Jun 262018
 

This post contains affiliate links.

Schoola.com

Who ever is in charge of promotions this week must have known this is not the week for me to be going to stores with kids.  It seems that it is the week for shopping for kitchen items, scheduling grocery pickup, purchasing shoes, and stocking up on kids clothes while saving from the comfort of my living room.  (or dining room table or bed while waiting for little heads to go to sleep)

When I saw that Schoola was having a sale of 75% off, I knew I had to share.  It is too good of a deal to keep to myself.

Schoola has been a sanity and budget saver in the past, delivering quality preowned clothes to our door.  The clothes were even very neatly folded inside a bag, inside a box.  I am not sure who they hire to help package but they are welcome at my house on laundry day anytime they please.

The flash sale is on! Get 75% off your order with code HAPPY75 at Schoola.com. Offer is valid only 6/26-6/27.

And as always, FREE SHIPPING on orders of $25 or more on the first 10 items.

Valid 6/26-6/27 only. Limit one promotion code may be used per order. Not valid on previous purchases. Discounts and credits do not apply toward shipping or promotional minimums. Discounts are applied to the post-credit order value. New-with-tags items are not eligible for purchase with discounts or credits.

May 262018
 


Among other activities keeping me busy this spring is a new addition to our garden.  This is not something I had planned on adding, though always wanted. I had a “if we get this it needs to meet these criteria” list, mainly to explain to the kids why we didn’t have this and wouldn’t for a long while.

This list worked well for the past 6 years. I thought it was fairly fool proof.

About a week ago I decided to put aside my wishes, to stay home and garden, to be the “fun” mom.  I loaded up the kids, water, skateboards, helmets, book, and a hat. (It was hot after all.) Against verbal arguments of one who wanted to stay home and play on the computer, we headed to a local skate park for a free event. We were going to have fun whether they wanted to or not, me knowing that in the end they would have fun.

My plan was to let them skateboard, do some of the other activities available, have some snow cones, then come home with two tired, hot kids who were ready for bed.

It almost went like that.

See, as the kids were skating I wandered over to the dogs brought to the event by a local animal shelter in hopes of finding homes. We usually visit them as it is good for the kids to be around different dogs and for the dogs to be around different people.  However this time…this time I met one which actually MET my very specific criteria on the “if we get this it needs to meet these criteria” list: old, calm, laid back, not nervous around kids, doesn’t bark much, walks on a leash well, doesn’t scare the kids. The adjectives in bold were the major key ones on the list which usually disqualified every single dog we had met before.

Not only did I find a dog who meet the criteria, but he exceeded them. Turns out he is trained, rides well in a car, loves to be petted, is as social as George (has yet to meet a stranger), and even didn’t intimidate Jack, who isn’t as much of a dog lover as George.  When I walked over to the group of dogs, I had written him off right away due to size.  However, he very nonchalantly moseyed over to me, sat down, and waited to be petted.  He didn’t even need to smell my hand first, just waited like I should know what was expected.  So I did.  As other people and dogs went by, he might have given them a glance, but sat perfectly content (and quiet) being petted.

I talked with the workers for a bit, explaining what I was looking for in a dog and why.  We talked a bit about this particular dog.  Then I asked them not to say anything to the kids when they came over.

George gave the dog of wide berth while he went to a shorter dog.  However, after one of the workers suggest he walk the larger dog while she walked the smaller one that was the end of that.  Within  feet George had renamed him and fallen in love.  To my surprise, so did Jack.  He didn’t flinch when the dog came right up to him, he didn’t shy away from his head, instead giving him lot of pets and pats and loving.  Jack has never been this calm around a dog, let alone a dog this large.  It didn’t take too long for both of the boys to begin asking if we could adopt him.

The only two draw back – he is big and has long hair. For all his other qualities I can overlook those two.  He even keeps me company while I try various DIY projects.  I can even hammer and drill without disturbing his naps.

Soooo, we came home with two hot, tired, excited boys and one dog of trial run at our house.  That trial has since ended and he has become a permanent fixture in our garden.

As I have found out this week, he also LOVES to chase rabbits.  Excellent! I had been wondering how to keep them out of the garden.

In case you were wondering, I did NOT bring a dog home without asking my husband first.  I am smarter than that after all these years.

 

May 032018
 

These past few weeks have been full of various activities around the house and adventures away from home.  Here are a few snapshots of what has been going on. Much to my surprise and delight, my amaryllis is blooming. This lovely flower was a gift from a friend.  However, it was one which I could not set out to bloom the first year I had it, so it was placed in a cool, dark basement.  Then we moved, and it had to winter another year being stored in a cool, dark place.  Tip: this is not a recommended gardening technique.

