busy, busy

I have been so busy this past week and it's only going to get crazier when I start my first masters class next week.  I'm nearing the end of the school year with gobs of deadlines and 21 students that are jumping off the walls and this overachiever decided to take on a summer class that is three weeks long and goes for three hours each night, four times a week.  Poor hubby and puppy may go hungry...thankfully they can head to my in-laws for some love and food.

So amidst getting my kids prepped and pumped for their two weeks of state testing upon them, finding birthday gifts for both our dads, grocery shopping to prepare quick and easy dinners and lunches for us, getting textbooks ready to ship out (we have sold 4 in the past month through Amazon...crazy!), doing heaps of laundry since we were out of town last weekend, trying to find time to get rid of the dust on the furniture and dog hair on the hardwood floor, and taking a possible moment to breath on the couch, I haven't quite found the moments to blog.  Sad thing is....it's one of the things I really want to do.  I want to put it before so many other things...I crave the expressive outlet...but, I have had to stay away some.  Boo.  And to my bloggy friends and readers....I'm sorry, but you just may see and hear a little less from me for the next three weeks.  Just like I'm reminding my hubby and puppy that they will catch glimpses of me, I promise...I'm hoping you'll get glimpses of me too.  If not, though....I'm sorry in advance!

There are some blogs that I check out even if I just have a spare minute in the day for blog reading, and Carissa at lowercase letters by carissa graham. is one of them.  She's been participating in this great thing called, Planting Chums at Hannah's blog, Aspire.  I thought this was a great post idea since I am unable to muster up words for something else right now.  If you participate, you're entered for giveaways.  Fabulous post ideas and giveaways? I'm in.

four fun facts:

1.  Justin and I met in KindergartenOur "love at first sight" moment was when he had a spiky flat-top, missing teeth, and adored all things farm and cars (oh wait, he still does)....and I wore big, puffy dresses, rocked bangs, and worked so hard to memorize the days of the week just so I could answer "calendar time" questions correctly.

2.  I grew up on an 80-acre farm.  My dad owns a landscaping business and most of the nursery stock is grown on the farm.  We had cows I named and I cried when they "moved to another farm" (they were beef cattle...).  The creek that backs up to our farm was one of my favorite places to go (still is), and one of my best friends from childhood and I used to pretend it was the ocean that ran along our farms...and we would explore it like crazy.  Both of my grandparents live just next door or right down the road.  It was the setting for our wedding reception, complete with huge white tents, and hay bales as the background.  What a special place in my heart. 

3.  I prefer french fries over ice cream.  McDonald's or Red Robin's french fries to be exact (and with a fountain diet coke....amazing.)  I'm a salty over sweet kinda gal.  Bad, bad habit.  (However, I have recently found a love for Peach Amaretto Chip ice cream at a local ice cream shop...pretty amazing and I actually have found myself craving it some here lately.  Homemade and you have to be there on the right day that they decided to make that flavor.)

 4.  God has been stirring in my heart so much lately...and I love it.  I have always known it to be true that when I'm really into my time with God and passionately seeking and praying to grow closer to Him, and really studying my bible (not just reading it)...that my heart is filled with His love and guidance.  Well in the past few months that has been so true and evident in my life.  One of the neatest things is to see also how God is aligning the desires of mine and Justin's heart.  One of those things is our desire to adopt one day.  We've always thought about it, but God-willing we now feel like it's definitely one of those things God is calling us to eventually.  I so love how my Savior works in the lives of those that seek Him.

If you've read my blog for long enough, you have either heard from me...or get the gist from reading...that I'm a wordy writer (I'll be putting that trait back into good use writing masters papers), so I could go on with this list forever.  I love randomness...and I love lists.  I would love to hear yours! Head on over to Hannah's blog and link up!

Enjoy the weekend...rain, sunshine, cold, or warm.  Enjoy it.

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mailbox monday-a first!

One of the things that I was doing even before blogging myself, was reading up on great deals and freebies you can find posted on various blogs.  Well I have kept my eye on such great finds that are posted on A Frugal Friend's blog every Monday for her feature, Mailbox Monday.  I finally was patient enough with my freebies to catch a group of them together for a picture.  Below you'll see my freebies from the past two weeks.  It really is worth hunting for the freebies! With fabulous blogs like the ones you see over under my "love it" section, you can't miss them!

