Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Jesse Tree Project: I love these patterns!

jesse tree ornament patternsThis is the year our family will be doing a Jesse tree project. Sure, I'd tried it in the past, but it became little more than adding ornaments to the tree when we decorated.
And then I had a chance to review Our Family's Jesse Tree from Faith & Fabric. I love the fact these projects are do-able despite any crafting ability, are simple enough for children to create and come with daily devotions for our family. So we'll be revisiting this tradition in 2015!

Mary and infant Jesus ornament pattern
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You can learn more about this book on my blog, Use Resources Wisely.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Frugal Friday #6

Happy day before Halloween! I'm sure your children are wound up about fall parties and Halloween celebrations at school as well.

We've been trying to keep our Halloween celebrations on the frugal end as well. Here are some of the things our family has been doing:

Our Girl Scout and classroom party admittedly featured the same activities. (Buy once, use twice, right?) We're upcycling a ton of toilet paper rolls for our $1 spooky craft and are playing the "Bag of Bones game" in the classroom today.

Halloween costumes have been homemade creations too. My son was a ninja for one party but has since decided to trick or treat as a skeleton. Both came from his closet (we bought skeleton pajamas on clearance last winter.).

My daughter went as "Night" to the scout party and may still raid her closet to be Luna Lovegood for her friend's party.

And as per tradition, we'll be greating trick or treaters tomorrow with Happy Meal toys, party bag trinkets and other items.

How are you having a frugal Halloween celebration?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Frugal Friday 5: Frugal Fall Break

Fall break is going frugal this year! Camping trips and excursions to Kansas or other adventures are out. Instead, we're seeking out local adventures to enjoy.

This week, we:

Enjoyed free passes to Holiday World from a coworker. We were able to visit my parents and take the kids out to their first time at an amusement park. And, by going on the later-starting Sunday, eating a large breakfast first and packing snacks in our car, we were able to enjoy the park without splurging on $7.99 funnel cakes or other expensive snack items.

Went to the Children's Museum Haunted House. Again, for free. Several years ago we discovered that the local public libraries offered free passes as part of their "stopping in" prizes during the summer reading program. For the last two years, we have snagged those instead of $1 off coupons elsewhere. The kids love it - and we were even able to take my daughter's Girl Scout troop last year!

Went to the apple orchard and hiking.

Fall break might not have been a wild adventure,  but it was a sea of little ones.  And that is ok.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Frugal Friday 4

This week's frugal accomplishments :

Went to Goodwill this Saturday.  I never really thought about it,  but the first Saturday is 50 percent off. So for $20, I scored:

  • Sweats for my little flag football player and his friend
  • Jeans and pants for my little guy,  since he apparently no longer wears slims.  (Oops.)
  • A work sweater
  • Four Southern Living Christmas books,  mint condition,  for my mother in law for Christmas. 
Took my daughter to Celebrate Science Indiana while boys watched football.  $5 for parking for four hours of her entertainment. 

Happily feasted on french onion soup.

Traded aforementioned slim jeans with a friend for a pack of glass wipes for my car.  We both came out ahead! 

What were your frugal accomplishments this week?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Frugal Friday 3

Sickness has been the rule in our home lately,  and it left some nasty results.
My husband was in bed for eight days with bronchitis,  the end result bring that he could not complete his prerequisites for his job retaining program.  By the grace of God they are letting him restart in the November class but this sets us back another two months.  We've delayed our internal home repairs from the flood as well,  as our insurance company has not sent us the balance.
We are moving into month four of a one income lifestyle,  and we are feeling the pinch.  We've asked our kids not to buy milk at school lunch.  We're strategically planning Christmas gifts. (Clothing or tennis shoes,  anyone?)
My Cub Scout is working extremely hard to sell popcorn to fund his next summer at day camp, and we are getting close!! Three popcorn booths at church each weekend have added up. I'm proud of him for all the effort!
What frugal victories did you celebrate this week?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Giveaway: Quack and Daisy

My daughter's friend Jax is autistic. But you'd never know looking at the class. From kindergarten, they embraced Jax, finding routines that work for him and ways to help him settle down on tougher days.

Five years later, they still celebrate "Free Hug Friday" - a free-for-all where everyone gets high fives and hugs. That's what I love about children. They don't understand differences as being bad.

