Monday, December 31, 2007

Out with the Old, In with the New

My poor upright vacuum cleaner is held together with duct tape, has been used as a shop vac, has taken numerous unintentional trips down the stairs (almost killing me at the bottom), and is begging to be put out of its misery. Today I tried. I really did. And I failed.

For years the Kenmore Progressive has been one of the top rated reasonably priced canisters. My mom--a connoisseur of vacuum cleaners--has one and likes it a lot. So I figured when mine finally gave up the ghost, I'd buy one, too. But guess what? Sears doesn't make that model anymore and their new one's have not yet been rated by those who rate vacuums! Lovely. So I tried the Sears outlet--nope. Tried looking for the next best rated canister--a Hoover Windtunnel Bagless number--at Sears, Meijer, and Target--nada. And by the end of the hunt we were all irritable, hungry, and cold.

This is where you come in, delightful friends. And this is time for you lurkers to come out of hiding! In order to help my family have a happy and clean new year, please tell me what type of cleaning machine you use, if you 'd recommend it or not, and why.

As a thank you I will randomly pick three names from the comment list and send you a sample packet of my favorite chili mix. If you don't have a blogger account, be sure to send me an email (click the cute little birdie on the right) with your email address so I can let you know if you win.

Blessings on thee and a happy new year to you and yours!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

It's in the bag

The bag for my Bible was completed yesterday. It's a bit bigger than I need, but seeing that I made a few errors trying to adapt the bag tutorial posted here, it turned out fine. In order to keep my things together, I wanted to add a back pocket for any study guide or book I'm reading but I forgot to sew the pocket on before sewing up the outside seams. I also wanted to use a magnetic closure but couldn't find one that was to be sewn on (much like a snap) instead of poked through the fabric. I edge stitched the flap instead of adding trim and added additional rows of stitching on the strap to strengthen it.

The outside material is the left-overs from the border on my curtains in our family room and the lining is material gifted me by our pastor's wife from her late mother-in-law's sewing stash. I think they go together beautifully!

It has an inside velcro pocket for little ditties and a slot on the side gusset for my pen. I probably should have made more slots for additional pens and pencils. Next time!

My new little bag holds most everything I need for my study--Bible, pen, colored pencils, notebook, and book.

One thing off the list! Yeaaa! But I did get this book for Christmas...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Happy Anniversary

With this ring I thee wed: with my body I thee worship: and with all my worldly goods I thee endow. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

They've been the best 12 years of my life. I love you, darling.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ok, so what's next?

The packages are unwrapped, some of the toys are already broken, and our bellies are continuing to expand with the finishing off of the plethora of cookies and candies home-baked and delivered by loved ones.

My folks have been here for a week and are probably longing for the quietness of their own home.

My children desperately need to return to the discipline of school. Their listless wandering are driving me nuts. They lay sprawled out on our library floor, surrounded by mounds of legos, and listened to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in its entirety today.

And my dear husband has spent the last week (and probably will spend the next one) in Sissy's bathroom or at Home Depot. He abhors home improvement and is not at all experienced--grew up with a sister and a single mom in apartments--but in order to avoid the cost of a professional he's replacing the whole thing himself. We are very thankful for my dad's expertise and step by step instructions as well as the generosity of our friends with their tools and time.

So what's next for me? On the practical side of life, Monica's list has been driving me crazy! So I've cleaned out the crawl space, reorganized my craft closet, and am planning to de-clutter a room a month in 2008. (There, I put it in writing. Lord, help me!) I've created a pattern for a messenger bag for the new Bible JT gave me for Christmas and now I need to sew it. And I've started to read Passionate Housewives Desperate for God. On the spiritual side, I'm purposing to take a closer look this year at what it means for me to be in the world and not of it. It's very hard to find the balance. I either want to be in the world or not of it, but haven't yet figured out how to be both.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Rejoice! For unto you has been born a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord!

Wishing you and yours love and joy,

Saralyn and family

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What my kids are singing tonight

Lookie, Lookie!

Christmas has come early this year. Look what Sani had delivered to my house yesterday--

For those of you who are saying "so what?" this is a genuine hardwood library truck that retails for $265 at Gaylords. A homeschoolers dream!

Years ago when my dad worked for a major accounting firm he salvaged it from their trash where it ended up on account of a bum wheel bracket. He fixed it for my mom and she's used it in their church library. Mom recently resigned her post as church librarian and brought me the treasure, knowing I'd value both the truck and the fact that it was a trash pick.

Thanks Mom and Dad! Now to fill it with books!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Cowboy

Forty-five years ago today the best earthly gift God's ever given me entered the world. I wasn't even a twinkle in my mother's eye then--my parents we're even married yet--and we wouldn't meet for another 30 years, but he was born for me and I for him. He is my joy, my comfort, and my very best friend.

I love you, JT! Happy birthday!

More Handmade Christmas

Thing are buzzing around here, including my sewing machine. Now that my folks are in the car and headed this way, I can post what I've been working on for my mom for Christmas. It's a case for her knitting needles.