My freebies:

-I won a great giveaway over at AnnOnandOn (handmade apron, cupcake cookbook, recipe cards, and recipe scrabook items....thanks so much Ann!)
-French manicure set
-Stride gum
-Dove for men (body wash and conditioner in one)
-Juicy Juice sippy cup and healthy eating tips for kids booklet
-coupon for a free 20 lb. bag of Pedigree dog food and 4 free cans of wet dog food (we received this for adopting Boone within the last year)
-Orville Redenbacher's cheesy popcorn and coupons
-Crest whitestrip sample and coupons

Freebie tips:

-Check out Ashleigh's Freebie Friday list each week over at Thankfully Thrifty for an extensive list of current freebie deals with links

-Subscribe to emails for your favorite thrifty blogs.  A couple of my favorites update sometimes hourly, which obviously I can't keep up with throughout the day.  However, by subscribing to get their posts emailed to me, I get a list of the day's postings each evening.  I go through the email, print what I need, fill out any online forms for freebies, and even save certain links to my favorites that I want to revisit.  Just to name a few of my favorites:  Deal Finding Chik, Money Saving Mom, Free Sample Freak, Surviving the Stores, Keeping the Kingdom First, and Thankfully Thrifty

-Don't get overwhelmed...you don't have to sign up for every single freebie, but do sign up for what you need or you can donate

-Get creative with those freebies...throw the sample size lotions in your purse or desk drawer, use sample size instead of regular size for items such as toothpaste, donate freebies you get that you don't need (I got a great busy moms NIV bible a couple months back...what an awesome thing to give to someone!)

-Designate one rubbermaid container for the freebies you receive in the mail or freebies you rack up at the stores with those great coupon deals.  That way you know where they are when you need to replace something in the home and you can limit yourself.

I'm linking up...

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two days, fourteen middle schoolers, one amazing Savior

 Justin leads the middle school youth on Wednesday nights at our church.  His love for these kids and passion to really figure them out (if you know any middle schoolers, you know why I use the phrase "figure them out") has always amazed me.  I have gone a few times to help him and I know these kids from some events at church.  However, this weekend, I was so blessed to get to know this group of kids on an even deeper level at YDR (Youth Discipleship Retreat).  This is a weekend long retreat held at Aldersgate Camp in Irvine, Kentucky (a tiny spot on the map). 

We were among gorgeous scenery.

an old iron ore furnace

We worshipped in a beautiful chapel (barefoot, I might add). 

We stayed in a cabin tucked amidst the mountains and had a lot of fun fellowship time.

We were around cute animals.

(one of these sweet puppies came home with one of our girls in the church van....
parent approval was given)

We were reminded of the simple things in life...

such as enjoying the rain

sitting on a porch

eating camp food

taking time out

sleeping in bunk-beds

and singing silly songs from our bible school days.

And one of the most amazing things to me was that something God had been stirring in my heart recently, followed me to this weekend.  I was there to serve those middle schoolers and invest in them, and what does my Savior do? He speaks to me too.  Not just about what to share with the kids, but also more about His love for me.

"The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
John 10:10

This is the scripture verse that was the inspiration for this weekend.  God has been speaking to me about living my life radically and fully devoted to God.  To be set apart and free from the constraints of the world.  This verse puts even more emphasis on that.  Someone saying something mean to you? A tragedy in your life? Sadness or depression taking over? Numerous small events that lead to just a bad day? All of those are times the devil is seeking out to take away our joy.  But how amazing that Jesus comes to not only save us from that and give us a life....but to give us a life far more amazing than we could ever think of ourselves.

So what was I reminded of this weekend?

-it's crucial to get away from the world (even if it's just for a couple days) and get centered all over again
-middle schoolers are precious (non-stop talking, smelly clothes, argumentative tendancies and all) and they have an expressive, reflective heart that is like a sponge ready to soak up what they're exposed to
(it's my prayer that these middle schoolers continue to soak up the love of Jesus
instead of the other things the "thief" tries to put in their paths)
-God is knocking on my heart like crazy to gravitate toward new levels in my walk with Him
-the simple things in life take us directly toward the One that this life is all about

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lead me

I love when I hear a song for the first time.  Especially songs with powerful lyrics.  I listen intently, soaking up each and every word.  I so enjoy putting the message together and allowing God to speak through the song to my heart.  This song is one of those songs.  If you're married, you're going to want to get your hubby to sit down next to you for this one.  (Justin was so moved by it as well....in my opinion, it's not too often a band speaks out to men in a positive way about relationships.)  If you're not married...may this be what you desire for in a husband.  A man that seeks God passionately and whole-heartedly.  Enjoy.

