About Me

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I have two kids - a girl and a boy - and live in north-central Minnesota, land of snow and ice. Well, for 9 months of the year, that is. I work full-time for a local government, and on my "free time" I enjoy cooking, baking, hanging out with my kiddos, and RELAXING.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

it's that time of the year

Budgeting time.For those of you who don't know Fund Accounting, disregard.

For those of you who do...also disregard. Who wants to think about Fund Accounting?

Nevertheless, the beginning of the year is when budgets are made. Or at least thought about for five seconds.

I think I'm the only one in the Twin Cities who keeps a budget. Buy hey, I'm a nerd. What do I expect?

Not only do I keep a budget, I created my own in Excel.

Have I mentioned I love Excel?

Coming from someone who did their wedding guest list in Access, a database program, the fact I love Excel should come as no surprise to you.

Last year I went online to get a downloadable budget from Microsoft. It was uglier than sin. I decided I didn't want to look at that for the next year, so I made a new one. It's beautiful. I love it.

I wanted to upload it but as it turns out I can't upload files to Blogger. What a pain in the tush. However, if you would really like a beautiful budget for yourself, let me know and I'll email it out to you.

You know you want one. You're just worried other people will make fun of you.

They will.

Don't be embarrassed about what other people think. I'm not. That's why I'm an accountant.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

the end of an era

Today I took my last final. Ever.

It's weird to think about it. I mean, I've been going to school my whole life. My whole life.

Well, since the age of five. So I've been going to school for seventeen years. Seventeen years.

That's a long time. Longer than anything else I've ever done.

One day in class a couple weeks ago my professor asked how many hours those of us graduating had devoted to accounting class and homework. The answer: a lot.

Thirty-two accounting credits. Eight accounting courses. Thirty class periods each. One hundred minutes a class period. Plus another 100 hundred minutes per class period for homework and studying. Easily.

That's 48,000 minutes which equals 800 hours which equals 100 8-hour days straight of learning accounting.

And that's not even counting the other 128 credits I have. School has been my life.

And now it has ended. Good thing I have a job or heaven only knows what I would do with myself.

Eat a lot, I'm sure.

for real??

I just went through a pile of mail from yesterday and found a letter from World Financial Network National Bank. What a mouthful, huh? It looked like junk and I almost threw it away but decided I had better open it, just to see. It was a massive piece of paper covered with tiny little words. Looked like a credit card agreement.

Indeed, it was. Sort of. At the top it said:


Then it said a bunch of other mumbo-jumbo I couldn't comprehend. I swear, they intentionally make it impossible to understand. I almost chucked it in the trash thinking it was just talking about raising my APR when I saw this:

"Other Fees and Charges, Processing Fee. There will be a $1.00 processing fee for every paper statement you receive."

You have got to be freaking kidding me. I'm not going to pay a company to send me a bill. How ridiculous is that? And what bad business. I called and cancelled my Victoria's Secret card right then and there. I spent four minutes listening to an automated system but at least I didn't have to talk to anyone and have them try to sell me their credit protection service. VS is notorious for trying to sell their credit protection service. I hate it. Every single time I call. But this time all I had to do was punch a couple numbers on my phone and BOOM, cancelled. It was kind of nice. Although I'm bummed I have to cancel a long-standing card, because that's not fantastic for my credit. Oh well, I certainly wasn't going to pay them to send me a paper statement.

Go ahead and laugh at me freaking out about a company trying to charge me an extra buck. I realize it's only one dollar, but it's the principle of the thing. If they want to charge me to do business with them, they can just forget it! Not like I don't pay enough for their products already. Jeepers.

Monday, December 14, 2009

the best part about hawaii:part three

The beaches. Obviously they had to be on this list somewhere.

Waikiki Beach at Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

Poipu beach. A smaller beach in a tiny town on Kauai.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

the best part about hawaii:part two

Jo Jo's Shave Ice, located on the south-western coast of Kauai.

