Friday, April 18, 2014

Pallet Transformation

I always wondered where people got those pallets from to transform into something else... I mean when you look on craigslist or elsewhere, it just seems like such a hassel and such an expense to get that you might as well just purchase what your aiming for instead of taking the time and effort to make it yourself... That is unless you have a natural hook up...

SCB's business swims in pallets.

Everything they unload, comes on a pallet... and about once a month a guy in a truck pays them less then a buck for each pallet and halls them away to have them be reuse and recycled.

When SCB borrowed the work truck to help us get our old chest of drawers out of the place, there was one pallet left inside... and he decided it needed to come home with us.

I literally opened the door to let him in from work that day and I was greeted with him holding all these wood pieces. He told me he wanted to build something... after a couple of years of experience with him I knew arguing over the matter was useless.

I just shook my head and let him in.

My husband swear he isn't like his dad at all, but he always seems to be collecting things that other people discard. If it weren't for the annual purge, i'd have pulled out all my hair already. The other day I saw him fiddling with a remote and when I asked him where he got it and what it was for (since it wasn't for anything in our house), he slyly tells me he found it by the dumpster and that it goes to a DVD recorder that he's placed beside the couch...

The week before last, he picked up an insulated lunch pail cooler... swearing its bigger and better then the one we currently have that's not old and ugly looking...

Now you know why I hold fast to the annual purge no matter how much he complains and how much of it I have to do myself.

But back to the pallet.

Originally I thought he was going to use the wood to create something I could hook up our new wheat grinder too so It wouldn't damage my granite counter top... (We got a wheat grinder from his brother for christmas and its awesome)... But he told me no.

The wood stayed on our patio for a few days before he shoved it back into our car and drove it out to Utah where his father's tools were. While we were on vacation he had everything sanded and rounded down so it was nice a smooth wood.

During the week after vacation, I came home from a church meeting and walked into this?

Yup... Hubby  had dismantled our living room and was playing with power tools... at like 8:30 at night...

He told me he was building a "prop" table out of the pallet for the printer to sit on because he wanted more desk space...  Basically a flat surface with legs on one side that will just sit on our desk for support.

It actually doesn't look that bad at all and he put a sheet over it to hide all the stuff that's underneath it right now for the moment...

But Pallet turned into a desk shelf.

Oh the joys of living with a mountain man confined to a condo... Now if only I can get him to throw out that lunch box and dvd recorder he fished out of the dumpster.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Homemade Frozen Burgers

Last month I mentioned in my "grocery" breakdown that we had finally finished our last sleeve of burgers... It was a sad day folks.

Now I see some of you out there just rolling your eyes at me and trying to direct me to the freezer section of the grocery store. But that just won't work anymore as I have not been able to find any Frozen Organic Burgers... and we are trying to go Organic.

I was a little hesitant to attempt to make them myself since our previous homemade burgers of the past had resulted in grumbled bits of meat on our bbq grill... but I've since become a bit wise thanks to you all!

When we went to Costco last, we picked up a 3 pack of Kirkland Organic Ground Beef (85% lean). Each package has 1.34 lbs of meat in it and I decided to "try" out a single package first in case they were a disaster.

My Recipe/Directions:

  • Empty Meat package into a bowl.
  • Dice up a head of garlic... toss that into bowl.
  • Splash in some Worcester cause hubs like that...
  • Add 1/4 cup oat flour. (Aka, Organic Oats sent through my wheat grinder)...
  • MIX it up.
I decided not to use egg as a binder since my other recipes with egg in the past have crumbled and broken apart... but I did try adding some grains by using the ground up oats (thought that was healthier then bread crumbs since its basically oatmeal) and that really helped solidify the meat. I also think I got away with no egg because the meat was leaner.

Because you all are so smart (Nadia), I decided to sacrifice the lid from my peanut butter jar to use as a free burger press. (It also helped that the jar was basically empty and needed to be replaced).

I basically took the meat out of the bowl and pressed it into the lid... then flipped it over on the counter (covered in parchment paper) and smacked the lid. I expected the burger to come right out... but it didn't work. I think the parchment paper didn't give the meat enough of a sticking surface to attach to so I ended up smacking the meat filled peanut butter lid onto a cutting board.. and the meat came out perfectly. I then transferred the patties over to the parchment paper.

