Thursday, February 28, 2013

Murder Mystery Night

Last Saturday night, Jason and I were invited to attend a "Murder Mystery" event with several other couples from our church. I had heard of these before but never attended one so it was a fun way to get together in a group date type of activity.
Our setting was 1840's Gold Rush times and we enjoyed plenty of food to keep us filled all evening long...
Here is a picture of the whole group in their various costumes. Everyone was assigned a person and was given a description of what part they would be playing that night.
Jason was the deputy "Beau Baxter" and I was "Runs Like a Deer," the local Native American woman.
We had a great time and enjoyed trying to figure out who killed the "sheriff." It was actually ME!!! Nobody could believe I had done it except my own husband (to be fair it was more of an accidental snake bite than anything else.) It was fun to play a different character that night though!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Winter Wrap Up

Wow that was quite a hiatus I took from blogging! Honestly wintertime has been rather calm, slow, and quiet around these parts. There hasn't been a whole lot to actually take pictures of so here's the last 6 weeks or so in review.
Jason has decided to take up photography as his new hobby and discovered a lot more about how our camera actually works. He has also purchased a few new lenses which now give us more options for taking better pictures. Right at the New Year we got a bit of snow so he practiced taking pictures of our bushes outside. Bare limbs sure look prettier with a bit of snow on them!
Abby and Landon attempted another snowman, this time in the front yard. I think they ended up fighting about something and never finished the head part, but at least they tried!
The BIG event in January was that this lady turned 33!!
(Can't you just feel the excitement!! I swear it was a happier occasion than this picture shows!)
I have to say that I am loving my 30's so far and can't wait to see what this year has in store for me. As part of my birthday gift (and Valentine's/Anniversary/Mother's Day as well!!) I got this little machine...
We have already put over 200 miles on it and we are enjoying our newest gadget.
For the first time in a VERY long time, I am no longer a member of a gym. As I was looking over our yearly expenditures, I realized how much money we have spent in gym fees just since moving to Hagerstown (about $5000!!) Yes I took advantage of my monthly dues by attending the gym almost daily, but still felt that I could do better. So we cancelled our family gym membership, invested in some equipment (we already had a pretty good setup in the basement) and now I can merely head downstairs in the morning and never leave my house in order to get my sweat on. So far I am loving getting up before the kids and having the workout for the day done before Abby even leaves for school! Jason has even started joining me recently and we are doing this set of DVDs together...
(It's like a cheap knock-off of P90X but the workouts are actually pretty good and only about 30-40 minutes so a good way for Jason to jump into exercising again.)
With my new morning free time (the gym seemed to take up my entire morning before), I have developed a new habit...couponing. My sister-in-law has been into it for a while and I dabbled in it a bit pre-kids, but have recently gotten pretty involved with it. We don't save as much in groceries as some people do because we don't buy as much processed foods and there just aren't as many coupons for fresh produce (our biggest grocery expenditure), but we have saved a TON of money in toiletry items. Here is a picture of the stockpile we have amassed in a little over 2 months...

Minus the canned food storage, almost everything else was purchased for really cheap, free, and sometimes the store has even paid me to take the items!! I think we are set on laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, kleenex, dishwashing tablets, soap, deodorant, bodywash, feminine products, toothpaste, lotion, hair products, razors, shaving cream, facial cleansers, shampoo, conditioner, diapers and wipes for at least 6 months to a year. I have gotten most of these items from CVS and Rite Aid (my two new favorite stores!!) and follow this blog to find the best deals: They tell you exactly how to get started and where to get the best deals, matching up store sales with the coupons that are available. It was a bit time consuming to establish a system and get it up and running, but now I spend maybe 10-15 minutes each day and an hour or two on Sundays to keep it up. It is so worth it though and now I can't believe how much money we have spent and wasted on these same products throughout the years!!
Part of our motivation in the money-saving category is that we have set a pretty lofty, yet attainable goal for our family. We are aiming to pay off our mortgage by 2019 (just 6 more years!!) That would be 21 years ahead of schedule!! We refinanced last year to a 15-year mortgage which has already saved us a bunch in interest charges and we have configured a way to be able to do it even sooner than that. It does require an extra $500 per month in mortgage payments plus a $15K lump payment each year, but it is doable if we stick to our plan. Wish us luck!!
Abby, Landon and Nolan continue to delight (and admittedly frustrate) us as much as ever! Landon can often be found studiously planning his next LEGO creation...
Nolan loves to wander around and cause general chaos wherever he goes...
And Abby is the pretty sweet girl who is growing up way too fast and enthralls us with her ability to both charm our socks off and cause a whole lotta drama all within a day's work!!
Life is good!
It is not perfect, but it is still very, very good.
Hopefully now I will be able to stay a bit more caught up with the blog!