Friday, February 29, 2008

Fitness Friday

Lately, I've been talking about how I've really gotten into exercising with a stability ball. This week I took pictures of myself doing my exercise video (which proved to be MORE exercise than just doing the video alone). I don't think I will post them though - at least not right now. :) But I still encourage you, if you find exercising to be a "boring task", to pick up a stability ball (on sale, of course) and give it a try!

Today, I want to offer a few more suggestions of things you can do for exercise that you may find more interesting than your average 2-mile jog. Here is a short list of some things I have done in the past for exercise and would like to get back into:

bike riding

I know it's hard to do these things in the winter, but...Alas! Spring is on its way! (At least, I sure hope it is!) If you have a YMCA membership, these are things you could do year-round. Rollerblading, jumproping, and bike riding can be done as long as the roads are dry. Tennis and volleyball can be played against a wall by yourself if you have no one to play with you. And we all know that basketball is an easy one-man sport.

If you have never tried some of these forms of exercise, give them a shot! (No pun intended). Do you have any other creative ideas for exercising that aren't boring?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Throwback Thursday - A Leap Day Tradition

Leap Day Tradition - No Man is Safe

While leap day helped official timekeepers, it also resulted in social customs turned upside down when February 29 became a "no man's land" without legal jurisdiction.

As the story goes, the tradition of women romantically pursuing men in leap years began in 5th century Ireland, when St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about the fair sex having to wait for men to propose. Patrick finally relented and set February 29 aside as the day set aside allowing women the right to ask for a man's hand in marriage.

The tradition continued in Scotland, when Queen Margaret declared in 1288 that on February 29 a woman had the right to pop the question to any man she fancied. Menfolk who refused were faced with a fine in the form of a kiss, a silk dress, or a pair of gloves given to the rejected lady fair.

A similar modern American tradition, Sadie Hawkins Day, honors "the homeliest gal in the hills" created by Al Capp in the cartoon strip Li'l Abner. In the famous story line, Sadie and every other woman in town were allowed on that day to pursue and catch the most eligible bachelors in Dogpatch. Although the comic strip placed Sadie Hawkins Day in November, today it has become almost synonymous with February 29.

(Click here to read more about leap year).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wacky Wednesday - Video Time!

It seems like so much work to download a video and then upload it just so all of you can see it. Wouldn't it just be so much easier for you to click on the link? I think so. :)

So here we go. You may have seen these before, but I get a kick out of them every time.

Today's Theme: Old People

Old Lady Hits Mercedes

What Old People Do For Fun

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tasty Tuesdays - Developing a System For Your Kitchen, Part 1

I have decided to start a series on how to develop a system to make your kitchen work for you. I have found several things in the 4 years that I have been married (2 of those being a SAHM) that have really helped simplify my life. Since my friends sometimes comment on certain things that I do, I wanted to share with you those things that have made my kitchen work for me.

Today I want to talk about prep work. I know that, as a SAHM, I should have plenty of time to get dinner started and going on any given day but I still find it difficult to get myself motivated sometimes. One thing that I have found which helps me tremendously is to get the prep work for my meals taken care of before the actual day that I need the food.

Something I have begun to do is put all of my dry ingredients (for certain food items) into a ziploc bag, thereby forming my own mix (similar to Bisquik). I write on the outside of the bag in permanent marker what ingredients are in the bag, what ingredients need to be added, and cooking/baking instructions. (I personally recommend quart-sized freezer bags. They tend to be just the right size and are much more "heavy duty" that the average zipper bag). Here is an example of a cornbread mix:

Right now, I have mixes for pancakes, waffles, cornbread, and herb batter bread. I try to keep two of each on hand. Since the bags are sturdy freezer bags and they only contain dry ingredients, I can use them over and over again. When I have some free time (haha), I will check the pantry to see how many of each we have left. If we are running low, I will fill a few bags.

This idea can also be done using a large container and mixing for several batches at a time. I tend to think that I would not mix everything well enough and would therefore end up with a lopsided loaf of bread or cornbread that tastes like it has no sugar, so I use the bag method. I also like to do it this way because I can always see exactly how many bags I have prepared. In addition to those reasons, bags stack well and are, of course, very versatile when it comes to storage space.

I have several more things that I am excited to share with you in the coming weeks. What do you do to keep your kitchen organized? Blog about it in your own blog and then leave me a comment letting me know about it. I will post a link to your blog next week when I continue this series.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Money Monday - Budget, Part 5

Last week we talked about funding a FFEF (Fully Funded Emergency Fund) with at least 3-6 months of living expenses. Today we will discuss what to do once you have established your FFEF.

Investing: USA Today reported recently that 56 percent of Americans do not systematically prepare for retirement age by investing. Consumer Federation of America found that, of pepole making less than $35,000 per year, 40 percent said the best way for them to have $500,000 at retirement age is to win the Lotto. To top that, Wealth Builder magazine's poll found 80 percent of Americans believe their standard of living will go up at retirement. Talk about living in a fantasy! You must invest now if you want to spend your golden years in dignity.

Remember, you don't have any debt but a house payment now and you have 3-6 months of living expenses in savings (which is thousands of dollars). With only one payment, you should have plenty of money to invest in your retirement.

