Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Birthday Mystery Gift

SCB turned 28 this year! Woo Hoo! We ended up celebrating a bit early this month because his work is starting "inventory" season a few days before his birthday and that means longer hours and a very tired hubby... and I wanted him to enjoy his birthday and get to "use" his present before he turned into a blob of exhausted man.

I also really wanted to surprise him for his birthday... which never really happens because we both get too excited to keep secrets from each other for long. Our guilty faces are a dead give-away and the prying inquisitions normally make us cave by mid day...  but I really wanted to try. This year was the year to go big or go home because I wanted to surprise him with a Wii U Bundle.

Now SCB has been saving his pocket money up to get  a Wii U and all he had asked for his birthday was some My Little Pony figurines (he is a Brony folks...) so he had something to open still & asked me to put the rest of the money I would have spent on his birthday in the Wii U bucket... because that's how badly he wanted one but he knew that he'd have to wait a few months before we could get one, especially in light of the $918.08 we spent to repair the car this month. 

So when we were out shopping, I got him some pony gifts. He knew what they all were since he was with me when we went shopping so I waited to wrap them for a few days so he wouldn't be suspicious if say more packages appeared wrapped in the birthday pile. He would just assume I wrapped them funny so he didn't know what he was opening until he opened it.

Now we have free 2 day shipping from Amazon because our brother-in-law has an account and you can give the account to a few households as apart of the deal, so he shares it with us... this my friends was the only way I was able to pull this whole deal off. 

I had been doing the math all weekend long and I figured if I took the money from the Wii U bucket, added in all our birthday savings money, and the $122 leftover from SCB's last paycheck after the car fiasco I could do it.... It was going to have to be a combined family gift for both of our birthdays in the end, but since my birthday is just around the corner and SCB already told me that I get to plant my garden next month as a non-birthday present, I decided that in addition to getting him the things he wanted, I'd get Wii U fit for me and call it a communal birthday present since i'd be wiping out all our birthday savings.  

I was able to order the really nice Wii U with the Mario and Luigi combo games and that funky large screen remote package thingy... & I picked up Wii U Party since it came with a second Wii U-remote and I also ordered a Wii classic - Sports Resort since you can play older games on the new model.... Then I added the Wii U Balance board combo with the game and the little step counter which I knew was more for me than for him, but I needed him to have that to unwrap to confuse him all the more.

I timed the order correctly so the items would be delivered on Tuesday and Wednesday since I beat the mail man home since I get off early in the afternoon. Roxy and I waited and hunted him down and collected the package, wrapped the items and then hid them. I made sure to dispose of the boxes in the dumpster the farthest away from our house so he wouldn't see the shipping labels and I changed the password for our Amazon account and my hotmail email account because SCB likes to cheat.

I took all his "pony gifts" and wrapped them individually and put them in a brown paper bag that I stapled shut... i also made sure to put the Wii U party and the Wii Sports Resorts in the brown bag so he couldn't "see them."

Then I took the Wii U Fit and wrapped it and then covered it in duct tape and posted this on facebook:

I wrapped the Wii U game console and hid it in the cabinet in the kitchen behind the reusable bags next to our water storage since SCB never goes in the cupboard because he hates the reusable bags that always falls out.  

When he got home from work I did my best to feed him lies about his presents and had him going in all different directions. He commented that the duct-tape box oddly looked the shape of a Wii U fit board but I told him I fished it out of the dumpster and used some can goods to weigh it down so he couldn't guess how heavy it was and shouldn't shake it. When he mentioned how he thought a Wii U could fit in the oddly shaped box if I took everything out of the original packaging, I just put this disappointed look on my face, sat him down and lied directly to his face and told him I didn't get him a Wii U and that he better get that idea out of his head because I was not going to have him be disappointed on his birthday when he didn't get one...

Worked like a charm. 

Later in the week I let it "slip" that I was surprised to find it in a "store" since it hadn't been stocked for awhile to further confuse him... 

Everything was going great until Easter... 

On Easter he realized the Wii U bucket was empty because he got a My Little Pony Bank as his Easter present and went to put all the money from the bucket into his new bank and only found a few coins..

**Face Palm**

I told him I deposited the money in our bank account so I didn't have to transfer $150 from our savings, wait a few days for it to switch banks, and then go pull it out in cash to put in the bucket for a few months to again have to deposit it to buy the thing online so we could get the bundle he wanted... He complained for a few minutes about needing to see the money in the bucket to know it was going towards the Wii U so I told him i'd got take the money out of the bank on Monday and put it back in the bucket... 

Then he went to have breakfast in the kitchen. The Wii U was again wrapped and hiding in the water cabinet with the reusable bags... there was a reusable bag on the table from my lunch on Saturday... facing me he opened the cabinet and I saw his present... he was going to shove the bag in there and turn around but i pulled it from his grasp and told him it went on a hook because it was a lunch bag and not a grocery bag and he let the cabinet door slip from his fingers without turning around...

