Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Year's Resolutions: January Recap

Since I shared my New Year's Resolutions at the beginning of the year, I thought I would check in each month with my progress.

Baking/Cooking Challenge:
I am not sure that I tried one new recipe each week but we did try quite a few new things.
- New Year's Eve Mark made these meatballs for our New Year's Party. They were SO good!
- I made Monkey Bread from the Old North Church cookbook for my January Mama's Morning Out. They took MUCH longer to cook than the directions said and I ended up serving them raw in the middle with smoke coming out of my oven. After two hours in the oven they were finally done. Not a hit.
- During the first big snow, I wanted to make cookies but we really didn't have many baking supplies on hand. I got online and "modified" a recipe I found there. I am not a strong baker so I ended up turning "Creme Filled Snickerdoodles" into "Pancake Style Pumpkin Spice Cookies" (we were out of cinnamon so I went with pumpkin spice) They looked horrible but tasted great!
- I made a cookie cake from Pinterest that was advertised as a recipe to replace buying a Great American Cookie Company cookie cake. The dough was wonderful and the cookie was pretty good too! It was not a match for my favorite cookie cake but still yummy and easy to make at home.
- I made homemade sugar cookies. We ate some and shared some with our neighbors.

I babysat for a friend and saved $60 for my 30th Birthday Trip.

We did not manage to have a date out this month. We did stay up a few nights to talk just the two of us. We  also had a Netflix movie night.
We are going to really try for a night out in February and are looking forward to getting the new season of Downton Abbey on DVD for at home date nights.

Looking forward to February! :)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Frugal Friday 127

Happy Frugal Friday!!!

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

- Mark worked one night at his part time job.

- The kids and I made a quick grocery trip on Friday. We had a 76% savings!

- We traded baby food with some friends. We passed along some baby cereal and food that Owen cannot/doesn't eat and were given some as well.

- Mark's mom had a free calendar code from Shutterfly. I quickly put together one for her on Sunday and shipped it to her house. I just paid shipping. Saved: $24.99

- Mark ordered draft blockers for our three outside doors. We had noticed that up to four feet away from the doors the floor was freezing. The house already feels more snug and warm! Thank goodness since we have two little people who love to play on the floor all day.

- I received 4 freebies from Pinch Me. I got a free body wash, lotion, sponge, and zzzQuil. All I had to do was use each item and write a quick review. The body wash was a whole weeks worth and Mark uses zzzQuil already so both of those were great freebies.

- Mark and I had an at-home-date. We watched a Netflix movie and despite tons of interruptions from the kids we saw about 40% of the movie. :)

- The kids and I invited our Homeschool Group to The Commons Playground in Columbus and we all enjoyed some free play.

 Annabeth at The Commons.
She really enjoyed meeting up with friends and playing!

 Mr. O was happy to chew on his teething fish since he got 
another tooth (#4!) on the bottom this week!

- We enjoyed dinner out at Chili's thanks to a gift card from my sister. Thank you Lu!

We had a great week. I felt especially blessed with a visit from a mama who was interested in our homeschool room and schedule. I had a lot of fun visiting with her and hope that it was encouraging as her family prays about the possibility of homeschooling their two children.

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Frugal Friday 126

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- The kids and I enjoyed a four day visit to my family. We were sent home with bread, chicken salad, and turkey which made our sandwiches for the week.

- We cleaned out some of my parents attic and I brought home lots of Barbies and Barbie clothes for Annabeth to play with. We also brought back a whole tote of my favorite books and toys. I have had so much fun sharing the books with the kids this week.

- I got my hair cut/colored professionally as a gift from my sister and Mama. Thank you all for gift cards at Christmas.

- I ordered new address labels for myself and for the family from Vista Print. I ordered through eBates for 4% cashback and took advantage of a 40% off sale saving $12.42.

- Monday Mark was off work for MLK Jr Day. We FINALLY got Owen's bedroom all the way cleaned out! He now has a full fledged nursery not a crib in the middle of storage.

He may have a completed nursery but neither Mr. O or myself are ready
for him to sleep in there. He still generally sleeps holding my hand or in my arms. 
I am tired but okay with that.
Please stay my baby forever.

- I got $14 (grocery store retail value) worth of baby food for just $4.50 at Big Lots. I carefully checked dates and was happy to find such a good deal!

- Mark worked one night at his part time job.

- I babysat for a friend. The money I made will go towards my 30th Birthday Savings.

- We did not grocery shop (it has been nearly 2 weeks) and we finished many pantry and freezer items.

- I cashed out Kelloggs Family Rewards points and was able to "unlock" 4 books for Annabeth to enjoy on Disney Story Central.

We spent most of the week at home again as it snowed on Wednesday. We have been enjoying lots of art and books.

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Frugal Friday 125

Happy Frugal Friday!!

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

- I hosted our Homeschool Group's monthly Mama's Morning Out at our house. While we still purchased food and drinks, our friends were able to have a nice breakfast on us.