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a list

So I am a fan of lists.  I keep a grocery list on our refrigerator.  I keep a weekly "to-do" list on my desk at school.  I make a list for packing before going out of town.  Here in a few days as the school year winds down, I will make list after list of my ideas for my classroom routines, rituals, and organization for next year.  And now that I think about it...I'm kinda listing ways I list.  (I think it's part of the teacher in me.)

For my birthday, I received a couple great new journals.  These journals contain pages of list ideas.  An entire journal of lists...now that's amazing! So many times I am overwhelmed by words because I'm such a wordy writer.  Honestly, sometimes that fact keeps me from journaling all together.  But a journaling in lists makes me breath a sigh of relief.

One of my journals I received was one my mom and dad gave me titled, List Your Self by Ilene Segalove and Paul Bob Velick.  (You can find the Amazon link on this post.)  It's so great! The neat thing is that it captures your thoughts at that moment in life (by the way--always make sure to date your journal entries).  I love looking back on my journal entries...random entries, prayers, etc. and seeing how God has worked in my life since.  So neat. I thought I would share my first list with you since it wasn't too personal.

List what always makes you laugh.
-when Justin lovingly makes fun of me and all my quirks
-when Boone snuggles up close and hands out kisses and nose nudges freely
-when my students tell each other "how it is"
-when I hear jokes about the simple things in life (those everyone can relate to, clean, fun jokes)
-when people try to act "too cool" and end up making a fool out of themselves (yes, I'm laughing at them)
-those "slipping and falling" videos of people (of course when they don't get hurt)
-my pastor's jokes from the pulpit (gotta love a pastor that cracks you up)
-just about anything...I'm a giggle box (true story:  sprite has actually come out of my nose, I have been guilty of running to the bathroom when someone makes me laugh really hard, and I often get headaches from laughing so hard)

Try it out! Just maybe you'll find your new journaling style.

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a review!

I was recently contacted by CouponChief.com. They invited me to peruse their vast supply of coupons in March. I was so excited to find out about another great resource for coupons and, of course, share the information with you.

The website is full of coupon codes, links to featured stores, and even provides a way for you to link up coupons that you are aware of so others can use them. The coupon link-up can also be a money maker for you! All you have to do is enroll to create an account and upload the coupons you find. When people use that coupon, you will receive 2% of the sales and be paid through the form of a check or a PayPal account. I have not tried this yet, but I think it would be a great way to make money for your coupon collecting hobby! You can choose to browse for coupons using key words or you can choose from their list of popular coupon tags. They even have a complete list of all stores for which they have coupons.

Of course you all know I’m a Target lover. When browsing the website, I found numerous Target coupons that will come in handy for future shopping trips, many of which you can use toward online purchases. I also love shopping for our child puppy, Boone. There was a long list of PetSmart coupons to use towards items for your furry family members.

So go check out http://www.couponchief.com/! I was pretty impressed. Let me know what you think or if you have used this website in the past.

Happy shopping!

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All advertising is in the form of advertisements generated by a third party ad network. Those advertisements will be identified as paid advertisements. The owner of this blog is compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though the owner of this blog receives compensation for our posts or advertisements, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers' own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question. This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.

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let's talk food

Recently I have had three crazy food cravings.  (No it's not because of that "p word" reason that might jump into your mind.  Not us.  Not right now.) I just love food.  Always have.  I think I've found some new foods I like recently because, although we eat pretty healthy at home, we're trying to branch out and eat even healthier.

Let's start with one food that I have never been able to stand.  Yogurt.  It's one of those things I have tried randomly throughout my life thinking, oh maybe I will like it this time.  I tried every flavor and every brand.  However, recently I tried Yoplait YoPlus yogurt.  One word--"yum".  I love this stuff and am stocking up on it when it's on sale (which good ol' Wally World often has it cheapo for a 4-pack).  Every flavor I have tried has been so yummy.  (Yoplait's new Greek yogurt is great too.)

The second food is one I've always been just okay with...green peppers.  Recently I've found a love for them raw.  Dip them in ranch dressing and you've got a great snack!

Third recent food that stocks our refrigerator is feta cheese.  This stuff is wonderful on just about anything...cold pasta salads, warm and light pastas, salads, etc.

So let me introduce you to my current favorite at-home salad that usually graces my plate's presence at least a couple times a week:


romaine lettuce
green peppers
pepper and sea salt croutons
feta cheese crumbles
Ken's lite Northern Italian with Basil & Romano dressing

Just a nice little change to a normal salad.  What are your favorite salad toppings? I would love to hear more ideas!  Or maybe you've found a new "love" for a food recently...would love to hear about it, too!