I got the idea from Handmade Holidays on Sew Mama Sew in November. I made some adjustments to the pattern, but pretty much followed the tutorial Angie posted on Multicrafty.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dearly Imparted

What was the headline in the news when I turned on the computer this evening? Britney Spears' 16-year-old sister Jamie Lynn's havin' a baby.

I have to admit, my first thought was, "what is this world coming to?" and my second, like unto it, "what is all of these young famous single people having babies saying to our youth?" But I'm kinda thinking that's the response of the stereo-typical hand wringing, hole yourself up until Jesus comes back or you die kind of Christian I'm really trying not to be.

Purity was not "in" in my day, but the lack of it was still referred to as "promiscuity" and in general, we hid our exploits from parents and friends. Now close encounters are expected if not encouraged by friends and parents alike. We live in a different world, and no amount of bemoaning will change that. So how do we bring the gospel to the kids (and their parents) in our neighborhoods who see these types of extracurricular activity as no different than a game of ping pong? Do we see them as moral pariahs or ripe for the good news?

On the bright side, all these pregnant celebs are, despite many of their political views, practicing pro-lifers. And I guess if it takes Jamie Lynn Spears, Jessica Alba, and Nichole Richie (to name just a few) to reduce the traffic at Planned Parenthood, so be it. Do I think that they're suddenly turning into responsible, self-sacrificing people? Not for a moment. But the obvious search for the next best thing among our idols, be it finding new love or creating new life, seems to be a wide open door for the gospel. We need to be asking Diana Ross's famous question, "do you know where you're going to, do you like the things that life is showing you, where are you going to, do you know?" And we need to have the answer, not only with Bible verses, but with our lives. We can't impart what we don't possess. Christ fills the void that people have tried to fill with love and are now trying to fill with offspring because He restores our broken relationship with our Heavenly Father. I've got the answer, now who'm I gonna tell?

The Water Horse on the House

From time to time we get invitations to movie screenings, and occasionally we go. Tonight I took the kids to see the screening of The Water Horse. It was a delightful movie about a young boy who finds an odd egg on the beach that hatches and grows into what eventually becomes known as the Loch Ness Monster.

Without the stupid comedy, potty jokes, and political messages found in so many of today's movies for kids, The Water Horse was pure family entertainment. I did count two occurrences of language not appropriate at our house and there was some drinking and smoking, but let's not forget this is a Hollywood production and it's supposed to take place in Scotland, for goodness sake.

So, in our opinion, it gets 8 thumbs up. And thanks Grace Hill Media!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Incarnation in Light of the Apple

As I was tucking my son into bed tonight the following topic came up:

Jesus was a first born son, not just "over all creation" but in his earthly family, as well. I'm sure his little brothers and sisters were no better than my son's, and yet Jesus grew up a sinless older brother who did not give his siblings what they had coming. He did not provoke. He did not lord it over them. He did not retaliate. And why did he do this? Because my little boy cannot.

Theology is a tough thing for a mama, let alone a little boy, but sometimes the Lord pulls back the veil just a little bit and lets us both catch a glimpse of what He's talking about.


If you need cereal, this is the week to get it.

Safeway (Vons, Dominicks, Tom Thumb, Pavilions, Carrs, or whatever they call it in your neighborhood) is running a three day sale starting today on Kellogg's cereal. You need the 4 boxes for $6 coupon from their circular, and then use four $1 coupons from recent inserts to get them for $0.50 a box. Be sure to ask the folks at the service desk which varieties qualify before you hit the cereal aisle. I lucked out when my cashier finally gave up trying to figure it out and simply gave me the deal on the boxes in my cart.

Albertsons ( Jewel, Acme Markets, etc.) has two grand sales going. If you buy 4 General Mills cereals that are currently on sale for $2.50 per box, the are instantly reduced to $1.50 each. Use 2 of the $1 off 2 boxes coupons from recent inserts and get them for $1 a box. This is another one to check your receipt on. One of the boxes I picked up didn't ring up on sale and it ruined the whole deal. If I hadn't caught it, it would have cost me over $5. There are some specific General Mills coupons on , and there were blinkies for $0.75 off 2 boxes of Cheerios in the aisle at my store.

Albertsons also has a deal on Chex. If you buy 3 boxes, you get them for $5. I bought 6 boxes, used 2 internet coupons from here for $1.10 off 2 boxes and another $1 off 2 boxes from a recent insert to get them for $1.13 each. Pretty good for Chex!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Spiced Iced Tea

My husband and I used to love to go to this little restaurant in Severna Park called Garry's Grill. No matter what else we ordered, we always got their spiced iced tea. It reminded me of the Russian tea my mom would make for Christmas from Tang, powdered tea mix, and spices, but when I tried the Russian tea cold, it was gritty and left sludge at the bottom of the glass like Metamucil. Yuk!

