Monthly Archives: January 2012

Balanced Budget

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“She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.” Proverbs 31:18

After reading my devotional this morning, I was Facebooking around and saw this picture:

Budget Crisis

I found that amusing, especially in light of the focus of the verse from Proverbs 31. Speaking less about our government now, and more about the average American family, we like our credit cards too much. Our (my husband and myself) biggest financial “problem” now is frivolous spending. Thank God, we have money to pay all our bills, and a house to live in with a little extra. The little extra is where we tend to get carried away. Now, don’t misunderstand me, we aren’t spending addicts by any means, and our finances are good. I simply feel that we indulge our wants too much; we’re a little spoiled, if you will. And there’s always room for improvement as far as I’m concerned.

God calls us to be good stewards of our resources. And at this point in my life, I’m really evaluating where I would like to end up in the next 5 years, the next 10 years, the next 30 years, and so on…

14″Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16

What am I going to do with my “long life”? How am I going to impact the kingdom of God? Well, I’m starting with this blog… When I started writing it, only my mom and sister were reading it. (Thanks guys, btw for your love and support) And as person by person reads and follows this blog, I’m blown away by my chance to witness to complete strangers about the power of living life not just for today (which is the existential and popular thing to do today), but for eternity in Christ. Anyway, as I was saying, at this point in my supposedly long life, I’m at a really beautiful place where I can look around me and honestly say that my basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter are being met. But at some point in the future, (not near future, mom) I would like to have children and a family of my own. The sheer weight of that level of responsibility scares me silly at age 21. I figure when kids stop seeming scary and start seeming exciting, then I’ll know I’m ready to be a mom. Until that point, it’s my responsibility and my husband’s responsibility to make sure that we build a financial, marital and spiritual environment in our home that would be conducive to supporting and raising a family.

That being said, my goal for the month of February and March (and so on and so forth, but I’m starting small and working my way forward) is to balance our family budget and to also drastically decrease the “frivolous” spending that goes on.

My quick 5 part plan for doing so is as follows:

  1. Coupon Shopping. For all of you who already do, I would love some pointers! For those of you who do not yet, I would like to extend to you this website: www.couponsthingsbydede.com/ (Thank you, Miss Jaymie. 🙂 ) It’s a wonderful starting point for finding coupons and it’s super easy to navigate her site. You can search certain products, or print whole sheets of coupons! And of course there’s always the Sunday news paper as well.
  2. Menu Planning. I highly recommend it. It makes your life so much easier when you don’t have to frantically figure out what you’re going to make for dinner each night, and it definitely helps you to only buy what you need for each recipe, which brings me to my next point…
  3. List Making. Alright, rookies, and people who think it takes too long; Keep a post-it or note pad and pen by the fridge or somewhere in your kitchen. Every time you find you’re running low on something, write it down. This eliminates hours of going through cabinets and the fridge. It’s like being a good student; don’t try to cram it all in to a 20 minute mega study session. Do a little each day and try to keep at it and you’ll stay much more organized in the long run and way less stressed out. ONLY BUY WHAT’S ON THE LIST! that’s the key.
  4. Shop Strategically. This may be one of my biggest trip-ups. If you know you are going to be grocery shopping, eat a meal before you go. This really helps curb the temptation to pick up every frozen pizza, or chocolate bar you see in the store. Also, try to plan ahead enough to not go to the store right on pay-day (for most military families I know, it’s the 15th and the 30th.) Try going the day before or the day after to avoid crowds, or if possible go during the week as opposed to the weekends. Avoiding large crowds will help you retain your sanity, patience, and keep your stress levels and blood pressure low. 🙂
  5. Conserve Trips. This is where having a progressive list that you add to consistently comes in handy. If you are able to get all you need in one outing or trip, then you are also saving money on gas. I know a lot of moms who go run their errands while their kids are at school so that they can kill two birds with one stone, so to speak; they can focus on their shopping because they don’t have children to corral, and they are already out and about so they don’t have to make multiple trips, making things more efficient.

Those were just 5 quick tips to slimming your budget. I look forward to hearing about your money-saving tips, as well as discovering and sharing more of my own. Happy Budget Slashing, everyone.

