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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hello New Year!

This was a hard year and I'm ready for it to end and a new one to start. To be honest, I feel like I "missed" this whole year. There are whole months that I can barely remember and you wouldn't believe how many times I went to write the date this year and started to write 2010...yep...I just wasn't present in 2011 much. I'm ready for new beginnings and pray that 2012 is a joyous year for us all.

As I speak write I am sitting on the bed after having just put 4 overflowing baskets of laundry away. While doing so I opened the window in the bedroom and enjoyed the breeze of fresh air wafting in the window. Even the cat enjoyed it as she climbed into the window sill. Call me crazy (I know you already do!) but 50 degrees on the last day of December here is something to celebrate - it's virtually unheard of! By now we would typically be covered with snow and frigid temperatures. Instead, we are enjoying an extremely mild winter thus far and I am loving it!

I swear it smells like spring in the bedroom now. It felt like Spring when I was out earlier cleaning and vacuuming out the van (yeah, I never did get that crossed off my to-do list the other day!) and watching over the kids as they played in the yard. If only every winter were like this I wouldn't mind this season one bit. Even though I know that we bound to get the ice, snow, sleet, way below zero temperatures, and long dreary days yet this year this gift of nice weather will make this season that much shorter.

While others prepare to go out for New Year's Eve we are taking it easy here at home. Putting away the Christmas decorations, cleaning out the van, putting away the laundry, and cleaning the dining room and living room was how we spent our day. This evening we will snuggle together while watching a movie and enjoying our tray of snacks - champagne for mommy and daddy and sparkling grape juice for the kids, cheese (and cheese ball), summer sausage, and crackers, little smokies with BBQ sauce, chicken wings, popcorn, and leftover Christmas cookies will be what's on the menu.

And we will ring in the New Year here at home - which is where we will find everything we have ever needed - love, laughter, and each other.

Happy New Year! Thanks for spending 2011 with me here!

Friday, December 30, 2011


What are the top two New Year's Resolutions?

Loosing Weight

Saving Money

I feel comfortable where I am at with my budget. I do feel the need to tweak it just a bit in order to put more into savings.

I do hope to lose 10-15 pounds this year (I think 1 lb. a month is a very attainable goal!).

What does this have to do with my blog? The fact that I want to loose weight means that I need to make myself accountable. What is more accountable than posting it on a blog for the world to see? I'll post what works (or doesn't work) for me...starting after the new year.

Since I'm comfortable with our budget I want to help those of you who are not comfortable with yours get comfortable, if that is one of your new years resolutions. While I am not a money expert (though I've always considered college for majoring in financial planning) I may have some hints and tips that may help you. Looking to become a stay at home mom? Needing to save up for an expensive purchase? Want a retirement fund? Hoping to pay off debt this year? I think I can help you with ideas for that!

I will pepper my blog with posts on these topics throughout the coming weeks. If you have a specific question on either weight loss or money management, leave them in the comments and I will answer them in upcoming posts. Otherwise, I'll just fly by the seat of my pants!

If you have different new year's resolutions then the two above, what are you hoping to change this coming year?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Baby Steps

A lot of New Year's Resolutions involve money (budgeting, saving). I've also seen people who resolve to become more "green". With this tip you can kill two birds with one stone.

A year and a half ago I decided to stop using paper plates. They were a daily part of our life and made for easy clean up of a quick snack or easy lunch. If I recall, the cheapest package was about $2.00 and we went through one to two packages a month. That was $2-$4 a month or $24-$48 a year. It may not sound like a lot, but that adds up and does take a bite out of the budget!

The thing is, I was so attached to my paper plates but within a week of giving them up I didn't miss them at all! The amount of dishes to wash was a bit more, but with a dishwasher it wasn't very noticeable.

