Monday, February 22, 2010

Project #4: Homemade Birthday Invitations

My daughter and I spent about an hour making invitations to her birthday party. She had a great time helping! It was nice to use some stuff from my craft stockpile!
I used some pink cardstock for the cards. We stamped them with a flower stamp and Versa Mark ink. Then I applied "heat & stick" and Kelsey heated it with the heat gun. Once it was sticky we poured hot pink glitter on them!

They turned out great and glitter is now everywhere!!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book #3: Girl with a Pearl Earring

The third book I've finished this year is Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. It's a pretty short novel and very easy to read.

I found the story subtle and realistic. I could imagine myself in the scenes where the fictional tale takes place. There wasn't a lot of action or suspense. It is a coming of age story of a girl, Greit, living in Holland in the 1600's. In concequence of an accident her father suffers she becomes a maid for the famous painter Johannes Vermeer.
I was able to read through the book in 2 days. It is perfect for anyone looking for a little escape.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book #2: An American Prophet's Record

I have finished my second book! This one was 500 pages long.

There is a new series of books being published about Joseph Smith, the LDS prophet. He lived in the 1800's and started the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, sometimes called the Mormons.

Well, the Joseph Smith Papers Project is amazing in its scope. However, the books they are publishing are very much out of my price range! They have already published the first two books in the series which I periodically drool over.

I was lamenting the fact that these books wouldn't be gracing my bookshelves any time soon when someone pointed out that the journals of Joseph Smith can be had for a fraction of the cost. I quickly plunked down around $15 plus shipping for my own copy.

An American Prophet's Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (2nd ed), by Scott H. Faulring is a very easy to read book. I like how it was done, the language was cleaned up a bit and there are ellipses to explain some words to the reader. This can be helpful since spelling was not very important in the 1800's.

The journals are so interesting to read. There were parts that were super boring, like the minutes of certain court cases. I found other court cases intriguing, so I am glad they are there. You really do catch a glimpse of the life and beliefs of Joseph Smith and the early LDS restoration movement.

I did notice that there is a lot of overlap with the History of the Church, which I have read about half of. There are some differences in the recordings, so it is still worth reading both if you are an LDS historian or fascinated by LDS church history.

As always, when reading journals I wish there was more information and details recorded. I am glad for the records and journals that we do have, though! I guess that is the history lover in me. It is neat to see how people from another time and place lived and died.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Project #3: Children's Closets & Dressers

This week I went through ALL the clothes the kids have. It took me two sessions. I think I spent about 3 hours total.

I wanted to get an accurate count of what they have so that when I am out shopping the deals I get things they need and don't overbuy anything. There are so many cute items out there and great deals that it can be tempting to keep buying even when we have enough.

So, now I have a huge pile of items to get rid of. Some I will take to the second hand shop. Everything that they won't take will go straight to the thrift store with the rest of the goods. Here is a picture of my beautiful pile!

The closets all look great and are filled with clothes that fit and look nice. Well, the play clothes may be ragged, but that is to be expected!

My oldest son's closet:

My daughter's closet. The rest of her clothes are in a dresser:

My youngest son's closet:

The clothes they have yet to grow into are in Space Bags on a shelf. This keeps them easily accessible for me and helps me remember that they are there. I love having everything organized!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Clearance Sale at BabiesR'Us

I went to BRU to use a $5 ecard I got from them from Facebook the other day. They have some good sales going on right now.

There are a lot of clothes on clearance with an additional 30% off the clearance tag. There were outfits marked at $9 that were really cute. They would be $6.30 final price!!!

All the Gerber cloth diapers are B1G1 50% off. The packages run about $14.99 each, number in package vary. But this would be a very cheap way to get started cloth diapering. Or, you can buy some to donate to humanitarian efforts, which is what I did.

2-12 pack Gerber flat fold diapers $14.99 + $7.49
1 pair cute socks sz 36-48 months $0.70
TOTAL OOP after $5 off: $20.04

February Finance Talk

5 Million Dollars In Cash Displayed At Seminole Hard Rock Casino

Like most American's we have a lot of debt. Unlike many, our debt is not consumer credit card debt. We owe a lot of money on student loans and business loans.


I cannot stand it when I hear people talk about "good" debt. I am here to tell you that all debt feels bad. Now, maybe a mortgage doesn't feel this bad, but all my debt feels awful!

We are starting 2010 with nearly $200,000 in debt. Think about it. Paying minimum payments would never get us out of debt. We will die in debt unless we do more.

Some of you may know we have been following Dave Ramsey for several years now. I really like his approach to debt elimination. I like several other books by other authors as well. The plans I like are all so similar that we just stick with the DR plan. One of the great things about DR is that he is very motivational. His most popular book is The Total Money Makeover. I really enjoyed Financial Peace Revisited and More than Enough. More Than Enough has a lot of meat to it.