Sidenote--I am super excited today because I won Lindsey's TOMS shoes giveaway!! What an awesome giveaway that I am so grateful to win! You can read more about TOMS on my post barefoot. to understand my excitement!

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single sentence Sunday--silence

sarah ann's bon mot

But the things that we feel most deeply we ought to learn to be silent about, at least until we have talked them over thoroughly with God.
Elisabeth Elliott

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a not so wordless wednesday--excitement

Call me a nerd.  Call me a freak.  Call me what you want...but I'm really excited today.  Here's where the "nerd" or "freak" part comes in.  It's because I'm starting my Masters! (Yes, I was really one of those little kids that cried when we had a snow day because I wanted to go to school.  Now I'm not so much like that now as a teacher.) Anywho...I was accepted today into the Masters program at a local small, private college that I adore because it's actually where I got my undergrad degree from.  A fabulous, quaint, small class, professors know your name kinda school.  So here's what I will probably start seeing quite a bit of, and you may even be hearing about at times.

Textbooks.  Notice those are used books.  You didn't think I would stray from my thrifty, money-savvy mindset did you? Francis Chan says in his book "Crazy Love" that there should be places in your life where things just won't happen if God doesn't step in.  Well we've saved, believe me we've saved.  However, with an AC unit and hot water heater going out on the same exact day last week, I realized all over again that life happens.  Home ownership invites problems.  Life is unexpected.  So with that said....God will provide for this Master's program.  I'm thankful to Him for that.  Yet another way He is so good.

So I'm standing 36 credit hours away from having a Masters of Arts in Education with a Reading and Writing Emphasis to add to my undergrad dual-certification degree of Elementary Education (P-5) and Learning and Behavior Disorders (P-12).  Whew.  I never thought I would have that many words attached to my degrees.

Here's to what you're excited about right now! Hopefully it's not as expensive as mine! ;)

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I'm going to be honest here.  I love to be barefoot.  It drove my grandpa crazy when I was little and he would come over to find me barefoot.  Even when it was warm outside, he would say, "Cait, get some shoes on.  You're gonna catch a cold."  I grew up on a farm, and yep, I even went barefoot quite a bit on the farm....prickly grass and all.  My hubby can't believe how I can walk so easily barefoot on gravel.  (Years of experience.)  I mean we are from Kentucky, y'all.  We don't wear shoes...you know that. (wink, wink.)

Here's the second part of my honesty.  Last week,  TOMS shoes promoted a day without shoes...a challenge that just for one day, you would go barefoot to raise awareness of children living in poverty in countries where they go barefoot, live without clean water, and often don't have access to simple necessities such as food.  My confession? I couldn't get myself to do it.  I was on Spring Break...just running errands...but yet, still.  I couldn't do it.  Isn't that dirty? Unsanitary? What would people say? These were among many of the thoughts that came to my mind.  However, those kiddos don't have a choice.  I do.  I have more than I need.  Now my job, is to spread the love of Christ through the blessings He provides in my life.  Thank you Lord, for always working on my heart....even when my silly, naive thoughts get in the way.

Through the blogging grapevine I found this amazing giveaway for TOMS Shoes that Lindsey is having on her blog, la dolce vita.  My sweet friend, Megan, told me about these shoes a couple years ago and I just recently looked into them for myself.  This selfless entrepreneur of TOMS Shoes has started a company that gives a pair of shoes to a child in a developing country for every pair of TOMS shoes that are purchased.  How amazing! You're helping out a precious child and getting a pair of cute shoes for yourself.  (Seriously, I would even go with the just giving a pair of shoes to that sweet child.)  So go check it out.  What an awesome giveaway and what a wonderful cause.

Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'
Matthew 25:40 (The Message)

In His name.

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warning: the word "boogers" is in this post

So we have a 4-year old, adorable, 100% boy, sweetheart little nephew named Cooper.  (That's him above with his dog, Molly, at our church's blessing of the animals service.)  Our two precious 9-month old nieces are his twin baby sisters.  All just too cute.  Well this Sunday Justin and I sat down next to Cooper in church.  We asked him where his mommy was (Justin's sister).  Not really giving it any thought or time to respond, he quickly explained:

"I told her to stay home with my girls because they had boogers in their noses."

We laughed out loud.  Hilarious for so many reasons.  One, he "told" his mommy to stay home.  Two, "his" girls had boogers in their noses.  And three, who other than a 4-year old would say something as hilarious as this? Love that cutie!

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serious deals to snag

I did quick shopping this weekend.  Mainly to pick up necessities and some can't-pass-up deals.  Seriously, you will need to go snag these up! Your budget will thank you.  (And, if you got one, don't be like me and forget your $5 Wal-Mart gift card freebie that came in the mail this week.  Guess it will be used next week!)


