Friday, October 31, 2008

Foto Friday!

I had one wedding and one photo shoot so far this week.


Being the biased mother that I am, today I just HAVE to post this picture of my daughter. I made this tutu for my brother-in-law's Halloween costume (don't ask), but before I gave it to him, I took some shots of Sienna wearing it. I have to say, I'm pretty proud of myself. It's awfully adorable, don't you think? And of course, the little girl wearing it is even MORE adorable. :)

Sienna absolutely LOVED this "skirt" (as she called it). When she woke up from her nap yesterday it was lying on the floor. She looked at it and, with a small gasp, asked, "Is that pretty, Mama?"

"Yep," was my reply.

"Oh, pretty," she said in her little girly voice.

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The best news is that I get this back after he's done with it this weekend for use in future photo shoots! (So don't ruin it, Greg!)

If you want to see pictures from Sunday's wedding, click here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thankful Thursday

I'm not one of those people who jump up and down and almost pee my pants every time I see that gas prices have gone down 3 cents. My dad is one of those people. I'm not.


I DID get very excited tonight when I drove past Meijer and saw the number 1 at the beginning of the gas prices. Yes, I am pleased to announce that gas here in Indy is officially under $ least for today. :) And for that, I am VERY thankful.

What are gas prices where you are??

And on an entirely separate note, last night I watched the movie "Come What May". There was a free 3-day viewing of it online which I heard is possibly being extended through today and tomorrow. If you have a few minutes (okay, like an hour and a half) this movie is WELL worth your time. It could impact the way you vote or the way others vote, so watch it and pass on the link. But do it quickly! It's only free for two more days and election day is coming soon!

Here is the trailer:

Click here to view the whole movie.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday . . . Netflix

I realize I may be the last person to get on the Netflix train. We just recently started our Netflix subscription after my mother-in-law sent us a free trial. Also, after my husband wrote down exactly what we had been spending at Redbox and Blockbuster. We will definitely save some money. You know the drill - you sign up, list movies that you want to see in your queue and they mail them to you. We have had a couple that wouldn't play, but they will replace them quickly. I like that I can sign up online and I don't have to leave my house. We get the 2 at a time - one for us and a family (kid) friendly movie. You can also watch some things online at Netflix, but I have yet to do that.

For more Works for Me Wednesday ideas, please visit Rocks in My Dryer.

KMart Doubles Coupons

You may have already seen this, but in case you haven't please check out this link for more information regarding this week's doubling of coupons at K-mart. Below is a shorter list of items on sale with corresponding coupons. You can find the full list at The Deal Lady.

The Best of the Sale Items Week October 26 - November 1:

Colgate Total $2.50
FREE after $1.50/1 (October All You Magazine)

Gillette Shampoo $3.50
FREE after $2/1 (9/28 P&G)

Crest Premium Toothpastes $2.50
.50/1 after ($1/1) 9/28 PG

Mitchum Deodorant $2.00
.50/1 after .75/1 (8/24 S OR 10/26 S)

Best of the Sale Items Monthly Book October 14 - November 10:

Altoids Mints $1.69
FREE after $1/1 (coupon found on package)

Dove Shampoo or Conditioner $3.79
FREE after $2/1 (8/17 RP)

Ice Breakers Gum .99
FREE after $1/2 (9/7 S2)

Life Savers $1.25
FREE after $1/1 (10/19 S)

Oust Surface Disinfectant and Air Sanitizer $2.50
FREE $1.50/1 (10/26 S)

Hershey Extra Dark Chocolate or Cacao Bags $2.50
.50 after $1/1 (9/28 S)

Renuzit Pearl Scents $2.50
.50/1 after $1/1 (9/7 S2)

Viva Big Roll 2 pack $4.00
$2/1 after $1/1 (Tearpad in store)

Deals on Regular Priced Items:

Hershey Extra Dark Bars $1.99
FREE after $1/1 (9/28 S)

Johnson & Johnson First Aid Shelf Prices Vary
FREE for items under $2 after $1/1 (8/10 S1)

Pert Shampoo $2.99
FREE after $2/1 (10/19 S)

Vaseline Lotion for Men $2.99
FREE after $1.50/1 (9/7 RP)

Vaseline Lotion $3.29
.29/1 after $1.50/1 (9/7 RP)

Hunts Tomato Paste $1.00
.33/1 after $1/3 (Publix Yellow Advantage Buys)

Tylenol Rapid Release $4.49
.49/1 after $2/2 (9/14 RP)

Ziploc Bags $2.19
$1.09/1 after .55/1 (9/14 S) OR
$1.19/1 after $1/2 (8/24 S OR 10/12 S)

American Greetings Cards Prices Vary
$1/2 excludes .99 cards (Tearpad found in store)

Tasty Tuesday . . . Chicken Bombay

Some of you know that we have a cooking club (Gretchen and Heidi are both in it). One of the meals we had this past month was Chicken Bombay made by Lindsey. It was so delicious that I wanted to share the recipe:

Chicken Bombay


¼ c. butter

¼ c. mustard

½ c. honey

1 tsp. seasoning salt

1 tsp. chili powder

¼ tsp. onion powder

½ tsp. curry powder

¼ tsp. pepper

4-5 chicken breasts


1. Combine all ingredients, except chicken, in small sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until smooth and slightly warmed.

