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Hi, My name is Vicki, thanks for stopping by! I'm a work at home wife and mom of 2. I blog about my endeavors in business, homeschooling, cooking, couponing, getting out of debt, and life in general. It may not always be pretty but hopefully it will always be exciting!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What's new!

I finally tried the Deep dish pizza that I have had on the menu plan and let me tell ya, AWESOME! We had it on Friday night for family night. I'll be truthful, I had procrastinated making it because you have to make the dough and then let it rise. The recipe says to keep it in the fridge for 12-24 hours. I did not have 12-24 hours, because, as I have already admitted, I'm a procrastinator. I had 6 hours. I figured it was now or never and 6 hours was better than nothing so I forged ahead. I made the dough in my mixer using the dough hook attachment. It was super easy. Then I plopped the dough into a greased glass bowl, covered it with plastic wrap, and set it on the counter to rise while I went grocery shopping. Since I was only going to give it 6 hours, I thought that it may speed things up a bit to stay out of the fridge. It worked! As the recipe suggested, I used spring form pans to bake the pizza in. We did simple pepperoni and cheese. It only had to bake for 25 minutes and it turned out beautifully. My husband loved it so much he requested that we have it again the next day. Definitely a keeper!

My next new recipe to try was Chocolate Cobbler. It's chocolate, it's warm, it's fudgy, it's amazing! I served it with vanilla ice cream and real whipped cream. It is VERY rich but oh so good! I made an additional one to take to church with me on Sunday and it was well received there too!

Last, but certainly not least, I tried out Funky Chicken with Sesame Noodles. I was a little nervous about this one due to the large amount of sesame oil in it. I feel like sesame oil is quite potent and a little goes a long way. I went with 1/4 a cup in the noodles per the reviewers suggestions and felt it was exactly right. I used boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of breast (we prefer dark meat, and it's cheaper) and I used brown sugar in the noodle sauce rather than white. Our family loved it, even my super picky son gobbled it up. I will surely be making this one again!

On the horizon is Eggplant Parmesan and Blueberry Buckle. I find that trying new recipes keeps things more exciting in the kitchen. I look forward to making dinner when it's not the same ole' thing.

 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Work from the couch Wednesday: Work at home tips.

Last week we talked about the difference between an employee and an independent contractor. This week, we're going to forge ahead with a practical but very important tip.

Before you start applying or advertising your services, get a tax ID. AKA an Employer Identification Number or EIN. It's very easy, it costs you nothing, and, unlike most things with the IRS, it can be done in a matter of seconds. You can get one at the IRS website (I've posted the link below)

Why should I bother with an EIN, you ask??  There's a few reasons:

 1. Protection

If you have googled "work from home", you know that there are scams running rampent. I've been doing this for 5 years now, I'm pretty adept at spotting a scam but the scammers are getting better and better at marketing their crap to look like a legit job. You will have to give a legitamit company some sort of government ID number (social security or EIN)  for tax purposes and I recoil at the thought of floating my social security number to an internet contact. The EIN is the answer. It identifies you as a business entity which is exactly what you are. As an independent contractor your business is YOU. Your product is the services you offer and your EIN will be satisfactory to any reputable company that would like to do business with you.

2. Taxes

Uncle Sam always gets paid and that is true for the self-employed as well! As an independent contractor, you can either pay your taxes on a quarterly estimate or you can pay them at the end of the year. We do the latter.
When you file your taxes, you simply submit your EIN and what you earned under it as part of your regular return. You can find info on the quarterly option here.

3. Professionalism

Having and EIN sets you apart as a business entity. It gives you credibility as well as protection. I think this is particularly important if your freelancing.

Next week I'll post another tip for successful work at home ventures, in the mean time, head over to IRS's EIN online application and get your tax ID!  It's free, it's smart, and it only takes about 60 seconds!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Green Smoothie experiment

Last week I posted a link to a recipe for Green Smoothies with a promise to try them out.

Mommyluvs2save's Green Smoothies

I tried them out.


