Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Resolution - My Spiritual Walk

I love New Year's resolutions. I love challenges, starting over, and pushing myself to improve. In the past, I've written out many New Year's resolutions, most of which I was unable to keep. This year, I'm going to concentrate on several resolutions and make a plan to reach the goal.

The most important resolution of this year is to become closer to God. Without a personal relationship with God, my life is worth nothing. Sometimes I feel like I'm just going through the motions, attending church every week, and claiming to be a Christian. But I know that I struggle to act like one. Why? I believe it's because I don't know how to love without selfish motives. Jesus said that there are two very important commandments - "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27).

I've decided to start the Bible in 90 Days challenge. I found this schedule online. I printed a copy and will be starting tomorrow. Yes, this plan encourages a very quick reading through the Bible. I believe that such a fast reading plan will help me understand the overview of the Bible, showing how God works throughout history. I'm hoping that reading the Bible in 90 days will help me understand how God continues to watch over His people.

I will also be attending Bible study every week. We are studying the gospels. We are currently reading through Matthew and read the corresponding stories in the other three gospels as we come across them. In this way, we can see how all four books tell the same story. It's a great Bible study and I look forward to each week's meeting.

Toward the end of the 90 day Bible challenge, I will start praying and thinking about my next step. I know another weak point in my spiritual life is prayer. I might look into keeping a prayer journal, as it's something I've wanted to do in the past. Maybe I will study what the Bible has to say about prayer and what this means to me as a Christian. There has to be more to prayer than just thanking God for each meal.

Hopefully, with a specific quarterly emphasis, I can dedicate myself to smaller goals and enrich my spiritual life. God promises that if we seek, He will answer. That is my biggest prayer this year.

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Matthew 7:7, 8).

Lord, help me to find. I am seeking. Please give me wisdom, understanding, and help me to love both You and everyone I meet. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Disappearance

I didn't mean to disappear for over a week. Last Tuesday, we were notified of a family emergency. With less than two hours notice, I was on my way to Texas. After a harrowing 22 hour drive (a good portion in a snowstorm with almost 0 visibility) we arrived in Dallas.

Christmas did not go as planned. I find this especially ironic because I was struggling just over a week ago with plans with my hubby that had fallen through. Hubby and I had guests visit over Christmas, an old college friend and also my sister-in-law. We were eagerly anticipating their visit but I had to leave 12 hours after our first guest had arrived. I never even saw my SIL. Oops.

I arrived home late yesterday afternoon. Our friend left early this morning. At least I got to see him before he left. Hopefully we'll be visiting my SIL this spring to make up for my missing her visit.

Now I feel like I've fallen so far behind. I missed a week of cleaning. I have tons of laundry to wash. I was planning a couple of blog posts for the holiday season but never wrote them. Hubby and I haven't finalized plans for New Years. Because of the emergency, I missed my weekly call with my grandparents (it totally slipped my mind).

God protected myself, my brother, and his wife on our long drive to and from Dallas. My father is doing better and hopefully will not have another trip to the ER. Hubby had a good visit with his friend and sister while I was gone. I have much to be thankful for, even though things did not go according to my plan. Funny how that works.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On My Nightstand



I love 5 Minutes for Books. My library to-read list is huge because of the book reviews. I currently have 258 books on my list and it grows almost every day.

For January, I plan on reading:

Fiction
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (my hubby's recommendation)
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (I've seen the movie but have never read the book)

Memoir
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

Nonfiction
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fondues & Hot Dips
Rotary Magic
The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan
Miss Manners' Guide to Domestic Tranquility by Judith Martin

I will probably read more than this, as I usually finish a book every two to three days. But this list covers the bare minimum of my reading list.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mishaps

When will I learn not to multi-task? Today's attempted multi-tasking resulted in a messed up pie crust, a load of towels sitting in the dryer wet, and two seams of sewing that now need to be ripped out.

But I did get a lot done today - dishes, vacuuming, three loads of laundry, a pumpkin pie baked, Bible study, exercise, and some time spent with hubby.

We're headed to the laundromat tonight to wash a couple blankets as we have guests arriving tomorrow and Wednesday. We're not using the heater in our apartment and they will probably appreciate having clean blankets to use at night.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dealing with disappointment

I have to learn to not be so upset when plans go awry. My disappointment affects my hubby and then he feels bad for something that isn't his fault. I have no desire to harm him but I don't know how to accept change. We were planning on going out of town tomorrow morning, driving up to the mountains for a picnic and a hike. Unfortunately, hubby now has work scheduled immediately after sundown. Because there is no guarantee that we can return so early in the evening, we have to stay home.

I'm extremely disappointed because we rarely leave Phoenix and my heart is in the forests, not the city. I love hiking, love the mountains, love picnics, and really wanted to spend the day with hubby away from the city, the noise, the pollution, and worries. The Sabbath is a great day to spend enjoying God's nature. I haven't seen the mountains in several years and I long to get away from this city.

My disappointment and tears about canceling our trip made hubby feel really bad. I hate watching him withdraw into sadness and his own disappointment. But I don't know how to accept change in plans with grace. We're going to go hiking tomorrow, just on one of the Phoenix "mountains." It just isn't the same.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sewing - fat quarter bag



This is my first completed sewing project. The bag only required a fat quarter of fabric and several hours of work. The hardest part was sewing the handles on correctly but I figured it out eventually.

I had hoped to use the bag for taking my Bible and Sabbath school lesson to church but it's not quite the right size. My original plan was to sew several of these for Christmas presents but I'm not sure the intended recipients would have any use for them. I guess that means I can keep the unused fat quarters for some other project!

Instructions - Part 1
Part 2

Here is hubby modeling the bag for me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fabric!



The hazards of learning to quilt with the church's fabric is that you soon want to buy fabric and make your own quilt. I've decided to make a quilt for my grandfather and grandmother. They live in Wyoming and I think they'd appreciate having something homemade and warm to cuddle up with. My grandfather's favorite color is green and my grandmother loves red. Hopefully I can incorporate those colors without making the quilt look too Christmassy.

I haven't yet finished up the quilt for Bags of Love but I'll be adding the border this week and the top will be complete. Then I have to wait three more weeks before we meet again so I can receive instruction on finishing the quilt. I can't wait that long to start another quilt!

Hubby and I made a run to Jo-Ann Fabrics this evening and we purchased most of what I need to start on this quilt. I will be using all cotton fabrics as I don't yet feel confident enough to branch out into chenille or flannel. I picked out the fabric shown above. The store was almost completely sold out of fat quarters so we're going to stop by another Jo-Ann's store tomorrow night to buy those. Once I have the fat quarters, I can start cutting out the squares to piece the top. I'm really excited to start my own quilt, though I won't be keeping it. Maybe once this quilt is complete, I can make one for myself.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Quilting day

Headed off to the women's ministry meeting in about half an hour. Hopefully today will be the day that I can finish my quilt top!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Preparation day

On Fridays, I try to make sure the house is clean before sundown. I iron all of our church clothes. I wash my hair. On Sabbath, we leave all of the dirty dishes in the sink or in the dishwasher to be cleaned on Sunday. The only thing I have not yet been able to integrate into our household is pre-cooking.

Sabbaths usually find me in the kitchen for each meal preparing something easy but doing all the work. I have not yet wrapped my mind around the idea of pre-chopping/washing/slicing or pre-making our Sabbath meals. This is not yet a habit but something I desperately need to work on.

Today was a little bit different, though. We have company coming over in an hour to spend some time with us tonight and share dinner with us. Hubby and I made homemade pizzas this morning. We mixed up, kneaded, and let the crust rise. We chopped up all the toppings. Now, when our guests arrive, we just toss toppings on the crusts and bake. Easy.

I also assembled a lasagna for lunch tomorrow. When we get home from church, I will just pull the pan out of the fridge and bake it. Then I'll toss in the frozen garlic bread and bake that as well. Easy.

Why can't I make this a habit? It feels good to sit here and know that sundown is in half an hour but I'm ready for it. I'm ready to spend time with family, friends, and God. The house is clean and peaceful. I have the Christian radio station playing on my computer and incense burning on the table. I'm ready for the Lord to visit.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A bit of randomness

I just shaved my hubby's head. He looks great.

Bible study starts up again tomorrow night! I'm really excited.

I haven't done any sewing this week. But my desk is half clean.

There are several pounds of bananas on my counter but I'm eating apples every day. For some reason, they appeal more right now.

And I'm craving chocolate. Trying desperately to hold on to that feeling of glee when I realized I lost three pounds last week. I can beat the cravings.

I love my husband!!

(How's that for a bit of randomness?)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Please, no more.

