Monday, December 15, 2014

Weary

I have been feeling quite weary lately--a combination of too many activities, not enough sleep, fighting illness in our home, etc. I've said to a few people that it's not any one thing wearing me out; it is the cumulative effect of many things.

Eric was out of town on a recent weekend, and I sat in church feeling worn down from the extra load I was carrying. As I listened to two Scripture passages being recited, I took comfort in the last verse that was spoken: "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40:11
I also came across this verse during the service: "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me."  Psalm 54:4

I am grateful for His Word, which does indeed comfort and sustain us. I also think of the line in a favorite Christmas hymn: "The weary world rejoices." Though I am weary, may I yet rejoice and be thankful.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past two weeks:

*Ordered several photo freebies using special codes
*Hosted Thanksgiving potluck-style, the way to go! I made the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and two desserts, and others brought the rest. Yum!
*Ordered some much-needed pants for Natalie at half-price with free shipping
*Won 2 blog giveaways! (Thanks, Carrie and Kelsey!)
*I mentioned seeing a table runner in a store that I loved but was too pricey at $25. I found a similar one on-line for $5 with free shipping! Woo-hoo!
*Made granola bites, brownies, Christmas cookies, corn dog muffins
*Cooked a pound of black beans
*Received two books through PBS
*Made liquid hand soap (have done this before with continued mixed results). I used bars of soap that were favors from my brother and sister-in-law's summer wedding, and already had the glycerin on hand. It made quite a bit! I don't love the consistency, but it will be fine.
*Took advantage of a local annual promotion, where we can purchase $100 worth of local business dollars for $90. These are good at our two (!) grocery stores and most other businesses, so it's definitely a great deal!
*We learned this week that our source of farm fresh eggs was increasing their price from $2/dozen to $3. While I know that's not a crazy price to pay for farm eggs, I knew I could get them cheaper around here, and I was right. By making just one inquiry, I found a church that sells them from a local farmer for $1.50, and it's a church fundraiser. I am stoked, especially because I'm at this church once or twice a week anyway. Woo-hoo!
*Stopped by the thrift store and found a couple goodies, including two stationery items that were half-off and just a quarter!
*Attended a cookie decorating event, where we brought the cookies and the host supplied frosting and sprinkles. Nice!
*Redeemed a coupon for a free small pizza
*Grocery deals, including flour for just 49 cents (sale, cpn, C51) and a free box of pudding (Saving *)
*My sister-in-law treated the kids and me to a meal at the college cafeteria while our husbands were away
*Took the kids to a free theater showing of this 

I'd love to hear about your frugal activities!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Goings-on

It's been awhile since I've shared some photos and general updates, so here they are!

We were able to meet halfway with Eric's family last month for a fun stay at a water park hotel. Here are a couple photos from that weekend:

Unfortunately, we've been fighting a lot of illness in our home. Thankfully, we haven't all been sick at once, but it has been a long three weeks with multiple trips to the doctor, prescriptions, and canceled plans. Hoping we're all on the upswing now!!
In other sad news, our 14-year-old dog, Reggie, is steadily declining with a degenerative disease, and we know the end is near. Here's a pic of him taken a few days ago by our Christmas tree, as well as one with Eric on their final hunt.

There is plenty more going on, but I just wanted to check in with a few updates. Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past two weeks:

*Had a couple marathon kitchen sessions: 1) cooked chicken in water and saved it for broth (Who needs to buy cans when you can make your own healthier, cheaper broth?!, cooked a pound of ground beef purchased on sale (Because I don't eat beef, and Eric processes at least one deer each winter, I purchase just 3 or 4 pounds of ground beef each year--when I see the price, I'm so thankful!), cut up a bag-full of overripe bananas (99 cents) to freeze for use in smoothies, cooked a pound of black beans
*Made apple muffins, bean and rice wraps, oatmeal bread, chicken and rice soup, syrup, banana bread and gingersnaps
*Ordered a book for a gift through PBS, as well as one for myself
*Received a free subscription to RS with some rewards points
*Signed up for a program at the library and received a couple goodies for doing so
*Stocked up on holiday foods in high quantities at crazy-low prices to use over the next year: canned veggies, stuffing mix, cream soups, etc.
*Stopped by a store clearance, but wasn't super-impressed this time. Found a few items at good prices, including a (seasonal) potholder for just 34 cents. Mine have burnt through at the tips and aren't really doing the job anymore. I have them on my Christmas list, but this one will get me through until then! Also picked up a couple gifts.
*Grocery deals: red hots and sunflower seeds for just 15 cents/pkg! (store closeouts), 2 containers of hummus (reg. $3.99 each) for $2.99 total combining sale and cpn
*Earned a $5 gift card through Swagbucks
*Used my resources in planning food for two different events recently. I needed to bring an appetizer and salad to a dinner. I wasn't sure what I'd do with the pouch of salmon I got last month for 4 cents, so I looked for dip recipes. I mixed it with a package of cream cheese (on sale for $1.19) and half a can of diced green chiles (on sale for 79 cents, and served it with (what else?) sale crackers for a total of less than $2! For the other meal, a potluck, I made baked sandwiches using on-hand and sale ingredients and a dozen cupcakes using a free mix I got and some leftover frosting. My contributions to that meal cost less than $5. Love it!
*Ordered two free mini pizzas and a small box of dessert pizza using free coupons we had (kids earn mini pizzas monthly from school reading program; dessert pizza was earned free through rewards program)--it was almost $12 worth of food for free! And it's a special treat for our family, so the kids were very excited.
*Received lots of free samples in the mail: granola, baby wipes, antacid, coffee, soap, shampoo
*Gave haircuts to Eric and Nathan
*Stopped by our neighborhood book swap box and found a kids' Christmas book that's been on my wishlist. I was excited!
*Eric needed some carpet remnants, and the hardware store was running a free rebate for up to 6 of them. So he paid just 84 cents tax for 6 carpet squares.

