Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thankful Thursday

I'm so thankful for the start of a new year that will bring more of the freedom I've been longing for.

I'm thankful for my health.

I'm thankful that God is in control and keeps his promises even when my anxiety is too much to bear.

I'm thankful for a husband who is a man above any other I know.

I'm thankful for a little girl who is sweet as pie, smart as a whip, and as sassy as me!

I'm thankful for the future that this year holds for my family, and to God for his ABUNDANT and overflowing blessings.

Happy New Year friends.

May you be blessed in 2010.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tips and HInts Tuesday - Don't wait until the new year.

What are your resolutions?

To eat healthier.

Lose weight?

Exercise more?

Organize?

Don't wait until Saturday. Start now.

I read something last week about reading through the entire Bible in three months. I really thought it was a huge goal but that I'd start on January 1. Instead, I started that day: December 22. 

I'm not almost done wading through Leviticus....book #3. I don't have a lot of faith that I WILL do it, but I really want to. I keep trudging and, right now, I'm a day ahead.

So don't wait Start today.

I'm going to try to take the tree down today too...Like I said...Lofty goal!




Monday, December 28, 2009

Money Monday - Car woes.

Well, the day before Christmas Eve, our junker 1999 Ford Escort with 115,000 miles bit the dust for good.

An interesting and eventful death of the car had to be necessary, right?

Matt broke down on a horrible road (think steep hill with a stick shift, sharp bend, no shoulder) as we were taking the car to a transmission guy a few miles away. Only when Matt called the repair place we had just picked it up from did the mechanic tell him it wasn't safe to drive. Thanks a bunch.

While Matt was waiting (less than 15 minutes) for the $60, cash-only tow truck (because people with cars that are a piece of crap always have $60 cash on them) a police car comes,  sirens blaring, to tell my fierce looking husband that if he doesn't move the car it will be impounded.

During the aforementioned 15 minute wait, the police officer made my husband call the tow company a SECOND time to make sure he was coming because I think he REALLY wanted to impound the piece of crap.

I'm running around like a madwoman, getting cash for Matt and trying to get his cell phone out of the car we were borrowing that had it's keys locked in it....Ah yes, a delightful day.

All that to be said, it's going to cost $1000 to fix the car and that's before the inspection due in January that I know it would fail. We decided to donate the car to a good cause.

Luckily, we have an inexpensive car available to us immediately and we will begin aggressively saving for a new one (instead of another Disney vacation) so we're poised and ready to purchase a newer car next time.

It's nice not to be worried about it!

The basement remodeling project is on hold until we can finish our fully funded Emergency Fund complete and money for a car secured...Hopefully around $15,000. What a lofty financial goal. Hopefully that will be complete by July?? Can it be done??? We'll see!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Spiritual Sunday - Why can't we just trust?

If you can master faith - you've won.

It is difficult, isn't it?

I'm beginning my journey of reading the Bible - cover to cover -  in 3 months. I was going to start in January - but why wait, right?

Today (which is really last Monday - I wonder where I actually AM today in my journey) I read the first 17 chapters of Genesis. It seems like a lot, but I can read the entire Twilight series in two weeks....which puts my Bible reading to literal shame.

I am ashamed.

So anyway, I'm back to enjoying the stories of The Beginning and have so many things to think about.

Take Abraham. God promised him...audibly promised him...that he would be the father of many, more numerous than the stars in the sky. He came to him in visions and signed a literal contract with fire.

So, did Abraham say, "Awesome God! Whenever you're ready!"?

Nope, he and Sarah didn't believe him. Sarah was having a difficult time getting pregnant. They were both impatient. So they took matters into their own hands. Have you ever done this? (I only do it most days.)

HELLO BUDDY?! Didn't God like, promise you??

Sarah insisted that Abraham sleep with her servant and she would have a son through her...poor Hagar. Sarah literally laughed in God's face, disbelieving his promise of a son to her.

Hagar ends up running away for a while in fear before returning to give birth to Ishmael...who is referred to as a "wild donkey." Ishmael's descendants are STILL causing problems in the world today.

God does keep his promise, exactly as he said he would (in his time of course) and gives Sarah a son from her own womb, Isaac. Isaac loved God and followed him passionately.

Ok, so I think you can figure out where you and I fit in, right? How are we supposed to have faith when Abraham and Sarah failed and they had God screaming in their faces?

I don't think that's the point.

The point is, God keeps his promises.

Along the way, you and I try to take things into our own hands because we get tired of waiting. Maybe we think we heard him wrong; and we cause all sorts of trouble for ourselves.

Stay on the path. God is always true to his Word. If you look back on your life, you can always see that He came through at the perfect time...and he will this time too.

I pray today that the peace of God's promises to you fills your life.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!


I wish I could bottle up her excitement. I don't want to think about how empty-nesters feel, because THIS is one of the BEST feelings EVER.

My sweet little baby with her favorite gift. The princess and the frog doll!

I wish I could post more from last night, but I LOST MY MEMORY CARD in the chaos. I was devastated. Luckily, it has been found, but it's still at my grandfather's house at the moment.

Happy Birthday Jesus. Thank you for the gift.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thankful Thursday - A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words...

Very random.

 

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Wellness Wednesday - Emergen-C for Kids



It's that time of the year. Everyone is spreading Christmas germs...er...Cheer.

I picked up a pack of Emergen-C for kids. It comes with 30 packs in one box for about $8 at Target.

I give a packet in Hannah mixed with water (it's like a fruity fizzy drink) when she is/or is going to be around sick people, or we have a special things going on, like Christmas or vacation.

It has all of the essential vitamins for children PLUS immune boosting antioxidants. So, when using this, you would NOT give your child their multi-vitamin.

