Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Great Flood

Sorry I didn't get Tuesday's Tip or the other drugstore posts up this week, but one child has had the flu all week, and the night he came down with it, our pipes decided to freeze and our house got flooded. We are in the midst of having Service-master tear the house apart, and wait for State Farm to help us get it put back together again. New floors, walls, paint, furniture coming, but first so much to go through and throw away. I will post pics and my other articles when I can, as my laptop also got destroyed. My husband works from home now, so I only have access to the computer for a short time when he isn't working.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Know Your Options

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Fannie Mae. All opinions are 100% mine.

Since the start of the holiday season, I have personally known 18 people that have lost their jobs. Not to mention the dozens of others who have been out of work for months. While the news media claims that the economy is improving, I just don't see it. Some of these friends were employed with their companies for 15+ years, and had no plans of leaving the company of their own accord. Yet, the economy has had such a negative impact on their companies, that they were forced to make major cutbacks, and let go of some good, long-term, quality employees.

So many of these families were already living paycheck to paycheck, barely able to meet their basic financial obligations before their layoffs, that now they are in a desperate financial crisis. While cutting back on non-essentials, using coupons, and curbing spending are all necessary under these circumstances, the most important payment we make each month is our mortgage.

One of the first things someone who has lost their job needs to do, is to make a plan for handling their mortgage. You can visit Know Your Options by Fannie Mae. You don't want to get into a situation where you are facing foreclosure on top of everything else, if it is avoidable, so educate yourself early on. There are so many scams out there, and you are most vulnerable to them when you are in a crisis situation, and visiting KnowYourOptions.com will help you learn how to safely handle your mortgage during this difficult time.

I urge everyone to bookmark this site to pass on to friends or family members should they need it. While financial matters are a delicate issue, I'd rather be uncomfortable approaching a friend to offer help, than to see them lose their home to foreclosure because they were unaware of safe options they may have been eligible for.

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TABASCO® Original Red

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of TABASCO® Original Red. All opinions are 100% mine.

Nick is a huge fan of using TABASCO® Original Red on most everything he eats. From eggs in the morning for breakfast to the majority of items I cook for dinner in the evenings. One of his favorite things that I make, and the kids have grown to love it as well, is to brown some ground chuck, add some spices and TABASCO® Original Red then stir all of that into some Macaroni and Cheese. Those guys eat it until it's gone. Zero leftovers! At first I was afraid that the TABASCO® Original Red would make the food too hot for them, but it doesn't. They don't like the meal without it, and they all insist that it gives the food a better flavor. When I looked up the website, I found the following quote, which matched what my family says "TABASCO® Original Red is not about heat for heat’s sake. It’s about what heat does to the flavor of food. The simple combination of salt, red pepper, and vinegar are perfected in a 3-year aging process that produces a hot sauce with the uncanny ability to bring the most out of your food. Other hot sauces add their own specific flavor to food. TABASCO® Original Red simply enhances the flavor of food"

We just watched the NCAA Championship game on Monday, and the kids threw a fit that I didn't have any "Football" food prepared. However, it was just too cold! With all the snow and Artic Air, I had put on a beef stew in the crockpot, not even thinking about the football game at night. But, after the uproar, I am now planning what we will have for Superbowl Sunday next month. The Tabasco site has an excellent Game-Day Party Menu with tons of great ideas for "football" food, such as Pizza Perfected which sounds delicious. I am all for affordable food that I can make at home to fill up these bottomless tummies!

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bright Beginnings

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of PBM Products. All opinions are 100% mine.

When Aaron was just a baby and in daycare, we were on a mission to find the appropriate formula for his special needs. Breastfeeding wasn't enough for what he needed, and he was unable to tolerate certain formula types. We were fortunate to have a good pediatrician that gave us samples for some types, and I was able to find coupons for other types to help curb the cost because specialized formulas can be very expensive.

Fortunately for new parents today, you have the additional benefit of being able to purchase diapers and formula online as well, for even more savings! For example, many brands such as Bright Beginnings, you can buy on diapers.com at even more savings. Now some of you might be wondering how this brand compares to the "major" brands. One lesson I learned very early on from our first pediatrician is that the FDA regulates all infant formulas sold to make sure they are nutritionally equivalent, and that they all meet the same standards. By the time the third child was born, and I had all THREE children on formula at the same time, we were looking for all of the cost savings we could find!

Diapers.com also offers coupons right on the header of their site, such as 10% off all purchases, 1-2 day shipping, and free returns if you are not satisfied.

I also want to encourage you to "like" Bright Beginnings on Facebook to see what other parents are saying, and to take part in discussions as well!

