An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa

My plan was to swim in Clear Lake and have a picnic on the beach. I imagined a game of Laser Tag or going through the Clear Lake Fire Museum, which is in walking distance to the 9/11 Steel Memorial crafted from an artifact salvaged from the World Trade Center after September 11, 2001. I thought we would cruise the lake on the Lady of the Lake, a picturesque paddlewheel.

David planned on sleeping in!

He may or may not have dreaded our last stop in Clear Lake, Iowa. He compromised by taking me shopping in Mason City and eating lunch at Pasta Bella. You can tell I am all about the bread!

Pasta Bella "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

I learned a painful lesson at Pasta Bella. When the waitress asks you if you want a few minutes, take her up on it! They had 2 specials and David ordered one of them but I am a salad girl. I ordered the salad that had artichoke hearts and other ingredients I don’t normally have at home.

The waitress asked if I wanted to add meat to my salad: chicken, salmon, or shrimp. I cook with chicken all the time and I do not care for salmon. I ordered the shrimp. It cost $8.00 extra. Yikes! I regretted spending that much money on 6 grilled, jumbo shrimp! It was very good. (After lunch we went back to the hotel and relaxed.)

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Our first destination in Clear Lake was “The Landing.” It was on the lake next to the pier where the boats dock. You could eat outside or in the shade.

The Landing "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.orgClear Lake Pier "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

David ordered the “Fish and Chips” and I ordered the “Hawaiian Chicken with Parsnip and Carrot Fries.” I love trying new foods when I eat out. (Now I know, I am not a fan of parsnips.) The food was excellent and they have live music on Friday nights.

Fish and Chips "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

While we waited for our food I took a picture of my jewelry. I was wearing a ring that was a copy of Princess Diana’s wedding ring. I remember that royal wedding. I was jealous of all the pretty things but she died so young and so tragically 20 years ago. I am glad I did not have her life.

Memory Jewelry "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

The bracelet was a gift from David’s cousin. His wife died from cancer and he shared all of her jewelry. I may not have a lot of money, but I have my health and that is everything!

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

After dinner, we went to the beach and took pictures. We enjoyed watching the antics of the kids who were there.

Clear Lake Beach "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Then we headed to the highlight of our trip –

The Surf Ballroom!

This is where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” sang their last concert. There was a marquee that had autographed guitars all along the top of it. I took several pictures and sent them to the guitar players in our worship band – just to make them jealous.

Memorial at the Surf Ballroom "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Surf Ballroom "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

The pictures don’t do justice to all the posters, memorabilia, instruments, and autographed photographs of all the musicians who played there over the years. You just have to go see it for yourself! Don’t miss the outside display where you can hear Buddy, Richie, and The Big Bopper each singing their top hit. (Note: these were all before my time.)

Ready for Ballroom Dancing "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

The Jan Graber Orchestra was there that night for ballroom dancing. David and I don’t dance. We shuffled through our first son’s wedding and I wanted to do better at our second son’s wedding next year. I figured in 4 hours we would figure out how to get around the dance floor without going in opposite directions!

David was not enthusiastic. We sat through the “Rumba,” the “Samba,” and the “Two-step.” (I posted updates on Facebook for my friend Paula who does know how to dance.)

When they played the song, “New York, New York,” they called for everybody to dance. We got halfway around the room when David said, “Oh, I twisted my knee!” We sat back down. He rested it for a little while and I did get to dance four more times. I think we only made it around the room once!Ballroom Dancing "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

There were couples the age of our parents and three couples in their twenties. They knew what they were doing and it was fun to watch them. We found our own rhythm and enjoyed ourselves in spite of our lack of lessons.

The couples in the booth next to us were from Ottumwa, Iowa which is about 30 miles from our home. We talked with them most of the evening. One lady was the first bookkeeper for the Area 15 AEA. We told her our daughter-in-law worked for AEA when they first married and I was a bookkeeper at a local preschool and daycare for 18 years.

