Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Open in the Waiting

The biggest challenge (for me) in preparing for Christmas, the coming of Christ, is to not get swept away in the busyness. There is so much to do. And MOST of these things are fun, delightful and desirable. It's difficult to say no to a party or to something we've been invited to do. And there are parties and gatherings we want to host as well. I want to do it all!

On this idea of making space during advent Bobby Gross writes,

"Clearly it takes some work, some wrestling against the culture and our own proclivities. But making it happen isn't all on us. A grace is also at work in the season. Think again of a pregnant woman. Yes, she must pay attention to her body and take care of herself, but the life within her mysteriously takes shape and steadily grows of its own accord."

I think we all feel it, whether we are celebrating Christ's birth during this season or not: Christmas has gotten out of hand. The consumption, the commercialization, the high expectations of dinners and gatherings to be like Martha Stewart and her staff put it all together. (don't get me wrong, I'm a big MS fan so I'm preaching to myself here) Even Charlie Brown noted the commercialization of this holiday back in 1965. It's nothing new. Which makes it all the harder to make it different. Have you tried swimming uphill?

One of the most practical things that Mr. Gross suggests (again, in his book Living the Christian Year) to fight the pressures of the season is to practice restraint.

"Could we skip mailing Christmas and send greetings at Easter instead? Or simplify gift-giving by making charitable donations in a loved-ones name as an alternative? Could we decline a holiday party or two? Or cut back on baking goodies-and on eating them? There is no right answers, of course, and we'll likely take different steps in different years. The point is to practice restrain as a countercultural act that opens up space in our lives for God."

It's been helpful for me to keep these things in mind. To think twice before I say yes to something. To really, truly SIMPLIFY. As I've been attempting to put these things into practice, I think I'd be remiss if I didn't practice what's happening on the inside as well.

Let's take a look inside a young girl who carried God as a babe. One last excerpt from my currently-favorite read. I hope and pray that a part of the words I shared have touched you in some way, as they've touched me. Peace this Christmas to you.

"Mary chooses a posture of openness: I am wholly yours, I am fully open to your Word, I believe, let it be so with me. A humble stance, a courageous yes. She is our model. By her posture she makes room for God. She too will have nine months to ponder the workings of God and to wait his arrival. Advent invites us to do the same. Stay open."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Enlarged in the Waiting

Remember that Christmas after you found out Santa Claus wasn't real? A total let down right. I've been trying to bring the "magic" back into Christmas for years. 

Christmas Day itself actually, is often times a let down. It's just one, single day. And before you know it, it's dark outside and you're sitting on the couch in some sort of sugar/food/gift coma surrounded by empty boxes wondering where the heck you're gonna find space for all of your new stuff.

I don't believe Christmas was meant to be just a one-shot-a-year deal. Hello, the 12 Days of Christmas? But even before Christmas Day arrives, there's excitement in the waiting. The anticipation. Days brimming with hope. And if you're the kind that follows, is interested in or even just intrigued by Jesus, there is MUCH to expect. The type of expectation that won't let you down. 

Around Easter time this past year I referenced a book called "Living the Christian Year" by Bobby Gross. Next to the Bible, I would venture to say that this book has had the most impact on my spiritual journey than any other book I've read. On the subject of Advent, he quotes another author who beautifully describes the waiting we do during Advent. 

"Of all types of waiting, the waiting of pregnancy is most like the waiting that we do during Advent. The waiting of pregnancy is like the waiting we do for God." - Wendy Wright from her book Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ's Coming

Think about it. When someone is pregnant they are consumed by it. And often times, so are the people around them. We throw parties and give gifts. We have such hopes and dreams of the future to come. It's all we can talk about. Scripture captures this beautifully:

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Romans 8:22-25 The Message

In a way it's obvious. Christmas is about the birth of a baby. Mary was obviously pregnant. Of course pregnancy is the epitome of anticipation.