And that's also what I loved about Aileen Stewart's book, Quack and Daisy. Set on a farm, a kitten and duckling meet between the barn and a pond to show readers that it’s okay to be friends with those that may seem different from yourself.

It's a sweet story with a great lesson for children, any day.

And you can win a copy!


Quack and Daisy giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

  Disclaimer: The participating bloggers were not compensated for this post. No purchase is necessary to enter. One entrant per household, per address. Void where prohibited by law. Winner(s) will be contacted by email and have 24 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. The sponsor(s) will be responsible for product shipment to winner(s) of this sweepstakes. This event is in no way administered, sponsored, or endorsed by, or associated with, Facebook and/or Twitter, Google, Pinterest. Contact Thaleia at s2ovaservices@gmail.comif you have any additional questions or comments.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Frugal Friday #2: An exercise in patience

I confess, my Frugal Friday post is a bit late, but not without reason. We've been dealing with illness the last two weeks in our home, and sometimes blogging just falls lower on the priority list.

This week's frugal accomplishments:

  1. Sold an extra pair of snowpants to a grandmother on the employee classifieds. Found out that her family's home had burned, and we're able to bless her granddaughter with some additional clothes from my daughter's closet.
  2. Carpooled to son's friends' birthday parties. (Sadly, yes, plural. We actually turned a third friend down for today. Too much!)
  3. Ate leftovers. (Sorry, it is an accomplishment, it's a tough habit to embrace.)
  4. Put my faith in God by putting in a contribution at church. It was a little one, but the habit of sharing, even when it is tough, is one I need to re-instate. I will try to build up to tithing eventually but am embracing consistency over quantity first.
  5. Documented all mileage for donations and volunteer hours for taxes.
  6. Had a "playdate" with my daughter and her friend that actually was a community service project vs. a go out and spend money activity. They loved making a difference in our community!
  7. Reached out to my fellow Girl Scout leaders to see what supplies they could collect in advance of an upcycled ornament event we are doing in December. (Being frugal, though it's not my money!)
What accomplishments did you have this week?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Frugal Friday: My little moments

I've decided to start journaling our family's frugal moments on a weekly basis. As we are now beginning our third month of unemployment, and were denied unemployment assistance by the state, we are having to buckle down even more. By journaling my moments, I feel like I can take more ownership of our family's situation.

Frugal accomplishments this week:

  1. I took my son shopping. More specifically, Christmas shopping. Each of my children had received a Toys R Us gift card as a thank you for their participation in a project. My son's first reaction was "I wish it was more" - a typical 7 year old reaction, but one that made me cringe. After some thought and prayer, we approached each kid with the idea they could use the gift card - to buy a Christmas gift for their sibling. He was not allowed to spend over (other than tax, which I would cover), and it was a great way for him to learn about budgeting and decision-making. It was a treat to take my son shopping (before the mad holiday rush) to let him casually, determinedly discover his best gift idea for his sister.
  2. I sent my brother to space. Yep, the little boy who went to space camp and dreamed of being an astronaut has now grown up to be a computer geek...who visits NASA for fun on summer vacation. So what do I get the brother who has everything? His name on a mission to Mars. (And you can too, but NASA's cutoff is Sept. 8!) So for Christmas, he's getting a framed boarding pass, hopefully with a space camp photo from his childhood.
  3. I came clean. Birthday parties seem like they are every week in September, and they can quickly become budget-busters. I sent a message to each of the moms, explaining our situation and asking what ideas they have for smaller things we could get. All have been gracious.
  4. I asked for prayer. We cannot live in this world on our own, and I'll admit this week has been difficult on a number of levels. When I hit my lowest, I reached out on social media, asking for prayers and support. Reaching out does your heart and soul good.
What frugal accomplishments did you have this week?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Putting God First: How to Make God the #1 Priority in Every Area of Your Life: A Review

Putting God First: How to Make God the #1 Priority in Every Area of Your Life

Rarely do I order an e-book and make it past the first page. Reading a book on my phone never ends well.

And then I ordered Brittany Ann's book, Putting God First: How to Make God the #1 Priority in Every Area of Your Life. I've read Brittany Ann's blog, Equipping Godly Women, for some time, and I was intrigued by what she'd say.