When we get to this stage, we plan to invest 10 percent of our gross income. But keep in mind that we are young. Our family should be at this point financially within 18 months and my husband and I will both be under 25 years old. If you are older (over 30), I recommend investing 15 percent.

Why not pay off the house first? Having a paid-for house at age 75 with no retirement savings doesn't get you very far. Why not save for college first? Your children's college degrees won't feed you at retirement. And there's a good chance that Social Insecurity isn't going to cut it (or even be around, for that matter).

An excellent choice for long-term investing is mutual funds. They average a 10-12 percent return on your investment. Research your mutual funds carefully and look for a good track record of winning for more than five years. It's a good idea to vary your mutual funds also (Invest in some Growth and Income funds, some International Funds, some Aggressive Growth funds, etc.)

Always start investing where you have a match. When you company will give you free money, take it. If you don't have a match, or after you have invested through the match, you should next fund Roth IRAs. If you max out your Roth IRAs, go back to investing in 401ks, 403bs, 457s, or SEPPs (for the self-employed) until you have reached 15 percent of your gross income.

I know I said I would talk about saving for your children's college educations today, but I think I will save that for next week.

Also, as I mentioned last week, if you have not yet cast your vote in the "How Much Consumer Debt Do You Have?" poll on the left side of the screen, please do so. I would love to know how many of you are in the same boat as we are and how many of you have already become debt free!

(Much of what I said today is directly quoted from or summarized from the book The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey).

Links to other parts of this series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 6
Part 7

Money Monday - Free CVS Stuff!

So today I made my weekly stop at CVS. Here is what I picked up tonight for FREE:

6 boxes of Kleenex
6 mini candy bars pkgs (8 each)
3 Wonka creme eggs
1 movie-sized box of Nerds
2 boxes Nips (caramel hard candies)
1 3-pk Irish Spring soap
1 Valentine's Day gift bag (on clearance 90% off)
Total before coupons/sales: $29

Total ECB used: $15.00

Total OOP: $0

Total ECB earned: $6
I know...not as great of a deal as last week, but we really needed Kleenex and uh - candy. :)

Money Monday - Target! (Another Winning Store)

I recently learned that Target has their own online coupons. In addition to using their store coupons, you may also use a manufacturer's coupon when you purchase their items. So I've been getting bits of things here and there. Here is what I got on Thursday:

3 bottles of Joint Juice (regularly $1.39, marked down to $1.09 - $1 coupon) = 9 cents each

20 string cheese (regularly 24 cents each - $.50/2 coupon) = FREE

2 boxes Pop Tarts (marked down to $1.52/box - $.50 Target coupon and $1/2 manufacturer's coupon) = 52 cents/box
Total before coupons/sales: $11.11

Total out of pocket (after coupons/sales): $1.41
Although I still like CVS better, Target is really starting to grow on me. :) Have you snagged any great deals at Target lately?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Weekend Worship - Learning to Study the Scriptures

In all my 23 years of life (and most of those years being spent in church and a Christian school) I was amazed to realize today that nobody ever taught me how to really study the Bible. This morning in Sunday School, our teachers (husband and wife) shared with the class the form of homiletics they use to study the Scriptures. I want to share it with you because I found it SO helpful for myself! :)

Alright, here is the basic structure:

The first thing you need to do is choose the passage you are going to study. One chapter is a good place to start. (We used the single-chapter book of Jude for our example this morning).

1. You begin with paraphrasing the content. Ideally, you want to keep it between 10 and 20 points. Since Jude has 25 verses, we clumped a few of the verses together but otherwise paraphrased each verse individually.

2. Next, you look for the divisions in the passage. Try to be concise but not TOO concise. Narrow the passage down to 3 or 4 divisions.

3. Once you have determined the divisions of the passage, look at those divisions and ask, "What is the basic thought in this passage?" You should be able to summarize the passage into just one verse - one fairly short verse, that is. Not one of those paragraph verses.

4. Your next step is to decide the aim for the passage. That is, what do you want to learn from it? There will likely be a few things you want to learn from the passage.

5. And finally, how can you apply this passage to your life? Ask yourself open-ended questions. Search the Scriptures to find the answers. Feel free to consult commentaries (but remember they they are books written by humans and are not divinely inspired).

I hope to delve into a passage of Scripture this week and practice this form of homiletics as a way to study the Bible on my own. I will try to post next week about the passage I studied so you can have a better understanding of how the whole process plays out.

I encourage you to give it a try on your own this week, but if you thought I was too confusing or not informative enough you may wait until next week. :)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fitness Friday - A New Goal

Alright, I'll be honest. In the midst of the ridiculously cold weather we've been having here in Indiana lately, I've completely given up on walking 3 times a week. HOWEVER, I have found something new that I really enjoy - exercising with a yoga ball!

I bought a ball several months ago when they were on sale. (You know me - never pay full price for anything. Haha). Anyway, I found it really fun to roll around on but never really used it in a practical sense. Well, last week I got a video from the library and I have been using it every day this week and, I have to say, it's been pretty fun!

