Sunday, January 30, 2011

Prayers Please

We've had a tough week here with the death of our lovely young friend on last Sunday.

Then Saturday we found out my parents are stuck in Cairo.
They were supposed to be home by now - heading through Cairo on their way from somewhere else at the end of a trip. 

And our congregational meeting at church today was horrible.  I have never felt like I don't have a faith family before and today I felt like not only did I not have a faith family to turn to, but that I was being forcibly shoved out the door (along with many people who have been in the congregation a lot longer than we have). 

Will you please pray for my parents and their tour group in Cairo?
And for God's direction for us in what to do next?

Thank you.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Super Savings Saturday - Restocking the Pantry

This is the no-picture edition!  We had a bunch of split runs to the store today so I didn't get pictures of anything.

I managed by the skin of my teeth to make it through the month of January in my pantry challenge of $55 plus some change and a $5 gift card.  I hadn't planned very well and ran out of feminine hygiene products (BIG opps!) and we all had bad colds and John had a sinus infection so 4 mini-boxes of tissues didn't last at all!  If I'd had to buy groceries for this next week out of what I had in this budget, we wouldn't have made it.  SIGH.  I'm hoping to build my skills on stockpiling for at least a few months during this year, I really need to work on that type of thing!    Anyway, we made it through, $110 went into the savings account, and I'm really happy John got paid yesterday so we start a new budget cycle!

Here's what we got today:

Store #1:
4 pack GE light bulbs: $4 - $1 - $1.50 = $1.50

Total Spent: $1.50 (Saved $5.49)

Store #2:
1 gallon store brand white vinegar $2.55
4lbs white popcorn $2.39
8oz package Goldfish Crackers $0.98 (Store Coupon)
2 16oz store brand Oyster Crackers 2x$0.99 = $1.98
64oz Clear Value Vegetable Oil $2.19
12 ct. Scott Bath Tissue $4.98 (Store Coupon) - $1 - $1 = $2.98
Steam Fresh Frozen Vegetables 3x $0.98 = $2.94 - $1 - $1 = $0.94
Store Brand Vanilla Ice Cream $2.88
1 whole cut up chicken @ $0.99/lb = $4.33
2.26 lbs Bananas @ $0.48/lb = $1.08
Fresh Broccoli $0.99
2 Green Bell Peppers @ $0.89 ea = $1.78
1 lg Yellow Onion = $1.34
2.67 lbs Fuji Apples @ $0.99/lb = $2.46
1 lb carrots $0.79
8oz whole white mushrooms $1.69
2 gallons store brand skim milk @$2.49 ea = $2.98
2 Smart Balance Spread @ $2.79 ea = $5.58 - $1 - $1 = $3.58
48oz Frigo String Cheese $6.98 - $1 - $1 = $4.98
6 ct English Muffins $2.99

Total Spent: $55.19 (Saved $31.58)

Store #3:
3 Kleenex @ $0.89 = $2.67 - $0.50 = $2.17
14 ct Stayfree Pads $1.99 - $1 = $0.99
2 Pantene Shampoo @ 2/$7 = $7 - $3 = $4
2 19.2oz M&M Milk Chocolate Candies @ $5.99 = $11.98

Total Spent: $20.68 (Saved $11.28) (Total without the M&Ms: $7.16)

Total Spent from "Grocery" Budget Category: $55.19 + $.7.16 = $62.35
Total Spent from "Other" Budget Category: $8.66

The M&Ms are for school - needed on Monday and assigned on Friday, so I couldn't plan ahead.  I put together my grocery lists and coupon matches on Wednesday so I didn't have a coupon match for them - though I'm sure with Valentine's Day out there, I could have found something.  

Something to work on for my stockpiling: The vinegar, oyster crackers, and popcorn are all things that I have stockpiled while on sale.  I had let them run low without even thinking about it and I need to pay more attention. Ditto for facial tissues and feminine products.  Those last two and the vinegar are necessities (I use the vinegar to clean with) so I definitely need to pay more attention to those!

A good thing about my stockpile:  cleaning out my freezer this last week I realized the only thing I was low on meat-wise was chicken.  Chicken was on sale this week, so I bought the whole cut up chicken.  We still have cooked, diced turkey that I can use for quite a while, so I will keep an eye out for other sales on both chicken and turkey as well, so I don't run out of that as well.  We have lots of frozen veggies too.   I think we're good to go and I can work on really stockpiling some times this next month!

How did you do this week?  Check out Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving Mom to share and be inspired.

Kid Funny - Did You Know....?

On Wednesday Missy shared something with us:

"MOM!  There's this new thing!  It's called a Gift Certificate.  And it's something you can spend money on!"

Yes, my dear it is.

And I didn't have the heart to tell her that it's not new. 

She was SO excited!

Life Happens Sometimes

This last week has been a busy and rough week in so many ways - hence the lack of posts.

Yes, bad blogger me. :P

We came off a week with two kids and John sick and headed into a week with me sick, John sick and then Buddy got really dehydrated (for some reason he stopped drinking anything for 2 days!).  Not fun but it looks like we're pretty much out of the woods though John and I still sound pretty bad (we feel fine actually).

Then our van died and had to go in to the 'car doctor' which meant we lost 2 hours over two days driving back and forth to the dealership (30 minutes one day) and spent 2 days juggling one car - not always easy when you head in two different directions each day!

With our young friend dying on Sunday, we had a funeral this week (we ended up not going due to the van thing, so we scrambled to send flowers instead).  And all the emotions that go through losing a friend and supporting her family, who have been through way too much in the last couple of years and now have to grieve another loss. 

We have two church things this weekend - at two different churches.  And we had things to do to get ready for both of them.

I had a spur-of-the-moment movement screening for becoming a Jazzercise instructor - I figured if I could pass the screening with a monstrous head cold, 4 hours of sleep, and a desperate need for new shoes that left my feet screaming, I definitely can do this!  And that made me 5 minutes late picking my kids up from school, which got me a lecture from their teacher. Sigh.

Add into that almost forgotten but absolutely necessary paperwork due yesterday, my daughter's security blanket ("Pink Blankie") coming apart, my last pair of black shoes (by beloved boots) splitting a seam and breaking a zipper, and our favorite rocking chair popping a spring.

I feel like I've lived 3 lives in the last week.

