Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mid-Week Money Tip - 90-Day Budget Challenge!

How cute is this logo??!? In Good Sense is doing a 90 Day Budget Boot Camp, and I've decided to participate in their budgeting challenges for the next 90 days. Why? Well, for a couple of reasons!

1.) Our budget can always use fine-tuning.

2.) We've been spending a lot on home repair and decorating lately, and need to tighten the belt a bit.

3.) We'd love to purchase a different home in the next year (or two or three!) and need to save more money in order to do so!

And 4.) I enjoy hearing (and sharing!) about personal finance, budgeting, couponing, etc.!

Let me know if you decide to join in on their Budget Boot Camp! I'd love to know if you are participating. :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rough Week . . .

Just keeping it real - I'm not always HappyGoMommy! It's been a rough week here and we are eagerly looking forward to a weekend. We have been dealing with a water leak/broken pipe somewhere under our foundation, and it likely it won't be covered by our homeowners' insurance. Drilling into our slab foundation and spending thousands of dollars isn't really my idea of a good week. Hoping next week will be much, much better!! See you shortly!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Fill-Ins

It's been an incredibly busy (and not-so-good) week, and I am looking forward to some down time this weekend, thankfully. Also to my nephew's baptism and spending lots of quality time with my family!

1. At this time, my alarm has already gone off once and I've already hit the snooze button once(!): 6:58.
2. It was the reason, of course, that the rest of my day, I was running late!
3. Scrapbooking(!) is something I no longer feel the need to do. Don't get me wrong; I still love it! Just no longer feel the need!
4. I have another errand to run, then probably even one more errand!.
5. "No, I don't know where your 'xyz' is...just go find it."
6. What were once vices are no more? I don't really have any vices, thankfully!
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to playing cards with my husband and parents, tomorrow my plans include cleaning my upstairs and going to my sweet nephew's baptism and Sunday, I want to enjoy Father's Day with my family!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Parenting Potpourri - Owen-isms

At the ripe young age of three(!), Owen can completely crack us up! He is always saying funny things or doing something silly with his facial expressions. I dare you to have a staring contest with him - you'll lose!

When I leave to run errands, I usually say to him, "See you in awhile!" but I'm not quite sure he understands what that means. Because this is his reply: "See you in a pile, mommy!" I laugh every.single.time! (Which is also why he probably continues to say it this way!)

He's been at VBS this week and working on a new Bible verse each day. Monday it was, Owen-style, "I have given Your word in my heart." (Or, you know, as it says in the Bible, "I have HIDDEN your word in my heart.") Yesterday it was, Owen-style, "For God so loved the world that He gave his Son to only me." Uh, close Owen!! :)

And I'm constantly hugging on my kiddos and telling them I love them. Last week, I told Owen, "You know, I just love you to pieces!" He got a very worried look on his face and said, "You love me when I break into pieces?"

Yes, Owen, even if you break into pieces! :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mid-Week Money Tip - Budgeting

Do you have a budget? Do you USE a budget? :) We have used a budget since the first few months of our marriage and it has really helped us!

I first started using a budget because as a new, young wife handling the majority of the shopping, I had no idea how much we **should** spend at the grocery each week, on entertainment, clothing, personal expenses, etc. I needed some kind of guideline. So, I did some research and found Crown Financial Ministries.

(I was using their book at the time (which has since been republished) . . . no website in 1998!)

They had a great, sample budget that I used and modified just a bit to fit our needs. To this day, I still use their online calculators to help set initial budgets (for our family or others). They have fantastic calculators that can help you quickly set up a basic budget. My favorite is the Spending Plan Calculator which takes your income and subtracts your tithe (if you tithe), and then gives a breakdown by percentage of what you should spend for each category. Although each family is different, this will certainly help you get started and form the 'bones' for a workable budget for your family!

Beyond that? We use the envelope system, which we were also first introduced to by Crown. Dave Ramsey also recommends using envelopes for cash. You can find more info on the envelope system here and here. These are the actual envelopes we use.

It's a bit pricey to get the binder to start with (especially if you are frugal!), but you can purchase refills for it, making the binder a one-time-only purchase.

And if you like the idea of the envelope system, but do not physically want to carry the cash, envelopes, etc. - you can always use YNAB!