At 8:30 p.m. some of the older couples started going home. That was all the excuse David needed. It was starting to feel like Saturday night at Mom’s watching Lawrence Welk. (Who also played at the Surf Ballroom.) We snuck out because I had a cannoli calling my name. We bought desserts at Pasta Bella and saved them for after the dance.

Cannoli and Italian Cake from Pasta Bella "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Monday, on the way home, we filled up the van and used our reward money from our BP Credit Card, 20 gallons for $2.18. That made up for the shrimp!

Thanks BP Rewards Card "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Of course, if you make your husband go ballroom dancing, you will have to make one more stop before going home – “Guitar Center.”

David in Guitar Center "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

My Frugalfish tips are:

  1. Be flexible with your plans; you might miss a few attractions.
  2. Take your time ordering. That last-minute addition could really cost you.
  3. Schedule in times of rest. It is a vacation, not a marathon.
  4. Enjoy what you do have and don’t compare yourself to others.
  5. Cherish your good health.
  6. Dance to your own steps and enjoy the music.
  7. Take time to get to know the people around you.
  8. Always get dessert!
  9. Save your rewards for your vacation.
  10. Be sure to stop at places your spouse would enjoy.

I was lucky, my husband made the weekend all about me! He’s a keeper.

Next week, on the first day of fall, I will give you a “Frugalfish Fall Home Tour.”

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Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa

My husband and I ran away for the weekend to celebrate our anniversary. We chose Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa as our destination.

Top 10 Reasons for a Mason City/Clear Lake, Iowa Trip

  1. The former “Country Mission Camp” I attended as a teen was near it, outside of Swaledale, Iowa.
  2. They took the campers to swim in Clear Lake one year.
  3. The “Surf Ballroom,” where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” held their last concert is in Clear Lake, Iowa.
  4. In Mason City, the puppets from the film, “Sound of Music” are in the Charles H. MacNider Museum.
  5. The Historic Walking Tour that goes by 71 historical buildings of significant architectural styles.
  6. “The Music Man Square” complete with the “River City Streetscape” inspired by the movie set of “The Music Man.”
  7. The boyhood home of Meredith Willson, the well-known composer of “The Music Man.”
  8. The Prairie School Architectural Tour where you can view several homes designed by students of Frank Lloyd Wright.
  9. A completely restored house, “Stockman House,” designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
  10. The only Frank Lloyd Wright designed hotel, “Park Inn Hotel,” that is not only still standing but also restored, updated, and fully functioning. (There’s a TV in the bathroom mirror!)

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

We started our trip down memory lane by taking the highway David went on when traveling to Camp Dodge while he was in the Iowa National Guard. We noticed Highway #117, which merged with Highway #65 were a straight drive to Mason City. (Love our paper map of Iowa!) We turned on to it. Later we learned we were traveling the historic “Jefferson Highway” that went from Canada to Mexico!

We were getting hungry when I saw a sign that said, “Lincoln Highway.” I remembered reading about a café on the Lincoln Highway in “Our Iowa Magazine.” We turned on it and ate lunch at “Niland’s Cafe,” in Colo, Iowa.

Niland's Cafe, "Weekend in Mason City Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Everything is homemade! The raspberry pie tasted just like my Grandma Marie’s pie. The Formica tables made me feel like I was sitting at Grandma’s again.

Pie just like Grandma's "Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

After lunch, we drove through, what I called, “Iowa’s Petrified Forest.” There are miles and miles of wind farms and at least a thousand wind energy turbines.

Wind Energy Farms, "Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

“Country Mission Camp,” where I attended as a teenager, is now a private residence. I could see from the road the brick dining hall and one corner of the white church. It is completely overgrown by trees.

Country Mission Camp, "Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Our first stop in Mason City was the Charles H. MacNider Museum. We walked through and purchased a Frank Lloyd Wright coloring book and the “Walking Tour Guide Book.”

There was a guided walking tour for $10.00 each that had not started, but we decided to buy the book for $5.00 and go at our own pace. After walking a block, it started to sprinkle and we finished the tour from the comfort of our van.

