Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thoughts To Ponder: Preparing For Christmas

I am reading a book given to me by a woman at church called "Mustard Seeds" by Matthew Kelly. It is a book with little one-line thoughts for the day and many of them are meant to get you thinking.

Anyway, I figured I'd mention ones that stand out to me from time to time. On November 20th, the entry is this:
This Christmas take as much time and care preparing your soul to receive Jesus as you do to prepare food, gifts and your clothes.

How cool is that? What a great challenge..... I know most years I spend so much time running around, getting presents ready and Christmas cards postmarked and trip plans made I can easily lose sight of the reason any of this means anything at all.

This year is a nice break because I threw all (ok most) of my expectations out the window. We decided not to travel and it will just be the four of us on Christmas here. Gifts are simple and we prepared most of them before our second son arrived.

Still, there is so much more I can truly do to prepare my heart and mind for the Christmas season. Every time I look at that entry, it is a reminder for that Christmas is so much more than the festivities and we need to not lost Christ in the Christmas.

Thrifty Thursdays: What Do The Ads Really Mean?

So after working in the wonderful world of retail during some of my high school and college days I learned two things.

1. I wanted to continue school if nothing else, so that I didn't have to be a cashier forever. It's a perfectly respectable job, but I could only take so much of it.

2. I figured out what all those headlines on the ads like "lowest price of the season" really meant.

It's not rocket science, but I guess I never really sat and thought about it much. There are some clues as to when you are getting a good deal and when you really aren't.

"Lowest price of the season" - pretty much never a spectacular deal. More likely a deal they run monthly. There are so many "seasons" in retail it's hard to keep track.

"Lowest price of the year" - a great deal if it's the end of the year, but you tend to see a lot of these at the beginning of the year. So technically it may be the best price of the year, but the year may only be a few weeks old.

"Lowest price ever" - this one you rarely see, but if you do, you're likely getting a good deal.

"Our best holiday prices' - pretty useless, likely equal to lowest price of the season.

Also, stores use promotions like rebates to lure customers in, knowing full well that nearly half of those customers who buy a rpoduct based on the rebate price will, in fact, never take the time to send the rebate in and therefore pay a lot more than what it is worth.

For example, I bought an SD card and a jump drive during black Friday on Circuit City's web site. Both items had mail-in rebates and the rebates totaled $25. When I received the package, I did not receive the mail-in rebates. After a bit of looking on their site, I found a section listing all their rebates from the last year and printed them off. It is the difference between me paying $40 for the two items and $15.

I have to make it a priority to send inr ebates however, or I fall into the group that never gets aroudn to it. I usually fill them out as soon as I buy the product so I don't forget.

Enough fun for today:). Happy shopping.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thrifty Thursday (On Saturday)

So I am still a little behind with having a new baby and Thanksgiving adn everything this week, but I still wanted to sit down and write this post for all of those Christmas shoppers out there.

A new site I am totally loving is Price Protectr. You can input any items you buy and if they show up cheaper within a certain time frame, the site will email you with the new price and may save you money.

I tried it out with a new camera I bought and over the four weeks, I got emails detailing more than $20 in savings. Unfortunately, the company I bought (I bought it on Amazon through one of their vendors) did not give money back and I was not sending my camera back because I wanted to have it when the baby arrived, but the point is they do a good job tracking the prices for specific items. With big ticket items, especially around Christmas, you could potentially save a lot depending on all the factors that make retailers discount prices.

Happy Shopping!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Blessings

We have much to be thankful for this week, much less this year.

This week, I am so thankful for my mom, who has helped me out tremendously with my newborn and my toddler. Without her, I don't know how I could have possibly made the transition so smoothly. She has years of experience to offer after raising eight of us and has such a love for babies it's not difficult to sneak away for a quick nap. I am going to miss her and all the good cooking when she takes off. It's a rare treat we get a whole week with her and our family always relishes it.

I am also so grateful for a woman at our parish who offered to watch our son as we headed to the hospital. It's difficult to find people who are available, much less willing and offering. She came over at 4am and spent the whole day with him. Without her, I am not sure what we would have done. God really places the people and resources you need when you need them in your life. My mom arrived that afternoon and was able to take over for her.

Of course we are thankful for the birth of our second son. Over the years we have learned not to take anything for granted, especially the blessing of children. After this summer of bed rest and several scares, it is wonderful to be at home recovering from the birth of our son and to realize he is here happy and healthy.

