Here We Go Again, Withdrawals From Our Checking Without Our Permission.

How would you feel if you woke up one morning and found your bank balance down to $0.56 when the lowest it should be is $180.00? Well this has happened to me and I was pissed! There were two ACH’s or withdrawals.  One for $12 and the other for $513.00.  Not a very small amount. Yes, I realize this could have been worse, because this is not the first time something out of our control has happened to our banking account.

The first thing I did was contact my bank who tells me to contact an 800 number of the company completing the withdrawal, wouldn’t you know they are doing it as an ACH (which basically means F**** you, we get our money no matter what). They gave me a id number of the transaction and the phone number to contact where the withdrawal originated.

This led to 20 minutes of phone call after phone call. Finally I reached a bank in Napierville, Illinois. I then was transferred from department to department telling my story over and over. I finally was connected to the correct department who then informed me that the name of the company is Ocwen Loan Servicing. They provided me with a phone number.

I proceeded to spend the next hour calling that number and about 4 more numbers that I found on ReachAhuman.com.  I tried every variation that was listed on the website explaining how to reach a real person. Well that didn’t happen.  They had one option if you have no account number. That was to input your social security number and then your zip code.  The phone system accepted my social security number, but not my zip code and that freaked me out.

You see about 4 years ago my identity was stolen by a woman in Illinois. She had been using my social security number for years prior to being found out.  The only reason she was found out was that she began using my full name and my social security number. The IRS went after me because she claimed an earned income credit and I did not claim it on my tax return. The worse part was I was on unemployment during that time and I did not want the State of Florida or the IRS on my butt. We got it fixed, but I have to check my social security statement yearly and my credit report all the time to make sure nothing is happening to my identity.

The connection of a bank in Illinois taking out the ACH and the woman in Illinois who stole my identity makes me suspicious. I told Chris what was happening. Actually I woke him up with a quick breakdown of the mess we were in. I told him I was leaving and going to the bank to figure out what to do. He decided to go too.

Our bank suggested stop payments for both withdrawals and a ACH contest form. Of course the stop payments cost $30 each, but they were nice enough to not charge us for both. I still don’t see why I have to pay anything. I understand being charged for overdrafts, but this is for a mortgage company withdrawal and I don’t have a mortgage!

It is very possible that Ocwen Loan Servicing made an error when they submitted the withdrawals. Maybe the bank in Illinois or our bank made an error.  I don’t know, but it sucks when you work your butt off saving money just to have a mistake or worse, fraud take it from you.

So there you have it.  We took money from our savings to cover the expenses that were outstanding and to bring our balance above the minimum so that we did not pay a checking fee. I will continue to check my accounts twice a day.  I added Lifelock for me, just to be safe. That was a knee jerk reaction though.  After looking into what their services, I don’t think they do much more than I already do.  I will be contacting the credit bureaus and freezing my credit.  We already keep very little in our checking account so that will continue and we will probably change banks.

You could say I am overreacting, but am I? My father died recently and someone submitted a tax return in my parents name for last year. It wasn’t my mom. My husband spoke to at least 2 other people at his  work who had their checking accounts hacked. In fact Chris had his debit card number stolen and someone was in Orlando shopping at WalMart while Chris was in Melbourne working.

Identity theft is a growing criminal industry in this country.  According to Credit Donkey.com Identity theft was the number 1 complaint in the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book. This can happen to anyone, but there are precautions to take.  Not that they have helped us much, but here they are.

I hope you never have to go through the loss of your identity or even have your checking account hacked.  It is a scary situation to go through. If you happen to go through it, stay calm, keep a level head and do not take it out on the people who are trying to help you.  The first step is different for different circumstances.  When my identity was stolen I contacted the IRS and followed their instructions. No one quite knew how to handle it, even the IRS. We ended up hiring an accounting firm and they fixed everything. This time we contacted the bank and are moving forward. I promise to update you whatever the outcome may be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Was So Not Ready To Be A Nana

Mom, Your going to be a grandma was not something I was particularly ready for. I mean I was maybe 45 and still had one daughter in high school!  I don’t know if I ever would have been ready for grandchildren until it happened.  I wasn’t one of those parents.  I was ready for an empty nest after raising four children.  I was so not ready that our middle daughter got married I had one request of the newlyweds.  No grandchildren until we turned 50.  The actually laughed at me!  I was 44 maybe at the time?  Six years wouldn’t have killed them to wait, right?Gran

Of course they didn’t wait and they went on to have two bright, polite, full of personality little boys.  They live two days drive from us so it is easy to put the Nana hat when I am with them.  My husband and I do everything they want to do because they so rarely see us. The Nana hat comes off when we leave.

We now have a total of six grandchildren and I am finally over 50.  It still isn’t all that easy, but these kids are amazing. The Nana hat stays on a lot longer now than it goes off. My son fell in love with a beautiful woman who had two girls by a previous relationship.  These two girls are harder being a Nana with them then the other kids. They are so smart and precious, but they already have grandparents and great grandparents in their lives that love and adore them. I am never quite sure what the right thing is to do with them.  WP_20131225_022I try to show them I love them, but am never sure they get that.

Our other two daughters have given us one boy and one girl.  By the time these two were born we had adjusted to being grandparents.