I got a total of 7 burgers exactly out of one package of meat. No extra meat in the bowl and no slightly smaller or bigger patties much to my surprise. So each burger uncooked is around 3.1 oz, which is actually what the average serving size for meat should be for me (SCB generally has 2 with a meal so 6 oz is pretty decent for him as well).

Not wanting the patties to stick together when freezing, I transferred the parchment paper onto a baking sheet and I ended up just balancing the rack in my chest freezer between the two baskets since the lid had plenty of room to close.

They weren't completely frozen by dinner time since they were only in there for an hour and a half, so I just removed the three patties we planned on using... and to my complete delight, they stayed in tact on the grill and were really tasty. They didn't shrink much, but they were a little smaller than the buns we used to eat them with (the cheap ones from Costco) so it looks like i'm going to half to work on making our own because those burgers were too yummy to live on those crappy buns.

The next morning I took the frozen burgers and just put them in a Tupperware container in the freezer. (I cut the parchment paper up to place in between them so they don't freeze together.)

Now that I know that works, I'll do the other 2 meat packages (once I get more garlic) so we have a stock pile of them ready to go for a fast meal since we generally eat burgers a couple times a month since the weather normally cooperates with is in Orange County.

We had the burgers with artichokes, and fresh pico salsa! You can see the smaller diameter of the burgers here, but they were really thick still. I think I might toss in a few more spices next time... but a win all around.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Church Stuff

I know this blog post won't be for everyone, so feel free to skip it if its not your cup of tea. (Don't worry, we can still be friends but I figured the title will let those skip it who don't want to read it.)

Part of my 14 for 2014 (AKA my annual goals for 2014) involved getting more into church as a family with South County Boy. Since I'm a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I really never got to experience the kind of home that SCB did when he grew up... but I want that for our future family and since this is the year of preparation for that we are covering our spiritual base as well as our financial one.

I get excited when we get to make our own new family traditions, ... including doing stuff for General Conference.

What's conference? Every 6 months the leadership of our church does a broadcast over the internet where we get to hear messages that can help us with our marriages, families and our lives. Some are inspirational, some are good reminders for things we have been neglecting to do... and others feel like they are just aimed at you personally... but it's church in your pj's!!!

I attempted to make SCB's favorite dessert (Love Pie) for our Sunday treat and it was awesome!!!! I was so thrilled with how it turned out... and I was going to post the recipe on here, but I forgot to take a picture of the final product and it was devoured because we invited a few friends over from church... so eventually you'll learn the awesomeness of Love pie...  but I like that Love Pie will probably become a conference tradition... and that's just really fun for me to have a family tradition since there are so few that I have from my childhood...  (If you want to Watch General Conference, click the link, if you don't that's fine too).

Conference also made me reflect on all the awesome moments we have had this year already that I haven't really blogged about.

Baptisms & Gospel Sharing Moments:

Baptism Day!
I got the opportunity to meet this wonderful girl and help teach her alongside the Sister Missionaries in our ward... It was a really cool opportunity to do what someone else had done for me... and I gained a friend out of it which was really fun. I got to not only go to her baptism at the end of March, but she asked me to speak at her baptism... which was really cool considering I got to experience a lot of her conversion moments with her... which was really awesome.

I also got to share some things about the church with my old bible college roommate. Out of the blue one of my dorm-mates sent me a message on facebook asking me if I wouldn't mind answering a few questions about the church because she had recently started reading the Book of Mormon. It was really nice that she felt like she could ask me questions... and even cooler that I was not only able to explain why the church was a good fit for me... but also help her out with some practical advice since she was where I was almost 2 years ago.

Another Temple Trip
San Diego Temple
While we blogged about going to 2 different temples on our road trip out to Utah for our friends wedding, I get to mark off a third.

A couple girls I go to church with who had never been to the temple really wanted to go down to San Diego so I planned an afternoon road trip. A couple sister missionaries went, my friend who was recently baptized, and a girl I visit teach (with her hubby).

