Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

It's hard for me to believe that 2007 is over, and a whole new year is about to begin! But I'm excited for this new year and can't wait to see what God has in store for us in the next 12 months!

May this be a blessed and happy year for all of us!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Handmade with love...

I received several handmade gifts this year for Christmas...I so enjoy these "labors of love"...



My ten-year-old sister made me this jar of hot cocoa mix - which I will thoroughly enjoy! It's finished off with a little ornament, which is a jar that says "Hot Cocoa" on it! Abbie also made homemade peanut butter cups for my husband - yum!


My mom made this lovely cross-stitched towel - it adds such a sweet, homey touch to my kitchen!


This beautiful rug was made for me by my mother-in-law. She has such a gift for painting! It looks so nice in my kitchen!



Another special treasure created by my mom. This adorable little doll is a wonderful addition to my collection of rag dolls!


Lots of people take their own bags to the grocery store...now I have my own bucket to take berry picking! My dad made this berry bucket for me - perfect for the next time I pick blueberries!


This bookmark was made by a another teacher at my school - such a fun little treat in the pages of a book!

I was so blessed by all of these wonderful gifts!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A wonderful Christmas...


We had a great time celebrating Christmas with our families! We spent Christmas Eve with Seth's family, then went to my parents' house on Christmas day. We even got a dusting of snow on Christmas, which is rare around here. We didn't get a lot of snow, but it was enough to have a white Christmas!

We were blessed with many wonderful gifts for Christmas - my biggest surprise was Seth's gift to me, as he gave me both a serger and a dress form! I am so excited to use these, as they are things I have wanted for a long time!

Over the next several days, I will be highlighting some of the treasures that were given to me, as well as the projects I have been working on for the last couple of months.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!


The presents are wrapped, the house is clean. And we're off to celebrate Christmas with our families. May you have a blessed Christmas as you celebrate our Lord's birth with your family and friends!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Gift Bags


I just thought I'd share this idea I found today. One of my kids gave me a present in this gift bag, and when I first saw it, I thought they had bought it like this. But when I looked a little closer, I saw that a piece of wrapping paper had been taped to one side of a normal brown paper bag. It made a really nice looking gift. A simple, inexpensive idea for wrapping smaller gifts....

A new way to make snowflakes...


I did these snowflakes with my class today. It's a fun twist to the classic paper snowflake. Just place the snowflake on a piece of blue or black construction paper (I use a little glue to hold it down). Sponge paint white over and around the snowflake. Remove the snowflake, and let the paper dry. The kids loved it!

I know that when we have kids, I am going to be very thankful for the last few years I have spent teaching. Not only do I now have lots of ideas of things for kids to do, but I also have experience dealing with different kids. Plus, I figure that if I can handle 20 four and five year olds, I can handle pretty much anything! =)

Almost...

I'm nearing the end of my Christmas projects. I've finished several things up in the last couple of days and only have a couple of things left to do, besides wrapping! I think I can finish most of my wrapping tonight, and most of the other things I have to do Saturday morning....and then I can relax and just enjoy Christmas weekend! Looking forward to it!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's the most wonderful time of the year....

This is one of the best times of the year to be a teacher! It's one of those special times when all your students bring you gifts! So far I've gotten a tin of cookies, some candle holders, and an ornament. It's so fun!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Problems...

I'm having problems getting pictures to show at the moment....something to do with the college's filtered internet, I think. I'm not sure if they're just not showing up for me, or if they won't show up at all...Hopefully it's just me...

Gifts...


Family friends that were at Seth's party yesterday gave us this adorable Christmas present. They made it, including painting the birds. Isn't it adorable? I'm thinking I'll have to leave it out all year long - just maybe change the decorations. I thought it might be kind of fun to hang little black and white pictures on it....

Surprises....

I love surprises. I love receiving them, and I love giving them. =) Yesterday my husband was the recipient of a surprise graduation party. My mother-in-law and I have been planning it for a few weeks, and it fortunately went off without a hitch (well except for that when we arrived at their house, one of Seth's friends was arriving late, so we saw him, and Seth found it extremely odd that he was there, but he still didn't really catch on). It was so fun for me to watch Seth's face as we came into the room and everyone shouted "Surprise!" He loved having all his family and friends there to celebrate with him. What fun!

Friday, December 14, 2007

He Did It!

Seth and I are so excited! After several years of hard work, he has finally finished his Bachelor's degree! He has put so much time and effort into this, and has done very well! I am so proud of him! Last week we attended a "commissioning" service that the college held for the fall graduates. They recognized all the graduates and prayed over them. Yesterday Seth had his last final and his last day at his internship. So he's done. It's kind of weird to think that he won't have any more classes, studying or internship. But it will definitely be very nice! We're excited to see where God takes us from here!

