Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lost? The Real Reason for the Season

People often say that the holidays are really about the children - the joy of watching them visit Santa (or in our case the nativity scene at church), open stockings, and tear into presents. Many would claim it's pure joy to see their child open the toy they had been wanting for months on Christmas Morning.

We have a different kind of joy. Yes, I enjoy gift giving and I love to watch people open carefully wrapped gifts that I carefully selected. Yes, I enjoy the parties and family gatherings but most of all I enjoy the quiet time we spend as our little family reading Advent devotions before dinner and completing each day on the Advent Calender. I love, and find great joy in, teaching our daughter about the REAL reason for the season - our precious Lord and Savior's birthday!

Yesterday, we decorated for Christmas and we started the day with reading nativity stories to Annabeth and we allowed her to open her Little People Nativity from Grandmama-Mimi and Grandpa. She enjoyed talking about each person and animal as we unpacked them. She especially loved sliding Baby Jesus in the manger down the slanted roof of the stable. She even decided that our Baby Jesus should live on the roof.

Daddy and Annabeth with our new nativity  

She seemed to enjoy playing with her new toy and reading her Christmas books - most of which we only get out for the month of December. She loved putting up the tree decorating it with candy canes and then the "big reveal" when Daddy turned the lights on!

Our Sweet Nanners decorating the tree

We finished decorating, went our to dinner and despite the fact she demanded to take the Baby Jesus in the car with us, I wasn't sure she was really "getting" it. She can identify Jesus in her children's Bibles and says His name when we pray. But does she understand Him or see Him out of those contexts?

After dinner, we drove around our neighborhood to look for Christmas lights. One yard was beautifully lit with an array of colored lights, blowup figures, and moving reindeer. In the midst of all of that, our little girl saw one thing she thought was worth mentioning - "Ah! Baby Jesus!" 

We pray that she will come to know more and more about our dear Lord. We also pray that you, dear readers, will as well. If you are one of faith, we pray that it may continue to grow. If you are not a believer, we pray that the Lord will work in your heart this Christmas Season and always. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Frugal Friday 15

Happy Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- We enjoyed our family meals at home this week. We saved on our grocery bill by using up freezer meals that I made earlier in the fall.

- I took advantage of some of the great Early Literacy Kits at our library. It is such an easy way to read different and new books as well as play with fun toys. At our library these kits can be checked out for three weeks at a time so we have plenty of time to enjoy them. This week's was a "Sounds Around Us" Kit. It had two books, four instruments, and six new puzzles to work.

- Annabeth and I met our friends Sarah and Bella in Columbus for a free playdate at The Commons. This is a wonderful indoor playground and it provides hours of free fun!

Me and Annabeth up in the playground. She is so brave and had started climbing it by herself! 
I had to run up after her! 

- We shopped a Hobby Lobby sale and were able to get all of the stickers we needed for Christmas cards and crafting for less than $5! Saved: $4.99

- My bodywash was on sale this week. Due to allergies I can really only use one on a daily basis and it is fairly expensive. However, this week it was $1 off which I could combine with a $1 off eCoupon. The store was also running a deal that if I bought two I would get a coupon to save $3 off my next order. I had them ring up the bodywash, paid, got my coupon then I rang up the rest of my purchases using the $3 off coupon. Saved: $7.00

- I have started making money through AdSense on this blog! So far I have just made a few dollars and I just direct deposit the money into Annabeth's savings account. More easy, free money for Annabeth!

- I worked at American Eagle at the outlets, thanks to my sister-in-law Cassidy, over Thanksgiving. I had two hours of paid training and then an 11 hour paid shift from Thanksgiving Thursday 7 pm - Friday 6 am. It was fun to work and fun to make some extra money as well!

Saved: $11.99

What have you been doing to save money this week? Did you get any great Black Friday deals?

Happy Savings to All!

"Buy Used and Save the Difference"

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Forever: When I Knew Heaven was Real

I spent three summers as a Junior Counselor (JC) at Camp Lakeview - the camp I had grown up attending and loving. In my first summer as a JC, I was really growing in my faith as a personal relationship. Having grown up in the church and with a Christian family I had known "the basics" my whole life. I knew that God made the world in 6 days, I knew the Old Testament Sunday School Favorites (Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Jonah) and most importantly I knew that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. I knew that he died on the cross for me - for you - and that because He paid the ultimate price we are able to live in Heaven with Him forever.

But was this heaven real?