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I say adjusted because as much as people have said it is so easy to be grandparents it has not been for me. I was not ready at all.  I still don’t quite see myself as Grandma. I chose Nana as my name, but everyone is Nana now days.  I hear the name called out by a child and I look for one of my grandchildren. I found the French term for Grandma is Grandmere, I should have chosen that. The name isn’t a big deal.  I can deal with that. The part I didn’t realize is how important to me these little people are to me.  It amazes me how smart and wonderful they are.  It makes me proud to see my kids being parents to their own children.WP_20140118_001

When our eldest decided to go back to school for her nursing degree there were no questions asked I was finding a way to watch the only toddler in my family that lives near me.  I wish I could have done it with the rest of our grandchildren. Once I made that decision my mother told me how amazing it was for her to have watched our youngest while I worked for a year. She said that I would never regret this decision.

At first I think I did. I really overestimated how easy it was going to be. I had forgotten that a 13 month cries and wants held a lot. I forgot that you can throw getting anything accomplished with her here. It was a huge, huge adjustment to me.  Now she is 22 months old and she giggles. She plays and today she found that she can open the drawer to my bathroom vanity drawer.  Guess that door will stay closed.  She is so funny she makes me laugh. She knows the names of animals, but insists on calling a cat, meow and a dog, woof woof. She christened Chris as Papa instead of Pap Pap.

Now I can’t wait to see her. I miss her on vacations.  I find myself walking through stores and seeing clothing that I would love to get all six of the kids.  Vacations are filled with finding that just right souvenir that chances are they just won’t care about. You what though?  I am finding that I love being a grandmother and am actually proud to be one.

What I am finding out is that grandchildren are the bomb. They remind you that there is good in this world.  They let you think that you are a hero. They make me want to work harder to make this world a better place.

Twelve Ideas For a Happier Marriage

Thirty two years ago I married the love of my life.  As the comedian Christopher Titus has said “We found our ice cream truck”.  We have found our ice cream truck in each other.   I love this saying. It makes me smile every time I think or hear it.

We have had thirty two incredible years. We raised four children. We have been through good times and bad. We have been through times that amaze me we are still together.  These past years have taught me so much. I decided to share my thoughts in no particular order on what has worked to bring us into an amazing time in our lives.

  1. Communicate with each other.  Don’t just talk at each other. Listen! Sometimes we need new perspectives that our spouses are the only ones who can give them to us.
  2. Be open to new experiences.  We can get into the habit of saying no. There have been times Chris wanted to do things that I just said no out of reflex.  On the other hand I practically had to force Chris to go to New Orleans and it turned out to be one of the best experiences of our lives. I realized this recently and have made many attempts to say yes more.
  3. Get out of debt and get a firm handle on your finances. I would go even further.  Make short term, medium term and long term financial goals together.  Money is the number one issue couple’s fight over.
  4. Don’t be a right fighter as Dr. Phil says. There are only a couple of things I agree with him on, but this is a big one.  When we fight and have to have the last word we are irrational and incapable of compromise. Most of marriage is compromise.
  5. Never let them see you sweat. This is for couples that have children and meddling in laws. Children are great at using one parent against the other, in laws can do the same. This can have damning results in a relationship.
  6. Take time for each other and yourself.  You need time to reconnect with that person you fell in love with and time to find the person you are becoming.
  7. Think before you speak.  Our words can cause far more damage than we think. One negative comment  will take many more positive comments to negate. The person who says the negative comment may not ever remember it, but the person who hears it may never forget it. I swear I hear Thumper’s voice in my head at times. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”
  8. Do things the other wants, but don’t be like my dad. My mom always had to do the things dad wanted to, but when he had to do stuff mom wanted, he pouted and made life miserable for those around him. This only works as a two way street.
  9. Try not to judge each other.  I say try because we are human and we are prone to judging others.  When we judge each other we are placing ourselves higher than the person we are with.  This leads to looking down on each other and believing we are better than the one person we have chosen to love.
  10. Choose everyday to love your spouse.  I believe that this is a choice we must make to have a happy marriage.
  11. Deal with the small stuff in life.  This is kind of like filling a basket with berries.  My grandpa used to say fill the corners of the basket and the middle will fill itself.  Deal with the small stuff and you will be able to deal with the bigger problems in life.
  12. Appreciate your spouse. Tell them they did something well or that you appreciate them.  I know I like it when Chris makes jokes just to see me smile.
  13. Write your own love story instead of reading or dreaming about it.  Again this is a two person requirement.  And yes, I know the title is 12 Ideas for a Happier Marriage, I just couldn’t help but add this one!!

There are probably a million more things to do for a good relationship and marriage.  It has taken me forever to learn some of these.  Some have needed to be learned over and over.

I was recently asked by one of my daughters at  a weak moment when I was complaining about my husband (see some things need to be learned over and over), would I want one of my girls to be in a marriage with issues like mine?  My answer?  No, but not because I am unhappy but,  because no marriage is perfect, because no two people are perfect.  No two marriages will ever be the same.  My mom used to say that what one person can handle in their marriage another person can’t. I have found this to be true.

I used to look up to an older couple that were friends of Chris’ grandparents. Bill and Mabel bickered back and forth. At the same time you could see the love between them.  They adored each other and were so at ease.  I could not wait for that stage of marriage to come.  We are there. We bicker back and forth, we hold hands, we have comfortable silences, and most of all we just love each other.

I am blessed to have this amazing man in my life.  I still look over at him when he is not looking and am amazed that he is here, with me, loving me.  He shares my interests even if he wouldn’t be interested in them if we weren’t together.  He has a passion for me that never ends. Knowing all of this makes the differences between us smaller.  I complain, but in truth, there is not much I would change about  us.

So to my wonderful husband, Happy Anniversary! I love you from the tips of my toes to the top of my head.  I cannot imagine my life without you.  I can’t wait to see what the next 32 years will bring!

Chris and I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inexpensive Replacements For All Your Laundry Needs.

