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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

FAITH: Contentment

Philippians 4:11-13

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

FINANCES: Home Warranty

On Sunday we noticed that the inside part of our air conditioner unit was vibrating really loud. Still cooling well, but vibrating so much that I could feel it on the other side of the house. My family thinks I'm really strange but I really can feel certain vibrations like cars pulling in front of our house or into the driveway or garage. They hum Twilight Zone music when I come out of the shower and tell them someone has arrived. :)

Back to the A/C. I contacted American Home Shield, our home warranty company via their online form. They called on Monday morning and someone came today, Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. The blower wheel inside the air handler unit of our A/C needs to be replaced--total cost to us--$60, the service call fee.

We have had this home warranty ever since we purchased our home in 1998. Our realtor, a personal friend, recommended it to us since the house was older, built in 1971. It's not a cheap policy--$450 per year--but it includes all the expensive parts of our home such as the air conditioning system, water heater, ductwork, pool pump, electrical system, plumbing, ceiling fans, refrigerator. We have 12 covered items/systems. Since we have had it for so long we are grandfathered in for some of these covered items that may not be available now. We have not regretted paying this each year because about once every year we have a large repair that needs to be done that is covered. We had a plumbing leak that cost $1,000 to repair that we paid $35 (S/C used to be just $35); $600 water heater replaced; $2,500 outside A/C unit replaced; $150 shower faucets and spray replaced; $600 pool pump replaced last year [I had JUST upgraded our policy to include the pool pump system], our oven ($500+ retail) was replaced name a few.

For this most recent repair...

  • Cost of the new part:   $150
  • Cleaning cost of A/C:   $200
  • Labor cost:  $150
  • TOTAL:  $500 (we paid $60 service charge call)

I highly recommend home warranties to anyone buying an older home especially, but new homes can have issues after the first year as well. Unless you or someone in your household knows how to do major repairs well, this is well worth the money spent.

If you're looking for a good maintenance service, we think ours is the best.  We hire them regularly for things that are not covered by our warranty for our home and our rental house.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday: Last-Minute Company for Dinner

Hebrews 13:2
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

After today's chores...I cleaned out a wall of garage bins this husband and sons had an outdoor project to work on...we all had lunch and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. Half of the family took long naps. I was enjoying reading and watching reruns of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (I loved that old program) when my husband got a phone call at 4:00 p.m.---last-minute company is coming for dinner.

Having company and showing hospitality, even the last-minute kind, does not have to cause major stress, especially if you maintain your home regularly. The house was already clean. There was food in the frig and staples on hand. I quickly wiped the bathrooms and dusted a little. We're ready!

We're having a quick, simple supper but enjoying some time with old friends. What's on the menu?
  • Loaded baked potatoes (w. cheese, broccoli, sliced fajita beef, onions, sour cream), requested by my son for dinner tonight
  • Salad (they're bringing)
  • Fresh oatmeal cookies (coming out of the oven now)
  • Tomatoes & mozzarella cheese
  • Iced tea
Maintain your home a little each day and enjoy having friends over to visit, rather than having a simple social time turn into a nightmare.

Friday, September 25, 2009

FINANCES: What To Sell On eBay

Proverbs 31:14

She is like merchant ships...

Every now and then I do another article on eBay. This one may give you some ideas of what to sell. As I have mentioned before, the year I turned 50 I took the entire summer and read and practiced selling on eBay. By the time school began again, I was on a roll and had a routine of doing everything needed. Learning by doing is the best way to get the hang of eBay selling.

Here are some of my sales over the last month:
  • Starbucks City Mug, New York Holiday 2006, original price $1.00 (thrift store); SOLD $49.00
  • My Utmost for His Highest book, 1935; orig. price 50 cents (bookstore); SOLD $20.00
  • Disney World Grand Floridian Souvenir Room Key; orig. FREE (yard sale); SOLD $11.59
  • Disney 1st Visit Badge; orig. price FREE (theme park); SOLD $4.99
  • 8 Wm. Rogers Silver Teaspoons & 8 Forks; orig. price $4.00 (thrift store, huge bag of this pattern was $10); SOLD $41.49
  • Apologia Physical Science Book Bundle; orig. price $30 (school book sale, we used it one year, sold it the next); SOLD $50.00
  • Wilson US Open Duffle Bag; orig. price $2.00 (yard sale); SOLD $20.00
  • Military Insignia; orig. price $2.50 (I bought a Ziplock bag full of these at a yard sale); SOLD 4 for $21.49
  • High School Graduation Robe (used by my son 3 years ago); orig. price $15.00; SOLD $15.00
  • Izod Alligator Wastebasket; orig. price $2.00 (thrift store); SOLD $15.00
I tend to sell things that I like and know something about--china, collectibles and books. Occasionally I will sell electronics but since I don't know much about those things, I generally limit those listings. I don't sell clothing from yard sales but I do sell our own like new clothing that I know is clean and stain-free. I'll sell just about anything that I find that is an excellent bargain though. I shop at thrift stores, yard sales and rummage sales for most of my inventory and am always cleaning out closets and drawers, listing some of those items as well. I do draw the line at selling items that Christians should not be involved in. For example, I know that racy pulp fiction and adult "toys" sell but I do not list any of these things.

