Tuesday, January 29, 2008 2 comments

One flat sheet = one window dressing

Remember the John Deere bedding set we bought for my son? And remember that I said we don't use flat sheets on our beds? Well, I had two flat sheets with no usefulness to our family. So I decided to make curtains for my son's window.

Since my son has an entire town of Matchbox, Hot Wheels and Ertl vehicles that curtains dare not interfere with, I couldn't make them the standard length (to the baseboards). So I was able to do both panels and the valance with one flat sheet ... And it was easy!
If you can measure, iron and sew a straight line, you can do it, too. Please don't buy any "patterns" because all that's in the package is an instruction booklet with measurement guidelines. There are no patterns. You still have to do all the work. Let me help!
My son's window is a standard 36" wide. That makes it perfect to use the width of the sheet, so all I have to mess with is the rod pockets and hemming (except for one tiny detail on the panels - see below).
Unless your window is significantly larger than 40", or unless you want a very full curtain, a twin-size sheet should work fine as panels for your window. (If you want a valance, too, you might need another sheet since my panels were shorter than normal.) Otherwise, look into larger size sheets since the width is mostly what changes as you go up to a Full, Queen or King.
Before you start, you need to seam rip any stitching on the sheets where they have hemmed it.
The Valance
I wanted a valance with an 8-1/2" drop (strange measurement, I know, but I was trying to make one sheet last for the whole window).
To figure out how much length you need to cut, you take 1/2" for ironing under (so you don't see the cut edge and it doesn't unravel), 7" for the casing and 1" for the bottom hem.
8-1/2" (drop) + 1/2" + 7" + 1" = 17" cutting length
So I cut 17" off the length of the sheet.
Then I hemmed the bottom by ironing under 1/2", turning it under 1/2" again and sewing it.
Next, I ironed the top under 1/2", then another 3-1/2". I sewed the bottom of the casing as close as I could to the edge. Then I sewed 1" from the very top of the valance to make the header.
Voila! A valance in almost no time. That was easy, wasn't it?
The Panels
I sewed the panels in much the same way (using the remainder of the sheet's length) except I cut it down the middle lengthwise before doing anything else. This gave me two equal panels. Of course, I had to "hem" the cut edge, and I chose to do the minimum 1/4" hem (iron under 1/4", another 1/4" again, and sew).
The Tiebacks
I had the tiebacks from the previous curtains I had sewn for his room. They are simply ruffle trim from the yardage section of Wal-Mart. I think it was around $0.40 a yard, so it's hardly worth making your own unless you want it the exact same fabric as your curtains. I sewed the top down and made buttonholes in either end of each tieback. Easy!
And now I still have one flat sheet in case we ever move his bedroom and need to outfit another window.
Have you sewn your own curtains from sheets? Have you sewn anything else with sheets? (I've heard they're great for tablecloths!) If so, please post to your blog and leave a link here. I love to see what other people have done!
Monday, January 28, 2008 0 comments

Baby hands and feet pictures

are some of my favorite, and they're not all that hard to do. Here, again, is my sister's last baby:

Don't you just love little baby fingers and toes? And isn't it so easy to forget how little they were?

That's one of the reasons I included the mother's hand in both pictures - to maintain proportions. Years from now, she can open her hand and remember just how tiny those little baby hands and feet were.

Want to try something similar? Great! Here are my tips:

  • Use black as the background (see previous tips).
  • Have the parent hold the baby's hand(s) or feet to maintain proportions.
  • Drape a black cloth around baby's and parent's arm(s) or legs just a few inches from the hand(s) or feet. This draws the attention completely to your focal point.
  • Zoom in!
  • Try the Soft Focus feature in Picasa. I recommend adjusting the Soft Focus from the preset mode - often it blurs too much of the photo.

Have you tried it? I'd love to see what you come up with!

Friday, January 25, 2008 1 comments

Why I know this John Deere bed set was for us ...

Take a look at the picture of my son's new bedding. It came in the mail today, and I can't tell you how blessed I was when I opened the package to discover two shams, two pillowcases and two flat sheets, in addition to the fitted sheet and comforter.

You see, I was under the impression that I was only getting enough for one bed set. All this lacked to make two complete sheet sets was a fitted sheet for the top bunk. And, thanks to a friend, I already had a perfectly-matched green checked fitted sheet.

