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Our Free Valentine’s Day Ideas

My husband and I actually like Valentine’s Day.  Yeah, it may be a “Hallmark holiday”, but we like the reminder to just spend some time spoiling each other.  And you aren’t forced to make it Hallmarky…

Our Free Valentine’s Day

Since Valentine’s this year is landing on a Friday, we are not even leaving the house.  Too nutballs out there.  We’ve decided to go cheap and stress-free.

First, we’ll be going to a sit-down restaurant on Thursday instead of Friday, and we’ll use the gift cards we still have leftover from Christmas.  So we’ll be going to Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, or Papadeaux.  We have enough on the gift cards to cover the entire meal.  We usually end up catching each other up on how we’re feeling and joking around at restaurants, so that seems like a good goal.  :-)

Then we’ll head home and throw in the next two DVD’s of Downton Abbey that we’ll have from Netflix.  We’re using a one-month free subscription to their 2-at-a-time DVD plan for all of February.  Even though we used to have their DVD plan before it separated from the streaming-only plan, they are still letting us take advantage of trying it for free again.  Check it out!

As for our selection of show, neither of us had seen Downton Abbey before…it never sounded that great to us.  BUT, we started it last week and are both hooked.  He likes the politics of it all and I’m rooting for my favorite staff in the house to be happy.  Who would have known that a fake, British, wealthy family in the 1900′s could be so interesting?  :-)

We’re going to end the evening by trading off massages before bed.  Yep, can’t go wrong with absolutely free time together just connecting.

Other Cheap or Free Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

If you don’t have gift cards or Netflix, here are some other cheap or free Valentine’s Day ideas:

  • Picnics (indoor picnic away from the kitchen if the weather sucks)
  • Board Games or card games
  • Video Games with two controllers
  • Movie night at home.  Either snack on what you already have or splurge $4 on some popcorn at the grocery store.
  • Walk in free parks.  We have a free botanical garden 10 minutes away.
  • Enjoy an activity.  We like Disc Golf and already have discs and there are free courses all over the place.  But you may each enjoy something else like hiking, bike riding, bird watching, star gazing, etc.  Heck, hug your inner child and see if hide-and-seek, freeze tag, or even dodge ball with your friends still seems as amazingly fun as it was before…
  • Make s’mores over a fire
  • Take advantage of your jet tub together (or your hot tub).  Not everyone has one, but people who do sometimes forget to enjoy them…
  • Go to a local karaoke night

Honestly, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to celebrate a relationship.  If you aren’t in a romantic relationship, do some of this stuff with other friends in the same position.  A single’s party for Valentine’s can kick butt if everyone is in the mood for fun.  The overall point is to simply have a great time.  This can be for Valentine’s Day or ANY day.  Just have fun!

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day or just for fun?

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!

New Year's Comic

HAHAHA!!!  Just substitute that line with anything that you judge harshly and this is hilarious…

I hope everyone had a great 2013 and will have a fantastic 2014 too!

Happy Holidays!

 

Elf Cow

Yep, that’s me as the Elf Cow last Christmas. :-)

It seems like everyone is disappearing for the holidays, even me, so I’ll just say

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

I’ll return to the regular posting schedule January 2, 2014.  :-)

My Christmas Gifts List EXPLODED!

Okay, so my husband and I didn’t make many friends until about 3-4 years ago.  That’s when we met (sort of re-met) Ivy and Isabelle.  Then a year or two later, our group started growing.  It’s been great to build up a support network of people who can all depend on each other.  But that also means that we all like each other, so our Christmas gifts list has become a small issue for all of us.

White Elephant Gift Exchange

In an effort to keep this cheap for our group as a whole, we decided that our next potluck will have a White Elephant gift exchange.  Anybody who brings a $15 or less package to the party can participate, and we’ll run it classically.  First we’ll draw numbers to see what order we will go in.  A person will choose a gift.  Then the next person can choose to “steal” a previous gift or open a new one.  If your gift is stolen, you choose again.  No one gift can be stolen more than three times.

Personal Christmas Gifts

This is great for the group as a whole and will make a fun side event for our next potluck, BUT there are some people who are closer to each other than others.  They will be exchanging personal gifts on their own time.  Most of the group has made it clear that I am on their list.  And they are on mine.  So despite the excellent White Elephant idea, I still have a pretty long Christmas list.  Including grandparents, close family, and close friends, there are 25-30 people…

General Gift Options

When I want to spread holiday cheer, these are my general options:

  • DIY- Do something craftsy.
  • Cooking – Bake little care packages.
  • Gifts – Buy individual gifts.
  • Activities – Do something with each of them.