Purex Fabric Softener $2.98--will be free after mail-in rebate!
(I found a hanging tag on the Purex at my Kroger yesterday.  I took it.  The hangtag...not the Purex.  Hope that's not against the rules. haha.  I took it home, hoping to find a Purex coupon.  I couldn't find one to make this a money-maker, but this will still be free when I mail in the rebate tag.  Free is a perfect price for me!)

Benadryl Itch-Release sticks $2.38--FREE for TWO (plus $0.24 overage)!
(These are $2.38 at Wal-Mart.  Use a $5/2 coupon from the 4/11 RedPlum insert today.  That makes this FREE for two with a $0.24 moneymaker! Love this!)

BIC 2-pack disposable razors $0.97 (find these in your travel-size area)--FREE plus $1.03 overage!
(Use a $2/1 March insert coupon-I think.)

Schick Disposable Razor 12-count $1.97--FREE plus $0.03 overage!
(Use a $2/1 SmartSource 4/11 insert coupon)

Clean & Clear face wash trial size $0.97--FREE plus $0.03 overage!
(Use $1/1 coupon from March inserts)

Yoplait Yoplus 4-pack $1.68 on Rollback--$0.68
(Use $1/1 printable coupon from coupons.com)

Jennie-O Lean Turkey Burgers--$5.98 for 12-pack
(No coupon...boo.  However, I couldn't pass this deal up when browsing for burgers to have around for grilling.  The unit price of these were just about $0.12.  I only found one other pack of frozen burger patties for less than this.  And I'm not being snobby or anything, but they were the Great Value beef burgers at $0.11 for the unit price.  Not quite as healthy...at least that's what Bob says on the Biggest Loser, ha!  No really, I thought this was a fabulous price for a very healthy, natural, only two-ingredient item.  They say the less ingredients, the better for you.  I even called my red meat-loving husband to get the "okay" that I bring these home.  He was happy with it.  I was tickled pink for two reasons.  He was okay with it and it's a healthy, budget-friendly alternative!)


*You can almost always find razors as free, very, very cheap, or as a moneymaker.  It's great to keep those coupons on hand!

*My mom asked me the other day, "So what do you mean overage or moneymaker?" If you are wondering the same thing, it means the coupon is worth more than the price of the item.  (I look at it as they pay me to buy it.  Um, can I make a career out of this, please? And yes, the cash register will beep at you and the sales clerk may get annoyed or confused.  However, at most places they override this with one little push of the button.  The "overage" will go toward the rest of your items.  For example, the $1.03 I got back from the BIC razors went toward the rest of my bill.  Now, most stores will not pay you back for these.  Also, let's say your bill comes down to $0.36 and you still have a $0.55/1 coupon to use...most stores won't change your coupon to match what's left on your tab, making it free for your purchases.  You'll want to make sure you have "filler items" so that you can use all your coupons.  Clear as mud?

*Also, Ashleigh at Thankfully Thrifty taught me this great trick! (I'm always learning things from this shopping savvy gal.)  I would have never thought of it...at least not very quickly! Save your coupons that don't have a
size restriction on it to purchase trial size items.  This is a great way to get a moneymaker deal with overage.  Think of your overage as a coupon toward another item (plus you get something free).  Worth clipping the coupon? I think so!

So in this family, we're totally realizing how God provides through coupons.  Yep, coupons.  So neat!
How are you seeing God provide in your own family?

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spring decluttering--breathing easier

I spent my final day of Spring Break cleaning out closets, drawers, and just about anything that wasn't moving.  Nothing in my house was safe today...except for Boone, of course.  We love him just a little too much to get rid of him.  (That sweet puppy stayed passed out asleep in my hallway, just dizzy from watching me in action.)  My game plan:  A pile for Goodwill, a pile for our upcoming church yard sale, a pile for consignment, and a pile for my mom and dad's booth at a local flea market/antique store.

I started out with a bag for each...labeled so I didn't get confused during my decluttering madness.  As you can see, I quickly filled up the designated bags, and added about one bag per pile.  That means7 bags in total by the end of my decluttering for now.

Now don't be confused.  These are the jumbo bags from the stores...not the little pitily grocery bag size.  I can't believe Justin and I have already collected this much junk stuff in two years of marriage.  (Some of it came with us into our home when we moved in....and this isn't the first time I've done this type of crazy decluttering.)

