Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for:
  • family and friends

  • my health

  • this last, precious little bit of summertime

  • my early birthday Depot date/cupcake party with Sash yesterday...thanks, Sash!

  • my birthday being lots to celebrate!

  • a sweet last-year student willing to come help me in my classroom today

  • the cleaning frenzy I've been on this past week...I feel so much better when things are neat and organized
  • little Willy V finally getting to leave the NICU and come home this week...what a blessing!

  • my new purple vacuum cleaner...sounds sad, but I really do love it

  • getting accepted to graduate school...ready to get started

  • fun plans Saturday...lunch with the fam, Kate visiting, Project Uplift date to the Eric Church concert...way excited!

  • the funny birthday card Laura mailed me...she knows I'm a weirdo and loves me anyway, because she's a weirdo, too
  • our last kickball game or lose (probably lose), we go to the playoffs next week...the fact that a team who may be sporting an 0-10 record can go to the playoffs makes me smile


    "If we had a bulletin board, we'd put your picture on it!"

    I did my weekly CVS/Publix shopping today, and encountered a character at CVS. I went up to the register determined to branch out into the multiple transactions arena. I told him my plan and he said, "Oooohhh, you're one of those!" As he rang up my stuff and then scanned my coupons/Extra Bucks, he got really excited and started calling out the new total. When he was done, he told me if they had a bulletin board, they'd put my picture on it. He seemed more excited than I was. He also mentioned that he'd only been there 3 months, but when he'd gotten in 6 months, he was going to bring his bulletin board idea up to his boss. I love meeting people with that much personality; he was a hoot!

    Total before coupons/EB: $48.29 Total after coupons/EB: $29.46

    (Sorry if this is mind-numbingly boring; I keep track of this as a record for myself.) Here's the breakdown: I perused the weekly ad to see what the deals were this week. Thankfully, some of the items I needed were EB deals or on sale. Then I dug through my coupons. I had coupons for Scott t.p. and Colgate toothbrushes (my fave kind, at that!) that were fixing to expire; luckily, those items were on sale this week. The sunscreen was an EB deal: buy 2, get $10 in EB. I use that sunscreen every day (I've made peace with the fact that I'm a white girl and can't tan...might as well use sunscreen so I'll have stellar skin when I'm old!) so I took advantage and bought 2.

    I went to the register armed with my coupons and $8 in old EB. My first transaction was just the sunscreen. I paid full price ($21.78), and tore off the $10 EB on my receipt. I paid for the rest of the stuff in the next transaction. I used my old $8 EB, my new $10 EB, and my coupons. I got 12 mega rolls of t.p., pore strips, 2 toothbrushes, and some girly items (that didn't quite make it into the picture) for $7.68! So exciting! And I earned $6.99 in EB from that transaction to use by the end of August.

    I made a trip to Publix next, and didn't do quite as well as expected. I still saved nearly $13, though. They just didn't have much on sale this week that I needed or had coupons for. I still have some things to figure out with Publix, though I still think I'm saving money versus when I was a Wal-Mart girl.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Up on the Ridge

    I bought this Monday and pretty much haven't stopped listening to it since. It's so very good. I'm a huge Dierks Bentley fan (even more so after I saw him play in Auburn four years ago), but when I heard he was making a bluegrass album, I was a little skeptical. A lot of his other songs are more country-rock, and I didn't know if he'd be believable on a bluegrass CD. Good ol' Dierks proved me wrong! He totally surpassed my expectations on this one. He's got some help from Allison Krauss, Miranda Lambert, Jamey Johnson (and some other folks I don't know), so that makes it even better. I'm impressed, but now his next CD has a lot to live up to!

    It may just be me, but I think there's so much great country music out right now. I'm loving it!

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    Teacher...and student

    In case teaching wasn't enough to keep me busy, I've decided to start working on my masters degree this year. This is something I've been wanting to do, and the longer I wait, the harder it's going to be to get it done. I found out over the weekend that I got accepted to the University of Montevallo's elementary education program, and I start on August 30th!

    I went to Montevallo today to meet my advisor and (despite being late, parking on the wrong side of campus, hoofing it from one end to the other in the midday sunshine, and arriving at her office sweating like a farm animal) I really enjoyed it. The campus is gorgeous and small and quiet. There were two other girls at the meeting, and I was glad to meet them. I'll be taking 6 hours this fall semester, and two of the classes are online. That should be interesting; online classes are new for me.

