less.  I ordered fries with it, they give you an obscene amount, had I realized this I would have told Heather not to order anything else with her lunch.  Between the burger, the fries and the soda, I probably consumed an entire days worth of calories for one meal, but it was a treat, not a daily habit, so I'm not stressed about it.  I'm more stressed over how much it cost--lunch was over $13!!!!!!  But I got it out of my system, and had we gone to a sit down restaurant, I probably would have spent that easily.  It's just the idea I guess.  I can't help but wonder though, how do all of these people who take entire families shopping afford to do this?  My cheap roots are showing ;)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Crunch!

My last post was all about the snow.  Remember where I said to "be careful"?  First snows around here are always kind of dangerous because in that time where we don't have snow, people tend to forget how to drive in it and usually drive too fast.  Most insurance offices hate the first snow of the year as they are busier than usual due to people doing stupid things.  It's just a fact of life.  I consider myself to be a very good driver in the snow, I actually learned to drive in the snow, thanks to a completely insane (but very good) drivers education teacher.  (Her attitude was I was going to have to drive in it someday, why not with her in the car.)  It's everyone else I worry about!  I've always said that if I ever end up in jail, it will be because I beat the crap out of someone for causing an automobile accident by doing something utterly stupid.  I have no time for that at all. 

There are situations though that are completely out of your control, as my husband found out Wednesday morning.  He was on his way to an account and suddenly saw a tree branch, weighed down from all that heavy, wet snow, snap off a tree and heading straight for the car!  He hit the brakes, but couldn't get stopped in time--it hit the car, breaking the windshield, denting the hood, breaking the headlight assembly and taking out both side mirrors in the process-ugh.  $2200 worth of repairs, thank heavens for insurance.  The upside--my husband wasn't injured at all, just really shook up, and the guy who is going to do the repairs said that if it had hit just 6 or 7 inches further back on the roof instead of the hood, the car would have been un-repairable. 

All I have to say is I'm thankful that the 2002 Honda Accord was such a well built car, I think if it had been my station wagon instead, it might not have faired so well.  I don't know if you can see it, but where the windshield is broken, it isn't just cracked, it's smashed and those are pieces of wood embedded in it!  Surprisingly, the car is still drive-able, so we will only be out of a car the couple of days it will be in the shop for repairs.  The hood will have to be replaced as they can't take the creases out of it, it is a double reinforced style.  I'm not complaining, it's probably what saved the engine from any damage. 

Besides that little bit of excitement, it's been relatively calm this week.  We had a nice Thanksgiving dinner, probably one of the best turkeys I have ever cooked!  Last night we finished off the last of the leftovers, just enough turkey to make some turkey salad for lunch packing this week.  Now it's on to getting the holiday decorations up, Christmas cards started and shopping done and wrapped.  Less than a month to Christmas--eek!  I'd better get moving!