Thursday, June 30, 2011

Blogging with an iPad

I am writing to y'all from a piece of technology I don't use nearly enough, my iPad. I don't use this thing nearly enough since I received it for Christmas last year. I usually use it if the Macbook is not charged and I want to access the Internet from something other something other than my iPhone.

As you can tell, I'm a HUGE fan of Apple products. The quality that goes into each Apple product is something I've yet to find in any other brand. I've owned several other computers and nothing has stood the test of time like my Macbooks and IMac. Even cellphones seemed obsolete after few short months, but not the iPhone. New software updates and apps make the iPhone a phone that can evolve. Sure, I only have the iPhone 3GS, but I've had this phone for nearly two years and it's kept my interest the entire time. I can't wait to get the next new iPhone, when it comes out, but I can patiently wait with my trusted iPhone 3G. Hurry up Steve Jobs, mama wants a new iPhone!

In any event, blogging from the iPad isn't really that fabulous. It's like writing one giant text message. Hmm... I think I'll stick to blogging from the computer because it has literally taken me 20 minutes to complete this post. 

Love always,
Ian, Kim & Bella

(blogged from iPad)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rain, rain... come this way!

We've been hoping and praying for a good, drenching rain for the past month. For the past two weeks, almost every day, the skies looked like they'd open up at any moment, but we've been left disappointed and dry. Late spring and the first week of summer have been brutal... hot, humid and just plain miserable. The 90+ degree temperatures wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't accompanied by 70%+ humidity. It would also be nice to get a little relief at night, but temperature barely drop below 80 degrees. Our A/C is running 24-7 and our sprinkler system is running twice a week. 

We have St. Augustine grass in our yard and it requires a good soaking rain... or a good soaking by the sprinkler system. To those of you who do not live in the Tampa Bay area, water is expensive here. I'm talking about monthly water bills of $100+ during the winter and $200+ during the summer. I have no idea why water is so expensive because in Baltimore, I think water bills average $20 every quarter. We need the rain to feel a little relief in our wallets. 

In Florida, we have two seasons: winter and summer. We are sometimes blessed with a cool spring day or mild autumn day, but those cool days are few and far between. I'd have to say that winter is probably my favorite season since moving to Florida because the temperatures are in the 60's and 70's and the humidity is low. The 2009/2010 winter was unseasonably cold, but I was pregnant and enjoyed every minute of it. Last winter was relatively mild and we only turned on the heat for Bella's sake. We make the most of winter with trips to Busch Gardens, Disney World and the zoo. Now don't get me wrong, I love summer and all the things that accompany summer. We enjoy swimming in our pool, going to the beach and the yummy fruits and vegetables that are bountiful in summer. I just prefer winter... in Florida. 

I was born and raised in Baltimore and I have experienced my fair share of brutal winters and hot summers. I suppose I would miss the snow, ice and cold weather more if I could enjoy a day off from school, like I did as a child. I remember praying for snow because I had some big exam or project due in high school. My prayers were usually answered by a few inches or feet of snow. When I was in college, I lived in a town named Frostburg, need I say more? During my time at Frostburg, I had never seen so much snow and I also had never experienced snow in October or May. My junior year it snow in late April / early May and I will never forget that. I had a dinner to attend and planned to wear a strapless dress, needless to say, I still wore the strapless dress but looked like a crazy person because it was snowing. Summers in Baltimore are hot and humid, but last for only a few months. Unfortunately, not every place in Baltimore has A/C like in Florida, bummer. Baltimore is a great place to visit... in the spring and autumn. 

It's nearly 11am and it's a cloudy day but it's still 81 degrees. There's a 70% chance of rain today, but God only knows if and when it will rain. Bella and I are heading to the aquarium after her morning nap with Stephanie and Connor. It should be a a fun day for the Lasher and Freedman families! 

Love always,
Ian, Kim & Bella

P.S. I know I've been complaining about our house as of late, but I really do love our house and feel very blessed to have such a beautiful home to raise our family in. =)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Our house, is a very, very, very fine house..."

