Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Inn on Ferry Street

I’ve had a wonderful time spending money over the past few days (weeks?) That certainly isn't’t like me, so maybe some justification is in order, if for no one’s good but my own.

When we moved back to NC in 2005, my husband and I had a somewhat unspoken pact that we would go to Maine (my family) in the summer and Michigan over Christmas break (his family). I fully concur that this skews heavily in my favor as I spend a month in Maine (Mike comes for two weeks) and we only spend about a week in Michigan. Now that we have decided to make an annual event of visiting the hospital in Cleveland every year -Lord willing- we cut another day out of our time in Mich. That being said, we have traditions in both states that take both time and money. We also have Christmas traditions that cost much more money than I ordinarily spend. You have heard me mention in the past that I truly believe that we all spend money on the things that are important to us. It may seem crazy that I refuse to spend over 59 cents for a can of tuna and keep my thermostat set on 67 in the winter and 80 in the summer but then turn around and spend $200.00 annually on a night out for the family at Fire & Sticks (a local Japanese steak house) and a live production of the Nutcracker. Could I give that up? You bet, in a heartbeat, in fact. But for the last 10 years or so, it has become a family gift that we all enjoy to varying degrees. (I won’t lie, the steakhouse makes the requisite formal dress and the Nutcracker tolerable for my 3 boys.) It has become such a tradition, in fact, that the kids have even joked that when I am too old to get out anymore; they will bring the Nutcracker DVD and order in Chinese. I also mail about 200 Christmas cards, a feat that becomes more time consuming and costly every year. This year I am late, as usual, but it will happen! Why do I do these things? Because they are important to me. I love traditions, and family and keeping in touch. I will save all year to spend on these things.

Another tradition for my husband and I is to leave the kids with Gramma and Grampa for one night while we go out for a reasonably priced meal and find an out of the way Inn. This year we happened upon The Inn on Ferry Street in downtown Detroit, and what a great find it was! Come to find out, the Inn is actually 5 old brick houses built at the turn of the last century that have been refurbished. The night includes a free shuttle and a sumptuous hot breakfast. We were dually impressed…the cost $111.00. We had the shuttle driver take us in to Greek town, which is actually just one street about 3 blocks long. We did have a fun dinner at the Parthenon, and the music playing in the background was the same music they danced to in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Too funny. It was a great night out for us.

As I mentioned, I could easily give up many of these traditions—well, maybe not my Christmas cards—or find more inexpensive versions of them, but for now, I am thankful to be able to do them and consider myself one blessed lady!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Paying it forward

On December 23, 2 years after the wreck that put all our kids in the hospital, we went back for the second year in a row to visit, say thanks, and offer encouragement to those who were in situations similar to ours. It is such a blessing to go back to Cleveland and hard to describe the emotions.  As we visit with families in the PICU, we come away filled with gratefulness. Our ordeal was short lived. For some of these families, the hospital is a second home.  Here's a link to an article that was in The Plain Dealer, one of Cleveland's newspapers:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas!!'s obvious from my lack of posts that my time has been incredibly scarce, as I'm sure is the case with most of you. Freebie posts are nearly nonexistant as retailers all attempt to get us to BUY! We leave in a few hours for Michigan to be with my husband's family...and will stop in Cleveland to revisit the hospital on the way. My internet connection for the next 10 days will be sporadic at best, so if you don't hear from me, have a very Blessed Christmas!!

I'm including a story that has been going around the internet for a few years now. I don't know if it is true, but even if it isn't, it embodies the Christmas spirit. If you have ever been on either side of the story, you will appreciate it all the more. Enjoy:

In September 1960, I woke up one morning with six hungry babies and just 75 cents in my pocket. Their father was gone. The boys ranged from three months to seven years; their sister was two. Their Dad had never been much more than a presence they feared. Whenever they heard his tires crunch on the gravel driveway they would scramble to hide under their beds. He did manage to leave $15 a week to buy groceries. Now that he had decided to leave, there would be no more beatings, but no food either. If there was a welfare system in effect in southern Indiana at that time, I certainly knew nothing about it. I scrubbed the kids until they looked brand new and then put on my best homemade dress, loaded them into the rusty old 51 Chevy and drove off to find a job.

The seven of us went to every factory, store and restaurant in our small town. No luck. The kids stayed crammed into the car and tried to be quiet while I tried to convince whoever would listen that I was willing to learn or do anything. I had to have a job. Still no luck. The last place we went to, just a few miles out of town, was an old Root Beer Barrel drive-in that had been converted to a truck stop. It was called the Big Wheel. An old lady named Granny owned the place and she peeked out of the window from time to time at all those kids. She needed someone on the graveyard shift, 11 at night until seven in the morning. She paid 65 cents an hour, and I could start that night. I raced home and called the teenager down the street that baby-sat for people. I bargained with her to come and sleep on my sofa for a dollar a night. She could arrive with her pajamas on and the kids would already be asleep. This seemed like a good arrangement to her, so we made a deal.

That night when the little ones and I knelt to say our prayers, we all thanked God for finding Mommy a job, and so I started at the Big Wheel. When I got home in the mornings I woke the baby-sitter up and sent her home with one dollar of my tip money-- fully half of what I averaged every night. As the weeks went by, heating bills added a strain to my meager wage.

The tires on the old Chevy had the consistency of penny balloons and began to leak. I had to fill them with air on the way to work and again every morning before I could go home. One bleak fall morning, I dragged myself to the car to go home and found four tires in the back seat. New tires! There was no note, no nothing, just those beautiful brand new tires. Had angels taken up residence in Indiana ? I wondered. I made a deal with the local service station. In exchange for his mounting the new tires, I would clean up his office. I remember it took me a lot longer to scrub his floor than it did for him to do the tires.

I was now working six nights instead of five and it still wasn't enough. Christmas was coming and I knew there would be no money for toys for the kids . I found a can of red paint and started repairing and painting some old toys. Then I hid them in the basement so there would be something for Santa to deliver on Christmas morning. Clothes were a worry too. I was sewing patches on top of patches on the boys pants and soon they would be too far gone to repair. On Christmas Eve the usual customers were drinking coffee in the Big Wheel. There were the truckers, Les, Frank, and Jim, and a state trooper named Joe. A few musicians were hanging around after a gig at the Legion and were dropping nickels in the pinball machine. The regulars all just sat around and talked through the wee hours of the morning and then left to get home before the sun came up. When it was time for me to go home at seven o'clock on Christmas morning, to my amazement, my old battered Chevy was filled full to the top with boxes of all shapes and sizes. I quickly opened the driver's side door, crawled inside and kneeled in the front facing the back seat. Reaching back, I pulled off the lid of the top box. Inside was whole case of little blue jeans, sizes 2-10! I looked inside another box; it was full of shirts to go with the jeans. Then I peeked inside some of the other boxes. There was candy and nuts and bananas and bags of groceries. There was an enormous ham for baking, and canned vegetables and potatoes. There was pudding and Jell-O and cookies, pie filling and flour. There was whole bag of laundry supplies and cleaning items. And there were five toy trucks and one beautiful little doll.

As I drove back through empty streets as the sun slowly rose on the most amazing Christmas Day of my life, I was sobbing with gratitude. And I will never forget the joy on the faces of my little ones that precious morning. Yes, there were angels in Indiana that long-ago December. And they all hung out at the Big Wheel truck stop.

Let's keep paying it forward, blogger friends. We are all so blessed!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another guest post by Abby.

(Can you read the shirt? "Why be normal?")
How did it get to be Thursday already?? And a "snow day" at that? It's more like a sleety mess day, but the kids got to stay home. They have a half day tomorrow and then are out for break. We're going to head to the mall in a bit, more to hang out than for anything else.

