A New Chapter of Exercise

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Like many of us, I started the new year with a plan to start exercising more. Like many of us, the idea is easier said than putting into action. Since I have a local gym membership, I decided to find out what classes were offered that might help keep me motivated. Sometimes a commitment works better than just half of an enthusiastic plan. I found a class on Tuesdays and Thursdays at high noon so off I went.

I am usually a morning person so the idea of a noon class did not appeal to me but since I was making this commitment I went for it. This class is a senior exercise class so I expected to walk in to a bunch of…well seniors… sitting on a chair swapping recipes and talking about their next doctor appointment.

Was I ever wrong!

Yes there were chairs (for which I began to appreciate in the first 15 minutes), weighs,

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resistance bands, balls, music, and well…seniors!

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(no, this is not me)

 Not seniors like you might think of your grandma or that lady down the street, but active busy seniors that have a desire (and are able) to stay that way…well…like me! That is perhaps where the similarity ends.  These seniors (most of who had been attending for some time) know how to move. They can hop, pump, keep time, and go strong for the entire 60 minutes!  Although I did complete the class on day one, I was exhausted. To make me feel even less fit (if that was even possible) the instructor is a gorgeous 70 year old woman!

WOW!

As I stumbled out of there that first day I made the decision to come again. I think they were surprised to see me back knowing that the roads are paved with good intentions and this core group of seniors had seen their share of newcomers come and go before. Like I said, I am committed. Yes, I was thankful that we sometimes sit, occasionally hold on to the chair, take a few water breaks, but this one hour class is intense! I have adjusted my schedule (as well as my attitude) for the class at high noon,  put people around me on notice not to expect to hear from me during this hour and hey, I have to get going! Its Thursday and almost time to head off to class.

Until next time………

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Saving and pinching pennies

I consider myself to be fairly thrifty. No $100 purses for me. Since  I have foot issues, I will spend more to buy a quality  pair of shoes.  Designer clothes? I can live without them. I shop sales, bargains, discount stores, and use coupons.  Since the kids left home, we do  do not belong to a membership store. They are too tempting to buy large quantities of things I don’t really need. I love a bargain! Better yet, I love hunting for a bargain.

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Using my smart phone, I can download certain apps and use my phone to scan receipts, check prices, and earn rewards for using their programs or shopping in their stores. A perfect example is Walmart. Some people think if you shop at Walmart you are always gong to save money. I do not always find this to be true. Yes, some items are less expensive and there are some grocery and toiletry items I buy there. If so, I always submit my receipt to their Savings Catcher program which will search out any local advertised price and give you the difference. For example, on a recent grocery shopping trip I purchased 59 items for a total of $88.30. On that one shopping trip I got back $5.61. Not bad huh?  Thommmee likes to buy Diet 7up in those cute little (and expensive) plastic bottles. Walmart charged us $3.50 but a local supermarket had it on sale for $2.47 so we got back $1.03 on that purchase.  Sometimes it is much less as when we purchased La Palmas Mild Green Enchilada sauce for $1.96 and another market had it for $1.79 with a 17 cent refund due us . Over time these pennies can add up. I have only been doing this for about a year and so far have collected a whopping $47.75.

Another application I use is Receipt Hog.

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For this app, I can scan most receipts  and after an accumulation you earn “coins” which can be cashed in for gift cards. You can also earn “spins” which allow you to earn additional coins.  This is super easy and does not require much effort. Each week you level up for even more rewards. Patience is the key but after about a year I cashed out a mere $20 Amazon gift card. I can use a receipt that I  use on a different application or rebate program. This allows me to stack savings in several apps.