The amount of garbage we throw out is also less because of it. Looking back it seems silly to have used disposable products when we had real plates in the cupboard. Even for large gatherings it is simpler and greener to use real place setting. Either ask each guess to bring their own, or pick up pretty plates and silver ware at thrift shops and garage sales to use for a larger crowd. Real place settings are so much prettier anyway. We specifically have a lot of mix matched sets in our cupboards...it makes for a festive table! :)

Around the same time we did away with paper towels. I, too, was dependent on those for wiping up spills and messes (with three kids and a puppy we were going through a lot!) and while cooking. After just a few weeks I no longer miss those either. We use rags for cleaning messes up now (old t-shirts, towels, and bed sheets make the best rags!). I just cut an old clothing up and place it into a "rag bag" underneath the kitchen sink. For easy spills we use our kitchen towels or dishcloth and throw into the wash. This, too, has helped cut down on our garbage waste and has saved us money. We were going through about 2 rolls of paper towels a month and the Bounty rolls were about $2 each, so that is another $24+ a year. I do still buy about two rolls a year, but only use them when we make homemade tacos...to absorb the grease from the shells. I'm thinking about using paper bags for that next time but don't have a stash of paper bags on hand usually.

I don't miss either of these paper products now that they are no longer a part of this household. In cutting these two little things from our lives we are doing our little part to save the planet and saving upwards of $75 or more a year. It's a very easy and simple step but makes a big difference!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

This Week

We enjoyed a slower paced Christmas.

We appreciated fully the fact that our family was together and not separated like last year when Jacob was in the hospital after surgery.

We spent the day out and about yesterday to celebrate hubby's birthday. One isn't in the mood for cake the day after Christmas but we ate the whole thing anyway!

I planned to stay in my pjs all day but I forgot that the children need to be fed and with little food in the house, no dish soap, and the very end of the toilet paper roll I think it means that I do have to venture out today.

I'm thinking about what my New Year's resolutions will be (lose weight? set a new budget? really speed up my de-cluttering? get to work on the things I've always wanted to learn/do?) and wondering if you'd like me to highlight them on this blog. What would you be most interested in seeing?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

May you all enjoy a blessed holiday weekend and remember the real meaning of CHRISTmas.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Elves Bakery

This week has been spent in the kitchen preparing goodies. All that's left is decorating the sugar cookie cut outs, which we will do tomorrow.

My favorite sugar cookie recipe is one that my mom received at her bridal shower. It's the only one we used growing up and the only one I've used in my own home.

1 cup butter, softened

3 eggs

3 1/2 c. flour

1 tsp. soda

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. cream of tartar

Cream butter. Add sugar gradually and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each one.

Stir in vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and add gradually to creamed mixture. Chill 3-4 hours or overnight. Roll on floured surface. Cut into desired shapes. Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes. Decorate!

My icing is just powdered sugar mixed with a tiny bit of milk, until desired consistency. Rolling out the dough isn't complete without the rolling pin that my grandma gave to me on the first Christmas that I was married...it was the same one that her Grandma used and I will forever treasure it!

Gingerbread men from a recipe that my friend gave to me. I love me some gingerbread but it's been years since I've made it. I love these and think they will become a yearly tradition.

My baby boy used his artistic talents to decorate his cookies.

Those are probably the best of all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Think Outside the Box

Remember the Plum District deal I told you about last month? The Kiwi Crate special which was a 3 month subscription for $27? I hesitated on the deal, never having heard of it and all, but since I had a credit on my Plum District account I decided to go ahead and purchase it as it sounded great for a homeschooling family.

I'm glad I did!

The kids received their first box in the mail yesterday. It included a little Christmas surprise which was a make it yourself calendar for 2012 and a neat multi-colored pencil. This will be one of Becca's school project...learning about months, days, and years all while having fun with a craft.

The box theme this month is space exploration. The projects are making a space mobile and a shooting rocket. It comes with everything you need (paint, paint brush, tape, and more!) and will be keeping the kids busy this week. The little leaflets that explain the craft also have questions and info for the kids about the theme.

What a neat idea! While I may not personally pay the full price for the kit ($19.95 a month), because you know me...I'm cheap!...I do love these little kits! I also think they would make a neat gift for your kids or grandkids.

Did anyone else grab this deal when I posted about it? If so, how do you like it?

This is not a sponsored or paid post...I just wanted to let you know how I like these kits!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lack of Greetings

Six mail days left before Christmas. This is my haul of Christmas cards so far this year...

