Monday, 3 June 2013

Best Money Saved Is At Home

I don't know about you, but I have been taking a tally recently on the amount of time I spend dining out, and thinking more, and more if I am really getting my monies worth. Is it me or has the quality in food gone down? Perhaps it has been this way, and I have been very forgiving. Forgiving why? Why am I compromising? I guess for a long time, I have been giving a blind eye because I am too busy caught up in the moment. Whether it is the drinking scene, the vibe, being surrounded by people, I find that I have been feeding into a fix at my expense, and it needs improving.
The other day I was at a popular spot, and ordered a cream of chicken that was served in a Crate and Barrel soup bowl. You know the one I am taking about, it is the one that is 3 times larger than the 1/2 cup of soup that is poured into it. It was actually comical, even the waitress gave me a smirk as she served me. We made eye contact as we both stared at the bowl with an outrageous basil leave in the center, there was a knowing without words. I am a big wine drinker, so yes, wine was a must. My $10 dollar glass of red was served in a huge goblet with the obvious cheap fill that I have now started to become observant to. Granted, the place is a chic eatery in the city, but come on.....In the end, who is the joke on?
The experience has not been the first, and I have been taking a genuine effort in being a critic than the customer. Meaning the times I have gone out to eat I have been on guard, watching the picture repeat itself over, and over. I have a thing about complaints at a restaurant. Unless I plan on not eating anything, I usually just settle for what is served or ask to have the platter removed off the bill....if I only touched it a couple of times. I have come to the conclusion that it is time to make time at home. It is sad when you have to make a run for a Big Mac after dinner.
By no means am I boycotting the dining out scene. I love it! There are many great places that serve with a smile, and deliver to perfection. Unfortunately, those places are either too far, and out of the way or just too expensive for a Tuesday night out. For me, I am just tired of wasting hard earned funds on a meal that I am only taking bites from. I might as well just walk into a restaurant and hand over a $20 dollar bill, and just leave. I know for me, the choice to eat out has always been impulsive. I do it, just because. Well, just because does not serve anymore. It is time to be sensible. The kitchen is the heart of the home. If your kitchen is missing a beat, then work to make it tick again. What is keeping you out of your space? Look at what draws you out of your house, and bring it in. Is it a certain style, design, or paint color. This you can fix. It can be as easy as a new dining room set.

I should be ashamed of myself because I have a wine rack of bottles that are just sitting there while I am wasting my money on less than a 1/2 a glass at a swanky wine bar, and I happen to be a good cook when I do. This experience cannot be mine alone, and I am sure that others agree, as well as can relate. So, if you are like me, make an effort to take the time out for a home cooked meal. You wind up enjoying it more, than signing a bill for mediocre. If wine is your thing, and I know I am not alone with this a bottle or open the ones you have in your rack. Do not wait for the company to arrive to open that expensive bottle of wine. Just go for it. Treat yourself to it. If you are like me, you are spending the same amount of money on a few $10 dollar glasses of wine anyway. What is the point in waiting? Pay yourself first!
The more you push yourself for a good dining experience at home, the less time, and money will be spent having a bad one somewhere else. Home improvement begins in the kitchen and starts with you. Give yourself a night out at home. Turn off the lights, and get those candles ready. Sometimes we are paying for an experience that we can replicate in our own homes. Plan a fun night, whether it is pasta night or open a cook book, and be creative. Just because, you cannot cook, it does not mean you do not know how to read. Trust me, you can do it. You may even surprise yourself with a hidden talent, 2nd servings, and with some monthly savings in the end.

5 Biggest Home Renovation Mistakes

So your mind is made up, and you are ready for a home renovation project. You have met several contractors, some referred, others you found, reviewed many estimates, even laughed at a few, and feel you have nailed it. Countless pictures have been shown to you, vision has been sold, and you have enough samples in product selection to open your own home improvement store. Are you as ready as you think? 

