Saturday, December 29, 2012

Goodbye, Bingo

Just over five months ago I adopted a little guy from a guinea pig rescue.  He was an absolute perfect fit for our family and dearly loved by us and Fuzzy.  (We needed a friend for Fuzzy as he lost a cage mate on June 14th.)  Bingo developed a pocket of infection on his cheek, and even though I took him to the vet and it was lanced and he was on antibiotics he didn't last but a week after I found it.  He had been brought to the rescue by someone who got too many guinea pigs to take care of them.  He was covered in so much tar from cigarette smoke that it took three baths for him to get clean from that.  I may have only had him five months, but it was a happy five months for him.   I will dearly miss the little fellow.

September 24, 2009
December 27, 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Making Christmas 2013 more affordable

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?  If not, you might want to think about it.  This is one way I have saved money in the past on Christmas expenses.

This year, we spent about $400 on Christmas (granted, we had no meal as it was just my mother and me.  I ate fish sticks and she wasn't hungry.)  But for that, we got about $1500 of stuff.  (And $288 of that was for a new kitchen table and chairs I bought online on Black Friday.)

Start shopping NOW for Christmas gift wrap, cards, decorations, and the like.  These go down dramatically after Christmas, and one year I was buying Christmas cards for 10 cents for a box of ten.  I didn't need thousands of Christmas cards, but I could use the envelopes (cheaper than a #10) and made postcards out of the fronts of the cards.

For gifts, I used gift cards I had won entering sweepstakes.  I saved them until I found sales, then combined sales with online coupons.  For instance, I wanted to get my mother a new telephone for the landline.  I waited until it was on sale.  Then there was a $10 off $50 purchase coupon, free shipping if you spent $50, and I had a gift card I won.  Even without the gift card, I would have paid about $40 for an $80 phone.

If an item doesn't have to be new, watching for things at garage sales can be a big money saver.  My aunt has been one to like local history items, and one year I bought her a magazine from the 1960s with a local story in it.  Cost?  Ten cents.  She didn't know I paid ten cents rather than the $10 or more it was going for on eBay.  This works well for things that are no longer made, out of print, antiques, etc.

A friend made my mother a gift.  To buy something similar would have been over $50.  For less than 30 minutes she was able to make something almost identical (but better for my mother) with about a $5 investment.  Not only that, it's more personal because it was handmade.

For some friends of mine, I entered a lot of blog giveaways and won some great stuff for them.  Everything from a handmade scarf to toys for their kids.  Another thing I'm giving those friends is a box of Hostess Zingers.  They live in Russia and were not here when Hostess announced they were closing.  They are in for the holidays, so I have a box of Zingers to give them so they can say farewell to the American icon.  Again, not expensive, but thoughtful.  (Of course, this is the same friend who would become nostalgic over vanilla wafers, a treat he never especially liked, just because they don't sell them in Russia!)

One way to make Christmas a little more affordable is to figure out NOW what you want to (and can afford) to spend next Christmas.  Divide that by 12.  Now set aside that much money each month for Christmas (or if you can find good deals, go ahead and spend.  For instance, buy wrapping paper, cards, etc. NOW.)   Also, buy stamps now.  They will go up next month and since first class stamps are now "Forever" stamps, they will be useable next year with no additional postage. 

Good luck on making 2013 more affordable!  :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Book review: The Art of Neighboring

The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your DoorThe Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door by Jay Pathak

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Art of Neighboring is a Christian book.  That much is clear.  However, I was impressed with its lack of "get to know your neighbors so you can tell them about Jesus" approach in this book.  It's still mentioned, but author Jay Pathak discusses the difference between an ulterior motive and an ultimate motive and says our ultimate motive in all relationships is to share our faith. 

This is a great read for anyone who has neighbors.  (And that is the majority of us.)  Gone are the days of going next door to borrow a couple eggs, we usually just hop in the car and go to the store.  This book gives ideas on how to create community within your community.  He gives examples of how he's done it where he lives, such as an impromptu smores making and going door to door to invite the neighbors. 

Also, he discusses sticky situations and how to set boundaries in such instances.  He gives a detailed story of what happened to he and his wife with one neighbor.  After all, many times there will be someone who wants to take advantage of our kindness, and there are times we need to say no to others!

