It’s a Good Time to Wrap Up…

…all the presents you’ve collected so far.  I tend to get overhwelmed with the growing pile.  We limited it to 2 gifts for each of our kids.  But a lot of kids x 2 = a lot of gifts. Plus I shopped for 8 of my 14 nieces and nephews (I love the rest too, but we draw names to reduce the burden), 3 white elephant exchanges, great-grandma’s, teacher gifts…

Photo on 12-15-14 at 9.51 AM #3

 Awkward Wrapping Selfie–

That floor to ceiling curtain behind me is made of $5 sheets thumbtacked to the ceiling, to hide studs, pipes and insulation while we save up for phase 2 of our master bedroom remodel.

Sometimes I forget what I bought, even though I write it down.  And I get this feeling that I didn’t buy enough and am tempted to over buy.  So as I wrap, I change the color of the gift in my Christmas Plan.  Blue is purchased and wrapped; Green is here but not wrapped yet; Red is ordered but hasn’t arrived yet; Orange is still needing to be stitched up; yellow is going in the stocking; black is still just an idea that I probably won’t act on–but might get to put in the stocking.

Christmas planning sheet

This is about the time I start to feel totally inadequate.  Here are the things I tell myself:

1.  Kids do not compare prices on gifts to see who you spent more on, but they do notice if one brother opens 3 gifts, and they opened 2.  So group things together if needed to make the number of packages the same.

2.  Christmas isn’t about gifts.  It’s about Jesus.  We can’t buy the perfect gift–that was Jesus.

3.  Focus the celebration on time together as a family.

4.  Nothing has to be perfect.  What makes the day “perfect” for the kids won’t be the same thing that makes it perfect for me.  Freaking out about the things that are ONLY important to me (like a clean house, and way too many DIY projects….) will only make this time of year less perfect for them.

5.  It’s ok not to have a 12 day of Christmas list, an advent calendar, an elf on a shelf, or chocolate fondu.  The best gift we can give our families is a happy Mama who is PRESENT with them. (cough, cough….electronic free..except maybe for a picture or two..or a Hallmark channel movie…maybe.)

Which is one reason I love the Nester’s post here. Although, seriously, her no effort style would take a lot of effort for me to pull off….I love it.  I’m wondering how I can copy the look of her messy kitchen sink. I keep thinking if I look at it long enough I will absorb the mindset and be able to throw stuff on the wall and make it look good too.  There’s some kind of force behind it.  She’s a Jedi I’m sure.

Psst… If you were slightly interested in the natural household and personal products I talked about here, you should put in a request for more information.  I’ll call you and we can chat about it.  The one time membership fee is only $1 through December 22nd.  It’s the perfect time to give it a try.

 

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What can I get for $1?

money 1

I like to shop at Dollar Tree…..a lot.  I know it’s not quality stuff.  I’m not expecting quality…not really, lol.  I am expecting to afford it and to have choices.  There’s something nice about going into a place and knowing I can afford to buy anything I want.

I used to buy my cleaning supplies there too, but about a year ago I found someplace better.  They sell most of their products in concentrated form.  So you buy one bottle and it dilutes into a spray bottle to make 6 bottles of cleaner.  This comes to around $.87 each.   It’s not a HUGE savings over Dollar Tree, I’ll admit.  The main benefit is these products are safer, healthier and work better than what I was using before.

They have over 400 products to choose from which include cleaning, laundry, vitamins, protein powders, sports nutrition, shampoo, first aid, cosmetics.  It’s a lot of stuff.

Women cleaning a window 3

Here are my 7 favorite products:

1.  Laundry stain remover:  This stuff will take chocolate ice cream out of a white dress, dried on, discovered the next day.  (No bleach.)

2.  Laundry detergent:  Super concentrated formulas only use 2 Tbs per load.  When it’s on sale for buy 1 get 1 $1.99 it costs less per load than Arm and Hammer powder and is formulated to not fade or pill your clothes.  Mine has a pump on it that perfectly measures each load.  No mess, no overuse. Love it!  And since it’s concentrated the 96 load bottle is small enough my kids can handle it too.

3.  Tub and Tile Cleaner:  This stuff is amazing!  Spray it on, wait a couple of minutes and wipe or rinse.  If you haven’t cleaned in awhile, this stuff will make it ok.  It works great on mold, soap scum, and toilet ring.

