Friday, January 30, 2015

Jumping into Essential Oils

I recently took the dive into essential oils.  I have friends and family members who use them, and was always hearing about their many uses.  I loved that they provided natural alternatives to modern day medicines and cleaners, and really wanted to try them out for myself.  I did a bit of research (and honestly, by a "bit" I really do mean only a "bit"), but mostly asked around.  Most everyone I knew used Young Living, so I went ahead and decided on that brand.



When my husband received a Christmas bonus, I used a small chunk of it to purchase our starter kit as a "wholesale member."  This is key...you get BIG savings as a wholesale member, and you DO NOT have to sell anything.  This option allows you to sell if you want to, but you can also just use it for yourself, which is what I'm doing.  You get a 25% discount on anything you buy as a wholesale member.

The starter kit I purchased is pictured above.  It is called the "Premium Starter Kit with Bamboo Diffuser" and cost me $160 (I think $180 after shipping and sales tax).  It included the Everyday Oil collection, which has: Frankincense, Lavender, Lemon, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree Oil), Peppermint, Joy, Purification, Pan Away, Thieves, and Stress Away.  It also came with Citrus Fresh, one roller fitment, a handful of sample packets, and the bamboo diffuser.  They do have smaller and less expensive starter kits, too.

The Everyday oils kit when purchased alone (without a wholesale account) is $163.  The diffuser alone is regularly $117.  So, as you can see, if you are at all interested in purchasing some oils, you might as well sign up as a wholesale member and basically get your diffuser for free and then a 25% discount on anything else you might want!  Totally worth it.


In case you're like me and are a bit concerned that there may be pressure to sell, I have been shocked that I have not had ONE EMAIL about needing to sell or that I should sell or whatever.  Nothing.  I have been so pleased!  But, if I ever choose to sell, I have access to all the info I may need online.  

So far, we've been diffusing Thieves blend in the morning and at night.  Aside from it smelling amazing, it is supposed to be very cleansing for the air and ward of sick germs!  I've also used thieves to clean my counters, lavender to rub on sores and cuts, and Stress Away on my kids wrists when they were in stressful situations (like doctor's offices!).  I also started using Frankincense on my husband's neck as he has a big lump (he's been to several doctors trying to figure out what it is).  Frankincense is supposed to be excellent for things like cysts or other skin issues.  I'm also going to try the tea tree oil on some face issues that I've been having.

In the near future, I'm going to be sharing some of the ways my sister in law uses her oils...she's incredibly creative!  I can't wait to share some of her recipes (hand sanitizer, toy sanitizer, etc.) with you!  And I think you'll feel inspired to try a more natural approach to everyday health and cleaning.

If you do decide to join me in this essential oil journey, I'd love if you'd put my member number as your "referrer."  And if not me, please use the number of a friend or someone else you know so that SOMEONE can get a little bonus to purchase more oils for their family, too!  My personal number is: "2368276", and you can sign up HERE. 

I can't wait to share with you all the many ideas my sister in law has to share, as well as all the uses I find for implementing essential oils into my daily life.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Six Ways to Save When Eating Out with Kids



I've written before about why we take our children out to eat with us.  We still take our children to restaurants with us, even though we've grown by 1 since then, and the crazy factor has gone up just a little.  Sometimes I still leave restaurants with raised blood pressure, but sometimes a waiter will compliment my children's behavior or mention how polite or well behaved they were, and THAT totally makes all the hard work worth it!  

It's no surprise that eating out with a family is not cheap.  Even at your run of the mill Red Robin or Chili's restaurants, the cost can add up quickly!  Here are a few tips to saving money while eating out with the whole family in tow:

1. Skip the sodas.  This is a particularly helpful tip since soda not only costs more money, but it is also terrible for your body.  In the interest of being healthy and saving a few bucks while you're at it, skip the sodas and choose water instead.  Since most places charge between $1.75-$3 per person for soft drinks, you'll save a small chunk right off the bat.

