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Sunday, December 29, 2013

What I'm Reading...

What I'm Reading:

What I Wish I Knew The First Time I Picked Up My DSLR. (Tech Your Way)

It's Supposed To Be Hard. (Steady Mom via The Art Of Simple)

8 Photos You Didn't See From Obama's Trip To South Africa. (Policy Mic via Life Your Way)

Embrace Imperfection. (The Art Of Simple)

How To Make A Perfect Green Smoothie. (100 Days Of Real Food)

What I'm Pinning:

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pinching Pennies

I read this post about paying off $35,000 in debt (as linked to from here), and this quotation really struck me: "I committed myself to living like a poor person because — and this is something many people with debt don’t understand — that’s exactly what I am."

We have some credit card debt, as well as student loans, which we are working on aggressively paying down (hopefully off!) over the next six months or so.  I don't consider us "poor" by any means, but we do live leaner so that we can pay our debt off, and I'm sure many people would consider some of the things we do to be "living like a poor person".

So, instead of my weekly coupon shopping post this week, here are some ways I've been pinching pennies lately:

Using coupons. I didn't do much coupon shopping this week, but I did use a free drink loaded to my Starbucks card to save $4.63 on my mocha. I also used a few printable coupons to save $6.50 off of two big bags of M&Ms at Target.

Making homemade turkey broth. We had a turkey for our Christmas dinner, and after Jesse carved it, I put the carcass in my big stockpot with some leftover veggie peels and ends, and let it simmer all evening.  I was able to get 13 cups of broth, plus 2 cups of cooked turkey pieces that fell off the bones, which I'll use for soup.  This was all free from something that would have just been thrown out anyways.

Air drying laundry. Almost every week, I air dry at least one load of laundry.  Each load costs $1.00 or so to dry, which adds up over time.

Mending pants with a sock. Matthew had worn through one knee on his sweatpants, so I was trying to figure out what to patch it with. I had some sport socks that I had pulled out of my drawer because I didn't like how they fit, so I cut a rectangle off of one and sewed it underneath the holes in the knee. 
It's a soft material, so he won't notice a difference, and he'll get some more wear out of his pants. I also fixed his winter hat, my sweatshirt sleeve, and a few t-shirts with armpit holes.  This gets us more wear out of clothes that are mostly fine, so we don't have to replace them.
Emailing potential blog sponsors.  I sent an email to a company that has sponsored a blog post in the past, both in an effort to get a free product for myself that I will use, and also to get new content for the blog (and maybe a giveaway for you!). It doesn't take too much effort to send an email, and I figure the worst that can happen is they'll say no and I'll have to purchase the product if I want it.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

What I'm Reading...

What I'm Reading:

You Don't Regret The Good Small Choices. (The Simple Dollar)

New Year's Predictions. (I'm An Organizing Junkie)

Create Your Own LEGO Minifigure Holiday Card. (Common Sense With Money)

Your Ability To Can Even: A Defense Of Internet Linguistics. (The Toast via The Art Of Simple)

What I'm Pinning:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The ABCs of 2013

I found this idea here, and I thought it was a lovely way to reflect back on the year that we've had.  Here are my ABCs, all the things I love and remember at the end of 2013.

Amazon. They send me dvd organizers, diapers and baby wipes, seasons of whatever tv show Jesse and I are currently watching, and more.  And I usually get at least part of it paid for by Swagbucks money, which makes it even better.

Bunk Beds. The boys have been loving their fairly new beds, and I like the space saving quality, because it means there's room for Hannah's crib in their room, although she hasn't moved in there quite yet.

Coffee.  Anyone who knows me knows I love a good cup. Every day.

Dresses that my husband forced me to buy. I'm terrible at buying things for myself, especially pretty, unnecessary things, and he has encouraged me to buy a few new dresses this year, including a goal dress in a size 10. I'm really excited for when I get to that one.  Who am I kidding? I'm excited that one is a size 12 and it fits!

Earrings that I'm not allergic to. It's such a small thing, but I love pretty dangly jewelry every now and then.

