Monday, December 29, 2008

Our Shopping Day...

Today Kelsey, Alex and I headed off to Harrisburg for a day of shopping. The girls' Christmas money ws burning holes in their pockets! Before we could go, I had to stop at the tax office and pay those end of year taxes. Ugh! Apparently, when I was inside, Kelsey found my new camera...

She drove us around town doing errands before we headed to the Interstate. We figured we needed drinks for the ride, so off to...where else? Dunkin Donuts! Kelsey loves to go through the Drive-Thru. She thinks it's the ultimate test of her driving skills.

So then we head to Harrisburg. First, Old Navy, Circuit City, Marshall's and Best Buy. Here's the girls browsing through the CD's at Best Buy:

Alex ended up getting Disco
and 80's CD's. Seriously, she
was born in the wrong era!

By this time, we decided we were getting quite hungry. We decided on Red Lobster for lunch. I'll admit it, bad choice! Our meal took over an hour and a half to make it to our table! Luckily, we got salads and biscuits with our meal, which we munched on until we were fed, but we were not happy campers at all! I guess it could've been worse, we could have been one of these guys:

Then it was off to the mall and Gabriel's. One thing I noticed. I must be getting old. While I was waiting for the girls to pick out some clothes in Hollister, I sat in one of the big comfy chairs cuz my feet were starting to ache. Then, instead of checking out the nice looking young guys working there, I took notice to the great lighting features, then the dusty shelves. I knew it was all over when I had a terrible urge to clean up the mess left by one of the workers!

After all was said and done, we got in our car and headed back north. As we were sitting in traffic, I had that eerie know the one...that someone was watching me! I slowly peered to my left and I found the root of the chills going down my spine...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Back to Penny Pinching...

So, Christmas is over and I managed to get through it without charging, that's not totally true, I do have a $38.00 bill coming from Boscov's. Tomorrow, the girls and I will head out to spend their Christmas money, so I'm hoping to grab lots of sale items!
As I've mentioned before, I love saving money and am a penny-pincher at heart. It's a real challenge to me to see how much I can save on any given item. So off to the grocery store I went today. I was looking for some things for lunches for the upcoming work week, of course pork for New Year's Day and some side dishes for New Year's Eve.
I first had
to clip all of
the coupons.
Then, I file all of them
according to category.
I have two separate
coupon accordian
files. One for food
and one for health and
beauty products.
If you want to cut your coupon-cutting time in half, I highly recommend you get one of these great little gadgets:
It's one of those little zippy wrapping paper cutters. Wow, does it get the job done! Anyway, have to say, sales this week were terrible! After all was said and done, I only saved a total of $25.99, which was about 30% of my bill. I usually average between 40 and 50 percent, so I was disappointed. But, that's $25.99 that's still in my pocket! I also have to keep in mind that when I'm done with some of the products, I can send in for rebates. For instance, I can get all or some of the total price of an item when I send proofs of purchase, such as my receipt and/or the UPC on the item. Some brands have their own "points system" where you collect symbols from the package and redeem them for something free. I just received a Charlie Brown DVD for buying some frozen vegetables. I have a separate file for refunds and their proofs of purchase:
I'm currently saving up for another DVD and a t-shirt from Kellogg's. I file the refund forms by the month that they're expiring, so I know when they're due. As you can see, I kinda have it down to a science. I have to admit that I've been slacking off a little because of the chaos of the holidays, but I'm going to dive right back in, starting today!

As a side note, did I mention that Santa gave me a new digital camera for Christmas? It is sooo awesome! Beware! I'll be a picture-taking fool once I figure out how to work the thing! I was able to take a picture of one of my favorite old Christmas decorations. It's a snowman tray that sits on our kitchen table. It's round and then the snowman figure stands up in the middle. I look forward to getting him out every year.

Isn't he wonderful?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!!!

Merry Christmas to all our friends and family!! We'd like to share our Christmas experience with you so far...

Last night, we all went to my mom's house and had a wonderful Christmas Eve together. It's our tradition to spend Christmas Eve there and we wouldn't change it for anything. My mom always comes up with great surprises and a new "theme" every year. Last year, we had a formal Christmas, we went dressed in formal attire, hair done, the works. This year, she told us to "come as we are". When we arrived, she provided one gift to each of us and told us they were our outfits for the evening. Inside the bags, we found pajamas! All the girls had matching jammies and Noel had flannel bottoms and comfy thermal top. Here's a pic of us girls in our jammies:

She supplied everything...right down to the socks...

