Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

I can't believe that 2009 has already gone. It just doesn't seem possible. I had so many BIG plans for this year. Some have come to fruition and some haven't.


The one's that have:
  • A half bath added in our finished basement.
  • A major redo of our main (and only other) bath completed (the studs and the original cast iron tub are all that's left from before!).
  • My sinus problem diagnosed, treated and finally taken care of through surgery.

The one's that didn't:

  • Finishing my PhD - I WILL finish it in 2010 (even if I have to follow a certain committee member around daily!)
  • Cleaning out all the extra stuff in my house.
  • Finishing off our hardwood floors and doors and getting new trim for our main floor.
  • Finishing all the half-finished projects I have started that are lurking in my sewing/craft area.

I've made progress on cleaning out the stuff and the projects and am determined to get those and the PhD done in 2010. John and I are going to take some time after the kids go to bed tonight and come up with some family goals and our January budget. We have an actually date night out tomorrow night (thank you free babysitting at church!) and we'll talk about fun stuff then! :) I'll be doing some posts later on about some of these things so you can help hold me accountable and I can keep reminding myself where I'm at.

So tonight it's peanut butter oatmeal rounds (made by me and the kids this afternoon)...

Sparkling grape juice (purchased on sale of course!)...

And a year in review...

Wishing you God's many blessings in 2010.

Lea

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Prep - Fall to Christmas Decorating

Okay, I've said I'd post this stuff for a while but, well, I've been too busy enjoying my family and Christmas and all that stuff!


I love, love, LOVE decorating for Christmas! I grew up with a Mom who literally decorated every room in the house except the ugly concrete utility room - even the laundry room got decorated! And it was a big deal. We had a special day for the Christmas Tree and the Nativity with music, cookies, cocoa and lots of exclaiming over the ornaments.

The rest of the house was no different - a couple boxes each Saturday starting after Thanksgiving. Exclaiming and excitement.

Since I'm in school and the kids are little, we don't do as much as my Mom did (plus I need a few more years to acquire all the "stuff" that she has!). I also try to make the transition from fall to winter fairly easy since I don't have much time. So what did we do?

Here's my sofa end tables:

Fall: Potpourri and cinnamon scented pine cones.



Christmas: Pine and Vanilla Scented Potpourri, Cinnamon Scented Pine cones and Felt Ornaments my Mom made for me when I was little.



My Small Roll Top Writing Desk:


Fall: (Sorry this pic is so dark - it's a wooden scarecrow that says "Give Thanks" and a yellow triangle candy dish.) We keep pics of our nieces and nephews on this too during most of the year.



Christmas: Our cloth nativity - a homemade wedding gift from friends of my parents - and a few more felt ornaments. The phone and wheat topiary are always there. The green pot usually holds a fruit topiary all year round.



Inside My China Hutch:


Fall: Cinnamon Scented pine cones and fake sugared fruit.


Christmas: Cinnamon Scented Pine cones and Colored Christmas Ball Ornaments.


Kitchen Shelf:


Fall: Our salt shaker and a marble apple John got as a HS grad gift (the "fruit"), a jar of coffee beans, and a vase of whole hazelnuts.





Christmas: Swap the Hazelnuts for Christmas Balls, Add a box of Christmas Tea and Nutcrackers! (That thing on the left is a Lefse turner - Norwegian Potato Flat bread = Lefse - and it's there all year.)


Kitchen Window:

Fall: Fall Wreath






Christmas: A wreath crocheted by my cousin - starched to make it stand out.



It looks complicated - but it's really not. Total time for all that: about 45 minutes with help from little hands! How did you decorate for Christmas?

Freezer and Pantry Inventory

Uff da! Mom and I inventoried my deep freeze downstairs and I inventoried my pantry, kitchen cupboards, and my fridge/freezer. Nothing really exciting, surprising or shocking except the Tupperware container full of rhubarb sauce with a sticker on it from 1995 that I inherited from my Aunt when she moved west. I think I stuck it in the freezer so that it wouldn't stink up my garbage until it was taken outside. And it got buried. More than once. (Note: my Aunt moved west in 2005, so she'd had it in HER freezer for 10 years first - I was just playing copycat! :) )

Possible Challenges?
26 10oz steaks from our 1/4 cow. What on earth was I thinking when I got that many?
7 sticks of unsalted butter, supposedly for baking, but I'm not sure.
4 1/2 lbs of Chicken Leg Quarters that need to be used somehow.
1 ham bone that I'd saved to make split pea with ham soup for my folks but didn't this time around (John doesn't like that so I can't make it for us) and I should use for something soon.

Things I don't have:
A variety of meat - mostly beef (steaks or ground) and a bit of chicken. Not much else.
We like variety so that's going to be fairly hard to deal with. I'll have to come up with something!


Since I usually blanch and freeze veggies for the winter rather than buying frozen from the store, I have already been using those and was anticipating the rest over the next couple of months so that's not a big deal. I'm planning a run to the store today to fill in some obvious 'holes' (TP and we're out of Cinnamon - which is a big deal at our house!) and get a couple of real deals as well. I'll post on that later this week.

So, Now I just need to put together my menu for next week and meal ideas for the following weeks...that's going to be either fun or excruciating. I can't decide which!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Week of December 27th

Can you believe 2009 is almost gone? I'm having trouble with that! It's been an amazing year and I'm still struggling with finishing up a few things that we need to get done before the year ends (or rather, SHOULD get done before the year ends). Sigh.

Also, my folks head back home on Wednesday and I'm home all week this week. I love having them here and will definitely miss them! The kids usually start asking when they're coming back before they've been gone an hour. I like that! :)

So, what are we eating?

Here it is!

Sunday:
Brunch: Out
Dinner: Leftovers

Monday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Out
Dinner: Baked Chicken, Rice, Steamed Green Beans, Fruit

Tuesday:
Breakfast: Waffles with Fruit
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash, Homemade Whole Wheat Rolls, Fruit

Wednesday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Sandwiches, Fruit
Dinner: Homemade Chicken Calzones, Lettuce Salad, Fruit

Thursday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Bananas
Lunch: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Fruit
Dinner: Beef Stir Fry, Rice, Fruit

Friday:
Breakfast: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls, Fruit
Lunch: Tuna Salad Tortillas, Carrot and Celery Sticks, Fruit
Dinner: Homemade Macaroni and Cheese and Fruit for the Kids, Out for John and Lea

For more menu inspiration, see I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Accepting the Challenge!

I was pleasantly surprised when I read Money Saving Mom this morning! I had been planning on doing an eating from the pantry month in January, so this fits right in with what Crystal is doing with Fish Mama from Life as Mom. I guess a lot of us have the same idea here this year and I'm excited to be able to join in!

So, what are my rules for my family? I don't have many...

The biggie:
$50 for the whole month! Yes, folks, that's $12.50 each week!

How? I went through my cupboards, fridge/freezer combo and pantry tonight and will go through the deep freeze tomorrow AM with the help of my Mom (who leaves for home on Wednesday). I have a list of what we have and will be planning meals from that. I have a preliminary plan for the whole month outlined and hope to have it completely filled out by January 1 so we can jump right in. I'm planning to buy milk, a bag of salad greens and fresh fruit each week. I'll also need to buy some fresh veggies occasionally and might go after some killer deals as well depending on how much I have to spend that week and what produce I have left from the week before. It's a good thing I'm doing this - we have WAY more stuff than I thought we did and I need to use up some of it!

What I'm trying to decide:
Whether to include toiletries or not. We have enough of everything except dish soap and TP to last the month (in my estimation anyway), so I'm currently thinking we'll say yes to this.

Miscellaneous stuff that might come up:
We do eat out about once a month - either lunch or dinner depending on when we can get a sitter. This is just for John and I as a date so we usually have some kind of 'easy' (i.e. prepared!) food for the kids to have with the sitter - chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, etc. I'm not sure how we're going to handle the convenience foods yet. The eating out comes out of our "recreational" budget category, so that's taken care of separately! Additionally, coffee comes out of a separate budget as well, so I may buy a bag or two of coffee depending on how much I drink of the stuff this month. We did get two big jars of yummy homemade drink mix for Christmas - cocoa and mocha - so I might just have to have that instead! Darn. :)

Other stuff I'm hoping not to spend money on this month:
  • Clothes - we're good and John needs to buy new uniforms for work in February so we'll save up for that
  • Gifts - I think I have everything we need for most occasions until May rolls around
  • Household items - we just bought two new beds (Missy and Buddy got big kid beds!) and a new futon frame to replace the one that broke, I don't want to buy anything else right now!

I'll write more about this later on, but that's the general idea.


What am I going to do with this 'extra' money I'm not spending (after saving for John's uniforms)? Save for tuition for spring semester and summer session! Not that exciting, but necessary. And every little bit helps!

Are you joining in? If so, go to Money Saving Mom to post your link!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Almost there...

This paper is ALMOST done...

It been a tough one - one I'm not particularly happy with but will be soon.

Then I can relax - the presents are bought/made and wrapped (except for one that may end up being a birthday gift!), the cookies are made (thank you Grandma!), the tree up and decorated, and we even have snow.

