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.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I'm jealous of...

...people who can do push-ups.

I saw a man at the gym today just going to town, doing push-ups like you wouldn't believe.

I can do two. Girl push-ups.


Friday, March 26, 2010

movie review

Darren and I saw The Bounty Hunter last night. It was pretty cute and funnier than I thought it would be. I was laughing out loud a lot, along with the rest of the theater.

I love Jennifer Anniston. And don't even get me started on Gerard Butler.


Overall rating: A-

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

book review

Courtney, I think you'll like this one.

Cattle ranch, horses, Iraq and Afghanistan war vet. What's not to like?

From the back cover:

Can you ever get a second chance at your first love?

Jenna Callahan Colby thought she was content. A partner on her father's successful ranch, she is surrounded by family and friends. But she never expected to see Nate Langley back in town--the first guy she ever noticed, the one her father sent away all those years ago.

And she never thought the attraction they felt would be as strong as ever.

Jenna's cowboy has some healing of his own to do, though, after two tours of duty in the armed forces. With the help of good friends, strong faith, and a loving family, he hopes to put the horrors of the past behind him--and become the man Jenna deserves.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

comfort in sorrow

Sometimes it amazes me how quickly life can change.

We wake up. We eat. We work. We do whatever needs to be done. And then suddenly nothing is the same. Life has changed irreversibly.

I've been there. And my heart goes out to those who are there at this very moment.

RBC Ministries publishes a small daily devotional called "Our Daily Bread." My hometown church has distributed this devotional monthly for as long as I can remember. My dad read his Bible and this devotional every morning, until his death on October 23, 2003.

This is the devotion for October 23, 2003:

Life Beyond the Grave
READ: John 11:1-44

Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?--John 1:26

My beloved husband Bill died of cancer at the age of 48. One tearful morning I read John 11, the story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. I was reassured by two truths I found in Jesus' words to His disciples on their way to Lazarus' grave.

The first truth was revealed when Jesus said that Lazarus was asleep and that He would wake him. His disciples responded, "Lord, if he sleeps he will get well." Jesus replied, "Lazarus is dead." Saying that He would waken Lazarus, I believe, was His gentle way to teach them that they didn't need to dread death any more than sleep. Because of His power, resurrecting someone from the grave was like waking someone from sleep.

I saw a second truth in Jesus' statement to Martha: "He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die." Of course, believers aren't exempt from dying physically, but Jesus promised that they will live eternally. As the resurrection and the life, He will "waken" their bodies someday. His power to do this was demonstrated when He raised Lazarus.

When someone we love goes to be with Jesus, these promises give us comfort and assurance. - Joanie Yoder

Grief will not last, joy will return,
For through our tears we clearly see
That while we part for but a time,
With Christ we'll spend eternity. -D. De Haan
Death separates us for a time; Chris will reunite us forever.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

drill weekends

This weekend was a drill weekend.

For those of you who don't actually know me, my husband is in the Army National Guard. He has been for the past six years and he just added another year on to his contract to shorten his time on the IRR list.

Don't ask.

Being in the National Guard means one weekend a month he has "drill," which is pretty much synonymous with "training." It took me a while to figure out exactly what drill was, so I'm just trying to help ya'll out here.

I'm not gonna lie-I love drill weekends. Here's why:

I don't have to cook. Now, don't get me wrong: I like to cook. But cooking for myself and cooking for others are two very different things. When Darren is gone I live on microwave popcorn, chocolate, cereal, and the occasional plate of cheese and crackers. Even if we have leftovers I usually don't eat them. I'm more of a grazer than someone who will sit and eat three square meals a day. I think I prefer to graze because it means I can constantly be eating. For real.

Also, I can eat all the chocolate I want and no one is here to judge me. I usually put down a medium-sized bag of dark chocolate M&Ms every drill weekend. And if I'm out of M&Ms, a bag of chocolate chips. Which is why I currently don't have any in my pantry.

I can read all I want without feeling guilty. I love to read. Always have, always will. But Darren doesn't like to read and he gets bored when I don't pay attention to him for long periods of time. I average two books per drill weekends. Sometimes more, depending on when Darren leaves on Friday and when he gets home on Sunday. I can sit and read all day, and I have. When the last Harry Potter book came out I read it in one day. All 784 pages. It helps that I'm a very fast reader.

