Friday, November 4, 2011

Worm - the first digital world war-

  A month ago I did something I’ve never done before. I heard a radio interview of an author, and the next day looked up and ordered the book. I just finished it last night, and   I am still fascinated by the information I read.
                                   WORM The first digital World War by Mark Bowden 
Is a fascinating, and somewhat terrifying look at the Conficker worm, a botnet that created in 2008. It was the quickest spreading, (1.5 million computers in the first month- to over 6 million) and most highly sophisticated piece of malware ever seen. No one knew where it came from,  what its destructive goal was, or how to stop it.
  For me, the first chapter was a little heavy, mostly because I quickly came to realize just how very vague my concept of the internet was. Understanding  Conficker’s significance hinges on understanding how the internet really works, and all the areas of life it controls.
  Bowden actually addressed this issue…
 “The glaze is familiar to every geek ever called upon to repair a malfunctioning machine – Look dude, spare me the details, just fix it!!-  Most people, even well-educated people with formidable language skills, folks with more than a passing knowledge of word processing software and spreadsheets and dynamic graphical displays, people who spend hours every day with their fingertips on keyboards, whose livelihoods increasingly depend on fluency with a variety of software, remain utterly clueless about how any of it works. The innards of mainframes and operating systems and networks, are considered not just unfathomable, but somehow unknowable , or not even worth knowing , in the way that many people are content to regard electricity as voodoo. The technical side of the modern world took a sharp turn with the discovery of electricity, and then accelerated off the ramp with electromagnetism into the Realm of the Hopelessly Obtuse, so that everyday life has come to coexist in strict parallel with a mysterious techno dimension. Computer technology rubs shoulders with us every day, as real as can be, even vital, only…also…..not real. Virtual. Transmitting signals through thin air. Grounded in machines with no visibly moving parts. This techno dimension is alive with, what exactly? Well ordered trains of electrons? Binary charges?”
                                               A few thoughts after reading this book?
I have heard the internet referred to as the last frontier, and the last place of true freedom, but had never thought of the security issues that arise with a worldwide system in place handling our private financial lives,(even if you don’t bank online, your bank probally does!)all large businesses and corporations, and entire governments, with absolutely no governing, regulatory, or even united observing body.(At least none that is known, or acknowledged)   While I agree with this as freedom in the truest sense, - it does put huge responsibility on us as individuals to protect ourselves, and our online ‘lives’.  Great in theory, but laughably  impossible to do in any serious way for those who don’t truly know how their own computers really truely work, let alone the world wide web, which, is most online users.
     While Bowden did not delve into any kind of theorizing, or conspiracies about the still unknown factors/entities  in this event, but solely presents the facts as they stand - I think it is easy to draw conclusions for yourself about the most likely suspects. Sometimes silence is more telling than words.
   For the most part, the book kept pace, and was an absolutely fascinating look at a part of our lives to which I had previously given little to no thought. Bowden did a fantastic job of trying to make each part of a very technical subject easier to understand and relatable. 
     The hardest part of the book to grasp, however, wasn’t the technical information, but the fact that it wasn’t a sci-fi work of fiction, but very, very real. If you want to gain a better understanding of the most powerful part of our modern world you’ll never see, - this book is for you.
(Below is a link to the radio interview I heard on NPR.)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Live Life Intentionally!!

“I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle, and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men.”   Lao Tzu, 600-531 BC
    Much of life is out of our control. But we can still live an intentional life with focus and purpose.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Food as Medicine? How do you maintain your health?

  Have you ever wondered how you can increase your intake of a vitamin or mineral in it's most natural form, - ( an easy to digest food vs. highly processed vitamin?) but are not sure how?
   Or have you ever wished that herbs and vegetables came with an easy to read 'nutritional information' list like do most processed foods?  Wish no more!!

                                     Nutritional Herbology : A Reference Guide to Herbs

A book I purchased last year I have really been enjoying lately is Nutritional Herbology by Mark Pederson.
Loads of herbs, (and what are listed as 'minor herbs', which includes apples, cabbage, wheat germ, etc.) have their own chart, listing calories, vitamins, and minerals along with suggested benefits and uses. There is even a section that analizes herb combinations.

   Here is an excerpt from the introduction of the book.

 'Since herbology deals with using plants as medicines, it might seem strage that the title of this book is  Nutritional Herbology.  Are not medicines and nutrients two separate and distinct things?  In western society, we do think of medicines and foods differently.  After all, there is a big difference between a bottle of aspirin we buy for our headache, and the carrots we put on our dinner table.

  But what about something like garlic? You can buy garlic in the produce section of the market right next to the onions and celery. Studies have shown that garlic lowers blood cholesterol overls, reduces blood pressure and kills bacteria. These are medicinal quatlities. Is garlic a medicine or food?'

    I love the idea of living a 'whole' life. One that understands the effects our choices in every area; physical, spiritual, and mental have on us. I love the idea of learning so that I can make wise, informed choices in life.

   For example, since I do not digest milk well, and have a daughter with milk allergies, - I am always trying to find other high calcium foods to work into our diet. To my surprise, I discovered in this book that cabbage is extreemely high, with 2,910 mg per 100gm. (on a zero moisture basis)
Stinging Nettle, which is in my Raspberry Leaf Tea mix from Bulk Herb Store, is almost as high at 2900 mg. 

     Though I don't really care for raw cabbage, such as in coleslaw, I do love it cooked down with onions. My family loves this with mashed potatoes and grilled Kolbasa sausage. Not only is this a tastey, low calorie side dish, I now know it is a fantastic way to work more calcium rich foods into our diet. I also love the fact that God gave a common 'poor man's food' that has been a staple in many countries in times of poverty such an important benefit.

