Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Real Stories from Real People

GUEST POST by Ashlie Hogan

“Honey, I’ve been laid off from my job…” are words that you never want to hear your husband say, particularly when you have two growing boys, and another baby on the way. It doesn’t matter how many times you have said you know that the Lord will not give you more than you can handle, in THAT moment you begin to doubt that which you knew to the core of your being. You begin to experience the emotions of anger, sadness, confusion and doubt all within a few short minutes… all without wanting to make your husband feel bad, because you know it is not his fault. That is where I was one late night in September of 2009, and it was an uncomfortable spot to be… but through that God showed me how his hand of providence and provision stretches out to his children even when they can’t see it at the time.

You see months earlier my husband and I had began talking about different ways that we could try to cut monthly bills, save on power and electricity and most of all cut down on our grocery budget. Now don’t get me wrong our family had always tried to live frugally, buy what was on sale, cook more and eat out less but we still felt that the $150 I was spending on groceries every two weeks was too much. So began my quest to cut our grocery bill but still be able to feed our family healthy foods that tasted good and to eat organic whenever it was possible. Pretty soon I began buying a newspaper on Sunday and clipping coupons, but I still shopped at only one grocery store that I had always shopped at and was continually disappointed at the money I was saving. It was then that my friend Oxana, posted on facebook how she had gotten a shopping cart of groceries for a ¼ of what I would have paid for it at the time and I just had to find out how she had done it. I asked her some questions like “Where do you get your coupons, where do you shop, and how do you save that much money?” She kindly messaged me back giving me some pointers, along with a list of a few wonderful websites that I could check out… and check them out I did. At first I will admit visiting one of these websites was like trying to read Swahili without having a clue of where to begin… there were tons of codes like SS,RP, P&G and dates every where… but with a lot of time and a little bit of determination and patience things began to make more sense.

It wasn’t very long until I was buying at least three newspapers each week, printing coupons off-line, and spending at least an hour on Fridays planning out the two to three grocery stores I wanted to shop at over the weekend, along with making lists of the coupons I would need and how many of each item I would need to buy to use the coupons I had. At first my husband was skeptical, particularly on my first shopping trip when he came along and I bought over 4 boxes of cereal and he just kept saying… “But Ashlie we don’t use that much cereal in two weeks…”, but I calmly asked him to wait and see until we checked out. Much to my surprise and to his… after the cashier had wrung up all our items and taken off the stack of coupons I came armed with to the store, we had only spent $110 to feed our family of four for two weeks…. And I had saved over 50%... I was hooked!!!

In the coming weeks and months I continued to read my favorite websites, clip my coupons and plan my shopping trips and to my surprise each week my grocery bill got lower and lower, we were soon feeding our family for almost half of what we used to… and that was $75 that we could put into savings, use to buy something we needed, or better yet give to people who needed it. Now fast forward to September of 2009 when my husband has been laid off… that $75 every two weeks will begin to mean even more.

To be continued….

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My time with mama

I am having a fantastic time with my mama! It would be absolutely amazing to have her around at all times!!!
                                                 (mama with Daniel after lunch)
She arrives with no problems on Saturday around midnight. I was anxiously waiting for her to walk through the gates, but was shocked when she called me and told me that she is waiting for me at a baggage claim. Quickly I rushed to the conveyer only to find a big crowd of people with no mama in sight. I asked the airport worker if there were any other places that passengers can pick up their bags and was pointed to the other side of the airport. For the next 20 minutes I lost 10 lbs by running from one side of the airport to another and still no sight of mama. My heart started to beat fast and for a moment I thought that she may have arrived to the wrong airport. Thankfully that was not the case and after asking another airport worker, I found out that there was a baggage claim on the first floor where indeed I found my mama.

                                                         (mama and bacon)

We were exhausted when we arrived home at 3:30am. The first thing my mama asked for was bacon. While she ate 6 pieces of bacon, I indulged in the world’s greatest cake. Ever since I was a little girl, my mama would always buy this cake for my Birthday and I haven’t found anything in the US that resembles the taste of this wonderfully delicious cake. During customs clearance her bag was opened and looked through and thankfully honey, flour, dried fish (I’ll explain about this one later) and cake was all in place.

                         (eating the best cake in the world at 3:30 you can tell, i was tired)

After we ate a little, we went to bed. I was so unbelievably wiped out that I didn’t even hear my mom wake up in the morning (she woke me up with a knock). The next day we shopped from 10 am until 4 pm. The best part about having my mama around is all the laughs that she brings. In the morning she came down the stairs and asked why I had dishwasher detergent in her room. My mama thought it was a mouth wash and…well…gargled with it. Although we laughed for 5 minutes non stop, I felt bad because it burned her mouth.

                         (flying Carolina flag proudly after we beat Clemson in baseball)
While shopping a car passed us and honked. I realized that it was because I had a Carolina flag proudly displaying on my car (we beat Clemson just in case you are wondering) and the car that passed us had a flag too. Well my mama asked if we know the people who honked, so I had to explain to her about the college rivalry in the state. And let me just tell you one thing about myself…I love Carolina sports. My favorite is football and I can talk to you for hours about it. I joke that God has a sense of humor when we moved near Clemson, which is the territory of our rivals.

                                                       (out shopping with my mama)
When we finally arrived home, it started to rain and we found out that apparently while we were out, our area had a big storm. Our neighbors 3 trees were down and some of my tomato plants were broken. Before calling quits for the night, we went for a nice walk around the lake and watched two episodes of a sitcom in Russian. Daniel sat with us and even through he didn’t understand a word he was hearing, at least his sun burned back received scratching from me all while my head was receiving scratching from my mama.

                                                        (lunch at Zaxby's)
It has been amazingly wonderful to have my mama around. I urge you to stop whatever you are doing right now and tell your family and friends just how much you love and appreciate them! I will keep updating about my trip with my mama.