I can watch movies that Darren would never watch with me. Movies like Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, and anything Jane Austen.

I can be lazy. Darren is a do-er. He always has to be going, going, going. I like to do things, just not so often. I'm a homebody. Sometimes on drill weekends I don't talk to a single soul. Unless I go to the grocery store or Target. And I'm okay with that. In fact, I prefer it. I have to interact enough with people during the week. It's nice to have one weekend a month where I can be anti-social. In fact, sometimes Darren and I won't even talk on the phone the entire drill weekend. Like this weekend. He texted me yesterday to see what I was up to but I haven't actually talked to him since he left on Friday. And that's okay with me. Is that weird?

I've always been one of those people who prefers to be by themself than with others. I'm not sure why that is, and obviously it depends on the company. Of course I'm glad when Darren comes home on Sunday, but I am already looking forward to the next drill weekend. I am a very independent person and I love to be by myself. When Darren was considering volunteering for the Afghanistan deployment going out next year I told him it was totally his decision. I knew I could handle it whatever he decided. Don't get me wrong; I would miss him horribly. But I wouldn't be emotionally scarred or anything and would probably get along very well by myself for a year. Fortunately he decided against it, but this August he is going to be gone for three weeks doing a class for school up in Cloquet.

Bring on the M&Ms.

The Best Thing About Easter

Jesus rose from the grave.

Obviously that's the best thing.

But then secondly, Cadbury Cream Eggs. I usually buy and freeze enough to last me for three or four months.

True story.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Love Coupons

I had some luck yesterday with all my coupons and sales. Here are the highlights.


Drano reg. $3.84
$0.55 coupon on bottle
Final price: $3.29--I was pretty excited about this one. We really needed some Drano for the bathroom and there aren't really coupons for it.

Market Pantry 2.5lb frozen chicken, sale $6.00
This wasn't a fantastic deal on chicken but we've been out for several weeks, and I refuse to pay full price for it. Consequently, I bought four bags.

Betty Crocker tub frosting, sale price $1.00
$0.50 coupon here
Final price: $0.50--What a deal! The frosting is select varieties and is on sale until April 3rd.

Colgate toothpaste, sale $1.00
$1.00 coupon from coupon book
Final price: FREE

Ziploc sandwich bags, reg. $2.69
$1.00 coupon (from I don't-know-where)
$0.50 Target coupon from coupon book
Final price: $1.19

Total Target savings: $27.06
Sale price savings: $23.01
Coupon savings: $4.05

I hit some great sales at Target; nearly everything I needed was on sale, so that was lucky.


Honey Bunches of Oats cereal, select varieties, sale $1.78

Szeschuan sauce, reg. $2.69
$1.00 coupon on bottle
Final price: $1.69--We go through this fast so I bought three bottles.

Tyson Honey BBQ Anytizers, sale $2.99
$1.50 printable coupon (from Target's website)
Final price: $1.49 (Sometimes those checkout people will give you some hassle if your coupon says Target on it, but as long as it's a manufacturer's coupon you can use it anywhere.)

Clementines, sale $2.98

Milk, sale $1.98
It's not unusual for me to buy three gallons of milk every week, so I love it when milk is on sale.

Dove Heat Defense Therapy spray, reg. $4.19
$1.20 Cub coupon
$1.00 manufacturer's coupon
Final price: $1.99--great deal!

Wonder bread, Cub weekly coupon, $1.89

Total savings: $8.32
Sale savings: $2.82
Coupon savings: $5.50

Total savings for the day: $35.38
Total coupon savings for the day: $9.55

Thursday, March 18, 2010

it tastes like hawaii

Do you ever have a moment where a certain sound, smell, or taste will remind you of a very specific point in time?

It happened to me this morning as I was drinking some V8 Splash Tropical Blend.

Instantly I thought of Hawaii. Of early mornings eating bagels with jam while watching the sunrise.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

book review

I recently read The Fountain Creek Chronicles series by Tamera Alexander. I really enjoyed all three. They're kind of slow starters, but once you get going they're very good.

