Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Staying Connected

Living in the 21st century, there certainly isn’t a lack of technology.  With this technology, there are a million and one ways to stay connected with friends and family.  Once upon a time, the only ways to communicate were face to face conversation or hand written letters.  Distance made true conversations difficult, and letter delivery was never guaranteed.  Society has made huge strides since then and we now carry instant conversations in our pockets, have immediate delivery confirmation of e-mails, and a slew of social networking options. 

As easy as it seems to stay connected these days, it is nearly impossible to stay on top of every social network out there.  I only keep a few pages running, but there are hundreds of sites out there.  Some of these include Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Myspace, Google+, Ravelry and Cafemom.  The first five sites I listed are general networking sites, sites that have no set topic or focus.  The other two are more specific, Ravelry is for yarn crafts, and Cafemom is a site dedicated to parenthood.  If you look hard enough, you can find a social networking site dedicated to any and all interests. 

Every so often I go through all the sites I am part of and close accounts I don’t use, such as my twitter and myspace pages.  How people keep up with all these sites baffles me.  I have a hard enough time staying on top of the few I have, I can’t imagine having more!  Well, I do plan on starting another blog and eventually I will have a website and facebook page for my business.  I find it is easier to keep up on pages that are for work rather than pleasure and the blogs are here to help out y’all, or at least that is my hope. 

I find myself thinking about what I will do when my children get older.  Will I let them join social networking sites, or even use the internet for personal reasons?  I honestly believe that I will not allow personal internet use for my children.  I am trying to live a simpler life, and I want to help instill that in my children.  We need to spend more time outdoors and less time in front of a screen.   I certainly won’t keep my children from Skype dates with Daddy, but there is no reason they need to sit in front of a screen all day.  I am also a firm believer in the importance of a hand written letter, and I plan on making sure my children have wonderful penmanship.  That is another problem this technological age has brought.  Handwriting and become more and more illegible over time and I personally don’t like it. 

So, have you gone Social Network Crazy, or do you have a small collection of sites that are easy to manage?  What is your favorite site?  Least favorite?  Why are you on each site?  Ask yourself these questions, and then go through a purge the sites you no longer want/need to be a part of. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Single parents and work/school

I had a hard time coming up with a title for this one.  I know I am technically not a single parent, but at the same time I am.  Even tho I am married, I face a lot of the same struggles as single parents.  I cover one of them in this post.  I will discuss others in the future.

As a *single mom* I have had a hard time balancing work/school and family.  For the first few years of my son’s life we had a babysitter, but after I finished college those resources dried up.  For a while he was going to his grandparents (my in-laws) every weekend.  I loved that because he got to see his grandparents and I got to go to work.  After about a year and a half of this game, my son decided it was no longer a good idea and refused to go with his grandparents.  I forced him to go a few times but finaly decided I couldn’t stand to watch him freak out every Friday night.  He has been in school since September so I have about 2 hours without him every day.  I am looking forward to full days starting in the fall!

The few hours I do get to myself are usually spent cleaning the house.  As the weather warms up I hope to spend that time, at least some of it, at work.  I am lucky enough to have a job where I get to make my own hours and I can bring my son along if I have to.  It also helps that he is easily entertained and I can leave him pretty well unattended while I am working.  Today, for instance, was like most Saturdays.  I had to drive an hour south to work with a pair of mustangs I am training.  My son has to tag along almost every time, so I make sure to bring the portable dvd player and a few movies for him.  On most Saturdays he stays occupied the entire 2 hours I am working, but every so often he gets bored and come to “help me out” as I finish.  I love that he has an interest in horses but it is hard to work and keep an eye on him at the same time.  At home we have tons of things to keep him busy, but on the road it is a completely different story.  Hopefully soon we will have our own barn and I can spend a lot more time working from home, but until then he will have to continue traveling with me.