When we reached the footbridge featured in the “Music Man,” we jumped out and took a selfie. The clouds parted and the sun shone long enough for three poses.

The Music Man footbridge, "Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

There are 40 “River City Sculptures on Parade” on the walking tour. This one was my favorite!

River City Sculpture, "Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

We finished our architectural tour at 9:54 a.m. and parked at the “Architectural Interpretive Center” which is right next door to the Frank Lloyd Wright designed “Stockman House.” We took the 10 a.m. tour and learned some history about Mason City before viewing the house.

We were not allowed to take pictures of the “Stockman House” but when you go, I challenge you to find the ribbon windows that are not windows, what the wing wall is hiding, the “fumed” wood, the closet with a view, and the working phone! We saw a few ideas we plan to use in our home. The $20.00 was money well spent.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

We drove to the “Park Inn Hotel” for their tour, see restoration hereFrank Lloyd Wright designed it as a hotel on one end and a bank on the other end with lawyer’s offices between them. This tour was also $10.00 each but we resolved an issue with which we have wrestled for years about a dream addition to our home and that made it a good investment.

They allowed pictures for personal use only. When you take this tour, you will hear “The Spirit of Frank,” experience compression and release, learn of clutter-free conference rooms, and see glimpses of gold in the bank. I promise you will not fall, even though some second story walls are barely 30″ high and open to the lobby and dining hall below! Everything is meticulously restored or a reproduction: windows, light fixtures, carpets, walls, doors, built-in cabinets, urns, furniture, and even the bronze statues of Mercury in the bank.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

By the time we reached, “The Music Man Square,” David didn’t want to go on another tour. I asked the attendant if we could buy some ice cream in the Soda Shop. The “Bear Claw” ice cream was delicious, and with permission, we took a picture there.

The Music Man Soda Shop, "Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" fruglafish.org

We had eaten an extra-large breakfast at the hotel and I figured the ice cream would suffice for lunch because we planned on eating an early dinner. I was wrong. This was my view at 2:42 p.m.

Afternoon View, "Weekend at Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

I learned my man needs his 3 square meals a day! He got a headache from skipping lunch!

We made up for it by being one of the first ones seated at the best restaurant in Iowa. The “Northwestern Steak House,” surrounded by 7 ball fields, is on the north side of Mason City. Its reputation is well deserved.

Me in front of the Northwestern Steak House, "Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Next week, I will share our adventures in Clear Lake, Iowa!

My frugalfish tips:

  • Get off of the interstate!
  • Don’t skip meals.
  • Retrace your steps to a place from your youth.
  • You can learn a lot from history.
  • Only take 1 or 2 historic tours a day.
  • Set your own pace and take a nap, if needed!

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Save on Senior Pictures

My nephew, Brayden, played “Pomp and Circumstance” for the last time on Sunday. Next year, he will be marching down to receive his diploma! There are many things to do before that last march on the football field and the first one is best done this month.

When my youngest graduated from high school, we couldn’t decide where to get his senior pictures taken.

We had three options:

Photographer 1 took the senior pictures of my first two children.

Photographer 2 is a close friend of the extended family. So close, that her family has attended our family reunion for decades.

Photographer 3 is a relative of my daughter-in-law. She took a family picture of us after their wedding.

They all are excellent photographers and we worried about hurt feelings. Then I remembered the deal I made with Photographer 1.

My oldest son graduated in 2005. I saw a picture of a 2004 graduate that captured her personality, taken by Photographer 1.

When I called, I told the photographer I had a senior and a junior. I asked her if she could make me a deal if I had my daughter’s pictures taken there the next year.

She offered me two free family sittings. I used the first free sitting for my extended family in 2004. I never used the second one.

I called Photographer 1 and reminded her I still had a second free sitting. I asked her if we could use it for my youngest sons’ senior pictures.

She said, “Yes!”

They base sitting fees on the different outfits worn for pictures. In his case, it was $25.00 per outfit. Derek wore a baseball uniform and three other outfits for his pictures. That saved me $100.00 in sitting fees.