How could you not be attracted to a description like this:

Do you ever feel stressed, worn out, exhausted or overwhelmed? Like no matter how hard you work, how late you stay up or how much you plan and multitask, there simply is never enough time to fit it all in? Has quiet time with the Lord become a distant memory? And while you know you should change that, at the end of another long day, all you really want to do is fall into bed and sleep? 

Little did I know how much this book would touch my heart.

I scanned the first paragraph or two once my phone said the book was downloaded, then stopped. And read it.

And then I went to the next page.

By the end of the introduction, I was hooked - enough to share the book with friends.

Throughout my morning, I kept wanting to return to the book, and confess I was secretly relieved that the school called to pick up a sick child - so I could read while she watched her movie on the couch!

What was it about an e-book, written for a reading format I struggle with, that grabbed me so much to draw me from my daily work?

It was the fact that "life" was pulling Brittany away from the life she should be living in the Lord. She was overextended in the wrong things, and neglecting the simple tasks that could bring her peace and comfort. Being faithful to the Lord doesn't require long hours, but it requires mindfulness in Him. It requires a relationship, not a wish list and a check-off box.

For some time, I've been bothered by some personal habits of mine. Like the fact that I, who always felt uncomfortable when a phone meeting plowed through the overhead noontime prayer, now was rushing down the hall when I heard those words of faith over the intercom.

Or the fact that I was going through life without stopping to say grace, or if I did, it was while I was doing six other things for mealtime.

Or the fact, as I told my husband, "I don't have anything else to give."

So instead, I spent a sick day afternoon reading - and hopefully taking to heart - ways I can become a more godly woman. Not in the holier than thou variety, but one who just carries peace in her heart in the most difficult seasons.

I urge you to check out Putting God First: How to Make God the #1 Priority in Every Area of Your Life today. It's a fast read, and one that I hope will touch your heart as well. The book currently is free for download on Amazon, please grab your free copy today!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Prayers for a trial

This is the part where things get real.

So often I tend to stick to the "happily ever after" posts, sugar coating what is happening in my life. It's easier to write simple stories on faith or my children's adventures in scouting.

But life is not always easy.

For several years, our family has battled with the effects of the Recession:

  • years of unemployment
  • long-term underemployment
  • growing debt as we tried to stay afloat
  • uncertainty
  • worry, and the worst:
  • Depression
We've battled from the brink of all of these. I am proud to say that my small strands of faith helped with this. But it's a battle far from over.

My husband still battles with Depression, and it's far from over. He suffers from what we call "Bad days." It's when he hides in his hole, barely able to come out.

He lost his job two months ago, unrelated to his battle with Depression. And he's had two interviews but no successes. Two months later, we are still waiting to see if the state will even give us unemployment.

It's a tough battle. It's an uphill road of faith.

And this is where I ask you for help.

I need prayers.

Prayers for my husband to find faith, faith in himself, faith in God, through this trial.

Prayers for my young children, who are again having to grow up too fast. 

Prayers for me, while I try to balance work and the challenges at home with the extra cross.

Thank you. And if you list your requests below, I'll be sure to pray for you as well.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Peach-Prosciutto Ice Cream

Peach-prosciutto ice cream recipeFresh peaches are one of my favorite parts of summer, and when my daughter wanted to make her father homemade peach ice cream for Father's Day, I was all for it.

And then she added a twist.

She was thumbing through my review copy of  No-Churn Ice Cream: Over 100 Simply Delicious No-Machine Frozen Treatsby Leslie Bilderback. And she saw the magic word: Prosciutto.

Now, we've had this smoky, salty ham in peas and pastas, but ice cream? This was something new. But the results were amazing. A little sweet, a little salty, a lot of summer.

Peach-Prosciutto Ice Cream


3 large fresh peaches, sliced
1/4 cup water
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
13-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 oz. prosciutto


Homemade Peach ice cream -- with prosciuttoCombine the peaches, water, zest, juice and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peaches release their liquid. Continue cooking until the fruit breaks down, the liquid evaporates and the mixture becomes jammy. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Chop prosciutto finely.

Puree the cooled peaches, either by passing through a fine mesh strainer, or running through a food processor or blender. 

In a large bowl, combine the peach puree, nutmeg, sweetened condensed milk, and milk.

In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until it reaches soft peak. Fold the cream and prosciutto into the peach mixture, then transfer to a shallow freezable container.

Cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper pressed directly on the surface of the ice cream, and place in the freezer for six hours.

Reprinted with permission

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Save Time with Amazon School Supply Lists

Back to school time saving tip: Amazon has loaded many schools' school supply lists on its website. While I can't swear by the price comparison versus hitting the local sales, it can certainly save you the headaches of kids who want a folder with ___ on it, or not finding any glue!

Monday, July 6, 2015

15 Minion crafts to celebrate the Minion movie launch

Today on my Girl Scout blog, Use Resources Wisely, I'm sharing 15 fun and unique ways to craft your way toward celebrating the launch of the new Minions movie. Check it out!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

How I'm not paying for school supplies - thanks to ibotta

School supply lists get longer each year. And the costs keep going up.

This year, between two students, we're being asked for three dozen folders, one box of specialty brand colored pencils for art and two sets of headphones for the computer room. And that's on top of the traditional school supply lists we've grown accustomed to.

I printed off my children's lists and groaned at the length, and wondered how I'd afford it all.

And then I relaxed, realizing I don't have to worry at all.

For the last year, I've used the ibotta app to submit receipts for everyday grocery items I buy. Granted, there are many, many name-brand groceries I don't purchase, but if I am buying it anyway, or even better partnering with a Cartwheel discount or paper coupon, I take advantage of this service.

Dollar by dollar, quarter by quarter, I've amassed more than $125 toward my school supplies, which I'll be cashing out soon for a Walmart gift card. And that's with doing very little effort. 

By submitting rebates on everyday items like milk, eggs and orange juice throughout the year, I've saved enough to pay for most of my school supply shopping this month!
Groceries and beauty/wellness products are the biggest categories on ibotta, but you can also score with discounts for baby supplies, specialty gifts, sports items, restaurant chains and clothing from major retailers like Macy's, Kohl's, Target and Cabela's. 

Online shoppers will love it come Christmas shopping season, when you can often get rebates of $5 to $15 off of $50 to $100 purchases.

But it doesn't take much effort to collect funds for this year's school supply shopping. You can scroll the item list, check out a task to unlock a rebate and then scan in your receipt after your purchase.
Ibotta recently launched cash back on any brand, which is a blessing. I can even get discounts on produce like bananas and lemons.
 If you'd like to check out ibotta, visit my referral link to get started:

What's the best deal you've scored through ibotta? 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The new Cinderella movie: Have courage, and be kind

Disney's Cinderella (2015): Have courage and be kindMy daughter and I had the chance to attend an early screening of Disney's new Cinderella movie this week.
At first, I questioned why her Girl Scout council was promoting this event for older girls - after all, it's just a Disney movie.

But this may be one of my favorite live-action adaptations of classic Disney films of all time.

If you're looking for singing mice and bippity boppity boo, go back to the 1950s original. Instead, watch for a Cinderella who shows poise and strength despite the increasing abusive treatment from her stepmother and stepsisters.

Have courage, and be kind

"Have courage, and be kind" was the advice given to Cinderella by her mother on her deathbed. It's a message Cinderella struggles to uphold during difficult times, but she ultimately lets her light shine through even in her darkest moments.

On a day when she has suffered enough, she takes her horse for an escape into the woods, where she encounters none other than the prince, who's hunting. Her compassion for a hunted deer catches his attention, and in their discussions she learns on how he torn between following his father's orders and following his heart. She offers him the advice of "Have courage, and be kind."

I loved the movie, and I loved the message. But I was surprised by some unintended results.

My daughter, a fourth-grader, has never truly overcome being bullied for a good portion of last year. While the behavior was put to an end, she deals with trust issues, sadly, with most of the girls in her grade. And while she longs to be part of the group, there's a part of her that hangs back, that hides her true self.

The day after the preview, she shared with me her disappointment that a new girl was invited to lunch, "but no one invites me." Yet she lacked the confidence to even approach the girls she liked. My advice? "Remember the movie: Have courage, and be kind."

The next afternoon, she reported that she joined some girls at lunch and had a wonderful time. I asked if she was asked or if she just joined. She had summed up her courage - the kindness I never worried about - and put herself out there. And, not to my surprise, she was accepted for who she was.

Cinderella comes out later this month, but you can order the Cinderella: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack here

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Lego Birthday Party on a Budget

Birthday parties are a cause for excitement - and discouragement.