Dancing away...

Can I share a secret with you? I love when the Holy Spirit that lives within me does cartwheels! Ok, before you think that I am crazing read on. A lot of times the Lord speaks to me when I am driving in my car listening to the Christian radio station. During this particular season of my life, when I hear “Until the Whole World Sings” by Casting Crowns the Holy Spirit within me dances. I can not describe to you but I when I hear this song my hands are lifted high, well one hand at a time and the only thing that keeps me in my seat is my seatbelt. I want to shout and every word that utters out of my mouth as I sing along has a sincere meaning. For example, the one part of the song goes like this, “Lord I want to feel with Your heart/ See the world through Your eyes/ I want to be Your hands and feet/ I want to live a life that leads.” The first time I heard this song, I had to ask myself, do I truly want to see the pain of others through God’s eyes? Yes! I want the Lord to use me to minister to others. I want to be His hands and feet. Do you?

When I sing I truly mean what I sing and that is when the Holy Spirit within me does His cartwheels. The minute that I wake up each morning I have a choice to be a walking missionary for the Kingdom of God. You and I have been instructed in Matt 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” But when was the last time we anonymously dropped of groceries at the house of the family who was in need? Or paid someone’s electric bill? As I sing, my words mean nothing if they are not backed out by my actions. And trust me, the Word of God says, that “it is much more a blessing to give than to receive.” () So let’s unit and “sing until the whole world hears.” Let’s show God’s love through our actions by helping those who are in need (“But be doers of the Word and not hearers only” James 1:22) so that God can get all the glory, honor and praise.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Free sour cream

On Sunday after church my husband and I decided to eat at our local Mexican restaurant. Previously I have shared you that I bring my own sour cream to the restaurant in order to avoid paying $1.25 for a little dollop of sour cream. That particular day, I didn’t have time to stop by the store so I decided to take my reader’s advice. She suggested asking a waiter to substitute sour cream for cheese at no additional cost, since I always ask for no cheese on my burrito.

When I asked the waiter to put sour cream on my burrito instead of cheese, he nodded and said that it would be no problem. I did double check with the waiter about the extra cost for sour cream, and he said that it will be an even exchange. Happily I pulled my camera when the food arrived and took a picture of my burrito. My husband smiling shook his head as the camera flash went off in front of him. I proudly enjoyed every bit of my meal, including my free sour cream.

I want to take this time to THANK YOU for stopping by my blog! Your visits brighten my day and I treasure your comments! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lead Me to the Cross

I always thought that I would start crying, when a cop would pull me over for speeding for the very first time. I had all kinds of excuses rehearsed and ready to present when the day would come when I see the blue lights in the rear view mirror. Well…when I saw blue lights behind me this week, I froze. The only words that I was capable of pronouncing was “yes, sir” and “no, sir”. I knew I was guilty and deserved the punishment and no words came to my mind that could have excused my irresponsible action.

I handed over all the paperwork and patiently waited for the verdict. The policeman told me that I was going 40+ in the 30 mph zone. Ooops! As I watched him filling out the papers my stomach was in knots, while my heart was racing as if I just completed a marathon. Each minute of waiting felt like eternity. The heaviness of knowing that our insurance would go up didn’t make the waiting process any easier. Finally the policeman walked over to my car and extended a piece of paper. “Ma’am, please slow down and drive carefully. I issued just a warning to you,” he said with a stern voice. “Thank you!” I replied with a relief. Never in my life had I imagined that a policeman’s voice would sound like music to my ears.

As I drove off watching the speedometer showing 5 mph below the speed limit, I was thankful that the policeman showed mercy to me. In the same moment God reminded me of His mercy to all His children. When we fall short of God’s glory (for me it happens every day), the Mighty God that I serve shows mercy to me. He forgives and forgets, in the same way that a policeman demonstrated mercy to me by forgiving my speeding ticket, when I deserved the punishment for my irresponsible action. Luke 6:36 says, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Not only does the Word of God tell us that God is merciful, but it also urges for me and you to act in the same way and extend mercy to others.

Knowing that my Lord is merciful makes me want to shout, and knowing that my God is full of grace makes me want to tell the whole world about it. I deserve hell, but my loving and compassionate God not only had mercy on me, but He also showed grace towards me! He paid for my sins! Imagine that that a policeman stretched his hand with a ticket letting me know the date of my court appearance. The day came and I went to the court to let the judge know that I am guilty of speeding. The ticket carries a fine of $500 (this makes me feel broke, just thinking about it) and all of a sudden a man behind me take this ticket from my hand and tells me that it has been paid in full. Yep…just like that! I owe nothing…not one penny!!! That man is Jesus! He paid for my sins by dying on a cross when I deserved hell. His grace is sufficient and I am so undeserving of it. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” I am humble by today’s reminder that I serve the God of grace and mercy who is standing with an outstretched hand extending the same grace and mercy to ALL of His children as a free gift.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

And I am waiting...

                                                          (my new friend from Chile)
I decided to leave around 1 pm today to go to Atlanta to pick up my mama. Well, about 40 minutes into my trip my GPS completely died….no warning, no nothing. Anxiously I pulled to the near by McDonald and checked for directions online. And let me tell you something, I am the world’s worst direction follower. I was certain that I would end up in Florida before arriving to the Atlanta airport. Thankfully I didn’t have to make a lot of turns and in 2.5 hours in I was at the airport.

I first noticed people who were glued to the TV watching a soccer game. The shouts and screams of the diverse group of people made me feel so proud to be an American. As I passed the group, I decided it was time to find a comfortable place where I would spend the next 8 hours. Atlanta Bread Company seemed like a perfect place where I can get online (I had to pay for wireless…boooo) and enjoy a sandwich. Within 5 minutes I had a family of 5 people come up to me and said, “You are from Belarus! We have the same shirts!” Needless to say I enjoyed meeting my countrymen!