2. Roll each piece of chicken into the sauce and place in a greased, 9x13 inch baking pan.

3. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 375. Spread remaining sauce over chicken, and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until chicken is done.

4. Serve over rice, if desired.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Money Monday . . . 10 things you can stop buying at the grocery store

This post about 10 things you can stop buying at the grocery store when money is tight, inspired me to write my own 10 things.

1. Pop or soda and juice - I know that Heidi doesn't buy pop or soda unless it is on an extreme sale or she has to bring it to a party. She also doesn't buy juice that often and when she does, she waters it down (as do I). We (my husband and I) try not to buy pop or soda that often. If we get desperate for it, we just drive to the gas station and get a 44 oz. drink. It takes time and effort to go down to the gas station so this is something we usually don't do.

2. Laundry detergent - If you have looked at my (Gretchen's) blog, you know that I make my own laundry detergent.

3. Dishwasher detergent - I also make my own dishwasher detergent. I will still occasionally use store bought, but this works pretty well. There are many recipes out there. You will just need to experiment and see what works for you.

4. Swiffer dust pads and wet wipes (if you use Swiffer stuff) - I made my own Swiffer duster refill. It is not that difficult.

5. Baby Food - there are many other recipes for baby food on the web.

6. Hand soap - I buy the ORIGINAL Dawn dishwashing liquid (the blue bottle) and just fill up all my dispensers. The original dawn has no phosphates. You can find Dawn on sale at CVS and stock up playing the CVS game. You can also check out other uses for Dawn here.

7. Baby wipes - you can do this or really do homemade.

8. Paper Products

9. Cleaning Supplies - well, you do have to buy vinegar and baking soda at the grocery store, but they are not very expensive.

10. Fabric Softener - or you can just use vinegar in your rinse cycle (or with a Downy ball like I do).

How about you, what things are you trying to cut out concerning grocery shopping?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Foto Friday!

Last weekend, Gretchen's sister was married. I had the pleasure of being the photographer and let me just say, it was a beautiful wedding. While there's absolutely no way I could choose a FAVORITE from last weekend's wedding, this is definitely ONE of my favorites:

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That's Gretchen on the left, by the way. Doesn't she look awesome? :)

To see the whole post from the wedding, click here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Tribute To Caden

Yesterday marked the one-month anniversary of Caden Joelle's death. I almost hate to use the word 'anniversary', for it conjures up thoughts of beauty to me - how many years you've spent with your spouse, a business's excitement and celebration of their accomplishments, or a really great sale at a department store. But an anniversary for death is an entirely different thing.

Perhaps some of you have not heard my end of the story, so I'll share it with you....just so you can follow along.

I don't know how long I've known Andy and Cari, but it's been a few years. We attend church with them and they are, by far, one of the sweetest, happiest couples I know. They are quite obviously in love and clearly desire to serve their Saviour every waking moment of every day. They are quite the inspiration, I must say.

Cari and I had been acquaintances for a while, but really started to develop a friendship when she was pregnant with Caden. The excitement of her little one soon entering the world was so obvious and I was more than happy to share with her my two cents about having babies, raising children, and the like. It would brighten my day to see that Cari was scheduled to be in the nursery with me some Sunday mornings.

Caden was born last winter and was the best baby on earth. And I'm pretty sure I mean that. I mean, my own kids were pretty darn good babies, but Caden was just...something else. She was content no matter what. If you put her down, she was happy to be down. If you picked her up, she was happy to snuggle. If you looked at her, she was happy to give you the biggest baby grin you'd ever seen. She was a true joy and one that nobody ever dreamed would be taken away in an instant.

As of late, Andy had been ushering every Sunday and Cari was working in the nursery every Tuesday and sometimes Sundays. They were actively involved in their church, their family, and their friends' lives, which proved to be a huge blessing when the unthinkable happened.

Several months ago, during one of our same-day nursery schedules, Cari told me that she wanted to do pictures of herself and Caden for Andy's birthday, which was the end of October. I agreed that that would be fun and we began to discuss details.