So things have been happening around the Martin household, both inward and outward, in light of this season of waiting. More on that later. For now, I'll leave you with a little something else from Mr. Bobby Gross:

"Advent is a season for waiting; we wait for the coming of God. We need him to come. Our world is messed up and we are messed up. We lament our condition and long for God to set things right, to make us better. So we pray and watch for signs of his presence. We do all we know to do so that we are open and ready. In the midst of hardship and disappointment we continue to wait. We wait in hope. We believe that something is happening in our world, something is taking shape in our lives, something large, light-filled and life-giving. Even in December's lengthening darkness, this seed of joyful hope grows within us. We are pregnant with it. In our waiting, we are enlarged. God is coming!"

Friday, November 30, 2012

After the Aruna

Weeks ago, on November 10th I participated in the Aruna 5K.

It. Was. Awesome.

There's nothing like being surrounded by a hundred some people who are all pumped up for the same reason. In this case the reason was freedom. Freedom for the women (and children) who are entrapped in sexual slavery. Each runner pushing their body out of their comfort zone. Running, panting, pushing for a cause. We had hoped to raise $5,000 for this first-ever race. A little over $8,000 was brought in and more than that was the amount of awareness that was raised. What a great platform to let people know THIS IS A PROBLEM AND IT'S REAL AND IT'S NOT GOING AWAY UNLESS WE DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. It was a beautiful day and a powerful event. Thanks for whatever way you might have supported this cause. It is making a difference. I'm convinced.

I ran the race well. Steady pace, no stopping, no slowing down, and a strong finish. I crossed the finish line around 31 mins with adreneline pumping. I hadn't ran a full 3.1 during my training so I was relieved I made it. I'm still not all that hot on running, but I don't hate it. That's pretty huge.

For the Martin family, our journey in spreading awareness and supporting the battle to end human trafficking continues. God has enabled  us to support The Daughter Project in a very special way. Ask us about it some time :)

Shot gun start.

The last 1/2 mile.

My #1 fan. This guy was at each mile marker cheering me on, which means
he had to run faster than I did get there. Super sweet. Might have been my
favorite part of the race...

 I chose to run for Mona. There was a poster board with a list of names of
women in the red light district in India who have been identified and whom the
workers from the Aruna project have begun relationships with in an effort to get them out.
My prayer is that Mona's name will be crossed off when we have this race again next year.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Field day was the most dreaded day of the school year for me. And only for one reason: running. I like sports and would consider myself athletic, but when it comes to running, I've just always dreaded it. Particularly on field day when they lined you up on the track against your peers and made you race to the finish. No matter how hard I pushed I always came in last or second to last. It was like those nightmares when you're running from the bad guy and you're just not going anywhere. Ug.

I married a runner. And I'm amazed and inspired by him. And now all these other people in my life have taken up running, even my own mother! (don't take it the wrong way mom, I'm just especially impressed because you're more "seasoned" in life ;) For anyone who has watched the Biggest Loser, these crazily obese people end up running marathons by the end! It seems like you runners just decide to do it. So when I heard of the Aruna 5K, I made my decision that I would "just do it". And to me, there is no better cause to run for.

The issue of human trafficking is gaining awareness. Have you heard about it? In the news? On the web? Through a friend? It's very real. Near and far. Greed and addiction. Money and sex. A dangerously powerful combination. It's so heart-wrenching, sickening even that many just can't/don't/won't admit it's a problem, or even acknowledge it.

And that's why I'll run. Because the things I might experience: fear, anxiousness, self-consciousness, loss of pride, physical pain are things that these women experience every day. Again and again. And that is what will keep me going. In the scheme of things this 5K is no big deal. But I will remember the symbolism in my running. And temporarily sacrificing some of my own comfort is the least I can do. I can run for their freedom.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Half-Hearted Motherhood

As I've wrestled with having balance in my  life (see previous post), it's been clear that this take a toll on my mothering. It's been half-hearted. Distracted. Selfish even. Those thoughts have crept into my head and sometimes make them across my lips, "I just want to eat my dinner." "I just want to go to the bathroom (alone)." "I just want to _______." And while these thoughts and comments might seem harmless, it doesn't make my children feel loved and important- which they are. I'm sure it probably throws a tinge of guilt their way because they are the reason I can't "just _____". They're preceptive and can read the resentment in my tone.