Fresh fruit. We got a box of mangoes for super cheap this summer, and I learned how to cut them and now I think they're awesome. I had some fresh pineapple the other day that knocked my socks off with sweetness.

Gluesticks. The boys love making projects, and gluesticks are not messy.

Hugs. All of my kids give amazing hugs when they feel like it.

Innocence. Jonah was so excited about the first snowfall. Matthew repeats things that Jesse and I say, even though he has no idea what they mean (nothing bad! but it's still cute to hear grown-up phrases from a two-year-old). I know this stage will be gone all too quickly.

Jesse. He is my rock. He puts up with me when I'm crabby. He lets me sleep in the mornings. He knows me better than anyone.

Kisses from my baby girl. Because who doesn't love big slobbery open mouthed baby kisses?

Legos. The toy that keeps Jonah entertained for hours.

Messiah Lutheran Church. It's our new church home, and we've been overwhelmed by all the love and caring from our new church family.

New recipes. From our month of paleo eating to my pinterest boards full of links, we are never without new ideas for what to eat.

Omro, WI. Our new home. With it's little thrift store, awesome kids' section at the library, Piggly Wiggly right across the street, and Oshkosh just a few minutes down the road. We really like our little town.

Phone. I have a love/hate relationship with my phone, because I know I spend too much time on it sometimes, but I think it's amazing how technology allows us to have all these connections and places to go at our fingertips. 

Quarters. The landlord knows I do laundry every Monday, and he put enough quarters in the dryers to dry all our clothes. Just awesome.

Reading. I've actually attempted to read more this year than the last few years combined. It used to be one of my favorite hobbies and I'm glad I got to do the little that I did.

Sleep. I will always wish for more of it, but the nights I actually get a decent amount are amazing.

Traditions. Old ones, new ones, ones we're just starting. Especially at Christmas time, these things that happen over and over make so many wonderful memories.  This year we introduced the kids to some of my favorite movies from my childhood, and stayed up "late" (by about 20 minutes) watching and eating popcorn.

Upstairs apartment. Because of the heat from our neighbors, we didn't have to turn our own heat on until mid-December, and saved on our electric bill as a result.  We were still warm enough, and it was nice to have a bit of extra money for something else.

Van. I love Hilda. She has enough room to cart around the three kids, all my reusable shopping bags, a back-end-full of thrift store donations, and whatever else we need. And that was just one day.  I used to think minivans were so uncool, but apparently that's part of the mindset that shifts when you have kids, because now I think they're perfect.

Water. Besides coffee, it's my beverage of choice, and I drink it constantly.

Xmas tree overflowing with ornaments. We didn't even have room for them all. The kids like to have me tell them what to search for, like a Christmas version of "I Spy"

Yoga. Who would have thought daily yoga would be so good?  Good for the body, good for the mind...

Zebra ruffle pants and other cute little girl clothes that I get to dress Hannah in. Sadly, she hates dresses, and at least for now, she's a tomboy, but the little girl clothes are just so adorable!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

On Life's Less Than Newsworthy Moments

A few nights ago, I was attempting to write our family's annual newsletter to include with the Christmas cards. Usually I'll go person by person, updating everyone on what we've all been doing over the past year.  If our family has had a really eventful year, I'll go month by month.  But this year, not much happened.

Now, of course, we had a busy couple of months in May and June. Hannah was born. Jesse graduated. We moved to Wisconsin. Jesse was ordained and officially became a pastor. And those are all a very big deal.

But other than those two busy months, not much happened. At least, not much that was newsworthy.  We continued our real food journey, with some bumps and setbacks along the way.  The boys started to learn how to use scissors and gluesticks. Hannah learned how to sit up on her own.  Cloth diapers aren't working too well for Matthew any more and I get excited when he wants to sit on the potty, but it's always after he's already gone in his diaper.  Jonah can put together a 100 piece puzzle in less than 10 minutes and I'm already running out of things to challenge his little mind.