I've been feeling overwhelmed lately at my awareness of sin and evil. Most entertainment thrives on glorifying some type of sin. The news reports mostly gossip or information designed to shock because of the violence or horrific nature of the crime committed.

Hubby and I recently watched The Accidental Husband. The trailer looked cute. I thought it would be an interesting movie. Unfortunately, the movie glorified lying, premarital sex, and disloyalty. Even though the movie had a "good" ending, I walked away frustrated. Whatever happened to consequences? What about morals?

This afternoon I started reading a new book. I didn't research the book enough because I was blindsided by one of the characters, a child, being sexually violated. The actual act wasn't described but the insinuation and the characters dealing with the emotional aftermath was too much for me.

Sometimes I just don't want to know. Yes, there are horrific acts going on every day. When I can't do anything about it, should I expose myself to knowledge of what's happening? I understand that we need compassion, that we shouldn't become calloused, but it seems to me that sometimes by exposing ourselves to so much we become exactly what we're trying to avoid - uncaring, callous, unseeing individuals.

I know there is a text in the New Testament about evil and how much of it we should know about. I searched for the text this afternoon but couldn't locate it.

Enough is enough. I know about human trafficking, sexual immorality, abuse, violence, etc. I can't take much more before I'm going to spend my days locked in the closet because I can't stand to see what's going on. I wish there was something I could do to help. Because I can't help, I'm going to screen the information I allow in my home. That's the only thing I can do.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fridays - Bathroom

Friday's cleaning assignment is the main bathroom. I have to:

  • Sweep floor
  • Mop floor
  • Change towels
  • Wash sink
  • Clean mirrors
  • Scrub the toilet
  • Wipe down shower

This week has been a total success with my cleaning schedule. We have company coming over for lunch tomorrow and I didn't have to spend the day running around and frantically cleaning the apartment. I still have a few things to do that will take awhile (my desk!) but I'm making progress.

If Jesus came over to visit this evening, I wouldn't be embarrassed by the state of our home.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday - Master Bedroom

Today was all about the master bedroom and bathroom. My weekly chores include:

  • Wash sheets
  • Sweep bathroom floor
  • Wipe down sink/counter top
  • Clean toilet
  • Straighten closet

General tidying is done daily, as is the vacuuming.

This afternoon, I also spent some time sewing my test project. I'm doing a trial run of one of the Christmas presents I'm making. I've never attempted this project before and wanted to see how it would it turn out before making the official gifts. I'm still trying to decide if I want to post about the sewing and put up a picture of the gift. The gift recipients don't usually read my blog but they do have the website address...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cleaning schedule

I've been frustrated lately with how our home looks. There are always dirty dishes in the sink, clothes on the floor, and the bathroom is never fully clean (just being honest!). Whenever we invite people over, it's always a scramble to have everything presentable before they arrive. I knew it was bad when I was embarrassed to let the maintenance guy come in and work on something.

I decided I needed to make a change. Our home should not be this messy. There was really no excuse for it, other than my laziness. When I was first laid off from my job last October, I thought that transitioning into homemaking would be easy. It's been over a year of trial and error and I still don't have everything right.

On Sunday, I walked around our apartment and made a list of every single thing that needs to be cleaned. It was a very long list. I broke it down by room and then labeled each item as something that needed to be cleaned daily, weekly, or monthly. Then I assigned each room to one day of the week. Each day, I will concentrate on that specific room while completing a few additional daily chores.

Wednesdays are all about the living room. Each week on Wednesdays, I will:

  • Tidy and wash off the table
  • Dust desks/end tables
  • Straighten the game shelf
  • Water the plants
  • Clean couch cushions
  • Clean off printer shelving

I also have monthly chores for each room, the living room chores assigned to the 2nd Wednesday of every month.

  • Clean light covers
  • Wash patio windows

I also have a few daily chores that have nothing to do with today's room assignment.

  • Wash/put away dishes
  • One load of laundry - wash, hang, iron, put away
  • Wash and tidy the kitchen counters
  • Sweep kitchen floor
  • Vacuum the apartment
  • Clean the kitties' litter boxes
  • General pick up around apartment
  • Make bed
  • Personal items (devotional, exercise, reading, etc.)

I started this new system on Monday and it's worked very well so far. My daily chores don't take that long and then I work on the room assigned for that day. I estimate I'm spending between 2 and 3 hours each day cleaning. This might get faster as the apartment stays clean instead of doing damage control. The only challenge is working around the times when hubby is working at home. He spends a lot of time doing phone support for clients and I can't be heard in the background. During those times, I find quiet cleaning to do or I take my breaks and read. Right now he's on the phone so I'm writing my blog post. Now I'm off to read until he's finished and then I'll make dinner.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2nd half of Nano

Day 16 - 1,930 words
Day 17 - 0 words
Day 18 - 1,684 words
Day 22 - 0 words
Day 23 - 2,271 words
Day 24 - 2,706 words
Day 25 - 3,472 words
Day 26 - 859 words
Day 27 - 4,035 words
Day 28 - 8,902 words
Day 29 - 1,018 words
Day 30 - 0 words

Novel total - 51,025 words

Woohoo! I wrote almost every day in November, which is part of the challenge. I really don't like having 8,000+ word days because I'm so far behind. Hubby is already encouraging me to plan for next year. I'm not sure if I want to attempt another historical. There are tons of historical facts that I made up because I had no idea. This may be a silly question, but did the Egyptian houses have windows? Details like these I just had to guess about and told myself I would do more research later. Like in January.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Badge of honor

Complete! Well, almost...

I finished my 50,000 words just before midnight!! Woohoo! My novel isn't quite done yet, but I'm happy.

I'm in the middle of writing about the passover. They still have to eat the lamb and the firstborn sons of the Egyptians will die. :( Then the Hebrews will be allowed to leave Egypt. I haven't decided if I'm going to end the story there or if I will continue until the Red Sea crossing.

I finished two days early after trailing behind schedule for the last three weeks! I'm really excited about having finished the challenge this year.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Disappearing for a couple days

Chugging along on my novel. I've written 80% (40,000 words) of it and have to finish by Monday at midnight. Blog posts will probably be very sparse until then.

I hope everyone has a great weekend and a very blessed Sabbath!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

I am thankful for:

  • My wonderful husband
  • This past year of being a housewife
  • Time to study the word of God
  • The Sabbath each week
  • My health
  • Hubby's job
  • Long Scrabble games

O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name:
make known his deeds among the people.
Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him:
talk ye of all his wondrous works.
Glory ye in his holy name:
let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.
Seek the LORD, and his strength:
seek his face evermore.
Remember his marvelous works that he hath done;
his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;
ye seed of Abraham his servant,
ye children of Jacob his chosen.
Psalm 105:1-6

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oh, what a day. I am so frazzled that I have no idea what to post.

My novel is up to 36,211 words. If I work really hard for the next six days, I know I can finish on time.

Dinner is cooking. Yeah, we're eating late.

I still have to make a pumpkin pie tonight. Thankfully it's a cold pie and thus doesn't need to bake. Blend and refrigerate.

The house is semi-clean. I'm glad that we're going to someone's house instead of having people over.

Some year, hubby and I are going to host a Thanksgiving meal. I look forward to the challenge.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Falling behind

How did I get so far behind? Thanksgiving is in two days and I have to make a pie from scratch. Hubby has a dentist appointment tomorrow afternoon so we will be away from home for half the day. And I haven't even done my shopping yet!

I'm way behind on my novel. I should be approaching 40,000 words today and I'm just over 31,000. Being sick really threw me out of whack and now I'm desperately trying to play catch up. I know I can reach 50,000 before November 30th but I have to write a lot every day in order to do it.

AAAGGGGHHHHH!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Small healthy changes

Every day, I try to find some small way to improve our diet or to get some exercise. Several weeks ago, I found a way to cook onions without frying them. Today, I wanted to see if I could cook mushrooms the same way. I tossed a slice of mushroom into the pan with my onions and cooked like normal. After the onions were cooked, I bit into my mushroom. Success! I think the mushroom tasted as good, if not better, than when I fry them.

Earlier this week, I made pumpkin oatmeal to finish off my first fresh pumpkin. It turned out well, though I need to use less allspice and nutmeg next time. I'm guessing the recipe only needs 1/4 tsp of each.

Vegan Pumpkin Oatmeal

3 servings of oatmeal
1/2 c. + 2 T. fresh pumpkin, cooked and blended (because that's what I had left)
2 T. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. allspice
1/2 t. nutmeg

1. Cook oatmeal according to directions.

2. Add pumpkin and spices. Stir.

3. Eat.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Still sick

I am freezing cold and my body aches. Nothing is comfortable, whether I'm sitting or walking or laying down. At least I had time to catch up on some reading. :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Don't Feel So Good

I already took a three hour nap this evening. I have a sore throat and NO energy. Please don't let me be sick. :( It's been a long time, a year maybe?, since I've been sick.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

At the half way point

Just shy of half way finished on day 15 of 30.

