Small Signs Point to Spring

Vintage-Winter-Birds-Image-GraphicsFairy-1024x392In our northern location, one of the few birds that sticks around are cardinals.  In the past week, despite the 10 degree F temperatures, I have heard Mr. Cardinal singing.  I think he was singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”  Works on the ladies every time!

The other sign of spring was I caught Mr. Saver looking out of the sunroom window at his raised garden beds, with thoughts of “doing something different” out there this year.

We decided that when we work through our budget this Saturday night we will take a good look about whether our finances are ready for spring as well.

Areas where our budget is ready for spring, and beyond:

  • We have summer vacation expenses covered
  • We have kid’s summer activities and camps covered

Areas that need attention soon:

  • We have a wedding to attend and need to set aside some gift money for that
  • We have no money set aside for gardening, and it is always more than we expect
  • We have no money set aside for Mom/Daughter summer fun.  This is to cover things like going to a local summer festival, American Girl sales, rummages, lunch out, taking a friend to the movies.
  • May need to revisit the clothing budgets and see if they are ready for spring

Vintage-Daffodil-Picture-GraphicsFairy-543x1024It has been so cold this week that we have barely spent any money from our weekly budget other than buying fruits and veggies, and a few gallons of gas until I got too cold waiting for the tank to fill!  We will re-route our weekly money towards some of these happy spring expenses.

Ordering Summer, Hold the Big Vacation

Morton Arboretum. Looks like England, Not Chicago Suburbs.

Morton Arboretum. Looks like England, Not Chicago Suburbs.

In January we begin thinking about summer vacation plans. We add money to our vacation fund every week, year round when we come in under budget with our weekly expenses. We try to hone in on our plan in January to make sure we have money to pay in full for our fun. (Bring home memories, not debt!)

This year we tossed around a number of ideas… Another train trip out west, or a trip to Montreal? Rent a summer lake house? We felt like we needed to come up with some sort of “legitimate” vacation, but we weren’t really feeling any of the ideas. They all sounded like work for mom and dad!

We came up with some driveable regional options that would give my husband lots of long summer weekends, good food, no travel stress, and time together doing new things. Two-thirds of us are excited to be going to the Madison Children’s Museum American Girl doll benefit sale this summer, but we hooked my husband in with snazzy accommodations and hiking at Devils Lake State Park. Minimal planning, packing and stress, and something for everyone to enjoy.

We have saved up enough to fund our summer plans, and plan to keep on saving so that next year we can contemplate a bigger trip if we are up for it. We would love to get to England in the next few years, but right now that level of planning seems daunting, and the cost to travel as a family seems like a lot of money for a week or two.  That doesn’t mean we won’t ever do it, but if we can build up a nice vacation fund, it may not seem so painful!

Happy Valentine’s Day

AG Valetine

Happy Valentine’s Day from all the girls decked out in pink at our house today!

It’s brutally cold out today, so we are enjoying a night of sushi at home and maybe a little “Top Chef” finale off the DVR.

American Girl fans, note that the preview for the movie “Grace Stirs It Up” will premiere Tuesday, Feb 17 during the show Master Chef Junior on Fox.

Menu Plan Monday Feb 2/15

IMG_3759_fotorLast week’s menu, which I never posted, was inventive and included new recipes like Mediterranean cod. This week I am hitting everyone’s old favorites.

Monday Husband is off, so we will go out or take-out

Tuesday Fajitas… Hoping avocados are still .99 from Superbowl sales

Wednesday Mushroom barley soup, which starts from a dried mix which I have never used before.

Thursday Breakfast for dinner – a favorite here

Friday Tacos, husband’s favorite

For more menu inspirations, visit orgjunkie.com 💗

Goodbye to What You Thought I Could Use…

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Hi friends…

I’ve been hard at work the past weeks using the bits of time before I go to work to declutter small areas.  One thing that has been bothering me about clutter is that is steals my mental energy.  Clutter, in my life, is items that a decision should be made about but that I have not taken action on.  Clutter might be a t-shirt that fits funny or shrunk, but I barely wore it!  Or maybe if I keep it another year it will fit my daughter…  Meanwhile, every time I get dressed it is there saying “You bought me are you EVER going to wear me?”

