Raspberry Fudge Brownies for a rainy day!

raspberryfudgebrownies

On this rainy day, I polled me, myself & I, and it was a unanimous vote that I needed to bake a warm, chocolatey treat. These raspberry fudge brownies from Primally Inspired did not disappoint! They are made with wholesome ingredients and grain, dairy & nut free which means that I can eat them around Josiah without fear that he will have an allergic reaction… but sadly, not share with him since sugar is not a part of his healing diet (they do contain maple syrup, cocoa powder & chocolate chips). I highly recommend you try these!

Farmer’s Market Finds 6/21/14

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I love going to the local Farmer’s Markets on Saturday mornings! It’s my weekly “me” time when I go and find fresh food to fill our bellies for the week. I really enjoy supporting our local economy & seeing familiar faces each week. Many of our farmers know me by name. It’s great to know where our food comes from and how it was raised/grown.

Here is what I found this week:

Green Beans – $2
Zucchini – $4
Grape Tomatoes – $1.50
Zephyr Squash – $3
Cucumbers – $1
Okra – $4
1 lb Bacon Ends – $4
2 Chocolate Chip “Face” Cookies – $2.50
TOTAL: $22

Do you frequent your local farmer’s market/s? What were your finds this week?

A Tribute To My Husband On Our 5 Year Anniversary

5 years ago today I walked down the aisle to be joined together in marriage to the most wonderful husband in the world. I am an incredibly blessed woman. Here are just a few of the many reasons I love my husband:

1. He loves Jesus. Recently we have had some pretty serious conversations about plans for raising our child/ren all with the goal of teaching them about The Lord. My husband is so passionate about loving Jesus that some of these conversations have brought him to tears. That really says something because he rarely cries.

2. He leads our family well. It is so relieving to me that I don’t have to make big decisions all by myself & many times when I am overwhelmed or do not know what the right choice is, I just leave it up to my husband. I am thankful that because He seeks God’s will, he has wisdom in making decisions for us and I can lovingly submit and trust him.

3. He spoils me. Oh, how he spoils me! I am very frugal by nature and cannot stand to “waste” money, food, “stuff,” time, etc. My husband has given me the trust and freedom to manage our money how I deem appropriate, but I frequently turn to him to help me make financial decisions… and he is so generous to me! For example, I recently *needed* to purchase a new swim top because the tops I owned do not currently fit *cough*nursing*cough*. After searching every store in town, I finally found one that fit nicely and modestly. The price was a bit steep, so I went to my husband for counsel about what to do. He told me that I should buy the swim top, that it was a good investment, and that he wanted me to have nice things. This is just one example of his kindness to me. He frequently differs to my whims and puts my wants above his own. He gives me back and foot massages almost daily, just because he knows how much I like them. He is so good to care for our little one on Saturday mornings while I go to the farmer’s market and grocery shopping (which is my excuse to leisurely spend a little time alone).

4. His words are kind. My husband knows that my primary love language is words of affirmation. He does such a good job of loving me in this way, even though it is not his own love language. He frequently compliments me, tells me he loves me, pays attention to my appearance, etc. He is rarely harsh, and when he is angry he tries very hard not to speak unkindly to me.

5. He is a servant. He is always looking for ways to serve our family and others. He doesn’t keep “I owe you” tabs on people, but rather gives with a cheerful heart and without expecting anything in return.

6. He makes me laugh. Definitely a third-born child, he is such a comedian. He is corny & loves witty puns, but he knows how to make me laugh (and groan) with his jokes.

7. He is laid back and not uptight. I am a Type A personality. I get frazzled at silly things. I am so thankful that my husband is the opposite of this & because of him, I am learning to be more laid back as well. No need to make mountains out of mole hills!

So, there you have some of my favorite things about my husband. I could keep going and going with reasons I adore him, but for now I will leave it at this.

Thank you, Lord, for 9 years of a sweet relationship with the man you made my husband 5 years ago today. What an underserved blessing You have given to me in him!

Hospitality: A Tight Budget is No Excuse

Every so often my husband and I will sit down and evaluate our family goals and plan for the future. Last time we did this, we decided that we needed to put more of an emphasis on hospitality, both in and out of our home. I used to think that hospitality meant planning a large party and spending a lot of money & since we have always been on a tight budget, that was my excuse for not being more hospitable. I would love to throw a party with a main dish of steak & shrimp, appetizers, fruit trays, steamed veggies, and lavish desserts, but that is just not at all within our financial means. Over the years I have learned that hospitality is more about my desire to serve from my heart and can be done with either a lot or a little money.

Last weekend, we invited several friends over for a potluck lunch after church. We had a wonderful time of fellowship, catching up on life and encouraging one another in The Lord. Here are some tips for hosting a get together on a budget:
1. Potluck! – I provided a main dish, a side dish & a dessert, and then asked the guests to sign up to bring the other items that were needed.
2. Pick a fun theme – …and then think of frugal dishes that go along with that theme. We used “Mexican Fiesta” as our theme this time. I made some homemade tortillas, and then cooked up a big pot of chicken, rice, black beans & salsa and another pot of re-fried pinto beans so that our guests could make burritos. I opened up a bag of tortilla chips and set out the rest of the jar of salsa for people to munch on. I also made some individual “soapapilla cheesecakes” (recipe to come) in muffin liners that were really tasty. I also sliced a lime that I put in a pitcher with water.
3. Use what you already have – when deciding what dishes to serve, I checked my pantry and refrigerator to see what I already had. When it came down to it, I only had to purchase the cream cheese for the cheesecake, the lime & a couple of cans of beans. $7 total I think. After our potluck, there were still plenty of leftovers for me to send with my husband for lunch throughout the week.