The only other grocery store app I use is Ibotta. This one takes more work and a little bit of planning. You earn for purchasing specific items which you verify by scanning the bar codes of items and submitting your receipt which is fairly simple. The hard part is purchasing the exact item listed and adding it to your app shopping list. You can also combine this with a manufacturers coupon as Ibotta is a rebate system.  For example; I have a coupon for $1.00 off Tide laundry detergent. The store may have the item on sale $1.00 off the regular price. Ibotta may have a rebate for an additional $1.00 for a total savings of $3.00-$2.00 in the store and $1.00 towards a gift card to be redeemed at a later date. This is probably my least favorite app but I have cashed in over $40 in Amazon gift cards.

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Perhaps my most favorite is M Points. You “check in” at locations to earn points. The beauty of this app is you don’t actually have to walk into a store to earn points but just be in the nearby vicinity. These points can later be cashed into gift cards from a variety of stores such as Best Buy, Old Navy, Walmart, JC Penny’s, various restaurants and many other retailers. You can also earn points by taking surveys, downloading certain apps, and watching short videos. Now if you are someone that has privacy concerns or worries about ‘big brother’ tracking your every move, this is not for you. Basically, a GPS is tracking your location.  I found that even Google seems to know where I am so I guess I do not find this to be more of an invasion of privacy than anything else these days. I have cashed out $80 of gift cards from Amazon, Walmart, and Target so far. This was particularly helpful during Christmas.

Shopkick is another favorite.  Again you need to ‘check into” certain locations and for this one you really will need to either go into the store or get very close. You can also scan items throughout the store for extra points. I have cashed in about $35 in various gift cards.

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I also sign up for store rewards programs, clip some coupons, receive mailers and emails for discounts, and sign up for text alerts. I never pay full price for anything. I shop grocery ads and hop from store to store. Fortunately (or unfortunately) we live in an area with several stores within a one mile radius.  Our favorite grocery store recently gave stamps for purchases to be cashed in for silverware or knives. Yep, we got a set of steak knives and a chef’s knife. Reminds me of the old days when we collected  S & H Green Stamps and Blue Chip stamps.

If you are too young to remember these or if they were not offered where you live, they were a great reward program. You shopped in stores or purchased gas that offered these stamps. Based on the amount of money you spent you received stamps to be used toward “purchasing” items from their catalogs. It might take awhile to collect enough to get the items you wanted but almost everyone gave them so it was not hard to save. You licked them and stuck them into books which you took to the redemption store for your treasures.  I redeemed many of these for baby strollers, playpens, and high chairs.

I have tried many other apps and methods for saving money but they were either too much trouble or not effective. I have tried to follow The Crazy Coupon Lady’s website for tips but I am not willing to invest that much time into it.  Instead I focus on these few tools to try to save a little money. I don’t open credit cards to get the store discount. I do wait until I have a discount coupon before heading to that particular store though. I also try hard not to shop unless I need something. I paint my own nails, color my own hair, and clean my own house.  We often cook at home. I know we all have our priorities of where we like to spend our money so honestly no judgments here. Our kids think we are crazy but Thommee and I do some of this together so we make it fun!  The money we save we spend on vacations, short trips, visiting with family and friends, and splurging for those spur of the moment events!

Most of us probably have our own ideas of how to save money, trim our spending, or where we like to splurge. What are your favorites?

 

The Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus is such an interesting little plant. They have flat odd oval shaped leaves.  The stems grow in all directions with no apparent rhyme or reason. In the late fall they develop lovely buds which usually open during the winter holidays when they then  become an amazingly beautiful plant. There are no pricklies as you would find in a more traditional cactus.

The Christmas cactus is officially called Schlumbergera which grows wild in the jungles near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  As a houseplant, you will often find them growing on a California patio or living room just about anyplace  where they can  thrive with proper care. The key to getting a Christmas cactus to flower during the holiday season  is the correct light exposure and temperatures with limited watering. As with most succulents and cactus, too much watering can make them soggy or even kill them.  In the fall months, the Christmas cactus should receive indirect bright light during the day with total darkness at night.  They often start blooming in late November and may continue on into January. The fiery blooms may be red, white or various shades of pink. The blooms last longer at about 45 to 70 degrees.