Day 1 - 4,065 words
Day 2 - 4,735 words
Day 3 - 768 words
Day 4 - 1,016 words
Day 5 - 2,871 words
Day 6 - 0 words
Day 7 - 0 words
Day 8 - 557 words
Day 9 - 0 words
Day 10 - 1,428 words
Day 11 - 1,995 words
Day 12 - 1,680 words
Day 13 - 1,907 words
Day 14 - 0 words
Day 15 - 3,126 words

Running tally - 24,148 words

Friday, November 13, 2009

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

There is no phrase to describe how I've felt about my latest kitchen adventures other than "tickled pink." Over the last two days, every time I step into the kitchen, I have been absolutely tickled pink. I tried something new and it was successful!

We found painted pie pumpkins on clearance the day after Halloween. I bought two. On Wednesday, I decided it was time to see if I could cook a pumpkin correctly.

First I cut my pumpkin in half and scooped out all the seeds. I felt like I was a kid again, playing in the slimy seeds and innards of a pumpkin. Picking out all the seeds by hand was easy. Then I started the more difficult process of scraping out all of the membrane.

I put the pumpkin halves face down in a baking pan and added 1/2 inch of water. Then I baked the pumpkin at 450 degrees for 45 minutes.

Here's what it looked like after being baked:


After it cooled off a bit, I scraped it out of the shell, which was a very simple matter of peeling off the shell:


I threw the cooked pumpkin in the food processor:


I ran out of time to make pumpkin pie so I refrigerated the pumpkin overnight. Yesterday morning, I started making pie (this is my own recipe).

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients
2 c. pumpkin, cooked and blended
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/4 t. cloves
1/2 t. nutmeg
12 oz. tofu, drained and blended

Directions
1. Cream the pumpkin and sugar together.

2. Add spices and tofu.

3. Cook at 425 degrees for 15 minutes and then 350 degrees for 40 minutes.


Next time I'm going to increase the cinnamon and possibly the nutmeg. The pie turned out really well but tasted like it needed a bit more spice. I just need to learn to make pie crusts and then the whole pie will be homemade!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Miracle

I visited the library this evening and came home with fewer books than I returned. That never happens! And it should never happen again!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nano update

I figured it was time for an update on my novel. I currently have 32% of it written. I'm a little bit behind my set schedule but I'm happy with my progress.

So far it's flowing pretty well. I was planning on writing from the perspective of two characters. However, doing the actual writing, I'm only finding the voice for one character. I wrote one scene from the other planned character so during the rewrite, I will either have to take out the second character or add numerous scenes from his perspective. Right now, I'm thinking I'll just write about the one character I've been working on.

I'm almost a third done with the 50,000 words but I'm still writing about the second plague. If all the other events in the novel take this many words to write, I'll have plenty of material through the end of November!

It's been interesting writing about the plagues and how God worked in Egypt. I really wonder how I would have lived during that time period, especially when there is no record of God communicating with His people after Joseph died. The Israelites were in Egypt for several hundred years before they were allowed to leave. Several generations would have been born and died since God communicated with Joseph through his dreams. That's not to say God was quiet during those years but we have no record of Him communicating with anyone until Moses was called to the burning bush.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

MIA

I haven't intentionally neglected my blog. It has been an insane few days.

Last Thursday, my brother and his wife came into town and stayed with us. On Friday, I was running errands with them and then we picked up my niece. All three of them stayed with us until late Sunday morning.

On Friday night, we went to my mom's house for dinner. Sabbath morning, hubby and I went to church while my brother, his wife, and daughter went to the science museum. Then we all ate a late lunch together. On Saturday night, my mother and her boyfriend came over for dinner and I made homemade pizza.

I spent a lot of time cooking over the weekend. From scratch pancakes, sub sandwiches, homemade pizza (including the crust), cinnamon rolls from scratch for the first time ever, and scrambled eggs. There was a TON of dishes even though we ate from paper plates most of the weekend. My kitchen finally was completely cleaned today.

Yesterday was spent mostly at the church. I didn't get home until 3:30 in the afternoon. My quilt top is coming along nicely! I finished all of my blocks and sewed about half the sashing. I have another hour or so of work to do at home before the next meeting (next month) and then we'll be doing the border. I'm so excited! The church let me borrow the rotary cutter and the mat so I can do some quilting at home without having to struggle with scissors.

Because the women's ministries leader was nice enough to loan me the church's rotary cutter, she also said I could use it for a personal project if I wanted to attempt my own quilt or sewing project. I don't think we can afford to buy material for a quilt but I am going to sew up something for a Christmas present. Also, hubby said we could buy the material for me to make a skirt. I only have two and they only each match one top. I want to find a pretty brown material so that I can wear the skirt with multiple tops.

My goal is to eventually switch over to wearing skirts full time but I have to build up my wardrobe for that. Since we're still trying to pay off credit card debt, I can only justify spending so much money on things other than bills... We'll see what I can find on sale. I really want to make this skirt and this apron.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Failures and Successes

In the past week, I've had one kitchen failure and one tremendous success.

I tried to resurrect the bread dough I had forgotten to add yeast to. The bread raised a little bit but not enough to save it. Also, the loaf ended up entirely too dense and didn't cook in the middle. It was a complete failure. Next time I'll make sure to add yeast.

I also found a new method of frying onions. My weight fluctuates because my motivation to be healthy fluctuates. I'm trying to make small changes to my food preparation that will help my body in small ways. Happy Herbivore posted a recipe in which she talked about cooking onions in a skillet using water.

It worked!



Using water instead of oil lowers my fat intake (specifically the trans fats created from heating oil) and it tastes just as good as traditional frying methods. I just filled a skillet with water, heated it on high to boiling, added onions, stirred, and cooked for 4 minutes. That's it! I've done this twice and the first time I had to add some water because it all cooked off before the onions were done. But it worked!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Done! Complete! Finished!

I interrupt this normally scheduled Nano time to bring the following important announcement:

We have paid off our lowest balance credit card!!!

I sent the final payment this morning.

We have paid $1,589.25 since August 30th. Our goal was to pay off this card before November 30th and we are 4 weeks early. Wahoo!!!!

If we had paid only the minimums, it would have taken 60 months to pay off this card. Under our current interest rate, we would have paid $403 in interest over the next 60 months. The $403 doesn't even include the hike in interest that our credit card recently informed us about. Instead, we paid $21.23, for a savings of $381.77.

Hubby and I both need to visit the dentist ($95 each just for an exam and x-rays!) and we're also planning on diverting some of our snowball into savings. We are very gun shy about employment as we've suffered several layoffs in the past 18 months and would like to build up a bigger emergency fund. So we'll be taking a few days to discuss our next financial goal and then I'll post about what's next.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kitchen mishaps

Letting myself get pulled in too many directions is not a good idea.

Today I've been doing laundry, which of course means I have to line dry everything. That takes longer. I've done most of the dishes, except the ones I dirtied for lunch and cooking. I mixed up dough for a loaf of bread. And in the middle of all that, I'm working on my novel (6,600 words so far!).

The problem with jumping from one thing to another is that sometimes things don't get done properly because I'm not paying enough attention. What was the problem today? I left the yeast out of my bread and didn't realize it until after the rising time. Oops. That was the last of my whole wheat flour, too. I can't buy any more until Friday.

I'm going to attempt something that probably won't work. I just added the yeast to the dough, mixed it up really well, and I'm going to let it sit for an hour and see what happens. The worst that will happen is that it won't rise and I've wasted a tablespoon of yeast. I've made this recipe once before, a no knead whole wheat bread that tasted really good. I made this one Italian style by adding some spices. Maybe we'll get to try it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

One. More. Week.

$699.82 starting balance
- $256.59 snowball payment
+ $8.67 interest
- $164.00 contract paycheck

= $287.90 current balance (82% paid)

Total paid in October: $999.37 If I had realized we were that close to an even thousand, I would have found the extra 63 cents! Oh, well.

I didn't even realize we could find that much money to send the credit card company. A good portion of that money is from my contract job so it's too bad that my hours are so unpredictable. It will be hard to duplicate months like October because I can't predict my hours and I am paid a month after completing the work.

Woohoo!! Another week and that credit card will be gone! Adios. Sayonara. We don't ever want to see you again!