Derek's Baseball Picture "Saving Money on Senior Pictures" frugalfish.org

Top Ten Tips

1. Book your appointment in June. Most photographers will have a reduced rate or throw in free pictures for early bookings. My sitting fee for my first son was 75% off because I booked in June. Every photographer has their own incentives.

2. If you have more than one child, ask for a deal and have all of them photographed by the same one. The pictures will have a similar feel because each photographer has their own style.

3. Limit the outfits your child wears. This is especially hard with girls!

4. Ask if the photographer has a “Participation Bonus”.  You get a free gift or picture when your child is wearing a uniform: band, sports, even FFA.

5. Have your child be a model for the photographer for a free or reduced sitting fee.

6. Order the minimum number of pictures needed. Make a list of all the relatives you are buying for and write the size of the print you want for them next to it. Buy a large print for yourself and an 8 x 10 or 5 x 7 for your child. Don’t order hundreds of wallets. Derek graduated with 129 other students. I ordered 100 wallets for Luke and had a stack left over. I ordered 88 wallets for Laura and used them all. So, I ordered only 88 for Derek and used them all.

7. You may get more opportunities for free pictures later in the year by writing a review.

8. In January they go on sale. They contact you to see if you need more photos, sometimes at reduced prices. You can also get a copy of your child’s portfolio or picture DVD at a reduced price.

9. Some photographers throw in a free bonus picture if you pay in full when you place your order.

10. You can also get free photos and other freebies based on the amount of money you spend, i.e. spend $200.00 – get one freebie, spend $300.00 – get two freebies.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

If your photographer is a family member . . .

  • do not expect a free sitting. This is how they make their living. Be willing to pay full price and be grateful if they offer you a discount.
  • do not expect them to clear their schedule to accommodate you.
  • do not cancel at the last-minute, unless it is an emergency, and pay them the sitting fee anyway.

Being frugal is not about being cheap; it is about making the most of your money!

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Displaying Precious Artwork

“The clock that’s hung in our kitchen for 15 years, that our daughter crafted at kinder when she was three, has finally been taken down and relegated to the garage.

It was such an imperfect clock with childish numbers misaligned and it was never easy to tell the time. I loved it.”

outanabout.com

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

I read this post from Outanabout.com, (Melbourne, Australia), and realized I had relegated my children’s artwork to the shelf on the stairway. She proudly displayed her daughter’s clock for 15 years! I received most of the clay artwork as gifts on Mother’s Day. This year, my decorating features the artwork from my children’s school years.

It started when I made my wreath. I wanted to put the nest with three eggs on the wreath and the only way I could attach it was with brown yarn. I used 2 paper flowers my daughter made when she was young to hide the yarn.

Mother's Day Wreath "Displaying Priceless Artwrok" frugalfish.org

Not all of my Mother’s Day gifts were homemade. I received this plaque last year from my daughter and displayed it in the hall with a gray whale my youngest son made.

Plaque and Clay Whale "Displaying Precious Artwork" frugalfish.org

My daughter’s softball statues found a home in the china cabinet behind two tea cups and saucers. All three of my children made clay bowls displayed here and on the tables.

Clay Art in China Cabinet "Displaying Precious Artwork" frugalfish.org

I balanced the big clay bowl with a teapot made by my oldest son and a heart made by my daughter. I used two tart pans painted with roses as the centerpiece for my tables. This one has a black bowl filled with roses. Our youngest son made the marble plaque.

Clay Bowl, Teapot, Heart, and Marble Plaque with Roses Bouquet "Displaying Precious Artwork" frugalfish.org

Upstairs in the kitchen, I used a green, glass bowl filled with pink, rose-shaped candles. This green bowl always reminded me of my mother because she had green vases, pitchers, and glasses. On each side are homemade clay bowls.

Bowl of Roses with Clay Pots "Displaying Precious Artwork" frugalfish.org

I think of my Grandmother when I look at the glass block, cat, and kittens. The cat and kittens were a gift from my grandmother on my 8th birthday. The package to the right was given to me by my daughter with instructions to never open it because it contains all her love. I filled the glass block with three ingredients found in my rose potpourri and pink, glass rocks.

