Monthly Archives: August 2011

Hitting the Reset Button

We arrived home Saturday afternoon from an absolutely wonderful week of camping. Perfect weather all week, the company of good friends, and a warm campfire every evening made it one for the books. The week’s schedule kept us all busy, but not so busy that the week flew by.

Still, we were all ready to come home. By Friday night I was actually sick of the smell of woodsmoke (never thought I’d ever be saying that), tired of washing dishes outside and tired of all the dirt. I didn’t want to have to pay for the privilege of buying one more thing out at the coast. We all were longing for our own beds, own bathrooms, and the comfort of our own home.

The new car made the trip back and forth easy and comfortable. Instead of being packed into our old car like sardines, practically needing straws to find pockets of breathing space, this year everyone had a comfortable seat and there was plenty of room for all our stuff. It was especially nice not to have to worry about the car breaking down on the way down or coming home.

However, for all that we love about the campout, next year we will only be attending for three days. The week of camping has become expensive, and with WenYu’s school trip to China coming up next spring, a new car payment, a desire to take a special family vacation at the end of next year, and the never-ending debt repayment, we decided one evening, as we sat around the fire, that we could cut back on the campout. Instead of renting a trailer, we will again pitch a tent and “rough it” for the three days. I thought we’d hear a lot of complaints from the girls when we proposed the idea, but they’re all fine with it. Three days will give us enough time to connect with everyone and still participate in a variety of activities. And, we will save a ton of money.

So, we have hit the reset button and debt repayment is back on as Job #1, although we are continuing to save for a family vacation at the end of 2012. Mr. Losing It and I had several talks around the campfire about our dreams, our goals and our budget and he has decided that because of the car payment he will continue at his job for an additional six months in 2013 versus retiring at the end of 2012. The car won’t be paid off at that point, but we will be a lot closer toward it with the additional income.

In the meantime, we are going to enjoy all that we have, continue to live frugally, continue to downsize and prepare for eventual retirement and a possible move to Hawai’i. Hawai’i remains number one on our list of retirement locations, but we know we have a whole lot to do before then to make that dream a reality.

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Filed under Debt Elimination, Living a Frugal Life, Vacations

Menu Plan Monday: Vacation’s Over

We’re back to the regular grind here at Casa Losing It, which in my case means that I’m back to regular meal planning and cooking duties. I actually sketched out a menu plan before we left on our camping trip, but we also emptied the pantry, fridge and freezer which meant I have had to do quite a bit of shopping just so I could start cooking again (when I say empty, I mean empty!).

We will be trying a new main dish salad this week: California Roll Salad. I saw the recipe over at Debt Free by Thirty a few weeks ago and knew this was something that would greatly appeal to our family as we’re all nuts about California rolls when we have sushi. Otherwise we’ll be eating out of the garden quite a bit this week. We were practically smothered with squash when we came home, and also harvested a lot of green beans as well. Tomatoes are beginning to ripen and will show up in a few meals this week, but the tomato deluge is yet to come. And, it’s supposed to be another great week weather-wise, so we will also be grilling.

Be sure to head over to Menu Plan Monday at I’m An Organizing Junkie for other great menu ideas and recipes!

Lunches are leftovers, sandwiches and whatever else the girls can find. Breakfasts will be ramen with greens, coffee cake, grilled cheese sandwiches and leftovers.

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The Campground Awaits . . . .

Our annual camping trip begins tomorrow! Mr. Losing It has the car packed up (and loved doing it this year, he says, because of all the space) and although I still have a few odds and ends to take care of, we’re otherwise ready to go. We have the first appointment of the day with the carpet cleaner in the morning, and as soon as he’s done we’ll hit the road.

I’m looking forward to getting out of town for the week. We’ve had a lovely summer so far here in Portland, but we’re all ready for a change of scenery and to detach ourselves from responsibilities here, even if just for a few days. While we’ll be participating in lots of activities with our friends during the week, there will also be plenty of time for rest and relaxation.

