I’m sinking

This week I want to talk about sinking funds. More specifically the way that I do my sinking fund. For those of you who do not know what a sinking fund is, it is when you take an expense that you know is coming and you break down the cost over a period of time. This could be for car registration/maintenance, Christmas gifts, an annual trip, whatever you want to break up. It is kind of like lay-a-way for expenses because you put money aside for the expense a little at a time. When the expense comes up, you have the money necessary without having to shell out a large amount from your income. People will place the money in a savings account, I’ve heard of people placing the money in envelopes, however you feel comfortable keeping the money making sure that you do not dip into those funds until the expense comes up.

When I first heard about this a few years ago, I thought this was the best thing and thought I wanted to do this. But the way my finances work, I couldn’t see how to do it. Recently, I decided to do a monthly sinking fund for three of my larger bills: car payment, PNC loan, and medical bill. These bills are the main largest bill that I have that I one bill be paying on a while (car and PNC loan) and two I want to get rid of soon (medical bill). As I stated in my last post I want to pay off that medical bill asap (November) so that I can free up that money for something else, so I’m paying an extra $100 monthly that will allow me to pay it off by the end of the year.

What I decided to do is take the payments for each bill and divide them by 4 and that is the amount that I place in an account so that when the payment is due I then transfer over/pay the bill without feeling the bite of the large payment.

So this is how it looks:

Telluride car payment: 679.14/4=169.785

I round this up to 170 and that little extra goes towards balance.

This makes the final payment equal to: 170 x 4=$680

I pay an extra $.86 each month.

Again, that’s not much, but over time it will be helpful.

The PNC loan is 289.03/4=72.2575

I round this up to $73. The amount that gets saved over the month is $292.

The medical bill with the extra $100 is: 229/4=57.25 that gets round up $58. The amount that gets saved over the month is $232.

The PNC loan and the medical bill both get saved in another bank account that I have and the total for the month for both of those bills is $524. The total that needs to be saved to make the payment is $518.03. I have an extra $5.97 each month that I have not applied towards anything yet, but I will do something with it later.

I have several bank accounts; I’ll talk about that in a later post; I keep the money that is for my PNC loan and medical bill in the PNC account. I am currently getting paid weekly, this will most likely change starting at the beginning of next year (God willing, and everything works out okay at my job). I transfer the money for the loan and medical bill weekly from my credit union to the bank. I get a deduction in my interest rate for my PNC loan if I have automatic payments on that loan and that was a quick arrangement with the payment coming from the same bank. I lucked out and got my car loan financed through my credit union, so that money gets transferred weekly into that account, no worries. It is really a relief that to be able to do things this way and I don’t feel stressed out when those payments are due.

So, that’s how I do my sinking funds. After I pay off my medical bill, I will add a new large balance bill to my sinking fund total. Are you a sinking fund fan? Let me know how you are doing your sinking fund or if you have found another way to make the payments without feeling the angst of making a large monthly payment. I’m working on some new inserts for my planner that I want to share with you guys in my next financial post. I think they are going to be really helpful for me, I’m curious to get your opinions. I’ve recently baked some really yummy things that I want to share with you guys, so I’m not sure if my next post will be about those or a continuation of finances. Let me know which you prefer. Until next time.

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6 Month Check-in

I haven’t posted anything financial related lately. I know that I said I was going to do a 3 month check in with you guys to keep me accountable. I have not done that. Should I give my excuse now or forgo it and just say that I’ve done bad. I think I should give my excuse because it’s a good and valid one. First, I will say that the things that I said I was going to do to manage my finances, I did do. I make and maintain a monthly budget, I keep really good records of my spending, and I have been working to pay down my debt. We’ll call this my semi-annual check in.

Now what I haven’t done is completely stop using some of my lines of credit and I have not paid off that medical bill by my previous projection, of August. So let me tell you what happened – yes I’m going to the “See what had happened was” statement. But first….

Last week I created a debt payoff spreadsheet so that I can “see” when things will be done.