And possibly the most eye-opening part of my entire decluttering experience today....how many clothes I had in my closet and drawers that don't fit, I can't stand anymore, or they are just ragged looking.  (I even had to include a trash pile for some of my clothes.)  Really? And there are people out there that need clothes?! I take my clothes that are in good condition to a local consignment store.  I'm not kidding when I say you can make good money on your clothes each season.  Let's just say my winter items brought in enough cash that it covered a week of groceries on our budget.  Not too shabby. 
Hopefully this jumbo pile will go to good homes!

Decluttering Tips:

-If you haven't worn it all winter or all summer, or whatever the season is....get rid of it! If you didn't wear that red sweater with the fuzzballs all over it this winter....you won't wear it next winter.

-If you're hubby is like mine and completely resists decluttering due to the time it takes...break it down into sections.  For example, I just asked Justin to go through his "undies" drawer today.  That was manageable.  Hey, one drawer is better than none!

-You don't really need all those magazines.  Take them to your local used book store.  Hey, even if you get 5 or 10 cents a piece for them, it's better than having them piling up.  If you just want to recylce them, cut out the ideas you like, put them into a plastic baggie or folder and file away for later use, tossing the rest of the magazine into recycle.

-Get organized before decluttering.  Have a designated bag or box for each place your items will go to.  (Always have a trash bag on hand too.)

-Have a box or bag somewhere (ours is in the basement) so that throughout the year when you find things you don't want/need anymore....you can take it directly to that spot.  Try to clear that box out (take it to Goodwill, etc.) once a month.  Or you may choose to just compile until you can have a yard sale.

-Ask yourself over those "I can't decide items"...is it better that this sits in my house collecting dust "just in case I need it" or that it goes to a home of someone that does actually need it?

-And for you "maybe I could be a little ADD--innatentive" people like myself (I kinda self-diagnosed myself during my Special Education teaching classes in college)...stick with one drawer, one dresser, one closet, and one room at a time.  Don't jump.  It is so tempting...but so not worth it.  You'll be so much more impressed when you just stay focused. (That sorta came out like a little pep talk to myself.)

-Have fun with it! Seriously, take a deep breath and think about how much you are accomplishing even when you declutter the "junk drawer" in the kitchen.

Happy decluttering...be inspired!

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stop to think

How often do you stop to think about how you spend your money? I know that since getting married and living on a strict budget, we think about it a lot in our household.  Now don't get me wrong, we splurge sometimes on things...such as a Starbucks drinks (you'll hear more about that in a second), dinner out, or a new article of clothing we find on sale that we don't necessarily need but want.  I think we all do that.  However, I'm one of those people that have a really hard time justifying splurges.  I just feel guilty.  I've always been kinda "tight" with my money and it actually seems now to be a fruitful trait on our Dave Ramsey budget.  (Hence all my budget-friendly and thrifty posts.)  We've always been people that give of our time and money.  We go on mission trips each year with our church and give often.  However, Justin and I have been talking more and more lately about how God is calling us to give even more.  More of our money and more of our time.  I've been convicted of spending money on all those "extras" when there are so many people in need in my very own community.  Needs that are as simple as food to put on the table and diapers for babies.  So where am I going with this?

Well a few weeks ago, Justin was finishing up his final big paper for school.  His paper had to center around a company that has recently had problems and he had to discuss ways to "fix" the problems within the company.  He chose Starbucks and their recent decline in sales due to the economony.  He found this great website with a Coffee Cost Calculator that I just had to share.  If you are a Starbucks person...this is for you.  (And I'm even talking to the "a few times a month" Starbucks drinkers like myself.)  This website allows you to put in the average cost of the drink you purchase and approximately how many days out of the year you purchase the drink.  You can then choose how many years you want it to calculate and the percentage for your investment yield (your interest on the money if you put it into savings).  The default was $3.50 for one cup of coffee for 250 days out of the year (average number of days in a work year) for 10 years at a 4% investment yield.  (The website includes an extra slot to input your cups of coffee from your office as well.  I just input a 0 there.)  After a year, at this many cups of coffee, you spend $812.50 (yikes!), after 10 years with this money invested, you would have $9,754.96 in the bank.  Oh my! Even if you just get a cup about once every week throughout the year, like myself, that's still a little over $2,000 in savings.  Crazy!

So my point in all this? Even those Starbucks "splurges" add up.  That's $2,000 I could be putting to further God's kingdom and help those so much less fortunate than our little family.  That's $2,000 that could go toward our savings or whatever else God has in mind.  That's $2,000.

I'm not here to tell you what to do.  Not my point at all. I'm just sharing what God has laid on my heart recently.  I'm definitely thinking more about those "little expenses" that just don't seem so necessary anymore!