In my young life, my great-grandparents and a boy from school had gone Home. I remembered bits and pieces of their funerals and what adults had said to me. "It's okay. They are in heaven." But that heaven part never felt real or personal to me. I figured it would be where I would go...someday because I believed in God and Jesus Saved Me.

Then, one summer night, while our JC group led the campfire devotions we sang this song:

The nails in Your hands
The nails in Your feet
tell me how much You love me.
The thorns on Your brow
They tell me how
You bore so much shame to love me.

And when the Heavens pass away
All Your scars will still remain
And forever they will say
Just how much You love me.

Forever my love
Forever my heart
Forever my life is Yours
It's Yours

I had sung this particular song dozens of times as a camper, in the months away from camp, and now as as JC. I loved the way it sounded musically. But that night, standing by the tree in front of Lakeview's campfire it hit me: Heaven is real. It's where I am going. Forever. 

I closed my eyes and for the first time ever I really sang the words: "Forever my love. Forever my heart. 
Forever my life is Yours. It is Yours." 
Forever. My. Life. Is. Yours. 
I recommitted my heart to the Lord that night, forever. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Post (a few days early)

I am going to do my Thanksgiving Post two days early since I'll be posting a Throwback Thursday Post on actual Thanksgiving Day.

I've decided to list 11 things this year in honor of one of the numbers of our new address:

1. The New House. I am thankful that we have been working in it since March 5, owned it since April 19, and living in it since July 6. We are so blessed to have this beautiful house be home.

2. The Old House. I loved our first house and I am so thankful for the three-and-a-half years that we were able to live there. We learned so many lessons and lived so much life in that little house.

3. Precious Time. This year was a good-bye kind of year and I once again was reminded with just how much I need to slow down and enjoy the time I have with the people I love.

4. Workman's Comp. Mark's knee was seriously injured while making an arrest in December 2011 and it took until this March to have it operated on. He was in so much pain, even after months of physical therapy and we are so thankful that Workman's Comp covered that therapy, the surgery, and the recovery.

5. Google Chat. We LOVE chatting the the SD Riley's on Google Chat. It makes the conversations flow so much easier when we can read the other's body language and the kids love looking at each other.

6. Scribbles. I never appreciated how sweet little scribbles were until Annabeth began coloring this year. I love and treasure her little doodles and hang them on the fridge. I also love the scribbles that our nieces and nephew sent us in the mail.

7. Princesses, Dragons, and Little Mouse. When I look back on this year I will think of Annabeth's princess birthday party, her fascination with "Jane and the Dragon," and the game "Little Mouse." They are the first things that have interested her on her own.

8. Pictures. With so much of our family now living more than an hour away I am so thankful for photographs. Every day Annabeth wanders around the living room pointing out everyone in the pictures. It is a physical reminder for us to pray for the ones we love.

9. Pinterest. This year I joined Pinterest and have really enjoyed the time I have spent with family and friends baking, cooking, and crafting as a result.

10. Our Fireplace. Our new house has a fireplace, it was a dream item on our wish-list, and it has been so nice to sit by the fire in the evenings. Mark has made it even more special by having a whole fire building routine with Annabeth. She loves helping and he loves teaching.

11. My Little Life. As a teenager I felt like the world was huge but that if I just worked hard enough I could take it over. I felt like everything could be mine if I would just reach out and grab it. I felt like I could change the entire world. As I grow into my 20's, I am realizing that I am not meant to change the whole world but rather than I am meant to change my little corner of it. I pray that I use my life to do God's Will and to share His Word with this lost and hurting world.

I give thanks and praise to the One from whom all blessings come.

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Previous Thanksgiving Posts:
Thanksgiving 2011
Thanksgiving 2010
Thanksgiving 2009

Friday, November 22, 2013

Frugal Friday 14

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money this week:

- I mended an undergarment and one of Annabeth's dresses. We also sewed buttons back on one of Annabeth's shirts and one of Mark's pairs of shorts. By taking good care of our clothes we make them look better longer and last longer! We also save money on alteration bills by doing most of it ourselves.

- We enjoyed free breadsticks from Pizza Hut by signing up for their rewards program.

- Annabeth and I enjoyed a lunch out at Fazoli's for just $5 as part of their new lunch deals.