Meeting new people is my favorite part of being at the airport. Before too long I made a friend from Chile and she kept me company for several hours while I sat the ABC. Now I have 5 more hours of waiting for my mama to arrive and I just can’t wait!!!!!!!!!!!

Tightwad's Savings

Oh happy day…oh happy day!!! My mama is on her way to the US!!! As you are reading this I am either at the airport waiting to run up to her and give her the world’s biggest hug or she is already relaxing with me at our home hugged out (if such word exists).

Now let me share my excitement with grocery shopping this week. I had a blast looking for deals and utilizing my coupons. I first stopped at Bi-Lo and bought OJ (quite a few cartons) for my mama’s visit. Bi-Lo had an amazing sale and I had coupons to combine with the sale. I paid a little over a dollar for one carton of OJ. Bi-Lo also ran a great deal on cheese and since I had coupons I stocked up and I mean it, I bought 12 packs. I am really hoping that all the cheese will last us a while since my husband is the only cheese eater in our household. I left several packs of cheese out in the fridge and froze the rest…woot…woot.

At CVS I once again had to battle the addiction of buying cheap diapers. Seriously, how can I pass on paying $3 for a pack of huge diaper box that originally cost $23?! My conscious is not letting me, even though we don’t’ have children yet. I am also starting to get confused as to which stage of diapers sizes should I stock up on? Do children wear more of size 5 or size 3? Please help me! Your answer will be greatly appreciated, so I would know in a feature what size of diapers to buy.

Well, besides diapers I stocked up on beef jerky and some healthy snacks for my husband to take with him to the military camp in a few weeks. All the snacks cost me nothing, since I utilized extra care bucks.

Finally I stopped by Ingles with intentions of buying muffin liners. Ok…I need your help on this one too. I was SHOCKED when I saw a price tag on the muffin liners. I love baking muffins, but I absolutely hate cleaning the mess of leftover crumbs in the muffin tin. Any cheap suggestions? But I was doing a happy dance when I saw turkey bacon (natural/organic) on sale for $1.99, down from $5 dollars a pack. I picked up all 9 packs for my mama to eat when she comes and asked a meat dept. associate if he can reduce it further if I buy all that is on the shelf. He looked at me for a second and then told me that he can come down by $0.25 on each pack. To me a discount is a discount whether it is $1 off or $0.25. Needles to say, I paid $15.75 for 9 packs of all natural bacon and saved $45 dollars!!! After my shopping trip, I loaded my car with ice bags to keep the food cold and headed to church!

Total spent: $58.62
Total saved: $141.04

Friday, June 25, 2010

Honey, how many cubes of eggs would you like?

Previously I have mentioned that my husband loves eggs. That man can eat two dozens of eggs in one week, which leaves me with the challenge of finding cheap eggs. I once have considered raising chickens on my own, but decided that I was too busy right now with work and school. Plus my husband thought the idea was crazy.

So you can only imagine my reaction, when Daniel called me one day from work and said… “Let’s get a goat!”

“A goat?!?! For what? Are you crazy!?” I answered thinking that my husband must be running a fever. Ok, so maybe he saw our down the mountain neighbor’s goats and wants a goat for a pet.

“Do you what to have a goat so we can have free goat milk or do you want to have a goat as a pet?” I questioned my husband’s intentions. “No, I want a goat so that it can eat our grass and I don’t have to mow it,” my husband answered me.

I couldn’t stop laughing at his remark and quickly told him that I believe he does a fine job of cutting our grass and we should leave it that way. Anyhow this story doesn’t really have to do anything with freezing eggs, but since we are on the topic of livestock, I thought it would be appropriate for me to share this silly story with you.

Now lets move on to the topic of freezing eggs. Right now we have about 5 dozen of eggs in our fridge thanks to my co-worker and Ingles’ great sale. Not too long ago I read an article on what you can and can’t freeze and was shocked to discover that you can freeze eggs. The idea of egg freezing experiment was born.

I cracked several eggs, stirred them up, poured liquid in to the ice cubes and stuck the tray in the freezer. After several hours, I removed cubed eggs and put them in a bag and back to the freezer.

A few days later I offered to make scrambled eggs for my husband to see if he could tell any difference in the frozen eggs and regular non frozen eggs. I did mix non frozen eggs with frozen ones.

The result…. He couldn’t. I now can safely stock up on eggs and freeze them in the ice cubes, so that later I can ask my husband, “Honey, how many cubes of eggs would you like for breakfast?”

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Confession is good for a soul or so they say. Thus I must confess to you that I love eating sweets. If I could I would eat dessert with every meal, but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) for me I married a health nut that avoids eating sugar. So when he does eat a spoonful of banana pudding or a bite of a cake, it is a big deal at our house.

I was surprised one day when Daniel looked through dessert menu at a restaurant and wanted for us to split a Tiramisu. If you are not familiar, Tiramisu is a light coffee dessert. Well, since I do not like the taste of coffee I was not very thrilled with his chose, but decided to go along since he almost never has a say so in dessert choosing department.

The dessert arrived! It looked good, but I was skeptical that it would actually taste good so I let Daniel have the first bite. He said that it was good, and put the spoon down. I had one bite, and then a second one, and then an eighth one…but was considered enough to let Daniel take the remainder (may be a bite or two) of what was left to work.

As much as I don’t like coffee taste, this dessert was heavenly. Seriously, it was amazing! I guess it would be nice of me to tell you which restaurant we were eating at…huh?! Occasionally for special events we enjoy driving to Macaroni Grill, which is about an hour away from our house.

After the night that I was introduced to Macaroni Grill’s Tiramisu, I have craved that dessert ever since. As you can imagine driving an hour for a dessert would be insane, so not too long ago my husband had to run errands near Macaroni Grill and I asked if he would stop by the restaurant and pick up Tiramisu, because I was craving it and was dreaming about it. By the way, I finally found a local source of Tiramisu.

