Monday, May 19, 2014 ONE Week!

I have sat down at least half a dozen times over the past few months to write at least *something* on this blog, but it hasn't happened.  We have SO much going on right now!  The kids' activities are wrapping up - Vera had her dance recital on Saturday and I don't think it has hit her just yet that she won't be going back to class with Miss Stephanie :-(  Cole had his cello recital that same day as well, and his last official lesson will be tomorrow.  He will miss Ms. Garman SO MUCH!  And somehow it is up to me to find "replacements" in Nashville for all of these excellent instructors...this is about to be a huge mom fail.

We are in the throes of last minute extra furniture selling on Craigslist, organizing all of the kids' clothes/toys/gear that needs to be stored in the cellar of the next house, and making note of anything and everything that will no doubt slip through the cracks once the movers come to pack next Tuesday.  Of course I should also be doing all of the normal, daily laundry...but naturally these things are falling by the wayside.

This next phase of our life is sure to be full of excitement and more craziness, but it is hard to leave Augusta behind.  It is now in our "top 5 places to settle" list and we already know where we would buy a house should we ever come back, and I hope we do!  For now we look at the short term, which means living in Nashville for the next two full years, possibly a third depending on Jake's program and possible publishing of articles, yada yada.  Beyond that we are wide open...still considering the possibility of Stanford, as it would be nearly impossible to pass up a position in informatics there.

Throughout the uncertainty, we know He is with us...and we are holding on to Him.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Your Architecture

Today after dropping the kids off at preschool and mother's day out, I decided to head down Walton Way to MCG (the "scenic route") so I could bring Jake the ID he left at home.  I was NOT expecting to see what I saw...  Total destruction.  It actually brought tears to my eyes.  Downed trees and huge branches everywhere.  Tarps covering damaged rooftops.  I drove over a downed power line, which luckily was not live.  And just to add to the strangeness of this new landscape in West Augusta, we had constant storm warnings and tornado watches with massive, straight line winds this morning which pushed already stressed trees to their limit.

It was incredible to see the strength of last week's ice storm and the power of something that ordinarily seems so innocuous.  Hearing this song as I drove through the path of the storm reminded me of who owns our world...who is always in control...and who sees everything from an infinitely better perspective than our own.

You built me up like a city of gold
The battles rage but I'm standing tall
You formed my heart like an empire
The wind and rain can't stop this fire

If only I could see it from Your perspective
The beauty and the grace of Your architecture

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero

I may be one of the worst when it comes to sticking to a budget.  Creating budgets?  No problem.  I use Mint for tracking all of our non-cash transactions and also use Budget Simple to design and change future budgets, but no amount of budgeting software has helped me actually stay WITHIN said budget.

The quite a bit of our budget goes to leasing our current home here in Augusta, but part of my motivation for re-vamping our spending habits is due to the unfortunate increase in our cost of living with our impending move to Nashville.  As much as we *thought* we were spending here, we are now going to be forking over nearly TWICE that each month for our new home.  It is worth it to us because we are in love with the property and the area, but what better a reason to get control of our finances NOW.

I was intrigued by the 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero challenge from Ruth over at Living Well and Spending Less.  I really love her take on living life with less clutter and she has a great advice when it comes to eating from your pantry and freezer.  If you haven't already done it, read through the challenge and be sure to click on the links for each day.

Inspired yet?

I was.  And I am still inspired.  Because I have zero confidence in my own ability to STOP the spending, as a true shopaholic myself, I chose to have a spending freeze for the entire month of February - coincidentally the shortest month of the year.  Surely I can do this for 28 days, right?

I started by printing off a few of Ruth's free printables and filling in my own "Ground Rules," which are as follows:

Grocery or Toiletry items I/We MAY buy this month:
*dairy products (milk (whole or 2% only), sour cream, cream cheese, block cheeses, etc)
*whole carrots
*dry beans
*paper towels
*toilet paper

Things I/We have already committed to paying for this month:
*housing (rent, mortgage, HOA, etc)
*utilities (water, gas, electricity)
*internet & satellite TV
*Mother's Day Out/preschool
*cello lessons/dance class
*babysitting for siblings during lessons
*2 movie tickets

Things I/We may absolutely NOT purchase this month:
*lawn care
*home furnishings

Other Rules/Notes:
*We will try to put off all purchases until March, even for "necessary" items (filing taxes, etc).

Next I went through our pantry, refrigerators, and freezers and did a small clean out and reorganization just to see what kind of inventory we were dealing with.  As much as we have, I felt like we were lacking some basic pantry and freezer stocking items, specifically canned veggies/tomato juice and frozen veggies.  After doing some searching through grocery store circulars and scouring for printable coupons online, I went to the store on January 31st and did a *slight* pantry stock-up, but primarily only on items that were significantly on sale.  This was technically not a necessary step in our freezing spend, but there were a few essential items on my list and so I decided it was worth the $100 for a boatload of fresh produce from Aldi, buy one get one free items from Publix, and scoring Cheetos puffs for $1.98/bag on sale...for Asher, of course...kid's gotta fix this failure to thrive diagnosis.

I used Pinterest to brainstorm meal ideas that we could use this month with our current inventory, and I'm hoping that I can stick to cooking  My goal is that by we can reduce our grocery budget by 75% this month, although I'm thinking this is unrealistic.  I am also hoping to cut out our entire restaurant budget for this month as well...aaaaaaaagggggh!  We will shoot for the moon and see where that gets us...

We are four days in to February and doing well so far...but I know that it will only be a matter of time before I'm *dying* for some fast food (complete addict) or really needing a Target run.  For now I just have to keep reminding myself that saving the money now will give us so much more peace in the long run compared to the fleeting happiness that comes from a Chick-fil-A diet lemonade...

...oh their lemonade.

And Chick-fil-A sauce.

This is going to be difficult.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Venus Sensitive Embrace - Another Review

I was happy to be chosen for Influenster's Venus Sensitive Embrace VoxBox and just received it a few days ago - excitement!  Full disclosure: I received this 100% free, although the opinions are my own.

After opening it up I was happy to find the new Venus Sensitive Embrace razor handle, two cartridges, and an awesome shower pod (that holds your razor for you in the shower and attaches easily to tile via a suction cup).  I wouldn't necessarily consider myself to have truly "sensitive" skin, but in winter my skin can definitely be temperamental...and mainly dry.

Ordinarily I use the Target Up&Up generic triple blade razors, which work fine, but I was eager to test out this new one to see if it is really better.  I can honestly say that the Venus Sensitive Embrace with five blades was actually slightly better than my generic, especially given that I had zero little red (itchy) bumps after shaving my legs, where typically I'll see that after using other razors.

I think the "coolest" part about this VoxBox (if you can call shaving paraphernalia "cool," that is) was the included shower pod.  It is SUCH an improvement on the old one (that was always huge and never seemed to stay stuck to the wall...nice).

Final verdict: is it worth it?  I would say if you have sensitive skin, it is certainly worth upgrading to the Venus Sensitive Embrace, especially given the smoother results.  Razors are expensive...but taking the (hideous amount of) time to shave only to have ugly, red bumps appear is more than worth the upcharge!