Still Busy....



I've been finishing up more projects, though I still have several more to go! A few days ago I made my wrapping paper. I did this last year, and really enjoyed it! I buy a roll of brown paper, and stamp it using shapes I cut out of sponges. It hardly uses any paint, so the paint I bought last year will probably last several more years! One roll of paper will probably be enough, though if I need a little extra I'll just stamp the inside of some brown bags. I could use only brown bags, which would be even cheaper than it already is, but they don't have quite the "tearability" that the paper has, and tearing into packages is part of the fun, right?

I also finished this Christmas quilt that I sent to my grandparents. I had made the actual quilt several years ago, so all I had to do was tie the quilt at each of the corners where the squares meet. I got that done and sent it off in the mail.

I also have finished a couple of other projects, but more on those later... = )

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

So far so good!


I have lots to get done before Christmas, but so far I'm doing pretty good. I've been making myself a list every morning to keep track of everything that I want to accomplish that day. It really helps me! I had a long list yesterday, and I was so happy to be able to get everything done! I finished up some presents, wrote all of my Christmas cards and got everything ready that needed to be mailed (well, except for one thing that I'm still finishing up!). It's always nice to have that job done! Along with my cards, I also sent one of these ornaments that I made a few weeks ago. Seth took everything to the post office for me this morning, so presents are on their way! It's always so fun to get things in the mail!

Well, on to finishing my jobs for today!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Simplicity...




I've been wanting to get my Christmas cards done for several days now. I finally got them made yesterday. I didn't want to do anything too time-consuming, since I have so many projects I'm trying to get done. But I did want to make them, instead of buying them. So I made these simple cards. I just printed up a couple of verses on the computer, printed them, tore them out, glued them on the card along with a piece of cardstock, and stamped on a design. I had all of the supplies, including the plain cards, so they didn't end up costing me anything. I had found these cute Christmas stampers last year at Wal-Mart, and was glad to get the chance to use them! It only took me about an hour to make 20 cards from start to finish, including clean-up time! I'm hoping to get the cards written and sent by Tuesday. That's my goal...hopefully I can accomplish it!

As a side note: I've been informed by the "Bible Police" ;) [a.k.a. my dad] that I'm supposed to cite what version of the Bible my verses came from. So, just to make sure I have all my bases covered, I used the NIV version. =)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Christmas Night





We are in the middle of enjoying a wonderful Christmas evening! We had a nice candlelight dinner tonight, then headed over to a nearby botanical garden to enjoy their beautiful light display. It was completely free and absolutely lovely. We really enjoyed it! We may have just started a new holiday tradition! The pictures don't quite do them justice, but some of things we saw were a hanging fuscia, a spider on its web, a pond complete with swan and lily pads, and a peacock. It was a very creative display! In just a little bit we are going to be settling in on the couch to watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", which is on TV tonight. And of course we'll enjoy hot cocoa and cookies! What a fun (and frugal) evening!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Lessons...

They say you learn something new every day. My lesson for today: Don't put a bottle of honey in the cupboard upside down.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

My Centerpiece...


I've finally finished my centerpiece! It's been sitting half-done for the past couple weeks because I didn't have any greens to go on it. I took some today that had fallen down in the school yard, so I was able to get it done! I was happy with the way it turned out...

Busy with Christmas...

It's been busy, busy, busy around here! We've had lots going on, plus I've been working on the many projects I'm trying to finish before Christmas! I love doing them, even though it makes me a little busier than I like to be. Someday I'll be organized enough to start my projects in September and then maybe I'll be able to breathe a little bit in the few weeks before Christmas! But as it is, I'm using most of my spare minutes to work on the gifts I'll be giving to my loved ones in a couple of weeks. After the big day I'll post some pictures of the finished products....

Monday, December 3, 2007

Weather...

We've had lots of crazy weather around here the last few days...

Saturday we got snow - a rare treat around here! We ended up with a couple of inches....but by Sunday it was pretty much gone, as it started raining...and it hasn't stopped yet! We've had a lot of rain today...so much that many areas have flooded. We also had wind in some spots today, which only added to the trouble. It's been so bad in some areas, that the governor declared a state of emergency here. Where we live is okay, thankfully, but there are many roads near us that are closed due to flooding. Some of the pictures on the news are pretty amazing. The weather is supposed to start improving now, which is good news....

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Let's Say Thanks...