On September 21st, my precious Reagan's first birthday, I saw Andy at church and asked where Cari was. He told me that Caden had been really sick all week, that they had been to the ER with her the night before and had called several doctors, trying to figure out what temperature was too high for an 8-month old. I told him that Reagan had roseolla and that she had come down with it the Tuesday prior. She had similar symptoms and then got a rash on Saturday morning. I told him that if she got a rash in a day or two, it was very possibly the same thing since Caden and Reagan are in the nursery together often. He insisted that they thought it was something else, since she also had symptoms of a cold.

On the morning of Monday, September 22nd, I called Cari to see how Caden was doing. She did not answer her phone, so I left her a message to let her know that I was praying for Caden and asked that she call me back so we could discuss the final details for the photo shoot. She returned my call about a half hour later, as they were leaving the doctor's office. She informed me that Caden also had roseolla. We scheduled the photo shoot for October 1st, just 9 days away, and hung up the phone.

That evening, my husband and I were watching some TV and I got up to check my email during the commercial break.

I. Was. Stunned.

There in my inbox was an email from our Sunday School class teacher. It read: "We wanted to inform all of you that Caden Chastain died suddenly today (Monday, Sept 22). A number of us have been with Cari and Andy for the past few hours."

The email went on for a few more sentences, but I just kept reading that part over and over again. I just couldn't believe it. You know how sometimes you hear news that is just so unbelievable, you think someone must be playing a cruel joke on you? Well, that's exactly how I felt. Except I knew that nobody would do such a thing.

I called my husband over to the computer. I couldn't say a word. I just started crying as I read the email over and over. It couldn't be real. This could NOT be happening. As I continued to think about how Cari and Andy must be feeling, my crying turned to uncontrollable sobbing. My husband just held me.

Over the next several days, I staggered back and forth between weeping for Andy and Cari's loss and rejoicing that I had my own children with me. I think I might mark this time of my life down as one of the hardest. I've lost grandparents to death, but grandparents are supposed to die. They're old. They've lived a full life. Their time has come. But babies....babies are supposed to LIVE.

I felt so many emotions that I didn't know what to do with them. I felt guilty for not having scheduled the pictures sooner. "That would have been such a beautiful memory for them," I would catch myself saying over and over again. I felt like I shouldn't intrude, but I felt like I should do something to help. I felt anger toward the doctor who told Andy and Cari that Caden was fine. I felt pity toward Andy and Cari for their terrible, tragic loss. And then suddenly I realized....all of those feelings were pretty worthless.

Worrying about their situation would not do any good. Prayer. Prayer is what the answer was. So I began to fervently pray. But even in my prayers, I would find myself worrying, imagining what they must be going through. I began to pray comfort and peace over them and every time I started to worry about them throughout the day, I would turn to prayer instead.

Although I know there were activities taking place in our family life that week, the whole thing is a blur to me. I just remember randomly bursting into tears, wishing I could offer even the tiniest form of comfort to Andy and Cari. I imagined them to be completely distraught and, even though knowing that Caden was now in heaven with Jesus, feeling utterly hopeless.

Caden's funeral was Saturday and the turnout was huge. As I waited in line to hug the family, I could not even look at the paper I had been given about Caden's life. I tried, I really did. But tears would well up so big I thought I would burst out sobbing again. And somehow, I felt that would not be the most comforting thing to Cari and Andy. As I entered the sanctuary, I began to watch the slideshow of Caden's short precious life. I had to stop every so often to wipe the tears that were pouring down my face. Get a hold of yourself, I kept thinking. Cari and Andy appeared to be doing quite well, considering the circumstances. Their eyes were misty, but they weren't bawling as I expect I would have been in their situation.

As I reached the family, two relatives hugged me and said, "I guess we won't be able to get those pictures, will we?" Enough already, I thought to myself. I feel bad enough as it is! It was as if my eyes weren't leaking enough already that they had to mention THAT. But I digress. They were grieving too. And grieving much more than me. When I reached Cari, I'm pretty sure I broke down. She hugged me tightly. I was without words. She let go of the hug and looked me in the eyes. "How are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm supposed to be asking you that," I replied, mustering a small giggle through the jerkiness of my tears.

"Everyone's praying for me. I'm fine. But who's praying for you?"

There is something wrong with this woman, I thought. She just lost her one and only baby girl and she is concerned with how I'm doing?? I mean, seriously.

As the service began, I was astonished to see Andy and Cari take the stage. No way are they actually going to talk at their own daughter's funeral, I thought. But talk, they did. I missed part of it because I had to take Reagan out of the sanctuary, but the one thing I remember Cari saying that really stuck out to me was this: "You are witnessing a miracle."

There's really no other way to describe it. For any of you who don't believe there's a God out there who is intimately involved in our every day lives, please explain this mystery. How could two people lose their only child, an 8-month old baby, and stand up at their daughter's funeral and give God the glory for how He is working in their life? How could they sing praises to their Lord and not feel bitterness, anger and hatred toward a God who would do such a thing as to take their only child?

