Archive for October, 2007

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Do you have extra debt that you’d like to pay off faster? Are you saving (or wish you could start saving) for a particular item your family needs (a car, a computer, etc.)? Are you just as curious as I am to see how much more you could stretch your regular budget, what you could be getting better deals on and what you could actually do without???

Then join me for my Savvy Spending Challenge, starting November 1st!

Here’s the challenge:

If you were to go hard for one month, being extremely cautious and frugal about every single purchase, trying to go without and really save every penny possible, how much could you save? Our goal is to spend nothing more than what we absolutely need to live (bare essentials- house, food, car, insurance), and to use our creativity and ingenuity to find other ways to do what we want, make what we want, and still have a fanstastic month, saving a far higher percentage of our income than we normally save!

The beauty of the challenge is that it’s only one month. We can do anything for a short amount of time. I can’t imagine living this way indefinitely, but for one month, I know that I can do it!

Why am I doing this, you ask? Here’s the (sort of) short version of a long story: Last spring we were in the process of saving up for a new car, because we had no debt and desired to keep it that way. Sadly, the car died a little earlier than expected. We were left with two options- to buy a very cheap car with the amount that we had already saved (in hindsight, this would have been the best option), or to spend a bit extra and get a car that would go the distance for us, but have a small amount of debt. Because my husband is in sales, he earns extra commission checks that we do not count on as part of our regular budget. We reasoned that we could easily pay off the debt within 6-12 months, and be left with a debt-free car for the next 4-5 years after that. However, we did not count on my husband being diagnosed with cancer and being out of work (on disability) for 6 months, only two months after we bought the car (don’t worry- it has a happy ending- my husband is now in remission and started work again part-time two weeks ago- praise God!).

This unexpected change of plans (hmmm, doesn’t James say something about not boasting in our own plans?) left us with a debt, that although manageable, feels like a burden to us. We have discussed this issue a lot in the last few weeks and have decided to go all out (gazelle-intense for all you Dave Ramsey fans) and get this thing paid off by the end of 2007!

And thus the Savvy Spending Challenge was born! We have chosen November 1st to start one month of squeezing every ounce of savings that we can out of our regular income. And we wanted to invite you to join us on this adventure!!!

If you have never done this type of intensified scrimping and saving, let me tell you, it works! We have done it before, numerous times in our marriage. And we have often surprised ourselves with what we could go without and how little we could get by on! This is a character-building, marriage-strengthening, and financial freedom-developing activity. It has helped us to both pay off debts we had when we were married, and also to save up money for special purchases. This absolutely works for us, and we would love to have some fellow travelers in our journey.

WFMW header

P.S. Tomorrow I’ll be posting all the details of the challenge! See you then!


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Here’s my quick and simple tip for Kitchen Tip Tuesdays, hosted by Tammy’s Recipes.

I don’t use regular white or brown sugar (any processed sugar, for that matter) in my cooking or baking. Instead, I use honey, molasses and sometimes maple syrup. There are a few challenges to doing this (substituting honey for sugar in recipes in one of those issues, which I’ll try to post about soon).

The other challenge is that because honey is so sticky and thick, it’s hard to get it all out of measuring cups and spoons while baking or cooking. Here’s a simple little trick I learned to make it simple to get all of your honey out of the cup: If the recipe calls for any oil, melted butter, etc. measure that first, and then measure your honey in the same cup/spoon/pyrex that you used for the oil. It will slide out so easily, and you won’t lose any of it.

If I’m not using any oil in my recipe, or the amounts are completely different (1 cup of oil, 1 Tbsp of honey), then I will just use my little olive oil spray (the kind that you pump and use to spray on baking sheets, etc.) to lightly coat the measuring tool before I use it. Before I had the oil spray bottle, I would just pour a small amount in a measuring cup, and use my finger to lightly coat the surface, then pour out the excess oil if necessary.

This works wonderfully for any sticky liquid, especially molasses! Mmmmm… molasses. Now I’m craving ginger snaps!

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I often make discipline about me. My frustration, my desire for a particular behavior, my anger, my sense of justice, my convenience, my level of energy.

When life feels simple and the day is flowing smoothly, the chores being accomplished, no major crises happening, the baby’s not crying, and I feel overflowing with love and tenderness for my children, discipline is about training them up, presenting the Gospel to them, nurturing them and little else.

But when it’s 4:49 and I’m trying to thaw the chicken that I forgot to take out that morning, and the baby just spit up his entire feed (all over me), and my socks keep sticking to the honey that was spilled at breakfast that morning, and the phone is ringing off the hook, and I’m supposed to bring snack to caregroup that night (which I forgot about until 3:00 this afternoon), and my husband calls to say that he’ll be late, and then the need for discipline arises, I must confess, it often becomes about me, and not my love for my child.