Needless to say, we were all very comfortable indeed! Me, Kelsey and Alex had Santa socks while Mom had mistletoe socks. Apparently, they don't really make men's Christmas socks, so Noel was out of luck.

While dinner cooked (FABULOUS lasagna), we opened the rest of our gifts. Then we all helped prepare the salad, garlic bread and side dish of green beans with mushrooms and almonds.

After dinner, mom opened her gifts and we all relaxed until it was time to go home and wait for Santa...

This morning, Noel was the first one up. He put the coffee on and waited for the rest of us sleepy-heads to wake. He didn't have to wait for long.

Even though my girls are teenagers,
they still wanted to race down the steps
to open their gifts:

We had a breakfast that only kids can dream of:
donuts, cookies and pound cake, washed down
with ice cold milk.

We then all opened our presents (stockings first)
and enjoyed a great morning!

Here's some pics of the unwrapping:

Look...I got to open a
gift that Noel
wrapped with

And Alex received
one of her favorite
80's movies...
(She's such a retro
kinda girl...really!)

By the time afternoon rolled around, we dined on a lovely baked ham and some sides (Kelsey insists on ham on Christmas since she
doesn't like the turkey we have on Thanksgiving). The girls played with the new Wii, Noel fought with my new GPS system and I wrapped some last minute things. Kelsey went to spend some time with Alan's family and then we will all head to "the hill" to visit Noel's mom and sister's family.

I can't help but think how lucky we truly are. This Christmas has been very special for us all. We came together as a family to help a less-fortunate family this season . We also have some news...we were approved as foster parents last week! We will be taking foster kids in on a short-term basis and/or an emergency need. We are very happy about it and are looking forward to that experience.

I hope everyone elses holiday was even half as rewarding as ours has been. Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Meeting of The Minds on a Snowy Afternoon...

So today the weather was awful. We started with snow that ended in an icy, sleety, slushy muck. Needless to say, we weren't outside much. Allen came over to spend the day and he ended up teaching Kelsey how to play chess.

My mother ended up kidnapping Alex again for the weekend (it's their Christmas season ritual) and the rest of us stayed home, had a great antipasta for dinner and enjoyed some "down time".

Tomorrow, it's back to the madness of Christmas shopping! I have to double and triple check my list, but I'm sooo behind this year! Oh well, candy canes for everyone!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Our Sunday....

Today we were all quite busy doing "stuff". Kelsey worked from 7am to 3pm. I did laundry and the dreaded grocery shopping. Alex was at my mom's house since Friday and she returned this afternoon. Noel headed to the farm to get some work done since we're expecting bad weather most of the week.

Once we all came together this afternoon, the girls started working hard on cleaning their rooms (they're teenagers, you can only imagine what those rooms look like). I have been cooking up some dishes for the week (stuffed chicken breasts, taco soup and a broccoli/cauliflower salad so far). When Noel came home, he had a surprise for us. We have a new resident at the farm! Last year, we had a guy from the Pennsylvania Game Commission come out and create a nesting area for barn owls. Well, today Noel noticed something sitting in the cut-out area of the barn...lo and behold, an owl! Ok, so it appears to be a Great Horned Owl and not a Barn Owl, but so cool all the same! Here's the best pic he could get with the camera phone:

Isn't that totally awesome? I love to watch nature at work!

Oh, and then...after we all saw the pics of the owl, Noel made some of his famous macaroni and cheese. Should be done in about 5 minutes. Yum! Good Sunday!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Getting In The Spirit...

Today, we finally broke down and got out the Christmas decorations. Away went the autumn wreaths and ornamental corns and out came Santa and garland. I was dreading the process, but soon got into the spirit. We were going to get the tree today, but it was just to bitterly cold and windy to be outside, so we prettied up the inside. Here's a pic of Kelsey hanging the stockings...

And here's Allen waiting for her to be done hanging the stockings...

So, we will get the tree this week and decorate it during the evenings after work and school. I'm actually looking forward to it. Somehow, the Christmas bug went and bit me. Good thing too, I only have to shop yet for let's see....everyone!