My mother in law lives near the Mississippi River and has the most beautiful Christmas cactus you have ever seen. It is always lush and full of green foliage when we visit each year but I have never been around when it blooms.

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I had her send me a picture.

The recent warmer fall  weather in the Midwest may have caused the late blooms this year. She has given me pieces to take home to grow my own cactus but I have had no success in getting one to start. My sister also has a Christmas cactus. Hers bloom magnificently during the holiday season.

This year, however, she has no blooms at all.

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She says it is in mourning because of the loss of our sister. Can plants be intuitive this way?  I have no idea but two years ago it looked like this…

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…and last year like this.

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This year it is simply drooping.

We were all drooping a little this Christmas.

When visiting recently, I asked if I could have a piece of the cactus to take home and try once again to grow one from a cutting. She said she could do even better!  She has a friend whose father starts Christmas cactus all the time and was certain he’d be delighted to give me one. Sure enough, a week later I had my own Christmas cactus.

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Now I would hardly call it a start. I would more call it a young plant and I am thrilled. The trick will be to see if I can keep it alive.  One of my goals this year is to increase the number of houseplants I have. Last year I started with a few small ones…

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and so far so good.

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I love African Violets and I think this one may actually bloom.

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The antique cup with the succulent was a gift.

In the past I have had some moderate success growing houseplants. We have some nosey cats now and I need to be sure the plants are either out of reach or non toxic. The Christmas cactus in non toxic.

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(Delilah, my faithful feline companion)

Houseplants is a newer hobby I am pursuing in my retirement. Not only are indoor plants pleasing to the eye, but during photosynthesis they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. They increase humidity in the air around them, help purify the air, and some think even offer other health benefits-even boost healing!

I am going to try to propagate another plant from a cutting but for the moment, I will just enjoy and embrace my beautiful Christmas cactus.

Check back in 6 months and I’ll let you know how I’m doing!

Moving Forward

Last week I was merely looking forward and now I am actually moving forward!  As with most of us, we start out the year with the best of intentions and I am no different. How long we can keep it up?  Well, that depends on the person. Based on my past experience, I know that my excitement (and energy) may fade in time so I am trying to strike while the iron is hot as they say.

While my Christmas decorations still linger all over the house…

and our sad little tree, although stripped of its ornaments, still lies in wait for hibernation.

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We  bought this pitiful little tree about 4 years ago as a door buster/pre Christmas sale. I had wanted a new tree for such a long time but hesitated to spend the money. This was such a deal I jumped on it  and gave our nice full-slightly worn tree to one of our daughters. When I put this one up I wanted to call her and ask for my old tree back (which is still looking beautiful at her house by the way) but  that didn’t seem fair so we decided to just make the best of it. We have learned to love this little Charlie Brown tree and it is actually much more practical in our small home. This is true most especially  on Christmas Eve when we cram between 25-30 family members in this little place!

Anyway, I digress. As I mentioned in my last post I was excited to start organizing and purging and decided to ignore the holiday stuff for now (besides, we do enjoy our little tree as do the cats).

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Next I decided to tackle my sewing/spare bedroom.  I tossed out 2 bags of trash and 3 large bags to be donated or set aside for our next (probably unsuccessful) yard sale. After all, Why not clutter up the storage shed and a chance to maybe change my mind about a few things?

I began pulling things out of drawers and closets and created a great deal of chaos. I had scraps, lengths of fabric and craft supplies everywhere.

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When I returned to sewing a few years ago I read some advice that you should not throw away even the smallest scrap of fabric. There would always be some use for it down the road. Well, I took this to heart and complete disorganization erupted. I had stuffed and stashed in every spare inch . This was not going to be part of my organizational plan so I decided to only save the small pieces that I could fit into one container.

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Now don’t feel too sorry for me. This does not count the larger pieces of fabric, nor heaven forbid,  my FABRIC STASH. I painfully let go of some little pieces and some crazy things I would never use.