In my frazzled state of being, my natural tendency is to resort to discipline as punishment. And yet the purpose of disciplining is not to punish, but it is to restore, to bring my child back under the authority and blessing of God.

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Hebrew 12:5-6 (italics mine)

Last night, I attended the third in a series of courses on parenting, hosted by our church. The series is The Case for Kids and is based on the book Shepherding Your Child’s Heart, by Tedd Tripp. God was so kind to remind me of these concepts, of the love that God has for his children when he disciplines them, just as my discipline is meant to stem from my love for my children. As he says in the course,

“Discipline is us delighting in our children. It’s us loving our children too much to leave them in the place of danger.” Tedd Trip, The Case for Kids

The place of danger, of course, is where they are out from under the authority and blessing of God, who instructs them to obey and honor their parents. And so it’s not about me at all, but rather it’s about me restoring my children to the rule of God in their lives, loving them enough to do the difficult work of Biblical correction so that they can be in right relationship with God.

I’m so thankful that God loves me enough not to leave me in my very human, very sinful state. He loves me enough to continually chasten and correct me, as He sanctifies me and molds me into the image of Christ. I pray that I will learn to imitate that kind of love as I raise up these precious lives that He has entrusted to me.

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End of season garden deals

Keeper of the Home has moved- click here to find my new blog site!

For this week’s Frugal Friday post, I just had to show off my latest deal! We needed to grab something from Superstore (for the Americans reading this, it’s like Walmart or SuperTarget, but more grocery based), and as I was about to run into the store, I noticed red clearance signs beckoning to me (am I the only one?).

Well, sure enough, it was a steal of a deal! They had perennial plants and bushes on a very discounted price. We just moved into a new rental house, and although the house is great, the yard and garden area are in a bit of a sorry state. I was really hoping to buy some perennials to fill in the gaps in front of the house (literal gaps in the landscaped area, in between the other scraggly looking bushes, very sad). What I found was just perfect!

Japanese Purple Hydrangea

It’s a Japanese purple Hydrangea bush, which will be beautiful next summer and will help to fill quite a large space in the garden. And, the best part is that instead of $25, as it is usually sold for during the spring and summer, I paid only… $5!!! I just love being able to buy things at the end of the season, on clearance. I’ve noticed that all spring and summer, outdoor, garden type items are on clearance right now- other types of plants, soil, potters, garden tools, lawnmowers, even garden furniture, and not to mention summer clothing, bathing suits and shoes! So that’s my frugal tip- shop now for end of the season items on clearance!

And, I just can’t resist showing my other little find. It’s nothing much, but it brightened my day yesterday and has made my kitchen look beautiful. At the amazing produce market that I shop at (much of it is unsprayed and/or organic, for very, very good prices and a fantastic selection!), they had some end of the season dahlia bunches, usually about $3-4 a bunch, but only $.99! I just couldn’t help myself! The colors were so warm and autumn-ish, and they worked well with the mini gourds I bought a few weeks ago.

Dahlia bouquet

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It grieves me to read the latest news regarding the antibiotic resistant forms of staph infection that are spreading. This morning I read two articles about concern over staph infections in public school students (read here and here).

The primary issue in this current situation is not as much the spread of the infection, but rather that it has become resistant to common forms of antibiotics. How does this happen? Why are we beginning to have these so-called “superbugs” on our hands?

The reason is the misuse and extreme overuse of antibiotics, such as penicillin, amoxicillin, methicillin, etc. Originally a life saving discovery, antibiotics have become the medical world’s cure-all, and are currently prescribed for nearly any minor infection that is diagnosed at the doctor’s office (if you don’t believe me, try to think back over the last few years and how many times either you, your husband, or your children visited the doctor for something minor and left the office with an antibiotic prescription in hand). This article from the Roanoke Times, Oct.17, 2007, gives greater insight into the issue (read the full article).

The results underscore the need for better prevention measures. That includes curbing the overuse of antibiotics and improving hand-washing and other hygiene procedures among hospital workers, said the CDC’s Dr. Scott Fridkin, a study co-author.

Some hospitals have drastically cut infections by first isolating new patients until they are screened for MRSA.

The bacteria don’t respond to penicillin-related antibiotics once commonly used to treat them, partly because of overuse. They can be treated with other drugs but health officials worry their overuse could cause the germ to become resistant to those, too.