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Tuesday's Tip

Last week, I touched on places to find coupons, so this week, we'll talk about how to store them. One of the first things you need to consider is how to organize your coupons in a way that works for you! There are dozens of methods out there, and don't be afraid to change it up, and don't feel obligated to use what works for others. Pick one that doesn't look too overwhelming, and start with that. As time goes on, you'll be able to tell what is and isn't working. Making changes to fit your unique shopping style will make using the coupons so much easier. Also, make sure it is portable. I personally use two check filing dividers, because I have found the box and album methods too bulky for me. I use one for food, and the other for general goods. The kind I selected (14 years ago!) are sturdy and have held up well, though the elastic band is getting worn on one:( Both fit in my purse, though recently I have started keeping them in my re-usable shopping bag so that I remember to take both coupons and my bag to the store with me. I keep the bag next to my purse, so I just grab it when I am going out the door, then I have it with me should I remember I need "just one thing" from the store, haha!

Here are a few of examples from Amazon, just to give you an idea:
1.  Hooks right onto the cart
2. Similar to what I use
3. More stylish

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tuesday's Tip

Towards the end of the year I started receiving emails and facebook messages from friends, family, and readers with questions about how to get started using coupons and saving money. It is a lot of information and can be overwhelming to people just getting started, so I decided to break it down into a weekly tip guide. Probably the most often question I get asked is "Where do you get so many coupons?". So, here is the breakdown list:

  • Sunday Paper: I have one subscription to the Sunday/Wednesday edition of my local paper. Sunday for the coupons and circulars, Wednesday to get the new grocery store ads. If I know the current week has exceptional coupons that I plan to use, I will go down the street to the convenience store to purchase additional copies. However, I only buy the amount I know I will use! (example: Target often has $10 gift card coupons with new prescriptions. Last month I had 5 scripts I needed filled, so I made sure I had 5 papers total. $50 in gift cards for $6 worth of Sunday papers. Profit of $44.)
  • Internet: I have a list on my sidebar of the sites I visit to print coupons. I first exhaust my supply of newspaper coupons, then supplement with internet coupons. Many companies offer exclusive coupons from their direct site, or their facebook page, so be sure to "like" the companies you purchase products from!
  • Supermarket Machines: Often products in the store will have machines, displays or tearpads located near them offering discounts on them. Other times products have coupons attached to them, just remember to pull them off before checking out! Sometimes these are good deals, other times not. My rule of thumb is to only take the coupon if it is something I planned to purchase anyway, or that I know I will use. I don't buy things just because I have a coupon.
  • Magazines: All You is probably the magazine with the most coupons in it. However, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, Family Circle, Parents, and Taste of Home (among others) regularly include at least a few coupons, often enough to pay for the subscription.
  • My mom: My mom saves her coupons, and after she clips what she needs, she brings me the leftovers when she visits. I have a few other friends with whom I pass coupons that I know I won't use, but they probably will, so I mail them. They reciprocate, and it works nicely.
  
I do want to point out that it is typically against coupon policy to sell coupons, so I do not purchase coupons from any source, nor do I "dumpster dive" as was shown on a recent show regarding couponing. It is important to know the coupon policy of stores you will be shopping in, and most have this information available on their websites. It is also very important to make sure you are using legitimate coupons, and using them as intended. When people use coupons in other ways, such as photocopies of internet coupons, it makes stores leery of accepting any printed coupons, and in the end they might stop accepting them at all.

Spiritual Fitness Checkup Book Tour and Giveaway


or anyone approaching
or encountering someone who is 50-Something!
50th Birthdays are a milestone for a variety of reasons. Often when someone hits this milestone, they are drawn to a time of reassessment. They ponder over the things they have done, where they have been, and the choices they have made. Then they begin to look forward towards what they want to do, where they want to go, and hope to make better choices for the next chapter in their lives. These thoughts are about all areas of life, but as one ages, often their spiritual choices begin to become more and more important to them. We all want to make sure that we are making proper choices for ourselves, but also setting an example for friends, loved ones, and others around us to help them make good choices in their own lives as well. 
 
Although I am not in my 50's, I do know several women who are, so I elected to participate in this tour to share this book with them. However, upon reading this book, I have to say that there are many principles in this book that I think we can all learn from and use, regardless of age or gender. At the first of the year, many people are making resolutions and looking for resource material to help them stay on track, and this book would fit that purpose. Currently priced under $9 on Amazon, this book is an affordable resource as well. Below I have listed the Book Summary and Giveaway information. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!
 
