Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It’s Never Too Late to Follow Your Dreams

There was a major event in our family this past Saturday that I feel is noteworthy.   My father, at the age of 55, graduated from my alma mater, Kent State University, with his Bachelor’s Degree!  Not only did he get his degree, but he graduated magna cum laud!!
My dad with his fellow graduates

To give you a little bit of background, my father graduated with his Associates Degree many many years ago.  He has always excelled in his position at a large nation-wide retail establishment, which is why we moved so much while I was growing up.  My father would whip a store into tip-top shape and then be transferred to work on another.  After 25+ years with said retail establishment, they let him go after giving him unreasonable numbers to hit.  It was pretty much a sham to get him out.  After all, they could pay someone 30 years old a fraction of what this long-timer was making (even if the results were dismal.) 

Many people talk about how bad the economy is and how it is “impossible” to find a job.  My father took this opportunity to do something he’s always wanted to do – get a degree in Accounting.  With the support from his wife, he did just that.  My father took two years to get his degree.  In that time, he was invited to several dinners to meet very notable speakers (for instance, Jerry from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream,) received several awards and scholarships due to his excellent grades, walked around a campus with the majority of the students 8 years younger than his youngest child, tutored students in need of help, and interned for a large accounting firm in Cleveland, OH, ultimately being offered the position to begin work just two weeks after graduation.

When the final graduation date was set, my father asked if I’d like to go.  He stated that if he were me, he wouldn’t want to waste a few hours of my Saturday to sit in a graduation ceremony.  Todd and I both attended the ceremony, not even thinking that it was a waste of time.  This man has made such a huge sacrifice and put in so much hard work to be able to accomplish his dream of becoming an Accountant.  We are both so very proud of him and what he has been able to achieve.

It was pretty incredible to watch my father walk across the same stage I walked across 9 years ago.  Todd and I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity for the world. 

Congratulations, dad, on all that you have done!  I am so very proud of you!!!

My dad with his mother (my grandma) on graduation day

Monday, December 19, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 1 Time

Truly, all anyone really wants is time with those they love.  Even though I have listed 25 weeks worth of gift ideas, the one that really matters most is spending time with one another.  The best part is that it costs nothing, but you gain valuable memories together that will last a lifetime.

This year, Todd and I are giving our time to those we love and to each other.  Whether it is sitting around a table talking, or going out and about with them...we are focused on spending more time with those who are most important in our life.

Enjoy Christmas with those you love.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2012 Goals

With every New Year, I feel like I have a fresh start, and this year is no different.  This year, I am posting my goals for everyone to hold me accountable!  I will be posting updates every month as to how the goals are coming along.  This is what my personal goals look like for 2012:

  • Daily Devotional: Read The One Year Bible (I enjoyed reading the Bible in 90 Days, but I would like to slow it down this year!)
  • Find a church that is a fit for our family

  • Read one marriage book a month and put it’s teachings into practice
Health / Personal
  • Eat healthfully (more fruits and vegetables, less meat, carbs and sugars)
  • Create and maintain a cleaning routine
  • Lose 50 lbs (that’s only a pound a week – achievable!)
  • Decrease the amount of “stuff” in our home (Purge-A-Palooza 2012! - will talk about that next week)
  • Volunteer at the Happy Trails Animal Sanctuary (a monthly commitment) 
  • Sponsor a child in need
    • When I started making my list of goals in October, as soon as I had this goal listed, a fellow blogger wrote about how she and her family sponsor a child through Compassion.  After a lot of research about the ministry, we sponsored a child 11/11/11!  It is amazing how God put everything into place!!
    • It is our goal to sponsor another child, but this time, through another organization called Amazima.
  • Save $5,000 toward a replacement vehicle/maintenance
  • Invest 5% of our take-home income into a Roth IRA
  • Sponsor a pot bellied pig at Happy Trails Animal Sanctuary
  • Less pre-packaged food / more cooking from scratch
  • Reduce use of paper towels and paper napkins replacing them with cloth
  • Lower resource consumption (electric / propane / water)
    • Electric use of primary residence over past 12 months=15,298 kWh
    • Electric use of the house we own next door over past 12 months=6,876 kWh
      • We expect this number to be drastically lower due to the fact that we are no longer heating the shed, which was our pot bellied pig and puppy’s abode last winter
  • Install energy-saving power strips throughout home
Gardening & Preserving
  • Grow enough tomatoes, green beans, snow peas, squash and green peppers to be used through the fall and winter 2012 and spring 2013
  • Can at least 24 quarts of tomatoes (sauces, stewed tomatoes, etc)
  • Freeze at least 50 pint-sized bags of vegetables
  • Plant at least 3 concord grape vines

