A Day in the Life ~ by Sam

And now for something completely different!

Nothing today about saving money, or keeping things low-stress….unless making mac and cheese for dinner counts as low stress.  Just a little slice of life, you might say.  Hang on tight!

What a day! Justice was up all night working on finishing a project. Kaia woke up with a splinter in her finger (we still aren’t exactly sure how that happened). Shane got lunches packed while I tried to help with the splinter. Justice got ready, and I got her out the door (eating breakfast on the way), and then we remembered that she had borrowed something from a teacher for the weekend and needed to return it, so we had to double back. Kaia was still working on that splinter. Got Jus to school. Shane got Hallie to school. (I don’t really know what Hallie did this morning. She had an allergy attack, took her meds, ate breakfast and got to school on time and with all of her homework, so ~ GO, HALLIE!!) Kaia and I continued to work on the splinter. It had broken off in her finger, and she thought there was still a piece in there, but we just could not get it. We poked, we soaked, we coaxed…we gave up, put neosporin and a bandaid on it and got her off to school.

Then, Justice texted. She had forgotten to print up one table. The orange one. Could I print it and drop it off at school? Sure, no problem. Race home, look at the computer….uh…orange table…orange table…a-ha! Orange table! …and another orange table…I printed them both, gathered up everything that was on the surface of the desk and stuffed it all in an envelope. Got it to school and dropped it off, then remembered that the ottoman cover had been stained pink in the wash, and I needed to pick up some of that oxygen bleach stuff that was going to be my last-ditch effort in getting it out.

Then, Justice texted. I didn’t print the right thing. What?? I printed all the orange stuff I saw! Okay. I’ll go home and find it. So…start racing home and ~ ANOTHER text: Nevermind. It’s here. Phew!

Okay. Off to the store. Um…first store doesn’t have it. Screw that. I am buying stuff to make veggie curried chicken salad, and some apples and pears…and peonies. THERE. ALL BETTER. But…I still need the bleach crap. I worked to hard on that ottoman cover to lose it!

Okay. Next store has it. AWESOME. Home. Laundry. Coffee. Pay the health insurance premium for the month. Crap. Time to pick up kids? ALREADY??? Yup.

In to the car. It needs gas. Cool. Gas station right up the road. Pump open, slide my card and…transaction canceled. Wait…what? Try again. No…I said, “Debit.” Fine. Fine. Credit will be fine. No…I don’t want a car wash! Transaction canceled. Are you freaking kidding me??? One more try ~ holy cow! It worked! It took like 10 minutes, but it worked!

On to the freeway ~ FIRETRUCK!! Firetruck? Really? Now?? Okay, okay….yes. Go help people. That’s good. Okay. Back on to the freeway. Off the freeway, and ~ would you believe tow truck? Tow truck. Right at the end of the ramp. Okay. Wait for traffic, wait for traffic, wait for traffic….can you people see my flipping blinker?? Maneuver around tow truck. Cool. On we go. Turn down Chandler Blvd., coming in to the homestretch, and…ambulance. *sigh* Yes, yes, the helping people thing. I am really, truly so grateful for ambulances and the people who operate them. Back on the road and to school without incident. Pick up Hallie and her friend Maya. Start toward our house, where I will be dropping off the girls, and, on the eastbound side of Chandler Blvd., one lane is closed. We are in the other lane (as in everyone, given the lane closure), behind a GARBAGE TRUCK. I am thankful for garbage trucks and the the people who operate them, too. Without them, there would be garbage all over the city, right? So, we drive very slowly down the block, stopping at each and every house. Hello, neighbours!

Drop the girls at home, race to Justice’s school, to find her approaching our usual pick-up spot just as I pull up. First thing that has gone right all day (besides the bleach thing, I guess). She hops in, and we zoom off to pick up Kaia, late. Find her, find her lunchbox, and run to the car. She changes in to painting clothes in her seatbelt, while I drive. She’s crafty. Drop her off at another elementary school, where her Girl Scout Troop is painting a mural. Drive home. Justice falls asleep in the car.