2.  Skip the kids meals.  Depending on which restaurant we find ourselves dining out at, we may opt out of kids meals altogether and purchase our children a regular pizza to share.  There's no reason to spend $6 on a kids meal x 4 kids when they all want the same thing, which just so happens to be on the regular menu for less money and will feed them all.  Some restaurants serve large pizzas that cost less than 4 children's pizza meals (and is sometimes more food).

3.  Share meals.  At restaurants where we choose to go for the kids meals, the kids usually share.  Two or three kids meals will feed all four children (again, how far the food goes depends on the restaurant).  We just ask for an extra plate, and divvy up their food when it arrives.  Some restaurants also serve family style, which provides another great and easy way to share food.  If Ben or I have french fries, we portion some out to share with the kids.

4.  Utilize kids nights.  Some restaurants offer kids nights.  Many times you can get one free kids meal for each adult meal purchased (like at Famous Dave's).  And, since our kids share meals anyway, we can often get away with our two free kids meals.  Check local restaurants, which also tend to offer kids eat free nights.

5.  Search online for coupons.  Many local and chain restaurants offer coupons.  Places like Chili's and Red Robin always seem to have a coupon out there for use.  Local restaurants also seem to do this, but often you must sign up for their emails before you see any of those coupons.  I always do a simple Google search for coupons for a particular restaurant before we go.  We used a Chili's Kids Eat Free coupon just this week and our family of 6 ate dinner for $35.  Also, it's super important that you remember that you tip off the ORIGINAL TOTAL, not the discounted total.

6.  Skip the "extras."  Pre dinner chips and dip are my favorite, but honestly, they leave me full before my meal even arrives!  While an appetizer is nice, skipping it will leave more room in your belly for your main meal, and more money in your pocket.  Skipping dessert is another extra that can keep a good chunk of cash in your pocket.  But, if you're like me and LOVE dessert, buy just one or two to share among everyone.  The portion sizes are huge anyway, and there's no reason one or two won't feed a whole family at most restaurants.


Using some of these tips will help you to keep your expenses down when you do choose to eat out with your family.  What other tips do you have for saving a few bucks while dining out?  

Friday, January 23, 2015

Furniture Re-Do Inspiration



I received an email a few weeks back from Dan, who had stumbled across my post on how we chopped an old armoire and turned it into a kitchen island.  He had the same exact armoire, and was looking to cut his and re-purpose it, as well.

A little while later, I received a second email from Dan, who had completed his furniture re-do.  I asked if I could share it here with you, too, for a little more inspiration!

Here is Dan's final piece:



He used it just under their TV, after chopping off the top and staining it to better suite their home.  

I just LOVE this style armoire!  And there are so many ways to use it!  If you'd like to see a few more pictures of Dan's armoire, visit his blog HERE.

What pieces have you found lately to re-do?  Care to share and inspire us all?  Send me a note!  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Books Read in 2014

The year has flown by, and in true form, I read on and off throughout the year.  Since my discovery of Kindle Unlimited half way through the year however, I have read consistently through much of the second half of 2014.  I'd really like to improve upon this on and off reading habit in 2015, and set a goal to read at least one book every month.  I find that I'm generally a happier and more cheerful, and oddly, more alert person during the day when I'm consistently reading fiction books.  Books with an * before the title are currently free, either as an "always free" book or as a Kindle Unlimited inclusion.  

Here's a recap of the most of the books I read this year:


*The Giver-This is listed first as I think it wins my "favorite book of the year" award.  Read it.  Then watch the movie (which came out in August of 2014).  This book is a very quick read, and REALLY good!



*Gathering Blue-This is book 2 in the "Giver Quartet."  This book is a totally different story than The Giver.  Seemingly unrelated books, until you begin to read...



*Messenger-This is book 3 in the Giver Quartet.  This book begins to tie books 1 & 2 together.  Another quick, interesting, and amazing read.



*Son-Book 4 in the Giver Quartet.  I found this book to written slightly different than the previous three.  While it was good and tied all the books together in a wonderful way, it was a little slower for me to get through and certainly not my favorite.




