Friday, September 28, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (4)

We decided to go on that hike at the near by nature preserve. As it turns out, almost 3 year olds aren't super crazy about hikes.. Thankfully the nature preserve also had some animals and an old town that was built up to look like the 1800's. It was pretty neat to look around.

And if you were wondering what a shed that animals gave birth in during the 1800's.. look no further.

The husband has a week and 1/2 break from work. He resigned from it old job and doesn't start his new one until next week. So he has been a stay at home dad for the week.

We had an extremely rare opportunity this morning. I got out of school early, and my daughter was in preschool. So we had a mid morning date. We went to the library and looked for dvds and books. Then we went to the park and played basketball in the rain. When it started to rain too hard we headed for the gazebo, where I did a beautiful rendition of "I am 16 going on 17". It was like we stepped into the Sound of Music.

I finally got some fall decorating complete.

We are almost set up to do a showing of a house for next week. Fingers crossed, we like the house and put down a deposit!

Happy weekend! Ours is jam packed with my best friends birthday, my daughter's birthday and we are going to a football game on Sunday!

Head back over to Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Happy Fall

Some fall decorating finally got done! Although I am not overly proud of my cake stand display..
My biggest project was a wreath I made.

I bought 3 little wreaths from the Dollar Tree for $1 each.
Then I took them apart and twisted them together to create one larger wreath.
A friend of mine's mom worked at a furniture store that was closing down. So she gave us a lot of fabric samples for free.

I cut out 1 small flower and one slightly bigger one, along with a smaller circle. Then glued them all together.
Then we bought a wooden letter for $1.50 at Hobby Lobby.
What have you done to decorate for fall?

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Three Year Adventure

This Sunday my little girl is turning 3! I think I am in complete shock that she is that old. Looking back at the past 3 years, I have to laugh at myself. Especially in the first year of her life. I feel like I finally have gotten in the groove of being a mom. Ha! A little late, I know!

I think, I was a little on the crazy side for a while. For the first few months, she didn't really sleep. (You know, like most babies) But nothing really prepared me for what life with no sleep was like. I remember rocking a screaming baby (who refused to nurse) at 3 am, with head phones in my ears. Oh and did I mention I was singing Brittney Spears', "Hit Me Baby, One More Time" to her? Not exactly the most award winning lullaby, but it sure did calm her down :)

Then there were the days where we would go to Mass and she would cry through most of it. We would get in the car and I would be completely convinced that the entire congregation heard her and thought I was the worlds worst mother. A little sleep later, it occurs to me that most people know that babies cry.

I think I had the most fun when she would lay down for her tummy time and I would turn on "head, shoulders, knees and toes" and do all the motions for her (and maybe sing a little). She wouldn't be able to keep herself up on her arms she was laughing so hard.

My least favorite memory of her first 3 years is the day she said her first sentence. Now let me explain... We had just moved into our apartment, that we live in now. Prior to that we had been living with my parents. We had been there about three days and every time we drove up to the apartment complex she would burst into tears. Then one day we were in the car and it was time to get out, so I could get dinner started. She stared me straight in the eyes and screamed "No". So calmly told her again that it was time to get out of the car. Tears streamed down her face, she gave me the meanest look she could and she said, "New house yucky"!

I love these new preschool years. She talks to me now. She has ideas about how to do things. She really loves when things match. Like the time she came to the realization that her "yellow hair" matched her "yellow pee pees in the potty". Those are the kinds of things I usually think of, when I think of matching...

 She tells me she loves me, and means it. When she isn't in the mood to talk she simple states, "I'm just grumpy, no want to talk right now". I love her brutal honesty. Now when she is getting ready to go to sleep she whispers in my ear, "rub my back", and of course I do.

I can't wait to celebrate with her and see what the next 3 years have to offer!

Friday, September 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (3)

Number One
The husband got a new job! We couldn't be more excited. We have been hoping and praying for this for a while. So we celebrated with a cake. (Purple, per request of my daughter)

Number Two
We have been talking to a realtor about renting a house in a few months. I am thrilled with the idea of moving into a house, not that I don't love the mold that has conveniently started to grow in our apartment...

