You CAN Afford to Insure Your Family

While I was pregnant with Ava, Tony and I began researching our insurance options for our family. I had really good insurance through my company that the company paid for as a part of my benefits package. This was really nice while I was pregnant because I didn’t pay for any office visits. I essentially paid my deductible for her birth, which was very reasonable.

Tony had an individual policy just for himself at the time that he had before we met. Since my insurance at work was so good, we looked into adding Tony and the new baby to the insurance. I was totally shocked when they told me it would be $800 a month to add them! That was never going to happen. I had an initial freak out moment because I thought we could never afford insurance for all three of us.  As usual, Tony calmed me down and we began to shop around for individual policies for the whole family.

At my company, if you opt out of the health insurance, they pay you a small amount each paycheck. I knew that this could help pay for whatever policy we ended up going with. It wouldn’t pay for all of it, but anything helps, right? I did some initial research on the internet.  I learned really fast NOT to enter your phone number into any of the health insurance websites because they will all call you 1000 times a day trying to sell you insurance. I wanted to buy insurance, but on my time, not theirs. I found a website that lets you compare different companies and the plans they offer without entering any of your personal information, ehealthinsurance.com. I was able to get rates by entering basic information like our age and whether we smoked or not (which we don’t!). I knew that we wanted a reasonable co-pay for office visits for both our primary doctor and specialists and free preventative care, which we found!

We were able to find a policy that was affordable and has good coverage. The only thing that this plan doesn’t have is maternity coverage. This isn’t a huge deal since we aren’t planning on having another baby anytime soon. When we are ready, the option to add the coverage is there.  We applied for a policy through United Healthcare.  All of our current doctors take United, including Ava’s pediatrician, which was super important to us. 

After applying, we waited a week before we heard anything back from them.  We got an email stating that our rate was going to be higher than what was quoted since Ava is under a year old and the fact that Tony has had two surgeries within the past 2 years (knee and shoulder).  Again, I went into freak out mode.  The first thought in my mind is that the price will double, triple, or worse.  Again, Tony calmed me down and gave them a call.  The increase was only $32 a month.  Crisis averted!  They sent us an approval letter and our cards came in the mail a few days later.

After months of worrying about this, the process was relatively simple.  Ehealthinsurance.com did not pay me for this, I am just a happy customer.  Have you ever had to buy individual health insurance?  How did you go about doing it?

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Pork Tamales

My husband and brother smoked a pork shoulder earlier this week and the remainder of it has been in my fridge.  Unsure what to do with it; I began thinking up recipes to put it in.  Last night I made Pork Fried Rice, which turned out fabulous.  I love tamales and have wanted to try my hand at making them, but I’ve always been a little nervous.  I’m not really sure why, how hard can they be?  So here goes: Amanda’s Pork Tamales.

Ingredients:
Corn Husks (or parchment paper)
2 cups Masa Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
2-2/3 cups Water
2/3 cup Shortening
4 cups Pulled Pork
1 medium Onion, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 tbsp Tomato Paste
2 tsp Cumin Powder
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Oregano

Directions:

1.  Soak the Corn Husks in a clean sink full of water.  You may need to weigh them down with something since they float.  This will take about an hour, but the longer the better.  (If you are using parchment paper, you can skip this step.)

2.  Mix the Masa Flour, Baking Powder, and Salt.  Slowly add two cups of Water and mix until the dough is very sticky.

3.  Add the Shortening and mix thoroughly.  This is your dough.

 4.  In a separate bowl, mix the Pulled Pork, Onion, 2/3 cup Water, Garlic, Tomato Paste, Cumin, Chili Powder, and Oregano.  Mix until combined.  This is your tamale filling.

 5.  To make the tamales, lay the Corn Husk (or Parchment Paper) on a flat surface.  Spoon approximately two tablespoons of masa dough on the corn husk.  Spread the dough out evenly leaving a 1/4 inch around the edge of the Corn Husk.  Spoon some of the Pulled Pork mixture on to the middle of each tamale.