So there's a blog that I read from time to time. It is encouraging, enlightening, inspiring and real. The author is about my age with 3 little ones. She is into natural living, the art of homemaking and lives out her faith in the midst of her motherhood. I went there looking for some type of lift. Something to help me feel not so alone and ridiculous. I found it. A guest blogger posted on Whole-Hearted Motherhood. Check out here if you'd like.

But here's an excerpt that resonated in my soul. She quotes another author and then writes:

Her beautiful description of whole-hearted mothering–in contrast to my own messy attempts at being the mom I wished I could be while juggling so many other balls–prompted me to pray a dangerous prayer.
“Lord, change my heart toward my children.”
I wanted to view them not as distractions, mess makers, and cute-but-time-consuming barriers between me and my definitions of success, but as gifts that allowed me to be what I’d always wanted to be: a mother. I wanted them to become my highest priority, and I knew that required heart change, not another set of rules or a new schedule.

It is time for me to pray that prayer as well. Here we go...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Woman of the Future

Time flies.
They grow up so fast.
It all happens in the blink of an eye.
I find these statements to be true. I've only been doing this mothering thing for 3 years now, but I see the truth and reality in what everyone seems to say.

It's not just kids though. Time flies. Period. My heart and my mind have felt caution about this. Caution about busyness I suppose.

When someone asks you, "How are you doing?, does your response include the word busy?
"Good, but busy." "Busier than I'd like!" "Oh, things are busy right now..." 

What's with the epidemic of busyness? Please, someone give me some answers. I battle it all the time. And it bleeds into every part of life. Particularly family, friends and food. Those are 3 areas that I've seen busyness really attack- at least in my life. My relationships seems to take a serious blow when busyness strikes. Even when I'm actually spending time with my friends and family in the midst of busyness, I am not fully present. I am living in the future. The lists are forming in my head and next steps are being plotted. And when I am a woman of the future, I am grievously missing the present.

Fast food. And I'm not just talking McDonalds. I'm talking the loss of a table and chairs and people sitting in them. The loss of REAL food. You know, when time and ingredients are mixed together with love and care and conscience. Planning, purchasing and preparing meals takes time. Sure does. And I'm afraid we don't do those things when we get busy. I'm afraid the health of thousands of people has and will continue to pay the cost for our lack of care because we can't or won't take the time to plan or prepare or even think about what goes into our bodies.

So what's a girl to do? I know as our children get older there will only be more and more opportunities for things to get sucked into do. For me, it begins with a discerning spirit. There's got to be a balance between what I plan and being flexible. I don't want to miss out on something the Lord has for me because it's not written on my calendar. I REALLY don't want that. Would love to hear thoughts, advice, experiences that are out there. Even if it's just an AMEN-I'm with ya.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Big Boy Room Makeover (and other budget savvy decor ideas)

I've been itching to get these pictures up ever since Asher's room was updated for his 3rd birthday in August. When we moved into this house he was barely two, so we just transfered all the nursery decor  to his new room. However, we decided that his third birthday would be a great time to put him into a big boy bed and add some other big boy touches. Check out the before and afters:

The details:

The wall decor above the bed was made with fabric and pizza boxes! I love the look of stretched canvases, but these were a much cheaper option. I simply stapled the fabric to the box after wrapping it around the edges like you would when wrapping a gift. Seriously took less than 5 mins for each.

The blue shelves I found at a thrift store for $2.92 each. One was pink and one was purple, so I painted them with leftover blue paint from another piece I painted for Asher's room. A few of the picture frames I also got a thrift store, painted with craft paint and then spayed with a clear gloss enamel for a finished look.