We've also reached another milestone. Our consumer debt is now 50% paid. We owe about $21,000 but we've paid just over $21,000. The numbers are way too big and each month doesn't make much of a dent. But we're at the half way point and are slowly chipping away at it!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Blessings of the financial kind

God is so very good and I am so very proud of my hubby!

Hubby met with his boss today to discuss his job performance and how hubby feels about the company thus far. He walked away with a raise and a bonus! Praise the Lord!

Hubby's boss also gave him a $50 gift card to the Olive Garden so that hubby can take me out on a date. It's the boss' way of saying "thanks and I'm sorry" for taking up a good portion of our evenings and weekends in October. Hurray! We've never spent that much money at the Olive Garden. This means we'll be able to get an appetizer, two entrees, and dessert! What a treat!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Busy, busy bee

I think the craziness has already started. Yesterday was busy, busy, busy.

I woke up at 7:30. That's really late, even for me. I usually wake up between 6:30 and 7:00. The temperature dropped 20 degrees overnight. I had to wear jeans, socks, and a sweatshirt all day! Ate breakfast, sent hubby off to work, and talked to him during his 45 minute drive.

After hubby arrived at work, I settled into work. My contract assignment took two hours. Then I washed all the dishes, vacuumed, ironed clothes, made lunch, ate lunch, and washed more dishes! I washed and hung up a load of laundry. I took a 10 minute break to talk to a friend on the phone. Made dinner when hubby called to say he was on the way home.

Hubby had a last minute work assignment so I curled my hair and then talked to my mom on the phone for a bit. When he was finally finished with work, we left for our date. We stopped by the mall first to spend a $10 gift card I received for my birthday. I found some really pretty lipstick for $10 and the store was nice enough to not charge me any tax. Free!

We drove over to the Phoenix Art Museum and attended a lecture on the newest photography exhibition, a survey of portraits that covered the entire history of photography. The lecture was okay. We learned a bit about the thought process of the curator when she designed the exhibition. We also learned about the history of the most famous Winston Churchill photograph. After the lecture, we browsed through the European painting section and visited all of our favorite paintings. Then we drove home and crashed into bed!

The day was very busy, didn't slow down from start to finish. I had wanted to work on my Nano prep a bit but never had time. Now it's almost 3PM Thursday and I still haven't worked on it!

Tis okay. Making peanut butter cookies for my hubby was way more important. Now that all my chores are complete, the cookies are baked, and the laundry is hung, I need to get to work. Nano starts in three days!

Monday, October 26, 2009

5 days until the craziness begins...

National Novel Writing Month starts in five days! I can't wait to get started but I'm really nervous. The first half of my novel is outlined but the second half is really sparse. I only have one character developed and she's not even fully rounded. Character development is the hardest aspect of fiction writing, I think.

Plot is easier this year because I'm writing about what it could have been like to live through the plagues of Egypt and the exodus. The overarching plot is already written out for me, though the details of the story are completely open.

I'm trying to focus on finding God through the plagues and exodus. What would it have been like to live in slavery? How would people feel when Moses shows up and says that God is ready to deliver them? What was it like to work under harsher conditions because Moses demanded their release? What was it like to watch the plagues occur and to be affected by a number of them? How would people have seen God through this situation?

I'm sure that everyone's experience was different, much like it would be if it happened today. My response to God would probably be different than your response to Him which would be different than the neighbor's response. It all depends on your history, your life experiences, and your attitude toward life. Would God seem mean? Caring? Loving? Would you be scared of Him?

These are the things I want to explore in writing my novel next month. I hope to grow closer to God through the experience as I seek to understand how He dealt with a lost people, a stubborn Pharaoh, and a meek leader.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

2/3 complete

$703.48 starting balance
- $3.66 half.com payment

= $699.82 current balance (66% paid)

We're making progress!

This upcoming week, my paycheck will clear the bank and that payment will be sent to the credit card. That should be another $160. We're so close I can taste it. Thanksgiving will be oh, so sweet because we will be slaves to one less lender.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy Sabbath, all!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Menu planning

I've started working on next week's menu and shopping list. During the summer, we shop on Fridays after my hubby gets off work so that our cupboards are full for weekend cooking. Now that sundown is earlier, we shop on Sundays. I prefer early mornings but sometimes we don't make it out the door until the afternoon.

Next week, I want to try Baked Chimichangas. I'm still pushing myself to try at least one new recipe each week. The ingredients in our chimichangas might be a bit different than the recipe calls for but the actual cooking process is new to me.

I'm also researching pumpkins. I'm trying to determine if the regular pumpkins available in stores right now are recommended for cooking. According to most websites I've visited, those pumpkins aren't that good for cooking because they aren't as sweet and the texture is rougher than cooking pumpkins. If that's the case, now I have to determine where to buy cooking pumpkins. So far, all I've seen are pumpkins for carving.

I want to make pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie... the list is extensive. I love fall and all the seasonal flavors. I just have to figure out where I can the pumpkin and how I cook it! Anyone know where I can get a cooking pumpkin?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Change in terms!

We've reached another financial roadblock. Yesterday we received a letter from the bank saying that one of our credit card interest rates is going up to 19.24% (variable, of course). We've done nothing to warrant this change. We've made all payments on time, haven't gone over the credit limit, etc. This is the same credit card that we are trying to pay off by the end of November. Coincidentally, the interest rate change will go into effect on December 1.

So far, this doesn't sound like a problem since the card will be paid in full. We were hoping to receive or apply for a balance transfer rate on this credit card because it is currently our lowest interest rate. Now it will be our highest. Balance transfers to this card would not be beneficial at a higher interest rate, even if the balance transfer is 0% for six months. Our plan was to transfer a balance from a higher rate card and then let the balance at 0% interest sit while we aggressively paid off a higher rate card. That's not going to happen now.

I've seen numerous articles that say that some banks are now starting to charge fees if the user does not charge anything to the account or annual fees regardless of usage. The new credit card legislation (link is a pdf) goes into effect in February and I'm afraid the banks are trying to take advantage of the last few months before they are restricted. I'm really nervous that we're going to be getting rate increase notices on all four of our credit cards.

Now we have to decide - do we close the accounts for which we receive notice of increased interest rates? Keeping the accounts open and facing increased interest rates is going to hurt our finances. Closing the accounts and taking the hit on the our credit scores is also going to hurt but only if we try to apply for credit. I hate credit cards and regret the mistakes I've made with them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My birthday present to myself - I'm going to bed with a clean sink and no dirty dishes on the counter. That's a rarity.

Monday, October 19, 2009

False advertising

"Life is too short for oatmeal."

So claims a sign from a local convenience store.

Life is never too short for oatmeal. Especially when the advertisement claims that a store bought cinnamon roll is better than homemade oatmeal. Especially when it's homemade oatmeal with chopped apples and cinnamon.

As soon as the temperature cools down, I'm making homemade oatmeal and homemade cinnamon rolls. Life is too short for store bought cinnamon rolls.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Over the halfway point!

$1,028.48 starting balance
- $25.00 minimum payment
- $300.00 snowball payment

= $703.48 current balance (65% paid!!)

It feels good to make some real progress this week. We owe less than a thousand dollars!

I hate that the bank will only allow me to make payments every three days. I probably need to start making one payment a week instead of sending multiple smaller payments. The $300.00 payment hits our account on Monday because I had to schedule it in the future due to having just made the minimum payment. It doesn't seem fair that the bank can charge interest on my daily balance but I can only send payments every three days. That's just a bit lopsided in their favor.

For this upcoming week, I should be receiving a paycheck for my contract work shortly. As far as I know, that will be the only payment for the week. The only other possibility is the mail in rebate for our tire purchases but I don't expect that check in the immediate future. The fine print stated that rebates can take up to six weeks and I mailed in the paperwork a week ago.

We are in route to having this credit card paid off by the end of November, which was our goal. I am very excited and can't wait to see one less bill each month.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Free price book app

Is anyone interested in trying out a free price book application for the iPhone or iPod Touch? Because of yesterday's post, I was contacted about offering feedback on a new app.

About Price Book:

"The 2.0.0 version of Price Book comes with a free companion website. Data can be entered in the website and downloaded to your device and data can also be exported from your device to the website. In this way data will always be safe and secure on the website.

"There are also a number of new features in this latest version of Price Book such as comparing prices in the same unit group. There are four unit groups: 1) weights, 2) fluids, 3) lengths, 4) areas. Prices in the same unit group are compared using the smallest unit for those prices. For example, milk sold in gallons and liters would have their price per unit cast in liters so that an accurate comparison can be made."