Cats and Mother's Day Glass Block "Displaying Precious Artwork" frugalfish.org

I even included a reminder of something I made when I put a pin on my roses towels. Those footprints are the size of a baby’s feet at 12 weeks after conception. Yes, my greatest blessings do call me Mom.

Roses Towels with Baby Feet Pin "Displaying Precious Artwork" frugalfish.org

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Secret to Reading Boring Materials

I am currently reading “The Bond Fund of America Annual Report.” I intend to read the booklets on all the funds in which my husband has invested.

I finished reading the booklet from my health insurance company. I was unhappy with my company when it said online that my “rescue inhaler” was no longer covered.

Seriously?

After reading the booklet, I found I could get refills on my rescue inhaler if I ordered them through their mail order division. I admit it was not exciting reading, but it is information I need to know!

Every year, I intended to read my health insurance booklet, but it ended up in the pile on my desk of things I should do. I finally learned a secret to reading boring materials – a paragraph or page each time you use the bathroom.

I am not pushing multitasking. I am saying we spend more time on the throne than we realize. I put the booklets in with my regular magazines and catalogs. I read a page, leave a book marker in it, (usually a subscription postcard) and put it in the back of the magazine organizer I keep in the bathroom. That way, I alternate reading something fun, with something boring.

“Make it fun and it will get done.” flylady.net

Magazine organizer "Secret to Reading Boring Material" frugalfish.org

 

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Resolved: More Weight, Food, Spending; Less Organizing, Travel, Reading

You read that title correctly. My resolution this year is to eat more food, gain weight, and spend more. I also plan on less organizing, travel, and reading.

More Weight

I can thank Jenny Kuhn for this resolution. Here is a picture of Jenny and me, with her daughter Kathryn, around 2005.

Jenny, Katie, & I "Resolved . . ." frugalfish.org

She moved to Arkansas and opened Jenny’s Gym. Last October, she competed in the World Powerlifting Alliance competition in Portland, OR. She is now the WPA-APA World Powerlifting record holder in the squat and the deadlift for the 45-49 age group in the 132# weight class. She also broke the previously held accumulative world record (squat+bench+deadlift), see here.

Jenny lifting in her gym "Resolved . . " frugalfish.org

 

Jenny regularly posts clips of her clients lifting. Most of the clips are of middle-aged women who are strength training. Sometimes she posts informational clips. When she explained the proper way to do a push-up, it changed my life.Jenny Kuhn "Resolved . . ." frugalfish.org

I usually tried doing push-ups from my knees, but that does not use all the muscles correctly. You need the same form as you would use to plank. Now I do them off of the kitchen counter and will move to the ottoman when my arms are stronger. If I do not keep control of my arms, I bump my forehead! I know I am using the correct form now.

Since muscle is heavier than fat, I plan on gaining weight this year. I want to gain muscle, not fat, and will concentrate on that instead of my bathroom scale!

Eat More

For the past few years, I would weigh myself on Monday and plan my meals based on that number. It didn’t work! I would gain a pound and then try to cut way back on my food. Of course, that pound stubbornly stayed.

This year I am going to work my body and feed it what it needs. I will eat bigger servings of salad, vegetables, and more meat. I never have been a big bread eater, but my sweet tooth is my downfall. That is where I will cut back.

More Spending

I am a saver and try to buy everything on sale. That is not always possible. This year, I want to buy things when I need them and not do without. I have lived under the poverty level during childhood and as a mother. I have no problem telling the difference between a need, a want, and a desire.

In my wallet now are 2 months worth of allowance! I also have a note of a few things I need to order. (Hello, sports bra!) I have watched the sales for over a year and have the money. I just need to get online and order it!

Less Organizing

Marla Cilley, aka The FlyLady, says over and over, “You can’t organize clutter.” But I can, and that is the problem! I organize things that I should send to Goodwill or pass on to family members.

