Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Auntie

So, I’ve been slacking lately on my blog…this remodeling business is seriously taking over my life!  However, I had some news I had to share with you all.

My sister Natasha got married in February and a month or so ago we found out that she’s expecting.  Friday she went in for her first ultrasound and found out that she’s having not one, but two babies.  Yep, that’s right…twins.  That means I’m going to be an aunt not once but twice!

She posted the ultrasound pictures on Facebook, and sure enough there are two little stinkers in there.  It’s really incredible!

Anyway, if you could just keep her and her husband, as well as their two little ones in your prayers that would be greatly appreciated.  We don’t know the sex of the babies yet, but I’ll keep you posted!  

Hmm…Aunt Caitlin kind of has a ring to it, doesn’t it?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Making ‘Cents’ of It: A Peek in my Freezer

I wrote this before we moved this week, so this is actually my old fridge.

Just look at my poor little freezer…crammed to the brim.  Thankfully, I’ll have a nice bottom freezer soon that I can cram full too! (Did you know that freezer’s actually are more efficient when they’re full?)

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Let me tell you, I just love my freezer.  Eventually I’d like to get a little chest freezer to keep at the house.  Why, you make ask?  Well, let me let you in a little secret…a freezer is a thrifty wife’s best friend.  Exclusively to you, I present the contents of my overstuffed freezer:

  • Several bags full of individually wrapped two-person servings of ground beef—I buy my meat in bulk, especially since there’s just the two of us currently.  Not only is it way cheaper, but you don’t have to worry about buying meat every week, which can be a big grocery bill downer.  Eventually when we have a chest freezer, I’d like to buy a quarter or half of a cow, but until then I settle for rolls of beef.  The servings are great because you just take out what you need, defrost it, and use…no worries about meat going bad!
  • A bag of ground turkey, with individually wrapped servings as well—I  bought some ground turkey a while ago when it was on sale, and use it to replace ground beef in certain recipes.
  • One beef steak—Again, a bulk item that I bought on sale.  Use it for all sorts or recipes, or just defrost and grill.
  • A bag of chicken quarters—Bulk meat, again.
  • Several bags of chicken breasts—I buy in bulk and individually wrap.
  • Box of fish sticks—For quick fish tacos
  • Bag of white, flaky fish—Even better for fish tacos!
  • BBQ Wings—Something I bought for Andy once.
  • A bag of individually wrapped servings of refried beans—I made these ahead for the move, thinking I wouldn’t have a stove top.
  • A bag of individually wrapped servings of Spanish Rice—For the move, again.
  • Cubed chicken uncooked—For the move to put in the crockpot.
  • Cubed cornbread—For the move, again for the crockpot.
  • Cubed cooked potatoes—For the move, so I could make mashed potatoes.
  • Gumbo—For the move.
  • Cooked chili beans—For the move.
  • Bag of biscuits—I make a batch and freeze the extras so they don’t go bad.  Just take them out and defrost!
  • Loaf of bread—I freeze extra bread to keep it from going bad.
  • Pancakes—Even when I cut the batch in half, it always makes too many for Andy and I, so I reheat them later.
  • Bags of frozen peas, corn, and okra—Every wife should have some frozen veggies on hand to make meals quicker and easier!
  • Ginger root—It keeps so much better in the freezer!
  • Garlic cloves—Again, they keep better this way.
  • Containers of tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, Rotel, and cream of chicken soup—Cans of these are not the right serving for two people, so I freeze the leftovers for next time.
  • Bag of blueberries and blueberry freezer jam—Last week I went blueberry picking with my mother-in-law.  Got a gallon for $10!  They’re great for smoothies, eating, or treats!
  • Tub of whipped topping—I never use this…don’t know why I have it!
  • Half pint of vanilla ice cream—A splurge last week to go with a blueberry cobbler I made.

So there you have it…my freezer!  Would you believe that all of that stuff fits in my tiny freezer?!  I really don’t know how I would survive without it…it helps me save SO much money!

What’s in your freezer?  Do you use it to save money?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Man after God’s Own Heart

The following was written for the “My Husband Rocks” contest over at Time Warp Wife.