Unload the car (including rousing Justice and sending her inside), load up Kaia’s trumpet, pick up Maya (whose mom is the Girl Scout Troop Leader, and is at the elementary school with Kaia and the rest of the girl scouts), and head off to drop off one kid and pick up another. Bicyclist runs a stop sign in front of me. Luckily, I saw her. Holy cow. Continue down the road. Train. Luckily, a short commuter train. Things are looking up. Get to the school, drop off Maya, pick up Kaia, who is covered in paint, and race over to a trumpet lesson, planning to get a cup of coffee as soon as I drop her off. get caught up in a conversation, instead, which is actually awesome, because, on a day like today, it was really nice to talk about something other than the day I was having. So, we talk music and education, and, before I know it, the lesson is over. We’re done. We can coast through the rest of the day. Cup of coffee for me. Ice cream for the kids.

Arrive home (with ice cream) to find Justice still asleep and Hallie working on homework.

Took a few moments to write this, and now I am off to make some macaroni and cheese for the kids for dinner. Assuming I can convince myself to get off the sofa. Kaia was lobbying for ice cream for dinner. I gotta tell you, that idea is sounding better by the minute…No, no…I’ll make macaroni and cheese.  Did you know it’s almost as easy to make it homemade as it is to cook the boxed kind.  Just boil and drain macaroni, add cheese, milk, butter, a little salt…stir to melt (heat a little if you have to).  There ya go.  Mac and cheese!  Okay.  Enough lollygagging! Time to get busy.


Be Excellent to Each Other ~ and Party On, Dudes! ~ by Sam

Shane and I have been hard at work this week making the party room (and thus, the house) more and more fabulous.  Slowly, but surely, we are getting there.  I’ll let Shane update about the recent late-night paint job (*hint, hint* Shane ~ update about the recent late night paint job), but I wanted to show off a bit of my handy work.

Since we first had a bar (that is, since we used the back side of our china cabinet as a sort of makeshift bar), we wanted to face it with sheet metal.  I came up with the idea ~ I like sort of industrial looking stuff, I guess you would say…metal, gears, hubcaps, graffiti, hardware ~ and, luckily, Shane liked it.  We settled on the idea, but we didn’t really have the resources to make it happen.  Then, we saw this kind of plastic sheets that look like embossed metal, and they were pretty cool, with a lot of patterns from which to choose…but, they still cost money, and you know how we feel about that.  I mean, I knew we would have to spend some money to get this done, but I wasn’t feeling ready to break the bank over it.

Then, recently, while I was at the hardware to pick up some paint, I stumbled upon this product:


The idea is that you paint this stuff on any surface, and it makes it look like hammered metal.  Hope Depot was selling it for eleven bucks and change, so, given the cost of our other options, I thought it seemed worth a shot.  Worst case scenario, we repaint, or actually cover the damned thing with sheet metal.  If it’s good enough to live with, I figured, we could at least leave it until we can afford to do it for real.  Best case scenario, it’s fabulous, and we’re done ~ for about 11 bucks.

So, I brought it home and got to work.  Whoo-boy!  Work in a WELL-VENTILATED area!  Knowing that we were hosting a party for Kaia’s Girl Scout troop two days later, I was a little worried about the lingering fumes.  Worried enough, in fact, that I ended up leaving all of the windows and doors open for most of the next two days, even though it was hotter than Hades here in the Valley, and I had to crank the air conditioner, too.  It felt a little stickyish while I was working, but went on pretty much like paint, and dried to the touch quickly, so I could apply the second coat.  Fumes notwithstanding, I consider this a great product, and I am pleased to have some left over, for future projects.  I really didn’t try to make it turn out any particular way, and I kind of had no idea what I was doing, but it dried super shiny and cool-looking.  I am very pleased with the result, and, at this time, I see no reason to spend another cent.  Take a gander, and see what you think:

First, a couple of closeups, so you can see the finish:



And, finally, a picture of the bar, so you can see how it looks all together.



We are almost done with this area.  Just need a shelf to display our shot glass collection, maybe some artwork and/or a few tavern games, and it will be perfect.  I am loving it.

Moving Right Along ~ by Sam

Well, we have not kept up as well as we should with our blog.  I’ll see what we can do about that.  I want the kids to post more, but they are all so busy!  It’s nearing the end of the schoolyear, and we have one going in to middle school and one going in to high school in the Fall, so that’s been two new schools to find.  We have had really great luck with that.  Hallie will be attending her #1 choice high school, a visual arts magnet, and Kaia will be attending her #1 choice middle school (the same one Justice attended), which has a phenomenal music program.  So, now that they have been accepted and all of the paperwork has been submitted and they are officially enrolled, we call all relax a little…I mean, except for those of us who have to prepare for middle and elementary school culminations, or take AP exams, and finals, and turn in project, and participate in final concerts, dance performances and other school events.  Eh, whaddaya gonna do?  We’ll rest when we’re dead!