I think this app sounds wonderful and is something I would test out if I owned an iPhone or an iPod Touch! Would anyone else be interested in testing it out? If so, let me know and I will pass on the information so you can download a free copy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The benefits of price comparison

One way I'm trying to save money is by shopping around and doing price comparisons. I'm putting together a price book that includes all products purchased on a regular basis and which grocery store has the lowest price. By doing this, I can tell when a sale is actually a good price and when I need to stock up.

Walmart recently stopped carrying my preferred yeast, Red Star's Active Dry Yeast. Walmart charged $6.49 or so for a 4-ounce jar. When I found out that Walmart stopped carrying my yeast, I looked at several grocery stores and found that Frys was the only one that carried that particular jar of yeast and they were charging $7.99 for 4 ounces. Ouch.

Enter Amazon. However people feel about large corporations driving the little guy out of business, Amazon can usually beat any price. When you're trying to get out of debt, the savings is vital. I should have looked for yeast on Amazon a long time ago because they have a terrific price.



The jar on the left is my normal jar of yeast. The bag on the right was ordered from Amazon.

Jar: 4 ounces, $7.99 + tax
Bag: 32 ounces, $14.88 + shipping (if applicable)

The bag from Amazon is a terrific deal. To buy 32 ounces worth of jars, I would be spending $63.92, instead of $14.88 to buy a bag online. Because we were also ordering hubby's birthday present, shipping was free and we saved $49.04. I would consider that worth ordering online and waiting for the shipment. I just refilled my jar and tossed the rest of the bag into the freezer for later.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Celebration!



Today is my hubby's birthday as well as our fourth wedding anniversary. Hubby and I became engaged in September 2005 and the following month we decided to elope. I had already requested hubby's birthday off work to surprise him. When we started seriously talking about eloping, I spilled the beans that I had scheduled a vacation day on October 14th. I'm not sure if that's considered romantic, but it worked for us!



Thank you, darling, for four amazing years together. I praise God that you have enjoyed another year of life and that He has given us a wonderful year together. I pray that we will have many more years together growing in God and closer to each other.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quilting for children

The women's ministry program at the church has a mission to provide children recently removed from their homes a bag with a quilt, toiletry items, a toy, and a stuffed animal. Oftentimes, children are removed from their homes without the opportunity to take any of their belongings. The women's ministry project attempts to give these children some small amount of comfort in unfamiliar surroundings.

Volunteers make each of the quilts to give to these children. The church provides all the materials - fabric, thread, and batting. Women are encouraged to pick out fabric from the church's stash, take it home, and bring back a completed quilt. If women are unable to complete the entire quilt, they are welcome to piece blocks or even sew the entire top but leave the actual "quilting" process to the other ladies. In this way, women can contribute as much as their time and ability allows.

I believe this is a great ministry and I was invited to participate. When I informed the ministry leader that I didn't know how to quilt but was eager to learn, she invited me to attend this month's meeting. Plenty of ladies would be willing to teach me the basics so that I could get started.

The meeting was wonderful. It was overwhelming at times, as I don't know much about quilting and needed to be shown everything. But once the ladies showed me how to complete a step in the project, they let me continue on my own and answered any questions. I learned a little bit about how to pick out complimentary fabrics, how to iron the fabric, how to cut strips, and how to sew strips of fabric together and then cut it to make the blocks.

Here's my first block:



I was sent home with enough fabric to complete eight additional blocks. Next month, the ladies will teach me how to determine what size sashing is needed, cut the sashing, and design a border. By this time next month, I might have completed my first quilt top! I'm really excited about this opportunity. Not only do I get free lessons, I'm helping out children who have been removed from their homes. I hope that in some small way, my quilt will make a little boy feel more loved.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Today's quote

"Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance."
Bruce Barton


I'm headed off to a women's ministries meeting at the church. I'll be learning how to quilt today!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

One third complete

$1,278.60 starting balance
- $244.00 contract paycheck
- $6.12 half.com payment

= $1,028.48 current balance (35.3% paid)

When we started aggressively paying off this credit card, Bankrate calculated that it would take 60 months to eliminate the balance. Calculating our current balance, Bankrate now states that it will take only 36 months of minimum payments. In only 6 weeks, we have eliminated two years of minimum payments! Every little bit really does help.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Weather, kitty update, and to do list

I can't believe how quickly it has cooled down. Just two weeks ago, it was reaching 105 degrees by afternoon. Today, my windows and doors are all open, a cool breeze is blowing into the apartment, and I'm actually a little chilly. Our highs are now around 85 degrees, which is starting to get chilly for Arizona. I've lived in Arizona for 10 years and I've acclimated fairly well. While I won't complain about temperatures in the 70s, I will be wearing jeans and possibly a long sleeve shirt!

My kitty seems to be feeling better. Hubby saw him eating breakfast and he's a bit more feisty. Hubby also caught Bruno and Susano on the counter early this morning eating one of my houseplants. Bad kitties!

I've neglected my six most important things list. I'm not sure why I stopped but not writing the list lowers my productivity levels. So today I decided to post my six most important things on my blog and see how much I can accomplish.

Preparation Friday:
Dishes
Wash and dry the sheets; remake the bed
Vacuum
Sweep floors in kitchen and bathrooms
Clean kitty litter boxes
Clean toilet and bathroom sink

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sick kitty



I think my kitty might be sick. He's been lethargic all day and hasn't eaten much. I'm giving him all the attention he wants and letting him sleep as much as possible. Poor baby.

I've never felt so close to a cat before. Hubby and I both raised him but Bruno connected with me. He follows me around every day, freaks out when I leave home for more than a few hours, and insists on staying by my side. He's never that far away. I must have been the first thing he saw when his eyes finally opened and he's never let go of me since. It hurts to watch him not feel well. Hopefully he's feeling like himself tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

First time for everything

What a great day of firsts!

  • First day we've not turned on the air conditioning since June. I hope it stays that way!
  • First time I've filled out a Citizen Survey for my city.
  • First time I've gone shopping at Walmart at 5AM. Great customer service and the store is perfectly clean.
  • First time I've applied to participate in a credit card program. Earn 20% of any balance paid above the minimum for the next three billing cycles. I can't use the card (no worries there) and my credit line will be reduced by the amount paid above the minimum. I had called to find out why my interest rate was raised 1.75% and they offered this instead. I applied, but hubby and I discussed this program and decided we won't take advantage of it. Because the payments are applied to lowest interest rates first and we recently transferred a balance to this card at a much lower rate, we would actually be losing money by paying off the 1.9% interest instead of the 10.24% card we're paying on now.

We might be visiting another small art museum for the first time tonight. It depends on how tired we are after doing the last bit of grocery shopping at the farmer's market.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The balance grew...

I meant to post this yesterday but I fell asleep at 6:30 last night and woke up at 6:30 this morning!

We made NO progress on the credit card last week. I have a feeling that the first week of each month will be the one that we are unable to make a payment. Hubby gets paid at the end of each month but most of our bills are due within the first 10 days of the month.

$1,266.04 starting balance
+ $12.56 interest

= $1278.60 current balance (19.6% paid)

This week will be much better. I was paid on Friday but I'm waiting for the check to clear the bank. As soon as that clears, I'll be sending a payment.

Our snowball will also be affected this month as our car wouldn't start on Sabbath and we found out our battery needed to be replaced. We missed church. That's another $100 we've had to put into the car. Combine the new battery purchase with the new tires and we've paid almost $550 into car maintenance in less that two weeks! The beauty of it all is that we have an emergency fund (for the battery; the tires were budgeted) and haven't had to use the credit cards. God is very good!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Have a very blessed Sabbath!

Come to Me,
all who are weary and heavy-laden,
and I will give you rest

Matthew 11:28.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Branching out, trying something new

One of my goals is to try new things, whether it be experiences, food, or styles. I am a very conservative person and have not experienced much because I've always been afraid to try something different. This is true in my diet, my music, my hobbies, and even my interactions with other people.

An easy way for me to branch out without too much risk is our food. Our menus are very limited and we get bored eating the same things day after day. My culinary repertoire is mostly Mexican and Italian dishes. I thought it would be fun to attempt apple butter today.

First I peeled the apples and quartered them. All the apples went into the Crock Pot with some vanilla. Then it cooked for eight hours.



After three hours, my apples were already starting to liquefy.



After eight hours of cooking, I added cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar, and white sugar. I stirred it all up and then let it cook for another two hours. The final product in my lovely recycled Classico jars:


I haven't tried it yet. I was waiting for it to cool off and now I'm ready to eat a piece of homemade Amish bread with my homemade apple butter. I hope it turned out well!