Everyone who writes blogs about saving money eventually writes a blog about laundry soap. This is one of the most popular subjects. I swear that I am asked about laundry soap more than any other money saving idea. I have written at least 3 posts on it. The questions are usually because people want to know how to save money and be kinder to the environment. Why shouldn’t this be one of the most asked questions? The cost of a bottle of 50 ounce Tide at Amazon.com is $14.89. Now consider how much pre treater, all fabric bleach, fabric softener, and even fabric softener crystals cost and the subject of laundry becomes a huge financial expenditure. It has been so long since I bought any of these that I really have no idea what these items cost anymore.

I decided that I would write a post that gives you replacements for all of the above. Over the past 5 years I have tested and used each of the following recipes and ideas. As I said, I have not purchased laundry soap, pre treater, all fabric bleach, fabric softener, and fabric softener crystals in years. I still purchase dryer sheets, but at some point I will make my own reuseable dryer sheets.

Like most people I started out making my own laundry soap. The items I use have to pass the water test. The well water we have is incredibly bad. If it does not clean and work with our horrible water here in Palm Bay then the recipe or idea is discarded until it can be reworked or ignored.  I think laundry here in Florida is it’s own special kind of challenge.  Heat, humidity, rain, and really hard water when you are on well water all add up to tough, tough cleaning issues.

As I previously stated, the very first laundry item I learned to make was laundry soap.  I could not justify the expense of purchasing laundry detergent when I knew I could make it so much cheaper. I  was a liquid laundry detergent kind of girl.  Our water was hard in Michigan and powder detergent never seemed to dissolve completely.  So the first attempts at making laundry detergent were painfully involved and just so much mess for me.

I eventually watched a television segment on our local Fox affiliate showcasing how easy it was to make laundry soap.  The expert just grated the soap and mixed the other products.  I realized her recipe was basically the same as mine, but no water involved. A light bulb must have come on over my head because that was the way I made laundry soap the next time and that was amazing.  I have processed this down to 3 different ways to make laundry soap.  My absolute favorite is the one that should last for a year.  My post Three laundry soap recipes that work can be found at this link :recipeshttps://creativelylivingwithsue.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/three-laundry-soap-recipes-that-really-work/.  This post has all the recipes you may ever need for making you own laundry soap.

Laundry soap reconsidered.

The next item I have had great results with is my pre treater.  This normally takes care of grease stains and most other stains I have had in our clothing.   I have also found it to be a pretty good replacement for all fabric bleach.  I do have to admit it did not do as great of a job this last time I used it on Chris’ uniforms.  To be clear I believe this is because our water softener has not worked for months and the water here is unlike water anywhere else unless you are on city water. I found this on One Good Thing With Jillie. 

Home made Shout Pre Treater

  • 2/3 Cup of Dish washing Liquid Dawn or Gain
  • 2/3 Cup Ammonia
  • 6 TBSP Baking Soda
  • 2 Cups Warm Water

Mix together until the baking soda dissolves.  Pour into a large bottle with funnel. This will expand so make sure it is a large bottle.  Pour onto stain.

To use this as an all purpose bleach first test on fabric prior to using. I have found this safe, but you never know.  Once you have determined it is safe go ahead and add a 1/2 Cup to your wash water.  I have a top loader, but I would think you could use it in you soap dispenser.

**A couple of notes on this.  1. the baking soda does not stay dissolved and needs shaken before each use.  2.  I won’t use a spray nozzle as it clogs up.

We have this thing called humidity here in Florida and unless you have lived here you have no clue what it can do to your clothes.  Once you wash them and then sweat they can stink to high heaven. This is absolutely not a joke!  It is a musty odor and very embarrassing to smell.  So I do use Fabric Softener Crystals.  I use these on Chris’ work clothes and my workout clothes to get rid of these odors.   This is also an ingredient to my favorite laundry soap recipe. Jillie has another post on this

Fabric Softener Crystals Like Purex or Downey
1 Cup Epsom Salt
10 drops of essential oil. I used Lavender and Mint. 5 drops each
Put into a bowl and mix together. That is it! Use 1/4 cup per load. The fabric softener crystals are put into the washer with the laundry soap.

The next item in the washing process is fabric softener. This was the second item I learned to make. The ease and simplicity of these items amaze me. I have no idea where I found the recipe. It may have came from One Good Thing By Jillie. I just don’t remember. It works well and you can choose the scents.

Fabric Softener

6 Cups hot water
3 Cups White Vinegar
2 cups or 18 ounces of good smelling cheap conditioner.
Whisk water and conditioner in a bowl until conditioner is dissolved. Pour into a gallon container, like a gallon vinegar container. Add Vinegar, place lid on container. Hold the lid onto the container and shake until combined. The recipe states to use 2 TBSP per load. I use a Downey ball and fill it to the fill line with my home made fabric softener for each use or each time I remember to use it.

Home made Fabric Softener

There are many ways to save money on laundry. I can think of wool dryer balls that my mom makes, aluminum foil formed into a ball for the dryer, and even a tennis ball for use in the dryer. White vinegar works as a cheap and awesome fabric softener. In fact I prefer to use it in my towels. White vinegar softens fabric and allows the towels to continue to absorb water. Fabric softener does not.

I also hang my laundry outside on a line. It saves a lot on electricity. I wash 5 to 6 loads a week. If I use the dryer for each load it means 7.5 to 9 hours total in the dryer. If I hang them on the line it means 60 minutes on medium or low in the dryer. I have a routine for hanging laundry to keep my dyer time to a minimum. The towels are always the first to be washed. the whites are next. The towels and the towels in the whites are put into the dryer for 20 minutes. I then wash Chris’ work clothes and darks, then the brights, and then the dedicates. Each load is hung up to dry, once dry I take them down and separate the clothes that are softened and ready to be hung up in the closet from the rest that need to get softened in the dryer. The second dryer load consists of darks and brights. Both loads are for 20 minutes each and on medium heat. The final load is the delicate. Again, it takes about 20 minutes and it is on low heat.

