Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Time's up!

Not too long ago, I realized I wasn't being as productive around the home as I wanted to be (and as I feel I should be). As one specific way to aid my goal of getting more done, I decided I needed to be more disciplined about the amount of time I spend on the computer. It's so easy, isn't it, to get sucked in by clicking around?!

My new tool is my kitchen timer, which I have stationed right next to the computer screen. When it beeps, I'm done. I can't say I like being told when to clear the premises if I'm in the middle of something, but I do think it's been helpful. Blogging is wonderful, but as my mom used to say, "Everything in moderation."

Something else I'm going to implement is taking one weekday off from doing anything blog-related. I've chosen Thursday, aka tomorrow. I'll still check my e-mail but know I'll save a lot of time for other projects if I don't check blogs or post on my own.

Do you/how do you set limits on your computer time? I'm interested to read your comments on this tricky issue!

And speaking of comments, thanks for all your great tips--my husband was also grateful for all the advice you offered! Yesterday was another pop comments post, so a well-utilized (e.g. slightly worn!) copy of both Kids Rooms, etc. and Home Storage & Organizing magazines will soon be on their way to Abbey! (A, please send me your mailing info!)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wallflowers

The title of this post comes from the fact that several of the walls in our new house are covered in flowers--in the form of wallpaper. Please help! What are your best tips for getting that stuff off?! I'm specifically wondering about using a steamer--anyone tried it?

Secondly, do you have any great advice on choosing paint colors? I feel kind of overwhelmed with knowing how to start. We'll specifically be painting my son's room, the guest room/2nd child's room (no, I'm not making any announcements!), and the basement play area. Are there colors or brands you love? Websites with fun kids' area inspiration? How do you narrow down the options?

And while we're on these subjects, I'd also love to hear any of your tips on moving/packing. Keep in mind we're moving locally--just one block away!

Thank you so much for your help!!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Provision, part 2: the house

Several weeks ago, I shared with you the disappointment I felt when the first home we loved didn't work out. At that time, we really had no other house options we were excited about. There is a particular home Eric and I have always admired, and we knew it had been on the market briefly last summer, but that no one had bought it. We casually mentioned the house to our realtor to see if he knew whether the owners planned to sell it again. (Small town, you know!) After contacting them, our realtor told us the owners were agreeable to us seeing it. We toured the house twice in a week's time and made them an offer right away, which they accepted (with one slight counter).

This house was the first one we'd seen that met all 3 of our main criteria: within walking distance of the downtown area, 3 bedrooms on the same floor, and in our price range. The first two homes we'd seriously considered met the first two criteria, but were on the more expensive side; this last one, which I affectionately call "the white house" was just under our targeted budget. In addition, we like it more than the others we've seen. I admit being a sucker for old houses with all that cool woodwork and unique quirks, and this one is beautiful and in great shape.

The owners had until last Friday to consider our offer. It was so strange doing all the negotiating from a distance, since we were in Colorado. We had several phone calls to and from our realtor, and actually used the fax machine to send back our signed agreement!

Of course the big question for the white house owners was where they would move to. The answer: last weekend (while we were in CO), they found a house in town they really liked that had been on the market for just a few days, and they placed a winning bid on Saturday! It has been such a domino effect, because their new house is being emptied right away, which affects 3 other families: the white house owners, us, and my husband's successor who moves into our house in mid-June.

We are just amazed at how things are working out. We had a chance to meet the white house owners on Saturday, and it was so fun to walk through the home and see it through their eyes. They raised all of their kids there, and have done a great job maintaining and renovating the house, which was built in 1909.

What's really funny to me is that this house is about as close to campus as you can get. We can even see it from our current dining room! Eric's been joking that we can move by handing things down an assembly line, or using Nathan's wagon to haul boxes. It will be such a blessing to remain so close to our dear friends from the college!

I wanted to share a couple pix with you (kitchen and living room)--I'm so excited to make this house our home!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bloomin' Swap

Time to share all the swappin' fun!

Oh, my. My swap partner, Katie, put together an amazing shoebox (shown above)! Here are the wonderful goodies she sent me:
My favorite things were the fun crafty and stationery items. I was also really excited to try this. Katie even sent me a gardening magazine that's published in her hometown--you can check it out here. Everything was wrapped really cute, and she even attached related Bible verses to each item. Thank you so much, Katie!