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wordless wednesday--blessings in blooms

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."
Isaiah 6:3

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buying local...creativity and inspiration

Since it's my spring break, my mom and I planned a local shopping extravaganza.  Our plan was to hit the local, "little man" stores that we never make our way to.  They're the fun gift shop stores that we just find ourselves moseying through when we have some down time.  Obviously that doesn't happen a lot.  But what a blessing it was to be able to have fun with my mom out today and browse some of the amazing stores we have close to us.  Each shop we went to is locally owned and most contain fair trade products.

We found the cutest stuff! We also found quite a few stores that helped rejuvenate the "artsy fartsy", creative side of us.  My mom was a wonderful hippy, granola gal herself when she was younger (still is deep down) and she pulls that out of me quite a bit.  I love it.  (I think it all started when they dressed me in tie-died shirts, took me to gobs of arts and crafts fairs when I was little, signed me up for art classes as an itty bitty, and took my little bro and me hiking at every chance they got...I even learned to "potty" in the woods at a very young age...not easy for a girl.)

Check out some of our great finds today! (My mom was sweet and purchased a few of these as "spring break treats" for me!)

-Sketchbook made from recycled paper
-Drawing pencil and eraser
-Two art canvases
-Change purse
-Birthday gift for someone (not pictured so it's a surprise)

*The art supplies came from two local art supply stores we found that we had no idea even existed.  They were an artist's dream.  I got lost in those stores (both literally and figuratively).  Amazing items for awesome prices.  Perfect to get that artist within me stirring again.  (That side of me sadly takes a back seat during the school year.)

*The headband was bought at a local fair trade store.  It was handmade in Guatemala.  Almost the entire proceeds of the sale will go back to the community in which the headband was created.

*And the change purse? This one went straight to my heart.  On the tag it has the specific name of the lady that created this in Guatemala with her own hands.  Macaria Quisquina.  It also has the specific community in which she lives checked.  These Mayan women are directly benefited from the purchase of their handmade items.  From this small purchase...something that seems so small to me...Macaria receives proceeds to go toward her family for food and schooling.  Amazing.

So what is all this "buying local" and "fair trade" talk all about? It's all about making choices about where you spend your money to benefit others and your own community.  (And no, it was not created by Al Gore, it's not a party-specific way to shop, ha, and it is not for specifically "green" people.  Just in case you were wondering.)

In a nutshell....

Fair trade means the items were created without any harm to others (think, "no sweatshops") because it honors the producers and consumers of the product, the communities in which the product is created or sold, and also the environment.  Fair trade products means that the individual that created the product will receive appropriate wages for their trade....wages that will go toward necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical care.

Buying local means that at least 45 cents of every dollar you spend will go back to the local economy, a huge increase to the 15 cents that will be returned locally when you purchase items at a corporate chain store.  You are assisting local merchants in your own community, keeping jobs in the community, helping keep local options available, and simply doing a good deed.  I may be a little partial coming from entrepreneur parents....but who doesn't want to support a small business?

So my challenge to you is to find some local shops, preferably that sells some or all fair trade items, and start supporting them! You'll be amazed by the quality of the products.  The hullabaloo about things being more expensive in small businesses isn't always true, either.  And personally, I don't mind to pay a dollar or two more knowing that I'm helping others in the great ways listed above.

Happy local shopping! Be inspired.

(If you know me beyond blogging world and live in the area...let me know and I can give you specific store names and locations if you're interested.  I just don't wanna disclose that on here due to all the "creepies" out there in internet world.)

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deals, freebies, and blessings to give away

I've had the chance the past three days to hit Kroger, Wal-Mart and Walgreens.  Check out my deals.  Hope you're inspired to try hunting for your own deals! Let me say it again....it really is worth spending a few extra minutes planning out your shopping trips, looking up the deals, and getting organized.  All three of these trips, I planned before I went.  The Walgreens check-out gal even said, "Wow, that's great savings!"


Best deals:

Yoplus Yogurt 4-pack--$1.68 on Rollback--used $1/1 coupon from test-tasting this yogurt at Kroger this weekend...$0.68 for 4-pack

2 Hormel Natural Choice Turkey lunchmeat--$2.50 each--used 2 $.55/1 coupons (from in-store coupon machine at Kroger)...$1.95 each

Plastic Easter tablecloth--clearance for $2.50 (this was marked as $5 but came up as $2.50...I plan to use this on one of my small group tables in my classroom next year.)