My sweet Daniel brought the dessert back for me. Since he drove a motorcycle, the beautiful Tiramisu got smooshed. It didn’t look pretty, as you can see on the picture, but it still tasted wonderfully good! I ate and I ate and I ate until I could no longer expand. I did let my husband take one bite; after all he was the one who bought the dessert.

Anyhow, the point of me sharing this story with you is because I need your help. I want to know what is your favorite dessert. Perhaps I can try something new and change my favorite dessert, until then I am stuck on Tiramisu!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Am I really a TIGHTWAD?

According to the dictionary a tightwad is a parsimonious person, in other words thrifty, frugal or sparring. And that tightwad is me. When Daniel and I changed our spending habits, I thought the word tightwad described our newly found lifestyle perfectly. Daniel began to ask me if I had a coupon for every item that he was interested in purchasing. And I…well I became a drill sergeant. Every time Daniel would open a fridge door, I prepared my speech on how he was wasting electricity. What I mean by that is when he stands in front of the fridge with an open door for 10 minutes trying to decided what he wants to eat, he sees food in front of him, while I see dollar bills flying out of the fridge as the electricity bill creeps up.

One may observe my money saving ways and calcify me as a tightwad right away. However several weeks ago I learned that there are several levels of a tightwadness. My co-worker shared with me an article that she read about tightwads and I was excited to read it for more frugal ideas. Instead I learned that there are extreme tightwads and mild tightwads, which I fit the latter category.

As I was reading the article, I was shocked what people are willing to do in order to save a dollar or two. For instance, a man bought a meal from McDonalds to enjoy for dinner. At first, I didn’t think much about his trip to McDonalds because the article didn’t say anything about him using coupons to save money on food. But as I continued to read the article it said that the man goes home, washes the plastic cup and then casually stops by McDonalds through out the week for free refills using the same cup. The sad part about the story is that he does not pay for his refills.

Sadness continues through out the article. That same man apparently loves red peppers seasoning that you top your pizza with for a “kicking” taste. When he visits pizza parlor he empties the whole pepper shaker into a napkin and takes it home for later enjoyment I guess during his late night pizza parties.

The story does not stop here. Half way through the articles I started to question if I really fit in with tightwads. I mean seriously, making frequent trips to fast food restaurants for free refills and emptying pepper shaker were not part of my changed lifestyle. Personally I think the described tightwad behavior is unethical and can be classified as stealing.

The article also mentioned that people take 20 or more napkins home from fast food restaurants in order to avoid paying full price for a pack of napkins at the store. Ok…I admit that I have grabbed 2 or 3 napkins before from a fast food restaurant, when picking up to go order. But 20 napkins, never?!?! I don’t think my conscious would allow me to take more than 5 napkins per visit. And my visits to fast food restaurants are few and far in between.

So as I questioned myself if I can join the tightwad ranking after reading the article, I finally made the decision that yes I can! However, I do not believe I want to be labeled the extreme tightwad or engage in emptying a pepper shaker at a pizza parlor or grabbing 20 napkins on my way out of the restaurant.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Meet our new family member...Abby!

Last Wednesday, on his way home, my hubby found a dog wondering in the middle of the road. She looked scared and hungry, so Daniel decided to bring her home. And can I just tell you that the we fell in love with Abby in a matter of a second?! We feed her good and loved on her fact...I spent all day Saturday afternoon outside keeping Abby company, while studying for school and being eaten by mosquitoes. :) And the best part about Abby is watching my husband taking care of her, which gives me a glimpse of what a wonderful father he will be some day!

Living simple

I once was asked sarcastically if my husband and I were hermits after it was revealed that we do not have internet, cable, long distant phone plan and cell phone reception at our house. My feelings were hurt initially as the sarcastic remark turned my face red in front of a small crowd, but I didn’t say anything and let the comment roll off my shoulders.

Sure, sometimes it would be nice to turn TV on and enjoy a Lifetime movie or sing along with American Idol contestants or watch same ole depressing news. However, we sure do not miss paying $70 dollars or however much it cost to have a dish with gazillion channels that we wouldn’t even have the time to watch. Because we do not have TV, the quite time around the house is spent on studying for school and spending time as a couple.

Together we also enjoy saving money on internet bill. Wonder how? Well, we don’t have internet. Because we live in the mountains our only options either to spend $25 dollars a month on a dial up service or $65 dollars a month on a satellite service. The money that is not spent on internet goes toward paying off our student loan. And to satisfy our cyber world craving, we use free internet service in the library or near by fast food restaurant. Although inconvenience of not having internet at home drives me crazy at time (my husband gets to hear me complain from time to time), we enjoy watching our student loan premiums go down monthly!

As far as not having a cell phone signal, well…that does not bother me at all. I get tickled when youth from church would come to our home and walk to every corner of the house raising their cell phones in the air with hopes of catching a signal to check their text messages. We don't use text messaging (saves money) plus our family and friends know to call our home phone number after 5 pm, so not having a cell phone signal is never an issue.

Living simple can be challenging at times, considering that we live in a material world. I would love to hear from you. What do you do to live simple?

Monday, June 21, 2010

What a wonderful week...

So much to do, but just not enough time to do it all! After work one day I was trying to make a mental list of all the things that had to be done during the weekend. Clean the house (check), study for finance exam (triple check) and the list went on and on and on. Somewhere in the midst of all the chores that I have planned to do, I needed to find time to replant our tomato plants. It looked like each tomato plant wanted to have its own bucket for more space.
To please the tomato plants, I penciled in a date with dirt and buckets for Saturday morning. I knew that Daniel would have to drill holes in the bucket and I would do the rest of the dirty work. Feeling a little stressed, I was trying to time the whole process in my mind on the way home. When I finally arrived home, I went to check on my garden and guess what? Ok…since you didn’t guess, let me tell you. My wonderfully great husband drilled the holes in the bucked and filled the buckets up with dirt!!!! I was so thrilled that all I had to do at that point was to move plants around. This small gesture meant to me more than my husband could ever know.