True, it took you weeks, maybe even months of researching to help make that final decision, and you feel that the contractor of your choice is going to bring your vision to light. This all may be true, but there are mistakes you do not want to make that tend to get overlooked. If you are looking for your upcoming home renovation to be headache free, these are 5 mistakes to avoid running to the medicine cabinet.

Thinking you have enough money

1.       Some home renovations can be a dollar for dollar experience, and you walk away with what exactly you wanted, and paid for. There are times when you may not be so lucky. One should always be prepared for an unexpected surprise. The bigger the project you are doing, the higher your chances are in unforeseen obstacles that may add to your already paid for renovation. You will be surprised what you encounter when you open walls, things like mold, termites, rotted beams, leaky pipes, are some to name a few. 

Ask your contractor to give you a small list of the unexpected for a home like yours. Not all homes have the same issues, there may even be a common occurrence with all the homes in your community since they were constructed at the same time, and more than likely by the same company. Your contractor may be aware of them if he has done work in your area. Thinking you have enough money may not be enough. Have an  emergency fund ready just in case. Your contractor is definitely not going to pay for it or he may be able to add a 10% contingency to be withheld in the event that something arises. If all goes well, the funds withheld are reimbursed back to you.

When size does not matter to you

2.       You have a small bathroom, and want to take it to the next level by replacing your standard tub with a swanky jacuzzi tub. Yes, they are beautiful. They are also space eaters, like that “must have” vanity at Home Depot that is 2 sizes bigger than your existing one. Yes, it can fit, and so does a golf ball down a P-trap. The size may not matter to you at the time, but it will, it always does.

Trend seeker

3.       Yes, that royal blue square shaped, see-through basin looks amazing on that black granite counter-top. Just because, it was mentioned as the top 5 sellers for 2013 does not mean it will be nominated for an Oscar next year. Fads disappear rather quickly, chasing the latest trend can have a short shelf life. When trend seeking, go with a style that does not have to be re-invented annually. Your contractor will love it, but debt seeking is not a trend.

Taking on too much

4.       Home renovations should never be a burden, always have a specific idea in mind, and do not make it complicated by adding on to it with a knee jerk decision. Give careful thought to a process, and what it means to alter them. Changing your kitchen cabinets is one thing, but then deciding on moving your plumbing, and placement of light fixtures can be an overwhelming experience. Taking on too much can leave you with regrets, and a financial obligation to a decision that could have stayed an easy and less costly one.

Blind eye to your home’s bones

5.       So you live in that wonderful cozy cape in the suburbs. The one that was passed down from your grandparents. Yes, an upgrade may likely be in the future. You do not want to ignore the home’s bones, discounting the outside style of the home and going with a modern Italian retro look in the inside can become a cast for a broken bone that will never heal. That white marble floor in your kitchen with the swanky, eat-in white leather nook may work elsewhere, just not in your home. This can also be a hindrance if you ever need to sell the property. Over the top personal customization only serves the owner, and will be an expensive transition back to normal.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Watercolor Friendship Stars

Friday is normally my day off.  It's the day of the week when my teaching partner comes to the classroom, takes over, and gives me a little time with my own kids.  My kids' school district does an early release every Friday, so it's nice that I get to be home when my kids come home early.  I spent the morning sewing with my daughter's second grade class.  Then, at dismissal, I picked up 9 eager Girlscouts to come to my house for some Friendship Fun!  Our theme this week was friendship, and since I've been sewing Friendship Stars, I decided that the girls should make their own Friendship Stars.  I had originally planned to help the girls sew their own pillows, but at 8:00 on the night before, I just ran out of steam.  Watercolor paints to the rescue!!!

We used a crayon resist method to paint our Friendship Stars on watercolor paper. I sketched the block onto the watercolor paper ahead of time.   The girls chose a crayon to do their outline.  I asked them to use a heavier line around the border and around the star.  Then we painted.

They turned out very pretty.

Each star was different, just like each of our friends are different.

If you don't have time to sew Friendship Stars, painting them is the next best thing. 
I'll show you what we turned them into on my Literacy Blog tomorrow..
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