These are the ways I save money and continue to live the life I enjoy. The home made laundry cleaners are more environmentally friendly and less expensive. Hanging the clothes out on the line has the same benefits and one more. That benefit is exercise. I stretch and bend as I hang the clothes and I bend and stretch as I take them off the line

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One idea I am still working on Chris to do is get line or a wooden clothes rack to dry out clothes on in bad weather. We will have to see how to convince him this is a good idea. You would think just the money saved on electricity would be enough.

As I say a million times, every saving money idea comes with the cost of time. It can be very time consuming if you are not organized. I can promise you that if you choose to use these ideas you will not miss using the store items ever again. It will be a shock to your system each time you have to purchase the actual product.  Good luck and enjoy!!!!

Life Is All About The Choices You Make

Not so long ago my husband and I felt that our lives were full of promise. We felt there was a certainty for great change to occur. Every dream we had at the time seemed sure to happen. Our dreams were simple.  They were of the day Chris would no longer have to drive a semi for a major soft drink company and I could stop working and devote my life to the things I wanted to do. We could travel and buy a big house here in Florida and another in our home state. In other words, our world would be something that we could have only dreamed about.

That dream was destroyed and forces beyond our control shattered the very life we had left. The amazing thing is we never gave up. We could have and no one would have blamed us if we had. We could have blamed each other for where our decisions led us, but we didn’t.

We have different ways to work out our problems. Chris is the kind of man that faces his problems and wants to work them out together.  This goes on until there is at least a plan in place. Me? I would rather work it out in my mind and then together. In reality this is exactly what we did. We took stock of our lives literally. We had to know what and who we owed. We also had to know what assets we had and if they were of value in case we needed to sell them. We had to find a starting point.

Once we found our stating point we had to realize no one could help us. Borrowing money was a short term answer, but one that was no longer an option, especially after I was laid off. We had no family members who could bail us out of our mistakes. We had God and each other. That was enough.

Chris chose to work the hours he needed to. We chose to find the best ways to save money for us. This was the introduction to being frugal we so desperately needed. We realized that it is not about how much money you make, but how you spend it. A very simple truth we learned is that if you spend more money than you make, then you are eventually inevitably in debt.

I was unemployed for three years. I believed that if I couldn’t bring money into the house then I was going to make sure a whole lot less money was going out of the house. In that time I had 3 job interviews and the only one I got was a temporary holiday job.

I’ve spoken of Dave Ramsey and how we followed his basic rules to get out of debt. We found that when he says In his book, ” I’ll live like no one else, later I’ll get to live like no one else”, it is the truth.

You see, we chose to invest in ourselves. We chose to look at our lives positively and make decisions based in the present with the information we had, not promises or pipe dreams. Our lives have become the lives we dreamed of, only better.

Chris still works for the soft drink company, but he no longer drives and he enjoys his job. This is the first time in 32 years of marriage, he doesn’t hate his job.

We are now debt free and own our home free and clear. We have traveled to Mexico, taken a couple of cruises, rented a couple of cabins in Tennessee and Georgia, we spent almost a week in New Orleans, and have visited family in Michigan and Illinois.

I started writing this blog. I was desperate to have it make enough money for me to no longer have to work outside the home. Even this hasn’t worked out the way I wanted it to. I found my voice in my writing. I still love to save money and tell you all how to do things to save money, but there is so much more that I want to say. Who knows where it will take me, but through this blog I found out that writing is another of my passions.

Eventually I found a job in the mall and work two days a week there. I am at a place in my life where I can choose what I do. I have chosen to take on the job of watching our youngest grandchild. I am amazed at how much joy she brings into our lives. Being a grandparent is so much more fun than being a parent.

We are free in a way that most of the people I know have no understanding of. We have no stress from our bills and we have enough in savings to cover most disasters that can happen in life. I no longer cringe when I open the mail box and actually enjoy going through the junk mail.

The truth is just like the Frances Mayes in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, we have found everything we dreamed of, just not the way we expected.

Should Bert Kick Ernie To The Curb? A Sesame Street Dilemia

My eldest daughter posted a statement on Facebook.  She said that the more she watches Sesame Street, the more she thinks Bert should kick Ernie to the curb.

The thing is I haven’t watched Sesame Street in years until I started watching it for my Elmo obsessed granddaughter.  First impressions were not good, but it has grown on me.  I love seeing Maria, Gordon, and Luis as they are now.  I remember them as they once were.  The quality of the show has improved too.

I am impressed with the story lines.  They have educating preschoolers down to a T.  This brings us back to Ernie and Bert, because I too, once believed that Bert should kick pain in the butt Ernie to the curb.  Now don’t get me wrong,  Ernie is annoying.  He drags Bert into all kinds of things.  He is like that friend that gets you into all kinds of trouble, but you know, life is pretty boring without that friend.

You see, if you look at Bert, he seems pretty content with his pigeon friend Bernice and his buttons, but is he?  I contend that he is a very lonely muppet.  He knows what is going to happen every minute of the day.  His days begin and end the same.  He reminds me of my dad.  His life was pretty much the same every day.  He didn’t like the interruptions that life threw his way.  He could have learned a lot from someone like Ernie and Bert.