But surprises kept on coming that week. One day Daniel wanted to stop by Home Depot to pick up some boards. Confused for why my husband would want to buy boards, I took the nagging approach to find out. He finally told me, which ruined my surprise. Almost 3 years ago, we bought a net for hammock, when we honeymooned in Acapulco. Since we didn’t have the stand to put the net on, I just put it to the side. Well, Daniel was buying boards so he could build the stand so we could enjoy the hammock. What a wonderful anniversary gift…a little early, but he won’t be here with me to celebrate it when the time comes. He will be in a military camp training for 4 weeks (sigh).

Now changing the subject back to happy times. While Daniel was shopping for tools, I found movable stairs to rest on. After a long while, I quite frankly was bored out of my mind. I knew that I didn’t have coupons for light fixtures or tools, so browsing from isle to isle didn’t’ seem too appealing to me. So I rested and rested until…I saw a yellow sign that said in big bolded letters CLEARANCE. The bright colors and such a beautiful word drew me to the discounted section in a matter a second. That’s right; I probably set a world record of moving so quickly from one section of the store to another!

The clearance section was filled with treasures, but the prices weren’t the best. Some items were marked down 10% to 15%, so paying out of pocket $80 still seemed pretty high. Despite high prices, I felt like a kid at a candy store and started to dig through the golden treasures. And guess what I found? I found a pretty light fixture that has been marked down from $100 to $24+. Instead of carrying a box to show to my husband, who was on the opposite side of the store looking for boards, I took a picture with the digital camera. My husband loved the light fixtures, so we bought 2 fixtures paid $50 and saved $150..woot…woot!

All in all my week was full of surprises. How about yours?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lead Me to the Cross

It was Friday. After work I stopped by the post office on my way home to pick up mail. I quickly glanced through the stack of envelopes looking for freebies, no freebies that day. Instead a small envelope caught my attention, because I didn’t recognize the name or address in the upper left corner of the envelope. “It looks like someone sent us a card,” I thought to myself. “Hmm…I wonder for what occasion we are receiving this card. Father’s Day is coming up, but we don’t have children. Daniel’s Birthday is in July. Well, may be someone just wants to say hello.”

When I arrive home, I once again scanned the outside of the envelope and closely examined the address. The hand writing was hard to read, but I managed to figure out that postmaster must not have seen number 5 in front of the PO Box 6. That explains why she put the letter in our mailbox and not in the mailbox of the intended receiver. I put the letter back in my car with intentions of dropping it by the post office the next day.

On Saturday I had to run a few errands, which made it very convenient to stop by the post office to drop off the letter. Since we live in a small town, I know both of our postmasters. One postmaster works through the week, while another postmaster works on Saturdays.

“Good morning!” I said as soon as I opened the door. “I believe this card belongs to PO Box 56 and not to us. Will you deliver it to the right addressee?”

“That’s our PO Box,” the postmaster replied as she examined the letter. “I know who this card is from. Do you want to hear the story behind this card?”

“Sure” I answered quickly.

“When we attended a church down the Mountain about 4 years ago, we met a young girl (we’ll call her Mary) who was disabled. Her mother and father died and the church took her in and loved on her. Well, Mary always sends us Birthday cards, even if it is not our Birthday. She is a very special girl,” the postmaster said with tears filling her eyes.

“Thank you for sharing with me,” I said to the postmaster as I turned around and started to walk towards the door. It was hard for me to keep my tears back, since God definitely blessed me with extra emotions.

A young girl, Mary, has blessed me without even knowing it, the day I received a stranger’s card. How kind was it of her to remember a couple who no longer attended her church and send a card letting them know that she was thinking of them. This brought a scripture to my mind of Phil 1:3 “I thank my God every time I remember you”. What if we all looked at Mary as an example of a carrying Christian? What if every time the Lord placed someone on our mind, we would lift that person up in prayer and send a note of encouragement? We too, just like a young girl Mary, would be a walking testimony of Christ like love.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tightwad's Savings

I had a rather boring grocery shopping week. In fact, I used very little coupons and spent quite a bit out of pocket. But sometimes it is good to take a break from couponing world. I made several trip to the grocery store this week and was too tired to take pictures and add up totals, so please forgive me. However, I did manager to document my Bi-Lo trip and CVS trip.

At Bi-Lo I stocked up on baby wipes, which were only $0.50 after sale and coupon. Since my husband is part of Army ROTC he often comes home with a camouflaged face and baby wipes seem to bring his face back to normal. Next on my list was Slim Jim. For some odd reason I thought that beef jerky and Slim Jim is the same thing, so I purchased quite a few cans just to learn that my husband is not a big fan of them. Oh, well, my daddy in Belarus would eat them without a problem.

The highlight of shopping at CVS was very cheap diapers. I was able to combine manufacturing coupon with store coupon paying a little over $3 for a pack. The rest of the items shown on the picture generated ECB, however I was so exhausted that I did two transactions, which means that I paid a lot more out of pocket.

Total spent: $31.82

Total saved: $79.76

No more complaining for me

“I really want to have internet at home”, I told my husband one day. He replied quickly, “I think we should wait until we move and then I promise you can have your internet”. I pouted at his response. Why can’t I have internet, and why can’t I have it now?! There are days when it is so inconvenient for me to pack a laptop and drive to the library or to a near by fast food restaurant that offers free wireless internet. I can find a million reasons to justify us spending close to a thousand dollars a year on the luxury of having internet at home, however I can also find a million ways of spending that money elsewhere.

