Friday, June 10, 2011

Mystery Dinner - Times Two!

Last night, the non-profit I work for hosted its annual board dinner.  This has historically been a rather dry and boring event, but I was in charge this year.  So we livened things up a bit with a 1920s murder mystery.

I wrote the mystery myself (which was quite the literary undertaking!).  I based the plot and characters loosely on "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald (minus the drinking and swearing and other "inappropriate" behavior).

I tried to create the atmosphere of a 1920s dinner party with lots of feathers, pearls, cut glass and white linens.  We had jazz and dance music playing during dinner and even a few vintage cars out front as guests arrived.  Many people came in costume, which added to the evening.  I even managed to come up with a costume from a few local consignment shops that accommodated my growing belly.  (My husband was a character in the murder mystery - that's why he's wearing the funny glasses.)  

Overall, I think the evening was a great success!  No one solved the murder, though, so I must have made it a little too mysterious. . .

This morning my husband surprised me with a mystery of my own to solve!  Today is our 6th anniversary, so I have to piece together clues I've been receiving throughout the day (including a motive, getaway vehicle and "weapon of displayed affection") to figure out what he he in store for us tonight.  We'll see where we end up!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ladies Night Out

Much of what has been consuming my time lately was a ladies outreach event for our church.  We held our first Ladies Night Out on Friday with a theme of "Making Life Beautiful" - inside and out.

About 40 ladies got together for a night of pampering - chocolate, coffee, cosmetics and just plain fun.  We had a speaker share a few beauty tips and "trends" for the upcoming season.  We played a few games and gave away some fun prizes.  

We wrapped up the evening with a challenge from God's Word on the true inner beauty that comes only from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  

We enjoyed quite the spread of finger foods to dip in our chocolate fountain and an extensive variety of coffees and teas in our very own coffee bar!

We decorated with butterflies in fun spring shades of green and purple.

It was a lot of fun to spend an evening together with ladies of all ages and backgrounds.  What a lot of work - but it was well worth it.   Seeds were planted and now we get to see how God will grow them into beautiful, transformed lives for His glory.

Deals - May 16

Life has been so crazy lately, I've hardly had time to shop, let alone coupon!  It felt very good to go out tonight alone (thanks to my wonderful husband for watching our son) and save some money.  :)  Here are few of the best deals I found:

Pampers Jumbo Pack ($8.83)
-$1.50/1 manufacturer's coupon
-$1/1 CVS coupon
-$2 ECB
+$1 ECB (green tag)

Heinz ketchup ($1.89)
-$2/1 coupon

Kraft salad dressing (2/$4)
-$1.50/2 coupon
=$2.50/2 (or $1.25 each)

Rold Gold pretzels (2/$5)
-$2/2 coupon
=2/$3 (or $1.50 each)

Poptarts (3/$5)
-$1/3 coupon
=3/$4 (or $1.33 each)

Duncan Hines brownies ($1.69)
-$0.50/1 coupon (doubled)

Giant also had some great store coupons, including a free half gallon of Turkey Hill ice cream!  :)  My total savings was 47% - a "personal best"!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Peanut Butter Goodness

I've been craving chocolate and peanut butter lately, so tonight I decided to make the "old standby" - chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.  The cake was in the oven before I realized I had no powdered sugar for the frosting.  Tactical error on my part.  :(

I found a recipe online for peanut butter frosting without the powdered sugar and decided to give it a try.  It turned out beautifully.  I'm not a marshmallow fan, but you wouldn't even know it's in there!  The best part is you don't even have to wait for the cake to cool - which I find the most frustrating part of baking.

My craving has been satisfied!  Momma and baby are very happy.  :)

Peanut Butter Frosting (without Powdered Sugar)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used a little bit more)
1/2 cup marshmallows (I used marshmallow creme)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine milk, sugar and butter in saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; add peanut butter and marshmallow.  Stir in vanilla.  Pour immediately over warm cake.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Events

The past week has been a busy one with many church and family activities celebrating our Lord's death and resurrection.

My husband put together a beautiful Easter program for this morning's service.  We called it "What Wondrous Love."  It was a fresh reminder of God's gracious love for us.

This past Thursday, our playgroup Connect the Tots hosted an Easter Egg Hunt.  It wasn't the warmest spring day, but everyone had a lot of fun.

Then my family came for Easter dinner today.  It's actually the first time I hosted a sit-down meal for more than four people and the first time in a very long time my whole family posed for a picture.