We are also thankful for so many other things, here are a few:
  • my husband's new job

  • a place to live

  • the ability for me to stay home

  • selling our house

  • friends all over

  • family

  • our health

  • the health of our babies and those we love

  • the ability to travel and visit those we love

  • opportunities to take photos, write and share

  • health insurance

  • proper health care

  • money for medicines we need

  • strong faith

  • church community

  • new friendships

  • old friendships

  • everyone in between:)

  • freedom to practice what I believe

  • freedom to voice my opinion

  • freedom to live how I choose

So on this day of Thanksgiving, I am very blessed and grateful for all the gifts God has bestowed on us. May you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving as well.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Making Newcomers Feel Welcome

I am keeping a running list of all the things people have done for us, which has made our moving around a lot easier in the end. I want to make notes because I feel like the benefit of moving around so much is that if we ever do get to move home or once we are in a place for a long time, we can be a resource for those who find themselves in similar positions as we have.

On that list are things like going out of our way to invite new people to do something socially. I know it's easy to forget when you have many friends around that the 'new' person whom you had a good conversation with and want to get to know may have nothing planned socially for the next several months.

There is nothing to make someone feel more welcomed than actually being included in something not by obligation, but because someone took five seconds to invite you. Even if you can't make whatever it is, feeling like you belong means a lot.

Another thing is just taking a few minutes to introduce yourself to someone. I can't tell you how many parishes my husband and I have attended for months or years, participated in activities, etc. and left still not knowing anyone. We tried, but so many people were so caught up in their lives and didn't seem interested in making any new friends.

A friend we had in Chicago was a master at this. We met him randomly and he began inviting us to do stuff with his friends. It was a big part of what made Chicago so special to us. And it wasn't just with us ... he did this with many people he met. You know what, the guy had a lot of friends and genuinely displayed God's love to us through his actions.

It is definitely not one-sided. We had to keep putting ourselves in situations where we would meet people or each place we lived would have been very, very lonely, but as a newcomer, it takes time to get used to a new area, new customs and new people.

I pray I may never forget how difficult it is to be the new one around and may always take the time to make a new person feel welcomed instead of wishing they could be anywhere else.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thrifty Thursdays: Preparing For Baby

NOTE: This was supposed to get poasted last Thursday, but as babies come we left in the middle of the night early Thursday morning for our new little one's birth. He was born Thursday and we are now home from the hospital so we can post:).

A lot of times you can find great deals just by keeping your eyes and ears open. Normally I don't even listen when I hear ads for meal-prep places like Sociale, but last year I got a half-priced gift certificate for it. I bought five meals for $30. It was when life was very chaotic and due to our circumstances I couldn't stay home with our son. I went one day and made up the meals and we enjoyed them over a two-week period. It was a nice break for me and when I figured out the costs, some of them actually cost less than if I had gone out and bought the ingredients to make them at home.

Preparing for our second baby's arrival, I have been storing up meals in our freezer. Since we're still new to the area, I doubt we'll have many visitors except our out-of-town family and I want to make sure we don't resort to going out just because my husband and I are exhausted.

While you may grow tired of pastas, they are very easy to prepare ahead of time and freeze. So far I have made a few lasagnas, the canneloni and chicken parmesan.

Another thing that I try to keep around are lots of common meats for the dishes. I get them when they are on sale, divide them into meal sized portions and freeze them. Since there have been so many meat recalls recently, I have begun writing the information (when we bought them, what they are) on the bags in permanent marker as well so I know if meat I bought got recalled. I hate throwing out something because I am not sure whether or not it was recalled and I am not willing to take the chance.

I would love to hear of other recipe ideas people prepare ahead of time for quick dinenrs on busy nights.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I tried making raviolis last week and failed miserably so tonight I took another stab at the pasta making -- mostly because I still had all the stuffing for the raviolis.

I am happy to report I successfully made, from scratch, cannelloni. I actually made two pans, one to bake and one to freeze. I decided to make a combo of butternut squash, pumpkin and some spices along with sausage.

With the ravioli I got hung up on my raviolis falling apart as I worked them through the pasta machine and finally we had some really sad looking pasta. Luckily my husband humored me and told me it really wasn't that bad. The only part that wasn't bad was the filling.

