Thursday, July 24, 2014

How to Throw a Baby/Bridal Shower for $75 or Less!

With a limited budget, our church blesses new mommy's or wives with a shower. I'm always amazed at how a limited budget forces me to be imaginative and super creative. So far each shower has received many compliments and I feel overwhelmingly blessed that God has given me the ability to put these skills to work so I can, in turn, bless these women. By shower 5, I got the hang of it and here are my suggestions:
  • Choose a specific theme and stick to it.
  • Send electronic invitations, Punchbowl offers adorable invitations that can be sent via email or social media for free. 
  • If you have a crafter's thumb, use it, and make decorative items yourself. I try to create items that these mom's would want in their nursery or home. That way I kill two birds with one stone, decor = gift.
  • Plan, plan, plan way ahead of time. My procrastination bone has to be broken if I want to keep my costs down. Organization is key here: I have a notebook filled with details about decor and food (what I'm using, the cost, &etc.)
  • The time of the day determines the food you provide. I love having a mid-afternoon shower because it's right after lunch so light snacks are perfect! 
  • If I spend more than $75 in preparation, I consider the items I make (frame, book, wreath, etc. etc.) their gift from me. It takes so much time and effort in preparing a shower that I've never had anyone think twice.
  • I have a storage bin just for showers. I keep anything that could be used again. Do not be afraid to recycle and reuse.
  • I do not play or plan extravagant games or activities. I've never been a fan of games and most of the people I've "polled" don't either. I'd say that 90% of the shower attendees say they'd rather NOT play a game. It's one less thing you must prepare or pay for, plus women love an environment where they can sit around, snack, and chat without a lot of pressure to do anything else. 
  • Pinterest can be your best friend or your worst enemy. There's so many fantastic ideas, but don't overwhelm yourself by trying to do it all, plus supplies can add up pretty quick.
  • Do not plan for every guest invited to show up. I always plan for approximately half the number I invite. It has yet to fail me. If I have more than I intended, I never fill a plate for myself.
  • Consider the possibilities of cheap items in bulk - like wrapping paper for a table runner, tulle has many possibilities, I keep burlap stocked, old book pages offer great ideas for decor. Don't limit yourself.
  • Shop at junk stores. You'll always find gems. (Like old books, vases, frames, &etc.)
  • Shop in the clearance first. You'll be surprised at what you find.
  • If you're looking for a specific item always look for coupon codes (if shopping online) or printable coupons. Every penny saved helps.
  • Do not hesitate in asking to borrow items from others. 
  • Use nature. (Twigs are fantastic! Wild sunflowers - pictured below - grow like crazy where I live in the fall.) 
  • Keep it simple.
Example: A Little Deere's Baby Shower (Pictured Above)
I borrowed the mason jars.
I borrowed the wood pieces from a bride who used them in her wedding.
The tractor table runner is wrapping paper (I cut them in half).
I picked the flowers (FREE!).
The green table cloth was a $1. 
All in all I spent less than $2 for each table to be decorated like you see it pictured. 

Links to the showers I've thrown:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

#1 Marriage Ruiner for Women


Women grow up painting these lovely pictures in our minds of husbands, marriage, babies, weddings, our homes &etc. We also grow up playing "house" and over time this play time turns dreamy. As we grow up we become enthralled with romance novels portraying men and women who's sex lives and happy endings create unrealistic expectations for our own relationships. The "what-I-want-in-a-husband" list grows to an unreachable level thanks to these made-up, dreamy, lovey dovey, over-the-top expectations. 

The thing is... we expect perfection and when perfection isn't attained our society is telling us to begin looking elsewhere. Consequently, the reality is this: 50% of marriages end in divorce. 

Have you ever heard of the 80-20 principle? It's simple, really. Supposedly we get 80% of what we want from our spouse and there's always 20% lacking. So we go elsewhere to find that 20% and as a result we begin missing the 80. We find that the grass isn't always greener, but the "grass is greener" concept is thrown around in stupid ideals such as this...