We don't know the Lord's plan. We don't know what He has in store for us, but we do know that it's good. He tells us plainly in His Word that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8.28). We know that the hairs on our head are numbered (Matthew 10.30) and that the number of days we live has already been determined by God (Job 14.5). We can see from these precise details that our God loves us. He cares deeply about us and how we live our life. And He does have a plan for our life.

We may never know why God chose to take Caden home so soon. My only guess is that He just couldn't resist those adorably chubby cheeks, that sweet smile, and her high-pitched squeal of delight any longer. He wanted her in His presence, and who can blame Him? As I said, she was the best baby on earth! But being jealous for her presence is obviously not the only reason He chose to take Caden home. God uses all things in a Christian's life to perfect us and form us into the image of Christ. And He has certainly done a great work in Andy and Cari's life already!

Now, lest I am giving you the wrong idea, Andy and Cari are weeping. Of course, they are terribly sad that their precious little one is with them no longer. Cari's honesty speaks volumes as she documents her new life without little Caden by her side. She daily proclaims her weakness and the strength of Christ in her blog. I can't get through a single post of hers without tears rolling down my face. I hurt for them. I ache for them. And I pray for them every time I think of them. But more than anything else, I cherish my own children just a little bit more.

This weekend our Sunday School class got together to watch the Colts game. Well, okay, the men got together to watch the game while the women socialized around the kitchen table. :) When I'm with Cari, I can hardly take my eyes off of her. I am still in amazement that she is not walking around in a constant state of depression with the ashes on her head cascading down onto a wardrobe of only black. I must not be the only one who watches her a lot because just as I saw a tear begin to well up in her eyes after glancing at my daughter, another woman subtly handed her a tissue. She is so real, yet so strong in Christ. When I saw her turn away to wipe her eyes, I wanted to rip Reagan out of the chair and rush her to the other room so Cari would not have to deal with the pain. But then I's part of the healing process. I held back my own tears and watched Cari quickly regain her composure and again realize the joys of living.

Perhaps one of the worst things for me (as if I should be so selfish as to think of myself) is that I know, from now on, every year when my precious baby girl has a birthday, I will not be able to help but remember that Andy and Cari are grieving over the loss of their own baby, who died the day after Reagan's first birthday. Or maybe that's a good thing - a reminder from the Lord to send them a card or call and let them know I remember and I'm praying for them.

If you're still reading this, you might be wondering why in the world I've turned this post into a novel. Per Cari's request, I have chosen to document my experience through this situation and share how God is working in my life because of the loss of precious little Caden Joelle.

Cari (and Andy), I love you. I admire you for taking the Lord's hand during this time and allowing Him to work in you a miracle. I am so grateful for your honesty about your pain and your desire to see the Lord glorified through it all. I know that the pain I am experiencing over the loss of Caden is absolutely NOTHING compared to what you are feeling, but I want you to know that you're not alone. I cry almost daily with you and for you, but I know that Caden is resting in the arms of Jesus, right where she is supposed to be. I want you to feel free to call me anytime with anything. Let's praise the Lord together, knowing that He never fails His promises. He will hear your supplications. He will satisfy your thirsty soul. He will not remove His lovingkindness from you. He will uphold you with His righteous right hand. He will NEVER leave you or forsake you. He will be your Rock. He will be faithful. He will comfort you. He will hear you when you call. He will strengthen your heart. He will be glorified.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wacky Wednesday!

I received this in an email last week and thought I'd share it with all of you. :)

A wife was making a breakfast of fried eggs for her husband. Suddenly, her husband burst into the kitchen.

"Careful," he said, "CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh my gosh! You're cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW! We need more butter. Oh my gosh! WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER? They're going to STICK! Careful. CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL! You NEVER listen to me when you're cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up! Are you CRAZY? Have you LOST your mind? Don't forget to salt them. You know you always forget to salt them. Use the salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!"

The wife stared at him. "What in the world is wrong with you? You think I don't know how to fry a couple of eggs?"

The husband calmly replied, "I just wanted to show you what it feels like when I'm driving."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tasty Tuesday - Pumpkin Muffins

It's fall outside and pumpkin muffins are the perfect addition to any table at this time of year!

This recipe came out of my Bible study book "No Other Gods" by Kelly Minter and it is yum YUM. The only thing I changed in this recipe is the amount of sugar. (They suggested 2 cups, but that seemed like an awful lot to me, so I cut it in half and they were delicious!)

These are SUUUUUPER easy and seriously dee-lish! And my favorite thing about them is that they are made from ingredients that I keep around the house, so I don't have to make a special trip to the store just to make them. (Well okay, and I kind of like that they're somewhat healthy too!)