I don't think I have the whole exercising thing down quite yet though. On Monday, I did the video in the afternoon a few hours after eating lunch. That worked out. On Tuesday, I exercised downstairs and then proceeded to the kitchen immediately after the video ended and ate 4 cookies. On Wednesday, I ate a serving of M&Ms before beginning. And Thursday was just another Monday. So I got it right about half the time. :) Better than nothing, I think.

How are you doing? Have you been walking? Have you found any other ways to stay in shape during this bitter cold time of the year?

I am hoping to find some more exercise videos at the library as they seem to provide me some sort of entertainment along with my exercise regimen. For some reason, exercising is just boring to me sometimes. Anyone else feel this way?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Throwback Thursday - History Mystery

Since we just celebrated President's Day (well, ok - I didn't actually celebrate, but whatever), I thought I would post about a few Presidents today. This is an interesting forward that I have gotten a few times in the past about Lincoln and Kennedy.

History Mystery

Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846
John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.
John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.

Both were particularly concerned with civil rights.

Both wives lost their children while living in the White House.

Both Presidents were shot on a Friday.
Both Presidents were shot in the head .

(Now it gets really weird).

Lincoln's secretary was named Kennedy.
Kennedy's Secretary was named Lincoln.

Both were assassinated by Southerners.
Both were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808.
Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Lincoln, was born in 1839.
Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated Kennedy, was born in 1939.

Both assassins were known by their three names.
Both names are composed of fifteen letters.

(Now hang on to your seat).

Lincoln was shot at the theater named 'Ford.'
Kennedy was shot in a car called ' Lincoln ' made by 'Ford.'

Lincoln was shot in a theater and his assassin ran and hid in a warehouse.
Kennedy was shot from a warehouse and his assassin ran and hid in a theater.

Booth and Oswald were assassinated before their trials.

(And here's the kicker...)

A week before Lincoln was shot, he was in Monroe, Maryland.
A week before Kennedy was shot, he was with Marilyn Monroe.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wacky Wednesday - News of the Weird

Undignified Deaths

A 25-year-old woman jumped to her death from a department store roof in Tokyo in November and, as sometimes happens with such suicides, she landed on a pedestrian (who was hospitalized in serious condition). [Mainichi Daily News, 11-6-07]

At least five people choked to death in Japan over New Year's, as usual, from eating the extremely sticky "mochi" rice cakes that are a staple of the holiday. [Mainichi Daily News, 1-3-08]

In Ogden, Utah, in December, a 73-year-old woman was accidentally fatally run over by a motor home. It was unclear whether the first pass over her was fatal, but the driver behaved as others have: After feeling a thumping sound, he said, he stopped and backed up to see what he had hit, thus driving over the body a second time. [Deseret Morning News, 12-3-07]

Reader's Choice

In Chaparral, N.M., in December, a loaded .357 Magnum was being traced by two men onto a pattern to create a custom tattoo design, but somehow, the gun went off. Both men were hit by the same bullet, one in the hand and the other in the arm. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer-AP, 12-31-07]

A 77-year-old man in Des Moines, Iowa, who was trying a unclog his septic tank in the afternoon of Christmas Eve, lost his balance and fell in, head first with his legs sticking up. He remained in that position for about an hour until his wife saw him and called for help. [Star Tribune (Minneapolis)-AP, 12-26-07]

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tasty Tuesday - Funnel Cakes!

My husband and I occasionally suffer from GHAFC disorder. (For any of you who may be unaware of this disease, it's full name is Gotta Have A Funnel Cake). We LOVE funnel cakes but can hardly stomach the $6 they charge at the local fair and amusement parks. A few years ago, we decided to try out a few recipes and see if we could find one that worked at home. Today I am posting our favorite funnel cake recipe. (We use a deep fryer, so I'm not sure exactly what setting you would use if you were to do this on the stovetop).

Funnel Cakes

2 eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
oil for frying
Heat oil in fryer to 360 degrees.
Mix all ingredients together (except oil). Pour or spoon batter into a large ziploc bag. Seal out as much air as possible. Snip about 1/2 inch off the end of one of the corners. "Pipe" batter into hot oil in a swirling manner until desired full cake size is formed. Allow batter to fry for 3 mins. Flip over and fry 1 more minute. Carefully remove from oil and place of paper towel to drain. Dust (or as we prefer, COVER) with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Money Monday - Budget, Part 4

Today we will begin answering a question that the average American will (sadly) probably never need to ask:

What do I do with my money when I'm debt free (minus the mortgage)?

We are eagerly awaiting this day in our family and we anticipate it arriving by the end of 2008. We have been aggressively attacking our debt for 10 months now and have paid off over $14,000. We have $8,700 to go and are fairly confident that we can cover this amount by the end of this year. When we have paid off our van, what will we do with our money?

Well, our situation is a bit different than some of yours, I'm sure. Right now, my husband is working two jobs. One job is necessary for our day to day living expenses. The other is necessary to pay off our debt. When our debt is paid off, he will no longer be working his second job, so our income with decrease quite a bit.

But let's assume that you have not picked up any extra jobs while paying off your debt and that your income will remain the same. And let's say that your debt snowball amount was $500 when you paid off your last debt. So now you have an extra $500 each month. What do you do with it?

