Monday, December 31, 2012

See ya 2012 - Hello 2013!

I'm not one to be thankful for the last year being over. Really, it's just another day? Typically I even work on New Year's Eve because otherwise I'll just be in bed around the Midnight time. This year I'm working the 10-8 shift so I'll be home to ring in the new year. What will I probably do? Fall asleep on the couch :)

Well maybe we'll set off some fireworks. My mom and step-dad picked some up in Wyoming this summer and since we can't just set off fireworks whenever we want to, we kept them hidden and maybe we'll so them tonight. Depends on how cold it is.

So I usually don't make "New Years Resolutions." Instead I make "goals" to accomplish. And looking back through my files, I didn't do one for 2012. Granted, I was pregnant and that eliminates all "lose weight" goals and we were saving for maternity leave so there goes the "get out of debt goals.

So now I present my 5 simple 2014 goals....

Goals for 2013

1. Organize our house from top to bottom - We've been in this house for 7 years. I have boxes of stuff from moving in that I haven't even touched. I want to purge stuff we don't use and organize the stuff we do use. I want to de-clutter our lives and live more simply. I'm also participating in this...

Ask Anna

Winning prizes would be cool, but the areas she's starting with are some things that I really need to focus on. So I'll be updating with before/after shots on the blog to show you the areas I'm cleaning. This week it's an office area and where I don't have an office, I do have a corner in the basement with my filing cabinet and office supplies. That's getting gutted and redone. Old bills getting shredded, stuff put into better boxes, etc. I also have a box of CDs that I need to go through and purge. Seriously, do people buy CDs anymore? I have a few that I'll keep but most I'm going to sell to Hastings for credit. Then we can get the girls some books (hello next Christmas's "Something to Read" gift!!)

Bur I figure I can go through our entire house in a year. That should be plenty of time, right?

2. Focus on our Debt Snowball and staying on track financially. We will pay off my car this year. That's based on minimum car payments alone! But we have some extra money from this December and we've been sticking to our budget really well the last few months, which usually means we have some extra money at the end of the month. It also means no vacations, no movies, no eating out, etc. But you know what, in a few years we're going to not owe anyone any money. That will feel GREAT!  We're waiting to see what happens with our taxes before using that extra money on the car. We have this bad habit of owing taxes. Last two years we didn't but the 3-4 years before that we did. Ugh. It's frustrating. So we'll see. 

So this year we'll pay off my car and then I'd like to pay off all the hospital bills for Bethany too. Paying minimum on that would take us 2 years. Once the car is paid off, we'll snowball the debt onto the hospital bills which will be an extra payment and a half every month. 

If we can pay that off this year too (which could happen depends on tax returns and our willingness to stick to a budget) then the next debt is our line of credit. This is totally our "stupid tax". We opened a line of credit through Wells Fargo about 4 years ago. We wanted to finish our yard and we needed to install a sprinkler system and seed. If we would have just saved money for a year we probably could have done it with cash the next summer, but we were impatient. So we opened this line of credit because we didn't have enough equity for a Home Equity Loan (and I'm so thankful we didn't do that). The positive thing about that was we moved a balance from a credit card with a 25% interest rate to the line of credit at 15% interest. So in the long run we'll save some money but still....hind sight is 20/20, right? This is the debt with the highest interest rate so some say we should work on paying it off first, but I'd rather snowball the other payments onto it when we get there. And we will.

3. SWAGBUCKS! I proved to my husband this past Christmas that I can do a lot with Swagbucks. And with MyPoints and ExpoTV. I ended up with about $250 in Amazon giftcards because of online marketing/rewards that I do. My goal is to double that this year and completely pay for Christmas next year (we used about $100 in cash for clothes) and be able to get each other gifts too. I'm going to try and max out my rewards each month. Yes it does take time, but I think it's worth it. And I wasn't freaking out in December because we suddenly had to pay for Christmas (after having to pay for 2 birthdays for kid #1 & #2). But really, most of those gift cards were earned from August until the end of the year, so I think that's possible.

Kind of going back to #2, we're also being smart with our budget this year and taking out money each month to pay for our vehicle registrations. We were smart (ahem, no) and purchased cars in November & December so now their plate registration is due then. So by setting aside a little extra money each month for those, we won't be hating life in December.