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The Joy of the Lord is MY strength (Nehemiah 8:10)

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The Joy of the Lord is MY strength (Nehemiah 8:10)

“She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.) Proverbs 31:17

Last night was a landmark event: I hosted my first “dinner party” of sorts. One of the guy’s from my husband, Mitch’s unit came over with his wife and daughter for dinner.

Aside from the fact that dinner wasn’t yet ready when they got here, and every one sort of helped finish cooking it (which was kinda fun) it went off pretty well. I made “1-pot penne with meatballs” and for dessert, apple custard dumplings (didn’t turn out quite as good as the last time I made them) and I even did my home-made honey mustard salad dressing! (don’t worry, I’ll post all the recipes)

We had a good time, played Sequins, and just enjoyed being in each other’s company. I have to say, I was super impressed with their daughter’s behavior; she was adorable; I wish I could say the same about my doggies (shame, shame, Anna and Cyd for potty-ing inside! 😦 ) Anyway, after our friends left, I was struck with the realization that although I attempted a “1-pot” dish to save dish washing time, there were 4 adults and 1 child eating dinner… that’s 5 plates, 5 forks, 5 glasses… you get the idea… And I was hard-core bummed out. But then I realized, a Proverbs 31 woman doesn’t invite people over for fellowship and then complain about the dirty dishes. “She sets about her work vigorously!”

I was reminded of a few things yesterday… First, during our church service at 11:00, (we were also at the one at 8:30 for hand bell choir; I’ll post a link to the video once it’s on YouTube) we were singing an Anthem, and all of a sudden, although I had sung the piece at least 8 times before in rehearsals, I was struck with a sudden transcendent joy; I was swept away by God’s amazing grace and blessings he’s given me in my life and the only way I can think of to describe it is to say that it was a “God-thing” I definitely felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. And then our Pastor referenced this scripture from Roman’s 8:18:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

So in staring at my sink full of dirty dishes last night, I remembered that presence, that feeling standing before the congregation…and I knew that doing my dishes wasn’t such daunting a task after all.

Rosie!

Then I thought back to the women during WWII… How incredibly daunting were their daily lives? I mean at that time, most women didn’t work because it wasn’t socially acceptable; then to just be thrown into a completely different lifestyle during a time of war, with your husband, brothers, sons, etc. thousands of miles away in hand-to-hand combat… geesh…I think military wives back then were a lot worse off than those of us today, and here is why: The draft. Many men didn’t choose to enlist; they were drafted. And by association, their wives were drafted into being military wives, and into the work force.

Those who did choose to enlist, may God bless them and their families for the sacrifices they made to God, family and country. My point is that we as women have become a little spoiled. With the women’s lib. movement, we have so much freedom and choice and yet, I was about to complain about dishes when I had been fortunate enough to have a hot meal, a home in which to eat it, and family and friends with whom to share it. I think we’ve lost sight of those things and how truly important they are. And when you align yourself with God, take advantage of all the promises and gifts he’s given to you, and walk according to his Word, then I think you are finally able to put life in the right perspective: God’s perspective.

My ripped arms... (even if that picture was almost 4 years ago)

Oh, and P.S. I’m also a fan of literally making sure my arms are strong for my tasks. I rock out to Kate Potter’s Namaste Yoga series, and do a little kick-boxing, and I’m trying to get back in to running regularly so I can complete a marathon before I’m 30 (it’s on my list of things to do before 30, and I only have 9 years left!!! 😉 ) However, I am terrible at remaining consistent in my workouts and I always try to do too much too fast and end up injuring myself, so I ask for your encouragement and motivation to help me stick it out!

This is my kick-boxing class from this past summer. I'm on the far left

Wonder Woman!

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Wonder Woman!

“She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar” Proverbs 31:14

*This is a continuation from a previous post!- Supermarket Sweep* 

I finally finished the Menu Board!!! 🙂

I don’t know if you all remember or not, Once Upon A Chocolate Chip Pancake posted the most amazing time/effort/money saving project ever- a menu board. After crunching all the numbers from this past month, I realized I was spending over $500 in “groceries” per month! For two people and two dogs, that’s just utter insanity. What happens, is that I like to buy certain items in bulk; so there’s $100… Plus the staple foods; there’s $100 more… Then there’s all the toiletries I “need” (I like to stock pile so I don’t ever actually run out) $150… Add in all the “extra” trips I was making, for $15 here, $25 there, plus the “want” items, and there you have it… my ungodly grocery bill…

So, I decided to make myself more organized in an attempt to save more money, buy less junk, and consolidate my trips to the store by making a menu board.

