Simple living: What would you keep?

This morning there was a feature on the Today Show about a couple in Portland (with a very fun and interesting blog) who gave up all but 100 possessions, downsized to a 400 square foot apartment, and got rid of their car. See below:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Of course it got me thinking. We live in such a materialistic society… would we really be happier with less?

My husband has always said that he wants to live simply. And I love the idea, but to be honest, I also love stuff. How shallow am I? Ha! But for a while I have been wanting to clean house. So here's my top ten list of things that I absolutely would not give up if I were forced to get rid of everything else besides the bare essentials (which includes at least one car- we live in the most sprawling city in the country- not to mention the hottest!- so a car is a must- even more so with a baby!):

1. My iMac. I make my living by this thing- not to mention it houses all of our music and photographs!

2. My camera.

3. My sewing machine.

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4. My Amma's china set. She bought it one piece at a time while she was working hard and living in Iceland. Priceless!

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5. These two Bibles (yes, I'm cheating): the first I carried down the aisle on our wedding day. The second belonged to Mum Mum.

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6. The artwork that our friend Trish painted that was displayed at our wedding.

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7. My Hummell music box… it's beaten up and cracked and worth nothing to anyone but me, but I used to fall asleep to its music every night when I was a kid. It's now in LJ's room.

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8. This photo of Mum Mum and me.

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9. Henry. 

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10. This silhouette of Linnea:

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I'll tell you what, this exercise sure does make you realize how much crap is sitting around in your house that is completely ignored and also makes you realize that perhaps you don't need all this stuff after all. But then again, even though we could get rid of so many things and never miss them, it's hard to imagine a virtually empty house… my head might explode. Is that wrong? Maybe we need a smaller house so it will feel more full with only the things we need… hmmm… I don't know. Either way, I prefer to live in a home that has character because of its decor. Do I need the decor? Nope. But because it's something I personally love- to be surrounded by beauty- it's meaningful enough to me to warrant staying in my home. Cody and I also love entertaining- so that requires a fair amount of kitchen ware and enough place settings for everyone. It's all a matter of what your priorities are- and that's different for everyone.

It's the things sitting in my closet that I haven't seen in ages that I question. And lots of other things.

Stuff isn't what makes me happy ultimately… it isn't what makes anyone happy. My family and friends and the experiences we share together are what bring me joy, and I'm sure you would say the same of your own. I think it's about time to start cleaning out our closets, organizing, and passing along the things we don't really need to others who would appreciate and have a need for them.

So what are your thoughts on this? What are some of the things you would never give up?

p.s. I think I would die without a car in Portland. Have you BEEN there? SO MUCH TO DO AND EXPLORE.

Goodwill finds.

I am not ashamed to admit it: I LOVE GOODWILL. Linnea and I went there yesterday just for kicks, and I totally scored! All it takes is a little time, a discerning eye, and a little bit of fashion inspiration (mine was the July issue of InStyle). I found a book I've been wanting to read for a while, a like-new pair of strappy nude heels (for $5!!!), a denim shirtdress, a floral belt, four tops, two pairs of shorts, a denim mini with a pleated ruffle bottom, and two adorable summery outfits for the small one. Here are a couple of outfit ideas that have been floating around. These are very similar to my new finds:

Denim Dress

I love the idea of pairing a bright belt with nude shoes. And my Amma gave me a gorgeous silver tassel necklace for my birthday… love it.

Plaid top

I found some killer wedges very similar to these at anthropologie over the weekend- not only were they on clearance, I had my birthday discount as well! I love that place. My fashionista friend Alex gave me a similar ring to the one above for my birthday… chunky rings are a favorite of mine!


chiffon shirt

I love all things vintage and girly… so when I found a cute, ruffly, floral chiffon top to pair with the jeans I planned to turn into cutoffs, I decided I must head out to find the perfect sun hat to wear with them as well.

Anyway… just some ideas. I have to work on accessorizing better, but it's a lot of fun finding random things and putting together a cute outfit!

Thoughts on Food, Inc. and a carrot massacre.