Look at how Bert handles the way Ernie acts. He gets angry and frustrated with Ernie, but along the way he begins to relax and enjoy the hi-jinx that Ernie brings his way.  In fact I think Bert stays friends with Ernie because he brings joy into Bert’s  life. He breaks up the day to day existence that is Bert’s life.

Flip the coin and you have Ernie.  Why would Ernie stay friends with stick in the mud Bert?  Ernie is fun loving.  He wants to push the envelope and see what happens.  I think he needs someone to be there with him. I think he is another lonely muppet.  I think that Bert brings Ernie back down to planet earth.  Bert grounds Ernie.

Why am I discussing Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street?  Because I think there is a bit of both of them in each of us.  They are two sides of a single coin, without one, you don’t have the other.  How many of us can relate to traits in Bert and Ernie?  I can be impulsive and excitable.  I can also have tunnel vision and unable to see the forest for the trees.

Sometimes I need that kick in the butt to get me out there trying things for the first time and sometimes I need that friend to just pull me back down to earth and say Hey, what do you think you are doing?

You see, kids and adults need a Bert and an Ernie in their lives.  Life would be boring without them.

Cooking, A Great Passion

I have pondered a couple of questions at different times in my life.  The first question is what exactly do I want in life? This includes what are your hopes and dreams?  The second question is the one I plan on writing about today. Who is Susan Drew (me)?  At least I will discuss one of the answers.

Until recently the answer would be and has been, I am a wife, mother, and grandmother.  These answers really are not who I am as much as what I am. I am proud of being Chris’ wife, just as I know he is proud of being my husband.  I adore my kids and their families.  It is just that there is more to me than being wife, mother, and grandmother.

It amazes me how it has taken until I am in my 50’s to discover  my true passions in life.  My husband and family are my loves, but they are just the starting point of things that spark my curiosity and bring me joy.

I have written about my obsession with saving money.   This was one of the first passions I found I had.  This introduced me to another passion that helps me save money.  Of course it can cost me loads of money too.  This passion is cooking and it is the one I plan on sharing with you today.

I began my cooking experience when I was between 10 and 12. Oh I am sure I helped cook other things, but the first memory that stands out for me was a Thanksgiving meal I cooked.   My mother was ill and we were hosting my aunt and uncle for dinner.  My mother bought a Butterball turkey so the turkey would be moist.  I cooked nearly everything, but the pies.  When I was a teen I began cooking meals for my dad as mom was busy working.  There was no creativity involved.  Dinner nearly always consisted of a meat, a potato, and a vegetable.  The meat was pan fried.  I don’t remember anything about the potato and the vegetable came out of a can.  This was not because my mother couldn’t cook differently, it was the only way my father would eat.

Marriage changed how I cooked.  I married a man who was the eldest of 6 children.  He introduced me to pasta dishes.  We were financially lacking so the most creative thing we ate was shake and bake chicken with a chocolate pudding pie.

We lived on a farm when our children were young.  I learned how to bake apple pies and any number of snacks for our kids.   We gardened and I canned fruits and veggies.  We raised pigs and steers for market and for our own table.  We had ducks and chickens for eggs. I had one cookbook.  It was the Better Homes & Garden cookbook.  The cooking I did then was to feed us and to do it as cheaply as possible. I was so overwhelmed with life to even notice if cooking was a joy or a chore.

Once we moved to Florida things changed.  We began eating out and buying  pre-packaged meals.  I worked and for whatever reason no one else cooked.  Things are fuzzy from then, but I do remember one daughter making a chicken dinner for her boyfriend that ended up using nearly every pot and pan I owned.  There was a huge mess, but no meal for us. Cooking was certainly a chore to me then.

Once life slowed down, meaning I got laid off, we chose to stop eating out unless it was a special occasion. This was also the time in which I was introduced to some amazing cooking shows on cable.  Laura Calder and Alton Brown became my heroes.  Alton Brown took the fear of experimenting from me.  He also opened the door to making sauces and gravies.   I now make an awesome gumbo because of him.  Laura introduced me to simplicity in cooking and the joy that it brings.

Living a life cable free means no more  Cooking channel or Food Network. I went through withdrawal.  Then I found the Create channel from PBS.  This is where I discovered America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Country depending on the name of the show you are watching.  They come up with ways to work recipes to perfection.  The horrible part is that unless the recipes they are cooking at the time you are watching, are within the current season, you have to pay for access to the recipes online.  I guess this isn’t horrible, but inconvenient when you are a penny pincher such as myself.

One of my most popular posts is one about making your own Velveeta Cheese.  This recipe came from America’s Test Kitchen.  It is a really good recipe.  I try to make this as I then know exactly what is in my food.

The web is an awesome place for me to find amazing recipes.  I love Ree Drummond and her blog The Pioneer Woman ,  Deb Perelman and her blog Smitten Kitchen, and of course David Lebovitz.  Another really great reference is foodnetwork.com.

My youngest daughter knows my obsession with Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat.  She bought me the cookbook.  My eldest got me the Smitten Kitchen and one of The Pioneer Woman’s cookbooks.

The truth is please keep them coming as I love them.  I have a few I still want! Okay, time to refocus, I love  each and every cookbook I have been given. I love having a shelf of resource material when I am in the mood to cook.  I have converted my husband to an avid cooking show viewer.  I think you need a good basis from which you can rely on when in the creative mood or when you are just plain sick of cooking the same meals every week.