The crate (50 cents) was originally unfinished wood that I spray painted white and believe it or not, I got the Lightning McQueen pic at Goodwill too! Although it was a bit of a splurge at $5 ;)

And like every time I am kid-free at a thrift store, I got a little sidetracked by a few things. One was this cute little crate. Just perfect to hang on the wall for a small shelf in the downstairs bathroom. 50 cents.

Then I spotted some really great fabric. Turns out they were two very long pillow cases. Also turns out that they fit perfectly draped over the bare curtain rod, also in the downstairs bathroom. Linens were half off that day, so that brought them to a quarter a piece- 50 cents total.

So there's some decorating-on-a-dime ideas for ya! Okay, so closer to decorating on 50 cents, but still, not too shabby :) Would love to hear other cheap-o home beautifying ideas!

Friday, July 13, 2012


Ever since we moved into our house (it's been almost a year now!) I've always been a little bummed about our yard- or lack thereof. I remember seeing pics of the house on-line and was so excited to drive by it, only to be completely disappointed that it was a corner lot and had virtually no backyard. I almost discounted it as a prospect all together. So glad I didn't. It took a little convincing from Ben (and the Lord), but here we are. And I gotta say- I like our yard. It might not be private. No, not at all. It might not be large, just long and narrow. But we have shade back there all morning long, until about 1 o'clock. And the swing set is in the shade most of the day. The narrowness still allows for a game of catch. A big plus around here. The indistinct property line blends into the yard of some of the most warm and kind people, who welcome our kids and their mowers and bouncing balls right over the boundary. Happily. They have grown-children and are grandparents. They get it. What a blessing.

The deck is amazing. A mini yard in itself. An outdoor living room. And placing a gate at the end of it makes for the perfect play place for kiddos who want to be outside when Mama needs to be inside cooking dinner. And the privacy? I guess we don't really have anything to hide. Laying out in a bikini these days does not happen, for a few reasons... And actually it's quite great to see the neighbors going by. Golf carts putting along to the golf course nearby. Folks in their towels and flips flops coming back from the pool. People of all ages on a stroll to the park. Even a horse and carriage trotted by the other night while we had dinner on the deck. The established trees form a canopy over what I consider one of the most beautiful streets in Bowling Green, North Maple. We've got a great perspective of these beautifully aged homes and trees that beckon us from our back windows and yard. So as the kids and I spent a long morning outside this week I thought to myself, "I like our back yard." And so it is. I like it and rejoice in how it suits us. God knew. I'm usually just slow to embrace.

Picnic lunch on a perfect summer day.

Holdin hands swinging. Precious.

Another outdoor lunch.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Simple Encouragement

Asher started using the potty today. I'm sorry! I just can't, not write about it. Gimme some credit- I didn't post it on Facebook at least...

However, the milestones of saying goodbye to the paci and hello to the toilet (both within the past 4 days!) have lead me to think of more than just how my toddler is turning into a little boy (tear). It's made me think of rewards. Ever since we started trying to pique Asher's interest in the potty, we've told him that he would get a balloon when he uses it. I've struggled with the idea of using candy or sweets because I don't want to reward my guy with something that's not good for him. I know I'm lame, okay? But there will be plenty of other opportunities for sweets and I just personally had a hard time using that as a motivator, as effective as it might have been. We did end up taking Asher to get a balloon Saturday morning after the first night without his pacifier, but to be honest, we were the ones who kept asking him about it. Ben and I looked at each other and wondered if we should just bypass the balloon altogether, but alas, we wanted to be true to our word.

When Asher used the potty for the first time last night I began thinking of how I'd make a sticker chart so he can earn some rewards for using the potty. I worked in the morning and Ben's mom was here to carry on with the "potty training" and I never did get around to making that sticker chart. Didn't even mention anything about a balloon. And neither did Asher. As he spent the day in his sweet little tighty-whities he beamed with pride. "I used the potty. I'm a BIIIIIG BOY. Mama and Papa are PROUD of me." And that is his true reward. Pride in a job well done. A sense of love and accomplishment. The boy (and his parents) couldn't be happier. Forget the balloons and toys and stickers that fade away. He will carry these other things in his soul. Hopefully for years to come.