Noah had fun hiding eggs for us and then "helping" us find them.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Recent Deals

March was a pretty bad month for the budget - for some reason we were way over in most every category.  But I'm determined to do better this month and so far, I've been finding pretty good deals.  Here are a few from my past few shopping trips:

From the week of March 28

Wisk ($8.39) B1G1 free
- 2 $2/1 coupons
-$2 ECB
=$2.56 for 2 (or $1.28 each)

Oral B toothbrushes ($2.99)
-2 $1/1 coupons
-$1.50 ECB
=$2.48 for 2 (or $1.24 each)

From the week of April 4

Kandoo Toddler Wipes ($1.42)
-$1/1 coupon

Raid Ant Traps ($2.49)
-$2/1 coupon

From the week of April 4

Pepperidge Farm cookies ($3.49) B1G1 free
-$1/2 coupon
-$1 Giant doubler coupon
=$1.49 for 2 (or $0.75 each)

DeerPark water, 24-pack ($3.99)
on sale for $2.99 with Bonuscard
-$1/1 coupon
-$1 Giant doubler coupon

MinuteMaid orange juice ($2.50)
-$1/1 coupon
-$1/1 Giant doubler coupon

I love when Giant gives the extra $1 doublers!  It really does make a difference.  And thanks to a dear friend who gave me her coupons too, I saved an extra $8 this week between two trips.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Granola & Galoshes

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!" 
Psalm 34:8

The other day Noah and I went to Trader Joe's for the first time.  I had had some of their very yummy granola at my sister-in-law's house while we were visiting California, and I was hoping to pick up some for myself.  I was even  prepared to pay a little bit extra for it - it was that good.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a larger box for less than my usual generic grocery store brand.  I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my breakfast the past few days.  I know, the little things. . .

Even before we went to California (and first tasted the yummy granola), I had been looking for galoshes for Noah.  This has been almost a month-long search now - consignment sales, department stores, shoe stores, Craig's List. . . you name it.  No one seemed to have decent-looking galoshes in the size I needed for the price I was willing to pay.

I was just about to give up hope of ever letting my son play outside this spring, when I was visiting a dear friend's house and she pulled out a tub of things her kids had outgrown and asked me if I wanted anything for Noah.  In the very bottom of the tub was a pair of red, size 8 galoshes!  Noah and I were so excited that we walked home from her house through the yard, just so we could look for mud puddles to jump in!  I guess I need a pair of galoshes now too!

God is good, and He cares about the "little things" that we eat and wear just as much (and more) than we do.  He richly provides us everything to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17), even granola and galoshes.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Another Ordinary Miracle

"I will give thanks to You because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this." Ps. 139:14 (GWT)

Jeremy and I are happy to announce that we're expecting our second child.  Baby #2 is due September 22.  The above ultrasound picture is from our 8-week appointment, where everything checked out just fine.

I was reminded that even what's considered "normal" in the world of pregnancy and "fetal development" is a miracle from God.  The fact that we can conceive naturally (and rather quickly!) is a miracle.  The fact that our baby is now the size of a kumquat with fingernails and "hair" already is a miracle!  It may be ordinary compared to some people's experiences, but it's still miraculous.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's A Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. . .

. . . even without brown sugar.

It's been snowing most of the day, with much more forecasted for tonight.  It took me almost 45 minutes to drive the 6 miles to work because of the snow.  And my son has been full of whines, pouts and "no"s all day.  So, yes, chocolate chip cookies sounded like a good "pick me up."

Only after I started mixing the batter did I realize that I was out of brown sugar.  Grrr!  But Betty Crocker came to my rescue and told me I could substitute white sugar and molasses.  Cookies saved! And they turned out pretty well, all things considered.  They seem a little darker and sweeter than normal, but they definitely hit the spot.  Here's my recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 4 dozen

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (OR 3/4 granulated sugar and 1 1/2 T molasses)
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 oz (1 bag) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.  Beat sugars, butter, vanilla and egg until creamy.  Stir in flour, baking soda and salt.  Sitr in chocolate chips.  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Cool 1-2 minutes and remove to wire rack.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Deals - January 24

I had another good week of grocery shopping - saving over $18 at Giant (about 43%).  I only saved $7.50 at Walmart (about 27%), because I got "caught" and ran out of a few things that we had to have.  Yes, well.  My goal is to not shop again this month, which would bring me $5.22 under my goal for January.  I'm off to a good start!

Scotch Brite sponges (4)
-(2) $1/2
=$1.36/4 (or $.34 each)

Old Spice 
$4/2-pack deodorant
$3.50/1 body wash
-B1G1 free
=$4 for all 3

Purina Cat Chow (3)
 $3.89 each
-$3 off instantly
=$6.67/3 (or $2.23 each)

Pillsbury brownie mix (2)
$1 each
=$1/2 (or $.50 each)

I also used the coupon for a free gallon of milk that I got last week.  The milk cost $3.38, but the coupon rang up as the maximum value of $4.50!  What a blessing!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Deals - January 17

I did pretty well this week on both toiletries and groceries.  I saved almost $16 at CVS (about 60%) and over $35 at Giant (about 36%).  Here are some of the deals I found:


Dawn dish soap (3)
=$1.71/3 (or $.57 each)

Bounty paper towels
-$3/1 (CVS coupon)
-$3 ECB
=$2.99 (about .37/roll)

General Mills cereal (4)
 $2.59 each
-$.55/1 (doubled)
-$6 off total purchase instantly
=$2.36/4 (or $.59 each)
plus I got a catalina for a free gallon of milk with my next purchase!