I'm intrigued as I read my daughter's college essays. This was an answer to the prompt: What is intellectual curiosity? For any of you who homeschool, you should love her paragraph about this topic:

I was very alarmed to discover that one of my classmates enjoyed “playing dumb” to avoid the judgment of his peers. The more I think about it the more heinous it becomes. How could someone want to be viewed as less intelligent than they really are? More worrisome, why would anyone look down on someone for acting intelligent and interested in academics? The current mores of high school society dictate that in order to be socially acceptable one must stifle all intellectual curiosity and languish in the comfort of not caring about anything that requires thought--in short, not caring about anything that matters.

Being intellectually curious requires a complete break from this mindset - a desire to learn more about the ideas presented in class, a need to develop thoughts and understand the material. This also means that intellectual curiosity, by definition, will cause you to be viewed as a borderline lunatic. But who would be normal when they have the chance to be extraordinary?

I have long been the student who gets incredibly excited about classroom topics. In the seventh grade this behavior was greeted with dislike bordering on animosity; now my classmates have learned to see it as an essential part of my personality. I would not be myself if I did not exhibit enthusiasm in my studies. Intellectual curiosity cannot be feigned, but it can be cultivated, and my formative years were spent in a setting that encouraged me not to be scared of being imaginative and intelligent.

Homeschooled with my brothers until the fourth grade, I was taught to read at age four and given all the books that I desired. We were not catered to and spent long periods of time playing in and with sand, shoe, and cardboard boxes. The one picture that I feel epitomizes my childhood is of me and my brothers crouching within one of those boxes, laughing heartily. Although this can be seen with negative connotations, I believe that it is really indicative of the fact that we learned to play, together, with anything. Our minds were not hampered by the flashing lights of fancy electronics and expensive toys; instead, we learned about the world through experience and in the process developed a lively sense of curiosity that has not been squashed out of us by our forays into a more modern society.

My classmates have given up on conforming me to the patterns of apathy that have been ingrained into their psyches. Lazy minds are lauded while searching minds are belittled. Whilst my friend may attempt to cover up the intelligence of his mind to assuage the masses, I have never felt that need to comfort people in their laziness. Perhaps by looking at me, the tiny sparks of a desire to understand and not just know, the sparks that make humans human, will be rekindled in my peers.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A few good deals.

Here's a great coupon for Sears good on the 15th and 16th only: $10 off a $20 apparel purchase and it's good on sale and clearance items. Print the coupon here:

For those of you, like me, who are signing up friends on ebate, know that the fine print reads that while you can put your link on a blog or other website, you will not get the $10 bonus if your friend signs up on your facebook. You can link on fb, you just don't get the double bonus. (Some of you have asked...) Go figure. Also, friends have to spend at least $25 for you to get the sign up bonus. I read all this after I posted the link. Still a good deal for you and your friends, but it is confusing. I have had 16 of you good friends sign up, but only have credit for 6 (and for $5 each, not $10)...I'm assuming because I linked on facebook the first time I posted.  Many stores are still giving double cash back on purchases. My first bonus check will be over $40.00. Here is the referral link if you haven't jumped on board yet; you automatically get $5.00:

If you have a CVS, make sure you scan when you walk in the door. You should get a coupon for $2 off any Advil and it works on 4 sample pack. Free headache meds are good this time of year:).

Take all of your loose change to your local Coinstar coin machine (many are in front of Walmart).

If you have $40 or more in change you can choose to get your money back as an eCertificate (basically a gift card) to iTunes, Lowe’s, Borders, Regal Entertainment or Rixty. You will get a receipt with an eCertificate number on it to the merchant of your choice. Enter the promo code off your receipt will instruct you on how to redeem your bonus $10 eCertificate. That’s like $10 for free! There have been varying reports of success on this. I have never used the machines, but some folks love them.

Sign up here for possible free samples from Ponds. Again, varying reports. Not sure if they only send out a certain amount, but I'm sure you get coupons:

Well, I must run and finish my Christmas wrapping and cards. And here's a story that let's you know that I do mess up: On Black Friday I did a $90 + shop at Walgreens, most of it free or close to it with RR and coupons. When I took my RR (jingle cash) out to use this weekend, I discovered that they had all expired on the 9th! They were only good for 2 weeks. Ouch. I am taking the jingle cash and $80 worth of stuff back today. Should prove to be an adventure. I'll let you know how it goes. 

Merry Day to you!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

He who gathers money little by little...

My computer has been on the fritz. Got a little virus that shut me down for a few days and it hasn't been up to speed since. The blessing came in the form of a friend (one of those amazing computer dudes) who fixed it for us, thus saving us $100 office visit. We took him out to eat.

Anywho. Here's a story for you. See if you can relate.

A friend of mine flips houses for a living (well, actually she rents a few also) and recently she hired a lady who was down on her luck and jobless to help her on a few projects, even though my friend really didn't need the help. The first day on the job, this lady showed up with a large coffee, two 2 liters of Coke, a large bag of chips and other junk food. My friend happened to see the receipt. She had purchased all this junk at the gas station. The total was $15.41. (No, not including gas.) My friend emailed me the story because she knew I would shudder like she did. Here is a woman who has been out of work for months. Her first day on the job, before she ever sees a paycheck, she spends her first 1.5 hours in wages on junk food...and overpriced junkfood at that! "I just had to share," my frugal friend told me, "I knew you would commiserate with me."

Obviously, spending $15.41 on junk food won't send you to the poor house, but a mentality of spending what you don't have certainly will. My good friend was frustrated. "I felt like I was throwing my money away," she told me. And in essence, she was. What a difference if the lady had brought in bread, milk and a bag of fruit from Wal-Mart or Aldi.

I read a book once (can't for the life of me remember the name) and the author was making his case for wise spending. "Look at it like this, " he said, "every time you spend your hourly wage on a frivilous product, you are forcing yourself to work one extra hour before you can retire." We can all argue about what is frivilous, the virtues of never retiring and the validity of the occasional frivilous spend, but you get the point. Don't spend what you don't have. And when you do spend, spend wisely!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Yesterday I was looking around facebook and noticed a link my niece had posted for a teavana tea giveaway ( and entered  because I love tea...and 20 minutes later I had an email stating that I had won a $50 teakettle. How cool is that??? (Thanks, Lori!) Considering that I just let my hand-me-down teakettle burn dry for over an hour one day, it comes at a good time.

Here's a link for a free sample of Seattle's Best Coffee (made by Starbucks...):

Barnes and Noble has a free read aloud story time where authors read their stories. The featured book right now is The Polar Express. I don't have small kids anymore, so I haven't checked this out, but it sounds interesting:

Get a free sample of John Frieda Sheer Blonde Highlight Activating shampoo and conditioner for darker shades from Kroger. It’s available in limited states: AL, AR, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MI, MS, MO, NC, OH, SC, TN, TX, VA, and WV only. Thanks goes to Freebies 4 mom for sharing! You should receive your sample within 8 to 10 weeks:

Do you love your slow cooker as much as I do? Here's a link for 25 top recipes:
This is part of the ALL YOU website, one of my favorites!

You can download a new free holiday song from amazon every day for 25 days. Even if you don't have an MP3 player, you can just download onto your computer and listen while you work:). Today's song is  Mannhiem Steamroller. Ahhhhh...takes me back to the college days when I first discovered:

Time to make supper. I worked nights last night and go back in at 11 tonight. Thankful for my job and my great coworkers!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Great gift ideas

We've all been recipients of some wonderful homemade gifts over the years. The older I get, the more I appreciate the time and effort that goes into some of these gems, especially as I have made some myself. Some of my favorite food items are "gifts in a jar," and I found a site online that not only has the recipes and instructions for making these (and many other items), but also free downloads to print the labels for the jar! Here's the site: Some of my favorites are soups and drink mixes. With folks feeling the pinch of the economy these days, I would think these would be much more welcome than just another knick knack to set on the shelf.

