Monday, August 18, 2014

Frugal accomplishments

Thank you so much for the many kind comments on my recent post about my dad. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers! I have so many things I want to write about, but first I'll jump back in with a frugal post from the past 3 weeks.

*Gave haircuts to Eric and Nathan
*Scored a great deal at a grocery store: By purchasing 8 products of the same name brand, you could earn 50 cents off per gallon of gas! I rounded up several coupons, stacked them with the sale prices, and got amazing deals. For example, I purchased several boxes of cereal for $1.18 and earned the 50 cent gas discount on top of that! I waited until my gas light came on to make the most of it, and saved over $7 on a tank of gas.
*Stopped by the bread outlet and bought over $13 retail value of bread for just $2.55
*Redeemed coupons for free mini pizzas for the kids that we received from the library
*Attended a free kids' movie at a local theater that has a few no-cost summer matinees (I've been wanting to do this for years and am glad it finally worked out.)
*Took advantage of a free shipping offer to order some more Tummy Tuneup
*My new sister-in-law is from Alaska, and she brought home 40 pounds of salmon that she and my brother-in-law caught themselves! They blessed us one night by cooking some for our family. I had just seen 5 oz. wild Alaska salmon fillets advertised for $6.99 apiece, so this was a huge treat!
*Made raspberry sorbet using free raspberries we picked--oh my word, it was delicious!
*Harvested lots of garden goodies: tomatoes, peppers, onions, green beans, potatoes, and zinnias
*Snagged some free school supplies using coupons: 2 rulers, a package of erasers, and a roll of tape. I have a basket where I stock up on school supplies as deals come along, and I was pretty excited to do most of the kids' school supply shopping in my own home! I spent less than $5 on the items we still needed. It doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg if you're strategic!
*Natalie attended a free dance workshop at my in-laws' church
*Stocked up on inexpensive grocery staples while I had access to this store
*My mother-in-law sent us home with several random grocery items--always a blessing!
*Picked amazing blueberries at a local farm while we were in MI--they were just $1.89 a pound! I ended up bringing home many more than planned. We've eaten a ton fresh, I'll use some for baking and some for freezing, I gave some away, and . . . I swapped a pint with a friend who used to live in MI for 2 jars of home-canned pears!

*Eric, Nathan, and my father-in-law attended a Tigers baseball game. Eric waited until the last minute (hours before--yikes!) to buy tickets as the price decreased significantly. They managed to find free (and legal) parking, which was a big score, and they brought some of their own food and drink (also allowed) to help offset those costs. Plus, they got there in time for batting practice, and Nathan caught a ball, which became a special souvenir.
*On our last night in MI, a local gymnastics place was having a free open house. We took the girls and they had a wonderful time. It wasn't too crowded, so they got to use a lot of the equipment, plus they were serving free cookies and juice.
*A friend gave me a large head of cabbage from her garden, because she had more than she could use. I shredded it for the Asian coleslaw we like, and brought it to a church potluck. I also made salsa using tomatoes from our garden.
*Made a batch of granola and some berry muffins
*Ground wheat into flour
*Lots of grocery deals: a jar of marked-down pimento cheese (for a dip Eric loves) for only $1.49, a pound of carrots for just a quarter (sale and C51), a package of frozen burritos for just $1.88 (reg. $4.49--this was combining sale and cpn), 4 frozen pizzas for just 54 cents each (sale and cpn--these are nice to bake and send in school lunches), 2 jars of alfredo sauce for 69 cents each (pumped about this, as I typically pay $1.50 on sale--they were on sale for 99 cents each and I had a cpn), a pound of bananas for just 3 cents (sale and C51), and a free box of Jello via Saving*
*Attended two free pool parties--one sponsored by MOPS, and the other by our church
*Stopped by our neighborhood book swap box, and exchanged one of our kid's titles for a book from the box
*Eric and the kids picked a big bin of apples from a local yard. We check every year, and the owners have never wanted any of them! Now we need to schedule some time to make sauce.

I'd love to hear about your recent frugal activities!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Guarded hope

It has been a long time since I have shared an update about my parents and how they are doing on the journey with my dad's cancer.

I am so thankful for the time we had together in June, but it was clear that my dad was having more back pain and also fatigue. He had some tests a couple weeks after our visit, and we were anticipating learning that the cancer had spread. That is indeed what had happened, but I was not prepared to hear that it was time for my dad to begin chemo treatments. Though we've known all along that chemo would eventually be the chosen option, it was still very hard to receive the news, and it makes the distance between our houses seem that much further.

It will be six years in November since my dad's diagnosis. There have been many ups and downs since then, and we continue to pray and have guarded hope.

What do I mean by "guarded hope?" Last Sunday we attended my in-laws' church. The service featured several baptisms, in which each individual shared their testimony before being immersed in the water. One older gentleman shared that he had been pretty lazy in his faith for awhile before being diagnosed with some pretty serious cancers. It was a major turning point for him, and he was desperate for God in ways he hadn't been before. As he continued to grow spiritually, he learned that the cancer had miraculously disappeared. People in the sanctuary began clapping for God's amazing work. And we should praise God for His marvelous deeds. But this man's testimony made me sob.