There is a box with “Graduation” written on it in my pantry. My youngest graduated in 2015. I am hanging on to it for my sister-in-law, Melinda. I need to just give it to her, even though Brayden doesn’t graduate for another year.

Less Travel

I will no longer feel guilty for staying at home. There are many opportunities to go places and do things, but if I have to take a round of Prednisone to go, it is just not worth it! (Or worse, go without Prednisone and then fight a flare for two weeks.) I don’t care that I only go out 3 times a week for four hours. I have so much I love to do right here at home.

I know my Facebook page is boring, but I refuse to compare myself to others. I will travel vicariously with my friends. (Sorry, Jill, I have no desire to go clear up to the Arctic Circle. Enjoy your trip!)

I really enjoy the posts from Australia on the travel blog, outan’about.com. It was interesting reading about celebrating Christmas during their summer!

Less Reading

I can speed read. It is a blessing and a curse. I would normally go to the library and fill a large bag with 18 books every other month. (No, that is not a typo; it is eighteen books.) We have a great library that is always getting new books and the community buys books in memory of loved ones.

Obviously, I don’t watch TV at night, in fact, I will only watch a movie once. My family will put in a movie, and if I have already seen it, I go to bed and pick up a book. I can read a 300-page book in 2 or 3 days. The problem is, I get close to the renewal date and I speed read through my stash. That is not as enjoyable as slowly reading, savoring, and even taking quotes from books.

This year, I will only check out 8 books at a time and will make sure one of those books is nonfiction. I am on chapter 2 of the book, “Smarter Faster Better” by Charles Duhigg. There are many things I would like to do, but I get bogged down in laundry and cooking. I want to make those tasks more efficient to allow time for fun stuff!

Smarter Faster Better book "Resolved . . ." frugalfish.org

“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” Dave Ramsey

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Worst Day of My Life

It started with a flashback of the worst day of my life and ended less than an hour later when I locked myself out of the house.

The worst day of my life started like any other day. I didn’t really like the outfit I picked, but I was saving my favorite outfit and it was okay for a Tuesday. I was sitting in Physics class getting ready to take a semester test when the principal came to the door and called me out into the hall.

“Your parents called. Your house is on fire. We are taking your older sister home. Do you want to go home or stay here?”

I chose to stay and take the test. When I sat back down, Tim asked me what was up because I was NEVER called to the principal’s office.

“My house is on fire,” I calmly replied, and started on the test. I was in shock.

We lived in a small town of about 500 people and the fire chief was my uncle. When learning of smoke pouring out under the eaves, the entire town showed up. The fire was inside the walls and the smoke didn’t come into the house until they punched holes in the walls to get to it.

Those neighbors from Batavia emptied every closet, cupboard, and drawer on the first floor. They carried every stick of furniture outside and later moved them to the barn. A 17-year boy my dad had mentored, (who was playing hooky), unhooked the washer and carried it out by himself. Our next door neighbor, Linda, was the last one out of the house. She removed the drapes from the six windows in the living room and dining room.

They saved everything on the first floor, but not upstairs. I stayed after school and rode home with Carolyn. My brother and sisters had each been taken home by one of our aunts. They bought them a change of clothes and kept them overnight.

The furniture was in the barn and Dad was up on the roof with a few men putting a tarp over the hole the fire left. I went home with my friend, Pam. She was the best! We were the same size and she loaned me her favorite tee-shirt with her name on it and a pair of slacks to wear to school the next day.House Fire "Worst Day of My Life" frugalfish.org

Wednesday, they let us go upstairs to our former rooms for one minute. They instructed us to grab anything we wanted to keep. They had a door propped open to hold up the roof joists.

Everything was wet, melted, and black with smoke. I ripped some pictures out of my photo album and a few things out of my scrapbook. I made my bed that morning and my pillow was just wet. I took it and went back downstairs.

All I had left fit in an 8″ cookie tin. When I open that tin, I can still smell the smoke. I never got to wear that favorite outfit again, but I got an “A” on that Physics test!

$$$$$$$$$$$$

Today I opened an email that triggered that memory. It was from everydaycheapskate.com. She was replying to a question about a family that lost everything in a flood. She recommended the free app knowyourstuff.org.

