Saturday, January 30, 2010

Instilling God's Truth in Little Hearts

A dear friend of mine gave us the best children's Bible book I have seen!  It is called The Jesus Storybook Bible. We have at least four "Bible books" for little ones and to be honest I refuse to read her most of them.  I get kind of mad when we read them because they are really missing the point in almost every story.  The angels are chubby little children with wings and the animals on Noah's ark are all smiley with bows in their hair.  Obnoxious.  I want to raise my children to understand God's love, His power, His holiness.  I do not simply want them to have memorized sugar coated Bible stories or Bible characters.  I want them to get the point and believe the truth of God's word.  So anyway, The Jesus Storybook Bible is not like the other ones!  The illustrations are stylized but are not silly.  They convey emotion that is appropriate, not smiley.  And the best part is that every story, Old and New Testament, points to Jesus.  There is an anticipation in the Old Testament stories of the Deliverer who is coming to save God's people.  I love reading the stories to my daughter every night.  I feel like I have had time in the Word!  I highly recommend this book!

More Money Saving Ideas

In addition to my earlier post about saving money, I wanted to add some other ideas. 
  • Plan meals!  Having a plan for the week means not having to fall back on more expensive convenience foods.  It also means eating healthier which supports your overall well being.  I plan our meals the day before I do my grocery shopping and it helps so much!  Also it makes me take stock of what is hiding in the refrigerator so that less goes to waste.  If I am buying a specific ingredient (for example, cilantro) I try to plan meals throughout the week that will include it so that half of it doesn't hang around and never get used.
  • Stock up when things are on sale.  Things that are staples in your kitchen that are non perishable or can be frozen are worth stocking up on if there is a discount.  Just make sure that the sale price is not really just the same price you would find elsewhere (I have had the Kroger sale price for an item be the same as the Whole Foods everyday price). Also plan your meals around what is on special or what is in season.  Whole Foods puts their sale flyer online so you can plan before you go!  Speaking of seasonal, joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) is a great way to enjoy super fresh produce at a good price. 
  • Buy from the bulk bins!  Dried beans, for example, are so cheap and can be added to so many dishes either to increase their nutrition or instead of the meat.  I like to soak mine and sprout them, then cook and freeze for future use.
  • Make your own everything!  I know, that sounds overwhelming.  However if you just learn to make one thing that you usually buy and then another and another, before you know it you will be saving a bundle and probably prefer the higher quality of something homemade.  I have started making many of my own personal care items (toothpaste, shave oil, perfume, lotion, face masks, toner, body scrub, lip balm, etc) as well as things in the kitchen such as mustard, yogurt, granola, salad dressings, veggie wash, etc.  I am also learning to sew and have made some (really ugly) doublers for my daughter's pocket diapers and some bedding for her crib.  It is so rewarding to have made something by hand.  I think it really makes you appreciate and enjoy the item more. A great little (inexpensive) resource for getting started is a book called Make Your Place.
  • Sign up for emails from retailers you purchase from, brands you buy or coupon and giveaway newsletters such as Ecobunga.  I won a $50 gift card to Whole Foods when I signed up for Ecobunga's newsletter.  I was thrilled! Often retailers will email coupon codes for discounts or free shipping.  If you are looking for a coupon to use online, sites like Retail Me Not and Coupon Cabin are helpful.  Amazon has a subscribe and save program where you sign up for automatic shipments (that can be canceled right away) and get 15% off and free shipping on that item.  Not everything is eligible, but my Seventh Generation Diapers are and I have found Amazon to have the best deal.  (We use disposable diapers at night and when we are traveling and can't do laundry.)
  • Buy reusable! Cloth napkins, microfiber cleaning cloths (or old fashioned rags), cloth diapers, cloth baby wipes, and even cloth feminine pads save money over time.
  • Garage sales, craigslist, freecycle and consignment sales.  It is amazing how much less you will pay for things that are not brand new.  I love finding most of my daughter's clothes at consignment sales.  If you are able to shop around and possibly wait to find something these are all great ways to save.
  • Daily coupon sites such as Groupon and Living Social.  Not every city has them, but it is amazing if you do!  They negotiate deals with businesses (restaurants, salons, you name it) so that if enough people purchase the particular offer it is then valid.  So recently I purchased a $25 groupon for a $50 certificate to a local organic restaurant that we would like to try.  Once the minimum number of people purchase the deal they let you know that the deal is on.  Really fun!  Also offers similar certificates that are considerably reduced!  Always google for a coupon code because there always seems to be one for this site.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Big Picture

I came across this quote from Kittie Franz recently.  After a few days home alone with a teething, fussy toddler this is a good reminder for me!

"Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience; You are raising a human being." 

How true that is!  When you step back and look at the big picture, all the stresses and frustrations are nothing compared to how amazing it is to be able to pour love into that little person.  What a high calling mothering is.  Isn't it amazing that God trusts us with such precious gifts!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Make at Home: Simple Art for the Artistically Challenged

I have a degree in interior design and when I was pregnant with my daughter I was really excited about getting her nursery just right!  I knew I wanted it to be girly and creative and not feel cold and uniform as so many nurseries today are.  I wanted bright colors and beautiful decor that would not be outgrown too quickly.  I found the most beautiful art online from Oopsy Daisy.  If the sky was the limit I could have placed quite an order with them, but I decided to keep it simple (I purchased a growth chart and two small bird prints shown here and here- LOVE them all!)  As I thought of ways to fill the other walls I had the idea to make my own art for my daughter, something personal that would hopefully be meaningful to her.  I took oil painting in college and was not all that thrilled with my work and I also didn't want to use something toxic in the nursery. 
I noticed that so many of the pieces I loved were simple shapes layered over each other.  I have stacks and stacks of paint chips from hardware stores and I went and got even more.  I purchased a large canvas (24x36 I believe) and some mod podge from a local art store and that was it (total cost was under $30).  The paint chips were free and gave me a great selection of colors to work with.  I decided to do the tree because it was cheerful and because of the associations with life that trees have.  I included our dog (at the time) and some birds and butterflies. 
The flowers were a pain, but the whole thing was worth it!  It was fun to work on something like that, anticipating my daughter's arrival!  I hope to do more art like this in the future and maybe even incorporate other elements (shells, buttons, ribbon, glitter, etc) so it is more of a collage. This is such a forgiving project- so easy to just cut out another piece if one doesn't look right.  If you try this let me know how it turns out!  I would love to see your creative ideas!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Penny Saved

Lately I have been thinking about all the things I do to save our family money.  As a stay at home mom I don't bring home a paycheck but I like to contribute to our family's financial well being whenever possible.  I manage our finances and get such a kick out of saving here and there. Here are some of the ways we save each month- it really adds up to huge annual savings with very little effort.
  • I pay all our bills online.  This saves the cost of a stamp- $0.44 which really adds up! I also use less checks and rarely use envelops.  Estimated savings: $3 per month/ $36 per year
  • We have two credit cards (one Visa and one American Express) that have no annual fees and are cash rewards cards.  We never carry a balance so there is no catch.  We charge 99% of all our purchases so as to earn the maximum rewards. Our American Express pays 5% on gas, groceries and drugstore purchases (after meeting a certain amount per calendar year) and 1.5% on everything else.  I can't remember the exact percent for the Visa, but since not all businesses accept American Express we use it occasionally.  We spend a LOT on organic groceries and enjoy that 5% back!  Last year between the two cards we earned almost $1500 back!  It didn't cost us a thing and we were spending money on things we would be purchasing anyway. Credit cards used responsibly can be wonderful things!
  • We print and clip coupons and take bags to stores that offer bag credits.  There is usually a coupon for Organic Valley products (things we buy every week) and other national organic brands.  I always try to grab a few copies of the Whole Foods coupon book at the start of each month (available at the door or at checkout).  I also try to always bring my grocery bags to Whole Foods to get their $0.10 bag credit.  If I average 3 bags per week that is a savings of $15.60 per year.  So easy!
  • We opened a high yield online saving account to keep our savings in.  It is certainly not an investment that will make you rich, but it is a great way to earn a little on money that you want to have available.  Ours is with HSBC and it takes about 3 business days for money to transfer back to our checking account. There are no fees and no minimum balance.  What you will earn depends on what your balance is, but for example if you even earn $10 interest each month that is an annual earning of $120 without much effort at all.
  • We make our own coffee!  See ya starbucks!  I used to enjoy a $4 coffee and now I make my own for less than $0.40 and it is organic. Between my husband and I we are saving about $1200 per year as well as using less gasoline and producing less waste from disposable cups, sleeves, napkins, stir sticks, etc. We use a french press and I like our coffee better than what we were paying so much for.
Total earnings/ savings for one year with these simple tips is roughly $2870!  Yeah!