 What are your goals / aspirations / resolutions for 2012?

Monday, December 12, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 2 Soda Can Ring

Did you see that?!? Just two more weeks until Christmas!! EEK!
This week is a super-simple gift for those teenagers in the family.  I know we have a 3 teenage nieces I'm considering making these for.  Again, this was found on YouTube.

{{I'm having problems uploading the video, but you can go here to see the video.}}

Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project. Be sure to check them out! Happy Crafting!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

We're On A Podcast!

This week, our story was featured on JW's Financial Coaching podcast.  If you'd like to learn a little bit about us, you can go to this website and hear our story.

Jon White has a great podcast on how to become (and stay) debt free.  If you havent subscribed, I'd highly recommend it!


Monday, December 5, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 3 Button Earrings

Now that we are getting down to the wire for Christmas gifts, I have found some videos on YouTube for simple gifts that can be made in very little time.
This week, I found a DIY video on how to make earrings out of buttons!

Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project. Be sure to check them out! Happy Crafting!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas is Around the Corner!

Christmas is just around the corner, and the little elves have been working quite a bit around here to prepare for the upcoming holiday.  This is what they have completed:
62 bottles of homemade wine (2 different flavors)
13 large bottles of homemade strawberry margaritas

52 bottles of homemade microbrew beer

Jars of applesauce & applie pie in a jar

Coming up in production:

Apple Butter

How are you preparing for the Holidays?

Monday, November 28, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 4 Flower Barretts

This week's Christmas Craft idea was posted on someone's FaceBook page, and I cant believe how simple it looks to make these!  With 2 nieces of my own, I think this would make a great gift!

Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project. Be sure to check them out! Happy Crafting!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

So Thankful!

There is a chill in the air, and this is the time of year that I tend to reflect on the blessings in my life.  With it being Thanksgiving today, I wanted to list a few things I am thankful for.  They include:

  • Renewed faith
  • Incredible husband
  • Awesome family
  • Amusing animals
  • Cozy home
  • Stable employment
We dont deserve all that God has given us, but are so thankful to have our faith and each other.

I pray that you are having a great day with friends and family reflecting on some of the things you are thankful for.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Saving Money: Dry Cleaning

I work in a business casual office setting, so I own several cardigan sweaters and even a pair of pants that require dry clean only.  Instead of shying away from these items at the thrift store (where I purchase the majority of my clothing,) I have no problems snatching them up because I know I can wash them without having to go to the cleaners every time I wear them!
The simple trick:  Wash in cold water and line dry!

I drape my washed sweaters over a quilt rack that we have in front of the fireplace, and this works nicely.  My sweaters are generally dry within 24 hours.

I have not had a single issue with my sweaters or pants shrinking or the fibers changing texture by doing this.  The only inconvenience is that my sweaters sometimes get those little fuzz balls on them after a few washes, but we have this nifty little device that was less than $5 to get rid of them.

It has been my observation that many of the sweaters I’ve purchased from the thrift store are dry clean only.  I wonder if people were tired of paying the dry cleaning bill every month to get their clothes clean. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til christmas: Week 5: Snowman Soup

I found an awesome website that has alot of homemade gift ideas!  I will probably be posting several of their homemade gift ideas over the last few weeks of this series.