I'm looking forward to about a week of Christmas movies, board games, reading for fun, and sewing for fun.

How about you? Are you ready for Christmas? Are you going to enjoy it like it is - whatever it is?

My other goal for today with this blog - post our Christmas preparations and a new "Favorite Things" entry about Christmas as well.

Hope you're enjoying the preparation as much as I am, even if this paper is taking a LONG time!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

3 more days to go...

Well, actually in our house, 2 since everything starts on Christmas Eve at our place!
Whew!

Thank heavens my folks are here! Mom doesn't mind making cookies or lefse and that's a really good thing.

Why?

I'm still writing this paper...and I will be this afternoon as well.

Life happens.
I have to roll with it!

At least I have a public library to hide away in...and a laptop to work on...and a flexible professor who will take this thing up through 4pm tomorrow (the 23rd!).
I'm thankful for all of that.. what more can I ask for?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Christmas Edition!

It's Christmas this week! Whoo hoo! Can I tell you how excited my kids are? We caught Missy trying to sneak presents yesterday...and the ornaments on the tree keep re-arranging themselves...and cookie sprinkles have turned into a food group... it's definitely Christmas at our house!

Here's what we're eating:

Sunday:
Brunch: Pancakes with Fruit
Dinner: Beef tacos, Fruit

Monday:
Dinner: Spaghetti with Meatballs, Salad, Fruit

Tuesday:
Dinner: Grilled Shrimp Kabobs with Veggies, Couscous, and Fruit

Wednesday:
Dinner: Chicken Calzones, Salad, Fruit

Thursday (Christmas Eve!):
Dinner: Swedish Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes, Creamed Corn, Lefse, Fruit (Our Traditional
meal!)

Friday (Christmas Day!):
Brunch: Baked Eggs, Hashed Brown Potatoes, Homemade Cinnamon Rolls, Bacon, Fruit (This
is traditional too!)
Dinner: Steak, Steamed Broccoli, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Fruit, Lefse

Saturday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Banana/Strawberry Smoothies
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Leftovers

Baking this Week: Gingerbread Cookies, Sugar Cookies, Soft Ginger Cookies, Soft Sugar Cookies, Finish Ribbon Cookies, Krumkaka, and Lefse

Some of the baking will be given away, and some we will keep. I love all the baking this time of year!

For more Christmas cooking inspiration visit I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Healthy Habits in 2010

I see so many people writing about losing weight, both in the blogosphere and in other media. Advertisements and programs like The Biggest Loser tout losing weight fast and in huge amounts and can easily make the rest of us feel like a failure when we can't produce results in kind.

I've never been what you would call 'thin' (thank you large bone physique!) but I've also only had a brief time when I could be called more than 'chubby'. Right now I'm between a good weight and 'chubby' - about 5lbs over what my personal ideal body weight is. For me this is the weight that keeps both myself and my doctors happy without having to either deprive myself of food that I enjoy or exercise like mad 7 days a week. It's also the weight where I keep my body fat percentage in a healthy range without going crazy. Yes, I currently need to lose 5-8 lbs to get there.

I have two chronic medical conditions - one that is effected by diet, exercise and, ultimately, my weight. That means I also have a registered dietitian that I work with. What I've been working on for the last year is portion control and healthy snacking. Those are the key things for me to work on diet-wise right now - I'm doing pretty good on the portion control by now but need to work on snacking. I also need to exercise more - 2 hours a week plus a lot of walking doesn't cut it. I'm working on keeping 3x a week and moving up to 4 and wearing a pedometer to track my steps (I'm at about 5000 steps most days and working toward 6000 - ultimate goal of 10,000-12,000). (Side note: Try wearing a pedometer if you think you're active. You may be surprised at how few steps you actually take a day. I know I was!)

So why do I work at this? I have three reasons.

I want to keep my chronic illnesses under control. One is digestive and is controlled with diet and exercise. This, in my mind, is much preferable to popping a pill, not to mention it just makes my life easier to control it rather than having to deal with things because I've let myself go. I've spent so long being sick and I now know that being healthy is not something to take for granted. I have learned that I only have control over what I have control over, so I better take care of what I can!

I want to be healthy. My parents are in their upper 70's and are healthier than my in-laws, who are 20 years younger. Seriously - people think they are the same age or that my parents are younger, and that they're all in their 50s! I want that for me too. I want to be strong and fit. I want to have energy. I want to have a healthy immune system. To do this now and in old age. And I know it begins now.

I want to be a good example for my kids. I want them to know that eating healthy is tasty. I want them to know that it's not okay to sit on their behinds in front of the TV all day. I want them to remember having a Mommy who played with them, and that that's what Mommy's should do. I want them to be healthy when they grow up - a healthy weight, a healthy amount of muscle and body fat, a healthy diet, and a healthy life. I want to be the example my Mom was for me. Someone who does the right thing even when it's hard and has the self-control to face a mountain of sweets or other not-so-good-for-me foods and enjoy in moderation and not binge. I want to counteract the bad eating habits on my in-law's side, by showing them what it's like to be a healthy, strong woman who has energy and strength even when she's "old".

Motivation is important. I used to want to lose weight so I 'looked good'. Guess what? That doesn't keep me motivated for long. Plus, it made me feel like a failure when I never reached that goal of looking like someone I can't look like in the first place.

My goals for 2010 in this area:
  • to Jazzercise 3-5x per week by the end of the year.
  • to walk 10,000 steps per day 5 days a week by the end of the year.
  • to snack 2-3x per day (morning, afternoon, and evening or just afternoon and evening) in healthy, controlled portions of 100-150 calories per snack. No binging!
  • to refill only the fruit and veggie portions of my meals, being satisfied with the meat/protein and starch portions I have.

Why? I want to be healthy, keep my chronic conditions under control, and be a good example for my children! That's why!

Why are you motivated to get in shape, loose weight or otherwise adopt healthy habits in 2010?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Day of Treats!

My folks are here visiting for Christmas and it has been a day of treats for me today!

First - John, Buddy, Missy and my folks all went to a pancake fundraiser for breakfast. My mom was going to stay home and we were going to go get coffee and then run errands, but Buddy decided he wasn't going to go without Grandma. So I had the house to myself AND got to sleep in an extra hour today! Boy, was that nice!

Second - my Mom bought groceries today! I spent a total of right about $12 for 2 packs of Kotex pads, 2 boxes of Ziplocs, and a tube of toothpaste at Walgreens. She bought the rest. That was really nice - including a few 'special' items we don't usually buy (i.e. junk food - like Fritos and Peppermint ice cream!).

Third - John and I get to go on an honest to goodness date tonight - Dinner out at a lovely restaurant. Where, we don't know yet exactly (we have it narrowed down to 2!) but I'm excited since it's been a while for us to just go out for dinner or anything else for that matter.

Fourth - I got to 'proof' John's final paper for him. It's for his class on the Parables of Jesus and he is nervous about writing about these things, not to mention his writing ability itself. Every time I start to wonder if this is where we should be heading, God has something like this happen. His paper was so very thoughtful, thought provoking and interesting. I feel privileged to have been able to read it!

Fifth - The kids were so excited that the got to go pack food boxes for the Lion's Christmas Box program after breakfast with John and Grandpa. They had a great time, actually got to help fill baskets this year, and came home with candy canes from Santa Claus to show for it! All they could talk about was putting the food in the boxes for a couple of hours. I like that!

Such a nice, special day! The kids and John are taking a nap, I'm going to work on the last of my school stuff next, and then get ready for our date! I'm thinking candles and tea are in order here too - to help with the studying, you know. :) My folks are both reading and the house is nice and quiet. My Mom is talking about making cookies, which would be fine too (not to mention making the house smell wonderful...).

It's been a really special day.
What more can I ask for?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

November Blessings

I realized I hadn't written about our November blessings yet! Here we are 10 days from Christmas - I've been slacking! :)

So what were the blessings in November? I need to wrack my brain, but here's what I remember:

  • Return of 2 overpaid funds. One was from dance class and one was a doctor bill, but it's always a nice surprise when they return the funds. Not to mention that the one from dance class was for a costume that hadn't been finalized yet. We will probably have to pay for a costume, but they wanted to refund the money until they knew how much it would actually cost - which is likely a lot less than what we had been initially charged.
  • A black cardigan sweater for me. I mentioned in passing to my SIL that I'd love to buy a black cardigan sweater. She said not to buy one because she might have one that she didn't wear. I didn't think much of it, since she's a LOT thinner than I am (and about 13 years younger - ahem). The sweater fit perfectly (I think she didn't like it because it was too big to look nice on her) and she said I could have it.
  • Lovely weather for a road trip. Usually when we drive down to my in-laws for Thanksgiving, it's cold, snowy, icy or something of that nature. Last year (2008) it took us almost 8 hours to make a 3 1/2 hour drive because of the ice. This year? Sun, dry roads, and warmth - about 38F! Whoo hoo!
  • An excellent school conference for the kids. Both Buddy and Missy are doing really well in school. I love that!
  • Missy has excellent eyesight. No clue how that happened - the genes for that one definitely skipped a generation! - but I'm so very grateful that my daughter has better than average eyesight!
  • Being able to bless others. I had bought a pair of shoes for my aerobics class that made my feet hurt when I danced in them (they were fine otherwise). I took them to Iowa thinking my MIL might like them but they were too small for her. They were, however, the perfect size for anther SIL, who can wear them to work! Love that!
  • Being able to help a friend in need. We have a friend who is really struggling with some medical issues right now. I happen to have another friend who has been through a similar situation and was able to hook them up with each other for some support. Love that too!

