Ain’t nobody here but us…

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The little A-frame that my brother and I built in July is now home to our newest two pets: Keelee and Haley!

We decided at the beginning of summer vacation to get a couple of these little guys for our backyard. I looked up different designs on the web, and when uncle B was in town, we figured it out and built together.

I was pretty happy with the results!

Now under the tutelage of Auntie Ena, we are ready to start harvesting our own eggs. The little guys that we got were only 12 weeks old back in July, so by Halloween we should start having some eggs for breakfast and baking

Most of you know that we have the overflowing and plentiful garden. It’s not really to save money… Although it does that too. It’s more about teaching our children, who a couple of generations away from the farm, about where their food comes from. Well, one or several generations form the farm, depending on which side of the family! but I digress. We also want to be more self-sufficient and build our own skill set, so these little guys are a piece of that.

It’s amazing how many other people we have discovered since, who have little houses in their backyards as well! And there is a plethora of wisdom there to help us with our new pets… Online discussion groups, and of course, Auntie Ena is just a phone all away, lol.

So now the pet total is at 12: 2 dogs, two cats, two hamsters, four fish, and… Keelee and Haley!

Frugal Friday: get rid of the satellite

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I have been trying for years to get my husband to cancel our satellite subscription. But as an avid NFL fan, he couldn’t see his way around getting rid of this bill and not being able to see his beloved 49ers play. He needed the satellite to watch the Sunday Ticket and see his team.

But I wanted to decrease the amount of TV we were watching anyway. And, I don’t see it as a necessity to have satellite. Like the manifesto says, “if you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV.” And I certainly feel like I don’t have enough time sometimes.

So, in our last round of budgeting, I asked him to see if there were alternatives for some of the “fixed” costs that we have. I didn’t specifically ask him to look at the satellite, but rather asked him to question all his assumptions about what we really needed and wanted.

To his credit, Jason came up with an ingenious solution.

He also got us to cancel our Telus services, which I have been trying to get out of for years. Just so you know, I don’t slam companies easily, even ones with as poor of customer service reputations as Telus. But when my grandfather passed and my grandmother had to deal with them… What a nightmare.

Anyway, we figured out that all the shows that I watch are available on the internet, via the network websites. I like the sat PVR, because I don’t have to watch commercials on the satellite system. But that certainly is not worth a couple hundred of dollars a year. So we canceled the satellite, and canceled our Telus internet and phone account.

We signed up with Shaw, which has much faster internet service. To give you an idea, their middle of the line service is 20 times faster than what we had with Telus. We added the phone on to top of our internet service. This may not seem like it saves us money so far, but with the higher internet speed, we could cancel the satellite service.

The other added component is that Jason found way to change our IP address on command, so that he can watch the NFL free from the Netherlands or from the US. If you have questions about that specifically, leave the question as a comment and I will get Jason to answered your specific questions on that.

Canceling satellite, along with changing our mobile phone plan so that it included the minutes that we actually use, looks like it will save us about $113 a month. The investment for this endeavor, included purchasing a used laptop for $250, should pay itself off in two or three months of savings. We thought about canceling the landline all together, but another cell phone would be more expensive than our one cell and landline.

So I will sum it up: cancelled satellite, check usage and minutes and adjusted our plans so no overage fees, bought a laptop, sign up for an IP address out of country, and made best use of freeTV online. Total savings? Probably around $1000 this year.

Party Pics: Happy Birthday to my amazing 7 year olds!

That’s right, today our daughters turn the big -seven!- this past weekend we had a big party to celebrate. My auntie and mom came to hang out (and help) for the weekend, and we had lots of friends over for the big day.

As our friends, family and blog followers will know, each year we give the girls a choice: they can get a present from Mommy and Daddy, or have a big birthday party. Each year they’ve chosen the party! Our themes over the years have been:
3 – no theme! Just Gramma, Grandpa and Uncle B
4 – Bugs and butterflies
5 – Horse Riding
6 – Bollywood

imageAnd this year’s theme was “Tropical!” The girls were inspired by our trip to Costa Rica and wanted to share e experience with everyone.

I have to say this birthday was the most crazy… We actually had less people than last year, but all the adults were up in the deck, staying away from the waterworks below, (who can blame them?) so it was pretty crazy and crowded. But still fun!

The kids made suncatchers (turtles and but flies and dolphins,) under Ginny’s supervision, played in the pool and slip and slide, had a water flight, ate rice and beans, and hammered a turtle shaped piñata.

The food was a lot simpler than last year: Costa Rican food is not complex! So we made gallo pinto (rice and beans,) salsa, deep fried plantains, baked fish, grilled pineapple, watermellon coconut juice, pineapple and coconut cupcakes and white chocolate dipped coloured squares. The fish was made by the Little Chef herself! I think my aunt was surprised when I handed the kid $30 of fish and just said “have at er!” But of course, it was lovely. And a big shout out to my mom and auntie, who sliced and diced for a couple of hours the day of the party!

Thanks to everyone who came… We hope you had a good time. Thanks so much for the thoughtful presents!

I’m sure the girls are already planning their party for next year.

Click on a pic to see the caption.. Double click to see it in a slideshow!

Frugal Fridays: Smart Couples Finish Rich

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This is the first entry in my Frugal Friday series. I received a lot of e-mails and comments when I talked about going to halftime work to change the quality of our lives and wreak focus on health. People wanted to share money saving tips… But I think paying attention to the money side of your life is more than just saving money.

So for our first Frugal Friday I will start where we started, which is with a good housekeeping and a good foundation.

Shortly after Jason and I moved in together, I was recommended a book to read. I think it was from Janelle, a good practical friend of mine who just happens to be in accounting. It was called “Smart Couples Finish Rich,” which is a horrible title.

Despite the greedy sounding title, the book actually was not about getting rich at all. It’s about values-based planning, and getting both sides of the relationship on the same values so that you can make purposeful decisions with your finances and your lifestyle decisions. It’s probably worth Jason and I going back and rereading some of the sections!

The book has you both talk about what is really important to you in life, and which lifestyle decisions you are making support those values and which don’t. Then you plan your finances accordingly.

Now, Jason and I fight about things like any other couple, but one thing we rarely fight about is money. I credit working through this book, and getting our ducks in a row, early on in our relationship. The book also has you get the administrative side of your relationship in order as well. Such as organizing life insurance, finding out if your parents will need support in their old age, organizing your medical coverage and tax files, etc. These are not exciting things for me! But it needs to be done.

Since then, I have turned all the filing over to Jason. But the point is that we had common understanding in the beginning and now we tweak and make decisions as we go along, such as how much disability insurance to carry.

So my first recommendation is this: by “Smart Couples Finish Rich.” I have given it to several couples as a wedding gift, and I hope some of them have read it too!

Of course, if you don’t have to buy the book. It’s probably available at your library. However, be prepared to sit down as a couple and do some work from it. No work, no progress!

The Little Chef makes Super Steelhead Trout

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My daughter “Sugar” loves to cook.. She’s wanted to be a chef since she was four years old. She slices, she dices! And now she has enough skill to be in charge of an expensive ingredient.

In the following video, Sugar shows you how to make her version of steelhead trout. This is her own recipe, with no ideas from me. Enjoy! And yes, it was delicious!