    I'm accepting any and all prayers and good thoughts that I can make it through the next two years without turning into a crazy lady! I'm off to relearn how to be a student...

    Thursday, July 22, 2010

    CVS + Julie = BFF

    I'm not usually a two-a-day poster, but I've got to write this down while I'm still excited. In my quest to save money and eliminate Wal-Mart from my life (two weeks and counting!), I've started shopping at CVS. It's taken some time to figure their system out, but I've finally had a breakthrough. I get it now! I mentioned here that I had accumulated $22 in Extra Bucks from some purchases last week. I went today to get some things I needed, use up some coupons, and earn some more EB. Here's what I bought today:
    Total before coupons, EB, and store deals: $39.21
    Total after coupons and EB: $15.36

    How fun! It's not a lot of stuff, but here's the breakdown. The Dial body wash was originally $4.88. They were marked down to $3.88 (plus $1 EB with purchase) and I had a $2 off coupon, so I got 2 of them. The Fiber One bars (way yum) were normally $4.99, but they were 2/$5, plus I had a coupon. If I bought $10 worth of Revlon makeup, I would earn $5 EB. I had a $2 off coupon for Revlon, so that worked out great. I needed new eyeliner and eyeshadow anyway! There were no special deals on the cotton balls, but I needed them and they were cheap.

    I'm proud of my little stash! The makeup alone would have been nearly $15 if I had paid for it "as is". I got to use up some coupons that were fixing to expire, and I have $10 EB to spend in the next month. Plus, I would buy this anyway, so I didn't have to buy junk just to use coupons/get EB. Not too shabby! Maybe I can do even better next time...

    Thankful Thursday

    Today I am thankful for:
    • my family and friends
    • my health
    • precious summertime, which is wrapping up much faster than I would prefer!
    • this ridiculously, unnecessarily hot weather, because it makes me appreciate fall so much more
    • the awesome bullying workshop I went to yesterday...can't WAIT to use what I learned!
    • my "school brain" kicking back into gear...not ready for summer to be over, but it's always fun to start planning for the next school year
    • the time I've spent cleaning, rearranging, and organizing my classroom...not a ton of fun up front, but I know I'll appreciate it later
    • the opportunity I had to meet some of my new students and parents at registration Monday
    • the money I've saved with coupons and Extra Care Bucks...should've been doing this a long time ago
    • my kickball game tonight
    • my birfday coming up next week...and it's a big one...always a fun time


    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    Thankful Thursday

    Today I am thankful for:
    • family and friends
    • getting to meet Baby Emerson this morning! She is precious and Nicole is going to be such a sweet mama to her.
    • the get-together the 5th grade teachers had on was fun to catch up and meet our sweet new coworker...we take COMPLETE credit for Emerson arriving 12 hours later :)
    • my health
    • fabulous summertime...winding down but there's still plenty of fun to be had!
    • getting our Eric Church tickets this week...can't wait to see him
    • the workshop I attended may be the most worthwhile one I've ever been to...can't wait to use what I've learned with my new kiddos
    • getting my class roll tomorrow...always love finding out who's going to make up our little "family" for the next 9 months
    • my kickball game tonight...I scored a run (a whole run!) last week, so we'll see if I can keep up my "streak"


    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Cold turkey

    I'm quitting Wal-Mart. I'm done. I've been a Wal-Mart shopper for the better part of a decade; the prices are low and you can find everything you need right there. I've shopped there for those reasons but have always disliked it. Case in point: I went over the weekend to pick up a few things. I needed help and couldn't find a soul to help me. One employee finally said she'd help and then never came back. I found her stocking shelves a few minutes later. I went to check out and the cashier never one time looked at me or spoke to me (sadly, typical). Just to irritate her, I cheerfully carried on a one-sided conversation...she didn't even notice. When I walked out to the parking lot, it hit more! I give them far too much of my money to receive such consistently terrible customer service.

    Publix now has my business. Publix is a little pricier than Wal-Mart; therefore, I'm now a coupon cutter. I bought a paper on Sunday and got busy. It blew my mind how much money I could have been saving on the things I normally buy. I just got back from Publix and I'm pretty pleased with how it went. The employees are 1,000 times nicer than the ones I often encounter at Wal-Mart and the store often has great Buy 1, Get 1 Free deals. Here's what I got today:

    Total out of pocket: $34.40
    Total savings w/coupons and store deals: $33.13

    I know there are people out there who do far better, but I didn't think this was too shabby for my first foray into couponing. It was exciting to know that this would have cost me $67.53, but it DIDN'T, all because I cut a few coupons and paid attention to the flyer. I'm sold!