I'm sure there were other things, but that's what comes to mind.

I am so very, very blessed!

How have you been blessed in November?

Struggling

I took today off so that I could work in the quiet and comfort of my own home and get my papers done for tomorrow. There's something lovely about sitting my kitchen table with candles burning, a hot cup of Chai latte, and my laptop and papers writing about things I'm interested in.

The problem?

I'm struggling.

I'm struggling with what to write.
I'm struggling with adequately supporting what I'm writing with appropriate literature.
I'm struggling with keeping myself on task.
I'm struggling with getting all the things done that I need to get done before tomorrow.
I'm struggling with this huge issue at church that keeps sneaking into my thoughts when I don't want it to be there or when I want to concentrate on something else.
I'm struggling with wrestling with my thoughts on all the things I've been sinfully neglecting this year - promises I haven't kept, things I need to do for my spiritual welfare and the welfare of my family, relationships I've neglected.
I'm struggling with having cookies on the counter and telling myself that I worked out this AM and could have just one more. :)

I keep praying that I can be efficient. That I can be focused. That I can accomplish what I need to.

Then I'm struggling with what it is that God wants me to be working on rather than what I want/feel I should be working on or what I perceive my responsibilities to be. Are they the same? Are they different? How do I tell? Am I just not paying attention?

Then, is the struggle part of this whole refining process or is it from the devil to keep me from where God wants me to be?

**SIGH**

I'll keep praying. And struggling.

There really isn't anything else I can do...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

AARGH!

Okay, so I'm rushing around like the proverbial chicken with it's head cut off trying to get everything done before my folks get here on Thursday and my 2 big papers are due, also on Thursday. I'm feeling a bit like tearing my hair out right now. And this doesn't help...

Yesterday my washing machine was having a canary and decided that it wasn't going to spin the clothes efficiently - I ran it on spin FOUR times and the clothes were still sopping wet. Since that wasn't going so well, I thought I'd take the 10 minutes or so that it needs to spin yet one more time and sew the pinned-together quilt back onto one of two baby quilts I'd like to mail out tomorrow. And sew I did.

The clothes were still sopping wet.

So that took another hour to dry instead of the usual 20-30 minutes.

And I had pinned the layers in the wrong order on the quilt so the batting was on the outside back instead of in the middle where it should be.

So, I have to rip out the sewing that I did.
Re-pin the backing.
Sew it again!
An hour or so wasted.
And I have so very much to finish by Thursday.
**SIGH**
Aargh!

I think I officially need a break from everything...
Or I just need to quit sleeping...
Or something...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: December 14th, 2009

This week my folks arrive on Thursday for their Christmas visit and we have the kids' Preschool Christmas Program on Friday. Plus, finals for me start on Thursday and both John's and my semester end next week! Whew! That means there's a lot going on! We have a freezer overflowing with a lot of beef and a little chicken, a couple of turkeys and a few other random things, so I'm trying to be creative and give us some variety too.

Breakfasts: Oatmeal or cinnamon toast with a banana unless otherwise stated.
Lunches: Leftovers or sandwiches with fruit unless otherwise stated.
Drinks: Milk, Water, 100% Cranberry-Pomegranate Juice, 100% Apple Juice, Homemade Lemonade, Black Coffee, Hot Tea, Hot Cider, or Chai Latte.
Snacks: Christmas Cookies (from a friend), Pretzels, Fruit

Sunday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins with Fruit
Lunch: Crescent Rolls, Turkey, Cheese, Apples, Oranges, Chips and Salsa
Dinner: Baked Chicken, Steamed Green Beans and Rice

Monday:
Dinner: Onion, Mushroom, Celery and Bread Crumb Stuffed Squash, Homemade Bread, Fruit

Tuesday:
Dinner: Beef, Rice and Tomato Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, Homemade Bread, Fruit

Wednesday:
Dinner: Vegetarian Calzones, Lettuce Salad, Fruit

Thursday:
Dinner: Pork Loin, Roasted Potatoes, Steamed Carrots and Fruit

Friday:
Dinner: Out after Program with Friends

Saturday:
Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Oatmeal Muffins and Fruit
Lunch: Minestrone Soup, Homemade Bread and Fruit
Dinner: Soft Shell Beef Tacos, Lettuce Salad, Fruit

I'm also making chocolate covered pretzels with the kids this week to give to their teachers and I'm hoping to make some cookies as well - ginger (both sugared and rolled) and krumkaka are on the top of my list! We'll see how ambitious I am and how things go! (And how much sleep I get!)

For more menu inspiration, See Organizing Junkie!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Goals Update

Reading back through my posts for November, I thought I should probably update my goals!

I'm doing better at getting to bed and getting up when I want to. I'm hitting about 4 out of 5 days during the work week, which I'm happy with. I'd like it to be all 5, but I can handle 4. :) Saturday and Sunday are easier because they're slower and we don't usually get up until 630/7am-ish. I'm also still getting stuff crossed off my to-do list: more than half of the stack of boxes left from moving in are gone (only 3 more to go - whoo hoo!), I only have one 'catch-all basket' to clean out left (I had 3!), I cleaned out part of the furnace room, the office and our bedroom plus one of the two bookcases in the living room. I have a huge pile of stuff to sell on Craig's List. I've made progress on my partially done sewing list - I'll post pics as soon as things settle down a bit - which is always neat and makes me feel like I've really accomplished something. As for sticking to the schedule, I really haven't. I've been making progress on completing things, but not on the schedule I had planned. I'm not sure if it's the schedule or me or what, but I need to think about that a bit.

Last month I also worked on the following character traits:
Orderliness
Thoroughness
Creativity

Creativity definitely came into play with putting together my ideas for filling the kid's teachers' Christmas baskets - they have a LOT of them this year for some reason (they have both preschool and Sunday school that are team taught) and we needed a lot of things. I settled on homemade ornaments (tp tubes, paint, and pipe cleaners!), homemade hot cocoa mix, chocolate dipped pretzels, and caramel popcorn balls. I bought the baskets our local thrift store for 50 cents each. I'll try to post pics of these too!

Orderliness and thoroughness have come in to play both in school and with all the cleaning out and organizing I have done at home. It's definitely easier to get things done if things are orderly and I feel better about what I've done if I'm thorough - both at home and school. I could be better at both of these (especially the orderliness!), so we'll keep working on those next month too.

For December I'm working on:
Resourcefulness
Hospitality
Gratefulness

I'm finding the last one so much easier than I did before my cousin's death in August (which I will write about one of these days! God willing - I promise!). It has been bitterly cold here, and I am so very grateful that I have a warm house to live in, warm clothes to wear, and a warm car to drive. I have hot food to eat and I can make tea, cocoa, coffee, hot cider or just plain hot water any time I want to. My family is healthy. We have a stable income. We have education opportunities coming out our ears.

And the ability and desire and freedom to set goals and strive to achieve them, even if we fall off the bandwagon several times before succeeding.

So much to be grateful for.
What more can I ask for?

BUSY with a Capital B!

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth or anything. I've just been super busy!

We were at my in-laws for Thanksgiving and had a FABULOUS time - everything went really well, both with the weather and the family. The kids always love swimming in the hotel pool and John's youngest 3 siblings love it too. We got to see almost everyone which was a treat too. My daughter and her cousin - the only other little girl in the family - got into more trouble than the 4 little boys combined (which is saying something). Fortunately, her cousin is only 2 and that limited what they could get into. I think in a year or two, though, we're really going to have to watch them!

Then we came back and both John and I dived into the last 3 weeks of the term at school, not to mention getting ready for Christmas and all that that brings. I have 2 projects, 3 papers and the final (God willing!) edit on my Written Exam to turn in by the 23rd, which is the end of finals week. I am hoping to have them mostly done (all done?) by the 17th, which is my last day of class and the day my parents fly in to spend the holiday with us. We will see if that actually happens or not.

Also, our van had the catalytic converter go out down in Iowa (to the tune of about $1400!!), our desk top computer finally died the blue screen of death and won't even turn on, then our Internet went out for a while because our converter wasn't hooked up to a computer (something about the way the thing was set up to begin with), and I caught a head cold.

Whew!

The good news?
* The semester is almost over! Yee haw!
* We don't have to act on the catalytic converter right now, though it needs to be acted on soon.
* We have lap tops and wireless Internet at home, so it's not so bad.
* We bought 1/4 cow's worth of grass fed, organic beef, so we're set on beef for quite a while.
* They had whole cut up hormone-free roasting chickens for 79 Cents/Lb at the store last week, so we're set for chicken for a while too.
* With the turkeys and ham I bought before Thanksgiving, it means my deep freeze is completely full right now! Whoo hoo!

