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Topic: Anyone trying anything different next year?

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Subject: Anyone trying anything different next year?
Date Posted: 8/24/2009 1:17 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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I've spent this year (so far) trying different ideas and reading for more. Some things seem to be working for me and others are working but not in the way planned! I'm also working on other areas(such as housekeeping) which will indirectly affect spending since being stressed causes me to want to shop and eat (neither is good for me)

the piggy bank idea I started early this year has been working though not in the way I'd planned. I had great visions of me lugging my huge 'piggies' to the bank and depositing this huge sum of money then transferring it to savings...well I determined a few things doing this: 1) I applied for a Discover card that pays 1%(sometimes more) cashback for purchases so I wasn't using the atm/debit card nearly as much to get the cashback(and  have direct deposit, bank is credit union on other side of town) so wasn't getting as much cash back so no change to save. 2) discovered the few times I do get cashback that I have to put it in the piggies immediately so I don't blow it! 3) I started dipping into the piggies for small purchases like a single paperback at ubs(using store credit) or breakfast tacos (now limited to once a month). So now I get cashback when the piggies don't have enough then put the change in to use later for these smaller purchases. Disappointed I won't be lugging bulging piggies to the bank but also not making trips to grocery store or wally world buying something just to get cash back and being tempted by other stuff they have. And also not missing out using Discover to get money back either.

Discover card for purchases. I 'discovered' this awesome rewards card this year. So far I've been paying it off by making frequent payments during the month. However, I'm NOT being disciplined enough to keep track and several times I've dipped into the short term savings. I'm finding myself paying more to Discover. However, I don't want to lose the advantage of getting the 1% cashback(which I'mplanning to transfer 12/31 of this year to checking then to INGdirect for longer term savings) So for the remainder of this  year and next year for sure I want to keep all receipts and use one of those small registers(yes I purchased some from ebay earlier in the year but didn't use them religiously enough) to keep track of Discover card purchases. I have several bills billed directly to Discover(some charged a fee so didn't set those up) I found out the new management company for our townhomes allows credit card payments, including Discover. I don't know if there's a fee yet since we're not in the system yet but if there's not that will be at least $24 per year since I'm not paying $200/month and it goes up a bit every year.

credit union vs. ing direct When I first started working the company had a small little credit union with basic loans such as vehicle, motorcycle, boat, small personal loans. Now it's improved a bit as far as stuff being on the computer! but it's still small and not accessible except in person,by fax, or by mail. If I fax a withdrawal I get the check within a few days then mail it to my bank(or drive if it's really important! bank is on other side of town) When I first opened my account with INGdirect they required a $10 deposit and after so many months they deposited $25 into the account. That's exactly what I did! I've kept the account with at least af ew bucks in it but started using it more seriously last year and even more so this year. They also take a few days to transfer funds, esp back to me, but it's all done electronically with no mailing or waiting for the mail. So this year I set up for a set amount to automatically draft to ING from my checking account. I've recently noticed that the interest rate is a lower than my old credit union. When I opened the ING account both were paying around 5% or so..now CU is closer to 3% and ING is closer to 1.5%. I'm debating increasing the direct deposit to the credit union AND trying to keep ING's the same. I'm still debating this. Common sense says forget ING and put it all in the credit union yet I also like the convenience of ING for last minute transfers (overtime for instance) though I could use it just for overtime. I do like seeing that balance online for motivation though so I think I'll keep at least something going there monthly. I'd like to double what I've been saving this year but think that will be a big challenge.

cooking ahead/freezing leftovers/not eating out so much - this year I've practiced freezing leftovers and trying to use stuff up. I like the idea of taking leftovers and freezing them for a later meal..like eating 'free' IMO! I know people have done this forever but growing up leftovers weren't saved more than a day or so and not encouraged to be eaten. I was also eating out a lot, esp fast food. This is bad for the wallet and the waist so this year I've gone in spurts of being frugal with this though I do slip time to time. I don't mind so much when I plan the splurge but getting in the drive-thru habit because I didn't cook ahead or prepare for a week of 12 hour day shifts (knowing I'd be too tired to cook or shop for groceries and too hungry to take the time) so I try cooking one day when I'm off and eating off that for a few days then freezing the rest. The times I've done this I"ve been pretty successful though I've had some things be a total flop.

