Friday, January 30, 2009

What Would I Do?

My dear friend, Veronica, was supposed to come and see me tomorrow. However, her sweet little twins that she will have in March have prevented the trip. I told V (I call her "V") that I would make a list of all the things we would have done if she had come out to Canton, IL this week. So here goes.....

*I would have stayed up until the wee hours of the night playing catch phrase with you. We would sip our chai while we laughed and enjoyed each other.

*We would have driven to Peoria and gotten makeovers. Just got one at Christmas, but i am always up for another one! We then would either marvel at the talent of the makeup artist or make fun of her once we got in the car!

* We would get some "California Pizza Kitchen" pizza from the freezer section of the grocery store. We would eat it while we watched some chic flick that we only half paid attention to.

* We would go thrift store shopping and look for shoes, purses, and anything else that we might need. Can't ever have too many pairs of shoes.

*We would make a trip to the pet store so Dillon and Mr. Josh could look at all the animals.

* I would take you to house hunt with me. It would be so fun to get your opinion on the houses we look at.

* I would take you house hunting for YOUR house. (Hopefully it is close to mine!)

* I would make you one of my AMAZING cups of coffee.

* I would spend hours catching up on everything I have missed in the last 5 1/2 months.

* I would play with your make up!

* I would steal your coach purse while you are sleeping!!!

* I would wish that you were already living here.

So there you have it, Veronica. Miss you!

Please don't ask to use my bathroom!

Have you ever had somebody stop by unannounced, and the whole time they are there you are thinking.... "Please don't ask to use my bathroom!" When Saturday is your house cleaning day, Friday's bathroom is probably a little scary! Here is a quick, easy way to keep your bathroom clean all week.
I keep a bunch of cleaning rags, a disinfecting cleaner, and shower spray (the kind you just spray... no scrubbing required) in my bathroom under the sink. After I am done getting ready each morning, I spray the shower. Then I use the bleach spray to quickly wipe down the sink and toilet. It takes me about 1-2 minutes total. I can't tell you what a relief it is to know that when somebody does drop it, my bathroom won't embarrass me!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Save your $4.00!

Nearly everyday I find myself wishing for a Starbucks latte. The problem is that, first, I don't usually have $4.00 to blow on a cup of coffee, and second, the nearest Starbucks is a half hour away. Want a cheap alternative that you can make at home in no time?

I got a milk frother (pictured at right) a few months ago, and it has made my coffee seem extra special. I buy whatever flavored creamer I am in the mood for. The tiramisu creamer is super yummy. I microwave it in my mug for about 20 seconds. This is where the frother comes in. Use it for about 20 seconds and the creamer will turn into a froth. Pour in strong coffee, and you will have a DELISH treat that is very cheap. Enjoy!

The frothers can be bought on Ebay for $2.50. Just type in "milk frother". Ikea makes one very similar to the one I have.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Money Saving Ideas

I am ALWAYS looking for ways to be frugal so that I can be lavish in other areas! For instance, I would rate a good haircut as a necessity in my life. The cheap ones never really work with my hair! So, I am willing to be a penny pincher when I grocery shop in order to have a great haircut. All that to say, I love to be creative with my budget and shopping.

Recently a friend told me of a book where she got recipes to make home-made baby wipes, laundry detergent, and dishwasher detergent. I have to admit that I was skeptical at first. "I am too busy to make baby wipes," I told her. Well, I was too busy until I found something at Goodwill that I wanted and needed a couple of dollars more that I had. Maybe I could try the baby wipe thing....

A roll of paper towels and an 1/8 cup of baby shampoo later, I decided that this wasn't such a bad idea. It was a LOT cheaper than the cheapest wipes I have found at the store so far. They weren't quite as good as the store bought ones, but the money I saved made it worth it. I am eager to try the laundry detergent when I run out of the bottle I already have!

If you are on a tight budget, look for recipes for all of these items (and more) on google.

One other tip that my friend, Heather, gave me was a great one! A lot of people drink 2% or skim milk. Buy a gallon of whole milk and water it down. It will taste about the same as the milk with less fat, and it is practically like getting a gallon of milk for free!

If you have any great tips for me, please leave me a comment below! I would LOVE some more fresh ideas!

Get Your Crockpot Out!!!!

Learning to cook in a crockpot literally revolutionized my Sundays! Everyone knows the Sunday Rush. We rush to get ourselves ready, the kids ready, (our husbands ready!), breakfast ready, the diaper bag ready, and then we RUSH to church. Half way through the sermon, you feel your stomach growling and instead of listening to the preaching, you are trying to figure out what in the world you are gonna fix for lunch. By the time you get home and cook a meal, it is almost time for supper! This is where your crockpot will change your life (or at least your Sundays!)

Saturday night you can get your meal ready in the crockpot. Put all of your ingredients in there and stick it in the fridge. Before you leave for church, simply take it out of the fridge and plug it in. When you get home, a healthy, tasty meal will be waiting for you! Now you don't have an excuse for not paying attention during church!!!

Here are a couple of my FAVE recipes!!!