The temple there is probably the prettiest I have ever been too. The couple I visit teach plan to be sealed there in August so it looks like I'll be heading back along with SCB this time. (He was really bummed he couldn't go, but we went on a Tuesday afternoon while he was working since that worked best for everyone else.)

My friend also asked me to be her escort when she goes through the temple for the first time, which is totally awesome!!!

I feel like i'm finally getting the opportunity to really give back and do the things that other couples did to help me when I was first starting out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Computer has a fan?

 Who cannot forget this epic picture of our PC from our post "We're REALLY trying hard not to spend money?" 

Back when we weren't sure how we were going to be able to max out our Roth IRA for SCB before the April 15th deadline, we were trying really hard to stick to our budget. We had already spent our discretionary money for the month when our Computer fan crapped out on us.

Hubs took the frame off our computer and used one of our larger house fans to keep it going while we waited for a new budget to roll around.

While we were out in Utah, SCB's brother happened to have an extra CPU fan laying around since he works on computers and internet networks for BYU and also does contract work on the side for a few friends from time to time.

When we got back from Vacation, we ordered a second fan off of Amazon, so now our computer looks like this:

Where's the front cover? That's a great question. SCB doesn't want to put it back on because when its on, the power button is kind of wonky and doesn't want to turn on when you press it.. so instead he has decided to cover the front of the unit with blue tape. It's not painters tape and its not duct tape... but its a tape that's somewhere in between the two... 

But at least we have our house fan back, right?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Retirement Update

It's the end of the 4th quarter of 2014 so I thought it was only pertinent to check back up on our retirement accounts, especially since we have a brand new Roth IRA for South County Boy.

According to Fidelity, by age 35 you should have been able to save your annual salary... by age 45 you should have 3 times your salary saved... by 55 you should have 5 times your salary saved... and by 67 you should have 8 times you salary, assuming you work until age 67...

I have no idea if we are going to work until 67... I hope not, but those are just benchmarks and if you want all the details on how they got to that one, you can check out this article here.

So how are we doing? (Numbers pulled 4/10/14)

South County Girl:
On average, i'll make slightly under $53,000.00 this year.
Roth IRA's:
  • Vanguard: $30,780.47
  • Capital One 360: $10,056.46  (man I need to transfer this!)
  • In savings for 2014: $827.96
  • ICMA- RC: $3,111.82
Before my pension, I've got $44,776.71 saved, which is almost 84% of my salary!

The current cash value of my pension is $32,315.56... I have to say I'm really proud that my own retirement savings are larger! Pensions are slowly becoming a thing of the past so we like to pretend it doesn't exist and save outside of it. Hopefully by doing so it means we will really to both retire at 55 and enjoy life more fully. The cash contributions/interest can never be taken away from me... but they can change the formula used for calculating my pension.

  • I currently work assuming a 2.7% formula @ 55 years. I could go to work tomorrow and HR could tell me, starting today, you're earning a pension that will pay out with this new formula: 2% at 60... 
    • The almost 10 years I have worked at would use my current formula, but the new formula would go into place for the next 20 years down the line, significantly reducing the amount of money I would get in retirement.... and any pension I pull automatically forfeits the cash value.   

Right now if I were to quit my job, my formula would "lock in" and I would get $5,688.36 a year or $474.03 a month. It would only take 68 months or 5.68 years to go through the cash balance, making it smarter to pull a pension... but that money gets to sit in the account for 27 years earning 6% interest... which means at 55, it would be $162,635.63... taking almost 28.5 years to pay down... making me 83. With the cash, I know I'd pull more then the $474.03 a month so it wouldn't last me 28.5 years in reality. Pulling the pension and forfeiting the cash would be a safe bet because Hubs would keep getting the check if I snuffed it and we'd have our other accounts to help us out.

South County Boy:
I'm going to estimate that South County Boy makes $27,000 a year. ($880 a paycheck for 26 paychecks... add in a $4k profit sharing check & I rounded up for the occasional Over Time).