The amount seems to shrink each year. Not because my friends disown me and take me out of their address book, but rather because more and more people decide not to send cards every year. They blame it on the price of postage, lack of time, or more often then not, sites like Facebook that keep you in touch with family and friends all year long.

Christmas cards are falling to the wayside much like personal letters are. To me there are no replacements for either. There is nothing like a letter written to you by a friend and nothing like a stack of Christmas cards arriving in December with family photos, newlsetters, and notes. It is like the magic touch - holiday greetings and a warm hug wrapped up in one.

What is your take on Christmas cards? Do you send them? Do you like to receive them?

Friday, December 16, 2011

One Year

Exactly one year ago today I found the lump on Jacob's abdomen while helping him get dressed. Exactly one year ago today we heard the words "cancer". Exactly one year ago today our lives changed forever.

One year later I am thankful beyond belief that our little man is still with us, healthy and doing well. While my sweet boy was laying in a hospital bed over Christmas last year after a major surgery which cut him from side to side, a chest tube hanging out of him, and a morphine pump by his side, I almost couldn't bear to look into the future to see what the next year would bring.

My brave boy fought a battle that most grown men would tremble at and he did it with hope, fearlessness, and trust. He is my hero and I fall to my knees with relief that he is here to celebrate (really, really celebrate) Christmas with - the day that the Lord came to earth to save us all.

It's a reminder that life can change in an instant. That one day...one hour...one minute can be the difference of "before" and "after". It's a reminder to not live in fear (A life lived in fear is one only half lived) but rather to live each moment to the fullest. Full of family, friends, and most of all love and no regrets.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Busy in the Workshop

My family has suddenly morphed into busy little elves. The house has become a messy workshop and I am loving every one's creativity. Unfortunately, I can't show much of what we have been working on as it is for gifts. I'll post some photos after Christmas though!

My husband even got into the creative mood and built his first ever piece of furniture...a farmhouse toddler bed for Joe.

It's finished except for the top piece of the footboard (somehow we ended up one board short...but that will be an easy fix). I also have plans for painting it a fire engine red (though I am kind of digging the natural wood look) so I'll post photos when it's completely finished. The plans for this bed can be found at Ana White's awesome site. Next up I'm hoping for the queen size farmhouse bed!

I better get back to the workshop...there is only 10 days to Christmas, after all!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Right now I really dislike:

the creepy crud that is going around our house. Only one child threw up but most everyone else feels nauseous and just not right.

the in between stage of short and long hair. It's too short to do anything with and too long to leave down. Grrrr.

the feeling of being behind on holiday baking, school, and housework. A panicky feeling builds when on is not on top of anything.

the fact that Christmas break will now be used for catching up.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Found Treasure

I've fallen out of the habit of stopping at thrift stores...until recently. Don't get me wrong, I've been dropping things off for donation for years but shopping at them was a rare habit of mine. Basically because of all the knick knacks around I found it impossible to shop with three bumbling children...and I'm always with my children.

Now that they are a bit older I've found that a quick run through the store is fairly feasible and so have found the love of thrift shopping again! Some recent finds at Goodwill and St. Vincent De Paul:

One of my favorite parts of second-hand shopping is giving something old a new home. I love to wash or clean the items and find the perfect place for them.

As long as I drop a bag or two off at Goodwill for donation I think I will give myself permission to go inside to see if I find a treasure or two!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

It's That Time Again...

...Baking time! I'm not doing huge amounts of sweets this year but we have our yearly favorites that we will be working on.

I realized yesterday that there is just a little over two weeks until Christmas; here I haven't made one Christmas goodie yet! Time to get cracking this week, so in preparation of that I worked at organizing my baking cupboard.

It may still seem like a mess but I now know exactly where everything is and what I need to pick up at the store yet. I've got more flour and sugar in the pantry, chocolate in the freezer, and ideas aplenty.

I better get busy...

What is your all-time favorite holiday goodie?

Friday, December 9, 2011

$10 Free!