This year’s trip will be a bittersweet one. My mom was supposed to join us this year, but had a serious health issue arise the week before last and she is currently under orders not to travel. We were all looking forward to her being with us this week, and know we’ll be thinking of her the whole time we’re at the campground. Thankfully she is on the mend. Also, this will be our first year without our little dog, Tag. He loved camping, the whole package (the other two dogs, not so much), and he will be greatly missed.

This will also probably be the last year we will camp with the group for a full week. Next year will be WenYu’s school trip to China, we’re planning a big family vacation at the end of the year, and with the addition once again of a car payment the camping trip is one area where we can cut back.

See you all in a week!

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We Bought a Car

Not a new car, but a three year-old silver Honda Odyssey with only 35,000 miles, and still under warranty. It has all the bells and whistles imaginable, and I love it.

Mr. Losing It and I sat down on Sunday and made a list of everything we wanted in a car (besides a price we could afford):

  • Low mileage (less than 50,000 miles)
  • Under warranty, if possible
  • Record of reliability
  • Mini van or SUV (seating for 7)
  • Decent gas mileage

Then we got online, did some research, and narrowed our choices. Finally we searched inventory and prices all over town and went to look at the Odyssey. And loved it. And bought it.

It was expensive, even for a used car. We looked at lots of lower priced cars, but they all had high, high mileage and no warranty. We do not have the best track record with used cars so this is a sensitive area for us. Our used car purchases have always started off great and then all slowly (or not so slowly for some of them) devolved into money-sucking vampires of repair. But there was no way we were going to buy a new car, with it depreciating by thousands as we drove it off the lot.

I know the experts say we should have bought some beater at this point. But we are a one-car family and need to have a safe and reliable car, one that fits our family now. We are both sick about adding the debt back in but because of paying off so much of our other debt, the new car payment will be manageable. Yes, debt repayment will slow down but it’s not coming to a halt, and we will still be able to throw quite a bit at it. We are determined to get it all gone, but it’s just going to take a bit longer now.

We had thought about selling the Passat “as is” and applying the money (the very little we thought we could get for it) toward the new car, but that dream officially died on Sunday when Mr. Losing It backed it out of the garage and the engine gave up the ghost for good. We have decided instead to donate it to a mission in town that serves the homeless, and will take the tax write-off for it next year. This charity rebuilds and sells donated cars, or sells or uses the parts, will come and tow it away for free and are thrilled to get it, a win-win for both of us.

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Filed under Debt, Debt Elimination

Gardens Gone Wild

I took these pictures of our garden last week, when things looked pretty tame. The squash plants have doubled in size, and we are harvesting two to three a day. The seed packet we got this year was called “Abundant Harvest,” and was supposed to produce six different types of summer squash, from green zucchini to yellow crookneck. They got the abundant part right, but all we’re getting are yellow squash. Thankfully we had some volunteer (green) zucchini come up this year as well, and are getting a few regular green ones from those plants. But abundant they’re not.

The tomato plants are also much larger than they were last week and are producing tomatoes like crazy. In about three more weeks we are going to be completely overrun by all sorts of tomatoes . . . I can’t wait! Cherry tomatoes are already starting to turn, and the other varieties are growing big and plump. I am not entirely sure why this year’s plants are doing so well compared to last year because we did nothing different this year other than wait a couple more weeks to plant them.

The pale green squash turned yellow the next day!

It seems like I am making pesto daily now because the basil just keeps comin’ on. Earlier this year I brought home one of the $2.99 Trader Joe’s basil plants and picked it clean to make fresh pesto and a pasta salad. Mr. Losing It stuck it in the ground, figuring what the heck? but it has sprung back to life and is giving the other four basil plants a run for the money. We’ve also got jalapeño peppers setting like mad, several eggplants and about a thousand green beans that will be ready to pick when we come home from our camping trip. The pumpkin vine has taken over the whole back of the garden, and we should get at least nine pumpkins this year, if not more.