These are the goodies I sent to Katie:

This next photos are from my mom and her swap partner, Melinda. My mom said they were a great match and she got a kick out of how similar their gifts were to each other! (Photo 1 is Ruth's box to Melinda; photo 2 is the box Melinda sent Ruth)OK, ladies, now it's your turn to show and tell:




Marathon man

Way to go, Dad! 31 miles--we're so proud of you and thankful we could be there to cheer you on.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Grocery bargains

Updated to add: This store buys "closeouts" from groceries, kind of like Big Lots, so it's a really random selection, and they don't sell anything perishable. If you live in Colorado and would like location information, please e-mail me.


Whenever I read a post about Meredith (Like Merchant Ships) going to a discount grocery store, I always think I'd like to go to one--if I just knew where one was!

The other night while in Colorado, I noticed a store called Extreme Bargains, and it turns out it was a discount grocery. My mom and I went together, and I had to share my thrifty finds with you!

I've listed each item with the regular retail price behind it (prices from either the local Safeway store or the product's original sticker price), followed by the discount price I paid.

2 boxes of Betty Crocker cinnamon streusel muffin mix (my fave) $2.50 each/$1.25 each
Earth's Best crackers $2.79/$1.25
Gerber cookies (my son's road trip treat) $2.59/$1.19
Crystal Light lemonade drink mix $2.99/$1.50
2 Fiber One granola bars $ .50 each/$ .16 each
1 Power Bar $1.19/ $ .16
Chex Mix (my road trip treat) $1.59/$ .25
Gummi peaches (my husband's road trip treat) $ .69/$. 25
Bon Ami cleanser (not sure of retail price, so I'll just list what I paid: $1--I have a hard time finding it and bought the only two cans they had)

The total retail price for all these goods is $19.84; I paid $9.59.

What a fun outing! We had to check items carefully, of course, as there were lots of expired products and dented cans. The only thing I bought past the date was the Chex Mix, which expired just a month ago. I figured that was pretty safe for a bag of cereal and pretzels!

Does anyone else have a discount grocery store nearby? What kinds of deals do you find there?

Provision, part 1: the job

Do you ever write posts in your head and later realize you never actually typed out those thoughts? Well, I guess that's the case with our upcoming transitions. I mentioned 3 months ago that we'd be moving in the spring, but apparently I never got around to explaining more about that!

So here are more details--part 1 will cover my husband's job, and part 2 will share more about the house story. Feel free to ask questions if you still have them after reading these posts! =)

My husband is finishing his 12th year working at a small Christian college and between us, we have lived on this campus for more than twenty years. Eric's job is not your typical 9-5 Monday-Friday position. As the main contact person for campus emergencies, discipline and housing issues, we regularly receive phone calls or visitors at every time of day. Though there are many perks and rewards of such a role, it is often very demanding work.

Eric's degrees are in math and business administration, and when he graduated from school, he planned to be a stockbroker. But God had other plans and led him here, to Iowa. When we were single, we each served as the live-in director of a dorm (Eric in a men's hall for 5 years; I was in a women's hall for 2), where we learned a lot about living in community. And we have continued to live in community. Our current home is in the middle of campus, so we have hundreds of neighbors!

We will be sad in many ways to leave this special place, but we're not going very far. For the past several years, Eric has desired to counsel people in an important part of their lives: their finances. Though he has casually pursued contacts in other places, God opened a door right here in this small Iowa town.

One day last year, Eric was out for a walk and noticed a new building. The sign outside indicated that it was a financial office, so Eric popped in to get some more information. What he learned greatly excited him. The advisors in this small firm are Christians, and take a unique approach to finances. Instead of just focusing on typical investments, they walk each client through a basic checklist for healthy finances. As an example: if a potential client came in wondering the best way to invest some money, this firm would sit down and consider all aspects of the family's financial situation before making any decisions. They don't charge advising fees to clients, and they don't advertise or solicit clients.

Anyway, Eric had lunch with the two advisors just to learn more about their office. It quickly become clear that there was a strong connection, and both sides begin to explore the possibility of Eric coming on board. We decided in the fall that this would be Eric's last year at the college, and that he would join the financial firm at the end of the school year. Eric has continued meeting with them regularly, and these men even wanted me to accompany Eric for a meeting to discuss details of the job, including benefits. That truly amazed me. How often does a spouse get that kind of input or invitation?!

