Saturday, March 31, 2007

What I Saw ...

White Dogwood tree in our yard.

The True Cost of Things

It is an enlightening experience to realize just how much money passes through our hands during a lifetime. Think back to every job you and or your spouse ever had and estimate your earnings. It is probably an astounding number.
One of my favorite books about money is Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. I highly recommend it . Not necessarily for the financial investment advice but for their philosophy about money. It is basically a guide to changing our relationship with money.
"Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for. Our life energy is our allotment of time here on earth, the hours of precious life available to is limited and irretrievable...our choices about how we use it express the meaning and purpose of our time here on earth."
Looking at money for what it is truly alters the shopping experience. When you realize that you are not trading just money for an item you "must have" or think you "need". You are trading your time, your life, or the life of your spouse for that item.
Usually any problems we have in handling our money come from unexamined spending so I often try to reevaluate how we spend our money. I find that doing that helps to keep our expenses in check and leave the money we have for the things we really need or want. Financial peace, for me, truly comes from understanding our relationship with the money we have.

Friday, March 30, 2007

What I saw ...

A bird built a nest in my candle lantern

Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it do, or Do Without.

When my children were small we were on a very tight budget. Yard sales were not as popular in our area as they are now. I taught myself to sew just well enough to make basic play clothes and dresses for my daughters. Sewing can be expensive. Early in our marriage even buying the cheapest fabrics and supplies was out of our budget. I discovered that I could take old dresses of mine, or those that had been given to me, take them apart at the seams and use the fabric to make dresses for my daughter. I would reuse the zippers, especially the short ones from skirts, buttons and any salvageable trim as well. I used old dress pants of my husbands and made pants for my son. I also made all of their play clothes from old clothes. Any clothes made from suitable fabric were utilized. There was one particularly bleak financial year that I spent a total of only $15 on clothes for my children for the entire year and that was on shoes. With yard sales being as popular now days it is much easier to clothe children on a small budget so this tip is more about being creative with our finances instead of sewing. When faced with a need use creativity first before you go out and spend money. It is much more satisfying. Picture: Dress made from an old dress. The collar was from an man's dress shirt. Ribbon and thread left over from other projects. Check out Biblical Womanhood for more tips.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What I saw ...

Cades Cove Great Smokies National Park

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Works For Me Wednesday

I had written a lovely post, full of humor and great insight. In fact, Blogger ate it because it was so good! So you are left with this. Short and sweet. Children forget things. Over and over and over. After telling my children how to do their chores again and again and again, I decided to make detailed step by step list for each of the chores that the kids were in charge of. No detail was left out,every step described down to the most obvious and basic level such as how much soap to use. I discovered just how necessary this was after finding that my daughter used a half a bottle of dish liquid to wash dinner dishes. Each list was discussed with the kids and after I was sure they understood the steps the list was posted. The kids understood that after everything was completed then, and only then, was the chore finished. I still did spot checks but the time saved was impressive. No discussions as to whether they were supposed to do this or that, it was in writing for all to see. Discussion over. Worked for me. For more tips check out Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Great Ant War Part 2

I'm killing 2 birds with one stone here. I've made great progress in my battle against the dreaded invading ants AND I'm counting this as a step toward breaking my bad habits (what in the name of sanity was I thinking of when I wrote that post?) I would say working on the pantry qualifies toward getting organized. That will be a topic for another day.

Here is a before shot of my pantry. I'm really lucky to have such a large space for a pantry. You can't see from these shots but there is also shelves to the right of the door. That is where all the canned goods are. I tried to find inexpensive containers and managed to locate some at yard sales these past few weekends. I've also utilized leftover coffee creamer containers. The outer layer of plastic peels right off leaving a nice white outside that you can label. The lids also have a pouring spout that is really easy to use. I have oatmeal, sliced almonds, and other things you can pour easily in mine.

I took all my cake mixes and put them into a large plastic container. Everything is labeled so it is easy to find. I still need to pick up a few large containers to put things like the pop tarts into. I still want to line all the shelves with paper . Best of all...I haven't found a single ant inside of anything! Yeah Baby!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

My Prize is Here!

The prize I won on Tiffany's blog arrived today and it is beautiful! A lovely black and white polka dot market bag and belt made by Beth Simpson, a book about Audrey Hepburn and a beautiful hand painted box from Tiffany. Everything was beautifully packaged. I would so recommend Tiffany's boxes to anyone. Her work is absolutely beautiful. She has an Etsy shop that she is selling her work through now and she has some beautiful spring and Easter boxes.