As a general rule, we don't use flat sheets in our house because they're such a pain to keep tucked. So we have those two John Deere print flat sheets that I'm thinking about making into priscilla curtains for the window. (Just add a casing and hem a little ... nothing that couldn't easily be undone if the need arose.)

Once the quilt is done, it will go on the bottom bunk and this comforter will go on the top.

Now we are doubly convinced that this set was for us! Isn't God good?
Thursday, January 24, 2008 0 comments

Book Spotlight: Simply Fun for Families

I've been reading Dave Ramsey and Debi Pearl this week, but I'm sure no one needs another rave review about The Total Money Makeover (which I do highly recommend), and I'm not ready to review Created to Be His Help Meet just yet. So I decided to pull a favorite book from my bookshelf to share today.

It's Simply Fun for Families by Gwen Ellis. I got my copy at Ollie's for $3.99 and it was worth every penny! (You can get it quite inexpensively at Half or Amazon, too!)

Fun family idea books abound, but this one is a keeper! My favorite features of this book include:
  • how to find time for family fun (tips in every chapter)
  • how to find money for family fun (tips in every chapter)
  • how to compile a file of personalized family fun activities
  • a whole chapter on family fun ideas from your own home
  • fun ideas for every holiday, both major and minor (organized by month)
  • an excellent chapter on the family vacation
  • an entire chapter devoted to camping (Now, if I could just convince my husband!)
  • an appendix of 50 ideas for free family fun

I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars - it's that good!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008 1 comments

A John Deere quilt for my little guy

This is the craft-related project I'm working on this week. My 4-year-old is madly in love with all things John Deere. For Christmas we got him a John Deere clock, calendar and an 11x14" collage of pictures I had taken of the local farmer's wife (with their John Deere tractor) in our backyard. We're decorating his bedroom!

Sometime last summer, I had the opportunity to purchase this John Deere fabric for 50% off when a local Wal-Mart got rid of their fabric section. So I got all I needed and pieced the quilt. It didn't take as long as I expected, even if it was my first quilt ... And I'm notorious for "losing steam" on big projects!

So I now have to quilt it. Of course, I go on quilting spurts - mostly when it's cold outside and I don't mind being smothered in all that quilt batting. But I only have two more rows to quilt and then it's ready to be bound, so I'm working hard to see how soon I can finish it. Of course, a lot of that depends on what kind of mood the kids are in each day, but today was a fairly good quilting day and I got a row almost completed.

Of course, we just ran across a complete John Deere bedding set on Craigslist (comforter, sheets, pillowcases) for $10!! Since my son has bunkbeds, we decided to get that set as well and put it on the top bunk. The really cool thing about this is that the backing fabric for the quilt is the same as the comforter fabric!

So what labors of love have you done for your kids that you thought you'd never attempt?
Monday, January 21, 2008 3 comments

The portrait I'm proudest of to date ...

is this one of my sister and her very last newborn. I'm so glad she gave me permission to share this because I'd enlarge this one as big as I could - if I had a studio! It's part of a collage poster I designed for the baby's bedroom, though, so I'll have to content myself with that for now.

When my sister asked me to take birth announcement pictures, I jumped at the chance. I just love to photograph children, and I couldn't wait to try my hand at those endearing newborn shots. So I looked at a lot of infant photography to see what I wanted to try. This was, by far, the one shot I wanted to get. (Maybe next week I'll show you the hands and feet pictures that I love, too!)

This was taken in her sunroom with lots of natural light. The window was to my sister's left. I draped a matte black blanket over a chair, my sister wore a black turtleneck and we stripped the baby to just her diaper. Then my sister sat on the floor with her back to me, the baby over her shoulder. Then I asked her to give the baby a kiss, and I starting shooting pictures. I have about ten "dud" pictures of this pose, but that's how it is when you're dealing with little ones. The point is that I took enough pictures to get the picture.

So here are my tips for this picture:
  • Try a neutral background with a matching neutral clothing color when you want to showcase a "feeling." Black is fabulous, but try white, too. It creates a totally different effect.
  • Browse through other photographers' collections to find posing ideas you might not have thought of. It helps to look for the kind of photography you're going to do (babies vs. senior pictures).
Saturday, January 19, 2008 2 comments

The New Art of Baking Bread

Today I made our weekly supply of bread.

As always, it got me to thinking about my maternal grandmother. You see, I bake bread in one of the pans she used to bake bread in.