As for timing, Eric will finish at the college in mid-May, shortly after graduation. He hopes to start his new job the first week of June. We are so thankful for the ways God has provided this new opportunity, and are also grateful for the time we've spent at the college and the relationships we've built.

Eric is conscientious, wise, and focused and his gifts have matched well with this relational position. I have no doubt he will do well in this next endeavor, and am excited to be part of it!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Amiga

Being in Colorado was so much fun. It was wonderful spending time with my parents, and I got an added bonus when I had the chance to meet one of my favorite bloggers, Mer. We found each other's blogs last summer, and I knew right away that I'd found a kindred spirit.
The only problem with our lunch date is that we ran out of time because there was so much to talk about. Mer has been a great blogging friend, and she even paid for my meal--wow! (What a track record--blogging friend Leah bought my tea when we met in August, but that's because I was leaving in a hurry and completely forgot to pay my bill!)

So nice to meet you in person, Mer. As we were leaving, I asked her to take a photo with my car, who I named *Meredith* years ago! And, yikes, did you notice my sunburn in the picture above?! I was very irresponsible on Saturday and am still paying for it!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Checking in

Whew! We got home an hour ago, after a 12-hour trip. It was so good to be in Colorado, and now of course it's good to be home and dive into all that needs to be done around here!

I am excited to get caught up with all of you, but I know it's going to take awhile, especially in the midst of all the other things I need to get done! Thanks for all your comments and e-mails, especially about the house. I appreciate it so much!

I plan to spend the next few days updating about my trip, and also clarifying some stuff about the house and my husband's job switch. Friday will be the fabulous reveal of all the bloomin' swap fun! And of course I mentioned there will be a book giveaway in the near future. Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Homecoming

Well, it's been another beautiful day in Colorado. We are thankful for safe travel here on Thursday, and for a fun arrival, as we surprised my dad who ran an ultra marathon today (31 miles, and he did awesome!)

I always get a little emotional just driving into town: seeing the mountains appear as shadows in the horizon, and passing by landmarks of my history at every corner. This place is home to me, just as Iowa has also become my home.

Shortly after we got in the other night, I was reminded of these words from a beloved hymn:

"Here I raise my Ebenezer*
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home."
words by Robert Robinson
*an Ebenezer is a sign of God's faithfulness, as taken from I Samuel 7:12

Speaking of home, praise the Lord--we have one! Hooray! We've been on the phone with our realtor several times in the last two days to work out the details. The part that most surprised us is that the owners of the house we love looked at a home Thursday night and were informed of their winning bid today. This means they'll be able to move when we needed to (we hadn't really thought that could be possible), so the closing date is a month from today! Eric said I can start picking out paint colors. Woo-hoo! Wow, now this means we have to start packing as soon as we get home. Yikes . . .

With all that's happened in the last few days, it's hard for me to completely wrap my head around this news, but of course it's exciting. Mostly, we are just amazed at how God works. In HIS time. Thanks for joining us on this part of the journey--I look forward to sharing more about the house with you. Hope you're all having a good weekend, and enjoying weather as gorgeous as ours!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Linkadoos

Just a random assortment of links I wanted to pass on to you:

*Love this pantry!

*Another challenging and encouraging post from my friend, Katie: making Mondays less manic and more purposeful. I want this to be my day, everyday. I want to print this out and post it for review because sometimes I have a hard time prioritizing the tasks in my day.

*I'm excited because I recently won two book giveaways: Generation NeXt Marriage and Parenting from Lauren and a journal and Kay Arthur study called Desiring God's Own Heart from Gail. Thank you so much, ladies! I think this means I need to spread the love and host a book giveaway of my own soon, so be watching for that.

*I just discovered this wonderful coupon generator--tons of deals to be found here!

*You can find lots of ideas at this week's Make it from Scratch carnival, including my recipe for chai.

We'll be on the road tomorrow, so I won't be posting, nor will I be on-line much the next few days. I hope to update on the house situation sometime Friday and appreciate your prayers whatever the outcome!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Purposeful thrifting

Here are the deals I scored yesterday at our local thrift store--all of these things are specific items on my list to watch for:

*I had just written "bristle blocks" on my son's gift idea list a week ago when we played with some at a friend's house. This bag was just $1, quite a savings from the set I would have requested.

*My husband decided to purchase a video camera with his earnings from several seasons of reffing basketball games, but we needed a case for the camera, charger and cords. I found this padded like-new shoulder bag for just $1.