How the wonderous thing works is as follows:

You have these meal cards. On the front is a meal, ex: Meatloaf, Mashed potatoes, Corn (a meat entrée for protein and 2 veggies or a grain/carb is how I usually roll.) Then on the back, it lists all the ingredients you need to make the meal, ex: canned corn, ground beef, mashed potatoes, etc…

Lets say you shop like me every week so you would grab your seven cards for the week, decide which meals you would like to fix, which ingredients are common in each recipe, what you already have in your pantry, and then in essence, that’s the extent of your grocery list.

My specific menu board only focuses on dinner meals, since I usually eat lunch and breakfast by myself. Still, that still narrows down what you buy for your evening meals, and then you just have to factor in your typical breakfast foods and lunches for the week. If you eat out, you can make cards for that too (although the point is to cook more, spend less) if your budget allows (I made a Papa John’s card!). Here are the pictures of my menu board.

Supplies: Letter stickers, 11X14 inch frame, rubber cement, super glue, elmers glue stick, scotch tape, scissors, decorative scrap book papers (2 of one, at least 2-3 other coordinating colored pages), clear packing tape

In progress: background has been framed, boxes made and super glued to glass. Measuring out distances for clothes pins (oh yeah, you'll need decorative clothes pins)

Finished Project: Days of the week stickers, meal cards made and laminated*), and hanging on the wall, ready for the week.

I chose colors that matched my kitchen/dishes. You can get the directions on how to make your own menu board from Once Upon A Chocolate Chip Pancake’s blog. All this coupled with the amazing coupons in the Sunday paper, I’m going to be a money saving diva.

*The instructions on the menu board blog say she used self-laminating paper to laminate her meal cards, but that she didn’t really get a good seal, and there were air bubbles. That’s what the packing tape is for. My husband taught me a Marine secret way to laminate- Packing tape on front and back. It’s super easy and lots cheaper. 

My Sad Little Tree

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“She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.” Proverbs 31:16

I live sort of in the country. Our house is an old farm-house and more than 3 acres to the south of the property used to be farm land. Unfortunately, the soil here is predominantly sand and I’m told has an acidic pH… Which is just sad news for my poor little tree.

This tree and I are still deciding whether or not to be friends… It all started when the owner of the house we are renting came over to mow the lawn. He noticed that the plants around the old well were starting to get too crowded and this little baby fir-tree was getting choked out. So, he dug up the tree and moved it over to the southeastern corner of the house. Honestly, it’s a terrible place for a tree… It’s right in the middle of the other landscaping, and assuming it lives, it will have to be cut down or moved again or it will begin to grow into the laundry room! Anyway, the property owner and his wife migrate to Florida over the winter months, and to Alaska during the summer so right before he drove off in his motor home, he asked if I would keep an eye on the tree. He said it would need a lot of attention for the first few weeks it was moved; lots of water, and making sure no weeds or animals inhibited its growth. I said I would water it and keep an eye on it…

It rained for almost two weeks solid after that. Needless to say, being of sound and practical mind, I did not go out to water the tree in the rain. The only flaw in my logic was my tragic flaw: absent-mindedness… Because I hadn’t been going out to water the tree in lieu of the rain, I had completely forgotten all about the little tree… Weeks came and went, and this is what the tree looks like now

Sad, sad, little tree

It is pitiful… and I hope that my attempts to resurrect the sad little tree are not in vain. I watered it yesterday, and it rained all night last night and this morning. So hopefully, the little guy greens back up…My point is that I would be TERRIBLE at planting anything, especially a vineyard… So, rather than take the woman’s green thumb in Proverbs 31:16 literally, I’m going to interpret it figuratively this time around. The “field” I’m considering is fabric for my sewing endeavors. And my “vineyard” will be the finished projects. So, rather, I’m going to consider a fabric and buy it, and out of my earnings, sew a table cloth. I am seeing that I take advantage of the resources I already have, i.e., random colors of bits and pieces of fabrics, and I am going to put it all together in some kind of eclectic grungy bohemian style (I decided on Tuesday that’s what my style is) and come out with something awesome. So here’s to happy “hunting” with my beautiful new friend, Kara at Michael’s this afternoon.