    I'm also trying CVS. I went there today to sign up for my Extra Care Bucks card. I bought some things (that I normally use anyway) to build up my ECB, and now I have $22 in ECB to use within the next month.

    I still have a lot to figure out, but I'm excited about my new "game". Goodbye forever, Wal-Mart!

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    Yum yum eat 'em up

    This was a much-used phrase in our house growing up but for the life of me, I can't remember where it originated. Any thoughts?

    Anyhoo, I've been taking advantage of my vacation from work (glorious, by the way) to spend some time cooking. I love to cook and cook much, much more than I did when I first moved out on my own. The extent of my cooking expertise then was Tuna Helper, spaghetti, and the like. I haven't taken those out of the rotation, mind you, but I've branched out a bit. I still don't like washing dishes, but I'm accepting that as a necessary evil when cooking. Here are some things I've recently whipped up...

    Roasted Chickpeas
    1 can chickpeas
    olive oil
    garlic powder

    1. Drain chickpeas in a colander and rinse the bean sludge off.
    2. Mix in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and garlic powder (to taste...I like an awful lot of it). Toss to coat thoroughly.
    3. Dump in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes. Check one before you pull 'em out to make sure they're crunchy.
    *These are a great substitute for chips or salty, crunchy snacks. I think they'd be really good with other spices, too...lemon pepper, cajun seasoning, chili powder, any kind of Mrs. Dash...the possibilities are endless!*

    Key Lime Pie (from July's Southern Living)
    14 oz. can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
    3/4 c. egg substitute (Egg substitute inexplicably gives me the heebs, and I refuse to buy it. I subsituted 3/4 cup eggs, but next time I may just make it 3/4 cup egg yolks. Depends on my mood.)
    1/2 c. fresh Key lime juice (regular lime juice works fine)
    2 tsp. Key lime zest (zest those regular limes before you squeeze the heck out of them)
    1 ready-made graham cracker crust (I used a Nilla wafer crust and it was phenomenal)
    1 8 oz. container fat-free whipped topping (I forgot to buy this, but it tasted great without it)

    1. Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together first 4 ingredients until well blended. Pour mixture into pie crust; place on baking sheet.
    2. Bake for about 15 minutes or until pie is set. Remove from oven and place on wire rack; let cool completely (about 1 hour).
    3. Chill in fridge 3-24 hours. Top with whipped topping just before serving (unless you're me, and your Cool Whip is still in the freezer case at the store).

    Corn-and-Okra Maque Choux (also from July's Southern Living)
    *I will absolutely be making this again. So, so good! FYI-Use a big skillet because everything is going in there.*

    1/4 lb. spicy smoked sausage, diced (I used Conecuh Spicy & Hot sausage...way tasty)
    1/2 c. chopped sweet onion
    1/2 c. chopped green bell pepper
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    3 c. fresh corn kernels
    1 c. sliced fresh okra
    1 c. seeded and diced tomato
    salt and pepper to taste

    1. Cook sausage over medium-high heat 3 minutes or until browned.
    2. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic; cook for 5 minutes. Don't cook the veggies to a mush...they still have 10 more minutes of cook time!
    3. Add corn, okra, and tomato. Cook 10 minutes, stirring often.
    4. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
    5. Remind yourself that you're an adult with some self-control and don't need to eat the entire pan in one sitting.

    Fresh Corn and Avocado Salsa (Pioneer Woman's recipe)
    *This was so incredibly delicious. Quite honestly, though, it didn't age very well. I think it would work better when you're making it for a crowd and it will all be eaten within a day of making it. After about 2 days, the avocado and the cilantro start to get kinda weird. I think my avocados were way too ripe to begin with. Just sharing what I learned...make it and then get lots of help to eat it up fast!

    4 ears sweet corn (use more if yours are small)
    2 whole very firm avocados, diced
    1/2 red onion, diced
    1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
    juice of 1 lime
    lots of chopped cilantro
    salt to taste
    1 tbsp. vinegar
    1 tsp. sugar (PW says optional...I think it's necessary...balances out the vinegar and brings out the taste of the lime juice)

    1. Slice kernels off corn cobs.
    2. Combine with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until cold.
    3. Serve with tortilla chips, in tacos, or on top of baked chicken (my choice...yum).