grocery budget - this is an area I'm struggling to find a solution to! I usualy just buy stuff - what's on sale, etc - without much thought but noticed last year that a lot of stuff was being tossed out - leftover flour tortilas that aren't good..produce. since I cook for just  myself I decided to limit myself to starches like tortillas. No kidding I was buying corn tortillas, flour tortillas, bread, bolillo rolls, potatoes..no wonder stuff didnt' last! now I buy 1-2 typically and try my best to use them up. I've also started going through recipe books and allrecipes.com looking for stuff I have everything to make or close to everything. I just had 9 meals I didn't have to buy anything for because I already had it. Of course once the pantry and freezer shrink I'll have to buy the stuff again but I plan on knowing exactly what I need the ingredients for before buying except for maybe a few extra cans of chicken broth and essentials I use a lot 'just in case'

stockpiling the pantry and freezer - for many this tip has worked. for me I'm finding it not-so-great. Mainly because I'm usually in a hurry to cook something and my freezer is small (not wanting to invest in a deep freeze either)I find it frustrating to dig through a bunch of stuff to find what I want. I recently made a list and stuck to my fridge that says what's in the freezer..I really don't think this is gonna work long-term because it's hard to update..need a better system. But I used to buy several packages of say boneless skinless chicken breasts (BSCB) and then not use them, partly because my lazy self put them in the freezer and they all stuck together Now I have sandwich and s nack bags I put them in then put all of those in a freezer bag. so far this  has worked pretty well though Imay try freezer paper to cut down on wasting plastic baggies. So for now I'm buying 1 maybe 2 packages of BSCB since they usually go on sale at least every other month and maybe up to 3 lbs of lean ground beef though if it's a good sale or clearance I'll buy more since this is on sale far less frequently for the lean stuff.

cheaper meals - I've been told by a dietician to eat meat. beans are starchy and she said I should still eat another source of protein with them. I've been trying to use eggs, yogurt , cheese, milkbased soups/chowders to fill the protein requirement. sometimes peanut butter. I've found I enjoy a meatless meal here and there and it's cheaper. I also make a lot of soups with meat to stretch it out. I've been using coupons if it's an item I want to try or use regularly. I'm not having al ot of luck here since earlier in the  year all the granola bar coupons saved me a bundle on basically unessential junk food with a healthy name! so I limit those now.

entertainment budget-hoo boy another bad leak area! I'm bad about selfmedicating with retail therapy :-( I order way too many books though i'm proud to say I've cut WAAyY back this year on buying new books. I have a few authors I buy right away but am making  a serious effort to show a little restraint. I also order from here a lot but nowhere near the volume I had been. Quilting is another bad area for spending. I did ok so long as I stayed away from the quilt shops and didn't get 'inspired'.well this year I got 'inspired' and went way overboard. I've also hit the library a lot more and even started submitting suggestions for titles for them to purchase...a lot they've actually ordered too! so my WL has shrunk quite a bit here. Iwas cutting this area out entirely but realized I'd feel deprived so I've decided to do a few things each month if it's something I want to do. So basically here I really need to look at the overall picture: what is it, do I want it(obviously not a need!), is it worth it, have I spent much on entertainment this month or recently, is it a once in a blue moon type thing like a concert that comes once every 5-10 years or something I can do any time I want? these type questions I need to ask before I shell out the bucks for the entertainment!

housekeeping - this is indirect but I've noticed that a messy house stresses me out and stress triggers both overeating and retail therapy. Plus, if I'm cleaning I'm not shopping! plus I'd be able to sit and relax with a cleaner house and enjoy the books and movies I've bought! still struggling with the best way to do t his since I hate cleaning and dont do a good job at it. I've debated pricing a cleaning service though that sounds extravagant. still not sure though. I don't think the concept of doing somethng every day appeals to me. I work 12 hours and am  just tired before/after work. I'd rather pick a time when I'm off work and spend maybe a few hours doing housework then enjoy the rest of the time. Stil working on this and reading for ideas.