As I was unpacking and organizing the house this past fall I decided to put it out by the front door in hopes that the location would encourage it to begin growing.  Within a few weeks of placing it outside and watering it, I noticed green beginning to appear.  Both bulbs put on a hardy set of leaves for a few months.  After a time the leaves began to yellow and die away.  I was a bit disappointed, but not surprised by the lack of flowers. With a lack of a place to store it, I left it outside though not a lot of watering was taking place. (Apparently I did something right without knowing it.)

One morning, I noticed green appearing once again!  Regular watering began immediately.  This time an additional shoot appeared after a few weeks – it was a flower stem!

Our front porch has now been graced with this beauty for the past week or so.  It brings a smile to my face every time I see it.

This beauty (in the eye of the beholder) was on the neighbor’s curb.  While it is not the perfect pallet for what I have planned, there were a few factors which made it perfect in my eye. Most importantly the fact that it was two houses away and free.

It is now a work in progress, hopefully to be completed by the end of this week as I already have plants to put in it.

With a warming of weather I realized it was getting close to being late for putting in a garden.  I was not wanting the look of concrete blocks, however the benefits – mobility, long life, no having to cut and drill, outweighed the negatives – not exactly the look I was heading towards.

After seeing a friend’s beds built with these even my husband mentioned I should try it.  Guess he was not bothered by the look. So I took the plunge and bought them one day.  I knew that if I only took the first step, the rest would fall into place quickly.  I already have the cardboard, from moving boxes, and experience of having done this before in Small Town.

The construction of this has progressed enough for plants to be added in today or tomorrow.  I will share more on it later.

While picking up blocks for the larger raised bed, I decided to adjust a design detail on the new smaller side bed.  The blocks along the fence had been more of the decorative type.  The problem with this was two-fold – they were too short and they were more expensive.  Why have nice looking blocks there when no one would see them?  Not only are the concrete blocks taller, but I can also plant inside the previously open squares.

I also added a painted pot from one of the kids.  The likelihood of a toad finding it to make a toad house is fairly small, but you never know.

Another aspect of gardening I have been researching is the addition of fruit plants and/or plants to create a living screen along our back fence.  After asking opinions of other local gardeners, browsing online garden supply stores, and reading up on our state’s extension website I thought I had it narrowed down to my final choices.

A trip to a local nursery with Jack one day showed me that I was not happy with the final choices.  Even more so, I did not want to pay a few hundred dollars for something I was not completely sold on.  Back to the drawing board I went.

One thing was for sure, I wanted a fig tree.  The other fruit trees are more prone to issues due to the humidity of our location.  Figs, however, do better and will give us about two crops a year.  I also hope to start new plants off this one using cuttings.  The gift that keeps on giving, I hope.

These past month has also found me working on other goals – saving money, establishing better homemaking routines, getting back into the flow of schooling, and decluttering.

On the saving money front, I chose a store where I do not regularly shop and worked on finding ways to save there.  It took a lot more time than I thought, but I am getting the hang of it.  Something I came to realize, though, was that my attitude was not in the right place while learning.  Instead of being in a place of thanks giving for the time and resources to learn, I began to have an attitude of lack. 

I began to feel as if I failed if I did not get this deal or that. To nip this lie in the bud, I stopped paying attention to the deals at this store for a couple weeks.  When a big sale came up I was able to take advantage to save a lot of money by stocking up on some essentials for our home, not worring about the other deals I missed.  When I had to thought of, “Maybe I should go check out the other store near us, they may have other inventory”, I gave myself a talking to and found a better use of my time to bless my family.

January tends to be the hard month school wise.  After the holidays it is hard to get the motivation back to get work done.  While January was unusual, it was March which really did us in.  For whatever reason, we just could not find our groove again.  April found us taking advantage of more out-of-home activities as we are getting to know particular local families who also are active in several of the groups we frequent.  A few other groups have also appeared on our radar…we really are blessed with the opportunities, ones we were wishing for in Small Town but could not find.  We are all appreciating the opportunities to make new friends.  Now the challenge is to find a balance between “learning” and “socializing”.  Good thing several of the groups fill both needs.

As for decluttering, there are still a few boxes of items to unpack from our move.  While I am not in a rush to unpack them without knowing where the items will go, I have been going through other things to clear out items we no longer need, want, or which are in a condition to warrant being thrown away.  I was able to pass along several bags of clothes to other families of boys, as well as contribute to the yard sale of a local youth group.

The common thread to these things is: routine.  Having a routine for school makes it more likely to get started.  Having  a routine to plan weekly meals makes it more likely to not rush at dinner time.  Having a routine for picking up the house makes it more likely I am not spending all my time picking up, but can actually focus on cleaning, fixing, or clearing out.