  This book has been a great resource and I would highly recomend it.

My personal beliefe is that no-one cares about your health more than you, and the better educated you are, and the harder you work toward a healthy, balanced life, the more you and your family will benefit.
   However I do have one caution. - Since I do believe in the power of herbs, I do believe they require caution in use. If they have strong qualities that can benefit us, they can also hurt us if used improperly or without proper understanding not only of their specific qualities but used in combination with other herbs.

This being said, - I also believe there are many 'dangerous' foods (GMO, highly processed, etc.) and other toxic cleaners etc. that we don't even consider as harmful since they are such an accepted part of our American life.

This is an article that is full of quotes of research and studies looking at the effects of soda (carbonated soft drinks) on us. (A huge problem for absorbing and retaining calcium. - Meaning not only should I add calcium high foods, but eliminate the foods that reduce the calcium I do have.- Once again, food as 'medicine'!? :)

This article is about 5 calcium stealers you should know about. - Especially key for anyone with thyroid trouble. (a hereditary problem in my family)

Is there something you wish you want to improve in your diet? Do you have an area you want to learn more about?

Celebrating Our Country's Birthday!!

Due to problems with blogger, I was not able to post this earlier!

I wanted to share what we did for the 4th of July, - or better yet, Independence Day.
 When is the last time you read the Declaration of Independence?  I was amazed how much of it I had forgotten since my school days.
        In an era of protests and rebellions,  when countries around the world are in chaos with violence and unrest (2011 is being called by many in the media the year of the 'Arab spring') I think it is crucial our children understand exactly HOW our forefathers came to the decision, and how they choose to execute separation from England.   It is essential to understand how their respect of authority, moral honor, and firm belief in God and his ways was the foundation of our nation.

 For a child friendly version that uses everyday English that might be a good place to start -click here.

   For a complete copy of the original, click here.

After we reading this, we talked about the flag, - why the colors and patterns were chosen.

We then listened to the national anthem with two verses, sung by a men's choir - or what sounds like a group of soldiers! 
  As I talked to Justice about the words and what they meant, and listened, I got goosebumps.

 These things were just a start. My goals are to really create a focused and informative time every year at July 4th. I want my son to know exactly WHY we celebrate with fireworks,
"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."   (John Adams )
                                                                       and what a blessed country it is that we call home.
Do you have a 4th of July tradition you want to share? What do you do to encourage patriotism in your children??

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Just Stuff...

   The past couple months have been difficult, as my grandma, - (my last living grandparent) died of cancer. It has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride of emotions.
Grateful for an end to her suffering, - devastated to realize she’s really gone. –
Grateful that I’ll get to see her again in heaven, heartbroken I’ll not see her here again.
Grateful for so many good memories I have,- sad that her harsh words and stubborn  attitude means that some in my family don’t have the good memories I do.
Grateful that my son knew and loved her, - sad my daughter never will.
     One of the biggest practical challenges for my parents has just been going through her house, the place she and grandpa built over 30 years ago, and had filled – or packed to an amazing degree. She had saved things from her mother’s house, her grandparents, - her first marriage, her second marriage, - her second husband’s first marriage (he a widower, she a divorcee then widow) – there were 5 households of family heirlooms, - sentimental items, and just plain stuff in a small ranch house with a basement full!!!!
      Stuff is just stuff, right?  I was raised very much to value people over things.  As a wife and Mom, it is somewhat irritating to know  I spend much of my day cleaning, picking up, organizing and re-arranging, loosing, finding, packing, carrying into and out of places, buying, throwing away, washing, looking for, sorting  and putting away STUFF. -  The physical and tangible world in which we live. While all of us do need stuff to live, - some people’s stuff is their life.  In many ways  my grandma’s world revolved around her stuff.
     It was a running joke in my family that the entire town could eat for months from her ever growing hoard of food in the basement. – If she ran out of freezer room for things she saw ‘on sale’ – she just bought another freezer. I think the oldest canned item my parents found was from 1970-something! J
       I went up a few times to try and help sort and go through things in her house.- A job that made me laugh, and cry, - and realize in terror that I might have inherited her sentimental and hoarding genes to a greater degree than I thought! It seemed so ridiculous at times-  how could an ugly set of dishes be hard to throw away?
      As grandma would have said with a smirk ‘Well, honey, - you got it honest.” (meaning in the genes)
Even though I tried to be selective in what I choose to take, once we got home after the last weekend there, - I felt a bit overwhelmed.
– What was I doing with all this stuff? I was already feeling that I needed to de-clutter more, - and some of it was almost laughable. -  A chintzy tiny mirror with a catchy saying on it, which I would never in a million years want- except that it had sat on the window sill above her sink for as long as I could remember. The sink where I helped wash dishes after every holiday meal,  every weekend visit – or just  filled a glass of water if I just stopped by…. Just seeing put me back in her house- with her.
   When we were going through her house, I saw THE wooden truck, about the size of a Kleenex box that had been there as long as I could remember.
For many years it was the one and only token toy she kept in the house for any grandchildren who came to visit.  (Since at one point she and Mom had gotten into arguments about a few objectionable toys she had tried to encourage, she decided she just wouldn’t have any. )
  I could remember pushing it around her living room as a child, - and when Justice was born, and we started staying with her whenever we visited Mom and Dad, as he grew older it was the first thing he would ask about. “Gigi, - can I get the truck?”  She would sit on the floor, and push it back and forth with him as we caught up visiting.
   So when I saw this truck in her house I assumed it would be a hot item. Surprisingly it wasn’t, - so I asked if I could take it home. When we did get home, as soon as Justice saw it he got very excited.
‘OH MOM!! THANKS for getting this!! I love this truck!- Can I go play with it?” And he proceeded to take it in the living room where he played with it for almost half an hour, - loading it with people, and animals, and making sound effects. At one point I came in the room and he said something quite profound, - that exactly described my own feelings as I unpacked boxes with dishes and knick-knacks.
   “Mom, - when I play with this truck, - it seems hard to believe that Gigi is dead. – It just seems like she’s at her house and I can just go and play truck with her. It just makes me feel like she’s alive .”
 I stared at him with teary eyes as he continued to load his truck with animals, and felt completely affirmed.  Stuff is just stuff. Looking at things objectively a person might laugh at the things that were on one hand giving me a thrill of joy, and a pang of sorrow just to look at. Just stuff. –
But the memories attached are very real. And our sense of sight, - or smell, - or hearing a certain sound, can bring back memories like a flood, and in a very real way  bring back the ‘presence’ of a loved one to mind and heart.
Have you ever smelled something and ‘whoosh’ your back to place and time? – Or heard something – a sound, or phrase, - or a song that brought back feelings or a memory you hadn’t thought of in years?
I think  this is how God designed us! To be able to be blessed not just with mental memories, but a physical connection to them.
– I think it powerful that he gave us a very physical act to repeat (breaking the bread, and drinking the cup) as something to ‘REMEMBER’ him by. – ‘When you do this, - remember me”.  Isn’t this part of worship? Involving our senses, - eat, - drink, - singing, kneeling, bowing our heads and hearts -  Bringing back the feelings,- the awareness, and the memories of who God is and what God has done for us? -
 Some of the things I brought home I know someday I’ll probably throw away. After a while, my heart will be ready to let the ‘stuff’ go, -while keeping  the memory.  Some things I want to keep, and pass down to my own children someday, complete with it’s story of origin.
   Until then, - I am ok with the ‘things’ that are ‘just stuff’ that I have put out around my home. – They bring back memories, - good ones. There is a chintzy tiny mirror above my sink that makes me smile.
       I am also freshly motivated to choose quality things in life when possible that have value and meaning; from activities and pastimes, to art and home d├ęcor, to the way I speak, so that the things that someday trigger memories of me will bless others and bring Glory to God.
   What about you? What helps you keep a balance? What is a trigger for you of a favorite childhood memory, or memory of someone you love?
THE Truck.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Just Dandy :)