Yesterday we made carrots for Linnea- and boy, was it ever a mess! Our pediatrician warned us about this… but of course, the messier the feeding process, the CUTER the baby! It was simply amazing. Here's a video:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=12529926&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=ff0179&fullscreen=1

We used a nifty little baby food steamer and processor that my father-in-law and stepmother dearest gave to us- it's fantastic! It's called the Beaba Babycook Baby Food Maker and although we steamed the carrots seperately (I jumped the gun- we'll try it with the next round of food!) it worked wonders as a processor. I got the recipe from Top 100 Baby Purees: 100 Quick and Easy Meals for a Healthy and Happy Baby and it was so simple. Next on the menu: sweet potatoes!

We watched Food, Inc. last night, and it was fascinating. I read The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals a couple of years ago, and this movie sums up a lot of the ideas in the book. It definitely made me re-think the way our family eats and especially what we eat and where our food comes from.

One of the things we plan to do in our backyard is start a garden, but
we need to learn what we are doing first. There is a community garden
at Agritopia that I may look into to get a handle on what I'm doing-
and what a great way to learn! My dear friend Vanessa gave us some
zucchini, a red onion and parsley from her garden plot there and they were simply
delicious. I must say- any time we make anything from scratch with
home-grown or organic, locally-grown produce,it tastes amazing in comparison to the regular produce at the store! For now, we're starting small- we have some potted basil, yellow bell pepper and cherry tomatoes sitting on our front porch:

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We've already managed to kill a strawberry plant. The pot didn't have a hole for drainage… oops. It's a learning process!

I would love to hear from you about your family's eating habits. It seems as if healthy, whole food is not interchangable with a tight budget. Saving money is top on our list of priorities, but not at the cost of our family's long-term health. It's sad that a healthy lifestyle seems to come at a steep price in our society. So if you are feeding your family organic fruits and veggies, whole grains, and grass-fed meats, how do you make it work? Do you have any tips on how to save money while doing so? Do you grow your own fruits and veggies?

Cloth diapering FTW!

That's "for the win," in case you weren't ITK ("in the know") with the Twitter lingo.

As you know (what the heck is this, a poetry contest? With all the rhyming?), we made the jump into full-time cloth diapering and… wait for it… it's been fantastic! I seriously can't say enough good things about it. When I was out of town, I decided not to bring the cloth diapers because I was sure my BFF wouldn't want to deal with poopy diapers in her washing machine, and boy did I miss them! I especially missed them when I was burping Linnea and she pooped, and then peed, and IT CAME OUT THE FRONT AND GOT ALL OVER MY SHIRT. Yep, I've never missed anything more in my life. The sad thing is that the expensive disposables are the only ones she didn't leak out of on a regular basis, and they still didn't do the job.

That being said, there is no comparison between any disposable I've tried and the Fuzzibunz one-size diapers we invested in. We got a screaming deal from Go Go Natural when they were clearancing out the old color collection to make room for the new Fuzzibunz colors. Typically, when you buy larger quantities of Fuzzibunz at most retailers  – in our case, 12 or more – you get a $1.00 off per diaper. So we ordered 28. And then we got 15% off on top of that! SCORE! The $700+ investment we were preparing for ended up being less than $450, and she is set for the rest of her diapering days! And so are any future kids we may have. And they work better than any disposable we tried – and we tried many. Ahh, it's a beautiful thing.

Not to mention… her li'l fluffy bum could not possibly be any cuter in these cloth diapers if she tried. We got a slew of colors so she'll always be coordinated. Check her out:

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The laundry process is for a whole other blog. So stay tuned, and I'll keep you ITK.

By the way, the bow she is wearing is a very special bow. It's called the Taylor Bow, and it was made in honor of a tiny baby girl who died of SIDS in mid-April at five months of age. All proceeds were donated to Taylor's family. You can read their story and find additional links here, and I purchased the bow here (I didn't realize it sold out- otherwise I would have posted the info so much sooner!).

Novice cloth diapering.

When we found out I was pregnant, Cody and I immediately began stocking up on diapers at the recommendation of… well… every parent we knew. We stocked up on size ones because we didn't know what to expect as far as what her weight would be, and most people had big babies, and we might too, and even if we had a small baby she would eventually grow into the size ones so let's just go with that. And before we knew it, we had a closet full of size one diapers, mostly the value brand from Fry's. Dirt cheap and we heard they work just as well as the more expensive brands!

Not so for us. Apparently we have a little diaper snob on our hands. Sad, sad day.