I just discovered Tamera Alexander last year and have read all of her books, my favorite being the most recent, Remembered.

All of her books are set in the 19th century so if you're into more contemporary books you might not enjoy them, although the story lines are fairly interesting. Overall I'd put Tamera Alexander on my top ten list of authors, meaning that as a whole, I really like her books.

Monday, March 15, 2010

losing weight

C'mon. You know sometimes you stand on your scale and you think that exact same thing.

Okay, maybe not "broccoli-kale shake" but something similar.

For me, it's usually "no chocolate until I lose x number of pounds."

And it usually doesn't last.

But, I'm very pleased to share with you that I am currently only 6.8 pounds away from my goal. I had a really good week last week and actually lost over 1 pound!

That's a milestone for me, so I don't want to hear any laughing. I haven't been at this weight for about a year, so I'm pretty proud of myself. Hopefully I can keep it up!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

movie review

Darren and I saw Green Zone with Matt Damon last night.

No, not with Matt Damon. I should have said starring Matt Damon.

I love Matt Damon. What a great actor. Green Zone was an okay movie, definitely not up to par with the Bourne movies. But then, what is?

Tons of action but the plot left something to be desired. I heard rumors it was "anti-American" but I didn't really get that feeling.

I guess I would recommend Green Zone, although if it didn't star Matt Damon I would say it had nothing going for it.

Overall rating: A-

Saturday, March 13, 2010

great deoderant coupons

You can get some good deals on deodorant using coupons found here.

I love Dove Ultimate Go Fresh. Smells so yummy. My coupons are good one month from the day I printed them, so I'll wait to see if deodorant goes on sale before I use them. I check Target today and regular price is $3.64 (for Dove). I didn't check the men's deodorant because I'm sure my husband won't switch brands just because it's cheaper. :)

I saw this deal, and many other great deals, at one of my favorite sites, Saving with Shellie. Check it out!

Target Coupons

I got some great deals at Target today. Some of my coupons came from a Target coupon booklet I received in the mail, but the rest came from my favorite coupon sites, which are listed on one of the side panels of my blog.

I went to Target at 8 am this morning, right as the doors were opening. It was so nice and quiet! I'll definitely be doing that again.

Here's what I found:

Lysol bathroom cleaner, sale $2.69
Used $1.00 off Target coupon (booklet)
Used $0.50 off Lysol coupon (which I've had so long I'm not even sure where it came from anymore)
Final price: $1.19

Stride gum 3-pack, sale $1.99
Used $1.00 off Target coupon (booklet)
Final price: $0.99

M&Ms, sale price $2.69
Used $1.00 off Target catalina coupon (A catalina coupon is one that prints out of the cash register after you've made a purchase. A lot of the time you'll get a coupon for an item you've just purchased. Also I get a lot of Brita coupons--what's up with that?)
Final price: $1.69--great deal!

Hershey brand bag candy, sale price $2.89 (I bought Cadbury solid chocolate eggs and Reese's eggs)
Used $2.00 off WYB 3 coupon here
Final price: $2.22 each--Not the world's greatest deal, but not too bad either.

Hillshire Farms Lil' Smokies, sale $2.49
Used $1.00 Target coupon (booklet)
Final price: $1.49

Kraft dressing, sale $1.99
Used $1.00 WYB 2 Target coupon (website--A note about Target website coupons: they change daily, so always be on the lookout!)
Final price: $1.49 each--Again, not the best deal I've ever gotten on dressing, but not too bad either

Clementines 3lb bag, sale $4.99
Used $1.00 off Target coupon (booklet). This coupon was for a 5lb bag but it still went through okay
Final price: $3.99

Note: I just saw that tomorrow there will be two coupons for Cuties (Clementine brand) in the Smartsource insert. If you already have the $1.00 Target coupon you may want to wait to get an even better deal, although the clementines might not be on sale next week.

Milk, sale price $1.99
No coupon needed!

Kraft cheese, 8 oz, sale $2.19
Used $1.00 off Target coupon (website)
Final price: $1.19--I usually try not to pay more than $1 for cheese, but this was pretty close.

