Saturday, December 3, 2022

December Goals/Challenges

We have a grocery store in town (which is actually in the same building as the Flower Shop that I work part time at) that gives out "Gas stamps". You get 1 stamp for every $5 you spend and then you put 20 stamps on a card and that is worth $1 to buy either gas or groceries. I collect stamps and will use them occasionally but I don't shop their real often normally - especially since ALDI came to town. But one day not long ago my boss brought 3 zip lock bags into work and wondered if I wanted them. I guess there family had been collecting them for years but hadn't used them. I said "Sure"!

   When I got home the kids and I guessed on how much they are worth. I guessed $45, Megan $50 something and Aaron $180. I haven't gotten them all glued together yet but using up two bags plus a little more I am up to $190. What a blessing! So that brings about December's financial challenge: Use only gas stamps to buy all of my food and gas for the month. I also don't plan on doing any other shopping except for I have a $12 rebate check for Menards, $30+ in credit at a local second hand store (where I get pretty much all of my clothes since I can sell other things there and then just use money that I have made to buy what I want) and a $20 gift certificate to another 2nd hand store. Other than that I don't plan to do any shopping. The grocery store  where I will use the gas stamps does limit your spending to ten filled cards (worth $10) at a time. So it is a good thing that I work right next door. I can do a little shopping and getting of gas every day that I work if need be.

  My goal is not to spend hardly anything else either (other than giving or extra on my mortgage - the reason I want to save is for those purposes) but I do leave it open to pay money for activities if that seems the best way to spend time with those I love. That could include skiing, rock climbing, going out to eat, etc. I don't currently plan to do any traveling this month but if an opportunity should come up I would be willing to do that and pay the money for trip expenses if it seems like a wise thing to do.

    You may wonder how that works with Christmas coming. We have a very simple Christmas and this year we are trying to make all handmade gifts (and I will use the many, many things I already have on hand to make things with. Most of those things (fabric, yarn, etc) have been given to me as people know that I like to make things. I will be sure to tell you about the gifts I made but probably not until next month. So making homemade gifts is one of my other challenges for the month. I have ideas for everybody but I still would love to hear about any cool handmade gifts that you have given or received - especially for men. I can always use some new ideas.

 Another challenge is to clean out 2 spaces each week. This will help to get our house into a cleaner and tidier state and helps in the decluttering process as well. 

  Another goal that I hesitate to state because I am afraid I can't get it done - is to finish the challenge that I started at the beginning of this year to record a song on 12 different instruments in 2022. I rather dropped the ball on this one but I would still really like to do it. So I am going to try.

   I had a lovely week that I really would like to share more about but it truly is time to head to bed. I will leave you with a couple of pictures from this evening. We watched Malcolm while his parents went bowling and had a delightful time.


Megan is working to change the mantle from fall to Christmas and decided that Malcolm made a nice decoration.

Malcolm (on the Ukulele) and Aaron made some music this evening.

  Jonathan also joined us for supper this evening. My heart is full - I got to spend time with all of my kids today.


Thursday, December 1, 2022

November Goals Report

I made my goal of getting rid of an item (or many times a lot more) for the number of each day. That was a total of over 475 items. That is pretty impressive when I calculate it! I did take pictures of pretty much every day but I didn't get around to blogging and I decided that you probably didn't need to see pictures of all my rejects. I did choose to share a few pictures to highlight some of the areas that I went through. I did do a lot of cleaning out in paper areas so that doesn't tend to make as big of visual difference. There is definitely still areas in  my home that could use some decluttering. I am super thankful to have gotten to the areas that I did however - some of them especially were good to work through mentally.

Cupboards were one area that I did clean through. I found French dressing that was outdated. It isn't a surprise - only Ken liked that dressing and he hasn't lived here for nearly 2 years. I hate to waste food and wish I would have thought to give it away a long time ago but at least it is out of my cupboard now.

I had a chance to make some Thanksgiving Cards and envelopes from things that I already had on hand. I was able to go through my card making scraps some with that project and then give away the results (which took them out of my house) and burn leftover scraps.