As soon as Linnea grew into the size ones (three months after she was born!), we ripped into the packages, stoked to try out the cheap diapers because, what can I say, it doesn't take much to excite us these days. Cheap diapers that work is pretty rad to a new set of parents. But her first night into it, she woke up in a puddle of her own pee. Poor baby. Poor Mom and Dad. Poor Mom and Dad's bank account.

So we had two options: spend big bucks on the diapers that work… or start a gradual investment in cloth diapers. At the rate our child goes through diapers, the thought of bankruptcy via Pampers started to sink in, and I started to revisit the cloth diapering idea. If you remember, it was an idea we tossed around for a while but never fully embraced. We had visited Wildflower Diapers up in Scottsdale but weren't married to the cloth diapering trend… yet. They were very helpful and answered all of our questions, and we were able to narrow it down to the type of diaper we wanted to invest in if we decided to make the leap and commitment it required to cloth diaper Linnea. 

Last week, we made our first purchase: a pair of Fuzzibunz One-size Pocket Diapers in pink. In order to diaper full-time, we need to purchase at least 24 (and maybe even 36, because apparently THE UNIVERSE IS IMPLODING any time Linnea has even the slightest wet diaper), so we decided that we will use my income for that purpose until we have everything we need. The colors we get from here on out will be gender-neutral, which- I'm not gonna lie- kind of breaks my heart a little bit, but I know it's better to go that route instead of buying all the girly colors like I want to. I'm already itching to have another baby (but we're not any time soon… just saying. We'll be diaper-ready when the time comes), and the thought of never having to drop another dime on diapers for our kids is definitely an appealing one!

The poop, on the other hand… not so much. I know that people cloth-diaper all the time and there was a time when that was the only option anyone had, so it's not like it's this impossible thing. But my two biggest reservations about this whole ordeal is the poop and cloth-diapering on-the-go. But have no fear, dear readers. Cody and I will be brave and face the Poop Demon head on. Because you know it's coming.

YOU KNOW IT'S COMING.

***

Are you a cloth-diapering mama? I want to hear from you! Share your experience with my readers and me and tell us what you love (and maybe even what you hate) about cloth-diapering your little one.

Wardrobe.

I love shopping… well, most of the time. I'm not a fan of shoe shopping because shoes never fit my outrageously narrow feet, and I tend to wear sneakers and flip flops most of the time anyway, so my trusty old stand-bys do the job just fine. I also prefer to shop alone because I tend to take way longer to shop than normal people, and I don't like to torture others with hours-long browsing through the mall. My poor husband can't take ten minutes in a store so I leave him out of the process altogether, something I'm sure he appreciates immensely.

Lately, however, shopping has become a different experience- more of a treasure hunt than anything else. I've avoided the malls and have lapsed into some sort of reverse snobbery when I see people carrying around shopping bags from Nordstrom or Barneys or some other fancy store. I scoff at them and think, if only they knew the DEALS that are out there! I don't buy anything anymore unless it's on sale, and I've started to explore the art of thrift shopping, coupons and extreme sales. It's actually quite a bit of fun- more fun than running up a huge credit card bill that I'll still be paying off ten years down the line with nothing to show for it! Been there, done that.

I pop into Goodwill every now and then and rarely leave without a good find- and I have yet to spend more than $11 there. It takes time to fish through the racks for the deals, but it's worth it, and they're there. The best part is when you go to check out, and they ring up the total, and it ends up being less than you expected to spend. That's happened to me every time I've gone- it's such a nice surprise!

For instance, Cody and I went there last weekend, and picked up a brand new, unopened game of Scene It (which he's been wanting FOREVER) for $8, a genuine Funshine Carebear for $0.69, and the cutest little denim dress and floral onesie for $4. Then we had a coupon for 20% off so it came out to a little more than $10!

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A couple days later, I went to the Scottsdale location hoping to find a dresser that we could refurbish, but no luck there. I did find an adorable Gymboree dress and two onesies and spent less than $5- my lunch that day cost more than that! My friend and I happened to be at Gymboree earlier that day, and single dresses for babies start at $20 or more. I got this little dress for $3:

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I found the little flowery shoes (brand new with tags still intact) and the white Converse along with a pair of pink fuzzy newborn slippers at the cutest little children's consignment shop called Once Upon A Child. Paid $9 for all three. Our friends Cassie and Matt recommended this place to us, and when we found out that we were having a girl, they bought her first outfit from there- a brown polka dot dress and matching bloomers. I was amazed by their selection and definitely will be heading there first to find clothes for our little one once she starts growing.