 6.  Roll each tamale into a tight tube and fold over the smaller end. 

7.  Steam the tamales for 45 minutes.  Make sure that the tamales do not touch the water.  I placed a colander upside down in the bottom of my pot.

 8.  Unroll and EAT! (I made a little spicy sauce to go on top.)

 Yes, this recipe is a little time-consuming.  Trust me, you will be rewarded.  I am going to cook half and freeze the other half of the tamales.  This will make for a yummy dinner later on.

Vintage Inspired Nursery

Before I found out that Ava was a girl, I had already started planning a nursery for both a boy or a girl. Surprisingly enough, picking a theme for a boy was much easier than for a girl. I we were having a boy, his room was going to be a nautical theme. I searched for inspiration for a baby girl’s room, but all of the bedding I looked at was either too babyish or too expensive. There was no way I was paying $600 for crib bedding.

Finally, I remembered a rug that I loved that had the perfect colors for a baby girl’s room. Once we found out that she was a girl, we were all set to start planning her room. I based everything in her room from the colors in the rug. I knew I would never find bedding to match, so my mom volunteered to sew all of Ava’s bedding. I started searching for bedding and before I knew it, I found one that I loved. I wanted to bring my mom back to see it, so I waited to buy it. Big mistake! When we went back, they were sold out, and so were all the stores nearby. I finally found a Joann’s that had almost 10 yards, but it was all the way in Spring Hill. Luckily, they were able to ship it to me! My mom and I spent another few trips trying to find coordinating fabric that I felt was worthy of being paired with the main fabric. My mom worked her magic and we had bedding and a valance. Her furniture is Stanley Young America and we purchased it at White’s Furniture in Summerfield. I love it! It’s solid wood and the crib converts into a toddler bed and then to a full size bed. We should never need to buy Ava furniture again.

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The green chair is a vintage Broyhill.  It was exactly what I was looking for, and it was FREE!  That’s Moose, just chillin’ out!  Her dresser has a changing table on top that we can remove once we are finished with it.  Her wall color is Valspar Lake Country.

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I made the name blocks on the wall.  They are made from scraps left over from her shelf.  I painted them yellow and blue and has my step-mom print out the letters on her Cricut.  That’s the bedding my mom made.  Didn’t she do a super job!


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Tony and I built the shelf/curtain rod that is over the window.  My mom also made the valance and the little pillow on the chair.  The suitcase on the shelf was mine when I was a little girl!

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I made the artwork on the wall.  It’s made out of toilet paper rolls.  I got the idea from Growing Up Creative, which I found on Pinterest!  You can check out my Ava Grace board to see more Ava related inspiration.  It took quite a while to make it.  I started it on the dining room table and just worked a little every night as people brought me toilet paper rolls.  I think my only mistake was that I didn’t paint them before I glued them all together.  I ended up using 1 can of spray primer and 3 cans of yellow spray paint.  I really do love the final result!  And yes, I do know that it kind of looks like a map of the USA.  Totally unintentional.

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I hope you enjoyed the little mini-tour of Ava’s room.  If you want to know where we got something, just leave us a comment.  Are you decorating any rooms in your house?  Have you found any interesting projects on Pinterest that you actually tackled? We would love to hear from you!

Tough Guys Do Laundry Too: A Mans-Man Guide to Being a House Husband

I have noticed that more and more guys are becoming stay at home husbands/dads. A lot of this has to do with the economy and a lack of jobs. I have found myself in this situation after a failed business partnership and have figured out ways to make the best of it.

One of the biggest perks to staying home is the fact that we get to save money on child care and I get to see my daughter almost every day! I am a contractor by trade and every so often I get jobs that come in that I am able to do, but my main job is a dad and a husband. Every morning I start my day off by getting Amanda’s coffee made and her lunch set up for the day. If Ava is going to her aunt’s for the day (our babysitter), I get her bags packed and everything ready to go. I have found that this takes about 30 minutes off Amanda’s wake up time and we all know “Happy wife, happy life!”