  The down side to not keeping a perfectly maintained garden means random weeds grow.
The good thing about it is sometimes herbs masquerading as weeds grow.
Yup. The lowly dandelion. Just recently read a great article about them.

"Two years ago, in the early Spring, we were up north near Chicago doing several seminars. As we traveled through the countryside to our next Seminar, I was overwhelmed by the profusion of bright yellow dandelions carpeting the fields and roadsides.
Northern dandelions seem to grow taller and thicker than our Southern variety. If that town was the only town in all the world where dandelions grew, then it would be on all the travel maps, renowned as a place of extraordinary beauty. People would come from everywhere to view the breathtaking wonder of the dandelions in Spring. But God in his wisdom and love didn't give dandelions to just a chosen few, he freely and generously gave them to most everyone....."
                                                   For the rest of the article, here is the link.

The article went on to extol the herbal powers and health benefits of this lowly plant. Since we do use limited pesticides in our yard, and some fertilizers.... (no not near my veggie garden, and yes, I am looking into more natural alternatives) I was happy to see some thick hearty dandys volunteer right in the garden!

 And since I was already cutting kale- decided to get some dandys too.

 One reason I love kale, - is that it is so easy to clean, - to a great extent because of a waxy-ish bloom on the leaves, (very like cabbage) that seems to shed water and dirt, so that cleaning is easy. - Anyone who has painstakingly wrinkled home grown lettuce understands that easy to clean is a huge perk!

Since I've been enjoying my smoothies so much, and have such a bumper crop of kale, - I wondered how to best preserve it so that I can enjoy the health benefits all year... fresh produce off season in the store tends to get pricey, and you never know what it has been sprayed with, or how it has been treated.
The quick easy answer? Drying it.

I crumbled it off the stems, into a bowl, and the filled a bag. - This was very quick and easy!
Just filled the dehydrator and let it do its thing, 'till the day when I had a chance to put it up.

Labeled and ready to use. - I can so see slipping a spoonful or two into casseroles, (like lasagna) since the taste isn't strong, - but it is a vitamin and mineral power packed green. I also plan to do this with my Dandy leaves, - to keep on hand just in case.
   And while I love the practical application of Debbi Pearl's article about Dandys, - it also got me to thinking about the things we value the most. Her point that if dandelions were rare, they would be valued and protected.   Yet even though not rare, - God gave them a purpose and value, - we just may not see it.

                                     What else is a 'dandalion' in your life today?

     When something is 'common' it is to easy to forget just how wonderful it it! - What is a 'common' blessing of God in your life. Health? Is it a rambunctious child that keeps you on your toes, - but full of health and creativity?
   I pray God gives us eyes to see, and hearts to understand the wonderful blessings he has generously given us today.
                                        A heart of gratitude is never disappointed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More Sweet Savings

So here is last weeks deals.... Walgreens was selling 14oz bags of M&Ms for $2.00 each. Starbucks icecream pints for BuyOneGetOne Free for $4.00.
I just so happened to have 4 coupons for $1.50 off purchase of 2 bags of M&Ms, and 4/$1.00 off purchase of one starbucks ice cream.
This means I got 4 pints of ice cream for $6.00, or $1.50 each.
This one was very fun, since I loved getting Andrew something he'll love without the big price tag!