Because for now, it's safe to say she has PLENTY of newborn/0-3 mo. clothes. Goodness.

A couple nights ago I found an ad on Craigslist for a bag of newborn clothes for $20 that a mom-to-be needed to offload because she had stocked up WAY too much. She got tons of responses but chose to sell them to me. When I met her to pick up the bag, I couldn't believe it- it was a huge shopping bag overflowing with clothes! Onesies galore, dresses, pants, skirts, etc.- so many that I wasn't even sure little Elska would ever use them all. I was so excited when I got home that I went straight into crafty mode and made a little gold tutu to go with an adorable star onesie:

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Next project: embellishing a pink onesie with a little bird stencil or applique on the butt.

My mom and I are heading to Hissyfits Resale this weekend for the Hissyfits Hullabaloo. They will have 70 vendors selling handmade goods in their children's resale store, which I'm so stoked to check out. I love handmade.

This little one will have a better wardrobe than me- and I paid less than the cost of a pair of jeans for all of it! Not only that, we have friends with baby girls who offered to give us the clothes that no longer fit their little ones. It's safe to say that clothes are the LAST thing we'll need, for a while at least. I'm enjoying the process and can't wait to dress her up 🙂 Every day that brings me closer to meeting her is another day I become more excited. I can't wait to see what she looks like, what her little personality is going to blossom into, the things she will like and not like, the way her daddy will take care of and love her. That will probably be my favorite part- watching my husband with our daughter. There's nothing more precious than a daddy and his little girl, and the upcoming adventures we have ahead of us will certainly be no exception.

Now, whether or not he'll know how to put an outfit together…

🙂

A little extra sleep…

…can go a LONG way. Cody and I have been experimenting with earlier bedtimes this week and let me just say it has been fantastic. We haven't turned on the TV once, we eat meals together, work on home or business projects, read, and head upstairs around 9:15, and the lights are always out by 10:00. When the alarm went off at 6:00 a.m., we practically jumped out of bed ready to tackle the day ahead of us. With bells on. And smiles on our faces. Not to mention, morning time is our favorite time of day, and we have missed out on it for far too long now, either because we slept in or we were just generally miserable due to lack of sleep. I. LOVE. LIFE. with enough rest and a night routine that allows me to have a productive, relaxing morning routine. And! Breakfast with my husband!

Now, I know these days will be short-lived. I'm not trying to be a pessimist in that sense; I just know it's going to change. Mornings will soon be filled with delirium, diaper changes, feedings, and general mass hysteria in our household. But somehow all of that will be OK because of this new little person we'll have in our lives. I wonder every day what kind of person she will be, what she will look like, what color her hair and her eyes will be. This whole process has been so marvelous and I am trying to savor it while I can.

We only have 100 days to go until we meet our daughter! Gah! It's amazing.

On another note, our second anniversary is a little more than a month away. We have been trying to figure out somewhere to go on-the-cheap up in northern AZ because we can't afford much right now, but doing something is incredibly important to us because it is our last anniversary before there will be a little tag-a-long who wears cute dresses and bows in her hair. We had a fantastic time last year when we stayed one night at Little America in Flagstaff and two nights at the Junipine in Oak Creek. It was beautiful and cozy and chilly and rainy and such a wonderful trip. We would give anything to do a repeat of it but unless I get bombarded with clients in the next week or so, we'll be looking for something comfortable but a little less pricey.

Any ideas?

Some pics from last year:

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(At Oak Creek)
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(This is what we woke up to every morning!)
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(Fireplace in the bedroom)
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(Our digs for the weekend)
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(This was taken on our anniversary. It was a GLORIOUS day!)
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(Love. Him. So. Much!)
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Favorite meal of September… so far.

Cody and I have been strictly adhering to the meal plan we put together at the beginning of the month in an effort to save as much money as possible while I work on seeking out alternative sources of income. Last night, we made Fruity Turkey-Rice Pilaf from one of our favorite cookbooks, Betty Crocker's Healthy New Choices: A Fresh Approach to Eating Well. It's loaded with lean protein, fiber- and antioxidant-rich dried fruit, and yummy wild rice pilaf with herbs. The recipe is so easy, and the leftovers are delicious! I ended up with some extra rice pilaf, so I added more turkey and fruit and we were fed well two nights in a row. Since I didn't have green onions on hand, I used chopped white onion and it was a great substitute. I wish I had a picture to share, but take my word for it- it looks as good as it tastes!