You see Satan knows how to attack us. He throws romance novel ideals into our brain to make us think those dreams are attainable. He makes us believe that perfection is realistic. He wants us to put our own needs first, thus neglecting what it means to be a follower of Christ: self-denial. Satan knows that the one thing in the universe that displays the glory of God is the church (Ephesians 3:10) and he also knows that the first place others are going to look to see if we are unified is marriage. If we are not unified, we do not effectively display the manifold wisdom of God, which is exactly what Satan wants. The best defense against Satan is the unity of the church body. That means submitting to God who's calling us to submit to our husbands. Submission to our husbands is a picture of the church's submission to Christ and is the first place others will go to see unity in the church body. I truly believe one of the many ways Satan will attack marriages is through the lofty, unrealistic expectations created by women! Our expectations are killing marriages and I would argue that women are the most manipulative, whiney, me-me-me, wanna-be-in-charge witches on the face of the planet who expect this to be done my way - or else. How do I know this? 

I've had to come face to face with my own unrealistic expectations that were a result of complete and utter selfishness. And I see it in others time and time and time again.

Our first year of marriage was HARD. I had the expectation that the first year is the honeymoon year. HA! I threw around the "D" word like it was my job, holding it above his head and manipulating every situation with, "Change this or else I'm outta here!" Were there things that needed to change? Absolutely; but here's the honest truth about that statement: I was being more selfish in my handling of these expectations than Kyle was in not meeting them. 

I can't tell you how much we've grown as a couple as we approach our 5 year wedding anniversary. As I plan a celebration of that milestone I've spent a significant amount of time asking myself about true love. I've learned more about what it means to love in the last 5 years than I ever would've imagined. I've learned much, much more about love as I learn about the life of Jesus Christ and as I watch other marriages fail and more importantly stand the test of time.

I'm not an expert and many would say that being married for 5 years does not count for anything (I would disagree), so I'm not saying this of my own opinion per say. I'm repeating what our pastor advised us in the first of 4 marriage counseling sessions before saying, "I do." And it's the one thing that has really stuck with me. I'm constantly evaluating if my expectations are realistic or unrealistic. Here are 3 unrealistic expectations I know exist:
  • If only my husband was the godly man I've been asking for, then I'd be a godly wife. That's bullhockey and I can prove it. Peter gave women (who's husbands were nonbelievers) advice in his letter to exiled Christians who were persecuted far beyond what we can imagine for their faith in Christ. His entire purpose for the book of 1 Peter was in 5:12 "I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it." Stand firm in God's grace! No matter what! Even if you're enduring the worst persecution in Christian history -- stand firm in God's grace. Even if your master treats you unfairly -- stand firm in God's grace! Even if your husband is an unbeliever -- stand firm in God's grace. "Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do no obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening." In other words, even if your husband does not deserve it: respect him. Even if your husband is not a godly man, your conduct should be pure. If you put your trust in God you are at rest and you fear nothing. What have you to fear if your hope is in Jesus Christ? Nothing can separate you from Him (Romans 8)! So no matter what, trust Him. Submit to GOD's plan in your life and I believe with all of my heart that means letting go of the expectation that your husband should (and can) be a perfect godly man. He won't and he can't, because he's a dirty, rotten, selfish sinner -- just like you. This expectation is so wrong, on so many, many levels. If you are married to a sorry, sad husband that does NOT give you an excuse to not submit to Christ, who is calling you to submit to your husband - godly or not. (Yes, I broke the double negative rule. I'm trying to make a point: no matter what -- submit to GOD's design -- not your own, not the world's, not your mom's -- GOD's!)
  • We expect lovely feelings all the time. This one makes me giggle hysterically. Who on the face of the planet has ever, ever, ever felt lovely feelings toward their spouse all the time? What do you do when those feelings disappear at the first sign of conflict? Do you run? Hide? Give ultimatums? Let go of the lie that love is a feeling. Love is a choice. You choose to be patient. You choose to be kind. You choose to be faithful. You choose to be selfless. You choose to stay committed. You choose to offer forgiveness unconditionally. You choose to persevere and endure through good times and bad, through sickness and health. Why? Well, first off, because a covenant was made to your husband in front of God, family and friends to do just that; but most importantly because Jesus did not want to die on the cross. YET, He did it anyway because He chose to submit to God's plan and He chose to love us - even though we are unlovable. He is our perfect example! All those qualities I mentioned above are Paul's description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. This particular verse is used in so many weddings (including mine) that I'm beginning to see that people are missing the enormity of this verse. You see, this describes PERFECT, unattainable love - because that's how God loves us: with patience, kindness, forgiveness, &etc. Here's something to take note of: not one of those qualities are feelings. They are actions. So do it, just like Christ.
  • We expect perfection. Ladies, we will all screw up. Thankfully, while we were still sinners Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8) Jesus became sin on our behalf so that we would not have to die and go to hell. If Jesus Christ has forgotten our sins (past, present, and future) who are we to remember our own and who are we to hold grudges? Who are we to not offer forgiveness? Who are we to expect perfection from others when we can't even attain it ourselves? Stop expecting perfection. 
  • Fill in the blank, "I expect ______ from my husband." Go to scripture and determine if this is realistic or unrealistic. Either way, it's not your job to tackle the problem. Let God work in your life by taking this to HIM in prayer. Starting now...
Over time I will probably add to this, but 5 years have taught me much about love and marriage. If anything I've walked away with this one profound truth: I will CHOOSE to love Kyle all the days of my life because that's what Christ did for me. If I bask in Christ's love I am forever thankful for it, because I do not deserve it. The more I remind myself of this truth, the easier it is to love others, especially my husband, with the love Christ has given me. It won't be always be easy or fun, but I choose to do it now and 5o years from now if God so chooses to give me a lifetime with this man. 
Choose to love unconditionally, faithfully, selflessly... just like Jesus...

