Sunday, January 26, 2014

Be Still My Soul by Randy Peterson

We have been getting a ton of snow here in Ohio, which means we've been participating in being snowed in!  Not really, but since hubby has to work when it snows and I am a chicken when it comes to driving in snow, we have stayed home for the past 48 hrs!  Honestly, it's been great!  We missed out on a euchre party with extended family yesterday and going to church today, but it has been nice to just stay home and relax.  We have watched movies, done a few sewing projects, and I have been catching up on some reading! Which brings me to my next review...

When I received Be Still My Soul by Randy Peterson, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the pages of the book look sort of torn or worn giving it an old-time feel.  And rightly so since this book is full of hymn after hymn and the stories behind them.  I remember my pastor once telling the story behind the hymn "Peace Like A River" and it was so profound to me.  I have always preferred more contemporary Christian music, but now, every time I hear that song I remember the story behind it and it means so much more to me.  Because of that I was excited to dig in to this book! 

The book contains 175 hymns and their back stories.  I will have to admit that there are A LOT of hymns in the book that I am not familiar with so I felt a bit disconnected with those hymns, but there are many that I am familiar with.  I love knowing the stories of why the writer wrote the words to these beloved songs.  From Fanny Crosby's "Blessed Assurance" to Jusdon W. VanDeVenter's "I Surrender All", this book covers them all!  I know that when I hear these hymns being sung or played, I will remember the story that brought them into existence.  And what's even more amazing is the fact that most of these hymns were written by common folk...and little did they know that their words would be sung by many for generations to come!

* I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for this honest review. *

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Say Goodbye To Survival Mode by Crystal Paine

I was so excited to get to read and review Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine! I have been a follower of Crystal's blog, www.moneysavingmom.com, and had read and reviewed her first book a couple of years ago.  Aside from the colorful and catchy looking cover, the title completely drew me in.  I was feeling a bit worn-out and overwhelmed with my life and was totally in survival mode.  And I didn't like it one bit.  It's not a good feeling to feel as if your life is whirling out of control and you don't know how to stop it or where to begin.  Crystal has been there too and she shares in her newest book how to take back control of your life once again...and actually enjoy it! 

Each chapter in her book focuses on a goal to achieve as well as practical advice on how to achieve it.  From getting on track financially to getting more sleep, the author shares her experience in that area and how she was able to overcome obstacles in that area.  From cover to cover the author guides us step-by-step to a less chaotic life...the life God created us to live!  She urges us not to live a life that is overwhelming and out of control in several areas, but to live a life on purpose, with a passion for living it! 

This book was a very easy read.  I was greatly encouraged and motivated to make changes in my own life and putting her tips into practice.  I really enjoyed the various quotes she used throughout the book and I was also excited to see an extra section in the book for additional resources.  I have added several of her recommended books to my to-read list!  If you are feeling down and discouraged about your life right now, this book would be a great read for you!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Booksneeze.com in exchange for this honest review.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

No-Spend January Update

How is Old Man Winter treating you??  I tell you what, I'm ready for him to take his snow and cold temps and hit the road, Jack!  When it is as cold as it was earlier this week (in the negatives!) I don't want to go outside...in fact I refuse to!  But there are warmer temps in the forecast for tomorrow and this weekend and I am super stoked!  Spring is coming!!!  Maybe not for another couple months but it IS coming!!  That is how I keep my sanity these days....reciting that mantra until I see the daffodils blooming! 
 
Well, I thought I would pop in and let you know how No-Spend January is going.  Well, so far, so good!  We haven't overspent and are actually looking for ways to not spend!  Here are some things that I've been doing to keep me on track....
 
1.  Writing it all down.  Every paycheck, every debit card use, every check written gets written down.  A friend of mine suggested using an accounting ledger pad so I decided to give it a try.  I picked mine up (before January!) for @ $3 along with some pretty mechanical pencils that I have hidden from the kiddos.  (anyone else's kiddos steal mom's goodies?)  Using that ledger brings back memories of accounting class in college...it takes me to a happy place.  I open it up so there are 2 pages...one of the left (which is actually the back of the first page) and one on the right.  The left side is for my "envelopes" or budget accounts and the right side is for my spending ledger where I write all deposits and debits.  It's a bit complex, but so far I love it and it's working well.
 