I used this recipe for inspiration. I halved the recipe and didn't cook it as long as the recipe called for because the apple butter was starting to turn dark brown and stick to the sides of the Crock Pot. Hopefully I made the right decision to end the cooking early. If not, I'll just have to try again with a full recipe.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Poor kitties

I woke up at four am to the sound of mewing. It didn't register at first that it wasn't one of our cats. As I woke up, I realized that the sound was coming from outside. We opened the door, turned on the patio light, and saw nothing. It took awhile, but eventually, a tiny kitten walked in front of our patio. The kitten couldn't have been more than seven or eight weeks old!

Hubby and I tried but couldn't catch the kitten as it was feral and ran. While I don't want another cat (we have three!), I was hoping to catch it, spay or neuter it, and then find it a new home. It broke my heart to see such a tiny kitten loose in the neighborhood. I left a handful of cat food on the patio and hopefully the kitten will return tonight to find dinner. Poor baby.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Quietness

Today was a very quiet day. Hubby attended a Microsoft conference this afternoon so I was home by myself. The cats were actually pretty quiet and I wasn't sure what to do without any noise!

I was feeling a bit down this afternoon. I picked up my Bible and read a few chapters in Acts about how God kept protecting and guiding Paul and Silas. They were so focused on their mission to tell others about the gospel. I admire that drive. I wish I could say the same about myself. I'm afraid to talk to strangers about God. Chalk it up to insecurity, shyness, or fear of rejection.

Between my Bible study and housework, I'm feeling better this afternoon. When I finished reading the Bible, I tackled the kitchen. We now have very clean dishes, a clean stove, and an uncluttered counter top. I put pinto beans in the crock pot this morning and made rice just a bit ago. We're having haystacks for dinner. Chips, homemade beans, homemade rice, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. Yum!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Slow progress, but forward motion nonetheless

CC1 progress

$1,272.98 starting balance
- $6.94 Half.com earnings

= $1,266.04 current balance (20.34% paid)

I found another reason to get out of debt as quickly as possible. Blunt Money's post on how interest rates are calculated shows that most credit cards charge a daily periodic rate, meaning that I am accumulating interest every single day. The term APR is misleading because you would think that it's an annual percentage rate but it's not.

Sure enough. I looked up my last statement on this credit card and they are charging interest every single day. That means that today I'm being charged interest on the interest that they charged yesterday. Compound interest strikes hard. I feel justified sending multiple payments every week if possible. It will save us money on interest because our daily balance will be lower.

We were hit hard with expenses last week. Four new tires plus alignment (which we desperately needed) cost us $416.75. Ouch! We have a $58 mail in rebate but that money can't go to the credit card until I get a check, which usually takes 4-6 weeks. Oh, well. At least we had the money in the bank and could pay cash even without touching our savings account.

Groceries were also a big expense because we needed a few things that aren't weekly purchases - olive oil, kitty litter, two bags of cat food, and a couple other odds and ends that couldn't wait. We spent most of the grocery budget on staples, building up our pantry again. I'm probably going to have to use the rest of our snowball for September ($40) to buy additional food. We don't have enough to last two weeks.

I keep reminding myself that we are making progress, even though it doesn't seem like it some weeks. It's a blessing to be able to cash flow expenses rather than dip into savings or use the credit cards. All of our bills are being paid on time and we even have extra money some weeks. I have to look at the big picture, not just at the previous week. The big picture looks so much better! God is very good.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Oh what a day!

I'm exhausted. What a day.

Early am - Breakfast, dishes, laundry, vacuuming.
Late am - Contract work.
Early pm - Shopped for new tires on the car.
Late pm - Grocery shopping.

Come, blessed Sabbath! I can't wait to attend church tomorrow.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Shopping for tires

We are trying to balance debt pay off with taking care of car maintenance, clothing needs, etc. It's really hard spending money when we're so focused on getting out of debt. Each month, we take a look at our finances, determine what our snowball will be, and decide if there's anything we need that month. This month, we were planning on new tires. Next month, we will be ordering hubby a six month supply of contacts. December will be all about credit card progress, unless an emergency arises before the end of the year.

We've known we need new tires for awhile. We have two tires on the car that are a year or so old, one that is several years old, and one tire from when we financed it in 2005! The plan is to replace all four tires so that they match and will wear evenly.

Hubby had a client appointment this afternoon and walked out to the car only to find that one of our tires was flat. Interesting timing, as we're currently searching for good deals and can afford the tires tomorrow! Hubby changed the tire out for the donut and realized that we had no tread left on that tire and that's why it finally gave out. We are overdue!

It's confusing shopping for tires. I'm looking at an ad from Tire Pros that has free installation, free balancing, and sale prices on the tires. Pepboys Auto is offering that if you buy any three installed tires, you get the fourth for free and, if I'm reading the website correctly, they offer free installation. Discount Tire Company has a $40 mail in rebate on one of their tire brands but charges for installation. Walmart has decent prices on tires and $5 installation fees but I don't really trust Walmart to take care of my car. All of the companies charge outrageous prices for disposing the tires but I'm having troubles locating a company that recycles the tires so that we can avoid the disposal fee.

I think we might have to just pick a company and go with it and hope we got the best deal. They all carry different tires, so how are we supposed to compare? I'm so confused!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Art Appreciation

My hubby and I visited the Phoenix Art Museum tonight. We visit almost every week and love browsing through the European section. Most of the paintings are gorgeous and we learn something new every time we visit.

When I was growing up, my only exposure to art was photography. My brother and I have been interested in photography for as long as I can remember and our parents encouraged us in it. We were poor growing up, but my parents still bought both of us cheap film cameras. As I was responsible for funding most of the film development, I didn't take that many pictures. However, when I was in high school and was hired at my first job, my photography took off. I have thousands of pictures in our spare bedroom, mostly taken in high school and early in college. Hubby and I bought a digital camera last year and I've been digital ever since (I prefer print, but my budget demands digital).

Hubby is an artist, a painter. Even though I knew of his talent, I still didn't have much of an appreciation for painting. My only exposure to paintings was my art appreciation class in college. The only paintings I was familiar with were photographs of painting in my textbook and the ones my professor projected onto the wall. Still, I didn't have much appreciation for art because I didn't realize just how detailed a painting could be.

When hubby and I first learned the Phoenix Art Museum had free admission once a week, we visited on a date. I fell in love with paintings, mostly the European art. I love visiting the museum and only wish that they had a larger European section. Someday, hubby and I have determined to visit New York City's Met. Maybe when we get all of our debt paid off, we can vacation in New York and visit some of the cultural sites.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kitchen doings

What a great success. For the first time since we were given it a year ago, I opened the box and used my new Crock Pot. I filled a pot with water and soaked black beans overnight. This morning, I rinsed the beans, pulled out a couple bad ones, and covered them with water in the Crock Pot. I cooked them for eight hours and they tasted really good! 

I wasn't sure how to long to cook the beans or how much water to use, so I searched the internet and found A Year of Slowcooking's recipe for cooking dried beans. What a great website! I'm drooling over a few of the recipes and have already determined to make apple butter this weekend if I can find a deal on apples.

I also made homemade tortillas and rice. We really wanted to make enchiladas but the tortillas are too small for me to roll and then bake. Instead, we filled them with black beans and rice (plus sour cream for me) and then poured hot enchilada sauce over the top. We ended up eating them with a fork. If I can wean myself off the sour cream (or switch to vegan sour cream) and find a homemade enchilada sauce recipe, we'll have ourselves a very healthy meal! 

Between the black beans, tortilla shells, and amish bread baked this morning, I had a very productive day in the kitchen! 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Easy-peasy

Today was a pretty easy day for work and I'm glad. I've been feeling under the weather all day so I was quite happy when I completed three hours of contract work and was told that would be all until tomorrow.

So instead, I did some cleaning. I washed two loads of laundry and washed the dishes. If I'm feeling better tomorrow, I might tackle the kitchen floor. It's looking kind of grimy in front of the closet where our trash can is stored.

I also worked on my Nano outline for awhile, putting together some information for my first two chapters. It's been very interesting trying to imagine what it would have been like to live through the plagues. How hard would it have been to find drinking water by digging in the banks of the Nile? What would it have been like finding your house overrun with frogs and being able to do nothing about it? Most of the plagues affected both the Egyptians and the Hebrews so no one was immune.

I wonder how much the Hebrews remembered about God. They were in Egypt for a really long time with no prophets. The 10 commandments reminded them of God's precepts, like keeping the Sabbath. Does this mean they had forgotten to keep the Sabbath or were just keeping it incorrectly? Or maybe they knew about the Sabbath and wanted to observe but couldn't because they had to work every day. Do we know for sure? I'm not sure that we do, but it's been enlightening trying to imagine what life would have been like.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mini-milestone and goals revisited

Last week's progress on CC1:

$1,448.98 starting balance
- $176.00 contract paycheck

$1,272.98 current balance (20% paid)

We're finally making some progress on this credit card! I received my paycheck last week for time completed in August. It's the first of several large paychecks, my next coming 10/1.

