November 29, 2010

the bargain shopper in me…

…is enjoying the buzz today for Cyber Monday!  Except that Amazon was running a bit slow earlier this morning (or maybe this was just our computer?). 

I think it’s safe to say I like a bargain.  Shopping for our essentials, and for some wants as well, while paying rock-bottom prices is just plain old FUN!  And keeping the extra dollars in our pocket makes me smile too. 

Nothing new, this bent towards frugality has been a part of me for as long as I can remember.  Scanning the paper for coupons, checking out grocery fliers & such was not a task my mother enjoyed, and so I simply accompanied her to the store with my envelope of ‘deals’ and we often shopped together this way. 

As now manager in my own home with many more responsibilities than groceries, the process still finds its way into my days.  I like the feeling of ‘beating the system’ (or maybe I’m simply competitive this way!).

Seasons come & go and depending on where we are in life, this hunt for a good bargain is often present or sometimes takes a back seat as it does take time.  And time is very precious to me, so it’s a balancing act.  In ‘honor’ of Cyber Monday and the pursuit of a good deal, I’ll share a few of my favorites ~


photo by renjith krishnan

:: are you using Swagbucks yet?  I discovered these virtual dollars earlier this year, and they are great!  The primary way of earning is online searching, but there are options for taking surveys, sharing referrals, etc.  I’ve only used the search feature (I type everything into the swagbucks toolbar, even if I know the website address already) and have so far earned $50 in Amazon gift certificates!  Which I promptly use on…

:: ….buying diapers on Amazon Mom’s new feature.  On this site, there are many deals for the family and FREE 2-day shipping is included for a limited time.  My diaper deals go like this ~

    • sign up for Amazon Mom & save 15%
    • save an additional 15% by using the Subscribe & Save feature (the item ordered is delivered on a regular basis, say every 2 months; unsubscribe as soon as the item is shipped with no penalty)
    • often I have another coupon code for another 15% or even 20% off. 
    • then I pay the balance using as many Swagbuck dollars as possible!

:: right now I’m in a season of coupon clipping and so I receive updates from two sites that offer online coupons to print for local stores and also many other deals ~ Saving Naturally for organic or health foods & products, and then Money Saving Mom.  Both sites are run by godly Christian women who I had the privilege of meeting and talking with last month.  I highly recommend them!

:: I’ve also recently discovered Walmart’s ALL YOU magazine which offers tons of coupons (at least $70 worth in each issue) on groceries, toiletries, etc.  I only take time to scan for the coupons, but the articles seem helpful as well.  Check it out at Walmart & if you like it, here’s a super deal on a subscription.  Using coupons & local drugstore offers, I usually buy our toiletries for next to nothing or receive them for free.

:: check out for dining out deals in your area.  Right now, they are offering up to 80% off certain gift certificates.  A few weeks ago, I bought a $25 certificate for $2.00 and enjoyed a night out sampling Indian food with friends…fun!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I should mention that all of this evolved slowly and it’s a process I enjoy.  It does take time (though I’ve figured out ways to cut down on that!), and it should be worth it in your book.  If I wasn’t clothing & feeding young children still or if for another reason this just didn’t fit life now, then it wouldn’t be a priority.

All that said, it IS a lot of fun!


November 25, 2010

thankful for Advent

A BLESSED THANKSGIVING to all who celebrate today...
this day of remembrance naturally lends to the upcoming celebration of Advent,
when we give THANKS for the coming of our Messiah, Jesus.

The season of Advent is a joyous occassion for the family! Advent is a time of anticipation, of longing and of waiting for the birth of the Messiah, Christ who came to earth for us. Celebrated the weeks leading up to Christmas Day, Advent this year officially begins on Sunday, November 28th.

An Advent calendar is a special way to mark this passing of time and can be a practical tool to teach little ones (and big ones!) about the Christmas story and the true 'reason for the season'. This calendar usually counts down the 24 days before December 25th, but can be adjusted by a day to begin December 1st if wanted.