I guess mainly I'm trying to find what works for me since I dont work a typical shift, dont' have hubby/kids to cook for..well basically I've always focused on how things WON'T work for me, poor me, etc but have finally this year started looking at what WILL work for me and going from there. This forum as well as other books/websites have helped a lot too with ideas and if not with idea then at least the spirit and motivation to keep going!

Date Posted: 8/24/2009 6:50 PM ET
Member Since: 6/11/2006
Posts: 12,826
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these are good one. i need to declutter house more this year . and take lunch . i was going today and ran out of house. im doing better with buying book get them at libay .

Date Posted: 8/24/2009 8:41 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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yep declutter is on the list but not at the top LOL I try but it's like treading water trying to declutter but I'm slowly but surely getting there. my dad made me some bookcases so I can organize my books better now. I've been taking lunch to work already..sometimes we go out but usually just eat in. since I work 12 hour shifs I usally bring food to last the 2-4 days and keep a little in the freezer there and in my locker.

Date Posted: 8/24/2009 10:22 PM ET
Member Since: 7/23/2005
Posts: 7,353
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We haven't really made plans for any changes for next year, though we have made changes this past year or so.

We got into the habit of combining errands with the drive to or from work when the gas prices were so insane and have pretty much stuck to that pattern.  We eat out much less and cook more from scratch. We try to keep a small chest freezer pretty well stocked in case we get hit with anymore unexpected emergency expenses.  (Have I mentioned that I HATE our truck?)  :)

We stopped buying flowering plants from the nursery and expanded the veggie garden a bit this year.  I did find some flower seeds on clearance and we'll see if they'll work next spring and summer.

It used to be nothing to run into Maryland or West Virginia on a fine summer Saturday.  We'd hike a bit at our favorite state park here in Pa and then head over the border for more hiking, a little shopping and dinner.  We rarely do that anymore.  We stay closer to home and I've learned to appreciate the hammock in the backyard (along with a good book, LOL).

We shop at discount grocery stores now (Aldi) and cook much simpler meals than we used to. In a way, I like that.  We spend less time cooking each dish and get more bang for our buck.

Date Posted: 8/25/2009 1:48 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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that's neat Jo! It's especially neat to me to see how what doesn't work me  for DOES work for you! Like the stocking the freezer - for me it's counterproductive(at a point) so I keep maybe a package of chicken breasts, package of lean ground beef, maybe a few..but for others they do better stocking their freezer! also the veggie garden - I tried this year I really did - didn't work. I didn't get enough tomatoes to justify the expense..thinking 'bout taking a container gardening class and trying again but it's going to fall under 'fun and  entertainment' I think instead of a plan to be thrifty! also the doing errands on the way to and from work doesn't  necessarily work for me either though in theory it should! I work 12 hour rotating shifts and am tired and often hungry on the way home from work(not much open before work) and I tend to overbuy, esp groceries, in that state! However I do combine a bunch of errands on the same trip...like go to weight watchers meeting , library, post office, groceries. I'm also cutting way back on stopping at the grocery store near my home on the way to work..little purchases add up so I'm trying to plan the meals head of time and buy what I need then instead of running there every other trip to work! the simpler meals seems to work best for me too though! every so often I put more time into preparing something but it's often not worth the effort IMO and simple/easy means I'm more likely to keep it up!