3M brand duct tape, reg. $5.19
Used $1.00 off Target coupon (booklet)
Final price: $4.19--We've been needed duct tape for a while and I keep putting it off because I can never find it in the store, but I finally decided to make more of an effort since I had a coupon! :)

Tylenol Cold, 20 pill pack, reg. $5.04
Used $1.00 off Target coupon (booklet)
Used $2.00 Tylenol coupon (on box)
Final price: $2.04--I never pay full price for Tylenol; there are always coupons for it. And usually with the coupons you can get it cheaper than off-brand.

American Greeting Cards, reg. $0.50-$1.00, depending on card
Used $1.00 off WYB 3 Target coupon (booklet)
Final price: as low as $0.17 per card! Talk about a deal! I hate buying birthday cards; they're so expensive!

Heinz 57, reg. $3.64
Used $1.00 off coupon from who-knows-where
Final price: $2.64--Normally I would have waited for this to go on sale, but my coupon was about to expire. And $1.00 off is better than no dollars off! :)

My receipt says I saved $18.50. Of that $15.50 was coupons and the other $3.00 was sales. Odd that it came out to $3.00 exactly, but I'm not complaining!

Friday, March 12, 2010

this week at Cub

Some pretty good deals this week at Cub:

Old Orchard juice concentrate, $0.99 each
Use $1 off four coupon here
Final Price: $0.74 each

Cub Cheese, $0.99 each
No coupon needed; this is a great deal on cheese.

V8 Splash, 64 ounce, $1.99
I used a V8 coupon here and it went through, even though it was for V8 Fusion. It's worth a try, and even if it doesn't work this is still a good deal for V8.
Final price: $0.99 each

Campbell's Cooking Soups, $0.99
Use $1 off four coupon here
Final Price: $0.74 each

Braeburn apples, $0.98 per pound
No coupon needed

I got some Dannon Light and Fit yogurt for $0.41 each, but I can't find the link for the coupon I used.

Also, we really need some more I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, but I couldn't find coupons for it anywhere. But we found some in our cart! There were two coupons for $0.75 off. I was pretty excited about it.

Overall, between sale prices and coupons, we saved $10.35. Not too shabby.

Eunice's Cookies: An Alternative

Remember when I told you about Eunice's Cookies? My goodness, I love those cookies. I also love these.
A variation of Eunice's original cookies. These are made with the exact same recipe, only instead of chocolate chips and yellow cake mix, it's vanilla-flavored frosting and confetti cake. They taste like bite-sized pieces of cake wonderfulness. Also, does anyone know where I could get a cute plate like that?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

secret obsession

I have a confession.

I am overly addicted to clean sheets.

I really believe there may be something wrong with me.

Growing up and through college I washed my sheets every week. (I know, right?) The aunt and uncle we rent from are kind enough to let us use their washer and dryer, but I don't feel right about washing my sheets every week with all the other laundry they already let us do.

It just about kills me not to wash my sheets weekly. There's something about the feel and the smell. And I love when the fitted sheet is pulled tight. You know how it can get after a week--all crumpled up and uneven. Drives me up the wall.

In college I had two sets of twin sheets, just in case I didn't make it home for two weeks. That way I could still enjoy my clean sheet freshness without paying $2.50 for it.

Is that weird?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

the 15th greatest invention ever

I can't remember what number I'm on for my "best inventions ever" list...

But let's just say Redbox is right up there at the top.

I mean, a place you can rent movies for ONE DOLLAR?

Could there be anything better?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Focaccia Bread

I don't even remember where I found the recipe for this bread. It might have been Taste of Home online, but I can't be sure. What I am sure about is that this bread is delicious. With a hard crust, garlic flavor, and a soft inside you'll think you've died and gone to heaven.

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Now, you can make this bread by hand--like I have in the past when my bread machine pooped out on me--or you can do it the easy way and have the bread machine do all the hard work for you. That's the way I usually choose.

