Wednesday, February 22, 2012

5 Weeks Old

My niece is 5 weeks old!  Love her.  I knew before she came that we would love her to death and she would create so much fun and joy in our family, but my expectations weren't even close to the reality.  She is perfect in every way!
I asked my sister-in-law if I could come over and take some pictures of Autumn on our day off Monday.  I hear these days of being a wee one will be gone before we know it and we will soon forget her newborn ways.  Just being her Aunt, I didn't want to forget anything about her while she's in this stage- from the hair on her head {copious amounts!} or the wrinkles in her feet.  It was the first time I shot in Manual and RAW.  Loved it!  Here are some of the sweet things we were able to capture:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Recipes that Work

I love Pinterest.  I really do.  In fact, every morning when I get to work, I "warm" up by pinning for 10 minutes before getting to work (don't judge- I have first hour plan anyway!).  But, there have been several times that I see something and wonder, "does that really work?"  I am sure there are more of you out there that think just like me.  So, I thought I would post about some pins I have tried and have found to be true.

  • Canned beans from dry beans.  At Crockpot 365, I found a recipe for making 3 cans of black beans from 1 bag of dried beans using your crock.  YES PLEASE.  It works great, and I actually had about 4 cans in the end, which ended up being $.25/can.  That's a 75% savings!  When you cook them yourself, you can also add other flavors, like lime, garlic, and jalapeno (which is what I did!  Put these ingredients in during the cooking part, not the soaking!).  When they are done, let them cool and separate them out into baggies, then freeze.  We ate some last night with Crock Pot Sante Fe Chicken (we made them into tacos.  and P.S. LOVE Gina's Skinny Recipes!) and they were great!  We like to add beans to just about every meat dish we make- taquitos, tacos, meatballs, burgers- to make it stretch (and I can spend less on meat).  By being able to add beans for only a quarter, it saves us some serious change!

  • Freezer Apple Sauce.  Did you know apples will soften when they are frozen and be mushy once defrosted?  Yep, true.  Back to Her Roots has tons of easy, healthy recipes like this one.  Simply peel and core apples, soak in lemon-water, drain, and freeze in a bag with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Once frozen solid (I let mine go overnight), take out and defrost, then put in the food processor.  This would be easy baby food or just plain applesauce.  I made it and used it instead of oil in our fav Six Week Bran Muffins to make them fat free. 
By golly, that is Temptations ovenware!  Seriously, love love love this line from QVC.  My grandma hooks me up all the time with their stuff.  It's gorgeous, dishwasher, oven, and microwave safe, and comes with lids and trivets.  Check them out!
  • Glamour magazine (one of my personal favs) wrote an article about an all-purpose textile stain remover that is made with one part Dawn dish soap, two parts hydrogen peroxide.  It claims to be pure magic, and I was skeptical.  TRUE DAT it is magic!  I use it on the multiple pee stains our lovely puppy leaves for us and any stain I find in the carpet or laundry.  You can add water and soak clothing in it, too.  We used to spend about $12/month on Spot Shot for the dog (which I used on any stain we had) and it worked great on urine- not old stains.  This stuff is A) much cheaper, B) works on urine and C) works on old stains I could never get out before.  I bought the clear Dawn for my first batch and then used blue "Dawn" from Aldi the second time.  Both work great.  The blue dye will turn clear in a few days, but you can use it immediately.
  • Freezer Love.  Before Pinterest came along, I came up with a lot of little quirks and routines to make our life easier and save money.  However, Pinterest has definitely fueled this obsession of mine.  I love finding freezer-friendly, healthy meals and meal kits that allow me to cook on the weekends when I enjoy it and have the time to do it.  We can easily get in meal planning ruts, but Pinterest keeps in on my toes.  Let's be honest:  Pinterest is the new google.  Whether it's a tutorial for my 6th grade sewers or the recipe for DIY whole wheat pizza dough, just search on Pinterest and you are in business.  I'd rather find a recipe from a blogger who knows what she's talking about than some commercial website. When my sister-in-law had her baby, I made up some cookie dough and put it in the freezer, then bagged it so she could easily make one or two cookies when her and her husband needed a quick, yummy dessert.  Searched for a cute printable and you've got a great gift for a new mommy!
Printable Source
  • Photogshop Tutorials.  Thanks to photogs who are willing to share their secrets, I have learned so much about photoshop and our DSLR from Pinterest.  Check out my sweet niece:

Just thought I would share some things I love about Pinterest.  I haven't done a sewing tutorial in a while.  I'll get on that!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Testimony

I have been a Christian for 6 years. When I was I was in college and constantly meeting new people, I shared bits and pieces of my testimony rather often. At first, I had to get used to the concept of "Hi", then "What's your testimony?", but it quickly became second nature. Now that we are "real people", aka adults, and settled into our permanent church home, we don't meet new Christians as often as we used to. We know our church family so well that I often forget that most of them don't know our whole story, nor do I know theirs. After thinking about my life pre- and post-Jesus, I realized that my testimony has changed even in the time I last gave it. What a blessing it is to know that Jesus didn't just save me 6 years ago. He saves me every day. Here is my testimony.