2 Duncan Hines cake mixes--$.85 each--used $.55/2 coupon from 3/28 inserts...$0.58 each

16-pack of Stayfree pads--$2.97--used $2/1 from March inserts....$0.62

Travel size Clearasil face scrub--$0.97--used $1/1 from March inserts--Free + $0.03 overage

Travel size Tide detergent--$0.97--used $1/1 from 4/4 inserts--Free + $0.03 overage

3 bags of Hershey's Easter candy--on clearance fro $1.37 each--used $2/3 printed coupon from coupon.com (I think)....$0.71 a bag
(my Wal-Mart had carts beyond carts of Easter clearance at the front of the store...anything you could imagine!)

Total for all items purchased:  $17.64
Total saved:  $9.20


Ice Mountain spring water--$1.97--used B1/G1 when you purchase Dulcolax coupon from march inserts....FREE

Dulcolax--$6.99--used $3/1 coupon from a hangtag on the bottle...$3.99

[I was able to use the $3/1 and the B1/G1 coupon...making it $2.20 for the water and Dulcolax.]

Pilot Erasable Frixion 2-pack pens--$1.19--used $1/1 coupon from Walgreen's April coupon booklet--$0.19

Dawn dish detergent--$1.99--used $1/1 April insert coupon--$0.99

Starbucks Mocha Frappucino--$1.99--used the in-store ad coupon making these 4/$5 and a $1/1 coupon printed from this list.....$0.25

(I have learned a few tips from Money Saving Mom about Walgreens.  Make sure to have the same amount of items as coupons...or more.  Also, hand over your coupons in the following order:  Register Rewards, then Manufacturer's coupons, then Walgreens coupons.  This keeps from any confusion with the register.)

Total out of pocket today using $7 Register Rewards from a previous trip and coupons:  $0.96
Total savings:  $8.53


Well I did a lot more shopping at Kroger than just for Ziploc bags.  However, this is a deal I had to share so that you can hopefully cash in on before it's too late.

Right now Kroger is running a catalina deal on Ziploc bags....purchase 3 and you get $2 back.  This will be in the form of a catalina ticket that will print out and you can use as in-store credit the next time to shop.

The deal scenerio:

Ziploc Evolve Sandwich bags 50 count--$2.39
Ziploc Freezer bags 18 count--$2.50
Ziploc Snack bags 100 count--$3.15

*Use a $2/2 coupon from March inserts
*Use a $0.40/1 coupon from March or April inserts (this will double)

The total will be $5.24 out of pocket....you will receieve a $2 catalina
Making these $3.24 for all or $1.08 a piece

Total savings for the Ziploc products:  $4.80

It has been such an incredible joy to increase how much we give because of my dedication to using coupons to find great deals and savings.  The best thing about all of this deal craziness is when we are able to donate any of the items we purchase.  Each communion Sunday at our church (first Sunday of every month in our church), we bring a bag of food as a food tithe to those in need.  The items go to a local food pantry.  (God can even use a talent like that!) Right now, there is so much we have that we don't need or items I could get at very cheap prices or for free that I shy away from because we just don't need it right now.  However, what we do buy at these great prices and don't need, we give away.  A lot of the food items go to our church for the food pantry and I'm currently hunting for other outlets in the community to give more of these cheap or freebie femine products and personal care items to.

It's been on my mind lately how God can use this time now as I get used to saving money through coupons and deal hunting for a time later when we have kiddos.  I love thinking about the fact that God puts things in our life by season....and not just for that time....but to prepare us for things to come as well (God-willing!). 

Happy savings!

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an Easter blessing

Happy Easter!

I have been absent from the blogging world for a few days.  God is working like crazy in my heart right now...and honestly, I've just spent some time away to focus my mind and heart on what He is doing within my heart and the joined heart of mine and Justin's relationship.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the fact that I have a Savior that we celebrate today (and hopefully every day) that meets me exactly where I am...and loves me way too much to leave me where I am.  He calls me to draw nearer and nearer to Him.  Just when I think I am where I should be...He moves again.  The prayer of my heart lately has been that He would set my heart on fire for Him.  That I would grow to love my Jesus more and more.  That I would love Him with a deep, passionate love.  That the way I live my life out would be all on faith....a life that couldn't be lived without Him.  Scriptures do say that God will give us the desires of our heart.....well He's working in mine and I only pray it keeps up.

So I promise to be back to my blogging groove soon.  However, maybe you're longing for a deeper relationship with Jesus...this Savior...Messiah...you have heard so much about today and in the past week.  My prayer is that He will meet you exactly where you are.  He loves you that much.

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
Luke 24: 31-32

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