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It’s upon us (cold and flu season, that is). On Tuesday night, I got run over by a nasty head cold and I am still slowly recovering. Since I’m nursing and don’t want to take medications or pass my cold to my kids, and I have an allergy to pseudoephedrine (the common decongestant in medications like Nyquil and NeoCitran- it makes my heart rate drop significantly), I felt pretty desperate to deal with it quickly.

Besides, it’s so difficult to function as a mama to young ones when your head is pounding, your nose running, and you’re struggling to breathe. So, I pulled out all my natural home remedies. We’re talking rummaging through my cupboards, my books, scouring google, and doing every natural thing I’ve ever known to do, even if it would help only minutely. Seriously, even minute improvements sounded exciting at that point!

Here’s what I did:

  • drank oodles of liquids
  • tons of fresh lemon juice (high in Vitamin C), and some fresh grapefruit juice this morning (again, Vitamin C)
  • nearly drowned myself in steaming hot tea- because it was soothing, and because the steam and vapors helped to unclog my nose and give my throbbing sinuses a bit of a break
  • Breathe Easy tea by Traditional Medicinals– same idea as above, but this tea is specifically made for the purpose of decongesting (I buy mine at the Walmart pharmacy, but most health food stores carry it, and some grocery stores in their natural section)
  • ate as much garlic as a married woman should ever eat. Actually, I’ve heard that it works best if you can just swallow pieces of raw garlic, but I couldn’t bring myself to. Instead I put it in everything I ate, and even roasted an entire bulb of it to eat with goat’s cheese on toast (very yummy, I must say).
  • a hot shower (very hot and steaming) with drops of eucalyptus essential oil in it (I put the plug in and let the water pool at my feet)
  • hot compresses on my sinus and head to help relieve the sinus swelling
  • took a B vitamin complex, as well as an E, C, and A complex
  • 2 drops of Oil of Oregano under my tongue, 3-4 times a day
  • Trimedica Silva Solution throat lozenges (they actually have homeopathic colloidal silver in them)
  • today I made chicken noodle soup with a ton of veggies (especially leeks, onions, garlic) and homemade chicken broth

End result? It’s not gone, but I’m impressed with how much better I feel today than I did yesterday. I had some energy this morning, so I decided to make hay while the sun shone and ran around trying to put away laundry, tidy the bedrooms, clean the kitchen, make a real lunch and more bread and get prepared for dinner, etc. before I crashed. Now it’s the afternoon and I’m fading a bit, but such is life. I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow. :)

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

What a great response we’ve had to the Savvy Spending Challenge! As promised, here are the rest of the details about what will be happening over the next month.

First of all, it’s important to establish where you’re at right now, and set a goal for where you want to be at the end of the month. So, you’ll need to determine a few things first:

1) What is your monthly take-home pay, after all taxes and deductions?

2) How much do you normally save each month, if any?

3) Find the percentage of your regular income that you save (it can be an average, because I know that each month can look a little bit different, but try to come up with a realistic figure that you can work with).

For example- $100 savings divided by $2000 take-home income= 5% savings

4) Then, set a goal for yourself. Although it’s important to be realistic (because you still have some basic expenditures that you cannot avoid- rent/mortgage, food, etc.), it’s also important to set a high standard for yourself. You want to have something to really strive for, something that makes this a true challenge.

Here’s my goal: We are currently saving an average of 10% each month (although occasionally we need to use a bit of that savings for unexpected expenses). This month we would like to up that savings to 25%. I wish we could go even higher, but still, 25% is 2.5 times as much as we usually save! That would definitely make a dent in the car debt!

Now for the fun part (see, you knew this was gonna be really fun!)…

It’s time to get creative and encourage one another as we plunge into this challenge!

My commitment to you is that:

  • I will give weekly updates as to how are spending is going, and what percent we have saved so far
  • I will also be posting on topics regarding frugality, stretching your dollars, making do without, and even getting things for free, as often as I can
  • I will share many links to useful sites, whether they are sharing thrifty tips or have printable coupons for useful items
  • I will share all of the fun, frugal and free activities, creative solutions, recipes, etc. that I have come up with myself

And as for you, I (and all the other readers) want to know- what are you doing to make the challenge successful? So, I will be starting Making-Do Mondays, kicking it off Monday, November 5th. You will be able to put your blog link on my page, and share your incredible tips and tricks with the rest of us! I’m looking forward to hearing the ideas that will come out of this challenge!

And the challenge is on…

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

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!

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

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!

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

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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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

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

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.