Archive | December 2011

We Wish You A Merry Christmas!

We’re just about 2 days until Christmas now. I hope you all have your homes decked out, warm scents throughout your home, and presents wrapped under your trees.  I figured I would post  a few pictures of our Christmas tree and our favorite ornaments to help you all get into the holiday spirit.

 

The Christmas Tree decked out and filled with gifts!

 

Best I could do to capture the beautiful blue lights that adorn our tree at night.

 

Wrapped presents line our stairs.

 

The homemade stocking was hung on the wall with care. This was my gift to David two years ago.

 

The view from the landing on our stairs.  We have blue lights surrounding the upstairs ledge.

 

Our wedding ornament from last year.  Each year we get one ornament together.

 

The angel ornament given to me by my mother a few years ago.

 

One of my favorites. We splurged on this one.  Cinderella dancing with her prince.

 

The first ornament we ever exchanged. One of our first dates was watching The Polar Express together.

 

Our 2009 ornament. We purchased our home in January of that year.

 

One of my favorites from my Aunt. My family does an ornament exchange every year.

 

Another favorite given to David from our cousin!

We love our tree and decorations!! Hopefully, you’re feeling a bit more festive now too!  Wishing you all a safe, fun, and blessed next few days!

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I Could Have Been Blogging But . . .

December is such a rushed month, and even though I say year after year that it’s not about the gifts (AND IT’S NOT) they do seem to require a priority focus for a good part of the month.  It seems like there is always shopping to be done, gifts to be wrapped, cookies or goodies to be made, and parties to attend!  While I’m not complaining in the slightest, the above activities have consumed my life for the better part of December.

Today, I have officially finished every last bit of shopping, wrapping, and shipping that needed to be done.  There is still some baking to do, but that can wait just a couple more days.  It feels good to finally be done, and to be able to relax and focus on the simpler parts of the Christmas season.   Although I feel guilty not adding to my blog very much this month, I have been enjoying some of my favorite Christmas past times.  Here’s what I’ve been doing INSTEAD of blogging:

  1. Singing Christmas carols at the top of my lungs!  I love Christmas music, and I love to sing which isn’t a good thing for anyone within a 10 mile radius of me.  I have been enjoying the constant holiday radio station which plays continuous Christmas music and shares heartwarming Christmas stories.  Some of my favorite songs THIS year (yes, it changes each year) are:  Silent Night, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, Do You Hear What I Hear?, and Carol of Bells.
  2. Reading a variety of books.  I can never read just one book at a time.  I’m currently reading three different books and none of them are Christmas stories (shame on me).  As soon as I finish these, I will head on to the holiday novels!  Reading has always been a way for me to unwind and escape which is why I find myself reading a lot in December.
  3. Working on David’s Christmas present.  David has about 200 different CDs that have never been put into iTunes or onto his iPod.  I’m working my best to get those into the computer, labeled correctly, and then synced for him by Christmas. It’s a LONG process, but I’m getting there slowly but surely.
  4. Trying to relax the last two nights as I’ve had massive sinus headaches.  Unfortunately, due to recent bloodwork showing elevated liver enzyme levels, I’m not allowed to take any sort of pain medication. Period.  It makes for not fun nights when these sinus headaches kick in, and the last two days have been rather rough.  I’m hoping tonight that a good solid 8 hours of sleep will cure it.  I’ve been doing sinus rinses as much as possible in the meantime, hoping to help relieve some of the pressure.

So there you have it! Christmas is now 4 days away and while most people are still rushing around, I’m staying warm and relaxed inside the comfort of my home.  I hope you all have a safe, and somewhat relaxing next few days leading up to the holiday!! Remember, despite what it seems like, the gifts AREN’T the real reason for the season so take a moment to breathe and do something for YOURSELF over the next few days!

Ok. . . I admit it . . .I love ribbon!

I have come to the conclusion that I was either a cat or one of Santa’s elves in a previous life because my love for curling ribbon, felt ribbon, wired ribbon, glitter ribbon, velvet ribbon, and any other ribbon currently in existence is rather extreme.  I have two small containers full of various ribbons, and I have about 15 different wrapping papers!

I’m one of those people who enjoys wrapping presents so much that she wraps every little thing in it’s own separate box so that 1) she can wrap more gifts and decorate them with pretty ribbons and 2) she can give the gift receiver a larger quantity of gifts to open.  I’m strange. I know this. David knows this. He still married me so I’m pretty sure by definition that makes him strange too, but that’s a whole other story.
Regardless, I have officially wrapped every single Christmas present (with the exception of one that hasn’t arrived yet).  I have created some really pretty bows, and a few of the presents have more curling ribbon than actual paper on them.  I am a total wrapping fanatic, and I honestly have no idea where this passion came from.  If it were feasible, I would love to own my own wrapping paper/book/coffee shop.  It would combine some of my favorite hobbies into one place – it’d be great!
When I seriously think back to when I started to develop this obsession, I realize that my mother is mostly to blame.  She introduced me to the wonders of the hot glue gun when I was in my teenage years, and then she supplied me with ribbon.  It was a dangerous combination as I spent hours making Christmas bows (I even glued little snowflakes, presents, and cinnamon sticks on them). Then, one year her multiple sclerosis was acting up so she boxed up my gifts and then had ME wrap them.  I LOVED it.
Well, I carried on the tradition this year.  My husband, who is extremely busy with school, asked me if I wouldn’t mind wrapping my own presents.  He didn’t understand the excitement that came with this question.  So, I wrapped my own gifts yet again this year!  In fact, I also wrapped gifts for my sisters and my mom.  It’s all their fault for continuing to feed my obsessions!!
I must admit though, nothing gets me in the Christmas mood like listening to carols and wrapping the gifts. It’s official, I’m ready for it to be December 25th now!
What puts YOU in the Christmas mood?