4. Lose 40 lbs. Bethany is 5 months old. I can't keep using a new baby as an excuse for still having the baby weight. I can use the fact that I'm nursing as an excuse, but not that good of one. I need to make better food choices and we need to stick to our meal planning each month. We usually do pretty good. My problem is the gelato at work (cause it's sooooo good) and my other meals at work (usually fried, greasy foods). And late at night. I need to stop eating after 8:00. No matter what. We'll see how this goes.

5. Ok I know I had a #5 when I started this post earlier, but now it's 10:44 at night and I've had a helluva day and I'm ready for bed. So maybe I'll think of it later.

Other things I'll do this year:
Potty train Mercy
Nurse BB until she's 1 year old. Almost half way there!!
Do a cross-stitch for BB's birth (ya I know it was last year)
NOT have another baby.

Wish me luck!!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours. 

I love this photo of Grace. She's so grown up!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Impala

Purchased 2008
Refinanced 2009 so we could buy a truck. d'oh.

Payments left : 9!!!
Payments I'm making in January: 1 monthly + 4 additional!

Therefore we should have the Impala paid off before June of 2013! And since January is a 5 week pay period for Mike, there should be about an extra payment or 2 in January if we stick to our budget. We do have dentist appointments and I need contacts badly, so we'll see. But we'll own my car in less than 6 months.

Debt Snowball update:
Since starting our snowball in February 2011 we have paid off $14,000 in debt. DAMN! It was actually closer to $17k, but we did have a baby in there and we didn't budget for that baby cause we had to save for my unpaid maternity leave. But I'd do that all over again in a heartbeat. If we follow this course of action, we should be completely out of debt (other than the house) in about 2 years. I think if we actually stick to our budget (and don't add any more children for a bit), we can make that closer to a year and a half. Feels great!

Baby Jupiter

Baby B!

Bethany is adorable right? Which just makes her gas even cuter. Ha ha. She is the gassiest baby yet. So Mike's taken to calling her Jupiter since she's a giant ball of gas. She's really only about 12 lbs or so and at 4.5 months old that's like 17th percentile so I guess she's not giant per se, but you get the point. The best part is, she laughs and smiles when she's letting em rip. What a silly baby.

P.S. She's also rolling over and teething. Hooray for the rolling over. Boo on the teething. I'm still nursing so that teething thing sucks. Trust me.

The Hunger Games

I love to read. And I appreciate good literature. And I have 3 kids and work 50 hours a week so my reading time is very limited. Usually I like a good horror novel, or a mystery. Or some fantasy. One of my favorite authors is Stephen King. I'm not sure why I didn't know about The Hunger Games until all three books were out and the movie was almost here. I didn't even know the story line behind the books. So I finally read them all and here's what I think.

Yes, it was a good book. But have you read The Lottery by Shirley Jackson or The Running Man by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King)? The entire time I was reading The Hunger Games, these two books were playing themselves out in my head. I even got a little Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card in it. I asked people if they had read any of those books and barely anyone had. But everyone couldn't stop raving about The Hunger Games. I'll repeat it, it IS a good book. I was hooked and wanted to see how it ended.

Then I heard about the movie.

I thought a lot about the movie and whether or not I wanted to see it. I read some blogs, participated in some online forums and talked to friends.

In the end, I decided not to watch it. Here's my logic. Granted, most films made from movies suck. Set aside The Lord of the Rings trilogy... (which leads me off topic to THIS idiot. Seriously people, think before writing!) Anyway...back on topic. The Lord of the Rings was beautifully made into 3 movies that (other than the ended of the 3rd) captured audiences and really made it feel like you were in Middle Earth without straying from the book too much. But other movies made from books lack many of the small important details that make the books worth reading.

I don't decide not to watch a movie because it was one a book. But I couldn't bring myself to watch it based on this reason a lot. In the novel, the reader loathes The Capital because they are oppressive, evil and corrupt. They force people to live in poverty so they can have lush parties and comfortable lifestyles. And to top it off, to remind people why they are in poverty, they hold The Hunger Games where they pit children against each other for sport. For their own entertainment. And they all watch it on screen so everyone can see children killing each other.

So how are we any better than The Capital when we go to a movie where children are killing children on screen for our own entertainment. Isn't that exactly what we hate in the books? So I will never watch The Hunger Games. I enjoyed the novel, it does have a good underlying theme, but I don't have to watch children killing each other to be entertained.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I married the right man...

Today we took a different way home from church. As we were going along one of the back roads, we both noticed a girl in a Jeep broken down at a stop sign. And both of us of said "we need to help her" at about the same time. Mike flipped around and pulled over and got out to see what he could do to help. I watched all this from the car...