It also has immune boosting:
Vitamin C
Beta Carotene
Vitamin E
Zinc and
Iron

Plus it has:
Calcium, Vitamin D and Phosphorus for healthy bones and teeth

and Choline which supports healthy brain function and digestion.

It seems to be really doing it's job! I recommend it!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tips and Hints Tuesday - Christmas Card Clutter

I never know what to do with all the Christmas Cards we get. I don't LOVE to tape them to a wall or door because it just seems like clutter to me...plus they fall down.

A couple years ago someone, as a gift gave us a little photo album in a sweet little cloth Santa Claus pouch with a little handle perfect for hanging on the front door knob.


I have a touch-it-once philosophy when it comes to mail so this is perfect. I open the cards when coming into the house and after enjoying looking at them - I stick them in this cute little pouch. Clutter free!

Then, I can use the fronts of the ones I like best in my scrapbook!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Money Monday - I found money!

I'm very excited!

I thought I had budgeted well for vacation. A chunk of money from November's budget was set aside, and a smaller chunk from December's budget.

Stay with me, this is confusing.

I use Quicken to budget monthly, and adjust a new budget at the beginning of each month.

We went on vacation and I thought I had $1700 set aside. $1000 from November's budget and $700 from December's.

Well, when we got home, my budget read that there was only $700 budgeted (I wasn't realizing that the $1000 from November was just sitting in the account.) We spent $1200 the week we were in Disney so I just adjusted the budget and pouted a little.

Later I couldn't figure out why there was so much more money in the checking than we had left to spend for the month...and then it clicked!

I'm very excited, because this will allow us to reach our year-end goal in our savings account by the end of the year. That doesn't mean our emergency fund is complete, but it's where we wanted to be by the end of the year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Spiritual Sunday

Here's today's devotion. It's pretty perfect for how I'm feeling.

I can't really describe how I've been feeling lately - a little bipolar.

Antisocial.

Cranky.

Thankful.

Motivated in my head.

Unmotivated in my body.

Lazy.

Over-extended.

Lot's of oxymoronic type feelings there!

I'm seriously considering trying to read the bible in 90 days. I was going to start at the new year, but maybe I'll just start now :)

God bless you this week as we remember the greatest birth in history!

Scrumptious Saturday - Meal Idea

Well, it's Sunday and I'm late posting this but well, hey...it's the Christmas season ok?? And, I'm feeling down and lazy. BOO!

Anyhow, here's what's for dinner tonight.

Sauteed shrimp with linguini, spinach and roasted asparagus in a light cream sauce.

Yum!

I hope it turns out well!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thankful Thursday - Serving Together

I'm so thankful to be able to serve with my family.

I have always wanted Hannah to feel comfortable volunteering in hospitals and nursing homes and this is the first year she's actually been able to participate with us.

Each year we take the student ministry to Presents for Patients. We bring residents without families gifts and spend time with them.

This year was AWESOME. Our kids did amazing. Not only did they spend time with their resident, but they made their way around the whole place spreading Christmas cheer!


Here's my little girl. This woman kept fixing Hannah's hair and Minnie Mouse ears. Hannah made her way around asking people's names and responded to their questions almost inaudibly. She didn't even show fear when one toothless woman told her she was going to take her away from me to come live with her. Ha!

What a sweet, beautiful, compassionate little girl I have. I hope she continues to blossom into the fantastic little lady she is now...even if she is a little feisty.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wellness Wednesday - Holiday Frazzle

What are people most stressed about during the holidays?

Lack of time - 69%
Lack of money 69%
Pressure to give gifts 51%

How do we respond?

Sadness 59%
Lack of sleep - 56%
Lack of energy 55%

So what are some way to avoid becoming a statistic?

1. Have an outlet (something you enjoy)
2. Control your "stressors"
3. Hang out with friends
4. Focus on positive
5. Try to find balance.

Above info received from this website.

I'm probably about 2/3 of the way finished Christmas shopping. I'm just no good at it. I feel like I get bad gifts and I'm way cheaper than everyone else. I hugely stress about it. I stress about money. I stress about  having something to do every second of every day. This is not what the holiday should be.

I spend a lot of time wrapping gifts tonight. I do have to say...I'm loving the way the tree looks with gifts under it, and I'm fairly confident about the gifts I've purchase thus far...I'm excited to give Matt his gift too. I like to buy him things :)


Also: Happy 51st Birthday to my Dad!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best Granola Ever & Simple and Delicious Teacher Gift

I made home made granola for Hannah's teachers for Christmas.

I figured it's healthier (somewhat) than cookies and it looks so cute in the little "chinese food" boxes I put them in.

I included the recipe, since it's completely adapted by me and I really do love it!

Here it is for you too!

Granola Cereal
6 cups gluten free quick oats
1 stick butter
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup golden raisins

(the above ingredients are COMPLETELY adaptable and take substitutes well!)

Melt butter with oil in large sauce pan over medium heat. Add honey and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves  and then stir in cinnamon. Turn off heat and stir in oats. Spread mixture evenly between two ungreased cookie sheets and press down. Bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes (you really have to adapt this to your oven) or until toasty brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans before breaking up into an airtight container or zip top baggie. Add in raisins and almonds and mix.

Enjoy dry or with milk!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Money Monday - Grocery Savings


Well, I came back from vacation to an empty fridge, freezer and pantry. No fun! It was more fun eating in the way that we capture in the pictures above!

I had to do a HUGE shop, so I stopped at Aldi and Shop n' Save.

Can I just be blunt and say that if you haven't tried out Aldi, you're crazy.