Pumpkin Muffins

1 c. sugar
1 c. oil (I'm going to substitute half with applesauce next time to make them even healthier!)
4 eggs
2 c. pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. ground cloves
1/8 t. nutmeg
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla

Mix ingredients together in a large bowl. Put into greased muffin tins and bake 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes 24 muffins.

I actually made these in mini muffin tins. I think I baked them for about 12-15 minutes, but don't quote me on that. :)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Money Monday . . . Roth IRA

Last week's Money Monday, we talked about Mutual Funds. This week I was going to talk a little bit about Roth IRAs. My husband and I both have Roth IRAs and he also has a 401K. We don't contribute to the Roths now, but we hope to do more of that in the future. First of all, if you want to read up on what a Roth IRA is you can go here.

Simply stated, a Roth IRA is an individual retirement account that you contribute to with money that has ALREADY been taxed. So, when you withdraw this money starting at age 59 1/2, you will NOT have to pay taxes on it.

Again, I am not a licensed broker, this is just working knowledge of a Roth IRA. If you would like to read even more about this, please visit Dave Ramsey's Roth IRA 101.

Trust me, don't use your Roth as a savings account where you think you can withdraw money here and there. Use it as it is intended as a retirement account. Try not to touch it until you are ready to retire.

Again, you would do much better if you set your IRA up at a financial institution rather than a bank because you have MANY more choices at a financial institution. There usually is a small fee (around $40.00 or so) for IRA maintenance at a financial institution so don't be surprised by that. You can choose several mutual funds or stocks to put into your IRA.

Roth's are great because they do grow tax free. Once catch is that you can't take a tax deduction for Roth's (unless you don't make very much), but remember you don't have to pay ANY taxes when you withdraw after age 59 1/2. You also have to have an earned income to open one or your spouse has to have an earned income.

Here is a calculator you can play around with. There are many more out there on the web.

How about you - do you have a Roth or a regular IRA? Remember even if you have a 401k, once you have maxed that out to the matching contribution it is a good idea to put some money into a Roth, even if it is $50.00 a month into a mutual fund - can you say Dollar Cost Averaging?

Picture from

Friday, October 17, 2008

Foto Friday!

I had three costume shoots this week, so it was a tough call to choose my favorite. But I'm going with this shot of adorable Baby S....

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How cute is he?!

To see the rest of this week's costume pictures, click here and here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thankful Thursday - Look What Came In The Mail!

Yesterday was like Christmas here at the Stone residence! Really, when anything arrives in the mail it's like a holiday, but when THREE things come on the SAME DAY....that's a real winner!

See what came yesterday?!


I did not include my photo order (since there's really no room for that in this picture), but that was the 3rd thing that came yesterday.

On top of that, I also drug these beauties out of the neighbor's trash can yesterday morning. Can you BELIEVE IT?! I mean, these are adorable. Who would throw these away?!


Ok, that's all the excitement for today.

Thankful Thursday . . . Vehicles

I have a thankful Thursday post too! If you would like to read about my post on my (Gretchen's) blog today, please go here. I am throwing a House Party that is a Saturn House Party. I won't go into a whole explanation, but I get to drive a new Saturn vehicle for a few days. Well, they called for me to pick up the Saturn yesterday at around 5 or so. Well, honestly about 4 pm my husband calls me. He was out running errands. He told me to come pick him up because our truck had died. I came to try to "jump" start the truck and it would NOT start. Well, we have AAA (I highly recommend that by the way) so we called them to come and tow it to the mechanics and then we went to pick up my Saturn that I get to drive for a few days. I just feel blessed that this worked out the way it did. There are no accidents and I know the God is even in the small things even if things worked out not as we intended.

So, I am thankful that I signed up for this just in time for our truck to be out of commission for a few days!

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WaCkY WeDnEsDaY!

Okay, so this topic may be a little wacky, but both Heidi and I have little boys. And at times, when absolutely necessary (and sometimes not necessary on my part) they go potty outside. Did I say that nicely enough? Anyway my parents think that it is HORRIBLE to let my son pee outside. They told me there was some study done that peeing outside is harmful to others who may step on the pee. I laughed (a lot). I mean I don't randomly let my son pee just anywhere but if he has to go, he HAS to go.

Also, I think that is half of the fun of having boys is that they are able to pee outside - I am truly jealous.

That is all - how wacky was that? Heidi may take this down, ha!

- Gretchen

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tasty Tuesday . . . Homemade breakfast sandwiches

Everyone's version of "homemade" is different. My version of "Make it yourself" breakfast sandwiches includes homemade English muffins from the bread machine. Here is how I do it:

I make the English muffins and freeze them, but you wouldn't have to do that, I just usually make them ahead of time.

