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Crisis Averted – We’re Going to Memphis!

January 29, 2010 • Paige

Wow, what a ride!

We took our Jeep in to a local auto repair shop for diagnosis of the grinding noise issuing forth from the rear end. Long story short, some bad “expert advice”, 2 days, and $350 later we were out of money to fix the truck, and the problem still remained!

After spending a few panicked days wondering how we’d recover from having wasted our truck-repair budget, and wondering if we would be able to go to the Junior Olympics at all, someone stepped in out of the blue and offered us some help that will make this trip possible again.

A good friend loaned us his car!
That’s right. A very nice late-model Solara.
Not only is the truck repair crisis solved, but we have a vehicle that will cut our gas budget in half!

How the heck do you pay -that- forward?

Categories: fencing, Junior Olympics
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Brown-bagging lunch – creativity is the key

January 27, 2010 • Paige

The company I work for has one monthly payday. The closer it gets to the end of the month, the more of my coworkers are bringing their lunch from home.  The problem is that most of them only do it when they’ve run out of money.  A few of us brown-bag it throughout the month, only buying lunch out once in a while so that we’re not running out of money before payday.

I cringe to hear someone say “I’m broke… I’ll just put it on my credit card!” as the group heads out to buy lunch. Skipping the outings to a restaurant and bringing lunch to work just twice a week will save $60 to $100 each month, not to mention a whole lot of credit card interest.

The trick is to enjoying lunch brought from home is to put some thought into it.  Make a wrap instead of a sandwich, or pack dried fruits and nuts on occasion.  It will also help if you invest in a good sturdy lunch pail to keep from smashing your food.  If your lunch is all bashed up, you’re not likely to eat it. 

Taking leftovers is an obvious choice – but give yourself a variety of choices.  Put your leftovers in the freerzer, so that you have a choice of what to take on any given day.  That is what works best for me. 

Connor’s fencing results

January 27, 2010 • Paige

I just found that I can look at all of Connor’s fencing results online. Neat!

Well, not ‘all’ – it doesn’t have the results of the Junior Olympic Championships, or the Summer Nationals, but it has all of the big Ark-La-Miss Division fencing tournaments in Shreveport and Bossier.

View Connor’s Results on

This is a quick summary:

Date Tournament Event Place Club
Dec 12, 2009 ARK-LA-MIS JO Qualifiers Cadet (U17)
Men’s Saber
1st of 14
Dec 12, 2009 ARK-LA-MIS JO Qualifiers Junior (U20)
Men’s Saber
5th of 19
Sep 26, 2009 Rose Condon Memorial – 2009 ROC Senior
Men’s Saber
15th of 30
May 2, 2009 2008-2009 A-L-M Division Qualifier Y14
Men’s Saber
2nd of 8
May 2, 2009 2008-2009 A-L-M Division Qualifier Cadet (U16)
Men’s Saber
1st of 8
Dec 6, 2008 ALM 2008-2009 JO Qualifier Cadet (U17)
Men’s Saber
7th of 16
Dec 6, 2008 ALM 2008-2009 JO Qualifier Junior (U20)
Men’s Saber
6th of 21
Dec 1, 2007 ALM 2007-2008 JO Qualifier Cadet (U17)
Men’s Saber
10th of 18
Dec 1, 2007 ALM 2007-2008 JO Qualifier Junior (U20)
Men’s Saber
23rd of 25
Categories: fencing
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Patch it, glue it, make it last.

January 21, 2010 • Paige

Small repairs help extend the life of the things we already have and keep household expenses down.  I have a stash of buttons to replace any that get lost, and I have sewn up tears in everything from shirts to purses, and bedding.   Replacing a broken zipper isn’t too difficult, especially if you have access to a sewing machine.

I get compliments about my jeans that have a denim heart sewn onto the back.  My coworkers probably don’t know it’s a patch over a hole. They think it’s cute.  For my son’s jeans, camouflage patches work better than denim, and obviously he’d want a different shape.

Repairing shoes is fairly easily, too.  My loafers had the bottom and top split apart, and I was able to glue them back together with ‘gorilla glue’ and get a few more months out of them.

Do what you can to treat stains on clothing  – to get rid of grease stains: Apply a small amount of liquid dish soap to the grease stain, and let sit for several hours before washing.  You may have to treat stains two or three times, but this really does work.

Categories: Being Frugal
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Track your spending

January 17, 2010 • Paige

If you are having trouble making ends meet, it helps a lot to know where your money is being spent so you can make good decisions about where to cut back. You might be surprised at what you learn about your spending habits.

There are a lot of ways to track spending, just use trial and error until you find what works for you.