I know each child is different. I know each parent has a different approach. One way is not better than the other, please don't mistake me. I've just been pondering this idea of intrinsic value. Intrinsic rewards. It's rocking my view of parenting and education. What if kids did things around the house simply because they were motivated by the sense of pride in a job well done? How would our school children preform if they were not spurred on by grades and test scores but out of a true love for learning and a good work ethic? I know I would have looked at school A LOT differently. I'm not surprised when I hear adults say that they've finally found a love for learning. The same is true for me. Learning and being satisfied in the journey of it is often times good enough.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Our Papa

Happy Father's Day Papa! We were so excited when Mama asked us to share a few things on her blog in honor of Father's Day. She proofread everything of course, but the following is straight from the heart of the both of us: Asher and Millie.

Do you remember when you found out that I (Millie) was coming? It was a bit of a surprise since Asher was only about 6 months old and you and Mama were still living in survival mode most days. Not to mention that you were packed in that tiny little house. But I gotta say Papa, I think I stole your heart. Sure, the thought of raising a girl can be intimidating- we're fragile, ya know? But you swept me off my feet with your still-in-practice baby-soothing skills and tender love for me as a baby girl. And I never feel safer than when I am wrapped in my father's arms.

My favorite time of the day is when you come home. It's obvious by the way I dance around and squeal. I just can't wait for you to pick me up and kiss me. You make me laugh like no other when you tickle me with your sandpaper chin. I don't have to clamor for your attention because I always have it. That gives me a real sense of security. 

I also appreciate you teaching Asher what it is like to be a man. I think he treats me better because of it. We'll always have times that we annoy each other like brother and sister tend to do, but I know he is looking out for my better interest. I have a feeling it's pretty special to have two men in my life who are looking out for me like that. Thanks for loving me and making me feel like a truly beautiful little girl Papa. I hope one day that I will marry a man like you.

Hugs and kisses,

Happy Papa Day! I've had a hard time narrowing down the things I wanted to tell you. We have had so many fun times and I've learned so much from you. And it's only been 3 years! Well, almost 3 anyway...

Do you know how much I love helping you, Papa? It all started with mowing the lawn. Most kids have to wait until they're like 8 or something to be able to mow, but you just threw me in a backpack at 10 months and off we went. It's so powerful to be behind that noisy piece of machinery. And it sure is a great view. I know I'm getting heavy these days so I'm trying to enjoy it while it lasts. Oh, and I also LOVE to help you shovel after it snows. I know sometimes the slippery sidewalks tend to make it look like I'm doing Pilates in my snowsuit, but there's nothing better than sweating underneath 5 layers of clothes, side by side with you. Plus, being able to drink liquid chocolate afterward isn't too bad either. 

Last summer you ignited my love for baseball. Well, I guess it's really softball, but either way, I just couldn't stop asking, "Watch Papa play ball?". I know that you and Mama make it sound like your team is bad or something, but I don't really understand that. You look like an all-star out there to me!

Papa, did you know that my favorite part of every day is when you spend time with me before bed? I know I've been objecting to the teeth-brushing lately, but it soothes my soul when you read to me. It's so awesome that you read all the way through Green Eggs and Ham almost nightly. I also really like that Bible that you got for us at Easter. It helps me understand more about Jesus and life in general. And thanks for teaching me how to pray. I know that you and Mama mention God a lot, but I'm still figuring things out and it's helpful for you to model that each night and at dinner. Now I can pray for my family and friends. And neighbors. And other random things that come to mind, like closets. (sometimes when I'm stumped I just look around the room for something to pray for) But seriously, it's so good to know that God cares enough to listen to me and that I can ask for forgiveness for the poor choices I make. I tend to need some help with making good choices in the heat of the moment these days... 