I had the chance to purchase the America’s Test Kitchen’s current cookbook that has all past season’s recipes and 2014’s recipes.  Oh, my, what an amazing cookbook. I would love to purchase this as gifts for my whole family. This certainly beats the Better Homes & Garden cookbook I started out with. I have used it repeatedly since purchasing it.  Each meal I prepared from this cookbook has been amazing.  I baked a whole chicken that was moist and entirely yummy.  It actually rivaled a rotisserie chicken in flavor and moistness.

A note to anyone who wants to buy me a gift.  Any and all books by David Lebovitz would be appreciated. A good French cook book, a good middle eastern cookbook, and a good Mexican cookbook would be  greatly appreciated also.

Finding that one of my passions is cooking opened the door to realizing that I am creative. This is a trait that I never dreamed I had but always wanted.  My mother is great at crafts and sewing, my paternal grandmother was a piano teacher, my aunt is an artist, and my daughter is a flutist.

I am not always perfect and I fail at many attempts when cooking.  I no longer look at these attempts as failure. For each failure there is a chance to learn and continue to create.  For me there is an almost childlike anticipation to see how a recipe that I tweaked or created from scratch comes out.  The true joy for me is to see the look on someone’s face of satisfaction when they eat something I made.

My word of wisdom today?  Get out there and find out who you are.  Find that passion and I promise you it will bring you great joy!

 

I Am a Horrible Friend

I am a horrible friend. No, really I am a horrible friend. It’s not that I am anti social. It’s not that I really don’t like people. I use my husband as the excuse. Oh, I can’t go to lunch with you because, well, Chris gets frustrated when I am gone. He does but that is not the real reason.

I grew up an only child.  My mother used to say she thought she lived in a nut house.  Dad would be talking to himself in the basement and I would be talking to myself upstairs.  She would be on the main floor of our 2 story house listening to us both. I grew up outside a small town in the country. We had neighbors, but I wasn’t exactly friends with them. To be honest I was far more comfortable by myself than with most kids around me. 

This is not to say that I am socially inept.  I get along with the majority of people.  I make friends easily and I think people like to work with me. In fact I can probably count on one hand the amount of people who dislike me.  Those people do dislike me intensely though.

I am a very open person.  What you see is what you get.  I could care less what you know about me.  I will share everything about me even if it means putting myself down to make you feel at ease.  This has frustrated my husband and children.  I have learned to leave out information that would upset them.  I feel safer sharing my life as a joke or on the pages of this blog than in person.  Pretty sad huh?

I aim to be non judgmental with my friends and family.  I try to be there for them if they need me, but I am still deep down that little girl who feels safer sitting out in the field where no one can see me, talking to my cat. I hate talking on the phone.  I am not comfortable going out on the town with friends.  I always feel like the odd man out.  This is where I get out of hanging out with people by blaming Chris. 

The funny thing is facebook has reconnected me with the childhood friends that have known me the longest.  It has also allowed me to stay connected to the people I have worked with and I consider them friends.   Living here in Florida has introduced me to some amazing people that I truly love.  I feel blessed with the friends in my life. The problem is I don’t really know how to fit them into my life.

The other thing about facebook is it lets me be friends with nearly no effort.  I mean I may have small conversations with people, I may “like” something they post, but I don’t have to go have lunch or coffee or dinner with them.  Is this a good thing or bad?  I really don’t know.

The difference between my childhood friends and newer friends is the childhood friends have withstood the test of time.  We are the kind of friends that despite the time and distance we pick up right where we left off.  They also understand what my life is and who I am. They forgive my idiosyncrasies.  The newer friends are the ones I am most insecure about.  They don’t know my history and the personality they see is the one that I show the world while working. 

I have made many friends here in Florida, but I am not so sure if I have or not.  It is hard for me to sit down and spend time with someone.  I don’t make a lot of money so going out to eat is hard to do.  I prefer to spend my evenings and weekends with my husband.  A girls cruise, like the one my friend Jessica did recently, is totally out of the question. I have Monday afternoons and Friday afternoons open. I have one friend who I adore, but never make time for her. I know she has given up on me. I don’t blame her. I am very sorry Val.

The truth is I have a husband who loves to spend time with me and I love to spend time with him.  My mother is now here in Florida living near me.  I am finally able to have a relationship with her that does not include my dad.  My eldest daughter has moved closer and I get to babysit her daughter and spend some time with my daughter.  Add all of this to my cooking, gardening, and writing I just don’t know how to find the time to share with others.

I realize a large part of the blame is on me. Why can I share the most intimate information about me, but sharing a meal or spending time alone with another person intimidates me. You would never know it if you met me.

I don’t always realize that we are friends if you know what I mean. You see, I am not all that confident in friendship. I prefer to be safe and alone. There is also a two way street with friendships. I am insecure in being the one who always makes the effort. Asking someone to walk the causeway with me constantly makes me feel needy and not the kind of friend someone would need or want. In every friendship there is always the one who does make the majority of effort.

I guess everyone has their own limitations when it comes to friendships. I’m just being honest. I love my friends and I am here for each one of them, but unless a miracle happens, where their schedule and mine are the same we aren’t going for coffee or having a girls night out. I am here to listen and not judge. I am here to pray for you and to encourage you when you are down, but other wise I suck.

So if you know me, forgive me please. I am an only child who still seeks the solitude instead of the crowds. It is my safety blanket.

Changing Doctors and A New Realization of Family Health

My doctor recently gave up her practice.  I was absolutely devastated.  A few years ago I can remember walking into her office. It had been years since I had seen any kind of doctor. The truth is I had just not taken care of myself.  I had been depressed and life was more of a trial than a joy.  We were going through turmoil and my way of dealing with it was stumbling through everything not seeing anything but the most relevant.  I had given up.