The Wii- U was safe for the moment...

But my nerves were shot...  Later that morning I caved and we celebrated his birthday.

Men (and Brony's) don't use their hands to
unwrap presents wrapped in Pony
Birthday Paper... They use their teeth.

And then struggle when they can't get
the paper out of their mouths because
its cheaply made...

I made sure to hand him his "brony" presents one by one
from the bag so he couldn't see the extra ones in there.

After a few pony presents, I went to fool
him by handing him a boxed present.

"Is it ticking?" 

Wait... its from Amazon... could it be???
Nope...  She's just tricking me.

BUT SCORE... Awesome Pony Towel/Cape!

His reaction after unwrapping the first
mystery item... a Wii game...???

Then he started to unwrap the last item from
the brown paper bag....

More confusion as he hold a Wii U game and
remote combo package...

Goes to get a knife to tackle the duct tape on
the "mystery package."

Excitement mounds for the duct tape package

Slice & pull....

HUH???? But u said it wasn't a Wii Fit U...
and why would you buy this if we couldn't
use it yet???
At this point I told him about this morning and the "incident" over breakfast... and where he could find his last birthday present.

The "you're the best wife ever" look.

Oh man... oh man... it is... it is....


Then I/we made burgers & tried my homemade buns while we waited for the Wii-U to get hooked up so we could make Mii's and play a few rounds on the system. The buns were really good and well sized for the burgers.

I made sure to inform him that the Wii U fit was mostly for me... but it was necessary for his overall surprise and to throw off the scent so to speak.

He looked a little relieved that he wasn't expected to "match" my level of surprise this year. He's always worried I won't like something so he tends to run everything by me ahead of time. So he promised I could still have my garden and do a little house decorating and my awesome Apron from Etsy will be arriving shortly since I wanted a cook apron to cook and bake with  :)

I'm glad we celebrated early because it took a while to set up everything and we learned the other day that if I want to see my husband at all on my birthday (May 8th), i'd have to volunteer to help with pre-inventory counting at his work till 9 pm at night because inventory prep starts the 2 days before his birthday and doesn't end until the day after mine.

Locked out of the house

Yup. Locked myself out of the house... again.

It was my day off I had just made myself a smoothie and was in my PJ's still as I had been cleaning the house most of the morning and had made some real progress.

All I wanted to do was take the trash out. Since Roxy was keeping me company as my cleaning buddy, she followed behind me when I grabbed the kitchen trash bin and some random costco boxes and headed out the front door. I didn't have my house keys with me since I was just going to the dumpster...  but I forgot something important.

Our new door locks can turn from the inside like they are unlocked, but be locked on the outside...

and I normally check before I close the door behind me that the door is in fact unlocked... and this time I guess I forgot to check as Roxy headed down the stairs to go woof at a neighbor and roll in the grass.

We dropped off the trash and headed back to the house. Roxy didn't have her collar on because she had gotten a bath the day before and we forgot to put in on her... and we normally keep a spare set of keys with her leash so we don't have to worry about getting locked out... So yes, she wasn't on a leash when I took the trash out because she didn't have her collar on....

When we got back to the door and I found it was locked I knew we were in a pickle. My car wasn't in the lot because SCB had taken it to work since his was in the shop... and even if I had my car, I didn't have keys...

My phone was inside... & did I mention my cute dog didn't have a leash or a collar on... ????

So I did what any sane pj wearing gal would do. I walked up to a stranger who *thankfully* was on their balcony watering some plants and asked to borrow her phone while Roxy woofed at her in the grass behind me.  Thankfully she was more than happy to let me call the only phone number that I have memorized... My mom's house number... and by the grace of all things awesome, she picked up.

We sat on the stairs of my place and waited for our ride. I figured if I could get a hold of SCB he could bring me keys or we could go with my mom and steal his... so we waited.

Roxy was thrilled to get so much petting and attention from me while we waited for my mom to come over and rescue us.... and the neighbor was playing so nice music and I got to watch a woodpecker go at a tree and a few birds hung out to keep us company so it wasn't that bad. 15 minuets later my mom showed up and took us over to her house so I could use her internet to look up SCB's work number. I gave him a call and we arranged for my mom, Roxy and I to drive over to take his keys from him...

Why didn't I call a friend... or get a spare from my mom? Because it was 11am on a Monday morning and since we got our new house keys, we haven't given copies to our friends and people yet.... because we are slackers...

So we drove down to San Clemente, in my PJ's I walked into his work and got his keys... Roxy got a dog treat from his co-worker and we were off on our merry way.

We also stopped by the Rainbow Sandal Outlet store and in my PJ's I picked up a pair for both SCB and I for our birthdays from my mom who stayed in the car with Roxy and the AC. (I'm glad my PJ's consisted of some long pants and a tee the night before since they were on display to the world.)