Quaker oatmeal (2)
2 for $5
-$1/1 (2)
=$3/2 (or $1.50 each)

McCormick pepper grinder
-$.75/1 (doubled)

Progresso soup (4)
$1 each
=$3/4 (or .75 each)

Prego sauce (2)
3 for $5
-$.35/2 (doubled)
=$2.63 (or $1.32 each)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Old Navy Clearance Deals

Jeremy and I had a "date" tonight at Old Navy and came away with some great deals.  They're currently running a sale of 40% off clearance items and I had a coupon for an additional $10 off a $50 purchase.  Here's what we came away with:

3-n-1 winter jacket
thermal shirt
polo shirt

moleskin blazer

cardigan wrap sweater
(4) tops

. . . and a lunchbox

The best deal by far was Noah's winter coat (for next year).  It's original retail price was $39.50.  It was on clearance for $14.99.  The 40% discount brought it down to $8.99.  And then because it had a small tear on the sleeve (easily repairable), it was marked down an additional 50%.  So we paid only $4.49!  Now that's an ordinary miracle!

Our combined total was $44.51.  The original retail price for everything came to $265 (without tax).  That's a savings of over 83%!  Even at clearance price, we saved more than we spent ($49.50 or 53%).

Great Resource!

I just found a great couponing resource that I have to share!  It's called A Full Cup and its a huge coupon database that lets you search for and print coupons online.  So in addition to "clipping" coupons from the paper and sites like or, I've been searching this database to see if there are any coupons I've "missed" that correspond to the weekly sales.

Maybe everyone already knows about this but me, but I'm very excited to finally know!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2011 Monthly Goals

OK, so I made a lot of New Year's resolutions this year.  But I honestly don't think any of them are unrealistic.  Many I've broken down into monthly goals to help keep me on track.  For instance, my two "big goals" are to memorize 20 Scripture passages and read 11 books in 2011.  I'd also like to have at least two dinner guests a month (good friends don't count - you know who you are!).

I created this simple list that folds easily into a little booklet.  At the beginning of each month, I'll fill out my goals for that month and set to "work."  Feel free to adapt and use the list.  Let's see how we do!

2011 Monthly Goals

Out of the Mouth of Babes

We've recently started "teaching" Noah to pray.  Before meals and bedtime we try to have him repeat after us as we pray. 

Last night before dinner, Jeremy asked Noah if he wanted to pray for the food.  He said "yes" and before Jeremy could start, Noah began praying on his own.  It went something like this:

"Dear Jesus,
Chee-toe (thank you) Daddy, Papa
Chee-toe Mommy, Coda (my parents' dog)
Chee-toe Nanny, Uncle An-doo (my brother Andrew)
Chee-toe Miss Sara and Molly (the two most recent guests at our house).


(with Jeremy's prompting)
Chee-toe dis food
A-nem (amen)."

Needless to say, it melted our hearts.  :)

Deals - January 12

Another one of my New Year's resolutions is to get back to couponing and better track my savings.  I found a very helpful tool from The Coupon Project.  I've set monthly "budgets" for groceries and household items (including toiletries) and am back on track for 2011.  So far, I've saved an average of 24% on groceries and over 30% on household items.  Here are a few of my most recent deals:

Jergens lotion (2)
$3.29 each

Dove soap
=$3.29 (about .82/bar)

Reach floss
.97 each

Suave shampoo
.84 each

Healthy Choice Fresh Mixers (2)
-$1/1 (2)
=$3/2 or $1.50 each

Scotties tissues (5)
.79 each
=$2.95/5 or .59 each

(this one's from last week, but it's such a good deal, I had to share!)

Starbucks coffee
$6.99 each
-$3 ECB

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas Sales & Resolutions

For many reasons, Christmas was very busy and yet not very purposeful this year.  The season seemed to fly by without me being able to enjoy or appreciate much of anything.

Reflecting on that at the start of this new year made me "resolve" to not repeat the Christmas of 2010.  I have purposed to have a purposeful Christmas this year.  For me that means, among other things:

- Finalizing the church's Christmas program by the end of the summer
- Doing all my holiday baking Thanksgiving weekend
- Creating and using an advent calendar (complete with a Scripture passage and a family activity for each day)

- Sending out Christmas cards (complete with family picture) at least two weeks before Christmas; and
- NOT hosting a three-year-old's birthday party two weeks before Christmas!

I've gotten a jump start by shopping all the after-Christmas sales this year.  I already have our cards and the supplies I'll need to make my advent calendar as well as a bunch of new ornaments for our tree.  Here's what I was able to get, all for less than $55 (I only paid $35, thanks to a gift card from a friend):

By God's grace, this Christmas will be different - less stress and more purpose.