After trying a few different things I have found a few thing which have stuck.  Using those as framework for the rest of the system we are slowly expanding.  For me that currently looks something like this:

  • Laundry – Monday=mine and my husbands, Tuesday=George, Wednesday=Jack, Thursday=household and random other pieces
  • Meals – Sunday=spaghetti for lunch, leftovers for supper, Thursday=supper with small group, Friday=supper is pizza and movie, Saturday=lunch is meat, potatoes, and another vegetable with a nice dessert, supper is lighter such as sandwiches.  Nothing fancy, but it is a good framework.
  • A daily evening pickup of the house. Not perfect, but something is better than nothing.  This was happening right before bed, but then everyone was worked up. I changed it to happen right after supper and before a family activity which involves some sort of treat/dessert.  It worked much better last night.
  • Bedtime routines have simplified and been written out.  This was written down such that “Boy A” does X then Y, while “Boy B” does Y then X.  Seems clarifying that they shouldn’t be in the bathroom at the same time was needed to help reduce the amount of rough housing and to decrease the time it took to brush teeth.
  • The robo vaccum is run twice a week, at least – on Sunday while we are at church, and Wednesday during the day.  Other times as needed, but at least I know the floor will be picked up and swept twice a week. Now for mopping…

There is a lot going on over here, a lot of new or different things.  However, I am beginning to feel a better balance about things…all in time for summer break to be looming on the horizon, of course.

My overall goal for the garden this year is to work on getting big things established, to keep the longer distant time-wise goals in mind.  With an idea of where I want to end up, each step of the way is in that direction, even if it seems like I am skipping here and there around the place.

How has the spring been finding you?  What is one of your goals for the year and what have you done to work toward achieving it?

Apr 032018
 

I was provided a copy of this book by Moody Publishers for review.  All opinions are honest and my own.  The post contains affiliate links.  If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small percent at no additional cost to you.

Ordinary.

That is a very good description of how I have been feeling as of late. While I have been getting better at keeping a routine, I think we all know that the world will not end if I happen to do my kids’ laundry on Monday rather than mine and my husband’s.

There really is nothing earth shattering about teaching roman numerals to one kid, while reviewing for the umpteenth time multiplication facts with another.  These will not help save a kid from hunger tonight.

Dishes done before going to bed?  Fabulous…there are still people without jobs.

Fixed a broken dresser?  Helpful, yes.  Does that help someone who feels lost and depressed?  No.

It is very easy to go through the day’s activities, day after day after day after … one begins to feel like a gerbil on a wheel going nowhere very quickly.  Not only am I going nowhere, but do I really have anything to offer others?

In a world obsessed with superheroes and celebrities, Dan Stanford reveals how our extraordinary God works through ordinary people to accomplish the incredible.

Dan Stanford gets straight to the point in the introduction of his newly released book, Losing the Cape: The Power of Ordinary in a World of Superheroes  – “…as bad as the world is right now, we don’t need a superhero to come save the day.”  Wait, what?  Then why am I reading this book?  Thankfully, he continues, “…we need ordinary people like you and me to join God and go change the world right where we are.”

In the next 21 chapters Stanford goes on to give multiple example of people, in the Bible and the world today, who have accomplished great things, even when they were obviously lacking.  He also encourages us to focus on our sphere of influence, use what we have on hand, rely upon God and not our works, and to stop expecting works of great importance to look big and earth shattering – sometimes the biggest thing to someone may come in the form of a small, seemingly insignificant gesture.  To the person, however, it means the world.

While there are many biblical references, Losing the Cape: The Power of Ordinary in a World of Superheroes is a fairly casual, easy read.  It was not until a few chapters in that I began to get into the book.  That was the point where the author shared more of his background, what led him to where he is today, and more of how this has played out in his life.  I believe the story could have done with a bit fewer superhero analogies at the beginning.

In the middle section, I found myself underlining a fair amount and adding notes in the margins.  This was not due to finding formerly unknown concepts.  Instead, it was to help me get further into the content of the book.  It really did help encourage me to begin applying to concepts internally rather than superficially agreeing with them.

Several various parts are words of encouragement I could have used during particularly rough patches in my past.  Hearing someone say those things to me at those moments would have gone a long way towards reenergizing me to keeping going.

The ending section was a deeper conclusion, though it felt a bit rushed.  This part could have been expanded upon more and would have helped add to the application and encouragement in the reader’s life.  As it is, I believe taking time to think over what is read, rather than rushing through this last bit, will help the reader see more of how this can apply to their lives.

Changing the world doesn’t start with a cape and a catch phrase. Changing the world starts by allowing God to invade your world.

Following the last chapter are two additional sections – notes, arranged by chapters, and discussion questions.  Again, nothing supper long or heavy, but a chance to slow down and contemplate how what you have read may apply to your life and current circumstances.

While a lot of the book is talking about us as people, what we can do, how the world around us can benefit from what we have to offer, that is not the real focus and point.  In Chapter 19 Stanford makes a factual statement – our input was not needed when the world was created; people were being fed, clothed, and housed before we came along and will continue to be after we die; in a few generations we will most likely be forgotten.  Doesn’t sound too uplifting, does it?

