Friday, July 18, 2014

Wedding week!

I've shared a couple photos and details, but now I'm thrilled to share many more from the wedding. What a special time! There was unfortunately added stress in the days before because the original wedding site was flooded and no longer available. So finding a new site proved quite challenging--but it all worked out beautifully in the end. Many special touches, including lots of homemade items (all the decorations, the dresses made by my SIL, cupcakes made by a friend, soap favors made by a friend)--lovely!

We kicked off the wedding events with a big dinner at our house for both sides of the family. Definitely the largest meal I've ever planned/cooked for, but thankfully we had more than enough food. My sister-in-law, Kendra, took charge of the super-cute decorations. The worst part was the flies, and my mis-estimation of where the sun would be at that point in the evening. We were just glad it didn't rain, as it rained a ton that week!

The next night all the sisters and close friends of the bride gathered for a fun cowgirl-themed outing. There were 16 of us! We ate at a cool restaurant, and then went for a horse-drawn wagon ride driven by a local farmer.
On Friday morning, the bride and groom treated us to a big pancake feast--good times!
That night, we had the rehearsal and dinner. Ryan and Alyssum made special pieces of pottery for each member of the wedding party. I need to get a picture of mine--so pretty!
And then came the big day! So many unique touches . . . and lots of great memories!

 For the guestbook, we wrote a message on a chalkboard and someone took a photo.
 Rather than a printed program, the bride and groom hung photos and descriptions of each member of the wedding party.

Eric, the best man, did not wear shorts for the wedding--he changed immediately after, not knowing more pictures would be taken!

A little sidenote--Eric and I used shepherd's hooks in our wedding and I've wanted to save them. So glad I did, because they got used again!

Congratulations, Ryan and Alyssum! We love you and were blessed to be part of your special celebration.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Frugal accomplishments

As I've mentioned, we've been having an unusual summer. There has been a lot of non-frugal activity (travel isn't cheap, not to mention some costly car repairs mixed in), but those are less stressful when we work at being frugal in so many other areas.

My list this time around isn't as thorough as usual (this is over the course of 4 weeks instead of the normal 2), but I did try to keep track from the past few weeks:

*I used a discount card to get 50% off of fresh flowers at the florist for a pre-wedding meal we hosted at our house.
*Thanks to simple and accommodating choices by the bride and groom, and with kudos to my talented sister-in-law, we spent about $50 on our wedding attire--and all 5 of us were in the wedding! (Considering that last year Eric was in a wedding where the tux RENTAL fee was $190(!), this is a HUGE savings, plus we get to keep the clothes, unlike a rental!)  Eric and Nathan both needed white shirts, Nathan needed sandals, and my sister-in-law made beautiful matching dresses for the seven (!) girl cousins, so we paid just for the cost of materials. I borrowed my dress (from the bride, no less) and we already owned the other items. I wore the necklace I wore when I was a bride, and my sister-in-law made me a lovely pair of earrings. (See photos from previous post.)
*We were able to incorporate a lot of leftovers into our meal plan the week we were hosting so many family members, which helped to keep our food costs down. I really do love using up bits and pieces and being resourceful, and I had plenty of opportunities to do so that week, especially since we were preparing to travel and I needed to finish things up.
*We took advantage of a lot of free activities in Colorado. A lot of it was touristy, but we also jumped into the local summer reading program, and my kids earned some awesome prizes! We didn't even use half of the coupons, and they received a free bag of popcorn, three free kids meals each (Hello, lunch 3 days in a row!), a Frosty, books, free open gym at a gymnastics place, and a $5 credit to a consignment shop where they each picked out a couple clothing items. Woo-hoo!
*The amusement park we went to was not cheap, but my parents had a few half-off coupons from when Monica's family went earlier this summer, so those covered my family. 60 years and up get in free, so my dad was covered. My mom turned 60 yesterday (Bon anniversaire, Maman!), and Eric decided that being a couple weeks away was close enough to ask. And guess what? The manager said yes! That was about a $20 discount--definitely worth asking!
*We stopped by a super-fun book swap box near my mom's office. We brought a couple books to trade in case we found something, which we did! I snagged a book about Jesus by an author whom we appreciate. And Nat found a fun Fancy Nancy book. Love love love this concept.
*Used a coupon to get a free bagel with drink purchase for a morning out alone in CO. I'd printed 2 in case I went with someone, so I gifted my coupon to someone standing in line. Always fun to be a "coupon fairy!"
*I used a coupon to score a free toothbrush/toothpaste travel kit.
*We had van issues in CO, and had to get it towed (free--thanks to my parents AAA membership) and once again negotiator Eric straight up asked for a discount from the mechanic. And not only did he get one, but it was pretty substantial--and we received GREAT service. It does pay to ask--but I'm usually too chicken.
*My mom and I went to our favorite discount grocery store and scored some great goodies, as usual. I can't locate the photo I took, and the only thing I can remember is a bag of licorice for 79 cents as a special treat for Eric who was flying home the next day.
*I brought home some mint and rhubarb from my parents' yard.
*Freebies in the mail: lotion, shampoo, Coke cpn via their rewards program
*Mended a pair of shorts--nice mending has slowed down in the summer!
*Used a Shutterfly code to order free photos
*Harvested a ton of green beans from our garden, as well as spinach, some raspberries and cheerful zinnias
*Gave haircuts to Eric and Nathan
*Eric brought home some donuts that were leftover from the office
*We attended a free community meal and concert
*I made hummus and haystack cookies
*I ground wheat flour
*We stopped by the thrift store when they were having a rare half-off everything sale. I got a shirt and a couple stationery items. My favorite was a package of big balloons for ten cents! The kids bought a couple books for 12 cents apiece.
*Earned a coupon for a free coffee shop drink from our local summer reading program.
*Scored a free bottle of lotion combining a coupon and C51
*Took advantage of some awesome summer produce prices, including blueberries for 99 cents, and the shockingly low price of 50 cents/lb. for nectarines!
*I had a much-needed morning in the kitchen where I cranked out a small batch of raspberry-rhubarb jam (new flavor, but using what I had on hand--and got for free!), cooked some ground venison, prepped some green beans, made a batch of onion soup mix, cooked 2 pounds of dried black beans, and made an ice cream dessert. I had the kids get involved by chopping rhubarb and green beans, and grinding nuts for the dessert.