We do yoga every evening after dinner.  We made a snowman in May.  Some of the greatest fun I have with my husband is snuggling on the couch watching old tv shows after the kids go to bed. Most days a good cup of coffee during the kids' after-lunch quiet time can solve pretty much any problem. 

In my day to day life, these little things are a big deal. But to write them in the big letter seems so small. My life is made up of all of these little details that really only matter so much because they are important to me in those moments.  I think that they're lovely.  And I wouldn't change our simple little life for a thing.

It does make writing a newsletter a bit difficult though...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Menu Plan December 16-31

Last time around I didn't plan all of the lunches. I knew it would probably not work out well, and I was right, because we ended up going out to eat a few times, which we probably would not have done if I had planned a few more meals.  For some reason I have this mental block in my head that spending the extra $5 for something like BLTs for lunch is so expensive. But when we go out for lunch, and it costs $20 to feed the whole family, I guess $5 is not so bad. So. I am trying my best to plan everything, even if it means spending a pinch more on groceries...

Monday, December 16
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: PB&J Sandwiches/Soups from the Freezer
Dinner: Zuppa Toscana Soup

Tuesday, December 17
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Lunch at friends' house
Dinner: Black Bean Burgers

Wednesday, December 18
Breakfast: Chocolate Banana Muffins
Lunch: Chicken Apple PB Lettuce Wraps
Dinner: Dinner at Church (we're bringing a crockpot of chili)

Thursday, December 19
Breakfast: Leftover Chocolate Banana Muffins
Lunch: BLTs
Dinner: Leftover Chili

Friday, December 20
Breakfast: Mushroom and Spinach Frittata
Lunch: Chicken Fajita Salads
Dinner: Chicken Bacon Soup (made with leftover turkey frozen from Thanksgiving)

Saturday, December 21
Breakfast: Leftover Mushroom and Spinach Frittata
Lunch: Chicken Fajita Salads
Dinner: Leftover Chicken Bacon Soup

Sunday, December 22
Breakfast: Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Muffins
Lunch: Cheesey Mexi Lentil Macaroni
Dinner: Hashbrown Crusted Quiche with Sausage, Peppers, Mushrooms, and Onions

Monday, December 23
Breakfast: Leftover Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Muffins
Lunch: Leftover Cheesey Mexi Lentil Macaroni
Dinner: Roast with Carrots, Onions, and Potatoes

Tuesday, December 24
Breakfast: Pancakes (with strawberries and whipped cream for a Christmas Eve treat)
Lunch: PB&J Sandwiches/Soups from the Freezer
Dinner: Leftover Roast with Carrots, Onions, and Potatoes

Wednesday, December 25
Breakfast: Eggs with Peppers, Mushrooms, and Onions
Lunch: Tuna Sandwiches/Soups from the Freezer
Dinner: Turkey, Poblano Sweet Potatoes

Thursday, December 26
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Grilled Cheese, Tomato Soup
Dinner: Leftover Turkey and Poblano Sweet Potatoes

Friday, December 27
Breakfast: Southwest Frittata
Lunch: Baked Potatoes with Broccoli and Bacon
Dinner: Mini Turkey Loaves, Green Beans

Saturday, December 28
Breakfast: Leftover Southwest Frittata
Lunch: Leftover Mini Turkey Loaves and Green Beans
Dinner: Mini BBQ Chicken Pizzas (made with leftover turkey)

Sunday, December 29
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Chili
Dinner: Sloppy Joes, Carrot Fries

Monday, December 30
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Leftover Chili
Dinner: Leftover Sloppy Joes and Carrot Fries

Tuesday, December 31
Breakfast: Cereals
Lunch: Clean Out the Fridge/Snack-y Lunch/Mac and Cheese
Dinner: Chicken Fajitas

And that's that! I will be taking a menu plan post break the beginning of January, but rest assured - it will still be planned out on paper! I'll be back with more menu posts the middle of next month.

I am linking up to Menu Plan Monday on I'm An Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What I'm Reading...