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I even figured out how to calculate the monthly interest that I will be charged so that I can accurately see the payoff.   You find out the APR, divide by 365, multiply that number by the end of the month balance, and multiply that by 30 (days in a month).  

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I went to the websites of each card so that I could find out what the interest rates of the cards were.

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I want to print this off and place it in my planner so that I can look at it and highlight the payments and confirm the next balances. I did not complete the payoff dates for all of the items, but I will; I wanted to see where I would be by the end of the year.

Ok, here’s my statement. What had happened was….there are three credit lines that I still have open that should have remained Paid Off when I paid them off at the end of last year – Old Navy, TJMaxx, and Zulily. These cards/credit lines are usually used around the holiday season and the beginning of the school year. Old Navy has jeans that Babydoll loves to where and they actually fit the backside of someone who has one (and we have them, not Nikki Minaj or Kim Kardashian level, but we are blessed). TJMaxx is probably one of my Babydolls favorite places besides Urban Outfitters and Zulily is my go-to when I’m looking for a great deal on shoes or things that help me organize my home and craft accessories. I paid off Old Navy right after I had bought Christmas gifts for everyone. It turns out that some things didn’t fit and they wanted to return them. When we went to return them, they decided that they wanted other items that ended up costing more than the originals. Then there was a sale on jeans – the jeans are $40 on sale, so I wasn’t missing that sale, hence the balance. This should be paid off in October. 

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TJMaxx happened because my anniversary and Father’s day came up when I was in the midst of doggie foot crisis and most money was going towards that. I will make my last payment on in a few days in September. 

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And finally, Zulily had the foldable sewing table that I have been trying to find, the Cuisinart food processor that I needed to replace, and the organizational items that I have been using to organize my kitchen cabinets. All of these will be paid off by the end of the year.

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I thought I would be paying off my Clearbalance medical bill by the end of this month (August). My plan was to take the extra money from the student loan that I have a break from this year and put some in savings, a good chunk on the medical bill and then pay some extra on the student loan. I made that decision at the end of February so that I could start in March. I put it off a month because we went to Paris and I used that money to pay another bill. When we came home my doggie baby started having problems with her foot. The numerous doctor visits we went to trying to get her healthy ended up taking whatever extra money that I had as well as some that I charged. She had surgery the end of June (you can read about it here) and I started doubling up on the medical bills that same month. The new projected date for that payoff is now November.

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That’s only about 3 months longer, but that’s a little over $200 that I could be applying to something else.  $600 that I could use for something else; maybe that Nordstrom bill. 

A lot of people use the “every dollar” plan. I have looked at it and I had to be honest with myself and admit that I would not be able to stick with it. I thought about the envelope method. If there is a way that I can make electronic envelopes, then I would do it. But taking out cash and placing it in an envelope will not work for me. I use my bank card as a credit card as much as I can because I get a rebate when I use it that way and I use that money to get some Christmas gifts along with the money that I save using Ibotta. There is something that I started doing that has had some success for me recently that I will share with you in the next post because I’m feeling that this one is getting wordy and I don’t want to bore you. Think sinking fund but with a twist.

If you have suggestions, I would love to hear them. If you would like to send words of encouragement, I will gladly take those as well.  Until next time when I will be discussing my “sinking fund”.

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Unused Fruit

My family eats a lot of fruit. I think we spend just about as much if not more on fruits and vegetables than we do on meat and other things. Having said that, there are some times when something is not eaten before it becomes too ripe (or it was on its way to being too ripe when I bought it and it became too much too soon.) It usually happens with bananas and I have the perfect excuse to make banana bread.

Recently, I had some plums and apples in the fruit bowl that were too ripe or no longer pretty in the apples case, that I didn’t want to throw away.

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This is the time of year when people are taking all the wonderful fruits and vegetables and canning or preserving them for future consumption. I didn’t have enough plums to make a batch of plum preserves by themselves. I could take the apples and add them to a cake or fry them up, but I had decided to make a Champagne cake this weekend and I like my apples a little firmer for fried apples so no go.