I am so thankful that I no longer see our finances as a deterrent to inviting people into our home and taking meals to others. In fact, I have recently been trying to get creative about how to go about serving more through meals. At this stage of life with a little one, it is not practical for me to serve in some other areas that I have served in the past, but something that I can do with my baby on my hip is to make a meal and take it to a family in need. What joy it brings my heart to be helpful in this way & give to others! I pray that I will continue to look for practical ways that I can serve as a young mom.

The Rewards of One Income Living

Yesterday I shared that this is the first time in a decade that I have been monetarily unemployed. However, my husband and I have intentionally lived off of one income (his) for the almost 5 years we have been married. When we started our marriage, he was making a very modest income & sometimes I wondered if we would be able to pay our bills. Over the years, God has blessed us financially to where we now live more comfortable, but he still makes a modest amount. We knew that our goal was for me to eventually stay at home with our child/ren, so we planned for that by only using my income to pay off debt, put in savings, and use for emergencies. To do this, we made a lot of “sacrifices.” This included:

 

– We rarely ate out (we still rarely eat out).

– I used hand-me-downs to decorate our home.

– We got creative in the kitchen, using healthy, but frugal ingredients.

– No shopping “just for fun.”

– When we needed to replace an item, I would first check places like Craigslist for used items & bargains.

– Lots of making due with what we had.

– Cheap/free date nights.

– Lots of saying “no” even when it was difficult.

 

Here is what (by God’s grace) we have been able to do in the past 5 years by living off of just one income:

 

1. Pay off over $50,000 in student loans. God was very kind to allow me to scholarship through college and never have loans, but my incredible husband went through a grueling fast-track program at a specialized University that did not give or accept scholarships. Thankfully, he was able to stay (rent free) with a very sweet couple during his 13 months of college, so he only had to take out loans for the actual program plus a minor amount for living expenses, but we still ended up $50k in debt due to the expense of the program. In the long run, we felt this was a worthwhile decision because he obtained his degree in 13 months and was able to start working full-time while our other friends (and myself) still had almost 3 years of college to complete.

 

2. Save up for a large down payment on our home & a conventional loan. We had a goal of getting a conventional mortgage loan rather than an FHA loan primarily because the interest rates are usually much lower on conventional loans. However, to receive a conventional loan one of the requirements is at least a 20% down payment.

 

3. Buy a car with cash. We knew we didn’t want a car payment. We drove an old “clunker” vehicle for quite some time as we saved up, hunted for a good deal, and then bought a lovely little used car worth over $10,000 (determined by Kelly Blue Book) for $6,500 from a local cash only lot. What a blessing!

 

4. Save for unexpected expenses & emergencies. Overall, we have been blessed to be a very healthy family. However, our little boy did arrive almost 7 weeks before expected and spent a few weeks in the NICU. Then, in the last several months he developed some eczema and other symptoms that sent us for allergy testing. Recently, our refrigerator stopped working & we had to buy a new one fast. The transmission on our vehicle also started to blow out, so that was another $2,500 we needed. It is a blessing to have some financial cushion in order to pay off these unforeseen bills.

 

Has it been difficult? You bet! Has it been worth it? For sure!

 

Now that we truly are a one income family, things aren’t changing drastically for us. We already know how to live on one income. The only differences is that our savings/emergency fund amount is increasing much more slowly. Many do not choose to live this way (and some families truly cannot due to the size of their income), but I am thankful that we had the opportunity and that we took it. I believe it is paying off (no pun intended) in the long haul. Thank you, Lord, for such a blessing!

Is It Enough?

When I was a little girl and others asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always respond, “a mom!” My mother was a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). My husband’s mother was a SAHM. Many of my friends mother’s were SAHM’s. In my little world, it was just a given that I would get married, have babies, and stay at home with my children.

As I grew older, I was encouraged to go to college, obtain a degree & have a career. After all, I would need a job in case it wasn’t God’s plan for me to marry or if something were to happen to my husband and I needed to support myself and my children. I have always been fascinated with God’s creation of the human body. I loved my science classes, specifically biology & anatomy. I chose to earn a Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree and obtain a license as a Registered Nurse.

Over the years I have had various jobs. I started babysitting for others when I was a young teen, started working part time at a local cafe when I was fifteen, went to nursing school, worked as a patient care tech for a year and a half, then most recently I have worked as a Registered Nurse for the past four years.

Today is the first day in a decade that I have not been employed outside of the home.

Today I woke up and my title is wife and “Mommy.”

This is my dream job, and yet, a little voice in my head says, “oh, that’s not enough! is that ALL???” I have had a career alongside these other roles for so long that I am left to wonder if being a SAHM is really enough? Sure, it’s a full-time work load & there is always something to keep me busy, but is it fulfilling? Am I wasting my time? Shouldn’t I be doing more?

…and then I look at the little face smiling up at me and I am reminded of the seriousness of my job as a mother. This little child does not know Jesus & it’s my job to teach him. It’s my job to introduce him to the most important man that ever lived, and the only One who can save him from his sins.

So, today I will cherish every moment of that blessed role. I will walk into my little one’s room, turn off his sound machine, turn his light on, and start singing, “Rise and shine and give God the glory!” just like we do each morning, and then we will start our day together. I will watch him as he makes new discoveries, smile and nod when he looks up at me and grins while showing me his toys, and give him encouragement to learn and grow. I will help him make messes and then clean up those messes. I will hug him, kiss him, cuddle him, and remind him of how much I love him. Most importantly, I will teach him about Jesus Christ.

Yes, that is a fulfilling role for me. That is more than enough.

Thank You, Lord, for giving me the privilege and blessing of being a stay-at-home mom!