For those of you who have not done the VitaCost.com deal that I posted a few weeks ago...the deal is still on! If you are a new customer, sign up through this link and $10 will be added to your account. Disclaimer: By going through my referral link I will also get $10 when you sign up. I thank all those who previously went through my link as I was able to place a $60.14 order today and only pay 14 cents out of pocket...that was a tremendous help and I thank you for that!

I realized while searching the site today that their prices are spectacular even without having a coupon code; many of the items I regularly buy at the health food store are much cheaper here. If you want to just use the $10 code look for a few cheaper items (Bob's Red Mill items are all on sale!) to total $10 and just pay $4.99 shipping. When I did that I purchased several bags of the Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats and paid just shipping (when each bag used to cost me $3.25 each at the store!)

If you buy lots of health food items or supplements to begin with you may want to search the site to stock up - shipping is free after $50 and you can then get $10 worth of items free with this sign up bonus.

Some items which I purchased at a great deal are:
22 oz. Raw Organic Honey for $7.03
54 oz. Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats for $6.24
16 oz. Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Molasses for $5.29
TwinLab Women's Ultra Daily Vitamins for $8.99
Not to mention chia seed, maple syrup, and wheat germ.

If you are doing a large order, don't forget to go through your Shop At Home account for 5% cash back. Or, if you are new to Shop at Home, go through this link to receive $5 in your account for signing up (disclaimer, I also get $5 in my account when you sign up...thank you to the two people who have used my referral!). Shop At Home earns you cash back through companies that you already shop at online. Before buying from any store online, search Shop At Home to see if that company is offering cash back and buy through that link. It's a safe and secure site. I've earned over $40 in the past couple months by using Shop at Home for items I was going to buy anyway!

If you do this Vitacost.com $10 offer; once you are signed up get your own referral link and post to your Facebook or own blog in order to $10 whenever one of your own friends signs up. It's helping them get nutritional items for cheap and yourself as well!

Have you done this offer? What goodies did you find?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Curbside Shopping

I have been searching for the perfect end tables for the living room for the longest time. I had two end tables that we purchased years ago (6 or 7 years ago?) but didn't like the feel of them any longer. All summer I scoured garage sales. I went so far as to look for some brand new but still couldn't find what I was looking for. I didn't exactly know what I was looking for but knew that I'd know when I saw it.

Then one day I loaded all three kids up in the van for their dentist appointment. As I drove down the street I saw an old sewing desk at the curb a block away. I was going to be late for the appointment though so excitedly called my mom and asked her to run down the street and grab it for me. It took her and my dad to lug it home...who knew wrought iron was so heavy?! :) I knew exactly what I was going to do with it!

I cleaned it up, put a tray over the hole where the sewing machine used to go, and replaced one of my previous side tables with it.

I love the character that it adds to the room...it's something original instead of a mass produced end table. The little drawers are neat for hiding treasure and I can swap out decorations as the seasons change. Please excuse my sad houseplant...she was shocked by having to come back inside after spending her days on the porch in the warm summer and fall sunshine.

This is a Singer sewing desk and the date on the iron is stamped 1887. Right around the time our house was built...so it's a perfect fit!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Counting Down

We have three red and green chains hanging in our house.

Each child made one and claims it as their own.

And every day they tear one link off. Christmas morning their last link will come down.

It's been a tradition that I've carried over from my childhood and every December 1st the kids excitedly ask when we are going to make the chain.

What are some traditions that you have carried over into your own family?

Friday, December 2, 2011


I want to shout it from the rooftops - JACOB'S SCAN IS CLEAN!!!!

Thank you so much for the prayers; the comfort that comes from them is undeniable!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Today we had fun flipping the calender page over to December. Happy December 1st!

Today I enjoyed my usual breakfast of tea and steel cut oatmeal (with bananas, walnuts, chia seeds, and honey this time around). Although today it was more of a brunch since we had a terribly hectic morning.

Today the boys will have their usual twice weekly speech therapy appointment. Afterwards, grocery shopping and a trip to the library will be in order.

Today I try not to dwell on the scanxiety that I feel for tomorrow. Jacob has his 3 month CT scan tomorrow and I pray, pray, pray that it shows all clear. Will you please keep him in your prayers as well?


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