Excitement for the little ones. Discouragement due to the messy house and even messier costs of excitement.

I've always tried to limit the costs of my child's birthday party to $75 or under, but I know there has been some budget creep. 

This year, when my son wanted a Lego theme for his seventh birthday, we went for it. 

We brought out every Lego in the house and set up a building zone in the toy room.

We let the boys watch The Lego Movie and munch on bowls and bowls of freshly popped popcorn while it rained.

We had plans for a low-key homemade cake with a small Lego figure and vehicle on top. When the cake crumbled - literally - we went to a plan B  - Lego "cup"cakes - literally frosting and cake pieces in a cup. Those first-graders gobbled it up.

And when the rain finally came to an end, we took advantage of the still-warm weather to play games on the driveway.

Our goodie bags were replaced with a bag with a thank you note, a Lego Ninjago DVD we got on Black Friday, and a copy of the Lego magazine (which we received for free just by emailing the Lego company.)

Did anyone notice there was no bounce house? No unique location? No wild activities? 

No. These were just boys having a good day.

Just remember: Bigger isn't always better. 

Having a slamming sixth birthday party will not pay for your child's college education. Here's a way for a low-key, low-budget party that the boys will remember.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Budget Star Wars Jedi Party for Our Boys

The Force should be with all birthday party planners.

A December birthday is a tough act. Most years the weather doesn't cooperate, and the spirits are high with the over-sugared, over-active Christmas season.

But when our 6 year old wanted a Star Wars birthday, we knew we could make it happen.

Star Wars Jedi birthday party ideas on a budget

The great thing is we pulled this party off on a budget. Here's how we did it.

I'm not afraid of making the "homemade" birthday cake out of a box mix. Rather than pay for a high-price bakery, we frosted the cake and put a small Lego Star Wars figure on top for a decoration. (Sorry, I just can't do all the Pinterest amazing cakes, nor do we necessarily have to!)

We splurged and did a pinata (something I rarely do). There was a party store going out of business, so we took a pinata and converted it to Darth Vader with a little paint and creativity. Poor Darth got a beating out of him both during the pinata game and after.

Yes, we pulled out all the stops, including Jedi costumes for the boys. Lest you think I have great skills, these entailed a large-sized brown T-shirt and inflatable light sabers from the party section at Target.

Jedi training was the name of the game. And even though the weather outside was frightful, we had plenty of activities to keep the boys busy.

We laid the ground rules early. As part of our training, after each training session we went to the "Jedi circle." We then did silly party games like keep the balloon in the air using your Jedi skills, light saber training, a training maze created by the girls, etc.

At the end, we watched part of the Star Wars movie until parents picked the boys up.

You don't need fancy or high cost to do a party that the boys will remember...even if it's like the boy at the left who told me a year later that he liked everything but the light sabers should not have been pink!

Slaying Debt in 2015? This Book is For You

Slaying the Debt Dragon: How one family conquered their money monster and found an inspired happily ever after | Cherie Lowe | Queen of Free | paying off bills | reduce debt | new years resolutions
Getting rid of our credit card debt has been a dream of mine since my husband was able to return to work a few years ago. But the details made it tricky. Getting half his former salary, combined with the expenses of Catholic school (a priority for us as well) and the unexpected expenses, and our debt, despite our efforts kept trickling up.

I'll admit it. I've been frustrated. I've been angry. I've wondered more than once, How could this happen?

But I'm relieved to learn I'm not alone. Recently I read - and re-read - an advance copy of Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After, written by Indiana author and blogger Cherie Lowe.

Here's the thing: It doesn't matter if your debt happened over a big mistake, a lot of small mistakes or misfortune. The reality is you can get out of it.

Here's what I love about Slaying the Debt Dragon: It's a book filled with baby steps, hiccups and great advice. I love that Lowe comes clean about the impact massive debt has on her family, her marriage, her faith and her sense of self. And I love that she has a success story to share.

Lowe's story is about a leap of faith and a series of small changes that over time built her family's success in paying off $127,000 in debt. I've read this twice already - once just after it arrived, looking for small tips to glean and try, and a second with new eyes after getting a small raise. What can I do differently? The answer is it starts with a plan and ends with consistency. But a little sense of humor never hurts too.