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  1. Uninsurable Ball Of Fluff?

    August 24, 2015 by admin

    This TR Family had been with Progressive Insurance for about a decade.  When we recently purchased our new home, it was a no-brainer to stick with Progressive for our homeowner’s insurance.  We had never had an issue with their service.  In fact, when we had an unfortunate car collision about a year ago, Progressive’s handling of our accident was stellar.

    We paid the annual fee for our homeowner’s insurance and were quite content for two months, when we got an odd email from Progressive indicating that our policy would be canceled.  Thinking this was some sort of miscommunication, we immediately phoned Progressive.

    We were told that we hadn’t provided any proof of our dog’s breed and our policy was going to be canceled.  Since we received NO request for dog information from Progressive – other than when we applied for our policy, we had NO idea they needed further information from us.  We immediately supplied what was requested: a picture of our dog and a statement from our Vet as to the breed.

    Here is the picture we provided:IMG_1039

    Along with our Vet’s disclosure.

    We are very proud owners of our rescued pup, Molly.  The organization that we used to adopt Molly referred to her as a “Spanador” as they thought she was half lab and half spaniel.  Since she is a rescue, no one could say with 100% accuracy her definite lineage or breed.  But she is a slightly overweight ball of love that has never had anger issues and has never bitten anyone.

    According to Progressive Insurance’s management, not being able to pinpoint Molly’s breed beyond a shadow of a doubt meant that we were no longer insurable.  Our policy was canceled effective immediately and there was no recourse.

    Here are the undisputable facts:

    • Progressive Insurance does not care how long you’ve been a loyal customer
    • Progressive Insurance discriminates against certain dog breeds
    • Progressive Insurance has an impossible set of criteria for any adoptive dog/rescued dog family to fulfill
    • Progressive Insurance will cancel your insurance on the spot regardless of your loyal history and regardless of initially accepting your payment and contract. Remember- their agent that opened our homeowner’s policy did NOT ask for any further information about our pup!

    We are very glad that we found out we were giving our business to a company that isn’t dog friendly.  We would not want to patronize Progressive Insurance had we known these facts.  And we are thrilled to now have our insurance relationship with State Farm.

    Rescue families and friends of rescues and strays be warned!  Do your research and ask pointed questions about dog ownership when searching for home insurance.  And have a back-up plan just in case you find yourself suddenly invited out of your Insurance company.

    We urger you to spread the word!  If you love stray and rescued animals and support those who take them in- make sure all your friends know that Progressive Insurance will cancel policies based on the unknown parentage of those pets.  We’ve had great luck with State Farm taking care of us and our harmless dog.  What other companies can you help us identify as pro-rescue pet?  Help spread the word and support companies that support rescued pets!

  2. Mocha Test

    August 11, 2015 by admin

    IMG_1498As you know, TRMom eased up dramatically on the vegan diet and now resides happily once again in a vegetarian space.  While vegan, TRMom couldn’t have the milk substitutes at most eateries due to a bad reaction with carrageenan.  This resulted in a gourmet coffee dry spell of over 6 months.  But now, TRMom is back in the espresso froo-froo drink saddle and living large!

    And her favorite drink is a hot Mocha, no whip.

    Tip1: It is not frugal to purchase coffee drinks rather than making them at home. There is really no way to argue out of this fact. But everyone needs a treat every now and then.  You can also save costs with coupons, membership clubs, etc.

    Here are our local determinations thus far:

    • Java Cat is the winner by far in the art of creating a Mocha. Whether serving up a hot or cold drink, they outdo their competition. You can actually savor the foam and there is no Mocha-sludge. It takes a bit of time to create this drink but the wait is worth it. Well done!
    • Moka is the runner up. They are about .50cents cheaper than Java Cat, but Moka struggles to deliver the same quality. Where they win over the competition is the incredibly friendly staff, the stickers on the lids, and the little candy treats.
    • Crema Cafe comes in third.  Honestly at times they seem just too busy to deliver a fantastic espresso drink.  It isn’t that their Mocha is terrible.  It just has no thought behind it.  It tastes fine, but more like a hot chocolate than a Mocha.  It isn’t memorable.
    • Starbucks trails well behind the pack.  The Mocha they deliver is sludgey and a little too sweet.  You don’t save on cost and there is no delightful staff interaction.  It is definitely a last choice destination.  Honestly, a Mocha from McDonalds is just as satisfying as the one you get at Starbucks but far cheaper.