- I combined a store sale and coupons to buy Excedrin Migraine for $1.96 (for the 24 count bottle - usually $3.96) Saved: $2.00

- We received our latest Stride Rite Rewards Check in the mail. Annabeth has all the shoes she needs in her current size and tennis shoes in the next one too. I was able to get boots in the next size and tennis shoes in the next-next size. Combining the in store sale of Buy One, Get One 50% Off + $10 Reward Coupon + $5 coupon from an online survey we spent only $30! Saved: $38.01

- Annabeth is VERY into a library class game called "Little Mouse." In my Gymboree ad I noticed that they currently have a very cute mouse line for girls. I splurged and took her to get a "Little Mouse" outfit. She picked from between 5 shirts and 2 bows. She was so excited to have a "Little Mouse" outfit and we wore it to library time yesterday. I combined the already one sale items + Whole Store Extra 30% Off + 20% Coupon to and saved: $9.49

Annabeth in her Little Mouse shirt and bow with the original Little Mouse cutout from library time.

- I redeemed 500 Swagbucks for a $5 Starbucks giftcard!

- My blog has been approved for AdSense! You will begin seeing selected ads on the blog which means I am earning money for each click on them! Happy Clicking!

Total Saved: $49.50

What did you do to save money this week? Have you redeemed any Swagbucks yet?

Happy Savings to All!

"Buy Used and Save the Difference"

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Waiting to Kiss

I was 16 years old and I had been "dating without the labels" my best friend since the summer. It was my first love and then I was convicted and my whole life changed.

It was the night before Christmas break. We had just spent a lovely evening with dear friends and exchanged Christmas gifts. He walked me out to my car as snowflakes fell around us. The driveway was surrounded by snow covered trees and twinkling Christmas lights. It felt like the end of every romance movie I had ever seen. He leaned in to kiss me. I panicked! I quickly hugged him and drove off crying.

On the way home I had this conversation:

"What the heck Amy? Seriously?! You've been waiting for that moment for months. Go back. Go back. You're 16, kiss him."

Then I heard this, plain as day, as though someone was in the car and said it to me:

"You should only kiss one man. Your husband."


"One Man. Your Husband."

I pulled into a parking lot and prayed.

I spent the next few months really struggling with this. I was a Christian, I went to church, my parents went to church, but they had not made this particular decision. Many of my friends were Christians but they had not made this decision. They all had first kisses years before. It was confusing. I always had known that I wanted to save sex for marriage but it seemed like everyone was kissing everyone. It was lonely. Most of all, it at the time created a broken heart, as I didn't know how to explain to my 17 year old boyfriend that I did not want to kiss anyone until I was sure they were who I was to marry. That lack of honesty and communication caused me to withdraw my heart from the relationship and ultimately it ended, albeit into friendship, within a month of "the" night.

My freshman year at UofL I became involved with Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) and in those Bible studies I met quite a few young women and men who not only were saving sex for marriage but also limited the physical intimacy in their relationships. Finally, other people felt like I did. It was so wonderful and so refreshing to be able to talk about it.

At 19 I met Mark, we began dating, we quickly approached our relationship as a courtship where we knew that we were planning to become engaged quickly with marriage to follow in God's time. Our first kiss was September 2, 2006 at Franklin College. It was the perfect moment. The moment I had waited SO long for.

I am so blessed to had my first kiss be my one, my always, my forever, and someday, before I return Home, my last.

Me and Mark on our First Wedding Anniversary - 05.23.10
(No one wants to see people kissing pictures so this will have to do!)

Linked to: Raising Homemakers

Throwback Thursdays: Introduction

I do not have Twitter but often see the "Throwback Thursday" Twitter links on Facebook.

I have decided on the Thursdays leading up to Christmas I will post some "throwback" thoughts that may help you learn a bit more about me and some reflections on the moments that have REALLY made me, ME!

Enjoy! :)

Week One, November 21: Waiting to Kiss
Week Two, November 28: Forever: When I Knew Heaven was Real
Week Three, December 5: Infertility
Week Four, December 12: Words from my Younger Self
Week Five, December 19: Monkey Arms

Friday, November 15, 2013

Frugal Friday 13

It's time for Lucky #13! Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is what we did to save money/spend money wisely this week:

- Annabeth enjoyed making two fun and frugal Turkey Crafts

- We also took advantage of a free morning dance class at our local library.
***If you think your local library is only for books or research you are SO wrong! In each place I have lived I have taken advantage of many adult activities: free classes (arts, computer, crafts, financial, etc), book clubs, discussion groups, and social outings. Now that we have Annabeth, I am also enjoying an array of children's activities: story time, dance time, tot-art, etc. Take advantage of FREE family fun at your local library**

- Annabeth enjoyed a FREE package of apples at McDonald's thanks to a Halloween Coupon from her Auntie Cassidy and Uncle Luke. Saved: $1.00

- My sister and I made a trade when I went to visit last weekend. I traded three magazines for two shirts and a skirt!