The pictures above and below were really good for me to go through. It was letters that Ken and I had written when we were engaged, lots of cards that Ken had given me and cards we had been given for our wedding (and I think I am sounding a bit like a hoarder now - I did have a cute little chest that they had a place in) as well as other various paper things from our wedding and bridal showers. I dealt with some sorrow when going through it but mostly it just felt good to get rid of it.

I had a burning time last night to get rid of a bunch of this stuff.

I am pretty excited to have gotten my new will all witnessed and notarized yesterday and so I burned up the old one. 

So, all in all the decluttering goal went well and was quite helpful!

Goal number 2 was to have a really low spend month. I would only buy groceries 2 times - at the Amish Bulk Food store and then one other time when I got needed things for the Thanksgiving. I did also mention that I might need to buy catfood. We did need it and I was planning on buying it but when I went to Aldi to get Thanksgiving stuff they were out of the cheap catfood so I didn't get it then and I found some bones and old meet in the freezer so I have been making cat food instead using up old food. 

At the Amish store I did spend $252.47 but I got a lot of baking supplies that will last throughout the year as well as over 12 pounds of cheese (which will last quite a while - I freeze it). 
I did also have that one trip to Aldi where I spent $34.47 to buy a turkey and a couple other things. I may have cheated a bit in that I did buy a gallon of milk and some whipping cream that we didn't actually use for Thanksgiving itself.

That is a long way from the lowest amount I have spent on food in a month but with so much of it being stored away for the future, I am quite happy with it. 

This month has been one of my favorite cooking months in a long time. I have just loved the challenge of making do with what we have and enjoying some pretty delicious meals in the process. Whenever there seemed to be something lacking I would think through what we did have and what else might work and then I would just get overwhelmed with the abundance that God has given us. We are incredibly blessed and are a long way from going hungry - even if we didn't go shopping for a while. :-)

These pictures are from a couple of yummy breakfasts that we enjoyed. By the way we were blessed to be given 5 dozen eggs from a couple of friends and my parents. That was a lovely addition to our diet. We would have been baking with flaxseeds for eggs if it weren't for those gifts.

This is a Brazilian Cheesebread that our exchange student from 2020, Debora, introduced us too. It has a different texture but I think it is super yummy. Here is a recipe that seems to be the same as what I use.

   I have had to make do with deodorant and toothpaste (I had some but discovered it was giving me canker sores. I was going to make some but haven't gotten around to it yet so I have just been using baking soda - it works). 

  I did also buy gas this month. I spent $69.73 along with a $25 gift card. 
  I did also spend some money on Entertainment. I spent $36 for Aaron, Megan and I to go to a musical at the community theater. I was reminded later that I could have checked on ushering to see if I could have watched for free (as they called me to see if I wanted to do that later on) but I don't regret spending it. We enjoyed it. I also spent $5.39 for more texts on my Tracphone. I guess that is kind of entertainment too :-). The other expense I had this month (besides the normal electric, internet/phone, etc) was $40 for going out to eat TWO times! I rarely go out to eat but for some reason or another the kids really wanted to a couple of different times (once on a Sunday after a busy Saturday and the other time to satisfy the cravings of my pregnant daughter, Mara. The adult children paid for themselves but I did pay for Megan and I. I am putting that in the entertainment section too but I know that is rather cheating. :-)

  Over all it was a good month of setting and achieving goals. What I am really excited about is the progress I have been able to make on paying off my mortgage early when I work to save money in our day-to-day expenses. Today I was able to go in and pay the principal of the Mortgage payment on two extra months. Paying just those two months of principal only today saved me $800 in interest. That is pretty exciting to me. I am now 14 months ahead of schedule in paying it off. Having both that and saving up for going with my kids on a mission trip is a good motivator for me in being careful in my spending. It pushes me to figure out and take the time to pack a lunch each morning when I head of to work instead of running and picking something up in town. It pushes me to try to use what I have instead of buying new - and I have a lot of fun in the process. 

I am hoping to share with you soon more about what I am doing to save money and make extra money. Is that something that you are interested in?

