Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Quick and Easy Ways to Get into Back-to-School Mode

The inevitable is quickly approaching. School supplies, fall d├ęcor, and even Halloween items now in stores declare the arrival of fall to one and all. While the summer heat continues, the carefree days of summer quickly come to an end, and that means shifting into high gear once again. Back-to-school brings disappointment as well as relief that the fall routine will get the kids (and Mom!) back on track. Some quick and easy organization strategies will help tame the back-to-school stress and create a smooth transition for the entire family, so everyone can savor a few more precious moments of rest and relaxation.

A Frugal Fall Budget: Take 15 minutes to review the account balances, assess summer spending, and set up a realistic back-to-school budget. Use coupons, find sales, or even shop at thrift stores for frugal back-to-school finds. Many thrift stores carry brand new overstock items from stores like Target.

Quick Closet Clean-up to Make Room for Back-to-School Clothing: Set a kitchen timer for 30 minutes and have the kids clean out their closets and dresser drawers to make room for new school clothing. Put on lively music and use this activity as an incentive. When there is room in the closet and drawers for new clothes, the family can go shopping. Prior to shopping, assess clothing items that are still in good shape versus those that are actually needed and must be purchased. 

Smart School Supplies: Take an inventory of school supplies before buying more and making unnecessary purchases. Label bins or clear drawers with new school supplies for easy access during stressful homework sessions.

A Tidy Place to Study: Organize the desk or study area by tossing out last year’s school paperwork and setting up a tray or folder where the kids can place papers from school that need immediate attention and signatures. Hang a bulletin board near the desk or study area to post important school flyers or announcements for easy visual access.

Easy Breakfast and Lunch Options: Stock up on easy breakfast options to make mornings flow more smoothly by either cooking and freezing meals ahead of time or buying healthy frozen breakfasts. Likewise, cut out pictures of easy lunch and snack ideas from magazines to add some variety to brown bag lunches this year. Tack clip outs on a kitchen bulletin board or post them on the fridge for quick reference.

Better Planning for this School Year: Take 15 minutes to schedule all important school dates and extracurricular activities in a smart phone calendar or organizer in order to avoid last minute surprises in the schedule that cause undue chaos.  

An Organized Home Base: In the next few weeks or perhaps over Labor Day weekend, set aside a morning or afternoon to fix broken items around the house, replace light bulbs, do a quick clean-up, and organize misplaced items so the home front is tidy as the school and sport activities take over.  

While kids and parents alike mourn the rest and relaxation of simple summer days and transition into a busier season filled with homework and school activities, fall brings good things to look forward to like pumpkin lattes, football, apple pies, jack-o-lanterns, and cooler days. Staying organized and focusing on the positive can help moms and their kids weather the change this season brings to make way for the pleasures of fall.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Unbelievably EASY Ways to Save Over $100

In our fast food instantaneous need-it-now society, most working moms practically throw their money away here and there in a whirlwind of busyness and then end up with a mega credit card bill at the end of the month. Let’s find out how you are doing with your on-the-go spending habits. Is it tough to stretch out your family's income until month’s end? Do you find yourself relying on your credit card too much to make ends meet? Are you aware of the areas where you waste money on purchases that could be eliminated? For instance, stopping off at Starbucks in the morning, going out for lunch with your co-workers, and getting your car washed on the way home can easily cost you fifty bucks or more. By making smarter choices and planning ahead, even busy working moms can start saving hundreds of dollars each month.