Tears streamed down my cheeks as I walked out of the house and down the street with my dog.  Nothing was going as planned…nothing.  I was frustrated and disappointed and sad.  The vacation we had been planning on taking with my family, to the one place I’ve wanted to take him for as long as I can remember, long before I knew him, wasn’t going to happen this year.  Work obligations had come up, and he just couldn’t take that much time off right now.  I was hurt and angry.  Yet, as I walked down that street praying, I realized how wrong I was.  A year ago, when I had promised to be his helpmeet and support him in everything, I hadn’t just meant when he was doing what I wanted to do.  I had meant in times like these, when his work, his calling, conflicted with my desires.  I knew I had to help him in his work and support him, not complain and suck the life out of him.  As I walked back up the street I saw him come around the corner.  He came softly up to me, took me in his arms, and said, “I need you to support me.  I can’t do this without you.”  I knew then in my heart that I needed him just as much as he needed me…probably more.

My husband is the epitome of the phrase “still water runs deep”.  I remember his grandmother telling me that about him the first time I met her, while we were engaged.  I don’t really think I knew what she meant then, but I do now.

Andrew Cartwright Baker.  I remember when I first met him, at a conference in Kentucky.  I was intrigued by this tall, blue-eyed young man, but perplexed too.  He was so very quiet.  He would stand off aloof from everyone, silent.  I thought he was sullen or grouchy then.  If I had only known then that he was watching everyone, pondering everything.  Nothing missed his quick eye.  What would I have thought of him then, had I known the great depths of his mind and his soul?  Yet, God knew all along.  He knew that the man He was blessing me with was special, set apart, different.

My Andy loves his Savior with everything he’s got.  He may not constantly talk about it, but I can see it.  I see it when he reads his Bible or when he’s leading the college Sunday school class.  I hear it in his voice when he prays.  There’s a fire in his bright blue eyes that nothing can quench or contain.  It reaches down into the depths of his soul, and pervades his every thought, every word, every action. 

I see it too in how he treats me.  He’s not perfect, but he tries his best to love me as Christ loved the church, and lead our family in the ways of the Lord.  He loves me, protects me, and cherishes me.  He works hard to provide for us, so that I don’t have to spend 40 hours a week in a cramped office in order to put food on the table.  He buys nice things for me that I don’t need, just because he loves me and wants me to have them.  He never wants me to lack anything. 

He watches girl movies with me sometimes, and snuggles with me on the couch.  He eats very un-Southern food and tries to make good food choices at restaurants, all because he wants to please me and make me proud.  He does. :)

I love watching him with kids, so sweet with and not at all awkward.  I love how he’s not ashamed to play with them and hold them.  I think of someday soon, when he’ll be smiling and playing with our own little ones.

Like I said before, my Andy is different.  He has such a soft, tender heart for me, for children, for others.  Yet, he is so manly.  It’s his pleasure to take care of me and protect me, to see that I lack nothing, either materially or emotionally. 

I did not marry a preacher, a missionary, or a great evangelist.  Yet everyday I am reminded of what I did marry…a man after God’s own heart.  A warrior-poet, like David himself.  A man who cares little what other men think, but only what God thinks.  A man who’s not afraid to be different for the sake of Christ.  Yes, my Andy is no ordinary man. 

Daily I wonder why God saw fit to bless me with such a man.  Surely I could never deserve him!  Yet I see that God is molding me through him.  He is teaching me patience and the value of waiting.  I am learning to wait for Andy to think over something when I see that distant look in his eye and not to pester him instead of trying to force my way into his heart, his thoughts.  For when he gives me the key to those great depths, I realize how worth it the waiting was, and the waiting becomes so sweet! 

Yes, Lord, you knew I needed this man, with his cool blue eyes and great deep depths.  My hero, my king, my captain.  My best friend, my husband, my lover.  My Andy.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stands in the way of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of scoffers,
But his delight is on the law of the Lord,
And on His law he meditates day and night,
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.”
~Psalm 1:1-3~

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pennywise Platter Link Up

Hey guys! If you're looking for some great healthy and inexpensive recipes, check out Pennywise Platter Thursdays over at The Nourishing Gourmet. Here's today's link if you are interested:
Pennywise Platter Thursdays

Pico de Gallo

I know, I know.  The only two recipes I’ve posted on here so far have been for Mexican food.  What can I say?  I’m from the Southwest!  And I do love me so Mexican food.  In fact, one of our favorite places to go out to eat in town is the Mexican restaurant.  I say “the” because there is only one.  Not that it has much competition with other restaurants either.  But that’s beside the point.

Back in Arizona, pico de gallo is a salsa staple.  Fresh, spicy, and great on anything.  Did you know it’s easy too?  It’s takes just a few simple ingredients and five minutes of time, and you have a delicious dip for chips or veggies (my fav).  It also goes great on just about anything, and mix it with mashed avocados to make the best guacamole you’ve ever tasted.  The best part?  It’s stinkin’ cheap! 