    Tip2:  If frugality is key and you have access to a pod machine, you can find Mocha pods at any grocery.  The end product is quite satisfying and certainly cheaper than any coffee shop.  Of course, there is an environmental impact to pod usage.

    TRMom is looking forward to digging into the local coffee scene even deeper.  What’s your favorite coffee spot, either locally or nationwide?

  3. Fire Pit!

    August 2, 2015 by admin

    IMG_1722This TRFamily loves a cozy fire crackling in a fireplace on just about any evening of the year.

    It has been too long since we’ve had a house with a fireplace or property well suited for a fire-pit.  But the wait has finally ended!

    After some quick research on reviews and a few days of best-price hunting, we picked up a very affordable fire-pit from our local chain, Farm&Fleet.

    It required some simple assembly that took about 20 minutes to complete from start to finish.IMG_1590

    Tip1: Be careful of the size of the bowl you are considering when researching what might work best for you. Your bargain find may have a very small burning surface which doesn’t work out well. We went with a 30 inch fire bowl and couldn’t be happier!

    We are fortunate to have a cement slab “deck” area in our backyard that is perfect for safely positioning a fire-pit. Make sure you consider the placement of your pit carefully and have access to the usual fire safety tools.

    TRDad spent a good amount of time discussing proper fire building with our young Bluey.  TRDad also made sure that Bluey understood that you must respect your fire and use great caution while stoking or minding it.  They gathered up kindling and before long, our first fire was burning bright.

    Tip2: Keep the makings for S’mores tucked away in your pantry.  The ingredients are super cheap and the enjoyment is guaranteed.  You can even find vegetarian marshmallows at most specialty stores and coops.

    A fire-pit is a great addition to a backyard.  But it does require a full commitment to safety.  Your home, neighbors, pets, and children are very susceptible to injury from an unattended fire.  But with the properattention and tools, you’ll enjoy it for years to come!!

  4. Shop Local

    July 27, 2015 by admin

    IMG_1508We recently had the unfortunate experience of discovering that our dryer wasn’t heating up at all during any selected cycle.  Our clothes were wet and cold when the finish bell sounded.  And since we aren’t interested in purchasing a new dryer at this point, we needed to figure out if it could be fixed.

    *Our home came with a 1 year home warranty which covers all the major appliances.  We will discuss this home warranty soon, but for now we’ll just let you know this repair route hit a dead end.

    Our internet research indicated that our dryer’s symptoms were pretty common and could be repaired. TRDad doesn’t have a lot of experience just yet on fixing appliances.  He and Bluey did some exploratory poking around the machine but came up short.  We were going to have to locate a repairman.

    We knew that the big chains, like Sears, had repair services.  But we were a little wary of price and convenience.  Our trials on getting the dryer repair set up through our home warranty had left us stranded on Saturday and our clothes were piling up.  We turned to Google and crossed our fingers.

    Luck smiled upon us and we located Gary’s Appliance Repair.  We had little to go on as this business had no homepage and only a few simple online reviews.  But one phone call had Gary heading to our home.  He arrived within 30 minutes of our initial contact!

    Gary rolled into our driveway in a very old mini van.  He looked to be on the tail end of sixty, had suspenders attached to his work pants, and was very friendly.  Gary didn’t mind our pets or our inquisitive and talkative Bluey.  He hummed a little tune as he got right to work on our dryer, quickly identifying the issue.IMG_1511

    No more than 30 minutes from Gary’s arrival, our dryer was repaired.  Since Gary was so friendly, TRDad now has a much better understanding of how to go about fixing the dryer in the future.  And Gary’s invoice was incredibly reasonable- no emergency weekend fee involved!

    We highly recommend Gary’s Appliance Repair if you live in our area.

    Do you typically reach out to locally owned and operated services or do you go right to the national chains?

  5. Let The Sun Shine

    July 21, 2015 by admin

    IMG_3141Our new, sun-filled yard has allowed us to rediscover the joys of sun tea- and pass this pleasure on to our kiddos.

    Spending most of the day flooded in sunshine, our backyard is the perfect place for making sun tea!  You can make sun tea in any large glass jar- a throughly washed pickle or olive jar can work quite well.  But we picked up a sun tea jar at our favorite grocery for a few bucks – and it includes a dispenser tap at the bottom.  This way even our youngest can pour himself a glass of tea without difficulty.