This is what I got there:


  • salmon - individually wrapped/bagged/frozen
  • frozen broccoli florets
  • hot pockets (They're a backup lunch for Matt if he's late)
  • jumbo cooked/frozen shrimp
  • fresh cauliflower
  • pancake syrup
  • 3lb. oats
  • 2 toothbrushes
  • Fresh bunch of asparagus
  • a bag of naval oranges
  • 12 mini whole wheat bagels
  • 4 anjou pears
  • swiss cheese
  • cheddar cheese
  • provolone cheese
  • Egg beaters
  • 2 cans of green beans
  • ground turkey
  • grape tomatoes
  • bananas
  • butter
  • seedless cucumbers
  • red/yellow peppers
  • bagged spinach
  • bagged salad
  • 4 small zucchinis
  • stick of pepperoni
  • golden raisins
  • dried fruit
  • 1lb chopped walnuts
  • a dozen eggs
  • chocolate chips
  • peanut butter chips
  • Deli ham


Grand total $61.10

Now come on...that's awesome...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Spiritual Sunday - Rejoice

1 Chronicles 16:31

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, "The Lord Reigns."

Wow, what a great week. It's so weird to be back from Disney World in the frigid temperatures of Pittsburgh, looking at the mistakes I made in the budget, emptying spoiled food from the fridge, paying bills, meal planning and wading through hundreds of emails.

Can I just say WAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!

I did NOT want to leave vacation! I wanted to stay another week.

But I will rejoice. I am so grateful and thankful to God for BLESSING us with the opportunity to get away on the vacation of a lifetime.  There are so many things I want to tell you all but it must wait until I can upload the fantastic pictures!

God is good. I felt his hand of protection upon my family all week. He filled us with his joy, rest, and peace, and for that I praise him.

To illustrate his protection; a story. I hate flying. I've avoided many trips with various excuses in order to keep my feet planted firmly on the ground. But, when we decided to take this trip, I decided I had to give up my fears. I've really been working on trusting God to protect my family and me and this was the perfect opportunity to see if I've progressed at all.

I did pretty well. Hannah, for some reason, was terrified, so having to pretend I was perfectly calm while reading her a book during takeoff was what I needed. I did pause for a deep breath or two. Our flights to Orlando were without incident...but returning to Pittsburgh was a different story.

We had a layover in Atlanta and the weather was a bit rough. Without any warning or consoling from the pilot the plane was violently jerking, swaying, and deeply dipping. At one point I shrieked out loud in fear. It made me even more nervous to see concern in Matt's eyes. A seasoned flyer, he said it was the worst flight he's ever been on. Once making it through the bumpiness, the landing was awful. The wings jerked quickly back and forth and I'm just going to say...I was freaking out.

The flight crew reminded me of Moe, Larry, and Curly, and the pilot never came on to let us know we were going to hit some rough turbulence or to even acknowledge the aggressive ride - something I think should be an obvious courtesy when thousands of feet in the air with a nervous flier such as myself.

Our flight from Atlanta to Pittsburgh wasn't as bumpy, but the pilot came on to keep us posted on the conditions to expect, which is much less nerve wracking to me!!

So, for this and many other things over this past week, I rejoice in my God, my Savior for his blessings.

Something funny - Random guy on airplane screaming himself awake throughout the flight. Matt and I were in tears with laughter while Hannah yelled loud enough for the guy to hear "WHAT'S SO FUNNY??"

Love to all! Rejoice today!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wellness Wednesday - Change One

The holidays are here and I'm sure most of us are THINKING about our waistline but now isn't really the time to start shrinking it, is it?

A while back I read about a concept in Reader's Digest called Change One. I've not studied it in depth but I believe I follow that principle in more than one area of my life

If you think about an area of your life that's out of control: your house cleaning, laundry, weight, eating habits, budget, family time, work, schedule etc. you can apply this principle.

MY HOUSE IS ALWAYS A MESS:
Change one thing about the way you housekeep. Make your bed every morning for a week before adding another habit OR make sure your sink is clean each night before bed, OR do one load of laundry a day. Do not add another habit until you're comfortable that you've mastered the first habit.

MY FINANCES ARE OUT OF CONTROL:
Do you have a hard time keeping track of debit purchases? Just start by having one place that you put your debit receipts, mine is ALWAYS my wallet. Receipts go right in there, OR maybe you need to balance your checkbook. If you do that stuff, maybe you need to create a simple budget. As with housekeeping DO NOT add another financial habit until you've mastered the first one you choose.

MY WEIGHT/DIET/EXERCISE ARE NONEXISTENT:
Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I try to do everything at once and then I quit on day two (or halfway through day one). So if you need to get your health in check, pick one: exercise for 10 minutes every day starting today, OR add a piece of fruit to each meal OR start a multivitamin. Give yourself time before adding anything else.

The whole CHANGE ONE principle is just that, you make small changes that eventually add up to big change. It's not so unnerving that you quit because you can't do it all. It's about setting reasonable goals for yourself and reaching them before you make another small change.

Don't blow your health this holiday season. We're talking about 5 days max - Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day. Make smart choices this month and CHANGE ONE!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tips and Hints Tuesday - Helping Kids Learn

My college education focused on Elementary Education. My favorite part of my higher learning was delving into the idea of "multiple intelligences." When I was studying, I believe they were working on an 8th intelligence: naturalist.

Basically this idea focuses on the idea that there are a variety of avenues for an individual to learn at his or her best. Most fall mainly into one intelligence, but may have qualities of another.

Here they are:

Linguistic (word smart)
Logical-mathematical (number/reasoning)
Spatial (visual/pictures)
Bodily-kinesthetic (movement/hands on)
Musical
Interpersonal (people oriented, social)
Intrapersonal (self oriented)
Naturalist (nature)

Using a variety of these when teaching kids (and adults for that matter) facilitates an amazing learning environment. It's interesting how excited I am when I think about these ideas, and how depressing it is to reflect on the idea that most teachers LECTURE LECTURE LECTURE. A VERY small number of students retain knowledge at their full potential through lecture.