I can not for the life of me find my blender base so I had to make the smoothie in a food processor. I made the concoction as written in the recipe but my smoothies came out with tiny pieces of spinach and kale which made for an, uhm, interesting, texture. I'm not sure if I would have had better results with my blender, but I digress. As predicted, my son took one look at the green glass and, with a look of horror, ran out of the kitchen. Even renaming them "The Green Hulk Smoothie" held no power of persuasion over him. No surprise there. My daughter wasn't really game to try it either and I didn't push it. Me and my husband had the pleasure of drinking them by ourselves. They really weren't bad. Aside from the aforementioned texture issue, they were pretty good! I was expecting a leafy vegetable flavor but all I could taste was the fruit. My husband commented that they simply tasted like strawberry and banana smoothies.  I stored the remainder of the mixture into the fridge and have been drinking a small glass for breakfast each morning. Overall, this recipe's a keeper! 

I still have not tried the Deep Dish Pizza  but only because the dough needs to rest for 12-24 hours. It's on my meal plan for this week. I'll post the good, bad, and/or ugly results later!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Work from the couch Wednesday: Work from home tips.

I've decided to take 'Work from the couch Wednesday' and turn it into a series of work at home tips! Every week I'll post another tip for successfully earning money from the comfort of your own home! Sounds fun, right?! Lets get started!

First of all, most work from home jobs are not employment opportunities, they are contract opportunities. 

Here's the difference:

1. You're not an employee, you are an independent contractor.

This means you will fill out a W-9 instead of a W-2 and that you wont have traditional benefits (paid vacation, health insurance etc.) It also means that you will not be paying into unemployment, so it's sink or swim!

2. You are responsible for taking out your own taxes.

At a brick and mortor job, your taxes, social security, unemployment etc. are all taken out of your gross income. An idependent contractor gets 100% of the pay check. Sounds good, right? Not so fast! The company doesn't take it out, but that doesn't mean you don't have to pay it. More on this later.

3. There is less job security.

You're a contractor and most of the contracts have a clause that states either you, or the company, can cancel the contract at any time, for any reason. Some contracts will have a term (usually 6-12 months) but even those will most likely have the a fore mentioned clause. For this reason, it is wise not to put all of your 'work at home eggs' into one basket. Now, if you are strictly a freelancer or have a very specialized skill, you can probably forgo this tidbit of advice. In my experience, it's a bit easier for a company to terminate a work at home contractor than a traditional employee. There is no real personal connection, it's all email, IM and phone calls. It's much easier to send an email to someone that you have never met saying "We're sorry to inform you that your contract has been terminated" than it is to look across the desk at someone and say "You're fired". Because of the lack luster job security, it's wise to have a 6 month emergency fund in place. We've split our emergency fund goal into 6 months for my income and 3 months for my husband's income. For example, If you make $30k a year from home, and your spouse makes $50k at a brick and mortar job, your fully funded emergency fund would be roughly $27k. However you want to set yours up is completely up to you. It's just very wise to have one. 

4. Freedom

You are self-employed, you are in control of your schedule, where you work, what equipment you use etc. No day care costs, no commute, no extra expense for clothing or gas. Work in your PJs and fuzzy slippers, work from a laptop, desktop, tablet or even a smart phone in some fields. Best of all, you can have your own Work from the couch Wednesday! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When life is overwhelming.

Today was a crazy day. The kid's were fighting in full mid-summer fashion, my work calls were not going as I wanted them to, my husband is working overtime (good for money, not so much for my sanity) and I'm behind on housework (is there really a time when it's all caught up?).

What do you do when life gets overwhelming? I often lament that I can't keep all the balls up in the air at the same time. I feel like something is always being neglected. Sometimes I feel guilty that I'm spending hours at a time at my desk working while my children entertain themselves with DVDs and activities up stairs. Sometimes (ok, most of the time) I feel like I'm shortchanging my husband because the house is not pristine and I'm not serving up gourmet meals when he gets home from work. To top it off,  I'm not as beautiful as miss so and so, wouldn't he be happier if I were?