And 8 bags of M&Ms for about $10.00 - or ONLY $1.25 each!! That is cheaper than a small bag sells for in a Gas Station. I mostly got the peanut butter filled ones, since that is Andrew's favorite kind, ALSO usually the most expensive, (not that I mind them, - still haven't met an M&M I don't like!:)
 (And if your wondering, - yes, - there are only 6 bags in this pic.... I will neither confirm nor nor deny where the other two bags have gone in the last week!:)
    I will TOTALLY admit this was a perfect case of the manufacturer accomplishing their goal of selling more of their product. - Would I have normally spent $10 on M&M's last week? No. I probably wouldn't have bought any. But am I happy that I did, and for that $10-  got 8 bags? Yup.  :)
     After all, - it was one sweet deal! :) (pun intended!)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Smooth---Sailing! :)

Does this look like a mom's best friend to you?
If not, - keep reading! :)
This spring despite some great diet changes the demands of life in the last few months have left me feeling drained and exhausted. A new baby, months from turning 30, (sigh) a death in the family, much less sleep than I know I should have - I know all these have played their part.
For me, - sugar has always been my energy boost, - and also the source of health and weight problems. This spring after resisting coffee for years, I even began toying with Frappes. Not good. I didn't like feeling that I HAD to have an jolt of caffeine for artificial energy every day or a nap, and I hate the 'let down' feeling after. Not only that, but I felt that they affected my blood sugar in a negative way compounding the problem. I looked into a friend's supplement shakes, but the prices, and the presence of dairy made me feel it wasn't the best fit. But I did wonder if I could do something on my own, especially since fruit smoothies are a family favorite here in warm weather.

My solution? It is the combination of some things new to me, and some I had on hand
A friend of mine had seen the Bulk Herb Stores powdered 'herba smoothie mix'
 (something I had wanted to try- a terrific mixture of herbs designed for mental stimulation, energy, bone hair and nail health, etc.) and made a huge batch, -and I was able to buy a bag full from her.

My sister Lydia had been talking about the great health benefits of Coconut Water, and since I am nursing a baby with dairy allergies, recommended it as a replacement for yogurt or milk in smoothies. Since I have been doing a lot of coupon shopping at Dillons which has a fantastic natural foods section, I was able to pick some up recently. Coconut water is incredible on its own -
"Loaded with the five essential electrolytes that your body craves -- including potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium and phosphorous -- Vita Coco has what it takes to keep you hydrated and refreshed throughout your busy day.
In fact, each serving of Vita Coco has more electrolytes and 15 times more potassium than the leading sports drink, and more potassium than two bananas (about 700 mg of potassium is in each 11.2-ounce serving size). These electrolytes work to keep the body cool, help boost poor circulation, replenish your body's fluids after exercising, and aid in the detoxification process while boosting your immune system.
This cholesterol- free, fat- free and pucker-free drink can also help soothe an upset stomach, and when paired with a healthy diet, it can even promote weight loss. All this from a single, natural ingredient, and without any artificial sweeteners or added sugars."
   Lydia told me that when combined with a dark green like kale, - its health benefits have been likened to a blood transfusion. THAT is what I am talking about!! How about every day at 2pm?!!  :)
    Thankfully, - this spring I happened to plant tons of greens, including a large patch of kale.

 I always keep frozen fruit on hand, - since it is something my husband loves, - but recent sales have me stocked up. A few days ago I decided to see if I could get any help at all from a fresh smoothie everyday. These ingredients have changed my life. :)

Frozen banana is always in any smoothie I make because I love the flavor and the creamy texture! Frozen strawberries, (these were actually fresh on sale and I cut and froze them) kale leaves, herba smoothie mixture, coconut water and ice.

I know, - it doesn't really look that whoopi.... (I made sure to put the heavy fruit so that it would sink onto the kale leaves so they blend thoroughly)

At this point Justice was screeching at me that it looked awful, and PLEASE MOMMA NO! DONT put that stuff in MINE! But I kid you not, - you can NOT taste the kale OR the herbs. I made him taste mine, - and he just gave a huge smile. - All you could taste was strawberry banana goodness, with a slight freshness from the greens.  Today I let Felicity eat some of mine, and she thought it was ice cream! She LOVED it, and it was great to know it was packed full of goodness.
I feel like it is plenty sweet from just the fruit, - but I also have made it with a packet of EmerganC, which gives a great shot of flavor, even more vitamins and extra sweetness.

So it tasted great, - BUT the proof is in the puddin!
I have had a smoothie with lunch, or for an afternoon snack for the last three days and have been amazed at the difference I feel. Here is what I did today AFTER dishes, and basic morning house clean/ pickup.(big change right there)
Hand shoveled and then tilled 30 feet of garden, planted 10 tomatoes, 24 peppers, weeded, mulched and staked misc.It was a good day. :)  I feel like 'I'm back' or at least headed that direction.

Something I love about this smoothie is that not only do I feel refreshed and energized, - but I also definitely notice a mental clarity and sense of being 'on top of things', something I felt I was really loosing lately to brain fog.

