Saturday, January 4, 2020

Book Review: White Christmas Pie by Wanda Brunstetter

Book Review: White Christmas Pie by Wanda E. Brunstetter

While I do love reading, I'm not getting to it as often as I like nowadays. I keep saying once I'm finished with my PhD I'll have more time to read. Who knows? But over the holiday break I get a chance to read more often. I just finished White Christmas Pie by Wanda Brunstetter.

This book was a nice, light read. The main character was Will who was left to be raised by Amish couple when he was 6 by his English father Frank who was looking for a new job, as his job as on the road trucker wouldn't suffice for a young boy that needed to be in school. Fast forward to when Will is 22 and still living with the Amish family and is engaged to an Amish young lady to be married.

What will happen with Frank reaches out to meet his son? Will will leave the church and return to be an Englisher? What will happen to his fiancee?

This book was neat because it told the story from the perspective of Will, but also from his biological father Frank. Both, were struggling with some issues and it was interesting to see the perspective from both sides.

The White Christmas Pie doesn't come into play into later on the story, the last probably 4-5 chapters really, but it tied everything together nicely.

If you like Amish fiction- this is a good one.

If you are interested in my other book reviews- you can see them here.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

A note about my freezer and pantry and $100 grocery challenge

Yesterday I posted about my challenge to spend only $100 in January on groceries for my family of 5. I just wanted to expand on that a bit. I'm hoping to keep my spending down in January to jumpstart our debt payoff for the year, but also to eat up some of what is in my pantry/freezer so I'll know what I'm running low on for this gardening season and to be able to defrost my small chest freezer as it's time!

1. We live in an area where I have Sam's Club, Kroger and Walmart available. I prefer not to go to Walmart as it is in an area of town further from my home, it's always super crowded and it's kind of shady. I do go to Sam's Club sometimes but do the majority of my weekly shopping at Kroger.

2. We eat meat, mainly venison (deer meat ) and fish that we catch ourselves. We also occasionally get a wild boar and make sausage from that. I do buy turkey bacon and chicken sometimes, but we don't have any at the moment and I don't see myself buying any during January and my low spend challenge.

3. We were gifted a turkey at Christmas from a man in our church, and although we typically don't buy a turkey, we may smoke it during January and enjoy turkey this month.

4. I can and freeze a lot from our garden during the year. I have a pantry full of pickles, relish, jelly etc. It's hard to make a meal though with pickles and jam/jelly even though they are nice. I can other items as well like pasta sauce, green beans, soup etc. but am running low of most of those. I'm sure I'll use those items up during the month.

5. We have blackberry and blueberry bushes and along with eating them fresh last spring/summer and canning some, I have quite a few berries frozen. I'll use that for just eating plain, muffins, smoothies popsicles etc.

6. We have chickens so will have a supply of fresh eggs all month.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

January- $100 a month for Groceries Challenge

January Challenge: $100 this month for groceries!

Week 1

We are a family of 5, kids are 14,12 and 8 and both my husband and I work full time. We are trying to pay down our debt, live intentionally and keep some kind of order in our chaos. This month my challenge to myself is to spend $100 or less or groceries. I normally spend $400 a month on groceries. So this month I will be trying to eat out of our freezer and pantries and keep purchases to a minimum. 
The first trip of the year was to Kroger and ended up costing $23.07. 
A few other things about our family- we don't have food allergies- so no restrictions there and no special diets. I'm a Registered Dietitian so we try to eat healthy, but I'm not on any restrictive sort of diet. My kids take their lunches to school each day, as do my husband and I. I cook 99% of the meals, and we are committed to not eat out in January.

So here's what I got:
-6 cucumbers ( in the produce bin for 99 cents) Will cut up to snack on, put in the kids lunches etc. Couldn't pass up such a great deal.
- Huge bag of sugar snap peas on sale for $3.99 from $7.99. Again, to snack on, kids lunches and I might stir fry them with the peppers and ingredients I have at home
- 3 lbs of apples for $2.99
- 2 bell peppers @ 89 cents each
- 1 gallon of milk for the kids because they love milk
- bunch of bananas
- 2 containers of turkey for the kids lunches. One of my children can't have peanut butter and jelly at their school because another child has allergies, so I send turkey with him. The other kids get pb&js
- loaf of bread
- package of sliced cheese for sandwiches and crackers and cheese

Total of $23.07 for week 1

I know I can make bread for cheaper. And I do sometimes. But I bought this loaf for .89 cents and feel that the saving of time is worth the 50 or so cents I save versus making it. To all you that make your own bread all the time- kudos- you are my hero.

So that's where we are. My kids and I are off work/school until January the 6th, so I'll cook and prep a lot of meals and snacks in the next few days.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

End of the year update: Finances, debt, family and more

Happy New Year's Eve!

I did want to just give an update on a few things going on in our life, and I would love to start updating the site more often. I've tried to clean up the site a bit ( I removed the AdSense for one thing, as I didn't understand how it worked and it looked to clutter up the blog). So as we approach the new year I wanted to share a few updates:

One of the things I've been open about here is our debt. Which is ridiculous. The last time I posted about it was in October of 2018 which you can read about here.  At that time our non mortgage debt was $144,798. Since then we have paid off $20,484. Bringing our debt down to $124,213. I'm glad that number is going down, however, it needs to go down further. I'm still being frugal, I'm sticking with our budget, but it just seems with 3 growing kids, a home to maintain and my tuition ( more on that in a minute) we did not have a ton extra to save. So for this next year, my goal is to get that number under $100k. So walk with me as we get that number lower!