I also have kept most of the sweaters and mittens that I have been blessed with. I'm thankful now that I kept my mom's hand knit socks and mittens for the kids. These will be priceless keepsakes...especially since I'm not that talented.

If you are a baker, consider giving a gift certificate to friends/kid's teachers for cakes/cookies. You can set your own "please give me a week's notice, " etc. On my 30th birthday, my husband used one such gift to procure my birthday cake!

Why not give a gift of a meal a month-or even a loaf of bread- to an elderly friend? (Or anyone, for that matter!) Let the person know that you will be delivering a meal the "first Monday of every month at 6 pm." Then just make a double recipe for whatever you happen to be preparing that night. Not only would Aunt Emma love the food, she would love the visit even more.

My husband has a box of thank you letters that he has received from students and parents over the years. These heartfelt notes mean more than any other gift.

What are your favorite homemade gifts?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winner, open house and nice freebies

The winner of the Christmas give-a-way is Kristen H. from California! Congratulations Kristin, on winning this nice little Christmas bonus. I hope you enjoy it.

We've had a very busy weekend, but a very good one. All the Christmas activities have started in earnest. We had a wonderful open house for our neighbors. This was a tradition we started 5 years ago. Our house was built in the 1930s and only one other family had owned it. Every year we invite the former owner back, which I honestly believe is the reason so many of the neighbors show up. I learned a long time ago that if you wait for yourself, your home or your finances to be perfect before you do something like this, it will never happen. Just go ahead and do it! Lots of pics on my facebook, but this picture is of me with the former owner, Willa Gray:

Here's a REALLY nice freebie for for two bottles of Excedrin:
You can get one each of Excedrin Migraine and Excedrin ES. The last time this promo ran, the coupon came very quickly. Sign up fast, I'm sure it won't last long!!

Free Sample of Stayfree here:

Free sample of Lanacane anti-chafing gel:

Free full size Cover girl product...join on facebook:

Free dream water coupon at WalMart:
Band concert tonight...more later:)!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Picaboo photo deal.

Missing my mom terribly today. I've been thinking about her last ever-so-weak-hug and wishing for one more. I know many of you out there understand completely, and if you don't now, you will someday. I am so blessed though, that I had her for so long and am thankful for the many lessons she taught me!

Many responses (and other great ideas) to my last blog about the "homeless packs." I just love that we can learn from and encourage each other.

This past weekend I cashed in on my $100.00 Picaboo groupon credit that I purchased for $35.00. I really love the Picaboo website. They do a great job with photo books. I will admit that the learning curve is a somewhat difficult and on first glance their prices may seem a little high, but there are many reasonably priced versions and there are always discount codes (just google "picaboo discount codes"), which can be combined with the groupon credit. I used a code for 40% off photo books (ended 11/30...I was still making the book at 10pm that night). I ended up getting six 8X11 large photobooks for $14.00 each with the 40% off code. After the $100.00 credit, I only paid $13.00 total, which included shipping. Right now the same $100 for $35 groupon is available. Click here: and then look under the city of Edmonton in Canada.  There is also a 30% off code on books and calenders: HOLIDAY30. This expires 12/30. The nicest thing about these photo books (I think) is the ability to put up to 30 + images on one page. With the listed price including 20 pages, that's up to 600 photos in one book, which breaks down to as little as 2 cents a print. It really is a great deal. There are lots of other sites also, including snapfish and shutterfly, but the picaboo groupon can't be beat!! Give it a whirl.

Also many thanks to all of you who have signed up at ebates. I am just really enamored with this site right now, partly because of the double cash back that many retailers are giving. No taxes, (usually) free shipping, no lines and cash back on all my purchases just can't be beat in my book. Today, for example, you get 8% back at Old Navy, Gap and Land's End, 35% back at and even 3% back on groupon. If you are going to shop online anyway, there is NO REASON not to sign up here first....and you automatically get 5 bucks just for joining! Click here:

Thinking about doing a post on homemade gifts and I'm looking for your very best suggestions...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

BOGO Starbucks (today only)...and helping the homeless

I'm just coming off working the night shift, but I have a feeling that if I don't write now, it won't happen, so just be prepared for muddled thoughts and spelling errors:)...

Here's a great deal on Starbucks bagged Christmas blend coffee. Today only it is BOGO at Starbucks stores, and word is that they will take the $1 coupon in the 11/21 Smartsource coupon insert. If Starbucks is your thing, this is a good deal.

Here's one from several sites that are giving conflicting reports/success: Grab some hot deals at today using a new $10 off $10 purchase coupon code 4T4T4T, or possibly the code GIVEJOY.  They are also offering “Ship to Store” for FREE. Basically grab anything at $10 and it’s FREE! It's worth a try.

Dove has new sample of daily conditioner treatment out. Click here:

Get a free sample of Sun Crystals sweetener here:

Here's a true story for you. The plight of the homeless man begging at the street corner has always bothered me... immensely. We all know that we're not supposed to give them cash, right...but what to do? I was irritated with myself for turning aside and moving on one too many times. In church two weeks ago we were challenged to reach out of our comfort zones and ACT. Prompted by other stories of friends finding creative ways to help the homeless, I decided to make up some ziplock packs. I went to Walmart and purchased the gallon size bags, socks, granola and beef jerky. I planned to add more items from my stash at home. While I was loading the groceries in the car, I was compelled to make a pack right there. I put in all the items I had and a buck. You know what I'm going to tell you next don't you?? Sure enough, on my way home, there was a gentleman on the corner holding a sign that was so tattered I couldn't even read it. It had just started to rain and he looked so totally dejected. When I rolled down the window, he looked up slowly. I held the pack out to him and it was as if I'd handed him gold. His smile was priceless as he thanked me profusely. I was so choked up I couldn't even speak. I teared up all the way home as I prayed for him. I plan to add a letter to the rest of my packs explaining that God loves them and I'm praying for them...and I will!  I'm not saying this to brag, but rather to prompt you to reach out of your comfort zone and DO SOMETHING. There is so much hurt and need in this world; the possiblities are endless. It doesn't have to be a big thing; my mom was known for dropping off one or two cookies or a cup of berries. You've heard the tale of the older man chastising a little boy on the beach for spending so much time throwing starfish back into the sea. "There are thousands," the man proclaimed, "you will never really make a difference!" The little boy stopped momentarily and looked at the man. Holding a starfish before the man's eyes before he tossed it into the waves, he simply said, "That may be true, Sir, but I'll make a difference for this one." Today, let's all make a difference for one.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Cyber Monday!

Hope this finds all of you blogger friends grateful after a blessed Thanksgiving and not too stressed about the upcoming Christmas season. I am happy to report that MOST of my shopping is done (at least ordered). As many of you know, we go to Michigan for Christmas to visit my husband's family. Again this year we are planning to visit the hospital in Cleveland on our way up to Mich and my daughter is again organizing a fundraiser/toydrive. This has been such a blessing to our family!

Yesterday I cooked up my two Maine pumpkins into puree...thinking I'll make a pumpkin cake and muffins tonight. I toasted the seeds also, so yummy. My cousin Carl gave me a big bag of NC mountain apples, so I'm thinking more applesauce will be on the menu.

There are just not many free samples out there these days, but here's one for Biolage shampoo:
And one for Dingo dog treats:

I do hope you are getting in on the great internet deals. Check out amazon for sure and for any other stores, be sure to go through ebates first to get money back on your purchases:
It amazes me that even ebay is on there!