Mike is talking to the girl (about 20 yrs old) and 2 other cars pull up followed by a police car. Of course in Cache Valley, there's a cop driving by since they're everywhere. I see him talk to the cop and a guy from one of the other cars who had gotten out to help. Then they pushed the Jeep through the intersection and off to the side of the road. Then the cop left. Other random guy gets behind the wheel of the Jeep and Mike starts pushing the Jeep up the road (and I mean up cause it was on a hill). They're going to "pop the clutch". They get the vehicle running and send the girl on her way. Mike comes back to the car and we head home.

The thing that makes this awesome: girl's car had died and so had her cell so she was stuck in an intersection and scared. Mike said she was close to tears. When cop pulled up, Mike asked if he know how to pop the clutch and the cop said no and just to get the car out of the road. Then left saying "You guys got this". Nice.
Other guy that stopped to help said cop was tailing him and probably was going to pull him over so helping out this girl got him out of a ticket (probably for a license plate light or something) and he got to do a good deed for the day. But as I watched my husband help this girl I realized a few things.

1). I love Mike with my entire heart.
2). He's a protector and I feel so safe with him. I know that he's always going to be there for me and I know that he'll help someone else if they're in trouble.
3) My kids have an amazing father and he's teaching them how to be great human beings. I'm so blessed for that.

I married the right man. He's my best friend, my companion, my partner in life and I can't imagine living this crazy life that we live without him.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Stella Artois! That fancy beer!

I was chatting up with the cashier at Smith's Marketplace a few weeks ago when I was purchasing stuff for the Private Selections BzzCampaign. He was interest in Bzz Agent and asked if we ever had beer campaigns.  I laughed and was like "Dude, we're in Utah... no free booze." And then to my surprise I was accepted into the Stella Artois BzzCampaign later that week! Crazy!! No free beer of course but I did get this awesome chalice to drink the beer out of. And a pamphlet about the 9 step pouring ritual. I had this whole post written up so you could better understand Utah liquor laws and you can go check it out here. No need to weigh down this review with all that stuff. So onto my review...

An important thing you should know: I hate beer. I mean, I hate-HATE it. I have tried it many times and many times I think it just tastes like beer. And I don't like it. I wish I did cause it's cheaper than the distilled spirits, but oh well. And I work for a micro-brewery so I need to know about beer. I can tell you the difference between ales and lagers. I can tell you how it's made and I can describe it fairly well, but I'm not going to lie. It really tastes bad to me. So when I got into this campaign, I knew the perfect person to review this brew: my husband. He like-LIKEs beer, so it was a match made in heaven.

Now for authenticity's sake, I did try it. And it tastes like beer. But I could tell that it was hoppy and I knew it was a lager (meaning it's a bottom fermenting beer that is brewed at colder temps for a longer time, like 3-4 weeks). And I knew it was Belgian. And I knew that everyone mispronounces the name (not the Stella part). It's Are-twaa. I didn't know that it was initially brewed as a seasonal beer or that there's a 9 step pouring ritual to enjoy this beer. Let me take you through it!

After our chalice arrived in the mail (and you need a chalice to drink this beer so you can better appreciate the odors and taste of the beer that in enhanced by the shape and style of the chalice) I needed to head to the liquor store for some beer. So with infant in arms (classy, I know) I headed over to pick up a 6 pack. Our liquor store lets you buy individual bottles, but since my hubby likes some beer, I picked up a 6 pack. Each bottle was $1.99 and then there's tax on top. The GM was my cashier and I told her about how excited I was to get a chalice in the mail from BzzAgent. She knows my husband and is anxious to hear what he thinks about it.

Got home and took some photos so show you what Stella looks like incase you have never heard of it.

Right next to our chilled chalice. Notice the stem of the glass. That makes it so your hands don't warm the beer. Pretty smart. So on to this 9-step poring ritual. I think it works better if you were pouring it from a draft system but in Utah you can't have high point beer on tap so bottles it is!

1. First things first - make sure it's chilled. Should be between 36 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit. No one wants a warm beer. 

2. The Purification - make sure that class is clean, clean, clean! Wanna know how to tell if your glass isn't clean? The bubbles will cling to the sides of the glass after you have poured it. No bubbles? Clean glass.