After one year of selling just auction style, I re-opened my eBay store (I had had one for one Christmas season a few years ago) which costs $15.95 per month with each listing costing only 3 cents per month. Stores are economical IF you have lots of things to sell and really want to have a part-time business. I am at that stage now that my younger son is in high school and does more independent work. One advantage of a business is that you can write-off many housing expenses on your tax return. You can't do that if you only sell occasionally, or as a hobby. If you are only selling a few items, the weekly auction price of 35 cents per listing is probably better for you. A recap of eBay's auction fee structure is here. A recap of store fees is at this link.

Try it and see if this would be a fun part-time business for you. Our whole family gets involved. My husband loves to go to yard sales with me on Saturday mornings and it's an easy way for kids to earn money by reselling their things they have outgrown or no longer use as well. It's a great way to earn extra money. I've saving for Christmas shopping now.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

FAMILY & FRIENDS: Hospitality / Baking Bread

Romans 12:10-13
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Home cooking. Just those words can make anyone smile. I know my family loves to smell good things coming from the kitchen. I'm an average cook, but am always attempting to learn something new to make. This past weekend a friend picked up a bread machine for me at a yard sale. She bakes bread every day and knows what brands are the best. (They all look the same to me.) The only criteria for me: <$15. She got it for $10. :)

I made my first loaf yesterday and have another baking as I type this to send home with my older son when he comes for dinner tonight. It only took about 15 minutes to put all the ingredients in--milk, water, olive oil, honey, flour, salt and instant yeast. Then you just push a button and voila! 2 hours 50 minutes later, a perfect loaf. Everyone was delighted last night to have fresh-baked bread with their dinner. This machine has about 12 settings for other bread-type things to make as well, or just a batch of dough for pretzels, rolls, etc.

I'm already planning my Christmas gifts this year for the neighbors. When someone has a baby or is sick, a loaf of fresh bread will be a nice addition to the meal I drop off. It is also a treat for dinner guests, both single and married. Thank you, Lord, for this little electric "maidservant" to help me show hospitality.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

FAITH: When You _______, I Will Be With You

Isaiah 43:1-4
...“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
For I am the LORD your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior...
Since you are precious in My sight,
Since you are honored and I love you...

Some days the events on the news are just unbelievable. One that is occurring on Friday, September 25, is the Muslim Prayer Gathering on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. I'm not really opposed to them gathering, but the fact that President Obama endorsed Muslims to gather and pray during the Islamic fasting time of Ramadan AND NOT ENDORSING any prayer gatherings for the National Day of Prayer which was in May certainly shows his preferences.

The times in our beloved nation are getting darker in segments by the day it seems, especially in the Christian and economic realms. The verse above is comforting when we go through hard times, persecution and/or suffering. In many ways, we certainly deserve them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

FINANCES: Walgreens

Proverbs 31:18
She senses that her gain is good; her lamp does not go out at night.

Most of this blog comes from everyday life. I don't really sit down and plan weeks ahead what will be on here but rather write from typical day-to-day events we experience.

Do you have a Walgreens near you? If so, don't throw away the insert that comes in Sunday's newspaper with their sales and coupons. Some of their food items and toiletries are priced much lower than you can find them at the grocery store, especially if you use the store coupon, register rewards and/or manufacturer's coupons. I belong to The Grocery Game which shows you exactly how low (from a historical standpoint) the prices are, but if you shop for the same things often, you should be able to recognize a good bargain when you see it.

This is another store that is very convenient to our home. I have gotten in the habit of always making a list and sticking to the list items only. It's usually between 3-10 items that we normally use. I picked up a few things there yesterday:
  • 4 cans of Mandarin Oranges, reg. $1.29; Walgreens coupon 2/$1.00; saved $3.16
  • 1 Sally Hansen Nail Polish, reg. $4.99; sale $2.99; manuf. coupon $1.00; saved $3.00
  • 1 large Skippy Peanut Butter, reg. $3.79; sale $1.79; 60 cents; saved $2.60
  • 2 large Quaker Oats, reg. $3.19 each; Walgreens coupon 2/1; saved $3.19

TOTAL VALUE $20.32; PAID $8.37; SAVED $11.95

Monday, September 21, 2009

FAMILY & FRIENDS: Love Between Brothers

Psalm 133: 1
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!

My older son (age 20) did something today that absolutely warmed my heart. He invited his younger brother (almost 15) to spend the day with him sometime this week. As you know, our older one moved out of our home to share a house with some college friends closer to school on August 1. The adjustment has been the hardest for me, but I think our younger son misses him as well. Although we see him every other week or so and talk or email even more often, it is not the same as him living with us and seeing him every day. I was just delighted when he invited his younger brother to spend some time with just him.