I’m still not sure what we did right this year compared to previous years but whatever it was, I am extremely grateful!

Do you have a garden this year? How is your garden doing?

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July Recap and August Mini-Goals

If I were grading on a scale from one to ten, I’d give July a six as far as goal accomplishment. Still, overall it was a good month, and I’m expecting that August will be about the same (although I’m hoping for better).

Here’s how we did in July:

  1. Make at least $230 at the yard sale: Done! We made $449 and some change.
  2. Walk a minimum of four times a week: Done! I took at least a 45-minute walk 19 times in July.
  3. Purchase half of the food for our camping trip: Done! By sneaking in an extra item or two each time and place I shopped, we have over half of our week’s food, and will buy the rest in town near the campsite.
  4. Lose two to three more pounds: Oh well. I lost 1/2 pound, then gained it back, then lost it again and so forth and ended up staying the same as last month. But because of the walking, I’m still getting smaller :-)
  5. Clean and stain the deck: Oh well again. The weather and our schedules really worked against us on this, as well as a total lack of enthusiasm.

Our not-too-ambitious August mini-goals:

  1. Put at least $100 into the vacation fund. 
  2. Walk at least four times a week.
  3. Lose two to three pounds.
  4. Clean and stain the deck.
  5. Make and freeze at least three more pints of jam, and three more pints of pesto.

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Menu Plan Monday: The Campground Beckons

I almost can’t believe that this time next week we’ll be relaxing at our campsite amidst the towering firs of the Central Oregon coast, with the Oregon Dunes and the ocean just a short walk away. Our annual camping trip with other adoptive families is one of the highlights of the year for us, an event our girls once told us they would rather attend than go to Disneyland! The event is like a big family reunion, with lots of activities and socializing as well as time for relaxation, and this year 93 adoptive families will gather for a week of fun, food and fellowship. While we eat most of our meals at our campsite, the entire group holds a giant potluck one night and a progressive dinner on another. Right now we’re still waiting to hear which course we’ve been assigned for the progressive dinner (hopefully not a main dish again).

Be sure to stop over at I’m An Organizing Junkie to see lots of other great menu and recipe ideas!

Here at Casa Losing It we’ll be continuing in our efforts to empty the refrigerator before week’s end, as well as items from the pantry and produce from the garden. Meals will b pretty simple:

  • Hamburgers; potato salad (bumped from last week)
  • Tuna casserole; peas
  • Potstickers; rice; salad
  • Fried rice with ham
  • Pasta with marinara sauce; garlic bread; salad
  • Blueberry pancakes (using blueberries from our garden)

We rent a trailer for the week we camp, and have a full, although small, kitchen which I really enjoy, especially the refrigerator. We’ll be taking roasted squash (from our garden) and pasta with homemade pesto to the potluck this year, but have decided to buy something in town for the progressive dinner depending on what course we get. Camping is one of the few times as well that I assign days to the menu items and then actually stick to the schedule!

  • Saturday: Campfire roasted hot dogs; 3-bean salad
  • Sunday: Spaghetti with meat sauce; garlic bread; salad
  • Monday: Potluck
  • Tuesday: Progressive dinner
  • Wednesday: Campfire roasted Italian sausages; Caprese pasta salad
  • Thursday:  Tacos; refried beans
  • Friday: Tuna melts; clam chowder

Lunches while we’re camping include chili, chips and cheese; sloppy joes; dim sum; sandwiches, and ravioli from a can (the only time the girls get this, but it’s one of the week’s highlights for them! :-(). We always stop for burgers on the way down, and at Subway on the way home. Breakfasts during the week will be coffee cake and muffins from home; bacon and eggs; cereal and cup noodles. S’mores will be back, but this time made with dark chocolate – we’ll see how those are received.

 

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