Knowing all that, we were still uniquely created, born in a specific place at a specific time for a purpose.  Yes, it could all have been accomplished without us, but He chose to use us, to give us a purpose. How awesome is that!

Mar 162018
 

This post contains affiliate links.

January has a reputation for being a recovery month.  Coming off several large holidays, one may find they are feeling a bit down, are having a rough time with cabin fever due to colder weather, or perhaps feeling overwhelmed by their goals for the upcoming year.  While January was, personally, an odd month, I did not find myself struggling through it.

My slump came during the last half of February and the beginning of March.

I suddenly felt like I was spinning my wheels in a spot of slick mud, not gaining ground yet exerting a lot of energy.  My actions were taking me this way and that without a clear direction.  Looking back I realized that I was heading in a direction, that it took working on a bit of this and that and trying different things to find the firmer ground.  Or so I hope.

My main focus so far this year has been on homemaking, personally following routines and habits to help me run our home better and feel a certain way.  While I want to have the kitchen picked up before bed, that does not mean I need to spend all my waking hours at the sink waiting for a dirty dish to appear.  Instead, I also can work on something else.  Some of the areas I have been tackling are:

  • finding a new rhythm for grocery shopping
  • trying a few new ways of saving money, and joining online groups to help in learning
  • sticking to a laundry routine
  • keeping the house picked up, or picking it up once at minimum
  • focusing on one main garden activity each month (compost tumbler, rain barrel, new flower bed)
  • finding a bedtime routine which works for everyone, and writing it down to post on the wall
  • participating  in one or two home school playgroups each week
  • offering to help others, in general being a friend who actually thinks about others and acts on it
  • having music playing throughout the day
  • clearing out unneeded items – donate to others, give away, recycle, reuse, or throw away
  • compare insurance quotes before renewing
  • encouraging kids to take along a book, instead of an electronic, when running quick-ish errands
  • make small changes in how I approach and plan our school week/month
  • begin to think about school over the summer, implement some of the routines now
  • send the kids outside to play, “and don’t come in till supper”

A lot of small things, which add up to a larger, hopefully positive, change in the feel of our home.  It is not perfect, far from it.  What it is is better.  I may spin my wheels more than I like, but I am heading in the right direction.

 My mother-in-law was also able to come for a week long visit.  Jack enjoyed having her here all day. She would chat online with her sisters in the morning, Jack sitting right beside her doing whatever it is Jack could get away with doing because “Grandma is here and we should not have school”.  Let’s just say that picking up his room was not high on his list of priorities.

We also took a few days to get away to a city we had never visited before.  While there was nothing wrong with the trip or the location, the timing was not the best.  It took us all a few days to identify what we had all been feeling, we just wanted to be home.  The last day we cut short possible plans and headed home, all sleeping better that night.

The next few weeks might see my husband traveling some.  Or perhaps not.  It is all up in the air.

What I have decided to do is set a goal for myself and tell you all what I plan to accomplish.  When I did this a few years ago I was amazed at how much I was able to accomplish.  Not only then, but in the time following.  Momentum begets momentum.  I have been lacking momentum as of late and am starting to feel like I will never get unstuck from where I am.

While I am not ready to share it all right now, it will be coming soon.  As in the next week or two soon.  If I delay too long I wouldn’t be surprised if a few seasons pass before I gain motivation again.  🙂

Something I have been working on a bit each day, which has paid for my compost tumbler and rain barrel, is Swagbucks.  This is another area I have been trying out a few new things, as well as joining an online group in hopes of increased learning and earning.  So far it has worked well, though I did ease up a bit this past week as my focus needed to be elsewhere during those early morning hours.

Every little bit helps

Want some extra boost for your budget this month?

If you haven’t tried Swagbucks before, you can get a bonus $3 for signing up as my referral in March. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, or PayPal cash.

When you sign up through me, you can earn an additional $3 bonus! Here’s how:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before 4/1/18. You’ll get a $3 (300 SB) bonus for it!

3. If you want even more bonuses, you’ll get a $10 (1000 SB rebate) bonus for making your first shop purchase! That’s in addition to the SB you earn for every dollar you spend.

My earnings for this month are a bit shy of 1,200 points called SB.  That is equivalent to $12.  This time around I am working toward reducing the cost of building a flower bed and purchasing seeds.  While my costs may not be covered completely, every little bit helps.

The same goes for compost – “every little bit helps.”  This is how I was able to turn shredded documents, coffee ground, kitchen scraps, and other compostable items into something that resembled black gold.  No one part was large, often I doubted if I was even making a difference.  As I added the not yet fully composted mix on top of cardboard for a new flower bed, I no longer had my doubts – I was thrilled with “free” organic matter to utilize.

What are you working toward currently?  Do you have a plan to accomplish it?  A timeline?

Feb 222018
 

I was compensated for this post. This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

When I first heard that Easter was on April 1st, I thought for sure someone was trying to pull an early April Fool’s joke.  Turns out I was wrong and they were right – Easter is on April 1st this year!