4.  Solvent:  This uses safe ingredients to remove stuff like permanent marker, gum, paint, fingernail polish etc….  It has over 101 uses–including stubborn odor removal.

5.  Sport Drink:  This stuff is perfect for fixing dehydration from sports, working out, hot weather, or adrenal problems.

6.  Disinfectant:  This  kills 99% of bacteria and viruses–without toxic chemicals.  (It’s powered with Thyme oil and Citric Acid.)  It is proven to kill MRSA!!!!!!  It is safe to use on toys that will end up in mouths.  Use it on door knobs, counters, cutting boards, toilet handles, toys, light switches, steering wheels, musical instruments, phones….any place germs might linger

7.  Dishwasher Detergent:  available in gels or soft packs this stuff has sheeting action that leaves your dishes crystal clear without additional rinse agents needed.

So that was just 7 products out of 400. I haven’t even tried everything yet.

P.S.  We just tried their shampoo/conditioner.  Our old stuff was giving Heidi hives.  Her hives cleared up in a couple of days after we made the switch and our hair is a lot more manageable now.  I have thin, fine hair.  Heidi’s is thick, coarse and dry–we use the same formula…go figure.

This company works similar to Costco, except it’s online.  You become a member and then can order at a discount. If you want to pay full price, that’s ok too, and the prices are still pretty reasonable.  Normally discount memberships are $35, but they are only $1 until December 22nd.

If 7 more of my readers decide to give it a try before December 22nd, the company will send me some love.  If you want more details (please don’t make rash decisions without details!)  Click here to put in your request and I’ll call or email you.

 

 

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The Busy Mom’s Dinner Survival Guide

 

Busy Mom's dinner survival guide

Today we have basketball practice for 2 teams, 2 ballet classes, Boy Scouts, Handmaidens, Lamplighters, and Trailblazers, plus practice time for 2 violin and 4 piano students.  Those are just our after school activities.  We’ve talked about limiting kid activities more, but when it’s time to choose the thing to drop, we freeze up.  Each child only plays one sport at a time and the club activities are part of our church—it’s just when you multiply it times 6, it gets a little nutty.

I was fixing a quick supper tonight in between my taxi duties and thought how my meal standards were lower on nights like these. It’s not that what I was fixing wasn’t healthy, it was just simpler–not as many dishes.  I threw some turkey burgers on the indoor grill and serve them with Whole Wheat bagel thins and a condiment bar.  Done.

When I grew up, my mom had an elaborate meal almost every night with at least 3 veggie side dishes and often fresh baked muffins too.  We sat down together and had an electronic free dinner in the dining room with good conversation.  It was awesome! On our quieter nights, I try to make meals like my mom did, but today I’m giving myself grace for the busy.

When we order at a fast food restaurant, we never order drinks and rarely order fries.  It’s more affordable that way, and realistically there are enough calories in the sandwich without the extras.  So I decided the same meal at home was ok too–only better.  It cost less and had whole food ingredients.  win-win!

super mom

Here are the ways I survive on busy nights:

1.  Crock Pot it–When I remember, I put something in the crock the night before (then chill in the fridge to start in the morning) or in the morning.  Especially a dump and go soup like this one or this.

2.  Breakfast for dinner–pancakes, French toast, or bacon and eggs are fast to make and everyone likes them around here.

3. One pot it–Making an all in one meal in the skillet (like Skillet Lasagna, or Stir-Fry) is not only fast, but makes clean-up easier too. Just searching “one pot” on Pinterest brings up a whole bunch of yummy ideas.

4.  Cold Cuts–If I can’t do anything else, I can throw out a sandwich bar.

5.  Baked Potato Bar–Potatoes cook really well in the slow cooker.  You don’t even need foil.  Just scrub them and toss them in.  And if you forget, 8 minutes in the microwave will save dinner. Perfect toppings:  armed up chili (out of a can or leftovers); steamed broccoli cuts; cheese, bacon bits, green onion, sour cream, ranch dressing. Baked sweet potatoes work great too.

6.  Taco Bar–I put 2 lbs of ground meat (beef or turkey) in the slow cooker (still frozen!) and 4 tablespoons of taco seasoning.   Then cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low all day.  When it’s dinner time I just break up the meat with a potato masher and set out the condiments for taco night.