Walking became my refuge and praying my strength.  Without this I was like a rag doll with no idea of why I couldn’t get up.  Walking was helping my weight, but causing major pain in my feet.  The first step was seeing a doctor to make sure everything was okay. I knew it was going to be awful. I was petrified that I had high blood pressure, diabetes, and just about any other disease related to being over weight. Sitting in her office I just wanted to run.  I debated with myself about leaving until she came in the room.

She was so easy to talk with.  She put me completely at ease and for the first time in my life a doctor sat down with me and listened.  It was amazing!  I walked out of there certain I had made the perfect decision.  My test results came back perfect.  I was no longer afraid of seeing a doctor, at least until she gave up her practice.

The first thing I did was search the online site that my husband’s insurance company has.  The decisions I needed to think about was did I want a male or female doctor and what type of a doctor I was looking for. I decided that for me the only doctor who actually listened to me was a female so I decided on a woman. A General Practitioner was the specialty I wanted.

I already had a Gynecologist so I just needed a General Practitioner.  The next step was to find a GP who was accepting new patients and cross reference the doctor’s names with a website that gave patient reviews.  I made my choice and scheduled an appointment.

I made a list of what vitamins I took and any questions I had prior to my appointment.  The only thing I wasn’t completely prepared for was the question about family history. Oh, I knew what it was and I knew this was one of the questions they were going to ask me. I just wasn’t prepared for the impact of seeing it written down on a piece of paper

I never realized how bad my family’s health history was until I went to the doctor.  My parents and grandparents on both sides had or have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The majority had one or two issues, but one had all of them.

My maternal grandmother had colon cancer.  As far as I know, no one else has had colon cancer on either side of our family.  My paternal grandmother died from breast cancer. Again, no one else on either side of the family has had it.  My father had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, skin cancer, and died from congestive heart failure.  He also had diabetes and prostate cancer.

I was not born when my grandmother on my dad’s side passed away. He was only 16 when she died.  I was a child when my grandmother on my mom’s side passed.  She was visiting family members in Texas when it happened. The effects of the their diseases never really affected me. I was there for my dad’s battles though.

When I was growing up with dad he didn’t have much of an issue with his weight. He maintained his weight up until he retired. He didn’t seem to go up or down. He enjoyed his sweets and hid them in the truck so he would not have to share with the rest of the family, but he worked off what he ate. His meals always consisted of a meat, potato dish, and a veggie.  He liked to eat a bowl of ice cream at night every so often.

Things changed after he retired.  It was a gradual change, but he slowly put on weight. His blood pressure went up and somewhere along the way he had his first heart attack.  He slowed down, not by choice, but because he could no longer do the things he used to.  The skin cancer became a constant issue.  The skin cancer was caused by radiation in the heat lamps that were prescribed for him as a child to help eradicate acne. They believed that radiation was a cure for acne.  In this case you live and learn.  Sadly he paid a very high price for the lack of knowledge back then.

Dad’s diet changed too.  He began eating fast food, more and more fried foods, and he lived to have sweets.  His energy level eventually went to the low of not being able to walk from my front door to my mail box.  This couldn’t be more than 50 feet. He had high cholesterol and diabetes long before he moved to Florida last year. His weight ballooned scarily.

I was at my wit’s end. Talking to dad was like talking to a wall.  He had been put down so much in his life that when anyone tried to confront him about anything he retreated to some place deep inside.  A few years ago he was staying with us for a month and he continually spoke of how he wished he weighed less, wasn’t taking high blood pressure pills and wished he could be active just like he used to be.

We got into a huge fight and it all became clear to me.  He really did want all of those things, but he never wanted to sacrifice what he was doing to save himself.  I was able to accept him as he was from that day forward.  He never understood the fight or why it happened, but it changed my perspective on who he was and what mattered to him.  Understanding him gave me the freedom to love him without the condemnation of wanting him changed.

My husband and I made the decision back in 2009 to cut the fast food and cook our meals from scratch.  I found a new way of thinking.  The French way.  Moderation in everything.  No food is truly bad.  You can eat anything as long as you do not over indulge.  Reading the book French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano, changed my life.  No, I didn’t lose weight, but I learned that food is no longer the devil and quality of food is so much more important than quantity.

One of the key reasons I changed our diet was my dad.  I want my husband and myself to live our lives as free from prescription medications as possible.  I want to be able to travel and take care of my own needs and that of my husband’s until I die.  The majority of my family have a very long life expectancy.  I even have an uncle who was 97 when he died.

I thought we were doing it right until last November.  My annual physical showed that I had high blood pressure.  It scared me. They said that my blood pressure was 190/90.  I was in complete shock.  How could I have high blood pressure when my parents weighed more than me and didn’t get high blood pressure until they were far older than I am now?

The doctor immediately ordered me to go onto blood pressure medicine.  I refused.  I decided to work harder on our diet and work out more.  This was no easy matter.  I was working nearly every day at Bath and Body Works, two days a week at the other retail job and it was the holidays.  My dad died in December and my stress level was the highest it probably ever had been. The first question my doctor asked was I under any stress? Under stress?  Of course I was. I finally relented on the blood pressure medicine for one month.  I just couldn’t continue it.  I needed time to work on things.  I made a promise to myself that if the blood pressure wasn’t lower by the time I went back for my yearly physical I would go on the medication until I lost enough weight to be free of medication.

My life has dramatically changed since my last doctor’s visit. I no longer work 7 days a week and life with my dad was more stressful than even I knew. Not working as many hours helped me to cook better quality meals and I lost about 20 pounds when I took up walking again.  Even so I was not looking forward to seeing a new doctor.  I was ever so fearful of my blood pressure and what ever else the visit would bring up.