Ok, sorry for the lesson, but I've been thinking of how I work with Hannah. We're not on a rigid schedule, I've just always "played" with her by encouraging educational games. When she was 11 months old we'd play with foam letters in the bath tub. Now, we're reading books.

If I tell Hannah, sit down and practice reading, she very quickly, without looking up, says NO and braces for an argument. If I ask Hannah if she wants to play school with her stuffed animals and Magna Doodle and she's the teacher, she's IN! In a few minutes, she's reading and writing words (and punishing Winnie the Pooh when he misbehaves).

1. We make up songs/rhymes/rhythms when learning thing like address and phone number (musical)
2. We go outside and collect rocks/leaves and do art with them (naturalistic)
3. We learn rhymes while jumping on the trampoline (bodily kinesthetic, linguistic)
4. Playing school and making Hannah the teacher (interpersonal, bodily kinesthetic)
5. She uses her tag system and educational leap pad, v smile and DS games (spatial and bodily kinesthetic)
6. We read books and do LOTS of flash cards and puzzles (spatial, bodily kinesthetic, linguistic)
7. We're working on tying shoes (bodily kinesthetic)
8. Hannah is not an intrapersonal learner. She does NOT like to do things alone, but that doesn't mean we don't encourage her to daily play by herself and complete tasks on her own.

If you're in a rut and trying to teach your child to grasp a new concept, try this approach. It's WAY more fun than the "do your homework" technique. I promise.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Money Monday - Ramblings

Did you go shopping on Black Friday?

We tend to shop on Black Friday EVENING after all the crazies (and awesome sales) are done for the day. I'm just not a huge fan of shopping. It's nice if I have money to spend and I like giving gifts, but I just never know what to get everyone. I'll walk around stores aimlessly analyzing everything I pick up...then I'll put it down, buy something else, and wish I would have bought the first thing. It's just too much stress for me.

I also feel like most of my family can buy what they want themselves in better quality than I can buy. Does that make sense??

Last rambling...greeting cards. I hate them. I like receiving them when they're from someone who can truly express themselves with one. There are some people who search for that perfect card when they can't find the words to say and I think that's awesome for sure... In fact, I have one from a friend on my fridge because I know it has meaning behind it...and it makes me laugh.

That said, I think they're a big fat waste of money. $4 for a CARD??? I usually make Hannah color a picture and write Happy Birthday on the bottom. Most of them get thrown in the garbage! Cards serve  purpose, but it annoys me that people feel and obligation to purchase cards that 9 times out of 10 will get tossed. If I have to buy a card for whatever reason - it's a 99 cent card and I'll write something sentimental in it if I'm so inclined. It's a waste of money and paper...so make one :)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Spiritual Sunday -Being Thankful 4

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

God's word is powerful and I don't think this verse needs much picking apart.

Today, whatever your circumstance, give thanks to God. It is the best response for his perfect design of you.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Scrumptious Saturday - Hamburger Soup

This soup seemed so simple, I didn't understand how the reviews said it was so amazing, but it delivered.

My changes:
I added some chopped orange and yellow bell peppers
I used ground turkey instead of beef
I used mini shells instead o elbows
I used worcestershire instead of soy sauce and
Omitted the celery leaves

It is very simple and delicious. Find it here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Family Friday - Day After


Oh, it's so nice to relax this morning. We had the most low key Thanksgiving ever and I'm glad to continue that through the weekend.

We wanted to have some fun with Hannah yesterday so I took one of the ideas from yesterday's blog. We made a Thanksgiving Tree! I drew a tree with marker and Hannah painted it. Then we drew leaves and wrote for what we are thankful on them. We cut the leaves out and glued them to the tree.  What a fun project!

We were going to go to my sister and brother-in-law's house for dinner but little Vinny got sick. Luckily, they have delivery services there and brought us over a delicious dinner! Thanks Mike and Shari!!

Then, before Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving began, we decided to build our gingerbread house.  Every year I wonder why we do it. What a mess!

Isn't this a cute picture of Matt and Hannah? He's holding he roof on the house with his middle finger so I had to crop out the bottom of the photo or someone would be offended!

Here's the annual family picture with the finished product. We have fun, my little family and I.

...and just for nostalgic reasons, here's last year's gingerbread house picture. Next year should have a fourth person in it :)

As for today, we'll probably do some shopping later. The basement is calling me! It needs cleaned. I have plans to put MORE down there to make room for Hannah's new toys!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful Thursday Part IV


HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

As you have dinner with your family today, get a group picture. They're always nice to have, even if there is one fuddy duddy in the bunch.

Below is a picture of Matt's cousin Dee, Hannah (her first Thanksgiving) and Grandma Dolly. We miss you grandma Dolly.

Here are some ways to be thankful for and enjoy your family today!
I got these ideas from this website.

1. Create a Thanksgiving Tree - Begin by drawing or using construction paper to create a bare tree. Now cut leaves from your construction paper, use yellows, oranges, greens and browns. As family members come in the door, give each of them one or more leaves and ask them to write on it what they are thankful for. Collect the leaves in a bag. At the end of the evening, a designated person(s) can read the leaves and then attach them to the tree with glue. Hang up your Thanksgiving Tree for all to see. Have the tree laminated or framed, and it can become a wonderful keepsake. It can also be used as part of the d├ęcor for next year’s Thanksgiving celebration.

2. Patriotism - Remembering that Thanksgiving originally celebrated the creation of a new government, Thanksgiving is a great time to express patriotism. Whether one agrees with war or not, one great tradition would be to come together to make “Thank You” cards for the troops serving overseas. To prepare, have lots of construction paper, rubber/craft stamps, glue, scissors, glitter, stencils and other artistic items on hand. Family members of all ages will enjoy this project.