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Have you ever just said. I really, really don't want to work in the same job anymore? I find myself saying that more and more often. The economy has aparently hit my employer, who happens to be a government agency, and my boss is currently attempting to cut the budget without layoffs. Beside the point. I have been doing the same commute for 19 years now. Although the faces have changed, in essence I have been working with the same people for the same amount of time. I have moved between buildings, but pretty much have spent the last 19 years looking at my desk area:

Don't get me wrong, I really like most of the people I come in contact with throughout the day. One of the guys I work with is quite the practical joker. One day I came to work only to find that my stapler got a case of the white-out chicken pox:

I get to meet new people daily, which is something that keeps the job from getting too routine. I just find myself feeling like I'm "stuck" and "in a rut". I can't help but think there has to be something out there that holds new challenges and lets me grow more, use my mind in a different way and start fulfilling myself in a whole new manner. I have devoted myself to helping others for the past 19 years and wouldn't mind devoting some time to me and my family. I still want to work, bring home some bacon, etc. I just want to do it in a different way. Seriously thinking about what will happen in the next year or two when I reach my 20 year milestone at my current job.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Concert!!!

Last night, Noel and I took my mom to see Alex's Christmas concert. She is in the chorus at school. It was very nice. The selection of songs was perfect and they all sounded wonderful. Here's a few pics:

The second one is of Alex and one of her good friends, Jordanm who is also in chorus. Well, I guess this makes it official. If the concerts are here...the season is here! Guess I better catch up and start my Christmas decorating!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Crime Watch...

Our town has finally done something proactive. They have established a Citizen's Crime Watch program. I got to speak at it tonight and walked away rejuvenated. These people have a real interest in keeping our town safe and it was so nice to see. I hope that the group grows as more become aware of its existence. Watch out bad guys.....there's a new Crime Watch in town!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

We're Back Up and Running!!!

Whew! Seems that we were given an anonymous gift for Thanksgiving...a computer virus! Noel battled the monster for almost three days on and off over the holiday break. It seems that all shreds of the bug are officially gone. We can finally start blogging again!

I really don't understand people sometimes. Why on earth would someone create something intentionally for the sole purpose of destroying the property and/or sanity of another? I just don't get it.

But, have no fear, my husband has bravely fought the enemy and came out victorious. And we also have backup in case it happens again...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Great Weekend!!

Wow, did I have a great, busy fun-filled weekend! Friday night, Rhonda, Maxine and I headed to the farm for girls' night. We pigged out on fattening dips and hoagies and enjoyed drinks while we watched movies by a roaring fireplace. It was soooo relaxing to watch an entire movie without ANY interruptions! No kids, no phone, nothing. Noel had stopped by the farm on the way home from work and made sure everything was clean, warm and toasty for us when we got there. He did a great job on the fire...look...

Here's a shot of Max...not sure what she's doing, but you can see her dang tonsils for goodness sakes!

And me, taking pics of myself
when I got bored...

Rhonda was the first to yawn, so she was labeled as the official old-lady-party-pooper:

We got up Saturday morning, and after a hearty breakfast of over-easy eggs and farm-style bacon, we headed home.

Saturday night, Noel and I went out to dinner (yum...spaghetti with shrimp and clam sauce) then headed to the Atlas Legion and met up with Rhonda, Nancy and Mike to see a friend play in his newly-formed band. We met some other friends there and enjoyed an evening of good music. The band did really well! Here's the only picture I got (with my camera phone) of our friend Sean. He's the drummer and lead singer.

Terrible picture, but the lighting looks pretty cool! The best entertainment of the whole weekend was watching redneck coal-region drunk people think they're sexy on the dance floor. No shame! Headed home after the band was done at about 1:00 a.m. I've come to realize that it's hard work having an active weekend social calendar! I'm definately a little slower today than normal and can't even think of putting my contacts in my face...age? Nah!!!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The First Snow!!!

We woke up today to a beautiful snow-covered land. It was a surprise snowfall for sure, especially when we got out of work yesterday and had to drive in the slippery mess, but you gotta love it! Even the coal banks are gorgeous when it snows :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Economy...

Today had me thinking pretty hard about how desperate our economy has become. Noel and I started packing our lunches for work in an effort to save some money and after work I went to a local surplus store to do some shopping. First off, I love surplus/thrift/consignment stores or any other place I think I can get a bargain. I would be there regardless of the state of the economy because I'm a penny pincher at heart. But, with everyone I speak to, penny pinching is becoming a need, not a choice.

Yesterday, as I drove home - 17 miles from my office to my home -I saw the following:

10 homes, 2 businesses, 1 car and 2 campers for sale. That is almost one big ticket item every mile! This stretch of road is really quite rural by normal standards and to have that amount of things for sale boggles my mind. I'm especially sad about the businesses and homes.

