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Do it Yourself A/C Repair

If I were to rate the most frustrating part of my life for this year (2012), it would be our Air conditioning unit in our home. I’ve had a crash course in do it yourself a/c repair since we owned the home from clogged drain lines to a defective door squat switch.

The latest thing I’ve been chasing is an electrical connection problem. Often, I would get up in the morning and Janna would tell me that the a/c doesn’t work. I found out after several trips to the attic that if I moved a certain wire bundle inside the A/C unit it would turn on.

At first the a/c would turn on and stay on for several weeks. Each time I did this though I found the cycle would get shorter; it would work for a week, then a few days, then only a few minutes. I found myself at a point where I needed to fix this permanently. I don’t really like to hire people to do things until I’ve exhausted my knowledge about it.

 

Luckily, after doing some snooping around I saw something that didn’t look right. Turns out it was a broken solder joint on the fan control circuit board. I had to buy a soldering iron to fix it. Soldering is definitely an art to some degree; it’s a lot like welding and requires a steady hand, which I don’t have. It seemed like the circuit board was a moving target; it took a little getting used to.

You can see the crack in the solder a little better in this picture than in the video.

It may not look the prettiest but it’ll work.

 

It took me a while to re-solder the terminal and make it look presentable to the viewing public. : ) In the end I ended up saving $65, not bad.

The next thing on my to do list is to straighten the fins on the a/c compressor, this should save us some money during the summer months because it will increase efficiency. Too bad I’m waiting to do this at the end of summer. : ( Have you ever fixed an a/c problem yourself? Please tell us about it in the comments section below.

-Jesse

 

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Great Books to Read

I am always looking for great books to read.

Growing up, I LOVED to read. I couldn’t get enough of Nancy Drew

and The Babysitters Club

just to name a few.

Then in high school, I hit a rut and lost my time and passion for reading. (What was I doing???) I read a handful of books here and there but didn’t really get back into the books until I became a stay-at-home-mom.

(livin’ it up!)

When we brought Roo home from the hospital, a dear friend brought over some treats and a stack of books for me to read. I thought she was crazy. “You expect me to read these books? Don’t you see I have a newborn?” She kindly explained that it might give me something do while nursing our new baby. She is so smart. Well Tracy, I have you to thank for getting me back in the world of literature. I didn’t realize how many GOOD books are out there that you can really get lost in.

One of the books she loaned me was Orson Scott Card’s Rachel and Leah. It is a part of a series called The Women of Genesis. This series really opened my eyes and imagination to how things may have played out for these women that we read about in the old testament. After reading Rachel and Leah, I have since read Sarah and Rebekah. Loved them all.

Another series that I can’t get enough of is The Walk by Richard Paul Evans. A Seattle man loses everything and decides to walk as far away from his home as physically possible, which is Key West, Florida, the most southern tip of the USA. So far, three books have been published in this series, and I predict there to be about six or seven when the series is completed. These books make me laugh and cry. It’s a good balance. I have read another book by this author which is not a part of any series, and it is called A Perfect Day.

Being from the south, I love novels that take place below the mason dixon line. Bonus points if it takes place around my hometown of Atlanta. Elizabeth Musser scored big with me when I read her novel, The Swan House. Loved it, as well as her second book, The Dwelling Place.

Susan Gregg Gilmore also has a great book that takes place in a small Georgia town, called Looking For Salvation at the Dairy Queen. Its about a motherless girl who resents her small town and looks forward to the day of her eighteenth birthday when she will move to the big city. I liked the book so much, that when I went back to the library I found another book by the same author, The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove, but I was disappointed. It got a bit too racey for me. (I don’t need “the deed” spelled out for me, I know how it goes.)

My all time favorite book has been The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I have always been intrigued by how history played out as blacks and whites were desegregated. And while The Help is a fiction novel, I can see a lot of truth to it and would believe that very similar events happened in the past. The book also has a lot of humor in it and had me laughing out loud several times.

Ever heard of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd? It became a movie that I did not see but I enjoyed the book. It was pretty sad in parts. A motherless girl has an abusive father and runs away from home. She is taken in by three eccentric sisters who are beekeepers. I also read her novel called The Mermaid Chair. It was quite different from her other novel, and not what I was expecting. A middle aged woman gets bored with her marriage of twenty something years and ends up having an affair. Yikes! Not my typical kind of book but I had to find out how it would end, so I stuck it out.

If you want a break from the fiction novels, I would recommend Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. True story. I love how this woman finds new ways to improve her life over the course of a year and focus on being happier. It was uplifting to read.

Another pick-me-up is How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill. Also a true story. It’s about a man who has “everything” and then loses it all and ends up working in retail, something he never could have imagined.

I am a little picky when it comes to choosing books to read. I cry easily and don’t want to sit through another depressing tear jerker like I did with The Glass Castle. I don’t mind shedding a few tears while reading, but I don’t want the overwhelming darkness taking over and consuming my thoughts day and night. So I have found a pretty good way to find books that I would enjoy, and you can do it too, whether you share my taste or not!

Simply go to amazon.com and type in the name of your favorite book. When it comes up, scroll to the bottom of the page to see the recommendations for you. Or you may see something like, “Customers who bought this item also bought…”

That’s what I do when I don’t already have a book in mind because it is a gamble to randomly pick up a book and hope that it’s good by your standards. If you have any recommendations that you think I may like, please leave a comment below! Thanks y’all!