Monday, July 21, 2014

ThredUp "Cleanout" Review

ThredUp is an online consignment store that offers women a chance to clean out their closet, get paid for their clothing, and purchase perfectly wear-able used clothing for a fraction of the cost. It's a great concept and I love what they have to offer. I've written a couple of raving reviews about them: Shout Out to ThredUp and I FINALLY Found MY Little Black Dress.

Unfortunately, there were a few reviews on ThredUp's "clean out your closet" side of business that were not as enthusiastic. A few of my friends warned me about ThredUp's cheating their customers, so I decided to do a bit of experimenting.

I dug through my closet and pulled out items that were in perfect condition, no flaws, spots, missing accessories and were designer brands (Victoria Secret, Old Navy, &etc.). I put these items in the bag with one item I received at Victoria Secret for free: a sleep, thred-bare, t-shirt. It was the only item I received money for; and I got a whole measly .75.

Apparently their "experts" did not think the Old Navy blazer I threw in the bag, as one example, (that was in prime condition and was originally $40) was worth any money.
I got nothing for it.

There were a few other similar items like this. I didn't risk too much knowing the existing reviews on this particular side of ThredUp's business.

In short, I wasn't impressed. I also wasn't surprised. If you're looking to make money by selling your clothes, do not do it through ThredUp.

BUT, here's the other side of the story. According to the email I received, IF these items sell I will receive a portion of the profits. We shall see.

I won't stop shopping at ThredUp, because if that is the case, women are hoping that someone, somewhere purchases an item so they can make a bit of $$$. Also, I truly believe it's decently priced items. The condition in which they're packed and received is worth the time to look. I rarely purchase anything these days unless it's at a thrift store, in a clearance rack, or an unbeatable coupon.

So, I do recommend checking them out if you're looking for a new-to-you closet (here's $10 to try it out), but if you want to clean out your closet, consider the items donated.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Menu Plan for 4 Weeks [Including Recipe's & a Budgeted Grocery List]

I figured since I shared How I Got Myself Organized for 4 Weeks of Meal Planning that I'd also share my menu plan and grocery list from a random past. My goal is to always keep our grocery bill in the range of $150 - $200 (It helps that we have a freezer full of deer meat my husband killed and prepared himself; and also Nebraska beef from a local rancher we know and love; each paid for in full. It's a large upfront sum, but it's cheaper in the long run, so much tastier than store bought meat, and it's much better for you.)

I always plan the first two weeks of meals with fresh produce and the last two weeks with items that can sit in the pantry (like canned items, rice, pasta, frozen vege's, pre-prepped & frozen meals, &etc.) 

* Before planning I make a list of all the items that are already in the fridge, freezer and pantry that need to be used. So many of the dishes listed were picked because I already had many of the ingredients. I'm including my grocery list so I'll also indicate which ingredients are not on the list.