I'm thankful that gas prices are down ($2.18 per gallon here) and am hoping that the economy bounces back soon. In the mean time, all we can do is work a little harder to make those pennies squeek! We can pull our resources together and do everything we can to help those that were hit especially hard during this upcoming holiday season. By working together, we can all get through these tough times and become closer as human beings in the process.

Here's what we're doing:
Packing lunches, carpooling more, shopping for things we need (not want), using freecycle, gardening, canning, budget-friendly meals, donating to our local homeless shelter, re-using items for other purposes and we bought a thermostat on a timer. are YOU handling the poor economy?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wine and Cheese and Good Friends...

Last night I hosted my Alpine Lace® Cheese "Cosmos, Appetizers and A Movie" House Party through . What fun! There were about ten women and we sipped drinks, ate appetizers (made with Alpine Lace Cheese of course) and laughed our tails off! It really was a great, relaxing evening that was needed by all of us. Here's some pics:

I would definately have another party through! What a blast!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Bog of Every Day...

Do you ever get tired of all the little things taking over your life? Yes, we have full time jobs that we know take about 1/3 of our days, but there are days I feel so bogged down by every-day "stuff" that I get frustrated over the lack of time for fun things or relaxing things or even just nothing. Today for instance there were things like 1) drop off paperwork to the accountant 2) meet with the guidance counselor for both girls 3) arrange pick-up of new furniture for Noel's uncle 4) confirm doctor's appointment for tomorrow 5) pick up new blinds for the living room 6) pick up food items for Mom 7) make copies of medical records for Alex 8) get gas in the car 9) pick up items to bring home from the cottage 10) review receipts for the past few days 11) drop off magazines for waiting room at work 12) pick up paint for the woodwork - which I forgot to do despite the fact that I was in the dang store! 13) update calendar for upcoming week for all of us 14) go to the Courthouse to get paperwork needed to apply for new social security card...and I'm sure the list goes on.

Even though one or all of those things may only take a few minutes, added up they take a nice chunk out of my day AND my mind. Sometimes, it's like all I'm doing is preparing for the next day or the next week.

The only "quality time" I got today was dinner with my mom and her friend Melissa. My lunch with Noel was spent with two other people. Don't get me wrong, they are two people that I really like, but I didn't even get 5 minutes alone with my husband yet today. The children? I had a short conversation with Alex and haven't caught a glimpse of Kelsey since 7:00 this morning.

I guess what I'm saying's more important with each passing day to MAKE time for fun, for love, for family, for friends. Spend a few minutes every day reaching out to those around you. Stare into your spouse's eyes and connect with them, even if it's for a short time. Say "I love you" every single day. Look around you...take it all in...smell the air, hear the birds, feel the love and enjoy the sights.

Here's something to get you started. Last month, two co-workers and I were on our way to training, not really looking forward to it, complaining about the road construction and the commute when out of nowhere appeared this awesome rainbow:

We took the time to capture it and to admire it. Now, go find something awesome in your world and take the time to relish in it. Me, I'm going to go cuddle on the couch with my husband and get my quality time before the night is over.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Happy Birthday Alex!

Well, last night Alex had her 17th birthday party. A rec room full of teenagers! Seems everyone had a good time playing Guitar Hero and Dance Revolution while stuffing their faces with pizza and junk food. I did end up having to retrieve two of the girls later that night after they wandered from the house (looking for boys). That seemed to be the only glitch though. All the girls stayed over night and were gone by noon today, ahhhh peace and quiet! Here's a group pic from the party:

I spent the afternoon painting the living room (trim area) and then took Kelsey driving after she got off of work. Yes, I know I swore I wouldn't do it again, but Noel was tied up all day putting a new roof on the garage (at least getting it started), so I had to step up to the plate. She did alright and I only wanted to throw up once! Speaking of Noel on the's some pics of the work progress:

Poor guy was exhausted by the end of the day..........

Well, there ends another weekend. Noel goes back to work tomorrow (has Tuesday off for Veteran's Day), but I don't return until Wednesday. Looking forward to having the time to hopefully get the living room at least near finished!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Healthy Heart!!!

I wasn't going to post anything about this until it was over, but yesterday I underwent a heart catheterization at Geisinger Medical Center. Over the last two months, I had two positive stress tests (one regular, one nuclear), so they recommended a heart cath. Well, let me tell don't know stress until they tell you that they want to go inside of you and tickle at your heart! Here's my reaction when the doctor told me:

Yes, that was taken at the cardiologist's office after he told me about the heart cath. (I really should not be left alone in the room after you tell me something like that...I'll find something to do so I don't sit there and dwell on that great news you just told me!)