I don't have much in the way of family heirlooms, but I treasure this simple bread pan. I intend to pass it along to my little girl (my grandmother's namesake) when she grows up, even if it's no longer usable and can only be displayed.

So much has changed since my grandmother was baking her own bread over 60 years ago. I only have to bake four loaves to her 16+ loaves of bread each week (she had 16 children). She did it all by hand while I have the luxury of a bread machine to do the kneading.

Yet some things have stayed the same. Like me, she baked her own bread because it was the cost-effective thing to do. And like my children, her children enjoyed the sights and smells of the bread-making process. And I'm sure she did it, as I do, with all the love in her heart for her family.

My mother has often told me about watching her mother kneading bread dough. For each loaf she made, she would say it was one of the children. If that particular child had been difficult that day, she would knead it with extra vigor.

And of course there was the wonderful moment when the hot, fresh bread came out of the oven to be slathered with butter. And when it was cool enough, Grandma would cut it and spread it with peanut butter that would melt from the warmth of the bread.

Are you hungry yet?

I didn't get to post a recipe yesterday, so today I'll share the recipe I use for homemade bread. You can find it here.

I have slightly modified the recipe for our family. I reduce the sugar to 1/4 cup (as some of the commenters suggested) and I substitute one cup of finely-ground whole wheat flour for one of the six cups of all-purpose flour. As we get used to it, I hope to increase it to at least two cups (out of six) of whole wheat flour.

Also, as I mentioned, I do mine in the bread machine on the "Dough" setting. I just add the ingredients in the order recommended by my manufacturer and let it go. Once the "Dough" setting is done, I punch it down, put it into the greased bread pans and let it raise for about 30 minutes and continue with the recipe as usual.

I haven't yet eaten bread from the store that we prefer to this!
Thursday, January 17, 2008 1 comments

Book Spotlight: Things Happen When Women Care

I'm a day late on the book spotlight (having overnight company usually throws off my schedule), but I really wanted to do it because this is one of my all-time favorite books: Things Happen When Women Care by Emilie Barnes.

If you are a pastor's wife or involved in any ministry opportunities in your church, I feel this is a must-have book. I bought it brand-new in the 90's, and I would buy it brand-new all over again if I had to. It's that good!

If you've never read Emilie Barnes, you're in for a treat. She writes like she's sitting right next to you having a conversation. Once I finished her first book, I felt like I had gained a new friend. Now that I have almost all of her books, I feel like I know her like a good friend!

Here you will find practical ideas for
  • Caring for God: a prayer basket and prayer notebook,
  • Caring for Singles: both single parents and those with no children,
  • Caring for Cleaning: Total Mess to Total Rest Chart,
  • Caring for Eliminating Home Messies: excellent ideas on organizing nearly every aspect of your home,
  • Caring for Reaching Out: excellent ideas on making "reaching out" your ministry
  • Caring for Friendships: great ideas for making new (and strengthening old) friendships.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008 1 comments

Notepad Holders

A few months ago I ran across these notepad holders and wanted to make some. (You can get 2 out of a two-pocket school folder.) So I decided to make some for our denomination's ministerial gathering - one for each of the ladies.

Fortunately I had the brainstorm right around back-to-school time so I was able to gather the supplies for next to nothing. But the supplies have been sitting in my craft room waiting for the last minute - you know, the time when everything gets done! :) With Ministerial just a month away, I decided it was high time to get moving on this project.

If I'm in a creative slump, I find it helpful to look at other people's creations. It's been awhile since I made any cards, so I was at a loss what to do with these. So I went to my trusty file of card ideas and found a card that worked perfectly for the stamp and embellishments I had in mind - and on hand!

Unfortunately, I've searched for an hour and still can't find the card on www.splitcoaststampers.com. If you happen to recognize the design and can point me to the correct card, I'd love to credit the original artist!

Stamp: Art Impressions
Paper: Provo Craft and Memory Makers
Eyelets: Memory Makers
The image was colored with colored pencils.

And here's the inside, so you can get an idea of how these are useful:

There is a pocket for handouts, a slit to hold the pen, and a mini legal pad for taking notes.

And I'm sure you're wondering how many of these I'm making. Oh, about fifty. And how many do I have done? So far, twenty. I'll be working on them in the next few days to finish them up. They're all assembled - I just have to do the decorating to the front covers.
Monday, January 14, 2008 0 comments

Our Trip to Colonial Williamsburg, VA

... yielded this photograph from the recreated Governor's Palace garden:

So what are my tips for this photograph?

