I’m Not Thankful For The Things I Have..

Our Thanksgiving
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Thanksgiving this year was amazing! Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. Mainly, because it isn’t centered on gifts and spending money on a bunch of unnecessary things. It’s just about being with family and eating a bunch of good food.

I told you Monday, I would be sharing our Thanksgiving festivities today. Everything worked out so much better than I even thought it would. God is good!

And let me apologize now. First off, this post is going to be longer than usual. I’m really excited about everything that we did, so I want to share it all with you and not leave anything out. Also, I’m writing this post on very little sleep. Our youth group at church had a lock in for Thanksgiving and I volunteered Clint and I to chaperone. I’ve been up since 5:30 am Thursday morning. I did sleep for 2.5 hours this morning, but will be heading to work shortly. That should be a fun productive day at work. Last night, we went as a group to our local outlet mall and handed out hot cocoa and literature to the Black Friday shoppers. The Youth enjoyed it and the 200 cups went QUICK!

But let’s back up to Tuesday. Through our church, Brother Robby has started a thing where he picks up about 20 turkey from a local homeless mission. Church members then volunteer to cook them and Brother Robby delivers them back to the mission for the homeless to eat on Thanksgiving. We didn’t participate last year, but this year we volunteered to do 2. A co-worker of mine was very interested in helping, so she cooked one for me. That was the first turkey I have ever cooked and it was surprisingly really good!

Now for the thing that I, personally, was most excited about. Let me give you a little back-story though. About 5 years ago on a Thanksgiving night, Clint and I were driving home from our day full of Thanksgiving meals at both of our families and were stuffed. We passed a homeless man walking by the Interstate overpass on the Highway and my heart sank. I got emotional and told Clint that I just hated that here we were with full bellies and that man is struggling to carry all of his belongings on his back, in the cold, and most likely with an empty belly. This was before this early Black Friday stuff they do now, so there was barely anyone out. I told Clint that we should go back to his parents’ house and make that man a to-go plate of some of our leftovers and bring it to him. It sounded like a great idea, but then the negativity took over. We thought, well he would probably be gone by the time we got back, he may be dangerous, we were ready to get home, etc. Basically, we were just being selfish in a perfect opportunity to share with this man after it being laid on our hearts.

Since then, I have told Clint and his mother that I want to go out one holiday and feed the homeless in our area. We do have some missions in our city in the “downtown” area, but they are about 4-5 miles from the Interstate. My idea was to try and reach those people that may be new to the area and hadn’t made it down to those missions, those maybe too proud to go to a mission, those who may not be physically able to make it down there, etc. We are just so blessed for all that we have and I want to share that physically and emotionally with these people and let them know that they can come back up from where they are and that it is worth it to do so. I want them to know that even though they aren’t sitting around a table with family that loves them eating their meal, that we love them and God loves them.

So that has been my vision for the last 5 years or so and every year I’ve heard from different people that it’s too dangerous or would take too much from everyone else’s “holiday” to help. Last year we started talking more seriously about doing it with our Sunday School class at church, but I was pregnant at the time so we really didn’t push it. This year, though, it was happening! We got a late start planning things, but we asked anyone we could think of if they knew where camps may be or the best time of night or day to find the homeless. We also collected socks at church to give out, which our church members were very generous in. We did get some suggestions, but none of them ever really seemed to work out. So a few days ago, Brother Robby went driving around and walked into a homeless camp he found and talked with a guy about our plans. He told him we would be back on Thanksgiving, to round up as many people as he could.

On Wednesday, Michelle (my mother-in-law) and I took off work. My mom and little sister came and helped, and we cooked all day to prepare for Thanksgiving. We fried 4 turkeys (with Robby’s help), had 1 roasted turkey, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole and banana pudding. Brother Robby’s wife, Jennifer, prepared dressing and 2 pecan pies. We made enough to feed 50 people!

Thanksgiving Plates For Homeless Packed Up - Copy

Thanksgiving morning, Clint’s parents, my Dad & little sister, Brother Robby and two others from our Sunday School class, Brandy and Heather all put together 50 to-go plates and loaded up to feed those at that camp and whatever else we had left to whoever we could find. When we got to the camp, there were only 3 men to feed. They spread the word, but the mission around the corner was giving out to-go plates, also. Brother Robby spoke with those 3 men about the Gospel and prayed for them and we left them 6 boxes and socks.