  1. Get your kids off the couch and help you wash the car. Savings? $10-$15 per car wash. If you live in an apartment or do not have access to a hose hook-up, find a dollar car wash near your neighborhood where you can insert quarters for a car wash that will cost you as little as $2.
  2. Paint your own toes and nails. You can get a great color of nail polish for $4-$7. Savings? $20-
    $30 per manicure or pedicure. An added benefit is that mothers and daughters can carve out some
    home "spa time" and establish a bonding ritual a few times a month by doing mani's and pedi's. 
  3. Stop spending over $100 per month at the coffeehouse! Instead, buy a pound of coffee the next time you go grocery shopping for $5 to $6 and brew it yourself each morning. An entire pound of store bought coffee can cost as much as a fancy drink or two at Starbucks. In addition to all the money you’ll save in a mere week, you will also be able to sleep in the extra 15 minutes it would take you to wait in line at Starbucks in the morning. Savings? $100 per month and some sanity!
  4. Say yes to brown bagging your lunch. Pack leftovers from dinner for your lunch the next day rather than throwing out the food or letting it go to waste. Savings? $25+ per week if you typically go out for lunch with your colleagues. The added bonus is you’ll make healthier meal choices since home cooked meals are usually lower in fat and extra calories. 
  5. Check out books and audio CDs from the library or borrow them from friends. Set up a book
    exchange with friends, family, and neighbors. If you simply must purchase your own book, shop at thrift stores, library bookstores, used or discount bookstores, warehouse stores, or, a website that offers the lowest prices on used books. Savings? $5-$15 per book.
  6. Skip the movies, rent a DVD, and make fresh popcorn at home rather than throw your money away on a film. While enjoying a movie in the privacy of your home, you can still have your candy and eat it, too. Just stop by the dollar store on the way home for movie-style boxes of Good and Plenty, Raisinets, and Milk Duds. Savings? $25 - $30.  
  7. Be unique and shop at thrift and vintage stores. Who wants to wear the same dress as your co-worker, anyway? Take an inventory of your closet to see what items need to be thrown out due to overuse and what items you need to replace for work or play. Give yourself extra time when shopping at thrift stores since you will have to hunt for those one-of-a-kind treasures. Savings? $5-$100.
  8. Save your plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Store plastic bottles and aluminum cans for about a month and recycle them at  a freestanding recycling center for a voucher to redeem credit or cash at the nearby grocery store. Savings per month? $5-$20.
With a little creativity, organization, and common sense, even busy working moms can utilize daily money-saving strategies that will add up to hundreds of dollars saved over the next few months. Enjoy the feelings of financial confidence that come with knowing you are no longer wasting money on expensive lattes, clothing, or manicures, no longer throwing out food or plastic bottles, and no longer worrying about making ends during the last week of the month. The added bonus is that your children will learn to appreciate the value of a dollar and make frugal choices for themselves if they see their smart mommy doing it first!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

An Artist's Perspective on God's Dream for Your Life

Last summer, I had the pleasure of interviewing watercolor artist and Bible Study Fellowship leader, Martha, on God’s plans and dreams for her life. Martha reassures us busy moms, who often place our dreams on the back-burner to make priorities of our children, husband, job, and church service, that God will find a way to keep our dreams alive for His perfect timing. Find out what happens when a woman aligns her priorities up to God’s!

First, I jumped right in and asked Martha how God developed her artistic talents . . . 

Q. Why do you think it’s important for people to use their God-given talents, and how have you made time for your talents throughout your life?

A. The Church is made of a body of talents. He did it for a purpose so He can have us contribute. I wanted to draw since I was a little girl. I knew I was an artist, but had to help take care of my siblings and then later raise my children. The important thing is you have to keep the desire. God will use it when you come back to it.

When I retired, I went straight to college. The first picture I drew was of a baby called “God’s Blessing” because I realized after all these years, I still had my talent! His timing is perfect for when he will use your talent!

I wanted to teach art at the adult school. I woke up each morning and thought of my art first thing. I even want to step down from BSF to focus solely on my art, and I wrestled with the Lord. After a struggle, the Lord changed my perspective, and I surrendered. He told me when I entered Heaven, he wouldn’t care about how many credits or degrees I had. What He cared about was how many souls I brought to Him. So, I put my art aside again to continue leading in the Bible Study Fellowship and make Him number one in my life. And then He gave me everything I needed to make the time and the way for me to do my watercolor art AND minister for Him through BSF with my cards and bookmarks. It wasn’t me. It was the Lord who led me, and this is exactly what I needed. Now, my ministry through BSF and art are married. God will often speak to me and have me give a participant a bookmark including an appropriate Bible verse just for that person.

After many years of serving others, today Martha’s artistic talent and service to BSF are blended through her watercolor greeting card ministry. She creates watercolor paintings, cards, and bookmarks for people who God places on her heart to encourage, including specific Scriptures that correlate with particular art pieces.

While trusting God with her dream, Martha raised her two children with her husband, who she has been married to for decades since the young age of 16. I wanted to glean some wisdom from her life experience and hear her advice for busy moms and single moms.

Q. What advice could you give single moms who are going through a difficult season want to grow closer to God and get their priorities straight?