After a few tries, I think I've found a recipe that duplicates the wonderful taste of yesteryear.

Spiced Iced Tea
(a slight variation on Brenda's recipe found here, which she originally found here--you know, credit to whom it is due!)

6 cups water
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
3 black tea bags
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

In a saucepan, bring water, cinnamon, and cloves to a boil. Add tea bags, remove from heat, and steep 10 minutes. Cool slightly, then strain out spices. In another saucepan, bring sugar, orange juice, and lemon juice to a boil. Combine tea and juice mixtures. Chill and serve over ice.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ice Age

We've been hit with a slow moving ice storm that continues to drop freezing rain that's collecting on anything standing still and we are hoping to make it through the night with power. Believe it or not, the kid-os are enjoying this drippy freezing stuff and have been playing out doors! (The only kids in the neighborhood who want to do so!) This is what the trees in our yard look like:

But on a cold night like this we need some good hot vittles to warm us up. Here's my menu:

Corn Chowder
(A twist on one Anika snagged and adapted from Marilyn)

6 Tbs. butter
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
3-4 Tbsp. flour
1 qt. half and half
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 lb. frozen corn
2 cans (4 cups) chicken stock
1 lb. diced cooked ham
dash cayenne pepper
green onions, chopped

Melt butter in a soup pot on medium heat. Add onion and celery and saute until onion is translucent. Reduce heat to low and add flour a bit at a time, stirring constantly. When the mixture is no longer shiny, cook another minute. Add half and half very slowly while stirring to avoid lumps. Add salt, pepper, corn, stock, ham, and cayenne. Bring chowder to a boil and simmer 20 minutes. Serve hot garnished with green onions.

Oatmeal Bread
(adapted from a recipe found in The Occasional Cook, by Cyndy Salzmann)

1 cup warm water
3 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. oil
2 Tbsp. dry milk
1 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1 cup oatmeal
2 tsp. active dry yeast

Add ingredients to your bread machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer. You can use the machine for the whole process, but I use the dough setting only and take it out of the bread machine after the first rise, form a loaf and place it in a greased bread pan, and then let it rise a second time for about 50 minutes. Cook dough at 350 for 30-35 minutes. Best if cooled about 20 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What Makes a Home a Haven?

Truthfully, I've been avoiding Crystal's Making Your Home a Haven blog series because my home's been a disaster. I don't know what happened or when, but somehow I've forgotten about (or avoided) thoroughly cleaning the place over the last who knows how long, and my attitude's been gathering dust bunnies along with the undersides of my furniture! But today there has been a little progress on the home front. Hurrah! I actually found the floor in the family room--I lost it in May--cleaned my powder room, laundry room, and entryway, managed to feed my family, and made cookies with the kiddies.

Yet while the clutter and the dirt makes me nuts, cleaning it up is not what makes it a haven. Having a home where my family wants to be is what makes it a haven. Crystal has made a point of reminding her readers of this and a book by the same name, Making Your Home a Haven, by Cyndy Salzmann, has encouraged me a great deal in this area. I am a perfectionist, and a home where a perfectionist lives is rarely a haven! Instead it is a place where everything must be done to ideal specifications, where visitors are only invited when things are up to snuff, and where it all hits the fan if "mama ain't happy". This is a huge chunk of my personality that must be mortified, but like all living sacrifices, I keep crawling off the altar! Cyndy has helped me to put it all in perspective, to see that just as God wants my heart not just my deeds, my family needs a mommy not just a maid.

God willing, we will have a lovely Christmas season, but not because everything gets done in a Martha Stewart kind of way and our house is ready for guests, but because we've imperfectly decorated the tree and the cookies together, sat down each night and talked about the incarnation of Christ, and truly loved as He loved us--by dwelling together.

Friday, December 7, 2007

My Re-Made Christmas

My Christmas decorations are a collection of things co-workers and clients have given my husband as Christmas gifts, those first few decorations I bought with little cash and less decorating know-how when we were newlyweds, and a strange assortment of hand-me-downs from my mother and mother-in-law. While I'd like to upgrade both my style and my decor, there is no remodeling mullah.

So this is what I've come up with:

Our table needed a centerpiece that was easy and festive and could stand up to three children. I took a tray I've had for years, put clear glass marbles in some of the tray's divots, and added a 25-cent ring of artificial berries and beads from the thrift store to one of my usual table candles. Fire and ice!

We live in a raised ranch and I needed a focal point that would draw visitors' eyes upstairs instead of into the basement when they come in the front door. I took my kids' old rocking horse (purchased 9 years ago by my mother at a garage sale) and painted it red with some spray paint we'd used on a trash-pick wagon. I distressed it with some sand paper around the edges and added some decorations I'd found at the dollar store.