I hope to share my fun goals for December in this post also but it is time to head to bed so I guess that waits for another day.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Some Challenges/Goals for November

    I am in the mood for challenging myself. I think that is a good sign. I love a good challenge but the last couple of years have seemed challenging enough with working outside the home and being the main provider for the family, being in charge of all the upkeep of our home and just dealing with all the emotions and challenges that come from going through a divorce myself and having children who had to deal with that as well. I am so incredibly grateful to God for the way He has taken care of us physically, spiritually and emotionally. I'm also super grateful for the body of Christ - the church who have been there for us in so very many ways as well. I can truly say that life is beautiful and I am ready for even some of those made up challenges! Yeah!

   One more thought on challenges. I think why I enjoy them so much is because they often put restrictions on me that force me to think outside the box and to be creative. Because I love to be creative that is super fun for me that it pushes me in new ways.  I am really interested to know - among those reading this - who of you enjoy challenges (it could be in finances, cooking, physical exercise, art, etc) and who like to avoid them at any cost? Or where are you in between? I would also love to know your why. Thanks so much! I'm a curious person and I love to hear why people think and act the way that they do.

  So, my double challenge for this month is:

1. To declutter things from my home and get rid at least as many items (and yes an item can be a single sheet of paper, this is the prime time to do some heavy paper decluttering - it builds up so easily) as the number of the day. Today is November 2nd so 2 items were required.

Here is the photo from day one. It was pretty easy to be an over achiever and I have a broken ice cube tray,  a driver's Ed book (I actually got rid of two of them-they are in my van to go to a friend who wants them) and a unlabeled bag of seasoning that was in my cupboard. I was able to go through a couple of kitchen cupboards which was nice.

Day 2. Cleaning my desk is an easy way to come up with some extra things to get rid of.

Getting rid of clutter is a very important goal for me. When my house gets to messy I tend to get stressed more easily as do some of my kids. It also wastes time. My over all goal is to "Have nothing in my home that I don't know to be useful or believe to be beautiful". Things just sitting out all the time become silent to do lists that are telling me that I need to do something with them. I have worked on this goal for years and I have made progress but there are also some times of digression. I have never made it to perfection (and I may never) but any progress is good.

Challenge 2. To not buy anything this month except for One planned trip to the Bulk Food Store (where I can buy things- primarily, if not entirely, food), needed Gasoline to get around and if I need additional food for the Thanksgiving Holiday (but I will try to use what I have if possible). I also may have to buy cat food but this will be a good motivation to try to get rid of some kittens. Also, I will try to keep it pretty limited but I am allowing spending on experiences. Also I can give away money if I want but not buy things to give away - if I want to give gifts I can make something hand made or give something from my gift box. I will also still pay my Mortgage (plus extra), electric bill and things of that nature.

 I am planning on following it up with another very low spending/buying month in December. I am excited to tell you about that later.

  I will try to give updates somewhat regularly so that you can keep my accountable. Feel free to join me if you like! :-)

  Oh, if you would like another challenge... Do you have a will made yet? I am excited to report that I got a new one (needed since I went through a divorce) done tonight! Well I do still need to round up some witnesses and take it to be notarized but it is primarily done. I used to make it and it was quite easy. That is something important off my to do list!

  I would love to hear what things you are working on accomplishing in your life!



Friday, October 14, 2022

Harvest Blessings

My garden was probably about this most neglected this summer as it has ever been. With a full wedding season to do flowers for, still quite a few music students to teach each week, working part-time at the floral shop and hosting AirBnB guests I just didn't have a lot of time left to spend in the garden. But even with my neglect we were blessed with many things to harvest and enjoy. My heart just overflows with thankfulness.
I just love the beauty of the Eggplant and it's flower. These first pictures were taken in late September. Up here in Northern Minnesota we don't count on being frost free after the beginning of September but not only do I think we had a fairly long frost free time anyway but we at our place are specially blessed with a longer growing season because the river gives us a special micro-climate were we get a much later frost then even our neighbors across the road from us. Yesterday and overnight we got snow and I was quite sure that was the end of my garden but I went up to find the the tomatoes still weren't dead and I was able to pick more of them and the cabbage, brussel sprouts and kale look great. It is rather amazing to me.
I just love the beauty of all the different flowers that we can grow easily in our garden! Zinnia, Calendula and Nasturtium 