As if to continue the odd joke, it is the middle of February and our weather currently feels like spring.  Never before have I felt so far behind so early.  Goodness Golly, it is the middle of February!  While it is a warmer winter/spring than what is normal, and we may still get a freeze, it is a good reminder that Spring is on our doorstep.

I have been doing better at getting ahead of things this year.  While the pre-planning for Valentines Day this year did not happen as I had hoped it would, I did hit the after-holiday sales and am set for next year’s gifts, treat bags, and cards all at 50-75% off!!!

To keep the ball rolling, I decided to tackle a few other ideas and get a step up on Easter decorating.  We are not huge Easter Bunny fans, so no Easter Egg Trees like I had growing up.  Instead our decorations will focus on the Christian aspect of the Easter celebration – Jesus’ crucifixion (Good Friday) and resurrection  from the tomb (Easter).

The decorations this year will fulfill two roles – a garden craft and an update of a front door wreath that really should have been tackled a few years back. Looking to keep our budget small and incorporate several items we already had, I made my plans then loaded up the kids and headed to the local Dollar Tree.

The Front Door Wreath

When we were moving a year ago, there were items I had to decide whether to take or pass along.  This wreath was one items that I hemmed and hawed about for a few minutes.  It was an item I had picked up second hand years ago. By this point in its life, the accessories has seen better days – they were looking faded, dusty, and fairly droopy.  However, the wreath itself was in good shape, a nice big twig wreath.  So, it made the move with the intent to update it once we were here.

When I decided to add a seasonally themed wreath to the door, this sorely outdated wreath came to mind, “If I take off the current accessories and add new ones, the whole wreath will look brand new.”  That is just what I did.

After a quick stop at the Dollar Tree, I found a sign to use.  It was large enough not to get lost from a distance and simple enough to read as one goes my the house.  I then chose flowers along a complimentary color scheme.  Too many colors would have made it look busy and lacking.

Then the hard messy part began – clearing off all the old accessories (ivy, fake flowers, ribbons, etc.).

The ribbons were fairly easy to remove, as they were stuck in between the sticks of the wreath with short metal spikes.  The greenery, however, was harder.  The flowers were hot glued on and the ivy was tied on with small bits of wire.  A little muscle and an old pair of scissors made short work of getting down to the base.

I could now see what I had to work with, thankful I did not throw this out last year.

To make the most of the two flower bunches I had, I removed each flower stem from the group.  There is wire in the middle of each plastic stem, though not too thick so a pair of scissors and slow firm clips easily separated them.  Now I could mix them up and weave them in place as I wished.

I tried a few ways of arranging the flowers before choosing one method.  A ribbon was even added at one point, so see if something further was needed.  By taking pictures, I was easily able to compare various looks and see the overall effect from further away. (These photos were taken with utility in mind, not aesthetics for posting online.)

After looking, and asking opinions, I decided to nix the ribbon and keep it simple.  If the ribbon had been wire trimmed then perhaps it would have worked.  As it was, this was a bit of very floppy ribbon from my craft supplies and was not laying right.

I think the over all reinvention of this wreath was a success.  I love how it goes with the color of my door and has a fresh clean look to it.  All for only $3! Easter At Dollar Tree – Everything Is Just $1

note: I am aware it is hanging crooked and it is driving me crazy.  I tried to fix it at that time, but had to head inside to make supper.  I did straighten it some this morning, but need to go back out and do a better job of getting it all hanging correctly.  Right now I am happy to have it hanging and not still sitting in the attic and on my to-do list.

Resurrection Garden

While at the Dollar Tree getting supplies for the wreath above, I also picked up a few supplies I needed to finish making a resurrection garden.  This is an idea I saw online and thought would be a great reminder to have at home, to bring our thinking back to what we are celebrating. Contrary to what the kids may think, the main focus of Easter (for us) is not eating chocolate Easter bunnies and finding brightly colored eggs around the yard.  Sorry, kids.

I already had an extra pot, but needed to pick up: soil, a small clay pot, stones, and grass seed.  3 of those 4 things were to be found at the Dollar Tree.  A few dollars more were spent on a small bag of seed from a big box store nearby.

 

The supplies for this project included:

*I have yet to acquire these items, but am on the look out for them.

The time to put this together was less than 5 minutes, though it will take several days for the grass to sprout and begin growing.

First, due to the depth of my pot, I added soil to the bottom.  Not wanting to have to cut a pot in half, as I had seen other tutorials do, I turned the pot on its side and partially buried it in the soil.

I then covered the back of the clay pot and the back half of the larger pot with extra soil, making a mound.

The smaller clay pot is set off-center, allowing me to make a trail out of the pebbles leading up the mound. Once I find some small sticks I will add 3 crosses to the top of the ‘hill’.

Lastly, I sprinkled grass seed on the soil and moistened it with a spray bottle.  Each day I will moisten it again and should see grass appearing in about a week’s time.

