Tuesday, December 30, 2008

res-o-lute

res-o-lute: adj. Having a decided purpose; determined; resolved; fixed in a determination; hence, bold; firm; steady.

From which we get the word "resolution", as in the New Year's variety. Anyone make those? I really hardly do, mostly because before Memorial Day arrives I'd forgotten what it was I resolved to do. I'm guessing those sorts of resolutions wouldn't have fit the definition at all. Had I truly been determined, resolved, bold, I would not so easily abandon my purpose. These last two years, I have had the same resolution, which I have not forgotten: not to put undue burden on the family budget. I have had income from my part-part-part time job, which I tried to use for as many family wants & needs as possible.

I know many people decide to read through the Bible in a year or lose XX number of pounds, which, are noble things to purpose towards. I'm wondering though, by April are they still only half-way through Genesis and stopping at the McDonald's drive-thru for a greasy Quarter Pounder? {YUM! Haven't had me one of those in forever.....} But I digress.

So, since I believe that if you don't know what you're aiming for, you'll never hit your target, here are my "aims" or resolutions if you will, for 2009. I've narrowed it down to three, simple and practical things:

Number One: Return to my pre-pregnancy weight before the end of the year. Our sweet pea #4 is officially due August 2nd, which should leave me plenty of time on the calendar to accomplish this, especially if I can manage not to gain more than 25 pounds.

Number Two: Read 12 books. Any twelve. Some for fun. Some for personal and spiritual growth. But just keep reading. It's actually something I truly love, but had not done too much of due to my previous TV watching habits. So many things can be accomplished without cable TV.....

Number Three: Try 12 new recipes. That's really not very many. Only one new recipe per month. There are so many things that I've always wanted to try making from scratch, but just never get around to: croissants, white bean chicken chili, ravioli, lobster bisque, homemade candy, orange chicken.

Do you make New Year's Resolutions? What's slated for '09?

P.S. For a wonderful guided reflection of 2008, be sure not to miss this post at Simple Mom.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas


From my blog, home & heart to yours: Merry Christmas & may it be a blessed one!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Not One

But many.

I'm glad I decided to share about my financial situation. I hesitated,
believe me, for many reasons. My prayer, now, is that my God would glorified for all the ways that He has taken care of us through the willing spirit of others. And although I had one large Christmas miracle in mind, please enjoy with me the many miracles He has graced me with:

  • My mortgage is paid for January, along with my credit card payments, thanks to the best mom ever. I was also able to perform some "creative financing" with my mortgage payment, which I had been specifically praying for.
  • My sister-in-law paid for $100 worth of groceries for us and also passed along an extra $100 to use for bills.
  • My other sister-in-law will be paying my heating bill.
  • A Christian friend at my sister-in-law's work, someone whom I only met once briefly, gave us a Wal-Mart gift card, along with the message that "this is only the beginning". I could've hardly imagined a near perfect stranger opening her heart & pocketbook to us.
  • A friend called to say that even though she has very little, as her husband is out of work as well, she will be sending us $40. You are like the widow in the Bible who gave two tiny coins, recognizing the need to hold money lightly, willingly & lovingly giving it away.
  • Many people, perhaps even some of you, have been praying for us. This means more to me than you can know. Specifically, you can pray for Hubby to get his CDL quickly and for our business to obtain more customers. Also, pray for His specific will as it relates to Hubby getting another job. We are asking Him for a second shift position which would allow our business to continue. For me, I sporadically feel well, but more often than not, I am plagued with nausea. My spirits are lifted though, knowing that I will be able to continue to live in my home, even if it will be for only another month. I have applied for several forms of government assistance, so I ask that those would come to fruition quickly.
I am blessed beyond measure this holiday season, more so by the loving hearts of the people I know, whether only in the blogosphere or in real life, than by any amount of money or help you could ever give. No amount of thanks could express my gratefulness. You are storing up treasures in Heaven. Be blessed!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Christmas Miracle

I need one.

Our business is struggling. Our sole customer can only afford to pay us a fraction of what he was paying before, leaving me feeling....well....desperate. I am not talking about trying to merely afford a certain kind of lifestyle. I am referring to literally having enough money to pay my necessary bills, like my mortgage, food, and electricity. There is nothing left in my budget to cut. No more fat to trim. I am waiting on a miracle.

It feels superficial to talk about holiday festivities or my latest craft project or my little guy's first birthday party, when all I feel like is that things are crashing down around me. I hate to be a downer in the midst of everyone else's joy, but this is just my reality right now. And I'd hate to put on a cheery face {or a cheery blog for that matter} when the truth is something altogether different. Oh, I know all the proper cliches, like God will provide or He loves you and He has a plan for you. But His provision is....non-specific. At least that's how it seems to me. God never promised us a single family home or tasty nutritious food or money for utilities. I guess you could say He would still be caring for us if we had to subsist on boxes of mac & cheese and move in with family or some sort of shelter, right?