Date Posted: 8/25/2009 8:32 PM ET
Member Since: 6/11/2006
Posts: 12,826
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i really need to figure meal plan and stick it out . i use to make some stuff for week on sunday and now im over mom and dad so i been lazy and after work and getting over 2 week bug it hard i am eally going to work on cut cost and declutter for septemember especially in winter i am not going to stock freezer as much as i had to throw 5 bag of groceries out when refrigator broke. i need to start doing moe when i come on monday and cook for few day.

Date Posted: 8/25/2009 9:07 PM ET
Member Since: 6/18/2009
Posts: 229
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I've never been one to advocate excerise (thought by looking at me you couldn't tell it).  So this year, I joined a local volleyball team part time.  Just so I can socialize and get out beyond the realm of errand running.  I come home with bruised palms, but it beats staying at home and channel surfing on the tube.

We tried the meal plan over here, but there's rarely three or more ppl around for dinner on any given night, so it just wasn't worth.  So finally what we're got is, you put what you want on the grocery list and if it ends up getting thrown out, you lose a slot on the list.  We get our meat discounted, usually the "manager's special", and it immediately goes into the freezer until the day it's going to get eaten.  Last night we had 6 t-bones for under $20.

I'm trying to watch less of the tube throughout the day, since I'm home all day with the baby, and from 7 to 7, I average an hour, sometimes two.

Something else I'm trying different this year is around Christmas time, I'm going to send out cards.  My mum sends out like 100+ and I normally sign my family below hers.  But I want to send some out this year.

Date Posted: 8/25/2009 9:45 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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that sounds like a good plan Crys - lose a slot if what you chose gets tossed out. I recently started walking for exercise..and it does help with the stress as well as the pounds!

Carol, I sometimes cook for the week but I'm thinking now of making something or maybe 2 somethings and keeping the leftovers for a few days. I read either here or frugalliving.about.com's forum about one meal on mon another on t ues t hen leftovers are wednesday. I have a can of turkey chili oopen now(chil dogs for lunch!) that i need to i finish up and probably at least 2 more servings maybe 3..I can either melt some 2% velveeta I have leftover, onion, and some leftover baked tostitos or eat with more chili dogs..I think I'll have the c hili dogs again for a late dinner for instance and then something else tomorrow unless I'm still wanting the same that way I don't get tired of it. I also have some frozen soups I can easily nuke and eat with cheese.

Date Posted: 8/26/2009 7:31 AM ET
Member Since: 6/11/2006
Posts: 12,826
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see you do have right mind fo this . good luck glad you post these thing because i am so try to wok on this.

Date Posted: 8/27/2009 10:57 AM ET
Member Since: 10/27/2007
Posts: 2,284
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Crys - regarding Christmas Cards - make sure you go to the after Christmas sales to purchase your cards (and wrapping paper) for the next year.  I can usually get my cards for 75% off.  I know many people who have cut back on sending cards but it is a tradition that I enjoy and will continue to do so.  We have so many family & friends all around the country so it is a nice way to re-connect with them during the holidays.

I need to find some quick and easy meals to make for my family.  I go to the grocery store and am at a complete loss as to what to buy, what to make, etc.  I am actually going to try and work on this in the fall once school starts back and our routine is settled.  I have 2 very picky (and I do mean picky) eaters so it is struggle.  I am going to try and use my crockpot more as well.  Suggestions? 

This year as a family we have managed to watch less tv.  We try to do a game night each week with the kids or watch a family movie together.  I found that I have made good progress on my TBR shelf at home!

I finally got a copy of the Tightwad Gazette and will read through it for some ways to make changes in my life. 

Please keep up the suggestions...these are great.

Date Posted: 8/27/2009 11:38 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Wendy, this is what helped me with menu planning:

First I made a list of meals that everyone liked (or everyone except my picky eater - I sub a PBJ for him occasionally)

Second, I made a list of side dishes everyone liked

Then, I do a quick compare of what my local grocery store has on sale that are main ingredients in the dishes we like and plan my weekly menu around the sale items.