This week hubby and I will be shopping for new tires for our car. We are overdue and the goal is to pay for four new tires by the end of September. We have to wait until his next paycheck (Friday) to have the cash, but that's where most of our snowball will be directed this month. Unfortunately, we can't neglect essential car maintenance just because we're focused on paying off our credit cards.

Hubby and I have decided that we're going to start trying for a baby when all the consumer debt is paid off. I'm so excited about this as we now have a concrete goal of when we're going to start growing our family. Before, we just talked about "when we can afford it," "when the debt is paid off." Well, we have $69,500 in total debt and that pay off is years away.

We're following Dave Ramsey's baby steps:

1 - $1,000 emergency fund DONE
2 - Pay off all debt except the house
3 - Build an emergency fund that covers 3-6 months of expenses
4 - Retirement savings
5 - College funds for kids
6 - Pay off home early
7 - Give like you've never given before

Because we have no house and no plans to buy one... we're rearranging the steps a bit so that we can start growing our family:

1 - $1,000 emergency fund DONE
2 - Pay off all consumer debt (credit cards and car)
3 - Build an emergency fund that covers 3-6 months of expenses
3a - Start trying for a baby while building our emergency fund
4 - Retirement savings
5 - Save up a minimum 30% down payment on a house
5a - College funds for kids
6 - Pay off home early
7 - Give like you've never given before

That's the plan for now, though things will probably change once our consumer debt is paid off. What's left for consumer debt?

CC1 - $1,272.98
CC2 - $3,037.29
CC3 - $4,363.78
Auto loan - $4,565.83
CC4 - $9,105.16

We are $22,345.04 away from having our first child! I am very excited. That's so much more optimistic than the original figure of $69,444.98 for our total debt.

Friday, September 18, 2009

End of the week and now we rest

I am almost ready for the Sabbath. It's been a busy day but I feel accomplished. Before breakfast, I went grocery shopping. Walmart was very quiet this morning and it made for a relaxing trip. Then I spent the morning on my contract work, ate lunch, visited the post office, and completed some housework.

The only thing left to finish is putting away the clean dishes on the counter and in the dishwasher. I also have to clean out the litter boxes. Fun fun! Then I can relax and enjoy the Sabbath.

Shabbot Shalom!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Randomness

I'm not sure what I want to write about today. The only thing I accomplished today was six hours of work and I finished reading a book.

I've been dragging a bit lately when it comes to doing anything but my contract work. My energy levels are low, reasons known but not welcomed. Our house is passable but I haven't continued work on the 31 days to clean challenge. I intend to return to that project.

So I guess I will conclude by admitting I have nothing useful to say. :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Writing Challenge - National Novel Writing Month


This year, I will be participating in National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write a 175 page novel (50,000 words) during the month of November. Nano starts on November 1st at 12:01 AM and ends November 30th at midnight. The rules state that I have to write a novel completely from scratch, no rewrites or finishing drafts that have already been started. On November 1st, I will sit down with a blank Word document. Hopefully, by November 30th, I will have written an entire novel of at least 50,000 words.

It's fun! I've participated twice before. The first time I attempted this feat, my story petered out and I wasn't able to finish. The second time I tried, my novel was complete, over 50,000 words, but was terrible. I couldn't even bear to read it. It might be saved on my hard drive somewhere, but I don't even really remember what the story was about.

This year, I'm preparing myself ahead of time. I'm going to write a "Biblical narrative," a novel that tells a Bible story but is written from the perspective of fictional characters. I've always wondered what it would have been like to live as a slave in Egypt, experience the plagues, and see firsthand the awesome power of God delivering His people.

The novel will be written from the perspective of an Egyptian male who is involved with the Hebrews but I'm not sure exactly how. He will be either a scribe in Pharaoh's court and will thus witness Moses' demands regarding the Hebrews or he'll be a tax collector who deals with the Hebrew farmers who grow part of their crops for Egypt.

The second character is a Hebrew slave, a young girl who lost both of her parents early in life and is no stranger to hardship and grief. I want to explore what it may have been like for both the Egyptians and Hebrews as the plagues progressed and the Hebrews were finally allowed to leave Egypt.

That's what all my research has been about lately. I've been reading books on Egypt, the plagues, and Mt. Sinai. There are some very interesting theories about the 10 plagues, whether they were supernatural occurrences or natural events controlled by God. I'm not sure anyone really knows.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reminder - Dave Ramsey Giveaway

If you haven't entered today's $999 emergency fund giveaway, please do so! Having an emergency fund allows me to breathe easy because I know the money is available to cover a trip to the doctor or car trouble, should the need suddenly arise.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Free emergency fund and shopping sales

Dave Ramsey is giving away a $999 emergency fund. I didn't find out about this until after it started, but he's giving away an emergency fund every day until 9/17/09. You can enter each day for a chance to win. We already have an emergency fund in place ($1,000) but I'm still entering the drawing. If we win, we'll use it to pay down our credit card.

I had an excellent shopping day. We don't usually shop at Albertson's, but they were having some good sales that I couldn't pass up. They have selected cereals on sale for $1.50 each box, taco shells for $1.25 a box, and enchilada sauce for $1.25 a can. For the Mexican food, you could buy any combination of taco shells, enchilada sauce, and another product and the price would come out to 6 for $1.25 each plus a coupon for $3.00 off your next Albertson's purchase.

I purchased:
1 box multi grain Cheerios
1 box Golden Grahams (hubby's request)
2 packages of taco seasoning (free - "buy 2 boxes of taco shells, receive a free package of taco seasoning")
4 boxes of taco shells
2 cans of enchilada sauce

Grand total: $9.62!! I also received a coupon for $3.00 off my next order. I saved 63% ($16.70) on this trip.

After work, hubby and I returned to Albertson's to use the coupons I received this morning. The first coupon was for $1.50 off the purchase of three boxes of cereal. The second coupon was the $3.00 reward coupon off the next shopping trip. Because the boxes were $1.50 each, we got all three for free! We now have three extra boxes of Cheerios in our pantry.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Responsibility and Accountability

This week's credit card activity:

$1,489.38 starting balance
- $31.00 September minimum payment
- $9.40 Half.com earnings

= $1,448.98 current balance (8.8% paid)

I am seeing very little movement on this balance, but it will speed up! I should be able to make a snowball payment at the end of the month and I have a paycheck coming this week.

Last week I mentioned that I would be interested in knowing how much interest we'll be saving by paying this credit card off in the next three months. I found this calculator, which says that we will pay $403 in interest if we only pay minimums. I believe that we should be paying about $60 in interest over the next three months and will thus save $343 by paying the credit card off early.

We actually have more than one credit card.
CC1 - $1,448.98
CC2 - $3,037.29
CC3 - $4,363.78
CC4 - $9,105.16

I refuse to calculate how much interest we’ll be paying with all four cards. It would be too depressing. However, when I found the calculator earlier this week, I couldn’t help but plug in the numbers for CC4. Ouch. I shouldn’t have looked. Our highest balance credit card is also the one with the highest interest.

$9,105.16 balance
$231.00 monthly payment
18.24% interest rate
61 months until pay off, if only paying minimums

You will pay $5,069 in interest plus your balance for a total of $14,174.16.

Depressing. Very, very depressing. That’s why I titled this post “Responsibility and Accountability.” We have to face the music and pay the penalty for making bad financial decisions. I wish the price wasn’t so high, but this is a permanent lesson. Never again will I waste my money like this! All these numbers don’t even include all the payments and interest I’ve made over the past several years. What a waste! We could have done so many positive things with the money, but instead, we’re lining the pockets of the banks. Never again. And the worst part of all of this? Hubby and I have no idea what we charged on the cards!

Friday, September 11, 2009

End of the week

No schedule today. Tons of contract hours, 7 hours worth. I'm exhausted.

Praise the Lord for the Sabbath!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Second schedule attempt

I attempted another scheduled day. It is going fairly well... Before my schedule started this morning, I wrote my three Morning Pages, exercised, took a shower, ate breakfast, and had Bible study with hubby.

10:30-11:00 - Housework
11:00-11:30 - Research
11:30-12:00 - Housework
12:00-1:00 - Lunch/Free Time
1:00-1:30 - Update prices/add items for sale on Half.com
1:30-2:00 - Read blogs/Check email
2:00-2:30 - Housework
2:30-? - Play Scrabble with hubby :)

The only thing left on my schedule is some character building for my novel. I was doing really well with the schedule but hubby is home and he was very agreeable to playing a game of Scrabble with me so I decided to toss out the last hour of my schedule. I've accomplished everything on my to-do list for today.