One gift that I really like to give is a magazine subscription. Check this out for $3.99 a year deals on Rachel Ray and Family Fun:

Share your great deals with us!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ebates and Black Friday

If you shop at all online, you really need to have an ebates account. I was a little slow to warm up to this, but I don't know why, because it's a great deal. Basically, where ever you want to shop, go to ebates first and click on that store...then shop as you normally would. You get a percentage back into your ebates account evert time. And you automatically get a $5.00 bonus just to open the account. Most stores (hundreds) are on ebates: Walmart, Kmart, Barnes and Noble, even ebay and groupon!! So buy your good deals and get cash back in the form of a check every 3 months. Plus, right now if you refer 5 friends (yep, that's you!) you get $50.00. Refer 50 friends and get an iPad!! So, share the here:

I didn't even wake up this morning until 8am. I never sleep that late. Must have been God telling me that I really didn't need to go shopping at o'dark hundred. I've never been one of those crazy get in line at midnight people...if you are, I hope you weren't crushed or anything horrible like that. I went out one year at 5am because we had a Guatemalen student with us who really wanted to go. She had a blast. Abby and I couldn't for the life of us figure out why she was so happy.

Anywho...I did go shopping today. The funny thing is, for me Black Friday is more about getting things I need at a discount. I really raked in at Walgreens and CVS with lots of free-with-a-profit by using coupons. I think I need to slow down on the toothpaste and deoderant...or give a bunch away...or both. I also got a laser printer. 50 bucks. Couldn't resist. The starter toner is supposed to print 700 copies. I'll let you know if it's worth it.

I also picked up a pair of shoes for work on clearance at Sears. I'm so not an exciting shopper. It's a good thing the kids don't have a big list!

Tomorrow we'll buy our tree in the scratch and dent tree bin at Spillman's tree farm. You know the one: a missing branch or a crunched side. It's our tradition to find the best Chralie Brown tree. Then we come home and decorate the house.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Cicero said that the highest virtue is gratefulness.

Did you know that thankful people live longer??

"I thank my God every time I remember you..." Phil 1:3

Have a thankful Thanksgiving my blogger friends!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Warehouse stores and whose fault is it, anyway??

In my never-ending interest of all things economic, an article in Time magazine highlighting two new books about the current financial crisis caught my eye. The titles of the two books are: The Monster: How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America--and Spawned a Global Crisis and The Devils are all Here. Of course, both books claim to be fair and balanced accounts, but from reading this article and the actual author tidbits on Amazon, it is obvious that most of the blame is placed on the greedy lenders/bankers/wall-streeters. There is no doubt that there is a great deal of truth there, but what aggravates me the most is the lack of blame placed on all the greedy buyers who wanted houses that were simply too much for them to afford.

Case in point: Mike and I have purchased 4 homes in the last 15 years--we still own two of them. Without exception, every time we bought, our lenders qualified us for more than we were comfortable borrowing and our realtors insisted on showing us homes that were in that price range. But we were undeterred!! We insisted on buying a home far below what we were told we could have because we didn't want huge payments. It's that easy!! Any thoughts on this??

Another interesting article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted what they call the "just-in-time consumer;" that is, more and more shoppers are buying only what they need, when they need it. Apparently warehouse stores like Sams and Costco are feeling the hit and are offering items in smaller package sizes. I can see both sides of this one. While I most admittedly will buy items that are free after rebate even if I don't need them right then, I've also never been a big proponent of the warehouse store. In fact, I let my Sam's Club card expire several years ago. I have found - with very few exceptions - that Aldi prices and Wal-Mart prices combined with coupons beat warehouse prices hand's down. I also don't have the storage space for gallon size tubs of ranch dressing. When do I stock pile? When there is an unbeatable deal. If I can get peanut butter for 50 cents a jar with a coupon (thus beating the warehouse price per ounce), I'll get 5 or 6 jars, but not 20. There will be another sale. As I've blogged about before, the way I make sure to use up what I have is by shopping hardly at all right before (about 3 weeks) we go to Maine in the summer and eating up all we have on hand. I also periodically give to food drives, which keeps my pantry cleaned out. The good news: 93% of consumers say that they expect to continue spending cautiously even when the economy improves. We'll see if that holds true...

And here's a deal on postage stamps that make them 41 cents each (rather than 44)...some hoops to jump through, but worth it if you send as many cards as I do:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving traditions

It's been a gray day. Gray trees. Gray sky. Gray tea. Gray stomach. But I seem to be coming around. Still can't figure out if it was the refried beans and plantains that I had for lunch or if a stomach virus came to visit, but either way, I seem to be over the worst of it. I just went for a lovely walk to "blow the cobwebs out of my head" as my mother used to say. It is gray days like this that inspire me to write; I'm not exactly sure why that is...maybe the cool air drives us in to snuggle with tea and a book.

Yesterday I got two rebate checks back from items I sent in this summer! Ususally the checks come quicker than that. I don't keep a record unless it's a substantial rebate. Also got the ONE dog food sample. And I listed a book on ebay. I haven't sold anything for such a long time, so I'll consider this a test run.

Have you noticed all the stores that are starting their sales on Thanksgiving day instead of Black Friday?? That just annoys me a little bit. I understand where they are coming from, but it takes away from just being thankful for what we have and focuses instead on what we can get.

I love Thanksgiving. It has always been my favorite holiday. Because of the age differences in our family, I grew up pretty much an only child, and the holidays were special because everyone came home. Thanksgiving usually saw the men folk hunting in the morning while the women prepared all sorts of special food. We have been away since we were married, so we have come up with our own traditions. One of our favorites is a tablecloth that we write on every year (see the photo from a few years back). Since we are away from family, we usually invite other friends who are  "away" also, and whoever is present has to write something that they are thankful for. It is fun every year to look back at all the names and memories. When the kids were really little, we would visit a nursing home after we ate. So many of those folks are lonely, and loved holding our babies. I make the traditional meal: turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberries, pumpkin pie. And of course, we have the Macy's Day parade playing, even if no one is watching! What are your traditions?

Monday, November 22, 2010

That fine line...

You know that fine line between saying "Don't let me be sick, don't let me be sick, don't let me be sick," and, "OH, PLEASE, just let me get this over with..." I've officially crossed the line. Out of commission until further notice...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Leaky roof and credit cards..

Judging by all the facebook comments about Abby's post...I'm thinking I should have her as a guest writer more often!

There are not many free samples out there right now. I'm thinking it's because companies are focusing more on the upcoming holiday shopping season. Even the credit card companies are involved. I have two cards right now besides my debit (I suppose it goes without saying that I pay them off each month, but I'm saying it anyway). I've been planning to cancel  my Bank of America Mastercard, but they keep sending out good deals. From now until 12/31 I can get 20% cash back on Fandango, Netflix, Carrabbas, Subway, Outback and Barnes and Noble. Not too shabby. Obviously I won't buy things I wouldn't normally get, but B&N is a big shop for me at Christmas. They also just sent a card saying I'll get $10 back for making two Shell gas purchases (totalling $ hard is that??) and also a card for $10 back on any $10 purchase at Kohls...that's a FREEBIE! So, guess I'll hold on til after the new year.

My newest (and soon to be only) card is a AAdvantage Visa to earn airline miles. I signed up for a really good promo and basically earned enough points in the first 2 months to get TWO FREE TICKETS TO EUROPE!!! How awesome is that? So, I think that was worth it since they waive the fee for the first year. I'll let you kow if I get burned.