Last year I chose a simple method to celebrate our family traditions, and to prioritize the many ideas of how to influence our children with the meaning of Christmas ~ a calendar of envelopes! Each morning from December 1st, at our devotional time we opened one envelope that first focused on giving or sharing, and then sometimes on an activity or craft to be completed that day. I opted for mostly quick & easy ideas and other days had more time or effort required. Practical and fun, this idea is easy to duplicate.....

For complete instructions & ideas, hop on over to Frugal Granola....Michele has graciously allowed me to share in her Simple Living series.  Join me? 


November 23, 2010

to lighten your day

Full of holiday preparing or rushing?

Need a smile for the day, before taking off full speed?

Look no further than a few pics from our laundry room; where my husband thought that a little boy would enjoy hanging out.

DSC_0064 DSC_0054


Rest assured that he was never in any danger of falling out.

At least I don’t think so.  I learned of the event while downloading pictures from the camera.

So, are you smiling yet? 



November 18, 2010

cultural celebrations :: a visitor from Germany

Our geography curriculum continues to be such an adventure as we make our way through Europe!  Famous people and places, interesting facts & information, excellent literature to read….I am pleased with this choice.  Winter Promise’s Children Around the World delivers big time.  While the curriculum provides for a weekly celebration of each country studied, we choose the ones of interest and which fit our schedule.

So when our study of Germany perfectly coincided with a long-awaited visit from my uncle, who has lived in this country over 20 years, the children and I were ecstatic!  We practiced Guten Tags, thought through a few question to ask, and thoroughly enjoyed our time.  I wasn’t about to attempt serving German food to a live person from the country, so simple conversation & American fare was the agenda for the evening!


Too busy wrapped up in conversation to tackle pictures of any food…. 

Several days later however, we did whip up a quick recipe for Blitzkuchen, a German spice cake.  SO simple, very light in comparison to American coffee cakes and now declared to be our favorite ‘tea cake’.  Yes, of course I’ll leave the recipe!


German Blitzkuchen 

1/2 stick butter

1 egg

2/3 cup milk

1-1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

pinch of salt

In a bowl, beat the butter, egg and milk together.  Sift all the other ingredients together into the bowl and beat until smooth.  Pour into an 8” square greased pan.  On the top, drop bits of butter and sprinkle with a little more sugar and cinnamon.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.


And then, what’s a study on Germany without some sausage and pretzels, right!?


November 16, 2010

thanksgiving book bag for the family

For the little ones in your home or life ~

Give Thanks to the Lord :: told from the viewpoint of a young member of the family celebrating joys of all kinds

Thank You for Thanksgiving :: the fun rhyming text is great, also a wonderful way to tie together the holiday with the approach of Advent as the book emphasizes being grateful for the gift of Christ.

The Thanksgiving Bowl :: fun for preschoolers as well ~ travel throughout the year with this ‘lost’ bowl of grandma’s and see where it lands in the end!

Mary’s First Thanksgiving :: an inspirational story of gratefulness from a young Pilgrim girl’s talks with her father.

For the family or older children ~

An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving :: the March sisters live on!  Great family read-aloud or for older children.

The Legend of Squanto :: a Focus on the Family radio theatre CD that is excellent!  A story of triumph over tragedy that offers more of the Thanksgiving story.  We’re on our third year of listening to this audio!

Three Young Pilgrims :: just fine for younger children as well, this book details with lots of illustrations & beautiful map work the journey of Pilgrim children

Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember :: a family keepsake and wonderful gift idea!  Historical, detailing the quest of the Pilgrims and other facts.  Pages in the back to record your family’s gratefulness through the years and a CD of instrumental music make this book one to own, excellent!


November 11, 2010

reality check and over-the-top birthday fun

First, the not-so-good news ::

Thanksgiving is in two weeks, I’m hosting extended family, and there is little to no planning done for this event (except that I have managed to earn two free turkeys at local grocery stores).  Serving them frozen would not be a good idea, you think?  The fact that my family plans to visit is causing the children’s excitement to rapidly rise to record levels.  whew.