While I'm not Martha Stewart, I'm pretty pleased with the outcome. Who says you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear? Oink!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Help Wanted

Although I have a lot of sewing and cooking to do, most of my Christmas shopping is finished and much of it is wrapped. However, I am at a total loss on what to get for Sissy. Any suggestions on what to get an extremely unorganized and messy 7-year-old little girl? I know many of you have daughters who are older than mine, so speak up!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My Handmade Christmas

Last night I finished up the gifts for the folks at my husband's office. Don't the jars look festive? I usually make chocolate goodies but this year wanted something different. My mom made this jam for me when rhubarb was fresh. It was so tasty and beautifully colored that I thought it would make perfect Christmas gifts, so I chopped up some of my rhubarb and put it in the freezer. Besides, it was so easy!

Cherry Rhubarb Jam

4 cups diced fresh or frozen rhubarb
1.5 cups sugar
1 (3oz) package cherry Jello
1 (21oz) can cherry pie filling

Combine sugar and rhubarb in a large saucepan and let it sit of 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Jello until dissolved. Add pie filling. Transfer to jars and cool. Cover and store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Makes 8 cups.

I put the jam into $1 jars I found at Big Lots and tied on tags I found at Razzle Dazzle Recipe's Artist's Cafe with a raffia ribbon. Voila!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Reindeer Games

My friend Sharon at Living Life as a Snowflake has tagged me with this fun little list of Christmas ditties, a sort of holiday "getting to know you". So here goes:

1. Do you put up a real tree or artificial? Artificial (with lights already on it!)

2. When do you put up your tree? The first weekend of Advent

3. When do you take down the tree? After Epiphany

4. Do you like eggnog? If yes, spiked or not? No, yuk!

5. Favorite gift received as a child? My Friend Mandy Doll who now belongs to Sissy and, oddly enough, looks just like her!

6. Worst Christmas gift ever received? A salad spinner from my husband the year I was expecting an engagement ring. I still have the salad spinner, and did eventually get the ring!

7. Favorite Christmas movie? Charlie Brown Christmas and Treasures of the Snow

8. Have you ever recycled a present? Yup, but not to or from you :~)

9. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Why, cookies, of course!

10. Favorite Christmas song? Once in Royal David's City

11.Most annoying thing about this time of year? Shopping

12. What you love most about the holiday? Focusing on the first coming of Christ and re-examining all the prophecy surrounding it in the Old Testament

13. How many reindeer did Santa have? Who's Santa? If you mean Sani, why, none. He comes in a garbage truck every Thursday and we set out our packages for him on Garbage Eve.

14. Best Christmas memory? The childhood excitement of Christmas Eve and the delight of waking early to find my stocking full of goodies on my bed.

15. If you could have one Christmas wish what would it be? That Christ would come to the hearts of all my loved ones

As is the case with all of these little treats, I am compelled to pass it on. So Lizzy, Rebecca, and Monica, you're it!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The goose is getting fat...oh, wait, that's me!

We've finally arrived home from a whirlwind two weeks of visiting friends and family and besides mounds of laundry and one dead fish, we had a wonderful time and have survived virtually unscathed.

Our first visit was to the frigid north to visit our friends Rob and Kenna and their passel of kiddies. I haven't stayed up until 3:30 in the morning since college days--or maybe fussy nursing baby days! What a great time we had catching up with our favorite cheese heads.

Next we headed out to visit my folks for Thanksgiving and then on to my grandparents for a mini-reunion in New York for a long weekend.
Now I've never been a woman with body issues--a diet or work-out plan here and there, yes, but the truth is, I'm way too into cooking and eating to really give any serious thought to excessive exercise or health food! But here's the rub: it's more painful than I expected to have someone who looks just like you be 20 lbs. lighter! Here's the photo of the happy fam:

I'm on the left and Ruth Ann is on the right. We've always been a matching set right down to our double names, but now she's quite skinny and I'm, well, getting "settled" and pudgy around the middle. She's earned it with discipline and self-control--she's careful about her eating and exercises often. I'm not and I don't. And until this past weekend, I thought I was ok with that. Now I'm not so sure.

I picked up a Walk Away the Pounds video at the library.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Savings from the Money Saving Mom

Crystal from my favorite bargain blog Money Saving Mom is having a "Just to Say Thanks" Thanksgiving Sale at her other blog Biblical Womanhood. All of her books and CDs are $2, yes, just $2 through the end of this week. In addition, she'll add her Make Ahead Batters E-book to any order for free.

Their affiliate Fashionably Modest Patterns is also having an end of the year sale. All of their patterns are 10% off until December 15.

So hurry on down, don't you wait, to get a great deal at Biblical Womanhood. Tell 'em Saralyn sent you, and don't forget to say "thanks y'all". (I'm thinking about auditioning for a spot in advertisements for either carpet or used cars. What do you think?)

What's in your CD player?

We're spending a lot of time in the car traveling to see family and friends and wanted to recommend a terrific book series that has delighted all the members of our family, from kindergartner to Dad.

Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away, by Elizabeth Enright, tell of the adventures of Julian and Portia, two cousins who stumble upon an abandoned row of fantastic summer houses from a time gone by.