Publisher: Healthy Life Press
ISBN-10: 1453661182
ISBN-13: 978-1453661185
Released: July 25, 2010
Paperback: 64 pages
Retail: $8.95
Book Summary
Christian author and gerontologist Dr. Sharon V. King welcomed her 50th birthday asking these same questions. In the Introduction to her book, The Spiritual Fitness Checkup for the 50-Something Woman, she writes:
 
“The view from my 50th birthday was quite different from what I had anticipated. As a Christian, I was ready to start cataloging everything from the first 50 years of my life for which I wanted to thank God—and all the issues I genuinely needed to discuss with Him in considerable detail. But, as the cataloging progressed, unusual items surfaced—doubt, regret, loss, resentment, disappointment—feelings that were far less rosy than the pink icing on my birthday cake.”           
 
Realizing that thousands of other “50-something” women may have the same feelings about their official entry into midlife, Sharon set out to apply her knowledge of aging to her spiritual questions and help other women find their way through the midlife maze and, revive (or discover) the joys that come from a closer walk with God at this unique crossroads of life.
Organizing the book like a visit to the doctor’s office for a routine physical, Sharon presents 10 spiritual fitness “checkups” and exercises to help you take your own midlife “Spiritual Pulse Check.” You will learn how to:
  • Jettison unwanted spiritual baggage
  • View your midlife crisis from God’s perspective
  • Focus on forgiveness instead of anger
  • Conduct a spiritual lab test
  • Improve your spiritual stamina
  • Enhance your meditation time
  • Spiritualize your midlife self-image
These Spiritual Pulse Checks can be used by individuals or for group discussion points. It is Sharon’s hope that The Spiritual Fitness Checkup for the 50-Something Woman will help readers adopt the same attitude toward their spiritual health as they do their physical health, and strive to maintain a vibrant relationship with God.

Sharon V. King, PhD
Author Bio
Raised in an education-loving family, Dr. Sharon King came of age during the civil rights and women’s rights era of the 60s and 70s. She followed her family’s belief that education plus a deep commitment to God and service to others equals success. She earned a doctoral degree in sociology with a focus on religion and aging.
 
When Sharon crossed her own midlife threshold, she had an experience that prompted her to re-think what really mattered in life. To celebrate her 50th, she travelled to Washington, DC to research her grandfather’s genealogy at the Library of Congress and found herself in the middle of the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon. Rushing to leave the city and unable to take a flight back home to Atlanta, she drove her rental car 600 miles to get home. “I had plenty of time to think about life and just how quickly it can end,” she says. “That was when I took up journaling to do my own midlife review to see just where I stood with God.”
 
Dr. King has written three books, of which The Spiritual Fitness Checkup for the 50-Something Woman is the first to be published. Her two other books are currently under review by publishers. One is more autobiographical, titled Midlife Reflections from the 23rd Psalm. The second book is Meditations from the Spirituals for Today’s Working Woman.
 
An Atlanta resident, she works at a university coordinating international programs and sponsors a “Goats for Grandparents” charity that funds the purchase of goats for older women and their grandchildren in Kenya.
 
Sharon's love of writing is shared with other authors through her editorial service, King’s Ransom Writing and Editing Service and her blog " Women of Color Writing for Christ."
 
Author Interview—Getting to Know Sharon King

Your 50th birthday arrived the day after the 9/11 disaster, and resulted in a new way of thinking.
Please explain.
After the September 11th tragedy, I felt guilty celebrating a birthday as the rest of the world mourned the anniversary of this national disaster. Two family members also died on or near my birthday. I sought God’s help to understand these birthday tragedies. Soon, I saw my birthday as a time for thanksgiving. I realized that life and death come wrapped in the same package as gifts from God—both are surrounded by His love and mercy. I value life now as too precious to waste on the trivial things that clutter our day-to-day living. I fret less and celebrate more.
 
What’s so special about midlife as a time for a spiritual “checkup?”
Midlife is the best possible reminder that we’re not going to be around forever. We’re so consumed with the business of transitioning from youth (teens and 20s) to adulthood (30s), we don’t have time to slow down enough to ponder what it all means. We seek education, choose a career, find a mate, decide where to live, and raise our children. That’s fulltime work! We may forget to put God on our list of things to do. By midlife, we have more time to put on the brakes for a while to think more than do. God takes the initiative at this point to nudge us into deeper reflection about our relationship with Him, and He prepares us for a new stage of life.
 