I cook a package of turkey bacon in the oven at 375 for 8 to 10 minutes. I let them cool.

I mix up a dozen eggs and bake them in a casserole dish at 350 for 20-25 minutes. I let them cool and cut them into squares. I got that idea from this blog.

Now you start layering.

Get out your English muffins (you can use store bought if you must - ha).

So now I use one strip of bacon, cut in half. I put that on the English muffin.

Then I take an egg square (that just sounds weird doesn't it?) and top that with a piece of cheese.

I wrap these individually with wax paper and put them on a cookie sheet and freeze. Once frozen I take the individual sandwiches and put them in a gallon ziplock bag.

When you are ready to eat, just microwave for 20 seconds or so. I have to say that I have found that the egg sometimes doesn't get as thawed as everything else so I will take the egg off and microwave it beside the sandwich in the microwave and then put it back on when I am done.

So, now stop going to the drive thru and save your money. These sandwiches are yummy and you know all of the ingredients in them!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Money Monday . . . Mutual Funds

I know what you are thinking – with the market like it is HOW can you talk about mutual funds? Because if you have some extra cash (and even if you don’t) mutual funds are still a great investment. Most people don’t know a lot about them. Let me just disclose that I am not series 7 licensed (broker’s license), but I did work at a financial firm for over 5 years and so I have working knowledge about mutual funds. Yes, you have heard it before, but now is a great time to buy. Think of clothes shopping, do you buy at the peak of the season and pay full price – NO! You buy at the end of the season when the sales come out – same with stocks and mutual funds. Better yet, do some dollar cost averaging and buy mutual funds monthly so they average out to be a good price over the long run.

I advise you first read over this by Dave Ramsey. In it, he states this about mutual funds:

Mutual Funds:
25% into each of these four types of funds:
  • Growth
  • Growth & Income
  • Aggressive Growth
  • International
A shares (front end load); funds that are at least 5 years old or older; solid track record of acceptable returns within fund category.
*If risk tolerance is low, put less than 25% in aggressive growth or consider adding a “Balanced” fund to the four types of funds Dave suggests.

If this sounds greek to you don't worry. Here is how I look at mutual funds. First of all, Big Charts is a great resource to check prices and historical data about mutual funds. To check your mutual fund you have to know the symbol. Lets look at my FAVORITE fund. The name of it is Growth Fund of America. AGTHX is the symbol. I like this fund because it has a long track record (more than 10 years). You may click on the link and thing - what it is down 22% for this year. Yes, it is, but look at the ten year - up 8.49% and over its lifetime - up 14.18%. This is why you don't buy and sell mutual funds unless you are going to invest for 5 years or longer! I should back up. Below are things you want to know about a mutual fund in which you are investing:

How long has it been around? Ten years or more are the better ones.

What companies does it invest in? I always look at the top ten holdings and make sure I know the company and how it is doing. Always make sure they don't have more than 3-4% in one particular company (can you say Enron?).

What are the returns for the 1 year, 3 year, 5 year and 10 year? You would want to see that overall there has been more up years than down years.

Always buy class A shares! Dave Ramsey said this too, but with Class A shares you pay the fees up front and you know what you are getting into. Don't let them talk you into Class B or C.

Don't buy your mutual funds through a bank. You are limited to the funds you can get.

Don't be afraid of brokers. You can bo through Dave Ramsey's ELP to find good ones, but just like anything - do your own research. You may find it kind of fun.

When they tell you what funds to buy ask for a 1 page fact sheet. This should tell you the returns and also give you the top 10 holdings. Make sure you ask though if it doesn't.

Anyway, here is a quick explanation of what a mutual fund is. It is basically a hold tank for various stocks. Whether it is considered Growth, Aggressive Growth, etc. depends on its mix of stocks and bonds. Your financial advisor can tell you more about that. Ask your financial advisor to teach you some things.

It really is not as hard as you think and it is by far very interesting! Next week I will try to go over Roth IRA's and why you should definitely have one!

So, what do you think? Do you have mutual funds now and do you have favorites?


Picture from Money

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Where's the E-brake?!?!?!?!?

Just wanted to give you all a heads up that this week's posts may be sparse - or rather, possibly obsolete. Gretchen's sister is getting married on Saturday. I am photographing it and Gretchen is the Maid of Honor, so we'll both be busy with that. I'm also doing some babysitting this week in addition to my regular Bible studies, grocery shopping, a client meeting, and a possible impending trip to the Children's Museum.

All that to say, if you don't hear from us...we're probably still fine. Just busy. :)

Hope you all have a great week!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Foto Friday!

