Saturday, December 10, 2011

Have you seen these 86 fresh Christmas decorating ideas from Southern Living Magazine? Of course, as is always the case with Southern Living, the accompanying photos are lovely.

In the photo above is an idea that I'm thinking about trying. I have some random silver pieces from my family and my husband's family. I actually have trouble storing them. I'm thinking of copying the idea not just for Christmas, but for a while. The problem is that I store many of these things in silver cloth and am also not the world's most frequent silver polisher. But, as of now, my silver's stored here and there, and I think it might pull my odds and ends together to display them as a collection. Of course, some of the things in this photo are mercury glass, which doesn't oxidize when exposed to air as silver does.

What do you think? Yay or nay?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Narrow Path...

While my husband was working in California and I was tagging along, I spent some hours wandering down a a public trail that wound around a lagoon. This trail and wildlife preserve were not too far from a busy public thoroughfare. Once in a while, I could see glimpses of the traffic in the distance. Yet, the preserve was peaceful, secluded, and quiet. I met just enough walkers and joggers along the way to feel quite safe, and, yet, I had enough solitude in which to rest and think. I also enjoyed watching the birds, butterflies, bees, and occasional lizard who lived in the brush.

The juxtaposition of the footpath with the highway in the distance reminded me of this challenging verse from Matthew 7:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Why do only a few find the narrow road? I don't think that the Lord wants it that way. After all, Paul tells us in I Timothy 2:1-3 that God wants all men to be saved. In Ezekiel, God tells us that He takes no pleasure in the death of any man. He sent first the prophets and, then, Jesus, to guide us. He promises that if we are in Him, he will guide our steps. (Proverbs 5:3) But, our foolish hearts are prone to wander, as the song says. The road to life leads through the cross, and we struggle with the fact that if we want to come after Jesus, we must first take up our cross daily. (Luke 14). It's a daily choice.

And, so, I'm reminded of how easily I can settle for having the appearance of godliness without its power, and I'm so thankful for grace, which pulls my feet back to the way.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Likewise, the brand of sunscreen my dermatologist recommends for me.

What is your sun risk Factor?

Do you know your sun exposure risk factor, based on your skin type? The American Academy of Dermatology divides skin tones into six types. Each skin type is beautiful, but each carries with it its own particular risk factor for damage/cancer due to sun exposure.

The skin types are as follows:

Type I – Extremely High Risk

People with skin type I do not tan whatsoever. They burn easily. Their skin is extremely sensitive to the sun. They have very fair white skin, and usually have light (blond or red) hair and light eyes, as well.

Skin Type II – Very High Risk

People with skin type II skin burn easily, but they can, with great difficulty, achieve a very light tan after repeated sun exposure. Their skin is highly sensitive to the sun. Like Type I, they have fair skin and eyes and hair that are on the lighter, rather than darker, side.

Skin Type III – High Risk

People with skin type III sometimes burn, but normally tan to a light, all-over brown when in the sun. Their skin is sensitive to the sun. They may have white to olive skin tones. This group is the largest skin risk factor group in the U. S.

Skin Type IV – Moderate Risk

People with skin type IV will quickly tan to a moderate brown. They may sunburn, but minimally. They may have olive to light brown skin.

Skin Type V – Low Risk

People with skin type V will find that they seldom get a sunburn and that they tan easily and deeply in the sun. They may have light to fairly dark brown skin.

Skin Type VI – Minimal Risk

People with skin type VI have deep skin tones. In the sun, they hardly ever burn, if ever. People in this category generally have dark black or very dark brown skin.

Types IV, V, and especially VI (lucky you!) generally show aging of the skin later than Types I, II, and III. There are skin cancers in these lower risk groups, but the frequency of occurrence is lower than for the higher risk groups. Even though your risk of skin damage and skin cancer is lower, it is still an important risk, nonetheless. The American Academy of Dermatologist recommends that everyone, even those with skin that seems impervious to the sun, wear a sunscreen with a SPF of 30. We all need to protect our skins, for skin is the largest organ in our bodies and is essential to our health and well-being.

I think I'm risk factor Type II. I think my husband is Type III, maybe IV, and my children are Type I and Type II. Which type are you? How about your spouse? Children? If you'd like to know more, ask your physician.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Children, Wear your sunscreen...Did you hear me?

Every one of my children's four grandparents have had at least one incidence of skin cancer. Now, I have a few pre-cancers, as well as some benign, but not-so-fun sun damage on my skin. It pays to wear your sun block, I tell my children.

According to Women's Health Magazine, "UV radiation alters the actual DNA of your skin cells, causing lines, wrinkles, discoloration, and even cancer."

Of course, the sun is a God-given source of physical life and happiness for our planet. Unless we shun the day and only come out at night, we can hardly avoid the sun, nor would we want to! However, we can take precautions to keep the sun from damaging our skins.

In order to take wise precautions, we need to be aware of AMA, FDA, and dermatologist guidelines. Unless we are aware of current recommendations, we are likely to make some sunblock mistakes. For example, we might use too little (It takes a full ounce of sunscreen to protect a person wearing a swimsuit for the allotted time on the sunscreen bottle. That means an eight ounce bottle of sunscreen contains only approximately 8 applications of sunscreen for someone who is swimming or at the beach.) Likewise, we may fail to buy a broad spectrum sunscreen, which blocks both UVA and UVB radiation. (Sun blocks will soon be required to block both, but do not currently have to. Look for a sun block that does cover both types of radiation.) Or, we might put too much hope in a jar. A sunscreen cannot block all the sun's rays, and it is possible to get a burn or damage your skin by lingering too long in the sun, even while wearing sun block.

Here's an article by the University of San Francisco California School of Medicine which gives you all the information you need to purchase an effective sun block and to use it correctly.

Note: Some think that using sun block not only prevents future sun damage to the skin, but it may reverse sun damage you have already received, as well. Perhaps, this is because skin that is protected from immediate sun damage can turn its resources to healing past damage.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A heart from God...

This morning, my husband and I walked down to the beach. As we enjoyed the gorgeous surroundings, we also shared with each other things that we have been learning from God recently.

Just as we got to the water's edge, I glanced down and saw a heart shaped rock that the ocean had thrown back up onto the beach. I know that could have been purely coincidence. In the moment, however, it seemed like a gift from God, and I like to think that is what it was. Just a little further, I found another similarly shaped rock.

An acquaintance of ours shared that when he passes spiritual milestones or comes to a decision of repentance and growth in some area, he will write the date on a rock and keep it as a remembrance. I think I shall keep these rocks to commemorate this lovely time, as well as to remind me of some spiritual goals that I have.

My husband teased me by saying, "You don't want a heart of stone, do you?" That reminded me of the wonderful promises in the book of Ezekiel concerning our hearts. God promises to remove our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh, to give us undivided hearts, to give us a new spirit in our hearts, and to move us to keep his ways. I love God's promises and the fact that He is always faithful to his promises.

I also love spending time with my husband. Next month, we will celebrate our 31st anniversary! It's hard to believe how fast the years have flown. I love that my husband still seeks God with all of his heart, which is a quality which drew me to him in the first place. I also love that we can share with each other the things that the Lord is putting on our hearts.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Did you grow up on Dr. Seuss, as I did? As a child, I loved it when my parents read his books to me, and I was especially delighted when my father used food coloring to concoct
for me "a dish if " Green Eggs and Ham".

Of course, I shared the books with my children when they were young. Recently, my son told me that, when he visited San Diego, he heard that Dr. Seuss had spent some time in Southern California and that many of his drawings were inspired by the local vegetation. Now, I am visiting Southern California, and I can see a resemblance between some of Dr. Seuss' characters and the many beautiful trees and plants around here.