YNAB (You Need A Budget) is online software that does it all for you. Budgeting, tracking, fixing "leaks" in your budget, and more. I have not personally used YNAB because we like the physical envelopes (they help us spend less, too), but I have heard great reviews about YNAB. It is also a pricey initial investment, but many people feel it is worth the expense!

Do you have any budgeting tips or tricks? What works for you? What doesn't?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Family Life - Lake Time!

We were active in a homeschool gym class this past year that was wonderful! Excellent leaders, teachers, and organization made this a a great experience all the way around. We finished the year with a fun field day and picnic at a nearby lake and park a few weeks ago. We were able to canoe, use a rope swing, play games, have a picnic, and enjoy a special day of fellowship with great friends!
Owen testing out the water!

Quinn enjoyed the rope swing above the lake!

Riley was much more adventuresome on her second turn and went even higher!

Little O on the smaller rope swing (NOT over the water!!) :)

Quinn canoeing with one of his buddies

It was a great day and we had the perfect weather for it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - Recipe Ideas

We have a crazy week at our house this week, so I'm not even bothering with a menu plan! I'll just throw together something each of the few nights we are in this week - though I do need to plan something for Friday night when we have company again. It will be something on the grill for sure; we are really enjoying our new grill and getting lots of use out of it!

I thought I would give you some ideas for where to find new recipes if you like to try new things. We try lots of new recipes around here! Here are some of my favorite places for finding new recipes:

  • AllRecipes - This site is fabulous! You can search for recipes based on ingredients you have on hand, but title, or just browse through the categories. My favorite things about this site are all of the recipe reviews from regular cooks, the fact that you can print the recipe in any size (to fit whatever size of recipe box you have), and that the serving sizes can easily be adjusted.
  • Simple & Delicious Magazine - Great, great magazine, especially if you are looking for simple, everyday ideas. Fabulous photos, great index in the back, and lots of "tips" about cooking throughout the magazine.
  • Local cookbooks - These can be anything from cookbooks that women in a local church have put together, to cookbooks that moms' groups have designed. They are tried & true recipes that anyone can use. I have several, and often flip to them when I need that everyone will love! You can usually pick these up at craft fairs, Christmas bazaars, fundraisers, etc.
  • Quick & Healthy Cookbook Vol. 2 - This is a wonderful cookbook to have if you want to make healthy meals. They are all delicious! I received this one from my mom years ago, and could make an entire month's worth of meals using just this cookbook.
  • And last but not least, the internet! Sometimes the fastest way to find a great recipe is to just type in what you are thinking of making with your ingredients on hand (like "oven roasted potatoes"), and just see what pops up!
And if you are looking for a fun craft project, try this cute recipe box (shown above) - love, love, love it! Where do you find new recipes that you enjoy?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Homeschooling: Cute Cartoon

(click on cartoon to enlarge)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Fill-Ins

So glad for a weekend! Looking forward to lots of time with friends and family this weekend (and hoping the rain holds off!).

1. Snuggling with my kiddos feels great.

2. The solution is to pray about it.

3. Cuddled up next to my husband is how I like to fall asleep.

4. How about the Steelers this coming fall? Looking forward to a good season already!

5. "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" is something (a book) I highly recommend!

6. Imagine a world without M&Ms . . . so sad! :(

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to dinner with my best friend and her family, tomorrow my plans include making homemade strawberry jam all day and going out in the evening to celebrate my anniversary and Sunday, I want to spend time with my favorite husband as we celebrate 12 years!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Parenting Potpourri - Calendars

We keep what looks like a fairly busy calendar, but in reality, we don't actually *do* everything on our calendar! :) My kids are always wanting to do "something," but it isn't always possible with work schedules, trying to get chores done, school finished, family events, etc. BUT . . . I do put tons of "optional" events on our calendar. That way, if we aren't busy that day, or we finish our work, we can do the fun stuff!

For example, this summer, the library and local movie theaters both have weekly events. I will write all of these (that appeal to us) on our calendar, and then we can pick & choose what we do. It also adds incentive (during the school year, at least) to finish our work as soon as possible so we can do the "extra" things! So while we may never get to everything on our calendar, we are at least aware of what is going on and we can attend if we want to!