Of course I am happy for this man and for God's work in his life. But it hit me hard that day that though we can hope and pray for miracles, God is sovereign and He obviously does not always heal disease here on our earth. So we pray for God's will to be done and for the strength to live into whatever that is. We pray--with guarded hope.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Frugal accomplishments

Here's my latest compilation of frugal activities from the past two weeks:

*Harvested garden goodies: tons of green beans, spinach, zinnias, raspberries, tomatoes, a pepper and an onion
*Bought a bag of really ripe bananas for just 50 cents
*Redeemed several coupons for free mini pizzas
*Bought chicken for 99 cents a pound. It's hard to beat this price, but I don't buy bone-in very often, and I forget how much I hate that process! However, I was out of chicken and the boneless hasn't been on sale for a long time.
*Made a batch of granola
*Eric received a pear and some garden potatoes--there are informal agreements at both the community garden and Eric's place of employment where people can give or take extra produce--we've given a lot of beans away
*I was super excited to discover a new book swap box near our home, just like the ones I mentioned from our recent CO trip! I brought two books with me and swapped them out for two new titles. Will do this often--love.
*I attended a free coffee shop concert with a friend and redeemed my coupon for a free drink that I won from the library
*I used a coupon for a free 12-pack of Coke. I showed Nathan how to look for lids and enter the codes, and he loves it. He has found quite a few lids out and about!
*Scored a package of tortillas for just 49 cents, combining sale and coupon. We go through tortillas very quickly, and I'm usually thrilled to pay a dollar for a package of 10.
*Received several free samples in the mail: shampoo, face cleanser and lotion x 3. These often come in padded envelopes, which I save for my own mailing purposes.
*Something I always endeavor to do is to be creative and persistent in using up leftover bits and pieces. I've mentioned it before, but it's truly something I enjoy--avoiding waste, being resourceful, trying to be creative. I had a big hit last week--I had some cooked noodles, some bits of ham, and a tiny container of chipotle sauce that Eric brought home from a work lunch. I decided to make homemade mac and cheese, adding the chipotle to my usual sauce. It gave it a wonderful kicked-up flavor that we both loved, and I added ham to Eric's.
*Ground wheat into flour
*Made 3 batches (total) of raspberry jam and strawberry jam--the raspberries were free from a neighbor who is on extended vacation and told us to help ourselves!
*Ordered some free photo cards with promo codes
*Made bread, banana bread, M&M bars, and a brownie pudding dessert
*A big savings this summer is that I'm not currently attending an exercise class that I've done for almost a year (I was going an average of twice/week). While $5 a class is not exorbitant, and I enjoy going, I'm taking at least the summer off, especially with all we've had going on. But if I don't workout, I definitely start to notice in my waistline. I was inspired by this post and decided to check our library's selection of exercise DVD's. I've found one I like (well, I don't like it, exactly, but it's brief, intense and effective!) and have been doing that 3 times a week.
*Stopped by a thrift store during their semi-annual clothing clearance sale. I bought 6 items for just $3 total. I was most excited about a pair of baseball pants for Nathan to wear next season--and they hardly looked worn.
*Got a great deal on 4 boxes of cereal, combining a sale and coupon
*Another friend of mine moved away last week (wah!), and she graciously blessed us with some perishable items, including bacon (Eric was pumped!) and a riding toy for Naomi. I brought her some flowers from our garden on her last day of work, and watched her kids for several hours in the days leading up to the move.
*I think I mentioned last time that I recently "discovered" a library in another nearby town. I've known the director there for years, and she lives just a few minutes from me. She offered to be a courier for me to check out and return books. What a blessing! I've already taken her up on it once--she is so sweet. She keeps a box in her garage for friends to pick up and return their library items. She said since she's going there every day, it's no trouble. Isn't that thoughtful?! I am so excited that they've had several books on my list that I haven't been able to get in town.
*I had what I call a ROCKSTAR grocery trip--I paid just $1.63 for all this, and the total would have been $11-something. I combined sales and coupons, and redeemed store loyalty points (which, granted, I've been saving for a long time) to score the Nut*lla for free. Woo-hoo!
*Purchased some of my favorite toiletries on half-off sale and with $1 shipping

I'd love to hear about your frugal activities!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Some favorite books

I can't remember exactly when I started reading my friend Carrie's blog, but it has been years. We've never met in person, but we've exchanged many emails! To celebrate her 8th anniversary of blogging, Carrie is hosting a contest asking for people to submit a photo of themselves with their favorite book. 

I thought it would be fun to participate, but how does one choose a single favorite book? My favorite genre is usually memoir, and I also enjoy reading books about homemaking and frugality. 

I decided to take a photo with the 3 books that I've read 3 (or more) times. (Although now that I think of it, the Little House series should probably also be included in that distinction!) 
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott--I read this in college for the first time, at the suggestion of our campus pastor. I don't like how Lamott can be hyper-political and whiny, but I do appreciate many of her insights, and one of my favorite quotes of all time comes from this book. (It's on the bottom of my blog and has been since the very beginning.)

Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic--A slim volume that is chock-full of wisdom--I am challenged and inspired every time I pick it up. I reviewed it almost exactly three years ago.

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young--This is my fourth year of reading these daily devotions, and I find they continue to be helpful and encouraging, and they point me to Jesus.

You can check out Carrie's blog here and read what other favorite titles have been submitted. I'd love to hear about books you've read 3 or more times!!

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!