Thanksgiving Homeless Camp

Then, we drove over to the mission and spoke with the people running it. They were giving out boxes to people who had pre-registered. We left them 16 boxes for anyone who may come in looking for a meal who had not known to pre-register. As we were taking the food out of the truck, we were sort of bombarded by those who were outside and gave out 20 boxes there. After that, we gave one man a ride and just started driving around looking for anyone walking the streets. We found one guy, Jason, and asked him if he’d eaten and he told us he was just worried about his kids eating. We gave him 3 plates and lots of socks. I’m not sure if he lived in a house or not, but he made the comment that he lived right through some woods in the alley. Jason was a believer, but was upset with God and sort of felt like he had been abandoned. Brother Robby talked with him for a long time and prayed with him.

Thanksgiving Passing Out To-Go Plates to Homeless Jason - Copy

Next, we loaded up and headed north to Walmart. You normally will see homeless hanging out around certain places in the Walmart parking lot and we checked all of those. We found one man sitting in front of a closed down Office Max with a broken leg and another sitting at a stop sign about 100 yards from away. We brought the man with the broken leg a plate and plenty of socks and a sweatshirt. He wasn’t aware of some of the cold shelters in Downtown, so we told him about them and just talked with him for a little while. I enjoyed talking with him, he was so appreciative and polite it just warmed your heart.

Passing Out Plates to Homeless on Thanksgiving Office Max

We walked across the street to the man at the stop sign next. We were coming up behind him and called out to him before we got too close. He set a little book down and took the food and thanked us for it. He noticed the New Testament on top of the box and told us he was excited about that and motioned to his little book, which was a devotional. We gave him some pants and socks and he got teary eyed thanking us and talking with us. He’s been homeless for 20 years. Before we left, he shook Dad and Robby’s hands, hugged me and thanked us again. As we were telling him bye, another man rode up on a bicycle and we offered him a plate. He got socks, a sweatshirt and a plate of food too.

Passing Out Plates to Homeless Around Walmart

Next, we drove down a road that backs up to railroad tracks where there used to be a bunch of homeless that you could see from the Highway. About a year ago, they cut back a bunch of the woods though and you don’t usually see them nearly as much. We drove down this road grown up with trees and at the railroad crossing found 2 men getting warm in the sun. They had a camp through a small opening in the woods, very well hidden from view. We talked with them for a little while and gave them food and socks. They said the others that stayed there were Downtown for the food the missions give out.

After that, we rode around behind stores looking down railroad tracks and walking under a bridge and couldn’t find anyone else. We only had a couple of boxes left so we started heading home. Just past the Interstate overpass, we saw a man walking so we did 2 U-turns to get back to him and pulled off on the shoulder. We gave him both boxes of food in a paper box with water and socks. I think he was walking back to the camp we had just come from down the tracks.

Thanksgiving Making To-Go Plates for Homeless - Copy

This was by far, the best Thanksgiving I have ever enjoyed. And you would probably expect me to say that it makes me so much more thankful for everything that I have, but it doesn’t. That’s all just stuff. What this experience made me thankful for is God and my salvation. God laid this on my heart years ago to do. He orchestrated every bit of it. Without Him nudging me, I don’t think I would have gotten the opportunity to meet the people I did yesterday and show them His love. Now, I can’t wait to get the chance to do it again!

What are you most thankful for this holiday season? Did you meditate on that throughout the day yesterday?

Month 7 of Our Journey to Become Debt Free: July 2013

Month 7 of Our Journey to Become Debt Free July 2013
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This is the 8th post in Our Journey to Become Debt Free. If you would like to read the others, you can find them here.

July was a crap month for us in Our Journey to Become Debt Free. We were extremely busy making decorations and the backdrop for our church’s VBS, so we weren’t as focused either. These are the kind of months when it’s extremely important to check your budget constantly. Clint and I use our YNAB apps on our phones that syncs with the YNAB on our computers ($6 discount here), because before you know it your way over budget stopping to get dinner on the way home from working at the church until midnight several nights in a row.