This week has had a number of blessings too:

* The ability to still get where we needed to go, in spite of the van being in the shop.  I am so grateful to own two vehicles!
* The money in the budget to pay for the van repairs!
* Remembering the paperwork before it needed to be turned in - we really would have been in a pickle if we hadn't done that!
* Knowing how to knit (admittedly badly) so that I could put my daughter's blanket back together.
* Having plenty of shoes to wear in spite of not having black ones at the moment.
* Classes not starting until next week so that we could juggle our one-car schedule without anyone having to scramble or miss work.
* Having a better way to organize my data means I've gotten through SO much this week - in spite of having brain fog from being sick.
* Extra time to sleep and get better this week.
* Getting really good report cards for the kids at school this week.
* Realizing that John got paid yesterday and that means we start a new cycle for our budget again!  I was wondering how I was ever going to buy milk with $1 left in my grocery budget after an emergency run to the store for feminine products and Kleenex. (YES, I know some of you may think that's cheating since we have 3 days left in January.  I bought 4 weeks of groceries so that counts as a month to me!)
* Being ready for the start of classes - everything I need for the first week is ready to go!  How is that for being on my toes?
* The reminder that time with our loved ones here on earth is short and fleeting and we need to treasure every minute of it.
* Lots of card games with the kids.
* The kids knowing we were sick and trying to be extra helpful - making their beds, setting the table, and a whole host of other things without being prompted or asked. 
* The kids telling me I could use part of their Disney World trip savings to buy new shoes (I won't but the thought is so very generous!).

I could keep going, but I won't. 

This week has been long and at times very difficult. I am so grateful for all the little blessings God has sprinkled into it.  It could have been so much worse and so much more difficult.

What more can I ask for?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Goals Update - Week of January 16th

I think my big plans for January have officially derailed and we're gone past plan B to something like plan F, plan G or plan H by now!  Such is life and I'm okay with that today.

I did accomplish two BIG things this last week:
* I discovered a much better and faster way to organize my data and pull it out of the transcripts I'm working with!  I'm so excited about that since I've felt like I was just continuing to confuse myself the more data I acquired.
* I managed not to catch the head cold/sinus bugs that were running around the house here!

Those two things alone made the week fabulous!

Other things I managed to accomplish in spite of having to take care of all three of the other people in my house last week:
* Finalized my class schedule (what we're doing when) for the semester
* Finalized my syllabus for the semester
* Cleaned out the kids room again
* washed all the switch plates in the house
* Dusted all the ceiling fans in the house
* Found Buddy's lost glasses! HURRAY!
* Baked bread
* Chaperoned a field trip at my kids school
* Read 3 papers for school
* Analyzed 4 transcripts for school
* Figured out how to use my new scanner at work (for someone who is technologically illiterate like me, that's big!)
* Worked out twice
* And probably something else I'm forgetting

I still have a lot to accomplish - particularly in the way of things around the house.  Now that John is done with his intensive class and isn't sick any more, I'm hoping we can actually get those curtain rods up and the closet system in before the end of the month.  I realized that my to-do list doesn't fit with my written schedule well so I will be revamping that over the next few weeks.

We also had a close friend die yesterday - she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor the middle of December.  She was only 27 years old.  Her mother was killed 2 years ago in a house fire and her Dad just finally finished his recovery from the same fire when her diagnosis came.  It's hit us all hard - she was doing well on Saturday with plans to start chemo on Monday and by Sunday afternoon she was gone.  If you have a minute can you say a prayer for the H. family?  They surely need it right now.

Hope your week is off to a good and productive start! 

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 23rd, 2011

A not very good photo of John's birthday dinner earlier this month.

Well, nothing like being AWOL last week!  The kids had really bad head colds and lucky John had a sinus infection!  I spent a lot of time blowing noses, washing bedding, and massaging sore temples!  Uff! It was quite the week.

Anyway, somehow I managed to avoid the bugs and we're back to 'normal' this week.   We're still doing the pantry challenge and I didn't buy any groceries this last week do to having to take care of everyone.  I did go buy milk and eggs on Sunday since we were almost out of both (one egg doesn't go very far!) and bought a little bit of fruit since we only had grapefruit, which the kids won't eat.  I have about 4 dollars ($1 and three in change) plus my $5 gift card for groceries this coming Saturday.

What are we eating this week?

Sunday, January 23:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch: Chicken Nuggets, French Fries, Apple Slices
   Dinner: Soft Shell Beef Tacos, Apple-Banana-Mandarin Orange Salad

Monday, January 24:
   Breakfast: Peanut Butter Toast, Bananas
   Lunch: Leftovers
   Dinner: Baked Chicken, Couscous, Carrots, Melon

Tuesday, January 25:
   Breakfast: Waffles with Applesauce
   Lunch: PB&J Wraps, Carrots or Tomatoes, Cookie
   Dinner: Chicken Noodle Soup. Homemade Bread, Orange Wedges

Wednesday, January 26:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Apples and Cinnamon
   Bag Lunch: Peanut Butter Crackers, Orange or Banana, Carrots or Tomatoes, Cookie, Juice Box
   Dinner: Pork Stir Fry, Rice, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

Thursday, January 27:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Bananas
   Dinner: Swedish Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes, Corn, Apple-Banana-Melon Salad

Friday, January 28:
  Breakfast: Oatmeal with Blueberries and Almonds
  Lunch: Hot Lunch for Kids, Leftovers for Mom
  Dinner: Baked Salmon, Rice, Green Beans, Melon

Saturday, January 29:
   Breakfast: Apple Braided Bread
   Lunch:  Hot Dogs, Cole Slaw, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges
   Dinner: Cabbage Rolls, Fruit

I just realized we're eating an awful lot of peanut butter this week - might need to change that out to pumpkin butter. Yum!  We'll see how that goes!  If I get too tired of eating Peanut Butter I might just have to dig out that jar....

What are you eating this week? Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share and be inspired.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things - My Flexible Schedule

Being in academia, the pay is lousy and the hours are LONG.  Minimum of 7 years of education and a PhD required. Eighty hour work-weeks anyone?  For $40,000 per year? No overtime, no summer or holiday pay and no time off during the semester.  Plus you have to pay out of pocket for conferences, travel and sometimes your research or equipment - or you have to apply for and acquire a grant to cover these expenses, something that is not easy to do.  In this field you have to love what you do to do what you do or you don't stay - at least for the hours, responsibility and the pay!  

Fortunately, everyone who works at my not-so-new-now job with me loves what we are doing - both on an individual level and as a department.  We are willing to put in the long hours for not such great pay.  We're willing to shell out $3000 a year to go to a conference just so we can further our field of study. 

The thing ALL of us love about our jobs that we wouldn't trade for the world is our flexible schedules.

Currently I teach class in the evenings.  I am able to go in to my office about 1pm, leaving my mornings free to work on my dissertation, work out, run errands, and other things that pop up.  I usually get home about 8pm - in time for family worship and putting the kids to bed.   I have a colleague who's wife starts work at 930am and can drop their children off at school.  He comes in at 7am and then works until about 3pm, picks the kids up from school and heads home for the evening. 

That makes it sound like we have 'short' days.  Not really.  For a "half time" job I spend approximately 32 hours a week total between grading, course prep, class time, research work, and office hours.  My full-time colleagues spend about 80 hours a week.

We all bring work home and work after the children are in bed.  
We all work while the kids are playing or napping or while we're at a sporting event or lesson.
We all bring work home on the weekends.

The perk is that we get to make our schedule fit our lives rather than having to work around it. 

I know that if the children are sick and need to stay home, I can work from home until about 2pm and then John can knock off an hour early and come home and take care of them so I can go to work and still meet my face-to-face obligations.  I can also do this if I'm sick.