As you can see from the 5 foot tall weeds in the back bed, - there is a lot more to do!!!   :)
         I do want to say, - that I share this because I feel like I have found something that is making a difference in my health, and long term health goals for my family - not just a 'natural' kind of caffeine or magic way to be super mom!

 I do think we live in a very artificially 'energized' and incredibly driven, demanding, and high paced culture where we as mom's have tremendously high expectations for ourselves, - and easily feel like failures if /when we can't get it ALL done, and still be fabulous!!
    I am very grateful for a simple drink that I can make that isn't just giving me a temporary fix, - but that is helping build a stronger me, and I am determine to get to bed earlier every night to give my body what it needs. It isn't just about what I can get done in a day, - if it costs me my long term health. I want to be a healthy mom and wife, now AND in the future.

      Tonight as I sat down to write this, - I pulled up the Bulk Herb Store site so I could share a link for the herbasmoothie mix, and saw that they have some video clips about smoothies that probably do a much better job than I have on covering  this subject. I will look at them when I get the chance!! :)
For now, - good night! :) My good day tomorrow starts now! :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I wanted to share some of my attempts at the art of sales and couponing.- I have seen some amazing blogs, and the table full of food gotten cheaply. Many of you may have seen or heard of the show 'Extreme Couponing' that shows Mom's paying pennies on the dollar  for hundreds of dollars of product due to hours and hours of planning and preparation.
While I am nowhere to that level, - since before Christmas I have been trying to find as many ways to save as possible, (with the limited time I have to devote to it) and have been learning alot.
So here are some of my tips, and observations.

Always couple coupons with sales.
 - I used to ignore coupons because they were for expensive brands that in most cases I didn't buy anyway because even with a coupon, they were often more than a cheaper brand.  However, if you can match them with a good sale, or double them, - you can pay much less than you would for the 'cheap' brand.

Look for home use products.
 I have had countless women tell me, - 'I don't coupon because its all prepackaged junk food, - or sugary cereals, that I don't want my family to eat, - even if it is cheap!-
 While there are some coupons I would never use, - I have been very happy with the wide variety of coupons that are actually out there. - Such as .75 cents of Reynold Wrap Aluminum Foil. When I coupled this coupon with a sale for .89 cents a box, - I got 200 feet of name brand foil for 14 cents!!! You can NOT beat that! And don't tell me health nut mom that you don't use foil!! : )

Try to get as many duplicate Coupons as possible.
So I just told you that I got a box of foil for 14 cents. - I only wish I had had 10 coupons, and could have gotten 10 boxes for $1.40!!! This is a HUGE point. It ties into a mentality of responsible food and household storage and inventory. If you find a good sale, - GET ALOT!!! I can't stress this enough!! My only regrets are not getting more of super good deals. - If you can at all afford it, - think in quantities of at least ten, - or a year's supply. - For me, - 10 boxes of foil would probably be a several year stock, - but for $1.40!?!?! That's the price of a nice pack of gum!!! Full price where I bought it it was normally $3.98.   At the time, - you WILL feel slightly foolish, - filling your cart with an item, but please take a moment and ask
will we use this?
will it store well?
how many items will I use in this storage time frame?
Is this price likely to come again soon?
If you know that in a week, or month, or next fall you will have to buy this product again, - why pay full price later when it may cost even more when you can buy now!!??

Use Price Match Policy
As a mom of two young children, living in a small town, I have to be realistic about running to every store in a 40 mile radius just to get the best bargain. - Thankfully with some store's price match guarantee, I don't usually have to. I have been very happy with some of my 'one stop shop' make 'em match it hauls, - and I have saved my children's patience, my sanity, and gas money. I recommend always looking up the store's coupon and price match policy online, printing it and taking it with you to help avoid problems with clerks who might not be familiar.

PLAN -plan- PLAN
I have found that a few extra minutes at home preplanning and totaling what I expect to pay (since I am poor at head math, - esp. in line with a baby and 5 year old!) helps me tremendously! I am able to catch problems right there, or pre-decide what to just skip if coupons don't ring up right, etc.

Don't be afraid to put it back

There have been times when a sale, with a coupon means an item is so low, (even free) that I am willing to get it, - but otherwise it would not be on my list. - If things don't work as planned, (coupon expired, sale off, etc) don't feel badly telling the clerk you want to pass on the items. Our goal is to save money. - Don't let the unexpected sabatoge your goal! :)

                                               Don't get sidetracked with impulse buys
This is the easiest way to loose your coupon savings. It may sound simple, - but I have been guilty of unexpectedly seeing Oreos on sale (yum!) or something else and thinking 'I am saving so much it won't hurt to get this'. A few items like that and you end up spending far more than you wanted. Allowing yourself to impulse buy is the quickest way to loose all the benefit of careful planned savings. I do feel that sales and coupon shopping can help you live a better lifestyle, or be able to afford things you may otherwise pass up, with a little space and time between you and the Oreos you may decided there was something else you would prefer to spend it on!! :)

Don't buy something, even if it is free, if you won't use itNo deal is really that good if you don't want the product.From talking to a few avid couponers, - I have heard this alot. - Even if they will not use something, they get a lot because it is such a 'good deal'. - I know some people then give away or donate items to charity - but I prefer to leave those deals I don't need to someone who does. Not only that, - but if you take it home, you have to store and organize the product so that it doesn't expire and just end up in the trash can. - It can be exciting to see how good of a deal you can get, - but bottom line, - if its not something I will use, - you would have to pay me to take it! :)