    The recipe is simple: fill you jar with cold water and add a few bags of tea.  We use five with our approximately half-gallon jar.  Use more if you like a stronger tea.   You may find different tea flavors require different strengths to turn out the way you like.  Let the tea sit in a bright part of your yard for most of the day- the longer it sits there the stronger it gets.

    Tip:  If it gets too strong, you can water it down with water or ice cubes when you drink it.

    We keep our tea in the fridge and it cools down quickly to just the right temperature.  Add ice as desired.

    Our youngest loves watching the tea darken during the day, and particularly enjoys sampling the fruit flavored teas.  Try it out and find your favorite flavor!

  6. Confessions Of A Mostly Vegan

    July 12, 2015 by admin

    80841_asparagus_mdQuite a few months ago TRMom decided to embrace a switch from vegetarian to vegan.  The decision was 20% political and 80% dietary.  The main push was that TRMom just wasn’t feeling well and wanted to try and figure out why.

    And it worked!  We finally discovered after years of exploration that TRMom can’t digest carrageenan.  (If anyone else suffers from a similar fate, please share as TRMom feels rather isolated.)  Many new and delicious vegan foods were uncovered, and many new recipes tested out.  And the dedication to vegan eating helped her drop a few pesky pounds while feeling better overall.

    But TRMom isn’t 100% happy being a vegan.  It is restrictive in a way that is hard to currently balance.  And life is too short to suffer through something entirely under your own control.  TRMom has decided to be a “mostly-vegan.”

    And not to feel bad about it.

    This means that she won’t actively avoid dairy products or eggs. If there is a veggie burger on a menu, that is good enough for TRMom.  There won’t be a five minute ask and response with the server on whether or not the veggie burger has cheese or eggs in the recipe.

    And if TRMom feels like ordering a slice of pizza, then bring it on.  But there won’t be any compromises with vegetarianism.  The choice she made to not eat meat has been holding over three decades long and is a true part of what defines TRMom.

    No matter what your dietary choices from Vegan to Kosher to Meat lover, it should make you happy. As with most things in life, moderation can be the key to successful change and happiness. TRMom looks forward to maintaining a lot of her vegan ways- just not exclusively. And that is the right thing for her at this point.



  7. Come Kale Or High Water

    July 6, 2015 by admin

    IMG_1266We are always looking for ways to introduce nutritious snacking option to our kids.

    Kale chips are a low calorie, super easy, and very tasty choice that you can make at home in less than ½ hour.

    Pick up a good bunch of Kale from your local farmer’s market or favorite grocery store.  Wash the leaves and then dry all of them thoroughly.  Next, cut the leafy green away from the stalk.  But don’t just throw out those stalks!  You can save them for soup stock!  Or chop them down and saute them into your next stir fry.  Or feed them to bunnies!IMG_1263

    We hear kale is pretty easy to grow in your garden.  We haven’t tried that yet, but we’ll let you know when we do!

    Tip1: If you fold the kale along the stalk, you can easily cut straight down to separate both halves from the stem.

    Use your fingers to rip down the leafy parts into chip size pieces and put them into a large bowl.  Toss theKale with olive oil and coarse kosher sea salt and set aside.  Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil or parchment paper.

    Tip2: We put a coat of olive oil on our tinfoil.

    Distribute the Kale in an even layer on the cookie sheet.  Cook at 350degrees for 10 minutes.  Rotate your tray and perhaps flip your kale.  Cook for an additional 10 minutes or until you’ve got your desired crispness.


  8. Stok It!

    June 28, 2015 by admin

    IMG_1123We had been discussing the purchase of a grill now that we had our own property and yard. And with careful planning, we had some money stashed away for these types of bonus purchases.

    Our STOK drumgrill is a welcome addition to our new home!

    We stumbled upon this orange beauty on a recent trip to our favorite box store. A quick google search proved their price (with 5% off and Redcard member discount) was not to be beat. We eagerly purchased it.

    We so infrequently grilled out in the past, that we were a little apprehensive about the functionality of the STOK and the ease of preparing our meals. But our new grill outperformed all our worries.

     Assembly – under ½ hour with the need for a screwdriver.