I also add upcoming events that are in the very distant future - that way, they are already marked on our calendar as the time approaches. This includes things like yearly festivals (Grabill Country Fair in September, Christmas Bible School in December, etc.) so we don't forget about them! Even if we end up not attending these things, at least we don't forget them!

Another thing I do with our calendars is add Post-It notes for the following year. For instance, at Christmas time 2009 we discussed possibly getting a real Christmas tree for the following year. So I went ahead and added a Post-It note on the following year's calendar in November to help me remember! I will stick Post-It notes in the back of my 2010 calendar now for things I want to possibly do or change for next summer, as well.

And if you haven't already guessed, I love calendars! I've even been looking at ones for 2011 already - yes, they're out in stores now! My favorite site for calendars is, of course, Lang!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mid-Week Money Tip - Saving on Dining Out

We enjoy going out to eat on a fairly regular basis, but I try to always have a coupon with me if possible! Just this week, I was able to order two $25 gift certificates to great restaurants for only $2 each (woohoo!) from! They usually have sales or coupon codes you can use to buy gift certificates inexpensively.

In addition, if you join your favorite restaurant's "e-club" (or something similar), they will send you coupons, specials, free meal coupons, etc. on a regular basis. Most upscale restaurants even do this, as well. Some other tips to save on dining out? Split a meal with someone, order water for your drink, or order from the kids' menu (if they allow it) for smaller portions and a smaller bill!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Family Life - Ordinary Days

Aren't ordinary days the best? Just spending time with family, hanging out with friends, reading a good book, or playing games with your favorite people? We stay busy around our house nearly all the time, but it's the quiet (and not-so-quiet!) times in our home we most enjoy! Here's a look at the ordinary things around our home (which are what make life so special):

Reading . . .

Home Repair . . .

Snuggling (he's also in a laundry basket under there!) . . .

Playing . . .

And just monkeyin' around!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - It's All About the Grill, Baby!

After realizing last week that our grill isn't holding up too well, we purchased a new one over the weekend - yay! If you ever need a grill, the week before Father's Day seems to be the time to buy! We found lots of ads, sales, etc. for all kinds of grills and finally ended up with this one:
It's fun, because it also has a side burner where we can cook something in a pot. Tonight we enjoyed burgers on the grill, and let our corn on the cob cook right alongside it outside. Definitely keeps my kitchen cooler! And less mess to clean up afterwards, too. Here's what's on our (grill!) menu this week:

Monday: Hamburgers, corn on the cob, watermelon
Tuesday: Tunisian-Spiced Chicken Breasts, grilled red potato packets, strawberries
Wednesday: Kielbasa, corn on the cob, watermelon
Thursday: Grilled Trout, couscous, blueberry muffins, broccoli, fruit
Friday: Marinated Flank Steak (company's coming!) - plus a few sides (haven't decided on these yet)
Saturday: Celebrating our 12th anniversary and going out! Any suggestions for where we should go?
Sunday: Barbecue chicken, carrots, garlic bread, strawberries

We are definitely enjoying lots of summer fruits right now, too. My kids eat soooo much fruit I can barely keep enough in my frig! Yum!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

School's Out!!

(Old photos of our homeschooling room - from the fall of '07.)

We finished our school year yesterday! :) We had a great year and it's hard to believe we now have a 5th grader and a 2nd grader (plus a tag-along preschooler!). The kids had a great year and became more self-sufficient with their work (in a good way). We switched to a heavy reading-intensive curriculum, Sonlight, this year, and while it was good, it wasn't my favorite curriculum. I think my favorite will likely always be Winter Promise! If we go back to homeschooling, I think I will definitely use WP again!

We planned to homeschool our children for several years and eventually send them to school. With the completion of this school year, we have been homeschooling for six fantastic years! It has flown by!

After lots of prayer, discussion, school tours, and more prayer, we decided to enroll Riley & Quinn in a private Christian school for the fall for a variety of reasons. We are excited about it, but I will really miss homeschooling them every day. We get to do a LOT of fun things together and I'm learning a lot, too!

We do believe, however, that this is the very best decision for our family for this year. We may bring them home again next year, or the following, or have some kids in school, and some home . . . who knows? What we do know is that the Lord is in control and He will have them where they are supposed to be. It's been a difficult decision but one we feel is best.