And the best news: We FINALLY figured out why my one committee member had an issue with my earlier writes for his question. That means I'm not taking a stab in the dark when I write again! That makes me VERY happy. It was a really stupid thing, but it amounts to bad communication all the way around! I'm relieved that we figured it out.

And confident that I might actually get to do my oral exam during the first week of next semester, like I want. YAY!

While it's been a wild and woolly couple of weeks, it hasn't been really that bad - just busy!

My to-do list for the next few weeks is just as crowded as the last few, if not more so. So, if it's quiet around here for the next little bit, it's because I'm finishing up the semester and getting ready for Christmas with my family. I'm going to try to post decorations, what the kids I have have been making to get ready (John has been swamped with 2 final projects himself, so we work on those while he's working on that) and my "No Shopping Month" idea I have for January, as well as getting back to Super Savings Saturday tomorrow and Menu Plan Monday on Monday.

But, just in case I'm not online, don't worry about me.

Nothings wrong.

I'm just busy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Schedule Implementation Update

So, last week I put together a new schedule that was supposed to help me complete what I need to complete without being overwhelmed. I was going to start it on Tuesday, since I had to take the kids to the Eye Doctor on Monday afternoon - eating up the whole afternoon.

So, how did it go this week?

Truthfully, not so hot. For several reasons.

What didn't work:
* I have yet to get up with John this week. I used to do this all the time, but this week, not so much.
* I haven't been getting to bed on time either. So, this is tied to getting up too. Going to bed at midnight or later does not make it easy to get up at 530am! Not to mention what it does for being coherent when I am awake at that hour....
* Tuesday we had the broken window at the dance studio, so I got home at 1230pm, instead of 11am as I'd planned. I was able to shift things, but lost an hour I had for working on presents and another hour on housework.
* Getting up late, means I get in to school later, and the result is that I miss a good hour or hour and a half of the time I had budgeted for review during the day as a whole with trying to ensure I have time to do what is necessary for daily function here.
* I had coffee with a friend on Wednesday after choir practice, which meant I lost another hour to work on presents. I need to schedule that when it has less potential to be precluded by something like this (people are always more important and this was something we've been trying to schedule for a month, but the presents still need to get done by Wednesday next week!)

What did work:
* I was able to shift my schedule so that I get the schoolwork and the housework done. The presents and some other more 'open' times, not so much.
* I have been able to get caught up on some things I hadn't gotten done but should have.
* I know what I need to work on in terms of scheduling - going to bed on time is a big one!
* I'm a big amazed at how little time it takes to do certain things now that I'm scheduling time for the kids to help do them - dusting for example takes so much less time since they do everything below waist level. Is it perfect, no. Do I care that it's not perfect? No. :)
* I've stayed up to current on several things this week. Not everything but it's getting better.

I'm striving for improvement, not perfection. Though I'm pretty disgusted with myself for not going to bed and getting up on time, I guess the rest is not too bad. I tend to focus on one area and then jump to another and then another, and I'm liking not having to do that with this new schedule. So, I guess that's a good improvement. :)

My goal for next week is to get to bed on time each night. More work that is refining me, I guess, since that's always been a challenge for me. I'll let you know how it goes next week!

Making Progress....

This has been a good week productivity speaking. I've gotten about half the stuff on my to-do list crossed off and I'm close on a few other things. For a while there, I was starting to think I was seriously productivity-challenged.

Still up this weekend is getting some review for my preliminary oral exam done (I'm trying to do a little each day so I'm not overwhelmed and my mind has time to organize 3 1/2 years + worth of information), finishing making and buying the Christmas presents and 5 birthday presents we need to take down to Iowa next weekend, buying, wrapping and mailing a baby gift, a birthday party for my children's' friend, my monthly Bible Study, trimming back the roses and putting the rose cones on them, cleaning out the last flower bed, at home date night for John and me, and our normal weekend worship (with choir this week), errands and housework.

My plan for grocery shopping this weekend is to make my menu for the 3 days we'll be here this next week (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday) from what we already have, so I can just use our $40 for stock-up. There's some excellent deals on meat and all the makings of Thanksgiving meals this weekend so I'm hoping to get another turkey, a whole roasting chicken, beef roast and a few other things I've had my eye on for a while, like shrimp! We'll see what I can come up with!

In the meantime, I'm working on review today and in the process found a paper or two that I should have read but didn't. Oops! So, basically catching up, wrapping up some loose ends. I like to do that on Fridays, so I can jump in with both feet on Monday.

Has this week been all good and productive? No. Not by a long shot. But at least progress is being made. That's the important part. And not letting the setbacks get you so discouraged that you quit or fall apart. It's not always easy, but it's worth it!

How are you doing with your goals for the week?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Finances in Line: Getting Out of a Budget Funk

It's been 3 1/2 years since I went back to school to get this PhD. At that time we cut back to 1 income (John's) for living expenses, daycare and household repairs, etc. with my 'second' smaller salary covering tuition, parking, books, etc. This is the third (non-consecutive) semester in those 7 semesters plus 4 summer sessions that I've not had an income.

For some reason this time it's harder than before. Maybe because we have preschool tuition to pay on top of daycare. Maybe because we have more medical expenses than we've had other times. Maybe because we have a different budget worked out.

Maybe because things we've had for a while are starting to wear out. I'm noticing that things I thought were 'new' really aren't any more. For example, I was all bummed that a set of our towels was too worn to use for effective drying not to mention they were stained and had bleach spots. I said to John "Would you look at this! They're practically new." John replied (with a straight face, no less), "Oh, yeah, we got those for our wedding 11 years ago!" Oh yeah. Duh. Not to mention the 'new' shoes that fell apart that were 4 years old (and worn almost daily) or the 'new' jeans that wore through that were 3 years old (and worn at least twice a week).

We also have 2 kids growing out of clothes left and right. Two vehicles that are 11 and 7 years old respectively. Not to mention our 50+ year old house. And the little fact that we are now trying to pay cash for everything and pay down what little debt we do have (even though it's mostly self-loans from our personal savings accounts).

It seems like our list of 'needs' are much longer than our budget. Never mind the fact that we won't go hungry or naked or have the house fall down or anything like that. Add to all of this the fact that John's had a couple of paychecks 'under budget', and I was getting seriously frustrated by the whole thing. I've been fighting a serious case of the "I wants" lately.

I decided to do two things:
1. Go through my cookbooks and several issues of Cooking Light Magazine that I have in my kitchen bookcase to find some new and frugal recipes to make to mix things up and stay healthy.
2. "Shop" my own closet, starting with a 'bottom' (or other main piece) and see how many outfits I could make from what I have.

It's helped more than I thought. Here's how:

1. I have several new and 'cheap' recipes to try. Two are on this week's menu: Peanut Butter Pancakes (a definite keeper!) and Easy Black Bean Soup.

2. I know what common recipe ingredients to add to my master grocery list to pick up on sales to make additional recipes (canned artichoke hearts, whole garlic, shrimp, fish, EVOO, parsnips, etc.). Two that are on this week's list: EVOO and parsnips (both on sale) and I bought garlic last week for a quarter for a big clove.

3. I know what pieces in my closet I don't wear and probably won't. I can either sell those or donate them, simplifying my wardrobe and making space in my tiny closet.

4. I know where the 'holes' in my wardrobe are so I can fill those when we have the budget to do so, thus stretching my closet even more.

5. I have several 'new' outfits to wear - things I wouldn't have thought of before that look nice and make me feel like I'm stylish (Ha!).

6. I found out I really have a lot more clothes than I thought - enough to make well over 100 outfits when I mix-and-match pieces. **Blush**

The biggest thing: I found out how very, very blessed I am.

How?

Many of the recipes I found I have most of the ingredients to make in my house already.
I have more clothes than I ever thought possible and I like them more than I had thought I did.
I have a mother that taught me to cook very healthfully (and cheap!).
I have a mother that taught me not to buy anything but a dress unless it goes with at least 3 other pieces I have in my closet (i.e. buy a blouse that goes with more than one pair of pants or skirts or both).
I have a mother that taught me to dress in a very classic style, so I have very few things in my closet that will go out of style.

After doing this, I'm more committed to living on a budget. As tiring as it is at times, the sacrifices are worth it.

Having two people in graduate school without accruing debt is a good thing.
Paying preschool tuition and daycare with cash is a good thing.
Having two paid for vehicles is a good thing.
Being able to pay ourselves back for household repairs and upgrades is a good thing.
Being able to pay off our small amount of credit card debt is a good thing.

And all of it is used by God to refine me further for His glory and not my own. Teaching me to be thankful for what I have. Teaching me to be a good steward of what He has given me. Do I have a ways to go? Yes. But I am slowly learning...

Soli Deo Gloria.
Always.

For more financial inspiration, see Money Saving Mom.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More Excitement Than I Needed

I got to the dance studio where our Jazzercise franchise rents space for class this morning to find the front window (next to the front door) broken.

I looked at it for a minute and thought "Um, I really don't think that's supposed to be like that!" and called my franchise owner. I did not have the studio owner's numbers so she was going to contact them. They came at the end of our class along with the building owner.