You are probably shocked at the cost, so let me explain. Six weeks before the wedding, I told my then fiancé that while I am on a mission trip for four weeks he can decide where we would live. I was certain that we would stay in the same town that my university that I recently graduated from was located. However, my fiancé had a different kind of surprise for me, when I returned from a mission trip.

“So have you picked out our apartment? What color walls do we have? And does the apartment come with a washer and a dryer?” I questioned my husband as soon as he picked me up from the airport.

After taking a few guesses on the location of our apartment I finally gave up.

“We are going to live in my parents’ vacation home that’s located in the mountains. We would not have to pay for rent, just utilities” said my sweet Daniel.

Considering that I didn’t have a job yet, not paying rent each month sounded like a great deal. We would live in a nice cozy home surrounded by beautiful nature for free. Living in the mountains also meant that the closest grocery store was 17 minutes away and the closest mall was one hour away. No cable, no cell phone signal and no internet would be a new way of life for me.

The first year living without the convenience of a nearby grocery store and luxury of technology was not so bad. We enjoyed spending time with each other instead of checking out facebook for hours. And not having TV on all the time allowed us to really concentrate on our school work. We also did not miss the bills that come with convenience and luxury.

It has now been almost 3 years of us living in the mountains. There are days that I wish we had the convenience of internet; however satellite service is our only option. This also means that by the time we pay for equipment, installation and monthly service our yearly bill would top at almost one thousand dollars. During the days that I find myself complaining about having to drive to the library for free internet use, I check and adjust my attitude. Realizing how fortunate we are not to have the burden of monthly mortgage payment or rent makes me happy. My in-laws generosity of opening their home to us is one of many blessings that I should be thankful for every day.

We would love to hear what are you thankful for?

Thursday, June 17, 2010


During my trip to the US as a teenager, I was introduced to BBQ (shredded pork with BBQ sauce). Sandwich topped with tender meat and coleslaw would make anyone ask for seconds. While I was still in college, my American mom shared her recipe with me. Because it was easy and quick, it became one of my favorites.

Place raw pork meat in the slow cooker and cover it with BBQ sauce. Our favorite is Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce. Let it cook on low for about 8 hours.

Remove pork, place it on the cutting board and let it cool for about 30 minutes. Empty the liquid from the slow cooker and wash the dish thoroughly.

Once the meat cools off, use your hands to separate fat from the meat. As I shred the meat, I place it back in the slow cooker.

Cover the shredded meat with the BBQ sauce and cook on low for about an hour. Voila, it is ready to serve. We love to eat BBQ with beans and corn.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ready to boost your savings accounts?

My high school job was babysitting 3 kids for our family friends. Since I was not a big fan of debit cards or credit cards, I used cash for everything. I couldn’t wait to get paid so that on my way home I could stop and spend $4 on a hot fudge ice cream from our local ice cream shop. Since most of the time I would get change back, I would save all my coins in a jar.

For 3 years, I faithfully saved loose change. And one day (in college) I decided to count my coins and buy something nice for myself. At first I considered taking all the coins to a coin counter at a local grocery store, but changed my mind after realizing that I would have to pay for my money to be counted. Well, I liked math so I decided to count all the coins and roll them myself.

The whole rolling process took me no time, because TV kept me company. When I finished and added up all the numbers, I had over $300 dollars!!! I decided to buy my very first digital camera. I recall looking at different models and was struck with all the choices. Do I want a colorful camera or a gray one? Well, I decided to stick with Sony silver finish digital camera that has faithfully served me now for almost 5 years. I know we are a little bit behind on new technology, but our camera works great!

The point of me sharing about my digital camera is to show that every penny can add up. I challenge you to stop spending your loose change and instead put it all in a “cookie” jar. You can also use the same concept and save all the $1 dollar bills. You will be surprised how quickly money adds up and you won’t even miss your coins. My husband and I have been saving our change now for several years with hopes of using it one day during our vacation to Ireland. Although this trip is ways away, it is never to early or too late to start saving.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Where is this smell coming from?

As I have previously shared with you I buy several Sunday newspapers a week. Recently I came across a very useful tip on using a newspaper to eliminate trash odor. “Sign me up for that one!” I shouted with excitement as I grabbed a stack of newspaper to implement this useful trick.

There are times that it seems our trash can fills up in a matter of a minute, better yet a second. This means that on my way to work, I have to stop by a trash dump which most days I dread. If I don’t take out the trash you can guess that it creates a very unpleasant smell in our house. Since Daniel most mornings leaves before the trash dump opens, it leaves me to enjoy the trash odor as it quickly fills up my car.

Are you ready to hear the odor eliminating trick?! Drum roll, please… you need to align the bottom of your trash can with several sheets of newspaper. Then as usual insert the trash bag and voila the newspaper will absorb the smell. This is a great money saving tip that will allow you to utilize the newspaper and eliminate trash order!

Monday, June 14, 2010

I make typos...but please love me anyways

English is not my first language, but I believe that I speak it fluently. When people compliment my ability to speak the language well, I joke that it didn’t take me too long to pick up on words like “ya’ll”. The word “ya’ll” is a part of the southern tradition, and I learned to love it.

When I was in the 5th grade I started to learn English as my second language at a school in Belarus. Words like food, banana and walk made up my English vocabulary until I had the privilege of attending American high school. It was extremely difficult at first not being able to understand every single word spoken, but I was surrounded by understanding teachers and curios students. Plus the desire to fit in and understand conversations of my peers intensified my desire to speak and comprehend English fluently.

I will never forget walking through the Animal Kingdom Park, when visiting Florida and pointing out at different objects asking my American family the meaning behind the word. At that time I was a huge Hanson fan and loved their song called “Weird”. As much as I liked the tunes to the song, I could not comprehend the meaning behind the word weird. I would point at all sorts of objects and would ask if it was weird. Before too long I pointed at a sheep as we were passing by and asked if the poor animal could be classified as weird. Needless to say, I caught my American dad off guard.

