Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Christian Homekeeper's Journal ~ June 22

What’s going on in my kitchen this week … not a whole lot, really. I recently realized that I'm kind of bored with food, although this has not kept me from eating it. I haven't been making meal plans...supper time rolls around and I have no plan, nothing sounds good to eat...yet somehow, I manage to come up with something. The dishes seem to have a mind of their own and one minute the counters are clean, the next they are covered in dirty dishes...or so it seems.

This week, I have simply not been able to get a handle on ……housework, particularly of the kitchen variety. This is largely due to a change in some medication that I take for high blood pressure. The last several days, for about 3-4 hours after I take my pill in the morning, I am about worthless. So very tired and unmotivated. Today wasn't quite as bad, but I did end up going back to sleep after my hubby went to work instead of staying up and trying to get something done, like laundry and dishes.

It's so hot here …..I think I could bake a cake on my back porch. It's brutal in the late afternoon!

If I could have a pantry built to order ….. it would have lots of shelves, big windows to let in fresh air while I worked, lots of counter space for kneading bread or whatever, lots of little drawers for organization (I always imagine the pantry that Manly built for Laura Ingalls Wilder in The First Four Years (I think that's the book...the one where they house he built for her catches fire and burns down), nice cool tile floor, and everything neatly organized.

The one place other than where I am that I might like to live is …..a place that is partly sunny, 77 degrees with a slight breeze all year round. Nice hammock weather. But since that place only exists in my mind, I guess I might like to live in the mountains somewhere, in a little cabin that we build ourselves...with a gorgeous view of a crystal clear mountain lake. And no bears. LOL...

The most comfortable shoes I have ever had …..are the beat up old Eastland sandals I bought back in the mid 90's. I still have them....I refuse to throw them out, but I need to see if I can get them repaired as the one side of one of the sandals is coming apart. They've been everywhere with me, even hiking in the Appalachian foothills. My bestest friend since kindergarten thinks they are unsanitary, but I love them. They fit my feet just exactly right! I haven't worn them in a few years though (the lack of tread makes them slightly dangerous. I should just wear them around the house...) so I'm sure any germs have died off by now!

My favorite things about summer ….. well, since I can't stand the sun, the heat, the humidity, and Dumb Stupid Time (DST) that was forced upon our state (by a Governor who didn't give a hoot what the people of Indiana wanted) sometimes it's hard to remember there are good things about summer. I love tomatoes fresh off the vine, still warm from the sun. I love to make my family's legendary "California Salad" just tastes like summer, and it's only really good when tomatoes are in season, don't bother with store bought tomatoes! I love cool melons, fresh veggies and fruits...sunsets witnessed on bike rides with my daughter...and those wonderful, yet often rare, days where it's just perfectly warm enough, but not too hot, to take a nap under a big ol' shade tree.

I know I need to ……quit staying up so late. Stay on top of the housework. Spend more time with my Bible and its Author. Play with my kids more. Not beat myself up because I'm not getting it right all the time. Yah, relax a's ok really.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Playing the Grocery Game: Free Stuff!

Today was supposed to be the day that I swept through CVS, Walgreen's and WalMart and snagged up a bunch of stuff for next to nothing. I had planned to plan strategy Tuesday evening, but can't remember now why I didn't...something else came up I guess. And last night we had a really bad storm that knocked our power out from 7 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday...I tried to look through the coupons and sale papers by candlelight, but it was rather difficult. Not to mention that all the great Scenarios I tried to plan included coupons that were, apparently, in every other region's Sunday circulars except for ours. Like the $5 coupon for the Schick Hydro razor that, combined with CVS Extra Care Bucks and a Schick rebate, would have actually paid me about $9. I was quite perturbed.

I ended up deciding NOT to go to CVS, since I didn't have a very solid plan, and after waffling in my head for several minutes as I traveled in the general direction of places to shop, decided to brave Super WalMart. I knew I was going there with a stack of FREE product coupons...I was ready for a showdown! If you've never really used coupons much at WalMart, then you have been spared the icy animosity from certain cashiers as you hand over a stack of coupons...particularly when it means you get something for pennies or free. They don't like that for some reason...I think they suspect that you're trying to pull a fast one over on them since certainly companies would never send out coupons for free stuff.