I know that if I have a big deadline coming up I can bring my work home and work from home, or the library or the coffee shop if I need to.

I know that if we aren't in the middle of a term, I can take a week off for a vacation as long as any necessary work gets done in a timely fashion. 

I love having a flexible schedule and that's one of the reasons I love my job so much. 

Sure there are other 'perks' as well - helping others learn something they thought was impossible is really neat too.  And having great colleagues is fun.  So is having each day be something new.

But the flexible schedule is certainly a perk and I love having that option in my life.

Truly, it's one of my favorite things. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Goal Update - Week of January 9th 2011

Nothing like being a day late in posting this.  Missy has had a terrific cold the last few days and today was the first day "back to normal".  Never mind that I have school and teaching starting, my daycare lady was sick, John has his intensives and it just seems like stuff happens all at once around here.  Whew!  I'm going to be soooo glad when this dissertation thing is done and I have fewer commitments all the way around!

So, what DID I get done last week?  It really didn't seem like much since I had so much I wanted to get done that didn't.  But here goes the list of things that got done:

* 2 transcripts analyzed
* Paper finished (love that!)
* A run to IKEA to get a few specific things and price a few others
* Read The Autobiography of George Muller by George Muller (awesome read!)
* Read another book for school
* Cleaned out and off my desk at school
* Finished an annotated bibliography for one portion of my research
* Reviewed my text book for my class I'm teaching this semester (different from last semester)
* Fielded a TON of email that I really didn't want to deal with
* Found material and ribbon to make myself an Easter dress
 * Cleaned out a giant stack of old magazines (why do I keep junk like that?!)
* Attended a pot luck for a church event and had a great time (and helped tie 5 quilts to boot!)
* Jazzercised 2x and did a DVD one day
* Managed to get our budget wrangled into something up-to-date and accurate (don't even ask me how long that took!)

What didn't get done that I hoped to get done:
* Hanging those darn new curtain rods in our bedroom
* Ironing the curtains before hanging them on the new curtain rods
* More cleaning out
* Installing that last closet system we have to install
* More reading for school
* More transcript analysis
* 3 more times of exercising last week
* And a few other things that I'm currently forgetting

I'm starting to feel like I'm never going to get caught up to current again. 

And the part that I find the most frustrating is that don't feel that I'm diligent enough in any of my work - and that doesn't fit with my belief system.  It's a very difficult place to be right now and it's making my days very difficult to get through.  Would you pray for me please?  I'd appreciate it.

How was your week for meeting goals?  Care to share?  I'd love to hear!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 16, 2011

John's birthday desert! Yum!

We're still plugging away at the pantry challenge here and we are doing very well I might add.  We had some unexpected 'treats' as well - Pizza last night courtesy of a coupon for a free pizza from our favorite pizza place and a trip to IKEA on Saturday meant we ate there (love those Swedish Meatballs!) instead of home.  The trip to IKEA was from our "Recreation" category of our budget, so we didn't touch the bit I have left in our monthly grocery budget this time around.  It's been wonderful to take stock and see what I can do with what's in the cupboards and freezer!  Not to mention, using some things up is a good thing too!

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, January 16:
   Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
   Lunch: Breakfast Tacos
   Dinner: Pizza with Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

Monday, January 17:
   Breakfast:  Spiced Waffles with Peaches and Pecans
   Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup, Homemade Bread, Orange Wedges
   Dinner: Baked Ham, Mashed Potatoes, Golden Beets, Asparagus, Apple-Pear-Banana Salad

Tuesday, January 18:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Apples and Cinnamon
   Dinner:  Baked Tilappia, Homemade Bread, Green Beans, Apple-Pear-Banana Salad

Wednesday, January 19:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pecans and Cinnamon
   Bag Lunches:  Wrap Sandwiches, Applesauce, Carrots or Tomatoes, Cookie, Juice Box
   Dinner:  Veggie Fried Rice, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

Thursday, January 20:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins with Bananas
   Dinner:  Baked Beans with Ham, Cornbread, Salad, Apple-Pear-Banana Salad

Friday, January 21:
  Breakfast: Oatmeal with Blueberries and Almonds
  Bag Lunches: Ham Sandwiches, Mandarin Oranges, Carrots or Tomatoes, Cookie, Juice Box
  Dinner:  Cabbage Rolls, Homemade Bread, Apple-Pear-Banana Salad

Saturday, January 22:
   Breakfast: Out for All (Bible Studies)
   Lunch:  Chicken Tortilla Soup, Homemade Tortilla Chips, Orange Wedges
   Dinner:  Macaroni and Cheese with Apples for the Kids, Our for Mom and Dad

What are you eating this week?  Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share!

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - Unexpected Days Home

With all the cold and flu bugs running around here, it's no surprise that my daycare lady has called me a couple of times and said  she was sick.  She has school-age kids herself and with the littles she takes care of, it's no wonder the bug bites her sometimes too.  Once she called to tell me her daughter was sick.  With strep throat.  Uff da.  No fun at all!

The kids have been coughing and blowing the last few days but are now well on the way to  fine.  And we have the treat of an unexpected day home on Monday - MLK Day.  They were supposed to go daycare and I was going to finish taking down the last of the Christmas decorations, get some serious writing done and possibly work on a couple of birthday gifts.  Nope - sickness at the daycare lady's house means we stay here.

My first reaction was annoyance. 

I am so far behind!  I need that time for myself!  Yes, I would like some whine with that cheese, thank you!

And then I realized something.

Time with my children is precious and fleeting.  They are already 5 1/2 and that time has just flown by.  In September, they couldn't write a full word or read anything but their names.  Now, they can read a book and write thank you notes.   It's amazing.

And this time in my children's lives is so amazing - everything is wonderful and exciting and I get to be a part of that!

So, Monday we will stay home.

And bake bread and cookies.
And read books.
And color pictures.
And play games, like Sorry! and Uno and Connect4.
And tell stories.
And make a craft.
And sing songs and make up silly dances.
And they will take a nice long nap, during which I will work on my writing and maybe work on another project.

And I will enjoy every minute of it.

Truly, getting to spend an unexpected day home with my children is one of my favorite thing!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Super Savings Saturday - Continuing the Pantry Challenge

If you recall from last week I am challenging myself to spend only $60 on groceries in January ($50 from this month's budget plus $5 from last and a $5 gift card).  Last week I spent  $28.95 leaving me with $26.05 + $5 gift card.

This week I bought the following at one grocery store:
* 2 gallons skim milk @ $2.49 = $4.98
* 2 boxes Cherrios @ 2/$5 = $5 - $1 = $4
* Clear Value Oyster Crackers = $0.99
* 2.39 lbs bananas @ $0.49/lb = $1.15
* 2.35 lbs green cabbage @ $0.49/lb = $1.15
*2.03 lbs Bartlett Pear @ $1.29/lb = $2.62
* Westpac Green Beans $0.99 - $0.35 = $0.64
* Quaker Traditional Oatmeal $2 - $1 = $1

Total Spent: $16.53 (Saved: $7.44)

Our store apparently is not doubling coupons on Saturday anymore, so I may have to adjust my coupon shopping to Wednesday night.  Not my favorite time to shop since I don't get home until 830pm anyway and that would push me back to 9pm or later.  I guess it will depend on what I would get for free or close to free!  Today, the oatmeal would have been free with a doubled coupon.  And since we eat a LOT of oatmeal in our house, I probably would have made a Wednesday night run if I had known about the double coupons. 