This week's homemade gift idea is Snowman Soup!

Source & Credits

Hop on over to Homemade Crafts Made Easy to get the adorable printable for this along with how to make this Snowman Soup!  I am thinking about making this for my nieces and nephews this Christmas.

Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project. Be sure to check them out! Happy Crafting!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Before Todd and I met, he would host Thanksgiving every year for his family. This year, for the first time since we’ve been together (5+ years,) we are having Thanksgiving at our house for his parents and my mom!

I enjoy having people over, but I tend to go overboard with the food. We have decided to keep things simple this year for Thanksgiving. This is what our menu will consist of:

  • Turkey
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Stuffing
  • Green bean casserole
  • Corn
  • Cranberry sauce (I don’t like – but his parents do)
  • Deviled eggs (my mom is bringing)
  • Relish tray (my mom is bringing)
  • Biscuits
  • Apple Pie using apple filling I made
  • Pumpkin Pie (the in-laws are bringing)
There may be a couple of hors d’oeuvres, but not much more than that. Pretty simple! I am looking forward to spending time with family!!

What are your plans for Thanksgiving this year?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homemade Fire Starters

(This post is a little late in the season to write about but I figure better late than never, right?) 

Fire starters are a great way to start a fire quickly and easily without any fanning or having to create a teepee out of wood!  They aren’t only great for wood burning fireplaces, but they are great to be used when having a bonfire outside or going camping!  Homemade fire starters don’t take up much space, are simple to make, extremely effective when starting a fire and cost nothing to make!


  • Sawdust
  • Candle wax
We use sawdust and candle wax.  We get sawdust by chopping the wood needed for the winter months and collecting it while it’s dry.  The candle wax has been obtained for free from and remnants of candles we have burned around the house over the year. 


  • Melt wax in a large pot enough to be able to stir easily (do not boil)
    • You can also use boiling water and a glass jar like a double boiler if you don’t want to dirty the pot with these ingredients
  • Stir in sawdust so that the sawdust is lightly coated with wax
  • Scoop out into clumps and let dry
We keep our fire starters in a couple of baskets next to the wood burning stove.  We use one to start up the fire and try to maintain the fire to a comfortable temperature.

Photo Credit

 A friend of mine  makes her own fire starters as well, but not with sawdust.  This is how she makes hers:


  • Paper egg cartons (not styrofoam)
    • You can also use little paper cups, paper cupcake liners, the cardboard core of a paper towel or toilet paper roll (cut into smaller pieces)
  • Dryer lint
  • Candle wax or broken crayons


  • Place a small pot of water on the stove to boil
  • Put candle wax remnants and/or crayons in a glass jar and place in the pot of hot water to melt down
  • Open the egg carton and cut off the top
  • Take small pieces of dryer lint and put them in each of the egg compartments of the egg carton
  • When wax in the jar is melted down, pick up with an oven mit and pour a little wax over each lint-filled egg compartment
  • Let dry / harden
  • Cut out the 12 egg compartments
  • Store for future use
  • Place one in a fire with wood in it and watch the wood catch fire!
We don’t buy eggs from the store because we have chickens to lay eggs for us. If you are in the same boat, you can ask family, friends and neighbors to keep their egg cartons so that you can make these starters, or pot an inquiry on or Craigslist. 

Good luck and have fun!

This post is linked to Homestead Revival's Barn Hop!

Monday, November 14, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 6 Potpourri Jar

I received a gift like this in high school from a friend of mine and loved it!  It smelled so good, and it illuminated the room beautifully.  I found the directions on how to make it from this site.

Lighted Potpourri Jar

Photo Credit

Mason Jar
Dry potpourri
Strand of 20 or 35 white christmas lights
Lace doily


  • In a clean mason jar, fill with potpourri and place lights systematically throughout
  • Place doily on top of the jar and tie tightly with a ribbon

Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project. Be sure to check them out! Happy Crafting!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Washing Clothes by Hand

While on vacation last week, I didnt take enough undergarments to last the full week - on purpose!  I didnt have much room to take alot of clothing in my carry-on bag.