We borrowed the audios from our local library and are having a delightful time!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thanks, Lizzie!

There was a knock at the door this afternoon, and it was my postman with a wonderfully woodsy smelling box for ME! Yippie skippy! Lizzie sent me all these wonderful goodies in the Cozy Sister Swap sponsored by Monica and Carrie:

a beautiful black knitted scarf ( I know in the picture it looks as if a black cat has perched on the edge of the box), sparkly candle, crocheted doily, Thanksgiving kitchen towels, sweet smelling soap, and mounds of wonderful teas.

To see all the other fun things sisters have swapped go here. And keep watching for the next sister swap.

The thing is, I'm not sure if I had more fun filling my box for Lizzie or opening the one she sent me! Who knew being a grown-up could be so much fun!

Sew What?

It started off innocently enough. I was just looking for some fun clothes to sew for Sissy. I clicked from blog to blog, sewing site to sewing site, oohing and aahing over all the delightful garments others had made. I found Sew Mama Sew during kid's clothes month. It was like hitting the jackpot and I was in seamstress heaven!

Then Rebecca and Monica announced that their Christmas plans were already taking shape and they inspired me to start looking for gift ideas. I spent many evenings looking for just the perfect thing to sew or knit and waited "on pins and needles" for Sew Mama Sew to put up their month of homemade holiday tutorials. But the other day it hit me--what have I actually crafted? NOTHING! I've spent so much time admiring the beautiful work of other people that I haven't done any of my own.

Guess what? Scripture speaks to this one, too (and all on the same page in my Bible).

"He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread,
But he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding." Proverbs 12:11

"The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting,
But diligence is man's precious possession." Proverbs 12:27

"The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing;
But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich." Proverbs 13:4

It stinks to realize I've been lazy and frivolous instead of being industrious, so today I am spending some time organizing my home and getting the patterns and fabric picked out in order to (hopefully) accomplish some of these exciting projects others have put before me.

Any advice on how you choose projects and actually finish them in due time would be appreciated.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Strange Fun

I went on the hunt yesterday and bagged some serious game! It worked out that between the visiting we're doing and what I already have stashed in the freezer, I don't have to cook but 2 meals this week. So I used most of the grocery money on extras we like but don't need--known to some as "junk." (My husband claims it's the preservatives in such "junk" that keep us so healthy. He also admits it's just a theory.)

Here's how it worked out:

CVS--These bargains were found with some great coaching from Crystal the Money Saving Mom. Total spent out of pocket was $14.48. I received $14 worth of ecbs for my next trip and the Tums had a rebate for $4.79. I made a $4.31 profit on this trip!

Target--thanks to some info from Angie at Thrifty Florida Mama I picked up some pantry essentials and some of our favorite "junk" for a whopping $4.71.

Meijer--Between the loss leaders and the manufacturer's coupons, I got the peanut butter for $.50 a jar, the pies for $1.48 a piece, the crescent rolls for $.85 a tube, The Spray n' Wash for $1.42 a bottle, and the cheese for $1.50. The oranges were from the reduced produce cart for $.90. Grand total--$10.68.

And last but not least is the Mom's Best Naturals Cereal from our local market. Mom's Best is a Malt O Meal company in disguise that makes great tasting, low priced cereal. You can find a dollar-off coupon here . We got all four big boxes (each being between 18 and 23 oz) plus the bananas from the reduced produce cart for $5.54.

I think this is pretty good for $16.62 (and I'll break my arm if I pat myself on the back any harder)!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's Fall in My Hall

I'm no decorator, but I was quite happy with the seasonal look I was able to pull together in my front entry. The pumpkins were a nuisance all summer as they overtook my flower garden but are now quite useful (and all over my house)! I plopped the pumpkins in a thrift store basket, added a candle I bought on clearance at W-Mrt a while back, a Thanksgiving book from our personal library, and two artificial berry rings from Big Lots. Voila!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Manna from Heaven

It used to be that I loved laundry. I adored cooking. Cleaning my house was what I did for fun and shopping for groceries made me feel like the Proverbs 31 woman bringing her food from afar.

But I've been very sluggish lately. Some sort of combination of "I just don't want to do it" and "It's gotten so out of control that I don't know where to begin." I've tried all sorts of organizational charts and methods of keeping on top of the daily chores, but what I've come to realize is that, like everything else, it's a "heart thing."

When I was first married, all of these chores were wonderful because serving my beloved was a complete joy. We had a cute little house and I got to be the home despot, ruler of all I surveyed. The problem is now that we have more mouths to feed, laundry to wash, and toilets to clean, I'm just not as thankful as I used to be. I'm more like one of the children of Israel whining about the manna, no longer functioning out of gratitude but out of a sense of entitlement.

So how can this be fixed? By re-focusing on Christ and His sacrificial love for me. By confessing my selfishness and remembering that all these things I've been considering menial tasks that get in the way of my plans are really God's gracious gifts to me. They are His plan!