As time passed my English progressed and my vocabulary expended as well. Although most of the English words were familiar to me by college time, I still struggled with grammar in some areas. For example in Russian language there is no such thing as articles (a, an, the) and no matter how many grammar rule I read it still makes no sense to me when to use them. I mostly rely on my intuition and stick the article when it sounds good to my ears. It is hit and miss game. Mostly miss than hit.

There are also times when my mind completely blanks out and for the life of me I can not remember the English words that I try to explain. However, a Russian word at that time perfectly comes to mind. Oh, and spelling can suffer because of it. I recall a time when I was in college and was planning to come home to visit my American family. My American dad fixes the world’s best steaks, so I sent him an e-mail asking to fix a steak when I come to visit. Our e-mail went something like this…

Me: Dad, can you please fix a stake for me?

Dad: A what? When you spell it correctly I may consider it. (He always encourages me to write properly without mistakes)

Me: You know what I mean. I want a stake. (my mind wen completely blank on how to spell steak).

Dad: I just don’t know what you mean.

Me: Will you please cook beef on the grill when I come home?!

Spelling or making typos are not the only problems that I encounter from time to time with the English language. According to family and friends, I am good at creating new words and phrases. When I first came to the US at the age of 16, I didn’t understand 35% of English words (maybe more than that). During a casual conversation at dinner table I did something that prompted my American mom to tell me that I was a blonde (she referred to my silly ways). Hurtful I looked at her and said, “I am not blind, I have contacts in”. Needless to say it took me 30 minutes to figure out why everyone at the table laughed hysterically at my comment.

My college roommate and best friend always said that she would start writing a book about all the phrases that I make up (I do not make them up intentionally). Below are just a few funnies that she recorded during our college years.

Oxana: the hairdresser said i couldn't have swoop bangs
because i have a um...
Paula: a widows peak??
Oxana: no, umm... a callous
Suz and Paula: huh?
Oxana: she said i have a callous
Suz: haha, you mean a cow-lick

Suz: I want some fried fish
Oxana: you could go to Captain Silvers tomorrow
Suz: Long John Silvers?

Oxana: i almost dropped my mom's marangu pies.
Suz and Lindsay: hahaha, you mean Meringue

(at Barnes and noble looking at children's books)
Oxana: my nephew loves George the Curious

Oxana: i can't think of her name... it's on the tip of my brain
Suz: you mean, tounge...hahaha

May be one day I can receive a small payment from the book that my friend plans to write.

Finally my co-workers laugh frequently. No too long ago I was having a bad day…it seemed like nothing was going right at work. So when someone came up to me and asked what was wrong, I responded, “I just woke up with the wrong foot”. My co-worker’s laughter filled the room and confused I wondered what I said wrong this time. Come to find out, I should have said, “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed”. But oh well, unintentionally I made my co-worker laugh and introduced a new phrase that is now used pretty frequently at work.

So why would I share with you all my struggles with the English language? Well… because I know I make typos and mistakes on my blog. I hope that my mistakes do not offend you and you laugh with me and not at me. I promise that I read and re-read the post 100 times and somehow still manage to miss a misspelled word here and there. But I hope you will love me anyways, just the way I am… a Belarussian girl, who is still learning her way through English language.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lead me to the cross

During the fall time, I stay very busy traveling around the state of South Carolina sharing my experience of receiving Operation Christmas Child shoe box as a 14 year old girl in a small country of Belarus. In the past several years, I have spoken during the church services and Sunday school classes encouraging people to make shoe boxes, because God does use them to show His love with His children around the world.

One particular Sunday evening I was asked to speak to younger children at AWANA about making the shoe boxes. I agreed, but was very nervous about it. You would think that as many times as I have shared my testimony, this time it would be a piece of cake, but that was not the case. I have never shared my testimony with children before and was not sure how to tell my story in the way that they would understand.

I began to pray, “Lord, give me Your words. Father, I pray that through this speaking engagement, you will get all the glory, honor and praise, all while conveying Your message to these children.” Admitting that I was nervous was easy and I had amazing adults who bathed me in prayer as I began to speak.

God always amazes me and that evening was no different. Every time I share my testimony He is faithful in delivering His promise that He gave us in Matt 10:19-20, “Do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say. For it will not you, but the Spirit of Your Father will speak through you”. That evening He spoke through me capturing children’s attention and curiosity.

After I concluded my story with the Bible verse, it was Q & A session. Hands went up everywhere as I tried to answer all of their questions. And let me tell you something, kids asked exactly what was on their minds. I giggled with adults at some of the questions and comments that kids shared but loved every second I was surrounded by curious minds.

One question that a young boy asked me took me by surprise. As he raised his hand high making sure that he is noticed, I asked him what he wanted to know. He looked at me and without hesitation asked, “Are you a missionary?” Silence filled the room as 60 eyes looked my way without blinking, waiting for my response. Kids were not the only ones looking my way; adults also looked at me and wondered what I was going to say.

I too wondered for a second what I was going to tell these children. I mean, I always considered a missionary to be a person who answered God’s call and moved to a different city, state or country for that matter, to share the gospel of Christ with others. However, that is not what came out of my mouth the night I stood in front thirty some people.

“I am a missionary”, I answered boldly looking into the eyes of a little boy. “But it is not because I was born in a different country, that I consider myself a missionary. You don’t have to live in a foreign country for God to use you. In Matthew 28:19 God says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations”, God wants us to tell about Him every day to people that we come in contact. By sending a shoebox, you can be a missionary in China, by inviting your friends to come to your church; you can be a missionary in America. God uses ordinary people like you and me to do extraordinary things”. At that time I knew that I was not clever enough to come up with the answer, and I thank God that He gave me the words to share with the young child.