On another note, Mike and I had a new roof put on 5 years ago. The roof wasn't leaking, but it was 25+ years old and we had a big windstorm that blew off a bunch of shingles. To prevent leaks--and knowing that a new roof was inevitable--we started pricing. We got a fairly good deal and put on 30 year architectural shingles. Within a year we had two leaks in different areas. We called them and they came over immediately, threw some tar one it and said we should be fine. They had pounded nails right through the outside shingles!! My husband has helped his Dad build a few houses. He was NOT happy. 6 months later we had another leak. We figured out where it was on our own by crawling under the eaves and spraying water on with a hose. Mike fixed that one. Now, a year later, there is an area of paint falling off the living room ceiling. Mike went up today to check it out. 5 NAILS through the roof. He took pictures of them all and patched it. We haven't yet called them back. So what would you do? Demand a refund? New roof? Partial refund? Report to BBB? It's very frustrarting because we had NO leaks before the new roof. Ahhh, home ownership!

Going to serve at a dinner for foster families tonight...early Thanksgiving...yummm!

Friday, November 19, 2010

guest post by Abby

So sorry I've been out of commission all week friends. My computer has been giving me fits and today is the first day it seems to be a little better. I've decided to dedicate this post to my daughter Abby who has been filling out college and scholarship aps continuously. On one she was asked to respond to this paragraph: "A lazy person does little to nothing while a busy person does almost everthing, but the similarity is that both refuse to be intentional. Busyness is the moral equivalent of laziness...We say that haste makes waste, but the way we function indicates that we really believe that the hare, and not the tortoise, wins the race. Exhaustion is inevitable when we take on too much or fail to anticapte the unseen demands that come with every new commitment. And our exhaustion plays itself out in countless ways, especially in our key relationships. Busyness, however, is moral laziness because it involves refusing to live with courage and intentionality. Instead, we give our spirit over to the demands of necessity."

Here is her response:

Earlier today I found myself lying on the floor, half-way through my second bag of discount Halloween candy, completely disgusted with myself. There I was munching through my fifteenth fun-size Butterfinger, allowing the countless demands on my time to pile up around me like my discarded candy wrappers. As I began to analyze my position, I found that my laziness was a defense mechanism against my increasingly busy lifestyle.

Lately I have been feeling the pressure of “giving [my] spirit over to the growing demands of necessity.” My days have been filled ceaselessly with the many activities that I committed to at the beginning of my school year, many of which are permanent commitments that I cannot now leave. I confess that much of the pressure I feel to be involved in so many areas comes from the push of colleges who want not only good scholars, but “well-rounded” ones at that. Not content with mere grades, they want/reward students who excel in multiple areas. I did not truly realize the position I was in until my grandmother (age 88) passed away mid-October. When I returned from her funeral I was completely swamped by the make-up work from my four AP courses, online Spanish Three, missing the middle school small group that I normally lead, and the fast approach of our cross country conference meet. I was exhausted. Everything that I was involved in suffered as a result.

Now that cross country is over I find myself sinking to the opposite extreme. Allender has helped me realize that the struggles of busyness and laziness are actually two sides of the same proverbial coin. By doing everything, I was removing the necessity of excelling in anything. By doing nothing I was also (obviously) accomplishing nothing. There is a certain way that time management is a moral issue, and it is magnified when the person who is managing their time incorrectly is a leader within their social circles. Intentionally refusing to be intentional, whether by doing everything or nothing, not only destroys productivity, but also wastes God-given minutes and hours that can never be recaptured.

This week I am going to spend an astonishing amount of time doing nothing, but I am going to be extremely busy while doing it. As I type this essay I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of midnight so that I can go to see the new Harry Potter movie premiere. Is it necessary? No. So why am I wasting my time in this way when there are so many more productive things that I could be doing?

The answer is not difficult to understand, only difficult to admit: I am taking the easy way out of all those things that I really need to do, but do not desire to do. As a leader of two small groups I should be preparing lessons for them. As an academic leader in my class I should be setting the example of a true scholar by studying for my AP Calculus quiz tomorrow. These are not “fun” things, but they are important things. When I put off the important things in favor of the mundane I am committing a moral crime. Unfortunately these reflections are not going to deter my going to the premiere tonight, but they have given me food for thought about my time management skills in the future.

Looking ahead to college, I honestly want to improve my time management so that I can excel in areas that are important to me and to God’s kingdom. I confess that oftentimes I swing back and forth from the two extremes of lying on my back and eating chocolate and juggling every activity that my school and church has to offer instead of finding one or two things that I could do in a truly exceptional way. As I leader I am fast recognizing the importance of doing things thoroughly even if it means doing less. There is only a set amount of hours in each day for anyone to excel in, and being unintentional about those hours is at worst ethically wrong (sinful), and at best wasting time that cannot be reclaimed. Christians are called to lead “purpose driven” lives and I am becoming more and more convinced that disguising a life without purpose by leading as many activities as possible is not God honoring. I intend to continue to be a leader in the college setting, but want to set a better example for people to follow in the area of time management. This may mean that I will not be able to do everything, but that, I am realizing, is not a bad thing. No one has been called to do everything; we are all different parts of the Body and have different functions. Once I discover my primary “function(s),” I will certainly pursue it/them with intentionality and vigor, not wasting a single minute through laziness or busyness, or at least that is my current intention…three hours and 35 minutes until the movie premiere, but who’s counting?

Monday, November 15, 2010

A few freebies for you...

There aren't many internet freebies out there right now, but with Christmas right around the corner, I can tell you that stores are pulling out all the stops--a very good thing for us! Be sure to check or your other favorite site that lets you know what the deals are every week at the three big drugstores. I scored big at Rite Aid tonight. One Free Herbal Essence and 2 free Gain dish detergents. Also picked up some 90% off candy. The cashier told me she wished the manager would just let her put it in a buggy with a "free" sign on it because it's such bother to code in all the sale prices. Sounds good to me!

There are some fantastic deals coming up on Black Friday. I'll tell you more about that later...along with my strategy, which is really pretty lame compared to some people.

Office Depot has a BIG list of 100% back after rewards items this week, and they are good for two per person. Time to stock up on office supplies! Good until 11/20. Check them out here:

Snapfish has a great deal right now: 365 free 4x6 prints with any $10 purchase, with code 2010MY365. There are lots of $10 items, including more prints. Buy a $10 gift and get all your pics developed:

Get a free sample of Nature's Bounty You Life Multi Adult Gummies:

Free sample of Avery shipping labels:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Do not Fear

This has always been one of my favorite praise and worship songs and our church does a wonderful job singing it, but it took on special meaning after our wreck as many people sent us this verse as a reminder. Again this summer, when I stood with my mom watching the house go up in smoke, the words, "when you pass through the fire, you will not be burned, " came to me again. Today, we sang the song in church...and of course I cried, because that's just enjoy!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Veteran's Day Salute

I'm about as patriotic as you get. I love this country and I have the utmost respect for all those who have served, are serving and will serve to protect my freedom. I want to especially thank those in my family who were/are in the armed forces. I think of my Uncle Lester, who passed away not too long ago and who was part of the greatest generation, serving in Europe during WW II. I have several great uncles who served in WW I. My cousin, Carl Monroe, who at 89 still runs his own construction company here in NC served in WW II as a pilot. My three brothers put in varying time in the Air Force. My nephews Leon and Larry, my oldest borther's sons, have both served. Leon is a West Point grad and has served as a neurosurgeon for the Army ever since his graduation from med school. His wife Lisa is also a doctor and she continues to serve in the Army. My nephew Larry served 20 years as a Ranger. He saw a lot of action up close and personal including Grenada, Somolia and Iraq. His wife, Kerry, also serves in the Army. Leon and Lisa's children are in varying stages of what they term "learning to serve." Their oldest, Kristen, is a senior at UVA. She is there on an ROTC scholarship and I believe has chosen to serve her 4 years immediately after graduation. Her sister Aimee is also at UVA in the ROTC program. Their brother Geoff is in his first year at West Point. On my husband's side of the family, I thank my FIL Bill for serving during the Korean War, my BIL Marshall for serving 4 years in the army and my niece Chelsea, who is currently in the army.  I cannot adequately express my gratitude. Thank you. 
(I apologize if any of this info is inaccurate.)