But their Mama needs a serious reality check and will be breaking out some plans this weekend!  I think I can, I think I can…

On to better news!  Yesterday, we celebrated my birthday :: so refreshing with the request for “just a little quiet” honored in grand ways.  My family gifted me with an outing for the afternoon to be pampered, then to shop alone, and then dinner with simply my husband and I.  Truly over-the-top and leaving me feeling grateful and quite full; the children were so thrilled for me (or maybe they were just happy for a day off school? :) and participated fully in this surprise of a gift.  Saying thank you doesn’t seem enough…

And on my return, cards and gifts were opened and the day closed. 

I am blessed; not only yesterday…everyday.


:: an older couple in our church blesses me with these hand-delivered, homemade oatmeal lace cookies (dipped into chocolate) every year; I am slightly embarrassed to admit that because I’m a wee reluctant to share these treats, they have begun including different cookies for the rest of the family.  I do give out small bites here and there…


:: a large box filled with deliciousness from Stonewall Kitchen arrived at our doorstep!  These goodies the whole family will enjoy! :)


:: and I wasted no time in spending birthday money gifts on fresh crafting supplies I’ve been eyeing for a while.  My rather large collection of scrapbooking and paper crafting supplies is the result of about 13 yrs of birthdays (with a few Christmases thrown in as well).  The children and I spent our free time today trying out the various new ‘toys’!


I record this all here so that my heart will remember….

so that I will always count myself filled to the brim with blessings!


November 9, 2010

in the book bag

Being a lover of books and all things wordy, even I do believe that my 'book bag' so to speak is rather full these days.  The challenge is to read one book at a time, rather than my current method of placing nearly all of them in various corners of our home (or of the car) for when I have just a minute to read.  Hmmm...must think on this.  It's helpful that I read quickly, but these will take me into the new year!

For now, let me introduce the current book bag (minus the crafting books. ahem.) ::

Holy Habits: A Woman's Guide to Intentional Living
~ the women of our church are reading through this; the author's focus is on examining the nature of God through His various names which informs how we are to live intentionally.  Simplistic, practical and yet profound in its reminders!

Grace Is For Sinners
~ After meeting this author recently, her journey of redemption peaked my interest (and I wanted to support a self-published author).  This one just came in and only a few chapters have been read, so much more to go!  Serena has a website of the same title with more of her story.

Don't Waste Your Life
~ all of this talk of living intentionally caused me to download the free audio version of this title (only available for November).  When I can recover my iPod from my children's hands, then I'll get to listening.  I appreciate all things John Piper!

The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting toward God
~ oh, it just seems interesting!  On its way from Amazon....not much to report just yet.

Treasuring God in Our Traditions
~ did I mention I like the Pipers?  John's wife, Noel, writes so eloquently on the need to infuse our yearly celebrations with the presence of God at work so that the next generation may know Him.  So. So. Good.  A free download of the book is available at the Piper's website.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
~ this one hasn't been released yet!  The author, who I also had the pleasure of meeting, generously gifted an e-version to conference attendees...woohoo!  Refreshing, challenging and full of over-the-top encouragement :: words for the soul.

Tell Your Time (not pictured)
~ the e-book is transformative!  Seriously.  I'm a fairly organized person who has read a few time management books in the past...yet, there was much to glean from this quick read of a book (it's only 30 pages).  The author, yes...I again had the opportunity to meet her, deals with the internal before the external when considering how we spend our time.  She asks questions such as 'what do you want to be remembered for?  what kind of person would you like to be?' as part of the process.  This time management approach deals with who you are (or desire to be) before attempting to even look at how to plot your time.  I cannot recommend this highly enough, it's excellent!

Oh, good reads in store!

November 3, 2010

on being perfect :: final thoughts

{part one & part two here; just some thoughts after hearing an impactful speech}

I have no words that will release you into never struggling again with perfectionism.

This post may even disappoint and bring on more questions than answers.

I can however, point towards a few directions that caused a change of mentality and attitude :: that radically rocked this walk with a holy God.