You need a (FFEF) fully funded emergency fund. This amount of money should be at the very minimum 3 months of living expenses. I personally recommend 6 months or more. Use your debt snowball amount to fund your FFEF. Unlike the baby emergency fund you had before, this emergency fund is good for gaining interest. This isn't investment money, but go ahead and put it in an account that yields more than your average savings account. Try a money market account with no penalties and checkwriting privileges. This emergency fund is NOT for wealth building. It is simply in place for when it rains...and it will rain.

Next week, we will begin talking about investing and saving for your children's college educations.

Also, before you leave, please vote in the "How much consumer debt do you have?" poll on the left side of the screen!

Links to other parts of this series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Money Monday - Cash Back On Diapers!!

As you all know, I am all about saving money. To aid in my money-saving endeavors, I just found out about something called the caregiver's rebate.

For every package of Huggies or Goodnights diapers and every package of Pull-Ups (see the site for specific size requirements), you can receive $1 cash back from The Caregivers Marketplace. You can enroll online and they will email you with details on how to receive your cash back. It looks like you send in your original receipts (minimum of 5) and your check will take 4-6 weeks to arrive.

I just enrolled so I have not received the email yet, but if there is no time limit, I will be looking through all of my receipts from the past!

I hope those of you with children find this as helpful as I did!

Money Monday - Another Successful CVS Shop

I have to say, I am totally in love with CVS right now.

I posted a few weeks ago about my first attempt at "the CVS game". I think this week was MUCH more successful - partly due to the fact that I have a better idea of what I'm doing and partly due to the fact that they are running some GREAT deals this week!

Here is what I got:

2 bags of Dove chocolates
1 Fusion razor
6 tubes of Colgate toothpaste
2 pkgs Pull-Ups
1 pkg Huggies diapers
1 refill pkg baby wipes

Total before sales/coupons: $94.63

Total ECB used: $26

Total out of pocket: $15.60

Total ECB earned: $15.00

So it's like I paid 60 cents for all that! I'm so excited! :)

Weekend Worship - Juuuust Junk It!

As I mentioned in Friday's blog, the past week was pretty stressful in our home.

Last week, I talked about how the "stuff" of this life makes us so busy that we cannot concentrate on worshipping the Lord, spending quality time with our family, etc. I mentioned that my goal for the week was to start simplifying my life by getting rid of all the junk in our bedroom. It seemed like a manageable goal, but with all of the craziness of life, apparently it wasn't.

I am again declaring de-junking our bedroom as my project of the week. I encourage you to de-junk part of your home this week as well. Start small - under the bathroom sink, your bedroom closet, THE CAR, or the pantry. Don't make a goal of doing your entire basement in one week. There's a good chance you'll burn out and accomplish nothing.

Let me know how your de-junking goes and I'll keep you posted on mine!

Fitness Friday - Out of Shape

Ok, so I realize it's no longer Friday. In fact, it's not even Saturday or Sunday. It's Monday. My Friday was a little crazy and I did not get around to writing. (See my Friday blog here).

Needless to say, I'm failing miserably at attaining my walking goal. But if I'm allowed any has been FREEZING cold here lately. My kids aren't too fond on whipping winds and sleet. And, well - it's a little tough to walk without them.

On the upside of things, I finally got around to picking up the library hold I had for an exercise video. I love the name: BLT - Butt, Legs, and Tummy. Ah ha ha!

If this week proves to be a bit less exciting than last week, perhaps I'll get some exercising done....

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Throwback Thursday - Not About Valentine's Day

That's right. It would be suitable for me to blog about the origins of Valentine's Day or something to that effect today, but I'm not going to do that. Today is a Praise the Lord day! So let's "throw back" to Monday's blog....

I had written about how I thought I had gotten my wallet stolen at Meijer. Well, let me give you today's story as an update:

This morning the kids were picking up their toys. I asked my son to get a toy that I could see what halfway under the bedskirt. He picked it up and then apparently began digging under the bed. I was typing at the computer and he walked up with - you guessed it - my wallet! I was SO ecstatic! I gave him a huge hug as he explained to me that he found it under the bed. Of course, he had no idea why it was such a big deal but at least he was gracious enough to hug me in return.

I have no idea how my wallet got under the bed (although I have some suspicions - two little walking suspicions to be exact). :) But it doesn't matter how it got there. It is now found. And I could not be happier!

My apologies to the lady standing behind me in line at Meijer.

I thankfully did not file a police report yet nor did I get a new driver's license yet. I did cancel my debit card, order a new one, put a fraud alert on my credit, and frustrate myself for no reason. But all in all, I am definitely happy that it was found! (And that it was found with my $80 inside!) In fact, I almost felt the need to look inside and see what was there since I had it engrained in my head that someone had stolen it.

Thank you all for your prayers and concerns for me. God is good!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wacky Wednesday - Husband Vs. Wife

Ok, Katrina - I stole this from you. :)

A couple drove down a country road for several miles, not saying a word. An earlier discussion had led to an argument andneither of them wanted to concede their position. As they passed a barnyard of mules, goats, and pigs, the husband asked sarcastically, "Relatives of yours?"