Goodnight Sweetheart

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“She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.”

Never in my life did I think I’d be living out this verse literally. (except for the servant girls part) My day started at 3:30 am. I woke up with my husband (his name is Mitch btw, for those of you who didn’t know) and went to the kitchen to make him a lunch/breakfast to take with him to work. In so doing, our grocery bill has gone up a tinsy bit each month, but by couponing and shopping at the commissary, it’s totally worth saving the money he would otherwise spend eating out every day. Plus, it gives me a chance to see him in the mornings, even if it is hurried and before sunup, and I can always go back to sleep after he leaves.

I have to confess something to you all…Today, when I went into the kitchen, there was a mouse… I’ve been having a slight mouse problem, but it’s to be expected in the winter when you live out in the country surrounded by fields in a 76+ year-old house. So i’ve been combating the mice, but today, I witnessed the most unnerving thing since my war on rodents began… it was tiny… no bigger than my thumb and it was stuck on a glue trap just writhing and squeaking in dispair… I couldn’t handle it… I gagged a couple times and Mitch told me I was being ridiculous, but I didn’t see him going to dispose of it… Truth be told, my big strong marine is probably equally bothered by it, but just won’t admit it… Anyway, that really messed me up this morning, so when I went back to bed after I saw Mitch off to work, I wasn’t really able to fall asleep again.

I don’t know how that relates to the scripture at all, except for the fact that I was up before dawn, providing food for my family. I just felt so heartless thinking that that poor mouse was trying to do the same for its little mouse family, however unwelcome they may be in my home… and I felt like a monster… I have tried the more humane traps, but my mice are too clever to fall for them… But having seen what I saw today, I’m not going to use the glue traps anymore… I don’t care how effective they are. It’s just too mean.

I’m sorry you all had to read that, but it’s been weighing on my mind heavily and I had to get it off my chest… Maybe I’m just being hormonal…who knows. Anyway, I totally recommend making sack lunches for yourselves or your husbands or your kids. It saves tons of money, and is a great opportunity for you to slip a cute, loving note to your family to brighten their day.

A couple days ago, Mitch forgot his cell phone and I was all upset for a while because I knew I wouldn’t be able to tell him good morning, or otherwise communicate with him that day. Luckily, I had put a note in his lunch that morning that said, “Crush the PFT today! Love you!” so I felt really good knowing that I had still been able to reach him via  Old School text message- I wrote it by hand on notebook paper and everything!

So there is a value to living according to scripture. It’s not always the most appealing thought to wake yourself up at 3:30, but it’s totally worth it to know that you’re making a positive impact on your spouse’s day and on your marriage.

Supermarket Sweep!

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Supermarket Sweep!

“She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.” Proverbs 31:14

Does anyone remember the TV show, Supermarket Sweep?I LOVED THAT SHOW! I totally would have rocked as a contestant. I knew the supermarket backwards and forwards, and I rocked at figuring out where the super bonuses were.

SUPER BONUS!

Unfortunately, whenever I shop with my hubby at the commissary, it FEELS like supermarket sweep,

Maybe if I dress my husband and I in matching sweatshirts, we won't get lost and separated at the store all the time...

only like the really bad contestant who isn’t at all familiar with the show or marketing in general. I love my husband, but for real, I asked him to go find 3 things on my list:

  1. 2 cans of crescent rolls
  2. a bag of brown sugar
  3. a bottle of mustard

He came back to me with the 2 cans of crescent rolls, a bottle of mustard, a bottle of Strawberry Sunny-D, a bag of Oreos, and no brown sugar… Needless to say, when the grocery store is so incredibly crowded and my ‘divide-and-conquer’ partner gets sidetracked by sugar (not the kind I asked for) shopping sometimes gets a little unnerving.