3. Thoughts of Thanks - Put together a bag of thoughts or expressions. These might be something like - my family, my home, what I’m most thankful for, my favorite things, etc. Each family member pulls a thought or expression and expounds on that thought. For example, if someone pulls “my family”, they can then express what they are most thankful for about their family. This activity can make for a wonderful time of sentiment.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tips and Hints Tuesday - Pumpkin Seeds

Ok, my blogging friend Rachel Mitlo posted a blog a couple weeks ago that fits here perfectly in Tips and Hints Tuesday...and it had me in stitches. I was literally laughing out loud...

So head on over to A Heart In Progress for detailed instructions on how to ruin pumpkin seeds...twice!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Money Monday - Travel Shopping

As our vacation draws near I'm picking up things here and there that I'm hoping will save us money in the long run. I hope to pack some food items like Hannah's non perishable containers of almond milk.

We will have laundry facilities in our room. The hotel gives you enough detergent for one load but then you have to pay for more. I don't want to BUY laundry detergent down there because it's liquid and I don't want to have to carry it home.

So, for $5 I picked up a package of the Purex all-in-one detergent/softener/dryer sheets. There are 24 sheets in a package and you can throw a sheet into your washer and then transfer it to your dryer with your wet clothes. It's certainly more expensive than buying a large bottle of detergent, but it's convenient, efficient, and super easy and compact enough to throw into a suit case! And I believe it's a financially sound decision because I can easily bring the rest home to use...but for some reason I feel like those things CAN'T be good for your washer and dryer!

This will allow us to pack less because we can do laundry easily and for free while there.

I also borrowed some Cascade dishwasher capsules from my mom for the same reason...well, I didn't borrow them I guess...I TOOK them...or she GAVE them to me :)

Lastly for money Monday I have to say I'm SUPER GRATEFUL for a student and his family for scoring us 3 FREE Universal Tickets!! That rocks! It saved us $300! Thanks guys!

I have been feeling so overwhelmed and stressed lately, so thinking about vacation is moving me a long. If you think about it, please say a prayer for good health and safe travel for us, as well as good weather and a refreshing time away. We really need it!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Spiritual Sunday -Being Thankful 3

1 Corinthians 11: 23-24 The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."


Did you know that even Jesus gave thanks to the Father for his food? God himself gave thanks.

Don't forget to give thanks as you eat today for his blessings, but more importantly for his sacrifice.

If you're a church goer, you may take communion there. The Bible says to do this in remembrance of the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the cross so that you could spend eternity with him. But please don't think that that you only do this in church. Jesus didn't eat a wafer and sip a community glass of wine when he said this. He was having dinner with his loved ones.
This should bring some meaning to your meals. When you sit down to eat, reflect upon the blessings God has given you, the sacrifice he made for you, and thank him for them

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Scrumptious Saturday - Puppy Chow/Mudpuppies

So I bought the stuff to make Puppy Chow or Mudpuppies.

After making it with my family Matt asked me why I've never made it before...He quickly realized the answer to his question as we all started eating like hungry puppies!

But it's delicious and anyone with any taste can't get enough! This is a great little gift to bring to Holiday Gatherings. It's inexpensive, easy, and a crown pleaser!

Please remember those with peanut allergies when deciding to make this.

Ingredients:
9 cups of Chex cereal (I used rice)
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
4 tbsp butter (1/2 stick)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c powdered sugar

Measure out Chex in a large bowl and set aside

Combine chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave for 30 seconds more until smooth. Add in vanilla.

Pour mixture over Chex and stir until evenly coated.

Pour into a large zip top bag and add powdered sugar. Shake until evenly coated.

Spread out onto wax paper to cool before storing in an airtight container. (I didn't have wax paper so I skipped this step and it was fine).

Lastly, make yourself fat by eating the entire batch before sharing with friends.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Family Friday - Christmas Fun


Little Hannah Banana is sick :( BOO!

But I secretly admit I enjoy the random day to keep her home from school and spoil her with special "sick-day" things like pineapple juice, chicken noodle soup, and freeze pops.

When Hannah is sick, she becomes exceptionally hyper...I have no idea why...and forget the medicine, it only makes things worse!

I mentioned earlier this week that I'm totally into Christmas this year and I'm proud of it! Hannah is so excited to do everything and I love to live the excitement of childhood again through her. That said, we put the tree up last week. I've always despised putting the tree up because my old tree was much too large for our SMALL house and there was no where to put it. Lights were another issue because - I like a ton of them and really DON'T like putting them on and taking off the tree. Those are just two issues - putting on EACH INDIVIDUAL branch of the tree and trying to figure out a tree stand follow closely behind!

So, for $40 I bought a pre-lit pencil tree and it's perfect. I only had to move Hannah's little recliner and it fits next to my hutch. SO EASY. I put the three pieces together WITH Hannah in about 30 seconds, plugged it in, and called it a day. Seriously...couldn't be easier.

She loved decorating, having a little tree in her room (on which has all the ornaments she STOLE from the big tree), buying mini-bulbs for that tree, and dancing like crazy to Christmas music.

Now our tree is not themed...it has a hodgepodge of sentimental ornaments and that's the way I like it.

So this year I say BUH-HUMBUG to those who are complaining that it's too early to start Christmas. While usually that's me, this year I adamantly disagree. It's never too early - or too late - to celebrate the most fantastic birth in history!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thankful Thursday Part III

So we've been talking for the last couple weeks about how to express our gratitude! What a perfect month to do so!

Week 2: Write a gratitude letter.

Week 3: Fake it 'til you make it.