Best shave ice I've ever had.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

the best part about hawaii:part one

The sunset one evening looking out from Kona, Hawaii.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Eunice's Cookies

Since I was sharing about my use for cake mixes yesterday I thought I'd give you the recipe for these cookies. When I was in high school I'd make them every once in a while for my classmates. Everyone liked them. I love them. My family calls them Eunice's cookies because that's the name of the woman we got the recipe from. You can call them Alaina's cookies. Or I suppose you could just call them cake mix cookies. But where's the fun in that? I always name recipes after people. For example: Brenda's World Famous Banana Bread

Jen's Amazing Cookies

Sue's Strawberry Pie

Candy's Punch PW's Strawberry Shortcake Cake

Shelly's Salsa

Tina's Cheesy Sausage Dip

And, of course, Eunice's Cookies I seriously have them written down in my cookbook this way. I'm not sure why I do that. Maybe it helps me remember exactly which banana bread I'm referring to, since I also have a recipe for Healthified Banana Bread in there. Who knows how my mind works. If any of these recipes sound intriguing and you would like them, let me know. In any case, here is the recipe for Eunice's cookies: 1 box yellow cake mix

1/2 cup Crisco

2 eggs

1 cup chocolate chips Mix all but chocolate chips. Add last. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. How easy was that? I usually double the recipe for a family, because it's not that big. And, with the $0.78 cake mix I got the other day and my free chocolate chips last week, this recipe is a money-saver!

This isn't what your cookies will look like. They will actually be yellower. Like yellow cake. I took this picture from the internet just to liven things up around here. The best part about these cookies is that they stay fresh for a really long time. It's probably the cake mix, since it isn't the Crisco, eggs, or chocolate chips. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I used to love grocery shopping. Love it. That was then.

This is now. Now, I'm less of a fan. I still love to get the good deals, but just knowing I have to drag myself all the way (all three minutes of the way) to the grocery store is enough to make me want to hide in the closet and not come out until we run out of food. In two years.

Darren offers to go do the weekly shopping, but I'm afraid of the consequences of that. We went grocery shopping together last week and got in an argument in the store. He wanted to walk every aisle. I wanted to get in and get out.

I used to be an aisle-walker. Back when I used to enjoy grocery shopping.

Anyway, here's what I bought this week at Cub:

Milk $1.78 gallon with in-ad coupon

Boneless Chicken Breasts $3.99 for 3lb bag, limit 2

Green Giant frozen boxed veggies, $1.00
Use $0.50/2 coupon here
Final price: $0.75 each

Progresso Vegetable Classic soups $0.48, buy 6
Use in-ad coupon
Use two $1.10/3 coupon here
Final price: $0.11 each
I love Progresso soups. I eat a can for lunch about two days a week. Unfortunately the coupon is limited to the vegetable soups but I really like the Minestrone so that's what I got.

And at Target:

Betty Crocker box cake mixes, temporary price cut $0.78
I'm not sure if this was just my Target or nationwide. And it didn't appear like it will be a week-long sale, so don't hold your breath. But if you're in Target, check them out. I use yellow cake mix to make cookies so I go through cake mixes pretty fast.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

my favorite pictures:part 7

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Luray Caverns, Luray Virginia. June 2009.

And underground colorful cavern. Why wouldn't this be one of my favorite pictures?

In case you can't tell, that's a giant puddle reflecting the ceiling. Cool, huh?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

gingerbread men ornaments

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Isn't he cute?

You know you want to make some. Let me show you how.

All credit goes to my mother-in-law. Without her recipe, and buttons, and cookie cutters, and beads, and scraps of fabric, and hot glue gun...well, let's just say I didn't own anything I needed to make these.

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Start with one cup of cinnamon. Yes, a cup. I highly recommend you buy your cinnamon for these little guys from a co-op or farmer's market, where it will be considerably cheaper than buying McCormick. I don't even want to think about how much these guys could have cost. I got this cinnamon at a farmer's market in Virginia and it worked perfectly.

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Add 1 tablespoon nutmeg. Or maybe this one is ginger.

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Add 1 tablespoon of ginger. Or nutmeg. Whichever one you didn't add already. Mix the spices up real nice.

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The best part: add 2 tablespoons of good old Elmer's glue.