What I'm Reading:

The Plastic Mind. (The Simple Dollar)

WWJD: What Would Joshua Do? "No, I don’t expect, or even want, anyone to walk around asking themselves What would Joshua do? Please don’t. At least not aloud. Rather, it’s a question I should ask myself: What would the best version of me do in this situation?" (The Minimalists)

Unwanted Blessings - A Matter Of The Heart. (Kitchen Stewardship)

Who Needs Santa When You've Got Jesus? (The Matt Walsh Blog)

Is Project Runway Over? (Just Crafty Enough)

How A Good Book Can Spark Creativity. (The Art Of Simple)

What I'm Pinning:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Weekly Coupon Shopping

  • 3 GM Cereals: 3/$9, get $3ECBs when you buy 3. Used three $0.60/1 printables = paid $7.20, got $3ECBs, and I'll get $0.50 Savingstar deposit for Cookie Crisp and $0.50 Savingstar deposit for Honey Nut Cheerios.
  • 2 Right Guard Body Wash: 2/$6, get $2ECBs when you buy 2. 
  • CVS Vitamin Cs: $3.99
  • Used $12.01ECBs = paid $5.18, got $5ECBs and $1 Savingstar
  • 4 Walgreens Diapers: B1G1 $8.99. Used 20% off friends & family discount coupon = paid $15.10 for all 4 packs!
Other Coupon Shopping:
  • Shutterfly: I had two free codes for calendars from Pampers (one from points that I redeemed, and one from the Grow On program, where you get special gifts every 3 months if you enter at least one code a month), and mugs were on sale, so I got 3 grandparent Christmas gifts for $19.05 (savings of $53!)
  • Target: We needed toilet paper, so I got a 20 +4bonus roll Angel Soft pack, on sale for $9.49. Used 20% off Cartwheel and $1.50/1 printable = paid $6.39! That's the lowest I've paid for TP in a long time, so I might have to print another coupon and do it again.
  • Starbucks: Filled up a 5 sticker holiday drink card, so I got a free grande peppermint mocha. Saved $4.55!

Monday, December 9, 2013

On Why I Didn't Pick 24 Christmas Activities For December

You've seen them, I know. The Advent calendars with a daily "fun" activity for each day in December leading up to Christmas. I've seen them too. And for a long time, I wanted to be a part of that club, to make my own fun activity calendar and do ALL THE THINGS. But every time I would go to make a list, it would stress me out, and for the past two years, I've gotten to mid-December with no activity calendar in sight.

This year, however, I'm not too sad about it. I'm trying to enjoy our Advent and Christmas season with a more simple mindset. We don't have to do ALL THE THINGS, and we certainly don't have to plan ALL THE THINGS, but if some of them happen because that's what we want to do? That's wonderful. We can enjoy them without being sad that we messed up our list or missed something because life got busy.

This is not to say Bah Humbug by any means. We've actually done something festive or Christmas-y almost every day this month.

We decorated the tree. The boys put their own ornaments on, and for the rest of the day the tree was decorated from 3 feet down, and it made me smile. And then I added more ornaments to the top and that made me smile even more.

We made construction paper Christmas trees, and I got to watch my boys use their ever expanding scissors skills to cut out the trees and see their interesting ornament displays (Matthew's float off to the sides of the tree and Jonah's are all in one spot)

We got ice cream as a special treat after an Advent church service.

We watched the Christmas at Bethany concert streamed online from our alma mater.  This brought up fun discussions about the life Mommy had before the kids were born.  They just couldn't quite wrap their heads around that one.

We read a new Thomas the Tank Engine Christmas book and watched a Thomas Christmas dvd.

We made countdown to Christmas paper loop chains.

And along with all that, the boys each have one of those cheap chocolate-a-day Advent calendars, which they get to enjoy if they behave. We also have our Advent candles that we light during dinner every Sunday, and we have an ornament that plays a little 4-line rhyming part of the Christmas story each day.

Christmas is in our house in lots of little ways, but for once I'm not stressing about it. I'm taking each day as it comes, and enjoying the activities that do happen rather than trying to do ALL THE THINGS.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What I'm Reading...