2.  Make a menu.  I talked a bit about this one in a previous post.  I make a list of meals that I will make over the next week or so (usually one week lasts us more that 7 days because there are days we eat leftovers, etc.).  This also allows me to "shop" my pantry before heading to the store so I don't buy duplicates of things I already have.  It also helps me to have a plan instead of flying by the seat of my pants which results in eating out or eating unhealthful meals.  I am also finding a bit of enjoyment by using up items that are in my pantry and fridge!  You know all those condiment bottles that take up so much room in your fridge door?  Well I am trying to use them up and when I do I feel a sense of accomplishment.  Weird, I know.  It doesn't take much to entertain me. 
 
3.  Sell Things.  This is what I am working on today.  I have an entertainment center that we no longer use (we got a new TV last year and it won't fit in it), and we have been using it for make-shift storage for board games, blankets, etc.  Honestly, I love that entertainment center and envisioned painting it a fun color...but it no longer has a purpose and it's becoming a collect-all.  So I cleaned it up, took pictures of it, and will be posting it on a local selling group page on Facebook. 
 
4  Take a good look at your bills.  Are you paying for things you no longer need or paying for more than you actually need/use?  When you make up a budget for your family, you start to look for ways to free up money, because when you do, it allows you to pay off debt more quickly or build your emergency fund, or whatever you want to use it for!  Right now I am looking at our auto insurance bill that is due the end of this month and I am wondering if we could get a cheaper price by switching companies or by taking a couple of vehicles off the policy.  We have 2 trucks and 2 vehicles that hubby and I drive to work.  The one truck is strictly for pleasure driving and the other is for hauling firewood....but the total for those two vehicles is over $400...which would cut our bill in half for 6 months.  So I am going to be making a few calls this afternoon to get quotes!
 
5.  Be content.  Would I love to do a DIY project right now?  Sure!  What about go shopping for a pair of winter dress boots?  Uh-huh!  BUT...are either of them a necessity?  Nope.  The more we dwell on what we want, the more we want it.  And sometimes it can be hard to say no to ourselves!  Something that is helping me to overcome these wants is to make it sort of a game to try to cut costs enough to free up the money needed to buy the things we want.  If I end up $50 to the good on my grocery budget at the end of the month, then I can go out and buy one of these "luxury" items without feeling guilty for spending money that wasn't budgeted.
 
6.  Stay home.  I know, this one is boring.  And unrealistic if you work full-time.  I only work a few days a week but when I am in town on my work days, I try to fit in as many errands as I can while I am there so I can stay home on my days off.  This saves on gas and time in my opinion.  When I use my days off to just stay home, I get so much more accomplished here at home! 
 
Well I am having trouble thinking of more so I guess I will stop writing for now until I think of more!  Happy Thursday! 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Love & Respect In The Family By Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

I was part way through reading Dr. Eggerich's book Love & Respect when I saw that Love & Respect in the Family was available at Booksneeze for review.  Because I was really enjoying reading Love & Respect, and I was feeling as if my home life was a bit out of control with kids who were disrespectful...and with parents who felt both helpless and clueless about how to intercede, I chose to review Love & Respect In The Family.  I am really glad I did!  This book is written in way that encourages parents to not lose hope.  But also to not blame their children for the situation they are in.  Change starts with us as parents.  There is a crazy cycle that happens when parents feel disrespected and kids feel unloved.  When parents feel disrespected they tend to act in ways that appears unloving to their children.  When children feel unloved they tend to act in ways that appears disrespectful.  And the cycle goes on and on until someone chooses to break the cycle.  We can break this cycle and transform it into an Energizing Cycle where as we show our kids love they will naturally want to show us respect.  Through this cycle, parent-child relationships are strengthened.