Oh, and how can I forget. You make me feel safe. Not because you would beat someone up if they tried to hurt us, but the thing that makes me feel safest is when you kiss Mama. Or when you hug or cuddle her, or make her laugh. I don't know what it is, but seeing that just helps me to know that everything is good. That everything is gonna be okay. 

I hope that I can be a Papa like you some day. I know that sometimes I can make you frustrated and that Sissy and I are a lot of work for you and Mama right now. But in my eyes, you are everything that a Papa should be. Without you I would have no idea of what a loving, hard-working, man who loves God would look like. And most importantly, I know that you are proud of me. See for yourself.

I love you SO much,

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


It's really amazing that despite how horribly people can hurt one another, how easily people can also bless one another. It's just so easy sometimes. So simple.

The Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend, the Martin clan was walking through campus heading to church. (Brookside meets in a building on campus at BGSU) There was a campus police officer in his car who had pulled aside to talk to another officer who was on his bike. Asher excitedly ran up to the car, pure awe spread across his face. The officer let him peak into the car and before we knew it Asher was sitting in the driver's seat. They flashed their lights for the kids and let them crawl around in the hard, hoseable backseat. Yes, hoseable. I don't know if it's really a word but there was no type of padding in the back seat so it could be hosed down. Makes sense I guess. Especially being campus police, they must see all kinds of drunk ;) The really sweet part was that both officers were just tickled to be able to give such a treat to a little child. One of them even said, "Gosh, I'm glad I was here to see this." Made his day. Blessed his soul.

That same night we cooked out at our new place for the first time. This is really two stories in one, but this next part must be told. When the offer we made on this house was accepted last summer, our dear friend Matt Lochtefeld drove by the house to check it out. He noticed the folks who lived here were getting rid of their grill. It was out by the street with a sign on it that said "FREE". Well apparently Matt had a vision for this grill. Long story short, and there really is a lot more to this story, Matt took the grill back to his house in Perrysburg and cleaned it up. Once we moved in, he brought it back to BG and gave it to us as a housewarming gift. How thoughtful is THAT? And it's an awesome grill too. I don't know much about grills, but it's big and has a side burner and runs excellently. Bless my soul.

Back to our first cookout. A little over a dozen friends gathered in our home and on our deck. Some friends we hadn't even met until that day. All the better. People brought all kinds of amazing food. Weather was perfect. Laughs were shared. And the kids played happily for hours jumping from the pool to the swing set and back into the pool stopping only to collapse on a beach towel to refuel. Bibs and eating utensils completely unnecessary. Later, as Ben and I cleaned up from the day, our tiredness was muted by the retelling of stories and conversations that were had. Memories that had been made. Exhaustion trumped by joy. All because of people. Bless our souls.

These simple blessings through people go on and on. How have you been blessed by people lately?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


It's big trash week in BG. And yes, it's just what it sounds like: a week in which people put out their big trash. Furniture, old TV's, mattresses (ew), swing sets, you name it. But amidst the true, trashy-trash there are treasures to be found. I went out really hoping to find some type of furniture for our front porch and deck. My friend Lindsay was looking for shutters (decorative purpose) and maybe a desk for her apartment next fall. Within the first 10 minutes we found 2 of the 3. First we spotted a sweet little desk that would just need a touch of paint. Then, at the very end of that dead end street was an intriguing, medium-sized pile of trash. The items were arranged as though they were gifts under a Christmas tree. Here, Lindsay scored a round table with wooden legs and a glass top. The glass was neatly wrapped in a Hobby Lobby bag with a table skirt and some other fabrics inside. The legs were tied together waiting to be assembled and the wooden top looked brand new. Also in this arrangement were 2 wicker ottomans/end table type pieces and a short wicker table. Beautiful. Those were the only things we took, but there was a steamer in good condition, a foosball table with the balls placed in a baggie and taped to the table and some other really great stuff. I have a feeling whoever those people with the wonderful trash were, they knew that they were blessing someone. Later that night we did score some shutters, just as we were starting to lose hope. What a fun adventure.