So for this Thanksgiving month I'm going to be asking God for a thankful heart and a diligent spirit. If you also need a dose of thankfulness, check out The Homespun Heart where Monica is running a thankfulness theme this month on her blog. Don't miss her ABC chart!

Friday, November 9, 2007

I'm it!

NO, this is not yet another pride issue rising to the top! Monica at Shine Again tagged me and it's my turn to share eight random things about myself. Here goes...

1. I have an arranged marriage with a man eight years my senior. Ok, so not exactly. But my college roommate's dad--who's also my husband's boss--decided we needed to meet and arranged a blind date. My roommate, her parents, two brothers, brother's future wife, and a family friend all accompanied us on it. The rest is history. (Thanks, Yenta Ron!)

2. I spoke before a Congressional Committee when I was in college.

3. I know the States in alphabetical order.

4. I used to sail dingy class boats competitively.

5. I've birthed a 9 lb 3 oz baby with no pain meds. A 7 lb 12 oz one, too, but that sounds less impressive! ;~D

6. I love wearing dresses.

7. I shake like I've got the palsy if I have more than one cup of coffee.

8. I'm obsessed with old things (see no. 1) and have a very hard time getting rid of old stuff people give me even if it's junk (definitely NOT no. 1).

I know "the rules" on this meme says to tag another 8 bloggers, but I'm pretty sure these ladies will humor me and participate. I'm tagging Anika, Beth, Sharon.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Bonanza of Savings

The mailman brought a small bundle of savings opportunities to my door today. When I am spending "real money" (aka not shopping at the thrift store) I like to do it from the comfort of my office chair. I love bargain hunting at junk stores. I hate shopping. Go figure.

Anyway, here's what my trusty federal employee brought me:

40% off any one item at Chadwick's -- use promotion code CH11935
I don't order often from Chadwick's, but what I have gotten has fit well and looked nice for a comparatively low price.

30% off already reduce items at J. Jill November 8-12
If I could get all my clothes from one place it would be J. Jill. They are flattering, feminine, and modest. Of course I always buy clearance and about half of what I own of their label came from the thrift store, but this is a good enough deal to pass on to hubby for his ease of shopping.

$3 shipping from Paula's Choice on all November orders
Another favorite of mine is Paula's Choice. I happened upon Paula Begoun's book Don't Go to the Cosmetic Counter without Me at the library and it has changed the way I buy cosmetics. Basically she's the Ralph Nader of cosmetics. She explains that there are dime store brands that are on par with the very expensive cosmetic counter brands, and some cosmetic counter brands that aren't worth a dime. Go to her Cosmetic Cop site for more information.

Paula has her own brand of products called Paula's Choice. They are no-nonsense, well researched, reasonably priced products. I've struggled with very uncooperative skin since I was pregnant with my first child, and let me tell you, this stuff is terrific. Worth every penny.

So there it is, from me to you. Charge! (On second thought, please don't.)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

And the winner of the chili pack is...

Audra Marie over at Scripture Chick. Congratulations! Your goodies will be in the mail in a day or two.
Take a trip over to the winner's page and see who won your favorite giveaways--if it wasn't you! And keep checking in at Bloggy Giveaways to see what other fun things are going for a song.
Thanks to everyone who participated. It was a lot of fun. Hope to be bumping into you again soon in the blogosphere and looking forward to the winter giveaway in January or February.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Science Fair

We participated in our first ever science fair this weekend. The kids had fun studying eight different classes of invertebrates they'd learned about through a song from Lyrical Learning's Lyrical Life Science CD. They made a display board, dressed up as invertebrates--from left to right we had a lobster, a jellyfish, and a spider--and sang the invertebrate song for our homeschool group. Look out Bill Nye!

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Dish

For those of you interested in knitted dishcloths, Deb over at Homespun Living has posted her pattern for beautiful waffle knit cloths. She also sells them in her Etsy store, for those less ambitious!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I Walk the Line

There are two extremes to frugality. On one end, life is painfully meager and sparse with short, cold showers, freezing rooms, and scratchy toilet paper, all in the name of saving money. On the opposite end, the world is so fabulously full of freebies that little consideration is taken for other people and their livelihood. People become tools in an agenda and life becomes about gathering lots of stuff as cheaply as possible.

While definitely not immune to either extreme--I've lived at both ends--my question is more about living in the center. Where is the line between being frugal and being unethical? This conundrum surfaced in my mind when the discussions started over this week's free money at CVS. For those of you not into coupon gaming, CVS has a glucose monitoring machine on sale for $29.99, that when purchased, will generate $20 worth of Extra Care Bucks to be used on the next shopping trip. Well it turns out that a booklet available at the pharmacy has a coupon for this same machine that makes it free while still generating the $20 ECBs. On top of this, the deal can be run up to 5 times, giving the lucky winner $100 in ECBs for spending nothing.