As a child, I grew up with the knowledge and belief in the historical Jesus. I didn't know I wasn't saved then. I thought I believed in Jesus, but, in reality, I believed He existed. I believed the things I was told He did, but there were no identifying marks in me that I was a Christian. I guess I believed he was the Son of God, but it was more of a story to me. I relied on "feeling" it's truth-and never felt it. My "religion" was something that I dealt with at our Catholic school, but we didn't talk about it at home. It was something I could easily turn on and off. I've always been a people-pleaser, so, naturally, I wanted God to be pleased with me for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I believed the lie that I had to earn it, to perform for acceptance and salvation. If I had a bad day, I felt like God was just done with me. How could the God of the Universe love someone like me?

I have been chubby for-well-as long as I can remember. I can remember getting sick of lunch meat and eating butter sandwiches that were an inch thick. My mom told me I used to eat whole bags of sour cream and onion chips. When I felt like I couldn't do anything right (or when things did go right!), food would comfort me. It always tasted good, and a happy stomach never let me down. As I went into middle school, I became more and more aware of how different I was (aka bigger than everyone else) and how much I hated myself for it. It wasn't just hate. I loathed myself and started to "cut". I realized I could punish myself for the hate I felt and let it out without hurting anyone else (or so I thought. Just ask my parents how that went). When my plot was foiled it turned into alcohol, drugs, and bulimia. As thankful as I am that my parents moved us to Europe for most of my adolescent life, the readily-accessible alcohol and drugs didn't help a girl like me. My biggest problem was being able to be everything and everyone at once- top of my class, a jock, club volleyball, principal's babysitter, tutor, coach, smoke pot and get drunk. I hid the bad things like a champ. I was so far past wanting to please God that I flat out didn't care anymore. As I approached the end of high school, I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do with my life. Somehow God pulled me to K-State and I followed.

One of my high school friends went to K-State, too, and was a Christian. One day, I decided I wanted a Bible-something I had never owned before. We went and bought one in September of 2005. On our way home, we ran into a girl that invited us to Navigators, a campus ministry that met every Thursday. I didn't know her or what "Navs" was, but we gave it a shot.

It blew my mind. I didn't know what contemporary Christian music sounded like. I didn't know people-young people- worshipped. Hands in the air, arms and heart wide open, tears and joy all at the same time. "Where am I?" I thought. Somewhere I want to be, that's for sure. I joined a freshman bible study (who was led by the girl that invited us to Navs and who also discipled me for several months!) and accepted Christ as my savior at a conference in Iowa on October 22nd in 2005.

My life pretty much changed overnight and rightfully so. The feeling of not being loved, not being able to earn God's favor was shattered by the unconditional love of a God who wasn't a Savior because I deserved it. The hatred I felt for myself slowly dwindled because I finally understood that I was accepted and redeemed, that I was who I was and looked the way I did because God wanted me that way. I realized He's given me gifts in areas that I enjoy more than I can explain and has withheld in areas that would probably get me in trouble otherwise. My thirst for love and acceptance turned into a thirst to know God, to know his heart, to know his Word. The distant, unable-to-please God of my youth became the God who knew me intimately, who was as much of a part of my life as my best friend.

He was and is my Savior because he is holy. Because he is Lord. Because he is not only glorified by being just and righteous- he is also glorified by loving and dying for us while we are still sinners. The first verse I ever memorized was 2 Corinthians 5:17- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come! How true this rang in my life! At one point, my mom told me she didn't know who I was anymore. At the time it hurt, but I understood how she felt. I was just getting to know myself as this new creation, too. Now that I look back on that time, I couldn't have asked for a better compliment. I was so changed by the gospel that the one person who knows me best in this world didn't know me. Slowly she did, and we are so much closer because of it.

The next January I met Daniel through our bible studies and, again, I was blown away. God had prepared for me a husband that I would never have imagined could exist. He loved me with a godly love, whose utmost desire was to see me grow in Jesus. He is handsome, strong, and works hard. He is funny and enjoys the fellowship of others. He loves me deeply, but loves Jesus more. My relationship with Jesus is independent and does not rely on my husband, but because of my husband, I have learned things about God and his Word that I wouldn't have learned without him. I am thankful for him, for his family, and for the blessing in them that God has given me-even though I never knew to asked for it. God always knew me and knew what was best for me, even before I knew Him.

Every season of my life has brought blessings and trials. I have failed miserably in both circumstances so many times. Being a Christian doesn't mean I'm perfect. Being a Christian means I believe that the God who made the Universe and everything in it sent his holy Son to die on a cross to reconcile sinners to himself-not because He couldn't live without us in eternity, but because He is glorified in saving us.