Total left to spend this month: $9.52 + $5 gift card. Yikes!  I guess we're just doing milk and a small amount of fruit for the next couple of weeks!

For more shopping inspiration, check out Super Savings Saturday at  Money Saving Mom!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Frugal Friday - Repurposing Containers

Aren't these cute?  They're leftover liquid creamer bottles that a friend gave to me filled with mocha mix (L) and cocoa mix. It's a little hard to see in the picture, but the mocha is beautifully layered too! The container on the left was decorated with that self-stick ribbon available in craft stores.  The one on the right, curling ribbon and candy canes (for stirring the cocoa of course!).  Her co-workers drink a lot of creamer in the breakroom at work so she saved the containers (with permission of course), brought them home, washed them and filled them with homemade cocoa, mocha and trail mix for Christmas gifts!  Genius!  And let me tell you - so handy!  Just pour and you're ready to stir!

Making myself some cocoa this afternoon (and it's a very snowy, stay-inside kinda afternoon here!), made me think about re-purposing containers.  We seem to do that a lot around here.  Baskets and boxes get moved around as needed.  As do bookshelves.

But it's the 'unconventional' things that are the most special!

*  We cut a pasta box down to make a small "magazine file" style box to hold my son's trading cards.
* Old wipes boxes hold markers and crayons.
* A lemonade mix container holds colored pencils.
* Baby food containers (the plastic kind) are used for mixing tempera paints.
* They're also used for holding beads and sequins
* A glass candle container (with lid) holds all my buttons.
* Metal cookie tins hold sewing supplies.
* A compartmentalized cardboard box from stationary holds my daughters' hair clips.
* Film canisters (from the days of our film cameras) hold picture hooks, screws, and nails.
* TP tubes got painted, cut in half and glued together to make a Bakugan "house"
* A laundry detergent container got cut down to make a bird seed scoop.
* A second one was cut down to make a scoop for the sand box
* The kids use old flower pots to hold weeds when we're weeding (and they don't look so bad if they're left in the middle of the yard either!).
* I use extra plastic shopping bags to organize my deep freeze (like items in each bag)
* Zipper top bags with a hole in them are used as piping bags for icing by snipping off one corner.

Wow!  That's what I can think off the top of my head.  What can you think of?  I'd love to hear!

For more Frugal Friday, see Life As Mom!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In the Refiner's Fire - There's Nothing Wrong with Me, I'm Just Lutheran!

Something I have been struggling with for the last few years, as I have done more reading in the "Christian" realm is  the "Christian Worldview".  Not that I think there's anything wrong with the "Christian Worldview" itself, the problem I have is assumption that all Christians have the same worldview.

So much of the Christian literature out there comes from presses that come from Calvinist, Anabaptist, or Catholic backgrounds and while the stuff is good, there's usually something that I disagree with.  Something that bugs me. Something that sticks in my mind and I chew on it for a while and get all "het up" over it and make myself frustrated.

We've been struggling with so many things at our church this last year, some of them theological but most of them not.  And in the midst of all of this, I've been coming off two years of serious and undiagnosed illness that made me delve deep into my faith and my own personal convictions.

Now, I have a pretty good theological background and have a very clear Biblical (theological) understanding of why I believe what I do, so I the thing that has bugged me through all of this is why I have such a hard time with things.  These different views.

I don't believe in infallibility or absolutism. I believe in God and anything else is not absolute because everything else comes from humans in some form or another, who are not God and therefore fallible.  I understand perfectly that other people disagree with this and I'm perfectly okay with that.

This whole idea of one right way to be Christian bugs me.  I don't believe that at all.  I believe that each of us has to be the Christian that God calls us to be and that is going to look different for each one of us. 

I have had a terrible time articulating it.  That was what was bugging me.

Not that I disagree with others or that they disagree with me.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through  faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." 
Ephesians 2:8-9

This is the crux of Lutheran theology and this is what I believe.  And if I can't wrap my head around the "Christian Worldview" or the absolutism that's out there.  That's okay.

I found a book this week that articulates it far better than I ever good.  And now I realize something:

There's nothing wrong with me, I'm just very, very Lutheran!

Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Healthy Habits in 2011 - Upping the Ante

My dear friend Bea and I went to breakfast last weekend.  I won't even talk about what I ate (it was very high in calories - but I did get a side of fruit!), but we decided that we're going to be each other's accountability partners in this whole weight loss thing!

She has several physical difficulties that mean strenuous exercise is out of the question for her.  After some extensive surgery 2 years ago that finally allowed her to move without pain for the first time in the entire time I'd known her (since 2000), she was able to lose 60lbs!  Whoo hoo!  You go girl!  It's amazing what being able to move at all can do to your physical fitness level! 

I tell you, she's an inspiration to me in so many ways, and that's just one of them!

Anyway, she has a grand baby (her first!) due in May and is hoping to lose another 20lbs by then. 

I am planning on being certified as a Jazzercise instructor before the end of the year and would like to lose 15lbs by then.

So, we're going to help each other out!

How, by cheering each other's successes and supporting each other through the bumps and keeping each other accountable!

I love that!

First up for us: calibrating those pedometers and upping those steps. 
My goal for this week: Recalibrate that pedometer and actually wear it! :)

How about you?  How are you upping the ante on your healthy habits this year? 

Goals: Progress during the week of January 2, 2011

So, how did I do on my goals for last week?  Since I promised you all that I'd share (for your amusement and for accountability) here's my lists for last week.

Here's what I accomplished:
* poster off to a conference with a colleague
* grades submitted for my fall term class
* last little bit of 'stuff' cleaned out of our bedroom
* finished outlining a paper
* finished a draft of that paper
* church committee work completed! (WHOO HOO!!!! - love getting stuff off my plate!)
* returned some things to the store that weren't needed
* sold several DVDs (made roughly $70!) and donated our extra VHS tapes
* Jazzercise 4x
* one data set completed
* purchased curtain rods for our bedroom
* analyzed 1 transcript

Here's what I'd hoped to accomplish and didn't:
* finishing that paper
* installing the curtain rods in our bedroom
* ironing and re-hanging the curtains in our bedroom
* analyzing 2 more transcripts
* baking krumkakka
* finishing another baby quilt (that is presently half done)
* a small and quick sewing project for the kids
* Jazzercise 1 more time

I guess that's not too bad for my week, considering that the kids were home in the afternoon one day when I usually come in to the office (their babysitter was sick!) and I've learned that I don't get as much done in either schoolwork or projects at home if they're there.  We did have fun playing board games (we got a number of them for Christmas) and then cuddled up to watch a DVD from the library.  I can live with that for sure!