Hopefully by seeing my thought process and organization you'll be inspired to do the same, or whatever works best for you! Since we live in a small community where the price of milk is double what we can get it in the city, we shop once a month and buy in bulk. It saves us so much $$$ to take a couple hours out of a day to plan ahead and put in the time and effort to DIY (like make my own laundry soap, bread, &etc.).
It's quite the process that "requires" a cup of coffee, Pinterest, my recipe book, menu journal, and something to eat. :) 
Week 1
Monday - Crockpot Meatloaf with salad
Tuesday - Turkey on a Throne (Kyle earns a free turkey at the holiday's and it took us awhile to use it!) with a vege melody: potatoes, carrots, onion and zucchini (which I already had)
Wednesday - Turkey Pesto Panini (I had avocado and tomato ready and waiting to be used.), with leftover vege melody and salad
Thursday - Lemon Roasted Chicken Salad Wrap (Replace chicken with turkey, and I left out the water chest nuts - yuck.) 
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - Grilled hamburgers with all the fixins' and potato salad
Sunday - Frozen Pizza 

Week 2
Monday - Taco Salad (tortilla chips - which I already have, lettuce, avocado, tomato, and onion) with Lazy Chili Rellenos
Tuesday - Smudder Fish w/Johnny Cake and avocado (I have lime juice and the fresh fish my hubby caught while in the Bahamas.)
Wednesday - Chicken Broccoli Supreme  (This is my daughters favorite, so I never count on leftovers here, haha.)
Thursday - Cowboy Casserole
Friday - Tattertot Casserole (cream of mushroom, mushrooms, mixed with hamburger, topped with potatoes and cheddar cheese) with corn 
Saturday - Leftovers
Sunday - Frozen Pizza

Week 3
Monday - Honey Sriracha Glazed Chicken with rice, broccoli, and egg rolls (We always have teriyaki sauce, honey, and sriracha on hand, so they're not included on the grocery list. I also buy rice in bulk, so I rarely include it in the monthly list. And I don't purchase the stir fry - I'm having broccoli another day so I'm digging into that bag. Also, I have frozen cabbage leftover from last month. Nothing goes to waste in this house, if I don't use it, I freeze it and use it in my meal planning for next month.)
Tuesday - Sloppy Joes (Sriracha, Ketchup, a dash of mustard, garlic & onion powder, worcestershire sauce, all items kept in stock and not needed this month) with homemade fries and baked beans
Wednesday - Farmer's Casserole (with deer meat, I also add green peppers) & toast
Thursday - Angel Hair Pasta (chicken, garlic, carrots - we have some in the freezer, broccoli, chicken broth, basil, parmesan cheese - which we have on hand - & angel hair pasta) with garlic bread
Friday - Possibly Out of Town - otherwise Frozen Pizza
Saturday - Possibly Out of Town - otherwise tuna salad sandwiches (we already have tuna) with chips
Sunday - Leftovers

Week 4
Monday - Crockpot Cheesy Chicken & Yellow Rice with garlic bread
Tuesday - Shepard's Pie (I brown a pound of hamburger with onion and a bit of garlic. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, layer green beans, mashed potatoes and top with cheddar cheese. Easy and yummy.)
Wednesday - SausageZatarain's Red Beans & Rice with Corn
Thursday - Leftovers
Friday - Spinach Artichoke Pizza with Chicken (I make my own dough, and we buy baking items in bulk so those items I do not need, if you do, add it to your list, but it will make your overall expense a tad more than the original budget laid out. Also, I had leftover spinach and a can of artichoke hearts I stocked up on when it was at an unbeatable price, so these items are not in my budget because I already have them, but I did go ahead and include them on the grocery list.) *Time to meal plan again!*
Saturday - Grocery shopping (Our one night out on the town so we'll eat out - our once a month treat!)
Sunday - And we start over with frozen pizza...