This deal is completely and totally legal, but I guess that something about it just doesn't seem right to me. Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's right. I'm not a diabetic and I don't need this machine, let alone five of them, but there are folks out there who do. If I go to CVS and work this very legal deal I will gain $100 but I may very well be depriving others of something that is not just nice to have, but necessary for their well-being.

I admit, this was a hard line for me to draw. On the one hand, free money looks really good. But on the other hand, I am a follower of Jesus Christ Who says an awful lot to me about loving my neighbors and having a self-sacrificing love. I also know that there are tons of rationales for this deal. "If I don't do it, someone else will." "There's nothing wrong with it." "Diabetics can buy a different machine." All of these are true, and I don't think ill of you if you feel totally justified. I'm just saying that for me, there is a line. Knowing my own weaknesses, to cross it would be quickly swinging me to the outer edges of frugality, choosing my money over my God.

Are you desperate?

Last March I hosted a Homemakers E-Conference at my home. One of the speakers was Jennie Chancey, a co-author of Vision Forum's latest release Passionate Housewives Desperate for God. The biggest things she taught me through her session was that the "perfect" housewife doesn't look like Martha Stewart or June Cleaver or even Jennie Chancey. The perfect housewife looks like Jesus Christ.

As someone who battles the life-dominating sin of pride, this is crucial, even life-changing. It doesn't matter how much I get done, how clean my kitchen floor is, how stocked my freezer is, how obedient my children are (or aren't). When not done for the love of God and my neighbor, all these things are worthless. And if these victories should come, they are gifts from my Heavenly Father, not badges I should wear.

I'm looking forward to hunkering down with this book--it's at the top of my Christmas list (hint, hint, hubby dear)--and am trusting God to use the wisdom He's given these two godly women to disciple me. If you're interested in picking it up, it's available here through Vision Forum for $16.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Is it just me, or...

Are the snack-size candybars getting smaller,
or is my mouth just getting bigger?

On raising sons

"Unbelief squashes; faith teaches. Faith takes a boy aside, and tells him that this part of what he did was good, while that other part of what he did got in the way. 'And this is how to do it better next time.' ...Unbelief cannot look past the surface. If there was any sin involved, unbelief sees only the sin. Faith sees what was turned aside to the service of sin and seeks to turn it back again. Sin is parasitic and cannot function without some good attributes that it seeks to corrupt. Consequently, faith must distinguish that which must be preserved and developed and that which must be abandoned as sin."

From Future Men, by Douglas Wilson

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bloggy Giveaway

OK, it looked like so much fun I couldn't pass up the Fall Y'all Bloggy Giveaway. (Click here for a list of hundreds of other giveaways you can enter.) In the spirit of southern hospitality, up for grabs is a bottle of my favorite chili mix, Ken's Railroad Chili Seasoning Mix (see my previous post for the yummy scoop), a copy of the Marlboro Cook Like a Man Cookbook (it's about a smoking grill, not a smoking girl), and a knitted-by-moi dishcloth for cleaning up after your wonderful meal.

All you need to do is post a comment on this post any time before midnight this coming Saturday, November 3. On Sunday we will do a very scientific game of pick a number out of a hat and you may be a winner! If you don't have a blog, please be sure to leave me an email address so I can let you know if you win. The winner will also be posted at the bloggy giveaways page. One entry per person, please, and of course I will pay the postage. Anybody hungry?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cheap Eats

I picked up this flyer at the local Mickey D's. While fast food isn't our usual fare, I think these prices warrant a cook's night off at our house. And all the kiddies said "hooray!"

Friday, October 26, 2007

Yummy Tummies

As the air gets crisper my children hanker for hot lunches. Today, while the older ones were finishing their math, my five year old (with a lot of help from his momma) made us macaroni and cheese from scratch. It always amazes me how many people buy it in a box when it's so easy, and I'm assuming much healthier, to make it yourself. Here's his recipe:

L.B.'s (Newly) Famous Mac N' Cheese

Put about half a pound of macaroni on to boil.

Melt in a saucepan:
1 Tbsp. butter

Blend in, cooking and stirring until bubbly:
1 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
a healthy shake of black pepper and onion powder

Whisk in:
1 cup milk

Cook until smooth and thickened slightly.

Stir in:
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

When macaroni is done cooking, drain it and mix it with cheese sauce.