Going against my better judgment, I did what I swore I would not do again...take the kids with me. And while it wasn't a complete disaster, it just did a lot to cement that decision. I am too new at all this to shop with them. I need to be able to think and that's hard to do when you're constantly interrupted by requests for junk food and a toddler with a lightning-quick telescopic reach going for the glass jars of pickles.

I am, over all, very pleased with my first official "couponing trip". Using several free product coupons  I snagged $17.87 for just 89 cents! Not a bad haul. Now, some of this stuff is stuff I wouldn't buy on a regular basis, but once in a while, and for free, I'm o.k. with that.

Hard to believe this would have cost almost $20!

Pictured above are Ritz Crackerfuls, Kraft 100 Calorie Packs Cheese Bites, Oscar Meyer Deli Fresh Chicken Breast (1 pound!), Kraft Homestyle Macaroni and Cheese, Beechnut Let's Grow Toddler Meals, and Genesis Today Goji Berry Juice. The Ritz, Kraft and Oscar Meyer coupons  I received the other day from a Kraft First Taste mailing. Goji Berry Juice from Genesis Today's Facebook fan page, and the Beechnut coupon was mailed to me when I signed up for something on their website.

Plus, when I got home I found this waiting on the steps for me:


I signed up for this just a couple days ago, but wasn't sure if it even went through or if I would get one. Came just in time for Father's Day! The $5 in coupons are definitely a plus!

So, I ended up with almost $30 worth of products today for less than a dollar. I'm so liking this coupon thing! Now, if I can just get the CVS thing started...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Free Money from CVS!

I know you've heard the tales of people going into CVS and coming out with $153.97 worth of stuff for $1.09 (or something get the picture, basically free stuff). I know you're wondering how on earth they do it...and is it really legal? If you read my On a Mission: Using Couponing to Make the Budget Work post, then you know about the couponing seminar I attended and that I received some very practical and do-able instruction on how to "play the grocery game." And if you have attended one of Jill's Coupon Seminars, you know it is definitely possible and definitely legal when properly executed.

The title of this post and introductory paragraph are a tad bit misleading, since I haven't actually "done the CVS thing" yet, at least not in full force. I'm still putting my strategy together. But I was very blessed today:

I took my middle stepson to the doctor (a doctor's office copay was not necessarily in the budget...wonderful) today and she wrote two prescriptions (great...prescriptions weren't in the budget either.) BUT then I remembered that I had just received in the mail in the last week or so a mailing form CVS that included two free $25 gift card coupons for new or transferred prescriptions. I had two scripts, so that's $50 free from CVS!  Of course, you couldn't use the gift card to pay for the prescription, and I could only use one coupon that day, so I'll have to take the other prescription in tomorrow to get the gift card (and use the gift card I got today to pay for it!).

The doctor instructed my stepson to eat candy, specifically sour candy, like Sour Patch Kids, which happens to be his favorite candy in all the whole wide world. I looked through the CVS sale paper while waiting for the prescription and wouldn't you know it, the big bags of Sour Patch Kids candy was on sale for Buy 1 Get one for 1 cent. Only problem was, there was only one bag. So I got a raincheck for the deal, plus another raincheck for a bag of Sour Patch Kids candy for a penny. A sour situation turned ironic, that's just what the candy does! (There's a good reason for the doctor telling him to eat sour flush out his saliva gland, which is either blocked or infected. He was quite happy with that prescription!).

I was internally lamenting just last night that I just didn't have much to spend at CVS and it seemed like I would never "get this CVS thing going" and then today, I get $50 free from CVS. I'd say that's a good start! I'm so glad I didn't throw those out, which I almost did because we hardly ever have to get prescriptions.  I won't actually have $50 to get the CVS ball rolling as I spent $8 today of the first $25 gift card, and will need to spend $15 tomorrow for the second prescription, leaving about $2. But going in to CVS with $25 and a plan to procure as much free or ridiculously inexpensive stuff as I can sounds very, very workable!