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Finally, add 1 cup of cold applesauce. Stir everything together into a yummy-smelling paste.

Note of caution: The dough smells delicious but do not taste it. I repeat, do not taste it. It does not taste good.

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Place a sheet of foil down and plop some of the dough on it. Use wax paper over top so the dough doesn't stick to your rolling pin. This part it kind of tricky because the gingerbread men will pick up any creases in the foil or wax paper. I ended up re-rolling this after I took a picture of it. Also, make sure you keep the dough pretty thick. My first couple men were really thin and they don't look so hot. The thick ones look much nicer.

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Use your mother-in-law's cookie cutters (or your own) to cut out the gingerbread men. Or you can do whatever shapes you want. My mom had gingerbread men and hearts on her tree while I was growing up.

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I placed my men on parchment paper because I was afraid they would stick on a cookie sheet. I tested it out to make sure: they did, but not too bad. Use a toothpick to make holes so you can hang them. My MIL had beads that I used for eyes and a nose. And man oh man, was that part ever a pain. Make sure you stick the beads in there pretty far, too, otherwise they can fall out.

Also, if you're a real perfectionist you can clean up the edges. See on mine how there are little crumblies around them? You can scrape them off when they're dry, too.

Let the men dry for 24 hours, turning over periodically so they don't curl up. If you want, you can stick them in a low-temperature oven for the first couple hours, turning every 30 minutes or so. This is when I had my curling problems. Make sure you turn them fairly often, although if they're thick enough you shouldn't have too much of a problem. During this time make sure your toothpick holes don't close up.

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I made this one. I just hot-glued on the buttons and tied on a little scrap of fabric for a scarf. They really help fill in those black holes in the tree I was talking about.

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One of Darren's.

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I love them. They did take a long time to make so I might just do one batch a year. One batch is enough fun for me. We ended up with about 16 or so but like I said, some of them were pretty thin so if you do thicker ones you'll end up with less.

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So cute.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

When I was 16 I had the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.

I will never forget it.

The flag is flying half-mast today in honor of those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor. May we never forget their sacrifice.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

it's a bird! it's a plane!

No, it's a Cuddlee.

Not a Snuggie. It's not that nice.

It's off-brand. And you can tell.

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The Cuddlee.

I love it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

foods I no longer eat

I used to eat like a pig.

Well, I still do, a little bit. But I try to limit myself to foods that have some nutritional value. Most of the time.

When I started trying to lose weight a couple years ago there were a couple foods I cut from my diet and I really, really miss them.

Ahh, Cosmic Brownies. I could eat a box in two days. And that was if I restrained myself. I haven't eaten a Cosmic Brownie for three years. Man, do I miss those little babies.

I used to get a Blizzard every time I drove home from the cities. Now I have about two a year. It's a sad, sad state I have reached.

Donuts. Doughnuts. However you prefer to spell them. I love donuts. I miss them. When I was in high school I'd average about three donuts a week. Now I haven't had one since...since...the accountant came to work this spring and brought some with. And before that I couldn't even tell ya.

M&Ms and I had a secret love affair a couple years back. Then I informed them they could no longer be a part of my daily life. It hasn't been the same since. Don't get me wrong, I still eat M&Ms. But I don't go through a five pound bag in three days like I did my freshman year of college. Ah, those were the days.

The days that I gained 15 pounds.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree!

We cut down our tree on Saturday up north and decorated it Sunday night when we got back down to the cities.

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Darren's mom found the perfect one for us. We needed a nice small one for our tiny living room.

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Hauling the tree to the truck. So excited to have his picture taken.

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Putting lights on. We only did one strand but we should have done more.

Sorry about the picture quality. I didn't realize I had my flash off until about halfway through.

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Putting on the fake cranberries. You can see a big black hole with no lights already.

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I love these glittery ornaments.

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This one is a bell.

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We got four of these pretty ones.

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This was the only star Darren liked. Our whole Christmas tree revolves around it. Seriously.