Roth IRA: 
  • Vanguard: $5,500.00
  •  Fidelity: $752.38 (vested balance) | $1,128.59 (balance w/ employer contributions)
Total using vested balance: $6,252.38 | 23.15% of his salary. 
I'm actually proud of this because we just started this last year and we will hopefully make the 2014 goal and again, we will only be turning 28 this year... so if he keeps working, we should be able to hit the benchmark by the time he reaches 35. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Pinterest Win or Fail?

We have all seen things on Pinterest that we have wanted to try at one point or another.. and we have all seen those epic Pinterest "Nailed it" fail posts which goes to show not everything you see on pinterest actually works. 

Well, last time we took our car into the shop earlier in the year, the guy told me that my headlights needed to be "polished" down because the lights were not bright anymore... 

He told me it would be around $150.00 to have them polished down and we'd have to do it on a sunny day... 

Naturally, we put it off... and about a month ago I was helping plan a ladies night at my church based around "life hacks" and we came across this pin:

Needless to say I remembered that my car lights needed to be "brightened" so I volunteered to try it out and report it to the group. Here's my before picture:

According to the "pin" directions, I just needed to have my husband put toothpaste on my light and scrub.

That's just plain old Colgate from the cabinet... nothing fancy.

SCB adds a little elbow grease...

And that my friends is the final product. It seemed like the lights were a bit brighter when I was driving around at night... but nothing like the newer cars around me. When i'm the only car around, the lights seem bright enough to me... but when i'm on the road at night with other cars, my lights are pale in comparison. 

If the guy mentions it again, we may end up paying to get it done after all, but what do you guys think. Pinterest Win or Pinterest Fail?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wheat Grinder Love!

For Christmas, South County Boy's brother got us a wheat grinder.

Now I know what your thinking, who would want one of those? but it's actually something I've been wanting for a while because I like to bake and cook (or at least try to) and fresher ingredients taste better.

It's also a lot easier to stick "whole wheat" into things when you can grind it fresh. When his brother and his wife were poking around for Christmas ideas for us, we mentioned this sale I saw for a $50 wheat grinder.

They decided to do one better. They got us a better model of a hand crank grinder that had the option for an attachable motor... and then got us the motor as well!!

This year we decided to switching to organic and to make more homemade foods instead of purchasing box crap foods at the store. Part of this means trying to add in more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into the mix so the quality of the food we eat is better for our bodies. Unfortunately to buy those types of foods in the store is more expensive... especially when they are organic. So i'm trying to save money by making things from scratch so we can afford the organic produce and cut out all those preservatives. So far things seem to be working out, but to do better than we are, I really wanted to get a wheat grinder so I could really get into making my own fresh breads.

I stopped for a while since we were buying that Organic Costco bread... but once we froze it, we learned that it doesn't freeze too well -- the bread gets tacky when it thaws... and they have also bumped up the price and with SCB taking at least 2 if not 3 sandwiches a day, I'm hoping to go back to making my own bread with simple ingredients (whether organic or not) to save money here.

The picture above is the grinder full of oats. Yup, just you basic Whole Round Oats that you buy in the bulk bin at the store for $0.99 - $1.50 lb depending on if you score organic or regular. (Not the quick cook oats, but the other type).

Considering how much a small bag of Oat Flour in the store is (then more for organic), I can make my own for half the price by purchasing just regular oats and grinding what I need with my grinder. If you don't have a grinder, you can use a food processor or a blender, but it won't come out as fine as flour without the grinder.

I also like that this simplifies what I have to purchase. I can just keep oats on hand for oatmeal, cookies, and now general cooking and just grind up what I need and store it in a small container. I found out that one of our storage containers works great as a "catching" basin and since the grinder hooks up fine to our dinning room table I just fill the basin with oats or wheat, turn it on and do other things while its grinding. Occasionally I come over and push the "flour" back using a piece of cardboard, but that's about it.

So far I've been experimenting with using "oat flour" and wheat flour in regular banana nut bread to make it healthier (also adding apple sauce and other items to cut down on the sugar), but I can't wait to try in a loaf or two of regular bread.

Once we finish our stock of all purpose white flour, we will probably just start buying straight wheat since we will have a way to grind it and wheat stores much longer that flour does.