We are doing so well. My kids are now 14, 12 and 8 and man are they amazing kiddos. They are doing great in school, and the older two are active in our church youth group, while the little guy is still in the Children's group at church. The 14 year old and 8 year old are taking piano lessons this coming year, the 14 year old has been taking lessons for a while but January will be the first month for the 8 year old. The 12 year old is doing great in her sewing classes- they aren't monthly lessons, but she does take a class here and there when there is one that tickles her fancy. Last night she hemmed a pair of jeans for my uncle and he gave her $3. So she's pretty excited about that.

We still have a ton of chickens ( not a ton, but maybe 25?) I haven't counted in a while. The chickens are really my 14 year old's thing and she knows their names, keeps tabs on them etc. We are getting some beautiful eggs each day and we enjoy fresh eggs. We still have 3 goats but are out of the rabbit business.
Throwback of my daughter when she was little, but she has always adored her chickens. 

                                                              My school: 
Thankfully, I am about to finish my PhD. I am on the dissertation phase and have collected my pilot data and am about to go into full scale data collection. I hope to be finished by the end of the Spring Semester. I may have to extend my graduation into the summer, but bottom line is that I only have about 3 more hours of tuition to pay, and most of that is paid for with a scholarship. I've tried really hard to get scholarships throughout this process, and anything I've owed, we've cashed flowed. We vowed for no new debt for my PhD- which we stuck to. So after my next tuition bill we will be finished paying for that and that money can be put somewhere else. I've also had to travel pretty often to the university, which was costly for plane tickets, hotels etc. So after one more trip ( to defend my dissertation) that expense will be finished as well!

I am starting a Pantry Challenge tomorrow, with my grocery budget being only $100 for the month of January ( and I haven't bought groceries in almost a week already) so that will help clean my freezer out and plan for what food(s) we need to plant and put up this gardening season. Read more about that in the coming days.

How has your year been? I'm excited to get back to visit with you guys!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Simple Decorating for the Holidays with Dollar Tree

   You all know that I love me some Dollar Tree. I'm excited that they have some great blog posts out for their affiliates to use! Please remember: This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Elegant DIY Wreath Using 3D Wreath Forms

December 15, 2019  |  DIY & Crafts  |  Written by 
Elegant 3D WreathLooking to add some extra pop and pizzazz to your holiday décor? Well then, you’re in luck because I am here to show you how! I was in my local Dollar Tree the other day and came across these awesome 3D wreath forms and decided to buy a few to hang across my dining room table. I wanted a more natural and elegant look, so I wrapped green garland and fairy lights around them and then stuck LED candles in the center of them. They looked GORGEOUS hanging above my dining room table and really set the mood for the holidays!

Stock Up on These Supplies:

  • 3D Wreath Forms
  • Hot Glue Sticks
  • Hot Glue Gun (Not Sold at Dollar Tree)
  • Green Garland (One for each wreath you plan on making – the 10” wreaths will leave you a little extra garland afterwards)
  • Fairy Lights or String Lights
  • Floral Wire
  • Twine or Fishing Line
  • Hot Glue Gun (Not Sold at Dollar Tree)
  • LED Candles
  • Optional: Flowers, Ornaments, etc.

Follow Along Step-by-Step:

  1. Assemble the 3D wreath forms as instructed with the included metal braces. I reinforced mine with hot glue at both of the points to make it extra sturdy.
  2. Using your hot glue gun, adhere the garland to the wreath form’s wires by running a bead of glue on each wire and pressing the garland to the wire. It is best to do this a few inches at a time, and be careful, the glue will be hot.
  3. If you’d like, you can decorate with fairy lights and LED candles (pictured) or get creative with ornaments, flowers, and more! Run twine through the top and hang it from the ceiling to make it float.Elegant 3D WreathElegant 3D Wreath
Looking for more ways to spruce up your holiday décor? Check out these simple ways to decorate for the holidays!

Monday, February 25, 2019

New Wife and being broke- memories of younger years and Pepperidge Farm Cake

If you read this title I know you are thinking.... WHAT? I'll explain.

My son stayed the night with my parents Saturday night and apparently my mom went to the grocery store and brought home a cake for him that was on sale. He wanted to bring it home to share with us as well. Super sweet kid.

But what it did was bring back memories. My husband and I got married when I was 21 and he was 23. He was just getting out of college, I was still in college and waiting tables. We were broke. He had an entry level job but we just didn't make much then. I remember it was his birthday and I wanted to so something special for him. I had been saving change in a Mason jar and went to our Kroger and cashed it in using that coin machine. I got about $15 out of it. I bought two pieces of meat, two fat baked potatoes and salad fixings. Then for dessert I splurged on a Pepperidge Farm Chocolate Fudge cake- just like the one my son brought home this weekend.

I remember my husband being thrilled with his steak dinner all those years ago. It's been a beautiful journey and even though we literally were "living on love" back then, I wouldn't change it. Good times and we learned to rely on each other and lots of prayer.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Word of the Year: Abundance


Abundance. That is my word this year! Every year I try to pick out a word that I'm really going to focus on. You can read about a few previous years and my "word" here. 
This year I really want to focus on the abundance I have in my life.
The abundance of family and friends and love.
The abundance of the community and love I get from my church family.
The abundance of life and light that my children bring.
And also I'm going to focus on the abundance of material items as well.
 I've been really trying to instill in my kids that we have SO much.
 We have an abundance of food, of clothing, of space in our home.
We really need to be aware and be thankful of that abundance.
Do you all have a word for 2019? 
What is your word for 2019? If you wrote a blog post about it, feel free to comment with it below.