Early in our marriage, we came across a book just released whose title pulled the reader in.  My husband read chapters and quickly attempted to peak my interest as well.  I was not hooked.  In the Grip of GraceReally?  Through my mind came the usual and often heard responses to that word grace ::

“Oh, grace is wimpy isn’t it?  It’s for those who are trying to get away with sin, who want God to cover-up their mistakes with quick forgiveness.  He’s a holy God!  He has standards!  Grace is only a way out….”

What a serious lack of understanding.


In the first few pages of this book (yes, I did finally concede to reading) the author tells the story of several brothers who have failed their father by running away and finding themselves living among people & ways unlike their homeland.  Each one’s response to their wrongdoing is described as only Max Lucado can do.  One gives up and becomes like the rest, believing a way back to the father is impossible.  Another is so angry at this brother and chooses to carefully watch & record the wrong being done (therefore ignoring his own misdeeds).  And one son does return when the messenger comes with an announcement that the father is awaiting them all.

But is was the fourth son that caused me to stop flipping pages and read this story multiple times.  One son…he couldn’t accept a way back to the father when the messenger arrived.  Simply return after what he had done?

Just go with this messenger? 

Instead, this son chooses to try and work his way back into favor.  Instead of accepting the ride home, he tries to build a new way back home.  It was impossible, the journey too long.  And yet, he works and works and works…

Unable to accept that the way home was to ride the messenger’s back, this son slaves away with little success that he cannot see will never work; he is so proud of the accomplishment that is destined to fail.  He was unable to accept a father who was granting him favor, a way to himself, that the son had not earned. 

He couldn’t accept grace.


I could relate to this son and the striving; the cringing inside when I failed and the attempt to ‘not ever do that again’, whatever THAT was.  The attempt of perfectionism block’s ones view.  First, there is the pride issue and the belief that ‘all is well when I do well—and I really haven’t done much wrong’, which is false at best.  Then, when there is inevitable failure or mistakes, perfectionism breeds a condemning attitude : ‘What was I thinking?  How could I have been so…(fill in the blank)?’  So efforts are doubled up, reinforcements put in place :: legalism established or restored.

What a vicious cycle that kills the spirit!  Oh, we need grace. 

What is this grace all about?

I offer simple thoughts, not great theology.  Grace is what makes up the difference.  It is the undeserved favor of God that will ‘fill in the blanks’ when we come up short.  And we always will.  We are responsible to do our part, but God already knows that our very best, even if it could be perfect all of the time, will always fall short to what is needed.  This could be a depressing thought, except for His grace (Eph 2: 8-9).

Because grace makes up the difference.  God already provided a way for those of us who tend to lean towards the striving, the gaining of success by our efforts alone, the thinking we may actually have it all together.  Grace keeps me from being caught up in who I am supposed to be and accepting of who I am—and who God is through me (I Cor 15:10). 

As mothers, wives, as women on this journey…we need grace.  Not only for ourselves, but also for those who follow.

Lord, grant us understanding.


If you or anyone else battles with this concept of grace as I did, I highly recommend ~

The book of Romans :: by far the best explanation of this often misunderstood concept of grace.  Read it front to back, over & over, asking the Lord to illuminate the truths within the words.  He will.

The Grip of Grace by Max Lucado :: an extension of understanding Romans in simple, everyday language.  Excellent!



the whole series:

part one:  a reformed perfectionist

part two:  perfectionism is insecurity.  insecurity is fear.

final thoughts:  in the grip of grace


photo credit


November 1, 2010

from our days

{we’ll continue sharing around perfectionism & grace tomorrow :: just a few shots from our family that I am grateful for today…}

Gratitude from our days as a family ::

DSC_0116:: for this 4 month old’s focus 

DSC_0072:: for siblings willing to read together


:: and play together


DSC_0025 DSC_0112

:: for creativity!


  :: for a little girl growing in reading skills


:: for new ways to organize!


:: for the sights & smells of baking in the kitchen 


For all this, I give thanks!  Participating in A Holy Experience’s Multitude Mondays.

{to answer a question ~ yes, I’ve recently disabled the comments on the blog; a brief explanation here.  Please feel free to share thoughts via email however, I enjoy hearing from you!  domesticserenity(AT)gmail(DOT)com , replace with appropriate symbols, no spaces.  thanks!}

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