How did this happen? Why do they have a good relationship? There is a 5-year age gap between them, so there never has been what I would call sibling rivalry. The older one has always looked after and protected the younger one and I have always encouraged him to do so. They shared a bedroom when they were very young for 3 1/2 years. After that they have had their own bedrooms next door to each other. Homeschooling has helped tremendously since we would all be home together from the time my older son was in the 5th grade. They did field trips together, had many friends in common through our church and neighbors, ate almost all their meals together, played together and have enjoyed many of the same interests. We have never allowed them to roughhouse with each other as I have seen in other families. It's shocking for me to see brothers beat the tar out of each other and I don't think it's helpful to their relationship or with the rest of their families.

It has always been a "mission" for me for them to be at least as close as my brother and I are even to this day and we're in our 50's. I have specifically prayed for them to be good friends as well as brothers and also to love each other well. Parents usually die before their children and I have tried to instill in them that one day when they are older, they will probably be each other's best friend and thankful that they have each other, regardless of their own families. This is a legacy that I hope they instill in their own children. For now, I will just rejoice in their relationship. :) :) (Photo above is when they were 9 and 4 years old.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

FAITH: Having Children

Reflecting on the baby shower I hosted on Saturday... and thankful I have been blessed with two children. For those of you who long to have children and are still single, I was 31 when I married, 33 when I had our first son, 39 when I gave birth to our second one. In His time...

Psalm 127:3-5

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

Friday, September 18, 2009

FINANCES: Free Birthday Fun

Psalm 118:24
This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Since I was talking about birthday gifts earlier in the week, if you're looking for someplace to go for your birthday, here are a few suggestions in the Orlando area. Be sure to call ahead to make sure that the location is still participating in these offers.
Check out other options at this link and have fun on your birthday!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

FAMILY & FRIENDS: What's For Dinner?

Proverbs 31:15
She rises also while it is still night and gives food to her household and portions to her maidens.

I'm still waiting on the "maidens" part. :)

What's for dinner tonight? Don't we all tremble at those words? My kitchen goal this year is, for the most part, to plan a week's worth of menus each Sunday or Monday and grocery shop / stock up on Tuesday. Seven days worth of main courses is the hard part; side dishes are easy. I keep each evening's dinner on my computer calendar and can easily check that I'm not repeating too often. Here are three of my favorite cooking websites that are extremely helpful when I don't know what to prepare for dinner. They even have a feature that lets me enter what ingredients I have on hand and it then lists what you can make with them. Absolutely amazing!
  1. All
  2. Betty Crocker
  3. Taste of Home
What are my menus for this week?
  • Sunday / Stir-fry chicken, vegetables and rice
  • Monday / Lasagna, salad, watermelon
  • Tuesday / Crockpot pork roast, carrots, mushrooms, mashed potatoes
  • Wednesday / BBQ sandwiches (made from roast), avocados, fruit
  • Thursday / Snacks (everyone's out tonight)
  • Friday / Homemade Beef & Veggies Pot Pie
  • Saturday / Chicken Divan (chicken, broccoli, curry, cheese casserole)
Save yourself some stress at the 5:00 p.m. panic hour. Plan ahead, shop ahead and settle down while preparing your family a nice home-cooked meal. They love it. As long as you're in the kitchen, make a little extra for the freezer or to take a meal to someone who needs one.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

FAITH: Getting a Good Night's Sleep

Psalm 121:2-8
My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.

I know so many people who have difficulty sleeping. My husband is one of them. He hears absolutely every sound there is to hear while I sleep through the night once my head hits the pillow. I have even slept through the space shuttle flying over and shaking the windows in the house. I am so thankful that I am able to get the rest I need. I think I would be physically sick if I did not so I empathize with those who don't sleep well.

Nightly routines can help you sleep. I usually go to bed by 11 p.m. since I'm up at 6 or 6:30 a.m. each day. About 9 or 10 p.m. I read for awhile or work a Sudoku or crossword puzzle and have a hot drink, either tea or coffee, sometimes a light snack. I've conditioned myself that this is my bedtime ritual so that when I lie down to sleep, it comes quickly.

Lots of things keep us awake. Sometimes it can be a physical or medical issue, in which case, be certain to see a doctor. Several of our men friends have sleep apnea yet with the aid of a breathing mask, generally sleep well and feel much better now. If it is anxiety that keeps you awake, as it is with many, ponder and trust in the verses above. I DVRed one of the 9/11 History Channel specials on Friday night and watched it over the weekend, reliving that dreadful day in our country. If it were not for my trust in the Lord for His protection and watchcare over me and my family during those shocking weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, I would not have been able to sleep, but I remember that I did. Parents tend to worry when a child is out late or when an older one moves out of the home. It's good to know that Someone is awake ALL night long watching and protecting those He loves, who trust in Him alone for their salvation. Rest easy. He is watching over each of His children and loves ours even more than we do.

UPDATE 7.31.12:
Some new suggestions for improving sleep are drinking unsweetened cherry juice and taking a teaspoon of blackstrap molasses before going to bed.
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