Divergent-I originally saw this movie in theaters, not realizing that it was a book.  I loved the movie, so I went home and read all three books...in a week.  REALLY great.



Insurgent- Book 2 in the Divergent series.  As I said before, I read all three books (about 400-500 pages each) in a week.  Which in other words, means I really liked them all.




Allegiant- I was initially a little hesitant to read this 3rd book of the series because I had read mixed reviews.  Overall, it was a good book and had a decent ending.  But I agree with many reviewers that it's not as great as the first two in the series.



*The Secret Garden- I started this year wanting to read some of the old "Classics."  I read a handful of them in January, but that's about it.  I had, of course, seen The Secret Garden movies, but had never read this book.  It was a wonderful story, and so much better than the movies (isn't that usually the case though?). 


*The Scarlet Letter- I read this book in high school, and was surprised while reading to discover that I really didn't understand much of the story way back then.  It was a thought provoking story that I really enjoyed.


 *The Time Machine- Again, this was another book that I read in high school and was clearly not paying great attention when I did so.  Such an excellent read!  


*Book Marketing Guide-  Since I self published my first ebook this year, I did a lot of reading on how to market my book, and this book was a great help.

*Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success- Again, another book with great tips on publishing an ebook.

*Smashwords Style Guide-How to Format Your Ebook- This was my life-saver book on publishing my own ebook.  It gives step by steps for formatting your ebook to distributor's specifications.  And, with the help of this book, I DID IT!  

I read the entire Harry Potter series this year.  It is a top contender in my "best series of the year" award.




 *Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire- This was my favorite book of the entire series.










*Mockingjay-  This is book 3 in the Hunger Games series.  I had previously read the first 2 books, and finally got around to reading the 3rd.  I was not disappointed!  



*Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt-This was is interesting but a challenge to read (still reading), as I knew NOTHING about wall street, stocks, etc. before starting this book.

And then, I have about 7 or 8 books that I started but didn't finish (for a variety of reasons).  I had a difficult time reading all the non fiction books on my list, as I have an easier time reading fiction when I'm tired (which, let's face it, was MOST of 2014).  Hopefully I'll get around to finishing most of these books in 2015.

The only other fiction series that was on my to-read list for 2014 was the Lord of the Rings books.  I started the Hobbit, but just had a generally difficult time really getting into it.  Maybe next year!

What were your favorite reads of 2014?  What's on your 2015 list?  Any recommendations?



(The links in this post are my referral/affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy HERE.  Thank you for supporting the continuation of this blog by using my links!)


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How to Create an Elegant Christmas Tree for Less Than $25


(This is a guest post from my amazing friend, Jami.  She's a frugal momma on a mission to have beautiful things in her home.  I think you'll feel inspired by the beauty of her Christmas tree!)

It’s Christmas!  It’s that time of year when it’s actually acceptable to listen to festive music and decorate your house without getting weird looks.  I really wanted to decorate before Thanksgiving this year, but for my husband’s sanity, I decided to hold off until exactly the day after we ate all of that glorious turkey.
I was on a mission this year.  I wanted to re-theme our very boring and generic Christmas tree to fit our home, personality, and likes, plus add some glitz, sophistication, and elegance. I told my husband about my awesome idea, and worry glazed across his eyes.  He said what he was thinking, “How much?” 

I have always wanted to have one of those fantastically gorgeous, boutique style Christmas trees living in my house during the holiday season. I want the beauty, the sparkles, the whimsical and warm fuzzy feelings, and the amazing artistic value a tree like that can bring. But, the price tag has always been a deterrent.  Do you know what I mean here, people? A tree like that can be very expensive!

I gave myself a $25 budget.  I needed to be organized and have a plan of action in order to get the most out of what I had. I wasn’t able to just buy random ornaments that looked pretty.  I needed to know exactly what was needed to accomplish this challenge.  Below are some organized tips and tutorial links that can help you have a fantastically gorgeous, boutique style Christmas tree on a $25 budget! What are you waiting for!?