Number Three
While I was in the kitchen making soup (pretending it was cold outside), my daughter was in the living room nicely playing. I turn around to see she has taken all of her stuffed animals out and was conducting a circle time. Her animals were working on learning their letters.

Number Four
Each animal got an individual blankie to hold onto for nap time, which would be held after circle time. Except blue puppy, "because sometimes friends' mommies forget to bring a blankie, then friends are so sad and cold".  Ahh I hope I am never that mommy! Although I have forgotten to send a change of clothes many a times...

Number Five
We have nothing planned for this weekend. Yay! We are thinking about going on mini hike at a near by nature preserve. We have to take advantage of the gorgeous weather we have been having!

Number Six
Speaking of great weather I have been working on decorating for fall. I have started a wreath and a centerpiece for the time. Neither of which have been completed. Shocking.

Number Seven
Have a great weekend! Do you have any exciting plans for the weekend? I'd love to hear about them.

Head back over to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes Friday.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Biblical Wisdom for Personal Finance

I find money frustrating, and I always have. With money, comes greed. Yet it is impossible to live in civilized society without money. I spend probably a little too much time thinking about money, trying to make the best use of what we have. I have searched countlessly for advice on the topic of personal finance. Then I though, what better place to look then the Bible? Here is what it says about money: 

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is life not more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important that they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan?"
-Matthew 6: 25-27

Wow! I couldn't think of a more powerful quote. While, it doesn't mention money specifically, it does bring up material possessions. It is so important that we put our trust in God, in everything. This applies to even our finances. God will provide for us, if we trust in Him. This can be so hard for me to do in my own life, because I always want to budget down to the cent. If we find ourselves with an unexpected situation like a flat tire, I find myself worrying the whole rest of the month about money. I need to remind myself that God says not to worry, and trust in Him. He will take care of us!

"Rely not on your wealth; say not: 'I have the power'."- Sirach 5:1

We again are reminded to trust in the Lord, and not in our wealth. Money gives us the illusion of power. But really, we have nothing without God. 

"Barter not a friend for money, nor a dear brother for the hold of Ophir."- Sirach 7:18

This is one of those quotes I wish I would have read long before I came across it. We shouldn't lend our family and friends money! This is hard for some people to hear, but it really is true. Lending family and friends money puts a barrier in between you and the other person. It can cause a lot of harm in your relationship. Now this doesn't mean that you shouldn't help out someone close to you who needs help. But maybe it means that you should help them out, without expecting return payment. 

"One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. A man's riches serve as ransom for his life, but the poor man heeds no rebuke." - Proverbs 13: 7-8

What does this mean? It means we should live within our means. We shouldn't buy a home we can't comfortably afford, we shouldn't max out credit cards to give others the false illusion that we have money. We end up tied to our belongings and they really can't and won't serve us. On the flip side, if we have been blessed with wealth, we shouldn't flaunt it. It might be tempting to spend it all on really nice things, but we are told not to. We will find a much greater wealth in giving to others and finding joy in people and Christ, rather than stuff. 

"Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts."- James 5:4

We should be generous with the money we do have! If we go out to eat and the waiter serves us well, we should tip them well. If we have a hard working babysitter that lovingly watches our children, we should pay them well. If we are in a position of management we should pay our employees well. 

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned in your own life about personal finance?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Garlic and Tomato Pasta

I came up with this recipe after seeing some pasta on TV, that I wanted to replicate. I pretty much just used ingredients I already had around the house and it turned out great!
  • 12 oz penne pasta
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1, 15 oz can died tomatoes
  • 1, 6 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • Shredded parmesan for sprinkling
  • Cook pasta according to directions
  • In large pot or deep skillet add olive oil, garlic, pepper and onion- cook over med heat until veggies are tender
  • Add in all other ingredients except parmesan and pasta, stir to make a sauce
  • Add in pasta and cook until heated through
  • Serve and sprinkle parmesan on top!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Lions World: A Preschool Activity

I was given the challenge of creating a therapy session at school, so naturally I tried it out on my daughter to see how it went. She is obsessed with lions, so I decided to take that theme and run with it! Really. She often roars and shouts, "I'm a lion, I'm so scary!"