Here's me pouring water of the freshly cleaned glass

3. The Unveiling - opening that bottle of beer. Hearing the "cshh" as the gas escapes.

4. The Alchemy Begins - pouring a beer is a science. You can't just pour straight into the glass or you'll produce too much foam. You can't pour too slow or too fast. Truthfully, it's easier for me to pour from a tap. It took us 3 beers to get a head on the beer. My husband didn't complain about that :)

They key is holding the glass at a 45 degree angle and then tilting it straight up as you near the end of the pour to create the head of the beer.

5. The Crown - not a bad pour if I say so myself. Creating the head of the beer helps release the different flavors of the beer.

6. The Beheading - Time to get rid of that unsightly glob of foam at the top of the beer. What better thing to use than a knife :)

7. The Judgement - Making sure there's the right amount of head. Ideal is about an inch. I got this a little large, but it's close enough. 

8. The Cleansing - You should rinse the bottle of the glass so people aren't holding onto a beer covered glass. I didn't get a pic of this, but I did it :)

9. The Bestowal - Presenting the Stella in all it's glory.

There's my small pictorial guide to the proper way to pour a Stella Artois. Will we do it again with those steps? Probably not. And my husband's review of the glass? He liked that using the stem to hold the beer made it so his beer didn't lose the chill as quickly, but he didn't really notice a difference in taste. I think he really just wants me to get another 6 pack so he can try again :)

If you check out this site you can watch Stella's video for their pouring ritual. They're pouring it from a draft system, which makes some of these steps a lot easier. You can also get your own glass! Then (if you don't live in Utah) the next time you head out to a bar, ask them to pour you a Stella the right way....and in the right glass!

I'm a BzzAgent!
While I didn't get the beer free,
 I did get the glass free for me to try and review.

Buying Beer in good ol' Utah

I did the math today and I've been in Utah for over 15 years now. Ugh. And now that means I have to claim it at my home cause I've lived here longer than I've lived anywhere else. Utah is one of those states that people don't know much about. Sure, we have Mormons and mountains and snow. And we have some awesome liquor laws. Ok we probably don't have the worst liquor laws but we have some doozies. One of those laws says that any beer that is over 3.2% alcohol by weight must be sold at a state run liquor store. Another law says no free alcohol, so when I saw that BzzAgent was doing a campaign for Stella Artois and I was invited, I was shocked! I didn't get free beer (illegal in Utah, remember) but instead I got a nifty chalice to drink Stella in. I'm going to talk about that in another post.  I want to do a little background on Utah alcohol laws and "Utah Beer" before I get there.

People think our beer is really, really watered down. I just want to say, it's not. Practically everywhere else in the USA measures the amount of alcohol in their beer by volume. Utah decided to be different and measure our beer by weight. So let's go back to high school math so I can tell you have 3.2% abw (alcohol by weight) beer = 4% abv (alcohol by volume). Why we measure it this way, I don't know. But people come to Utah thinking that our beer is weak. If you take a Budweiser in Utah and compare it to a Budweiser from where else (like Idaho cause we're like 20 minutes away from there) it's a 1% difference. Bud up there is 5% abv. So 12 oz of Idaho beer = 14 oz of Utah beer. Not that big of a deal, right? Try explaining that to people, ha ha!

Anyway, there is a point to this rant. Because Stella Artois has an alcohol content of 5.2% abv you can't walk into your neighborhood grocery store or convenience store and pick one up. They can only be purchased at a state run liquor store. The downside to that is the Liquor Store, as we affectionately call it, is only open Monday thru Saturday from 11 am to 10 pm. Closed Sundays. Closed holidays. So you need to plan in advance for this! And their beer is never, ever on sale. Other beers that we can only get at the liquor store: Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Mickeys, Pacifico, New Castle and all "flavored malt beverages" like Mike's Hard Lemonade.

Ok, ok I'm a little obsessive with this, right? Well I do teach a class required by every server or bartender in Utah who serves alcohol. And one of the biggest things I talk about is abv vs. abw beer. I defend our beer a lot because it does have more alcohol in it than people think. And I love to argue with people about Bud Light because it's the same everywhere (4.2% abv).

So I have this post, mostly because in my review of Stella I'm going to link back to this post instead of including it in my review. There is an upside to our liquor laws. Call me crazy, I know. But our deaths related to alcohol motor vehicle incidents have gone down a lot. And really, isn't that the point of laws prohibiting or limiting the amount of alcohol people can consume? To keep them safe? No one is saying you can't get trashed at home, but if you go out and drink in a restaurant or a bar, you cannot get drunk. Sorry!