As if this matter of money was not stressful enough, God has, er, blessed us with knowledge that we are expecting another baby! I realize {now, after much crying & thought} that although I did not plan this, God was not surprised one bit. He must think that I can handle more than I ever thought I could. I hope He doesn't think that I can handle much more!

So while others are decking the halls, making their last minute Christmas purchases, and spreading holiday cheer, I am battling near constant nausea and wondering how long I can make the five boxes of noodles on my pantry shelf last. During this season of contemplating Christ's humble birth, I am trying not to let my stressful circumstances rob me of my joy. I am thankful that my God is incorruptible, that He is faithful to His promises, and loves His very own children more than the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.

Oh, how I need a miracle these days. I guess it's a good thing that I am clinging to the One in the Miracle Making Business.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Flashback Friday

Since I've got nothing else interesting to say {at the moment}, I figured I'd join some of Flashback fun. This picture was taken exactly one year ago today.


You can see here what a difference a year makes.

One year ago, I had a 6 year old, a 2 year old, and one week old.

One year ago, my husband had a great full-time job with excellent benefits.

One year ago, the weariness and amazement of having a newborn shadowed the worry over choosing the perfect gift.

One year ago, we did not travel to a single place for the holidays ~ everyone came to us.

One year ago, I was only 29. Now I'm 29 plus shipping & handling.

For more Flashback Fridays, visit Courtney at Storing Up Treasures in Heaven.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Christmas in Progress

Well, seeing as Christmas is only about, oh 19 16 days away, I figured I better start checking things off of my to-do list. It's been kind of difficult because Thanksgiving was my focus for so long & now Sebastian's first birthday party is looming. I figure if I can at least do a few things this week, it will make my life {a little} easier later on. Here's a sneak peak of a project that will, I believe, end up being a gift for many family members this year. I'll probably tweak a few of the photos based on who the recipient is.


It is a CD case calendar, made using a kit I purchased here. The templates are all so beautiful, I had a hard time deciding which one to use. Since nearly everyone has a desk, I figured the CD case idea would work out for many folks.

The tree is up! The plethora of Christmas knick-knacks are waiting on the mantel to be placed in there rightful spots. I guess I'll be working on that today.

I purchased a few more gifts the other day, have many things on the way from amazon & updated my Christmas list so I can start buying more gifts. The pathetic part is that I have the money set aside for gifts, I just haven't had the time & energy to go shopping at multiple stores. I think my indecisiveness might be a problem too. What I find something even better at the next store? I want to be diligent in using God's money well, which is why I put so much thought into the things I buy.

The girls have a Christmas program next Sunday at church, so I plan to snap some pictures of them {and the little fella} to make into a holiday card. I'm thinking of using this set here. Perhaps I can pre-address all the envelopes so that all I have to do is have the photos printed, insert & send! Yes, good idea. I think I'll do that.

The actual "getting together" part of the holidays is pretty much decided. Planning when and where we will be going has been a dramatic process {to put it lightly}, but not because it was our desire to have it that way. I am wishing we could just NOT GO ANYWHERE {did I say that? I guess I was just thinking out loud...} and hunker down in our jammies all day in front of a fire & eat homemade food & enjoy each other's company. Maybe I will have to plan a specific day for just that purpose......

Enough about me. How's your holiday "stuff" coming along? All ready?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

525, 600 Minutes

Otherwise known as a year in the life. A year in our life since the day that Sebastian Judah joined our family as our third-born child and first-born son. I think this has been the shortest first year of any child thus far.

:: just a few weeks old ::

Maybe it's because our lives are so different now, what with homeschooling and a work-at-home husband. Maybe it's because he was born during the chaos of a holiday season, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, upon the brink of my second daughter's 3rd birthday and my 30th birthday, causing those first few months to just fly by all too quickly. Maybe it's because my first-born is older now and such a big help and little mommy to my baby. Maybe it's simply because I now realize how fleeting and precious these childhood days are and the tighter I hold on to them, the quicker they slip through my fingers.

:: five months old & going for his first walk outside ::

Sebastian is still clingy, although no longer requires being in my arms to fall asleep. He loves his "chupy", although that too is not quite as necessary as it once was. He can feed himself, entertain himself, and is quite the opportunist when it comes to getting into things he's not supposed to. He has yet to take his first steps, being quite content with crawling. He seems to have a good sense of humor {a prerequisite in
this family} and loves tickles under his chin. Nothing can get me smiling quite like that huge goofy grin of his, showing off his eight big teeth.

