Monday, January 31, 2011

Tropical Traditions Coconut Peanut Butter (Review and Giveaway)

Last week I was quite excited to receive Coconut Peanut Butter from Tropical Traditions. We love peanut butter around her and I figured peanut butter mixed with coconut could only be yummy. I was right!

  This smells good and tastes better. This peanut butter and honey on homemade bread was delicious! I am also enjoying it be the spoonful. Ken laughs at us for eating peanut butter that way but we really like it!

  The coconut peanut butter is very smooth and it doesn't separate like other natural peanut butters it is at a fairly warm temperature. It isn't really easily spread however as it is rather stiff. I can handle that though- it tastes good enough to deal with a bit of stiffness. Tropical Traditions has many yummy looking recipes using Coconut Peanut Butter- check them out! I have been pleased with the recipes I have tried from their site.

If you should want to purchase Coconut Peanut Butter it is on sale for the next few days for 45% off.
To Buy it: Visit Tropical Traditions and place an order. Be sure to use the referred by a friend and enter my

User ID: 6527139 and you will receive a free book on using coconut oil. (I will also get something.)

One fortunate person will also win a jar of Coconut Peanut Butter!

To Win it: Please leave a topic related comment (not just "I want to win!") and I will enter your name in the drawing. If you would like an additional chance please subscribe to Tropical Tradition's Newsletter and leave me another comment telling me that you did.

This contest will close on Sunday February 6th. I will try to announce the winner next Monday.

This contest is open to those in the USA and Canada*. Be sure to leave an e-mail address or have your e-mail address easy to find on your blog so that I can contact you if you should win.

. Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Trash to Display Board

 A while back when I went to drop off our recycling I noticed these two shutter like things stuck in the the paper recycling. They obviously didn't belong there and I thought they were kind of neat looking so I decided to bring them home. They sat around for a month or two out in the garage but then I found a "need" for them.

   I brought them in and scrubbed them up good and then I decided to polish them a bit with shoe polish to make them look a bit better. Then I used raffia and tied them together so they could stand up.
  They were first pressed into use for my bridal show last weekend. I was having a rustic theme so I thought they fit in fine. I put it behind a centerpiece, hung a picture on it and also attached a ribbon to which I hung some boutonnieres for display.
 After I brought it home again it was stripped of the bridal show stuff and then yesterday I decided to make it into a display board. As I have been going through things around the house I have found various little odds and ends that friends (that either visited and were from) have brought me from other countries. I had dug some of the them out for our Homeschool day and thought it would be fun to have some way to display them.

  When making the board we decided to add some pictures to it as well. I had a cool calendar that Ken had given me a couple of years ago that had pretty pictures from all over the world- we added some of those to the display.

  I had thought I would put this in the boys' room as they love geography and have their walls already plastered with maps and flags from other countries. However we weren't able to find a good wall spot there so we ended up hanging it in the hallway that leads to the kids' rooms.
  The kids have had fun looking over all my odds and ends. It is a fun way to remember friends that live in other countries.

  And as always I had fun making something for my home without buying anything!

I am also linking to Frugal Friday at Life as MOM and Saturday Night Special at Funky Junk Interiors.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cafe' at home!

  This afternoon the boys and Megan were having fun playing restaurant up in our dining room and they were delighted when I told them we could still play restaurant for supper.

They had slid the big table to one end of the room and brought TV trays/tables up to have for Cafe' tables. Then they stuck a candle on each table.

  When I told them we could do this for supper the quickly set the tables with napkin wrapped silverware and straws in the glasses. Jonathan also got to work at making a menu while Aaron helped me make the supper.

 My parents stopped by to drop of and pick up some stuff and the boys begged them to join us for supper. They obliged which made our supper extra special. They got to share the big table while the rest of us sat in pairs at the little tables (Ken and I did get two slid together to accommodate our bigger plates).

  The boys carefully dished up the food and were the servers. Jonathan had also quickly made dessert with Grandma's help. We couldn't have a restaurant without dessert you know!
 A fun time was had by all. All the diners at the restaurant chatted together in a very friendly way. The servers took the middle table for themselves and had to eat last since they were busy serving.
Ken and I had a little "date" over by one wall. It was a fun change in routine. Something different in the middle of the winter. Having frugal fun like this works for me!