  • Be patient. I had to wait about five minutes (and then be quick with the shutter button) before I could get a picture with no other tourists in it.
  • Keep your eye out for architectural details to highlight. I loved the scrollwork on these gates, and isolating just the gates highlights that detail.
  • Experiment with angles. This is one area that I feel I could have improved with this picture. If I had moved just slightly to the left, the second gate would have been perfectly centered inside the first one. But I'm giving myself credit for seeing the "gate inside the gate" angle! :)

And that's it for the tips on this one. I could probably offer a few more if I thought hard enough, but those are the most obvious ones. And it always helps to focus on a few issues per photograph, rather than trying to do an exhaustive textbook study on each one.

Try your hand at being patient, looking for architectural details, or just experimenting with angles. (Don't forget to set your camera to the highest resolution in case you get an enlargement-worthy photo!) Post it to your blog and then post a link. I'd love to see what you've come up with!

Friday, January 11, 2008 0 comments

Baked Soy Lemon Chops

This is one of our family's all-time favorite recipes. It tastes like something you would get at a fancy restaurant, yet the effort involved is minimal, as is the cost. I got it from Allrecipes.

Baked Soy Lemon Chops

1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced (I substitute garlic p0wder.)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 pork chops

In a shallow dish, combine soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, lemon juice, pepper and oil. Add pork chops, and turn to coat evenly. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (I recommend marinating for the afternoon.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place marinated pork chops in a roasting pan, and bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings

I usually serve this with baked potatoes (which go in the oven slightly before the chops) and a frozen vegetable.
Thursday, January 10, 2008 1 comments

Book Spotlight: Queen of the Castle

I've chosen Queen of the Castle by Lynn Bowen Walker for my "book review" today. Most people probably haven't heard of this gem. I found mine at a thrift store for $0.25, but I'd happily pay the small amount plus shipping to get it from Half or Amazon.

Some of my favorite features:
  • Weekly readings. Now that's practical for a busy mom!
  • Chocolate recipes sprinkled throughout the book for when you need a chocolate fix. Can you tell this woman has "been there, done that"? :)
  • Information you can really use - like practical time management, fun ideas for doable holiday celebrations, housekeeping tips ...
  • Conversational writing style - lots of fun to read.
  • Christ-focused.

I'd give the book at least 4 out of 5 stars.

Have you read it? Care to share your thoughts? Please feel free to comment!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008 0 comments

Baby Shadow Box #2

And here is the second one!
Tuesday, January 8, 2008 0 comments

Baby Shadow Box

I'm going to share my latest creative project with you. I love to create, but I don't always get (or take) the time to do it, so if I try to post something creative once a week, I should get at least 52 projects done this year.

Today I want to share a shadow box I made with my daughter's hospital bracelet and hat.

I've had this shadow box for close to a year now. I got it at Dollar Tree ($1). The inside measures 5.25 x 6", so there wasn't a lot of space to work with. But as soon as I saw it, I knew what I wanted to do with it, so I picked up two - one for each of my children. When I was going through outgrown children's clothing today, I found both hats and decided I needed to do my project.

First of all, I painted the frame white with acrylic paint. (That was a few months ago!)

Tonight I backed the inside with this "cherish, treasure, adore" paper from Creative Imaginations. I used Glue Dots to adhere everything because the box says it will adhere to wood, paper and textiles. I've heard nothing but good about Glue Dots, so I trust them for a project like this.

Next, I put three Glue Dots on the back of the hat and pressed it down at an angle on the backing. Then I did the same thing with the hospital bracelet. I stood it up to make sure I had enough adhesive and everything wouldn't come falling off the moment I put it on the wall; everything was secure.

I wanted to keep the project simple, so I decided to put my daughter's name and birthdate on the glass instead of trying to add anything else to the inside of the frame. I used Creative Memories bubble gum mini letter stickers for this. I plan to use a dry cloth to clean the glass so it won't harm the stickers.

And there you have it - a priceless reminder of my daughter's first few days of life. Everything but the painting took me about 30 minutes. I plan to hang these on the wall in my craft room once I get my son's done.

Monday, January 7, 2008 0 comments

Inexpensive Portraits

As promised, today I am going to share a portrait I took in my own home, with my own son. And I'll give you a few tips to recreate the look at your own home.