     Initial heating – discovered that we needed a few applications of lighter fluid to really bring our grill up to temp rather than simply lighting paper as the instructions recommended.

     Performance – We had a nice distribution heat on the main surface with no hot spots. But we highly recommend the purchase of a heat glove to handle the various accessories and lid.

     Clean up – It was a breeze. The entire grill was cooled down in less than 3 hours.

    Tip: Briquettes are a fire hazard. Be sure to properly handle their final disposal.

    We enjoyed our STOK grill meal so much that we are already planning future meals and an entire season of enjoyment.

    We did establish safety rules for our kids. Our grill is set up on a small concrete patio and our TRFamily rule is that when we are grilling, you are NOT allowed on the entire concrete area without asking permission of an adult first. Be sure to discuss safety and grilling with your family, too.

    Enjoy the summer!

  9. Hip To Clips

    June 22, 2015 by admin

    1-1232906989AtaJOur cupboards have numerous opened bags of chips, cookies, crackers, and nuts.  It is an epidemic of partially consumed snack foods that typically turn stale before anyone finishes an entire bag.  We favor Ball jars for a lot of snack foods, like nuts, some crackers, and cookies.  But chips just don’t work well in our glass Ball containers.

    We tried rubber bands to keep bags closed.  And it worked for a while.  But the kids tend to struggle with the bands or flat out refuse to use them after getting painfully snapped on occasion.  (Also, loose rubber bands in our house present a health hazard for our cats who will try to eat anything they can get their little claws upon.)

    The big clips labeled for chips in most box stores just don’t last long and they tend to slide off the bag.

    And then we discovered binder clips- regular office grade binder clips.  A box of 12 large binder clips cost around $3.50.  Compare that to a decorative selection of “chip” clips priced around $7 for just 10 clips.  Binder clips are definitely the frugal choice.  And binder clips stay put in place!IMG_3162

    Tip1:  Your unused binder clips can be stored right on the shelf where your chips are housed.  Just clip over the shelf and fold back the arms.  So not only do they work well, but they are always on hand!

    They even come in fancy colors (though that typically raises the price) and an assortment of sizes.

    Tip2: The smaller sized clips are perfect for bags of frozen vegetables stocked in the freezer!

    What are your food storage life hacks?

  10. Home Sweet Home

    June 14, 2015 by admin

    modrnbunglow_22190_mdWe own a home!

    It’s true.  This TR family has completed our home purchase and will soon be completely moved into a house of our very own.

    At first glance you may not consider this to be the most frugal decision.  Buying a home is a huge expense, but home ownership is actually a significant part of our journey towards controlling our expenses.

    It is easy to miss the mark on this goal and end up overextending your budget.  But if you are careful and do your research, you can indeed save money every month by buying a house.  There are many online calculators that will help you begin to determine how much house you can afford.  Be careful!  The principal and interest mortgage payment is just the start of the true monthly cost.  You should also factor in taxes and insurance (Get online estimates or help from a mortgage professional to estimate these costs in your area).  Now you will have a better idea of your base per month cost of owning a home.

    Of course, utilities and repairs also factor into the bottom line.  In most areas, you can get a history of a properties average heating and electric costs from the power utility.  You can also get estimates for costs of water, sewer or sanitation costs from your local municipal offices.  Make sure you are using all of these figures to calculate a realistic budget for yourself.

    Now that you’ve identified what you can afford, begin to seek out any assistance your city or state might offer.  We are lucky to live in an area that has many resources for home owner assistance in the form of grants or forgivable loans.  These resources are available at local state and federal levels, depending on your income, family-size, veteran status, etc.  You may also have opportunities to work with Community Development organizations that will allow you to purchase on land contract or at well below market values.  Do your research!

    Work closely with a trusted mortgage originator to talk you through the pros and cons of different mortgage loans: FHA vs Veterans vs Standard, etc.  You may or may not qualify for numerous types of mortgages that could have different impacts of what you can afford, or are allowed, to purchase.

    We are very fortunate to be saving over $300 dollars every month by purchasing our own home and we couldn’t be more excited to dive into the numerous (and never ending) home repairs/remodels/maintenance.

    Tip: Put a portion of your savings into a “home” account for future expenses so that you aren’t hit hard by an unexpected repair.

    If you think home ownership is out of your reach, we encourage you to take a second look..