I haven't yet posted about my monthly goals for December. That's because I really only have one goal: enjoy it! I know my December is always packed full of things to do - buying Christmas presents, decorating trees and cookies, and so on. So my goal is to not stress too much and enjoy the season.

What I'm Reading:

You Don't Have To Save Christmas. (The Happiest Home)

How We Help Curb The "I Want That!"s During The Holidays. (The Art Of Simple)

Becoming An Indie Publishing House Is Amazing, And Not As Hard As It Looks. (Offbeat Home)

What I'm Pinning:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Weekly Coupon Shopping

  • 2 Wheat Thins: 2/$4. Used two $1/1 printables = paid $2/2, got 1,000 points.
  • 2 Coffeemate Creamers: 2/$3. Used two $1/1 printables = paid $1/2.
  • Total spent: $3.00, got 1,000 points ($1.00)
  • Ghirardelli Squares: $3.33. Used $2/1 printable and $1/1 Target mobile coupon = paid $0.33.
  • Archer Farms Syrup: $7.19, on sale for 10% off, so $6.47. Used 10% off Cartwheel coupon = paid $5.82.
  • Got $0.05 off for using my own bag = paid $6.36.
  • Triaminic: $4.99, get $4ECBs. Used $1/1 printable = paid $3.99, got $4ECBs.
  • Huggies Travel Wipes: $2.79. Not a good deal on wipes, but I love these cases and I lost mine over the weekend.
  • Used $6ECBs = paid $0.54, got $4ECBs.
Other Coupon Shopping:
  • Shutterfly: Used code BLACKFRIDAY (expired 12/1) to get 10 free cards and code CARD4U (expires 12/4?) to get 1 free card. Combined those with a code for $20 off of holiday cards/free shipping on holiday cards from Kelloggs Family Rewards to get 30 cards for $6.36 after tax. On a separate order, used a code for $20 off of holiday cards/free shipping on holiday cards from Huggies to get 15 more cards for $0.58 after tax. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Menu Plan December 3-15

It's a new month! How did that happen? I'm going to try to stick to planning out all 3 meals (although towards the end I ran out of lunch ideas, so I'll have to figure something out for those), because that seems to help us stay on track budget-wise. I tried to keep things pretty simple for this 2-week span, because I know we'll be busy with Advent and Christmas activities. The menu plan technically started yesterday, but I've even adjusted it since then, so I'll start with today.

Tuesday, December 3
Breakfast: Leftover Southwest Frittata
Lunch: Eat Out
Dinner: Black Bean Taco Salads

Wednesday, December 4
Breakfast: Whole Wheat Whatever Muffins (with the leftover Thanksgiving cranberry sauce and white chocolate chips mixed in)
Lunch: BLTs
Dinner: Chicken Breasts and Maple Glazed Carrots (these were a hit at Thanksgiving, and really easy to make)

Thursday, December 5
Breakfast: Cranberry Muffins
Lunch: Chicken Salads
Dinner: Refried Bean Quesadillas

Friday, December 6
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Leftover Quesadillas
Dinner: Ham and Bean Soup

Saturday, December 7
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Macaroni and Cheese
Dinner: Leftover Ham and Bean Soup

Sunday, December 8
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: PB&J/Soups from the Freezer
Dinner: Steak, Steamed Broccoli

Monday, December 9
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Shrimp Salads
Dinner: Chicken Cacciatore

Tuesday, December 10
Breakfast: Banana Chocolate Chip Monkey Muffins
Lunch: Baked Potatoes with Broccoli and Ham
Dinner: Chicken Cacciatore

Wednesday, December 11
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Macaroni and Cheese, Hot Dogs
Dinner: Beef Stir Fry

Thursday, December 12
Breakfast: Winter Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Leftover Stir Fry
Dinner: Roast with Potatoes and Carrots

Friday, December 13
Breakfast: Leftover Hash and Eggs
Lunch: TBD
Dinner: Leftover Roast

Saturday, December 14
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: TBD
Dinner: Chicken, Black Olive, and Mushroom Pizza

Sunday, December 15
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: TBD
Dinner: Chicken Fajitas

I am linking up to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.