Tomorrow will be a return to unscheduled days. I should have contract work tomorrow morning and that's always a priority over everything else. My contract work is first come, first serve so I watch my email very closely and drop everything else when work is assigned. The faster I can finish the initial assignment, the more work I am assigned until everything has been completed for the day by all the contractors. I like having the ability to work more hours than the initial assignment but it makes planning hard as I'm at the beck and call of my emails!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The first time she attempts a schedule...

As I knew in advance that I would have no contract work today and that hubby would be gone for hours, I decided to create a strict schedule for the day. This was my first attempt at creating a schedule for homemaking duties. I think I did fairly well!

9:00-9:45 - Housework
9:45-10:00 - Reading
10:00-10:30 - Bible study
10:30-11:00 - Housework
11:00-11:30 - Work on my brother's Christmas present
11:30-12:00 - Exercise
12:00-1:00 - Lunch/Free time
1:00-2:00 - Research
2:00-2:30 - Reading (I was trying to finish a book today. Success!)

I followed my schedule almost exactly. The only deviation was that hubby called at noon and said he was done early. I talked to him for a few minutes and then hung up and did research until 1:00, when he arrived home. We ate lunch together at 1:00 and then I had free time until 2:00.

My contract work boss emailed everyone and said there is no work again tomorrow. I think I'm going to rearrange today's schedule a bit and try it again tomorrow. I'd like to exercise before breakfast instead of lunch and I want to have Bible reading earlier in the morning. I finished reading John this morning started in Acts.

All in all, my first attempt at a schedule was a great success! I feel very productive. I'm not sure what I'm going to do this afternoon, but I'll find something. Maybe I'll keep working on my brother's Christmas present. That's going to take hours of dedicated work, I've realized!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Doubling recipes

I double a lot of recipes. In doing so, I find myself dealing with conversions from teaspoons to tablespoons, from tablespoons to cups... Even though I double recipes frequently, I always forget the conversions. Thankfully, I found this calculator today. This will make those conversions so much easier.

My contract work is still on hold and I have the day off tomorrow as well because of lack of work. Hubby will be working at client sites all day tomorrow and I am determined to maximize my productivity! I have much that I wish to accomplish - Bible study, vacuuming, a load of laundry, ironing, progress on my brother's Christmas present, and some research for the novel I'm going to attempt writing in November.

During the day, I will be listening to classical music. I have a new found love for some of the old composers, especially Sergei Rachmaninoff.

My favorite, Rachmaninoff playing his Piano Concerto No. 2:

Monday, September 7, 2009

31 Days to Clean - Day 17

My husband is on call today so I decided I would progress with the 31 Day Challenge. Today's task is to clean the laundry room.

I have a tiny laundry room that I access by stepping onto our patio. It contains a stackable 3/4 size washer and dryer, the hot water heater, and a tiny trashcan where I throw all of the lint from the dryer. It didn't take too long to wipe everything down but it really needed it! I can't believe how much dirt and grime had accumulated on my washer. Now I don't have to worry about letting my clothes touch the machine as I transfer them to the dryer. Ick.

My contract work is nonexistent today. I was hoping for a couple hours but that's ok. I've been catching up on all our laundry and reading a library book. Hubby and I also walked over to Walgreen's to pick up a Redbox movie. Even in September, it's not a good idea to take a half hour walk in the middle of the day! I felt faint when we returned to the apartment. I can't wait for cooler weather!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

This week's step toward freedom

$1,521.38 starting balance
- $30.00 contract paycheck
- $2.00 online survey reward

= $1,489.38 current balance

According to bankrate, we're now down to 57 months until payoff. We eliminated a month from our payoff in one week and have paid off 6.3% of our initial balance. We're making progress, though I can't really see how we're going to pay off this balance by November 30th. Thankfully I have some bigger paychecks coming, starting the 15th of this month.

I love statistics. I should figure out how to calculate the amount of interest we're saving by paying early and often. Interest over a period of 57 months is huge, even when your APR is only 10.24%!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

31 Days to Clean - Day 16

“I believe you should live each day as if it is your last, which is why I don't have any clean laundry, because, come on, who wants to wash clothes on the last day of their life?”
Source unknown


Day 16 of the cleaning challenge is all about fighting laundry piles. I have to admit, the above quote is pretty accurate! If I only do things that are fun, laundry would never be complete. Thankfully, my husband needs clean clothes to wear to work each day and thus my dirty laundry pile stays fairly tamed.

In an effort to lower our electricity bill, I've started line drying some of our clothes. Our apartment complex doesn't allow clotheslines on the patios so I am forced to be creative. Instead, I hang all of our shirts on hangers and leave them hanging on the shower curtain bar. This has been working really well, as long as I remember to fold or iron the clothes after they are dry. Our electric bill went down $16 last month!

This month, I am going to attempt to hang all of our laundry and eliminate the need for the dryer. I'm going to visit the dollar store to see if they carry clothes pins. If not, I'll check Walmart. I'm going to try pinning the clothes to regular hangers and leaving them in the bathroom to dry. I'm not sure if the clothes pins will fit around the hangers but I believe that's my only option for hanging work pants and jeans. If I'm lucky, our electric bill will drop again this month.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Work, work, and ... cookies

Today has been all about work. I had intentions of getting my ironing caught up but ended up with five hours of contract work instead. Praise the Lord! I'm hoping for another great paycheck this month.

I baked peanut butter cookies this afternoon, though I'm not sure I want to recommend the recipe. I didn't realize until I started mixing the ingredients just how fattening this particular recipe is! All that margarine, sugar, and peanut butter. I don't even want to know the fat and calorie content of a single cookie. I haven't tried the cookies yet; I'm waiting until hubby returns home from work before tasting them.

Speaking of cookies, this is the first recipe that I've managed to bake as many cookies as the recipe claims it yields. Usually, a recipe says it will bake 24 cookies but I'm lucky if I end up with 18. I guess I make each cookie too big, though it seems like they are normal sized. Oh well!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Vegan Pumpkin Pancakes

I found and adapted a great recipe for pumpkin pancakes. It's almost the season for pumpkin but I was impatient and couldn't wait until October.

Ingredients

2 cups flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups soy milk (will probably work with rice milk)
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup applesauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions

1. In a large bowl, mix the soy milk, pumpkin, applesauce, oil, and vanilla until smooth.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt.

3. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin and stir well. Batter will be very thick; do not thin with additional milk.

4. Let the bowl sit for 5 minutes. Do not stir.

5. Spray a frying pan with olive oil and heat to medium low. Use almost 1/2 cup batter for each pancake. Spread batter on pan with a spoon, but don't spread too thin.

6. Cook both sides until brown and serve.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Moving toward financial freedom

$1,589.25 starting balance
- $26.79 Half.com sales
- $41.08 August snowball

= $1,521.38 current balance

Bankrate: It will take you 58 months to pay off your credit card.

In one week, we paid off 4.3% of our balance and advanced our scheduled payoff date by two months!

This upcoming week, I will be concentrating on working as many hours as possible. My contract job pays on a 30 day schedule so the pay period ending tomorrow will be paid out the first week of October. I wish it was more immediate but at least I should be receiving a paycheck soon for work completed at the end of July!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

31 Days to Clean - Day 15

Dost thou love life,
then do not squander time,
for that's the stuff life is made of.

Benjamin Franklin


I've spent the past week pondering today's assignment for the cleaning challenge. Do I want to set up a strict schedule for my days? Can I set up a strict schedule? How much emphasis should I place on work versus cleaning? Am I allowed to schedule personal reading time for myself?

I finally decided that our lifestyle isn't conducive to strict schedules. Hubby works from most mostly but his time at client sites is rarely scheduled in advance. My contract hours vary drastically. Today I was assigned only an hour of work but yesterday I completed three hours, and four hours the day before. Hubby had to work all day last Sunday and thus has a three day weekend starting tomorrow.

Instead of scheduling each hour of my day, I created a list of what I need/aspire to complete and how much time I will commit to each:
  • 30 min. of personal Bible study
  • 20 min. of Bible study with hubby
  • 45 min. of writing  - morning pages and blog
  • 30 min. research for National Novel Writing Month
  • 1-5 hours of contract work, depending on assignment
  • 1 hour cleaning
  • 30 min. personal reading

Now I can fit everything into whatever work schedule hubby or I might have on any given day. I know I need to complete certain tasks and will organize everything around work. The times listed above are estimates and may change in the future. I think I read more than half an hour each day and sometimes I will only write for twenty minutes. But this rough estimate makes a great starting point.