I was really dragging my feet when it came time to wash my undergarments in the hotel room sink, but this is what I learned:

  1. It doesnt take much time at all!  (just a few minutes)
  2. They air dry overnight - no dryer needed
  3. You use alot less soap
I was surprised at all of this.  It really didnt take much time at all, and I am contemplating starting to wash more of my clothes by hand in the sink. 

What are your thoughts on washing clothes by hand?  Have you ever done it?

Monday, November 7, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 7 Teacup Candle

This week's 25 Weeks 'Til Christmas craft is a teacup candle that you can make at home.  I love antique teacups, and people are always giving them away for free on Freecycle or for very little money at garage sales.

This is a video from DIY Network to show you how to make them.

Photo Credits
Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project. Be sure to check them out! Happy Crafting!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Saving Money: Use Your Library!

Our local library is an invaluable resource to us! I love books, but decided a couple of years ago that I would not buy another book unless it is something I would read more than once.  That being said, I don’t own many books.  

The library is not only good for books, but music, DVD’s and even audio series at our local library!  It is a great source for us to keep up to date with movies and music without having to spend a dime.  Every Tuesday, new release DVD’s are listed on this website.  I open this website and open up our library online catalog and request the brand new DVD’s.  Many times, we get new release DVD’s within the first two weeks of them being available! Another great thing about our library is that is connected with about a dozen other libraries in the area, so if they don’t have a book/CD/DVD that we would like, they get it from another library.  I go in and pick them up when I am notified.  We have something to pick up at least once a week from the library.

Lastly, they have a lot of great educational programs for kids and adults alike.  From learning how to crochet to helping the unemployed with putting themselves out there and getting hired!  Even though we live in a small town, this library offers a lot to our community! 

Do you use your local library?
What is your favorite thing about your library?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Green Zone: Natural Moss Eliminator

My good friend from work got me interested in gardening several years back.  We are always bragging about our gardens to one another and I will say, many years, I am jealous of the harvest she is able to get from her garden (maybe I should follow through next year!) 

At any rate, my friend came into work telling me about how she got rid of moss that was in her garden.  You will never guess it.  Baking soda!  Apparently, if you sprinkle baking soda on moss, it will get rid of it!

I started to look into the method of getting rid of moss and I learned that moss really doesn’t hurt anything.  Yes, it’s an eyesore at times, but for the most part doesn’t hurt anything.  We have moss that grows on stepping stones we have to our front yard, and when the stones get moist, I have been known to do one of those slip, slide and catch myself dance moves for all (two) neighbors to see.  I don’t care about looking like a fool in front of the neighbors but I have pulled muscles by doing this ice-skating move on the stones!

I am looking forward to sprinkling some baking soda on the stepping stones tonight as well as around the garden where we have moss growing.

Monday, October 31, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 8 Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies (in a jar)

This recipe came from Mary Hunt's book, Debt-Proof the Holidays.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
3/4 C white sugar
1/4 C packed brown sugar
1 3/4 C all purpose flour mixed with 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda
8 large Reese's peanut butter cup candies cut into 1/2 inch pieces (wrap in plastic wrap)

Layer ingredients in jar in order given. Press each layer firmly in place before adding next ingredient. The cut candy pieces should be wrapped in plastic wrap and then added to the final layer. This will keep them fresh and the other ingredients dry until use.

Attach this message to the jar:

Remove candies from jar and set aside. Empty cookie mix in large mixing bowl; stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 egg, slightly beaten, and 1 tsp vanilla; mix until completely blended. Stir in candies. Roll dough into walnut sized balls. Place 2 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 12-14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet. Remove to wire racks to cool copletely. Yield: 2 1/2 dozen.

Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project. Be sure to check them out! Happy Crafting!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cutting Costs on Vacation

As you are reading this, I am most likely running around like a maniac trying to get the last minute details finished before we leave for our vacation to sunny Orlando, FL!  I cannot imagine how difficult it is to prepare children for vacation because it is a real feat to get everything taken care of for our feathered and furry critters when we go away!

I have written about ways we save on vacation in the past, but I am going to do it again.  I love the fact that we are able to travel and experience new places every year based on the fact that we cut corners and save money even while we are on vacation!  Many people like to sit by the pool or ocean for an entire week reading books, but we are not that type of couple.  We like to go!-go!-go! on vacation!!

These are a few tips we use while traveling:

Pack Light
My mother is probably laughing hysterically at this first tip because I was (and still am) horrible at packing.  When we went to Antigua for my mother’s wedding back in 2003, my luggage was bulging at the seams with too many shoes, clothes and accessories.  I ended up wearing only a few of the outfits that were packed.  If I remember correctly, the bag was over 40 lbs! 

Now, I like to try to get everything to fit into a carry-on bag.  What I’m taking on this trip: 1 pair of sandals (I will wear my walking shoes on the plane,) 2 capris, 5 shirts, 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 pair of jammies, toiletries, laptop, iPod, camera and all the power chords.

Todd and I bought an inexpensive backpack a few years ago that we take on every trip.  I don’t like to carry my purse so we throw my wallet into the backpack with some snacks/drinks and go on our way.  This helps to save room, and keeps our hands free if we go out shopping or pick up brochures while traveling.  Also, this can be used to transport anything you may have purchased back home on the plane.

Food & Drink
To save money on eating out, we go to the grocery store the first night we are in a new town to pick up items for breakfast (if a continental is not provided) as well as snacks.  The snacks are for the hotel room and to take with us when out and about.  I cant tell you how many times an apple or a granola bar has curbed our appetite enough to wait another couple of hours until lunner*, which we usually eat around 2 or 3 on vacation so that we only have to purchase one meal a day. (Not to mention if you eat around 2 or 3, you still only pay lunch prices in many restaurants!)

Generally, we like to rent cabins or small houses that have a washer/dryer when we go away.  On this trip, we will be staying at a very nice hotel.  Instead of packing 9 pairs of socks and undergarments, I will be taking 4-5 pairs of each and washing them in the room.  We are taking our own laundry detergent and will hand-wash clothes in the bathroom sink to cut down on the amount we have to pack.

We bought these for $1 at Dollar Tree to put laundry detergent in

Public Transportation
I would have never considered this as an option in the past, but last year when we went to Miami Florida for a trip in early December, we used public transportation.  Let me tell you, we met some of the nicest people on the bus!

This year, while in a different part of Florida, we will be using public transportation to get to where we need to go.  For $16/person, we will be able to travel to the grocery stores, all of the Disney parks, flea markets, restaurants or wherever else we want to go for the entire week!

I don’t understand how the whole bus system works, but luckily Todd does!  Orlando’s public transportation website has an awesome feature that you can put in your starting address and your destination, and it will tell you what bus to take, what time the bus will be at the bus stop to pick you up, the length of time in transit and all of the important information!  This takes the guess work out of public transportation (thank goodness.)  And did I mention it will only cost $16/person for the entire week in bus fares?!? Cant beat it!

Free Activities
After I found the awesome public transportation website for Orlando, I decided to see what the city had to offer.  I Googled “Free Activities Orlando, FL” and instantly, a link with 40 free things to do in Orlando popped up.  The list includes a bonsai garden, butterfly garden, art gallery, historic Kissimmee, sculptures, flea markets, farmers markets, parks and recreation and the like!   Everything we need to stay busy and make the most of our trip.

Warning:  There will most likely be a lot of pictures to be posted on FaceBook while we are on vacation.  If you don’t already “like” Sparing-Change on FB, please do so now!  I would love to hear about how you save money on vacation.