Here's what you'll need: 1 cup plus 3 tbs water (70-80 degrees; it's cooler than you think) 1 tbs olive oil, plus additional olive oil 1 tsp salt 3 cups bread flour 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast 1 tbs grated Parmesan 1 1/2 tsp minced rosemary 1 tsp garlic salt cracked pepper to taste

Place water, 1 tbs olive oil, salt, bread flour, and yeast in bread machine in order listed. Select dough setting. Let the machine do the work. When finished, wait five minutes before removing the dough. By hand: Mix the same ingredients and knead 8 minutes. Form into ball and cover. Set in warm place. Let rise 40 minutes; punch down and reshape. Let rise another 30-40 minutes in warm place. Once the dough is ready transfer it to a greased baking sheet. Pat it into an 8" circle about 3/4" high. Brush with additional olive oil and sprinkle with cheese, garlic salt, and rosemary. (You can use fresh rosemary, but I use dried rosemary leaves that I grind up in my mortar and pestle.) Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. I love it dipped in some olive oil mixed with a dash of cracker pepper. Mmmm...so good!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Band of Brothers

Darren and I have been watching Band of Brothers for the past week or so. It was a miniseries put out by HBO in 2001 detailing the lives of several members of Easy Company.

I have a new respect for war veterans. I cannot even imagine going through the things depicted in this series. It is literally hell on earth. At the beginning of each episode are clips from interviews with still-living Easy Company veterans. I look at them and listen to them and am amazed by what they have survived.

I couldn't do it. I have neither the courage nor the strength of character to have survived something like that. Every episode I watch I thank God for all those who are braver than I, both past and present, and who are willing to give their lives for the benefit of others.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I told you a while ago that I'm planning on reading the Bible through this year.

So far I've read Genesis and Exodus and am pushing my way through Leviticus.

You know what always gets to me every time I read the Bible?

It's real. I mean, I believe it's real and I know it's real, but every time I read something and really start thinking about it I have this that actually happened feeling.

Like the plagues of Egypt. The water turned into blood. I mean, can you imagine?

The thing about growing up hearing Bible stories is that they become simply that: stories. I take it for granted that Moses parted the sea and Noah survived a flood of the entire earth. And Adam and Eve walked and talked with God.

Can you picture what it would have been like to live so long ago? I can't even fathom.

It's so amazing to me that even though I've read the Bible before and know the facts I can find something new and exciting every single time I pick it up.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

book review

I finished Seaside Letters by Denise Hunter.

It's pretty funny with a touch of pretense. My kind of book.

Shades of You've Got Mail; if you like that plot line you'll like this book.

I also love that movie. And Tom Hanks. And Meg Ryan. Did you ever see the original movie called Shop Around the Corner? I saw it once a long time ago and it was pretty cute.

Distraction. Seaside Letters. Worth a second glance.

Friday, March 5, 2010

the thing about coupons

Have you ever had a cashier give you an evil look when you presented your pile of coupons?

Or had the person in line behind you stare at you with a judging expression?

I have. And I used to do it to others, before I started couponing.

I don't have any great (or not-so-great) couponing stories, but I was inspired by a post here by a fellow couponer.

Also really excited about her awesome coupon site. You should check it out.

Why I Love...

Girl Scout Cookies.

Girl Scout Cookies are in a league all their own. They cannot even be qualified in a generic "cookie" category; they're too good for that.

Today I have eaten three thin mints and three samoas. The samoas are my favorite, and I'm not even that crazy about coconut.

It used to give me a rash when I was a kid. Weird story.

I bought two boxes of samoas, three boxes of thin mints, and two boxes of tagalongs.

Yes, that's seven boxes. And yes, they were expensive. $28.50 to be exact. I'll just shove that into the "food" budget for the month.

But you know, you have to stock up on those bad boys. You can't buy them online. (I know, crazy, right?) And the Girl Scouts only sell them every so often. And I normally don't know any Girl Scouts. Sadly. Do you know how long it's been since I've had Girl Scout cookies?

At least four years. (Not counting the thin mint DQ blizzard, of course.) I first tried to buy Girl Scout cookies my freshman year of college. One night I had a crazy craving for some samoas. That was when I discovered you can't buy cookies online. What you can do is request a girl scout call you and you can place a cookie order with her.

Well that girl never called me. I was devastated. I've been craving them ever since.

I made up for a little bit of those four long years today when I shoved three thin mints in my mouth in a matter of minutes. It was so worth it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hand and Foot

"What's that?" You may ask. "Sounds like a disease."