It has to be so hard for our soldiers to be away from their families, especially at this time of the year. I'm sure it means a lot to them to receive cards and letters from people all over our country, people they've never met, but who are writing to let them know they appreciate the sacrifice they are making. Xerox is helping people do this, at the website www.letssaythanks.com. If you go to this website, you can choose a card design (all of which were drawn by children), choose or write a message, and submit your card. Xerox then prints the cards and sends them to the troops. It's fast, easy, and free. What a wonderful way to be a blessing to someone!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An Old-fashioned Christmas Tree






As the university housing manual came out earlier this year, we discovered rules that we didn't know about last Christmas. Such as the one that says you can't put lights on a real Christmas tree (they're worried about fires). As much as I didn't want a light-free tree, I really didn't want to go out and buy a fake tree that we weren't ever going to use again. So we decided to go ahead and get a real one, and forego the lights. I originally planned to use ribbon on the tree, in place of lights. But when we were out looking for ribbon, I stumbled across these cute garlands. They're made of red and white wooden beads, and remind me of the old-fashioned popcorn and cranberry garland. I had considered making one of popcorn and cranberries, so when we found this, it seemed perfect, especially since we hadn't been able to find any ribbon we liked. I love the look of this garland! Although I do miss the twinkle of lights, I am enjoying my very old-fashioned looking tree.

Our tree topper adds to the old-fashioned look. We found her last year. It's not a real tree topper - just a rag doll that we're using for one. We loved her as soon as we saw her, and she does the job beautifully.

The tree skirt I made last year out of a piece of cotton and some bias tape. It was extremely simple and very inexpensive compared to buying one!

For quite some time, my very favorite ornament has been these little mice. We first discovered them years ago when my brother brought them home. I believe he had made them in Sunday School, or something. My parents made some another year, and then last year I made a bunch and gave them away (and kept a couple). The little mice tucked in their beds always brings a smile to my face. I love seeing them hang on the tree.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Frugal Scrubber


I usually use a scrubber sponge when I am washing dishes and come across something that doesn't come off with just a washcloth. I have been buying packages of scrubbers, then cutting them into three smaller pieces so that they last longer (I thought that was being pretty frugal). I ran out of them, though a couple of weeks ago, but have got along without them fine since. I was washing dishes this afternoon and couldn't get a pan clean. I was about to leave it to soak for a while longer when I remembered something that I had in a drawer. When I was reading The Tightwad Gazette a while back, one suggestion had been to use onion bags as scrubbers. Afterwards, I had saved an onion bag I had, putting it into a drawer, but then forgetting about it until today. Remembering it in there, I decided to try it, so I pulled it out. I put my wash cloth inside the bag, then used it to scrub the pan. It worked wonderfully, just as well as a regular scrubber. It worked really well to have the wash cloth inside it, because then I had soap, and it was easier to hold on to. I was so pleased to find that this worked well! I may never buy scrubbers again. It might be frugal to cut scrubbers up, but it's even more frugal to use something that's free!

Monday, November 26, 2007

My strong husband....

Who needs a saw? After we had decided on a tree we liked, my husband used his mighty strength to get it for me, as the following video shows....
video

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Time with family...



I love spending time with family during the holidays. We spent the weekend doing fun Christmasy things with our families, and it was so much fun! Saturday we went to my in-laws house and had a fun evening of watching A Christmas Carol and then making Christmas gift tags. I was able to make a bunch and I should have enough for all our gifts.

Sunday after church we went out with my family and continued our tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree. Last year Seth and I had gotten a tree on our own, so it was fun to go with them again to a tree farm and look for trees. We were able to find two good trees to cut down.

Christmas and family....can't get much better than that! =)

Friday, November 23, 2007

It's Officially Christmastime!


Now that it is officially the holiday season, I've started with the Christmas decorations, one of my favorite things to do! I finished my candy wreath, so I hung it on the wall. Of course it won't look so nice for long, as the candy slowly disappears! The rest of our decorations will be going up over the next couple of days...I will post more pictures when we finish.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Are Books on Their Way Out?

I remember reading a story as a child - it was about a boy and girl who lived in the future. They did their schoolwork at home, but their mom didn't teach them; instead they had an electronic "teacher", a machine that taught their lesson, gave them homework, etc. I remember that in the story, the kids found a real book, something neither of them had ever seen, since they weren't made anymore; they read using the screen of their "teacher". They discovered that the book had belonged to one of their grandfathers. That's all I really remember from the story, but I remember thinking at the time that that probably wouldn't ever really happen - I couldn't imagine not having real books. I still can't imagine not having real books to read, but I do now think that will someday happen. I was watching the news yesterday for a little bit and saw the newest release from Amazon - the Kindle, an electronic reading device. It is about the size of a book, and its screen will show one "page" at a time. It can hold up to 200 books, which can be bought and downloaded instantly thanks to its wireless capabilities. It was hailed as perfect for travelers, who of course can only take so many books with them at one time. Having seen this, I can easily imagine this sort of thing taking the place of paper books in the not-so-distant future. After all, it would save so much money and so many trees. While I can agree that this could be a wonderful thing for someone who travels a lot, I can't imagine curling up on the couch in front of a fire, with a cup of hot cocoa and what is basically a little computer. No, I enjoy the feel of books, turning the pages, and the faded print of older books. While I am now sure that someday paper books will lose their place in most homes, I really hope that doesn't happen for a very long time.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Finally!