What came to mind was Apple Butter….more specifically, Plum Apple Butter. I didn’t want to make something full of sugar because I’m trying to drop 22lbs. At the same time, I need this to taste good. I don’t want the after taste of a sweetener; I don’t want to sacrifice favor just to cut back on calories and I can taste the difference. When I’m cooking, I want it to taste just as good as the original, but modifications that are healthier. I don’t do it to everything I cook, but if I can find a substitution that will work, I go for it. Looking on the internet, I found a few recipes that used agave nectar instead of sugar. Ding-Ding-Ding! I have agave nectar. Most recipes call for water as the liquid, but I was looking for ways to add a little something extra – some POP. There was another recipe that used apple juice. I didn’t have apple juice. A quick search of the frig revealed I had 100% pomegranate juice. Let’s go with that.

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The first step to making the “butter” is to prep the fruit. I knew I didn’t have 4lbs of fruit, 2lbs of plums and 2lbs of apples; so, I brought out my scale to weigh everything to determine how to modify the recipe that I came up with. I knew I had more apples than plums; but it turned out I had about 1lb 10oz of plums. I quartered my plums and removed the seed. For the apples I decided to remove the skin and seeds and quarter them as well. Once I added the apples, I came up with a little under 3lbs of fruit.

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I didn’t want to think in terms of ¾ of the recipe, more like 2/3. I went with that for the recipe.

I had to simmer the plums and apples in the juice covered for 15 minutes.

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After that, I used my emersion blender to puree everything. I tasted it to see what I was working with and MAN; it was good. I let Babydoll taste and she was like, “I will eat that as is.” It was a really good tasting apple sauce at that point, but I wanted “butter” so I continued.

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I decided to add ½ cup of the agave nectar because it really didn’t need too much more sweetening.

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The spices I used were 1 ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp of allspice. I saw some recipes that had cloves and ginger, but I didn’t want to go there.

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I needed to let the “butter” simmer for 20-30 minutes on low with the lid off to allow it to reduce and thicken. I made sure to stir occasionally to prevent sticking. (The first time I went in to stir, it began bubbling like crazy; I had to remove it from the burner to get it to calm down).

What I made was enough to make 2 pint jars and about half of another pint. I decided to process the full pint jars so that I could store them in my pantry.

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The half pint I placed in the jar and allowed it to cool before closing it up and storing it in the frig. I didn’t have biscuits or bread around for dinner, but Babydoll wanted some “butter” so she toasted a half of an English muffin to go with dinner. She said it was so good, no real butter was needed….just the homemade fruit butter. She let me have a nibble, I agree….it was delicious. I had some with breakfast the first chance I got.  I’m glad I decided to write stuff down, I have to be able to duplicate this one again.

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I bought peaches this week. I think I’m going to take some of them and make a small batch of peach preserves. A coworker brought in a peach vanilla preserve that she made. It was like peach cobbler in a jar. I’m either going to get her recipe or play around to see what I come up with. I really want to do it without needing to use pectin. I’ll see what I come up with. If you have any suggestions, please leave me comment below; I welcome them.

When I plugged the recipe to the nutrition calculator, it came out to be:

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This is if you cooked it according to the recipe that I would make with 2 lbs of apples and plums. I figured you would get 80 tbsp out the recipe size that I made. The nutrition calculator only went up to 72 servings; this means that the calorie count may be lower, but 14 calories is what I will use in my daily calculation. If you decide to make this, please share how it turns out.

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Working on snacks

Hey Everybody,

This weekend I took some time to out to bake quit a few things, but two things that I really wanted to share with you guys were these granola bars and chocolate fruit and nut clusters.  Both of these recipes I found online, I will not be claiming them as my own although I did make adjustments to them to satisfy my own personal preferences.  I will have the links to the recipes below and tell you how I changed them up. 