Works for Me Wednesday

I enjoy using rubber stamps and stencils in my artwork. I have found that I tend to be drawn to certain types of images and because of that I often end up buying the same stamps or stencils I already have. My solution to this was to make a notebook that fits in my purse that
has an impression from each of my rubber stamps. Each impression is numbered and each stamp has a corresponding number written on it. I use the book as a reference when I am using the stamps and when I am buying. You could do the same with stencils. Another idea is to photocopy them and reduce the copy to a size that will go into your notebook.
Click the WWMW emblem above for more great tips.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Old Habits Die Hard.

My post about the junk food got me to thinking about habit. I think most of us are creatures of habit. My DH habitually thinks that sweets are a reward and a comfort food. Celebration of an event in our lives automatically involves food in his mind. It made me start examining my own habits. It is more difficult for me to see my own bad habits. I'm not blind to them entirely, but they are more difficult to see clearly.

My goal over the next few months is to make a more thorough examination of the way I do things and why I do them that way. I intend to examine all areas of my life and try to break as many bad habits as I can. This is gonna take some time folks! I may post about some that I think are relevant to others here. Don't expect any deep dark revelations! I'm not going to embarrass myself. By putting this out here it gives me incentive to keep busy at it. I don't like New Years resolutions so I don't make them, so this can be my goals for this year. Hopefully I'll make some progress.

I just want to say one thing before I get started...My goal is not perfection. It is improvement. Without stepping on any toes I need to say that my family and I came out of a religious organization where ultimately perfection in everything you do is the goal. The ideal to strive for. There were constant lessons and talks given on striving for perfection. The one thing I learned is there is no peace in that because there can be no perfection.

I won't say that I'm sorry I was ever involved, but I will say I'm grateful to be out. I'm saying this because I have extended family that occasionally reads this blog and I may say somethings that possibly will offend them. I don't want them to take it personally. But there are issues that I still deal with and this is my blog. I need to talk about things that affect me. There are some of you reading this who will not understand what the previous paragraph has to do with anything. All I can say is...then it wasn't written for you. Don't worry about it. There will be those who do understand.

They say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. That gives me a basis to work with.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Somethings (People) Are Hard To Change

I love my husband. He is a wonderful husband and has worked really hard to give his family everything he can. He is a great guy!

Just wanted to make that very clear before I tell you he was raised in a family that worships at the altar of food. Food is at every event, birth, death, wedding, Easter, and Christmas, and Thanksgiving of course. Also every just for the fun of it get together. Getting together means FOOD and lots of it and most of it full of fat and sugar. That is the way he was raised.

I went shopping yesterday at Sam's club. There are certain things I always buy. Lots of fruit and veggies. Lots of healthy choices IMO. I try really hard to feed my family healthy food. This is what I bought.
I am like most middle aged women, always struggling with my weight. I love a good brownie. What can I say? But if sweets aren't in my house. I won't eat them. I will say that truly it can take me months to eat a bag of M and M's.
When I was growing up sweets were a treat. Most sweets were homemade. We had wonderful cobblers from fresh fruit, the occasional homemade cake or Egg Custard pie. My grandmother made delicious fried apple pies and cookies that she called Tea Cakes. Obviously we had sweets enough I have very good memories of them. But not everyday and not JUNK.

My son is having a friend over for the night. The other adult that grocery shops in my home went out this morning to pick up some TP, bread and cereal. This is what he came home with.
This junk came along with a heartfelt explanation that it was snack food for the "kids" and that everything was on sale, so he hmmm.....this person, saved lots of money.

HOW? By buying enough sugar to ensure triple by pass and maybe a life of dependence on insulin? How is that cost effective?

Tell me people. How am I supposed to deal with this one? I can't spank a grown man. Person.
Not to mention the fact that I'm really wanting one of those chocolate chip cookies right now!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Spring Fever

It must be spring fever. I took my 15 year old son (who should be able to behave. Lol) out to the park to try and get a few pictures for Grandma. This is what I came back with... I got a whole lot of this.... And this...

Before I ended up with something Grandma might like. Actually, I think she may get a bigger kick out of the others!

White Boards

Click for other great money saving tips.

I found this really cool white board material at Walgreens in the section with the poster board. It is basically sheets of shiny plastic the same size as poster board. The price was only 99 cents. I put 3 sheets up on the wall where we do school. You can also cut it with scissors to whatever size you need. We have cut it to fit the same size as notebook paper and used a 3 hole punch on it. We keep a sheet in the math notebook, along with a wipe off marker, as a scratch sheet. Other uses include cutting a piece to attach with magnets to our refrigerator and a section on the kids doors for messages.
I just used regular push pins to put the board up on the wall, double stick tape for the doors and magnets on the refrigerator.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday

My WFMW tip this week is on storing sheets. When all my kids were home we had 5 beds to change sheets on every week. At one time I had several sets of sheets for each child's bed. This became a storage problem with the limited space we had at the time. I eliminated all but 2 sets of sheets per bed , I kept 3 sets for the littlest child. I figured one for the bed, one waiting to go on was enough. The extra sheets were folded and stored inside the pillowcase. I put them into the child's underwear drawer or on a shelf in their room. When laundry day came around everyone would strip their beds and put their new set on. When the laundry was finished everyone knew right where to put their sheets. No searching for a sheet that fit, no problem finding a sheet in the middle of the night when someone had been sick. Saves lots of storage space and time. Click for more ideas

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Great Mood Lifter and Darn Cute!