"Yep," the wife replied, "in-laws."

A husband read an article to his wife about how many words women use a day... 30,000 to a man's 15,000. The wife replied, "The reason has to be because we have to repeat everything to men."
The husband then turned to his wife and asked, "What?"

A man said to his wife one day, "I don't know how you can be so stupid and so beautiful all at the same time. "
The wife responded, "Allow me to explain. God made me beautiful so you would be attracted to me; God made me stupid so I would be attracted to you!

A man and his wife were having an argument about who should brew the coffee each morning. The wife said, "You should do it, because you get up first, and then we don't have to wait as long to get our coffee."
The husband said, " You are in charge of cooking around here and you should do it, because that is your job, and I can just wait for my coffee."
Wife replies, "No, you should do it, and besides, it is in the Bible that the man should do the coffee."
Husband replies, "I can't believe that, show me."
So she fetched the Bible, and opened the New Testament and showed him at the top of several pages, that it indeed says "HEBREWS".

A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the silent treatment. Suddenly, the man realized that the next day, he would need his wife to wake him at 5:00 AM for an early morning business flight.
Not wanting to be the first to break the silence (and LOSE), he wrote on a piece of paper,"Please wake me at 5:00 AM." He left it where he knew she would find it.
The next morning, the man woke up, only to discover it was 9:00 AM and he had missed his flight. Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn't wakened him, when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed.
The paper said, "It is 5:00 AM. Wake up."

Men are not equipped for these kinds of contests.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tasty Tuesday - Meatloaf!

I used to think I didn't like meatloaf. But when I got old enough to make it myself, I realized that it wasn't the meatloaf I didn't like - it was the pieces of cracker in the meatloaf. When I decided to try my own meatloaf, I went with bread crumbs instead. I now love meatloaf and probably make it too regularly.

A few people have asked me for my meatball/meatloaf recipe. I happen to think it's the best one ever, but then again...I'm probably a bit partial. Anyway, I'm killing two birds with one stone by posting it here because I'm all about saving time. :)

I have to admit I don't really measure the things I put in my meatloaf, so I will try to give the best estimates possible. All in all, meatloaf is pretty hard to mess up, so just throw in what you have and it will probably turn out great!


1 1/2 lb ground beef (extra lean)
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 large egg OR 2 large egg whites
1 T. mustard
1 1/2 t. chili powder
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1-2 t. worcestershire sauce

For meatloaf: Shape meat into a 9" x 5" loaf. Place on broiler pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 mins or until thermometer read 160 degrees. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Makes 1 loaf.

For meatballs: Shape into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Makes approximately 30-40 meatballs.

Both the meatloaf and the meatballs also freeze well. I usually make several loaves and meatballs and freeze them at the beginning of the month. Pull meatloaf out and place in fridge two days before use. Meatballs may go directly from the freezer to the oven - just add a few more minutes to the bake time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Money Monday - Secure Your Identity

I know we're supposed to be talking about budgeting today, but due to the happenings of today, I have changed our topic to identity theft.

Either I have completely misplaced my brain today OR my wallet was stolen for the 2nd time in 3 years. Although the first scenario is highly likely on any given day, I'm still going with the second one.

I was shopping at Meijer this evening. For some reason, all the time I was shopping I kept thinking about my purse. (Perhaps I should have listened to this intuition). While I was standing in line, I considered the possibility of the woman behind me stealing my wallet when I turned my back to pull my groceries out of the cart. But she was on the phone. I even considered the possibility that talking on the phone would be a great intentional distraction. Nevertheless, I left my purse sitting in the cart. (I know...I'm an idiot).

After I had loaded all of my groceries, clothes, diapers, etc onto the belt, I went to grab my wallet. NOT THERE. Great. Did I leave it at home? I never leave my wallet at home. Highly unlikely. Did it fall out in the van? I'm pretty sure it was zipped shut. I eyed the lady behind me who seemed to have no interest in the fact that my wallet was missing.

I explained to the clerk that I could not find my wallet, loaded everything back into my cart, and went out to check the van. Not there. Called my husband and had him check at home. Not there either.

I will not draw out the rest of the story BUT - despite the efforts made by the security team at Meijer (Thanks, by the way!), I still believe the woman behind me in line stole my wallet. But what was I really going to do? "Hey, didn't happen to steal my wallet just now, did you?" isn't exactly an ice-breaker if you know what I mean.

The last time my wallet was stolen, I made the mistake of thinking I must have just misplaced it and waited to call my credit card companies until there was hundreds of dollars in charges (only 2 hours later). So this time, I called my bank immediately.

On the upside of things, I only had my debit card as I no longer carry credit cards. On the downside, I had about $80 in cash in my wallet. (Yeah - thanks, Dave Ramsey!) That was the rest of this month's grocery money as well as a doctor's office copay for this month. I do understand that carrying cash is safer in some ways. On the other hand, I sure wish I hadn't had any on me tonight.

At any rate, my wallet is gone and - unless it suddenly shows up - I am pretty upset that I didn't pay more attention to my intuition this evening.

I always thought identity theft protection was kind of a rip-off, but I'm starting to question my thinking now. They handle all of the paperwork for you. And the paperwork is the WORST part.