Then I realized I had to run the dough through the machine several times before attempting to make them into raviolis. Today it worked a lot better. After making the two pans, I used the extra dough to make noodles for a later dinner.

Before the sauce....

Extra noodles....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Missing Missouri

So I am from Missouri and am currently living on the East Cost - drastic change in the everyday life. Everything from what's around, to what people do to the pace of life is different. I think we are adjusting quite well, but after so many moves and never feeling too settled since we have been married we pretty much know what to expect when we move.

First there's the initial awe. Everything's new and different and an adventure. Due to my bed rest, this time was very quickly halted a few weeks after we arrived, but generally, that happens for a few months - 6 months tops.

Then there's the letdown period. I personally think this is the most difficult time period. It's when you are somewhat settled and actually know someone, anyone in the area, but not well enough to just hang out with them. A lunch date requires at least a week or two advance notice and spending any time on a weekend together could be fun, but also requires a lot of advance notice.

Finally, after usually a year or so there's a new comfort. You have some friends with which, if you left, you actually may remain in touch with. You don't know the area really well, but you know where the closest grocery stores, Targets and other necessities are. You know the quickest routes and possible alternatives if the main road is clogged.

So right now we're sitting in that in-between time. What's a bit more challenging is that we're having a baby any day. We are so excited, but it is also a bit scary.

My husband and I have spent a lot of time talking about what has moved us around so much and although we are glad we have had the experiences, we would have both welcomed a move back to Missouri, but we believe that door was shut at the time because God has a different plan for us right now. If we're honest with ourselves, we know even if the door had been slightly ajar, we would have done everything to push it open. We just wait for God to reveal what the plan is, whenever that may be.

As I was "cleaning" my digital files today, I came across a song that I think says what we feel. It's from a country star originally from Missouri and it's called "Missing Missouri."

I admit I can't listen to it without tearing up because even though we aren't touring like she talks about, I didn't grow up in the boothill and I didn't sneak out except once growing up:), I do feel like we are on another type of road. Whenever it leads us back home, even for brief amounts of time, there's a sense of relief, comfort, recognition and belonging that all the other places in the world can't compare to. Some days my heart just aches for that.

So anyway, this got longer than I planned but here is the song.

I love my life, love my husband
Without those kid's, man I ain't nothin'
I love my fans, love my band
Love my little Tennessee piece of land
Sometimes my life can get so hectic
Out of the blue when I least expect it
Somewhere between the hubbub and the drama
I get to thinkin' bout mama and

I'm caught up in missing Missouri
'Cause I wanna be with my family
Instead of stuck out on this road I'm on
Everytime my bus wheels hit the boot hill
There's no limelight and I'm alright
'Cause I'm almost home
Where they love me, where they know me
Where they show me back in Missouri

the road just ain't no place for whiners
It's motels, truck stops, all night diners
Hoping that your song'll sell
And having to smile when it ain't doin well
So when everything just gets too much
And I feel like I'm givin up
I close my eyes and say a little prayer
And its like I'm there and


Late summer nights sneakin out the window
Me and the girls driving down the backroads
Tobacco fields and bumblebees
And the cardinals playing on TV

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Take Time To Laugh

I love this. I was finishing cleaning up my craft area and found this from when I worked at a news station. I was having a difficult day, week, month, year (take your pick:) and I really needed something to make me look at the situation in a new light. One of my coworkers had this at her desk and I borrowed it, copied it and hung it high where I could see it every day. It really made me take a breath and remember to focus on what I could do to improve my situation and what I could learn that day, not what wasn't happening for me at work. It was a lot easier to focus on one thing each day too, instead of the overwhelming amount of aspects I wanted to change all at once.

Take Time to Laugh
Here are some great tips on how to make your day a little easier to take. And
remember there is always time to laugh!!!

Mondays are for Compliments: This overcomes our tendency to critize and be judgmental of others, which robs us of laughter. Look for the good in others,
tell them about it, and you might just end up laughing together. "A kind word
often goes unspoken, but never goes unheard."

Tuesdays are for Flexibility: There is no laughter in being stubborn. We all get set in our ways and yet it is a good thing to be open to new ideas. It can be more fun than being in a rut. An open mind lets the laughter in. "The tree that bends in the wind does not break."

Wednesdays are for Gratitude: A good way to feel miserable is to always think you need something more to make you happy. An attitude of gratitude
brings serenity and laughter. "As you go through life, let this always be your
goal; Keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole!"