- I did an online survey after a Kroger shopping trip and added 50 extra fuel points to my Kroger card

- I did one of our two grocery trips for the month and with in store sales, ecoupons, and paper coupons saved 20% of our total bill. Saved: $14.78

- I was able to use coupons to get the following items TOTALLY FREE: 1 box of cake mix, 1 box of Cheerios, 1 Kroger frozen veggie, and 1 soup from the deli. Saved: $8.54

- Mark traded some of our venison for pork.

- Now that Annabeth has to have soy milk in addition to Mark, our milk bill has gone up quite a bit. I went to and registered to win free Silk for a year and also signed up for coupons. We do not have a printer so I signed up for the USPS option. I am anxious to see how quickly our first coupons get here.

Total Saved: $24.32

What have you been doing to save money this week? Do you and your family take advantage of free library fun?

Happy Savings to All!

"Buy Used and Save the Difference"

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fun and Frugal Turkey Crafts

In the past week we have been able to make TWO fun and frugal Turkey Crafts to celebrate the month of November.

We made the first one at Tot-Art at our local library. The library provided all of the supplies: googlie eyes, a rubber nose, paper body, and colorful feathers. This was fun and easy and could be made easily at home as well! Our Dollar Tree usually has all of these supplies.

Our second craft, our sweet friends Sarah and Bella brought to our weekly playdate. Sarah had seen the idea online to use a child's foot as the body of the turkey and then to paint different style feathers around the body. Sarah decided it would be cute to trace the girls' hands and to use those cutouts as the feathers instead of painting. She was right - it made for an adorable craft plus a fun way to remember the size of their hands and feet this year. The only supplies we used were construction paper and paint that Sarah had on hand.

What have you been crafting for the month of November? 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies

You'll Need:
1 Box Yellow Cake Mix
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
2 Eggs
6 oz Chocolate Chips

Mix all in a large bowl. 
Place on cookie sheets by the tablespoonful. 
Bake 10 min at 375 degrees.
Yields about 24 cookies. 

*Variation: Chocolate cake mix and white chocolate chips*

I started making these cookies for birthdays when I worked at the Sheriff's Office. They are so easy and fast to make so I love that I can throw them together quickly. I also love that they are inexpensive - especially as I usually get 4 to
5 "Free Cake Mix" coupons from Kroger each year!

In our house we call these "Schiller Cookies" for a friend who always asks me to bring them for cookouts OR "Da Bomb! Cookies" as our very former Jail Commander yelled this phrase from his office upon trying them. 

We hope you enjoy them too!

What are you baking this week?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Friday, November 8, 2013

Frugal Fridays 12

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely this week:

- We continued tracking our Kellogg's Rewards, Pampers Points, and Swagbucks.

- We finished our FREE fall photoshoot as Mark and I played photographers instead of hiring one. We estimate this saved at least $200.

- We shopped a sale at Gymboree and were able to find this year's Christmas pjs, the end of Annabeth's Christmas gift, and next year's Halloween costume and shirts. The whole store was 30% off PLUS a kind lady shared a coupon that saved us an additional 20% off that price! Saved: $75!

- We enjoyed a free day at the Children's Museum thanks to friends who shared the +2 on their membership with Annabeth and me. Saved: $32

- Mark's parents gave us 3 free bottles of apple juice. Saved: $3

- We at some creative dinners

- As we are still eating venison from our deep freeze from last season's hunt, Mark took some to work to share with a family who has eaten all of theirs already. We feel so blessed to have enough for ourselves AND enough to share!

- I did my own haircut and color. I spent just $6.49 on the color. Saved: $83.51

- I homemade two hairbows for Annabeth using clips and ribbon we already had on hand.

Total Saved: $393.51

What have you been doing to save money?

Happy Savings to All!

"Buy Used and Save the Difference"

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

One of "those" dinners...

Monday we took a "quick" trip to Wal-Mart, it took 15 minutes to find everything we needed on our short list and more than 1 hour to check-out! Ugh!

I got home and browned the meat for lasagna - I had noticed on Sunday that our cottage cheese was set to expire so we needed to eat lasagna ASAP! I had the meat browned and all the ingredients out only to realize that we had just 2 lasagna noodles in the pantry. Two. I thought about going back to the store but worried the lines would still be too long to make it worth the wait. Oh well, people can enjoy lasagna with just two noodles right? So I went to get our small, square Pyrex pan out to put it all together. All of our square pans were in use, storing freezer meals. So, I assembled our two noodle lasagna in a round cake pan. It wasn't pretty but it was together so I put it in the oven.