All you need are:

Tomatoes (preferably roma, but any will do)

One jalapeno (or any other hot pepper you’d like to use)

Yellow onion

Cilantro (this gives it a great flavor, but its optional…my husband actually doesn’t like the taste)

Salt

One lime (you can also use lime or lemon juice, but fresh is just so much better)

That’s it!  You can experiment to get the ratios you like.  For mine I used two large roma tomatoes (70 cents total), part of a yellow onion (cost me about $1.50, so about 40 cents for this recipe), one jalapeno (literally cost me 6 cents, and I only used half…these are the best things ever!), no cilantro (for the hubby), a pinch of sea salt (like literally 1 or 2 cents), and half of a lime (18 cents).  The grand total was $1.36 for a good deal of salsa that will last me and the hubby awhile…so much better than store bought!  If you have a nice little garden outside, you can save even more. 

So, this is how you do it.  I slice everything by hand, because I like chunky salsa, but if you prefer a more liquid-ey salsa you can use a food processor or blender…just cut everything into large pieces and blend. 

First, dice up your tomato.June 2011 004 

Now dice up your onion.

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Next comes your jalapeno.  I only used half of mine.  If you don’t want your pico de gallo to be very spicy, cut out the white center and the seeds.  If you like it spicy, you can add them in.

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You want to chop up the jalapeno really fine so you don’t get a mouthful of spicy chunk.

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Put them all in a bowl.  If you were using cilantro, you’d chop it up finely and add it in here as well.

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Add a pinch of salt.

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Then squeeze your lime into the bowl.

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Mix it all up.

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…and enjoy!  Experiment with the tastes and proportions, and have fun adding new things.  Chopped mango adds a great flavor, as does pineapple. 

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Do you have a favorite salsa recipe?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Making ‘Cents’ of It: My Budgeting Journey

I got married just over a year ago.  Before I got married, I was living at home, going to school and working a little part-time.  I contributed absolutely nothing to the family income stream, nor did I help at all with budgeting.  Honestly, I have absolutely no idea what my family’s monthly budget was for groceries.  My mom did the majority of the grocery shopping, and she preferred to shop alone (I think we drove her crazy when we tagged along).  Really, I don’t think my mom worried too much about how to pay for the groceries.  She price shopped and bought what she needed, but that was about it.  But then, my parents had been married over 20 years and my dad had worked hard to climb the ladder and make a comfortable amount of money.  I didn’t worry about money because I didn’t need to.  I had a personal budget, but it was small and consisted of how many Starbucks drinks I was allowed to get in a month, or saving up to buy some things we’d need for the house after we got married.

Then I got married, and life changed drastically.  I moved 1000 miles away with my sweetheart, going from a Western granola mountain town of 60,000 to a rural, sweet-tea drinking dot on the map of 3000.  Yeah, that was a culture shock.  I thought I was prepared.  I had researched different ways to save money, and had learned all about couponing.  Andy and I had set a tentative budget, knowing that we would see what things would need tweaking. 

Soon we found ourselves married and ready to put our plans into practice.  I bought the Sunday paper, clipped the coupons, and then went for my first ever grocery trip for my own home.  Let me just say, those first few grocery trips were frustrating.  There were three reasons behind my frustration.  First, I had no idea that it would take so much money to start a pantry.  Flour, sugar, ketchup…all these things add up and quickly!  Secondly, I found that living in a small town was way different from living in even a medium-sized town.  There were fewer stores, and the stores had fewer items.  Coupons didn’t go very far when nothing was on-sale, or the store didn’t have the coupon brand in stock.  Finally, living in the South was very different from the hippie town I grew up in.  I had never seen so many weird things at the grocery store.  Fried pigs ears?  Okra?  These were foreign foods to me, and while the stores sold things I didn’t want, they also didn’t sell the things that I wanted.  For instance, one of my go-to meals back at my family’s house was tostadas.  Let me tell you, I have yet to find a tostada shell anywhere in town.  Seriously. 

So, the next year came and went.  We bounced between cash envelope systems to spreadsheets to writing solely checks and back to the envelopes, all in search of the right budgeting strategy.  We weren’t hurting for money…far from it.  It was just that we never were able to save as much as I thought we should.  Overtime, however, I learned ways to save a few cents here and there.  I learned that couponing can really work in a small town, and that saving money doesn’t have to be a full-time job.