Some things I am thankful for: I did not have my social security card in my wallet (like I did last time). I have no credit cards in there. I JUST gave my husband $100 in cash last night for this month's gas budget, so that wasn't in my wallet. (Just the OTHER $80 - lol). I have a state ID card, so I won't have to go through so much of a hassle to get another license (which, by the way, I JUST got renewed to the tune of $40).

Downers: My T.G.I. Friday's card has one more free appetizer on it. Now gone. My CVS Extra Care Bucks were in my wallet (because there's a higher likelihood that I will forget my coupon book in a cart than there is that my wallet will get stolen...again - HA!). My checkbook ledger for most of last year is now gone. (I like to look back and see how far we've come). I have to go through the hassle of filing a police report. I have to find a way to get to the license branch to renew my license during business hours - and without driving there.

I guess the purpose of this post is just to encourage you to find ways to secure your identity. NEVER carry your social security card. Have a state ID card in case your license is lost or stolen. It's SO much less of a hassle. Consider getting Idenity Theft Protection - it's extremely inexpensive. Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to your intuition. Make a copy (front and back) of all cards that you carry with you so you have phone numbers to cancel/reorder/replace in the event of a lost/stolen wallet. (This was a LIFESAVER for me the last time my wallet was stolen!)

Do you have other ideas for how to protect your identity? I'd love to hear what you and your family have done to protect yourselves from the identity predators of the world.

I will return to our topic of budgeting next Monday when all of this has cooled over in my head.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Weekend Worship - Slow Down!

Instead of writing a full blog today, I just want to suggest one thing: This week, figure out a few ways to simplify your life. Americans are so busy! We are always rushing around looking for our lost keys, trying to get to the mall to meet our friends, running to the laundromat, getting the dog his manicure, going to the latest movie......

The list goes on and on. All of our busyness takes the place of time that could be spent in prayer, reading the Word, fellowshipping with other believers, or spending time with our families.

Take a few moments out of one of your busy days this week and decide where you can cut back. A few ideas to get you going...

Watch less TV. (It's mostly trash, anyway).
Leave early for work.
Don't mop the floor this week.
Read with your children - not just to them.
Throw out some junk. (Clutter doesn't make anyone happy).
Turn off your cell phone for family time.

Have other ideas? Leave them in the comments section and let me know what you're doing to simplify your life.

My plan for simplifying my life this week: Sort through our bedroom (drawers, shelves, etc.) and throw away all the crap.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Fitness Friday

How are you doing with your walking challenge that I gave last week? Since I issued the challenge late Friday night, I considered the challenge effective at the beginning of this week.

Monday night, it was warm here in Indiana - about 50 degrees. (The weather here is so bizarre). My family took a 20-minute walk with me around the neighborhood. It was nice to be out in the fresh air.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are pretty chaotic around here, so yesterday I remembered that I needed to get out and go walking. Since I had playgroup in the morning and my kids nap in the afternoon, I was considering taking a walk in the early evening. I ended up having to unexpectedly take my youngest child to the doctor's office, so I didn't get home until close to 6pm. By that time, I had pretty much given up on the thought of a walk. I was meeting a friend at T.G.I. Friday's for dinner, so I parked as far away as possible (well, ok - not as possible - and also, I didn't really have a choice, but ANYWAY....) and walked the 2 or 3 minutes to the door.

I realize that may not sound like much, but keep in mind that I also had to walk back to the van after dinner. Lol.

Alright, so I'm failing miserably. But let's face it - when life is crazy and you have 2 toddlers and an infant, finding time to do much of anything is nearly an impossibility.

But the day is young. And perhaps I'll get in 2 more real walks between today and tomorrow.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Throwback Thursday - My Dad & The Beatles

On This Day In History: (1964) The British rock group the Beatles arrives at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to begin their first United States tour.

When I was a kid, I used to rollerskate at a particular roller rink in my hometown. I had seen pictures of my parents when they were engaged. My mom had long brown hair and my dad HAD hair. Classic Beatles style.

There were rotating pictures on the wall at this roller rink. There was a particular picture of a group of guys that I would see on a regular basis and I couldn't help but think that that one guy looked JUST like my dad. Since my dad had grown up nearby, I assumed he had probably skated there as a child also. And would it be that strange to take pictures of people who were skating?

For years, I thought that picture was of my dad and some of his friends. But looking back, I'm pretty sure it was just a picture of the Beatles.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Wacky Wednesday - Stories From My Life

I am working on getting some more material to post for today, but for now I will simply refer you to a few stories I have written on my other blog:

Stupid Me!


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Tasty Tuesdays - Blue Ribbon Dessert!

Well, first off, I have to apologize in advance for the formatting of this blog. Apparently inserting the picture screwed everything up, so just pretend it looks as beautiful as normal! :)

Every year our church has a picnic with a contest for the best dessert. I had not pariticipated in the past but this year I decided I wanted to bring something that was knock-your-socks-off good. I searched online for the most delicious-looking dessert I could find. I found one that was very aesthetically pleasing but I didn't care much for the ingredients. So I switched a few things up and came up with one of the easiest, most beautiful and DELICIOUS desserts I have ever made!