Here are our Monthly Totals:

Debt Payoff Progress through June 2013

 

And this is what we looked like at the beginning of July:

Debt Totals through June 2013

 

Credit Card Debt Free! You have to celebrate every triumph! Now that we got rid of the Altima, our debt total is less than $15,000! The Altima balance is showing as much less now, because that’s the amount we actually paid on it since we started Our Journey to Become Debt Free until we sold it in June.

Somehow, we didn’t go over budget in our Eating Out budget category in July, though. Instead we went over budget in our Grocery budget by $249.31. Can you say – Ouch!? We have months like this every so often though so maybe it’s just running out of paper and toiletries items that last for months. Maybe I should make another budget line item for those things. Hmm..

July was the first month of our new lowered mortgage payment, so that was $244 extra dollars in our pockets. All of which went to my new car tag, use tax since we bought the car out of state, and Clint’s car tag. We also made our quarterly car insurance payment in July, which is budgeted for throughout the year.

We did go a little crazy in July as far as spending on other things though. We bought a Roku and a new wireless router and that came out of our Snowball money. Oops! We’re human.

We did an extra $350, but Clint and I both had some dental work coming up at the beginning of August so I rolled it into next month so we could cover that.

Since we bought the CR-V, our plan was to get it paid off next, since it’s the next lowest amount and has the least amount of value. We didn’t have any extra for that this month though so we just made the 2 regular payments on the CR-V and Civic totaling $412.

We didn’t have any extra money to make a Snowball payment this month. That’s life, we tried not to be discouraged, and moved along into August hoping to do better. Come back next Wednesday and see how we did!

Do you ever feel a little defeated by your budget? What do you do to keep yourself motivated to not spend those pennies?

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Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese: Thanksgiving Side

Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese for Thanksgiving
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Happy Monday! I hope you all had a great weekend! We’ve had a busy weekend preparing for all of our Thanksgiving week festivities. Yes, Thanksgiving week. We will be going non-stop, with very little sleep, from Wednesday through Friday. I may not get this Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese on Thanksgiving, so I’m bring it to work for our little Thanksgiving Potluck so I get to enjoy it.

By the way, I’m not being secretive about what we’re doing for Thanksgiving or anything. I will probably write a post on everything we did Friday or Monday of next week. I’m really excited about our plans!

I changed things up with my usual recipe this time because it’s usually good, but I knew it could be better. I used a mixture of several different kinds of cheese because that’s what I had on hand and it is perfect. I used Kraft’s Triple Cheddar (1/2 cup), Italian Five Cheese (1/2 cup), and Sharp Cheddar (1 cup). If you aren’t a fan of Sharp Cheddar, just replace it with Mild.

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What’s your favorite comfort food? Is Baked Mac and Cheese on your Thanksgiving Menu? What is your family doing for Thanksgiving this year?

My Big News: Aqua Anchor Designs

Aqua Anchor Designs Etsy Store
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I told you on Monday that I would have a huge announcement today: I opened an Etsy shop! I am so excited about it and I am hoping everyone else falls in love with my items like I have. For now, I have Coffee Filter Wreaths and Fabric Button Earrings.

Merry Plaque White

I’ve been debating a way to make some extra income and people have recommended Scentsy or other direct sales. But honestly, I knew that I wouldn’t have enough motivation to sell things that I wouldn’t normally buy. I started brainstorming and decided an Etsy shop was the way to go for me. Partly because I love making things. But I also love my Coffee Filter Wreaths! And I’ve been wearing a different pair of my Fabric Button Earrings everyday and I normally barely wear jewelry. They’re so fun!

Aqua Greek Keys French Script

So Aqua Anchor Designs came to life:

Store Screen Shot

Can you tell I’m excited? I’m even really excited about the sturdy boxes I’m making for the wreaths that can serve as storage and the pillow box gift boxes for the earrings!

Pillow Envelope

I hope you’ll check out Aqua Anchor Designs and stock up on a Christmas wreath or two, and Fabric Button Earrings for Stocking Stuffers or Christmas gifts for all your friends!

Month 6 of Our Debt Free Series: June 2013

Month 6 of Our Journey to Become Debt Free
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This is the seventh post of Our Journey to Become Debt Free. If you would like to read the others to catch up, please check them out!