This made me curious, so being the Internet nerd that I am, I turned to Wikipedia's article about Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss). While the biography does note that Dr. Seuss lived in LaJolla for several years, it seems to indicate that his style was influenced more by his original boyhood home and surroundings in the mid west. Certainly, his career was well established by the time he moved to California, though some of his famous books were written in LaJolla.

What do you think? Have you lived in California or visited here? Do you think the vegetation could have been inspiration for his drawing style? Have you ever heard this? An inquiring mind wants to know....



Monday, September 19, 2011

It pays to be a classic...

Do you have classic or traditional tastes? If so, this may help you sail through tough economic times. How, you say?

People with classic or traditional tastes often decorate their homes by "shopping" in grandma's attic. Re-purposing some timeless antiques is a low-cost way to create a timeless and inviting look in a home.

Likewise, women with classic or traditional tastes (along with the funky, but vintage-style woman) have a knack for adding heirloom items to their wardrobe. Jewelry, evening bags, and scarves add spice to more modern pieces of clothing.

Since classic and traditional clothing stays in style longer and wears well due to good construction, women who purchase classics as their basic wardrobe pieces can stretch their wardrobes longer without buying much, if anything, new.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

i30 days of smart money choices

We, like many families' would rather not pay $100 a month for cable TV. We use a Roku system. Little did we know that we are part of a significant trend. How about you? Have you investigated ways to save on your entertainment budget, especially with regard to TV?


Friday, September 02, 2011

30 Days of Smart Money Choices: The Casual Wardrobe

Do you have a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear? One reason might be that you have allocated too much of your wardrobe budget for items that you seldom wear, while you have spent too little on the things you actually wear day to day. Since our society is becoming progressively more casual, chances are a woman who has this problem with her closet may have neglected to buy enough well-made, long-lasting, and flattering casual garments.

The term "casual" covers a lot of ground. Items in the casual part of your wardrobe might include sports and outdoor clothing, clothes to run errands in, clothes you might wear at home, clothes you might wear when running a home business or managing your household, to items you might wear for casual social events. Casual items might include skirts, dresses, pants, tops, shoes, purses, etc.

The one thing casual shouldn't mean is shoddily made. Since we wear our casual clothing more often, it's wise to search for the best quality for the price. That doesn't mean our casual wear must necessarily expensive, but it should be durable, well-fitting, comfortable, and pleasingly presentable.

Casual clothing can express any fashion personality from boho to chic. Obviously, women who have sporty fashion sensibilities will lean toward casual items. (In fact, they may have too many casual items and not enough dressier ones.) Women who like preppy styles and women who have natural tastes will also adore casual items. Women who dress in classic style may also have a special flair for wearing casual clothing, though they will also have dressier items in their closets.

One way to wear casual clothing is to choose a number of basic pieces in neutral colors. These can be dressed up or down through your choice of shoes and accessories. Many women turn their favorite one or two neutrals into sort of an "everyday uniform", which they can pull together quickly and easily.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Thirty Days of Smart Money Choices:

A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Luke 12:15

The Greatest Generation, as they are called, generally followed a strict corporate career structure. Beginning with their baby boomer children, each succeeding generation has become more flexible in job outlook. Millenials, for example, are often entrepreneurial in spirit and often start small businesses that are centered on jobs or skills they enjoy. Internet technology makes it possible to market such businesses. Many are choosing job and life satisfaction over prestige and paycheck.

Whatever generation someone belongs to, today's business culture makes it more likely that an individual will have at least two types of work during their lifetime. For example, the baby boomer who is downsized out of a job or who has retired may start a new venture during midlife and later -- provided that they are physically healthy enough to do so. Likewise, a woman may choose for her main career to be that of managing her home and family, yet she may also take on outside work in different seasons of life. The young entrepreneur who launches a small business may sell a successful one and move on to something else or, conversely, may not succeed and end up in a more traditional work role.

If you are at a career crossroads in life, you may be stuck as to what you want to do next. Here are a couple of ideas:

As baby boomers and Gen X-ers age, more health care resources are needed. If you do not wish to go back to school to become a doctor or a nurse, there are other opportunities in the field of medicine that you might consider. For example, you might become a paid health care advocate, who helps patients manage their own health care. Or, you might become a sitter for someone who is home bound. Health care provides volunteer opportunities, too.

If health care is not your thing, you might consider becoming a docent. If your town has a museum or a historical attraction, for example, you may find work giving tours. Similarly, libraries often need assistance.

In some places, any college degree will qualify you to become a substitute teacher. If you love children and are looking for "a career after a career", consider substituting.

If you are a manager of your home, consider that much of this world's good has been traditionally done by women at home whose children are grown. You might choose to forgo getting a job simply because your children are out of the house and people expect you to do something, anything. You are still needed in our home. Likewise, you are needed to fill roles that have traditionally been done by women of mid-life and beyond. You might, for example, unofficially mentor young wives and moms in your area, do volunteer and church work, get involved in service to your neighborhood or city, help out the elderly in your neighborhood, etc. The possibilities are endless.

In our era, we are not as limited in our choice of vocation or avocation as we once were. Before you settle for grinding a way at a job you no longer enjoy, investigate what other possibilities you can explore. Remember, though, that it is best not to quit your current job until you know for certain that you do have replacement income. Also remember that it is not always possible to do exactly what we want to do. Sometimes, we have to work at something we don't particularly enjoy in order to provide for our families, and, sometimes, we do have to stick with a career path that no longer suits us. A job that pays the bills is a blessing in this economy, whether it's a dream job or not.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Art of Putting pen to paper

I've been thinking a lot about letter writing today. I set out to write a lovely letter to my lovely daughter, and I searched the Internet looking for lovely inspiration. Now that I type that, I see some irony in turning to the technology -- wonderful as it is -- for help in an art that has been largely diminished by that very technology. Yet, I did find some wonderful spark for creativity.

First, I found that there are many blogs devoted entirely to the art of letter writing. Here was one of the first that I came across: 365 Days of Letters.
Another inspiring site devoted to letter writing is this one: A Year of Letters. These two blogs connect to a number of blogs about writing letters, which I hope to explore in the coming days.

I also found research that says, believe it or not, that penmanship is good for your health and also essential to a child's development. After reading several articles on the subject, I became convinced that putting pen to paper can

1) help those of us who are on the back end of the baby boom to keep our minds sharp as we age.
2) help any of us remember, as we apparently remember something better if we write it down than if we don't.
3) help children develop the brain in an essential way that does not occur with texting or typing.
4) help children learn fine motor detail.
5) inspire confidence in us.
6) help us communicate better with people who live in areas that are not as technologically advanced as our society is -- an essential if you have a mission mindset or a philanthropic interest in a developing country.
7) Help us truly communicate feelings in a way that can not be communicated through email or texts.

Along with all the good news that attention is being paid to handwriting, I also found this beautiful ode to the passing art of writing letters. The author describes receiving beautiful letters from her mother-in-law, muses about the importance of letters, and wonders if the next generation will even write them.

I suppose that it's natural I should think about the art of writing letters, as I have found many beautiful family letters among stuff that I cleared out from a house that my father sold. I found letters that my father had written to his family when he was stationed abroad during World War II and the outcome of the war had not yet been decided. I found the letters that my parents exchanged when they were engaged, and my father moved ahead of my mother to the town where they would live once they were married.