Monday, June 14, 2010

ON A MISSION: Using Couponing to Make the Budget Work

Last Saturday I attended a couponing seminar presented by Jill Hale over at couponthrifty.  I really enjoyed it, Jill did a great job of explaining all that coupon mumbo-jumbo and the fine art of CVS'ing and bagging great WAGS deals. She is also a good friend of my friend The Dime Savin' Diva and I was really looking forward to meeting her. She's great!

Coupons are not a new thing for me, I've used them off and on for years. But there is a difference between the casual couponer and the Coupon Queen...a big difference...we're talking hundreds of dollars a year, if not more!  And the whole CVS thing completely escaped me...I've heard tales of ridiculous deals (ridiculous as in it's ridiculous that people can even DO this!) and have longed to score some myself, yet every time I tried to figure out a 'CVS scenario' my brain would literally lock up. I just couldn't get it, which is incredibly irritating as I consider myself to be of reasonable why is it so hard? It takes experience for one, and an ability to think ahead and around...not always my strongest area, to be honest.

Jill did a great job of explaining that though, and I am very excited to try it out this week. I plan on spending some time Tuesday during Li'l Man's nap to plan my strategy.

She had for sale some neat coupon binders, but I just didn't have any extra money so I didn't purchase one. I had never thought of putting together a binder and decorating it with scrapbooking materials! She has some very cute ones, plus inside are all you need to organize your coupons, a grocery list, and a reference sheet of websites and other information that is very helpful.

I decided I would make my own...I have binders all over the place, sheet protectors, and coupons. I don't really like to use grocery lists made by someone else simply because they shop and eat differently than I do. I haven't made up a grocery list yet, but I did print out some Pantry Inventory sheets from OrganizedHome. My project this evening is to go through the cupboards and shelves and make a list of what we already have (I think I said I'd do this, I haven't gotten to it yet LOL).

Jill uses baseball card sheet protectors to slip her cut-out coupons in, which is brilliant! You can see the coupon and expiration date (I had to get creative and fold some in certain ways to make them fit and keep the relevant info visible) at a glance, and you can organize them however you want. However, I have to be totally honest and say that while I do have access to 'slave labor' (she has her children cut them out and organize them into three general categories), I just don't want to cut all the coupons out...for one, when I go to those websites that tell you what's on sale where and what coupons to use with it, they say things like $1/2 (product name) RP 6-13. That's $1 off of two whatevers and the coupon was in the Red Plum Sunday circular on 6-13. My problem, then, is that if I cut them all out, how am I going to find them again later? I suppose I could just look through all the little pockets, but I don't want to do it that way.

The Coupon Mom has you keep the coupon circulars, write the date on the front in big Sharpie marker, and put it in a binder. Then you go to her website and look up the deals, which are cross-referenced to the corresponding coupons. Sounds great...yet then I have the problem of what to do with the coupons I already have cut out,  and the ones I get in the mail, on products or print out?

The solution for me is to use both systems...then I'm not cutting out every single coupon and waste time on coupons I won't use, yet I have a place for all the loose coupons I already have and the others I will no doubt accumulate.

I spent some time today putting together the binder in a 'logical' fashion. I may have over-complicated it...I often do that, but the way I put it together makes sense in my head.  I'll give it a test run for the next few weeks and if I like the way it works, I'll post pictures of it here later.

So for now, it's off to inventory all our stuff...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Organization: Decisions and Holy Grails

Today, I looked at my desk. It looked back...mocking me. I decided I wasn't going to let my desk 'dis' me like that. And I had a re-visitation of starry host singing hallelujah and radiant glory shining down upon me. And behold, a revelation on how to decide what to title the six sections in my (possible) Holy Grail of Organizational Tools for the Piler, the Pendaflex Smartfile appeared! It was so simple, it was practically absurd.