I finally got around to adding links to blogs I read. I've been discovering new blogs recently, so I may add more links in the future. I really enjoy reading other people's blogs - learning a little about their lives and getting new ideas!

I am also very happy this morning because Saturday our wireless internet started working again. We're supposed to have wireless in our college housing apartment, but for some reason, it hasn't worked for probably 6 months. So we've had to use the long ugly cable to hook up to the phone jack. Now it's put away. Hooray for wireless! =)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Yummy Homemade Mac & Cheese


I don't buy boxed macaroni and cheese very often, not only because the good stuff usually costs too much, but also because it really isn't very healthy. It is, however, good; better than most homemade kinds. For some reason they tend to either be kind of dry or not very cheesy. Since my husband really likes macaroni and cheese, one day I just decided to see if I could make my own. I based it off the boxed kind - using the ingredients they use, only using real cheese instead of the "cheese" powder. I just kind of winged it, adding some of each ingredient until it seemed good. It turned out really well - we both really liked it and I have made it again several times since. I wrote down the approximate amounts I used the first time, but I don't usually measure - I just estimate. Here is the "approximate" recipe that serves two people:

1 1/2 cups pasta (we like to use penne pasta)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/8 milk
3/4 cup + a little more shredded cheddar cheese

Cook and drain pasta according to directions. When the pasta is almost done cooking, prepare the cheese sauce. Place margarine, milk, and 3/4 cup cheese in a sauce pan, heat and stir until smooth. Add it to cooked, drained pasta, mix well. Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper, if desired. Pour into a baking dish, sprinkle with a little more cheese, and place in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes until the cheese is melted. Enjoy!

I usually make more than this so I have some leftovers to send with my husband to work. One thing to note, also, is to put water in your pans soon after you make this - otherwise the cheese sticks to them and they are harder to clean.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Apples....




My grandma recently gave my parents a bunch of apples, and my mom passed some of them along to me. I finally was able to find some time to do something with them. I used a few of them to make a yummy apple crisp, but I wasn't quite sure what to do with the rest of them. I had to use them soon or they would start going bad. I thought about making and freezing applesauce, but unfortunately, that's not my husband's favorite thing. Then I remembered my mom saying something about freezing apple slices, and I decided to try it, since then I'd be able to use them at a later date, whether I wanted an apple pie, or make a little applesauce for me. I found a few sites online that explained what to do. I used the "dry pack" method, which simply involves peeling and slicing apples, then placing them on a cookie sheet, and putting that in the freezer. When the apples are frozen, they get placed in a freezer bag, labeled, and put back in the freezer. This will be great if I ever need a dessert in a hurry - with the work of peeling and slicing apples already done, I can make an apple crisp really quickly!

Traditions


We've had a busy week here so far, which isn't too unusual. This is the first evening we haven't had anything going on since last Wednesday. We spent the weekend celebrating Seth's birthday with our families, which was nice. I love birthdays, partly because I love all the traditions that go along with them. My family started some traditions when I was growing up that I've tried to continue, like serving the birthday person breakfast in bed, a birthday bag, which is kind of like a Christmas stocking, and a "cake topper" present, which is just a little present that is given when the cake is served. I'd like to be able to start some of my own traditions, too, but so far the only thing I've been able to think of is to make a special birthday candle that we've used since we've been married. It's one tradition of our own, and it also is a great money saver! I made the candle holder from a clean sparkling cider bottle, and just printed up a little "Happy Birthday" banner and taped it on the bottle. Then I just used a normal taper candle. This saves me from having to buy special birthday cake candles! It's kind of a fun way to recycle something that normally gets thrown away.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Girl's Night

I enjoyed a fun evening with my mom and sisters last night! My dad was away at a men's retreat, and my husband was busy last night, so it was just us girls. We went to a favorite Christmas bazaar, bought some fun things, then we went back to my parent's house to watch a Christmas movie! And of course, what's a movie without snacks to go with it? =) It is so nice to be able to spend time with people you love! I am so blessed to have a wonderful family!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Happy Birthday, Seth!

Today is my husband's birthday. I always love special days! Unfortunately, Seth had classes and his internship to go to, and I had to work. But we were able to spend some time together, too. I made him breakfast in bed, a special tradition from my family. When I got home from work, we had a nice dinner, watched a movie, and then we went out for dessert. We'll also get to spend some time with our families this weekend to celebrate!