*I'm always keeping my eyes open for items that can go in a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. This new Slinky was 25 cents!

*Monica's recent post has made me more aware of my clothing choices, and I'm on the lookout for some nice pieces to add to my wardrobe. This shirt fit the bill, though you can't really see how cute it is. Originally priced at $3, I snagged it from the half-price rack for a whopping $1.50--gotta love thrift stores!

If you enjoy shopping secondhand, do you find it helps to have a "plan," or are you mainly on the lookout for fun surprises? (Or both?!)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Daily bread

Yesterday morning I had the privilege to help out with a special program at my church. Our pastors planned a shortened service, and then the congregation was dismissed to the basement to help fight global hunger. How can a small church in Iowa make a difference? By partnering with Kids Against Hunger, an organization that uses volunteers to package vitamin-fortified rice-soy casseroles to be distributed in 38 countries around the world.

It's truly an amazing process. Each bag is filled with soy powder, fortified chicken flavoring, dehydrated vegetables, and rice and then sealed and packaged in boxes. One package can feed 6 people; the boxes we filled yesterday (33,000 meals!) will soon be on their way to Haiti.

I'm so thankful I belong to a church that desires to serve beyond our local community. Click on the link above to find out how you or your church can get involved!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Surrender

Several people have asked for an update on the house search, and I greatly appreciate those who are thinking of and praying for us. I've been waiting to post until I had more to say. Specifically, I wanted to be able to write these 3 things:

1. That we found a house we love
2. That we made an offer
3. That the offer was accepted

Well, the first two have happened, and now it's a long wait for #3. We placed an offer last night, and shortly thereafter learned that the wife just left on a trip and won't be home until Wednesday evening. The tricky part: guess who leaves on a trip Thursday morning? Yep, us! So the owners asked for an extension from Monday to Friday to consider our offer. Oh, it's so hard to be patient!

Our realtor was able to tell us that the couple is pleased with our offer (from the financial aspect). However, as Sarah says, "It's always something." The "something" in our case is the moving timeline. We need to be out of our campus-owned house by about June 7, preferably sooner because my husband starts his new job right after Memorial Day. The owners of the house have lived there for more than 30 years, and have not even started looking for a new place, so I'm sure the thought of moving so quickly is overwhelming to them, especially because the house is not even technically on the market! (I'll explain more about that later if everything goes through.) So we'll see what happens. I think there will be some negotiation regarding the closing date but hopefully they will accept our offer! We should know by Friday and I really appreciate your prayers for peace and patience.

I told Eric and our realtor that I am being "guardedly optimistic" that things will work out. I don't want to get so set on the house that I'm as disappointed as the last time. (Thank you again for all those sweet comments--I am so touched by your encouragement and can't wait to share that #3--see above--is a reality!)

Father, help this be my prayer, especially this week in regards to the house:

All to Jesus, I surrender
All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dream-breaker

This week, my husband did something he said he'd never do. He bought a cell phone! He is adamant that the phone be used only on road trips or when I'm out alone with our son. He says people lived just fine for many years without cell phones, and that having one takes all the fun and adventure out of having road trouble. "Excuse me?" I responded. "What part of road trouble is fun?!"

We got a Tracfone since we only plan to use it for travel or emergencies, but I have to say I feel a little safer knowing I have the option to call if I need it. I'm OK with not using it daily.

Eric has gone so far as to say that it was a life-long goal of his to never own a cell phone. So I'm sorry, honey, to squash this dream of yours. (That reminds me of another goal he had as a single person: that the next time he moved, he would only take with him what would fit in his midsize car. I told him when we married that this dream could no longer be a reality.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Make your own mix: chai

I recently asked for advice on what to make with some exotic spices I'd received: star anise, cardamom pods, whole cloves, and whole nutmeg. A couple of commenters suggested making chai. I found a couple of on-line recipes and experimented with making my own concoction. Here's what I came up with, should you have these unique ingredients on hand:

1 T. turbinado (or regular) sugar
6 black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 t. grated nutmeg
2 bags Earl Grey or darjeeling tea

Combine all ingredients, along with 2 c. water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and add 1/2 c. milk; heat until warmed. Serves two--a mug for you and one for a friend!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

In and out

I was recently telling a couple friends that I am a "virtual packrat." I am notorious for saving an e-mail for later, which becomes later, and then even later. One of my recent organizing projects was to get caught up on both of my e-mail accounts. I responded to overdue correspondence, deleted links to articles I knew I wouldn't read, and dealt with pending tasks. It felt so great, but like most things, I know I won't feel caught up for very long, especially if I return to my old ways!