Gifts are also an area that can become clutter.  If the gift is something I haven’t really enjoyed, it just waits there for me to enjoy it to the level the giver intended.  One recent influence on me is the book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo.  In the book she encourages us by saying the power of a gift is in the action of giving, not the item itself.  “Presents are not things but a means for conveying someone’s feelings,” she writes.  No one  would want the gift they gave you to make you feel guilty or unhappy for decades!

One item that I came across is the massive COMPLETE book of Shakespeare’s works, given to me by a friend who went to teach in Japan 25 YEARS AGO!  It has been sitting in my laundry room for years.  I often thought it might be “worth something” until I looked on abebooks.com and alibris.com and found them selling for $6.00 – 12.00!  I am grateful my friend thought I was the kind of scholar that would crack open a 2,300 page book, but I decided to donate it to my local library’s “Friends of the Library” book sale.  The library gives me so much joy in my life and I hope they can use the money from the sale of the book to make the library a joyful part of someone else’s life.

For more on Marie Kendo see this article.

Menu Plan Monday Jan 19/15

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Monday – YOYO You’re on your own with football playoff game leftovers

Tuesday – Eggs, smoked salmon & bagels

Wednesday – Spaghetti and meatballs

Thursday – Best and easiest black bean soup with biscuits

Black bean soup - Dinner at home

Black bean soup – Dinner at home

Friday – Having some kids over for a skating party, pizza.

For more menu inspirations, check out orgjunkie.com!

American Girl Outlet, Oshkosh

American Girl Outlet Oshkohs My fellow budgeting, decluttering, and meal-planning friends, cast your eyes away while I take a moment to talk to American Girl doll bloggers about the American Girl Outlet Store, located in Oshkosh, WI near the Experimental Aircraft Museum.  When you consider the Wilmot Warehouse Sale, the Madison Children’s Museum doll sale, and the Oshkosh outlet store, Wisconsin is quite the location for AG deal-seekers to make a pilgrimmage. There are some deals to be had for sure, and other items at the Outlet are not priced far off the catalog.

These prices are nothing to get excited about

Some prices are nothing to get excited about

There were many huge boxes with Julie’s VW car, at the still-astonishing price of $ 350.  At the Wilmot Warehouse sale this same item was $ 175.00. American Girl Julie VW In fact, there were many Julie items, but none priced to move quickly.  noexif_IMG_5258_private

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The best deal is the American Girl books, all generally 50% off sticker price.  This includes the illustrated historical fiction before they switched to the BeForever books, and activity and quiz books.

Two things got our attention recently. Saige’s welcome t-shirt, $ 2.50.  A nice price!  I also saw Saige’s wrap bracelet for girls which I believe was around $6.00. American Girl SaigeAnother find was Addy’s birthday dress, retired in 2013.  The boxes contained all items originally sold with the outfit, including the pointelle stockings and a brown and cream snood.  Price was $ 14.00.  The sewing detail on this blouse and dress blows me away.  This item came home with us, paid for out of my personal fun money of course!Addy Birthday

The sleeves are to die for!

The sleeves are to die for!

There were definitely a few Ebay folks there–some items at the Outlet do have limits on how many can be purchased.  I can see how this can be an income stream, but that is too much risk for my  taste.

Other items include Bitty Baby clothing, AG clothing for girls, (including Saige’s sweater and a number of BeForever clothing for girls’ items), and clothing for retired Cecile and Marie-Grace.

There are no dolls, of course.  The only place to buy those on discount is the Madison Children’s Museum sale.

If you are in the area, it is worth a stop to be sure.  Personally, I think only the Wilmot Warehouse sale has prices to warrant a road trip.

Stop over at our AG Doll blog “The Dolls Between Us”!