I'll still have little O at home, so although I'm leaving 4th and 1st grade behind, I'm transitioning back to preschool - bring on the crafts, alphabet magnets, glue, and lots and lots of books!!

We are looking forward to a year of change, growth, and new opportunities for the kids!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Fill-Ins

Today is our last day of school for the year! :) It's been a good year, but the ending is bittersweet as we are not homeschooling next year. More on that tomorrow!

This week's Friday Fill-In . . .

1. The mountains or about anywhere(!) is my favorite place to travel to.

2. When I think about my childhood, I often remember vacations with my family, riding bikes with my next-door neighbor, Sara, and my mom baking cookies after school!

3. Someone who loves you and doesn't judge you makes for a good friend.

4. The wind in the trees, the rain on my skin, get me back inside!! :)

5. Taking a vacation is so exciting! (Wish I was planning one now!)

6. My best friend knows when to talk and when I need my space.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to ccelebrating the end of school with the kids (we have plans - but if I list them here, Riley will find out the surprise early!), tomorrow my plans include Riley's end-of-the-year piano recital and packing up school books and Sunday, I want to enjoy church with my family, play outside, and work on clearing out our school room!

And I want to give a special shout out HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to my great parents who are celebrating their 40th(!!!) anniversary on Sunday, as well. Thanks for setting a great example; we love you both!! :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Parenting Potpourri - Dry Erase Notes

I love to build my kids up and encourage them as much as possible. Certainly nothing forced or fake - but encouragement when possible! One of my favorite ways of doing this is by leaving them notes where they are likely to find them (thanks to my own mom!). I'll leave notes in suitcases, backpacks, lunch boxes, beds, or on the kitchen table. But by far, my favorite place to leave a note is directly on their bathroom mirror!

It's super-easy to do - and you don't even need paper! Just grab a fun, colored dry-erase marker, and start writing directly on the mirror! Get wild & crazy and use even TWO or THREE different colors! :)

We love to leave notes this way, and they wipe right off. It's a great way to start your child's day on the right foot - especially if they have a big event coming up, haven't been feeling well, or you had an argument recently (that *never* happens in our house! HA!). Give it a try and see how your kids respond!

P.S. Works great for marriages, too. :) We do this often.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mid-Week Money Tip - Favorite Links

Really, who doesn't love saving money?? It's a fun hobby. :)

I read and enjoy several simple, fun, personal finance blogs and enjoy learning new tips and ways to save. I know I have mentioned several here before, but here's a list of some of my current favorites! My favorite sites are ones that are humorous, simple, and very practical. I don't read them to get rich(!), or to learn how to invest - just to learn simple, everyday tips that we can all use to save money.

You can also join most of their mailing lists so you can receive their emails versus always having to check their web sites. Don't be afraid to cancel once you have joined their lists, though; some sites send out WAY too many emails!

Do you have any other favorites?

The Simple Dollar

Money Saving Mom

Frugal Dad

Clipping for Cash

Get Rich Slowly

Deal Seeking Mom

I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Family Life - Beach Vacation!

Sorry for the picture-heavy post, but I heard a few of you wanted more photos on my blog! ;)

We were fortunate to spend a week at the beach in late April! We had been saving some money for awhile and looking for the right time and place to go. We used a travel agent and he found us some great rates which enabled us to even FLY out of Fort Wayne directly to St. Petersburg, Florida. We had great weather, a fabulous condo across the street from the beach, and terrific family time together! We MOST enjoyed playing in the sand, the ocean, and at the pool. :) Here are some favorite photos from the week.

Our cute - and spacious - condo!

My favorite boys

Enjoying a walk on the beach

Our super-adorable daughter! :)

Cute Quinn in the light of the sunset

All three enjoying the sand and surf

My poor family being attacked by Owen's shark pincher!

Another seafood dinner outside at sunset - beautiful!

View from dinner one night at sunset

The boys loved seeing the alligators!

Miniature golf - Brad and I tied - ugh! We are so super-competitive!

The pool was fabulous and our condo had tons of toys!

Pelicans everywhere!

One of our last days at the beach - playing in the sand at sunset!

We LOVE the beach!!