On days that I have Ava, a lot of my time is spent keeping her occupied and fed but during nap time I get stuff done around the house like laundry, dishes, get dinner started, and other household chores that need to be done. I thought in the beginning that this was no way for a man to live and that I should be providing for my family in a better way. But, we have calculated that in order for it to be worth it, I would need a job bringing about $1600-$2000 a month and right now jobs like that are few and far between! SO, in the mean time I put in about 5-8 job applications a day and hope for the best.

How many of you out there are in the same situation?

DIY Headband Holder

As you may know, Ava and I are huge fans of headbands, big flowers and such to go on top of her little baby head. I originally had them wrapped around an old oatmeal container, but her collection has grown significantly. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. I had to do something.

I decided I would try to hang them in her closet. I dug around in the office/guest room/craft room to see what I could find. I had a bunch of ribbon left from baby shower gifts. I knew there was a reason I kept it! I just had to figure out how to affix it to the wall. Hot glue gun! Then I remembered that I had clothes pins left from Ava’s flower wall hanging project. Jackpot!

So this is how I did it. I attached a clothes pin to the end of the ribbon. Then, I put hot glue on the back of each clothes pin and placed them on the wall where I wanted them, making sure to pull the ribbon as tight as possible. Then, I added hot glue to additional clothespins and clipped them on the ribbon, again, gluing them to the wall. I added about 7 glued clothespins in addition to the original two for the long ribbon. Then I clipped the headbands on. Simple enough!

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I added a second, shorter ribbon just below because I ran out of space on the top. For the flower clips, I glued a clothes pin to the wall and hung a ribbon vertically. I like the idea of separating the flowers from the headbands so that I can mix and match.  And, now that they are nicely displayed in her closet, picking out a headband that matches her outfit is super simple!

This project took about 20 minutes total, including finding the supplies and hanging the headbands. The cost: $0. I already owned all if the supplies. Free is awesome! What kind of simple projects have you been working on?

Keep On Running

Just two short months after giving birth to our daughter Ava, I ran a 5-mile race in Clearwater, Florida with my mom and my best friend Brittany. I had decided to run the race while I was pregnant. Needless to say, after running a 5k in Ybor City at 5 weeks pregnant, I knew I wouldn’t be doing much training while pregnant. I think I went running twice after that before she was born.

Brittany, Judy, and Amanda (and Ava under the cover) before the race!

So once our baby girl was born, I knew I wanted to start running again fairly quickly. I started running again at about 4 weeks postpartum. Saturday night before the race, we spent the night in Clearwater. On January 23, 2012 at 7:05am, I started my first 5-mile race and my first post-baby run. It was invigorating! The scenery was beautiful. The race started at Coachman Park and we ran over the Clearwater bridge (ridiculous!) down to the pier and back.
By the time I passes the 3 mile sign, all I was thinking was that if it were a 5k, I would be finished. I’m not going to lie, I thought I was going to die!

But I kept going and eventually I crossed the finish line at 1:07:49. You can see the official race times here. I was shooting for an hour, but I was just a few minutes over. Tony and Ava were waiting for me at the finish line, along with Brittany and her boyfriend, Justin. My mom finished shortly after. It was tough, but I’m so glad I did it. Tony and I strive to be good role models for Ava.

Tony and I have a whole slew of races we are planning on running in the next several months. Check out our schedule below. Are you a runner? What races are coming up that you are running in?

Eggplant Parmesan

We thought we would fill you in on some of our favorite recipes. We will try to post a new one every week.  Saturday night I made Amanda eggplant parmesan for the first time! We went to the farmers market that morning and we were able to pick up some fresh eggplant, homemade tomato basil bread, goat cheese feta, and fresh Russian garlic. Amanda had never had eggplant parmesan, so I knew I had to make it for her.