I also kept the letters that my husband wrote to me during our courtship and engagement, along with every letter or card he has written to me during our thirty years of marriage. I have no plan to discontinue the practice of keeping writings from my beloved Doc Brilliant.

My friends and I used to delight in receiving sweet letters from our beaux and in keeping those letters in some special spot in our rooms to re-savor as we wished. What do girls do now that so much of their communication with their suitors is done through texts?

On the one hand, I think that letter writing continues in the tradition of buying cards and writing notes on them. We live in an age when stores sell exquisite stationery, and I'm sure I'm not the only person who buys such. On the other hand, I can't keep up with the volume of email and texts I receive, while a hand-written letter waiting for me in the mailbox is a rare treat nowadays.

Let you think I'm anti-electronic communication, let me assure you that I am not. I am happy that I can instantly converse with even far away friends and family in texts and emails and via Skype and all other manner of helpful technology. I think about mothers left in Europe, waiting for word of their pioneer children to cross perilous territory on the North American continent and to pass on slow ships across the Atlantic, and feel privileged to live in a time when I can so easily keep up with how my adult children are doing.

Still, I'd hate to see snail-mail letter writing fade away completely. What do you think? Is letter writing a dying art? Or, is it thriving? Do you think the revival of journal writing in recent years is a way that we are trying to capture something that we used to gain from writing letters? Do you like to put pen to paper, or would you rather text? Is there a way to have the best of both worlds -- electronic communiques and hand-written missives?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Monday, August 01, 2011

Day 17 (after a break!)

Smart Money Choices!

Consider the relative importance of stuff: A friend of mine told me this weekend that she had befriended a widow in her neighborhood. The widow went on a trip to Europe and was killed in an accident there. My friend went down to the house, where they were holding an estate sale, and she noticed -- with a pang -- that her friend had left behind lots and lots of stuff which she will now never be able to use.

I'm sure that this widow left behind a legacy of other things -- such as love for her family or faith or perhaps even well managed funds. But, if we are not careful, our legacy can be a lot of stuff that will burden our families when it comes time to clean out our dwelling places. In fact, if we Americans are not careful, we can spend the first part of our adult years accumulating things and the last part trying to get rid of things. I've been thinking about this a lot as I've been dealing with my own accumulation of things. Some of these are things we bought; others are things we inherited. Some do have value. A good many things, however, don't have any real value.

That's not to say that owning things is wrong. But, having too much stuff that you don't enjoy and realistically can't ever use becomes a negative drain. Treasure in heaven, on the other hand, is always positive!

Improve your skills and interests:

Keeping current with skills and interests can put money in your bank. Here are some reasons why: 1) In today's world, it is likely that we will change jobs at some point in our life. The person who is interested in life and who has developed his or her talents is better able to weather changes in work life. 2) Many of us will arrive at the retirement years with the health, time, and energy to begin a new vocation or avocation. We may also need to supplement our retirement income. Again, the person who has stayed invested in learning will be able to take advantage of later life opportunities. (For those who do not enter retirement with physical strength, learning can provide enjoyable stimulation, if nothing else.)
3) Those of us who have chosen to make home our career may need to take a temporary or even permanent job if circumstances change. Again, if you have continued to learn and to develop your skills, you can move into a new line of work if necessary. 4) We may have chosen a field that we find no longer satisfies us. If we have pursued learning a few other interests, we may be able to change to a more enjoyable job. Sometimes, however, we may have to be grateful for the job and the paycheck that we do have, even if it isn't our dream work. In that case, an avocation can add to our enjoyment of life. 5) The woman at home may organize charity events or otherwise be active in church and/or volunteer work. Continuing to learn helps us with this.

How does a busy woman continue to learn? Many have little time left over to study. In that case, we can do several things to develop our talents:

1) Devote just one hour a week or 15 minutes a day to study or practice.
2) Use time with friends to take an interest in their lives. Ask questions and learn about their activities.
3) Jot down things you want to remember on note cards or on your phone or I-pad and glance at them throughout the day.
4) If you are homeschooling, learn on a deeper level the things that you are teaching your children at their level. For example, if you are interested in science, you can teach your fifth grader things a fifth grader can understand while reading a graduate school level book yourself.
5) Keep a collection of books or files about a few subjects that interest you. It's probably better to study a few things deeply than to learn a little about this and that.
6) Keep up with current affairs, particularly in areas that interest you.
7) Take family outings to museums and other places of learning.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 16

Doing it yourself can not only save you money, but add to your sense of satisfaction in life, as well. The June 2011 edition of Ladies' Home Journal quotes neuroscientist Kelly Lambert and other scientists as saying that hand work fights depression. Meaningful work with your hands releases floods of dopamine and serotonin that make us feel happy and satisfied. The work that best calls forth these happy chemicals is when we use our hands in anything related to survival, particularly regarding shelter and food. You don't have to hunt down game or plow a prairie in order to have this happy effect. Little activities, such as hemming a skirt, grooming your daughter's hair, darning a sock, growing some herbs, dicing onions, and the like signal to our brains that we are taking care of these essential needs. Mending things, repairing things, and otherwise using our hands to ensure that we get the most from our tools and clothes can fit into this category, as well.

The article also notes that doing soothing, repetitive chores with our hands distracts our brains from external stress and gives us some moments to relax mentally.


Thursday, June 09, 2011

Thirty Days of Smart Money Choices -- Start young!!

According to a figure cited on, people in the 18 to 24 age range spend nearly 30% of their monthly income on debt repayment. While I'm not sure when this statistic was gathered except that it was 2009 or after. However, noted that this was double the percentage spent in 1992.

Devoting 30 per cent of your pay check to debt retirement is a burden at any time of life. For young singles and young couples just staring out in life, this is even more overwhelming. Young people generally just also acquire the basic needs in life -- a place to live, furniture, cars, etc. -- and for many there are also the costs of staring a family. They may still be finishing their education, particularly if they are going on to graduate school. There is also the risk that a young couple might delay having children until debt is paid, thus missing prime years for having and enjoying children.

A phenomenon sometimes mentioned with regard to this generation of 18 to 35 year olds is that many are delaying the usual hallmarks of maturity and independence. The title of the movie "Failure to Launch" takes its name from this syndrome. I'm sure that there are many cultural factors at work here, but, perhaps, the trend toward more and more debt is one of them.

How can parents of young children start now to help them avoid starting their adult life in debt?

1) Speak positively to your child about your child's future. Celebrate milestones of maturity from taking first steps to graduating from college to marriage and beyond.
2) Train young children how to handle money. Continue training through high school. Make a list of money skills that your children will need to acquire, and teach them as is age appropriate. Does your high school child know how to stick to a budget? Does he know what it takes to balance an account? To use a credit card responsibly? That doesn't mean that your child needs to have the responsibility for money management or a credit card at this age, but they should be preparing to step into these roles.
3) Teach your children the difference between needs and wants and how to reasonably enjoy both.
4) Help your child learn job skills that he or she can use while pursuing higher education.
5) Help your child assess his strengths and interests. Help him develop a vision for what he or she wants to do in life. Help him or her map out an educational strategy that will help him or her fulfil his or her goals.
6) Help your child not to fear failure. Teach your child how to find that balance between actively striving for goals, yet without perfectionism, insecurity, or a feeling that his or her total worth in life depends on reaching those goals.
7) Teach your child that his or her worth in life does not come through accumulating things.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Doing Virtuous Business by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch

I received a copy of "Doing Virtuous Business" by Theordore Roosevelt Malloch from the Book Sneeze program in exchange for my honest review. I was expecting more of a "how-to" conduct one's business affairs justly, something more along the lines of "Business by the Book". However, while "Doing Virtuous Business" does provide some practical examples and a practical list of virtues to employ, it is more of a philosophical treatise about capitalism and ethics. Malloch explores the effects of religious beliefs of many different kinds on how an individual or a corporation operates. Since I am a Christian, it is his view of Christianity that interests me most.