I call it...Heidi's Blue Ribbon Pudding Thing! Lol. Alright, not really. But I never did come up with a name for it, so call it whatever you like. For today, I will refer to it as Oreo Deliciousness. :)

Oreo Deliciousness

(This is not an exact picture of the one I make, but very similar).


1 box brownie mix
1 large package instant chocolate fudge pudding
1 large container whipped topping, thawed
25 Oreo cookies


Prepare brownie mix according to package directions and cool completely. Cut into 1-inch squares.

Crush 20 Oreo cookies. Save remaining 5 cookies for top.

Place half of the brownie chunks into the bottom of a trifle bowl or glass serving dish. Prepare pudding* according to package and pour half of the pudding over the the brownie chunks. Add half of the Oreo cookie crumbs. On top of that, layer half of the whipped topping. Repeat brownie chunks, pudding, Oreo cookie crumbs, and whipped topping. Arrange the remaining 5 Oreo cookies on top.

Cool at least 8 hours to allow pudding to soften brownie chunks.

*Be sure to have everything ready before you start your pudding because it will begin to set immediately and you want it to flow into all the spaces between the brownie chunks.
Please let me know if you try this! I would love to know if other people enjoy it as much as my family does!
Oh, and by the way, I did win the best dessert contest! Hands down! :)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Money Monday - Budget, Part 3

As promised, today we will discuss (in more detail) the emergency fund and the debt snowball. If you are just joining in on this topic, you may want to skip back to the first and second parts of this series to catch yourself up.

Have you decided on how much you are going to have set aside in your emergency fund? As I mentioned last week, it all depends on your employment circumstances and your level of comfort.

Our family has chosen to keep an EF (emergency fund) of $1000 since my husband works 2 jobs and could conceivably pick up extra hours at either one if the other were to be suddenly terminated, which is unlikely in his field of work. Once our debt is paid off, we will "up" our EF to 6 months of living expenses.

Once you have determined how much you will be keeping in your EF, the next step is deciding where you will keep this money. The idea of an emergency fund is this: you may ONLY dip into the EF for a TRUE emergency. True emergencies would be unexpected car repairs on a necessary vehicle or your furnace going out in the middle of January - NOT a really good sale at the mall.

That being said, in case of an actual emergency, you need your money to be accessible. At the same time, you don't want it to be so accessible that you would constantly be justifying a reason to dip into it and providing yourself with that temptation. A separate savings account would be a good idea. A CD would not. You want to make sure that you will not be charged a fee for taking money out of your EF if you really need to. So keep it somewhere that fits that definition. Accessible, but not too accessible.

Throw every penny you have at your EF so you can have that in place while you are paying off debt. It is extremely important to establish the EF first because if you hit a financial bump in the midst of paying off your debt, you will have no choice but to put yourself into MORE debt in order to pay for your emergency. (And don't you DARE open a new line of credit!)

Once you have your emergency fund in place it is time to ATTACK your debt with a vengeance. If you do not feel hatred toward debt, you better work on it. Debt is a life-sucking, joy-stealing monster! Don't believe me? Get rid of it and see how much better your life is!

Now, for how to go about getting rid of your debt...
Our family is using a method called the "debt snowball" and it is the only method I can personally recommend. Do you remember when you were a kid and you used to roll snowballs all around the yard until you couldn't push it any farther? You started out with a tiny little ball and, as you rolled the snowball, it picked up more and more snow, faster and faster because it was gaining in size so quickly. The same theory applies to the debt snowball. Here is how it works:

List your debts from the smallest to the largest balance, excluding your mortgage. (We'll come back to the mortgage thing later). Please note: This is not the smallest payment nor is it the smallest interest rate. It is the smallest balance. What you're going to do is pay minimum payments on all of your debts AND at the same time, put every extra dollar you have into the smallest debt payment. When you have paid off the smallest debt, CLOSE THE ACCOUNT and add that payment amount to your next smallest debt. When that debt is paid off, do the same thing with the next one. See how your snowball is increasing in size?

For those of you who are visual learners like me, let me give an illustration:

Let's say you have the following list of debts:

1 Credit Card 1: $250 (min. payment: $10)
2 Credit Card 2: $700 (min. payment: $35)
3 Credit Card 3: $2300 (min. payment: $90)
4 Furniture Loan: $2450 (min. payment: $50)
5 Credit Card 4: $3100 (min. payment: $150)
6 Consumer Loan: $4600 (min. payment: $45)
7 2nd Mortgage/HELOC: $18000 (min. payment: $365)
8 Auto Loan: $23500 (min. payment: $450)
9 Student Loan: $26750 ($300)

And now let's assume that, after paying all of your minimum payments on all of your debts, you have $150 each month left over for your debt snowball. In less than 2 months, you would knock out the first debt. You would then have $160 to in your debt snowball. (Add your minimum payment from the first debt on your list and the debt snowball amount: $10 + $150 = $160). In about 3 more months, you would wipe out your 2nd debt. You would then add that minimum payment ($35) to your current debt snowball amount ($160) and put all of that money into debt #3. You get the idea.