So today, we were lions!
We used our imaginations (an important preschool/ life skill).

We created lion masks.
We colored, then cut- both important fine motor (finger) skills.

And lived in this lion den for the day.
We had to think really hard to plan out how to make the fort. Then there were the decisions of how big to make the fort, what it would be made out of, and what would go in it. We picked a whole bunch of items with different textures- great for sensory.

 Then for added fun we read lion books, and watched The Lion King (but not the scary parts, of course).
Now I'll send you back to Passionate and Creative Homemaking!

I have decided that I think I could enjoy being 3 again!

Now I'll send you back over to Crayon Freckles

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

When to Buy Cheap, and When Not To

There comes a time when every family needs new furniture for one reason or another. Either they are just starting out, or they have hand-me-downs that are getting a little too gross. Well when we moved into our first apartment some items were given to us by family and friends ( like our couches) and others we had to purchase ourselves.

We made some great purchases, and some not so great ones. I, of course, would love to help prevent you from making some of the same mistakes we made. 

We didn't have very much money to put towards new furniture, but we needed to get the piles of clothes off the floor and into a dresser. We also needed a place to eat our meals that wasn't the floor of the living room. We didn't want to go into any debt doing it.

We bought the most awesome table and 6 chairs ever off of craigs list for $100. An older couple had decided they wanted the RV lifestyle, so they wanted to get rid of most of their belongings. They were moving out the next day, so we got a great deal! The table and chairs are solid wood and in great condition.

Then we decided to find a dresser. We went to IKEA. We hadn't heard much about their furniture, except that it was a pretty good deal and you had to put it together yourselves. We spent $250 on a red dresser, that looks really nice. But is by far one of the worst purchases I have ever made. The bottom of the individual dressers are made out of particle board, so they can hold almost no weight. In IKEAs defense, we also bought night stands there that have held up very well. The particle board in those is surprisingly much thicker, despite the fact that it needs to hold a lot less weight then a dresser.
Our horrible dresser
The thin particle board
Clothes shooting out the bottom of the dresser

My take away from this experience is this:
  • You should buy good quality furniture, that is durable and will last long. Otherwise it is money down the drain, when it doesn't hold up!
  • This rule is valid even when there are children in the mix. Don't think that you shouldn't buy nice things because children will ruin them, it's just the opposite. You should buy quality items, so they can withstand children.
  •  If you can find quality, inexpensive furniture second hand don't pass up the opportunity even it has a few dings in it. It is a lot less money to refinish a table or a dresser then to buy a new one. 
  • Always be safe when buying second hand, especially off of websites like craigs list. I talked to a few potential sellers on the phone, that I just didn't get a good feeling from. So we decided to opt out of those purchases. The couple we ended up buying our table from ended up living right down the street from the house I grew up in, although I had never met them. 
  • If you don't find a great opportunity right away, give it some time. For example, use large plastic bins to hold your clothes, until the right deal comes your way. In the end this will save you money and time! In our case it would have saved us $250, plus the hassle of buying a dresser 2x!
What is your experience buying second hand, or would you prefer to buy brand new items?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Chicken Fajitas

Here is a wonderful recipe my aunt gave me, that I modified a little to my taste.

  • 3 lbs chicken breasts
  • Variety of veggies sliced (onions, peppers, zucchini, etc)
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 2 cups soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • Combine all ingredients except chicken and veggies
  • Put chicken in large plastic bag and pour in liquid ingredients, leaving a little extra out
  • Chill in fridge for 6-8 hours, turning occasionally 
  • Grill all chicken and veggies over medium heat, basting veggies with marinade prior to grilling
  • Grill until chicken is cooked through and veggies are tender
  • Enjoy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (2)

This week I made these yummy fajitas!

My little one gets to come to school with me today! I couldn't be more excited. She of course is going to be a test subject for all my classmates in my pediatrics class.

Speaking of her, we made these lion masks, and had a blast doing it.