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I LOVE granola bars.  But I ended up giving them up when I began my weight loss journey.  I started making a healthier version of granola that uses more puffed rice cereal than oatmeal that taste amazing especially with plain yogurt.  When I saw this recipe that uses equal parts rolled oats and puffed rice cereal, I thought it might be a good option and a good way to give me a hit of something sweet and also something that is quick to grab when I’m running out the house and don’t have time to fix a decent breakfast. 

The key to this recipe is the “sauce” that you pour over the dry ingredients.  You have to cook it for a few minutes, and when you pour it over; you should work quickly to make sure that everything gets incorporated properly so that you can press it into the pan and everything stick together.  I switched things up by using pistachios, sunflower seeds, and pecans as my nuts.  I found I didn’t have any apricots (I just knew I did – I put them on the list to purchase), so I used so dried chili mango.  I had a 50/50  mixture or cranberries and cherries instead of just cranberries. 

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Once they had a chance to set, I cut them by cutting the length in half, halving those sections, and finally halving those sections.  I then went down the middle.  I should have ended up with 16 bars, but remember I told you that you need to make sure that everything gets incorporated?  Well there was a section of the pan that did not get thoroughly mixed.  As a result, when I went to cut; it crumbled apart and no amount of pressing would get them to stick – so I had 14 bars. 

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The recipe author mentioned that the bars were easy to wrap up; so I decided to whip out my Food Saver and vacuum seal them.

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Excuse the collar next to things, I was changing the battery for the Invisible Fence collar and didn’t realize where I had put it (I looked around for that thing for near an hour before I found out.  I guess I should have reviewed my pictures and found it sooner Smile). 

This was the first time I attempted to do this and was a little unsure if I should do a super tight seal or leave a little air in them.  Time will tell.P7210322P7210323

At the same time that I was making the granola bars, I put some chocolate clusters together using the crock pot.  I saw a picture of this a couple of months ago but wasn’t able to find a recipe – I think I was on Instagram.  I came across this recipe and near swooned with excitement.  I wanted to make it for two reasons: 1) on the days that I am trying to be low-carb/no-carb and I want something sweet – chocolate nuts is a great option; and 2) I wanted to try them out as a possible Christmas candy that I make for my Girlfriends Dinner.  What’s so great about his recipe is that you dump everything in the crock pot and cook on low for 2 hours.  You come back, stir everything together, set on parchment/wax paper, allow to set, and you have clusters.  YUM!

I modified this recipe by using a trail mix that had an assortment of nuts and cherries along with roasted peanuts and I used mostly 62% cocoa chocolate chips and a little semi-sweet chocolate.  I didn’t use my large crock pot, because I had made some carnitas the day before in it.  It was clean, I just didn’t want to use it again so soon; plus I cut the recipe in half so didn’t feel like the amount was worth messing up the large one.  

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I took half of the clusters to work to share with my coworkers.  The results were favorable from them and I really liked them, so I’ll make the full recipe as one of my give-a-way treats.

I highly recommend you give both of these a try.  If you make modifications, feel free to drop me a line and tell me how they turn out and what modifications you made. 

Until next time,

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Hey Chér

As I mentioned last week, I had a whole gang of people over for the 4th of July.  With the help from my parents, we had a shrimp boil, fried fish, grilled chicken, hot dogs, and sausages.  There were great sides (mac and cheese, baked beans, pasta salad, and green salad) and several types of desserts (The Next Best Thing to Robert Redford – or Robert Redford as we call it – that needs to be changed to The Next Best Thing to Duane Johnson; we also had Dirt Cake and finally Apple, Cherry, and Peach mini pies – made with my Bella mini pie maker).  We all had a great time.  I think I had around 25 people in the house. 

Now, if you have ever hosted; you know that it can get costly to do something of that magnitude and ensure that everyone is well fed.  This also caused me to decide that I’m not going to be grocery shopping this week.  Whatever we eat this week will come from my freezers. 