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Time Lapse iPhone App

I’ve searched the app store for a good time-lapse iPhone app to use while putting up my pop up camper so I can show you guys how its done. I’ve tried several apps but they were all unsuccessful at capturing the entire process. Most of them would crash before it I was done.

This was discouraging until I found a cool app called Lapse It, it’s super easy to use and is an incredibly stable app. (I ended up paying for the Pro version because of the added features.)

Make sure to go to your settings and change the auto-lock feature to never so the phone doesn’t shut off during your time-lapse; also remember to change it back once your through. Here’s a few I did over the weekend…

Here I am making breakfast for the fam.

A few things about how I do Breakfast…

  • I love using the electric griddle for everything breakfast, you can control the temps easier, and cleanup is easy too.
  • I cook bacon and eggs at 350 degrees
  • I cook pancakes at 375 degrees
  • I learned from my father in law about putting butter on the pancakes after the first flip; it’s a great tasting idea
  • I love taking this camping (be sure to bring an extension cord though)
  • FYI Janna likes to eat her pancakes with peanut butter and syrup
Here’s me mowing the lawn…

 

I had a lot of fun shooting these time-lapse videos. Now I’m looking for other things to lapse; it’s kinda addictive. I think I’ll do the sunset once I find a place where it could be done (I’m surrounded by trees). I was able to edit them with iMovie (I love this app!)

I’d love to see some time-lapse videos of some of your daily activities or whatever sounds cool. Share your video link in the comments section below. Breakfast tips are welcomed as well. : )

Jesse

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Health Insurance Advice Learned the Hard Way

I have become very familiar with health insurance over the past few years. First, we had our little Roo in February of 2010. Second, while cleaning windows at someone’s home I fell about 12 feet from a ladder and broke an assortment of bones in both feet. Lastly and most recently we had our little Moo.

These experiences gave me a crash course in how my health plan works. You would think that since I had insurance during all of these events I would have gotten off easy and not had to pay a bundle; unfortunately insurance is not what it used to be.

When we had Roo we were on a HRA (Health Reimbursement account) the basics of that plan was my employer provided $1500 as a reimbursement for any health care expenses.

When we would go to the doctor the insurance paid out of the HRA whatever we owed the doctor. All the money spent out of the HRA was applied to each individual’s deductible which was $1000 per person.

The HRA would cover at least one full deductible and then half of another person’s. Once our deductible was met for Janna during the pregnancy, then it starts what the insurance companies call “Co-insurance”.

Our co-insurance is 80-20 up to $2500. This means that for every bill we got after the deductible was met we had to pay 20% of all the doctors’ bills until the total paid equaled $2500.

After all was said and done my employer paid for the $1000 deductible then also paid $500 of our coinsurance which left us with a bill for the rest ($2000).

We ran into a pretty big problem as this all played out; since Roo was born in Feb 2010 all the appointments leading up to the birth were on the 2009 plan year then add the birth to the 2010 plan year and we maxed out 2 plan years with one condition.

Some advice for those wanting to be parents; try your best to make the 9 month pregnancy all happen before December 31st, this seems simple enough but I didn’t think about it beforehand.

This will also help you come tax time you will be able to claim him/her on your taxes for that year.

Next, I broke my feet, I don’t have much to say about it other than nobody is invincible on a ladder. I fell from about 12 feet on concrete, I’m super lucky I did not fall on my back or even worse my head. Click here to see the gross picture if you dare.

*Just FYI, if you are a nurse or doctor and you happen to be giving a patient the same drug that killed Michael Jackson… don’t tell them that. I was able to recover from the whole experience and am able to walk fine today.

Add the broken feet numbers to the mix and our 2010 health expenses were staggering. The next time open enrollment came around I decided to really buckle down and understand what was happening. I received all the information from my employer about the different plans and looked it over.

Keep in mind Janna and I decided at this point we were going to have another child in 2011. Knowing that we would max out the policy all I had to do was find out the worst possible scenario for each plan and go with the cheapest.

As it turned out that the cheapest health insurance plan was an HSA (Health Savings Account). The deductible was quite a bit more than the HRA but there was no coinsurance after the deductible was met. I think the deductible was about $2300.

For 2012 we switched back to the HRA because we don’t plan on any major hospital stays (fingers crossed) and it worked out to be a little cheaper because of that.

A few tips I’ve learned along the way…

  1. Never pay a hospital bill the first time it shows up in the mail. It’s likely the insurance company just received it as well; wait until you know insurance has paid its share.
  2. Don’t pay big lump sums. It’s like an interest free loan, just pay something towards it every month and most of the time they won’t hassle you.
  3. Know the worst case scenario with your insurance plan; find out what the total cost would be if you had something catastrophic happen.
  4. Make sure you are visiting an in network doctor. Believe it or not before I checked myself into the hospital for my broken feet, I checked on my iPhone if the closest hospital was in my network… I know I’m crazy but a lot of times using an out of network provider can double the cost of care.
Funny story as a result of breaking both feet…
  • Because I broke both of my feet I was obviously unable to walk. This created problems that I cannot count, I was not able to get back into our apartment and as a result my inlaws took us in for my recovery period. Unfortunatly I was not able to navigate my wheelchair into their bathroom… have you ever seen those stand alone adult size potty chairs? Yep I had to use one. Let me tell you how not cool it is to have to do your business  in the living room on one of those things and then letting people know when it’s safe to enter the room again. Bless Janna’s heart she was so good to me.

What are some tips you have about health insurance? Please leave a comment below and share.

Jesse

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