In some senses, I think it is dangerous to link being a Christian to any one system of economics or politics. After all, the follower of Jesus lives by the values of God's kingdom and His righteousness, and God's principles and values are greatly different than any system based on worldly wisdom. The true Christian strives to be radically righteous, radically just, radically generous, and radically loving no matter what economic or political system he or she is placed in. Malloch lists virtues that not only build economic capital but spiritual capital, as well. These virtues, so far as they are Christ-like virtues, should be found in every believer in any economic circumstance.

However, there is not doubt that democracy and capitalism do provide unique opportunities and freedoms that can be used for great good. I am impressed that Malloch realises that mankind not only has a moral dimension, but a spiritual dimension, as well. Suppressing the spiritual dimension through economics, politics, or academics is never good for a country and its people. Encouraging the spiritual dimension to flourish blesses a nation.

Since I don't often read economic theory of any kind, reading Malloch's theories and also the examples of virtuous businesses that he describes is mind-stretching for me. I haven't decided yet what I think of some of Malloch's ideas, but I find it worthwhile to consider them. I am grateful to be in a democratic republic, as well as in a capitalist system, because I do enjoy freedom and the chance to use my talents in creative, profitable, ethical, and spiritual ways. I pray that our government and economy strengthen. I like the idea that in a capitalist society you can create material and spiritual capital. This is because it is an open and creative system of economy, as opposed to the closed systems of communism and socialism. However, should God, in His Sovereignty, move our country's system in another direction, I pray that He would show me ways to be Christlike in whatever that turns out to be.

Book Review: Here burns my Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

I was given a free review copy of "Here Burns My Candle" by Liz Curtis Higgs. I was intrigued by the historical setting in Jacobite Scotland, as I, myself, have Scots ancestry. I also saw that this book is supposed to be a re-telling of the first part of the book of Ruth. The book's setting and theme had a lot of potential, I thought, and I looked forward to reading it. I do enjoy historical fiction and some historical romance.

I didn't feel that this book lived up to its promise. The relationships drawn between the three women and the two brothers seemed shallow compared to the relationships in the real book of Ruth. I realise that the author didn't mean this to be a verbatim re-telling and meant only to build on the basic idea. However, I thought that she blew a chance to give us more depth to her characters.

Also, a large sub-theme is the infidelity of the main character's husband. While this is a subject that people do deal with and could easily be analysed in Christian fiction, it seemed out of place in this particular story. It seemed as if it were thrown in for maudlin effect, rather than being a sub-plot that actually moved the story line or gave the story any depth.

When reading Christian fiction, I like to be inspired by the faith of the characters -- or at least that of the main character. Unfortunately, I didn't find much inspiration in theses pages.

On a more positive note, I thought it was clever that the main character began as a pagan, as Ruth surely would have been a pagan until influenced by her Jewish husband and parents-in-law -- her mother-in-law, Naomi, in particular. Whether someone would have actually been involved in pagan worship at that period of time in Scotland, I don't know. I imagine that the greater conflict would have been between Catholic loyalties and Protestant ones.

While Naomi in the book of Ruth had her faults, she was a godly influence on her daughters-in-law. The mother-in-law figure in the book doesn't seem as much of a godly influence on her family. Her faith seems more ritualistic and nominal. She is not close enough to her daughter-in-law to be aware of the struggles in her marriage or of her lack of knowledge of the Bible.

Others may like "Here Burns my Candle," but it wasn't my cup of tea.


Friday, May 06, 2011

30 days of Smart Money Choices -- Weddings

According to The Wedding Report, the average cost of an American wedding increased 22.9% in 2010, from $19,581 (2009) to $24,066. This is actually conservative compared to other articles I've read. Yet, many families I know have organised lovely weddings for a fraction of this cost.

When it comes to getting married, taking a honeymoon, and establishing that first place a couple will live, these things are an opportunity to spend money according to priorities. One couple might place a high priority on the wedding ceremony, while another may put more into the honeymoon, and still another save for future married life. One bride may place a high priority on the wedding dress, while another is more concerned about the cake and flowers. Deciding what a couple's priorities are requires a lot of communication between the bride and groom, as well as between the bride and her family and the groom and his. Deciding how to fit those priorities into the actual budget for the wedding requires communication, as well.

The bride, especially, will need to know what her wedding budget is and where she wants to place her funds. Knowing when to splurge and when to save can save a lot of headaches.

Of course, a wedding is generally one of the most special occasions in a family's life. Because weddings are so joyful, the Bible uses wedding imagery to help us understand something of what the wonders of heaven are like. However, young couples, especially the brides, should remember that after the wedding comes the marriage. After years of wedded bliss, some of the things that seem so important to you when planning your wedding will not be the things you happily remember of your wedding day. It's not necessary to spend lavishly on the wedding ceremony or honeymoon in order to celebrate the beginning of a wonderful, life long relationship. Many a happy marriage began with the simplest of weddings.

Not only should you think about your financial wedding budget, you should also think about your time budget, as well. Too many brides exhaust themselves trying to have the perfect wedding. (There is no such thing!) Some brides like this begin their married life in a state of nervous exhaustion instead of peaceful joy. Better to err on the side of simplicity and be freer to enjoy your wedding and first days of your marriage than to be consumed with details that drive you and your family and your beloved groom to distraction. It all depends on what you can personally manage. Tame the Bridezilla within you!

Today, many people wait until they are somewhat older to get married. Weddings between two people who have worked and have savings to add to the contribution of the brides parents are often featured in bridal magazines and other media. Couples who marry at younger ages and who have not each worked for very long will have smaller budgets and will be more dependent on the parents' budget. They will do well to remember that they do not have to compete with media images of the perfect wedding.

In fact, a couple should avoid comparing their wedding to that of any other couple. It is their special day. The important thing is that they are establishing a life together, not that they live up to someone else's special day. A couple who begins their marriage with contentment, faith, and joy will have a lovely day no matter what.

Here are seven tips for arranging a wedding within a budget:

1) Thirty years after my wedding day, I still have my wedding gown and intend to keep it unless someone should ever want to be married in my now old-fashioned dress. However, a bride in our family was not as sentimental about keeping her dress, and she sold it after her wedding. This is a way to re-coup some wedding costs. Another option if you are not attached to keeping your dress is to rent a dress. Yes! There are places that will rent you beautiful dresses for a fraction of the cost of buying one. If you do want to buy and keep your dress, do a cost comparison of buying one verses having someone sew it, particularly if a seamstress in your circle of family and friends will do the sewing for free. My mother-in-law married back in the era when tea-length gowns were fashionable, and she made her own dress. Later on, when she needed a dress for an occasion and her clothing budget as a newly wed was tight, she died her wedding gown and wore it! Her husband -- my father-in-law -- did not recognise at first that she was wearing the same dress, because she had made it look new.
2) A current custom among some is to have two dresses: one for the wedding and one for the reception immediately afterward. You have only a short time to be in your wedding gown. Think carefully before deciding that you really do want two gowns. You will get more enjoyment out of your wedding gown and save money on wedding costs by wearing your wedding dress all the way through the reception. Of course, you may want a less formal going-away outfit or a second dress for a party that will be given at another time or on another date than your wedding. However, if you choose wisely, these outfits will be something that you will wear again and again.
3) Chances are great that if you are getting married, someone you know either just had a wedding or is also planning one. Check into borrowing items or sharing items or buying bulk items together.
4) Vintage wedding rings can be re-set and are often a less expensive and more beautiful purchase than a brand new ring.
5) If you are getting married in your home city and in the church you usually attend, you fill likely know many women who have planned weddings in that building and/or reception hall if you are using the church reception hall. Usually, there are even a few women who take on the ministry of helping brides prepare for their weddings. Take advantage of their advice.
6) Create a folder or a notebook in which you can keep your wedding plans, as well as pictures or notes for wedding ideas. Often, you can take an idea that you see in a magazine or on a wedding web site or at a wedding and re-produce something similar for less expense. Be sure to visit web sites that offer example of budget weddings.
7) Many of us start planning our weddings when we are little girls and have definite ideas about what we want. While we may be able to incorporate many of our dreams into our actual wedding, we may have to be flexible about others. It's more important that you are marrying the love of your life than that you are creating a dream wedding.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Thirty Days of Smart Money Choices....