Ok, so maybe it doesn't sound RIGHT to fake happiness. But, if you've been reading my posts the last couple weeks and are still a Debbie Downer then I want you to fake thankfulness. Don't be insincere so-to-speak, but say thank you enough. Notice the world around you and what you appreciate about it. Did someone clean the bathroom of the place you work? Do you have clean water to drink? Acknowledge that there are things in your life that you blessed with and live like you're thankful for them!

Doing this will focus your attention on what you DO have instead of what you DON'T have! Writing these posts FORCES me to do that weekly and it's amazing how I am reminded how thankful I truly am!

So, fake it 'til you "thank" it :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wellness Wednesday - Have a little fun

We just don't have enough fun! There's always too much to do, and I've been struggling with that myself lately. I feel guilty as a parent for not spending enough time with my daughter and my husband. I'm not laughing enough and I'm not who I want to be. So, today I'm posting two fun videos.

The first video is of Hannah astonishing me reading a book she's never seen before. I knew she was picking up on things, but it's just so weird to hear her READ.

video

The second is our youth staff video we just completed for Nexus. It's good for a laugh if you've already seen Taylor Swift's You Belong With Me. You should click the link and watch it right on YouTube thought because for some reason my blog is cutting off the right side of the video.





So, stay healthy emotionally today. Do something fun with your kids or something to boost your own spirits

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tips and Hints Tuesday - Get the car together!

Oh my...my car is a MESS! I'm hoping to have it cleaned out AGAIN by the time this is published. I don't know WHY I can't keep it cleaned.

A lot of it is because Hannah insists on bringing toys in the car. She comes with me to work most days, so we have bags of toys, lunch bags, book bags, work bags, coupons, wrappers, coats, shoes, and GARBAGE. I'm awful at keeping the car clean! I just can't carry everything in with me when I'm coming in the house and I'm too exhausted to make two trips.

Because I need to have my car inspected, I need to clean the inside out...because if I do, the dealership will wash and vacuum my car.

So, my tip to you today is to get your car cleaned out! Tests have been done to show that dashboards are NASTY breeding grounds for bacteria...and moms with small children have the germiest cars!

Keep a shopping bag in your car for garbage and a container of wipes to clean up messes. This will help keep junk to a minimum. We all know it's impossible to keep the car clean all the time, but small things like a bag for toys can help just a bit!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Money Monday

Ok, I'm SO into Christmas this year.

I don't know if it's the nice weather, the vacation I'm looking forward to, or being debt free.

I just want to buy gifts!!

I like to stay somewhat inexpensive, but still give cool gifts. I feel like I can never do both though.

I think I might make some homemade granola for Hannah's teachers and put it in pretty tins. What do you think about that? I LOVE homemade granola!

If you have kids in school and feel like you want to do something but not break the bank, stay simple and practical.

Most teachers prefer gift cards according to a poll in Parent's Magazine.

So, here are some ideas for you that DO NOT involve candles or lotion!

A small gift card to Starbucks/Bookstore/Coffee Shop/Holcombs etc (it could even be $5 or $10 with a nice note attached)

A little movie basket with a couple movie tickets/popcorn/candy

You could go in with other moms and pitch in for a larger gift card to a restaurant or a massage.

Make baked goods! Even opt for something along the healthier side - like granola or bran muffins.

Make a little recipe book of your favorite appetizer, entree, dessert, finger food, dip...etc.

Any other ideas?

Stay practical when you go inexpensive. People appreciate something they can USE over something that  looks like it came from the dollar bin.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Spiritual Sunday -Being Thankful 2

Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

After reading this short blog today, I'd like you to close your eyes. After taking a deep breath or two, I want you to think about the burdens on your heart. We all have them...family, illness, finances, life decisions, loneliness, depression, etc. Then I want you to recite this verse slowly.

THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH AND MY SHIELD...visualize his protection surrounding you. Let your heart trust in him as the verse so beautifully reads. I AM HELPED.

Be comforted today. Be thankful that the Lord protects and cares for you. You are not alone and help is as close as your next breath.

Give thanks to him today in song. Get one of those old worship songs stuck in your head and praise him for his love for you, for his promises, and for loving us when we daily fail him.

Be thankful.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Family Friday - Progress on the Attic

Well, I've been talking about the attic and Matt's making progress. While I've never heard him yell so much as he has on this project, he's doing a FANTASTIC job! I can't wait to use it for storage.

These pictures show him installing the insulation. He got almost all of it done that day. He has one small part to do and then he'll begin getting the wood up there for the floor. We're noticing a draft coming from where the door is, so we're going to probably have to get a $100 cover to put up there to block it out.

Here's the attic door that Lee and Matt put in. No more crawl space in the closet. The original insulation was white, disgusting and falling apart (almost nonexistent) as it is as old as the house, which was built in 1947.

Look at the pink fluffiness of the new stuff. If it didn't destroy the human body, I'd love to make an insulation snow angel! Ok, that's weird, but it still looks awesome! More pictures when it's done :)


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thankful Thursday Part II

Last week I mentioned that Thankful Thursdays in November would consist of exercises you can do acknowledge things in your life you're thankful for.

Did you make your list last week? I asked that you simply jot down a quick list of the things in your life for which you are thankful.

This week I'm going to ask you to write a "gratitude letter." Handwrite it if you can and snail mail it...but if that's not possible send an email.

A "gratitude letter" is kind of like a belated thank you note to someone in your life. You know those people who are just always there? Send a note thanking them for holding a special place in your life and in your heart. Tell that person how he or she has blessed you and made your life better.

What if the person you want to thank is no longer here? Write the letter anyway.