There’s a ton of books for Christian women on the market. What makes yours unique?
When I compiled my thoughts to create this book, I considered the Christian women's books that appealed to me. I enjoyed books that were “light” as opposed to “heavy.” Books that helped relate Christian spirituality to contemporary living (with a touch of humor) appealed to me more than books that just “threw” the Bible at me. Another quality I enjoyed was brevity—easy to read yet loaded with spiritual insights to chew on. Finally, I enjoyed books that connected my spirituality with the seemingly mundane parts of my life, showing me that God didn’t wait until Sunday morning to show me how He fit into my life. I tried to incorporate those qualities into the Spiritual Fitness Checkup.
 
3 Steps to Aging Gracefully:
1. Enjoy the journey. Unfortunately, our youth-loving society has taught women to fear aging. Slowly but surely, the word is getting out that the second 50 years of life can be as fulfilling and possibly more exciting than the first.
 
2. Remain flexible. Even though our second 50 years may be exciting, that doesn’t mean they won’t be full of change. We can choose to manage changes creatively and positively or be victim to them. We hear the word “reinvent” a lot for women facing midlife years. It’s more than media hype; it’s a spiritual doctrine. Who knows more about “making all things new” than God?
 
3. Don’t go it alone. We all should seek social support as we move into later life, no matter our life status. That support may or may not come from our families. It may be in the form of a group or a single individual—face to face or across the internet. We gain perspective as we hear that others are traveling and have traveled this same journey. It’s essential we can avoid isolating ourselves, which can lead to depression. We can reach out to women in other cultures or with lifestyles very different from ours and learn just how universal this aging business really is. 
 
GIVEAWAY! 
Leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing
for the opportunity to win the special giveaway. I will be selecting one random reader to be entered on January 13, 2011. The drawing will be held on January 17, 2011, and if one of my readers is selected as the winner, I will notify them accordingly:
 
Win a perfect Christmas or New Year's gift for yourself or a 50-something woman relative or friend, with a free copy of the The Spiritual Fitness Checkup for the 50-Something Woman: Ten Steps Toward Midlife Spiritual Health. As a bonus, you also will receive services from the author's editing business, King's Ransom Writing and Editing Service, for up to fifty pages of double-spaced manuscript (book, articles, etc.). With this giveaway, you will receive more than proofreading. Sharon also offers writing assistance, tips, points out bad writing habits, etc. It's a writing analysis as well as editing. This has a value of up to $350. But wait, there's more! You also will receive a special discount editing rate of fifty cents per page (Some editors charge $5 to $10 per page!) if you sign a full manuscript-editing contract with King’s Ransom. Quite the giveaway!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Book Tour: A Million Ways to Die: The Only Way to Live

Rick James is such an amazing writer. He is very skilled and talented at putting things that we need to hear into words that we can understand and contemplate. Sometimes the messages he gives us are not easy to hear or comfortable to digest, but more often than not they do hit home. While so many people that I know have lost loved ones recently in the literal sense of death, we all experience the death and birth of situations and circumstances on a daily basis.


As Christians we talk often about resurrection, but what about our death and the many daily “deaths” that must come first? Through stories and biblical insights, Rick James reminds us that when Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him, He is describing a path of death, not a path to death.

As we learn to embrace the deaths of everyday existence, we lose our taste for lifeless religiosity. Our appetite for a thriving, vibrant life in Christ grows—and our own experience motivates others to live out their extraordinary missions on earth. As James so vividly illustrates, death is not an ending—it’s an invitation to more abundant life.


DEATH: OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME
©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. A Million Ways to Die by Rick James. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

While neither God nor Scripture ignores or downplays the pain of our suffering and trials, they are unwavering in presenting it to us as an opportunity to be embraced, not a threat from which to hide. A thoughtful examination of a passage in 2 Corinthians explains why: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Cor. 4:10–12).

Let me rephrase this passage with explanation, expansion, and commentary so you can see the concepts in another way:

I endure many hardships. But I think of my trials like “little deaths” because I see how God resurrects, or brings life out of, them. You, Corinthians, are the ones who benefit from this, so I don’t mind if God uses my life and faith as an engine to convert those deaths into life. In fact, once you realize that trials are fuel, or firewood, to be burned and transformed into life, you no longer run from them; you embrace them. This is why I rejoice in the severity of my trials, persevere in them, and embrace them by faith. I never think, “Oh, no … another trial.” I actually think, “Bring it on; it’s just more logs for the fire.”

It is no doubt human nature to avoid pain; it’s definitely my nature. I dare you to spring out of bed every morning like it were Christmas Day, anticipating what new deaths lie ahead and how God will transform them into life. It’s not a normal way of looking at life, but then again neither is returning from a torture session “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41).

If Mr. Thomas Kuhn were still alive, I believe he would call this a paradigm shift, a fundamentally different way of viewing life. In fact, when a perspective is so mind-altering and counterintuitive, we do not call it insight, but insanity. It’s not just a different way of thinking, it’s too different—odd different. Apart from faith, James’ sentiment, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2), would have to be seen as gibberish, as would the affections expressed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he said, “Can you sense that I have now a terrible longing for my own suffering?”