Bright orange socks! {And random thoughts on doing things yourself}

 I just finished knitting something that I was kind of excited about- Socks! That seems like a silly thing to be excited about especially when I have knitted more complicated things like sweaters before but I guess that is just how I am. :-) I have wanted to make socks for quite a while but just have never done it before. Now however I can cross that desire off my list! These socks were just tube socks so I do want to try some socks with set heels so I guess I am not done with my sock making.
  Much of my desire to make socks stems from this passion of mine to "make it myself!" I don't like to use the term self sufficiency because I will never ever be self sufficient. I can do absolutely nothing without my God who created me and I desperately need other people too, however I do think it is fun to see what all I can make instead of buy if I need to.

   My parents have lived for much of their lives growing much of their own food, raising their own animals for meat,  milk and eggs. They also built (and we kids got to help too!) the house we grew up in, built much of our furniture, sewed much of our clothes and so on. It definitely made me to love being able to do things on my own as well.

   Do any of the rest of you remember all the scare around the turn of the century- going from 1999 to 2000? Ken and I were in college at the time (Fairly newly married and Mara had just arrived) and living near my Grandma in Iowa. There was a lot of talk about how the electricity might all shut off and who knows what all else. "It might be the End of life as we know it!". We heard a lot about this and weren't sure what to think about whether there would really be troubles or not but I certainly didn't ever worry about it. I know this is weird but I kind of got excited thinking about how we would deal with it if it should happen. And so just in case we decided to prepare. 

  We started a garden not only out back of our apartment but also at my grandma's and at another friends place nearby where they had extra room. We also stocked up on other food, toilet paper and jugs of water. It seems kind of silly now but honestly it was lots of fun (at least for me!) figuring out how we would be able to manage even if we didn't have electricity and stores weren't running like normal. My Grandma grew up during the depression and I think she had fun getting ready "just in case" too.

   I still like the idea of being prepared. And honestly news of hard economic times or other things like that don't ever worry me- I just feel a bit excited that maybe all of my preparations might get tested. After researching for years- I might actually have to do more "living off the land". Maybe someday I won't be able to buy socks at the store and I might need to make them. Well I'm ready! :-)  

  The socks ended up bigger than I had thought they would be at first and so I am the one who gets them. I think they would fit Ken too but I don't think he wants bright orange socks. I don't mind, I think they are kind of fun. The kids like them too, Aaron told me they fit him just fine- over his pajamas. Megan calls them her boots.

 I found the pattern for them in this book called "Kids Knitting" by Melanie Falick. It has quite a few simple and cute knitting patterns. And even though I am not a kid I managed to follow it too. :-)
 Have any of you ever knit socks? Do you have any desire too?

And I'm curious- Did you get ready for Y2K? Or did you even know anything about the scare associated with it?

Do you like to be prepared and do stuff yourself?  Please talk with me in the comments!
I am hoping to make more socks before to long. The kids all want their own pair. I am eyeing this pattern next.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Precious Moment's Story Book Bible ~A review

 I recently received A Precious Moments Storybook Bible to review from BookSneeze. It is a very nice padded hardcover book of nice quality. I enjoy the Precious Moments style pictures and this book is just filled with them. Each page with words has a cute colorful border and there are many full page pictures too.

  I had expected the book to be in Biblical Order but instead the stories are listed topically with the following divisions: "Favorite Bible Classics", "Words of Praise and Wisdom", "More Stories of Faith" and "Songs and Prayers".  The stories and Scriptures are definitely rewritten to make them easy for children to understand. It is a very kid friendly book!

  I really enjoyed part of the introduction so I thought I would share it with you. It says:

But what do we really want for our kids? Is it to be rich? Famous? Athletic? Scholarly? While none of these are wrong in themselves, they all fall short of the purpose and meaning which God intends his children to experience. As much as we love our kids, God loves them more. He wants to give them the very best that there is in this life - and that best is God Himself."
I totally agree with this quote. My highest goal for my kids is that they have a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. I am always looking for opportunities to encourage their relationship with Him. That is why I like to have good Bible Storybooks that will draw their attention and make them love learning about the Bible. I am thank-ful to have this book to help in that way.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I will rejoice in the Lord!

"Though the fig tree should not blossom,
and there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail,
and the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold,
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation."
Habakkuk 3:17 & 18

  I love these verses! It isn't that I really relate to verse 17- as God has given us so very, very much, but this is something that I feel strongly about. No matter what happens, no matter what hard twists and turns life takes this verse is what I choose! I want to exult in the Lord and rejoice in God not matter what!