See what I mean...I even played with the little plastic heart while he was gone.

So they scheduled me for the cath...yesterday. My appointment time, 7:30 am. Noel and I get there after very little sleep the night before. They take me back to "prep" me for the procedure at about 7:20 am. Nurse Tina tries to get my IV going...not so successfully! Ouch!! She mumbles to herself about how she doesn't understand why it's not working and decides to move up my arm and try again......Holy Crap!! Ouch already Tina!! She still can't understand why it's not working and calls over another nurse. They decide to bring in the "IV Team". It was like I wasn't cooperating enough, so they had to send for back-up!

The lady from "The Team" gets an IV going in my right hand, no problem. I'm finally "prepped" and wearing nothing but a hospital gown and some booties. ( I was quite the fashion statement!)They bring Noel back to be with me before they take me back. The nursing assistant comes by with my paperwork. "Blah, blah, blah...risks...sedation...1 in 1000 chance you can die...sign here please". Huh? So the odds that I'm gonna die are greater with today's procedure than say, getting in a car accident going home? Yeah, sign me up for that!

Around the corner comes my cardiologist. He stands at my bedside, takes my hand and says "I am so sorry, a heart attack came in and I have to take him first, it's going to be a while". I of course ask him if he's being funny this early in the morning and after he assures me that he's not, it sinks in that I have a long wait in front of me. Soooo...Noel and I spend the next four hours watching bad tv on a 7 inch screen.

Finally, at 11:30, technician Heather comes to tell me they'll be taking me back soon. So at 11:55, I kiss Noel goodbye and they wheel me off to the operating room. They take me in and start swabbing me, draping me and setting up the machinery. Very nice people by the way, we're all joking and having fun, but there's that part of me saying...hello? You guys know I'm fully awake here? You're gonna do yucky things to me and I haven't had any "happy" medicine yet! So, the cardiologist comes in and I ask him "You doing ok? You get some coffee after that last heart attack guy?". He assures me that he's ready to go and orders me some happy medicine. Woo hoo! I can feel it going through my IV because it's very, very cold. Before it gets up my arm, they're giving me local anesthesia in my groin area, where they're going to go in. So now I have a hot groin area and a freezing cold right arm. Really, really weird.

Doc says "ok, gonna start now". In my mind, I'm thinking "what would they do if I said 'nevermind, I really don't wanna do this anymore'?" I don't have time to think of the answer because I can hear Doc saying "We're looking at your heart now". Wow! You guys are fast! I get up the nerve to look at the monitor. Something very surreal about the whole thing...laying on a table, feeling like you had one too many glasses of wine and watching your heart arteries fill up with dye while your heart pumps it through. It's going ok until tech Heather says "ok, a few extra heart beats now...". I'm sorry? Oh! Scary! I felt my heart doing this thing like it was jumping rope. I did NOT like that! Next thing I know, Doc says "ok, all done". Really? Cool! "But first...make sure you don't move or tense your stomach muscles". Well, I'm sorry, but what's the first thing you do when they tell you not to do something? You do it! Doc says again "Don't tense your stomach muscles...take deep breaths. You're going to feel a lot of pressure". Apparently, he's putting the "plug" into my femoral artery just like you would the cork in a wine bottle...pushing it in as hard as you can. Ok...this is just too weird for me! And there's Doc, standing next to me telling me the good blockages! I try to take in the information but it's hard when he's standing there with my blood splattered down the front of his gown. Tells me my coronary arteries look "pristine". Most of me is very happy, but there's this little part of me saying...are you kidding me? You just put me through this for nothing? I'm pretty sure I'll get over it though. Good to know that your heart arteries are "pristine"!

So, after laying completely still for two hours (ever try eating a turkey sandwich laying flat on your back?) and doing some post-op stuff (walk around the nurse's station, pee by yourself, etc), I was allowed to go home. I am recuperating rather well and am only a little sore. I'm not allowed to lift anything more than 10 pounds for a while and cannot over-exert myself, which I find to be the hardest part. It took everything I had to convince myself today not to finish the laundry or the painting in the living room.

Bottom line: I learned two things from this experience. 1) You really should follow up on any and all health concerns. It may not always be good news, but there is a peace of mind knowing what's going on with your own body. 2) No patient should see the inside of an operating room while fully awake! You should always be given a lot of happy medicine BEFORE they wheel you in and you should not wake up until you're in recovery. Call me an old-fashioned girl, but there's something to be said about the old days when they just "knocked you out" for everything.