I had less planned for my week this week since John has his intensive classes this week and next at Seminary and that usually means he's not home much (gone 7am to 8pm most days) and is spending his time on homework the rest of the time.  Maybe I can catch some of these other things up this week, depending on how things go! 

Missy and I have had a delightful time making dinner together this week.  She's quite the helper and I love her company.  She and Buddy were a HUGE help tying quilts after our pot luck at church on Monday night this week.  What a fun time that was!  We got 5 queen size quilts tied and 3 baby quilts tied - all for our local homeless shelter - after a nice time of food and fellowship.  Can't beat that!

How are you doing with your 2011 goals?  Care to share?  I'd love to hear!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 9th

Here's a picture of our Christmas Eve table to share with you!

We're eating from the pantry this month, with $50 in groceries for the whole month!  Wow!  So, what are we eating?

Sunday, January 8:
    Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
    Lunch: Waffles with Bananas and Walnuts
    Dinner: Baked Chicken, Homemade Whole Wheat Bread, Baked Squash, Apple-Banana-Pineapple Salad

Monday, January 9:
   Breakfast:  Oatmeal with Apples and Cinnamon
   Bag Lunch: Crackers and Cheese, Pear or Mandarin Oranges, Carrots or Tomatoes, Cookie, Juice Box
   Dinner:  Pot Luck at Church: Bring Tossed Salad

Tuesday, January 10:
  Breakfast; Peanut Butter Pancakes with Strawberry Jam
  Dinner:  Pork Stir Fry, Rice, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

Wednesday, January 11:
  Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Raisins
  Bag Lunches: Apples with Peanut Butter, Orange Wedges, Carrots or Tomatoes, Cookie, Juice Box
  Dinner: Easy Black Bean Soup, Cornbread, Apple Slices

Thursday, January 12:
  Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Apple Sauce
  Dinner:  Homemade Pizza and Bread sticks, Salad, Orange Wedges

Friday, January 13: 
  Breakfast:  Chai Spices Oatmeal
  Lunches: Hot Lunch for the kids, Leftovers for Mom and Dad
  Dinner:  Chicken Noodle Soup, Homemade Bread, Salad, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

Saturday, January 14:
  Breakfast: Braided Bread
  Lunch:  Tuna Wraps, Celery and Carrots, Orange Wedges
  Dinner:  Baked Tillapia (sp?), Couscous, Golden Beets, Apple-Pear-Banana Salad

What are you eating this week?  Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - The Beauty of the Season

Today is the first Sunday in the season of Epiphany, the day in the church year that the Three Kings (or Wise Men, if you prefer that title) arrived to see the Christ Child and his mother, Mary.  Their journey was long and tiresome, lasting according to accounts up to 2 years by camel.  Can you even imagine?  I can't.

Today also marks the very last end of Christmas - the 12 Days of Christmas start with Christmas day and last until Epiphany.  We like Christmas so much we stick around until the first Sunday in Epiphany. :)

Today also marks the day that we take down the Christmas tree and the rest of our Christmas decorations, except the Nativity, which will remain up until the end of Epiphany.

All the pretty things like the tree with it's lights and ornaments, the garland with our Christmas photo cards pinned on it with red and green clothes pins, the Christmas table cloth and the Advent wreath, the twinkle lights on the houses and the greenery on the businesses, fancy cookies, and cheery greetings in the air make Christmas special.  The spectacular and special music fills me with awe and reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas. And it all fills my heart with gladness.

I love it all.

And I will miss it.

But if it's around all year, it wouldn't be as special would it?

Truly, all that beauty is one of my favorite things!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Super Savings Saturday - $20 produce haul

I'm challenging myself this month to $50 for the whole month!  It won't be as hard as I thought since I found $5 and change in our grocery envelope (leftover from last month) and we have $5 gift card to one of our grocery stores.  So a total of $60 and change for the month!  I can do that!
Today's store runs are as follows:

Store #1:
2 bell peppers: $0.89
1.77 lbs Fuji apples @ $0.99/lb = $1.75
2 bags of Fresh Express Salad BOGO = $2.99
1lb baby Carrots BOGO = $1.59
2 bags cherry tomatoes BOGO = $3.49
Total Spent: $10.71 (Saved $8.96)

Store #2:
2 boxes Ronzoni Pasta: $1x2 = $2 - $1- $1 = FREE
2 boxes Healthy Harvest Pasta: $1x2 = $2 - $1- $1= FREE
4 Progresso Soups: $1x4 = $4 - $1 - $1 = $2
4lb Navel Oranges = $3.49
2 Cheddar Cheese: $0.98 x 2 = $1.96
1 gallon skim milk: $1.98
Total Spent: $9.43 (Saved :$19.99)

Total Spent Overall: $20.14
Total Saved (According to Store Receipts): $28.95

Total Left to spend for the Month: $34.86 + $5 gift card

For more shopping inspiration, see Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving Mom!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Frugal Friday - 5 Uses for Leftover Socks + 2 for Holey Nylons

We all have socks that have no mates.  Perhaps the dryer ate one, or one got a hole, or one got lost or whatever.  But if you own socks, you have a leftover sock laying around.  

These things bug me.  I really dislike having an unmatched sock.  And I dislike even more not knowing what to do with it! 

So, here are 5 things that we've used our leftover socks for:

* Child's dusting rag.  Spritz lightly with your favorite dusting solution or a very small amount of water, have your child stick the sock over their hand and let them loose on your furniture - to dust of course!

* Sock puppets.  Yes, it's cliche but I had to include it.  Don't have things to make a face with (i.e. buttons, yarn, felt, etc.)?  Use a good old Sharpie or other permanent marker and draw away.  The kids LOVE this one!

* Polish or buffing rag for your shoes.  Honestly, we use the back end of old cotton undies to apply the polish but I don't see why an old cotton sock can't do the trick as well.  We use John's old tube socks to buff the polish we apply to our shoes.  Works great!
* Fill with sand and make a draft catcher to lay along the bottom of the door.  Obviously this takes a long sock, but it works great and you only have to stitch up one end.  Or fill two and sew them together at the 'necks' for a longer tube.  You could fill with rice, bird seed or anything else that would make a good solid draft catcher as well.  If you have a loose-knit sock you might want to  use something larger grain than sand, or it seeps out onto the floor through the sock.  Ask me how I know! :)

* Coffee sleeve.  Cut the cuff part off of the sock and slip it over your coffee cup for a reusable sleeve.  This would work for sweaty water bottles in the summer too!  You may have to hem the edge depending on where you cut the sock at and the knit of the sock.

If you're like me, you also have nylons that end up with holes in them fast!  Thank you Velcro tab children's shoes!  Anyway, I don't like throwing those out either.  So here are two uses for those:

Use them to store onions.  Drop and onion into the toe, tie a knot above it, and repeat until your bag of onions is now in your nylon leg.  Tie the top shut and hang in a cool, dark place.  Your onions will keep for a long time.  You can either untie them or just cut off below the knot to access the onion when needed.