Ok, I warned you that June was a crazy month in Our Journey to Become Debt Free in May’s post. There is a method to my madness though, so don’t stop reading too early on.

Here is our debt free progress through May:

Debt Payoff Progress through May 2013 We made it below $20,000! Woohoo!

But $20,000 is still a lot of debt…

And here are our totals starting June:

Debt Totals through May 2013

 (By the way, I made a mistake on this for last’s month’s post. But the picture is corrected now. Sorry)

In June, our groceries budget crept up a little at $461.24.

The large purchases we made were a new (to us) refrigerator and a freezer. I had been looking for a stand up freezer for months on Craigslist and finally someone put up a Commercial Stand Up Freezer and a Commercial Refrigerator. They were only asking $600 for both of them! I jumped on the deal. Being a Commercial Refrigerator, it has no freezer. I thought it would be strange to not have a freezer in the Kitchen, since we keep the Freezer in the Sunroom, but it doesn’t bother me a bit. I love having all the extra space in the Refrigerator too. This is the fridge from my Chalkboard Fridge post :

DiY Chalkboard Refrigerator Finished

 

We sold the small chest freezer we had for $75 and our Refrigerator/Freezer for $150. So we came out to $375 for a Stand Up Freezer and a new Refrigerator. Not Bad!

I told you we got two new loans in June. New loan number 1: we refinanced our mortgage. We originally bought our house back in 2008 before things really collapsed so our interest rate was higher than market rates. We refinanced with our current mortgage company through a streamline program with the USDA. We didn’t have to put any money down but we had to go back out to 30 years. The refinance lowered our interest rate 3 points and knocked $250 off of our monthly payment. We think it was worth it!

“If you want something you’ve never had, you’ll have to do something you’ve never done.” Dave Ramsey

Remember that quote when I tell you this.. We sold our 2009 Altima and bought a 1999 Honda CR-V. The 2009 Altima had a loan balance of $7,793.66. I sold it for NADA value at $10,800 so I had about $3,000 cash in my hand. Then, we got a small personal loan at $3,000. We know, Dave Ramsey wouldn’t be proud. But we took our $6,000 and bought me a 1999 Honda CR-V. The vehicle was around $5,000 so I used some of the money to replace the stereo in the CR-V and have the windows re-tinted. For the sake of our debt, I went from a 2009 to a 1999 and you know what, I love my new (to us) car!

2009 Altima to 1999 CR-V

Finally, we used a $49.45 rewards point credit and added $891.18 to it to pay off our Chase!  June was a fun month. I enjoy buying cars, I know I have a sickness. The CR-V is the 7th car I’ve bought in the past 9 years. But I’m done! I love my CR-V and plan to keep it until it won’t take me where I need to go, or until I can pay cash for something else, whichever comes first. 🙂

I hope you’re enjoying reading this series, as much as I’m enjoying writing it. Paying down our debt is so exciting to us and I am loving reliving it. It’s been great to be able to refer back to YNAB ($6 discount here) and see exactly what happened every month to refresh my memory.

Do you think we’re crazy yet? I’m not sure many people would go from a 2009 car with all the gadgets to a 1999 when they can “afford” to finance the 2009, just for the sake of becoming debt free. Would you?

Living Room Design Inspiration

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Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a great weekend. I’ve been going non-stop lately! I’ve been dreaming a lot about my Living Room Design though and am definitely ready to get things moving along in there. I’m so tired of our black furniture that collects every speck of dust. I really like the Living Room Design Inspiration board I created, but wanted some opinions.

First off, here is our current wall color:

And this is very similar in color and and shape to our living room set:

We don’t want to repaint our walls because we have cathedral ceilings and the couches were a really good Craigslist find, so we’re working with what we have. I plan to make (or buy) some pillows for the couches. Hopefully like these, maybe a little more muted in color though:

 

The very first thing I plan to do is turn this into that:

I also already have a little yellow bird like this and a lamp, which I plan to paint white like Lisa from Lewisville Love did.