Mara had started a lot of seeds in her apartment to plant in our garden - including Cabbages. I normally just plant them from seed in the garden but this was our best cabbage year so I think they enjoyed having a head start.
This was a prolific tomato plant. They were small so a little tedious to use but still nice to have.
Mara gave me Gladiola Bulbs for Mother's Day. They were gorgeous!
The beans did well. Some got away from me and I will either save for seed or dry to use that way. But I was able to put quite a lot of green beans in the freezer and I am very happy about that.
I have been able to can some salsa and tomatoes. I am thinking I might manage to do one more batch still.
Another thing we have been harvesting just lately is Shaggy Mane mushrooms that decided to pop up heavily in a section of our yard. We have included them in several meals and both Mara and I have frozen some as well. They are delicious! I love mushrooms!
Megan made this custard the other day using eggs from our chickens and Milk from my parents' goats. It is always fun to make and enjoy delicious food that comes from our own homestead.
Seeds saved from the dill and some brassicas (which I plan to use for sprouting), Apples from my parents (I did have one tree produce a few decent sized crab apples this year and another one that was prolific in unusable crab apples) - we are thankful for all the apples that they share. I have been able to make and can some applesauce and dehydrate quite a few. I still hope to put up some apple pie filling. Also pictured is a basket of tomatoes and peppers. 

Not something from the garden but branches from our woods and yard have been frequently heating our home this fall. I love having a fire in the fireplace that leaves the house feeling so cozy!
A special part of the harvest is picking the flowers! :-) I love them so.
Last Saturday we went beyond the garden harvesting and butchered chickens. Our laying hens were over 3 years old and were not laying much anymore. So it was time to do something. I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the project but Thomas and Mara said they would help. What a huge blessing. We all learned some new things that we hadn't done when just helping before. It actually went pretty smoothly and I am thankful to have that job done. I cooked pretty much all of it down for quite a few hours (since they were old and tough) and then canned a bunch of broth with meat in it. That is a lovely addition to both of our cupboards.
Megan meanwhile was working on Apple Pies. We also found more mushrooms that day.

Those are all of my harvest pictures but I thought I would share some other fun fall pictures as well...

Last Saturday after the butchering some friends came over and we went canoeing for a while. It was so fun to get out on the water and enjoy the fall colors there. It was also great to spend time with my new friends. A totally fun experience.

After ladies Bible study on Sunday we had fun roasting Hotdogs for supper. Heidi is especially found of doing this and she requested it. I was super thankful she did as it was a a fun way to get outside and enjoy fall just a bit more.

I cleaned our Chimney earlier this week (one of those activities that I hadn't done before but really wasn't very hard). The view from the roof was beautiful! 

How is your Autumn going? Are you counting your many blessings?


Thursday, August 25, 2022

A Beautiful Day

This morning I happened to notice this quote on the top of my calendar:

"Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life." Mark Twain

That really struck a chord with me today. I am a lover of beauty and I love having beautiful days. So what makes a day extra beautiful to me? How can I give this (and every day) a chance to be a beautiful day? Here are some things that I came up with that I think help in making days beautiful for me...