7.  Rotisserie Chicken:  Costco sells these for $5 each.  They say they are all 3 lbs, but that’s just the minimum weight.  I look around for the biggest ones and have scored a 4 pounder before. The price is the same.  We eat these with warmed up canned or frozen veggies and a tossed salad from the fridge.  I throw the leftovers in the fridge to boil up for soup on a calmer day.

8.  Get a child to cook.  I’m blessed to have older kids (Aged 14, 12, 11, 9, 7, and 3.)  Tuesday is kid’s cook night.  I just print off the Tuesday dinner recipe from the GSP menu plans and hand it to the kids.  Then I work nearby in case they have questions.

9.  Have a FULL pantry.  Cooking on the fly only works if you have plenty of ingredients on hand.  If you’ve been stocking your pantry with the Grocery Shrink method, you’ll be good to go.

How do YOU manage dinner when life gets a little too busy? I’d love to hear your tips.

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Who is MomCeo?

Sandi Sullivan

You’ve been seeing the MomCEO button on my side bar for years. There’s a little bit of mystery with that button, so let me tell you more about the woman behind MomCEO.

 

Sandi Sullivan had a successful career as an account manager for an International software company. When she considered having children, she realized her long hours, travel and high stress environment would make being a mother difficult.  She had seen how the corporate life wasn’t balanced for her associates with families, so decided to research work from home options.  Since Sandi was not financially prepared to walk away from her six figure income, she narrowed her search to a business she could transition into part time.  It took 3 years to find the right business, but it has paid off well, eventually allowing her to work completely from home.

Knowing that there must be more professional women like herself who felt the same way, in 2006 Sandi founded MomCeo, a marketing company that represents a U.S. manufacturer.

She has gathered a team of 30+ Reps who work on average 15 – 25 hours a week.  They can choose to work exclusively with MomCeo or alongside their current careers until they can make the transition fully.  The results have been Incredible and the stories of lives transformed are amazing.

Sandi says, “It’s a business without borders or territories. We schedule our work around our families and our financial goals. With no quotas or limits on our earning potential, we can experience a work-life balance that can’t be found anywhere else.”

Sandi lives in Tampa Bay, but many of her team members live and work along the Gulf Coast of Florida, Texas, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Kansas, Ohio and even Canada. Her team is comprised of women from all walks of life, education levels and work styles. Self-discipline and a strong desire to succeed are key to anyone interested in joining them.

MomCeo has set a goal to double their business in 2015 and is expanding its marketing team.  If a work from home income sounds attractive to you, Sandi would love to talk with you about the possibilities of joining their team.

Sandi Sullivan 2

To set an appointment to talk, simply fill out a “request for more info” form at www.momceo.com.

All requests are confidential.  You are encouraged to leave both your email address and a best number where you can be reached personally.  Your contact information will not be used for any other purpose than to provide you with the details of the business and to be considered for the MomCeoTeam.

P.S.  I resisted joining up with MomCeo for years simply because I already have a lot of businesses and not a lot of free time.  Then I tried the products and fell in LOVE.  I’ve been using them for awhile.  A few weeks ago Sandi showed me what I could have been making in income if I had signed up as her team member instead….gulp.  I signed up and would love you to have the same opportunity.  Sandi has an amazing business mind and her family success is a tribute to that.  I’m glad I’m on her team.

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A Drop in the Bucket

A Drop in the Bucket

Right after we got out of debt, my husband received word that they were transferring us to Indianapolis, Indiana and renting us an apartment so he could open a new department in that branch.  It would be for about a year and then they would transfer us back. It sounded like a fun adventure.

We gave notice on the house we were renting and our landlord quickly found a new renter to move in as soon as we were gone.  I set aside the bare necessities for living (one set of dishes, one pot, one set of towels etc.) and packed the rest up into a storage unit. Not too long after, my husband’s work changed their mind. The move wasn’t going to work out after all.  And just like that we were homeless.

to farm 037The West view from their porch

Even though we had 3 babies, my in-laws invited us to come and stay with them until we could figure something out.  Their house was a charming 1920’s bungalow with only one bathroom featuring a cute cast iron tub. For cleaning up after coming in from the fields, there was an open shower in the basement.

Yellow Bucket

The plumbing in the house was old (and plumbed backwards so the left handle was cold water and the right hot ) The bathtub faucet dripped.  My mother-in-law put a bucket under the faucet and then used the water to water her plants, or to get a head start on the bathtub filling when it was time.  It just dripped once every second or so, but if we didn’t watch the bucket it would overflow in just a few hours. She couldn’t keep the bathtub stopped up all the time to catch the drips or by the end of the day we’d have a tub full of cold water and not enough room to add hot water to warm it up.