I plan 5 dinners (we usually eat out once a week and I have one leftover night a week). I also plan the breakfast items ( mostly cereals, fruit, and I cook a nice breakfast one day of the weekend). Lunches in our home revolve around leftovers, salads, soup or sandwiches.

The first couple of weeks doing the menu planning is a little time consuming but then you get in a groove and it only takes 5-10 minutes a week to do a quick scan of what you have and what you need.

My menus usually consist of 5 items: main dish or meat, 1-2 vegetables (salad, steamed/grilled veggie, or fresh veggie plate and dip), a starch (potato, noodles, rice, corn), fruit salad or fresh fruit, and sometimes cottage cheese if it is on sale or a jello salad I made the day before or muffins or a bread. 

Because I work, I try to do 10-15 minutes of prep the night before so the veggie plate is ready or the jello salad or muffins are already made and just need to be placed on the table.

Our favorite crock meals are a roast or steak with cream of mushroom soup, and I pile the potatoes and carrots on top so when I get home I need to do very little. I clean and/or peel the carrots and potatoes the night before and trim the meat. Only takes a few minutes to put it together in the morning. I always plan a little extra meat and use the leftover meat to make a soup or beef and noodles or beef and rice in the next day or two. We also like to cook chicken breasts in a little salsa in the crock and make soft shell tacos. Another favorite is ranch chicken carrots and potatoes which is a little like a casserole. If your family likes soup (mine does) crockpots are great for soups and chowders. If the soup has veggies in it, I just add a bread and fresh fruit to the menu - super easy.

Spaghetti and meat sauce, grilled cheese and tomato soup, eggs for dinner, chili, and tacos are mainstays in my house that everyone likes and are easy and quick to make on busy nights. I like lasagne but it is time consuming to make so when I do make it I make two and freeze one. When I grill or broil chicken breasts I usually cut the breasts in half or thirds - they cook faster and are "kid sized" so less cutting at the table.

I also try to plan a couple of desserts a week and they can be as simple as a root beer float or brownies and a glass of milk.

No plan is perfect and I adapt as I go. And, there will always be a disaster meal now and then. One night I made seafood fettucine - that was not popular at all and the recipe was not all that good so . . . we still laugh about that night!

Hope this helps :-)

Date Posted: 8/27/2009 11:41 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Forgot to add - take five minutes a week and clean out your refrigerator - preferably before you go grocery shopping. It doesn't have to be a deep clean just a throw out the old stuff (hopefully there won't be much) and take a quick assessment of what you have. This helps in two ways - one you have an idea of what you have and two, your refrigerator is on the empty side and you won't have any problem finding space for the items you buy at the grocery store.

Date Posted: 8/27/2009 1:35 PM ET
Member Since: 10/27/2007
Posts: 2,284
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Shelia - what great suggestions.  I am really good with lists so I think if I had one of what the meals are to make I might do better.  I like the idea of cutting the chicken in half cuz my kids won't eat a whole breast either.  I am also hesitant to experiment with different dishes but I am determined to get over this.   We waste waaay too much food and I am getting tired of it. 

I am also planning on cleaning out my pantry and freezer and getting a better handle on what food I already have.  This is my project for September...I will post my results later.  Any other suggestions please keep them coming.

Date Posted: 8/27/2009 6:16 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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great suggestions! Ive been making and eating soups - so far the ones I've made freeze well and are quick to reheat and carry to work to eat. I've been going through the pantry and freezer coming up with combinations..have to watch myself though that in my enthusiasm I dont' cook up 100 meals to deal with storing LOL!

Date Posted: 8/28/2009 9:55 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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I am also hesitant to experiment with different dishes

It is hard to cook for a family with widely varying tastes. For me, a new recipe has to contain ingredients we mostly like. Also, I do a lot of substituting. I have a family of 5 and three do not like celery so if a recipe calls for celery and carrots I delete the celery and just add more carrots or if a recipe calls for green peppers and onions, only two of my family likes green peppers, so I delete them and add more onions.