   Some of you might be struggling now. Maybe verse 17 really applies to your life at the moment. I hope that you can still see how much God loves you and that He is there for you. I hope you will choose to Rejoice!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Barbie Furniture from Tuna Cans

 Not long ago a friend brought over this set of Barbie furniture that she made from tuna cans and gave it to my girls. I think it is pretty cute and thought I would share the idea with you all in case any of you know a girl that needs new barbie furniture.
 She simply opened the tune can but didn't take the lid completely off. Then she covered everything with fabric using glue. Inside the can she put stuffing and then glued a piece of cloth that she had tucked in over top. To make the footstool you do take the tuna lid off.

Megan and Mara's barbies are happy with their new chairs.

I am linking this up to Jackie's Fix it up Friday. You should go check out her cute burlap covered box and then link up your own "Fix it up" project.

Working to lower our spending on Dining Out

 As I mentioned last week Ken and I recently went through records, going over last years budget and figuring out one for this year. When we were looking things over one of the categories that I was surprised on how much we spent was eating out. We have never gone out to eat a lot, I would guess much less than the average but still when you have a family of 6, any eating out can add up quickly. It isn't that we don't have enough money to go out to eat some but when I saw how much we did spend on this my reaction was "I would rather spend less on that category and instead be able to pay off Ken's Business and our home faster." That is simply my priority.

 So I started thinking about reasons we do go out to eat some. I thought I would share them with you:
  • Traveling. We nearly always pack the first meal that we need to eat while traveling but after that we usually go through a drive through or stop somewhere. This might not change a lot according to Ken's wishes.
  • We have a meeting at a restaurant.
  • It is a special event like Our Anniversary or Valentines Day. (And I don't mind doing this some- but there are other alternatives as well.)
  • We are already out and about, it is meal time and I don't have anything easy planned. Also once and a while we aren't out and about but I simply am not in the mood for cooking and I might be very tired from some big event earlier or from working on my wedding business.
  • Either Ken or I sleep in a bit and I don't get his breakfast or lunch made before he has to leave for work (sometimes he has really early morning meetings and that is when this will sometimes happen) or he doesn't have time to eat breakfast before he leaves and so he picks something up later instead.
  • We go in order to socialize with others.
  • We are not going to be home when it is mealtime.
So that is the potential temptations for going out to eat and spending a bunch of money. How about some solutions? Most of these solutions I have used and they have worked, I just need to be more consistent. There are also a few things that I want to try. Lets take the problems one by one.

1. Traveling. Here are some ideas for solutions. 
  •  We do already pack the first meal out, that can be a challenge at times when I am running late to get ready to leave but it works. I previously posted a list of foods that we have enjoyed eating while traveling.
  • We also are pretty careful to make sure we have water bottles along so that we don't need to buy beverages.
  •  One thing that could help to save money is making sure I have cold Mt. Dew packed for Ken as that is a necessity for him and I often don't remember it.
  • I also think I will try to have more food items packed that will keep well for trips home.
  • Another thing to try for us is to have more coupons collected to use at fast food restaurants when we do eat out on our trips home.
  • Many of our trips are either staying with family or friends, camping or going to a place where we can do our own cooking. We pack our own foods (or our family and friends feed us) and that saves a ton!
2. Meetings at Restaurants Most of the time I probably won't worry about this as it is just once a month for me but these are some options I could chose:
  • I could eat before I go.
  • I can eat soup.
3. Special Events.
  • We could plan a special meal date at home.
  • We could plan a fun picnic date.
  • We could go on a date that doesn't involve eating.
  • We could plan ahead and buy discount gift certificates that they auction off on our Christian Radio station.
4.Being tired, unprepared and don't have a plan.
  • Have a menu- this is something I have done for many years but at times I will have a slump of not menu planning- this can lead to trouble!
  • Cook ahead and Freeze meals.(I just double or triple a meal that I am already making and then freeze the extra)  I am getting better at this! This method will come in handy this weekend when I have a booth at a bridal show.
  • Have a list of easy and quick things that you can make with ingredients you usually have on hand. For us that list includes: Tuna Melts with popcorn and sliced apples, Spaghetti and canned green beans, Mac and Cheese and fruit.
5. Not getting Ken's breakfast ready or lunch packed on time. Thankfully this is fairly rare but I still want to work on it. Here are some things I am working on.
  • Making sure I know when he has an early meeting so that I can get up earlier.
  • Remind him of the time so he will get up to breakfast on time.
  • Have breakfast and his lunch figured out the night before so I can just get busy and make it- not have to figure out what to do.
6. Socializing with others. Other options besides going out to eat:
  • Invite people over to our house. (This is actually what we does happen most often but it might as well happen all of the time- it saves everybody money and is more comfortable!)
  • Have quick snacks and meals easily available when we want to have a spur of the moment party. Perhaps cookies (or cookie dough) in the freezer, always popcorn to pop and the ingredients for an easy meal.
  • Get -together to play volleyball or broomball or bike riding and things like that rather than eating.
7. We are not going to be home at mealtime.
  • Pack a picnic.
  • Decide to eat early or late. If we decide to eat late maybe pack or eat a snack earlier.