What a perfect time of year to do this, right? Never miss an opportunity to build up someone else! If you choose to do this, please let me know how it goes and who you're thanking! I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wellness Wednesday - Bedroom Sanctuary


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention, 50-70 million American adults suffer from sleep and wakefulness disorders. Only 1/3 of Americans say they're getting enough sleep.

While many different factors can contribute to a lack of sleep, I want to focus on one. Stress. Our days are filled to the brim with stuff to do. It's so difficult to find down time.

There's an idea I want to suggest to you today and that's to make your bedroom a sanctuary. So many of us have televisions and computers in our bedrooms, clothes on the floor, stuff all over the place and an unmade bed. Who can get comfortable in a space like that?? When your space is cluttered your mind is cluttered, and when your mind is cluttered, it's a lot harder to relax and go to sleep.

While one of my LEAST favorite rooms to have messy is the kitchen, the bedroom is the room I clean first. Why? Because it's so much easier to relax when I'm not tripping over things. It's so much nicer to cozy up in fresh sheets on a made bed. I didn't always feel this way! My husband is really the one who loves a made bed...I've learned to comply over the last 7 years! Maybe that sounds silly to you, but I promise you'll sleep better in a clean room!

So, just to prove to you I'm not nuts, I just took a random picture of our room. I didn't just run around and quickly clean it to prove my point to you. I DID straighten the blanket because Hannah was jumping around on our bed and messed them up (but I do that anyway). While our room is small and needs a few finishing decorating touches in the fashion sense, it's clean and uncluttered. It's not ALWAYS perfect, but I really try to keep it this way.

Get a good night sleep tonight! It's good for your health and wellness. Put some fresh sheets on your bed and GO CLEAN YOUR ROOM!

Happy Birthday to my "little" brother Ricky! He's 26 today!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tips and Hints Tuesday - Hot Spots

What's a hot spot?

We all have them. It's those little piles, those hidden spaces where you shove things you don't feel like putting away, those junk drawers, the kitchen table where the junk mail goes, your night stand, the top of the fridge...you following?

A hot spot is a place where little piles of clutter accumulate. The space may have a purpose but it ends up being filled with various items that usually can be tossed.

Last night I cleaned out a recipe box where we keep our gift cards. Here's what was in it.
The gift cards of course
Two glass candle holders with half melted votives
1 million receipts
Barrettes
Random keys
Gum

(Please tell me you have spaces like this!)

I also cleaned off the top of the fridge:
3 random empty containers
Leftover candy
Glass sugar/flour canisters
Light bulbs
Hannah's chore list
A childhood book of mine

(I can't believe I'm listing this stuff, it's embarrassing)

I also threw away a shopping bag full of stuff from my linen closet, but there really wasn't anything interesting in there except for a ton of expired medications and eye drops!

I like to think of myself as anti-clutter. My house gets messy, but I really try to keep on top of filing papers, recycling junk mail, and getting rid of stuff I don't need. I am NOT a pack rat! But, we all have spots where we throw thing in a pinch. We all have places that just become out of control.

Today's tip is to get up and just clear off one spot...it might be your cosmetic bag or your computer bag...just do one little spot. You'll feel good and you'll be amazed at the space you give yourself.

I gotta tell you. People spend a lot of time whining about a lack of space when they've filled every inch of there life with clutter and junk. Start looking at what you really need to hold onto before you complain about not having more junk drawer space!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Money Monday - More Spending

I went shopping.

Matt and I need clothes desperately. Every single pair of my jeans has a hole in them (and I didn't buy them that way). Matt's still wearing short sleeved shirts and has two pairs of jeans, both of which are AT LEAST a size too big for him.

So, I bought clothes. I did NOT buy them on the sale rack either. I bought what we needed, not what was $2.

So, Matt and I are each the proud owners of a new pair of jeans and two new shirts...and although it bugs me, I'm okay with that.

I'VE NEVER gone clothes shopping.

Anyhow, after Hannah spent part of the two hours in the dressing room with me yelling embarrassing things, AND hearing the snickers in the dressing rooms next to me, 3 different people tried to get me to sign up for a credit card...and you know what...I WAS SO TEMPTED. I could have saved $35 on my purchase had I opened a charge card. I almost did it. I've never really paid interest on a credit card and I've always closed them down before I get a statement, but I couldn't do it. It just SO goes against everything I talk about and stand for, but BOY was it tempting.

"If you play with snakes, you're gonna get bit." No thanks!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Spiritual Sunday -Being Thankful 1

Just like on Thursdays this month, I'd like for Spiritual Sundays to help us reflect our thankfulness back to Jesus Christ who gave it all for a world of sinners.

1 Chronicles 16:34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Some people say, "I'm a good person. Isn't that enough for me to get into heaven?" While I do not want to get into the topic of heaven and hell today, I DO want to focus on another word..."good."

If you read verse 34 it says: Give thanks to God because he is GOOD.

Chocolate is good. Should we give thanks to it?

What is "good?" If you call yourself a "good person" you need to ask yourself that question. Comparing "good person" to "good God" seems impossible, doesn't it?

Only God is good. Not one of us can measure up to his power, beauty or goodness. Such a simple word packs a lot of punch, doesn't it?

So today, "GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD FOR HE IS GOOD. HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER!"


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Scrumptious Saturday - Butternut Squash Soup

Another detox recipe. Matt wouldn't try it, but Hannah and I loved it.

Some friends of mine like it too, tweaked to their own style of course!

SERVES 6

Ingredients

  1. Add oil, garlic and onion to large stockpot over medium heat.
  2. Saute for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add salt, pepper, milk broth and squash.
  4. Bring to a boil.
  5. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes (or until squash has a tender consistency).
  6. Use stick blender to lightly puree, leaving some chunks, or puree half of the soup in a food processor or blender and return to pot

Friday, November 6, 2009

Family Friday

I am excited to have a little break from working today!