Have you ever wondered what I looked like? Well, that's too bad. Because today's post does NOT include a picture of me. Ever wondered what co-author Gretchen looks like? Bummer. Because today's post is probably not going to cut it for ya on that end either.

Last Sunday evening, I had the pleasure of photographing Gretchen's family. She is married and has two children and they are an adorable little family. This is one of the very last images I took that evening and it may just be one of my favorites EVER....


Now, if you want to see what Gretchen actually looks like, you can click here to see the rest of their session. :) If you want to see what I look may be a while.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thankful Thursday - Only $50!!!

Tonight I was headed to cooking club. I had to drop off some movies at the video store and, in doing so, was forced to drive past about 2 dozen gas stations. I think my jaw may have literally hit the floor when I saw the big bold numbers for the first time in a long time: $2.89.

Are you kidding me?! Gas is actually less than $3/gallon?! And just when I actually NEED some gas?!

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, I filled my tank - my VAN tank - for $50 tonight. Yep, 17 whole gallons for only $50. Can you believe it?!

I am so happy. :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was going to do a post on how to wrap shoe boxes, but then life got crazy and I failed to remember. So it's hitting the press today!

For those of you who have no idea WHY you would need to have this information, let me give you two reasons:

1. It's an easy reusable gift box. That is, so long as you can keep the receiver from tearing it to shreds (or *gulp* throwing it away)!

2. Operation Christmas Child. This is a GREAT organization. Our church does hundreds of these every year. You fill a shoebox with toys, school supplies, hygiene products, candy, etc., drop it off at one of the designated locations, and your gift is on its way to a needy child somewhere in the world! You can click the link for more details.

Ok, now onto the good stuff. HOW TO WRAP. I have figured out quite the system for these little guys and I want to share it with you. I wrapped 8 boxes in about an hour at church last month, which I think is pretty good considering these were somewhat of a challenge to me at one point in time. So here goes....

Step 1. Separate box from lid. Cut your paper to fit approx 1 inch over inside edges of box. Tape two opposing sides in middle.

Step 2. Snip corner edges in all 4 corners.

Step 3. Fold untaped sides in one half at a time, forming a triangle.

Step 4. Pull triangle up and over box edge to inside. Tape in place.

Step 5. Observe box. Beautiful, isn't it?

Step 6. Cut paper to fit approx 1 inch over inside edges of led.
(The lid is much easier if you are precise.)
Tape in two opposing edges, just like you did with the box.

Step 7. Follow same procudure for sides...although this time you won't
have enough paper for it to make a triangle, but rather a pentagon-ish shape.
Anyway, it doesn't matter.
You can see the picture, so you know what I mean.

Step 8. Fold ends in and tape.
Place small pieces of tape in any areas that are sticking out.
(This is more common on the lid, plus you want it to close tightly.)

Step 9. Put your box together and view it in its entirety!
Give yourself a pat on the back!

Step 10. Add ribbon if desired. Wah-lah!

I do hope that wasn't terribly difficult to understand. Have fun box-wrapping!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tasty Tuesday - Where Do You Find Your Recipes?

I have a few cookbooks sitting on a shelf above my microwave and I LOVE just thumbing through them to see what I can find, but quite honestly, I don't always have the time for that. I am so happy that several recipe websites have now added an option where you can choose to search for recipes by ingredients. Interpretation: You have 2 lbs of ground beef, some cheddar cheese, and rice on hand. You can plug in "ground beef, cheese, rice" into the search engine and it will bring up all the recipes that require those three ingredients. It's brilliant!

I personally use the most often when I search online for recipes (although our family tends to stick to what we know fairly often).

What do you use to find new recipes? A cookbook? The internet? Please share your ideas!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Foto Friday!

This week was a tough call, because I had a fantastic session last Friday evening! In addition to that, I took some adorable snapshots this week. Ahhh, the choices.

As much as I do love all the pictures from Friday's session though, I've decided to settle on this one, for a truly love it....

WM DSC_0498e

For more of this week's photos, visit my photography blog.

The Findleys Strive for an Education . . . August 1922

I have found a wonderful book. It is called, "Little House In the Ozarks" edited by Stephen W. Hines, but authored by Laurua Ingalls Wilder. It is full of wonderful short articles that are incredibly applicable to life today. I believe Laura Ingalls Wilder would have been a wonderful blogger. I had to re-print this story here.

“We are putting what we earn into our children’s minds, instead of into houses and clothes,” Said little Mrs. Findley as she smoothed the hair of small Ben, who leaned against her knee. “We think it a better investment.

“Oh yes, my husband agrees with me! He didn’t at first, He said we couldn’t educate the children because we were poor, but now he is as ambitious for them as I am.”

“Tell me about it,” I said, and this is the story she told me as we sat on the shady porch one pleasant afternoon.