But first let me explain why I feel this is an especially important area for our family to be frugal ... I used to drop $20 or more at each portrait session of my children. (And I did it once a month for the first year, quarterly the second year, and twice a year or so after that.) I have saved us literally hundreds of dollars just by learning to use my camera.

So how did I take this portrait that I will treasure for the rest of my life?

  • I started with a good camera. I use a Canon S1 IS digital camera. I bought it refurbished a little over 2 years ago for $210, including shipping and tax.

  • Use the preset modes on your camera when you're just starting out. I used the Portrait setting on my camera, and it does a lot of the thinking for you.

  • Find a large, north-facing window in your house and place your subject at a slight angle to it. Here, I had him lean against the window frame. You'll find that natural lighting is the most flattering if you catch it at the right time of day. Observe the window for a few days to see when you get the best light - you don't want it glaring in on your subject, but you don't want it too dark, either.

  • Use a tripod and zoom in. I paid for the zoom lens on this camera and have not regretted it for a minute. When you have kids, a zoom lens isn't optional. (That's the only way you'll catch them doing all those cute things across the room.) If you don't have a tripod, steady the camera on a table or some other surface that won't "give".

  • Take a lot of pictures - kids are funny and will give you the best shots when you're least expecting it.

  • Once you have the pictures, download them to your computer and explore your editing options. I encourage you to do this even if you really like the pictures. This was a great picture before I edited it, but the Soft Focus and Glow really took it to the next level! I highly recommend Picasa (which is what I used here). It's free and it has some terrific features. Play with saturation, soft focus, and glow to see what it does for your picture.

And before I end this post, let me warn you about jpeg files - the more you save them, the smaller they get. That means you won't be able to make really big enlargements out of them if you save them over and over again.

I recommend keeping your original, unedited version first. Then do all the editing you want to do to the picture before you save it as a copy (don't click "Save" after every edit). This will keep your picture as large a file as possible and save you from having a fabulous picture that won't enlarge well.

Oh, and don't crop it too close, either, as that will do essentially the same thing.

I'd love to see how your pictures turn out! Post them to your blog and leave a link in the comments!

Saturday, January 5, 2008 0 comments
These yard sale finds cleaned up pretty well, didn't they? They were both a greasy, dusty mess when my husband brought them home (see previous post), but a little elbow grease does wonders!

I doubt the previous owners used the bread machine more than 2-3 times. The plastic protective covering (the kind you peel off) was still over the keypad, and it was extremely clean inside. The toaster oven probably wasn't used much, either. Although it was pretty dirty on the outside, the inside was almost spotless. We tried them both, and they work great!

I've been busy going through closets and cabinets today. I got rid of a 13-gallon trash bag worth of clothing and my closet is still full. (It used to be bursting at the seams!) It's much more organized now, too, for which I am grateful.

I've decided that organization books don't always have the final answer on some things. For instance, every organization book I've ever read has told me to organize my wardrobe by putting outfits separate - so you can see the different possibilities. I've done that for years. Recently, though, I've noticed that I am wearing the same outfits all the time and forgetting about the other wonderful clothing I have in the closet.

So I decided to organize by outfits. Now, it's not what you might think. I own a lot of blazers that I like to pair with skirts, jumpers and dresses. So, as an example, I put my green blazer first, then all the skirts, jumpers and dresses that I would wear with it right next to it. I actually matched up a few things that I hadn't even thought of ... And got rid of a few things that I thought were "must haves" but didn't match a thing I own.

And while I'm on the subject of clothing, I tried one of those clothing shavers on my "old" winter coat last night. It's the shaver that's supposed to take the "pills" off sweaters and the like. Well, my coat is wool and somewhere around 13 years old, but I still like it. However, it was starting to pill and it looked horrible. After about 5 minutes invested in shaving it, I have a great-looking coat that should last me at least a few more years.

That was my first attempt at using one of those shavers. I'm wondering now if it harms the fabric in any way. Of course, I had nothing to lose with a 13-year-old coat, but I'm curious. Has anyone had experience using these?
Friday, January 4, 2008 0 comments

Chicken Parmigiana and Mozzarella Sticks

I was only going to post one recipe, but I told my sister about the Mozzarella Sticks, and she wanted the recipe. I figured other people might be interested in it, too.

These are both very easy to make and take next to no effort for the "yum" factor. And did I mention that they're inexpensive?