Happy Birthday!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Decorate the Door - on the inside!




I read somewhere - I can't remember where - about putting something on the inside of your door so that it looks nice when people leave your house also, instead of just when they come in. So I've been planning a project for a while, but I wasn't able to actually make it until last night when I borrowed a small drill bit from my dad. It was simple to make - I just drilled a few holes, painted these pieces wood I found at a craft store, wrote on them with a Sharpie, and then put in some wire. I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. Someday I really need to learn how to do calligraphy - I've been wanting to for years, and it would help with projects like this. So the writing's not perfect, but it does add a little color and cheer to the inside of the door!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Home Office



We use our kitchen table for a lot more than just eating. Since our internet hook-up is by the table, this is where we use our computer, so this is also where Seth does his homework, and it's also where I do most of my household stuff - banking, budgeting, bill-paying, etc. Because of this, our table is often filled with papers, books, etc. So when it comes time to eat, we have to clear the table, usually piling the stuff on the couch because there isn't any where else for it to go. So I've been trying to think of a way to make things simpler for us, to allow us to be able to do the work we need to do at the table, but also help us keep it a little cleaner so we can use it for meals easier, too. So I've come up with a solution that has really worked for us. I already had the basket on the left, and I thought that would be a great place to be able to put papers that we're using, and it also has a place for pens and notepads. But I also needed something to put my household notebook in, and I really didn't know what would work for that. We decided to go to Ikea a few days ago (one of my favorite stores), and I found the basket on the right. It was absolutely perfect for my notebook. Now we're easily able to put everything away so the table stays pretty clean, but at the same time, everything is easily accessible for when we need it. The mini bulletin board above the right basket is something I made years ago - I just put a small piece of cork from a craft store into a small frame, and that works well for reminders, since it's something that I look at often. I've been really happy with this set up!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Coupons - to use or not to use?

Most "frugal" books that I've read tend to all say the same things. So I've found it interesting to find something that is "controversial" among those that consider themselves to be frugal. That is, some swear by it while others don't give it the time of day. Some people claim to save hundreds of dollars and get lots of stuff for practically nothing by using coupons, while others say that it isn't worth the time to search for coupons, and that when they do find them, they are usually for name-brand products they wouldn't buy anyway, or that are still more expensive than generic brands.

I tend to agree with those that think coupons aren't worth it. I personally don't use coupons very often. I purchase the majority of my groceries at the store my husband works at, where the prices are lower than most other stores, and I get a discount. Most of the products they sell are their own store brand, so manufacturers coupons don't work there anyway, and they don't put out store coupons. The rest of the things I buy I usually buy on sale, which often happen to be generic brand products. I don't have the time to spend looking for coupons, and the amount I would save probably wouldn't be worth it. Some stores in other parts of the country offer double or triple coupons, and then it is probably more worth the time spent looking for them. But around here, no stores do that. And since I am able to stick to a fairly frugal food budget without coupons, I don't really bother with them.

I will use them every once in a while, if I just happen to come across something I would use. I do have have a coupon envelope that I keep in my purse, mostly filled with coupons for 40% off something at a craft store or the Christian book store. I have found a few really good coupons that other people have posted on their blogs, like a coupon for a free bag of candy, or for $5 off a Polly Pocket toy. Since these are really good (i.e. free) coupons for something I would buy, I'll use them. My mom will give me good coupons sometimes, also, like a coupon for $5 off a Tylenol product. Since I have a hard time swallowing pills, I buy chewable Tylenol, so this coupon will save me a fair amount of money. This is the sort of coupon that is worthwhile to me. Most coupons aren't that worth it.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Day After...

This is one of the most dreaded days of the year for a teacher. The day with tired, cranky kids who are coming down off a sugar high. Fortunately, it wasn't as bad today as it could have been. The kids had their moments, but for the most part it seemed like they had slept most of the sugar off.

Now, since the holiday is over, I'm going to be on the watch for cheap candy that I can use to make one of the cool Christmas wreaths featured here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvaRCEwZTm4

Just copy and paste the address to check it out.

Yum!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sewing Station


Lately I've been looking at our apartment to see how I can make it work better for us and the things we do. We have a desk in our bedroom that isn't being used at the moment, because everything that is typically done at a desk is done at our kitchen table. I wanted to be able to use it for something, not only because it seems like a waste to not use it, but also because I really like my desk and felt bad that I wasn't using it. So, I came up with a solution. I turned it into my sewing station. Now not only will the desk be put to good use, but it will also be a lot easier for me to sew, because I won't have to drag the sewing machine out of the closet every time I want to sew, something that has always been an annoyance to me. I set up the sewing machine, and took all of my sewing supplies out of their storage box and placed them in containers on the desk, so that they will be easily accessible. I also placed a small bench at the end of my bed, which perfectly holds my fold-up ironing board, so that I'll be able to iron my projects right there, also. It all turned out great - now I just need to think of a project to do!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Going, Going, Gone!