1. START WITH WHAT YOU HAVE

This first step is key.  Decide what you really want to use from what you already have.  This will allow you to save money and to establish a base for your new elegant Christmas tree theme.


What I Already Had on Hand:
-Small Christmas Lights
-Larger Bulb Lights
-Large Clear Bulb Ornaments
-Large Frosted Bulb Ornaments
-3 Silver Bird Ornaments
-2 Natural Wood Owl Ornaments
-A Pampas Grass Stalk


After I gathered what I already had to use to established my base, I was able to figure out what I needed for my elegant Christmas tree theme.  I wanted to stick with similar colors of what I already had in my ornaments and accents, like silver, brown, and white. I also wanted my theme to incorporate more natural elements with added glitz.



2. WHAT ORNAMENTS/ACCENTS DO YOU NEED TO PURCHASE?

After you’ve established your base of what you already have, now you can figure out what you actually need to buy with your $25 and where to go to get the most out of your budget. 

What I Wanted to Buy:
-New Silver/Glitter Bulb Ornaments
-Large Glittery Ornaments
-Twisty Branches For the Tree Top
-Jute Mesh to Wrap Around the Tree

 Since I only had $25 to work with, I figured I would start at the best place there is, the Dollar Tree.  The Dollar Tree is wonderful for holidays.  The only issue I have come across with this store is that sometimes their products are not always perfectly put together and can sometimes be a little on the cheese ball side.  However, I figured I would check out the ornament section and give it a whirl.  I actually found some pretty great things!

What  I Found at the Dollar Tree:
-2 Packages of Small Silver/Pewter/Glitter Ornaments ($2.14)
-2 Packages of Large Silver/Pewter/Glitter Ornaments ($2.14)
-2 Packages of Twisty Branches Found in the Floral Section ($2.14)
-3 Sets (2 in each package) of Silver Glitter and Rhinestone Snowflake Flowers ($3.21)

All I had left was the jute mesh. I checked out Michael’s since that would be the best bet, plus I had a 50% off coupon good on any regular priced item.  I found a 12” x 19’ roll of jute mesh in the floral section for $9.99  and paired it with my 50% off coupon.  Score!  I would cut the mesh into strips and twist them later on in order to wrap it around the tree.

What I Found At Michael’s:
-1 roll of jute mesh (10.76 - 50% = $5.38)


3. MAKE YOUR OWN ORNAMENTS!
After buying your necessity ornaments and accents for your tree, determine if there is anything else you can add that you can make yourself.  Pick one or two simple projects that won’t stress you out this season.  After all, Christmas is no fun with stress involved.

Ornament Tutorials I Used:









I love creating.  It pours joy into my soul. I wanted to create some special ornaments to go along with my new tree.  I found a few styles that would work well with my theme and would also be inexpensive and simple to make.  Plus my kids were able to get in on glitter action!

Supplies I Purchased For My DIY Ornaments:
-2 Packages Clothes Pins ($2.98)
-1 Package of Glitter ($1.07)



The total cost for my elegant Christmas tree...drum roll please....was a whopping $19.06! That is certainly below my original budget of $25 and is certainly fantastic for this budget savvy girl. 

If you have always wanted a fancy Christmas tree but have been intimidated by cost, there is no need to be any longer.  Enjoy your tree!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Simple & Sweet Christmas Gift for Teachers



My friend Kirstin posted this picture of her gifts for her son's teachers last week on Facebook and I just loved it!  This would be a very cute, practical (hello, chocolate and paper!), and easy gift to whip up this week if you haven't yet got around to getting the teachers in your life a gift yet.  


She found these adorable clipboard/notepad/pen sets at Michael's for just $3.  She bought them over a couple trips using a 50% of coupon, so in the end she paid just $1.50 each.  What a deal!



She paid $23 for a 6 pack of these delicious Hawaiian Host Chocolates from Sam's Club.  Everyone loves chocolate, right?


Then she attached this adorable ribbon, and let her son pick out a name tag sticker for each one.  




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