    Thursday, July 8, 2010

    Thankful Thursday

    Today I am thankful for:
    • my family and friends
    • my health
    • Mom's surgery being a success and OVER, and that I'm able to go hang out with her today
    • glorious summertime...really, really love it
    • the lessons in selflessness God is teaching me lately
    • getting to see Kira and little Elizabeth yesterday...Elizabeth is gorgeous and Kira makes being a mama look proud of her
    • the blackberries and peaches I got at Durbin Farms yesterday...can one live on nothing but blackberries? We'll soon find out!
    • the news that some of the folks involved in that balcony collapse are doing better...and (selfishly) that I wasn't here when it happened, since I can see that balcony and would have had to do SOMETHING...don't know what I would have done
    • my kickball game tonight...oh heavens, it's dress up to follow
    • the power yoga class I've makes me use muscles I didn't even know I had
    • hearing "My Heart Will Go On" on the radio all came rushing back to me...12 years old, seeing the movie 4 times, positively swooning over Leonardo DiCaprio, having serious discussions with my friends about how ashamed Rose should've been for not scooting over so Jack could get out of the water, listening to the "Top 8 at 8:00" every night on 94.1 just to hear this song, pointer finger hovering over my tape player/radio with cassette tape in place so that I could hit "record" as soon as the song came on...this also reminded me of how eerily similar mine and Celine's vocal abilities are (ha) was a beautiful, happy moment in my day
    • not having to move classrooms this year...first time since 2007...makes a big difference in the enjoyment (and the length!) of your summer


    Friday, July 2, 2010

    America, you're pretty awesome.

    The Fourth of July is one of my top 3 favorite holidays. I love every single little thing about it. My beloved Pioneer Woman has been holding a photo contest this week, and the theme is "Americana". It's been fun to see the new pictures every day; there are some ridiculously talented people in this world! Check the pictures out here. While you're at it, browse through these. They're from Memorial Day but fit in great with Independence Day right around the corner. We are so blessed to live in this fabulous nation! Yay America!

    Thursday, July 1, 2010

    Thankful Thursday

    BLEH! That's what I have to say about this morning. I went to have one thing done to my car, only to find out (2 hours later) that it couldn't be fixed because there's something else wrong. This "something else" requires parts that apparently don't exist in this hemisphere and are going to cost many dollars. I was feeling so foul that I almost nixed my Thankful Thursday post today so that I could wallow in my grumpiness. Then I reminded myself that according to statistics, as an employed US citizen, I'm wealthier than like 50 kajillion people on the planet or something like that. I should be thankful that I even have a car to cause me headaches. I decided that this is exactly why I have Thankful Thursdays...I want to be thankful at ALL times, even when things aren't going to suit me. So, here she is.

    Today I am thankful for:

    • family and friends, especially the opportunity I had this week to hang out with my mama...she's not half bad :)
    • sweet, beautiful summertime
    • the super-tasty, cute-as-a-button baby watermelon I bought this has been most delicious
    • the fact that I have a job at a great school to return to in August
    • the news that Kate, Kira, and Laura are all gainfully employed :)
    • the beginning of my birthday month (aka, the best month of the year...just so you know)
    • getting to re-hear the story of Willie and Wanda on Rick and Bubba's "Best Of" show this morning...if you've never heard it, you need to find a way to do so'll make you proud (or ashamed, depending on your sense of humor!) to live in AL
    • my car...darling, paid-off Mitzy, who still gets me where I need to go even though she's beginning to show her age...hang in there with me a little while longer, girlfriend!
    • the fact that I do have plenty of free time to take care of all this car would be much more stressful during the school year (Thanks for this, Mom. You're always right!)
    • getting my end of things taken care of as far as grad school is I'm just waiting on everybody else to do their job...that makes me a little nervous but I'm just going to let it go and pray that it all works out the way it's supposed to!
    • my kickball team...we may not have many actual victories (a sweet way of saying we haven't won a single game) but we have more fun than we know what to do with
    • finishing this post so that I can go sew...I'm excited about my new fabric and some new ideas to try out...doesn't take much to make this girl happy