This will make a great visual aid in telling the Easter story, as well as a reminder of why we are celebrating the season.

There you have it, two fairly quick, budget-friendly Easter decorations for your garden.  This last one would be especially great to bring some green to your home if you are in the midst of a dreary winter and are antsy for something to grow.

What are some of the ways you are decorating this year?  Share in the comments below, I would love to hear about or see what you have been working on.

 

Feb 102018
 

This post contains affiliate links.

January seems to have the reputation for being the slower month.  Coming off almost two months full of celebrating holidays, I can see why.  However, that was not the case for me this year.  Instead, January ended up being a fairly physically restful, emotionally eventful, finding our groove month.

February…I can not say the same for so far.  Yes it has only been 10 days, but that is 1/3 of the month already!  That 1/3 has included getting sick, rain, rain, and rain.  Come on!  Rain is grey and makes mud.  At least snow is white and reflects the light to make it seem bright. Alas, rain it is.  A great reminder for why I am saving my earning from Swagbucks to use towards purchasing our first rain barrel.  Our back yard is muddy. Sticky, clay muddy mud which stains.  Yuck times 10.

I actually have enough points on Swagbucks earned, as well as other bits of earnings added to PayPal, to purchase a rain barrel.  After reading reviews, I decided to buy a larger one to accommodate what I know is a large volume of storm runoff from the roof.  This means I have to earn a bit more before purchasing the size and style I want.  I think it will pay off in savings of frustration by avoiding a smaller barrel which would fill too quickly.

Today I went to a local nursery to hear a talk about growing fruit.  The attendance was great, the setting had plenty of room, and the speakers were knowledgeable workers who had been doing this for a number of year.  The one down side?  The rain. Yes, rain. Again.  The class was inside a greenhouse, which was a very appropriate and accommodating setting.  However, greenhouses are built to grow plants, not be acoustically quiet.  The roof acted like a hug drum, make it very difficult to hear the speaker.  As long as I could see the lips of the speaker I was fine.  However, the talked ended about 40 minutes early and turned into a Q&A session around a table, looking at various products, and handouts.

In the end, I am glad I went.  They are holding future talks which I plan on attending.  Hopefully the rain will stay away.

One of the points I took away, and which I fully agree with, is to choose one or two new things a year.  Learn all you can about them, then try/grow/implement it.  Do not say, “I want to have bees”, go buy them, then get a book from the library or contact the local honey club to learn what you need to do.  By that point it is too late.  You will be spending the rest of the season playing catch up, or be the owner of dead bees.  The same can be said for growing a new vegetable, a fruit tree, trying a new gardening method, trying to attract butterflies…you get the point.  Take the time to read and do research, it will pay off leaps and bounds.

Oh, and take time to research prices as well.  That rain barrel I said I needed to save more for…seems it is back in stock in the color that is at a lower price.  While looking for the picture above, I saw a different store had restocked it.  Another lesson, if you are not set on color or store, make sure you look at all the options.  I will save $10-$20 by not being particular about the color, and another $6 by using discounted gift cards redeemed for a different store.  At this lower price, I will be able to purchase this item sooner than I anticipated.

 

Why go through the ‘trouble’ of a rain barrel?  This is where Grow Your Cents comes in to play.  By spending some upfront costs or time on a container to catch free water, I will not need to pay the local utility for the same amount of water to use in the yard or garden.  Last year we did not have a lot of watering needs, though I see that increasing in years ahead.  Why not collect the water that would otherwise run to the street and down the storm drain?  Or, in my parents case, which would run down the driveway and into the creek?

With increase non-porous surfaces, storm water runoff issues are increasing.  Whether it be pollution, swollen ditches and streams, or lack of ability to be reabsorbed into the soil, these issues are not going away.  Not only will we save on water usage, but will also be able to slow down the water and allow more of it to be added back into the local soils rather the the local storm drain.
Want an extra boost to your budget in February??

If you haven’t tried Swagbucks before, you can get a bonus $3 for signing up as my referral this month. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, or PayPal cash.

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a $3 bonus! Here’s how:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before 3/1/18. You’ll get a $3 (300 SB) bonus for it!

3. If you want even more bonuses, you’ll get a $10 (1000 SB rebate) bonus for making your first shop purchase! That’s in addition to the SB you earn for every dollar you spend.

That’s it. It’s super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. If you are not sure, reread the post above. 😉

 

Tip to earn more: One thing I have been doing since the beginning of the year, is participating in a Facebook group for other people using Swagbucks.  This has saved me time on finding deals, figuring out which things work, being alerted to how to make opportunities work better for me, and see what is not working.  This has resulted in higher earnings for me, as well as trying different activities I have otherwise avoided.  This is something to keep in mind if you have tried this before, but found it too hard or confusing.  Or perhaps you want to try it, but are overwhelmed with the options of ways to earn.