Throw a bag of chicken breasts and a bottle of Italian dressing in the crockpot. Cook on high 4-6 hrs. You can use the drippings to make gravy by whisking the drippings and a few teaspoons of cornstarch in a saucepan if you want. Talk about easy!!!

Put a lg. can of enchillada sauce and a bag of chicken breasts in the crockpot and cook several hrs. until the chicken shreds easily. add a bag of cheese. spoon into tortillas and cover with more sauce and cheese. bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is browned a little. These are the easiest and best enchilladas I have every had!

Cover a can of sweetened condensed milk in the crockpot with water. Make sure it is completely covered with water. Cook for about 8 hrs on high and you will have the most amazing caramel dip ever! Cheap and easy!!!

My Bittersweet Collection

I was never really the collecting type growing up. I tried stamps… too boring. I had a few porcelain dolls, but didn’t really enjoy having a toy that you just put on a shelf. I suppose you could say that I collected books, if you were ever to look at my bookshelf. The truth is, there are just a handful of books that I have read more than once. What is the point of having a bunch of books that you are never going to read again?

My first and only real collection started while I lived in China. I bought a mug from the Starbucks in Beijing. When I came home for my sister’s wedding, a friend begged me to sell it to him. Figuring I could get another one when we returned to China, I sold it to him for the price that I had paid. We returned to China, and I never got around to buying another one. The time for us to return to the States for good came, and sadly my husband and I said our tearful goodbyes and loaded up our taxi. Just before we left, my dear friend, Paula, handed me 100 Yuan, which was roughly $12.00 in Chinese currency. She told me to buy another Starbucks mug and think of her whenever I used it. We got to the Beijing airport and I rushed to the Starbucks and purchased my cup. As the stewardess came down the aisle on the plane offering soda and green tea, I carefully poured my beverage into my mug. As I drank, I thought of my friendship that God had given me with Paula Connor. What a blessing to have her in my life!

Then I thought of another mug that a friend in China had given me. I have always liked Mary Engelbreit stuff. While shopping one day, Cheryl Watkins found a coffee mug that was black with a bright red cherry. It was very “Mary Engelbreit”, so she bought if for me. I realized that I had two very special mugs that I was bringing home from China. So, for the next few months I alternated between those two mugs as I drank my coffee each morning. While I sipped, I would thank God for these friends who are really more like family.

Since I started collecting mugs, my collection has really grown! I have the pink Hello Kitty mug from Veronica, the one my husband bought me at Disney World, and numerous others. Each time I choose a cup in the morning, it is a great reminder of how good God has been to me.

In my kitchen cupboard there sits a mug that I will probably never use again, but I wont throw it out. Somebody who hurt me deeply gave it to me. I have never had a person hurt me like this particular person did. My first thought was to get rid of the mug so that I wouldn’t be reminded of the person who mistreated me… but honestly, this mug has really been a good tool to help me grow as a Christian. Each time I see it, I pray for the person who gave it to me, I thank God for everything that I learned from him, and I ask the Lord to help me to treat others better than this person treated me.
Who knows…. Maybe someday my relationship with this person will be restored and I can dust off that mug and use it again. I will be glad that for all that time I prayed for him instead of hating him. It is amazing how the Lord can use a mug!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Why Entertain?

I really enjoy having people over to our house for a meal. We have folks over nearly every week. It seems as though people today are too busy to take the time to entertain. Let me share a few reasons why I feel you should go ahead and open your home up to others.

1) You will have a cleaner home. If you know that friends are coming over for dinner, it is amazing how much cleaner your house will be. I have found that company is a great motivator! The more often company comes, the more often I make sure our home is CLEAN!

2) It is a creative outlet. I am always trying some new recipe, learning a new way to fold fabric napkins, or changing up my table decor. Entertaining is a great way to channel your creativity! I am always searching Goodwill for tableware and centerpieces so that I can create a "homey" environment for my family and guests.

3) It is biblical! The Bible tells us over and over to be friendly and hospitable. Why not invite a family that is having trouble making ends meet? This is a great way to show others that you care.

4) It is FUN! Recently we had some friends over and we played "Who wants to be a Millionaire" after dinner. Boy were people surprised when we were using them as our life-line and "phoning and friend"! Thanks, Veronica for helping me on my question! What I am saying is that it is a lot of fun to hang out with people. Instead of spending a fortune at Olive Garden, get a game at the thrift store and have somebody over. Cheaper and probably more fun!

5)You will really get to know people. Because my husband is a youth director at our church, it is our job to know the teens we work with and their families. When they come for a meal, these teens and their families know that they are loved.

Some tips to make entertaining easier.....
*Use meals that you are comfortable with. I love crockpot meals because they are ready whenever we are. If company is late... no problem!
*Do as much early in the day as you can. Make the salad, dessert, etc. early so that you won't be scrambling later.
*If they offer to bring something, let them! It saves you time and preparation and makes them feel like they are contributing.

*Don't stress out! If you hate cooking, do a pre-made lasagna. Better to use store-bought food and be calm!