Do you have any ideas to add to the ones above? What causes you to eat out most often? Do you have a solution figured out?

What about when we do want to go out to eat? How can we do that less expensively? Here are some ideas that I have but I would love to hear your input as well...

  • Drink Water. Beverages can add up fast and they usually aren't very good for you either. Water works fine.
  • Clip Coupons. I know we get quite a few in our paper- I never seem to have the right one at the right time but I hope to get better at this.
  • Chose less expensive items. This is just comment sense but it is something to remember when looking over the menu.
  • Split a meal if you know that it will be more than enough.
  • Eat soup. This is usually a fairly inexpensive alternative (though when you think about how little it costs to make soup this will still seem spendy) but not one that I always want.
  • Earn Gift Cards on Swagbucks . You can fairly cheaply get a gift card for there and then you can buy discounted gift cards for restaurants in your area. This doesn't work real well for us as we are fairly rural but for those living in a city I am sure it would work better.
  • Supplement with you own food. This is NOT something I would recommend in most instances but I thought I would share a couple situations that we have done this. Last time we went downhill skiing I decided to bring a thermos of hot chocolate along. We get chilly while skiing and like to have that but it costs something like $2 a cup at the Chalet. At the Chalet it is perfectly acceptable to bring stuff in they just request no large coolers or crockpots. We did order some food there but drank our own hot chocolate and saved around $10 in the process. Another example with this is if you decide you really need to order pizza (to eat at home because you are so tired)- don't order quite as much and don't order anything else but see if you can find the energy to make a salad or cut up some fruit to go with it.
Those are my ideas and suggestions. Can you share yours please too? I would love to hear them!

This is linked to Life as MOM.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Homeschool Get-togethers

 This year we started doing something new to add another dimension to our homeschooling. As I have visited with homeschoolers off and on I have noticed that many of them would like an opportunity to get together on a regular basis (not to frequently as our goal is to be Homeschoolers but still often enough that it is regular) so that their children can enjoy time with other homeschooled children and so the parents can visit and encourage one another. Those that I visited with and I were also wanting something that was either free or didn't cost much.

 We are blessed to live in an area were there are a lot of homeschoolers. I grew up in this area as a homeschooler and at that time my parents were quite involved along with some other parents and they were organize get-togethers. At this point in time the homeschool "group" here mainly had a great e-mail newsletter to kind off keep us connected but otherwise the only regular get-togethers were at the Science center and the gym bin both which were a little cost prohibitive to many. There are also a couple of other co-ops that meet regularly but they aren't open to growing that much and though we were kindly invited to join one they didn't think there was room for all the others that I had talked to that also wanted some kind of get-together.

   Anyway I present all that background to tell you what we did decide to do this year.

  We decided to start a monthly homeschool get-together. The church that I attend was willing to let us use the church building as long as we cleaned up after ourselves. We decided to chose one day a month (the 3rd Tuesday) and meet on that morning, have an activity and then bring sack lunches and eat together. We also planned for some free time for kids to play and parents to visit.

   I have been the one that has been "in charge" with planning the location and then taking care of e-mailing everybody and such but we have worked together to have activities and such.