Chicken Parmigiana (from Quick Cooking)

1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp spaghetti sauce mix
1-1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 lb (4 pcs) chicken breast
1/4 cup Italian dressing
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

In a shallow dish, combine the first four ingredients. Dip the chicken in the salad dressing, then coast with the bread crumb mixture. Place in a greased 9" square baking dish.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 35-40 minuts or until chicken juices run clear. Drizzle with tomato sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

Yield: 4 servings

Mozzarella Sticks (from a Reiman appetizers booklet)

2 eggs
1 Tbsp water
1 cup dry bread crumbs
2-1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp pepper
12 sticks mozzarella cheese (4" x 1/2" sticks)*
3 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp margarine, melted
1 cup spaghetti sauce, heated

In a small bowl, beat eggs and water. In a plastic bag, combine bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and pepper. Coat cheese sticks in flour, then dip into egg mixture and bread crumb mixture. Repeat egg and bread crumb coatings. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight (or you can freeze them).

Place on an ungreased baking sheet; drizzle with margarine. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until heated through. Allow to stand for 3-5 minutes before serving. Use spaghetti sauce for dipping.

Yield: 1 dozen

*NOTE: A one-pound block of mozzarella (not the rounded kind) will make approximately 22 sticks. Use a clean ruler to mark off 1/2" portions, cut those, then cut them in half again (making long, fairly square strips). I coated all but 4 of them with the original amounts of the coating mixture (I think I used a bit more flour).

When you try them, let me know what you think!
Thursday, January 3, 2008 6 comments

Our 2008 Budget

Crystal at Money Saving Mom asked us to post our 2008 budget. That seemed like a good, first-of-the-year post (especially since I spent the greater part of New Year's Day working on it), so here goes ...

Monthly Salary
$1600 ($400 weekly)

Monthly Expenses
cell phone - $7
Internet - $10
van payment - $210 (GOAL: to pay this off early this year)
van insurance - $60
renters insurance - $20
charitable giving (to missionaries) - $50
credit card - $180 (GOAL: to pay this off early this year)
tithe and offerings (10% of gross for tithe, 5% of gross for offerings) - $340

Monthly Spending Categories
savings - $160
food - $125
gas - $125
household expenses - $35
kid expenses (diapers, etc.) - $25
postage - $10
mind enrichment (books, etc.) - $60
family day fund (eating out, thrift store finds, etc.) - $60
my "mad money" fund - $60
my husband's "mad money" fund - $60

There are five months in 2008 when we will receive five paychecks (January, April, July, October, December). During those weeks, I'll take out the tithe and offering and put the rest directly into savings.

We should have the van paid off in October. That money will go to the credit card, and the credit card will be paid off in November (with plenty to spare). After that, all of that money goes into savings since I'm really hoping to pay cash for our next vehicle.

To be fair to everyone else, I should mention that my husband is a pastor and our church provides the following:

all utilities (including unlimited long distance phone service)
garbage pickup
mileage reimbursement for his church visiting
a yearly contribution to my husband's Roth IRA
health insurance

Any questions? Feel free to ask!

Welcome to My Blog!

I've been wanting to start a blog for awhile now, and the new year provided just the impetus I needed. (It didn't hurt that my mom suggested I start one, too.)

What can you expect from my blog?

Frugality ... I'm on a strict budget (see next post) and I'm always looking for ways to stretch our money.

Homemaking ... I'm a stay-at-home wife and mother who feels very strongly that my primary responsibility is to take care of my husband and raise responsible, godly children. I'm looking forward to sharing my cleaning schedules, favorite recipes, menu plans and more.

Book Reviews ... I'm a book junkie, and I'll occasionally post some of my favorite books and why I think they're must-haves.

Photography Tips ... I'm not a professional, by any means. But I have a great camera and I'm learning more every day. I've been taking all of our portraits for two years now, photographed a friend's wedding, several friends' babies and took another friend's senior pictures. I've learned a lot along the way. I'll be sharing some of my favorite pictures (sorry, but for privacy reasons, don't expect a lot of face shots) and a few tips, too.

Furthermore, you can expect my ideas to be influenced heavily by my deep faith in God. My husband is a pastor. After nearly five years of ministry, I am still in awe of the trust God has placed in our hands, and I feel very privileged to share in this ministry with my husband.

I'm looking forward to sharing slices of my life with you!