One thing I love to do is use debt elimination calculators to see what we need to do to pay off our debt before we are dead. There are several out there and some are better than others.
I really like the free one I use with Excel from Vertex24. I like using Excel beacause I can save it on my computer and make changes as often as I like. Some of the online calculators are nice, but you have to redo them from scratch whenever there is a change you want to make.

Current Debts:
Hospital: $819
Biz Overdraft: $8,911
Biz Loan #1: $25,660
Biz Loan #2: $40,000
Student Loans: $115,700
Total Debt: $191,090
Minimum Payments: $2667

Obviously, we need a BIG shovel to get out of this debt. We were not able to snowball at all last year, but we did avoid any new debt. This year it looks like we will be able to start our snowball back up. That is a great feeling!

With our snowball our goal is to knock out the hospital bill this month and the overdraft by October 2010. I wish we could get this debt taken care of faster, but with it being so large this is how it goes. The other debts will take several years. I'm hoping we will have everything paid off by New Year's Day 2018. GULP!

February Snowball Goal: $1379

Financial news for our family this month is that DH has been hired as a full-time employee for the graveyard (3rd shift) at a box company that he has been temping at for 8 months. This is great because he now qualifies for benefits and a pay raise! This will lower our health insurance and increase our income.

I started babysitting this year, but my days went from 4 times a week to 2. This lowered my expected income but frees up more of my days for other activities.

DH is still running his chiropractic office part time. He is bringing in enough to cover overhead. We also cares for my disabled sister at night and he transports her. This source of income has been a life saver for us, but will end in July this year. We've been using it to pay minimums on debt.

How does your February look?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Book #1: From Jesus to Christianity

I have finished my first book of the year. I thought I would keep track here just for fun.

The book I read was From Jesus to Christianity: How Four Generations of Visionaries & Storytellers Created the New Testament and Christian Faith by L. Michael White. I thought it was well written and balanced. He took the time to present several different beliefs from Bible scholars on some of the controversial topics. He doesn't make his bias obvious he just presents what is known. Sometimes that is not very much! There was so much information presented in this book that it took me awhile to read it.

It was very exciting to learn more about what the world was like leading up to the time of Jesus and for the first few hundred years. I learned more about the culture than I knew previously. I enjoyed learning more about Paul and his writings and the forgeries. It is also fascinating to see the likely order in which the gospels were written. The author is able to show what types of beliefs and other writings that helped shape what we now call the New Testament.

This is a great book for Bible scholars, historians, students of religion or anyone who wants to learn more about one of the world's largest religions.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Project #2: Melt & Pour Soap

I've been making Melt & Pour soap (M&P) for several years now. It is so easy and fun!

This year all the women at church are getting a bar of soap for their birthday and my mom volunteered us to make some. I have lots of bulk soap, fragrances and color on hand.

I often have people ask me how to make M&P soap. It must seem difficult, but it is very simple. Any beginner can do it or a child with adult supervision.

First: Prepare your area and gather everything you will need. Personally, I use the following.
*Microwave safe bowl
*Silicone spatula
*Metal straight edge spatula (for cutting the soap)
*Soap molds
*M&P Soap base
*Fragrance oil or Essential oil
*Soap dyes and other additives
*Plastic wrap or something to wrap soaps in (soap for my own use gets put in a large pretty jar in my bathroom)

When I first started making M&P soap I just bought base at Michael's using a 40% off coupon. They sell a 10# bucket for $39.99. Now I use natural base from Wisteria Lane. I've been really pleased with the products I've purchased from them.
I could also use the Amazon GC's I earn from Swagbucks to get base for free!

Next: I use 2 pound cavity molds. Cut up the soap base into small cubes and weigh to make sure you have the right amount for the mold. Put all the cubed base into your microwave safe bowl. Melt in the microwave on high in 30-60 second intervals. Do NOT allow the base to boil and do not over stir, to avoid bubbles.

Once the base is fully melted you can add your fragrance. I add 1 ounce of fragrance oil to 2 pounds of base. If you are using essential oils you will need much less.
At this point you can add any additives you may like. Do NOT use food additives that will go bad. I like to add extra glycerin, mica, glitter, shea butter, vitamin E, jojoba beads, seeds, etc.

If you add seeds or other additives that you want to suspend in the soap you will need to wait to pour your soap into the molds until it starts to get thicker. I try to pour it when it gets like pudding. If you wait too long it won't settle into the mold, you'll get strings. But, you can always warm it up a little in the microwave and try again.

If you don't put anything that needs to be suspended then you can pour immediately into the molds and let cool.

Finish: Once cool you can cut the bars if you have a mold like mine. Otherwise, just pop out of the cavities and wrap. You can get as creative as your imagination will allow when it comes to presentation.
I wrap in plastic wrap and put a label on the back with the soap information for the recipient.