Tony’s Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants
  • all-purpose flour
  • italian breadcrumbs
  • 4-5 eggs
  • 2 jars pasta sauce (or homemade)
  • 1 – 8oz bag shredded italian cheese blend
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

I started off by slicing the eggplant in about 1/2 inch slices. Then I had three bowls set up where I had flour, salt, and pepper in the first bowl,  beaten eggs in the second, and italian bread crumbs in the third. I dredged the eggplant slices in the flour, then egg, then in the breadcrumbs and then fried them in the olive oil over medium-high heat. 

I use olive oil as it seems to be a little healthier than vegetable oil. I fried them on both sides as the oven was heating to 400 degrees. I got a 9×13 baking dish and layered the bottom with a small amount of pasta sauce. You can use whatever kind you like or homemade.  I will post my homemade pasta sauce recipe soon, but for this I used Gia Russa jarred sauce because it happened to be BOGO at Publix this week.

After the small amount of sauce, I put the eggplant down followed by a nice thick layer of sauce and the cheese. I used a 2% Italian blend, but you can use any kind you would like. The italian blends seem to taste better and we use the low-fat 2% because we are trying to eat healthier. I repeated those steps for 2-3 layers almost making a “lasagna” type dish.

Then you bake if for approximately 30 minutes or until the cheese gets a little golden brown.  Take it out of the oven and it’s ready to serve!

Needless to say, Amanda was IN LOVE with it! I also made a spread for the tomato basil bread with the goat cheese feta and roasted garlic that turned out phenomenal as well! What have you been cooking lately?

It’s That Time of Year Again

Well, it’s that time of year again: tax time. This year’s tax return was much better than last year’s (where we just got by without owing). We got our direct deposit on Friday morning and already had a plan/budget in place. We really wanted to use our return wisely.

The first thing we did was stash a bunch on it in our savings account and some into Ava’s, which makes me very happy! The next thing in line was a new computer. Our current computer is one that I bought way back in my junior year of college. It’s on its last leg. The mouse button didn’t work very well and you would have to mash it like 3-4 times before it would decide to work. Annoying! Just recently, every time you would open it and wake it up, the screen would be gray and do this weird static flashing thing. So a new computer was in order.  Tony and I have been researching computers for the past few weeks. We decided that we could get a good computer that would suit our needs for around $400. Cheap, I know! So Friday morning, after he and Ava dropped me off at work, they went to Best Buy and bought the laptop we had been looking at. He walked out paying just under $450 after tax and buying antivirus software. The only thing that would have made the deal even sweeter would have been a coupon. Ha!

The other thing we paid for is Tony’s trip to Alaska! Tony will be heading out to Alaska in a little over a week to visit his best friend, John Mark! John Mark is in the Army and is stationed in Anchorage. You are probably wondering why Tony is going alone. We decided that Ava is just too little to battle Alaska’s harsh February weather. But, we have plans! We want to go up sometime in 2013 as a family, in the warmer months for sure!

So that’s what we did with most of our tax return this year. Are you doing anything exciting with yours? Are you even getting one? I would love to hear what exciting or not so exciting things you are doing with yours.

What An Eventful Day!

The Scacchi family had a very exciting Saturday today.  We headed out this morning to visit the farmers market on the square in Ocala.  We met up with my dad and step-mom there.  This was the first time we have been to this farmers market, but we have heard nothing but wonderful things about it.  Ava was in high spirits and even wore her sunglasses.  We walked around for a while and enjoyed the market.  We came home with a few neat things.Ava

We found a vendor selling homemade artisan breads.  We bought a large round tomato basil loaf.  If it tastes half as good as it smelled, it’s going to be amazing.  We also bought some homemade goat’s milk feta cheese made right in Oklawaha.  Tony tasted a bit of it while we were still at the market and oh man, was it good!  We had some homemade beef jerky after picking up two large eggplants and some red potatoes.  We found a lady selling headbands, of which I am a sucker for.  Ava needed them.  We bought two.Farmers Market