Thou shalt start sorting through the papers on thy desk and see what kind of piles develop. Then shall thee consolidate, if necessary, to achieve Six Categories. When thou hast discovered the Six Categories,  label the Index Sheet with the categories in the most logical (for thou) order...frequency of use. Then shall thou becomest organized.

My messy desk before...

This is what I came up with to label my new best friend, Mr. Pendaflex

 And this is my nice, clean desk. It did NOT take me six hours to clean this time! It took about an hour and a half, including interruptions from the children. 

This is our bill organizing system. It has actually worked very well. I try to empty the old bills every 3-6 months.

We keep everything we need to manage the bills in there...calculator, paper, pencils, etc. so it's just grab it and get to work without searching all over the house for stuff (usually). There are pockets of resistance to clutter in my home...hoping to change that to just pockets of clutter resisting organization!

So, desk, take that. I am now Organized...and everyone else...check back again to see how well the Pendaflex Pilesmart Project Sorter has lived up to its Holy Grail-ness...

This is not a solicited endorsement of the Pendaflex PileSmart Project Sorter. I just really think I found something that will work this time!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Homekeeper's Journal ~ June 8, 2010

This is my definition of “Homekeeping” Managing effectively all the activities and necessities that make our home 'home'...meals, laundry, cleaning, organizing, fixing, finding, etc. are all an important part of keeping the home, but creating and maintaining a peaceful, loving, God-honoring atmosphere is just as important, if not most important. Now, if I could just manage to actually do that consistently...

My favorite place to practice the profession of homekeeping is...when I first read this one, I thought "Home, of course!" But my favorite place in our home to practice the profession of homekeeping is the kitchen, the heart of my home. I love to cook. I love to eat. I love the fragrances and textures of the meals I put together. I love a challenge, sometimes making dinner is on the order of Biblical Proportions - making something out of nothing. I love doing the best I can to feed my family healthy, nourishing foods. And I love spending time with my daughter, showing her how to bake, cook, and be a keeper at home.

I do/do not find joy in keeping my home and I think the reason is...I enjoy it because it is my calling, what I was created to do. It gives me deep satisfaction when my home is orderly, peaceful, and functioning smoothly. I don't enjoy it when there is chaos, disorder and disharmony...especially when I have to accept that it is my responsibility to establish peace, order and harmony in my home and I am not able to do it, either because I am slacking or procrastinating or being selfish about 'my' time and 'my' rights or because others in the home are less than cooperative.

At this point in my life, this is what I believe my children, husband and/or other family members think about our home….people tell me our home is cozy, homey, welcoming. Yet I tend to focus on the things that I didn't do and should have, the things I wish were different. I think my family recognizes that I do a better job of homekeeping than I ever have, although there is still lots of room for improvement.

The things I wish someone had told me about homekeeping when I was that it takes a lot of planning and forethought to effectively manage a home. And when I'm the mom, it's my job...not my mother's. She is not going to come and clean my house for me!

The messages that I received about homemaking and being a wife/mother when growing up mom worked all of my life. I didn't think much of it because that's just the way it was. But I suppose if I had consciously picked up on a message it would be that you do what you have to do. My parents divorced and my mom had to work, but even after my parents remarried each other, she still worked. God wasn't a big part of our lives, so I had no idea what God's ideal plan for wives and mothers was.

6 blessings that God has given me this week are...the book The Way Home, by Mary Pride, a change in my heart attitude toward my children and my role in the home, seeing my husband handle a difficult situation with one of his sons in a godly and effective manner, provision, precious time with my children, a repentant heart.

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The Holy Grail of Organizing? Or Another Wasted Purchase? I Can't Decide!

If you are like me, you have piles. Deep down inside, you WANT to have files...neatly color-coded, alphabetized files in fashionable designs housed in cute but functional receptacles for said files. You want the contents to be neatly arranged, so whatever contract, bill, recipe or other item magically appears the instant you look for it.

The reality is, however, that files just don't work for some people. Some of us just pile, that's all there is to it. Trying to force a Piler to become a Filer is, in my opinion, a complete waste of time and an exercise in futility. Piler minds are wired differently than Filer minds.