Wonderful Books!

As a first time parent I am loving reading lots of books to my daughter! She is 21 months now and loves her books. I have enjoyed getting books out of my parents' attic that were mine as a child. These include some of the wonderfully illustrated books by Gyo Fujikawa like Milly's Secret, Babies, Let's Grow a Garden and Baby Animals. I just lover her style of illustrating and the stories are well written as well. If you are not familiar with her books check them out! You can find used copies of the titles that are no longer in print from Alibris for reasonable prices. Also try Amazon for new and used copies, as some of her books are still in print. I love exposing my daughter to books that are not so mainstream and of higher quality than much of what is produced today.

I appreciate that these books often portray children of different races playing together. I think it is important to lay a foundation of perception for our children that all people are created by God and are equal. I am from the south and despise the deep seated ideas that some races are not as good/ valuable/ smart as others. I reject that old fashioned mentality and want to teach my children to do the same. It really makes me mad (Irate actually) to hear comments from my elders that are so ungodly. I think something as simple as seeing children from all nationalities playing together is a way to lay a healthy foundation for our children that all people are valuable!

Nasty BPA

Are you aware of how awful BPA is? Bisphenol A is a toxic chemical used in plastics that disrupts hormone levels in our bodies. I think most people have heard about them in plastic disposable water bottles and nalgene type reusable ones. Not surprisingly they are found many other places as well. After reading this article on Civil Eats, I was so sad to see that canned goods are such a huge contributor to BPA in our food. I have been giving my toddler organic canned beans and heart of palm (good source of minerals) on a daily basis. Now I know that she has been ingesting chemicals from the lining of the cans! I called the manufacturer of the heart of palm and they were aware of the BPA in the cans and had phased it out of some of their other products, but not the ones we buy. This is so frustrating! It is not enough to buy foods that are organic, we can not trust that these manufacturers are concerned about anything other than their bottom line. It seems almost everything that is convenient and modern has a dangerous flip side. I am now being more diligent to soak my dried beans, which gives me a chance to sprout them, cook and freeze them. I know this is healthier anyway as sprouted legumes and grains are more easily digested an their nutrients absorbed. Other countries have banned BPA from anything that comes in contact with food, but not the US. It seems the corporations who profit from cheaper plastics that contain BPA have too much power in our legislature.

Eden Foods is one brand of canned organic foods that is willing to pay a few cents more per can in order to package their goods more safely. I think I will still avoid canned foods now but will certainly purchase theirs in a pinch. After all, who knows what they will find next in plastic to be harmful? This is yet another wake up call to avoid plastics altogether and opt for glass, wood and safe metals and ceramic in the kitchen. Also this reminds me that we live in such a greedy, polluted world and can not possibly avoid everything that is a threat to our health. I am so thankful to know Jesus and to know that I can pray and trust Him with my health and the health of my family. We make a point to bless our food and give thanks for it at every meal and I know that God does bless it when we do this. I am so thankful that I can rest in Him! With that being said, I still strive to do all that I can with the knowledge I have been given to make the best choices for my family but my trust is in Him.

If you would like to find out more about BPA here is another good resource.


Thanks for finding my blog! I am a wife and mother in my (late) twenties with a passion for God, for natural living, godly parenting, designing, crafting, organizing and living life fully. I have so many thoughts and ideas and wanted a way to better keep up with them and share them with others. I hope you find useful information and encouragement as you enjoy my blog. I have been so inspired by other bloggers (see links) who do such an excellent job! Check out their blogs as well!