Also, it may be my fault as well for not handing him a list to reference. When I first moved to our permanent duty station, I was hard core into planning meals. But, when you add barbershop choir rehearsals, bell choir rehearsals, church chancel choir rehearsals, bible studies, and USMC general chaos into the mix, I gradually fell away from the meal planning and reverted to a ‘what-don’t-we-have-in-the-house?’ mode and it isn’t helping my hectic trips to the commissary. So, I’m going to try harder to be like a “merchant ship” in having a set planned route by planning my meals for the week.

My awesome Aunt Heidi actually just made a menu board. She got the idea from the blog I linked to, and frankly, the woman who decided to first make a menu board is a genius, and she deserves my respect. If you check out the blog, it actually details how to make the board, and how to make it most useful for yourself. I’m totally going to make one, and I plan on posting pictures so you can all see how it turned out. Plus, I’ve found that pictures help hold me accountable- they’re visual proof I’m doing what I set out to do. So I’ll get started on that once I get all the supplies this evening and let you all know how it turns out!

Sew What?

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“She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.” Proverbs 31:13

First, let me clarify my post from yesterday. I would greatly appreciate any inventive, clever, or new ideas you readers have as to how to make my husband’s Valentine’s day awesome. So start throwing some comments my way!

Now, on to today’s business. I’m having an interesting time with today’s verse. I’m going to look up the definition of flax, because honestly, I’m not sure…uh huh… mmm hmm…. ok, here it is:

  • Flax: n. 1. any plant of the genus Linum,  especially  Lusitatissimum, a slender, erect, annual plant having narrow, lance-shaped leaves and blue flowers, cultivated for its fiber and seeds.
    2. the fiber of this plant, manufactured into linen yarn, for thread or woven fabrics. 3. any of various plants resembling flax… so, yarn or thread, in essence. Wool, c’mon guys, that’s self-explanatory… So this Proverbs 31 woman is a seamstress of sorts… and she enjoys it apparently, because it says, “she works with eager hands.” Let me explain to you where my trouble comes in…

When I was about 12 or 13, I spent a week at my Gram’s house learning how to sew. We worked on a number of projects, wrap skirts, scrunchies, and I even made my sister a hanging banner for her room as a birthday present. One problem: Gram has an awesome sewing machine and serger as well as the knowledge of how to use them. I don’t remember much at all. I tried the sewing thing again in College. Me and my friend Sabrina were officially named the seamstresses of Theta Sigma Phi… We sewed countless banners for our madrigal dinner and pretty satin music stand covers for the hand bell ringers. They looked marvelous! However, the audience would never have guessed that only the major seams and hems were actually sewn. The rest… that’s right… Stitch Witchery! WE CHEATED!!!!

So I have this sewing machine, given to me by my lovely friend Jaymie, and minimalist knowledge as to how to use it… I do know how to sew by hand though… I’ve fixed multiple doggie toys and buttons… but this verse 13 is calling out a challenge… A challenge I intend to accept. So, first things first. I’ll start small, and work my way to greater things.

I have this really pretty bed spread that my husband actually picked out. It’s black with red satin. Alas, it has a small tear right at the seam.

torn bed spread

Speaking from experience, sewing satin on a machine sucks because it slips and slides and bunches… I’m a little bitter… so I figure I’ll start by hand sewing that tear, mending the bed spread and then perhaps re-attaching the button to my husband’s camis! That’s sure to boost my sewing self-confidence. Then, on to bigger and better things… like quilts! and maybe even clothing!

***

…Later That Day…

 After what seemed like unending mounds of laundry, I finally set to work on the bed spread! First, I used this awesome stuff called Fray Check. I got it at Hancock Fabrics, and let me tell you, it is a worth wile investment if you don’t want to feel like pulling your hair out.

World's most awesome fray stopper!

Then I set to stitching up the tear. I used what I call a sucher  stitch, I don’t know it’s actual sewing term… It just looks like the same thing the doctors in the ER did to my husband’s hand when he accidentally stabbed himself…(that’s a story for another day)

You can barely notice it now! YAY!

And that’s it! And it actually inspired me to make the bed for once!

Pretty Bed Spread!

On to the next project!