This is my price match haul. Before Easter, every local store ran sales. I literally brought 6 sales fliers to one big box store that is blue. (i think you know which one) I had them price match
2Cottonelle TP for 5.00 vs.   7.89 reg price
4Wheat Thins  for 2.00 vs. 2.97 reg price
8TollHouse Choc Chips for 1.79 (PLUS 1.10 off 2bags coupons) vs. 2.85 reg price
2Miracle Whip for 1.99 vs. 2.85 reg price
1Jiff Peanut Butter 1.85 vs. 3.95 reg price
Betty Crocker Brownies for .89 (didn't take my 1.00 off 2 coupon:( vs. 1.50 reg price
20 Green Giant Steamer Bags for .79 vs. 1.78 reg price.(with 1/ .40 off coupon- wish i had 20!!)
Reynolds Wrap for .89- .75 cent coupon vs 3.85 reg price.
2 Aveno body washes for 4-3.00 off2 coupon
1 Nivea body wash for 2.99 reg price WITH 3.00 off coupon= FREE!! !:)
 Even though I didn't get to use my brownie coupon, and wish i had had more of other coupons, (if I had more for the steamers they would have been 39cents each!!!!!)and wish I had gotten a lot more peanut butter!! It was still a very successful trip. It was about 102 dollars and I paid only about 50. And this was mostly just price matching!! -

Here are the body wash bottles. - The Nivea was 100% FREE!!!
If only I'd had a lot more coupons!!! :)

 I recently discovered a chain store that has a store card, and also doubles coupons every day all day for up to $1. . It isn't in our town, - but is in 2 other towns we go to frequently for work, and while the regular prices are actually pretty high, they run some tremendous sales.
Here is my haul.

$5.00    Pringles at 99 cents each (One of hubbys few liked chip brands)

$3.75    3 Dozen Eggs at 1.25 each (they were something I was out of)

$6.00    12 BBQ Sauces at 49 cents each.

$4.98     3 lb. Bag Chicken Breast $4.98 (GREAT sale, - I have a stock of whole chk. so this was a  luxury 'instead of take out' quick dinners item. - can't even feed us off a $ Menu for this, - and it will be at least 3 fast easy meals)

$32.50   65 lbs. pasta for 49 cents EACH- (just over 1 year supply if we eat 1x a week, - but for us since we eat more like 1x every 2 weeks it may last 2 years. - It expires in 2015- so we are good!!)

With NO coupons, - just hitting a great sale, I over $140.00 worth of food for just over $50.00.

                                                           Practical Questions
The way couponing works is to save large amounts of any coupon for products you would like, - in an organized way, and then save them to couple with good sales. After a time you will get a feel for what sales come and when is the best way to use your coupons.
  If you do not get local sales fliers in the mail,for price matching - you can look up most online, to see what general sales there will be. - However, keeping an eye on your local clearance is a fantastic way to save.

So I am sure the biggest question you have is where to get these amazing coupons. - I am still working on the best way to build my stock pile. Obviously the most direct way is to buy news papers that have coupon inserts. - However if you have friends or relatives (esp. elderly) that receive papers but don't want the coupons it would be a great way to get more.)
  Serious couponers I know buy huge amounts of newspapers (a mom of 9 I talked to recently buys 40 every week. She had 3 carts FULL and paid less than $50) my husband likes to point out that this is a $80 dollar a week expense, and wonders if she can possibly get her money back, - but after seeing her haul and hearing that she does it up to 3x a week I don't doubt it.

     The other thing to be aware of is that there are websites devoted to coupons and couponers. Many online coupons can be used WITH paper ones to really increase your savings. Usually you can only print 2 coupons per computer, so having multiple computers in a family would be a huge asset.

Below are the sites I use and trust. - I would be cautious about giving out your information to just any site, though I know some require membership and email address. - I have not used any like that so far.

 These are blogs dedicated to helping you save. They tell you what stores have what sales, and how to get your bang for your buck. They helped me get started.

These are sites I love to print coupons from. They are free, do not require membership, and after you download their printer application once you are good to go. Make sure your printer is on and ready WITH paper tho, - because if you 'clip' and hit print, even if it doesn't, - it won't let you exceed your limit.

Hope this helps you get started! Here is to saving and stocking up for our families!! :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Food News

Think the news doesn’t affect your life? At least, - in any significant immediate way?
Think again Moms, - here is news that affects your next trip to the grocery store.
I cannot urge you enough, my friends, please consider the wisdom of building up food storage and preparing yourself  and family.   Weather alone may be enough to bring unexpected devastation to your area. Even if it doesn’t touch your town, - it may change your life.  
  *Alabama, third largest poultry supplier in the country devastated my tornadoes that killed 3 million chickens, and disrupted / destroyed the state’s poultry production.  Here’s the article.
  *Kansas wheat crop-  you need to read this if you want to understand why we,  ‘who live in the middle of nowhere’ Midwest are affecting the household budgets of every family in America today. Countless stores and chains raise prices because of Kansas wheat crop.
In the midst of high prices, you still have to be concerned about the food’s safety. Today’s food recall.
Even if you haven't gardened before, - this may be the year to consider starting. Lettuce is sooo easy, and healthy and fun to grow!       