As I was driving home, I couldn’t stop smiling because the children blessed me. God also reminded me that night, that He can use a sinner like me, an ordinary foreigner to be a missionary every day to people that I come in contact. When I am at a gas station, God can use me to share a word of encouragement with the stranger. When I am at a grocery store He can use my extra change to buy groceries for a woman, whose credit card is not working. When I am at work, He can use me to love on my co-workers. When I am at home, He can use me to serve my husband. No matter where I am, God can use me to be a missionary… and He can use you too!

Saturday, June 12, 2010


In terms of grocery shopping this week was a good one, but in terms of diaper shopping this week was awesome. The only problem with buying 6 packages of diapers is that we don’t even have children. Ok…so I have to admit that I have been having a baby fever, and no…I am not pregnant.

After work, I was able to stop by CVS and snatched diapers for less than $3 (they were marked down 75%) a package. I figured I could either use the diapers for baby showers or one day when we have children use them then.

I picked up several more baby items that were on clearance and utilized my extra care bucks to pay for my purchase. The best part is that I paid very little out of pocket and received 2 ECB back…woot …woot! And that is exactly why I love bargain shopping…why pay full price, when you can buy items of clearance shelf?! I spent $4.72 on all the baby items and saved $92.34

The rest of the shopping this week I did at Ingles. One day I scored an amazing deal on organic orange juice. The original price for 1 bottle of organic orange juice was $4.99, but the bottle had manager’s special sticker with $1.99. Since my mama is coming in two weeks, I have been trying to stock up on items that she loves and orange juice is one of them! I picked up all three bottles and made my way to the produce manager. I asked what will the store do with juice after the expiration date and the response was, “We can reduce it further for you.” Score!!! He reduced each bottle price to $1.49. So I paid $4.50 for 3 bottle of organic orange juice. As soon as I came home, I put the orange juice in the freezer. Woot! Woot! I also picked up several items from 50% off buggy and didn’t stress a bit that I didn’t have a coupon for the items. I felt like I was getting a pretty good deal.

On Saturday I learned that Ingles will be participating in triple coupon event, so I prepared my coupons to shop on Sunday after church. To say that the store had amazing sales would be a lie, plus I really do not like Ingles coupon policy. You have to spend $10 before 3 coupons can double in value ($0.50). To bring the total up, I stocked up on meat. My mama loves bacon, and I mean loves bacon. The petit woman can eat one package of bacon in one setting. In addition to bacon, I bought ham. It was marked down from $12+ to $5+, needless to say our freezer is full. Once my total was up, I added free beans, soap and ice cream to my cart. And oh yeah…I spent $6 on watermelon. After reading a post at This Journey about Heather's children eating watermelon, I decided to splurge on one! All in all I had a fabulous shopping week and look forward to take my mama coupon shopping when she arrives in 2 weeks!!!!

Total paid: $42.30

Total spent: $165.04

Friday, June 11, 2010

Paper Towel Replacement

During a good coupon week I buy 2-3 newspapers. I take out my coupon certs, read latest news, which in most cases are depressing, and then recycle my paper in a near by recycling bin. Sometimes I must admit my newspaper accumulates for 2 week, ok… in some cases 3 to 4 weeks before I take it to the recycling center.

Every time I look at the newspaper I try to figure out what I can do with it that will benefit me and my household. Hmmm…. ding, ding ding…and the light bulb went off.

How did I forget about my mom using newspaper to wash the windows of our small apartment in Belarus?! Most of the time, well all the time… I use paper towel and Windex to clean windows and mirrors around our house. Paper towels can be some what pricey when not on sale, so I decided to try my mama’s trick. I sprayed Windex on a mirror and then wiped the mirror off with a crumbled up newspaper page. Putting a little be of strength in the wiping action was the added bonus to building the biceps…woot woot! The best part of cleaning with the newspaper is that my mirror was streak free and the cost of cleaning was cheap, cheap, cheap!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Katletu, which is similar to a hamburger only juicier, reminds me of my mama’s cooking. So I decided to share this wonderful recipe with you.

Since Daniel and I don’t really eat beef, I bought a pack of ground turkey for this recipe.

Place ground turkey or beef (one package) in a bowl.

Cut up an onion, add to the meat and mix it up with your hands. If you don’t like onions please don’t leave out this ingredient. I myself am not a very big fan of Mr. Onion, but in this recipe you can barely taste it. It is more for flavor purpose.

Add one egg and again mix all ingredients up with your hands.

Next add bread crumbs. If you don’t have bread crumbs, you can add pieces of regular bread. I didn’t use measuring cup to measure out the amount of crumbs for this recipe. Instead I used my judgment and kept adding crumbs to the mixture until I could form a patty.

I browned turkey/beef patties in a frying pan until golden brown on each side. However, I didn’t allow my meat to cook through.

A few years ago my mom brought me “ytyatnucy” which is a metal dish with a lid to cook meat in. If you don’t have this special dish, you can also use a regular ovenproof dish with a lid. I transported meat to the dish, covered it with the lid and baked turkey patties in the oven at 350F for 40-60 minutes.

Katletu turned out so juicy and delicious. That particular day we ate katletu with “Russian potatoes” and oven fried okra. Below is a beautiful picture. On a side note, I have to share something with you pertaining to me taking pictures.

One of the things I love about having a blog is that it allows my mom in Belarus view it. Since she can’t speak or read English she looks at the pictures that I post on the blog and then sends me an e-mail asking me what I write about. When I shared the pork chop recipe with you not too long ago, I received an e-mail the next day from my mom. She said, “I see you cooked “otbevnue” (pork chops) and took several pictures of your preparation. Next time you cook; please take the last picture of the cooked dish on a pretty plate. That would make the food look much more appealing.” I am taking my mama’s advice and from now on I vow to make my last picture of the cooked dish pretty!!!