Since a picture paints a thousand words, I'll share some with you:
Great Niece Kristen after Airborne School, 2009.

Nephew Larry circa 1980s (?)
(Third from left)

Brother Larry, Air Force, 1960s

Nephew Leon taking command of Fort Meade MEDDAC, July 2010

Nephew Leon (in yellow) congratulating son Geoff after march at West Point, '10

Great-Nephew Geoff, West Point 2010

Nephew Leon, West Point 1980

Kristen, on the left, Aimee 3rd from left,
UVA  ROTC 2010

Good friend Larry Small, USMC, disabled vet talking to my son Lee

niece Chelsea, on the left, 2010


America, Bless God.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Free Prescription sunglasses...and essentials continued...

"Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Proverbs 4: 7, 23

I love the book of Proverbs. Each verse is so rich. Sometimes (oft times) though, I find myself mindlessly reading and not really grasping what it is that is being stressed. I mean, honestly, am I willing to pay any price to get understanding? What does that mean? Even if taken figuratively, do I value wisdom above all else? And the heart truly is our wellspring of life, in every way. Yet every day, my heart is "prone to wander, prone to leave the One I love." You know the rest of the song...."take my heart, oh Lord and seal it, seal it for thy courts above." I can save money and find the deals, but if my heart is not His, if I am not seeking wisdom and understanding (through the Word and through those Godly saints He has sent before me), then it is all for naught. Let's seek Him, my friends. Even though I daily let Him down, Christ has NEVER let me down.

Great day so far. Had a wonderful time in the word, along with a hot cup-o-jo. There's a double batch of crock pot granola cooking that has the whole house smelling like cinnamon and nutmeg. Yesterday I pulled the last of the beet greens. They were delightfully delicious. We've had our first two hard frosts and now Mike is kicking himself for not pulling the tomatoes and impatiens before they turned to slime. The mailbox has been brimming with freebies lately: Crisco olive oil, a "big" P&G box with Pantene and more, Curel lotion, coupon for free Barilla....hope you are signing up friends.  I'm ending today's post with some great free stuff for ya.

Essentials. Yesterday I touched on groceries. Here's the next big one: Clothing and getting that clothing clean. Again, obviously we have to have to wear clothing, but how much we have and where we get it makes a huge impact on our budget. I am most admittedly NOT a fashionista, so this is not an area of struggle for me. I still have and wear some of the same clothes I had in high school. I don't think I have to state the obvious, but I will anyway: the best place to find reasonably priced clothing is at yard sales, followed closely by thrift stores, consignment shops and clearance racks. (My personal favorite is hand-me-downs, but of course, you can't always count on that.) If wearing the latest is important to you, then at least make sure you are taking advantage of sales and store coupons. As I like to tell my friends, it's not always that I can't afford to pay full price,  I just think I'm being a poor steward of my money when I do. Take a good hard look at your closet. How much do you actually wear? I do this at least once a year and have found that I tend to wear the same few outfits over and over. The less clothing I have, the easier my life is. I have many like-minded frugal friends and family members and we are forever passing clothes around, so consquently I give away several bags of clothes (all family members) a year. Less IS more.

Caring for clothes? I shy away from anything that says, "dry clean only, " and when I do take items to the cleaner, I use coupons. I don't do laundry unless I have full load. Typically I wash in cold water and hang at least a couple of loads a week on the clothes line. I use about half the amount of detergent called for and sometimes I reuse my dryer sheets, or I cut them in half. I don't wash clothes unless they need it. None of these things in and of themselves will make me rich, but collectively they add up. It's a mindset that says, "Sure, I can spend more, but why would I? How do you save money on clothes??

And finally, some deals for you:

Free 10,000 pair of prescription glasses promo on facebook! Click here for details:

Get a pair of free flip flops with a lot code off a pack of Orbit "remix" gum:

Sign up here for a promotional booklet called "Organize in Style" that has coupons for Swiffer, Febreeze, Dawn, Cascade and others:

As of this morning, Wholly Guacamole still had a $4.00 coupon out making their products free or almost free! I love their fresh salsa! The coupon is only good for 5 days after you print it:

And if you live near a Jack in the Box check this out: Jack in the Box has done it again! On Tuesday, November 16 after 2:00 pm you can get two free tacos at Jack in the Box (no coupon required). No other purchase is necessary. It’s always a good idea to call your local Jack in the Box to confirm that they are participating in this promotion. Thanks Freebies-4-mom.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What exactly is essential?

Don't you love that time of the month (or week, depending on your style) when you have to sit down and pay the bills? I pay them as close to the 15th of each month as I can, because my husband is paid on that day. I immediately write out the tithe and mortgage checks. Most of my bills are paid online. I could do this with the mortgage, but I add as much extra as I can each month, so it varies in amount. I am paid bi-weekly, and my checks vary widely because I may work 4 hours one week and 20 the next. One thing I have learned: if I I send out the mortgage as soon as Mike gets paid, adding as much as I reasonably can, I then have to force myself to make do with what is left. If I wait until the end of the month to pay, invariably other things come up and the extra isn't added. Works for us.

I remember reading an Amy Dacyzyn article waaaaaaay back about figuring out what is essential and what isn't. It was eye-opening even though we were poor college students at the time. Since then, I've read much on the subject, so for the next few posts, I'm going to talk about several "essential" areas and ways that I have found that I can cut back...or ways I didn't but could!

Let's hit the biggie first: groceries. Aside from the mortgage and possibly the tithe, it is the single biggest expense that most of us have. I remember a co-worker once talking about her MIL. Seems mama had given her a dressing down about how much she was spending on groceries. "She just doesn't get it, " she sniffed, "it's not like we can just stop eating." On further probing when we were alone, she admitted that she spent way too much on "junk food." "My husband and kids will easily eat a whole box of chicken wings, a bag of popcorn and a 2 liter of Coke every night watching TV" she sighed, "but I just don't feel like I can tell them no." It really is the little foxes that ruin the vines, isn't it?

To make this personal, let's look at my typical Aldi $90.00 grocery purchase.  What I would call the essentials are: milk, OJ, eggs, lunch meat, cheese, bread, frozen/fresh veggies, peanut butter, fruit, oatmeal, ground turkey, chicken,  rice and pasta. What I buy that I could cut out completely: coffee/filters, juice boxes for lunches (more on this later), poptarts, boxed snack cakes, soda and candy. What I could easily substitute for a cheaper alternative: cold cereal (oatmeal/grits), baby carrots (cut and peel whole carrots), condensed soup (make my own with basic white sauce) paper napkins (cloth)...well, you get the idea.

In other words, yes, we do have to eat, but we could subsist on rice and beans (Dave Ramsey style). Where you draw the line is a very personal matter. I just want to get you thinking about what you truly need. One item that I did cut out this year is the pre-packaged juice boxes. With 5 lunches packed a day, (Mike drinks water), even using store brands and coupons, I was spending about $4.75 a week. Now I wash and reuse 12 oz Gatorade bottles and fill them with generic "crystal lite." I spend about a dollar a week. Over the course of the school year, this will save over $120.00. And that's just one example. You will also recall that I get 97% of my toilettries (toothpaste/brushes, soap, shampoo, deoderant, make-up, etc) free after rebates at the "big 3" drugstores. Obviously, I'm not brand loyal.

There you go, some food for thought. What could/have you cut out of the grocery bill?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Money woes...