I didn’t even finish the email. I hit the link, set up an account, and downloaded the app to my phone. Then I started taking pictures. I didn’t clean up the house. There were dirty dishes in the sink. I threw up the covers on the bed and tucked them in and kept snapping.Picture of Bedroom, "Worst Day of My Life" frugalfish.org

I took pictures of every wall, inside of closets, and even opened drawers in the kitchen to record contents. I know it can all go up in smoke in a flash. I also know the agony of trying to remember what was in each drawer, how many tee shirts did I own?

When I finished inside the house, I took pictures inside the garage. Then I went outside and took pictures of every side of the house. That’s when I locked myself out!

This is not an ad for the app. I will not get any money from them. I am sharing my painful experience in hopes that it will go easier for you should you have a disaster.

  1. Don’t wait until you have time.
  2. Don’t clean the house.
  3. Just get the app and start snapping pictures.

You never know when all you have left will be held in a cookie tin.

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Frugalfish Gets a Fitbit?

Anyone who has read many of my posts knows I am NOT a fan of exercise, see here. (That title alone will make my friends think I fell off of the deep end.) Sweating makes me break out and I avoid it, but I do want to be healthy and used a pedometer for years to track my steps.

On the other hand, my husband is a jock. He loves to exercise and plays every sport. A month before his birthday, I found an offer from flylady.net that I could not refuse. It was “Buy One Get One Free” for a “J-Style Health” activity tracker for $60.00. That was a little more than I normally spend on a birthday gift and I made up the difference out of my spending money because I would be getting one, too.

$$$$$$$$

I ordered the tracker to use a pedometer but was fascinated by the other features. Of course, this generic version does not work as well as the Fitbit brand that sells for $100.00.

Heart Rate Monitor

I never was able to get the heart rate monitor to work. Every time I tried to sync that feature to my phone I got the same message, “Good Morning” which is equivalent to…

“WAKE UP!”

I guess my heart rate is what other people’s heart rate is when they are asleep. I decided I didn’t really need that feature. Both my husband and I have had our hearts tested with EKG’s and he had a stress test. Our hearts are healthy and we do not have a murmur or irregular heartbeat.

The funny thing is my tracker would give me the same message when we were practicing for church and the guitar player went off on a tangent playing blues or country. My tracker must not care for that type of music.

Alarm to Wake Up

The alarm feature works really well. It wakes me up every time but I set it on 5:00 a.m. and it refuses to reset! When the clocks turn back on November 5th, my tracker will probably go off at 4:00 a.m. I stopped using it as an alarm.

Sleep Monitor

I no longer use it to monitor my sleep patterns during the hot weather because the wristband made my wrist sweat and I broke out. This time of year, when the Ragweed pollen is in the air, I have to take Benadryl at night along with my regular antihistamines. There is no way I can wake up at 5 after taking Benadryl.

I keep track of my sleep in my DayTimer anyway. Sometimes the only clue that I am fighting an infection is I suddenly start sleeping for 11 or 12 hours a night. The symptoms of a bacterial sinus infection are the same as a bad allergy reaction.  (I rarely run a fever.)

Calories Burned

This brand of tracker records the KCALs but I do not pay too much attention to it.

Pedometer

It seems to record the movements of my arms as steps. I would be playing the keyboard during the Wednesday evening service and in the middle of it, the tracker would buzz announcing I reached my goal of 10,000 steps. Amazing since I had sat down for the last hour!

I decided to keep the tracker in my pocket. Then it only records the movements of my legs and that is more accurate. Also, I didn’t want to wear it because of my sensitive skin.