   Here are a few more interesting articles on topic.
Kansas to plant 20,000 acres of cotton, the new, low water crop.
New Genetic Engineering of Wheat- this article promotes GM wheat as a good answer to drought.
Farmers tempted to flip crops  based on high corn prices?
Food Prices Rise world wide.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

New Life

So I usually change out certain decorations around the house with the seasons. Since my husband does not allow me to move furniture around at all. - No serious. He doesn't even want anything moved 3 inches.
Seriously. So.
  Changing out decorations helps me feel like I can make the place look fresh and new.
This year for spring I wanted something very very clean and simple for the front table. I also really felt like decorating for Easter this year, - but didn't want to spend money on something that I would have to put away in a few weeks...SO.
Took a trip to wal-mart to pick up some letters and painted 2 words that I believe best describe spring, AND the beautiful Easter story.

The Willow Creek couple (Andrew gave me when I had Justice) with a new baby fits in pretty well, - though I was picturing a birds nest with three baby blue eggs.... Just haven't figured out how to make that the way I want.
I couldn't decide between plain white and antique white, and painted one of each, - then decided I liked having them contrast, so did every-other on both words. I thought about embellishing them, - and since paint is easy, I may at some point - but for now this is the simple clean look I wanted.

These words feel especially fitting also since this week I found out that my grandma, - who was a very bitter, agnostic woman for years, - finally accepted Jesus as her Savior.
Every since I asked Jesus in my heart at age four, - I worried about her salvation, and for 25 years have earnestly prayed for her to understand her need for him.
Once in my teens, - as I gently tried to talk to her, she got very angry and slammed her hand on the table and yelled, - 'Don't EVER talk to me about the bible again!"
I didn't for a long time. This last year after my son Justice (who has been close to her)  began to understand what Jesus did on the cross, - he to began to ask family members and wonder what they believed. When he realized that she was hoping  that she was good enough to get into heaven, he to started praying for GiGi, - and through the year as cancer took her strength, - there were days when out of the blue he would come to me and ask to pray that Gigi would trust in Jesus.

There is always guilt, with a family member who you love who isn't saved. Even though several times this year she allowed me to broach the subject, she was closed to hearing what scripture had to say. -
She knew God was good, - and she hoped she was good enough, - he surely knew all the things she could have done but didn't.

Then this week, - a chaplin who had tried to visit her all year finally got her permission to talk to her.
And she listened. With her heart. - A little later, - when he asked, 'Would you like to pray and tell God what you've told me?' She asked him to help her get up,- becuase she wanted to kneel.
The woman who I had never known to be subject to rules, or anyone elses opinion was submiting her heart to God.
The next morning when she woke up, - the caner that had broken her body had taken her mind, and she didn't even know her son. In the last week, - her physical and mental condition declined drastically.
And yet, - I have done nothing but rejoice! Because, - for the first time since I have known my grandma, - she is a new creation, - old things have passed away, - behold, - all things are new.
And now, - in a little while, when she leaves this world, - I know she will be in God's presence, - experiencing New LIFE!!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Eric Carle Inspired Easter....

Just thought I'd share something fun Justice I did this week. - Last time we went to the library, he picked out some Eric Carle books.

Then I happened to notice in their video department that they had this vhs of Eric Carle. It shows him creating artwork for his books, and he tells about why and how he writes and illustrates them.  It was a lot of fun to watch, - and a great introduction of the technique he uses which is collage.
Watching it really makes you want to get your hands dirty and create!!
So of course we did! :)

Since we wanted to follow his technique we started by painting papers of different colors we would use later.

It is best to blend colors and create interesting patterns and textures on your page... very easy for beginer!

Felicity enjoyed watching!:)

Once we finished our papers, I wasn't sure what we should make...
Justice at first wanted to do a book, - then he decided to illustrate his favorite Bible stories. - He also really really wanted to use the brown lunch sacks I have on hand for crafts.
I wanted something that wasn't to big or long term!
Together we came up with the 'Genious' idea of creating the Easter Story scenes on paper sacks that we can then use to throw an egg in for points or candy. They will also serve as decor for the holiday. Perfect!!!

I sketched very basic pictures on the bags to give us ideas of what the scenes would look like. Then we cut and pasted shapes on to make the scene. We added details as we went along... it was so fun!! 
 - I was floored by Justice terrific handle of the entire story. Last year for a while he asked me to read it to him several times a day for weeks, - from the picture bible.I read it so many times, I had it memorized- I guess it sunk in deep!! :)
Above he is holding the bag he mostly  made himself. I helped cut out Jesus robe, and head, and he did the rest. Including drawing Jesus face. Justice even cut out the cup and bread 'for the passover mom,' and the plate and knife in front of Jesus.

Here is one I made of Jesus in the garden. If you try this, - I am warning you, it is addictive!!! You will NOT want to stop, - you'll keep thinking of more and more details you want to add! :)

"Mom, - we need one where he is standing before Pilate, and the Pharasees say 'If you don't kill him, you are no friend to Ceasar!', and Mom, we need to show the men hitting and whipping Jesus, - who forgave them already....."  The best part of this project was hearing the entire story told in detail and with passion by my five year old. :)
This one Justice made completely by himself.

  The empty tomb!! We ran out of time to make all the figures Justice wanted on here, - the angel of the Lord, the women in black (he called them!:) and the fainted soldiers....

                                                       Lined up as Easter decorations...
(with room for the last bag which we are making today which shows Jesus talking to the disciples ALIVE!! 
       This is one of those projects that I wish I could say I planned for, - but actually was just one of those that fell into place. However, - since I saw more videos of other author/illustrators at the library, I am now planning on doing this again. Get the books, watch the video, and then see how we can incorporate the technique or style into a project here at home. - I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Busy Hands #2

So here are some ideas for creating activities for your little hands I've seen on other blogs.
Sorry, - most pics are blocked, but trust me these are GREAT ideas and worth your time!! :)

 Easy disposable home-made easel and paints.