So for all you single parents, and those of us *single parents*, I have a few tips for balancing work/school and family. 
-          Use every resource at your disposal.  These could include neighbors, family, daycare centers, and play groups. 
-          Look for jobs with flexible hours.  Even better, try to find a job where you can work from home or make your own hours.  Direct Sales companies are fantastic if you want to work and still be with your kids as often as possible.
-          Look for schools that work around your schedule.  Online classes can be very helpful!
-          Keep a *bag of tricks* packed for the kids at all times.  Things I always put in my bag include snacks, books, paper, crayons, and a few quiet toys.
-          If someone offers to babysit, say yes!  Last weekend my son went to a sledding party while I was at work.  He had a blast and I didn’t have to worry about him when I was worrying about the horses.

If anyone has any other suggestions, feel free to ass them in the comments! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Extreme Couponing

For all of you that follow my blog, you remember Mondays post about me forgetting my fantastic post idea.  Well, I remembered it…Couponing!  So here it is.

The TLC show has taken the world by storm.  Over the years, more and more viewers have tuned in to this extreme show.  It is intriguing that these shoppers can get hundreds, if not thousands of dollars worth of groceries and only pay 20% or less.  Amidst all the chaos of attempting to get hundreds of free items, there is some reality.  Couponing can be very beneficial to a family’s grocery bill.  If you can look past the outlandish coupon clippers on TV, you can join the ranks of us every day coupon users and enjoy the benefits strategic clipping can bring.

Yes, we all want to bring home a truck full of groceries with nothing more than a $20 bill, but that is not nearly as realistic as it seems.  My son and I went to the grocery story on Sunday and between coupons and my store card, we saved 22%.  Not my best trip, but impressive none the less.  
One of the things we all have to remember is that just because it’s on sale or we have a coupon, doesn’t mean we need to buy it.  If you have ever watched the show, you know that some of the people have rooms filled with things they admittedly don’t use.  I remember one particular episode where a woman had stacks of diapers but she had no children.  I can’t be the only one that finds this a little strange.  Now, I have every intention of stocking up on diapers as soon as I find out I am pregnant again, but not until then.  Aside from not needing everything that is on sale, where will you put it all once its home?  Some people have the extra space to store their stockpile, but most average people are not that lucky.  With some strategic storage routines tho, you can keep a lot of extras around. 

I have a space in my master bathroom that is just wide enough to fit a pack of my favorite toilet paper, and I can stack them to the ceiling if I so desire.  The top shelf of my pantry is full of paper towels, facial tissues, room fresheners, and some cleaning supplies.  I have to put up a shelf in my utility/laundry room to store laundry soaps and fabric softeners.  What I do not have is a stockpile taking over my garage/basement/spare bedroom.  If you don’t have room to store it, don’t bring it home.  And no, your son’s half empty closet is not the place to store your lifetime supply of feminine products.

So, how do you get the most for your money?  If you are not brand specific, you will save a lot more.  There are always coupons for products, but the brand changes each time.  If you are waiting for that perfect coupon, you may have to purchase at full price between savings.  If you are like me and have preferred brands, stocking up while you can is a good idea.  Of course, only stock up if you have somewhere to keep it.  Clip coupons from your own newspaper insert, collect inserts from friends, and print off the internet.  Combine coupons with sales.  Stay organized!!  You don’t need a huge binder, but a coupon file or two will certainly come in handy.  Organize coupons by type and/or expiration date and always write a list.  I write down exactly what I want to purchase, and how much.  And remember to have fun.  Shopping should not be super stressful, so don’t give yourself a migraine just to save a few bucks. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Winter Break

I had a great idea for a post last night, but I failed to recall it this morning when I sat at my computer.  I am sure most of you can relate.  So, rather than my elusive great idea, I shall talk about winter break.

 My son has this next week off from school so I have been spending the entire weekend trying to decide what to do with all our time together.  On Saturday he got to enjoy 4 hours without momma while he sped down a snowy hill on a tiny, flimsy piece of plastic (sledding party).  

Well, after that fun adventure, I was all out of ideas.  We do have to head north for some shopping (My cousin is having a baby and I promised to knit her a blanket. I will post pictures!) and Thursday is pedicure day for the horses.  I don't want to sit home and watch TV all day, and there really isn't much to do in our small town.  It is especially tough to come up with ideas this week because it isn't warm enough to do most outdoor activities, and we don't have enough snow for good winter activities.  What do y'all do on days off?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Sloppy Joes

As lent was approaching, I decided that I would give up red meat from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  That being said, I have a freezer full of beef and venison.  I will be cooking a lot of chicken in the next 40 days so I wanted to have one last day of beef.  I decided to make home made Sloppy Joes.  I have been meaning to share this recipe for a few days now but kept getting sidetracked.  So here it is, finally! 