Activity Alarm

I decided not to activate the activity alarm which goes off every hour to remind you to get some exercise. I don’t want to have to shut off the buzzing every hour. I use a timer to keep me on task. It is set for 15 minutes. I use it for some activities that I lose track of time doing: cleaning, reading, etc. or for things I can’t wait to finish – like exercise. The timer lets me know I have sat for too long.

$$$$$$$$

I talked to a few friends who have the original Fitbit brand of a tracker. They both were given the trackers by their employers as part of their health program. I would take it if it were offered to me by an employer. I did save a lot of money buying this generic activity tracker. I will keep it because it is serving its purpose as a pedometer.JStyle Fitness Tracker, "Frugalfish Gets a Fitbit?" frugalfish.org

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pamela.frugalfish@gmail.com

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Try Shoes On Right Away

I learned a painful lesson last week!

I purchase my shoes online because I wear size 7 EE. It is difficult to find this size. I stick to New Balance and Avalon brands because they have removable insoles. There is plenty of room to add special insoles, like gel insoles, in them.

When I learned the post office recommends the walking shoes from New Balance, I decided they were the best. Every 6 months, I order 2 pairs of walking shoes: white for spring/summer and black for fall/winter. I alternate them each day.

I’ve purchased pumps, cross training shoes, hiking shoes, and boots from this same website, joesnewbalance.com. I’ve shopped there for 10 years.

They started having a “Daily Deal.” When my walking shoes are on the “Daily Deal,” I order them ahead. I received 2 pairs of white shoes at Christmas for this spring. At Easter, I ordered two black pairs for this fall.

When it warmed up enough to wear shorts, I got out my new, white shores. The style was more pointed than square. When I tried them on, they felt snug. But 5 months had passed and it was too late to return them.

I filled small, freezer bags with a little water and placed them in the toes of the shoes. I put them in the freezer overnight. As the water froze, it expanded and stretched the leather.

It doesn’t matter how long you have ordered the same shoes. As soon as they arrive, try them on. (I did try on the black ones.)

Shoes in a freezer

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Gifts for Administrative Assistants, Not Flowers or Candy

“My boss made the coffee every day!”

My boss spoiled me during the two decades that I was an administrative professional. Not only did my boss make the coffee, he would dump 2 sugar and 2 creams in it, and bring it to my desk. Then he would go over that day’s tasks with me. (He made great coffee! I didn’t.)

Both of my bosses spoiled me. I would get flowers and candy, not only on “Administrative Professionals Day,” but also on my birthday and other holidays, too. When my health forced me to step down from my job, I had a cupboard full of coffee mugs from them.

“But my favorite gift was…a paper shredder!”

Talk to your administrative assistants today! Flowers and candy are nice, but they might want something else instead.

According to a poll at Corporette.com, most bosses spend under $25.00 or under $50.00 on “Administrative Assistants Day.”

“Think outside the vase…er, box.”

  1. Software: Is there software that would make their job run more smoothly?
  2. Upgrades: Maybe they have sufficient software, but would an upgrade make them more efficient?
  3. License: You can load some software 3 times on one license: 1) Office, 2) Laptop, 3) Home. If needed, pay the extra license and let them load a program on their home computer for their personal use. The more they use it, the more proficient they will become.
  4. Electric Equipment: Another favorite item in my former office was an electric stapler. It may seem like a luxury to you, but after stapling 100 handbooks, it feels like a necessity.
  5. Equipment Maintenance: I loved the big, old-fashioned, guillotine paper-cutter we used. It could cut through several sheets perfectly. But those blades need sharpened and the screw on it may need tightening.

“An easy trick to sharpen and keep these blades sharp is to frequently cut several sheets of aluminium foil. Just pull out a sheet of foil and slice it 10 or so times into little pieces. Unless the blades are really worn out this should work. This, by the way, is official for many cheap cutters.”  boardgamegeek.com

“You never know until you ask.”

Money is tight and businesses may not have the funds for something new. You would be surprised how small things can make all the difference, i.e. replace the broken blind that allows the sun to shine in their eyes late in the afternoon.

“Make it personal.”

Whatever you choose to do, remember to write a personal note on a card…even a plain “Thank You” note. You cannot do your job without them. Take a few minutes to appreciate their work.

Paper Cutter

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