Nope. It's a game. And I'm going to teach you to play it. Or try, at least.

We learned how to play this game a couple weeks ago and it's simple and fun. It's kind of confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it it's the easiest thing in the world.

It's easiest with 2-4 players, but you can play with six.

The object: To be the first player or team to reach 10,000 points.

Note: There are many variations to this game, but this is the way I learned how to play. So you can take it or leave it. :)

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You'll need four decks of cards. They can be matching decks or not; it doesn't matter. If you have six players you'll probably want five or six decks.

First, the setup.

To start each player will grab a small stack of cards (you're trying to grab 22 exactly) and count them into two piles of eleven. If you grab the exact amount you score yourself or your team 100 points.

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One stack of 11 cards you pass to the person on your right. (The next hand to the person on your left, then right, then left, etc.)

The other stack of 11 cards you keep. Don't look at them yet! Choose one stack to be your "hand" and the other stack to be your "foot."

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The stack with the blue card is the hand and the stack with the red card is the foot. You'll need that later.

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Pick up your "hand" stack; you'll start with those cards.

Now, for the directions.

Hand and foot is kind of a matching game. It's a little bit of a cross between Phase 10 and Rummy. The goal is to get six sets of seven cards. So seven 5's, seven 8's, seven kings, etc.

But it's more complicated than that.

Each set of seven cards is called a "book." So you need six books to end the game. You need three "clean" books and three "dirty" books. A clean book is a set of seven cards without wilds. And dirty book is a set of seven cards with wilds including. In a dirty book you must have less wilds than clean cards. So if you have four sevens you can only have three wilds. If you have five sevens you can have up to four wilds. It's okay to have more than seven cards in a book; that doesn't matter so long as you have at least seven.

For example, my "hand" in the above picture has three jacks, two fours, and two sixes. That's a pretty good start. It also has a joker, which is wild. Two's are also wild.

Now that you have some basic knowledge of the instructions, let's start playing.

(Is this too cheesy?)

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The first player (just take turns since there's no dealer) will draw two cards from the deck. As you can see I drew a jack and a king.

To begin playing cards down in front of you you must have at least 50 points. Points are as follows:

Joker's (wild): 50 points
2's (wild): 20 points
Aces: 20 points
9-King: 10 points
4-8: 5 points
Red 3's: -500 points
Black 3's: 0 points

As you can see below my jacks are worth 30 points (10 points each), my kings are worth 20 points (10 each), and my joker is worth 50 points. So I've started with 100 points down. This is the only time you need to keep track of points until the round ends.

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You need to have at least three matching cards to start a book, and remember, you can't have more (or equal number) wilds as clean cards. So far, I have one clean book of jacks and one dirty book of kings. You can start multiple books of the same card. If I wanted to start a clean book of kings I could, so long as I had three to start.

Once you have played all the cards you can you must discard. You must always discard unless you are going out (or going into your foot).

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Play continues with each player drawing two cards, playing if possible, and discarding one card. If a player can play all the cards in his/her hand and has no cards left to discard he/she will pick up his "foot" and continue play from there. As you can see above, I was not yet into my "foot" deck. Also, a player can discard his/her last card and go into their foot on their next turn. The player will still draw two cards at the beginning of their turn and discard one at the end. Remember, the player can never discard his/her last card unless they are going out or going into their foot.

An important thing about playing with partners. Before you combine with your partner you must be able to lay down enough points on your own. These means you have to play at least three cards per book adding up to the requisite number of points (it changes). After your turn is over, combine your cards with your partner and play off the same books. If your partner has started a book of aces, and you also started a book of aces, you may combine them if you wish. However, if you do not combine them when you switch all your cards over, you cannot combine them later. Make sense?

Also, in the above picture you'll notice I have a book of twos on the right side. If you remember, I said twos are wild. This is a wild book. It can only be made up of twos and jokers. It does not count towards your three clean or three dirty books, but is worth more points. In addition, you can have extra clean or dirty books for more points, so long as you have three of each before you go out.

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As you can see I have seven jacks in this book. This is a clean book. When I have seven cards in a book I have the option to "close" the book or leave it open in an attempt to add more cards, and therefore, more points.