Gray bucket

When I look at our finances I catch myself saying stuff like, “And that’s not even a drop in the bucket.”  Meaning, we could save a few dollars here or there, but it won’t make a difference.  That’s wrong.  A few cents or dollars here and there if found CONSISTENTLY and at increasing frequency will fill a bucket in no time.

Leave a comment and give us some ideas. Where can you find a drop for your bucket?

P.S.  Keep in mind that if it costs more than you save by driving too far to get a special deal…that’s not saving anything.  If you cancel a membership or subscription that is saving you money than it costs you (like a Costco membership or a Grocery Shrink Plus subcription #shamelessplug ….. then that’s going backwards too.)  Take some time and look at the numbers so you can make your decisions with wisdom.

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Cyber Monday

There are two things I want to tell you about before I get busy on my entry floor (resealing the grout….)

 

1.  There are now gift meal plan subscriptions available at Grocery Shrink Plus.  The gift subscriptions do not renew, so you choose exactly the length of time you want and pay only once.  Plans start at $5 and will work into all budgets.  These would make great teacher gifts, white elephant, secret santa etc.  If you are familiar with the meal plans go here to access the gift page directly.

 

2.  Shoot Fly Shoot is having 50% off all their classes today. If you want to use your DSLR camera or photoshop better, these are the classes for you.  I personally purchased the classes and watched them and can vouch for how great they are.  (And yes, I paid full price :(.) My link.

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A little Christmas sewing

 

Here’s what I’ve discovered about handmade Christmas.  It’s not stressful if the projects are small enough, fast enough, and easy enough (and the supplies are easy and cheap to get-stash is all the beter.) It is not my season in life to draft my own patterns or make up a new way.  All of these were made from scraps in my dwindling stash from free patterns.  No new money spent.

IMG_0070.JPG

 

In progress:  A pretend campfire from this book (I borrowed from the library.)

IMG_0071.JPG

 

Finished:  A tiger/fox/racoon–whatever.  Super soft from minkey, felt and knit terry with polar fleece scarf.)  From this free pattern.  I changed the eye placement but otherwise kept it the same.IMG_0072.JPG

A hard to photograph infinity scarf.  Would you believe it’s adorable?  One seam, boom. I used this fabric, because I had a scrap left that begged to be a scarf.  I didn’t hem any edges, just stitched it into a loop with a French seam.  Nice and light and drapey.  Someone’s going to be very happy.

Yes, my bedroom walls are mustard yellow. I’m pretending I love it temporarily.

Now off to finish a Christmas movie while I stitch.

 

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The Filthy Rich

credit: Saine

photo credit: Saine

Lately at Sunday School, the pulpit, normal conversation …  discussions about the rich have been more frequent than usual.  Most of the conversations have been about the evils of wealth and the scriptures that talk about how hard it is for a rich man to get into heaven.

In all of these discussions, no one talking about the wealthy considers themselves to be wealthy.  Wealth is relative.  Someone who has more than us, is wealthy.  Someone who has less is not.  And it almost nearly follows that someone who has more than us is evil and someone who is “poor” is more righteous.

When you think about who the rich are, you might consider that over 50% of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day.  Over 80% live on less than $10 a day. Things like indoor plumbing, electricity, elementary school, and clean water are reserved for the world’s top income earners.

At our house we also have the internet, a washer and dryer, central air, a piano, and a car.  I’m thinking we might be part of the wealthy.  The fact that our budget discussions include whether we can afford music lessons and school tuition—not if we know where our next meal will come from, seals it.  You might as well stamp “filthy rich” on my forehead.

I didn’t know the rich young ruler personally, but I’m guessing if you put his possessions and mine side by side, I’d have more stuff.   He went away sorrowing because he didn’t realize that all his stuff really wasn’t his.  It was God’s.  God gave him a large share to manage for Him and when He asked to be able to use it, the young man couldn’t let go.  Christ’s point was that no one can keep all the commandments.  No one can earn his own salvation, it’s not humanly possible alone.  It takes God.  It really wasn’t a discussion about the evils of wealth at all–that was an example of the many ways we can stumble.