The finishing touches....
*I love to use fabric napkins. Nobody does this anymore! I have a million ways to fold them. This little finishing touch really makes your table look great!
*I like to dip the rims of the drink glasses in sugar. A quick, easy step that makes a great impression.

The Coolest Site!

I found this cool site: . They will make a free video collage of pictures you upload with music. They use all sorts of cool transition effects to make the 30 second video unique. Best of all, it is free! Make one for a far away family member to remind them that they are loved!

Friends from Afar!

This Christmas I was so excited to see my friends, the Watkins family, from China! We had not seen them since we left China a year and a half ago. The Watkins family are my kind of people.... they love the Lord, live for others, and have a great time wherever they are. The 4 Watkins children were in our youth group when we worked in China. Seeing them was like a family reunion! Another thing that made this reunion so sweet was that they brought Josh his guitar! The teens in China had given it to him as a gift and we weren't able bring it home with us. He was sooooo happy to play it again!

Kyndra's new favorite game to play.

Faith ~ Family ~ Friends

Why did I choose this name for my blog? To me, these are the three most important things in life.... in that order. From the moment I wake up each day, I am trying to improve my relationships in these areas. Usually, our priorities are out of order. This little saying helps me refocus.

A Mini Vacation

I am a firm believer in the concept of a mini vacation. It seems that we are so bogged down each day that we hardly can function. A trip to Hawaii is not going to fix the stress that we face daily! When I feel the stress building up, I love one of these easy, inexpensive "vacations". Here is my favorite way to unwind.... A good cup of coffee and a magazine. This is my favorite way to "chill out". My mother-in-law said that when she thinks of me she always pictures me with a cup of coffee in one hand and a magazine in the other. If you are broke and can't afford a $5 Starbucks latte and the latest Martha Stewart magazine, here is a poor man's alternative. Gas stations have amazingly good coffee. Bring your own mug (refill prices are cheaper than if you use one of their disposable cups). Then, head the the library. Most have a comfy area where you can sit and read. Grab a magazine or book and read away. Cost for this vacation: about a dollar! I know, the kids are screaming and you gotta get dinner on. There is no way you can work this out! Here's another idea.... Choose a meal that needs to bake about an hour. Get everything ready (salad, drinks, set the table....) and throw the dinner in the oven. Throw the kids in the mini-van and head for McDonalds. While they crawl through the playland, get yourself one of their mochas and read a magazine that you brought from home. You need a break, the kids need some exercise, and Daddy would rather have a happy wife than a gourmet meal. Whenever I get overloaded Josh says, "You aren't yourself." He deserves to have a happy, sane, wife! Make time to take care of yourself!

I am God's Favorite!

I know that God doesn't really have favorites, but my mom has often told me that I am God's favorite. Why? Because if I even mention something that I want or need, the Lord practically dumps it in my lap! I love all of the blessings that He sends my way, but even more, I love the fact that I have a God who cares about the smallest things. If I need something, He is already working on it. I want to keep a running list throughout the year so that I can look back over everything that He has done for me!
*Recently, my husband mentioned that he would like to someday get a bigger TV for our room so that he can play his xbox on it. At the time, we had a tiny little tv that was fine, but I asked God to give us a bigger one for my husband. A few days later, a friend gave us one! A BIG one! I have a God who cares about me!

* I was at Goodwill (my 2nd home since I shop there so much!) and was looking for a nice outfit to wear to church. I told the Lord that my husband was on staff at the church and our appearance was very important. The way we dress reflects the Lord. Immediately I saw a Kasper suit in my size. Still had the tags.... $290.00! I got it for $12.00! I guess that God cares how I look! :)

* When my daughter was born, we really didn't have to buy her anything. We got the nicest hand-me-downs you could imagine! I was just running out of clothes that fit her when a friend loaned me all of her daughter's clothes. They were the size that I needed! I guess the Lord cares how my daughter dresses too, huh?*Since my husband is a youth pastor, I do ALOT of secreterial work for him. I had to go to the church everytime I had work to do because we didn't have internet or a computer at home. When my mom came to visit, she sold me her laptop for a GREAT price (Thanks mom!) and we just recently got the internet at home. What a blessing that God gave us a laptop! Now I can help my hubby from home!!!!

*We have not been able to buy a home since we have gotten married. Recently we found out that we are going to be able to buy a home at 1% interest! Can you believe that! It is a special program that we qualify for. We don't even need a down payment! We have had so much fun house hunting lately!I have a thousand stories like this just from the last few months!

When was the last time God dropped this many blessings in your lap? I think the reason that the Lord does so much for us is because of 3 things.

1) We don't love God because of what He gives us. That is an added bonus. TV or no TV, we still love the Lord.

2) We praise Him and thank Him continually for His blessings. Everytime I do a load of wash, I thank Him for the amazing deal he gave us on our washer and dryer. I think God loves to give us stuff becaue he is thanked and praised for it!

3) We take every opportunity to tell others what He has done for us. He always gets the credit.

You should start a list of all of the things that God has done for you lately. Everytime I look at my list, I feel like I am God's favorite!