  Here is what we have done so far:
First I talked to friends and invited them and got their input, then I announced it in the homeschool e-newsletter and asked for people to RSVP if they were planning on coming.
  • October- Planning meeting and educational game playing. Getting to know each other.
  • November- Thanksgiving theme. We made some crafts, had some skits (which they made lovely hats for and the kids made tarts (little pies) to eat for their lunch.
  • December- We had several different Christmas presents that the kids could make. One mother also told the Story of Jesus Birth in a hands on way. Everybody brought Christmas goodies to share.
  • January- The theme was Countries/Geography. Each child or family chose a country to represent and they studied up on it and then came and told stuff about it. Each child make a flag to show and they some also made maps, dressed in costume, played music, brought things from the country to show or brought a food to share.
Here are some of our ideas for future months:
  • Go on field trips to the Police Station, Newspaper, Airport, Tanker Base where they have planes and helicopters to put out wildfires and more. We probably will only do two of these this year.
  • Have a Valentines party after going on a field trip.
  • Do Science experiments.
  • Learn about our body.
  • Do outdoor activities.
  This has been a fun monthly activity for us. I have been happy that we have been able to keep it free and open to anyone that wants to come. There has been a variance in how many come some months as many as 30 kids and then this month is was down to 15, though a windchill of minus 18 degrees may have played a part in that.

   I just wanted to share what we were doing with any of you that might be wanting to do something of this sort. It does take some work to get it organized but overall it doesn't have to be that complicated and we have found it to be fun for all of us!

  If you have any questions feel free to ask away in the comments! I would love to hear any ideas you might have too! 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Megan being "The Dominican Republic"

Today we had a homeschool get-together and the topic was countries. (I am hoping to write more about our get-togethers in the future.) Each child or Family (some worked as a group) picked a country and then told about it. Megan chose the Dominican Republic as I have gone there and have things from there that she could show.

  And then I saw their national dress. A full tiered skirt with ribbons on it. and then a full top with a ruffly collar. It was so pretty and it actually looked pretty easy to make. So... I decided to make one for Megan.
 It was a fun project! I went together very easily. I just took a few of her measurements (like her waist, torso length, how long the skirt should be and how wide the shirt should be) and then I was able to start cutting.

  For the skirt I decided to divide it up in three tiers. The first tier was 1.5 x her waist length. The next tier was 1.5 x the length of the first tier. I was going to do the 3rd tier 1.5 x the 2nd tier but ended up deciding to make it even fuller. I am glad I did. I gathered the 2nd and 3rd tiers up and then attached them to the tier above. Then I sewed ribbon over top of the place the tiers joined. I put elastic in the top of the 1st tier. Then I sewed the back seam and then put the hem in with ribbon added.
I made the shirt with raglan sleeves and then just made a full ruffle for the collar. I added elastic at the neckline for ease in getting on and off. I also put elastic near the bottom of the sleeves to give a little ruffle there.

  Megan was all ready to represent the Dominican Republic. Her plan was to say "I am the Dominican Republic" but she got a little shy so I had to explain that she was "from" the Dominican Republic.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winner of Tropical Traditions Palm Oil Giveaway

 Well I am a day later than I planned but I did chose a winner of Tropical Traditions Virgin Palm Oil. It is Jamie who left comment number 15.
Congratulations Jamie! I sent you an e-mail but please let me know if you didn't receive it.

And for any of you who use Palm Oil or who want to, I tried out another cookie recipe which I thought was very good. They are ginger cookies and you can find the recipe here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In joyful prayer, saying thanks!

"Rejoice always;
pray without ceasing;

in everything give thanks;
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thess. 5:16-18

I do really love a verse like this one. My goal in life is to do God's will and I love verses like these that make His will completely easy to understand. That doesn't always mean it is completely easy to do but at least I can work on it.

And aren't these instructions fun to work on? Who doesn't want to rejoice (or be joyful) always? And don't we want to have a close relationship with God where we talk to Him all day long? Being thankful is also very fun.

 However there are times that we just don't feel joyful, we don't feel thankful and we quite possibly don't feel like talking to God. It has been suggested that these three instructions actually go hand in hand. Some of us find on easier than the others to do. Also often went we don't feel like doing/being any of them if we just go "out on a limb" and do one of them we will likely find the others will follow soon after.

What do you think?

Sometimes we can follow all of these instructions at once and so I want to...

In Joyful prayer to my Loving God I am going to say Thanks!

Thanks for...

#746 The irrepressible laughter of my children. It just makes me want to smile or even laugh too.

#747 Health. So many people I have been around have been sick and so far I haven't gotten it. I am grateful.

#748 Getting to meet and spend much of the day with 2 international college students. What fun times of sharing about our different cultures- how we are different and how much we are the same!

#749 "New" books from the library- and time to sit down and drink a cup of tea and read.