It's times like these that I have to sit back and take inventory. God made me who I am. Am I practically perfect in every way? To God I am! Even as I type that, it amazes me! I'm not saying that I never make mistakes or that I never sin. Quite the opposite, but when I start to compare myself to miss so and so I'm really insulting my Creator. Could I be better organized? You betcha! Could I work harder at keeping the house in tip top shape? Absolutely! But rather than focus on my inadequacies, I try to focus on my strengths. (I think I can hear my husband laughing right now. I really do struggle with this, a lot!)

I spend hours working at my desk so my children will have food to eat and shelter over their heads. My house  may not be pristine, but that is because it's a home, not a show piece. I could spend hours making gourmet meals but then I wouldn't have the time to cuddle up with my husband on the couch. I may not be as beautiful as so and so, but my husband loves me for who I am and he chose to marry me, not miss so and so.

Staying focused on what's really important is key for me. 100 years from now no one is going to care what I made for dinner or that there are 3 bowls and 2 spoons still in the sink from breakfast this morning. What they will know is that our family loved the Lord and our children were raised in a Christian home with parents that love them more than anything. Mom may not have been the best at everything but she was exactly what they needed!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Christmas is coming!

......in 5 months and 14 days. Our goal this year is to cash flow Christmas and NOT lose momentum in our debt snowball. There are several things that I am counting on to help us do this.

1. Absorbing the cost in my grocery budget.

I already have a few gifts stowed away in the house. I try and browse the toy aisles when I'm doing my grocery shopping especially if I have a coupon for something that I know one of my kids will like. I don't do this every week but, if I know its going to be a really low grocery week and there will be some money left, I keep an eye out for a Christmas deal.

2. Swagbucks

I am fairly new to the Swagbucks scene but I'm working my way up so that I can get Amazon gift cards to help pay for Christmas. Online shopping is always a big part of my Christmas shopping and Amazon is a great place to get deals!

3. Surveys

Surveys aren't a huge money maker, but every bit helps, right? Pinecone, Mindfield, Survey Savy, Valued Opinions are all good sites to use. Some pay in cash through paypal others with gift cards, either way, it helps!

4. Mystery Shops

I've been mystery shopping for quite a while now, again its not gonna make ya rich, but it helps. Even if its simply a free meal, that's money that I didn't have to spend. Some of the retail shops let you keep your purchase so I keep Christmas in mind while making my selection. I've gotten some really good Disney things for a certain princess in our house....and that's all I'm saying :)

I'll post more on Mystery shopping later but in the mean time, if you're interested in starting you can visit www.volition.com and go to the 'get paid to shop' section. There are a ton of legit companies that you can sign up with!

What are you doing to prepare for a debt free Christmas?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Trying something new.

I love to look for new recipes. I'm a good cook, but I'm no trail blazer, I gotta have a recipe. Now when it comes to tweaking the recipe, I gotcha covered but initially I like to be safe. Soooooo I thought I would post some recipes that I plan to try. I'll let ya know how they turn out!


Mommyluvs2save's Green Smoothies

Crazy, I know, but she has me intrigued! I find that I desperately need more energy during the day and, let's just face it, ANYTHING that will help with losing weight is a major plus! I happen to have the pickiest eater in the world living under my roof (No, really,  he could easily bring some of the most accomplished chefs in the nation to their knees) so I will be absolutely shocked if he will take a drink, but we shall see.

Deep Dish Pizza

 I found this one while I was surfing around the net last week. It looks fairly easy, we're not super huge fans of Chicago style pizza but it's good every once and a while. (Ironic since we live 30 minutes from Chicago)

Cinnamon Flop Brunch Cake

I made this one last Saturday and let me tell ya, Yum-O! I used sliced almonds for the topping since that was all I had on hand. Otherwise, I made it as written. I'll be making another one tomorrow to take with me to the nursery on Sunday.