It's been awhile--catch me up on your frugal accomplishments!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Colorful Colorado

As you can see from my previous post this week, we have a had a lot going on. I don't want to get too behind, though, so I'm going to share some photos from our Colorado trip today. Later, I'll go back and share wedding photos, and next week, I plan to share a frugal accomplishments post. Warning that these are not in order--enjoy!

Nathan and Eric were excited to attend a minor-league baseball game together.
I enjoyed seeing several high school friends, including these long-time pals.
My mom hid breakfast items for the kids a couple times. Monica and I did this at camp when we were children and of course have fond memories of such a fun activity!
We had a wonderful time at the North Pole amusement park! I hadn't been there since high school, and it was so fun to have my kids and husband experience it.
It was a treat to have a day in Colorado with Eric's sister, Kristin, and her family before they traveled back to CA after the wedding. We packed in going to Garden of the Gods, Focus on the Family, the Olympic Training Center, and a family favorite pizza place (Fargo's.)
After 6+ years of correspondence, and multiple moves on her part, it was a treat to meet my blog friend Linds in person.
 We set up a tent, and my mom camped overnight in the backyard with the older two. 

We had nice weather for most of our visit, and took advantage one day with a picnic and playing in the creek.

Though these photos hit only some of the highlights, we had a really nice time with my parents, and are thankful for the new memories made!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Checking in

Hello, friends. I can hardly believe 3 weeks have passed since my last post. We are having an unusually full summer. Eric's younger brother got married here in June, and we hosted his two sisters, their husbands, and their collective six children at our house for several days. That made 15 people here, plus more for some of the meals. All the adults and kids were in the outdoor wedding--many more fun photos to come!

As if that wasn't enough going on, we left for Colorado two days after the wedding. We drove out with Eric's sister, Kristin, and her family, which was a lot of fun. We got to show them around the Springs for a day and then they continued on home to CA, and we stayed to visit my parents. We did a lot of fun things there, and I even got to meet a blog friend for the first time.

Eric had to come back to Iowa sooner than the rest of us, and we got home this past weekend--returning to a set of overnight guests! =) Whew, what a whirlwind. Unfortunately, we also received very sad news at that time as well--that one of Eric's cousins died tragically over the weekend. So there is grief and processing and trying to figure out how to respond, especially with living so far away. Thank you for praying for the family during this time.

I will be back soon, but wanted to check in with a few updates of what's been going on around here--A LOT! (And to Eric: happy 9th anniversary a day early--I love you!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Frugal accomplishments

Whew, it's been a full couple of weeks. Lots going on, and lots of thrifty stuff in the mix!