#750 A van that still starts even when it is really, really chilly outside!

#751 Fresh raw milk from the dairy.

#752 Browsing in the Asian food store and finding Seaweed so we can make Kim-bob.

#753 New babies! Oh how I am loving all the arrivals that have happened lately. Children are such a blessing from God!

#754 The opportunity to teach the little kids class on Sunday mornings and getting to tell about Jesus in such simple ways.

#755 A nice crowd at church even though the thermometer showed a temperature very near 0.

#756 Singing songs of praise and thanks to God with others that love Him too.

#757 Everything we need and so very, very much more. Thanks to God who gives so abundantly!

What are you thankful for?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Managing Money

Recently Ken and I sat down and figured out our budget for the new year. Ken has carefully budgeted our money ever since we got married (and I have carefully tried to make sure that we stay within our budget) but this is the first time that we actually worked on figuring out the budget together. It was actually quite fun. I really enjoyed the opportunities to discuss spending and saving priorities and things like that.

Both Ken and I were very blessed to be raised by parents who tried to avoid debt as much as possible. Both sets of parents also managed quite well to raise fairly large families on fairly small incomes. The examples that we were given have been invaluable to us. That doesn't mean we have done everything perfectly in managing our money but it sure was a great help!

   As we worked on this years budget we also discussed the spending we had done last year (Ken and I save all receipts and Ken carefully records everything on Quicken each month so we can know where our money is going.)  Some of the numbers were a little amazing to me. Things like- "We really spent that much on going out to eat last year?!" or "Yea! We are under budget on food again, even though our kids are eating more and costs are rising".  Looking at those numbers together was really neat for allowing us to discuss things and figure out how to make things work- together. It is also making me think "How can we spend even less in many different areas" I hope to share more about that on a regular basis soon.

   One thing I thought it might be helpful to note is that a budget (and working on it together) can be very helpful when there are things you and your spouse might not see eye to eye on. Ken and I have a couple of those. There are some things that I think we could spend less on but they are important to Ken (and vice versa) and there are somethings that I would like to spend more on but Ken doesn't see as being that important. So what happens? We discuss it and compromise. But at least we have come to a decision. If it isn't discussed then that can be a major source of conflict when one person just does what she/he pleases without having figured out what will really work best for the family.

At the end of 2010 at church I went through the Crown Money Map program. (It teaches very similar concepts as Dave Ramsey's method but the program is much cheaper to go through and I think they focus on Biblical teaching a little more.) I found it very fun and inspiring. It didn't change life drastically for us as we have budgeted/had a spending plan already but I still learned a lot and was truly inspired.   I just thought I would tell others about that resource in case you were looking for some help.

   One of the things from the program that really inspired me was on paying early on your mortgage or refinancing your home with a shorter (like 15 yr instead of 30 yr) mortgage. One of our friends just did this and the amount of interest they are going to save is around $50,000. That is so cool and we are hoping to work on this as well.

   Getting rid or our mortgage and paying off Ken's business is definitely something that I think would be very fun to see happen (the sooner the better!) and so I am trying to see if there are ways that I can spend a lot less in other areas. I am hoping to discuss each area in detail in the coming weeks. I plan on sharing ways we have saved money and also possibly ideas that I am looking at and I would love your advice and tips as well. Here are some of the topics that I hope to address:
  • Dining out
  • Mortgage
  • Entertainment
  • Gift Giving
  • Groceries
  • Toiletries
  • Paper Products
  • Garbage pick-up (I think I would like to get rid of this $16 a month bill- we shall see)
  • Clothing
  • Cleaners
  • Business Expenses
  • Gasoline/ Auto expenses
  • Travel
I am just curious? Do you have a budget/money plan in your home? Is it a joint project between the spouses or does just one take care of it?
Do you have an tips for saving in any of the mentioned topics? I would love to hear your thoughts!