Sometimes it is best to leave a book open to add more points, but if your opponent is getting close to going out you may want to close the book. A book is worth more points if it is closed.

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When you close a book place all the cards in one pile. I use red to signify a "clean" book and black to signify a "dirty" book, but you can do it however you want. Remember, you need three closed clean books and three closed dirty books before you can go out.

There are some rules about closed books. You can only add "clean" cards to a closed book. So for example, I could add more jacks to this book, even though it's closed, but I could not add any wilds to a closed book.

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Play continues until one player has closed three clean and three dirty books. You can see I have three closed clean books (4's, 7's, and jacks) and three closed dirty books (6's, queens, and kings). You'll also notice I have a book of wilds and a book of 9's. These are just extra points. To go out you must either discard or play your last card. And, you cannot discard a three of either color as your last card.

Because you always have to have at least one card in your hand you may end up discarding cards you could have played for points. It happens.

When one player/team goes out the round is over and points are added up. Points are as follows:

Closed clean books: 500 points
Closed dirty books: 300 points
Closed wild books: 700 points

To score, count up your clean, dirty, and wild books. Also, the first player/team to go out gets 100 points. Next, count up the point value of your cards, subtracting the points from the cards still in your hand (or foot if you didn't even get that far!) if you weren't the first one out.

For example, above I would score 1500 points for closed clean books and 900 points for closed dirty books, for a total of 2400. My wild book doesn't score any points itself because it isn't closed, but the cards in the book total 100 points. Add up all cards, not just the cards that aren't in a book.

Then, a new round begins. Play is the same, except for starting out.

As the game progresses you need to start by laying down cards worth more points. Here's how it goes:

0-2,999: 50 points
3,000-6,999: 90 points
7,000-10,000: 120 points

So for example, if you've played a couple rounds and you/your team has 6,575 points, you need to start by laying down 90 points. So does your partner, if you have one. If you don't have 90 points to lay down, you have to keep drawing and waiting your turn until you do.

The first player/team to 10,000 points wins.

I think that pretty much covers everything. I wrote this post over about a week because it's so long, so hopefully I didn't forget anything. If something doesn't make sense just ask and I'll try to explain it.

Hope you give Hand and Foot a try!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Favorite Books

Reconstructing Natalie by Laura Jensen Walker

A book about a woman who survives breast cancer and finds herself in the process. Also the Women of Faith Novel of the Year in 2006, I believe.

I've read it three or four times, and it only gets better.

Laura Jensen Walker's books are less "he's so cute" and more "I am woman!" But they're good books, usually pretty funny. And a lot of the time I can definitely relate.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Darren and I decided we're going to try and save 50% of our monthly income.

Yes, 50%. We really have relatively few fixed expenses: rent, cell phones, and his TriCare insurance (which has decreased considerably now that I have my own through work). We also have auto insurance, of course, but that's only every six months. Although that will be due again in April.

Pretty much everything else we buy is stuff we want. And food, obviously. Although heaven knows we could live for months on what's in the pantry.

We did really well last month. We saved 64% of our income.

I'm pretty excited about it, although I'm not expecting the next months to go so well. We had some extra income this month with a tuition reimbursement and our state tax refund, which is why we were able to save so much.

I've been doing a lot of work on my budget Excel workbook, including switching my credit card register over to Excel (I keep track of what we charge to our credit cards so I'm never surprised by the statement), creating a "savings worksheet" to track our savings, and a "status sheet" where I keep track of the end-of-month balances in all our accounts.

Type-A, you say?

Anyway, it's working out really well so far. Of all the money we save each month we designate 20% to saving for a new vehicle, 60% to a down payment for a house, and 20% for other savings. Other savings would be for trips or other things we need or want. We also have an emergency savings for emergencies. Obviously. And you already know about our Christmas Club savings, which I absolutely love.

Also I've decided to keep track of all the money I save with grocery coupons this year. I didn't use any in January since we were gone most of the month. In February I saved $27.98 with coupons. It's not as much as I've been savings since with work I don't have as much time to look for great deals. But I thought that was pretty good for not even trying that hard. Also, we're trying not to buy so many groceries, so I've been passing up a lot of coupons on things I would normally buy. We're trying to slim down that pantry, ya know.