Life is hard. It's an ongoing battle. Some days-or years-are better than others. I will never be what the world considers perfect or beautiful. Sadly, I am sure I have been one of those people who has made a person not want to be a Christian. I will always wish I didn't have to worry about fitting into my pants or wearing a swim suit. I will always wish I could remember to call people back or send them a note to say "I love you".  I will always wish that people would be proud of me, but somedays I'm just a rotten person. My story isn't one that I consider uncommon or "poor you". My sin was and is just as bad as the next person, but that doesn't make it okay. That's not why I share it. I share it because when I do, people say, "I would never have guessed that about you". It's a cool thing to hear, because I know that's not a testament to me, but to Christ.

Through it all, I am forgiven, I am redeemed, and I am loved.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ways to Save: Frugal Wrap Up


Ya get it, I'm cheap.  I like to save money.  Sometimes out of necessity, always for the thrill.  Besides the posts I've shared on being frugal over the past week, I thought I'd share a few ways we save money around our house:

  • Make a budget.  Daniel did this for us, but it's fairly easy to put together.  The hard part is sticking to it!  We looked at our monthly income, then our necessary and extra expenses.  Daniel allotted enough money to cover our necessary expenses, tithe, missions, and money to be put into savings, then figured how much we could spend on all of the "extras".  Each category has a set amount we can spend.  When we save in one category, we can use those funds to cover extras/unexpecteds in another.  For example- we have TONS of gifts to give December through Feb because of birthdays, Christmas, and anniversaries.  We don't, however, spend a lot during those months on groceries (I know, that sounds weird, but we are always out of town and eating with family.  Plus, we have LOTS of leftovers).  So, extra we don't spend on groceries goes into the gift fund.  If we can be cheap on everything, we put more money on payments for cars, loans, etc. so they can be paid off quicker.
Mine.  Love it.
  • Line dry at least 3 loads of laundry per week.  Daniel and I both wear business attire to work, so I usually line dry those things anyway so they don't get ruined or shrink.  We have definitely noticed a decrease in our electric bill since doing this. I scored a garment rack for free when we moved church buildings (it was left behind) and I hang things to dry in our laundry room.  I saw it at Walmart for $37, but it is well worth the investment in my opinion (plus, great for hanging clothes at garage sales for easy shopping!).  As I posted, we make our own laundry soap, which only costs us 4 cents per load, whereas store-bought is upwards of $.15.  This doesn't sound like a big deal per load, but think about it- we do laundry for 1/3 of the cost of the cheap laundry soap.  Nevermind Tide.
  • Grocery shop and cook strategically.  I guest posted at Simply Prudent about this very thing and it saves us a ton of money. Check it out!
  • Buy in-season.  While we are on the subject of food, I will tell you that shopping for food that is in season will save you a lot of cash.  Unlike my lovely mother, if blueberries are not in season and cost almost $4 for a 1/2 pint, we simply go without.  Be creative and force yourself to find new recipes for foods that you can get inexpensively.  When I plan to grocery shop, I look to see what I can get the best deal on, then I plan meals with those ingredients.  This saves me from having to buy expensive ingredients for meals I've already planned on making and don't have the ingredients for.
  • Recycle and Reuse containers.  I save all sorts of containers to be reused as tupperware and random-use storage.  When we pack lunches, I try to use as much tupperware as possible so we don't have to waste lunch baggies (and I have been known to rinse those out, too.  I know, pathetic.  Can't help myself!).  Some weeks are better than others.  Lunch meat containers and butter tubs are the best!
  • Buy used.  Hunting through thrift stores is one of my all time favorite things to do.  I don't remember the last time I bought anything from our wardrobe or home full price, let alone from a retail store.  It really keeps costs down!
  • If you can DIY, then DIY.  That is, only if it saves you money.  Don't be fooled into thinking everything that is "DIY" is cheap and will save you money.  Sometimes it is cheaper to have someone do something for you or go somewhere to have something "done".  I do my own French Pedicures for free (last night!), but we paid to have some new furniture delivered last year because the charge was cheaper than renting and truck and paying for the gas.  Use your common sense.
  • Use couponsWait, I thought you hated couponing?  I do.  BUT, we usually only go out to eat if we have a coupon.  They are easy to find and several restaurants have them online or give free meals for birthdays and other special occasions.  There is no reason to pay full price for a meal out when you can get it half price (or free)!
  • Use cash gifts wisely.  We always wait a certain amount of time before spending a large amount of money so we can "sit on it" and see if we really need it.  Either that, or we have a list of things we "need" long term and purchase with these gifts.  For example, we bought a deep freeze with Christmas money.  You wouldn't think it would be exciting (Oh, how it was!), but we will definitely need it long term once we expand our family (we were already busting out of the freezer attached to our fridge!).  Any extra money that comes in usually goes towards paying off our cars and students loans so that we can work towards being debt free.
  • Keep a "Good Deal" book, whether it's tangible or mental.  I have been so cheap for so long that I know when something is a good deal.  Don't be fooled by sales and grocery items that end up in the weekly circular.  Sometimes companies pay for a spot in the circular and items are shown for their regular price, but people are fooled into thinking they are on sale because they are "featured" items.  Na uh.  When you find something for a good price, buy it if you need it or use it regularly.  Don't buy something you don't usually buy just because it's a good price for what it is.  This is why I hate couponing.
  • Find Free Entertainment.  I always check local magazines for free events for us to go to-concerts, festivals, outdoor movies, farmers markets, you name it (KC Parent is a great source for Kansas City folk!). They are more widely available during spring and summer, but they're still out there.  We like to rent things from the library, too.  Pretty sure I have seen every single episode of Roseanne thanks for our Library!
  • Be content with what God gives you.  I know, easier said than done.  But, this really works for us.  When we think we have to have something, we step back and say, "in the scope of eternity, will this matter?  Usually, NO.  Do I want this because I need it, or because I want other people to see me with it? Usually it's the second, which makes me realize I am being a brat.  Will this, in the long run, save us money?  If so, it makes "the list" (such as the freezer).  God commands us to be content and not covet, which is something I personally struggle with.  Knowing that God has a specific plan for my life-that ultimately Christ will be glorified (hopefully.  It will happen regardless of whether or not I choose to partake in that blessing!)-helps me to rest assure that I have what I need, will be taken care of, and blessed along the way in His timing.  We don't love Jesus because He will bless us.  We love Jesus because He first loved us while we were still sinners.