There seems to be, according to the stats, a new trend among mall-goers; shoppers are visiting 3 stores on average instead of 5, and they are visiting "with a purpose." In other words, window shopping and recreational shopping are out and buying things you actually need is in. What a concept.  Coupon shopping and "grouponing" type sites are busting at the seams.

And shoppers are continuing to eat out. This was very surprising to me at the beginning of the recession. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that restaurant parking lots were still full while people everywhere around me (who I knew were filling those parking lots) were complaining about "just getting by." Recently though, I read an article about a new upscale restaurant in Portland, Maine. (Digression here: I tend to read -and therefore know-more about my home state than I will ever know about NC. Election night I followed the results of the governor's race in Maine very closely on the web while watching TV at the same time. I was very annoyed when our local TV newscaster kept breaking into the national news with updates on NC races. Guess I'm just a Mainer at heart....)The owner of the new eatery was proclaiming great success and offered the following explantion: Many middle to upper class folks are cutting out "big" extras like new cars, lavish vacations, country club memberships and private schools for their kids. So to make life "bearable" while having to do without the finer things, they justify going out for a nice meals just as, if not more often than before. Ahhhhh, it all makes sense now. I've never been in that position, so the mindset is completely foreign to me.

My conclusion is that we spend our money on what we value...and we'll sacrifice just about anything to do it. A heroine addict will sacrifice his family and his health to get enough cash for his next high. A woman who values fashion will sacrifice the trust of her husband by taking money from his wallet or hiding the credit card bills from the latest shopping spree in order to wear the newest styles.  One family I know was "devastated" when they had to pull their child from a local Christian school, but then promptly took the whole family to Disney, a trip that I later learned cost far more than a year's tuition. Make no mistake, rich or poor, we all-myself included-do this. We pay for what we value.

I challenge you to think about what it is that you personally value. Better yet, take a close look at where your money is going, for "where you money is, there will your heart be also." You might be surprised.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sticky Thoughts

Yesterday I spent the morning in the parking lot of Grimsley High School in Greensboro, waiting while my Korean student took the SAT subject tests. I "redeemed the time" by writing thank you notes to those who gave money/flowers/etc in memory of my mom. It's gratifying to write thank you notes. It took me about 3 hours to write almost 50 of them, and I ended that time feeling very blessed, not only by those who gave, but also by my mom, who elicited such a warm response in others.  She would be most pleased to know that over $1000 was given in her honor to her little country church.

Later in the day, we went to a BBQ Chicken fundraiser for an area youth group and then to a Harlem Rockets basketball game which was also a fundraiser for a young boy who used to be a student at our school. He is batting cancer...but what a shining testimony...and he was sinking 3 pointers too! After the game, Mike and I went to Panera for a date night (I love their soup) and then rented Robin Hood (I also love Russell Crowe).  Just a gem of a day.

Today we had a wonderful church service. The speaker is with Campus Outreach, a ministry to college kids. He spoke about--of all things--dealing with the grief of death. After telling a little about his own life and the young folks he had known who have died seemingly "senseless" deaths, he stressed two points: God is sovereign and God is good. These were the two areas after the wreck in which God showed Himself so very real in our lives, and He continues to show me that on a daily basis. After the service, I was talking with a gentleman about this very subject. He held up his Bible and said, "But if we aren't living this during the good times, He will never seem sovereign and good to us in the bad."  (Thanks, Darcy).

And that is my sticky thought for you this weekend.  Are so close to God that when the tough times come, you will be able to unequivocally say, "God is Sovereign and God is good. All the time."

Let's have a great week...lots of deals coming up, read carefully.

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's the little things....

Last night my oldest son was wanting to see pictures of his Dad's souped up '68 GTO (which was sold after baby #3 so we could buy a minivan--oh, the tragedy...). Anyhow, I was looking for these photos and really had no idea where to start. After seaching for about 30 minutes, I grabbed a big crate I have that is the "junk drawer," if you will, of my photos. You know the box. It's the one where all the random photos/cards/papers get thrown. On top lay a bunch of scrapbooking pens and stickers. On a whim, I dug clear to the bottom and grabbed several photos. What I pulled out caused me to sit right down in the middle of the floor and cry tears of joy. It was a baby picture of me with my mom. To fully understand the significance of the moment, you have to go back further than my mom's funeral 3 weeks ago, which in and of itself might have produced tears, but not like this. You have to go back to this summer when the old homestead of 57 years went up in smoke. I honestly believed that my only baby pictures (and, I thought, the baby pictures of all my siblings) were in the house that night. I do not ever remember taking any photos of myself out of the house; I just assumed that after mom passed on to the other side that I would get them then. I had sat with her this summer and looked through the album she had of when I was a baby, and I saw this very picture. I didn't know there were two of them. The day of the funeral, my cousin did share some photos, and there was a baby picture of me with my brother, which really made my day, but not like this one did. Isn't God good? It's such a little thing. It's not like I'm going to die without it. I'd pretty much convinced myself that it didn't matter anyway and had moved on to other issues. And when I was least expecting it...there it was.

Thank you, Lord, for the little things!

(I've been trying unsuccessfully for an hour now to scan the photo so you can see it and I keep getting a "scan error" message...but I REFUSE to let this cause me to be ungrateful...HA!) Have a great weekend:)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Free Calenders and pet food/litter

These are both links to free calenders, Pillsbury and Betty Crocker. They are 11X11 and have new recipes every month. Great way to get calenders for the new year! you have to sign up for an email newsletter.

Link to free sample of Purina ONE:

And if you have not used this already, click here: to get a 100% rebate on this brand cat litter!

Had some good shopping days lately. I had the $50 Groupon for Gap for which I paid $25--but I also got 2 referrals @ $10 each, so you could say I only ended up paying $5. Anyway, I used it in the clearance section in Four Season's mall and bought $269.00 worth of stuff with my little coupon. Nice! Now that my kids are older, these will make great Christmas gifts.

Also used my Renuzit $1 coupons for 2 free cones and my Coffee Mate $1 coupons for 2 of the holiday flavors, making them 50 cents each at Wal Mart. Bagged some half off Halloween candy in the process. Did great at Walgreens today, spending $15 but saving $18 on Tide detergent and stain release, Cottonelle wipes, Hellmans Mayo, 2 blocks of cheese and baggies. On to Rite Aid, where I picked up an "i-pod home" wannabee for 20 bucks (reg 50)This will be a Christmas gift. Also got some St. Ives apricot scrub, which is the only product I use on my face. It was on sale for $3.99, I had a $2 UP reward to use, and I will get back $3 in rebates. Gotta love it.

Tonight we are attending the fundraiser banquet for the High Point Pregnancy Care Center. We love supporting this very worthy cause.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


No blogging yesterday, too busy watching election results. I'm moderately happy, though I don't think much will change as far as the economy goes...which means, as always, we should hunker down, pay off debt as fast as we can and shop as little as possible while never paying full price. Amazing, my strategy has NEVER changed!!

So here are some deals to check out:

Here's an offer if you are willing to be up at 12 am on Friday...Lowe's will be giving out 5000 90% off coupons on a first come first serve basis. Not sure what the "more than a dozen" items will be, but if it's any big-ticket item, this is a whopping great offer. "Like" them on Facebook, them join the party:!/event.php?eid=101055153296472

Tom's of Maine toothpaste sample:

If you missed it the first time, Renuzit is giving out 70,000 more dollar off coupons for their air freshener cone, making them free! Here's the link:

Free children's books are back inside SMP's of Cheerios. 6 million books will be distributed in the next few months. Be on the lookout.

Get a free pack of Extra Dessert Delights gum here:

Four sample packs of ideal sweetener here:

Happy Shopping!

Monday, November 1, 2010


The winner of the November 1rst drawing of 15 books and tea/coffee samples is Lynn Reeder from High Point, NC. Congratulations, Lynn, and thanks for reading my blog:)!!