As an unrepentant Piler, I am always on the look-out for that one piece of equipment, furniture, or system that will satisfy my Piler tendencies while producing the tidy orderliness of the Filer way. I have tried many different apparatus, all with the same for a while, but before you know it, the Piles are back. It's incredibly frustrating. I am a reasonably intelligent adult...and I am bigger than these Piles, so why can't I master them?

I was wandering around Meijer one evening and as I passed through the aisle that contains the filing supplies my eyes happened to glance upon this:

This is the Pendaflex PileSmart Project Sorter. The "PileSmart" is what caught my eye. It gives validation to my preferred method of paper management.

It claims to help you "Organize Piles and Projects For A Clutter-Free Desktop" using "6 Color-Coded Sections To Sort and Retrieve Papers." You can also "Customize Sections With Blank Index Sheet" (and it includes a few extras).

When I saw this, it was almost like one of those Hollywood 'hallelujah' moments...almost like a choir of starry host singing and radiant glory shining down upon me.

"This is it!" I told myself. "This is the Thing I've been looking for to get those piles under control!"

There's only one small problem...(and no one who knows me will be shocked by this).

I haven't yet started using this miracle purchase made over a week ago because...


Whenever I start trying to decide what should go where, I am distressed that there are only six sections. What If I need more? And, what order should they be in? Alphabetical? Frequency of use? And what if, horror of horrors, I get it set up and decide I need to change something? I am completely paralyzed by indecision.

This brings to light the possibility that my Piler problem is rooted in some deep, psychological quagmire. Is it Perfectionism rearing its ugly head? (If I can't do it right, I won't do it at all) Or maybe, Fear of Failure (what if I assign categories and it doesn't work?). I did a search on 'psychological root of indecision', which produced a link to an abstract called Perceptions of parental control and the development of indecision among late adolescent females. appears that a major source of the development of decisional procrastination tendencies in late adolescent females lies within the home environment. As expected, authoritarian parents who exercise overcontrol and inflexibility of authority untempered by warmth or support, were perceived by daughters as having a parental style that influenced their inclination toward indecision. Having authoritative parents, perceived as accepting and supportive of their children while flexible in their use of authority, and permissive parents, perceived as accepting without use of parental authority, were unrelated to decisional procrastination scores of daughters.
Certainly makes me think about how I parent my children...

Whether I can blame my parents for my inability to make decisions or not, the fact remains that no matter how marvelous this product may be (I may never know, at this rate) will only work if I actually use it. Nowhere on the label is any claim made that this product will actually organize your papers for you. Or that piles will be magically attracted to it and just end up in there on their own accord. I'm glad it was not outrageously expensive...$3.99 isn't too bad, but the Penny Pincher in me is quite irate that I bought yet another organizational 'gizmo' and it's just sitting there. On top of a Pile. How ironic...

This is not a solicited review of the Pendaflex PileSmart Project Sorter.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Living Cheap in June, Week One

Well, we've gotten through our first week in June...although only 5 days of the week were actually June, but I'm going to count it. A tight budget is a challenge for me and I'm up for it! And so is my God, Jehovah Jireh..."The Lord Who Provides":
  • Free clothes for my daughter at a garage sale, summer and fall/winter. Cute stuff in good condition, too!
  • Summer shirts for me at a garage sale...8 shirts for 50 cents a piece
  • Hubby going on a big cook next weekend (big money-maker), after initially being told he wasn't going. Thank you, Lord, for your favor!
  • Blessed with a gift card to a local grocery store
  • More clothes for my daughter...some pretty dresses for church and cute shorts/pants for summer
  • Free book through that I needed for my summer Bible/book study came on the day of the first meeting
  • Free plants for our garden
  • Free diapers
Seems like there's something else, too, but it escapes me at the moment. It always amazes me how God works...or how well He is able to our lives when we just let Him. When we don't worry and fret and try to figure out how He's going to meet the needs that sometimes seem to be impossible for us to meet. And I love that He uses the complete channel His blessings to His children.