So yesterday morning I woke up to my kitchen looking like this:

Not the most pleasant of ways to begin the day. Unfortunately, it often looks like this in the morning because after making and eating dinner, I don't always feel like cleaning up right away. So I leave it and clean up in the morning. I had thought about cleaning the kitchen Sunday night when I got home, but, well, Extreme Makeover Home Edition was way more interesting! =)


Whenever I have a really big mess like this, I clean it in stages. I start by washing all the little things - the silverware, cups, bowls, plates, etc. until I've filled my dish drainer. Then I move the remaining dishes to the sink and adjacent counter. I wipe down the stove and the counter next to it. Then I go away and do something else for a while.

When the dishes have dried, I put them away, and wash some more dishes until they're either gone or I've filled the drainer again. When all the dishes have been finished, I wipe down the rest of the counters and the sink. When these dishes have dried, they get put away, and I have a clean kitchen! If only it would stay that way for more than a couple of hours!

It really helps me to clean a little bit at a time like this because since I only spent 15-30 minutes at any one time, the job isn't quite so overwhelming, but yet I do have good progress that I can see!

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Special Heirloom


I received this beautiful teacup from my grandma when I graduated from high school. What makes it so special is that she had received it when she graduated from high school! I love special treasures that are passed down to me! It is so fun to have things that were once treasured by other people. I feel like I have a bit of history in my home!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My New Shelf


My project for Sunday was to turn a board we had sitting around into a shelf. I've been meaning to do it for some time, so I figured now was as a good a time as any. We don't have any fancy power tools, so it's very simple and by no means perfect, but it fills the empty space on my wall quite nicely. It only took about an hour and a half of actual work time from start to finish (it took longer than that to actually be done, since the stain had to dry). The best part was that it cost me nothing - we had everything I needed already sitting around! I might still play around with what I put on it - I just stuck some stuff up there for now. I really love shelves - they always look cute and they're such a great place to put stuff that you have!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Last Harvest


For the last several days, Seth and I have been trying to do some projects to keep ourselves busy, and one of my projects for Saturday was to clean out our garden. Our apartment complex has a small community garden area, so I was able to grow some things this year. I must say, it was a very easy way for us to have fresh, organic, and cheap produce. It only took me a few hours to dig up and plant the garden, and I only spent about 10 minutes a day watering it, and every minute I spent was well worth it! Unfortunately, the couple of strawberry plants I had only produced a couple of strawberries that animals got, the pumpkin plants died, and I never got any cucumbers, either. But, we got some beans and lots of lettuce and tomatoes, and I loved that it was so fresh! It was fun to go get some lettuce from the garden for a salad for dinner. Since we are required to clean everything out of the garden by November, that's what I did on Saturday. I dug up the strawberry plants and put them in a planter box, hoping that they'll make it through the winter. The rest of the stuff I just pulled out and tossed. I was surprised to find that I still had tomatoes growing. Most were green, but I picked them all, in the hopes that the green ones would ripen. I also found that the carrots I had planted were finally big enough to be picked! I had tried picking them a while ago, but they were still tiny. I'm not sure why they took so long to grow. I also found some more green beans that I picked. I ended up bringing home a whole bag full of stuff. I hadn't been out to the garden for a while, and wasn't expecting to find anything still growing, so it was a nice surprise. The green beans we had in our dinner yesterday. The tomatoes aren't ripening so far, but instead are starting to get spots on them, so I'm thinking that I won't get to use those. But we still have lots of carrots to use! Not bad when I hadn't expected to bring anything home at all!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

God is Good

This is something Christians say a lot. Something that's a lot easier to say when everything's going great than it is when life is tough. Something that we have to be able to hold on to and believe even when we don't understand everything that is going on. It's been a tough week here for us. We found out a few days ago that we lost the baby we were expecting. Unless you've been through it, I don't think anyone can quite understand the pain and grief that comes with a loss like this. So many plans, hopes, and dreams taken away in an instant. We're still trying to come to grips with what has happened. We are so thankful for the love and support of our family and friends during this time. Although we can't comprehend why this has happened, we are holding on to the fact that God is in control of our lives and will work all things for good and we are thankful that He will carry us through this difficult time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Montana