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I am sure I could find a use for the tiger scrap on top but not in my foreseeable future so I ruthlessly tossed it  out ( I kept the basket).

Then I got down to the nitty-gritty. This vacuum sealed bag of various fabric is going to the donation bin…. or the shed for the potential yard sale.

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It is difficult to get a true picture of how much fabric is in here. Most of it was given to me anyway so I  am fairly certain I would never have a use for most of it.

Things were starting to come together…

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I arranged some almost finished spools of thread in a decorative way so not to clog up my thread organizer.

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The closet was a bit more challenging but I kept at it…

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…and managed some organization.

Finally I surveyed the room and I have to say was somewhat pleased with the result.

It’s not perfect but everything has a place and all of my fabric is in a storage bin or neatly organized. I think my  guests next week will be comfortable.

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Lastly, I took a moment to not only appreciate two days of hard work, but to admire the view outside my sewing room window.

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Now it’s time to put away the Christmas decorations.

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Then I can begin my new sewing project.

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Yes…

I really did go out and buy more fabric!

Looking Forward

What a great time to look forward!  Nothing like the thought of a new year to inspire us to set goals, make plans, decide to eat healthier, and to get moving. For me, not only am I faced with a new year but I am beginning my third year of retirement!

I eagerly jumped out of bed this morning, (well, maybe I lazily I climbed out of bed) full of optimism to begin the new year. Grand ideas have been swimming through my mind these past weeks about what I might do and what changes I might make. The Christmas cookies were finally gone, any leftover treats either consumed, given away, or tossed. The last of the gifts have been given, and the left over wrapping paper stowed away in anticipation for next year. The day was sunny and the spirits high.

After my healthy breakfast (and coffee without cream), I decided to tackle cleaning out my closet and drawers. Why this seemed more important than putting away the holiday décor I can’t say but I was in the mood to organize so I went with it!  I purged and tossed, I set aside things to be donated and organized everything in sight.

My make-up drawer is ready for the new year.

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 I could not bear to take a before picture.

A few loads of laundry later it was lunchtime. I had whipped up some fat busting cabbage soup

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and consumed multiple glasses of lemon water.

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Fortunately I planned ahead and went grocery shopping yesterday to make sure there were plenty of healthy options on hand. Reminds me of a favorite quote:

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

OK, so the rest of the day? I talked to some of the kids by phone, chatted with my sister, texted some family and friends, and watched some You Tube videos for inspiration for new sewing projects. I did not watch the Rose parade going on about 30 miles away. No football for me. Overall if was a very nice way to start the new year. The gym will probably have to wait until next week.

Happy New Year

and welcome to 2016!

Merry Christmas

As Christmas approaches this year, I am reminded that it is the people in our lives that make it so special.  We will be celebrating with one less person this year…

our youngest sister, Joni.

We were blessed to have her for 54 years.

I don’t want to focus on the sadness we are experiencing but instead look forward. Christmas, for me, is also a time to count my blessings and appreciate all that God has done in my life. Our large family will celebrate together and it will be memorable! We will hug hard and love even more.

May your Christmas be joyful. I look forward to catching up with all of you in the new year. Thank you for all of your support, friendship, and encouragement in 2015.

Merry Christmas

Happy National Button Day!

 

November 16th is

National Button Day.

I did not know this interesting tidbit of information. It was established in 1938 by

The National Button Society

to celebrate those who love to collect or craft with buttons.

Wow!

Is there seriously a day for just about anything?

Probably.

Like most sewers, I have my own stash  of buttons.

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(I never considered it a collection)

I often can’t resist when I see buttons at a yard sale or a deal at my local fabric store. I have separated them by color and even occasionally use some of them. I have tossed them all into a big jar and used them as a game for a baby shower or birthday party-you know, guess how many buttons are in the jar and win a prize…

I may have  even used some in a craft project.

Collect them, no…

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but come to think of it…it might be fun!

Anyway,

Happy National Button Day!