*Received free mouthwash sample in the mail
*Eric used a coupon for a free fast food taco and redeemed another offer for B1G1 tacos--so three tacos for the price of one!
*I stopped by the thrift store and all clothes happened to be half-price. I found a couple things for the kids.
*Combining a sale and coupons, I got 2 free packages of marinade mix and 2 boxes of Rice Kr*spies
*Other grocery deals: bananas on sale for 38 cents/lb. + C51, salad dressing for 67 cents combining sale and cpn
*Made hummus and RK treats
*Eric was once again invited to take an extra spot on a college golf outing--a pretty sweet freebie, especially since lunch was included!
*Got a great deal on diapers, combining a sale price, coupons, and a rebate offer. This is the best diaper deal I'd gotten in a long time and I was pumped!
*For signing up for the library's reading program, we've each gotten to pick out a free book from some designated shelves. We're all participating and turning in our minutes periodically. Nathan has earned quite a few prizes already.
*My grandma went through her craft supplies and came up with a box-full that she no longer wanted. Monica and I got to sort through and bring some things home.
*We redeemed coupons for two free mini pizzas, and I had a rewards credit to order some breadsticks for myself.
*We attended a local event that featured free inflatables, pony rides, balloon animals and a petting zoo. There was also a parade, and the kids brought home a bag filled with candy and other goodies.
*I used a discount pass to see a movie, and a friend whose kids I've watched a lot lately returned the favor.
*Made banana muffins and blueberry coffee cake
*I purchased discount passes for my kids to go to a play gym with friends at half the regular price
*We attended a free nature program through a local state park. They had crafts, games, a hike and even a snack.
*I purchased a sweater for $5 from a closet sale my friend was having to raise money for an adoption.
*We've gotten two batches of spinach from our garden. Woo-hoo!
*We went to a free concert featuring a children's choir from Africa. They were precious!
*When I consulted my library slip, I noticed it said I had a $2 fine. I was bummed but set out the money. However, as I thought through when it said I'd checked the item out, I realized it was impossible because we were in KC at the time. Our library has recently updated their systems, and I have had several problems regarding items I've checked out. When I realized it was their error, I called to explain the situation and the fine was erased from my account. I'm glad I took the time to think it through.
*Thanks to a one-day sale and coupons, I got four boxes of name brand fruit snacks for just 50 cents each. (reg. $2.99!!)
*An older couple from church offered to watch our kids so we could take advantage of a restaurant certificate without spending money on babysitting. (They were at the church dinner when the pastor gave me a certificate in thanks for my work on the college potlucks.) We were so touched by their thoughtfulness, and the kids had a great time at their house.
*A friend gave us a bike helmet for Naomi that her daughter only wore a couple times before outgrowing it. It's super-cute and I was needing to find a new one for Naomi anyway!
*Eric took the kids to a free fishing event. Lunch was supposed to be provided, but they had to end things early due to storms. The kids had fun, anyway, and both came home with some prizes of new tackle.
*I proctored a test on campus, and will receive ample compensation for my time. (I was there for just over 4 hours, but I was able to read an entire book in between announcements and monitoring.)
*I scored a free box of crackers thanks to a promotional coupon.
 *For Father's Day, we went to an old-school ice cream shop. where I had a discount certificate. There's a small mini golf course there, too. They charge a nominal fee to use their equipment, but we brought our own and paid nothing.
*Lastly, I received a fun surprise when trying to return an item I'd ordered on-line. I was bummed to realize that I'd ordered the wrong size of the item, and I clicked around checking out the return process to see how much shipping I'd have to pay to exchange sizes. I was shocked when a little message popped up that said, "Thanks for being a loyal customer. This return is on us and you can keep the item." I had to read it several times to be sure I'd understood correctly. I had! The company refunded my money, and I can keep the item I ordered. Woo-hoo!

Please tell me about your thrifty ventures--I'd love to hear!

A couple other things: It doesn't look like I'll be getting to the second round of photos from our KC trip. We are heading into two big weeks of family stuff, and I'm not sure if or when I'll have a chance to blog.

Monday, June 9, 2014

KC, part 1

I recently mentioned a then-upcoming trip to Kansas City on our summer ABC list. I took the kids there last week for a few days to see my aunt and grandma, and to meet up with Monica and her kids as they went through that area.

As usual, Monica took way more pictures, but I thought I'd share a few now and then a part 2 post after the ones from Monica's camera are sorted. We had three big outings: here, here, and here. More photos to come soon!
Arts and crafts fun
Naomi sat on this chicken riding toy for almost an hour!
Nathan caught two small blue gill with a bamboo pole.
Natalie fed a baby goat.
We are thankful for the time we had together!