Couldn't resist but to pick up this tot-sized table for the kids' playroom, too :)

I've always been excited by finding a good deal. But FREE is even better. Free with no strings attached. Just a true, genuine, gift. As I was reading in Ephesians this morning I was struck by the word free. 
" the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves."
 -Ephesians 1:5

The Message puts it this way:
 "Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!"

Wow. Makes my free trash seem lame. But today I am grateful for free- both the tangible an the intangible. Thankful and quite overwhelmed by the free gift of a new day, a new try, another chance and the free forgiveness from my God and from those who walk in his ways. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Frugal Food

In light of my efforts to stay within our monthly food budget, I started doing things that I thought were a waste of time before. Like cooking beans. The time it can take to cook them seemed ridiculous. Especially when canned beans are fairly inexpensive and duh, easy. However, thanks to Pinterest, I came across Budget Bytes. The author of this blog breaks down the cost of her recipes per serving and they are so tasty and even pretty good for ya! My favs so far have been hearty black bean quesadillas (seriously one of the best things I've ever put into my mouth), cumin lime chickpeas, and her homemade taco seasoning. She just posted a recipe for lentil tacos that I cannot WAIT to try. So, back to my original thought... I've been trying to cook recipes with inexpensive ingredients. Beans (and lentils too) seem to fit the bill. And thanks to Budget Bytes, they are now even less costly. The genius behind the blog, Beth, shows how to cook them in the crock pot. Basically you take 6 cups of water for every pound of beans, 4 hours on high in the crock and bam. You've got soft, delicious beans. 

Rinse 'em off in a strainer.

Then divvy them up using a measuring cup to scoop roughly 2 cups worth of
beans into freezer safe containers. Each container equals about 1 can of beans. 

I get about 6 or 7 "cans" worth out of 2 pounds of beans. And other bonus: less packaging waste and far less sodium and preservatives. It's really amazing to see the amount of salt, sugar, and other such things I've never heard of that are in a seemingly innocent can of beans. Before I started cooking my own beans I found myself buying organic canned beans because of the junk that was in canned chickpeas and kidney beans in particular. Canned organic beans run about $1.25 a can. Now I'm paying only cents more for an entire bag of beans that I can get at 3 cans out of. Granted they're not organic, but they are much more pure. It's a good thing to see when the only ingredient listed is: beans :)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Attempts at Living Frugally

Oxford American Dictionary defines frugal as:
-sparing or economical with regard to money or food: He lead a remarkably frugal existence.
-simple and plain and costing little: a frugal meal.

I think it all started with the food budget. We blew it every month. It's not like I didn't keep track of my spending, because I did. It just wasn't working for me. I wasn't using what I already had. Last year I started planning my meals around what was in our cabinets. I'm not a big stocker of food, unless there's a crazy-good sale. Our cabinets and fridge aren't usually brimming with all types of food. I've got staples that I use frequently like rice, quinoa and certain spices. But for the most part I use what we have then replenish. I re-evaluated our food budget again recently because it didn't seem to matter how many "budget" meals I cooked, we were still going over. One thing blared loud and true. Eating out, even once a month, seemed to tip the scales. And eating out for us is Panera, or Qdoba, or Subway even. Not places one might expect to find a big bill. But that extra $20 was a big factor in our over spending. And so was coffee from Grounds for Thought, and individual cups of Greek Yogurt and other little niceties like gum and orange juice... :( So anyway, as I've been evaluating spending in our food budget, the thought of using what I already have has been haunting me. It's been a good kind of haunting though. As I decorated our home for the first Easter we would celebrate here, things looked far from festive. I mean, we have a lot of extra space now so the couple of decorations that seemed to over-crowd the Enterprise house seemed a bit sparse here. I began to brainstorm how I could use what I already had. I really wanted to buy some fresh flowers for a centerpiece, but we only budgeted for a certain amount extra for our Easter celebration and I had used that on food for brunch and an egg hunt for our Easter guests. So I grabbed a cake stand, some wooden eggs, a candle I was saving for a special occasion and cut some flowers from outside. A touch of brown rice kept the eggs from rolling and added some texture.