My seafood fettucine was a bad choice from the get-go for us. It contained mostly crab (which I love and the rest of the family does not) and a white sauce which is also not popular with the kiddos. We eat out a few times a month so I get my fish or seafood fix then. Hindsight is 20/20 :-)

I try 1-2 new recipes a month because I've found enough recipes we like that I now have a good selection to draw from.

Susanna - soups are so easy, economical, and can be very tasty! My husband is my soup lover and I make soup about once a week in the fall and winter months.

Date Posted: 8/31/2009 12:45 PM ET
Member Since: 10/27/2007
Posts: 2,284
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This thread got me to thinking this weekend while I was at the grocery store.  There was ground turkey on sale - buy 1 get one free.  So i brought home 2 packages and I made turkey meatballs with them.  I kept some out for dinner tonight and froze the others but broke them up into 4 smaller bags. 

Then, a friend of mine has too many tomatoes and I have too many cucumbers.  We brought in a bunch for each other and switched.  So my DH took the tomatoes and made a homemade sauce to go with the meatballs for tonight's meal.  We will freeze the rest of the sauce tonight in smaller sizes and use them later.

I was very proud of this and just wanted to share that here.  This is the type of thinking-ahead with meal preparations I hadn't done before.  I am inspired to do others now the next time I am at the store.  The other thing that helped was that I made the meatballs that night because if I waited I probably wouldn't have done it.  Plus, it was fun to have DH and I in the kitchen preparing something together. 

I still have a way to go but I am determined to get on a better track than I am currently on.  My next project is cleaning out fridge, freezer, and pantry.  Maybe this weekend I can get to that. 



Last Edited on: 8/31/09 12:46 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/31/2009 12:59 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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feels great doesn't it Wendy?! my mom's also made up extra meatballs and frozen them..I'd have to try the recipe first before doing that or I'd end up with a freezer full of junk LOL! I'm still going through the freezer and pantry..used to i'd buy for one thing and if it didn't all get used then tough it eventually got thrown out..but it's a great feeling to use up stuff like 'free meals'!

Sheila, I'm lucky it's just me sometimes! it's weird I want soup when it's 90 plus outside but sometimes I do LOL! but nothing beats soup/stew and bread in the winter esp if I know when it's gonna actually be cold here and can plan ahead!

great ideas!

Date Posted: 8/31/2009 11:35 PM ET
Member Since: 7/23/2005
Posts: 7,353
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Plus, it was fun to have DH and I in the kitchen preparing something together.

Wendy, this is my favorite part of cooking.  I still have to decide what we'll cook ( and sometimes it's frustrating, LOL) but we do cook together.  Saturday nights are cooking nights. We usually make 2 or 3 main dishes and a couple of side dishes to get us through the next week.   Then we just nuke the stuff after work.

Our kitchen is small and we've learned to 'dance' around each other when we cook.  It's actually become finely orchestrated!

 

Date Posted: 9/1/2009 10:07 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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WTG Wendy! Getting DH and the kids involved is a wonderful idea. I try to have the kids take turns being my kitchen helper each night. Their duties are setting the table, making a salad if we are having it, sometimes chopping vegetables (I have a dull knife that works great), etc.

Jo's post reminded me of something that happened with our oldest daughter a few years ago. My husband loves foil dinners (veggies, meat, seasonings, onion, garlic, folded in a foil packed and baked or grilled) and he was chopping veggies while I was cutting the meat. We were standing side by side at the counter doing our tasks when suddenly a little footstool was wedged between our feet and then our oldest daughter wedged herself between us! She felt left out with both of us with our backs to her and wanted to join us. It was a priceless moment since now she is nearly a teenager and has no desire to be around old mom and dad . . . of course this changes when she wants us to buy her something!

Date Posted: 10/19/2009 7:20 PM ET
Member Since: 6/11/2006
Posts: 12,826
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i am trying to real work cook for few meal .