I've mentioned this professional organizer in a couple previous posts, and want to share some of her great tips for managing your e-mail (specifically in Outlook--not sure how much these apply to other accounts).
  • Create folders. This takes so little time, but I had not been utilizing this great tool. I love being able to file an e-mail that needs to be saved, instead of trying to scan through my entire inbox!

  • Use flags. Another simple tip that I'd never tried--flagging messages as unread, follow-up, etc. She suggests creating different colored flags for different purposes.

  • I also didn't realize you can save messages as tasks or calendar items in Outlook. Though I'm not sure I would use this now that I'm staying home full-time, I wanted to pass on the tip to those who might find it helpful.

  • She also suggests entering data into your contact files as soon as you receive a business card or address change from a friend, instead of holding onto scraps of paper or e-mails containing that info.

Overall, she says, "Like paper, you can do one of four things with an e-mail: file it, refer it, read it, or take action on it."

So this is something I want to keep improving on, and I appreciated the tips above. What works for you in regards to keeping your e-mail inbox(es) "under control"? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Slowing down

Thanks to all who shared comments on yesterday's post about being in a hurry! Though my score was on the lower side (17), I feel this is something I'm noticing more in myself--a mind that rushes from one thing to the next.

In my latest retreat, I felt compelled to look up verses about being quiet. A favorite that I underlined comes from Isaiah 30:15 where the LORD says, "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." This is a verse I want to keep near to my heart these days--what a stirring statement.

As I thought about what it means to be "quiet," it made me think about what we often call "quiet time," referring to sessions of prayer, Bible reading, etc. This is an area of my life that I feel needs some evaluation, and I would be grateful to hear from you about your experience. This is obviously a very personal subject, and I want to respect that!

If you are willing to share, please respond to any or all of the following:
  • When do you have your quiet time, and is that time pretty consistent for you? (Morning before everyone gets up, before bedtime, etc.)
  • What does your quiet time consist of? (prayer, journal, Scripture, a certain book) Do you have a certain study guide or devotional book you use? Any you'd recommend (or not)?
  • Where do you have your quiet time? (special chair, bed, dining room table)

I know there's not a one-size-fits-all "quiet time," but I would love to be encouraged and inspired by your examples. Thank you!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Life in the fast lane

"Slow down, you move too fast. You've got to make the morning last. Just skippin' down the cobblestones. Lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy!" --Simon and Garfunkel

"Have patience, have patience. Don't be in such a hurry! When you get impatient, you only start to worry." --from The Music Machine

Sometimes I catch myself rushing to get places (especially when I'm late) or hurrying tasks to move on to the next. I have been noticing this in myself and want to slow down and be more mindful in my work.

I found this little survey in a back issue of Real Simple and found it quite interesting.

Rate how well each of the following sentences describes you--perfectly (2), somewhat (1), or not at all (0)--then add up your answers to find out if you're moving too fast for your own good.

I always eat too fast.
I talk rapidly.
I often put words into other people's mouths.
I find it frustrating if people speak too slowly.
I almost always feel pressed for time.
I don't like to linger over a meal.
I often feel harried at work.
I often push the "close door" button on elevators.
I can feel my blood pressure climb in slow checkout lanes.
I follow the car in front of me closely when driving.
I sometimes push the "walk" button at intersections repeatedly.
I get very frustrated when people are late.
I often do two things at once to save time.
I get restless if I have to sit still.
I feel as if I am wasting time if I do only one thing at a time.
I get crazy when people ahead of me are walking too slowly.

Scoring:
24-32: Your fast ways are very likely compromising your health and well-being.
16-23: You're a borderline speedaholic. You'd enjoy life more if you dialed back.
0-15: Bravo! You're taking life at a moderate pace.

So, what was your score? When do you most catch yourself in a hurry?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Spring reading challenge

I just completed my local library's spring reading challenge. Here is what I read (click on links for my personal thoughts and reviews):

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by B. Kingsolver
Serve God, Save the Planet by M. Sleeth
Frugal Luxuries by T. McBride
Eat, Pray, Love by E. Gilbert
A Light in the Window and These High Green Hills by J. Karon--I am captivated by this sweet series!
Idol Eyes by Mandisa
Living Simply by J. Heim
Grace Eventually by A. Lamott--not my favorite work by Lamott
Summer Snow by N. Baart (The sequel to After the Leaves Fall--As with the last book, it took me a little while to get into the story, but once I did I had a hard time putting it down!)
Mom to Mom by E. Morgan (a MOPS book)
Into the Wild by J. Krakauer (This was a re-read. We recently saw the movie and I wanted to go through the book again because it is such a haunting true story!)