Last week we received a letter from our HOA regarding the current condition of our lawn. I laughed it off because our lawn is pretty damn nice and Ian works hard to maintain our lawn. The letter stated we had several "dead spots" that needed to be replaced within 30 days. I immediately emailed the HOA and requested pictures of the areas in question. Needless to say it's been four days and I haven't heard back from the HOA. 

Today we had our irrigation system inspected because we have a few brown spots on our lawn and the irrigation company wants to increase the height of 21 of our sprinkler heads... to the tune of $400! I nearly fainted when he handed me the estimate! $400 to improve our irrigation seems like a lot of money, especially when several lawns in our neighborhood aren't in the greatest of condition and our lawn has a few brown spots. Ian and I will be discussing this improvement tonight, as we just dropped $200 on landscaping rocks that will be delivered this Friday. 

Last weekend we spent 8 hours working in the backyard and we're both still sore from all of the work. Our hard work paid off and our backyard is ready to be landscaped with rocks. We really did the project right this time... we removed grass, sprayed weed killer, dug a trench, laid tarp and installed edging. Even without the rocks, the backyard looks awesome. Seeing the fruits of our labor will pay off in full on Friday.

Some days I really wished we lived in a townhouse or condo. In Florida, the HOA maintains the outside of town homes and condos, making it super easy to own and maintain. When we moved from the condo to this house, we never even thought about a town home because we wanted more space. But I know that if we lived in a townhouse or condo, I'd be wishing we lived in a single family home. There are some advantages to living in a single family home... the houses are usually larger, the value of the land the house sits on adds to the property value and it's nice to have our own yard to relax in. We also have a private pool in our backyard and have the privacy having a fenced in yard. All things considered, I'm very thankful to have our own home and property, but all the outside maintenance gets to be overwhelming from time to time. 

Well, we have a lot of work to finish by Saturday and a lot of planning to do... and with that, goodnight!

Love always,
Ian, Kim & Bella

Monday, June 27, 2011

Balancing the Family Budget...

Being a stay-at-home-mom is all about balance, especially when it comes to following a budget. Luckily for me, Ian is a super nerd and he takes care of the family budget. I often make fun of him because he is very diligent when it comes to our budget and utilizes an Excel spreadsheet to keep everything organized. I haven't looked at the actual budget in months and so I rely on Ian to tell me what is available for me to spend. And because I am no longer contributing financially to the family, I balance my need want to shop with bargain hunting.

I love a good bargain and I love to use coupons. It is such a thrill for me to have a cashier total up a big purchase and then hand him/her a stack of coupons and watch the total drop... and drop. 

JCPenney: Ian and I each received $10 off a $10 purchase coupons last month. I also received a $15 off a $15 purchase coupon, bonus! After deciding that neither he nor I needed anything from JCPenney's, we decided to purchase a few articles of clothing for Bella. With Ian's coupon we purchased a Carter's dress set, which included two dresses and two pairs of bloomers and a Carter's romper set, which is included two rompers. Total cost for four Carter's outfits: $1.06. There was a huge sale, so we really racked up savings. Using my coupon I purchased a Carter's dress set, which included a dress and bloomer set and a romper. Total cost for two Carter's outfits: $1.04. Finally, with my $15 off coupon, I purchased another Carter's dress set and a Carter's romper set, each set included two outfits. Total cost for four Carter's outfits: $1.04. Yes, that's right we purchased 5 outfits for a mere $3.13!

Publix: 2 boxes of Philip's crab cakes, 7 bags of steam fresh vegetables, 2 Chicken Viola meals, 4 bottles of salad dressing, 1 gallon of organic milk, 2 tubs of cream cheese, 2 lbs of pork, 5 canisters of Crystal Light and 2 jars of pasta sauce for a grand total of $88.33, but only paid $38.33! We stocked up during an awesome BOGO event at Publix, in conjunction with store and manufacturer coupons. I also purchased a pack of 27-size 4 diapers for $1.99 the other day... that's 7 cents a diaper!