Then I was really wanting something festive with a little bit of height to sit on the armoire in the living room. I loved the idea of an Easter egg tree like we always had growing up, and I was fortunate enough to find the ideal egg-hanging branch right outside. It fit perfectly into a vase I had sitting empty under the kitchen sink. Add some ribbon that I had collected from old gift packages and used some of the left over eggs we weren't using for the hunt and Voila! I grabbed a frame that I had normally hung on the wall but was now replaced by a hanging wooden Easter egg and a lantern that set on our dresser upstairs as finishing touches. The plant already lived in the spot previously. Just the arrangement I had been hoping for!

As for the kiddo's Easter baskets, I did break down and purchase them. But 50 cents a piece at Goodwill plus the cost of spray paint wasn't too bad :)

They were filled with some kid friendly gardening tools, a little pot with a sun flower seed to be planted and a ball to play with outdoors. Best of all, we got them the Big Picture Story Bible. Best Bible for toddlers ever!

I've also been trying to be frugal with our clothing. We are so blessed to have so many clothes (and cute ones at that!) for the kids passed down to us. It is SO tempting to buy new outfits for them, especially the girls stuff, but it makes me a little sick inside to buy something new when there is so much used floating around. For myself, clothes swaps or give and gets have been a HUGE blessing. It is so amazing to be able to do a clean sweep of my own clothes and then walk away with something that someone else is done with for FREE. Mosaic has also been fun. I've made money selling some of my own things and have used that money to purchase some items there. In fact I was really hoping (and checking the store weekly) for a dress for Easter, but was not having any success. I was really hoping for a dress just right for this special holiday, but didn't want to spend more than 10 or 20 dollars and was desiring to buy something used. As a last ditch effort, the day before Easter I hit up Goodwill and found the perfect Easter dress. It was a sheer chiffon with a beautiful floral print in different shades of purples and white. Right next to that dress was a dark purple dress from H&M that I grabbed to try on underneath since the dress was so sheer. Despite the scuzziness of that Goodwill dressing room, I rejoiced in finding something so perfect and so affordable, all without buying new. Each dress was $5, so I walked away spending a grand total of $10.07. I was thankful to God for giving me the patience and self control to not run out to Target earlier that week like I SO wanted to do. I'm still riding on the high of this killer find and can't wait to wear it again!

Those are just some of the ways I've been attempting to be a better steward of what God has given us. Buying used can definitely take extra time and even extra work, but it's worth it. We reap the benefits in our pocketbook and sense of a job well done. And our precious planet benefits as well! So go used when you can. Just pause to think about what you already have. Or when you need to make a purchase, think of what you might find at a Goodwill or a consignment shop instead of at Target. (no offense, Target- you still have a piece of my heart!)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


We had a very special Easter this year. It was the first holiday I hosted in our new home. First holiday I hosted ever, really... Some friends who are in graduate programs at BGSU were able to spend the morning at church with us and then head over to enjoy Easter brunch at our place. We met Lanming, Mikhail and Ramadha through Global Connections and have been enjoying dinners with them once a month since fall semester. We were very excited to help them celebrate their first Easter in America and share with them the purpose and customs of the season. Mikhail took some wonderful pictures throughout the afternoon and was sweet enough to share them with us. Thanks Mikhail!

Not pictured is the intense egg hunt that took place throughout the house and in the yard. There were 63 eggs hidden and our friends definitely did their job in finding each and every one of them! With all of our families at a distance (either hours or oceans away) we were thankful to have great friends to spend this special holiday with.