Color Quiet Book - for the seamstresses out there... so great!

File Folder Games and Activities.

FANtastic Home-made Challk Board Purse... SOOO cool... Chalk paint lovers... this is for you!!!

Adorable Farm Animal Bag...  (scroll down, it is one of the later projects listed)

Fun idea for a three in one indoor version of hopscotch, tic tac toe and 'bomb' mat...Easy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Busy Little Hands

So today I have another take on preparedness.
- How common is the phrase, 'Mom, I'm bored?" This was something we did not say growing up. If we did make that mistake, the response was sure to be a phrase we all knew by heart,
'Idle hands are the devil's workshop, Idle lips are the devil's mouthpeice." (TLB Proverbs)
Then we were assigned a chore which gave us plenty of time to think about anything else we'd rather be doing. - But in all fairness, my Mom did a great job of providing educational and fun things for us to do at all ages that were perfect for those 'don't know what to do moments." 
With a little planning ahead, and a little preparation, you can be ready for the next time your child, (or one you babysit) needs something new and fun.
Below is a perfect example of a cheap, creative project.
My mom had Pheobe and her friends make one of these for Silas, Paul and Justice one afternoon a couple years ago when she was 7. It was twice as effective because it served as a project for Phoebe and her friends, and then as a fun game for Justice! Basically it is a graph with colors along the top, and shapes along the side. A younger child will enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out where each peice goes, and an older child will enjoy trying to beat their time, - or put them all in place while holding their breathe, etc.

Super cheap, and easy. - For the mat, they simply taped 4, 8x11 sheets of paper together.

Here is a book out of the 'Cut and Create' series that I can not recomend highly enough. This is the farm book, and has tons of patterns for adorable easy to cut and paste projects with a page of visual easy to follow directions for each project. Below are some of the ones Justice made when he was 4.

 They are SO cute!! There are cut and create 'zoo', or 'fish' or many other books...

Here is where being prepared pays off. To make this a super easy go to project, - pre-copy the patterns on the correct color papers, and put a copy of the instruction page, and the ready to cut pages in an envelope, and your ready to go.

Here you can see how it is all ready to go. Now all you need are scissors and a glue stick.

For Justice's 4th birthday, my Mom made the entire farm set (30?) in envelopes ready to go. It was an AMAZING present. I can't recomend this highly enough. If you have a first child who naps, - I would suggest doing this now!!! If you are a grandma, or aunty, or just an amazing friend of a mom with one or more youngsters, I cannot tell you what an incredible gift this is!!! -Cousins Justice and Paul are very different personalities, but both LOVED these. (What 3-4 year old doesn't love scissors!?) 

As a mom of a young eager learner, it is fanTAStic to be able to pull out an activity all ready to go that requires no prep time on your part, and give them that undivided attention they need.
As your child gets older, they will find they can do it by themself, - as the instructions are so easy, - and Justice found imense sastifaction in being able to do a project 'all by himself'!
These were a huge blessing when I was so morning sick last year with Felicity, - Justice could do this right near me, - happy and productive, with minimal effort on my part.

Here is Justice with his color/shapes graph completed.

Here is a set of pre-school activity books I love. They are from Rod and Staff, a menonite company, and have wonderful classic pictures and family based stories. Each book helps with cutting, pasting, writing, counting, and more basic pre-school skills.

  Our local wal-mart has some great 'hidden picture' books, which is something else Justice loves. These are perfect to pull out when we need something fun to do. 

 So I grew up in a home with pipe cleaners, glitter, beads, toillete paper tubes, glue, yarn, googlly eyes and more were pretty much always available. Cheap brown lunch sacks can become a as simple, or elaborate creations as your heart desires, - not only are they fun to make, - but fun to use in puppet shows later!

So for those of you who have not yet purged your stacks of magazines and newspapers, here is the perfect way to use them! If you are super organized and have no useless clutter laying around, - I am sure you have a friend like me who would love to give you some when your ready to use them!! :)
        I remember cutting out pictures from magazines to make 'alphabet books' in which our favorite pictures filled one half of a construction page folded in book style with each page for one letter.
   This was another twist on that. - Once again, - it was a project Silas did last year, - (he cut out pictures he thought were interesting and glued them onto paper plates) Then 26 clothespins each got a letter written on them.  Now Justice sits with the stack of plates and clothes pins and tries to find which pin to clip to a picture that starts with that sound. He thinks its a game. - He doesn't know he's playing with a time filler for Silas! Or that he's learning in the process.

    By the way, - something great about these homeade projects is that when your child is done, - you can declutter and throw them away! Cheap and easy to re-make, - or have your oldest child make for a younger one later on! A tip I heard somewhere along these lines is to take pictures of projects with your child, - so that you can throw the actual project and still keep the memory.
I still like keeping favorite projects or papers, -but I think this is a great tip, especially if you have a hoarder child like mine who litterally wants to keep EVERY scrap of every project he's done. NOT kidding. Each scrap peice of paper that fell on the floor."I'm going to USE it Mom!!!"

   Something else that helps is to keep them all in a folder, - and give it time, - then a few months later, go through it with him and ask him to only save the things that mean the most. - Thankfully time usually helps him become 'un-attached' and by then he has no problem throwing out the scraps and just keeping the nice project. I try hard to never throw out behind his back, - or force him to, - I think it would just make him more resistant. So far, - the 'wait and then throw' method has worked very very well.

   So what are things you like to have prepared for those moments when a little one is bored? I'd love to know!!