Thursdays are for Kindness: Think of ways to help make the other person’s life a little easier. Simple kindness may be the most vital key to the riddle of how human beings can live with each other in peace, and care properly for this planet we all share. "The practice of kindness creates healthy relationships and community connection and inspires people to pass kindness on to others."

Fridays are for Forgiveness: Forgiveness means letting go of anger. Find a way to see those who have hurt you in the new light of compassion. Releasing
anger makes you healthier and opens up room in your heart for more laughter.
"I never hold a grudge because while I am being angry the other guy is out

Weekends are for Chocolate: Remember to eat some chocolate or any other favorite food. Remember to take time for leisure, pleasure and relaxation. "A bad day fishing beats a good day working."

World Laughter Tour, INC.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thrifty Thursday

As a mom, I am always looking for ways to save money and to help make our money stretch further than it seems to want to. I thought I'd share some of these tips by following the lead of some of my fellow bloggers and create a "regular" feature. I'm not sure how regular it will when the baby is born, but for now and likely a month or two after, I'm going to take a stab at it.

One of my favorite reporters, whom I used to work with, has a great blog that often offers great tips on how to save money and general consumer tips.

In her last two posts and a story she ran last night, she offers tips on when the best time to shop for specific items is to when the best time to get specific services for your house. She also has several sites listed where you can often find great travel ideas. She is based in Minneapolis, MN so some of it is very hyperlocal, but a lot of it can be used across the board.

Since we're new in our neighborhood and haven't put all our prescriptions in a specific pharmacy, I have taken advantage of Target's coupons to receive free gift cards ($10 each) from transferring prescriptions or taking a new prescription to them. I am currently saving them up to use toward Christmas gifts. I have gotten three in the last few weeks and when I checked with my insurance, I was going to pay the same price anyway so why not?

My husband likes to joke about all the frequent buyer clubs I belong to as well. I refuse to pay money for them, so I only belong to the free ones but you can earn a lot of rewards and coupons by consistently using them. We just earned our free turkey for Thanksgiving (although we may have it at another time) by buying all of our groceries at the store we usually buy them at anyway. We also get three or so emails a week with Borders coupons of up to 50 percent off specific items. I get several $10 - $25 coupons at DSW each year including $10 just for having a birthday and we receive free meals at a lot of our favorite restaurants on our birthdays.

These are just a few of the practices my family and I have adopted over the last few years. I'd love to hear from you and hear what works for you.

Friday, November 2, 2007

What Would You Do With $700K A Month?

Apparently court papers disclose that Britney Spears receives $737,000 a month and spends it all. Now I don't tend to read much of any news about stars and such, but this caught my attention - probably because it was a headline on several random news sites like CNN. (Click here to read the article).

I actually find myself feeling sorry for the girl because as messed up as she is, I think she's just really lost in life.

I don't know about you, but I can't even begin to fathom that much of money in a month .... or a year:). We make a decent income, but that's a completely different level.

My first thought, well after 'How in the heck do you spend that much money in month?!?!?' is what a chance she has to make a difference in the world. I truly believe that the gifts God gives us should be used to help out those in need of help and to carry out what God is calling us to carry out in life.

I'm not just saying that because she seems to have ridiculous amounts of money and we don't. I really believe I am just as called to share whatever gifts, resources and blessings I have as well. I may not be able to make million-dollar gifts to organizations I care about, but I can make regular gifts of $20, $40 or the like to help support their ministries. I can volunteer my time to help organize fundraisers, volunteer to work on elements for their web sites or volunteer my photography skills to cover an event they have. Many organizations rely on the charity of ordinary people to keep running and get the resources they need.

I may not ever get recognized in the same way as someone who makes some big contribution, money, resources or otherwise, but that should never stop me from doing my part. It's important to remember that no matter how small the gift, it's those everyday gifts that make up the majority of help organizations and individuals in our world will actually see and use.

PS: It also goes to show that money does not buy happiness. Although you may know this in your head, it can be difficult to truly remember this as we go through life - especially at times there are money worries, but God always provides for our needs.

About Me

My photo
I'm a mommy, wife and educated woman with an inquisitive mind. I am always looking in ways to challenge and grow in my faith. Many wise people I have known have reminded me if I am not growing, I am going in the wrong direction.