And guess what?  I’m still learning.  Boy am I ever!  Sometimes it can still be frustrating.  I read a blog and someone shares how much they spend on groceries every month, and then I get discouraged because there is no way I could feed my husband and I for that little!  If you’ve ever felt like you’re in the same boat, be encouraged!  You don’t have to eat solely macaroni and cheese and beans to be able to save money on groceries!  So stop comparing yourself to others and start trying to do your best to save money, even if it’s a few cents.  After all, as a year has taught me, a few cents add up to a lot of cents. 

Making ‘Cents’ of It

Today I’m introducing a new series I will be doing called Making ‘Cents’ of It, all about, you guessed it, saving our precious cents.  Upcoming topics will include cutting down your grocery budget, couponing, making things from scratch or homemade, fixing things yourselves, buying used, and a billion other ways to cut down your spending. 

I’m far from having everything figured out…this is a journey for me that I’m sharing with you.  Most ideas will be small, simple things that you can do to save a little.  Baby steps.  Yet, baby steps add up quickly to save you a lot of money without going crazy.  Do you have ideas of your own?  I’d love to hear them!  Like I said, we’re learning together.  So, stay tuned for the first in the series…"My Budgeting Journey”.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cool Giveaway

One of my favorite blogs is having a giveaway. You can win a Vera Bradley coin purse, gummi bears, or fun summery nail polish! Check it out here!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Headaches and Frustration

As many of you know, my husband and I are trying to buy a house. I say trying because we still haven't closed, due to no fault of our own or any questions about our financial situation. First HUD messed us up, and now we come to find out that the loan company has completely dropped the ball as well. And more than once, too.

We've had our closing date changed so many times I can no longer count them, and then we finally got in touch with a supervisor at the loan place and he promised to handle it personally and get it done so that we could close this coming Friday. Well, guess what? It's not going to happen..again. The person who is handling our loan is apparently completely incompetent and it's just been basically sitting on her desk for over a month. Suddenly last night she sends us a list of all these other documents we need, some of which we already gave her.

I feel bad, but I confess that I definitely wrote her a rather scathing email today. :embarrassed: Sometimes, however, you really have to assert yourself to get something done. I'm definitely the type of person to just let things slide, but when things build up to a certain point and I get angry I get :blush: very angry. I prefer to write these enlightenments into my frustration, simply because I have time to think about what I am writing and make sure that my point comes across exactly as I want it to. I start to use big words and make sure that my grammar is flawless. I even might, just might, call people irresponsible. Why do I do this? I have no idea. Maybe it's something to do with a desire to appear educated and knowledgeable. It might even have a hint of intimidation. Regardless, I am guilty of writing emails and letters like this. And I wrote one today.

Was I right in venting my frustration like this? Especially when I've really been feeling God saying to let go and let Him handle this? I don't know. All I know right now is that I have a big headache, and just want to go home and curl up with God's word in my lap and a cup of hot tea in my hand. Yes, I know it's miserably hot outside...too hot for a sane person to want hot tea. However, I firmly believe that tea was intended by God to be a huge stress reliever. That and chocolate.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Spoon Full of Sugar...and a Magic Eraser

I'm not one to go out and buy the latest cleaning products. In fact, I like to steer clear of them altogether in favor of more natural cleaners, like vinegar and baking soda. However, I have to say...I have found that "spoon full of sugar that makes the medicine go down" as far as cleaning goes: the Mr. Clean magic eraser.

The other day some friends of mine were talking and somehow it came up about the magic eraser. How on earth did we get on that topic? I have no clue, except to say that when you grow up, get married, and have a house to clean, and the majority of your friends now have kids, cleaning products suddenly become a very common topic of conversation. Anyway, my friend told me that she bought a magic eraser the other day and loved it so much that she went around cleaning the WHOLE HOUSE with it!

Now, I must say, I was skeptical. What on earth could possibly make you want to clean for the sake of cleaning?! Now, I like to have a nice clean house, but cleaning beyond what was necessary? Now that's just plain crazy!

However, I gave in today and bought one at the store and...I wanted to clean the whole house too! I used it on the tub, which has black stains on it that I had previously scrubbed and scrubbed until I thought I would never get them off. The stains are now gone, and with much less effort than I ever spent scrubbing them.

Yes, Mary Poppins was right...just a spoon full of sugar really does make the medicine go down. And a Mr. Clean magic eraser really does make you want to clean your whole house. You never know until you try!