A. First off, I have never experienced being a single mom. I can’t know what it must be like, but I do know the effects, the difference it would make in your life and the kid’s lives. Since 1999, I have been a Bible study leader for the international organization, Bible Study Fellowship. Young mothers of all denominations, both married and single, bring their babies and come for Bible study. They want to raise their children so they would know God and also get support and spiritual help. Joining BSF enables them to benefit from childcare while they learn about Jesus. After BSF one day, a mom even pulled over to the side of road to pray for her child to know the Lord. Both the mom and child can grow together in Christ. The attachment to God produces a joyful life of being filled up through Him.

Every Tuesday morning before BSF, I pray that the Lord would empty me completely so He can use me. I pray for Him to give me the eyes to see these young women like He does. I want to help people know God through the Bible study. All kinds of women share their heartaches and pray for each other. When you are praying for each other, you have a closer bond.

Speaking of a closer bond, are you looking for love, ladies? Martha also had a thing or two to say about what it takes to develop a successful marriage, so listen up!

Q. For single moms who have finally found God’s man for them, what advice do you have for them to do things differently and make their marriage work?

A. What I would have lost if I would have given into my feelings instead of my marriage! I prayed to be a better wife. When you meet someone who you like enough to want to spend time with and have a future with that person, check your heart. If you like this man exactly how he is, then he is the one you want. A man needs respect from his wife. If he doesn’t get it from her, he will find it somewhere else. If you respect that man, you will love him.

You have to ask yourself, what do you not like? What is he covering up? You have to find out these things before you marry him.

Learn from the mistakes of others. I had a woman friend who was nearing her forties and she had a heart for caring about people, but wanted to get married and have kids desperately. She had lots of specifications, but wasn’t thinking about character. She was focused on appearances.

She met a man who was a very smooth talker and misquoted the Bible in order to have control. She ran off and got eloped. Unfortunately, he was abusive, controlling, and had a criminal record. In order to be protected, the authorities gave her a complete change of identity, and she had to cut ties from all her family and friends so she could go into hiding to escape from him.

On the day of the wedding, the man is typically hoping she will never change, while the woman is hoping she can change him! Marry somebody you don’t want to change.

Always remember that the person is your best friend and you don’t want anything to get in the way of that, including hardships, finances, or  even the children. Marriage can be such a blessing, and a joyful blessing! Once you get to know the Lord and He’s in control of your life, you receive joy and peace through submission. That’s what I have.

Interested in joining or serving at Bible Study Fellowship International? Click here for a location near you: Bible Study Fellowship International

Linking to: Coffee for Your Heart

Saturday, July 5, 2014

8 Money Saving Tips for Single Parents

With the prices of gas and food on the rise these days, we could all stand to save a dollar here and there. Please enjoy this guest post on smart money saving tips by the UK's Ella Moss.

One of the aspects a lot of us struggle with as single moms is money. Only having one income can put huge pressure on what is often already a stressful situation, even if it can be immensely rewarding. There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help and many of us need it. Here are some tips on how you can make money a little less tight if you’re a single mom.

Save money where you can
Make a budget and stick to it. This will allow you to consistently spend over the course of the month without money getting tight towards to end. Also, have a safety net where you can keep your savings. That way, if unexpected costs come up, you don’t have to use your budget to pay for it and if you don’t spend it, you can dip into it for small treats for you and your child.

Collect food vouchers and keep an eye on offers. These don’t necessarily have to be for groceries - collecting restaurant coupons is a cheap way to take your children out for meals without having to pay huge prices. Also, buy and cook in bulk in order to not only save money, but save your time throughout the week. Stews, chili con carne and Bolognese all keep well in the refrigerator and are easy to grab and heat up if you’re busy with the kids.

What are you entitled to?
Although we don’t offer child benefit like other countries, like the UK, the US does offer Child Tax Credit and you’re perfectly entitled to this if you have a child under the age of 17. This can reduce your federal income tax by up to $1000, according to the IRS website. To qualify for this, you need to meet the criteria, which includes age and relationship status. However, if you’re a single mom, your needs should be understood.

You and your child are also most likely entitled to child support. As long as you’re the custodial parent of your child, the father should be paying maintenance in order for you to raise him or her. The majority of the time, the father is more than happy to pay child support and it can be settled outside of court. The amount of child support is usually determined by how much each parent is earning, how many children are involved and how often the children see the other parent or stay at their house.

Read the rest of the article here: 8 Money Saving Tips for Single Parents

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Happy 4th of July to One and All!