Teaching against wealth building is a dangerous thing.  The most reliable way to build wealth is to manage money properly: Avoid debt, live on less than you make, save monthly, invest conservatively.  Building wealth requires hard work, patience, self-control, humility, self-denial, sacrifice. These are all things we should have in our lives.

It is never more righteous to be a HOT IRRESPONSIBLE MESS with our money.

When we have wealth we can DO great things with it.  We can give, fund missionaries, build relief shelters, support adoptions…anything!  Wealth gives choices.

Because we live in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, we are likely to have some rich people discussions.  Such as:  Should I buy organic?  How can I afford supplements?  How do you budget for college? Does cleaning with vinegar really work?  Understand that someone who doesn’t know where their next meal would come from would find these discussions ludicrous. It would be even more shocking how we can tear each other down over things like homeschooling, gluten, chevron, and high fructose corn syrup.

There may be times in our financial journey that our income barely covers our basic needs–shelter, food, clothing. In order to make progress we have to get a little crazy and do without some “necessities” like heat, toilet paper, organic food, and paleo ingredients.  In the scheme of things, we’ll still be living better than 80% of the planet.

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Surrounding Myself with Success

those we spend the most time with

I don’t have a lot of time today, but I wanted to express something short.  We become like the people we spend the most time with.  If we want to be savers, hanging out with extravagant spenders will influence how satisfied we are with our meager existence.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I grew up poor, but we didn’t know it.  Everyone around us was the same kind of poor.”

If I want to be thankful for my home and patient with the 1970’s decor and 43 year old carpet, then reading blogs that complain about “builder’s grade” and “boring beige” in their brand new home is not going to help my attitude.

If I want to be a good work at home mom, then I should listen to those who are already good at it. (Plus a little Zig Ziglar and Mary Kay Ash wouldn’t hurt.)

I’m keeping my real life, in the flesh, friends.  They are my people and God put them in my life, and I’m thankful.  I don’t have a lot of complainers, mis-managers, and snobs in the mix….can’t think of any, really.  But if I did, I would still love on them when we crossed paths even if I didn’t go out of my way to cross paths often.

The blogs I follow online are different.  It’s not personal.  If I need to take someone out of my life for a time, it’s one click of a button, and I can click back when I’m ready. I subscribed to every interior design blog I came across over the last 3 years (while we were planning changes to our fixer-upper), and the emails have been coming in daily since then.  I learned a ton during that time, but I’ve also found myself becoming more and more discontent.  I’m unsubscribing today.

Instead, I’m looking for encouragement to be patient with our mess, content with my family, to manage my business well, and  to be thrifty even when it isn’t pretty.  Along with my purging, I’m keeping my subscriptions to this, this, this, and this.  And reading often here and here.  These are some of the people that I can learn from without feeling discontent.

Where do you find encouragement to be what you need to be?

P.S.  I’m really close to 2,000 facebook likes.  If you have time to click “like” up in the side bar, it would make me giddy.

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Saving Yourself Into Debt

Early in our marriage I saved so much money, that I nearly ruined our finances. Nothing inspired me to spend like a 40% off coupon or a dollar bin of yarn.  I’d head into the salvage stores just to see what kind of good deals I could find.  At Walmart, I always checked the clearance rack even if we didn’t have clothing needs.  If I found a good deal, I bought one in every size and color.

This past Saturday, I sat in a craft show with my Mom with nearly my entire stash of fabric out on tables for all to see.

fabric stash

It was a good way for me to declutter, repent of all that spending, and get a head start on next year’s emergency fund mad dash.  While I sat there visiting with Mom, I thought a lot about what I spent on and what I could have done with the money instead (like saved it!)  Of course, I’m benefitting from hind sight and not being too hard on myself, since I used to have a sewing business and saved a lot of money making all my girl’s clothes when they were young.  Going forward, though, things are going to be different!

I’ll be listing the fabrics I have left on Etsy or Fabric Destashing for Those Who Aren’t Cray Cray  and sending it all the proceeds to the emergency fund. Then I’ll be looking for more things to declutter that might help us reach our goals.

Today, I started unsubscribing from the emails that tempt me with their really good deals.  It’s a temporary move until we get our emergency fund in shape. I’ll be needing 80% off area rugs again one day, and when I do I’ll know where to sign up for the deals.

Do really good sales tempt you to stock up on stuff you probably don’t need? How do you decide when to buy and how much?

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