  • Starting my day with Prayer and time in God's word. This gives me proper focus and peace to go through my day. I believe this leads to beautiful days more than anything else. Part of my prayer each morning when I rise is that the Holy Spirit would work mightily in me and that God would give me the strength that I need for this day. As I read God's word I am looking for insight in how I can more closely follow God's will for my life. 
  • Keeping my eyes open to all the gifts of beauty that God has sent into my life that day. Sometimes I am good at noticing and thanking God for these things and sometimes I am not. The beautiful days in my life are the days that I do a good job of noticing. I like to actually write a list each day of things I am thankful for but the noticing and saying "thank you" needs to go far beyond that one list in the morning. The pictures below are a few of the beautiful things that I have noticed and thanked God for this month.
  • Trusting God even when it is hard. There are days that are hard. We might hurt physically or emotionally - whatever. But when I surrender to God and go ahead and trust through my tears that day becomes a beautiful day to me.
  • Having times of truly fellowshipping and enjoying the company of others. When I truly take the time to listen to others and learn a little of their story I am so incredibly blessed. Those are beautiful times for me. I am also blessed when others listen to me and I can share a little of my life with them. I have had so many of those beautiful times just lately - I am so Thankful to God for that. I am not always good at listening. Sometimes I think myself to busy. Sometimes I just get to thinking about something else while somebody is talking to me. This is something I am working on. God is so patient with me! A couple of surprise incidents of this lately that I truly enjoyed was last Wednesday I met our AirBnB guest who was from Germany and she and I ended talking for 2 hours. Then on Sunday a new neighbor who I had tried to go meet a couple of times (I left notes as she wasn't home), came by and we had a great time getting acquainted. 
  • "Praying through your day" was a phrase I heard while out at Nationwide Youth Roundup in July. It is basically the idea of praying without ceasing but it seemed a little more feasible. :-) I have been working on doing this and it is a huge blessing. I still have a long way to go in making this my life completely but with the Holy Spirit's help I believe it will happen. The idea is to invite God into every conversation and activity that you do, to keep a running conversation with Him throughout your day. This truly can lead to beautiful days!
  • Fulfilling God's purpose for my life. There are things that God has blessed each one of us with, gifts and desires that He has given us to serve and bless others with and to Honor Him with. When I use the gifts that He has given me to the best of my ability I feel fulfilled and that makes for a pretty beautiful day. For me that often means doing something with music, flowers, adventuring, creating things or spending time with people (and for me I generally prefer to do any of that while spending time with people too). For you I am sure the list is much different. God created you with just the gifts and desires that He wants you to have. 
Those are some of my ideas in how to have beautiful days. I would love to hear your thoughts on this as well in the comments section!

Some of the beauty that I found in my days this August....
Produce from our garden - as weedy and messy as it is God still blesses us abundantly!

A deer waiting patiently by the roadside. Megan and I had fun watching it.

I had a lovely time driving along Lower Red Lake while making a flower delivery last Saturday. This picture doesn't do it justice.

Fun architecture while exploring Stillwater, MN 

A beautiful Netta on the bank of the St. Croix River.

Theo, Anna and Gigi were my other beautiful companions on that outing.

It was so neat to get to spend a little time fellowshipping with Wayne and Betty when we happened to be in the Twin Cities at the same time.

I always love spending time with these lovely ladies - Anna and Margaret (above) and Christy with Me (below)

My beautiful Megan enjoying some very attractive desserts from Cossettos.

We got to see my niece Beatrice at her job at Cossettos. Megan and I loved getting to explore that beautiful building a little bit and pick from the many delicious and beautiful options of desserts. Beatrice isn't working there for long as soon she is headed to Pakistan to help with mission work and I am super excited for her in getting to do that!!

So many beautiful things about this picture... This is a small portion of our church group - people who love the Lord and they love and care for one another. We are continually working to do that better. In this picture we were preparing gifts to give out in our community to spread the message that God loves them and that we care about them too. Several of these girls went with me last week to go and invite people that live near the church building to come to an event that we were planning. I was so blessed by their eagerness and cheerfulness.

One of the Crazy Olympic games that we had at our church picnic. It was fun for me to get to lead those games and for so many to get involved and enjoy participating.

Berry picking amidst the wildflowers. So many gifts from our Creator. Sometimes it is hard to grasp just how many He gives us each and every day!

These very neat and interesting little rosettes were growing on the rose bushes where we were picking. I have spent a lot of time out in the woods and fields and don't remember seeing this before. A pretty lovely gift that we enjoyed that day.

My beautiful sister Martha picking berries amidst the wildflowers. 

A bouquet from a wedding last weekend. I feel incredibly blessed to get to do the work that I do. God truly has made my life beautiful.

 I hope you have a beautiful day!!!


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