* Outside soap holder.  I use a knee-high or part of a leg and place a bar of soap in the bottom of the toe, tie off and then hang the nylon next to our outdoor water spigot.  The soap is usable but can't get lost.  Just remember to take it inside in the event of rain!

How do you use your leftover socks and holey nylons? I'd love to hear!

For more Frugal Friday, pop over to Life as Mom!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

In the Refiner's Fire - Trust and Contentment

I've been reading lately about trusting God.

We don't trust God enough.

Any of us. 

We don't have to.

We have so many things that  wecan rely on instead of God: our money, our jobs, our talents, our health, our friends, our family and our possessions.  We place our trust in 401(k)s and 403(b)s and education and the amount of things we buy.  We rely on our spouses and children, our careers and our hobbies to make us happy and keep us fulfilled.

The thing is: God doesn't promise us happiness and fulfillment.  He doesn't promise a bountiful retirement or a long, healthy life. 

What he does promise is this:

All we need to get to heaven.
A relationship with Him - that brings us fulfillment and joy.
That He will help us through our life.

It doesn't mean that life is easy.
It doesn't mean that we shouldn't work hard, or save for our retirement or that we need to quit buying nice things. 

It also means that it's hard to trust God, because we expect earthly things from Him.
We expect that life with nice and easy.
That we will have nice things.
That we will have a nice retirement and a good long life.
Compared with the rest of the world, we have so very much. 
And so we expect things from God that He never promised.

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in what. I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:11-13

Isn't it harder to be content when you have much? 

When we are starving, it is easy to be grateful for whatever we are handed to eat, even if it's something we don't like. 
When we don't have a hat or gloves and it's below freezing outside, it is easy to be grateful for any style or color of hat and gloves we are given.
When we don't have a place to live, a one-room efficiency apartment can seem like a palace.

When we have plenty to eat, it's easy to be picky about what we eat.
When we have plenty to wear and keep us warm, it's easy to be picky about style and color
When we have a lovely and comfortable place to have, it's easy to want bigger and better and nicer and more.

Being content is part of the secret of trusting God as we ought to.

I'm hoping that in 2011 I can be more content and trust God more too.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Work Home and Family - Loving my Cleaning Out!

My biggest challenge to keeping my home clean and inviting is clutter.  I am a pack rat.  Yes, I have admitted that before and I am admitting it again.  My home office and sewing/craft rooms are huge piles of paper.  Yes, I did manage to clean out the office enough that we can actually use one of the two desks in there and open the closet door to access the closet.  I also managed to keep my sewing area clean enough that I can actually use the sewing machine.  Both of those things are accomplishments for me!

I love having the rooms free of clutter.  I had cleaned out my kitchen and living room early last year and managed to keep it that way through the whole of 2010!  Whoo hoo!  The kids room stays pretty neat and tidy because it has to - two kids sharing a small room means if things aren't kept to a minimum, we end up with an unusable room quickly.  And I had to clean out the laundry room so my new washer and dryer could come right before Thanksgiving. 

Now that our bedroom is done being cleaned out, I am realizing all the stuff has a psychological cost as well as a physical inconvenience factor. 

I knew that the extra junk in my house bothered me.
I knew that I needed to get rid of it.
I knew that it was stressing me out to a certain degree.

I had no idea how much.

The perks from cleaning out are many.

It takes a fraction of time for me to clean these rooms now that I don't have to "shuffle stuff" continuously.
I can find things easily and without having to dig through piles to get to it.
I don't have to worry about misplacing things in the "abyss" (as my Mom termed it so nicely - thanks Mom!).
I don't stress about finding the time to clean out things.

I spent a marathon week last week cleaning things out from our bedroom and making a dent in my sewing/craft room.  John and I have  a long list of things that we don't have a home for - part of the reason why we keep shuffling the location of things. 

In that week I have donated 4 trash bags of clothes, 1 of toys, 2 of DVDs and VHS tapes, recycled one large trash-can worth of recycling plus 2 paper shopping sacks, and filled one garbage bag with trash.  I have found several things that I had misplaced, including (much to my embarrassment!) the volunteer forms for my kids' school.  Opps.  Turned those in on Monday! :) 

I also feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  A psychological weight to be sure, but a weight none-the-less. 

And now I can tackle some of these other things in peace.

How has cleaning out affected your life?  I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Healthy Habits in 2011 - My Plan to Kick this Weight in 2011

Nothing like a new year to get things rolling along in the weight loss realm!  I think I remember reading somewhere that losing weight and getting out of debt are the two most often made New Years Resolutions.  I believe it.  Because both being overweight and being in debt have a lot in common and both aren't any fun!

My plan in 2011 is to lose 15 lbs and several inches. (I haven't measured myself again so I will have the inches numbers for next week - gulp!). 

Last year I managed not to gain any weight from beginning to the end of the year and my weight went down and then back up during the course of the year.   My goal for this year is to have it go down and then stay down! :)


That's always the trick question isn't it.  I could focus entirely on what I eat or exercise like crazy or crash diet or something that would work temporarily and then be difficult to maintain in the long run.  I won't do that. 

Here are some things I learned in 2010 that will help me in 2011:

* I don't push myself hard enough when I work out.  I tend to work out fairly hard but I don't push.  Then my body doesn't burn as many calories as it could, my muscles don't gain strength and my body ends up at a weight plateau.  I pushed yesterday and Monday and, boy, can I feel it today.  That is a good thing!  And I need to keep at it!

* I am not smart when I snack.  I tend to eat whatever in whatever amount I feel like.  I have a number of magazine pages from Health magazine that have snacks under 100 calories.  The variety and types are amazing (did you know that 7 of those mini conversation hearts have about 70 calories for example?)  and I can definitely put together some smarter snacks for myself.  Pouring myself my giant coffee mug full of pretzels 3 times while reading a book is not a good idea either!  No matter now low-cal pretzels are, I don't need that many.

* I don't believe in restricting myself from certain foods.  I have always been taught that all things are fine in moderation. For example, one small cookie, piece of chocolate or other treat with my afternoon tea or coffee is fine.  Eating several is not.  And neither is doing that several times per day.   I would also rather have a small amount of something really tasty than a lot of something I don't really care for.  And it goes a long way to keeping me from feeling "deprived."

* I snack when I'm bored or stressed.  I think it's a minor miracle that I didn't gain a ton of weight toward the end of the semester this year since I do eat when I'm stressed or bored.  I discovered that keeping my hands busy is a great way to not eat - writing, typing, embroidery, sewing and a whole host of other things keep those hands occupied and I can't put food in my mouth when I'm busy.

* I don't like wearing a pedometer but I need to do it anyway.  I'm dusting off my trusty pedometer and am challenging myself to top each week's previous step total by 500 steps. My goals is to walk  3,650,000 steps by the end of 2011 - or 10,000 steps per day each day for the year.