If we (by we, I mean all of western civilization) continue to abuse antibiotics we will have far deadlier resistant bacteria straings and much greater ensuing tragedies to deal with. Not to mention that the continual use of antibiotics is ravaging our digestive system, leading to a host of other problems (but that’s another issue for another day). So what can we do about it?

1) Don’t just blindly accept antibiotics when prescribed to your family. Ask for the full name of the infection at hand, wait to fill the prescription, and first research and learn about what you are dealing with. Not everything is serious enough to warrant antibiotic use (in fact, many things are not).

2) Learn to use natural remedies for minor infections whenever possible. There are many natural substances out there with a great deal of anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties (among these are garlic, oil of oregano, colloidal silver, just to name a few). A practical example from our home is that when our daughter was around 1- 1 1/2 years old, she had two Candida yeast infections in her diaper area. The first time she was prescribed an antibiotic ointment, which I applied once and never again (I had to soak her in an oatmeal bath for an hour afterwards to try to stop the stinging on her poor little bottom). So, we sought alternative methods. We applied a natural diaper cream and sprinkled probiotic (like acidophilus) powder on top of the cream. Orally, we gave her colloidal silver, grapefruit seed extract and put acidophilus powder in her food. Both times, in less than a week, the infection went away and has not returned now in over a year.

3) Consider whether your immune system may already be compromised from the previous use of antibiotics. If you have taken any rounds (especially if you’ve had more than one round) of antibiotics in the past five years, I would strongly suggest taking a high quality probiotic formula (the best ones need to be refrigerated and contain several different strains of probiotics- ask your local health food store or vitamin store for a recommendation).

4) Consider reading this excellent article from Dr. Mercola’s site about the use of antibiotics.

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This household loves smoothies!!!! My husband’s affectionate nickname for me (especially when he wants a smoothie, hmmmmm :) ) is the “Smoothie Queen”. Last Christmas I was incredibly blessed (and spoiled!) with a Vita-Mix blender to help support our habit (our daily smoothie habit, that is). I’ll try to share some of my favorite recipes as I think of them or make them.

Raspberry Pina Colada

1 cup plain yogurt

1/2- 1 cup of coconut milk (depends how much you like coconut) or 1-2 large Tbsp of coconut paste

3/4 cup frozen raspberries

1 cup frozen pineapple

2 frozen bananas (broken into 1/4 pieces, they blend easier)- my daughter added an extra 1/2 banana today and it was fine

honey to taste (1-2 Tbsp.) or Stevia (2-3 packets?)

enough water to get it all moving- probably at least a cup, depends on your blender

any superfoods you want your family to have (ie. flax oil, bee pollen, green foods, ground flax seed, ground sesame or pumpkin seed, etc.- there are so many to choose from! I don’t use greens in this smoothie because it ruins the nice color)

Serves 2-3 (my husband and I have a good sized glass, and my almost 3 year old has only a little bit less than us- the 5 mth old gets it vicariously through his milkies)

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This morning, I made out an out-of-character choice of clothing. Despite the fact that it is a typically rainy and gray West Coast day, I looked past my shelf of pants and chose a cute, wool skirt! *gasp* What was I thinking?

Well, lately I’ve been thinking that I need to be more purposeful about dressing in a feminine manner. Now, before you all begin to think that I am suggesting that wearing skirts is the only way to be feminine (or even that it’s Biblical to wear skirts and not pants), let me be clear- I believe that as Christian women, we have the liberty to dress as we wish, provided that we still fall within the guidelines of appropriate modesty, and that we have checked our hearts and motivations in choosing our attire. Am I seeking to draw inappropriate attention to myself? Do I desire to meet a certain wordly standard, to attempt to measure up somehow? Are my choices made out of vanity, materialism, or pride? Is my end goal to glorify God or to glorify myself?

Beyond these heart motivations, though, there is a question that lingers in my mind: what does it look like to be feminine? How is that reflected in my clothing choices? I have recently begun to shift my thinking and since this past spring and summer have sought to wear either a skirt or dress more often. There are several reasons for this. My husband finds it attractive. I feel somehow more attractive, and yes, more feminine. I desire to set an example of Biblical femininity for my young daughter. What does it say when I put her in dresses and then Mommy dresses in jeans and a t-shirt?

When it comes down to it all, I don’t want my beauty and feminine appeal to be conjured up simply through my wardrobe. I greatly desire to have a beautiful spirit, above all, that marks me as a godly woman.

“Do not let your adorning be external- the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

So many days, I feel so very far from that “imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”. Nonetheless, I want so badly to express my womanhood fully in both my appearance, and in my spirit.

What are you thoughts? How should we physically convey our femininity? Do you choose to wear only skirt and dresses, or do you wear a combination, and in what other ways do you seek to look feminine?

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