Remember, you will not get rich from this, but you can earn enough for a rain barrel…or two.

 

Jan 242018
 

This post contains affiliate links.

What an interesting month this has been.  Part of me is shocked, when looking at the calendar, to find next week will bring about a new month.  Where did the time go?  It feels as if nothing has happened, while also a lot has happened.

This past week found me finally at a place I thought I would be a few weeks ago – in a routine which I hoped would bring some sameness to our days and weeks, allowing for a balance in various areas of life.  Why didn’t it happen sooner?  Well, apparently when you live in a place with no public snow removal equipment (a.k.a. snow plows and salt trucks) even an inch or so of snow can throw life for everyone out of kilter.  Add to that snow which melts then freezes again, then melts and freezes again…especially on roads which are not flat…well, let’s just say life shut down for a few days. (FYI: the picture above was from when we lived in Small Town. I am pretty sure people here would think the world was ending if they woke up to this bundle of fun white stuff.)

Not only were things like grocery shopping and extracurricular events affected, but also “snow days” from public school and work. With extra people in the house, it was very difficult to convince Jack our home school did not have a snow day.  We had taken enough days off due to moving, sicknesses, and doctor’s appointments this year that we needed to keep going if I wanted to stay on track at all.

It was also hard to overcome the feeling of still being on vacation and winter break.  It didn’t help that we were coming off of three weeks of a break, visiting friends and family, only to have a federal holiday and then three or four “snow days”.

Not all has been disruptive, several good things have also taken place, namely, my husband began a job with a new company.  We knew this was coming, obviously, though it meant again a subtle change in routine of the household, in good ways thankfully.  It was one of those blessings which came from a less than desirable experience.  While all is not roses and rainbows, things are going well and we keep being reminded of the good of this situation.

Blog wise, I am thrilled to have a computer to use again.  For the past month plus, I have had to type up posts and edit pictures on my phone.  In December our desktop made its last final funny noise and refused to start up again.  Purchasing a new computer at that time was not in the plan, so we didn’t.  Instead, we waited to see what it was that we really wanted or needed, checked out several options, and finally decided on something once we had returned in January. Knowing it was an intentional decision to wait, I chose not to complain about the situation or whine about it, choosing instead to make the most of my new reality.  This led to me finding a few new short cuts on my phone to make the process easier.  However, let me just say, it is much easier to type out posts on a keyboard rather than with one finger on a small phone screen and I am  thrilled to be able to create a post without causing pain in my hand from finger strain. 🙂

We are also experiencing an increased involvement with our church, as well as looking at becoming involved in another (non-church) ministry.  These are both things which would have been difficult to do while living in Small Town.  Again, another reminder of how this move was beneficial, even with all the bumps along the way.

Through it all, I am sticking with the “keep it simple” motto.  None of the aforementioned events were things we added in addition to a full schedule.  I have enjoyed not feeling “busy” and plan to work at keeping it that way.  It is time we started adding things back into our lives, especially those which encourage us to grow and  bless others.  This is what I see this upcoming year holding – finding more of what we would like to give our time and energy to, while keeping things family focused.

We’ll see how it turns out. 🙂

Another thing I am so glad we agreed to years ago, was setting a budget for Christmas spending.  Over the years it has taken on different looks – some times it is using only the rewards from our credit card to purchase gifts, other times it meant using gift cards and cash earned through Swagbucks, while other times it involved homemade items, using store reward points or credits, or even choosing to gift experiences or family gifts rather than individual presents.  No matter the form, the one thing which remained consistent was that we do not go into debt to give gifts.

The best way I have found to do this is to plan ahead.  Already I have several gifts purchased or started for this upcoming Christmas season.  As well, I was able to purchase items for birthdays and other occasions during after Christmas sales.  While this added extra spending to our budget at the end of the year, when I would rather have been saving it, I knew what my spending limit was, did not go outside it, and kept to my list.  I also knew I would be doing this and planned (ahead) accordingly.

By planning ahead I not only save about 50%, spread the spending out over 12 months instead of 1, and enable me to relax during the end of the year months, but I also do not spend the first 6 months of the new year paying off last year’s purchases.

If you find yourself in the other situation, paying off for months what you spent previously, I would greatly encourage you to spend some time today or this week looking at how you can change your spending this year.  You can still give great gifts without overspending.

My gardening goal for this year is to set a foundation for future gardening years.  While I plan on having some produce this year, my larger focus is on getting a framework in place.  The first step in doing so was to begin composting.  I was able to redeem Swagbuck points, called SB, in order to purchase a compost tumbler online.  Not only did I pay no money out of pocket and was able to have it shipped to my house, but I also earned SB back on the purchase by clicking through Swagbuck’s website to make the purchase.

Up next is a rain barrel, to help dry out a certain part of our yard which remained wet all of last year.  So far I am half way to my earning goal for this particular item, using Swagbucks as well as another source or two of side income.