It's my first day off in 12 days!

My detox is over and I have to admit, I'm a little nervous. I don't want my weight to go back up or my digestive tract to go back to being AWFUL!

Nonetheless, I'm OFF today.

Today I'm planning to help my friend Joy empty out her attic for her big move tomorrow!!

Hannah has school and I promised her a trip to the Library! Let's see if we can do it all today!

Have a great day with your family!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Tis the month of being thankful.

Every time I'm cranky and have to write a thankful thursday post, it's impossible NOT to come up with a long list of things I'm thankful for, thus improving my mood.

I think focusing on thankfulness is an important part of enjoying the life we've been blessed with. It is what you make it. I want Thursdays in November to give you an opportunity to reflect on the blessings in your life, so I'm going to suggest some exercises you can do to boost the spirit of thankfulness for you personally.

Feeling gratitude boosts your mood almost 100% of the time. It gives you more energy during the day and better sleep at night.

Today, (or tonight since I'm late posting) I want you to jot down a list of what you're thankful for. Maybe you've had a yucky day and you're tired, but try really hard. Go ahead and list your family first but then dig deep. Once you get started you'll be surprised at how awesome your life is. Don't forget the little things because they make up the big things!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wellness Wednesday - Organic

Sometimes I'll buy organic things...mostly fruits and lettuce. Is it necessary? I believe so. We put so many chemicals into our body, it can never hurt to remove some.

But what do you buy? Obviously most of us can't afford to go totally organic. How can you pick and choose what's worth the extra money?

This page did the research on which fruits contain the most pesticides.

Here's a list of the top 12 fruits with the most pesticide contamination.

  1. Nectarines – 97.3% of nectarines sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  2. Celery – 94.5% of celery sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  3. Pears – 94.4% of pears sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  4. Peaches – 93.7% of peaches sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  5. Apples – 91% of apples sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  6. Cherries – 91% of cherries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  7. Strawberries – 90% of strawberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  8. Imported Grapes – 86% of imported grapes (i.e. Chile) sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  9. Spinach – 83.4% of spinach sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  10. Potatoes – 79.3% of potatoes sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  11. Bell Peppers – 68% of bell peppers sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  12. Red Raspberries – 59% of red raspberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
Here's a list of the fruits with the least pesticide contamination:
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn (However, almost all corn is genetically modified)
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet Peas
So, do what you must, but now, you can choose wisely if you decide to pick and choose what you buy organic.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tips and Hints - A Load A Day

Do you ever find your laundry overtaking your home? What's clean? What's dirty? What's clean but has dirty clothes piled on top of it?

It can become a monster very quickly.

Today's tip is try to institute a Load-A-Day rule. When you get up in the morning, throw a load in. It's really not that hard, but if you're like me, it's just not on the radar because the washing machine isn't near the TV.

Plan to put the load away before the end of the day. It's so amazing how much EASIER it is to fold and put away 1 load than 142 loads!

So, do it now...go on, throw a load in and thank me later :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Money Monday - Sweet Deal!


I'm so excited.

Some of you know we do not have a Christmas tree. I threw away the one I've had for years that my parents had for YEARS before that. It's too big for my house. There's just no room for it. My friend Carrie insisted I had to put up a tree last year or I would scar my child for life, so she gave me a small table top one that worked beautifully!

I've been looking for a 6.5 ft pre-lit pencil tree. I should have bought one at the end of last season but I didn't.

They're hard to find under $80. I just don't want to spend that.

Well, I went to Pat Catan's the other day and found EXACTLY what I wanted for 75% off!! I got a tree with all of my stipulations for $39.99. Now that's a savings. If you need a tree, that's the place to go!

They also have gingerbread houses for $7.98! That's a steal for how much fun those things are to build with your kids!

So what are some other inexpensive things to do with your kids this time of year when you're trying to save for the holidays?

Jump in the leaves...trust me, it's just as fun as when you were a kid.

Bake pumpkin muffins, or apple muffins, or any muffins! Apples and pumpkin are seasonal produce and inexpensive right now and kids love to bake in the kitchen! Hannah and I made pumpkin waffles on Sunday and they were a hit.

Collect pretty leaves and imprint them on paper with a crayon! Or, make a "hand turkey" and use leaves for the feathers!

Go to the playground! Who says that just because it's cold you can't play outside? Just bundle up and plan to be outside for less time. Fresh air is good stuff!

Go to the library and read books about Thanksgiving or fall. We love Max and Ruby's "Ruby's Falling Leaves." Many libraries have free activities weekly for children.

I love season changes because things become new again. You can find enjoyment in the every day things. You don't need to spend money to have a good time.

When you do have to spend money though, keep looking for those good deals! There out there!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Scrumptious Saturday - Healthy Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

I volunteered to help out with Hannah's Halloween party at her preschool. I was asked to do the snack. Actually, I was asked to make iced cupcakes in the shape of pumpkins or spiders.

I tried. I really did.

First of all, while I let Hannah have cupcakes now and then, I feel like it goes against who I am right now, to bring in an unhealthy snack the week after I asked the teacher if parents could start bringing in healthier snacks on school days.

So, I decided to go with a healthified pumpkin muffin. I tried to make the icing look like spider webs...FAIL.

I went with a dollop of icing with a candy corn on top, and I think they look pretty cute - and they tasted unbelievable!


26 muffins

Ingredients

Directions

  1. 1
    Mix first 5 ingredients together; separately, mix dry ingredients.
  2. 2
    Blend the two mixtures together, fold in chips.
  3. 3
    Generously fill 24 greased or paper-lined muffin cups.
  4. 4
    Bake at 400 degrees F. for 16-20 minutes.

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