* It's easier for me to plan my meals and snacks and stick to that than to keep a food journal.  There's something about planning ahead that does it for me.  Keeping a food journal after the fact just makes me feel guilty.  If I slip up with a food journal it just makes me want to give up.  Having a plan and deviating from it slightly (eating something not on the list, for example) makes me just resolve to stick to the plan, and I typically do better at sticking to the plan for a few days.  Slipping up with a food journal just makes me want to eat more junk for a while!  So I'll plan the meals and snacks and stick with that.

* I love to Jazz! I love my Jazzercise classes and I don't mind doing it at home by myself with a DVD in the player if need be.  I am so glad I have something that I truly enjoy and can stick with.  This goes a LONG way to keeping me fit in 2011 and beyond.

Combining all these things, I am confident that I can kick this weight in 2011!

What is your plan to get healthier in 2011?  I'd love to hear!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Goals for 2011

My non-traditional "Christmas Flowers" from my Dad - just because!

As I'm sitting here, there are huge, fluffy snow flakes falling outside my window.  I have a pot of tea and one of my special tea cups and a lighted candle.  It's quiet and peaceful.  In the living room the tree lights add a spark of joy.  I couldn't find our angel tree topper this year - things got put away so hap-hazard last year I couldn't find half of our decorations this year! - so Missy drew a paper star, cut it out, colored it yellow, glued it to a Popsicle stick and we stick it at the top of the tree.  Every time I look at it, it makes me smile!

This year has gotten off to a good start. 

And today is John's birthday.  I am so blessed to be married to him and so blessed to have the marriage that we do.  Celebrating his birthday so close after Christmas and New Year's is just another reason to count my blessings one by one.

So what are my goals in 2011?  I have an ambitious list again, though many of them look familiar!

Well, I did make progress on the goals I had last year but didn’t hit that many of them. I’m not that discouraged, though I have been discouraged at times during the year. I am continuing many of the goals into 2011 so that I actually complete them – maybe not in my original time frame but complete them nonetheless!

1. Finish My PhD.
Yes this was my #1 goal for 2010 and I ran into some serious snags getting done. They were not things I can control (like a cranky committee member who got his knickers in a knot and refused to untie them – I replaced him!) and I am okay with that. Right now there is no reason that 2011 can’t be my graduation year! As they say “Lord willin’, and the creek don’t rise!” Or something like that! Check out my sidebar for progress.

2. Reach My Target Weight.
Since I didn’t meet this goal in 2010 either, I’m carrying it over too. I have been asked to certify to be a Jazzercise instructor and am planning on doing that as soon as my PhD is done. Sooo, I need to lose those nagging extra pounds that have plagued my hits and thighs for far to long.  I'll write more about this tomorrow in Healthy Habits in 2011.

3. Finish Cleaning Out Our House!
The final rooms are: The office, the Sewing/Craft Room and the Furnace room. I have one laundry basket full of stuff junk to sort through for the Master Bedroom and then I’m officially done with that. We tackled the family room as a family on New Year’s day so that’s done too! Woo hoo!

4. Finish Those Sewing Projects!
Check out my side bar for progress – I keep adding things to work on in the meantime which means these are getting done slower than molasses in January. However, we have two graduations and a friend’s baby coming up this spring in May so I need to get cracking on things!

5. Refinish Our Hardwood Floors and Woodwork.
This falls into both the house and finances categories since we have to save the money to hire this done (no WAY are we doing it ourselves - it's far too big of a project since it involves our whole first floor of the house!) and we need to get this done since we have some problems with woodwork and the current carpeting we have in our living room.

6. Get Our Garage Repaired.
This actually comes before the hardwood priority speaking, because if we don’t do it our garage could fall down! Literally. Yikes. Again, this is a house project/finances thing.

7. Pay Cash For A New Vehicle.
My 1999 Camry is on it’s last legs and I’ve had the mechanic laugh more times than I can count now about repairing something. Most things are more expensive then the car is worth now. And, yes, I should have a “Don’t laugh, it’s paid for!” bumper sticker on the back end! Since my heater is very sketchy we decided that it’s time to retire the poor thing and get something “new.”

8. Refurbish Our Front Flower Bed.
This didn’t really get touched this last year. I’m hoping that this summer I can actually get this done!

9. Catch Up The Kids Scrapbooks to The End of 2010.
I love to scrapbook and I have such a backlog of things to do with these! My kids love to look at pictures but their scrapbooks currently end at age 8 months! Opps. I did make progress – from 4 months to 8 months! – but I need to get rolling on that!

10. Fill 8 Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes for $30.
Last year my goal was 6 for $25. I did it (barely) and I’m adding this year because the kids now fill a box each for school too. I’m hoping to get the boxes for $1 or less this week on sale and start filling as we clean out. I found bouncy balls still in the package and the kids picked out 6 small stuffed animals to add as well. Missy cleaned out her bag collection and we have 3 bags big enough for notebooks and pencils to add as well! Such a good start and we haven’t spent a dime yet!

I'll write over the next few weeks about how I'm going to accomplish all of these things. I'm also going to write each week about what I've done the previous week to reach these goals.  This is for my record, your amusement and hopefully some accountability along the way!

What are your goals for 2011? And how are you going to accomplish them? I’d love to know.

Menu Plan Monday - Week of January 2, 2011

A whole new year and a whole new week!  How blessed are we!  And this also is the first week of an eating from the pantry challenge for us - $50 for groceries for the whole month!   Can we do it?  Yes we can! (My apologies to Bob the Builder for borrowing his lines there ! :)  )

With our pantry and fridge well-stocked we are eating well again.  John's birthday is today - Happy Birthday Sweetie! - and he requested Crab Legs for dinner.  And, yes, our budding foodies love them too.  Never mind that the kids won't eat ground meat of any kind or most vegetables, they'll eat crab legs and shrimp and salmon.  Glad that they will do that.  Not too sure about what that does for the budget!  Anyway, the crab legs were on sale for $5.99/lb this week. We bought 2 lbs and that came out of the birthday gifts part of the budget.  So glad the man is easy to please!

So here's the menu for the week:

Sunday, January 2:
    Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
    Lunch: Pancakes with Strawberry Jam and Walnuts
    Dinner: Leftovers

Monday, January 3, John's Birthday!
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Blueberries and Almonds
   Bag Lunches: PB&J, Applesauce, Carrot Sticks or Tomatoes, Cookie, Juice Box
   Dinner: Crab Legs, Salad, Blackberry-Pineapple-Pear Salad
   Desert:  Angel food Cake with Blackberries, Bananas, and Vanilla Pudding

Tuesday, January 4:
   Breakfast:  Oatmeal Muffins and Bananas
   Dinner:  Salad with Chicken, Apple and Pear Slices

Wednesday, January 5:
   Breakfast: Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Walnuts
   Bag Lunches:  Chex Mix, Applesauce, Carrot Sticks or Tomatoes, Cookie, Juice Box
   Dinner: Beef Stir Fry, Rice, Orange and Grapefruit Wedges

Thursday, January 6:
   Breakfast: Waffles with Blueberries and Almonds
   Dinner:  Wild Rice Casserole, Baking Powder Biscuits, Salad, Pineapple-Pear-Apple Salad

Friday, January 7:
   Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
   Bag Lunches: Hot Lunch for the Kids; Leftovers for Mom and Dad
   Dinner: PB&J with Apple Slices for the kids; Out for Mom and Dad

Saturday, January 8:
   Breakfast: Fruit Smoothies and Peanut Butter Toast
   Lunch: Vegetable Soup, Homemade Bread, Carrot and Celery Sticks, Apple Slices
   Dinner: Salmon, Couscous, Green Beans, Pineapple-Pear-Banana Salad

What are you eating this week?  Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share and be inspired!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - A Fresh Start

As crazy as it seems, there's something very refreshing about the new year and a 'fresh start' on all things. 