1) When couponing, make sure that any coupon you use will represent a "real saving". By that, I mean that the coupon must be for an item and a brand that you really want. For some items, I do care about which brand I buy. For other items, a house brand is fine for our family. Sometimes, a coupon for a brand name item will only bring it in line with the regular price for another brand's equivalent or for the house brand's equivalent. Also, we can get carried away with cutting out coupons and clip coupons for products that we really don't have a desire for or a use for. If you really do not desire that particular item in that particular brand, the coupon doesn't represent real savings for you. However, if it allows you to buy a brand that you do love or an item that you really need, that is a real savings.
2) Encourage any of your children who are earning money through babysitting, doing chores, or working at a job to give a certain amount of their income, to save a certain amount of their income, and let them use the rest as they see fit. (That is, of course, provided that they use it in a way that is in line with your family's values.) This will teach them habits of giving and saving early. Starting with monetary discipline at a young age is so much easier than trying to acquire it later on.
3) We are not vegetarian, but we do not mind meatless meals. Well-balanced, meatless meals can often be cheaper to cook than ones which include meat. Also, you can stretch your meat budget through using little bits of meat in stir-fries, casseroles, etc.
4) The worthy woman in Proverbs 31 was likened to merchant ships bringing back their food from afar. How would merchant ships operate? The merchant would likely select the best of something for the best price. He or she would be knowledgeable about the goods to be traded. For example, a spice merchant would have a thorough knowledge of spices, and a clothing merchant would be able to identify quality merchandise. As the food manager of your home, it's worthwhile to educate yourself about many different aspects of foods from nutrition to quality to seasonal supply to how to cook them to the best ways to season them, etc. Learn, for example, what the various cuts and grades of meats are and how they should best be cooked.
Learn enough to be a smart shopper. You don't have to know it all at once, and you don't have to become a gourmet chef in order to make some good choices with your food money. Just gradually learn what you need to know for your purposes and keep learning throughout life.
5) Dental work can be very expensive, but not everyone has dental insurance. Sometimes, even if you do not have access to dental insurance through your work, you can qualify for a dental discount plan. Search your options. Verify that the discount plan is sound and will be a benefit to you. The dental discount may not cut your costs as much as insurance would, but every dental dollar helps.
6) Maintaining your teeth will cut down on expenses and pain! Of course, we all know that it's important to floss and brush our teeth. Likewise, it's wiser to go for regular check-ups than to wait until you have a problem to visit the dentist. Even if you practice tip-top dental hygiene, there is no guarantee that you won't ever have some problems with your teeth. Sometimes, things befall us that are no fault of our own. However, if you do neglect your teeth, you can pretty much count on paying for it later on down the road.
7) Wearing your sunscreen throughout life can cut down on the expense (and pain) of dealing with pre-cancerous damage to your skin. Obviously, those of us who can't tan are at highest risk. However, even if you tan easily or even if you have very dark skin, you can sustain some sun damage. No matter what your skin type or ethnic background, some type of sun protection is advisable. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

30 days of smart money choices...

1) Join Sally Beauty Supply' discount plan for smart savings on beauty products. This gives you a discount on their already low prices for health and beauty items.
2) Cut down on paper towel usage by using old diapers, rags, or the thin weight, lint-free flour sack type towels that you can find at any discount store. Our great-grandmothers kept clean houses before the invention of paper towels. Rags are easy to wash and re-use. Save paper towels for when you really need the instant convenience.
3) Need a quick update for your home, as well as a way to pull mis-matched furniture together? Coat the items with a layer of either white paint or black paint. With family antiques, make sure that painting the furniture will not devalue the item's worth. Otherwise, happy painting!
4) Can't afford an interior designer? Likely, you know someone who is an amateur, but who has a good knack for decorating. Invite her over for a glass of iced tea and ask her for some decorating advice. Of course, her tastes may differ than yours, so be sure to take that into account and stay true to your own style. However, someone with a good eye can usually spot ways you can attractively arrange things that you own and that suit your taste. Such a talented friend can also help when you are deciding between two or three choices of fabric swatches or paint colors.
5) Think of a home magazine that you enjoy and visit that magazine's web site or sign up for their twitters for ideas and inspiration. Most sites offer some how to articles and provide pictures of looks which you might be able to duplicate on a thrift-store budget. Here's my list of some great home and home decorating magazines with sites to enjoy.

Better Homes and Gardens
Traditional Home Magazine
Romantic Homes Magazine
Coastal Living
Southern Lady Magazine
Southern Living
Real Simple Magazine
House Beautiful
Fresh Home Magazine blog
Country Living


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

30 days of Smart Money Choices:

1) If you're faithful with a little, you'll be faithful with a lot. Start with what you have and manage it well. Don't wait for "your ship to come in". Do the best with what you have now.
2) Think about how your parents used money. Think about any life events that affect your attitudes toward money. Think about how are you shaped by these things, for good and for ill. Get rid of any emotional baggage that warps your healthy view of money and your ability to use it wisely.
3) Let money be a tool that you use for good. Don't let it become your master.
4) Realize that you probably need less money and less stuff than you think you do.
5) Allow some room in your budget for "fun spending". Don't create a budget that is so tight that you can't stick to it.


Monday, April 25, 2011

30 days of smart money choices --

1) The smart lady above is making the most of her bounty by preserving her fruits. Freezing and canning can save you money if you have the time for these activities. You do not always have to grow your own fruits, veggies, and meats in order to preserve them. For example, I sometimes buy my favorite kind of apple (very crisp and firm Arkansas Black variety) at a nearby orchard and keep the apples the way the owner recommends. I put several in a zip lock bag with just a bare teaspoonful of water in the bag. (Too much water renders the apples soggy, rather than crisp.) I keep the sacks of apples in the refrigerator crisper. They can last up to a year this way, especially if you check the bags to remove any that are starting to spoil. You can buy extra produce at a farmer's market or even a grocery store that has good quality produce in season. You can then preserve it just as you would as if you had grown it yourself. Of course, growing your own produce will give you lots of summer bounty to store for the rest of the year.
2) Research various ways to preserve herbs. One way is to salt them. Herbs can also easily be grown inside, all year long.
3) Search out recipes for freezer slaw, three bean salads, copper pennies, and for small batches of jellies and pickles that don't need heavy canning or freezing to preserve.