Justice was accepted to the California State Summer School for the Arts, which is a HUGE honour.  She will be going away for 4 weeks over the Summer to study music.  I am not sure how we will get along without her, but she won’t be far away…and she is a big girl (16…going on 17)…but, you know…I’m the mama.  I will NEVER be ready.  *sigh*  So excited for her.

Hallie will again be attending Camp Bravo, a theatre camp, for one week during the summer, thanks to exceedingly generous grandparents, and Kaia will be attending Twilight Camp (a Girl Scout day camp) for one week, as well.  I am glad they will all get to do things they love over the summer.  Oh, and Kaia won that scholarship for private music lessons, too.  It’s going to be a great Summer.

It sounds like we will be sticking close to home over the summer, which will give us time to work on some home improvement projects, as well as save us a little money.  You know how I feel about saving money.  $$$ 🙂

Recently, we were able to secure health insurance again.  It is not cheap, but it’s hard to put a price on peace of mind.  I have chronic health problems, and, in September of 2012, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  But I haven’t really had a regular doctor, so it was just like…oh.  um…okay.  I mean, I did a lot of research on my own, and I have tried some strategies (some helped, some didn’t), the clinic doctor who diagnosed me tried me on a couple of medications that did not work out for me, before hitting on one that helps a little bit.  So, that’s something.  Anyway, having insurance means that a) I can have regular checkups.  I had my first mammogram since 2008 or 9.  Given my family history, I should have been having them much more often, but, to be honest, I was afraid they’s find something, and then I would have a preexisting condition and be uninsurable.  Now, I don’t have to worry about stuff like that.  b) We are able to explore things a little more in depth, confirm my diagnosis, and make a treatment plan.  I have had quite a lot of lab work done ~ something I could not afford to do without insurance ~ and am awaiting results (first batch were okay; second round of tests were just started today, so we’ll see).  In short: Insurance is a big expense, but, in my opinion, totally worth it.  The next step is for Shane and each of the girls to schedule a physical, because it has just been too long since they’ve done that.

Okay.  So.  I really came to talk about a couple of nice, money-saving things we have done recently:

1. I found a cute little shelf to hang on the wall in Justice’s powder room.  It cost $2.99 at the thrift store, and it actually cleaned up nicely.  We were planning to paint it, but, after cleaning it up with a little furniture polish, we are just going to hang it, and decide whether or not to paint it when we paint the room.

2. I bought an avocado tree.  It was on sale for about seventeen bucks, I think, which seemed like a really good deal.  I got a smaller variety, which will top out at 20′ high and about 10′ wide, since we have a small yard.  We originally worried about planting such a big tree int he back yard, because we didn’t want to lose much of our tiny little space, but we decided a) as it grows, it will provide some shade, and help cut energy costs, b) we love avocados, eat them often, and they are expensive, c) we really miss the avocado tree we had at the little house we rented before we bought this one, and d) it’s not like we’re in the back yard playing football.  Trees are nice.

I have also been reexamining how we shop.  I kind of fell in to that thing of shopping at stores with which I am most familiar, even if they are far away, and not the cheapest option.  I do still like to shop farmers markets when I can.  I prefer to buy local produce, and support local farmers, and, often, I can find organically grown fruits and veggies there at a better price than I would find them at the store.  It’s not always the cheapest option, but I think it is important.  So, I am trying to look for deals there, and shop in season, which helps.  I have also discovered that Costco is stocking more organically grown fruits and vegetables.  I have been getting our bananas and sweet potatoes there, because they have the best price I have found on organically grown ones.

Now, I will admit, I don’t always buy organic.  I know it is best for the environment and for our health, but, sometimes, it is just not in our budget.  That’s why I like when we can trade produce with friends who garden at home.  It saves us a lot of money, so we can feel a little better about spending a tad more on what we do buy.  This season, we are taking a break from the vegetable garden due to the rampant pest problem (‘though I keep being very tempted to pick up some zucchini plants), but we will still have fruit to trade.  Mulberries are already coming in, and it looks like we are going to have TONS of guava, so, if you’re local let me know if you want to trade.  Some time ago, I found a list online of what they call the “dirty dozen,” which lists the 12 most heavily sprayed crops.  The idea is, if you can’t afford to buy all organic, you might want to look for organically grown varieties of those 12 fruits and veggies.  I will try to come back and post a link.  I printed up a list to keep in my wallet, but I lost it like 3 wallets ago, so I should probably print it up again.