You can't watch this video and stay in a bad mood.

What Dessert Are You?

Photo from I found this quiz on one of the blogs I visit on occasion. I don't know how accurate these things are but they are fun. You take the quiz and let me know what you choose. I chose Strawberry Shortcake.

If all of the desserts listed below were sitting in front of you, which would you choose? (Sorry, you can only pick one!)
Pick your dessert, then look to see what psychiatrists think about you.
Here are your choices:
1. Angel Food Cake
2. Brownies
3. Lemon Meringue Pie
4. Vanilla cake with Chocolate Icing
5. Strawberry Short Cake
6. Chocolate and more Chocolate
7. Ice Cream
8. Carrot Cake
No, you can't change your mind once you scroll down, so think carefully what your choice will be...
OK - Now that you've made your choice this is what research says about you...
1. ANGEL FOOD CAKE -- Sweet, loving, cuddly. You love all warm and fuzzy items. A little nutty at times. Sometimes you need an ice cream cone at the end of the day. Others perceive you as being childlike and immature at times.
2. BROWNIES -- You are adventurous, love new ideas, are a champion of underdogs and a slayer of dragons. When tempers flare up you whip out your saber. You are always the oddball with a unique sense of humor and direction. You tend to be very loyal.
3. LEMON MERINGUE --Smooth, sexy, & articulate with your hands, you are an excellent after-dinner speaker and a good teacher. But don't try to walk and chew gum at the same time. A bit of a diva at times, but you have many friends.
4. VANILLA CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE ICING -- Fun-loving, sassy, humorous, not very grounded in life; very indecisive and lack motivation. Everyone enjoys being around you, but you are a practical joker. Others should be cautious in making you mad. However, you are a friend for life.
5. STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE -- Romantic, warm, loving. You care about other people, can be counted on in a pinch and expect the same in return. Intuitively keen. Can be very emotional.
6. CHOCOLATE AND MORE CHOCOLATE -- Sexy; always ready to give and help others. Very creative, adventurous, ambitious, and passionate. You can appear to have a cold exterior but are warm on the inside. Afraid to take chances sometimes. Will not settle for anything average in life. Loves to laugh and be happy
7. ICE CREAM -- You like sports, whether it be baseball, football, basketball, or soccer. If you could, you would like to participate, but you enjoy watching sports. You don't like to give up the remote control. You tend to be self-centered and high maintenance.
8. CARROT CAKE -- You are a very fun loving person, who likes to laugh. You are fun to be with. People like to hang out with you. You are a very warm hearted person and a little quirky at times. You have many loyal friends.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Waiting Game is Over...

and there are wonderful changes in the weather this week. It feels like spring is in the air. I've put away my winter decorations and tried to spruce things up a little with some spring decorations. It is surely mood lifting to see the sun shine and see the daffodils blooming. I've got a beautiful arrangement on my table and it just brightens up everything.
I'm so grateful for the warmer weather and the longer days. I wish this time of year could last forever but it will be here today and gone tomorrow.
Each season has it's own beauty to offer. The beauty of spring seems to be more vibrant after the darkest coldest days of winter. Time to let Mother nature nurture our souls, to take a deep breath and send the dark and cold of winter packing and along with it the feelings that sometimes plague us during that time. I'm going to give in a little this week to my spring fever. I'm going to let the dishes sit awhile, maybe feed my family take-out, put the laundry off, whatever it takes, to get me out of this house and out there enjoying spring.
A light exist in spring
Not present on the year
At any other period-
When March is scarcely here.
-Emily Dickinson

Friday, March 09, 2007

Grow your own Kitchen Help.