In the end what happens when we take care of those around us?  We can go looking right on our block for help, be it shoveling show, babysitting, or other things. We, in turn, can gift our neighbors with something we can do for them and relationships are strengthened and everyone benefits!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: Uncompromising

Uncompromising: A Heart Claimed By a Radical LoveUncompromising: A Heart Claimed By a Radical Love by Hannah Farver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am no stranger to Christian books for teen girls. I’ve occasionally read them since I was that age over twenty years ago. So many times they are encouragement that God still loves you even if you have a bad hair day. I was very pleased and I must admit a bit surprised that Uncompromisng: A Heart Claimed By a Radical Love by Hannah Farver was a deep book for girls. Of course, she discusses beauty and the implications of focusing on the outward appearance, but she puts it into perspective with Scripture.

One thing I really appreciated was her mention of expository Bible Study. If there is one thing I wish she would have elaborated on in this book, it is this topic. Many adults don’t even know there is a way to study the Bible besides letting it fall open to a passage and seeing what is there and calling that their “word for the day”. Hannah encourages in depth Bible study, and that is rare to find in any book, especially one for teens.

She discusses all the hot topics of teen girls. Yes, that includes guys. She doesn’t encourage dating over courtship or vice versa, she allows that decision up to the reader. She talks about the need for community and female friendship -- including Christian woman who are older than you so you can learn from them.

Her book is written in a down to earth way. It is far from preachy. Neither do you feel she puts herself on a pedestal as having all the answers. In fact, as an adult, the biggest flaw I found with this book is it seemed a little too much like a casual conversation. I understand she wanted to make jokes, and that is fine, but the way they were worked into the book disrupted the flow of my reading occasionally, but that could just be a personality quirk of mine.

There are 24 pages of text, 10 pages of composing the checklists “Am I ready for Marriage” and “Modesty Checklist” and 10 pages of a study guide. I believe this book would work well with a teen girls’ discipleship group. With 12 chapters, it could also work well with a Sunday School class.

I highly recommend this book for teen girls, especially those in the younger and middle teen years.

You can purchase the book here:  Uncompromising at Moody Publishers

FTC disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are my own.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Razor Reindeer

I bought a bag of Christmas ornaments at a thrift shop yesterday.  I saw one I wanted, and while I was looking at the rest I pulled this out.

Who would make a Christmas ornament out of a razor?  That seems a little dangerous if you have children around!  Who came up with such an idea anyway?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Review: More Than a Bucket List

More Than a Bucket List: Making Your Dreams, Passions, and Faith a RealityMore Than a Bucket List: Making Your Dreams, Passions, and Faith a Reality by Thomas Nelson Publishers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After being in the hospital for nine days in February, I have read a few books this year on fulfilling dreams and making bucket lists.  I realized that while I have done so many things, there are many adventures I still want to go on and many of them need to be planned.  So when I had the opportunity to review More Than a Bucket List, I was excited because this is exactly the type of book I’ve enjoyed reading this year.

This is a smaller book, it’s a square hardcover and looks like a gift book.  There are 278 pages but pages 272 to 278 are blank lines allowing you to make your own bucket list of  49 items.  Personally, I have more than 49 items on my list, and beyond that, I like my list where I can see it, and I keep it as a file in my computer. 

Unlike other books in this genre I have read, this one is decidedly Christian.  It gives suggestions such as “Go to a big tent revival. Respond.” and “Hold Communion once a month in your home with your family.” 

I did like the emphasis on volunteering and community.  I haven’t seen that in many other books like this I have read.  The one thing that disappointed me with this book was there were some suggestions repeated.  I read it in two sittings so it was more noticeable than if I used this book like I expect some people would -- picking it up and flipping through it and setting it on the shelf for a while.  I believe living debt free and writing a love letter to God were both repeated.  Both admirable, both good, but to me the point of this book was to get ideas of things to do and accomplish, and I didn’t see the need for anything to be repeated.  Also a few things depend on others.  Growing old with the one you love is an example.  Sometimes you can’t depend on others.  What if you never find a person to grow old with?  When writing my bucket list I try to avoid adding items that depend on another person.  People change, circumstances change, and if you wrote in pen in this book, you could have a sad reminder of what could have been.

I did enjoy this book, especially the author’s commentary about the things she has done from creating a family cookbook to her life in Germany.  The author’s comments were rare, but they were my favorite part.  I also very much enjoyed her suggestion to create a “reverse bucket list” about things you have already accomplished.  I want to do this myself!  I’ve done some amazing things and it would be very fun to see them all in one place.

If you are creating a bucket list, this is one book you’re sure to want to check out if you are a Christian!

FTC disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This in no way influenced my opinion.