After the farmers market we headed out to Lake Sumter Landing in The Villages to meet up with our friend James for lunch at our favorite Japanese steakhouse.  I thoroughly enjoyed the spicy tuna roll, as it was the first one that I’ve eaten since Ava was born.  Yummmmyyyy!  Here is Ava rocking one of her new headbands at the Japanese steakhouse.Ava

After lunch we walked around to see if we could find Tony some winter clothing to take to Alaska.  Note: clothing suitable for Alaska is VERY hard to find in Florida.  Just saying.  We did find a very cute children’s store that we’ve never been in.  Ava and I scoped it out while daddy was in the restroom.  We didn’t buy anything.  We just dreamed of winning the lotto so we could come back and justify spending $45 on a dress for her.  Ava and I sat on a bench just outside to wait for Tony.  He came around the corner holding a bag.  Needless to say, he wasn’t in the bathroom.  He surprised me with this.Pandora

The letter “A” charm for my Pandora bracelet as an early Valentine’s Day present for mommy!  I have such a thoughtful hubby.  I love him!

Since we had no luck in The Villages finding outerwear, we decided to head up to Gander Mountain in Ocala.  So back to Ocala we went.  FINALLY, we found some outerwear worthy of Alaska.  We got him this nice Columbia jacket, a pair of Columbia snow boots, and some thick socks.

I know what you’re thinking.  Really?  Snow boots?  You live in FLORIDA!  I know, I know.  They were on sale and I figure that he will wear them so little that they should last him for say… the rest of his life.  So that $80 investment didn’t hurt so bad.  Plus, we are planning on going to Alaska as a family next April, so he will get to use them again then.

When we got back home, Tony started cooking a delicious dinner (more on that in a bit).  Just before we ate, our good friends Brett and Sarah and their son Graham stopped by to say hello.

I will have to say, this has been one of the most eventful Saturdays in the history of the Scacchi family.  I will be the first to admit that we can be fairly boring.  So what did you do this weekend?

Yes, We Only Have One Car

The Scacchi family is a one car family. You might be wondering why a family with a small child would want to only have one car. We did not become a one car family intentionally; it just sort of happened. It works for us.

I actually thought we would need to buy a second car right away when we got rid of Tony’s truck, but just having our Kia Forte has worked out great. I think it helps that I have a slightly flexible work schedule and that Tony is home most of the time during the day.

I think there is another major misconception about being a one car family. You don’t necessarily have to live in the city to get away with only one car. Tony and I live in a fairly rural town about an hour north of Orlando. Nothing is within walking distance, except a gas station and maybe the library. The closest grocery store is 3 miles away and most major shopping is 7-10 miles. I am lucky that my office is only about 8 miles away, but in the opposite direction of everything else.

I remember my mother telling me that when she and my dad first got married, they only had one car.  Why is it that having two, and sometimes three vehicles is now the norm?  I guess that some people might see it as a bit inconvenient to have only one car.  I don’t see it that way.  We just have to be a little bit more strategic than most with our planning.  I also feel like I get to spend more time with my family this way.  Every morning, if Tony needs the car during the day, he has to drive me to work.  This is an extra 10-15 minutes that I get to spend with him and Ava.

We also save a TON of money only having one car.  We only have one car payment (which I really want to pay off as-soon-as-possible!), one gas bill, one car to insure, and one car to do maintenance on.  For some families that could be like $500+ a month!  You might think that we spend more on gas for our one car than most people, but I really don’t think we do.  On average, we are only spending around $200 per month on gas, some months a little more and some a little less.  I think we will eventually get a second car, but at this point, it doesn’t seem that necessary.

Have you ever experienced being a one car family?  How did that work out?  What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about it?