We let it cool a bit while setting the table and getting out veggies so the pasta sucks up some of the cheese sauce and it congeals a tad bit. If you decide to try it, post a comment for my little chef. He'd be pleased as punch!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Good News, And Bad News

Well, after searching the circulars for this deal and that, I did my first bargain shopping trip around town. So far, I stink at this! I misread manufacturers coupons, forgot to pick up in-store coupons, and ended up spending $20 more than I usually spend in a week! I spent $82 including tax on the items pictures. I am going to have to find time to read and listen to Crystal's course (I downloaded it last night) before I try this again!
I'll give myself a small break--I was shopping for extra food because we're having guests this weekend and I did get a lot more products than I usually get due to some of the bargains I couldn't pass up and the buy-one-get-one offers. Also, Crystal's advice about reduced produce served me well--A huge bag of baby carrots for $0.25, a seedless cucumber for $0.50, a pound and a half of grapes for $0.74, 3 packs of bananas for $$0.29 each, and 2 packs of apples for $0.49 each.
I guess the thing that really makes a good bargain shopper is restraint--knowing when to stop. Can someone please teach me that?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Great Deal

Today and tomorrow, Crystal Paine is running a 50% off special on her e-book Supermarket Savings 101, making it only $8.97. This includes her step-by-step explanation on how to save at the grocery store as well as 6 additional e-books with budgeting tips and recipes. I've been extremely blessed by her suggestions on her Money Saving Mom website so I'm going to take advantage of the deal, hopefully save some more pennies, and at the same time send some of that savings she helped me get back to her. Go to her site and check it out.

Monday, October 22, 2007

By George, I think she's got it!

I'm doing the happy dance today! I've been working out the kinks on saving at Walgreen's and today I purchased all this for (drum roll, please)

$11.62 plus tax. I'm sure the pros could do better, but I feel like Napoleon--next on to conquer CVS!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Chili Weather

I love chili--plain chili, chili-mac, chili dogs, and, of course, chili Frito pie. My recipe file boasts about 10 recipes copied from this magazine or that person claiming to be the chili cook-off winner. I've added wine, used steak instead of ground beef, and bought special onions. But who would have guessed that the best chili I've ever eaten is also the easiest to make? A friend of my husband gave us a bottle of Ken's "Railroad" Chili Seasoning, and being a purist of sorts when it comes to food, I wasn't in hurry to try a mix. It sat in my pantry until I had one of those days when I wanted chili but not the fuss of making it. That's when I pulled out the railroad chili mix, and that's when my search for the best chili ended.

Of course, you can't buy Ken's "Railroad" Chili Seasoning in just any store; you've got to get it online here. Try it, and you'll be blowing your whistle, too!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Word from the Lord

"Who is a God like You,
Pardoning iniquity
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?
He does not retain His anger forever.
Because He delights in mercy.
He will again have compassion on us,
And will subdue our iniquities.

You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea."

Micah 7:18-19

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Yes, I am unashamedly tagging on the title "cheapskate" to my honorable badge of "housewife". I've been an Aldi shopper for the last 8 years or so and found that to be cheap enough until I started reading the accounts of truly frugal women who shop the big stores with big coupons and win. I've started voraciously clipping coupons and sorting them in a plastic bin. I've even called my neighbors to mooch unwanted Sunday inserts. Crystal at Money Saving Mom is my respected frugal home economist guru of the day. She is able to do all of her grocery and household needs shopping for $35 per week. She does have two young children and I have three bigger-tummied ones, but if I could get it down to $50 I'd be impressed with myself! What remains to be seen is whether this will make my ever patient husband rise up and call me blessed or if it will drive him completely bonkers. More on that to come...

Monday, October 15, 2007

So much of what I really know about God...

I've learned from being a mother and trying to teach the things of God to my kids.
Together we are studying The Young Peacemaker, by Corlette Sande. One of my "older woman" friends suggested it to me, and at first I bristled at the suggestion. But God quickly revealed my lack of humility in the bristling and I agreed to take it home to check it out. After reading the table of contents I realized that we, along with most of the free world, needed this study.

Today a Psalm that I know by heart actually hit me there:

"The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger,
and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities." Psalm 103:8-10

Sande connected the dots in my oblivious mind that sings the tune to this truth but never saw the big picture--if I am to be an imitator of Christ I must love people the way He loves them. Merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in mercy. Remember this is a book about conflict and these words do not often describe my good day reactions, let alone my times of trouble! I am a truth and justice gal. I want my pound of flesh. I want to be right.

Slowly God is showing me my pride and lack of the humility that should characterize the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. He is opening my eyes to see that I am the one in desperate need of His mercy, that once received, should flow through me to my family, friends, and even my enemies. What a vibrant picture of the Savior we could be if we truly loved as He loves.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Yards of fun

Some rabbit trails have happy endings. Case in point:

I was listing some resale stuff on-line for a friend of mine and decided to "browse the aisles" of the site when I came across a lady who was trimming down her fabric stash. Come to find out she lived a mere two blocks from me! The kids and I took a lovely walk this afternoon, met a kindly lady, and did her such a wonderful favor by taking the above off her hands for a delightful $2 a yard. Bernina, start your engine!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Crazy for Apples

We picked apples again this weekend--see how industrious we were? Actually this was a pile of very stinky rotting apples--got the kids to stand there barely long enough to take the picture. It was a very hot day--we had planned to pick apples and then hang out at the lake, letting the kids wade. They ended up swimming fully dressed! Despite Bubba's expression, a fun time was had by all. Maybe he was having premonitions of the fate of his beloved Cubbies later that afternoon.