Think about it for a minute.  It's very weird that one day makes all the difference.
Yesterday was 2010 (or, rather, two days ago) and today is 2011.

In reality, nothing has changed but the flip of a calendar page. We do that 11 other times a year without it being any big deal at all.

But this time...this time our minds somehow see it all as new.
And fresh.
And give us, at the very least, a psychological new beginning.

I love that fresh start.

And since I live by a school/academic calendar, I get one in September too.

I love being able to think and plan and rearrange.  To organize and set up expectations.  To come up with all the reasons that this year or semester or month will be different then the past.

And the best part of it all:
Jesus died on the cross to make each day of our lives a fresh start.
Freed from all the baggage of this world, we can strive to serve Him and be who He would have us be.
Every day of the year.

No New Year needed!

What are your favorite things?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Super Savings Saturday - My Personal Pantry Challenge for January

This week I did actually go grocery shopping - however, my folks paid for the groceries as a way of saying 'thank you' for our hospitality over the last couple of weeks.  So I spent $0 out of pocket for groceries this week!  And we bought a number of things that we were running low on, including several things for the kids' lunch boxes, like juice boxes and applesauce.

So my pantry is very well stocked, indeed.

So well stocked in fact, that I'm challenging myself to the same challenge I had last January: $50 for groceries for the whole month of January!

Typically my budget is $40 per week, or $160 per month.  This will give us $110 to put toward something else - in this case one of our savings goals for 2011 (which I'll write about on Monday). 

I will buy mostly milk and fruit during this time so that is what my Super Savings Saturday posts will consist mostly of, along with any killer deals of course, during the month of January. 

I haven't done a very good job of watching my grocery budget this fall and I hope to go back to watching it carefully this spring so that John and I can reach our goal of paying off our mortgage by the time he's done with seminary - in approximately 3 years! - and meet some of our other goals along the way.  We had toyed wtih the idea of bumping the grocery budget up to $50 per week, but have decided to leave it at $40 for the time being. 

For more Super Savings Saturday, check out Money Saving Mom.

Frugal Friday - My $25 for 6 OCC Boxes, and How I Did with My 2010 Financial Goals

One of my goals for 2010 was to fill 6 shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child for $25.  I did it - barely! 

That included buying 6 plastic shoe-box size boxes with lids for the boxes as well as the contents.  Much of the contents was gleaned from my own stash - things left over from other projects or from my boxes from last year, as well as stickers that a friend gave to me for my children that we definitely didn't need.

I'm glad I succeeded but I keep looking at the total in my sidebar and thing I can do even better this next year! 

We also had to fill two more boxes for my kids' school - one from each of my kids - and we just let them pick out whatever they wanted to totally another $50 to fill the boxes.  I wasn't happy with spending that amount, so I'm hoping to have the kids pick things out throughout the year to fill boxes this coming fall.

I'll post my goals for my 2011 OCC boxes on Monday so stay tuned!

As for our financial goals, I had a goal of meeting 2 of our numerous financial goals for 2010 and did that!  And more besides!

We actually hit all 5 financial goals that I had posted on the blog here!

We saved for the kids' tuition at school and their uniforms, my tuition at school, fully funded our 'fees' category in our budget, and our date night fund as well.   I'm more than just a little amazed that we had all that taken care of - which I didn't realize until I started reviewing for this post!  What a pleasant surprise!

We found out that the uniforms will have to cost more than we planned - 2-3 bottoms just does not work for kindergartners and mom doing laundry only once a week.  We also found out that our date night fund was sufficient to buy symphony tickets and buy us dinner but not to pay for babysitters!  Opps.  Those things we need to up for next year!

I'll be sharing our financial goals for 2011 next week, so stay tuned!

For more Frugal Friday, Check out Life as Mom!

In the Refiner's Fire - Things I Learned in 2010

My apologies for this being a wee bit late (as in three days!). Ugh.  Time just got totally away from me on Thursday - took my parents to the airport and then spent the afternoon with my kiddos. What fun that was!  I realized about the time I went to bed that I hadn't posted. Opps!
Ditto for Friday!  John was home for the day and we took the kids to the Science Museum of Minnesota to climb on their Geometry Playground before it leaves for a new destination on the 9th of January and then to view the Dinosaur skeletons - a special request from Buddy who is about all things dinosaur right now!  We had a great day, beat the storm home and then played card games, board games and rung in the New Year at midnight as a family with chocolate fondue.

Now, we're heading back to normal - or something like that anyway!

My Thursday "In the Refiner's Fire" posts are always the hardest for me to write.  I assigned them to Thursdays because I knew that in the beginning and I have a wee bit of extra time on Thursdays.   I did a fair job of writing about my 'early life' - until we moved here to the Twin Cities.  Since then my life as been much more demanding in so many ways and it has been very difficult for me to write about.   

Since part of the purpose of having this blog is that I want to share my story - which I have done many times with others in person - I do want to write my story in full and post it in the "In the Refiner's Fire" category.  And I have been slowly writing it behind the scenes and posting mostly about other things I've learned along the way.  My one major blogging goal for 2011 is to get that whole story written up and posted sequentially in it's entirety.  Thanks for sticking with me while I struggle through that.

I've learned so much in my faith walk this year, as well as the difficultly of writing my faith story to share with others.

I've learned that:
* God is always bigger than my problems - no matter what they are or how many come at a time.
* My day really does go better when I start off with time in God's Word and Prayer!
* God really does love me, no matter what I do.
* God's grace is sufficient.
*God is the judge, not me or you or the person down the street.
* I have a long way to go in my walk with the Lord.
* I tend to be like Martha instead of Mary, and I desperately want to be like Mary!
* God will never leave me nor forsake me.
* I need to redeem my time, rather than abusing it and losing it.
* I need to leave my earthly treasures for heavenly ones.
* I need to be the person who I want my daughter to be - and that is far easier said than done!
* I am so richly blessed - far beyond what I could ever hope for or imagine on my own.

This year has been a year of ups and downs as it has been for so many of you. 

And God is always there.
No matter what.

I just need to remember to lean on Him, and not my own understanding.

And now we have been blessed with another year where I can do just that.

Soli Deo Gloria.