"I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments." ~Psalm 119:45

As we celebrate our nation's freedom today, I reflect on my many blessings. Today, I am very grateful to be living a happy, joyous, and FREE single mom life with a beautiful daughter who is growing into her own person. Summer (and 4th of July) is my favorite time of year, so I am truly glad to have the day off and enjoy all the red, white, and blue everywhere!!! 

THREE CHEERS TO FREEDOM! Now, I gotta get going to to 2nd annual Angel's game followed by a fantastic firework show. A happy 4th to one and all! 
My spirited friend and I at the first annual Angel's game last 4th of July!

I made these red, white, and blue flags and hung them in the kitchen with my cherry stuff. 

Almost bought one of these soy wax candles today from my favorite vintage shop. . . 

Let's end on a sweet note with a patriotic dessert! 
Linking to: Pink Saturday!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Easiest DYI Lemonade Sugar Scrub

I've been eating a ton of sweets lately, which is not good for my health, but I can't help myself  because there's so much temptation all around and it's sooooo good! One day last week, I noticed my pants suddenly grew tighter, and now I am motivated to get back on track. I have a theory that when I am craving sweets, what's going on under the surface is I need to add more sweetness to life. For me, that means getting lost in the creative zone, so I put myself to work by concocting a DYI sugar scrub sweet enough to eat (but you don't really want to do that, I promise!). Why pay $15 or more when you can make this sugar scrub with ingredients from your kitchen for less than $5? Your silky soft hands and feet will thank you.

Lemonade Sugar Scrub

  • 2 cups white or brown sugar (white sugar is preferred since brown sugar has a scent of its own) 
  • 1 cup olive oil 
  • Grated rind from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons lemon oil (optional) 

Mix together until ingredients blend, but do not dissolve sugar. Store in an air tight container for yourself or a friend. Breathe in the uplifting aroma and remember that life's lemons aren't so bad when you have a sweet perspective.

Linking to: One Project at a TimeWeekend re-TreatMoonlight and Mason JarsThursday Favorite Things

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Making Lemonade from the Sour Patches of Mommyhood

Here's a pretty use for lemons!
Listening to last weekend's Father’s Day sermon at church thrilled me to no end because I found the message applicable to parents of all kinds, especially moms of all kinds whether working moms, stay-at-home moms, or single moms. Inspired, I wrote a post based on my own interpretation of those ideas to help me—and you!—make lemonade out of those sour patches of mommyhood. We all need a little encouragement that we can make a difference in our kid’s lives, no matter where we have come from or where we are now on life’s journey. Even if your own childhood was a dysfunctional one and you lacked parents who modeled Christlike behavior, you can still be a godly parent for your child. With God’s help, you can create a new legacy for you and your children starting today.

Psalm 39:4-5 “Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more. My life is no longer than my hand! My whole lifetime is but a moment to you.” Life is short, but intentional daily steps can add up to lasting change.

1)      Seek out friendships that bring out your best. Make time in your life to build friendships with other ladies who model authentic Christian behavior and will hold you accountable. Christian women who have a real relationship with Christ and have good boundaries will bring out your best because they will speak the truth in love. Friendships like these are important because moms need support and encouragement since they take on the world each day and are often drained each night. Single moms need to fill up the void left from not from having a spouse around to lend an ear or a hand.

My dear friend who challenges me to be my best . . . here we are today at a Conference for Christian Moms

2)      Create meaningful moments with your children that are not just limited to vacation time. This summer, camp out in the back yard and roast s’mores on the fire pit. Let your kids get you soaked while washing the car. Make a yummy Sunday brunch and then play cards at the kitchen table before clean up. Take time to eat meals together to reflect on the day rather than tune each other out over a meal in front of the TV. Significant memories do not have to cost a thing, and they convey to your children that family time is a priority. 
Can YOU believe today's
 conference theme was LEMONS
and I wrote this article yesterday?

3)     Embrace a courageous attitude to be the best person you can be for God and your children.  Give God your all first through prayer and Bible reading, so you can pass that behavior onto your children by modeling it in front of them. Read Christian parenting books, attend seminars, and turn to God each day with a courageous prayer to move away from your past as you step forward into a new legacy. The resurrection power of Christ can help you to rewrite your past and create a new heritage for you and your children.

Only the BEST shaved ice I've ever tried! 

Mmmmm . . . who can pass up food trucks?

Linking to: Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart3D Lessons 4 Life Linkup


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