Two facebook freebies:
Coupon for a dollar off a Renuzit air freshener cone, which makes it free at most stores:

Free sample of Folger's Special Roast Coffee:

Free sample of Prilosec OTC here:

Happy Shopping!


Saturday, October 30, 2010

So many sites, so little time.

I have learned much about the internet since I started blogging in January, and the biggest thing that I have learned is that there are a bazillion and one blogs out there! There are so many money saving sites that it is just mind-boggling to me. My frugal friends send me links often, and I find new ones on my own. I could spend entire days chasing freebies and deals, but like anything else, there can be too much of a good thing. On my "other sites" tab, you will find a list of some of my favorites. It is amazing to me that no one site has every deal. If you click on 10 sites, you are sure to find a freebie that someone else missed. That's the reason why I started personalizing my blog a bit. If it's just deals that you are looking for, then this isn't your site. I try to highlight deals and freebies, but I also write about my family and things that are important to me. (I call it "living a life a value.") That being said, here are a few more links to sites that you might want to check out if you have a minute:

And at each of these links, you can access dozens of others. So the bottom line is, I feel flattered that anybody bothers to read my blog at all, given the competition. Thanks!

On November 1rst, I will have my next give-a-way! I have upped the # of books I'll be sending to 15. Most of these are new (including copies of both of my books) and several are gently used. I'm also sending a bag of Tazo tea and some coffee samples. Perfect for winter reading. So make sure you are either a subscriber or a follower to get on this opportunity.

Here are a few freebies for today:

Use the code STUDENT3 to get a $3 credit for MP3 downloads at Most songs are 99 cents, so that equals free music!

Get a 5 day sample of MegaRed Omega 3 Fish Krill Oil sample at:
This is a Sam's Club sample, but you can skip the member # on this one.

Free Tena Ultra Thins Pad at:
This has been reset, meaning you can get another sample even if you have done this one previously.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Free book!!

Is it really only 7:26 PM? I thought it must be at least 10; for some reason I'm exhausted, but still feeling guilty about going to bed this early. Had the state CC meet today in Montreat, about a 2.5 hour drive one way. It was a beautiful day, but I must say, I'm glad the season is over. This was Abby's last HS race. She said it was bittersweet, but more sweet than bitter:).

You know those little google ads that pepper my blog and many others you see? When I began to blog every day, I decided I might as well let google do its thing. I entered all my info but then pretty much forgot about it. Come to find out, you really do get paid when people click on them! There was a $102 deposit in my bank account yesterday. (Apparently they only pay you when you get to $100.) Let's see, I started on January 26, so that's about $11 a month. If I didn't give out gift cards and prizes, I might make something! Anywho, it was a nice little surprise!! Thanks for visiting and clicking around my blog, frugal friends!!

With the economy/elections being all the talk right now, I've been hearing much about "social justice." I was digging around the WORLD magazine site when I found a link for a free book and DVD here: It's put out by the Heritage Foundation and when I saw Chuck Colson and Star Parker (among others) were both involved, I knew I wanted it. When I went to order it, I found that they have quite a few other free items also, but you do have to pay shipping. I paid $12 for 6 items--not bad. I know this doesn't flip everyone's switch, but I like to read about the economy and social issues. You can watch a one minute video about the book/DVD here:

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A thankful kind of day...

Today was errand day. Video return, book return, stamp purchase/letters mailed, hair cut, car inspected, car tags renewed, bank deposit, friend visit....hmmm, anything else? Kept me busy all day. I was very thankful the old '91 Honda Civic passed inspection again. Love that car!! I felt very blessed all day today as I was putzing around town. Thankful for so much in my life: family, friends, job, home, car, pets, clothing, food, money to pay the bills, my church, my Savior...and the list goes on and on. Sure, we all have "stuff" in our lives that we can complain about, but really? Aren't we blessed??? Be grateful today!!

Here are a couple of freebies to be thankful for:

Get a free sample of Tom's of Maine Wicked Fresh toothpaste here:
Apparently you have to cut and paste this link into your browser to get this freebie...

Enzymedica is offering a FREE sample of the Digest Basic Health supplement. This looks like it is a 14-day sample supply! When you fill-out the form, use the promo code: taste to request your FREE sample:

If you are new to my site, please remember to check out on a regular basis. I don't get any kind of kick back or anything, but I honestly think that Jenny has the best money-saving site out there. She does a bang up job of telling you which coupons are available, where to get them, and where the sales are.

Have a great evening!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Seven new Freebies for you to enjoy!

Yesterday was a good shop day. If you don't already know, every Monday Carolina Thrift offers half off all clothing and accessories, including shoes and purses. Abby was looking for stuff to make a Peter Pan costume, so off we went. I found two pair of like-new leather shoes (Florsheim and Bostonian--sold on their respective web sites for about $100 a pair) for the boys for $3.50 each and picked up a new leather purse for the same price. The kids picked out a few T-shirts for 99 cents and several books for 2 bucks. (Normally I would wait for these to be half off, but I was in a genereous mood:). Also found some new mens' dress socks for 50 cents. Overall, I spent 20 bucks and was downright happy!!

This morning I've already made 6 quarts of applesauce with my free Maine apples, scoped out the garden greens for tonight's dinner salad, and continue to work on Abby's college/scholarship apps. I consider it time well spent. The more scholarships the kids gets, the less I have to work to pay for her schooling. We've told our kids that we will not take out loans for college and that we will buy them a (used) car for graduation if they get a full ride. Way cheaper than 4 years of college!!

Here are a few new freebies for you:
A coupon for free bag of chips at (facebook freebie, "like" it, then click on the coupon tab):

Free sample of Jergens lotion here (you have to sign up to be a member of total beauty):

Free 2011 Calender from Oriental Trading Company:

Free Unity 2011 Calender here:

Free sample of Poise pads from Sam's Club, no member # required:

Free sample of Snuggle liquid fabric softener:

Free sample of Axe Phoenix deoderant (must be Sam's Club member):

Sometimes I think it would be nice if life would go on hold for awhile while we grieve the loss of loved ones, but then I realize that the world would always be on hold for someone. Remembering my mom again today and all the lessons she taught me...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

College Stuff

What a beauty of a day here in NC. So thankful for the cooler fall days. I love this time of year for many reasons, not the least of which is not having to use the AC OR the heat!! I spent much of yesterday helping Abby with college and scholarship applications, reading over her essays and trying to figure out just where to apply. One acceptance so far: Covenant College in Georgia. 6 more apps sent, 4 to go. It will be exciting to see how God leads her in the process.  For those of you in process, here are the sites I recommend for scholarship searches: and

On Cappex, you can plug in all your stats (grades, activites, interests, etc) and it will give you the likelihood of getting accepted at any given college. Abby has fairly high SAT/ACT scores, so she thought she'd play around a bit on the site. She changed the numbers to perfect scores on those two tests to see if her likelihood of getting into the Ivy Leagues would increase at all. Less than 5% change. (She's really not looking to go to an Ivy League, she's just curious). Then she left the grades alone and changed her ethnicity to Asian. No change.  Then she left the grades but changed her ethnicity to African American. HUGE change.  Her chances of acceptance increased dramatically. Wow. Any comments? Is this reverse racism, affirmative action or justice being served? Can't wrap my head around it. (And just FYI, she did change everything back to the correct answers...she's really not cheating to get in anywhere:)

Overall, I would say the process has been smooth, with only a few bumps along the way. Since she really has no idea where she wants to go, we are praying a lot and looking at where God brings in the resources. He always provides. Mike and I both took some time off after HS and worked. So many options. Anyone out there who has gone before us with some words of wisdom?