The day I went to the doctor I was nervous, but resigned. I knew that what ever happened I had made the only changes I could until I could lose more weight.  I also knew I needed to have my feet looked at. The pain was intense.  Walking had been my source of release and peace It no longer was fun, but a source of extreme pain.

This was such a completely different situation from the previous initial visit with a doctor. I was not ready to bolt out of the office.  I waited patiently for the nurse to call my name and take me back to get weighed in.  Yuck.  She took me into a room and took my blood pressure. My blood pressure was 100/70!!!  I could hardly believe it.  The nurse made two statements that I think accounted for the high readings and I think the changes we have made since November have made all the difference.  The first statement was that my beat was very faint. The other statement was that the cuff had to be a large cuff as the medium cuff would misread since it was to small.

I want to say that I do not recommend ignoring your doctor as I did.  I had never before had an issue with my blood pressure and felt it was best to make the changes I could to see how they would affect my blood pressure. The changes I made were simple.  I dropped down to one cup of coffee per day. I mainly drink green tea and passion flower tea.  I make a vinaigrette salad dressing so I get a bit of vinegar daily.  I walk every day that I can. There are more changes, but these seem to have worked the most when it came to my diet.

It is also very important to know your family’s health history.  The more you know the more you can work with your doctor for the best choices.  It is also very important to find a doctor who listens and is open to your opinions. I prefer a homeopathic way of thinking of health care.  I think that with all of the changes in the health care law we can all agree health care will become more expensive. I believe finding natural alternatives, that were used for generations, and we know the side effects of, make far more sense than prescription drugs that no one really knows the long term effects. There are always exceptions to the rule.  I don’t advocate ignoring modern medicine. I advocate being informed.

The opinions I am stating are mine.  Research all you can about every situation and make informed decisions.  Only you and your physician can make the best choices for your situation.

What A Mess!

Oh, my gosh, the pictures you are about to see scare me and are really gross! So please view at your own risk!

For the past year I have pretty much worked seven days a week.  Not every week, but most of them. I worked for Bath & Body Works part time, at a major retailer as a vendor on Monday’s and Friday’s, and I babysit my grand daughter the rest of the time while her mother attends nursing school.  Cleaning has not been my strong suit for the past year. Oh I vacuum, do dishes, and clean up, but basic in depth cleaning just has not happened.

Recently I left Bath & Body Works. I now have weekends off to do the things I want to do.  This weekend I bought groceries. As I was putting them away, my male Sheltie, Blue started rubbing against my white louvre pantry door. I looked down at where he was scratching and YUCK!!!   That door was gross! I had ignored it for so long and now this really nasty door was looking at me. I could swear it was taunting me!

This is Blue. The cause of all my distress. lol
This is Blue. The cause of all my distress. lol
The disgusting door
The disgusting door

That was it.  I had to do something. I finished putting away my dishes and starting thinking of what I have on hand and what would work.  The first attempt was my all purpose cleaner with citrus vinegar added to the recipe.

Citrus  vinegar with all purpose cleaner
Citrus vinegar with all purpose cleaner

That did not work. Then I tried my vinegar window cleaner with rubbing alcohol and a dash of dish soap.

window cleaner with rubbing alcohol and a dash of dish soap.
window cleaner with rubbing alcohol and a dash of dish soap.

Not much better.

I refused to be defeated. I then tried straight Dawn dish washing soap.  I didn’t even bother with a picture it did not work. Now I took a break and just started to think about what I was cleaning. First this is a wood door with a slight attempt at painting it and even that paint is coming off.

The dirt here was from Blue so it had a dogs body oils combined with dirt. I don’t use dog shampoo because I have so much body wash on hand so I thought lets use body wash.  Maybe this will do it.  The body wash scent I used was coconut lime breeze by Bath & Body Works.  I applied this full strength onto a damp rag.

Body Wash full strength
Body Wash full strength

It did better, but just not good enough. The final attempt was some hand soap I had on hand.  lol  I had recently filled the soap dispenser in the master bath with some Lavender hand soap from Bath & Works. The bottle still had some left inside and I just could not throw it away. So, I added water to it.  I let the it foam up to the top of the bottle so there couldn’t have been more than 2 teaspoons of soap in the bottle and the rest was water. I put this onto a rag and then applied to the door.

The Lavender hand soap mixed with water.
The Lavender hand soap mixed with water.

The pictures all have a weird yellowish tone, but you should see it.  The door nearly looks like good as it did when we installed it!  I think this would have worked better if I had a spray bottle to spray the solution on to the door rather than a rag.  But then that is the point of being frugal. You make due with what you have on hand. I had a bucket of water next to me that I kept rinsing the rag out with.

I would think this would work with any hand soap just as well so don’t feel you must go to Bath & Body Works to get some, unless you just want to.

A slight disclaimer.  This seems to only work on oily dirt such as Blue’s or human hands touching the walls.  It does not work on plain dirty walls or kitchen cabinet doors. Of course I tried it.  I had to .  I was disappointed, but believe me it was so easy to clean up the yucky dog dirt on that door that I could still be happy.

I have to say keep experimenting.  You never know when stuff will work. I have used this on painted walls to a great success.  I love the idea of hand soap because it usually is a pleasant scent and can be diluted to a great extent.  One of these days I am going to make my own hand soap, but I have a lot of Bath & Body Works left so in the mean time I will be searching out the tools of the trade so to speak. I need to buy a double boiler so I can designate it as the non edible cooking pan, some tongs, and metal long spoons, and a pair of goggle.  Oh and the ingredients right?  Anyway have an awesome day and I look forward to your input!!

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