However, when you begin to view death as an opportunity for more and greater life, here and now, as well as in the age to come, it changes everything. It reorients us entirely.

In the past year I’ve had the opportunity to share the gospel with something like ten thousand college students, with several hundred of those coming to Christ. This outreach to universities was launched from a book I wrote titled Jesus Without Religion. I can’t prove this, but I don’t think the fruitfulness of the book is necessarily tied to the book itself.

The book took me six months to write, and the very day after completing it, my computer crashed. As it turned out, the “heads” on the hard drive were cracked, and nothing was salvageable. This, at least, is what the repairman told me; I know nothing of the heads, hands, or feet of a hard drive, nothing of basic hard drive anatomy at all. This would have been the perfect time to pull out the backup copy that I’d saved—if there had been a backup copy. But I had nothing; the book was gone, dead and buried, its remains sprinkled throughout the cyber universe—from pixels it came and to pixels it returned.

Yet this perspective of death presented in Scripture ultimately led me to a sense of anticipation. Here, in the teaching of Jesus and the disciples, death (the death of a hope, dream, goal, or six months worth of work) doesn’t mean dead—it means the opportunity for resurrection.

To give thanks and praise in such circumstances is one way in which death is transformed into life. The blackened logs of death consumed by faith’s flame are transformed into wisps of praise drift­ing upward. Death is a consumable fuel for life, and any experience of death can yield spiritual life if it is embraced by faith. Giving thanks and praise is simply one method of transference.

I do not remember if I gave thanks. I might have sworn. But after regaining my spiritual equilibrium, I did start on page one, with word one, and with considerable anticipation that God would use the resurrected rewrite like Lazarus, drawing many to Himself.

I can’t prove the connection in this particular case, but I know it’s there. I know it’s God’s resurrection power working through a corpse. (Though in my enthusiasm for the metaphor, I have just called my book a corpse, which can’t be good for future sales).

It certainly makes sense to me why an unbeliever would run from death. But for a believer, to run from death is, in reality, to run from life. This is why we embrace death and consider it pure joy in whatever form we encounter it. Death is no longer a dead end or detour to life; it’s a fuel stop. Death, like gasoline, is combusted and converted into mileage, enabling us to get to our destination—the light and life of the great city glowing over the horizon.

David C Cook/October 1, 2010/ISBN: 978-1-4347-0204-3/335 pages/trade paperback/$14.99

Book Tour: Uncertain Heart

I am such a huge fan of historical fiction. Being from the South, books of the Civil War era are especially fabulous. One thing that I have learned is that many problems and issues that we face in modern times, have also plagued people for centuries. In this story, Sarah faces a challenge that many modern women face. It is often very tempting to follow your dreams down the wrong path. Compromising your beliefs for a life that may appear to be easier, or more affluent can be tempting, but in reality we often find that the grass isn't greener anywhere else. There will always be challenges and difficulties no matter what path we take, the important thing is how we handle them, and what we learn. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and if you have time over your holiday break, I hope you will take a moment to read this treasure. Happy Thanksgiving!

***Note: My apologies for the late posting of this tour. I had this item scheduled to auto post on Nov 15, and did not realize that this, and a few other posts did not go live as intended. So, I will be changing the date on the posts to make sure that you are able to read them!***

Synopsis:
"It's just as easy to love a rich man as a poor man," the adage goes. But is the dream of fancy clothes, mansions, and fine dining worth compromising your morals and faith? Sarah McCabe must find her answer in Andrea Boeshaar's  Uncertain Heart, book two in the Seasons of Redemption series.
The Civil War is over. Sarah longs to escape the country and experience the finer things in life, so she leaves her home in Jericho Junction, Missouri, to become a governess in Milwaukee. Her rich and dashing employer, Brian Sinclair, shows an attraction to Sarah but doesn't share her beliefs.
Richard, however, does. Richard Navis is Mr. Sinclair's steward. He is kind, thoughtful, handsome...and harbors an unfortunate desire to leave his city job to be a farmer. Sarah has no interest in a rural farm life, even while her interest in Richard grows.

Does she sacrifice love to get the lifestyle she wants? Or will love be enough?


About the Author
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Andrea Boeshaar is a published author of both fiction and nonfiction, a public speaker, and a certified Christian life coach. She served on the Advisory Board of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and is one of the organization's cofounders. She has been married to her husband, Daniel, for over 30 years, and together they have three sons and four grandchildren.