Keys and new shoes in hand, my mom dropped us off at our place and I went in and put our trash can away... my smoothie was still good so I finished that up and got on with my day.

After work we joked about adding a key to Roxy's collar but after 2 minutes it was clear she didn't like it... so we called our friends from church that live about 10-15 minutes away on foot and asked if we could hide our house keys in their backyard in case it happens again and they agreed. So next time I lock myself out, I just have to go across the park to the next neighborhood over and get my house keys.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Doctor's Bill

So last month it was very obvious that my poor husband was down for the count and ill beyond measure.

We loaded him up with antibiotics and had our second trip to the doctor's office this year...

Now, if you remember back to this post, our doctor charged us $240.00 for a visit just to get SCB's prescriptions renewed.

Since he's an "in-network" doctor, we got a discount and were left on the hook for $161.02...

Our insurance won't kick in until we reach our deductible, so for this last visit we had no idea if we would be charged more since he was actually sick or not, but we figured it would be around $160 basing it on our previous bill...

Well, we got our bill in the mail the other day and I noticed the doctor classified our visit as a "Level 3" office visit and charged us only $105.00. With out in-network discount we only owe $74.09.

How is it cheaper for us to go when he's really ill, then for 5 minutes to review prescriptions????

I really wish I would have kept our bill from last time to see what our visit was classified as. Guess i'll have to wait for the next prescription renewal visit. If its miraculously cheaper next time too, i'll be fighting with someone over the phone I'm sure. I want our old and simple plan back... and while i'm on the subject of health insurance and venting, my mom's covered California plan still can't seem to get their budgeting department figured out.

They have yet to mail her a bill before her payment is due so I've had to make online payments for her the last few months. It gets better. The one time they did send her a bill, she had to write a check because their website was down. They cashed her check and decided never to credited her account. I had to spend over an hour on the phone with them explaining that she had paid her insurance on time and that they took her money when she received a notice in the mail about missing a payment and the next month her bill was double what it should have been.

I also learned that apparently she can miss up to 6 months of payments before they cancel her insurance because of her government subsidy... which is a good thing otherwise the payment she made that they never credited would have automatically cancelled her insurance so at least I didn't have to fight them on that one too.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Car issues from the black lagoon

So we mentioned how this month we were going to take both our cars into the shop and then buy new furniture for our bedroom?

well not anymore...

In fact, we have to now wait till May before we can take my car in because of what happened to South County Boys car.

If you remember back to last year, we bought "Sally," the Ford Escort Zx3 from his middle brother so we could basically give his older broke grad-school brother our older car for free because he really needed one and couldn't afford to buy Sally at the "reduced" for family price...

SCB's middle brother seldom drove Sally (just 6 miles to work and back for maybe a year and a half since it was their second car)... After owning her for some time, he found out he had gotten the car from an unsavory individual who really lied about the condition of the car. He fixed a few things and believed it to be road worthy since he had her checked out prior to our Utah arrival...

We bought her, fixed the AC in the car and drove her 700 miles home to California... where SCB has been driving her every day to work...  35-40 miles round trip... since SEPTEMBER... on this:

A bent wheel... 

... A bent wheel with a nail in the side of the tire... and since it wasn't just a puncture, the tire on the wheel wouldn't be able to be patched... it would need to be replaced...

and because we didn't know about the bent wheel since his brother had said the car was road worthy according to the place he took it, we had driven on it over 5,000 miles since September.... which meant that the bent wheel broke the back strut, causing all the fluid to leak out and become worthless... and the strut on the other side was over compensating for the failing strut and also went out and would need to be replaced...

No wonder SCB kept feeling like he was "fish-tailing" on certain roads on the way to work recently...

While we had a coupon for a free oil change and check up, (courtesy of my mom since she wasn't going to use hers with the newer car being under warranty), we saved $40.00 ...

but we had to pay $653.89 in parts alone... plus $213.59 in labor... and then another $50.60 in sales tax....

Totaling $918.08

 They had the car for 3 days because apparently, wheels are really rare for his car... they only fit 2 models and we had to have one sent down from Compton... so we ended up getting a rental car courtesy of the repair shop. (I was supposed to go down to San Diego with some friends and would need a car...)

While the shop paid for the rental, I got insurance since we were going on a little road trip and anything can happen when you aren't familiar with the car and I could hear Murphy laughing at me in the distance. I also paid an extra $5 to upgrade to a Prius because I would save that much on gas alone since its $4.17 a gallon right now.

So the car rental was another $34.78 ... but it only ended up costing me less then $30 in gas to drive to San Diego in back, and I now know I don't want to but a Prius. (Not enough leg room for SCB... they have a weird console and gear shiftier, and the trunk is too small for a car with 4 doors.)

So needless to say, we won't be buying bedroom furniture this month... we will be paying for our car bill. I have to say though, i'm not too upset. I'm really thankful that SCB was safe driving the car for so long on the broken parts!

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.