Check out my some of the guidelines I follow for budget grocery shopping

My daughters turning 3 at the end of the month. I literally cannot believe it. Someone, I don't know who, let her in on the surprise. She has since been requesting balloons and a butterfly cake. I might just have to make one. We are still debating the birthday party situation, as of now, I am thinking maybe next year...

I signed up to volunteer in between some of my classes to go to the hospital for 1 hour and hold newborn babies. I couldn't be more excited. I also find it completely heart breaking that no one else is there to hold these babies...

Even after this post, I still feel like I need to find a good cleaning schedule that works for me.

Don't forget to head back over to Conversion Diary. Thanks for hosting!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Power of Doing

I came to an astounding realization today while driving home from school. Really. I think I have figured out the solution to 99% of life's problems. It is surprisingly simple, so simple, that no one thinks to do it.

Let me give you a little background on myself and my personality. Generally speaking I love to dream about the "what ifs" in the world and in my life. All the time I see people and I am so amazed my their skills and their perseverance, and I strive to act in a similar way.

I often think, wow their house is so neat and tidy, one day I would love to be an OT, wouldn't it be so cool to have a blog... etc. I spend a lot of time figuring out how to do these things. For example, I have checked out countless books on cleaning, googled housekeeping tips an embarrassing number of times, and guess what? None of this got my home clean.

The only thing that got my home clean, was well, cleaning it! Shocking I know!

I realized that I can't wish my dreams into existence, in fact, I can't even pray my dreams into existence. It's not God's job to make magic happen for me, while I just sit around and be lazy. I can pray for persistence, patience and a strong work ethic. I can ask God to guide me through what I have to do and what I should do, but in the end I have to actually do it.

I have to clean, to make my house clean. I have to finish OT school, to become and OT. I have to write in a blog, to have a blog.

If only it was as simple as it sounds on paper.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Budget Grocery Shopping

I am personally interested to know about other family's grocery shopping habits. How much do they spend? What do they typically buy? Sometimes I am astounded at what I see in other people's carts for a variety of different reasons. So I thought I'd share my family's grocery shopping habits, because maybe YOU'D be interested, the same way I am.

We are a family of 3 and spend about $55 every week on groceries and toiletry items. Sometimes a little more and occasionally a little less. I generally don't do coupons, except for the ones that are located directly on the item. We eat mostly generic foods, and not that many prepackaged things. We eat meat, but try to do at least 1 meal per week with no meat. I plan out all dinners for the week prior to going shopping.

The prepackaged stuff I do splurge on includes:
  • Crackers
  • Cereal 
  • Granola Bars
  • Baby carrots (I can't stand cutting carrots)

Otherwise my typical grocery trip includes the following:1 tub plain yogurt, 3 kinds of meat (ground beef, ground turkey, some kind of chicken- 1 of which usually comes from our freezer), Peanut butter, Block of cheddar cheese, Jelly, 1 jug of juice, Gallon 2% milk, unsalted butter, Dozen eggs, Pasta, Rice, Fruits and Veggies (what ever is on sale), Canned beans or dried beans, Frozen veggies (green beans and broccoli)

For toiletry items I also buy generic brand, and we usually use suave shampoo/conditioner. There are other different items that get added per week.

To sum up, here are the points I try to remember when grocery shopping (they make my life a whole lot easier):

  • One: Don't shop when hungry. When you do (because we all do) go during a time when they give out free samples, then politely decline when asked to purchase the item
  • Two: Make a week long list of dinners BEFORE you go grocery shopping. This way you don't miss anything for the week, and your dinners are set. This helps me to feel on top of at least one thing during the week, and I am not scrambling to get dinner on the table.
  • Three: Be thoughtful when creating your dinner list. I try to plan out quick meals for days that I know I won't be home until late. This helps the week go smoothly.
  • Four: Buy generic, just about everything! It saves tons of money. 
  • Five: Now this one may be controversial, but don't use coupons unless they are taped to the item at the store. From my experience most of the items that coupons can be used for at the grocery store are garbage anyway, and couponing takes precious time away from your life!

How do you do your grocery shopping? Do you have any tips?