Just the outer pane was broken in a double-pane window, so no glass on the floor. If someone tried to break in it was a pretty sad attempt from looking at the whole thing. (If it had been a break in I would have high-tailed it outside or to the neighboring business and called 911 first, don't worry!) The authorities believe from looking at it was just a random act of vandalism - someone trying to break a door or window just to make a mess and cause trouble.

Still, it was way more excitement than I needed for the day!

Now, it's back to less exciting things, like washing the bedding and making headway on my reading assignments for this week and a class project....

Have a great - and mostly uneventful - day!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - November 16th

I'm working from home today since the kids have an eye doctor appointment in the middle of the day. By the time I got in, I'd have to turn around and come home. Not to mention that they would have spent a grand total of about 30 minutes at daycare - in 2 15-minute chunks, no less! So I'm dropping them off and picking them up from preschool and then we're heading out to the eye doctor. I contemplated picking up something for lunch, but our budget was short this pay period, so pb&j at home it is!

So, here's what we're eating this week!

Breakfasts are oatmeal or yogurt with a banana unless otherwise stated.
Lunches are leftovers unless otherwise stated.
We drink skim milk, 100% apple juice, homemade lemonade, or water. I also drink black coffee.

Sunday, November 15:
Breakfast: Cheerios with Banana
Lunch: Peanut Butter Pancakes with Strawberries and Walnuts
Dinner: Hot Chicken Sandwiches, Mashed Potatoes (John's request), Steamed Carrots, Fruit

Monday, November 16:
Lunch: PB&J on Whole Wheat Bread, Vanilla Pudding, and Orange Wedges
Dinner: Scalloped Potatoes with Ham, Lettuce Salad, and Fruit

Tuesday, November 17:
Dinner: Baked Chicken, Baked Pumpkin, Brown Rice, Fruit

Wednesday, November 18:
Dinner: Easy Black Bean Soup, Cornbread, Lettuce Salad, Fruit

Thursday, November 19:
Dinner: Crock pot Venison Stew, Homemade Rolls

Friday, November 20:
Dinner: Leftovers

Saturday, November 21:
Breakfast: Out for Mom (Bible Study), Oatmeal Muffins and Strawberry Smoothies for Dad and Kids
Lunch: Tuna Sandwiches on Homemade Rolls, Baby Carrots, Fruit
Dinner: Homemade Chicken Calzones with Lettuce Salad

Snacks: fudge swirl cake, oranges, dried apples with toasted pumpkin seeds, apples or stove top popcorn without butter

For more menu planning inspiration, see Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Yummy One-on-One Time

I bought cake mix today - something I rarely do (I can't even remember the last time I made a cake from a mix it's been that long!). Missy asked if we could make a cake after we got home today.


So we did! I poured it into two round pans - the kind you stack to make a two-layer cake. We're eating one and I'm sending the other one to work with John on Monday. I remember now why people prefer to use a mix - we had the whole thing mixed up in about 5 minutes! I think I need to make up some mixes of my own. I'm almost out of biscuit, cornbread, and muffin mixes that I'd made before and should probably add cookies since we're getting toward Christmas. Hrmm - something to do with the kids tomorrow!


Anyway, back to that cake! Missy poured everything into the mixer for me and then even cracked the eggs and put them in to. Apparently my Mom showed her how to do this in May of this year without informing me. She did great - go figure! Then, after pouring both batters into the pans, she 'swirled' them for me by 'cutting' through them with a butter knife.
Here's Missy frosting the cake for home with our homemade vanilla frosting:

Adding the sprinkles:



And the final product!



Not bad for a preschooler, huh?

And it tasted so very, very yummy!

What an enjoyable thing to do this afternoon! And what a good way to spend some quality time with my daughter!

What more can I ask for?

Super Savings Saturday - $40

Today we started our $40 grocery budget again, after being at $25 for so many weeks I'm so happy to be back to $40! I can do so much more with that and I think that's a good number for our family of 4 to be at. I'm not sure I could do it with two in diapers again, but for now it's really good.

Here's the Loot!


We got the following:

Two gallons skim milk

1 lb Roma Tomatoes

8 lbs Oranges

1 loaf of whole wheat bread

10 lbs of Potatoes

1 yellow onion

1 clove garlic

2 cans black beans

1 jar Smucker's Red Raspberry Jam

5lbs bananas

2 12 ct bags Pillsberry Oven Ready Buttermilk Biscuits

5lb Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flour

1 bag Fresh Express Romaine Salad Mix

1 bag shredded Kraft Cheddar Cheese

3 lbs Honeycrisp Apples

80 oz Enriched White Long-Grain Rice

2 boxes Duncan Haines Fudge Swirl Cake Mix

1 jar Green Mill Pizza Sauce

All for $39 and change! I saved at least $20 in reported savings.

I'll post acutal prices either tomorrow or monday!

For more shopping inspiration, visit Money Saving Mom!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Crazy Week

It has been a wild and woolly week around here!

All the usual stuff plus the prayer request for my cousin (who had her baby on Wednesday evening and everyone is doing fine - Praise the Lord! Thank you for prayers!) and a meeting with my advisor and the uproar at church. I also had a headache bordering on a migraine for two days. John had the national inspectors in at work and a co-worker on vacation. That equals long hours for him. I also had to get started on a project for class and finalizing my thesis proposal so I can turn that in and get things rolling with that. Not to mention our friends from church meeting their 3 new daughters and keeping everyone posted on how things are going with their adoption process.

We ended the week today by waking up 2 minutes (literally - 6:58, he needs to be in at 7am) before John had to be at work. He called in, said he was running 15 minutes late (Ha!), took a 2-minute shower, dressed, grabbed the pasta salad I put in a Tupperware bowl for him to take to the lunch potluck today, and was out the door. All in 7 minutes.

It took me a lot longer to get back to whatever normal is this morning.

Not to mention that Missy first wanted yogurt for breakfast, ate half of it and then decided she wanted oatmeal instead! Ugh. Then we totally finished the milk off during breakfast too. Add to that waking up to a house smelling like boiled chicken (I had chicken stock making itself in my crock pot over night last night), and my day did not get off to such a good start.

Physically I feel like I've been chased by something large and frightening for almost a week now!

After the meeting, with my advisor yesterday I wanted to crawl under the table and cry. I found out I have yet another hang-up with my preliminary written exam. No idea when that will be resolved (though they're working on it). I do have things I can do in the meantime, but my to do list for all of that combined with class and normal activities looks insurmountable at the moment!

So, today I wrote out a schedule for all 7 days of the week for the rest of the semester, with the exception of Thanksgiving and the following 3 days. Now I need the self-control to stick with it. And a lack of interruptions.

I can stick to the schedule with God's help and work to minimize the interruptions (ear buds work great in a communal office - even with no music playing, people think you can't hear them!). With God's help and blessing I can get these things done and do them well. I'll post how it's going in a week or so when I've had a chance to try out the schedule for a bit. I'm sure there will be tweaks, but it should be helpful!

And I need to remember God is good, even when my day isn't.

I'm working on that too....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Amazing Faith

Friends of ours from church are currently in Columbia for adoption. They met their new family yesterday and posted photos on their web site for all of us "back home" to meet the children. I was moved to tears. They are ecstatic, excited, and terrified.

Yes, they are adopting a family, not just a single child. Three sisters, ages 7, 4, and 3.
This couple have been married for longer than 10 years, are at least late-30s in age (I've never asked how old they are specifically!), and are now going from a couple to being a family of 5!

Not only that, the children speak only Spanish and have some continuing medical problems as well. Bringing home a 7 year-old has very different challenges than a newborn or even a 1 year-old. Not to mention a 4 or 3 year-old having different challenges again.

I am overwhelmed and amazed at the faith that it takes to do something like this. To step out on a limb and adopt an older child takes courage. To adopt 3 siblings, takes even more. To adopt the siblings from an overseas orphanage with only a 3-inch folder of materials documenting their previous life and having the children speak another language takes nothing short of pure faith.

This couple is a good, strong Christian couple. They have been requesting our congregation's prayers throughout the whole process. They are elated to have finally met their children. The web site said that the oldest child was so excited that she was getting adopted along with her sisters - that they would never have to be separated. The other children at the orphanage were pointing to our friends sayings "There's the parents!" when they arrived. The children have had a good Christian foundation laid in the orphanage and our friends are hoping that this will be a common bond that unites them as they build a life together here in the US.

Our friends have a long road ahead before they can even bring the children back. They are hoping to be home for Christmas but they don't know. For now, they are content to spend time together, to slog through the paperwork and other details, and to get to know their girls.

Congratulations to the O. family! If you think of them, will you say a little prayer? They appreciate it.

I will continue to pray and offer outgrown toys and clothes and car and table booster seats. I will offer play dates and friendship (though I don't speak Spanish).

And I will continue to be amazed at the faith our friends have to follow God's direction for their lives and bring an entire family home from another country as their own. I can imagine it would have been so easy to have said "I don't think so." But they didn't. They accepted God's direction and the challenges it will bring. They have given 3 lovely girls a mother and father and a home again. And they are all so very blessed.