You would continue this process until all of your debt (minus the mortgage) was completely gone! If, along the way, you encounter an emergency and have to dip into your EF, simply stop the snowball (but continue to make minimum payments) long enough to cover your emergency and then replenish your EF.

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call the debt snowball.

But wait! I'm sure by now you're wondering: Why don't I pay off the highest interest rate first? Doesn't that make more sense for my pocketbook?

Well....sometimes, yes. But studies show that the motivation gained by seeing the momentum of your growing snowball gives you much more encouragement to keep paying off your debt than waiting 8 months to pay off your highest interest card first. Oftentimes, people who go that route end up losing their motivation quickly (because they do not see any quick results and therefore feel like their debt is not going anywhere) and giving up altogether. It may not make sense on paper, but trust me - once you get going, you will understand exactly what I'm talking about.

Now, about the mortgage....
The reason you do not include your mortgage in your list of debts is that most people's mortgage is a significantly greater amount of money than any other individual debt on their list. After you pay off all of your non-mortgage debt you will begin saving and investing and, since compound interest is a key component to saving, it's important to start saving before it's too late.

We will pick up with the mortgage further down the road in this series.

For this week, continue building your EF. If you already have your EF in place, then start listing your debts in order of smallest to largest and run some numbers on a debt calculator. You will be excited to see how quickly your smallest debts will disappear!

Coming next Monday: What do I do with my money when I'm debt-free (minus the mortgage)?

Links to the rest of this series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Money Monday - The CVS Game

I'm SO excited about this new task I've taken on. Spend a tiny bit of money to get a HUGE amount of stuff, and in the process, get things to give away to those who are in need! This particular journey is sometimes referred to as "the CVS game".

For those of you who are not familiar with "the CVS game", let me take a moment to explain:

CVS has a program called Extra Care Bucks. It is simply an in-store rebate that can be applied to any future purchases you make at CVS. In essense, CVS-only money. Each week, there are several items in the store that, when purchased, will give you a full refund in ECB (Extra Care Bucks). So, as long as you plan to buy something - anything - at CVS in the future, it's like getting your purchase for free. In addition to these ECB, you can also use manufacturer coupons on top of any current CVS coupons (usually something like $3/$15 purchase).

Oftentimes, with coupons, you can actually make money by shopping. (Again - not real money, CVS money).

Once you get the ECB rolling, you pay hardly anything out of pocket for your purchases - that is, as long as you stick to things that have ECB rewards and things for which you have coupons.

I have been collecting coupons for a few weeks now and yesterday I made my first trip to CVS to try out this "game".

Here is what I bought:

1 bottle of Garnier Fructis shampoo
5 large tubes of Colgate Total toothpaste (which happens to be my FAVORITE toothpaste!)
2 large bags of M&Ms
1 Maybelline trio eyeshadow kit

All of these things had ECB rewards and I had manufacturer coupons for all of them, along with a CVS coupon, so in the end....

Total before coupons: $23.48
Total after coupons: $14.23
Total ECB earned (remember - CVS money): $16.48

In addition to getting all of those products *technically* free, I "got paid" $2.25 to shop at CVS! The way the game is played, though, has little to do with what you actually need. You simply buy things that will be free with ECB that you also have a coupon for in order to earn ECB to spend on things you actually DO need. Then, you can give away all those things you got that you didn't need to charity!

Coming later today: Money Monday - Budget, Part 3

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Weekend Worship - Brotherly Love

Today's sermon at church was about how to live out the love of God. Our pastor eluded to several Scriptures in his 7-point sermon, but there was one in particular that stood out to me.

The sermon point was: God's love honors/defers to others. The first verse that was referred to was Romans 12.10, which states, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor." Our pastor went on to explain that the term "brother love" in the Greek language was a family type of love - the way you would love your spouse or your children.

I started thinking about what kind of love that would be if it was played out in our relationships with others....

We would bring meals to those who were sick, hurting, or going through personal struggles. They would not need to ask us. We would simply know it was needed and would happily fill that need.

Our homes would always be open to anyone who wanted to stop by. We would not let the dirty dishes in our sink or the crumbs on the floor stop us from ministering to a neighbor.

We would volunteer to help others move or watch the children of a couple whose marriage was struggling so they could go on a date.

Our Saturdays would not be spent lounging around the house, watching movies and munching on popcorn. But rather, we would donate our time at a homeless shelter or grocery shop for a single mother.

Life would be so different if we treated everyone as if they were a part of our family - the way God desires us to live. This week, practice loving others as you love your own family.

And on that note, I have to get back to my family. I have a child who is quite sick, not sleeping well, and running a fever.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Fitness Friday - Challenge #1

Challenge #1:

Walk outdoors at least 3 days a week for the month of February.

Everyone knows that walking is good for your figure. But what you may not know is that walking is also good for your mental health and your physical well-being! Walking outdoors has been shown to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression (something easy to get caught up in during these long winter months), as well as to reduce the risk of heart attack, diabetes, colon cancer, and bone fractures in later years. Walking seems like a pretty small task with a lot of rewards!

This challenge is mostly for me to get in shape, but I encourage you to join in and do the challenge too! I'll post an update next week to let you know how I'm doing.