The Notebook Method – Write down everything you buy.  You can use a check register or a notebook,  but if you forget to bring it with you, it doesn’t to a lot of good.

PDA or Cell Phone –  Keep eletronic notes about all of your purchases in your phone or PDA.  Everyone can remember to carry their cell phone even if they can’t remember to grab a notebook and a pen.

Keep Your Receipts – This is what my family does.  It was hard to remember at first, so we only kept gas and grocery receipts, but now we keep all receipts, no matter what.  A great way to keep receipts organized is with an accordion file with 12 pockets, one for each month of the year.  Just get a new accordion file at the beginning of a new year.

Spreadsheet -No matter how you are tracking purchases. a spreadsheet will help you see the bigger picture. Simply divide your receipts into categories at the end of a month, and add up the total of each category.  You will easily be able to see what groceries and gas cost you from month to month.  If you need more detail, you can dig into your receipts or your notebook to see what was purchased.

Once you get into the habit of tracking your spending, keep going with it. Having a good idea of what you are spending at all times is very helpful in setting a budget and sticking with it. You’ll be able to recognize really good sales by tracking your purchases, too.

Categories: Being Frugal
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How to Cook Brown Rice

January 14, 2010 • Paige

Brown rice goes well with practically anything, and it is cheap.  I like to make a double batch and keep some  in the fridge for making quick meals.  Learning to cook brown rice is easy.  You just need the patience to leave it alone and resist temptation to lift the lid and stir it.

Cooking Brown Rice

Pour 2 cups of water in a medium sauce pan, heat to boiling.  
Pour in 1 cup of brown rice, stir and cover with a lid.
Turn heat down to low, and set a timer for 45 minutes.

Do not lift the lid, not even once until 45 Minutes are up!

To keep the rice warm without clumping: Cover with a towel, and then with a lid tilted to allow some airflow.

Food Storage Note:  Because of the oils in the bran, brown rice does not work well for long term storage.  Use it up within 6 months!

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Fencing lesson with Andy Shaw

January 13, 2010 • Paige

Connor fences for Caddo Magnet High Fencing Team, Shreveport Louisiana

Practicing lunges with Andy Shaw

Categories: fencing
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Preparing for uncertain times

January 10, 2010 • Paige

If you lost your job, wouldn’t you want to have a supply of food on hand for your family while you find another job?   Gathering an extra supply of food can be done without straining your budget.

Try the “one to use and one to store” method of slowly building up your food supply.  Stock up during sales.

Start with basic foods: dry beans and white rice, but make sure you’re storing food you will actually eat.

Protect against spoilage: Write dates on your stored food and rotate them into your every-day supply.  Restock your stored food when things go on sale. 

Store non-food necessities like toilet paper, tooth paste, baby needs, sanitary needs, etc.

Have a supply of first aid items and any medications your family needs.

If you have a small home, store food under beds, behind couches, any unused closet space.

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Low-Fat Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies – made with beans

January 8, 2010 • Paige

These cookies are filling, and so yummy!
There is no “bean” taste, and no weird aftertaste, just delicious cookie goodness.

½ cup cooked white beans, pureed or smashed
1 cup light brown sugar
3 TB honey
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Beat pureed beans and sugar together. Add eggs, honey, and vanilla. In separate bowl sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Add flour mixture to the bean & sugar mixture, stir until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips, and pecans.

Cover and refrigerate dough for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Drop by rounded teaspoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes depending on size of cookies. Makes 4 dozen.

Recipe Credit: This recipe came from Crystal at Everyday Food Storage, with just a tiny modification.

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Buy in bulk: a little work saves a lot of money!

January 4, 2010 • Paige

You can save a lot of money if you buy meat in bulk, and then split it up into recipe sized portions. Then you only have to thaw out what you need for one meal at a time.

I love to use just a little bit of bacon in a lot of my dishes as a seasoning, but bacon is expensive! At first I was shaving a bit off of the end of a frozen package to use as seasoning, but then I found something better! Look in the cold case where the bacon is for a big box that says “ends and pieces” on it. Sometimes you can get ends and pieces from the butcher counter. When it isn’t on sale, it’s something like $5.00 for 3lbs of bacon. If I’m dicing it for a recipe, I don’t care what shape it started out to be!

I cut it open and untangle it all, then repackage in single-dish sized portions in resealable bags, roll them up and keep them in the freezer. I got 18 portions of bacon from one box so it may last me two months of good bacony cooking.

We do the same thing when we find good sales on chicken breast and repackage them into recipe sized portions in plastic bags. Ground beef is pretty easy to find in bulk packages and also pretty easy to split it up into recipe portions as well.

Categories: Being Frugal
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