My goal was to read 12 books, and that's what I did exactly. Having a deadline definitely motivated me to stick to my list. I did substitute a couple books from my original list. My husband advised me against reading A Thousand Splendid Suns after having read it himself, and I obliged. The second omission was The Jane Austen Book Club because I found other titles I was more excited to read, after finding out more about the storyline.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Recycling basics

I recently came across a list explaining the numbers on the bottom of plastic containers, and thought it was helpful information. This is taken from Real Simple--click here for the rest of the article:

Wondering about the little numbers on your milk container? They identify what the container is made of — and what it will be in its next life.

1 PET (polyethylene terephthalate): Soda bottles; recycled into pillow fill.
2 HDPE (high-density polyethylene): Plastic milk bottles, detergent bottles; recycled into new detergent bottles.
3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride): Take-out boxes, shampoo; recycled into drainage and irrigation pipes.
4 LDPE (low-density polyethylene): Grocery bags, shrink wrap; recycled into new bags.
5 PP (polypropylene): Yogurt containers, bottle caps; recycled into plastic lumber.
6 PS (polystyrene): Packing peanuts; recycled into plastic lumber, cassette-tape boxes.
7 Other: Includes squeezable ketchup bottles and microwavable dishes; these items can’t be recycled.

It's interesting to see what happens with these products if we take the time to recycle! Do you know which plastics you can recycle in your area? Unfortunately, our drop-off only collects 1-4.

Pop comments 2!

Thanks to all who left comments on my 2nd pop comments post, yesterday's WFMW tip. Because the topic was gift card organization, I thought a gift card would be a fitting prize. The winner is Katie, who happens to also be my swap partner! Katie, I'll e-mail you to figure out what store you'd prefer and then will include your prize in your shoebox!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Follow-up

*I wanted to thank each of you who left a comment on my post about our disappointment with the house search. Your encouragement meant a lot to me, and I'm excited to share updates with you.

*Had to share this fun freebie with you since I just posted about reusable shopping bags. Click here for details on how to take a super-easy quiz that earns you a tote by mail!

Vintage Works for Me Wednesday: Gift card organization

Note: This week for WFMW we're supposed to recycle a vintage post. This one was a favorite of mine that I originally posted last June. Here are some other posts that have been popular via Google searches: kids' clothing inventory, prayer jar, making panini sandwiches, and teething tips.

Between gifts and returns, we seem to have accrued quite a quantity and variety of gift cards, and I needed a way to keep them all organized.

Here's what I do:

1. On each gift card, if it doesn't indicate an amount already, I write down the value with a Sharpie. I update the amount accordingly when we redeem just a portion of a card.

2. I keep all gift cards in my purse--this eliminates losing them or accidentally leaving them at home. If we happen to have more than one card for a particular store, I keep them together with a rubber band. I bought a little mesh bag from Target (in the office supplies section) to neatly contain the cards.

3. I maintain a little gift card "cheat sheet" on an index card so I can see at a glance the stores and restaurants we have cards for, and the amount we have to spend. This is nice when planning errands, especially since we live 45 minutes from the nearest mall.

Organizing the little things works for me! Head to Rocks in My Dryer for other great vintage ideas!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Testimony

Do you remember two years ago when a group of college students were in a terrible highway accident in Indiana, and two of the women (Laura Van Ryn and Whitney Cerak) were mistakenly identified for each other? I recall the night of the crash very well, because my brother-in-law is a student at the same university and called to tell us what had happened. (If you're not familiar with this incident, click here.)

Though I do not know these families personally, my sister-in-law was a former roommate of Laura's, and some of our dear friends have been close to the Ceraks for many years. So I've taken a more vested interest in the story as it unfolded--it's truly unbelievable.

Last week I watched several interviews of the Cerak and Van Ryn families, and the story continues to haunt me. So much raw emotion, and such a testimony of their belief in God and His sovereignty. I hope you will have a chance to see these families share more of their experience and to challenge you by their strong faith--they'll be here tomorrow afternoon.