BJ's Wholesale Club: 1 box of 176 Pamper's Baby Dry diapers, 1 box of 168 Pamper's Cruisers diapers, 1 box of 168 Luvs diapers, 1 box of 27 Pamper's Little Splashers swim diapers, 1 box of 16-individually wrapped containers of mandarin oranges, 1 box of 16-individually wrapped containers of peaches, 1 bottle of 100 oz of Clorox color safe bleach and 2 big bottles of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce for a grand total of $190.71, but only paid $153.04. We used manufacturer coupons, along with BJ's in-store specials and coupons to maximize our savings. It was like getting 2 boxes of diapers for free! 

These are just a few examples of how I've been saving money recently. I will admit, that couponing and bargain hunting is a bit time consuming, but to me, it's totally worth it. Saving money makes Ian happy, which makes me happy and as the saying goes, "happy wife, happy life!" Unfortunately, I usually use the money saved to buy things we probably don't need... like a new dress for me! =)

Well, Bella is awake from her nap and it's lunch time... time to eat some of our recently purchased bargains from Publix! 

Love always,
Ian, Kim & Bella

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sugar Me Sweet Designs

I have a good friend, whom I often refer to as Macaroni Sara. I blogged a few months ago about the local website she publishes called Macaroni Kid - Brandon. Well, I'm here again to put another shameless plug in for my dear friend, Sara. 

Sara has a knack for sewing and is one of the most creative people I know. She made me an apron for Christmas last year, that she sewed and embroidered with my name. I wear the apron, even in June. It's so sweet to have personalized things hand-made for you by a friend.

The apron, with ribbon trim and embroidery.

A close up of the embroidery... too cute

Sara also embroidered Bella's birthday outfit, despite a bit of a battle with the Lycra in the outfit. The embroidery was beautiful and it turned a boring, not so special outfit into a very special outfit for Bella the birthday girl.

Bella's tutu birthday outfit with "Birthday Girl" embroidered on it.

As a birthday present, Sara made Bella a one-of-a-kind dress. I went into Sara's sewing room one day, selected the fabric, ribbon and button to design a unique dress for Bella. The dress is absolutely adorable and we've received many compliments on her dress.

Here is a picture of the fabric I selected.

Sara is a very talented lady and I will gladly "advertise" for her website. Please check out Sara's website at Sugar Me Sweet Designs and design a dress for that special little girl in your life. 

Love always,
Ian, Kim & Bella

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Traveling Man

About a year and a half ago, Ian began the process of changing jobs. He is not only a CPA, but an attorney as well, so he has quite the resume to offer. Last summer he interviewed with two firms, received two amazing offers and after careful consideration, accepted an offer at yet another big four firm.

During the first few months of his employment, there was some travel due to new hire training and the like. And, up until now, travel has been at a minimum. Ian is slowly beginning to travel out of town and it's something I'm going to have to get used to again. Bummer. But, it's a trade off. This week, Ian has been in Charlotte and Miami, while Bella and I have been left behind. The upcoming months will bring more out of town trips and Bella and I are looking forward to joining Ian on a few of these trips. Ian is in the process of negotiating terms of his extended travel, to include Bella and I. Soon we will be jet setters, too. Umm, hopefully.

Ian has been in Miami all day, as he was invited by one of the partners to meet the new CEO of the firm. It was a surprise to Ian to be invited and we're so proud that his firm thought so highly of him. It's not the first time he's been recognized for being an outstanding employee. Since joining the new firm, he's received two bonuses for his exceptional work. He hasn't even been with this firm an entire year and he's already been recognized several times. Needless to say we are very proud of him. Hopefully when raise/bonus time rolls around, he is rewarded for all of his efforts. 

Until then... we miss him and we eagerly anticipate his arrival home. We love him and miss...

Love always,
Kim & Bella