A few months ago, Babydoll was looking on Pinterest and saw Étouffée.  She thought it looked really good and asked me about it.  I told her that it’s easy to make basically a Cajun gravy that you have with rice.  I told her that I would make it for her one day.  Looking in my freezer this week, I found some shrimp.  We keep rice because Babydoll loves it, so I decided we were having Étouffée for dinner.  I also found a lone chicken breast that I pulled out of the freezer to have along with my shrimp.  To complete the meal, I sautéed some frozen chopped kale (I sautéed in chili olive oil) and some French bread that I smeared with Brummel Brown. 

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As I told Babydoll, Étouffée is basically a Cajun gravy; however it takes a little longer to prepare than regular gravy.  It’s all about the roux, and for this version, I decided to make a dark roux. 

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A dark roux took me about 20 minutes to make.  Typically you are required to constantly stir your roux so that it doesn’t burn; but I will be honest, I peeled shrimp while my roux cooked.  I was running back and forth from the sink to the stove stirring with my wooden spoon and whisk. 
After my roux reached the color I wanted, I added my trinity and chicken breast that I had seasoned with Slap Yo Momma seasoning.  I cooked this for another 5-7 minutes. 

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This addition resulted in my roux getting a little darker, but that was cool.  After this had cooked about 5 minutes or so, I added some minced garlic.

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I then I added chicken stock, a can of petite diced tomatoes, and a gang of seasonings. 

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Once this came to a boil, I lowered the temperature and allowed it to simmer for another 15-20 minutes. 
I added my shrimp and cooked until they turned pink, about 2-3 minutes; then added butter – which made it so much better. 

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I could have sliced some green onion – I had it in the frig – but I decided against it, because I was ready to S-N-A-P.
I cooked rice in my rice cooker – if you don’t have one – put it on your Christmas list (or put it in lay-a-way at Walmart this Christmas). 

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One thing that I will beg you to do when you cook rice is to cook your rice with a bay leaf.  It will take your rice to a level that you will not be able to understand.  It makes it amazing. 

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Babydoll said that she really enjoyed it.  Remember I said that I only had one chicken breast?  She asked me where the chicken was.  The next time I make it, I will be sure to add more chicken. 

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Have you made Étouffée before?  Comment below to let me know what you like to make yours with and how dark do you typically like to make it.
The recipe that I used is below.  I hope that you enjoy it. 

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New Planner Setup

Happy July Everyone,

The start of this month also starts the much anticipated use of my new planner that I purchased when the Rongrong collaboration with Happy Planner came out several months ago. 

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I needed to replace my cover because my current one had some cracks around the rings.  I looked around for something that made me excited, but wasn’t completely enthused about anything I was seeing.  I decided to I was going to use my Cricut to make something that made me excited.  I chose the teal cover, because I didn’t want to get black .

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Destiny loves to sit on my craft work desk whenever I get ready to work – usually right in the center of my work space.  Here’s a better shot than the one I posted last week.

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I printed out a quote on rose gold vinyl and painstakingly  transferred it with some help from Babydoll.  

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The planner came with light purple or lavendar rings, but they were not big enough to use with all of the things I need to keep in my planner; so I switched out the rings to some gold metal rings I had purchased from Staples a while back. 

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I had also purchased some new dashboards to use.

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I usually keep three months of pages in the planner and then have the monthly pages for all of the months.  This time I decided to install six months of pages because I Frankenplan – having a tab for daily &  monthly pages, fitness pages,

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budget pages,

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notes, and work.  I had plenty of filler paper that I was going to use for the notes and work sections.  

P6290285I kept the cover page of the planner because I really like it and the beautiful ladies on the front. 

P6300293This is a dashboard layout format – something that I have come to like a lot more than the horizontal or vertical layouts.  I’ll do a flip-through of the sections of my planner later because I want to talk about somethings that I came up with for decorating my dashboard pages.  But I must know, am I the only one starting a new planner this July?  What planner are you using?  Do you Frankenplan and if so what tabs do you have?  Comment below to let me know.  Have a safe and great 4th.  I’m hosting a bbq, fish fry, and shrimp boil combo with a small crowd of about 35 (what am I thinking? Smile with tongue out).