On a completely different train of thought...
4) Save and invest with your convictions in mind. First and foremost, do not compromise your beliefs for the sake of earning money. Secondly, the home is a great venue from which to foster things that help the community at large. Some things you might foster with careful savings, careful investments, careful consumption, gifts to charities, and personal charity are adoption, clean water for people in third world countries, the spreading of the news about Christ, medical aid to people in areas served by charity clinics, food banks, being a good steward of the environment, supporting local businesses, encouraging young entrepreneurs, and the list goes on and on. You may not be able to do everything, but you can do something. The combined effect of individual households using portions of their assets for worthy causes can do a nation much good.
4a) Be ware of dubious investment schemes that play on your desire to do good in a certain area. Make sure any proposed investment -- even ones that claim to promote a good cause -- is sound and that the returns really will be used for the stated goal. Likewise, check out charities before you give. You want your money to actually meet the need about which you are so passionate.
4c) Having said that, set aside some money that you are willing to give, lend, or invest without any guarantee of financial return. That way, you will be able to give that money to a truly worthy venture, regardless of the outcome.

Still another set of ideas:
5) This is the season for spring cleaning, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. Before you throw things away, decide if they can be sold. For example, many people -- myself included -- have sold books on (Be sure to account for the cost of mailing your item to a buyer in your asking price. does give a shipping allowance, but it might not be enough for a heavy book.) Other sites to check for selling things are Sell.Com, Half.Com, E-Bay,, and Craig's List. While some people with a good eye for what sells buy old things and re-sell them to such sites, it's best to start by simply selling something you already have and would like to get rid of. That way, you are not risking anything. If it sells, you've earned a little extra pocket cash. If it doesn't -- no biggie. You can always toss it or give it away later.
6) Take care of any obvious water leaks in your house, such as a drippy faucet or water damage on a first floor ceiling that might indicate a problem with an upstairs air conditioner/heating unit . Also check for hidden leaks. One way to to this is to turn off all of the fixtures and appliances in your house that use water. Look at your water meter. If the flow indicator is still spinning, you have a leak that needs to be fixed. Repairing water leaks can save you a lot of money.
7) We all know that using an ATM that doesn't belong to your bank costs extra. If you plan ahead, you can perform any transactions you need to at your bank or at one of your bank's ATMs. However, even the savviest planners among us can get caught needing a little cash in a pinch. If you are not near one of your own bank's ATM's, buy a small item at a grocery store or drug store and ask for cash back. Most places limit the amount of cash you can get in this way. However, the limit is usually high enough to meet any sudden need.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Calling all gardeners -- Need the 411

A couple of years ago, I brought home some prairie rose seeds from Texas. The picture on the seed packet was a very pronounced pink. It is only this year that this plant has grown very large and has started to bloom. Is this my prairie rose? The blossom looks a little bit like a Cherokee rose. It also looks a little bit like a blackberry blossom.

You can't tell it from the photo, but this part of the bush is supported on a makeshift trellis against a brick wall. The bush wants to grow out sideways, sending out long canes and runners.

There is a white variety of prairie rose that grows up north, I think, but I wasn't expecting that from the seed packet. Whatever it is, it's lovely. However, I'd love to be able to identify it.

It is growing near cultivated (not wild) roses. Is that a problem?

Let me know what y'all think.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

30 Days of Smart Money Choices --

Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good. Ecclesiastes 11:6

1) To quote a popular proverb, "Don't put all of your eggs in one basket." Diversify yo
ur investments. Have a good investment plan which does not depend on just one type of investment to succeed. A mutual fund can provide some diversity for you simply by the fact that it manages a wide portfolio of stocks. Even so, your personal investment strategy needs a little diversity, as well.
2) Have a good grasp of the overall picture of your life. Have a unifying purpose for your endeavors. For the Christian, it could be to seek God and His kingdom first and to follow Jesus. As Jesus told Martha, it's not good to fret and stew over many things. Only one thing is needed. Working toward a over-arching goal gives meaning
to everything we do. Yet, under that umbrella of a unifying purpose, we will need to accomplish work in many sub-areas. For example, the keeper at home must not only organize meals, but see to it that her family is clothed as well. Be able to allot time and finances to complete your work. Do not work hard in the morning and slack off as the day goes on. Do not pour all of your time into your favorite activities and fail to succeed at other responsibilities. In this sense, you not only diversify your financial investments, but your time investments, as well.
3) When investing and making other financial decisions, watch out for these attitudes that can sabotage you: fear (as opposed to reasoned and prayerful prudence), greed, envy, making rash decisions, believing unreasonable claims, placing too much se
curity in temporal things, and a lack of trust in God's provision. Cultivate trust, generosity, prayerful and reasoned prudence, and the knowledge that God can provide no matter what happens to your personal finances or to the overall economy.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Smart Money Choices --

1) Don't buy a brand new car. The greatest depreciation on a car occurs in the first year. You can get very good deals by buying a one-year-old car. Some people buy a car and decide after a year that it's not the one for them. Others trade up every year, though this is not as common as it once was. Some buy a car and decide a year later that they can't or don't want to make the payments. These things means that there is often a selection of one-year-old cars for you to choose from. If you go this route, be sure the car is in good condition and was not returned because of an accident or design flaws. Also, do your research and determine what type of car you want fist. Then, look for a one-year-old in that make and model. Don't settle for something you don't want. If you buy a car when it is one year old, it should last you many years.
2) If you have a pet, investigate whether pet insurance is worth your while. Factors to consider are how much you would personally spend to keep a pet alive. Some owners would do everything possible; others would draw the line at certain expensive features. We have not found it worth having pet insurance yet. However, dear friends of ours do carry pet insurance, as they earn the cost back on the amount they must spend every year to have their dog's teeth taken care of. One thing to consider. As soon as enough people who use medical services in a particular field buy insurance, providers begin to assume that everyone has insurance. They begin to charge accordingly. This drives prices up. So, consider the overall picture when deciding whether to buy pet insurance or not.
3) The start up costs on a brand new garden may eat up any savings you would earn by growing your own veggies. However, if you plan well, you can save money in the long run. Consider your time. Do you want to spend the time it takes to compost, grow plants from seeds, save seeds, or do other things that will make your garden efforts most cost-effective? If you enjoy it, it's a great way to save.
4) If you can't do a huge garden, consider tub gardening. There are many varieties of tomatoes, carrots, squash, and other veggies which can be grown in containers on patios or decks. A strawberry jar is a nice way to grow some fruit if you are willing to wait for the harvest and can protect the strawberry plants during winter. Container gardening can produce a lot of veggies for not much cost or labor. Again, the profit for container gardening goes up in the second year, as you don't have to buy containers.
5) If you live in an urban or suburban area, investigate a shared garden, a community garden, or some other type of co-operative garden scheme. This can save you money and time when compared to both buying all of your food or doing a garden all by yourself.
6) If you don't know much about gardening or even if you do but you want to hone your gardening skills, consult one of your area's master gardeners. You can find one through your County Extension office. They can help you not only with gardening in general, but also how to get the most out of your local soil and local climate.
7) No matter where you live, you are probably within a reasonable driving distance of an orchard or pick your own farm. Investigate buying foods from orchards, pick your own sites, and other local farms.

Happy Home Keeping!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thirty Days of Smart Money Choices -- Day VII

Stretch your gasoline dollars...

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

I just paid $50.00 to fill a mid-size car (about 12 gallons). So, that prompted me to come home and do some research about how to save money on gasoline.

As we already talked about, driving the speed limit will help you get more miles per gallon of gas. For most cars, the gasoline efficiency goes down if you exceed speeds of about 55 to 60 mph. Part of this has to do with the extra aerodynamic drag on your car, or, in other words, the increased drag from the air that your car experiences when you drive at faster speeds.