Soli Deo Gloria.
Always!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Prayer Request

My cousin, who I'll call J.L., is in the hospital with pre-term labor. They're pretty sure everyone will be okay in the long run but if you think about it, can you say a little prayer for her and baby?

She's only 32 weeks, so they're worried about lung development at this point for baby. Plus, they can't figure out why she went into labor and why they can't stop it for more than a few hours. This puts them on the lookout for complications with both baby and mama.

Thanks!
God Bless.

Scripture for Today

We've been going through a tough time at our church. A lot of fighting and disagreement. Actions taken by some with authority that have overstepped the bounds of that authority and without thought to larger ramifications of those actions. It's pitted friends against friends, family against family and members of our congregation against others.

I HATE IT.

More than that, I'm pretty sure that this type of division is definitely not something God wants for us, no matter where we stand on the issues involved.

I hate going to worship and wondering if the Pastor has an 'ulterior motive' in his sermon.
I hate not knowing what to say to some friends because we stand on opposite sides of the issue and I'm not sure how they'll respond to me about anything.
I hate it that we get a package without a return address and I'm afraid to open it (it turned out to be a lovely thank you gift for John's work on the retreat weekend).
I hate it that I constantly think about it.

Why? Because there are more things that unite us that we CAN agree on. Those things are more important in the grand scheme of things than this issue is.


Today during my devotional time, I read this:
Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself.
Philippians 2:3
Part of the commentary from the author read:
"Why do our churches attract so much criticism? Is it not because we spend all our time fighting each other rather than fighting the devil?"*
Sunday, my verse was:
Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit and bind yourselves together in peace.
Ephesians 4:3
Frankly, this whole disagreement sounds like the pre-election debate all over again. "If they 'win', we're going to h*** in a hand basket!" and I doesn't matter which side you talk to! The other side is always wrong and they are always right. End of discussion (if one took place in the first place!). And 'we' HAVE to win - at all costs. No holds barred. Take no prisoners.
Really folks.
No single one of us, no single denomination, no single pastor or congregation has a handle on salvation. Last time I checked, God was the one who made those judgments, based on people's hearts, not their actions or words or anything else. That's what grace is all about.
Personally, I'm so very grateful for that. My sins are many. My actions can use improving. My speech can certainly use improvement. I am so glad that God will grant me salvation in spite of my weaknesses. Since I can't see the hearts and minds of others and know how sinful I personally am, I am so very, very grateful that I don't have to judge others. I am quite sure that if God's grants me eternal rest in heaven, I'll be thoroughly surprised by who is there and who isn't there.
But isn't it true that the squabbling and division in the church (pick your favorite branch!) is what makes us look like a bunch of crazy hypocrites, unable to even get along with those who supposedly have salvation right along with us?

Come on people, let's focus on what we agree on. I have four people in my house and we can't agree on everything. Hey, even John and I can't agree on everything - and we're 2 people! Do we really think a body of almost 1000 worshipers is going to agree on everything? Or a church body of 4 million? Or the entire Christian body?
Come on...
Get a grip...
and focus on the important thing...
Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who died and rose from the grave 3 days later. The ultimate sacrifice to make atonement for our sins once and for all. The gift of forgiveness, mercy, hope and salvation.
Let's practice a little of what we preach for once.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Always.
* Taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Women by Jill Briscoe, page 324.

Menu Plan Monday - November 9

Here's what we're eating this week:

Breakfast: cereal or oatmeal unless otherwise stated
Lunch: leftovers unless otherwise stated

Sunday, November 8:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins
Lunch: Baked Eggs, Sausage and Apple Crisp
Dinner: Baked Pork Chops, Steamed Broccoli, Rice and Fruit

Monday, November 9:
Dinner: Pot Luck at Church: Bring Fruit Salad

Tuesday, November 10:
Dinner: Baked Ham, Roasted Potatoes, Steamed Green Beans, and Fruit

Wednesday, November 11:
Dinner: Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup and Homemade Bread

Thursday, November 12:
Dinner: Pulled Chicken Sandwiches, Pasta Salad, and Fruit

Friday, November 13:
Dinner: Leftovers

Saturday, November 14:
Breakfast: Cinnamon Breakfast Biscuits
Lunch: Ham Sandwiches, Fruit
Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks, Lettuce Salad

For more menu inspiration, see Organizing Junkie!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Super Savings Saturday - $65 Haul, Revamping the Budget

Well, John and I are revamping our budget. It's getting almost impossible for us to stay within our $25 budget if we include toiletries and paper products. It was fairly easy over the summer because we could score big time with in-season stuff at the farmer's market and still had a ton of meat from my cousin (venison and elk) and the neighbor (salmon!). We also got cheap or free fruit from friends.

Once we stock up again, we'll probably going to be able to go back to $25/wk for a month or two, but right now meat is a big thing we need plus milk and fruit (we have frozen veggies from summer). So, this month we're up to $40/week, or $80 every two weeks, which is how our budget works.

I spent $22.28 at one store and $42.10 at another for a total of $64.38.

Here's the loot:


Store #1: Cub Foods:

* Cheerios $1.88 x 2 = $3.76 - ($0.55 x 2) = $2.66

* Kleenex 110 Count $0.99 x 3 = $2.97 - $0.50 = $2.47

* Cub Flour $1.47

* Cub Apple Juice 2 x $1.89 = $3.76

* Starkist Tuna Pouches 4 x $1.29 = $5.16 - ($0.50 x 4) = $3.16

* 5.32 lbs Banana @ $0.39/lb = $2.07

* 2.76 lbs Granny Smith Apples @ $0.98/lb = $2.70

* 3.08 lbs Bartlett Pears @ $0.98/lb = $3.02


Store #2: Rainbow Foods
*Roundy's Hot Dog Buns 8 ct $1.65
* 10 ct LaBanderita Large Flour Tortillas $2.00
* Ronzoni Pasta $1.89 x 2 = $1.89 (BOGO) - $1 = $0.89
* Dawn AntiBackterial 10.3oz dish soap = $1 - $0.25 = $0.75
* Marcel 250 ct Paper Napkins 2/$4 x 2 = $4 - ($1 x 2) = $2
* Ronzoni Pasta $1.55 x 6 = $4.65 (BOGO) - ($1 x 3) = $$1.65
* New England Ground Hazelnut Coffee $3.50
* Roundy's Neopolitan Ice Cream $2.50
* Roundy's Lint Trap (Clothes Washer) 2 pack $1.29
* Cook's Ham 8lbs $15.99
* Roundy's 1 lb Maple Breakfast Sausage *Free* with Ham Purchase
* Jennie-O 10.5lb Frozen Turkey *Free* with Ham Purchase
* Roundy's 1 dozen large Eggs *Free* with Ham Purchase
* Green Bell Pepper $0.50
* 1lb Bag Baby Carrots $1
* Gallon Roundy's Skim Milk $1.78 x 2 = $3.56
* Youplait Delights 2/$4 x 4 = $8 - (4 x S1) = $4

All total I saved: $45.08 not including store sales at Cub (which aren't listed on the receipt and I'm not going to take the time to figure them out!).

Whoo hoo! And I have $15.62 for next week. That should get us milk, fruit and any really killer deals.

For more shopping inspiration, see Money Saving Mom!

Note: My apologies for the weird spacing, my computer is doing very strange things!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yikes...

These last few days have been busy - almost to the point of being hectic.

Choir last night was wonderful - especially after saying some very naughty words at our main desk-top computer as it failed to cooperate at letting me order books for my childrens' November book order 3 times before it finally went through! Uff da. I definately need to work on patience - especially with dumb, inanimate objects! :)

I did get almost everything I wanted to accomplish yesterday accomplished. That makes me happy!

I was just looking at my to-do list for the rest of today.

All I can say is: YIKES!

I have a ton to do and I'm not sure if any of it can get pushed off until tomorrow, though I'm trying to find something to push to tomorrow so my list isn't quite so long.

I guess that means I need to get rolling! God willing, I'll be able to cross everything off my list today. I'm sore from working out twice this week, so I'm hoping that isn't a hindrance. I'm hoping... Hope is a very good thing!

I hope your week is going well and is as productive as mine has been! Keep plugging away at those to-do lists. It is SO worth it!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Just Busy....

I've been trying to dig myself out from under the pile of things that I've been getting behind on during the month of October.

So, these last couple of days have been just plain busy.

Throw in school conferences, John's Bible Study, a gut-wrenching 2-hour long meeting at church, our favorite teenager's 17Th birthday party, an eye doctor appointment along with all the usual things this week and it's been officially a busy week.

Still, I'm grateful I have the energy to keep up.
And I'm even more grateful that I've gotten a lot done.