1 tbs oil
Medium onion, chopped
1 lb Ground Beef
BBQ sauce or Ketchup
Yellow Mustard
Worcestershire sauce

Saute the onion in the oil, brown the meat, drain.
Combine the BBQ/K, Mustard, and Worcestershire to make a sauce.  Amounts of each depend on the flavor you are looking to get.  
Add the sauce to meat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve in Hamburger buns.

I chose to serve mine over dinner rolls because that is what I had in my pantry.  The sauce came out a but vinegary for my taste but that is why we experiment (I used a vinegar based BBQ sauce, next time I will try a different one).  It tasted much better the next day.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentines Day

Valentines day is right around the corner!  If you have not already made plans, I suggest you get started ASAP.  

For those of us that do not get to spend the day with our spouse/significant other, there are plenty of options.  I took the simple route, sending my husband a cute little package in the mail.  It was nothing spectacular.  I sent a book, a photo of his favorite pet (we have 11, he only likes 1) and a card.  I also threw in some important paperwork like a copy of a W2 for taxes,and his new car insurance statement.  I know, I am so romantic! 

Below are 5 great ways to celebrate Valentines day when you can't be together!

#1 - Skype Date
     Skype dates are always a good way to spend time together when you can't actually be together.  Wear something cute/sassy/sexy, whatever you are comfortable with, and enjoy some face time with your love.

#2 - Send a hand written love letter
    Love letters are way more romantic when they are hand written.  It adds to how much you care and you can put in cute personal touches that aren't available on even the best computer programs.

#3 - Send a love package
    Want to be more creative, send an entire package rather than just a letter.  You can put in pictures, candies, cookies, trinkets, and a letter.

#4 - Coupons
    No, not for groceries.  Coupons redeemable when you get to be together again.  Some good examples: Kisses, Massage, Home made dinner.  You can send these via e-mail or add them to the love letter or package you are sending!

#5 - Phone movie date
    This one is a bit harder if your loved one is deployed.  You and your spouse/significant other watch the same romantic movie while on the phone with each other.  This can be done over skype as well.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Chuck Roast

This is a quick and easy recipe, just throw it all in the crock pot and go about your day!

4+ pound boneless Chuck Roast
Seasonings (I used Oregano, Parsley, and Basil)
1 cup of water
1 beef bouillon cube 

With the vegetables, use however many you think your family will eat.  I put in 4 large carrots, 6 potatoes, and 4 small onions.  Cut them all to the size you prefer. 

Rub the roast with salt and pepper to season befor cooking.

I used water and the bouillon cube in this particular recipe, but I have used a bottle of dark beer or a can of cola in the past.  The beer and cola make for a very tender roast but may add flavors your family is not used to.

Throw it all in a crock pot, set it on low, and let it all cook for 8 hours.  You may want to flip the roast half way through to get even color all the way around.  Be sure to check the internal temperature befor eating.  


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Surprise Visit

While on my way to work Saturday, I got a phone call from my mother letting me know that she would be at my house later that night.  Since I had no idea she was coming down, my house was a mess and i hadn't been to the grocery store in weeks.  Now, we all get surprise guests on occasion, but I can not be the only one that prefers a few hours notice to get the house presentable.  If I had not been on my way to work it would have been a non issue.  Luckily my momma knows what a wonderful housekeeper I am (insert sarcasm here) and was pleased with the cleanliness of my home.  

Anywho, that was my surprise change of plans for the weekend.  But we did get to enjoy the Super Bowl together.  We watched the game, enjoyed the commercials, and giggled at the power outage at the beginning of the second half.  

On another note, I got a great deal on a chuck roast and veggies this week so I will be throwing them in the slow cooker tomorrow.  I will post the *recipe* and how it came out tomorrow night.  

I appologize for the randomness of this particular post, it was a busy weekend.