Also, most of us have figured out by now that it's a good thing to map your travels so that you can do several errands on one route. This is much better than either making several separate trips to do errands or else back-tracking when doing multiple errands. Think through how many stops you need to make and try to do them in a gas-efficient way.

Here are more tips:

1) Don't forget to utilize your accumulated grocery store points. Today, I lost out by not entering my points correctly. I was not at a Kroger station, but at another brand station which does accept Kroger points. I was trying to use my card, but misread the directions and did not receive my credit. Next time, I will know how to input my Kroger info. Using gas points from Kroger or other grocery stores will help you save some money per gallon, which can add up when gas is so costly. Publix will sometimes run deals in which you can get free gas cards for every $25.00 spent.
2) Empty any heavy items that you've been lugging around in your car that are heavy and not necessary to carry.
3) Keep your tires properly inflated. This not only helps with gas mileage, but increases safety, as well. Don't over inflate your tires, though. The risk of accident, injury, and death far outweighs any increase in gas mileage.
4) Know which grade fuel is recommended for your car. If you do not need a medium or high grade fuel, select the lowest grade option. Buying a higher grade fuel will not necessarily give you higher mpg. By the same token, buying the lowest grade will not guarantee that you save money. Find out what works for your car. We generally buy the lower grade fuel as that is fine for our cars.
5) Are you sitting in a traffic jam? Waiting to drive onto a ferry? Waiting for someone to get in the car? Avoid idling your car for more than one minute. After one minute, it is cheaper to turn your car off and to restart it when you are ready to move than it is to keep it idling. Again, you have to keep safety in mind. If you are in a situation in which you must move your car quickly, say when a long red traffic light changes to green, keep your car running.
6) From time to time, assess your car's gas mileage and performance. A drop in fuel efficiency could be due to a fixable problem. If you notice such a drop, take your car to a trusted mechanic for help.
7) Did you know that it is actually more economical to run your air conditioner at a low level than to drive with your windows down? When your windows are open, there is more air drag on your car, which means the car has to perform harder and burn more fuel to overcome the resistance. Of course, who can resist driving with your windows down on a beautiful spring day! But, if you choose to do so, make sure you're not doing it simply for economic reasons.
8) Accelerate gently and brake gradually. When you do accelerate, try to do it slowly and over the longest possible distance. (Keep safety in mind, of course. You do need to keep up with traffic into which you are merging.)
9) Fill up when you are near the spot in your area that has the lowest gas prices. This spot may change from day to day and week to week. But, if you are out and notice lower gas prices, stop and get at least a few gallons of gas. Sometimes, on trips, you can also time your breaks and gas stops to take advantage of lower gas prices. This is especially true if you are about to cross into one state with lower or higher prices and gas taxes than the one you are currently in.
10) Think carefully about applying hypermiling tips, no matter how tempting they may be. Hypermilers are people who are devoted to getting the most possible mileage out of each gallon of gas. While some of the methods they use are safe and economical, other methods that many hypermilers try are both dangerous and illegal in many states. For example, some hypermilers will try in order to tailgate to take advantage of the draft pulling from the front car. This tip might be ok on a race track. For real life driving, however, it is likely to cause an accident and is higly dangerous for the occupants of both cars. Trying to save a few cents at the risk of safety is not only foolish, but could cost way more in terms of suffering, grief, and money than sticking to safer methods of stretching gas dollars.

Be safe! Be thrifty! Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thirty Days of Smart Money Choices...

What areas fall under the umbrella of family finance? This is a question each family must answer in order to manage their money well. Here are some reminders to consider when making your list:

1) Giving to church, charities, your personal ministry or charity to others
2) Preparing tax forms and keeping tax records; understanding how the tax code applies to your particular situation; hiring tax help or obtaining free tax help if you need to.
3) Selecting appropriate investments
4) Finances involving the purchasing, furnishing, and upkeep of a home; finances regarding building a home or re-modeling a home if your family chooses to do so; weighing the financial pros and cons of renting versus buying.
5) Buying the right kinds and right amounts of insurance
6) Stretching a food budget -- Weighing cost of food items, health of food items, time to prepare, etc. Making menu and shopping lists that meet your family's needs for nourishing and comforting foods, yet do not exceed your budget.
7) Handling a clothing budget; making sure all members of family are adequately clothed; making sure that you have appropriate clothing for lifestyle, climate, and season.
8) Setting up a retirement plan; maintaining your retirement plan; Reviewing it, updating it from time to time.
9) Wills, living wills,
10) Sending children to college or otherwise preparing for them to receive career training.
11) Teaching children how to handle money; setting allowances
12) Purchasing, maintaining a car and fuel -- weighing out pros and cons of owning cars if you live in a huge metropolitan area with lots of public transportation; parking costs; toll road costs; public transporation costs
13) If you work outside the home: work wardrobe, childcare costs, lunch costs, etc.
14) If you operate a home business -- all of the finances, taxes, licenses, profit, promotional costs, cost of doing business related to your enterprise.
15) Forming relationships with trusted bank, lawyer, CPA, any other financial institution or professional as needed; choosing advisors wisely
16) Educating yourself enough about economics at a national level in order to vote wisely and according to your personal convictions.
17) Determining if you want to further your education.
18) Educating yourself in order to be a wise consumer.
19) Debt reduction
20) Making sure family is united in financial goals and priorities.
21) Understanding what financial aid, government programs, student loans, lunch programs, etc. are in place if your family needs financial assistance. Weighing pros and cons of assistance. Having a plan to pay off any loans and to get to point where can function without assistance.
22) Setting up files, online banking, automatic bill payment, automatic check deposit, etc. Having a financial center of your home where you keep track of computer records and paper work, too.

If you're like me, you may not enjoy taking care of paperwork and the nitty-gritty details of financial matters. Still, it's a needed function for a family. The best thing to do is for a couple to determine their goals and priorities, to come up with a plan, and to create procedures that make it easier to carry out this plan.

Happy Home Keeping!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thirty Days of Wise Money Choices -- Day V

There are plenty of ways to get ahead. The first is so basic I'm almost embarrassed to say it: spend less than you earn. ~Paul Clitheroe

1) Remember that the home/farm/small family business/estate was the first arena of economy in history. The Greek word oikonomos from which we get the English word "economy" meant a household steward or a manager of the home. It also meant someone who is a guardian of the home and who makes the allotments of goods necessary to run the home. It is used of men and women in the Bible. It is the word used in Titus 2 to say that older women need to teach younger women how to be good managers or keepers of their homes.

This is what the Free Dictionary has to say about the history of the word economy and its relation to oikonomos:
Word History: Managing an economy has at least an etymological justification. The word economy can be traced back to the Greek word oikonomos, "one who manages a household," derived from oikos, "house," and nemein, "to manage." From oikonomos was derived oikonomi, which had not only the sense "management of a household or family" but also senses such as "thrift," "direction," "administration," "arrangement," and "public revenue of a state." The first recorded sense of our word economy, found in a work possibly composed in 1440, is "the management of economic affairs," in this case, of a monastery. Economy is later recorded in other senses shared by oikonomi in Greek, including "thrift" and "administration." What is probably our most frequently used current sense, "the economic system of a country or an area," seems not to have developed until the 19th or 20th century. (Bold emphasis mine)
If you manage or help to manage the finances in your household, you are a home economist. That doesn't mean that those of us who are managers of our homes have to have degrees in economics. It does mean, however, that we do well to take the use of our money, time, family health, and other resources seriously. Because societies are made up of smaller units, such as the home, what goes on in our homes affects the larger society. It has been said in many senses that, "As goes the home, so goes the country

2) Women have always been a vital part of the small household/farm/family business economy. In many cases, this economic role in the household or the estate gave women greater power than they had through other arenas, in which their contributions might not have been recognized. It's important that we, as women, do not devalue the importance of a woman managing her home and family well. When we do so, we send a message that we, as women, don't care about this important part of women's history. It also sends a message that we, as women, don't think much of the role women can play in today's society by managing their household economies well. No, this doesn't have to be the only role that a woman fulfills. We do have more opportunities available to us today, as do men who are no longer bound to follow their fathers' occupations and station in life. Yet, if a woman doesn't fulfill this important role in life, who will?