1/2 lb. ground turkey breast
4 medium green onions
2 cups water
1 package (6 3/4 oz.) quick-cooking long grain and wild rice mix seasoned with herbs
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries (I used cherry-flavored cranberries- yum!)
1/2 cup chopped dried peaches or apricots
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or cinnamon (I used both)

Spray 3-qt. saucepan with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Cook turkey and onions in saucepan about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until turkey is no longer pink. Stir in water and seasoning packet from rice mix. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally; reduce heat to low.

Stir in rice, cherries, peaches and nutmeg. Cover and simmer about 5 minutes or until rice is tender and fruits are heated through.

Makes 4 servings.

Side note: If you buy a less-expensive but non-quick cooking rice box like we did (the kind that takes 25 minutes or so to cook), you have to alter the cooking process a bit, otherwise you may end up with mushy fruit and overcooked turkey. It's a good idea to start making the rice separately while the turkey and onions are cooking. After the turkey is browned and the onions are cooked, I added the fruit and nutmeg/cinnamon and let that heat through while the rice finished. Then I added the rice to the turkey/fruit mixture and let it cook an additional five minutes.

Voila! Super easy, uber healthy, and mega delicious!

This meal is complete enough to serve on its own, or pre-game it with a mixed-green or cucumber salad!

Princess or Pioneer Woman?

When I was at the library the other day, I picked up a great book for Cody called Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know
by Meg Meeker. The other night, I started reading it and simply couldn't put it down- in the span of three hours, I had nearly finished the whole thing! Good stuff in there. There were several things that impacted my view of fatherhood and made me reflect on my own upbringing by my dad. It certainly made me thankful for the father I have and the things he has taught me along the way, as well as the things he tried to teach me that I was too stubborn to listen to- but do my best to take heed of now.

The thing that caught my eye the most was when the author discussed the type of woman you want your daughter to become, and she described two types of women: princesses and pioneer women. One thing we do NOT want our daughter to become is a princess- a girl who expects everything to be handed to her and everything to be done for her, and who gives nothing in return. We have seen too much of this going on in society as a whole- especially since my hubby works at a university and observes the spoiled antics of the New MTV Generation (have you SEEN "My Super Sweet Sixteen" or "16 and Pregnant"? This is the garbage they are feeding to our kids?!) on a daily basis, much to his disgust. He says that our kids are coming out of high school and into college with absolutely no idea how to do ANYTHING, and are so helpless and self-absorbed that they can barely function without someone holding their hand. And if they can't do something or if they fail, it is ALWAYS someone else's fault. This is just a general observation- we know there are some kids out there who do not epitomize this stereotype. Thank goodness. But the sense of entitlement really is quite prevalent these days.

The discussion of princess vs. pioneer woman has definitely helped me evaluate my own princess tendencies and redirect my energy toward becoming a truly proficient and productive member of our growing little family and of society in general. I'm not going to lie and say that as an only child who grew up in Scottsdale, I never displayed any princess-ish behavior and I was always a hard worker who had no expectations that my needs would always be met. Anyone who knew me would be quick to correct me and all the smoke I'd be blowing up your… well, you know.

Looking back, in a lot of ways, I was TERRIBLE. Irresponsible, reckless, entitled; and I can say with confidence that I'm still paying for past mistakes. When I look at life now, and I absolutely understand the sacrifices my parents made in the name of stability and provision, my behavior was just laughable. I didn't have parents who just gave me whatever I wanted when I wanted it- I went without my wants many times. But I never understood the value of the things I had because I didn't take the time to appreciate what it took to get them. God knows I do now. And if I can't lead my daughter by example, she would be quick to recognize the hypocrisy of what I would be expecting from her. And I would rather start now than wait until after her arrival when the demands of motherhood overwhelm me from taking on any other new responsibilities. And I am happy to say that I have an amazing dad-to-be on my hands who fully supports this philosophy as well.

So, here are a list of my goals. I'm terrible at goal-setting, but today is all I have for now, so why not jump in head-first and get this show on the road?