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The finished product! It needs more lights and bulbs. We have a ton more but didn't put them on. I might have to dig them back out of the closet soon. Maybe this weekend.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

deals, deals, and more deals

Lots of pretty good deals at Target this week, especially on crackers. Probably because of Christmas. I eat more crackers at Christmas. It's a cheese tray thing.

Ritz Crackers sale $2.50
$1/1 Target coupon here

Wheat Thins sale $2.00
$1/1 Target coupon here
(It's actually the coupon for Triscuits but it says "$1 off any Nabisco crackers" so it works, although I did have to explain it twice to the checkout lady today.)

With the Ritz and Wheat Thins use:
$1/2 Nabisco Crackers here

It works out to be $1 for the Ritz and $0.50 for the Wheat Thins

Wheatables sale $1.99 (certain flavors)
$1.50/1 coupon here
Final price: $0.49

All Bran Crackers sale $1.99
$1.50/1 coupon here
Final price: $0.49
I was a little skeptical about these bran crackers but I popped open a box already and they taste a lot like Wheat Thins, so I like them.

M&Ms sale $2.49
$1/2 coupon here or here
Final price: $1.99
And I did see a Target coupon on their website for $1/2 as well, but when I tried to print it my computer wouldn't install the application. By the time I got that all figured out and went back it had disappeared. Target's coupons change if you keep going to the site, so I've been keeping my eyes open but haven't seen it again. I'm pretty bummed because then I could have gotten them for $1.49 a bag. What a deal.

Also I'm really excited because I needed to buy new razors. I was bummed because I didn't have any coupons but I was desperate. Well, when I went to grab a package I noticed there was a "save instantly" sticker on it for $1 and then I saw a scrap of paper in the bin. I dug it out and it was a manufacturer's coupon someone had left there for $1 off! So I got $2 off without even trying. I also had $30 worth of SlimFast coupons I got on ebay for $8. Overall my receipt said I saved $55.98 between coupons and sale prices. I was pretty happy with that.

Christmas Countdown

Remember how we talked about advent calendars? And how I told you I went to Target but couldn't find them anywhere? And how I was so sad and was crying myself to sleep every night?

No? Refresh your memory here.

Good news. I found them.

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Now, it's a little laughable, and the chocolate tastes absolutely disgusting, but I'm still loving it. Such fun. It's not too late to get one! You can just eat up all the chocolate until you get to the right day.

It's like Christmas on a deadline.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I got these babies last week.

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Aren't they gorgeous? Come to mama.

Let me just take a moment to say how much I love DSW. And the clearance racks at the back of the store. And the $10 gift card I got for signing up to their rewards program. All of which enabled me to save $78.04 on these lovely ladies.

Yes, seventy-eight dollars. I paid $31.96 which means these shoes were originally $110. Not too bad.

Guess what brand they are.

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Now was that funny, or was that funny?

Do you want to know what I love the most? No more cheesy jokes, I promise.

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The bow. But it's like a half-bow. You stare at it and you're like, "is it a bow, or is it not a bow?"

Answer: It's a half-bow.

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I am a little worried about the height. Four inches. I measured it with a ruler. Seriously. And man, are those ever skinny heels. I was thinking I might wear them for graduation, but I'm afraid I would fall over on stage and embarrass myself in front of hundreds of people.

And that would be bad.

So, now for your help. You know how I feel about shoes. I love them. And I love these. And, just as if my shoes were my children, I name them.

But I can't come up with a good one.

So please help me.

You wouldn't want these beauties to be without a name, would you?

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Would you?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

free or almost-free deals

A couple free or almost-free items I'm picking up this week:

Cub Foods
Nestle chocolate chips $0.98 with in-ad coupon (limit 2)
Use two $1.00 off 1 coupons here (click New Recipes and Special Coupons--you'll have to register)
Final price: FREE

Buy four General Mills cereals at $1.50 each
Use two $1.00 off 2 coupons here (I could only find coupons for Chex cereal)
Final price: $1.00 each

All Bran Crackers $1.99
Use $1.50 coupon here
Final price: $0.49

And, for my mother-in-law, here are two links for Target coupons:
Organic Grocery Deals
Target Website Coupons