I have been shopping at the 99 cents only store for some groceries (surprisingly, I often find organically grown salad greens and berries there), and the local Food 4 Less, which is the grocery store nearest our house.  They have great deals on some staples, and I save gas by not having to drive to a farther away store, which is good for the budget and the environment.

We are in a drought situation here in sunny So-Cal, so we have had to become rather miserly about our watering.  My top priorities are the fruit trees, the bananas, the raspberry and blueberry, the herbs…you know, the stuff we will eat.  I will admit that the roses, jasmine and the little flower garden along the driveway and at the back wall get watered.  I water the flowers once a week, and most of them were chosen because they don’t require a ton of water and do well in our local conditions.  The roses were here when we moved in.  I don’t know if I would have chosen to plant roses, but they are beautiful, and we often cut and bring them inside, or bring them to others as gifts. In the longrun, they are saving us the expense of buying cut flowers, and I really can’t see a reason not to keep them.  The grass, on the other hand, is really not a priority. I mean, grass is nice, but, let’s face it, during a drought, a nice lawn isn’t all that necessary.  Our front lawn is doing okay, because we have sprinklers set on a timer to water the mulberrry and guava trees that also grow there.  The grass just happens to get water, too.  The backyard looks a little sketchy, I’ll admit.  I do give it a little water ever now and then, because I don’t want a bunch of dead grass out there creating a fire hazard, but I guess I am trying to strike a balance.  Our water bill is still quite low, so I guess we are doing okay.

I guess that’s it for now.  I recently purchased a deal on LivingSocial to have all of the ducts and vents in our house cleaned for $49.  I also purchased two music lesson packages ($99 for 8 lessons) for Hallie and me.  Hallie has been wanting private voice lessons, so that’s how hers will be used, and I am going to pick up an instrument, because I have been told that, for the sake of my brain health, I need to keep challenging myself to learn new and unfamiliar skills.  Stay tuned for more news about that latest development!

More Thrifty Shopping ~ by Sam

Visited one of my favourite thrift stores, Sun Thrift Store in Sunland, today and got two really cute bebe tops.  The first is a black and white long-sleeved blouse with white collar and cuffs.  It cost a whopping $1.99.  The second is this really cute red top.  It looks brand new, and I am pretty sure it’s bebe, because the label is partially cut out, but sure looks like a bebe label.  Anyway, it was $2.99, and it looks like this:Image

I feel so stylish, and I didn’t break the bank 🙂

Happy thrifting to you!!


Thrifty! (and some other stuff, too) ~ by Sam




Interesting.  Well, see, I wrote this whole post about everything we have been doing lately, and it all disappeared, except for the pictures, which I couldn’t see while I was writing, so the whole situation is terribly confusing for me.  I will give a brief synopsis:

Damn, are we ever busy!

I went to the thrift store and bought this top:



and this top (which has a “free people” label, so ~ score!)


and this dish, which looks like carnival glass, but is probably not the real deal, but is something I have needed and on which I did not intend to spend much money, and is pretty:

photo 2

The shirts were marked $4.99/each, and the dish was marked $3.99, but my tab came to about $11, so something was on sale.

Hallie got in to her #1 choice for high school, Justice was accepted to the California State Summer School for the Arts, and Kaia won a scholarship from the Los Angeles City Elementary Schools Music Association for private trumpet lessons.  She received her award at a ceremony on the 9th of April, her dad’s birthday.  He was working in Vegas at N.A.B. at the time, so she sent him this picture, with a caption telling him that, for his birthday, she saved him a bunch of money on trumpet lessons:



So, yeah…busy, busy, busy!!

Recently returned from a Spring Break Trip to Maryland/DC.  First time we have been back to visit my hometown and my family in about 3 years.  3 years, for the record, is way too long!  We saw lots of people we love, spent a day sightseeing downtown, and even did some sewing (just what every vacation needs to make it absolutely perfect).  I will post more pics soon.  I think.  We’ll see.  It’s crazy around here, as always.

Here are some cherry blossoms:


Here is Hallie, taking a picture of some cherry blossoms:


And this is me, this morning, in my new blouse:

Photo on 5-2-14 at 8.35 AM #2

This afternoon, Justice has a music festival, Hallie leaves for a weekend of dance/acro-sports in Palm Springs, and Kaia is having a school chum over, so I have to hit the road, now.  So much to do!  Enjoy your day!!