Dr. Eggerichs shares with us his wisdom gained through parenting his own children, who are now grown, as well as years of experience as a pastor and helping families.  His children actually share how the ways he and their mother had parented had helped and hurt them emotionally.  Dr. Eggerichs encourages parents to not give up, but to look to God for help in those tumultuous times where we feel helpless.  He has developed an acrostic GUIDES for parents to use when interacting with their children.  He shows us how to Give, Understand, Instruct, Discipline, Encourage and Supplicate in order to develop loving habits that will cultivate strong relationships with our children. 

One aspect of the book that is extremely helpful for readers is located at the end of each chapter.  The author makes reference to a particular area of THEIR WEBSITE where the readers can go if they need additional information pertaining to topics in that particular chapter. 

I really think every parent should read this book and would greatly benefit from it.  I am encouraged and excited to put this knowledge into practice in my own parenting and see the results!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Booksneeze.com in exchange for this honest review.

No-Spend January: Meal Planning

How is your January going so far?  We are only 6 days into it but I feel inspired and motivated to reach my goals! As you know I have set a goal to set up a budget and stick to it this year.  I am happy to report that I have the budget pretty much set up, although I am sure it will need some tweaking from time to time.  I would love to use an online budgeting software such as Mint or Mvelopes and I have messed around with both of them but still haven't determined if I like using them or not.  For right now I am using a basic 6 column accounting ledger book.  I want whatever system I use to be simple and easy to maintain or I won't stick with it. 

After our shopping craze through the holidays with gift-buying and budget-blowing, I always like to declare this month No-Spend January.  A month where you get back on track with your spending and stay within budget by not buying any unnecessary things.  For me that means making a meal plan for the week and using that plan to make a grocery shopping list.  This also means I go through my pantry BEFORE shopping and see what ingredients I have on hand so I don't spend money on things I already have (which I am notorious for doing!). 

This also means that I plan my meals around those items I already have too.  For example, I would love to make a yummy chicken dish, but my freezer is full of beef and pork...so I eat beef and pork instead of buying chicken right now...unless of course the chicken is on sale.  I am also keeping an eye on the store ads to look for those deals that are rock-bottom prices that I should stock up on.  For example, if peanut butter is $1.99 a jar and that is the lowest price I have seen it at, I will stock up on them and buy as many as I think we will use until it's on sale again. (I think most stores rotate sales every 13 weeks, but not entirely sure).  By doing this, you are always using peanut butter that is a rock-bottom price instead of buying one or two jars, running out, and then having to buy the remaining 8 jars you will need at a much higher price.  Sure, it takes a bit out of your budget to stock up on items like these but it eventually evens itself out a bit as you build a bit of a stockpile.  If you find deals like these, you will then adjust your shopping list and meal plan accordingly.  If you are like me, you have tons of meals in your freezer and pantry already...you just have to look for them.  Do you have a couple cans of soup?  Then mark a meal off your list that requires that you buy items for and make soup instead.  It will simplify your meals and free up a bit of money so that you can stock up on the deals at the store without going over budget. 

I did this just last week.  I buy coconut oil from a local Amish family who sells grains, and natural items out of their basement as a make-shift store.  This family had informed me that they were moving out of state in the spring and were closing down their business on December 31st.  So I paid her a visit on Dec 31st (nothing like waiting until the last possible minute!) and bought over $100 of coconut oil and a few other items.  Her prices are cheaper than I have found anywhere and were actually much lower than normal due to the wholesale price dropping.  I bought a 50 lb bucket of coconut oil that is normally over $100 in her store for $78.00!  And honestly, it will probably last me all year...or close to it.  I use coconut oil for all of my oil needs with the exception of olive oil once in a while, so this is something that I know I will use....and it won't go back or expire sitting in my pantry.  There is another local Amish store who is going to start selling it, however I know their price will be much higher than what I paid.  So I stocked up on oil and just adjusted my meals and shopping list to allow for the oil purchase.  And guess what?!  I have stayed on budget! 

The last time I did No-Spend January, our water well pump died and had to be replaced...for $2200!  I hope and pray we don't have any big things like that happen and I am able to stick to it!

If you are interested in doing No-Spend January in your home, check out THIS BLOG.  She is doing what she calls a January Money Diet and gives you practical ideas of how to stay on track each day!