The one thing that makes me stumble most often in my frugal living journey is eating out. I have developed and found many easy to prepare quick meals but some days I'm just too tired to cook.
My frugal tip this week is really a very obvious one for most people, but something I was slow to catch onto. If you need help in the kitchen, grow your own! I finally caught onto the fact that teaching your children, and husband if he is willing, to cook saves you from resorting to expensive prepared foods or from calling the pizza man so often.
After my third child was born, and my oldest son entered the bottomless pit stage, I finally realized that it was prudent that I teach them how to cook. I had fallen into the same way of operating that my mother had used. I thought it was easier to do myself than take the time to teach the kids.
It wasn't until I started homeschooling that I got serious about teaching the kids how to prepare meals. I had always let them help with cookies and baking but I had not taught them how to prepare a full meal by themselves.
The first thing we did was choose a notebook for each of them that we started filling with basic recipes. I found it necessary to write each recipe out in detail with such simple steps as "peel the apples, slice and remove core" included. This became more apparent as we continued along and had a few real surprises like apple seeds in our Apple Crisps!
Pancake pic by Tyler. His first pancake of which he was very proud!
My goal was to have each of the kids able to fully prepare a meal by themselves or together. Each child chose their own speciality, so on weeks that I was sick etc. we didn't have to have spaghetti 4 nights in a row. It hasn't always been easy, but it has been fun. Results are still questionable sometimes. Now my oldest children are gone and I only have one left at home, so I have more time to spend teaching him his way around the kitchen. I'm hoping for even better things from him. It does feel great to sit down to a meal that you didn't have to lift a finger to prepare and not break the bank

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How I add whole grains to our diet.

Dietary guidelines suggest that we need to increase the amount of whole grains in our diet for better health. My family has made the switch to whole grain breads without too much fuss. Since no one in our household has any problems with wheat I still try to find ways to increase the amount of whole wheat that we eat.
Whole wheat is ideal for cereals, soups, salads and main dishes. It can be cooked ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. I try to cook enough to last at least a week.
The usual proportions to cook are 1 part wheat to 2 parts water plus 1/2 to1 teaspoon salt. Wheat can be cooked many ways. It can be steamed, cooked in a pressure cooker or successfully baked in the oven. For the oven method: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Combine wheat and water in a pan and bring to a boil. Boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover. Place in the oven and turn the oven off. Leave wheat undisturbed overnight for for 8-10 hours. This works well if you time it to go into the oven after the evening meal has been prepared.
I have two favorite methods for cooking wheat. The first is to place the wheat in a preheated 1 qt thermos. First boil 1 cup wheat with 2 cups water for 3 minutes. Place in the preheated thermos, seal and let stand overnight. My second favorite method is to cook it in the crock pot on low until done. The time will vary according to your crockpot.
Wheat which as been cracked in a grinder or blender first can be used for cereal, added to casseroles, to bread or cookie recipes. It can be added to chili, spaghetti sauce, sloppy joes, soups, stews, salads, sandwich spreads, etc.
Introduce whole grains gradually to your diet, you will need to experiment to find what your family likes and how their systems handle the dietary changes. Check out Shannons site for more great tips

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Great Ant War

Ants...I hate them. The word ant leaves a bad taste in my mouth. They scamper, crawl and creep into every crack and crevice. No matter how hard we try, short of poisoning the entire neighborhood, we cannot get rid of the disgusting little buggers. This year, much to my utter dismay, they have already started to invade my kitchen. Usually I have a reprieve from them until around May but not this year. I realize that I have to get started early if I want to stave off an all out invasion. I've decided to repackage every item in my kitchen that they might even consider leaving their nasty little footprints in. I have found them in almost everything that is boxed or bagged so my intent is to repackage everything that comes in a those containers. The key being that each item I use to repackage into must be free or almost free. The added benefit being that my cabinets and pantry should be much neater and nicer in appearance. I chose to start with my cabinet right next to my stove where I keep the most used items in my kitchen. Here is my before: And here is the after:

Granted, most of those items are not often bothered by ants, except for salt for some weird reason, but I wanted to start out with an easy to accomplish reorganization. I need some motivation to keep going, so I will try to post pictures of each area as I finish. My pantry is going to take awhile because it is a full closet size.

One tip I will pass on from all this that I find really helps. Sometimes ants are able to crawl along the grooves in the lid of a jar and get in even if the lid is on tight. To solve this problem I place a small piece of plastic wrap over the top of the jar before I screw the lid on. This adds an extra barrier to them.

Cheap containers are fairly easy to find. I repurposed a few, picked up a few at Goodwill, and put the word out to my friends that I'm looking for gallon, half gallon and quart size containers. I've already received a few. I printed out labels with my computer on regular paper and used clear tape to apply them. They are easy to replace when I need to. I hope to be able to finish my pantry and cabinets for very little money.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Amazing Grace

I want to see this movie. John Newton (played by Albert Finney in Amazing Grace) wrote the words to one of the most beloved hymns of all time between 1760 and 1770, while working as an evangelical pastor. Son of the commander of a merchant ship, Newton was captain of a slave ship for many years, until he underwent a dramatic religious conversion while steering his vessel through a storm. Repenting and regretting the misery he had inflicted on the thousands of slaves he had transported across the Middle Passage for many years, he devoted his life to the Church, and wrote the lyrics to many hymns which are still popular today. Newton continued to preach until the end of his life. He was a great influence on many and the movie is about the results of that influence. This video of Chris Tomlin singing Amazing Grace ( My Chains Are Free) is wonderful I hope you enjoy it.