I did much better this month with the grocery budget, and should even have a little cash leftover. Hooray! It helps that we still have some garden goodies, including this giant potato, which measured 8 1/2 inches long. I made soup with it and only needed one more small potato to feed our whole family and have leftovers!

I'd love to hear about your recent frugal activities. And to all of you in the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2014

CANcer

It is hard to believe that it was six years ago today that my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 metastasized prostate cancer. Six years is a long time, and to be clear, he has never been in remission. He has been fighting cancer this whole time, enduring hours of appointments, tests and treatments. Just this week he completed his 6th round of chemo. We are so grateful that his pain has decreased during this time, but of course chemo is hard on your body in other ways, and he has been more tired and sometimes feels just plain lousy.

I definitely don't claim to be an expert, and of course every situation and even type of cancer is unique. When I was contacted by Heather, a women with a powerful story of surviving a rare and often fatal type of cancer, I wanted to merge her story with my dad's to inform and also raise awareness. Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma at age 36, just weeks after giving birth to her daughter. She has endured surgery and chemo and is now a proud survivor! I think it's awesome that she's using her experience to encourage and educate others.

I wasn't familiar with this disease. According to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, "Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that attacks the lining of the body cavity called the mesothelium. The only known cause to mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos, which is still not banned in the United States today."

Heather encouraged me to share with you ways that you can help keep your lungs healthy: by avoiding air pollution, exposure to toxic substances (particularly asbestos, which is how Heather was affected), and not smoking tobacco. If you would like more information, you can click here for a list of symptoms associated with mesothelioma.

It is so sad how prevalent cancer has become. I'm sure all of us have at least one close friend or family member who is impacted by some form of the disease. Let's do what we can to encourage those in our lives who are battling cancer, and also let's be aware ourselves of the risk factors that most impact us and our loved ones!
(Photo from the June 2009 marathon my dad ran in Iowa--7 months after his diagnosis)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Frugal accomplishments

Here are my frugal accomplishments from the past two weeks:

*Scored a pouch of salmon for just 4 cents and free 7up with coupons
*Other grocery deals: cereal for $1/box, 1/2 gallon of chocolate milk for 93 cents (sale and cpn), coconut oil for $3.99 (combining store and manufacturer cpns)
*Won a $10 gift card in an on-line sweepstakes
*Went to the thrift store when shirts and sweaters for B1G1, and got several cute ones at half-price
*Made pumpkin apple muffins and cranberry white chocolate scones
*Ordered free photos
*Fought a sinus infection at home with various home remedies (I was definitely in full attack mode!)
*Stopped by our neighborhood book swap box and the girls and I both exchanged a few titles
*Used a discount certificate to take Naomi to a special play gym with inflatables, etc. She LOVED it! While there, I noticed a sign that if you fill out a form, your child gets one free admission in their birthday month, so we'll definitely take advantage of that offer!
*Redeemed a coupon for a free ice cream treat that I split with Naomi on our special outing
*Purchased rugs at a significant discount. Our dog, Reggie, is 14 years old and has experienced significant decline over the past year. Lately, he's been slipping around a lot on our laminate floors, so Eric wanted to get some rugs to cover the main areas. I found a pair of very good condition matching rugs at the thrift store for a few dollars each, but we needed a very large one for our kitchen. I selected one from a clearance bin at a retail store, and was thrilled when it rang up for much lower than the sticker price!
*Made a batch of orange vinegar for cleaning floors.
*Scored a coupon for a free 12-pack of pop for just 30 reward points (normally 250--thanks, Mom!!)
*Received a free sample of body wash
*Used two discount certificates for a fun getaway with a friend and her kids. We went to a children's museum a couple hours away, and then used a second discount certificate to enjoy some fro-yo! Part of the children's museum deal was a $5 credit to their gift shop, so I put it towards a unique puzzle for Nathan's upcoming birthday. (The kids loved the grocery store area, which was my favorite children's museum activity as a child, as well. And, of course, I still enjoy grocery shopping today!)
*Bought a large piece of on-sale ham and diced it up for use on pizzas and in soup. At $2.50 a pound, it is a significant savings over the small packages of diced ham I used to buy for double that price.
*Mended a dress
*Used a coupon to purchase a small item and receive a free full-size lotion at B&BW
*A friend invited me to go with her to S*m's Club on a church errand, and I was glad to pick up some bulk deals for our family while there. I surveyed my mom and Monica beforehand for tips on what to look for, and that was very helpful.
*Purchased a nice lip balm (reg. $2.99) for just 49 cents using a high-value cpn; also got a great deal on diapers--just 18 cents each for the name brand I prefer, which is pretty good these days (Hoping I won't have to purchase many more--c'mon, Naomi!)
*Continuing to attend a free exercise class (We just have to pay $2-3 each time for childcare, so it's half the price of the class I had been going to, plus Naomi gets to play with other kiddos in the supervised church nursery.)

I think my most significant frugal accomplishment was not purchasing anything at a home decor store that I love. It's fairly pricey, but it's festive and I enjoy window shopping and checking out their beautiful offerings. There was one item in particular that I really considered, but I think I can find something similar at a much lower price.

And, keeping it real, despite my consistent efforts with our monthly budget (groceries, in particular), we've been over our food budget two months in a row. I'm certainly not being hard on myself about it, but I do want to improve in that area this month and beyond. Perhaps it will mean making an official increase in this category, but I want to give it another month or two before reevaluating.

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

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Trick-or-treat


Here are our super-cute costumed kiddos, along with a pic from a recent visit to the pumpkin patch.