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Archive for December, 2013

Vacation, then Christmas, now nearly New Year.. Oh My!

December 28th, 2013 at 09:59 pm

Our trip was great!
Really my only complaint was that it was 75F-80F (terrible, hu?) and made the Disney parks a bit more crowded than we were used to. (We always plan to go at "non-peak" times to save money and avoid the crowds. We usually wait 15 minutes or less on the really popular rides and less than 5 minutes for everything else.)
I shouldn't complain, even waiting twice as long as we're used to is better than a lot of people deal with.

It was so enjoyable to watch DS's enjoyment.
This is him on the Toy Story ride which he kept referring to as the "yellow glasses ride".


I used a hotel we hadn't stayed in before. While the hotel was nice and the beds very comfy it was too much of a walk to get into the parks. We walked back and forth twice each day in order to take an afternoon nap, so it was a lot of walking.

Yes, there is a circulating bus/shuttle, but I didn't want to pay the extra money, plus you have to wait for it to pick up and drop off. I prefer to walk, although this time it meant some seriously sore feet by day end.

We did pretty well with food spending. Snacks in the car and hotel room. Eating out *only* twice daily was easy to manage.
We ate at the Rainforest Cafe for $12. I had $100 gift card (credit card reward) that almost covered the "splurg-y" meal.
A character breakfast included with our package at n/c was a great treat.
I had my special treat in Disney - a Monte Cristo - that was filling enough for two meals.
We also ate at the Mexican restaurant in Frontier Land which I have found to be nearly the same cost as Mexican food anywhere else. You can also get free soda refills there. That meant my DH bought a soda with six trips for refills. Big Grin

We rented a car. A 2013 Ford Focus.
It was good for us. I had calculated that we would be about even driving our own gas guzzling car vs. renting a fuel saving car. Additionally, no wear and tear on our aging vehicle (we drove 1370 miles).
With the costs tabulated we saved a little money by renting the car! Smile

Here it is in Las Vegas at the Excalibur - where we stayed.



We splurged on the Tournament of Kings dinner show. It's where you eat with your hands while watching knights battle. I had seen a similar show while in high school so knew what to expect (good for a three-year-old!).
My family really enjoyed the show. As predicted DS was glued to the action. Big Grin

DH and I hit the blackjack tables both nights, but alas, didn't win big. We have found that we can play blackjack for hours on very little money all while drinking *free* beer. Smile

Vacation Spending:
$1414 Disney package (4 nights/(4) 4-day hopper tickets/pkg extras)
$310 Food
$200 Cash for gambling/souvenirs/misc.
$181 Rental car
$159 Dinner show
$146 Gas
$ 94 Vegas hotel (2 nights @ $29+taxes/resort fees)

DH's boss gave us DH's $500 Christmas bonus early so we could apply it to the trip if we wanted.
(I used the Sapphire for almost everything and will use the bonus money toward the bill next month.)

Both DH and I used paid vacation time, so no lost income.
We saved a few bucks in daycare costs.
My dad stayed at our house so we didn't pay anything for house/pet care. As a big plus, my dad totally spruced up the front and backyard - mowed, raked, swept.. That was nice!

This trip was our Christmas gift to each other. Tiring, but good family time and some funny memories made. I'll tell you it was nice - no shopping, no wrapping, no extra crap!

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Christmas was comfortable and low-key.
Santa brought a $25 dump truck set for DS.
Santa used Amazon credit (from selling back the EMT textbooks) for DH and DD's gifts. They cost $0.
Stocking stuffers included personal care products and trip souvenirs.

I got coffee and chocolate from almost everyone. Smile
My boss gave me a nice, crisp $100.

Only my parents were here with us (Yay! no drama!).
I made a nice ham dinner, roasted carrots, mashed potatoes, fruit salad, rolls, pie.

This year I feel like I figured out the best way to warm a ham without drying it out!
I used a roasting bag and set the oven for 275F.
About 10 minutes/lb.
Nice and warm throughout - no dry slices!

I bought a 10lb ham for the extra leftovers. I froze the ham bone for later use and a dinner's worth of slices for a future meal.

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Kids are visiting the in-laws until tomorrow. DH and I have been basking in the quiet laziness the last 48 hours.

Next week will be pretty easy. Work one and a half days, then another paid day off. Big Grin
Then.. WOW.. 2014!

$0.99 Teacher Gifts & "Needy" Children

December 7th, 2013 at 02:30 pm

The one item that I have had my DH pick up for me on Black Friday the past few years has been the $0.99 poinsettias from Home Depot.

This year I used them as gifts for DD's teachers.
She was embarrassed to carry a bunch of plants to school yesterday morning. I told her to get over it!
She doesn't think anyone gives teacher gifts now in middle school - it's not "cool". I told her it is important to recognize the efforts of teachers and appreciate them. (My mom is a teacher, so maybe I feel more strongly than most.) And all DD's teachers seem really on top of things and good.

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DS's preschool had a "giving tree" for a local community school that serves special needs, at risk and low income children. Last week I chose two disadvantaged children to buy gifts for. My first pass through the names/wishes made me cry - very sad situations - homeless, parents in jail, etc.. Gift wishes were very simple; books, art supplies, dolls, Transformers..

I picked siblings - a nine year old brother (NERF stuff) and six year old sister (American Girl type doll & Mickey ears).

I purchased their wish list items with the Sapphire card and spent $97 total. We will get the gifts wrapped up this weekend so I can deliver them to DS's school on Monday.

Working on getting lots done before our big trip! Big Grin

Shopped *Small* Yesterday

December 1st, 2013 at 03:03 pm




Used my AmEx to buy chocolates for Christmas gifts at a local shop.
I will get a $10 account credit for shopping there yesterday. I was going to shop there anyway so getting $10 back was especially sweet.

I have eaten a lot of chocolate and they make the best truffles I have ever had. Big Grin

The shop is not in the town I live in. However, it was a beautiful 20 minute drive through vineyards and pastures bathed in sunshine.
The drive and the "tasting" certainly made shopping a very pleasant experience.