I love this account of Abraham, who was commanded to sacrifice his son, from Genesis 22. I would like to believe that I would have the faith of Abraham if God ever asks me to do something that difficult! Abraham trusted that God would provide and continued on in faith, doing as God had asked him to do. When God saw that Abraham was obedient and completely trusted Him, He provided what was needed.
22:12 “Do not harm the boy!” the angel said. “Do not do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God because you did not withhold your son, your only son, from me.” 13 Abraham looked up and saw behind him a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. So he went over and got the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of that place “The Lord provides.” It is said to this day, “In the mountain of the Lord provision will be made.”
In the mountain of the Lord provision will be made. That caught my attention...just what or where, exactly, is the mountain of the Lord? Here is what I found:

There are only two places in the Scriptures that refer to the mountain of the Lord. One is the wilderness, that place between Egypt and Israel, a place of unbelief, restlessness and judgment. God met with the Israelites there on Mount Sinai. The other is Mt. Moriah, where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his only son.

It is also the mount on which the Temple was later built, and it was not far from there that our Lord was offered for our sin. This mountain is inside Israel, the land of faith, rest, and blessing. Here, the Substitute, Jesus Christ, was revealed in type and picture by Abraham’s offering of the ram instead of Isaac and by all the sacrifices of the Temple later built there. Of this mountain it is said, “In the Mountain if the Lord, IT WILL BE PROVIDED!” ~ The Mountains of the Lord
It is interesting to note that the first mountain was where God met with the Israelites and gave them the Law, the Ten Commandments. The second mountain was where provision and atonement were made...on one mountain, God demanded...on the other, He provided.

God still provides in the wilderness seasons of our lives...the Israelites ate Manna, their clothes never wore out, and no one got sick in 40 years...but what blessing there is in resting in Him, in trusting in Him! It's easy to imagine that these Biblical champions of faith never wavered inside, never doubted...that it was easy for them to just trust God. Yet, they were human and must have had human emotions. Did Abraham have fear or doubt? It's not clear...but what is clear is that in spite of how he may have been feeling, he chose to obey the Lord's command and step out in faith. He trusted that God would provide, and He did. Even when it looked impossible...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Homekeeper's Journal, Week of June 1, 2010

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In my kitchen...
there unfortunately sits dishes from last night's supper. My dd's turn to do supper dishes was last night but she got a very painful sunburn while camping with her grandparents this weekend and can't hardly move. There is also a quart jar of water kefir that is ready to strain and an experimental cup of coconut water kefir that will be ready soon. I will be taking a pantry inventory, baking bread, and sweeping and mopping...after getting those dishes done!

My great...not perfect, but I love my husband and love our life together. We had our Budget Committee Meeting (a la Dave Ramsey) last night and have a finished budget for the month. And we were able to discuss some touchy money issues calmly and rationally, like two people who love each other!

With my children...we are on hiatus from homeschooling for a couple of weeks and then back to school. Waiting on testing results from dd's standardized testing taken the first week of May. Two year old...well, just trying to get through the day with him still alive, basically. He is sooooo busy I want to tear my hair out! But then he does something that melts my heart, like caress my cheek and say "Mommy precious" and I forget all about the spilled oatmeal, marker on his face, refrigerator door standing open...

I feel so relieved when...the day's work is done and I can relax.

My spiritual life is general. I have days where I am just not 'spiritual' in any sense of the imagination. Days where I yell too much, spend too much time online, forget things...important things like spending time with Jesus and prayer. I am reading a book called Becoming a Woman Who's for a blogger review program, but I chose that book because I really need to become more loving. I am always looking for ways to improve my spiritual life, but it always comes back to spending quality time with the Lord and putting Him first.

If I am honest, the thing that keeps me from praying as much as I should is ….. distractions, lack of routine, lack of self-discipline.

I see God moving in my husband and our life together and ……some exciting prospects may be on the horizon. We are praying and doing our best to discern God's will and timing for what we believe He is asking us to do.

This is in the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind, but should be moved into the light …. I really want to put this out there?? Let's just say that I need to learn to love someone without condition...without strings...and without condemning them for something they had no control over.

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