My Apologies!

My apologies for ignoring my blog so much recently.  With the holidays quickly (much faster than I can even comprehend) approaching, I find myself being torn in 10 different directions with only a moment to catch a breath.

In the past week or so, I have had 3 different doctors appointments, been shopping 3 different times, had remote start put into the car, and have run about 100 errands!  In my free time, I’ve been trying to focus on reading a lot as I have been feeling deprived of my favorite getaway time.  I had put six or seven books on hold over the past two weeks and three of them came in after I checked out four other books, so I’ve got a lot to get through by Christmas time.  On one of my friend’s blogs, she has detailed her books on Goodreads.  I’m not familiar with this app/site, but with my love of reading it sounds like something I would enjoy updating.

As much as I wish I had all next week to continue reading, I know that it will be even busier than this past week has been!  My mom and I always do marathon baking for Christmas (more my mom than me) and then we give goodie bags as gifts.  We always bake multiple batches of all the following: Chex Mix, buckeyes (chocolate covered peanut butter balls..much better than Reeses!), fudge, sour cream cookies with frosting, kringla, and peanut brittle.  Some years we add in peppermint bark as well or substitute the peanut brittle for peppermint bark.  Basically, next week we will be doing nothing but baking!!

I must say I love spending those days with my mom.  I look forward to baking time every year as we get together and laugh about Christmas memories.  We typically eat a good fraction of whatever we have baked, and we thoroughly enjoy each other’s company.  I am extremely blessed to have her so close by me and to have the opportunity to enjoy this Christmas tradition with her.

So, as the next week and a half fly by us, I apologize to my readers if I post very very few blogs or comments.  After Christmas, everything will be settling down and I will get back to my normal blogging habits!

I wish you all a safe, productive, and merry next two weeks!!

Ways we Save Money

Ways we Save Money

Obviously, I don’t need to tell anyone that the economy hasn’t been the best this year.  David and I have especially been struggling the last couple of months, and with Christmas around the corner it’s even more important for us to budget and save money in any way possible.  Over the past full year, I have implemented many money-saving strategies which I am gladly sharing with all of you.

–          We buy generic brands.

There are a few things which we will only use name brands for (Splenda, Skippy peanut butter, Smuckers jelly, Heinz ketchup, and a few others), but for everything else we resort to store brand or generic brand items.  It’s a great way to save a good chunk of money off of your bill in the end.  We also shop at a store called Aldi which is like a discounted grocery store.  Many times, we can’t tell the difference between store brand and name brand, and if we discover a product we don’t like, then we go back to getting the name brand for that particular item.  We aren’t limiting ourselves this way, and we’re still happily enjoying our food!

–          I clip coupons.

No, I am not an extreme couponer.  I will never be one, but I do clip coupons on name brand products that we do use.  I do NOT clip coupons for things we do not need or like just to use the coupon – this just causes one to spend more money than they originally would.  I am known for saving coupons for chocolates and candles which in turn become gifts for other people.  Also, we don’t just clip “food coupons.”  In fact, David and I are both big advocates of sites such as retailmenot.com and couponcabin.com which offer big savings coupons for many online retailers.  I have saved approximately $50 on Christmas gifts by using codes from these two sites.

–          We take full advantage of our public library system

This will not work for everyone as this is quite dependent upon which state you live in, but our public library system is fantastic.  I have always visited the library for books (I’m a bookworm), but recently we have completely stopped renting videos from the video stores.  Instead, we put holds on DVDs we want to see, and then in a week or two they come in and we pick them up.  We get to keep the DVD for a week (much longer than a rental store or Redbox), and they offer this service for FREE.  We have cut a good $10 a month off of our budget by doing this (we are movie fantatics), and we’ve seen movies we never would have paid money for but ended up being a great film!  Check out your library system and see if they offer this great service!

–          We cut down to one car.

Again, this one will not work for everyone (in fact it won’t work for most people), but we have managed to cut back to one car.  Both of our cars were giving out at around the same time, and we didn’t have the money to buy two new cars.  Instead, we purchased one new car, and cut out $400 a year in car insurance costs by dropping the second car.  I drive David to work, and then I do my errands throughout the day and pick him up in the evening.  It can cause issues when I have doctor’s appointments, but we make it work and it makes us rely on each other more which has only strengthened our marriage.

–          I make to sure to always do rebates and look for freebies.

I use a site called allyou.com which offers a daily freebie for internet users to take advantage of.  There are many deals that I have no interest in, but there are some which are really nice.  I ended up recently getting a free sample of Nescafe coffee packets (including peppermint mocha)! They are usually little items and don’t add up to much savings, but they are nice treats that I would not otherwise pay for.  In addition, I always fill out mail-in rebates.  A lot of times, people buy items with a rebate, and the rebate collects dust on a cluttered desk.  I refuse to let this happen.  Free money is free money and I’m willing to cut out UPCs and make a copy of my papers prior to sending in these rebates! It’s definitely saved us some serious money!

–          I use deal apps.

If you have an iPhone, iPad, or smartphone of any kind look for deal apps.  I have an iPhone (which I know is NOT a money-saver) and I have downloaded apps such as WootWatch (also woot.com), Black Friday, DealNews, and iSlick which provide great discounts and deals on unnecessary items or gifts. We’ve used to sites a few times for Christmas already this year, and have gotten some GREAT items for discounted prices!

Although they’re not all HUGE money savers, they have definitely helped us to maintain our budget during the past year.  I hope you’ll be able to use one or two of these suggestions to save your family money as well! I’m also open to any money-saving suggestions that you may have to share with me.

Any good ones out there that I’m missing (I’m SURE there are)?