This is linked to Frugal Friday

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A fun family field trip

 Last week we had the neat opportunity to visit our State's (Minnesota) Capitol. We could have done it long ago as we have been to the Capital City (St. Paul) many times but we just never did. We had a special reason to go now however- We had two friends elected into office in November and they were sworn in last week so we decided it would be fun to go visit them.
Dave Hancock is our Representative. He is a very neat guy and we had a wonderful time helping with his campaign (Walking in parades for one thing) this past year. The kids liked helping with the parades he was in as he had a little "hummer" that they got to drive and they got to throw out candy. I am looking forward to seeing how Dave does in office. He is very humble (and not a career politician!) but really thinks things through and has firm conservative convictions.
 John Carlson has been a friend for several years now and He was just sworn in as MN Senator. Unfortunately he is not in our district but rather a neighboring one. We had fun helping with his campaign anyway. Door knocking was an interesting experience. :-) John was able to "sneak" us in on the Senate floor. That was pretty neat.
 Mara, Megan and Aaron on one of the neat benches there. We were fascinated to find out that the Capitol building was designed and the construction supervised all by one man who was only 35 when he began. He also designed all the furniture. This Capitol building has the 2nd largest Marble dome in the world. The largest is St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. The 3rd largest is on the Taj Mahal.
Below Ken and Jonathan are standing in the center of the building, underneath the dome. This is where Governor's Bodies lie "At State".
This is in the House Chamber. An older man that worked there let us in to see it and told us all about it. Later we went on a tour and the guide took us up in the balcony of each chamber to show us that. We thought it was fun. My brother in law Travis and my nieces and nephews joined us for the tour.

Over all we had a very good time exploring the capitol, seeing our friends and learning more about the history of our state. Tours our free so it was a frugal experience as well. (though the meter where we parked sure ate up quarters at a rapid rate!). I greatly recommend taking your kid's to visit your state's capitol. I am now wondering if it might be fun to visit the capitol in other states as well.

Have you been to any cool capitol buildings? I would love to hear about your experiences!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Baby Cardigan and Booties {That went together really fast!}

Last week I got to host a baby shower for a sweet baby girl (who was born last month on my birthday!). I thought it would be fun to crochet a sweater. I found this pattern online and I decided to give it a try.
 I didn't really understand the pattern very well when I first started but I decided to just follow it the best I could and see what happened. Pretty soon it started taking shape and it was very easy! I did end up changing it up a bit by adding scalloped edging. Then I made up my own pattern and made the booties.

I had a lot of fun working on this project especially since it went so fast! I am having fun working with yarn on these cold winter days. I also enjoy doing it when we travel which we have been doing some of lately.

Aaron had fun holding the recipient of the sweater.

I am linking this to Tea Rose Home
and to Tute {Yourself} Tuesday at Little Eme

Monday, January 10, 2011

Virgin Palm Oil from Tropical Traditions {Review and Giveaway}

 Lately I have been trying out something new to me- virgin palm oil. Tropical Traditions kindly sent me a jar of it to review. I hadn't done much studying up on it before it came and I was a little surprised by it. First off it is a bright orange. Second it isn't a runny oil, it is more like soft butter. Third it has some texture in it- not perfectly smooth (though you don't notice that in the baked goods).

 I wasn't sure what I should use it in so my first experiment was to put it in biscuits (which we were having with soup and I put some shredded cheese on top). I didn't expect the orange color to spread so thoroughly throughout the dough but that is just what it did. It is like food coloring or curry powder- the color is very strong! The color doesn't affect how it works however and the biscuits were just fine. There is a slight flavor to the palm oil but it isn't offensive.

 I also used it in cookies. I used this recipe from the Tropical Traditions site. They are Orange (in flavor as well as color!) Coconut Cookies and they turned out very nice. This oil is very nice for cookie baking as long as you don't mind the bright color.

  What is really cool about this oil however is that it is quite good for you too! Palm oil is full of Vitamin E it also is one of the richest natural plant sources of carotenoids with concentration of 500–700 ppm. It has 15 times more carotenoids than carrots and 300 times more than tomatoes.

  Would you like to try this oil too?

To Buy it: Visit Tropical Traditions and place an order. Be sure to use the referred by a friend and enter my
User ID: 6527139 and you will receive a free book on using coconut oil. (I will also get something.)

To Win it: Please leave a topic related comment (not just "I want to win!") and I will enter your name in the drawing. If you would like an additional chance please subscribe to Tropical Tradition's Newsletter and leave me another comment telling me that you did.

This contest will close on Sunday January 16th. I will try to announce the winner next Monday.
This contest is open to those in the USA and Canada*. Be sure to leave an e-mail address or have your e-mail address easy to find on your blog so that I can contact you if you should win.

. Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

*Note for Canadian bloggers: Tropical Traditions is not responsible for customs or duties that Canada may charge if you decide to participate in this Tropical Traditions sponsored blog giveaway.


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