Welp, that's my two-cents worth on being frugal.  This works.  For us.  I hope you can adapt something-or at least get ideas- on how to be cheapskates like us.

Here are all of the links to the various recipes we talked about:

So long!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Frugal Home Series Part 6: How to Cut Men's Hair

I apologize for the lull in this series.  The past few weeks have been difficult ones for us, but here we are again!  =)

Frugal Home Series Part 6:  How to Cut Men's Hair

Hair is just something we don't value much.

Daniel:  "What is that supposed to mean?!"  =)
True, his hair is thinning (even though he has a ton of it and it goes extremely fast) and I was born bald and didn't have much until I was 2 or 3 (and still don't).  It isn't something we care to spend a lot of money on.
I get my hair cut at Great Clips or Fantastic Sams (I can hear the gasps out there!) because I always just get everything trimmed (never dyed my hair and don't plan on starting!).  To be honest, I wear my hair wavy/curled anyway, so even if a layer here or there is uneven, ya can't tell.  I spend about $10 every two months.

And Daniel?  Well, I cut his.  I didn't know what I was doing when I started, but I've been doing it for 4 years now and he hasn't gotten it cut elsewhere since. 

Before we started dating, Daniel had a curly fro.  I feel in love with him immediately, but woof.  I hated that hair.
This was when he was in high school, years before I met him and I'm sure he didn't get a single hair cut between this picture and the time I met him.  Look at that height!  Ha.  What a handsome guy.  Lucky girl!

He must have caught wind of it, because he went and got it cut right before he asked me out on our first date.  Well, first of all, the gal that did it clearly didn't know what she was doing.  It was uneven and the top didn't blend well with the sides.  It was better than before and grew quickly, but I figured- meh, this can't be that hard.  Now, I cut it just the way he likes it (and just the way I like it).  And, it's our favorite price- FREE!

This is what you will need to buy:

I have had to buy replacement shears because someone stole them and cut paper and dulled them up.  :)  Either way, it's about a $10-$15 investment at Walmart.

First, wet the hair.  Daniel puts his head over the tub.

Second, I section Daniel's head into 3 areas- A, B, and C.  We will cut them in that order and then go back and trim up the sides.

I use a 3/8 inch guard on the back and sides for section A.  A is the back of his head and sides up to the "crown" of his head.  Make sure you get every hair!

Then, I use a 5/8 inch guard to cut section B to "blend" section A with the top.

Then, I use a comb and shears and trim section C by hand.  I usually cut it as close to my fingers as I can, then make sure it blends well with section B.  I also trim the hair above his ears with the shears because I.. woops.. made a big boo boo when I tried to do it with the buzzers once. 

Now, trim any extra hairs around the face.  I comb his hair down and trim in this pattern:
Daniel calls this his "comb over".  I just think it's plain handsome.
 Now, take the guard off the buzzer and trim the sideburns, sides, and back.

Done!  Free. Because his hair grows so fast, I cut it about once a month.  This saves us $10/month.

Thanks to my dear hubs Daniel for starring in this post.  Love you!
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