  1. Become more proficient at sewing and other crafts
  2. Open up an Etsy store
  3. Become a Virtual Assistant of some kind to generate income from home
  4. Keep on blogging!
  5. Keep a creative journal
  6. Take more pictures
  7. Start a habit of family dinners every night
  8. Support my dear husband in all his endeavors, and lighten his load whenever possible
  9. Use coupons for EVERYTHING
  10. When I need to buy, only buy used or on sale items
  11. Serve the community through our church
  12. Avoid being wasteful
  13. Making "Be resourceful!" my way of life!
  14. Run in the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon next January in order to get back into shape post-baby (I'll probably do the half)
  15. Spend quality time with family and friends
  16. Love God more so that I can teach my little girl who He is and pray that she loves Him too

My goals tend to morph and shift as life unfolds, but these are what they are for now. In light of this, I always enjoy reading "The Wife of Noble Character" from Proverbs 31 for inspiration:

10  A wife of noble character who can find?
       She is worth far more than rubies.

 11 Her husband has full confidence in her
       and lacks nothing of value.

 12 She brings him good, not harm,
       all the days of her life.

 13 She selects wool and flax
       and works with eager hands.

 14 She is like the merchant ships,
       bringing her food from afar.

 15 She gets up while it is still dark;
       she provides food for her family
       and portions for her servant girls.

 16 She considers a field and buys it;
       out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

 17 She sets about her work vigorously;
       her arms are strong for her tasks.

 18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
       and her lamp does not go out at night.

 19 In her hand she holds the distaff
       and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

 20 She opens her arms to the poor
       and extends her hands to the needy.

 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
       for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

 22 She makes coverings for her bed;
       she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
       where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

 24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
       and supplies the merchants with sashes.

 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
       she can laugh at the days to come.

 26 She speaks with wisdom,
       and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

 27 She watches over the affairs of her household
       and does not eat the bread of idleness.

 28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
       her husband also, and he praises her:

 29 "Many women do noble things,
       but you surpass them all."

 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
       but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

 31 Give her the reward she has earned,
       and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

p.s. If Baby Girl gets anything with the word "Princess" on it, it will quickly be burned or returned. Just sayin'. If it says "Pioneer Woman," on the other hand… well, that's a whole other story. She'll wear it loud and proud. Hats off to Pioneer Women everywhere!

Coupons, coupons, coupons!

And more coupons! I am a huge fan of clipping coupons. There is nothing more satisfying than walking out of the grocery store after a long shopping trip and discovering on your receipt that you saved nearly half on your grocery bill. I wanted to share some of the best resources I have found that have helped me save no less than 40% on groceries for our growing family.

First off, when there are some things that you prefer not to buy generic, do your best to buy it using a coupon. One thing I have found, however, is that even with the coupons, sometimes the generic brand is still cheaper. At that point, you won't see the same percentage of savings on your receipt had you used the coupon for the more expensive item, but you won't have spent as much money on the value brand. The coupons are great, but they are cunning, but sometimes they will play mind tricks on you to their advantage. Don't be fooled by their craftiness.

I just spent some time on the Fry's Food Web site, and it was a wealth of coupons and tools designed to help shoppers save money. There are three different coupon sites where you can sign up to have coupons loaded directly on to your shopper's card: P&G Brand Saver, Cellfire, and Shortcuts.com. You simply upload the coupons of your choice, print out your list, and head to the store. Instead of handing the cashier paper coupons, the savings are automatically deducted when you swipe your card. The savings will appear on your receipt as coupons, so you will know where you saved money. Great stuff. Another thing I liked about the Fry's Food site is that the weekly circular is available online, important for me since we don't get it in the mail or in our paper. I always make it a point to match up the coupons I have with items that are already on sale at the store. My current shopping list already has several sale-coupon matches- score!

Another invaluable resource is the Coupon Mom, a great place to go if you want the headache taken out of matching up coupons with in-store sales. She is eager to teach others her secrets to saving money, and provides many, many more sites you can visit for savings galore. You can also download restaurant coupons, sign up for free samples, and find deals at online retailers like Amazon.

I'm so glad there are resources out there like this… especially since someone keeps stealing our Sunday paper right off our driveway! What are your favorite ways to save- at the grocery store and beyond?