Then I remember that in the midst of solving the lasagna issues I had not gotten the rolls out of the freezer to thaw. Short on time, I got them out, put them in a pan - now I only had a heart shaped pan left to bake in - and put the pan in our guest bath, the warmest room in the house to thaw. 1 hour later they were thawed and I put them in to bake.

Also please note that Annabeth would not nap on Monday so she was awake and screaming at me the entire process. I called my sister-in-law for our weekly phone date and prayed for sanity. She was able to witness to our crazy over the phone and even got me to laugh about it all. Desperate for quiet, I put jackets and shoes on and we went out to the backyard to run off our 'angries' before Mark came home. Then she decided that she did not want to come inside to eat dinner. Thankfully the weather was warm enough to bundle up and eat at her picnic table outside.

In the end, dinner was edible and we enjoyed a November Evening Outside. I also tried to make up for our crazy dinner by baking our favorite chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

 Eating their cookies, still outside even in the dark!
(It was only 6 pm - the time change makes it dark far too early here!)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Our Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last night I baked our favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies!

McCormick Vanilla Rich Chocolate Chip Cookies
- from McCormick & Co. Inc

3 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups butter, softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
4 tsp. McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
1 pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips (we like the mini ones best for these cookies)

MIX flour, baking soda, and salt into a small bowl. Set aside.
BEAT butter and sugars in a large bowl until light and fluffy. 
ADD in eggs and vanilla, mix well.
GRADUALLY ADD the flour mixture.
STIR in chocolate chips.

DROP by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.

BAKE in preheated 375 degree oven 8-10 minutes or until brown.
Cool on baking sheets for 1 minute, then cool completely on wire racks.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fall Photoshoot - 2013

As I mentioned in my last Frugal Fridays post we spent a few Sundays at the park doing fall pictures. I love pictures, keeping detailed journals and photobooks, as well as scrapbooking and was really looking forward to a fall photoshoot of our little family. Here are some favorites:

 Annabeth on "her" playground at our favorite park in town

Daddy and Anna - Best Friends 

Blowing dandelions 

 Mama and Nanners in our matching outfits

They may not be "perfect" or "professional" pictures but they are ours. They are how either Mark or I saw the day through the lens. 

This is the fall, just the three of us. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Frugal Fridays 11

Happy Frugal Friday!

Here is what we did to save money/spend money wisely this week:

-  Last weekend we went out to dinner - Ruby Tuesday's - and our sweet waitress gave us a free dessert AND after asking if they sold their amazing croutons separately brought me a huge takeout container full of them! We may have spent money by eating out but we had a dinner we truly enjoyed and crouton breakfast for the next morning! :)

- Last Sunday we headed to the big park in town to take fall pictures of Annabeth as well as Annabeth with Mark. There were at least 5 professional photographers there working with families and they took pictures in most of the places that we chose. Our pictures turned out very nicely and they were FREE! We estimate we saved at least $200 by not paying a photographer.

- I had 17 free prints on my Sam's Club online photo account so I printed pictures for friends and family. Saved: $2.21

- We got a sample of "Clear" shampoo for colored hair in the mail. It was a 1.7 oz travel size so I will be able to get a few extra washes from that. It also came with a $4 off my next purchase coupon so if we like it we can buy our next set for a discounted price.

- I bought groceries at Kroger and my receipt came with a survey code. I spent about 5 minutes giving our store feedback and got 50 fuel points for my time! I then was able to save $.10 off each gallon at the pump this week.

- Annabeth had Five Fun and Frugal Halloween Outfits

- One of our General Mills food items had a code for I went to the website and with the code, store purchased at, and our zip code I was able to donate 5 meals to our Gleaner's Food Bank.

- We made Halloween dinner for Mark's parents who came down. I made a simple Crockpot soup as well as some pumpkin crumble muffins. We had lots of muffins left over so we sent some with his parents and then this morning Mark took the rest to work for other's to enjoy.

Confession Time: I find that in being frugal as an adult, I have often been reluctant to give to others. I worry that if I spend too much on a birthday gift or Christmas gift that it will break our budget. I also worry and fret over any impulse buy at the store. However, I love that General Mills made it easy this week to make that purchase be something that fed our family and provided meals to others. I also loved that the Lord gave us an abundance of food this week so we were able to share. I am working to remember daily that:

"...Jesus said, "It is truly more blessed to give than to receive."
 - Acts 20:35

What have you been doing to save money this week? Did you dress up for Halloween?

Happy Savings to All!

"Buy Used and Save the Difference"