After a rain barrel, fruit trees and vines will be on the list.  These will need to be planted in the Spring, so I will watch for various deals from garden companies, as well as calling local green houses.

Once these four parts of the garden are started I hope to begin working on some of the smaller aspects.  Who knows, bees might even make an appearance this year. Though if that were to happen it would need to happen quickly as March seems to be the time to get new hives started in this area.


Looking to begin shopping for the next holiday season or to start your Spring shopping? The online rewards site Swagbucks has a smart and fun way for you to earn and save when you spend. Swagbucks helps supplement the cost of gardening and other household purchases.  While the main way I earn SB is by watching online videos (which I have running as I sit and type up this post) and taking surveys, I also do earn some SB via online shopping. So far this year I have earned 3,262 SB back, either from online shopping or rebates from in-store shopping.  Not bad for the few extra seconds it takes to click through Swagbuck’s website!

Swagbucks is hosting another round of Shopping Swago! What is SWAGO you ask? It’s a bingo-inspired promotion run by Swagbucks, a website that rewards you with points (called SB) for completing everyday online activities. You can redeem those SB for free gift cards. If you’ve never used Swagbucks, participating in SWAGO is a great introduction to the site and an easy way to earn a good amount of points quickly.

Click here to get started!

Here’s what you need to know to get your 300 SB Bonus (and don’t worry, you don’t have to make a purchase to complete a pattern):

  • Go to the Swag page and make sure you hit “Join” otherwise you won’t get credit for completing the action items. Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete.
  • Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change color signifying the action item is complete.
  • You have a limited amount of time to mark off as many squares as possible so use your time wisely.
  • Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value – up to 300 SB – enough for your first $3 gift card.
  • Once you’ve achieved a pattern the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely.
  • The game ends Friday, January 26th at 12pm PDT/3pm EDT. So make sure to hit “Submit” on the pattern you wish to submit. If you don’t hit “Submit” before the game ends you won’t receive your SB bonus.Also, if you sign up through me this month, you’ll get a $10 rebate when you make your first purchase via Swagbucks Shopping! You can activate it in the “Swag Ups” area of “My Account”
Jan 142018
 

Beans.

According to Answers.com:

There is no exact number, but the world gene banks set the count at about 40,000 different types of beans,

though only a very small number of these bean types are mass-produced for common consumption.

These little orbs of understatedness are great sources of fiber and protein.  They are easy to grow, can be dried and stored, and are light to transport.  They can be cooked, baked, roasted, or eaten raw.

They are also mushy. And have funny smells.  Did I mention they are mushy?

This past fall we had significant decrease in our income, with an unknown end in sight.  Therefore, even that extra $.10 at the store felt like $1,000.  The extra trip across town caused pain as I thought about the cost of gas to get us there, all while hoping no one would hit us.

Among other things I did to give some immediate relief was to take up couponing again.  I had never fully stopped, but had relaxed on it a bit.  Now I pulled out all the habits I used to do, while learning new ones.  New rebate apps were installed on my phone and new websites found which helped me find deals at my local stores.

We were very blessed that first month or two with a lot of “free after rebate” or “free with a coupon” items.  Between those items and our pantry we were doing okay in the food budget arena.  There was no steak on the menu, though ribs were in the freezer.

Then IT happened.  I saw a deal at a local grocery for another free item!  I quickly checked it out only to my horror to find myself torn.

“But…but…I don’t like those!” said my selfish side.

“They are good for you.  The kids don’t know you don’t like them. Mom would get quite the laugh.  And they are FREE!” said my more rational side.

“But I don’t like them!” I repeated.

Two nights later we were having (free) beans and cornbread for supper.  I was pleasantly surprised that the beans were actually good.  Though you would have heard this conversation at the dinner table:

“Come on, boys, eat up.  Your supper is better warm than cold.” (trust me I know, I wanted to add.)

“But…Mom, I don’t like these.” Boy 1 said.

“These are good for you.  If you eat them with the cornbread you can’t even taste them.”

“But, Mom.  I don’t like them.”

“Sorry, Sweetie.  This is what is for supper.  If you want dessert you need to eat what is in your bowl.” (Did I really just say that about beans????  Me!?!?!)

There was a lot of thought taking place in their brains as to whether it was worth it to eat the beans or not.  Eventually all kids ate their supper and earned dessert (i.e. choice of leftover Halloween candy).

Frugality won out over great dislike in this case.  While I did not run out immediately to buy a year’s supply of this item, I did realize that even I survived eating something I did not think I would like.  Our bank account thanked me that week.

We are now at a place where our income is back up.  However, at that time, we did not know if it would for 6 month, a year, or longer.  We gave great thanks for our safety net, for skills we have learned over the years, for a plan we formulated early in our marriage if such a thing ever happened, and for all the blessings we saw happen after this time.

And yes, I even gave thanks for the beans.