“When I was a child we lived back in the woods, and father was poor. My own mother was dead, and while my stepmother did the best she could for me, there were smaller children to take care of and always so much to do. Father wanted me to go to school, but when I was needed at home to help, he could never see any other way but that I must stay and work. Then too, he hadn’t money to buy my school books.

“When I was twelve years old, my brother rand I chopped a load of wood, hauled it to town, and sold it for money to buy a grammar and history. We hacked the wood up some, but we got it into sticks and we got the books.

“It was that way when I needed the first book for my children, Glen and Joette; there was no money to buy the book, so I took in a washing and got the money. I’ve always been ashamed of that work. It was not well done, because I was in such poor health that I had to hold myself up by the tub while I scrubbed; but that book just had to come and it came.

“You see, after I married, we lived in Joplin and my husband worked in the mines. Jess had been earning $4.50 a day, but it took it all to live; so when we came back to the hills, we had only our bare hands.

“Well, I started the children to work in their new book, and every day we had lessons. I taught them first a word, then the letters in it; and they had them ready for use in another word. When they learned a name, I showed them the object; when they learned an action word, we acted it. For instance, when they read the word ‘jump’, we jumped; and how they did enjoy saying their lessons to daddy in the evening, especially when he’d let them beat him.

“When Glen was seven years old and Joette six, I started them to school ready for the fourth grade work. The superintendent could not think it possible and insisted that they begin in the third grade; but after only one day there, they were promoted to the fourth.

The first year they went to school only two months, then finished their grades at home. The next year they went two months and finished at home. The following year they went four months and were obliged to stop because of sickness, but again they finished the grades at home. Since then they have gone regularly, and at thirteen and fourteen years old have finished the first year in high school and the fifth set in bookkeeping.

“Violet and Ben have had the same training at home that the older children had and sew, at six and eight years old, are ready to start to school in the fourth grade.

“Violet has been more difficult to teach than the others, because she likes to sew and play with her dolls better than to study. People said she was stupid and that I never would be able to push her as I had the others; but she was only different and just as smart, if not smarter. She just would not keep her mind on her books until she found she must and would be punished if she didn’t. I know what her talent is, but has to have her books too; and she will sew all the better for having ‘book learning’.

“Besides, I had made up my mind that through my children I would raise the standard of the family. It couldn’t be bettered morally, but it could be raised educationally; and so Violet, as well as the rest, must study her books. I knew her well and gave her special attention so she is going right along with the others.

“I believe it would be much better for everyone if children were given their start in education at home. No one understands a child as well as his mother and children are so different that they need individual training and study. A teacher with a roomful of pupils cannot do this. At home, too, they are in their mother’s care. She can keep them from learning immoral things form other children. At home the expense is much less, for in school there are a great many expenses that are difficult for poor people to meet.

“The children are well started in getting their education. None of the family has ever graduated from high school, but my children will, and some of the will go to college too.

“Jess says I aim too high, but I tell him I’ll shoot straight; for when a thing has to be done, it’s done. And if people say the Jess Findley family were poor they’ll say too, that the children were well educated; for that is where we are putting our life’s work – into their heads.

“We are doing something worthwhile, for in raising the standard of our children’s lives we are raising the standard of four homes of the future, and our work goes on and on, raising the standard of the community and of future generations.”

When Mrs. Findley had finished her story, I mentally took note of one thought which has escaped so many of us. It was not the old story of an education always being within the grasp of those who really seek it; but that in raising the standard of the Findley home, the standard of four homes of the future had been elevated to the point which we like to think of as a representative “American Home.” Here, mother love had combined with the vision of future usefulness in the country’s citizenship, resulting in the finest service to which any parent can aspire.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wacky Wednesday - Does anyone else know this song?!

For some reason, this song popped into my head yesterday on the way home from church and I've been trying to think of all the words. I sang this song....ohhhh....I don't know, way back. Elementary school, probably. Anyway, today I decided to do an online search for it and came across this blog. Thankfully, when I put her bits and pieces together with my bits and pieces, I think I came up with all of them! Does anyone else know this song??

I think this is the whole song, but I have no idea what it's called. Maybe "The Fruits of the Spirit"?

Orange you glad you love Jesus?
Orange you glad He loves you?
He's a peach-a-king Savior.
I'll never be blueberry blue.

His power makes me bananas.
He's the apple of my eye.
It's a-pear-antly clear in His Word
He's raisin us when we die.

He saved me out of the pits of hell.
I'm plum happy to be
The child of a grape big God.
I've got His fruits on my tree.

(Spoken) I've got the fruits of the Spirit, c'mon let's hear it!

I've got love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance
ove, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance
eekness, and temperance
eekness, and temperance.

Does anyone know where I could find an audio version of this? I'd LOVE to put it up somewhere!