... a Thanksgiving countdown chain up for the kids
...a draft of a paper written for school
...4 papers for school read and notes taken
....ironing almost caught up
...slipcovers, sheets and towels washed
....3 loads of laundry washed, dried and put away
...a birthday gift wrapped and card written
...a letter written to our Compassion International Child
...1 large box and 1 large pile of stuff cleaned out from our stash of stuff left from moving in
...progress made on my niece's and nephew's quilt tops
...a movie watched while cuddling with the kids
...the living room tidied up and cleaned
...a list of Christmas gifts to make has been made
...3 Christmas gifts and a birthday gift have been ordered online
...Attended the 2-hour church meeting
...talked to several people regarding the meeting
...made an apple crisp
...gotten my eyes checked and I don't need new glasses (yay!)
...met with my kids' teacher and they're doing very, very well (double yay!)
...had a mini-budget talk with John
...found the curriculum guidelines that I had been looking for (and needed!) for school
...made four appointments
...scheduled two meetings
...set up and checked people in for and attended Jazzercise (and I can barely walk today!)
...did a quick clean on the bathroom for John's Bible Study
...actually found the Thanksgiving guest towels and put those out!
...came up with an amazing $25 grocery list thanks to some awesome sales for this week

...Plus all the daily stuff like cooking and cleanup, eating meals, and morning and bedtime routines.

On tap for today also is choir practice at Church, finishing this paper, finishing one last load of laundry, ordering the kids' November book order and school pictures online, making and eating dinner and vacuuming the carpets.

I'm so grateful that I have the energy and can actually cross some things off my to-do list. It's exciting. It's exhausting. It's exhilerating.

And I feel so blessed that I can do it.
Soli Deo Gloria. Always

Monday, November 2, 2009

Character Traits in November

The three character traits I'm working on this month are as follows:

* Creativity
* Ordiliness
* Thoroughness

I have a tendency to be messy and half-finishing things, so I'm hoping to use these to get a few things crossed of my to-do list that have been on there way.to.long! These things include:

* Cleaning out my home office and organizing it (something I've started and stopped about 10 dozen times!)
* Finishing my half-done sewing projects
* Cleaning out the boxes left from when we moved in 10 years ago. Ahem. Yes. There aren't that many of them, but they're there.
* I also have a list of 5 loose ends for school that need to be tied up this semester.

The creativity part, I'm not that worried about, though depending on the context, it could be challenging. I'll write back at the end of the month about how I did with all of these and am hoping to post with my finished to-do list projects along the way.

From last month:
* Thriftiness
* Self-Control
* Eternal Security

I made some strides in thriftiness and self-control, but not as much as I'd like. I will continue to work on those. Eternal security is something that is fairly easy for me right now due to the newness of the whole faith happenings that have happened in the last two and a half months. I think that will be something I might need to work on at times in the future though!

God willing, I'll make some serious progress this month! And not get ill again....
I'll keep you posted!

One Last October Blessing...

We had a surprise blessing on Halloween. Well, two of them actually.

First, we got a new camera this spring and didn't have any way to get the pictures off. A friend loaned us their converter thingie (yep, that's the technical term!) to try it out before we bought one. Saturday, they told us we could keep it. Apparently, not having it in the house gave our friend an excuse to 'go looking' and they ended up buying a really nice, much fancier one than the one they loaned us. We were so surprised! And blessed....

Second, I was able to share my faith story of the last few months with someone who really, really, REALLY needed to hear it. Totally unexpectedly we ended up having root beer floats at a friend's house after trick-or-treating on Halloween and I found out a bunch of stuff that had been happening in her life and the life of a friend of her's that was also there. It was such a blessing to be able to share and make a difference in these peoples' lives. I was humbled and amazed that God has used me that way.

Isn't God good?
Soli Deo Gloria. Always.

Menu Plan Monday - November 2, 2009

This week's menu plan is a bit odd, even for us - we have several evening things and we have a birthday party to go to as well (Dinner provided at the party!). John is also on call Thursday this week through Monday next week because he co-worker is out of town. Yes, it's officially a busy week!

As usual, breakfast is usually cereal and lunch is usually leftovers, unless otherwise stated.

Sunday, November 1:
Brunch: Pancakes
Dinner: Hamburger Gravy with Noodles, Fruit

Monday, November 2:
Dinner: Cracker Baked Chicken, Roasted Root Vegetables, Lettuce Salad

Tuesday, November 3:
Dinner: Birthday Party - Dinner Provided.
Bible Study Snacks: Cookies, Apples and Oranges, Hot Cocoa, Water

Wednesday, November 4:
Dinner: Chili and Cornbread

Thursday, November 5:
Dinner: Venison Stew in the Crock pot and Homemade Bread

Friday, November 6:
Dinner: Leftovers or Macaroni and Cheese with Fruit

Saturday, November 7:
Breakfast: Cinnamon Rolls and Fruit
Lunch: Hot Dogs on the Grill, Pasta Salad, Fruit
Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Bread sticks, Lettuce Salad

For more menu inspiration, see Organizing Junkie!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Super Savings Saturday - $12 Budget

I Did it! I'm so proud of myself!


I acutally walked into a store, bought nothing that wasn't on my list and walked out WITH CHANGE in my purse! Whoo hoo!!!

Since I had $12 for this week, that's a major feat - considering I needed milk, fruit and baking powder and hoped to score a few other good deals along the way.


So.... here's the loot:

Store #1: Cub Foods
Total Spent: $5.96
Kraft Mac and Cheese: 4 boxes x $0.25 = $1 (Store coupon pricing)
Green Giant 5lbs Russet Potatoes: 1 x $0.98 = $0.98 (Store coupon pricing)
5lb bag Harlson Apples: 1 x $3.98
Store #2: Rainbow Foods
Total Spent: $4.63
Gallon Roundy's Milk: 2 x $2.19 = $4.38
Roundy's Chunk Cheese: 2 x $0.99 = $1.98
Roundy's Chunk Light Tuna in Water: 1 can x $0.79 = $0.79
Roundy's Baking Powder: 1 can x $1.19 = $1.19
2.95 lbs Bananas x $0.55/lb = $1.62
Bar S Franks: 2 x $0.68 = $1.32 - $1/2 coupon = $0.32
Minus Catalina for $3.50
Total Spent: $10.59 (Leaving me $ 1.41 in my purse!)

Even better: Total Saved: $12.25 (Sales and coupons combined!)
Not bad if I do say so myself! I usually don't do that good!

For more shopping inspiration, see Money Saving Mom!

October Blessings

This has been a bumpy month for us.

It started out so good with my surgery going so very, very well and the fridge and pantry being so well stocked by my folks before they headed back home.

...then it seemed like things started to fly apart all at once.

...A broken plate...a broken futon...running out of several things in the cupboard...John not really getting well...Missy getting sick...me getting sick...the weather stripping on the van...the water softener having a canary and spewing water all over the floor...finding out we need to buy Buddy yet another pair of Tap Shoes for dance class (his feet just keep growing!)...John having two paychecks this month below our normal 'budgeted' amount due to various reasons...having to somehow pull an additional $1000 out of that monthly budget to pay my tuition...

...and I could continue.

Still, there are many blessings:
  • Time and a flexible schedule. Far and away the biggest blessing this month is time. My schedule is flexible enough that I can stay home with the kids and John is able to take a day off as needed right now too. I am able to recover myself, which is also a blessing. We didn't have any company or big time commitments that involved cleaning the house, making elaborate dinners, or spending inordinate amounts of time elsewhere. All of that helps with the recovery.
  • Seeing the benefits of a budget. Sometimes it's really hard seeing the $ pile up in a category when you 'need' them in another. We're reaping the reward of being diligent right now with our cars - plenty of money to fix the weather stripping on the window and replace some aging brakes without having to put anything on the credit card.
  • Timing! We got John's scholarship check just in time to pay tuition! I love it when that happens!
  • We're still eating from our garden. Tomatoes and the very last squash. I had put the green tomatoes we harvested before the snow in a brown paper bag with the top folded over. I check it about every other day. We've had several large tomatoes ripen (3 this week!) and enough cherry tomatoes to keep us in salad and snacks. We're good for probably another week or two as well! How cool is that?
  • Good sales! There have been so really good sales lately. I've spent a tidge too much (back to diligence today though!) but we're well stocked again. I'm happy with that!
  • Homemade Halloween Costumes from Grandma. I may have mentioned how much my Mom loves to sew! She sewed awesome Halloween costumes for the kids - a dinosaur/dragon thing for Buddy and a purple princess for Missy. They're lovin' it!
  • The ability to give. We have a lot of birthdays in October, so I had to put together 4 birthday baskets and 2 bags for littler kids as well. I spent a total of $10. Mostly I used what I had on hand - the baskets/bags, quilt supplies that I had bought 2 years ago, candles from cleaning out my own stash, some $1 nail polish, lotion and things I had bought a while back as part of my gift stash, a mug I had cleaned out of my own cupboard a while ago, and some snacks picked up on sale this week. It feels so nice to give a thoughtful gift without spending a lot of money on it. Not to mention being able to give someone a hug, a small treat or just being able to donate some old things to charity. Nothing gives a warm fuzzy like that!
  • Knowing that I'm FINALLY on the mend. Seeing the 'light at the end of the tunnel' so to speak with all this illness stuff, especially for myself, is SUCH a blessings. After feeling like I got teased a few weeks back, I'm glad to be heading to a point where I can see things improving. No idea yet where I'll end up, but I'll take what I can get right now!

How have you been blessed in October?