:: nine months old & looking like a little fella ::

His first birthday is bittersweet. Happy for all the growing he's done, sad that the "tiny" baby I held has gotten bigger, excited for all the new experiences in the coming year. First steps, first words, first discoveries are all waiting for their perfect moment.

:: today ::

Happy first birthday Spuddy! Mommy loves you more than words can say.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Recap in Photos

:: gratitude quotes around the glasses ::

:: kids' gift baggies filled with goodies like zoopals utensils & homemade pumpkin play-do ::

:: painted Pilgrims ::

:: cook takes a break to love on her bro ::

:: Betty* cooks green beans {*names have been changed to protect the guilty innocent} ::


:: table is ready for 20-something guests ::

:: flowers look pretty & make me happy ::

:: Say, "We're famous now! Cheese!" Love you guys! ::

:: relaxin' after the big meal ::

:: gobble, gobble! These party favors were a big hit! ::

:: the morning after ::

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful For

I am thankful for all the requisite things: my family, my friends, a warm home, food on my table. You get the picture. One thing though, this season, stands out to me above all the others.

Hope.

I don't know how I would make it through my life without it. The older I get, the more and more people whom I love are going through heartbreaking times:

Divorce.

Depression.

Addiction.

Loss.

Sometimes, when I hear of friends going through trying times, I feel so inadequate in knowing what to say. I wish I could, dear friend, craft the perfect sentence to ease your pain, speak words of Life into your aching heart. I may not use the right words, but I can tell you there's hope. With Jesus, there's always hope. There's a song called Hope Now by Addison Road, which expresses much of what I mean to say, in such a way, that it always puts me in a state of worship upon hearing it. A snippet of the lyrics in case you haven't heard it...
When my life is like a storm
Rising waters all I want is the shore
You say I'll be ok and
Make it through the rain
You are my shelter from the storm
Everything rides on hope now
Everything rides on faith somehow
When the world has broken me down
Your love sets me free
I think, given enough time, we all eventually will find ourselves at a place where everything rides on
hope. No more security from a good paying job, or a stable marriage, or happiness in "things". When situations defy logic, when loved ones fail us, when what we were counting on doesn't come to pass, I am thankful for hope. Hope for a life beyond this one, hope for healing from brokenness, hope and confidence that He is still in control & has a plan for me. And for you too, whoever you are.

I'd love to read your "Thankful For" posts throughout the week. Please add your specific post {not a link to your main page} so we can enjoy each others sense of gratitude! If you don't have a blog, I'd love to read about what you're thankful for in my comments section.
biggrin



Thursday, November 20, 2008

7 Days

...til T-day. My head count is {so far} 14 adults. Sometimes I feel like passing out at the thought, but other times I'm fine. Anyone else want to RSVP? Did I mention 6 children too? Well, two of them are babies & one is a little toddler. There is one thing that is keeping me from hyperventilating: my plan. My very detailed, {hopefully} well-thought out, plan. If you've never hosted Thanksgiving before or have done it many times, I believe a plan is the key to reducing your stress, making sure all your desired dishes will actually be able to be completed, and getting the meal to the table in a timely manner. How I assemble my plan is this: first, compile all the recipes & have each one photocopied or printed out. I then write out a detailed timeline, starting several days before the event. In this case, much of the work will be done on Thanksgiving day, but I try to do whatever possible before hand, such as pre-measuring ingredients, chopping herbs & vegetables, making the cranberry sauce, etc. Today, I will be making & freezing pie crusts, already rolled out & in the pie pan. Timeline snapshot:

1:00 pm

Remove ham from oven & let rest. Tent ham loosely w/foil. Turn up temperature to 375° F

Put turkey breasts in oven for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours. Add broth to bottom of pan.

1: 15 pm

Stir stuffing.

Start water boiling for macaroni.

1:30 pm

Check turkey pan if needs more broth.

Add noodles to pot. Set timer.

1:45 pm

Start potatoes in water to boil. Reduce heat to medium simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Stir stuffing

Turn on lower oven to 350° F.

Assemble macaroni & cheese.

I remind myself of every little thing, when to turn the oven up or down & to what temperature, when to stir, when to glaze, when to check if something is done. I think I'll remember to do all those commonsense things, but on the day of, I'll be glad I wrote it all out for myself. You will now be able to see whether or not what you've actually planned can be executed. Oven space is the trickiest part of the whole deal. This year, I will be able to use my two (!) ovens to make everything run a bit more smoothly, but believe me, it *can* be done with only one. Next I go through each recipe and transfer all the ingredients to a grocery list.


I count butter in sticks and make little tick marks for the eggs and just write down everything else. Hopefully nothing will get forgotten! I print out a copy of my menu & write down the type of serving dish I'll need for each recipe, then I can see what needs to be borrowed.