- I enjoyed a Starbucks date with my sister-in-law (made extra special by the fact that she was in town from South Dakota) thanks to a Christmas gift card from Mark's parents. Thank you!

- Snow came in a couple of times this week. Mark returned to his winter job of snow shoveling. A family paid him in a Starbucks gift card which he kindly shared with me. I am looking forward to a special treat sometime soon.

- Mark worked one night at his part time job.

- With all of the snow and ice, the kids and I stayed in almost all week. We did get out Monday night to return library materials and to go to dance class but that was it. We saved on gas and spending money as we stayed home.

- We did not eat out this week.

- Mark used coupons for nearly all items on our grocery list.

- We continued cleaning out and organizing things around the house. Annabeth and I sorted all of the items for the spring consignment sale so they will be easier and faster to tag in May.

Frugal Fails:
- Due to the snow, we missed a day at the gym for Annabeth. We lost $20 as two classes were cancelled.

- We had some food waste. I had not been careful enough during and after the holidays and we did not eat half a loaf of bread, half a package of bacon, as well as some turkey bacon. It all went bad before I was able to use it up. I am always sorry to have food waste and am working on making sure open items stay visible in the fridge so I can see them.

While we enjoyed looking at the snow, I couldn't figure out how to take both kids out to play and keep Owen warm enough. So, we spent the week at home and inside. That meant being very creative with activities. Thankfully, at four, Annabeth can entertain herself quite well sometimes!

Me: "What are you all doing?"
Annabeth: "Pretending to have a garage sale with all of this junk.
I am helping Owen sell all of his toys."
None of her toys were up for sale. 

We hope you all had a wonderful week! 

Happy Savings to All!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Frugal Friday 124

Happy Frugal Friday!

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

- I ordered prints for FREE from Shutterfly when they ran their 101 Free for New Year's.

- I had 25 FREE cards and FREE shipping from Pampers Rewards to be used on Shutterfly. The kids and I made their Valentine's one morning. A bit early but we had some fresh roses that Annabeth wanted to use in the picture. Saved: $32.25

Outtake from the Valentine Photo Shoot.
So sweet! Just imagine how cute the final shot was! :)

- Mark worked overtime over the holiday weekend and one night at his part time job.

- We resisted the urge to eat out (many times we resisted!) and cooked at home all week. We tend to really want to stop for fast food or order pizza when we are busy and both are so expensive!

- Annabeth and I deep cleaned her room. She was able to part with some toys and we also toted some clothes to sell later at the consignment sale.

- I sorted through Owen's hand-me-downs and found that he had WAY too many in some sizes! I matched outfits with what we have and then will sell the others.

- A friend gave us a box of hand-me-downs for Owen. They are 3T and are will be a huge blessing when Owen gets to that size. We mailed a thank you note and gift card as a thank you to the Sherry Family. Thank you all!

- Thursday our friends the Gomez Girls had us over for lunch and Cynthia cooked another authentic Mexican meal for us. Cynthia sent home a huge container of leftover soup which we enjoyed as a family for Thursday dinner and Friday lunch. Thank you! We love trying new foods and learning more about their culture. Annabeth is convinced that she is Mexican and will speak Spanish to anyone who will listen. (Some gibberish with her Spanish counting and vocab words thrown in)

- Thursday evening a friend came over to shop from Owen's hand-me-downs. I am thankful to buy and sell with friends. It makes letting go of things so much easier when I know who will be wearing them.

We had a good first week back to school. I am continually so thankful for the blessing of being a Stay-At-Home Mama and  Homeschooling Family. May all glory and honor be His.

Happy Savings to All!

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Place For Prayer

We rang in the New Year watching War Room with Mark's brother and his wife. They brought the movie along and our traditional fun food and game night became a thought provoking movie night.

In short, the film is about the incredible power of prayer. Viewers watch a family move through life's obstacles as they learn to be prayer warriors. As part of the story, the wife creates a prayer room in her closet. This is based on Matthew 6:6 "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (NIV)

Prayer, for most of my life, has been one of the easier aspects of faith for me. I am not always patient as I wait for the Lord's answer and I do not always like His response but I have always been confident that He hears me. I have always enjoyed prayer and am working daily to find ways to help my children learn to pray as well.

I pray short, quick prayers.
"Lord, thank you for the sunshine."
"Wow! Those are beautiful flowers. Thank you God."
"Whew! Thank you for making that truck stop before it hit us!"
"Forgive me for losing my temper Lord."

I pray long, emotional prayers. (Usually when Mark is working the hospital and the kids are asleep)

I pray prayers for my life as a Mama.
"Give me patience."
"Help me remember she is little."
"Please help them behave."

I pray prayers for my life as a wife.
"Help me build him up."
"Help me be supportive."
"Help me speak kind words and to respect him."