Easing Back Into The Swing of Things

It's been a whole week now (well, it will be this evening!) since I got my high fever and offically came down with this crud. I'm still tired, but overall feeling MUCH better. I'll take a nap today, tomorrow and Sunday and then hopefully be back to normal.

On the docket for today:
  • Washing the bedding (almost done with this one!)
  • Grocery store run (busy day tomorrow and I don't want to over-do it!)
  • Paying a couple of bills
  • Working on my paper for class
  • A little ironing (if I'm really on the ball, but this can wait if need be!)

Plus the nap.

That's it. Nothing more.

I'm still feeling a bit like a slug, but I know what can happen if I over-do it too soon and don't want to end up there. So, taking it easy today still but slowly getting back into the swing of things. It's nice to be feeling the end of the tunnel up ahead. I write "feeling" because that's how I can tell. My head isn't stuffy anymore. My energy is slowly coming back. I'm tired, but not exhausted. I can actually get out of bed at 7am rather than 755am.

God willing, things will be back to normal FINALLY. I'm ready for that. We'll see what God has in mind. In the meantime, I'll rejoice in the energy I have and what I'm able to currently do. I'm so very blessed, even with the flu!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday 10/26 (Posted on a Wednesday!)

Well, I'm fighting the 'crud' again this week, so we're eating pretty simple around here. We have LOTS of food in the house so I'm trying not to buy much and eat from the 'pantry', so to speak.

Breakfast is usually cold cereal or oatmeal, unless otherwise stated, though I'm thinking of trying a new recipe I have for peanut butter and jelly muffins for Thursday morning. We'll see.
Lunch is leftovers or sandwhiches unless otherwise stated.

Monday, 10/26:
Dinner: Chicken Noodle Soup and Cornbread

Tuesday, 10/27:
Dinner: Spiced Pancakes with Fruit

Wednesday, 10/28:
Dinner: Baked Chicken, Sweet Potato Fries, Steamed Broccoli, and Fruit

Thursday, 10/29:
Dinner: Baked Pork Chops and Acorn Squash, Lettuce Salad, and Fruit

Friday, 10/30:
Dinner: Leftovers or Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

Saturday, 10/31:
Breakfast: Out for all (Monthly Bible Studies)
Lunch: Tuna Sandwiches, Fruit
Dinner: Hamburger Gravy with Noodles, Steamed Broccoli, and Fruit


For more menu inspiration, check out Organizing Junkie!

Time for Recovery

Being home last week with Missy should have told me I was going to get sick myself. That's usually what happens.

And it did.

Friday night I came down with a bad fever, shakes like I couldn't believe, and a terrible headache.

Ah yes, the flu.

Probably H1N1 but we don't know. We're now being told that the flu that John and Missy had were most likely this H1N1, after being initially told it wasn't, and that is most likely what I am now getting over too.

So I've been sleeping the last 4 days - or the bulk of it anyway. Starting to feel better today but I'm still tired. I think today is a good day for sleeping and reading and maybe a little embroidery. And that's about it. I folded and put away a basket of laundry Monday and wiped myself out for the rest of the day. Then yesterday was like taking 2 steps backward. Definitely don't want to do that again!

I'm taking this entire week off of everything outside of home - no class, no work, no choir, no anything. I need the rest. I need to recover once and for all.

Do I feel like a lazy bum? Sometimes. But, I've been sick for so long now (over 2 years including this recovery time since surgery) that I understand the value rest for my body and immune system and can mostly live with the supposed laziness of it. Most of the time I'm just grateful for being able to take the time to rest with two now healthy kids at daycare and preschool and a healthy hubby who doesn't mind cooking dinner, doing the laundry and running after the kids by himself after a full day at work and juggling homework for 2 online classes besides.

I'm also grateful that I don't have a child in the hospital, myself in the hospital or any further complications. I ran into a friend at the grocery store a week or so ago who's son had been in the hospital with severe pneumonia as a complication of H1N1. He has a pre-existing medical condition that makes him more susceptible. She was rejoicing because he came home with them again. He came very close to going to his heavenly home instead. He's only 15.

Makes a week at home feeling like a limp dishrag seem not so bad...

So much to be thankful for!
What more can I ask for?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Class Today For Me

We found out yesterday that Missy can't go back to school until Monday at the earliest, preferrably Wednesday next week. We're hoping it can be Monday since she's obviously better and getting tired of being home with the parents! :) She is so used to having someone her age around to play with that she just gets tired of playing with us or by herself (which she does very well, I might add). I am going to take her in for school pictures tomorrow - I was told I can bring her for that but she can't stay for class.

So, John has the day off and I'm back in class today. There's just enough time to finish my presentation and then go to class tonight. I did a quick run to the local library last night and got my ducks in a row for my presentation today, I just have to tweek it and make sure it makes sense!

We have a busy weekend with company coming up, so I am grateful that Missy is feeling well.
It's amazing how grateful I am for my normal schedule when things get shaken up like they have this month!
I'm grateful I'm feeling back to normal now (thank you Anitbiotics!) and have the energy to do my work and take care of a 'sick' child.
I'm grateful that John can take today off (he can't tomorrow as he's the only one on staff - I'm so grateful that wasn't today!).
I'm grateful that I have a flexible schedule.

My daycare lady was talking about how 2 of her parents called her in a panic last week with sick kids and were unable to get time off work. I am SO very grateful that I am NOT in that position - no matter how inconvenient it is for me that my schedule gets interrupted. My children are far more important than a schedule or a job or anything else that I have going on. No matter how cranky it makes me to have my schedule shaken up, I am grateful that I have that flexibility and the desire and ability to stay home and take care of my children.

Besides, when else would I get to make crazy glitter, glue and paper pictures and funny looking beaded 'necklaces' with a four-year-old for 2 days in a row?

So much to be grateful for!
What more can I ask for?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another Day at Home...

I had hoped that Missy would feel well enough to send her back to school and daycare today but that's not the case, so we're home again today.

I'm beginning to feel like I've been AWOL from work/school! Yes, I have good reason to be gone (and honestly wouldn't want to be there with a sick child at daycare - if they'd let me send her - or with a sick self either) but I'm starting to feel the responsibilities I have ther piling up on my shoulders.

I discovered yesterday that mornings are better for working on schoolwork with Missy home, rather than afternoons, which had been my original plan. I can sew quilt squares with her wanting to help me or interrupting me every 5 minutes. Reading a 10-page, small-type article from The British Journal of Educational Psychology and actually comprehending it, not to mention taking coherent notes, for a project at school, not so much! :)

So, we'll see how today goes in terms of getting schoolwork done. It frustrates me when I can't keep up with all of my responsiblities. It frustrates me when things don't go by my agenda. I need to remember that it will all work out for God's good. And that it could be a whole lot worse.

In spite of not getting much schoolwork done until I went to the local library yesterday evening, I have so much to be grateful for.

I'm grateful for a flexible schedule that allows me to stay home with a sick child.
I'm grateful I don't have to scramble to find 'backup, emergency' childcare and pay for it!
I'm grateful for a child who is an easy patient and content to eat popsicles and crackers, and watch movies or be read to without much fussing and complaining.
I'm grateful for my own improving health (antibiotics can be a very good thing!).
I'm grateful that John can take tomorrow off from work so I can go to class.
I'm grateful for medical insurance and access to medical care if we need it.
I'm grateful for stores to buy things like Tylenol and Motrin at.
I'm grateful that I have the cash to buy things like Tylenol and Motrin without having to worry.

Even with the temporary inconvenience of child with a cold, I have so much to be grateful for.
What more can I ask for?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Day At Home

I got home from school yesterday and had a moment of panic.

Missy had a fever of 101F and that meant I needed to quickly find a sub for my class coordinator position at Jazzercise this AM as well as figure out how on earth I'm going to actually get the schoolwork I need to get done this week done as well as finishing off a couple of birthday presents by this weekend.

Never fear! The good Lord provided - three people to sub for me (my franchise owner got a good laugh out of that!), a daughter who no longer has a fever and is perfectly content eating goldfish crackers, watching movies and dozing on the couch, and the two hours I would have spent at Jazz to cut out quilt squares and sew. I will work on the homework stuff while Missy is sleeping for an afternoon nap today.

We're pretty darn sure that what Missy has is what John had right after my surgery - a nasty, but short-lived virus (about 36 hours) and not the H1N1 that's been running around. If she's feeling a lot better by this afternoon, we can be pretty confident that it is.

It's these little refining moments that I have to work on trusting God to work things out for good. Not necessarily what I want to do, but what will be the good for everyone. I can do pretty well with trusting God with the big things - serious illness, big problems, and, yes, even death. But it's the little things - a sick child, things taking longer than I think they should, a budget that won't balance, rude actions by others - that I have trouble with.

I'd like to think that I'm getting better! And learning to relax in His peace and roll with the punches. I'm also thinking that this is a lifetime progress kind of thing, not something that happens overnight. I KNOW that I'm better than I used to be. And that's what it's all about isn't it?

So, I get a whole day at home - something I rarely get to do. With my Missy. And with time to get a few things done.

What more can I ask for?
God is so good!