The night before, I like to write the recipe names on post-its and attach it to the proper serving dish so I don't forget which one is for which recipe. And that, my friends, just about sums up my planning technique. I did manage to send out invitations. I found sets of invitations complete with little sticker seals at Woodman's on clearance for 25-cents each. The kids made the thumbprint turkeys & helped with the assembly. See:



I really want to have a Mary heart on, what could easily be for me, a Martha day. The people around my table are more important than a perfectly executed meal. I keep reminding myself & others around me of this truth. Every time someone says, "I know you might be busy, but....", I say that I am not too busy for the people I love. I don't want to be so caught up in stirring the stuffing & glazing the ham that I don't get to enjoy my guests. If someone offers to help, I will reply with a resounding "YES!" and put them to work. On Thanksgiving Day, I plan to be ready with a hug, a smile & some kind words for everyone who walks through my door. Oh...and maybe a little taste of whatever has been cooking.





Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Spending Habit

I'm sure it's just one of many, but I noticed something curious the other day. When I have more money, I tend to spend more. When I have less, I spend less. This should not be! What if, when I had more, I spent less! Then I really would be set! Shouldn't my spending be based on some sort of conviction or spending plan rather then the amount of money in my bank account? In a practical sense, it might go something like this:

If my budget allows, I will limit myself to one premium coffee per month {Starbucks}. Period. If my income miraculously doubles, I will still stick to this limit.


Maybe this sounds just plain ridiculous? Maybe there should be some sort of "until" in my scenario, ie. until I reach such-and-such financial goals or until my budget is in need of revision. Maybe people would think I'm crazy to "only" limit myself to X, even if I were bringing in a 6-figure salary {
I meaning my husband, in my case}. I guess I'm just thinking that when I'm making more, I could limit myself to X and Y and A through G, and occasionally H, I, J, and once in awhile K and L, oh, and M & N only on special occasions. Then I be sitting there wondering why I am poorer than when I made half as much! I'm sure it has happened to many of you who, when going from higher amounts of income to drastically lower amounts of income, asked yourself, "If only...". Now that you find yourself actually able to live on less {even cheerfully, at that *shocking, I know*} you wonder...If only I had lived on this amount when we were making more, my savings account would be bigger or my debts would be paid off or....

Anyone else tend to spend more when they have more & spend less when they have less?


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Top 10 Thanksgiving Recipes

Since it is only 2 weeks away *gulp*, here are, in my opinion, the Top 10 Thanksgiving Recipes from Allrecipes. I chose one from each of the categories outlined in my Thanksgiving planning post here, that could easily be served at your Thanksgiving table: turkey, potato, sweet potato, green vegetable (2), stuffing, condiments (2), desserts (2). And here they are, including personal comments from the peanut gallery me in parentheses. *drumroll please*

#1: Homestyle Turkey, the Michigander Way (I know there's a couple of you out there!)

#2: Traditional Mashed Potatoes

#3:
Sweet Potato Casserole II

#4:
Grandma's Green Bean Casserole (not your usual canned soup & fried onion variety)

#5:
Roasted Brussels Sprouts (never had 'em, but can 544 good reviews be wrong?!)

#6:
Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing (hmmm, may have to reconsider my old standby.....)

#7:
Savory Turkey Gravy (I am anti-gravy, but to each his own.)

#8:
Cranberry Sauce (Now THIS condiment I can stand behind! Love turkey & cranberries!)

#9: Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake (double YUM!)

#10:
Carrot Cake III

And because we're all gonna have 'em, my top Turkey Leftover recipe:

#11:
Turkey Pot Pie

This creates a pretty straight-forward, old-fashioned style Thanksgiving meal. If you're adventurous/eclectic like me, stay tuned for the Top 10 Not-Your-Grandma's Thanksgiving Recipes!
Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

C-RAZY Question

This might seem a little bizarre, but does any one else use Real-Time Pricing for their ComEd bill? I was inspired to see if we had something like this based on a frugal tip I came across. In a nutshell, instead of paying a fixed price per Kilowatt hour for energy, you pay the going market price for that particular hour. In the off-peak hours, the energy costs less. I am looking into this option for our family & was wondering if/how it has saved money for other families. If no one responds, I guess I might just be the guinea pig.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Snapshot

Of life at the moment.

Thinkin' about: Thanksgiving, what else?

Not looking forward to: Hubby being out of town.

Totally diggin': Cookthink {might I add that this is super genious?! Searching for something that you're craving instead of/in addition to specific recipes?}

Reading: A Woman's High Calling {It's so good, I might just get the growth & study guide....}

Working towards: Making my home a haven {I'm considering this} and a losing a few pounds