The very first time I saw these curtains over at The Nester’s, I fell in love. Christina at The Frugal Homemaker has a great tutorial on painting stripes onto curtains, which I plan to use very soon. 😉

The pallet coffee table is also a dream of mine. I love the dark stained look. I may or may not paint the sides white though, I haven’t decided yet and will probably have a little while longer to think about it. Ha!

And last but not least, I dream of a gallery wall. They’re so pretty! I love the way Chelsea from two twenty one color coordinated hers. I’m pretty sure I’ve decided to do color, as opposed to black and white. But I can’t decide if I want mattes or not. It does seem to make the photos pop out of the white. Maybe my white frames will do that though?And Maybe one day, I’ll devote a few of the frames to Lucas’ artwork and change them out for a new piece every now and then. I’ve been picking up lots of frames here and there, garage saling and thrifting. I’ve also picked up a few more things to be worked into it to. I think it’s going to look amazing when I get around to it.

I don’t really know what my “decorating style” is per se. I just love the modern and geometric shapes, bright colors and white, but I also love the distressed aqua buffet that is sort of shabby shic and the rustic look of the coffee table. Modern Rustic Shabby Chic, anyone?

Living Room Design Ideas

So what do y’all think? Do I have any decorating sense? I’d love to hear your suggestions for my living room design!

 

I hope you’ll be back Wednesday to find out about the 2 new loans we got in June, a big No-No for Dave Ramsey followers and I hope to have a huge announcement for you Friday!
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Stocking the Freezer: Crockpot Shredded Chicken

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I love having a well stocked freezer. Since I’m not the type of person who is going to stop at the grocery store every night to pick something up for dinner, stocking the freezer makes my life so much simpler. Well, that and meal planning but that’s another post for another day. Besides, like I said in my Mom Guilt post, it lets me have more time to spend with Lucas.

In my opinion, shredded chicken and ground beef are two of the best things to have in the freezer. A pasta dish or casserole can be whipped up in a matter of minutes if you have either of those on hand.

Here is how I did mine in the crockpot. The 10 lbs of chicken leg quarters fit perfectly in my large crockpot. A printable version of the recipe is at the bottom of this post. I also made Chicken Broth with the leftover juice in the crockpot, I’ll post that recipe next within the next few weeks.

You can use any cut of chicken you want for this. I’m too cheap to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, and they end up a little on the dry side anyway so I opted for something with bones to keep the moisture. Chicken leg quarters were on sale for $0.59/lb so I got 10 lbs of those. In hindsight, I would prefer not to use dark meat, so I’ll probably stick to Split Chicken Breasts with bones from now on, just a personal preference though. You could also just use a whole chicken which I’ve done before, but this was so much easier to pick apart when it was done.

Anyhow, here’s my chicken stuffed in the crockpot:

Crockpot Freezer Shredded Chicken

I know, these pictures won’t be very glamorous, but it’s chicken people!

By the way, I removed the skin from each quarter before I put them in the crockpot. I could’ve added some Mexican spices/herbs or Italian, but I wanted to be able to use the meat in whatever so I just did some pepper, a little garlic powder, and about 2 cups of liquid (water or chicken broth). Cook that on low for 8 hours.

When the chicken was finished, I turned it off and let them sit, to cool down a little, to make pulling the meat off easier on my fingers. I normally do whole chickens, so I was so surprised at how much easier these were to pick the meat off.

Crockpot Freezer Shredded Chicken Pick Apart

I set up a little station with my cutting board to do the work and two bowls: one bowl for meat, and the other for bones and such.

Crockpot Freezer Shredded Chicken Bowls

That’s how much I got from 10 lbs of leg quarters. Do not throw your bones away or dump out the crockpot yet, though.. you’ll use those to make your broth. I like my meat a little more broken up than pictured, so I put it in the food processor. I’ve heard you can use a stand up mixer with the bread attachment, but I don’t have one so I can’t give you my experience.

Crockpot Freezer Shredded Chicken Food Processor

Once that was finished, I packaged them up into 2 cup bags and got 4 bags total.

Crockpot Freezer Shredded Chicken Bagged

That’s it! Just throw them in the freezer and pull them out to defrost for a few hours or in the microwave when you’re ready to use them.

Do you keep your freezer stocked? Do you freeze any of your meat pre-cooked or only raw? Do you have any other tips to share?

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