Laziness Won

This year, I am extremely lazy.  Sometimes I will get the baking bug and just take care of mostly everyone, but that has not hit me.  The only activity will be the potluck with the White Elephant exchange.  I am also doing photo gifts for the grandparents and close family, so that’ll cover my “craftsy”.  They’ll also be getting printed copies of both of my online books, with personalized messages in each one.  So that’s the extent of my “DIY”.

But I’m buying something for everyone else.  My husband’s list is a little shorter, but he is planning on buying stuff too.  I’m generally done, and my gifts range from $8-$18 per person depending on what screamed their name.  It seems my overall Christmas spending will be around $300 including the photo gifts and book printing.  My husband will probably spend around $200.

Not Stressing

Overall, we can totally afford this $500, so I’m not worrying over it all.  I’ve been in a funk lately anyway, so I really just want to take some deep breaths and use the holidays to be thankful for our friends and family.  I refuse to go nuts over a Christmas budget.  We won’t spend ourselves broke, and that’s good enough for me.

As for the funk, I am trying to figure out if it’s because of ongoing allergies or what…I just feel “blah”.  Boogers.

I just hope our more broke friends stick with something cheaper like baking.  Crystal loves her some Christmas cookies…

How are your holiday gift giving plans going?

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

We’re hosting a Friend’s Thanksgiving today, driving to a family Thanksgiving tomorrow, and may have yet another Thanksgiving event to go to Friday. Soooo…

Happy Thanksgiving for the next few days!!!

If you are celebrating, have a blast!

If this is just a random week for you, hope it’s great!

A Thanksgiving Poem

Twas the night of Thanksgiving, but I just couldn’t sleep.
I tried counting backwards, I tried counting sheep.
The leftovers beckoned, the dark meat and white.
But I fought the temptation with all of my might.

Tossing and turning with anticipation,
The thought of a snack became infatuation.
So I raced to the kitchen, flung open the door
And gazed at the fridge, full of goodies galore.

I gobbled up turkey and buttered potatoes,
Pickles and carrots, beans and tomatoes.
I felt myself swelling so plump and so round
‘Til all of a sudden…I rose off the ground.

I crashed through the ceiling, floating into the sky
With a mouthful of pudding and a handful of pie.
But, I managed to yell as I soared past the trees…
“Happy Eating To All..Pass The Cranberries, Please.”

May your stuffing be tasty, your turkey be plump.
May your potatoes n’ gravy have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious.. may your pies take the prize.
MAY YOUR THANKSGIVING DINNER STAY OFF OF YOUR THIGHS!

The Old, Crazy Woman Next Door – Yep, Sounds Like Me…

I was watching “Love It or List It, Too” on HGTV (it’s less mel0dramatic than the original), and the older couple was considering downsizing.  I just thought about our recent upsizing and how much I like the extra room right now, but then I put myself in older shoes.

Older Crystal

I first imagined myself in my 40′s and 50′s with the arthritis that runs in the family starting to act up.  Our home’s stairs would hopefully still be very doable for us, but over-the-counter pain relievers may start being part of my morning routine somewhere in there.  I would hope Mr. BFS and I would retire within that period too (and both still be very much alive), so we will probably be traveling even more than now or finding day-time hobbies to help fill our extra hours.  I hope my wrists or voice software would allow me to continue to blog or do whatever that sort of thing is by then.

Our home’s size would probably not be an issue yet at this point.  If we have kids, they would hopefully be out of the house by our mid-50′s.  We may update stuff by then since our tastes now will not be our tastes forever.  Knowing us, we’ll probably still have a dog or two as well.

In short, unless something huge happens within the next 20-30 years, we could still be in our house.

Oldest Crystal

Then I started thinking about my 70′s and above (assuming I make it that far like my older family members).  My energy might be severely drained by then, walking will be a bit harder, and I better have stayed in shape somewhat the 40-50 years between now and then or our stairs will completely suck.  Statistically, Mr. BFS may check out of this world before I do, so I may have some years to handle alone.  Or he might.

In regards to our house, we could either downsize or start making renovations to make our two-story home more geriatric-friendly.  Downsizing could mean having some extra money in the bank if we need it as long as our new place costs less than what we sell this one for, BUT we’d probably sell our rental property before we sell our current home.  Renovations may include one of those motorized stair-chairs.  If either one of us ends up in a wheelchair, then we’d need to move.  The doorways to the bathrooms are just too narrow here.  I guess that’ll motivate us to stay out of a wheelchair as long as physically possible.

How Age Makes Me Feel

Thinking of getting older makes me smile and cringe at the same time.  I want to see what happens between now and then, but I don’t look forward to my body deteriorating.  I really hope my mind doesn’t wear down as quickly too, but I know I won’t be as fast as I would hope.  I see it with pretty much everyone I talk to that is over 75 years old…they’re mind is churning out the thoughts most of the time, but their mouths take longer forming the words.  Or they lose the thought before they complete it.  I don’t look forward to that part.