As I had said before, we spent the weekend in Montana. I had planned to take some pictures of the area to post, but ended up only taking one picture all weekend, and that was of some of the people we were with. So I have no pictures that show how pretty Montana is, and it really is pretty, especially with the sunshine we were blessed with this weekend. We went to Montana to have a Bible Quizzing competition. I am a coach for a team here that is involved in Bible Quizzing. Basically, in Bible Quizzing, the members of the team memorize several chapters out of the Bible each year, then several times a year will compete against other teams by quizzing over those chapters. We have a Regional competition in the spring, then in June compete nationally against other teams across the nation. The quizzers are in 7-12 grade. I quizzed my last two years of high school, and I have been a coach since then. So this weekend, two teams from Washington got together and took a bus to Montana, to practice our quizzing with a team there. We got lots of good practice and got to see a little bit more of Montana (this was our third time going there). Quizzing is an awesome ministry, and one of the perks of it (besides learning a lot of scripture) is that those involved get to travel to various places around the country. Each year Nationals is in a different place, so in my years of involvement, I've traveled to Michigan, Minnesota, California, Ohio, West Virginia & Washington D.C., Missouri, plus all of the other places that we've had layovers in, or traveled through to get to these states.
Anyway, it was a good trip, and we were able to come back with a little more rest than we often get at home, which is a bonus! =)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Home Sweet Home

It's nice to be home. We just got back from a three-day trip to Montana. It's always nice to be able to get away from the norm for a few days and relax, miss a little work and get a break from the routine, cleaning the house, doing dishes, etc. It was a good trip. It was a long bus ride there and back (more on that later), but we had a fun weekend. As good as it is to be home, sometimes I come back from a trip and wish I wasn't home quite yet. Because as soon as I get home, I start thinking about everything that I need to do and wish that I could postpone a bit longer. And as relaxing as it can be to get away for a few days, it can add more busyness and stress later, because sometimes there are more things that now need to be done. I often get some things done on the weekend, and since I was gone, I now have to fit those things into an already busy week. Like the grocery shopping I usually get done on Saturdays that I have to try to do sometime early this week. And I usually do my laundry on Sundays, but we'll have to make do until Wednesday. But all in all, a little extra work this one week is worth being able to "escape" for a couple of days, especially since it's something we don't do too often.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My New Friend


I found this little guy when I was walking around the mall the other day and I just had to have him for my table. Yes, it was totally an impulse buy, which I don't do very much, but he was too cute to pass up. I hadn't ever seen anything like him, so I got him and now this little turkey candle holder is keeping my pumpkin company. =)

Monday, October 8, 2007

You know it's fall when....

You get to go to the pumpkin farm! We took my preschool class on one of my favorite field trips of the year - the pumpkin farm! The farm is such a fun place for kids - their natural curiosity comes out with the plants, animals, and all there is to see on a farm. The farm we went to was perfect, small but had plenty to see, and our tour guide was great with the kids - she kept them interested and doing lots of different things. Then, of course, they got to pick out their favorite pumpkin from the field. I always find it interesting to see what kind of pumpkin each child picks. Some will go for the biggest they can find, while others choose a little tiny one. This year, several of the children didn't like the fact that all the pumpkins were dirty, so much in fact that they almost didn't want to get one. We had to convince them that they could clean it at school or at home, and then they chose one after all. Kids certainly keep life interesting!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Finally...

I finally finished the book I've been reading for probably about two weeks (I can't remember exactly when I started it). It usually doesn't take me that long to read a book, since I love reading, but it was one of the longer books I've read and it's hard to find the time to read. But I spent a total of about 3 hours today reading and I finished it! I've seen the movie a couple of times and really enjoyed it, so I got the book from the library and was pleased to find that it was very similar to the movie. It always bugs me when a movie is made based off a book and lots of things are changed. But Wives and Daughters didn't disappoint me, although I was very surprised to learn while reading that the author died before finishing the story. It was almost finished, though, and what wasn't in the book can be assumed based off the rest of the story. I've ordered the movie from the library, also, since I want to see it again, but it will probably be several months before I receive it, as I was 36 in the holds list, and there are only 8 copies to go around!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Home

It's so good to be home. I just got home from my second long day at work this week. Tuesday I got home at 8, and tonight at 9. Usually I'm home around 5:30, but this week I've had to take First Aid and CPR classes after work. It's nice that the classes are held at my work site, it just makes for long days. It's nice to just come home and be able to relax and not have to do anything (of course that's not really true - I have dishes awaiting, but then when do I really have nothing to do?). But still, it's nice to be able to sit and do something brainless for a few minutes! =) I love being home!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Shopping Day!