Grocery List

  • Potatoes
  • Onion
  • Lettuce
  • Green Pepper (x2)
  • Sprouts
  • Avocado (x3)
  • Tomato (x5)
  • Cilantro
  • Sausage
  • Chicken Breast (x4 meals)
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Monterey Jack Cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Butter
  • Milk (x4) - We freeze it.
  • Eggs
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Tomato sauce
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Green Beans
  • Cream of Chicken 
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Chicken broth (x2)
  • Whole Roasted Green Chili's
  • Baked Beans
  • Black Beans
  • Cream of Mushroom
  • Mushrooms
  • Corn (x2)
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli (x3 meals)
  • Pizza (x3)
  • Zatarain's Red Beans & Rice
  • Zatarain's Yellow Rice Mix
  • Egg Roll Wrappers
  • Angel Hair Pasta
  • Walnuts
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Tortillas
  • Jiffy
When I get home I spend the next few days prepping for the month. For example, I wash the lettuce - shred it, cut tomatoes and green pepper for the salad. I find that by doing this ahead of time and storing it in an enclosed dish in the fridge, it keeps a couple weeks, ready to eat. 

More tips for keeping your budget low:
  • We purchased an air tight food saver that keeps food longer once opened or pre prepped for later in the week. 
  • Lunch is always leftovers from the week. 
  • Also, I don't "prep" for breakfast, we simply purchase items in bulk we know we'll use like oatmeal, eggs, bacon, syrup for pancakes, cereal, &etc. 
  • OH, and I make my own bread (I'm thinking I need to share this easy recipe...).
  • I always search for coupons on any of these items. My best couponing experience was when my grocery bill went from almost $300 to $175! Sweet.
P.S. This is for a small family of 3, but with the way my hubby eats I plan for 5 people.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mom's Group Trip to Scottsbluff Zoo

The Riverside Discovery Center in Scottsbluff is a wonderful place for littles (and adults) to play and explore. It is a small well kept zoo that offers a playground, water discovery centers, a splash pad, a petting zoo and with all the construction going on I can't wait to return and see what else will be on that fantastic "to-do" list. (It looks like a children's museum is in the works!)

The kids had a blast and mine was EXHAUSTED at the end of the day.

 Intently watching the ducks!
I was caught with my camera, which is so large the kids find it intimidating sometimes.  This is a perfect "thoughtful" shot isn't it? 

I wonder what Addi was telling her here...

Joel LOVED the water center and sand, I really think he could've stayed here all day.

Perfect lounging spot.

She stood like this for quite some time, perhaps she was contemplating the slide? 

The girls played ring-around-the-rosy and Briella Bean giggled the entire time.

And now it's story time, which leads up to the best picture I have yet to take on this new-to-me camera. I'm so excited to share it with you. While the girls were busy playing ring-around-the-rosy, look who decided to join us?
Isn't he beautiful?
His family.
It was at this point that the girls decided to stop their game and check out these adorable babies...
... apparently papa didn't like that too much because what happens next is amazing. First, two female peacocks fought it out. They were chest bumping and pecking at one another and papa had enough of that as well. He came in all decked out, showing off his beauty and was also protecting them with a rather wonderful display that I felt honor to capture on camera.

He worked really hard to get the females to calm down and corral them in a "safe" corner.

Shaking his feathers! Beautiful!

He finally got them to a place where he felt they were safe, turned to us and I captured this picture...
Isn't he just beautiful?! This is one I'm framing. I didn't touch it, no editing, I left it as is. I am beyond thankful I brought my camera just for this one shot. After this he calmed down and went on his way and so did we, but thanks for the show!

Erin, you are a beautiful momma.  

Bean "helping" Jill push the stroller...
We then made our way to the picnic tables and enjoyed KFC provided by the mom's group. Sarah did a fantastic job of organizing this day, it was all around wonderful.

Audrey found something more appetizing.

She LOVED Bean's shoes.
After lunch we made our way around the zoo and checked out other animals. Bean thought the Meerkats were hilarious. I agree with her...
They kept putting their adorable little paws on the glass and Bean tried oh-so-hard to "touch" their "hands"

Hahahahaha, this picture cracks me up! It reminds me of our dog Marley.

The two lions are cuddling, and one has it's paw on the other... 

Once we made our way around the park we ended our day at the splash pad! Fun!

Fruit + Splashpad = Fun times.
Again, thank you Sarah for providing an opportunity for some amazing mom's to get together and have fun. The kids obviously enjoyed their time together and I enjoyed my time with other mom's as well. Let's do this again sometime.