I pray in public.
I pray over meals at restaurants.
I pray as I drive.
I pray when we hear sirens.

I do not have a prayer room, nor have I ever even really had a specific time of day that I pray.

What I do have is my refrigerator.

To those who visit our home, it may look like many people's fridges. Magnets hold up pictures Annabeth has drawn, photos, and quotes. They are there because they are beautiful and they are there because they remind me to pray.

I currently have pictures of family and friends who are making moves in their lives and who are pondering work changes. I am praying that they will move as the Lord asks them to. I pray that they are seeking His will above all in the changes they plan to make.

I have pictures of people in our lives who are not believers. I am praying that they will come to know the Lord and that they will in turn raise their children in Truth. I pray that while they are lost their children will hear the Word of the Lord from other sources.

I have my children's birth announcements. I keep them up to remind me of the miracles that they are. It reminds me to pray for them because they are growing so quickly.

I have a picture of me that Annabeth drew. It reminds me to pray for her as she learns to draw and write in our school lessons. It also reminds me that she is always watching and that I need to pray for the Lord to help me be someone she can learn from.

I have two magnets with Asian writing on them. They are gifts from a college friend and his family who are serving as missionaries in SE Asia. These magnets remind me to pray for their growing family, their safety, and all those they encounter as they share Bibles on college campuses.

Sometimes I will stick up a word or phrase that I am needing help to remember. Words like "patience" or "dream" or "thankful" and as the day goes on each time I walk by the fridge or open the fridge I remember to pray for those little things.

I think prayer should be intentional and it should be done as often as possible.
I work to weave prayer into our daily lives and am so thankful when I hear Annabeth praying as well.
"Dear God, please let Owen sleep so I can do school alone with Mama."
"Dear God, please let me get Shopkins."
"Dear God, I hear sirens. Please keep them safe."
"Dear God, keep Daddy safe. Let him tuck me in bed tonight."

I have had this prayer system for all of the time that we have been married. I have found it to be very helpful in being intentional in my prayer life and I pray that it is pleasing to the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says "Pray without ceasing." I pray that this is the way I may approach 2016.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Frugal Friday 123

Happy Frugal Friday and Happy New Year!

Welcome Back!

We pray you all had a beautiful and blessed Christmas week celebrating the birth of our Savior.

Here is how we saved money/spent money wisely/made extra money the past two weeks:

- Mark went to the scout Christmas party and brought home 2 (8 packs) of nice bakery hamburger buns as well as cut up apples. We found lots of ways to use up the buns and it saved us from using our own bread.

- We took extra buns, bread, and cookie to my parents' house  we went to Christmas. We were able to use up some of what we took instead of letting it go bad while we were out of town.

- Due to unseasonably warm weather, we have not had our heat running for over a week and a half! We are looking forward to lower than usual gas and electric bills. Our gas bill was half what it was last December!

- I made homemade chil-mac-and-cheese and yellow cake mix cornbread both for the first time. Both were pretty good and we all liked at least one of the items. It's nice to add some new meals into the rotation especially ones that last for two or three meals because of leftovers.

- A few days before Christmas we FINALLY got Owen's crib built. Yes, he is nearly 7 months old and still sleeping in the rock-and-play. We had left him in the rock-and-play because he was spitting up all the time and because he has had a couple of colds but we are finally to the point where we think he can lay flat. We are reusing Annabeth's crib and just had to purchase the new mattress and mattress cover which we were able to cover 75% of the cost with gift cards!

- We were able to NOT go to the grocery for 2 weeks. Thanks to careful meal planning and traveling/eating with family we were able to save on our grocery budget for the end of December.

- Mark took two pounds of homemade fudge (made by my Momaw) to the work to share with his co-workers. We were glad to share and happy and it removed the temptation of eating it all.

- We were gifted with hand-me-down clothes for the kids from a friend and cousins. I sorted all of the clothes and we will keep the ones the kids will wear. Other items were donated or kept to sell for profit for my sister-in-law.

- I saved bags and tissue paper from Christmas to reuse in the future.

- A co-worker offered a neat log-cabin style twin bed to us. Mark picked it up and we will save it for Owen for when he is done with his crib. His bedroom has an outdoorsy theme so the bed is a perfect fit! Since it was free we certainly don't mind to store it for a few years!

We had a wonderful trip to Evansville and Owensboro to celebrate Christmas with my family and then enjoyed coming home to celebrate with Mark's family. Annabeth especially enjoyed playing with her cousins in Kentucky as well as her visiting cousins from South Dakota. Owen enjoyed playing with his great aunts and uncles as well as his grandparents.

Prayers for Mr. O as he is sick once again - a double ear infection and the flu. We are really looking forward to having him well again and are so thankful that despite being so sick he has still been a lovely, happy boy!

Sweet Owen, opening presents on his first Christmas afternoon
So sick and still so happy and smiley! 

Happy Savings to All!