I spent a couple hours this morning doing my every-other-week grocery shopping trip. I used to go grocery shopping every week, but I have found that by doing it less, I don't spend as much. I'm not sure if it's because I don't buy as much extras, or if it's because I try harder to make things last longer, or because most things are sold in larger amounts than we use in one week, or what, but since it seems to be working, I keep doing it - plus it saves on gas, which around here is pretty important. The only drawback to this is that sometimes on my non-shopping week, there are some good sales that I miss out on. If it's a really good sale, though, like last week's oats, I might go get some anyway. Of course, by then, I've usually spent all my food money for the period, so, like I did last week, I have to take some money from somewhere else, and then I just replace it when I get the next period's food money.

For the last month, I've been trying really hard to lower our food budget even more than I already have. Until now, we've spent $200 a month on food, which is pretty good, but this month I tried doing it for $175. Since I get my food money twice a month, I have about $87 dollars to spend each time. So far, I've been able to do it. My one concern about lowering my food budget was that I wouldn't be able to take advantage of really good sales and stock up like I've been able to do. But since I was able to buy a bunch of oats last week, and it all ended up coming out of my food money, I'm more convinced now that I'll be able to stick to $175 a month. That will allow an extra $25 a month to go into savings! And like they say, every little bit helps!

One thing I do that has really helped me stick to my budget in food, as well as other areas like gas and entertainment, is that I use cash. This isn't a new idea, but it really works for me! In this "easy money" world of debit and credit cards, it helps me keep track of how much I'm spending and gives me a stopping point. It's so easy to swipe a debit card, and you forget how quickly even little purchases add up, which makes it easy to spend more than you want without realizing it. By putting my allotted amount into an envelope, I easily can see how much of my budget I'm using in any single transaction, and I know that when the money's gone, it's gone.

One other way to save a little extra money that I've found to be really easy is by saving change in a jar. I almost never use change at a store. Whenever I get change back, it goes straight into a jar. I have never missed it, and it's amazing to see how fast it adds up! Every few months, I roll up the coins and take them to the bank. I always have a nice little chunk that I either put into my special savings, or that I use to buy something that we needed. It's a nice way to save up for something special without feeling like you're taking money away from something else.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Never Enough Time

When I decided to start a blog, I was a little afraid I would spend more time than I should online, blogging and reading other peoples' blogs. I didn't think that a week would pass with me not spending more than a few minutes online. I always find it amazing how quickly life can fly by...days pass, then weeks, and I hardly know where they went, or what I did with them. I am certainly looking forward to the coming days when I can spend my time at home doing the things I want to be doing, rather than having to go to work all day, and then come home to what seems like a very short evening, go to bed, and start it all over again the next day. I do like my job - I love working with kids - but I don't like the fact that my time belongs to someone else. I like to think that when I am home all day, I will have plenty of time to do all the things I would like to get done. Somehow, though, I have a feeling that even when my days do belong to me, with a new baby, there will still never be enough time...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It's an Art!

A big part of any homemaker's job (especially those on a limited budget) is to make the household income go farther. One of the ways I try to do this (as it is one of the areas I have the most control over) is to feed my husband and I for the smallest amount possible. Of course one simple way to do this is to buy items on sale. The more items you can buy on sale, the more you'll save, with the goal being to buy everything on sale, to pay full price for nothing. But, stores don't always have things on sale when you need them. So then, you either have to do without or buy the item for full price. To avoid this problem, I have been trying to stock up on items that are a really good price, to last me until the item goes on sale again. However, the more I do this, the more I realize that it is somewhat of an art form. It takes thought, planning, and definitely some experience to be able to realize when something is a very good price, to be able to predict when it will go on sale again, and to be able to determine how much of that item you will need to last you until the next sale. If you are able to do this, however, it will undoubtably save you a lot of money in the long run. Of course, it does require you to spend a little more upfront, which can be hard for some people, but it can be done if you work it into your budget.

Since I'm still fairly new at running a household, this is an art I'm definitely still learning! A while back, one store had a really great deal on Quaker products, including oats. I bought a bunch of oats to put in my stock. For a while they just sat there, but then I started making homemade granola, and using them for other things, like granola bars and cookies. Then the other day, I realized that my stock of oats was almost gone. Since I didn't want to be without any oats if I should happen to need them, I put them on my list to buy on my next shopping trip. When I went grocery shopping, I found some oats on sale for $2.50. I knew that I had gotten my last stock for cheaper than that, but I couldn't remember exactly how much I had paid for them, and I didn't think that was a terrible price, so I bought one. I sure regretted that decision a few days later, when I opened the grocery store ads to find that great Quaker sale again! Oats were on sale for $1.00! I couldn't pass up this sale, since I knew what a great deal it was! It does take a bite out of my food budget to be able to do this, but I know I'll save quite a bit of money in the long run! Saving money certainly is a learning process!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Welcome!

Welcome to my blog! This will contain my thoughts, ideas, and snippets of my life! I pray it will be a blessing and encouragement to all who read it!