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I need to explain…

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to send a quick post to talk about what’s been going on and why I haven’t been posting as much.  When we came back from Paris, we noticed that Sasha, my beautiful fur-baby, was worrying her foot.  Upon closer inspection, we noticed that one of her toenails was sitting straight up.  She was due to get her booster flu shot in a few days, so we waited until then to ask the doctor about it.  The doctor said that it should be no big deal, cut it off and suggested an antibiotic shot just in case something was going to crop up.  Less than two weeks later, she was licking the foot again and we noticed that the foot was starting to have an odor.  We took her back to the doctor and were told that she may have gotten an infection, her foot was bandaged, we purchased a cone to keep her from messing with it, and we got a prescription for oral antibiotics.  Fast forward 3 months, a larger cone, many rounds of antibiotics, tons of test, and a lot of money this is what her toe looked like (it can be gross, so if you don’t have a strong stomach don’t click on the link).Bad Toe  We ended up having to have the toe amputated and are now anxiously waiting for results from the lab to confirm or deny that the melanoma is non-cancerous.  My home smelled like decaying flesh and stinking dog for 3 months and it was driving us batty.  We knew something was wrong, but we had to exhaust all options before we took drastic measures.  Yesterday I took her for her first post-op doctors visit and the bandage was removed.  It is the craziest thing to see that missing toe, but the doctors are very impresses with how well she seems to be doing.  Bouncing back like the champ that she is.  20190624_114511[1]We have one more week of the cone and limited activity. 

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I have to say I will be making a grooming appointment for her this week for next weekend.  We have NEVER went this long with having our dog groomed (even if she isn’t getting a haircut, I’m bathing her, because I can’t stand for smelly pets or people to come into my home and smell my pets before they see them.).  I prayerfully optimistic that the lab results will come back favorable. 

In addition to all that has been going on with Sasha, we also got a new fur-baby – Destiny the beautiful gray tabby cat.  I just knew I had a picture of “missy” (that’s the nickname I’ve given her), but I only have videos of her funny antics. 

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My Babydoll had been wanting a cat, but I had vetoed it because I really didn’t want a cat walking on my countertops in the kitchen.  My husband ran across an office cat that he became enamored with and suggested we get one if they were like that cat.  After much research into ways to prevent cats from getting on countertops, looking at tons of cats, and a final trip to the store with Babydolls godmother (who is a cat owner) and Destiny came home with us.  She is a complete joy, and has a temperament much like Sasha’s.  Now if we could get them to get along that would be awesome.  We have been keeping them on separate floors of the house until recently.  Sasha has seen her plenty and there have been a few times when we thought there was going to be an incident, but nothing so far.   My father asked me the other day who I was trying to protect, Sasha or Destiny, and I stated both.  I believe it’s more Sasha, because of her foot situation, I don’t want her to get scratched and hurt.  Destiny is a baby (she was 3 months old when we got her and it’s been two months), and wasn’t ready to defend herself when we first got her; but now I think she can take Sasha.  We are letting them interact a little more – it’s more Destiny runs under the bed when Sasha chases her, and Sasha whines mostly and barks at the bed.  If anyone has suggestions, please let me know.  It’s a little stressful waiting for them to become friends.

The last major change for me is the purchase of a new car!  I know how is a new car a sound purchase for someone who is working on her finances.  I really didn’t want to purchase a new car, but my homeboy started having problems and I needed to get a new boo.  My husband insisted that it be a brand new car and I ended up getting a 2020 Kia Telluride. 

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I am really satisfied with my purchase and impressed with how awesome this car is.  I had to order it because they are flying off the lot, but it came a week early (it was due to arrive the day of Sasha’s surgery). 

I’m not going to mention how busy things are at work, because it’s too crazy.  Just know that I’ve been totally busy lately running my household and not forsaking you guys.  I’m going to get it together.  If you guys have any blog subject request, please comment below; and thanks for following. 

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