How do you save money on vacation?

Lunner: Meal eaten between “normal” lunch and dinner time

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Recipe: Apple Cake

This recipe is one that I got from a dear friend of mine.  With apples in season, this cake is a no-brainer.  It is so easy to make yet so delicious.
Apple Cake

1 3/4 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup vegetable oil (or applesauce)
4 eggs
2 Cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
4-6 apples peeled & sliced

Mix sugar, oil and eggs.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.
Stir in apples. (I put so many apples that there is barely any batter, and it turns out great every time!)

Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 9 Ice Cream Lover's Gift

This week's gift idea I would love to be given to me.  I come from a long line of ice cream lovers, and this is such an adorable gift!  I found this on the Better Homes & Gardens, website.  Take a look to see how quick and easy this gift is.

Photo Credit

These are the directions (directly from the Better Homes & Garden's website):

Give the gift of an all-in-one sundae.  Ice cream fans will love new bowls with their favorite toppings tucked inside. Choose plastic bowls tall enough to hold a topping jar when placing one on top of the other. Include a spoon, tie it all up with a bow, and add a gift certificate to the recipient's favorite ice cream shop.

Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project. Be sure to check them out! Happy Crafting!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Recipe: Apple Crisp

I got this recipe last year from Feathers in Our Nest last year and I've made it at least 10 times!  Everyone seems to like it when I make it, so I thought I'd share the recipe.


4-6 apples
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp bakeing powder
2 Tbsp butter
1 egg


Preheat oven to 350.

Core/Peel 4-6 apples and spread out in an greased baking dish

Mix together sugar, flour and baking powder

Cut in the butter and add the beaten egg

Mix well

Spread over the apples

Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmet (optional)

Bake for 30-40 minutes
 It really is that simple!  And it tastes so good!!

This post is linked up with Mama Dani's Flutter By Blog Hop, the Barnyard Blog Hop and Homemaker By Choice's Week Long Blog Hop.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gasoline vs. Hybrid Vehicle

I absolutely adore my little car, Bianca She is 5 years old with 135,000+ miles on her and still going strong with no major repairs needed other than the normal oil changes, brakes, tires, air filters and spark plugs (done at my request at 100,000 miles.) 
Many people know that I really like my car because of the gas mileage, so they ask why I didn’t get a hybrid like the Toyota Prius because it gets better gas mileage than Bianca.

This is our reasoning:

MPG Highway
MPG City
Average Price/Gallon Gas

 As you can see, the Prius is twice the price of the Yaris (back in 2006.)  The majority of my miles are driven at a speed that would be considered highway miles (60+MPH.) Even though my car gets more than 38MPG highway miles, I am going to use what is listed on the manufacturer’s website for the sake of this post. 

You can see from the manufacturer’s websites that the Prius gets 10 MPG better gas mileage than the Yaris with highway driving.  However, lets compare operating costs* to see at what point it would make sense to buy a Prius vs. a Yaris.

Miles Driven/Year

Gas Consumption/Year:



Gas Used/Year:
(based on $3.50/gal)



5yr. OC (Operating Cost):

Vehicle $
Total OC




(Bianca's Favor)

10yr. OC:

Vehicle $
Total OC




(Bianca's Favor)

20yr OC:

Vehicle $
Total OC




(Bianca's Favor)

25yr OC:

Vehicle $
Total OC




(Bianca's Favor)
As you can see, it would take a little over 25 years in order to recoop the additional price to get 10 MPG more than my cute little fuel efficient vehicle.

Todd and I are currently trying to calculate the operating costs of owning a Hyundai Elantra vs. a Chevy Volt (part electric vehicle) for our next vehicle purchase in 5+ years or when Bianca will no longer run.  We have looked into electric vehicles in the past, but it is never in the electric vehicle’s best interest due to the limited range the electric battery gets.

I really hope I explained this well enough to make sense.
Do you ever compute the operating cost of your vehicle(s)?