Of course, a wife will work in tandem with her husband to manage her household, and she may also be training children to handle money and other resources wisely. Even so, her personal contributions to the household economy are important.

3) A good rule of thumb to remember is the Biblical statement that, "And the borrower becomes the lender's slave." This idea is not found in the Bible alone. Many people have noted this. Here are just a few examples of sayings related to the pain of debt. Some are meant to be tongue in cheek, but all have the bite of truth about them:

“When you get in debt you become a slave.”-Andrew Jackson

He looks the whole world in the face for he owes not any man. ~Henry Wadsworth

The only man who sticks closer to you in adversity than a friend is a creditor. ~Author Unknown

Who goeth a borrowing Goeth a sorrowing. ~Thomas Tusser

When a man debt, someone else has the advantage. ~Bill Balance

Wouldst thou shut up the avenues of ill, Pay every debt as if God wrote the bill.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Before borrowing money from a friend, decide which you need most. ~American Proverb

Debt is the worst poverty. ~Thomas Fuller

It is the debtor that is ruined by hard times.” -Rutherford B. Hayes

Lying rides upon debt’s back.”-Benjamin Franklin

Buy what thou hast no Need of and ere long thou shalt sell thy Necessaries.”
-Benjamin Franklin

“This would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt.” -Earl Wilson

Nations and individuals have been brought down by debt. Our nation's debt is now over $14 trillion dollars, according to some sources. We have a hard time wrapping our minds around the concept of one trillion, much less 14 trillion. One way to think of this is that a trillion seconds is 31,688 years. If we paid off our national debt at the rate of one dollar per second, it would take us over 14 times 31,688 years to pay it off. Where were you 31,688 years ago? Where will you be in 31, 688 years? It's staggering to think of, isn't it?

As citizens, most of us don't have much power to do anything about our national debt, other than to pray, pay our taxes even though that won't be enough to cure our problem, vote well, and express our opinions in a calm way and through civil means.

We can, however, do something about our personal little units of economy. We can do our best to live debt free. We can be wise in our consumption, rather than to be spend-thrift. We can give generously to others who are in need. We can support local businesses or local farms with our trade, if we are convinced this is a good idea. We can help our nation build tangible and intangible sources of capital by always conducting any trade we do with integrity, by coming up with new and enterprising ideas, by raising children who will be productive and moral citizens, by valuing spiritual wealth over physical wealth, and by living according to sound money principles. Since a nation's greatest resources are its people, raising happy and productive children in the home is a major source of supporting a nation's future happiness. As we mentioned, as the home goes, so goes the nation.

4) Along with this, we can remember that individuals who build capital inject needed financial opportunities and funds for investment into the larger economy, helping it to be healthier. This was especially true in agrarian societies and pre-capitalist societies and works in capitalist societies as well. It's harder to grow an economy that is heavily socialist or communist. These more closed systems are more dependent on the the re-cycling and re-distributing of the same amount of capital that the economy started with.

However, in whatever type of economy we should live, there is often a way to make a difference. Since the home is a small economy unto itself, a woman at home can nurture economic growth by the methods listed in number 3.

Bottom line, though, we cannot always control what type of larger economy we find ourselves in. Families have survived during horrible economic times and under despotic regimes and during times of war and famine. Audrey Hepburn's family, for example, survived by making flour out of ground tulip bulbs in German occupied Holland. My great-grandmother raised a family for several years with both Confederate and Union troops plundering the countryside around her and with her husband away at war.

Of course, we'd rather live during easier times, but, we need not spend our time worrying over our economic freedom, any wealth that we have, and what might happen to us. Instead, we should resolve to always do our best to manage our homes as best we can in whatever circumstances life presents. Again, it's helpful to remember that the only true and lasting wealth is treasure in heaven. We need not fear what is happening on a larger scale if we do the best we can to be good stewards (oikonomos) of what we do have in hand.


Saturday, April 09, 2011

Thirty Days of Wise Money Choices...
Day IV

1) Drive the speed limit! On this side of heaven, good is not always immediately rewarded nor does misbehavior always catch up with someone. However, this is one time you can count on the fact that being a law-abiding citizen has its rewards. Obviously, sticking to the legal speed is safer and is less likely to result in expensive speeding tickets. However, it also saves you in terms of fuel economy. The miles you can get from a gallon of gas drop dramatically as you increase over usual speed limits. The more fuel efficient your car is in general, the more likely it is to eat more gas per mile at higher speeds. The MSN article I linked to suggested that since time=money, there might be times when pushing the speed limit is a good choice if it will help you get there faster. That is the only thing in the article that I disagree with. The risks of being stopped by a state trooper on the open road or having an accident in town or out of town outweigh any possible gains by going over the speed limit. Speeding to get somewhere on time also contributes to physical and emotional stress, which can be costly to health. You're better off adjusting your departure time to arrive on time.

2) Saving money can be equal to earning money. The wise home keeper looks for and stops hidden money leaks. For example, a money leak that needs to be on my radar is my habit of still cooking and buying for a full house, even though I now have an empty nest. The "science experiments" turning green in my fridge are a waste of valuable resources. Hidden money leaks can take many forms, including a literal water leak that needs fixing or a habit of leaving lights on in an empty room.

Another leak might be a habit of buying something every day, even though if you thought about it, you might decide that you don't want or need it badly enough to justify the extra cost. For example, some people find great enjoyment in going to Starbuck's every day. For those who truly do enjoy it, that's a wonderful little luxury. However, others mindlessly buy Starbuck's every day without truly enjoying the Starbuck's experience. In that case, it's better to either make coffees or lattes at home or to choose a less expensive coffee option, such as Micky D's Starbuck imitations. You can save a lot by correcting mindless little habits that drain money from your wallet.

3) Be wise when it comes to stocking your pantry. It's helpful to have 3 months to one year's worth of non-perishable staples, medicine that won't go out of date, toiletries, paper goods or anything else that you can buy on sale or with a coupon and store. Most families do not need to acquire more than a one-year supply. Some will decide that they do not need even that amount.

The purposes of storing ahead are 1) to make use of sales and coupons by buying extra items when they are at low prices and working them into your inventory. 2) Having stock on hand for emergencies, such as a layoff or a weather event or to use while the highest wage earner makes a career change. 3) Being able to replace a used item quickly. For example, if you use mayonnaise, it's handy to have one jar open and one on hand. When the first jar runs out, you open the second and buy a third. This makes it easy to keep your pantry inventory up to date.

Buying and trying to store too many things only complicates matters. You will forget what you have on hand. You will spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to store it. You are putting a lot of funds into very perishable items that could be destroyed by a weather event or simply by sitting so long the items are no longer usable. You are also holding on to items that could be donated to those in need.

Every little step that we can take to use money wisely blesses our families!