But I plan on embracing the old stereotype as I fall into it.  I would love to be that old, crazy woman next door that makes others laugh and appreciate their youth while they have it.  I will totally use my advanced age to say whatever I want…it could be fun.  Believe it or not, I actually filter myself a bit right now.  It’s overrated.  :-)

Do you ever think of yourself down the road?  What does that picture look like for you?

Budgeting in the Scary Stuff – Part 2

The following is yet another awesome guest post from Mike Mitchell.  When he’s not scaring the neighbor kids, Mike likes to sit back reading comics and drinking beer. You can read about both his passions at his blogs: http://mikemitchellonline.blogspot.com/ and http://mitchellsbeer.blogspot.com/.

Greetings, fright fans! Time for your annual missive from your friendly purveyor of chills. If you’ve got a long memory, or just hit the Wayback Machine (i.e. those of you under 40 can replace that phrase with “TARDIS”) to read my previous posts, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of this season and all things spooky.  You know, I was actually in my late 20′s before I found out that John Carpenter’s original “Halloween” movie was fiction and not a “how-to” documentary.

Building Up My Halloween Costume…

For me, this is where we start of the fall season: The Texas Renaissance Festival (Ren Fest) and Halloween. This year I was lucky enough to have my youngest brother and his new bride join us for Ren Fest We had a great day, and true to form, I added one new item to my ever-expanding costume.

As I wrote last year, I spent about $100 on new pants and a puffy shirt. But I passed on other items like shoulder armor and bracers (they’re worn on the forearms). My goal was to invest in two quality pieces of clothing that would last for a long time and that would be the foundation of my costume for years to come. That investment paid off. I wore the clothing this year and it was in perfect shape. No frayed edges or split seams. This is nice stuff and I’m convinced that I’ll be wearing it for years to come (of course, it helps that I only wear it once or twice a year).

This year, I continued the trend and bought the bracers I’d been eyeing since last year. These metal bracers cost only $36 from an online store. Also, 10 minutes of online searching yielded a coupon that saved me a few bucks on shipping. These are low maintenance arm bands (they don’t need oiling or special storage) and the leather seems to be decent quality. As long as I provide basic care for them, they should easily last for another decade or more. Adding these to my costume is just another step toward making each Ren Fest even better than the one before.

I Dig Halloween

Ren Fest was this past weekend, which is why we weren’t able to make it to Crystal’s Masquerade Ball. :-(  This was a little closer to Halloween than we usually go (we usually go two weeks before or one week after), but our house guests bit into my plans to work on new Halloween decorations. You see, I enjoy decorating for Christmas, and in doing so I use the same “add a little bit each year” mentality that I use in compiling my Ren Fest costume.  Unlike Christmas, where I have a specific theme and have been working for a few years to obtain decorations that fit my ongoing “Blue Christmas” theme (that is, blue decorations with just a few red accents), Halloween has been more hit or miss.

Saving on Your Holiday Decorations

This year I decided that it’s time to get my scare on. There are a lot of new people in the neighborhood, and more of them are decorating for Halloween. Fortunately, we planned ahead. Last year, in the first week of November, my wife and I hit Hobby Lobby and Michael’s craft store to look for Funkins that were on sale. Funkins are “artificial carvable pumpkins.” That is to say, they are a dense Styrofoam covered with a thin plastic cover so that they look like real pumpkins. My wife enjoys carving these and she usually does one or two a year. Because they are artificial, they keep forever and we’re slowly building up a really cool pumpkin patch for our front yard display.

These things aren’t cheap – they easily run $15 thru $25 or more – each. But, by buying them in advance and storing them in an unused closet, we only paid about $2.50 thru $8 for them. Last year we spent $50 on them, but got more than  a dozen of varying sizes and shapes. That’s less than $5 a pumpkin… not a bad investment for something that will keep until we actually use it. We also gave some as gifts (ask Crystal to tell you about the “Pumpkin Pi” we have them last year).

Slow-n-steady and planning ahead, those are vital keys to being able to enjoy the holidays and decorate without blowing out your budget. I don’t need to tell any of you BFS’ readers about how you should buy your wrapping paper the day after Christmas, do I?

I only buy about $20 thru $30 worth of wrapping paper every few years. And this last year I was able to buy some amazing paper that will work for any holidays (birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, whatever). The same is true with all holiday decorations.

You know the holiday is going to come again next year, so just be ready for it by buying quality items that will last and that you can add to, year after year. That way, when the dark shadows fall on All Hallows’ Eve, the only thing you’ll be scared of are the costumed kids knocking on your door, and not the sticker shock of what it cost you to deck your halls with ghosties and ghoulies.