Debt-Free (Practically) And Thankful

Engagement Photo
Today we payed off our last loan, and now we are officially debt-free except for the house. I'm so excited that we were able to get it paid off - it's a good feeling!

This time last year Derek had been unemployed for two months, and I was only bringing in just enough to pay the mortgage each month, plus a little bit for tithe (it was really important to us to try to still give ten percent of our income to the Lord, even though it was quite scanty at that point). All of our living expenses and some of the bills were going on the credit card.

To go from unemployment to being debt-free (except the house, but I'm not counting that) in one year is just one more sign of how the Lord has been taking care of us since we got married. Last year at this time there was no job in sight and we had two student loans, a car loan, and significant credit card debt (just from living while we had no income).

Within the past year the Lord provided us both with jobs, we've been able to pay off the debt we accumulated during our unemployment, we've payed off our other three loans, we were able to take a nice little trip to the east coast this summer (which I never would have thought we could afford last year), and we're doing just fine now. It's amazing how much can change in a year, and it's even more amazing how the Lord has taken care of us through that trial of unemployment. As Derek makes that final payment today, I find myself with a thankful heart!

Before today all of our extra income each month was going toward paying off the last of the student loans. So what are we going to do with all that extra money now, you may ask? We're planning on putting a regular amount toward the principal on the mortgage each month, putting some money aside for a car each month (the cars we have now certainly aren't going to last forever, after all), and saving for a nice vacation next year (but I'm not going to tell you where yet, just in case it doesn't work out).

God is good, is He not? Whether Derek and I are going through a hard time, or whether we're going through a period of blessings, the Lord has always been there for us to lean on, and He always will be. Because of that, we can face whatever hardships the future might bring - even though everything else may change and everything else may dissappear, Jesus will always be there. And that's a comforting thought.

P.S. This is an old picture of us, just for kicks. I probably won't get to post again until Tuesday, because our internet chip is broken and we have to get a new one, but to quote Arnold Schwarchernagger, "I'll be back"!

I'm Not Blogging Today


I'm not blogging today.

You know why?

If you are of the observant type, you may have noticed that the books in the "Currently Reading" section of the sidebar have been the same for several months.

I usually do not have a problem finishing books, but my life is getting crazier by the second! Why, I ask, why! That picture is of me going crazy, in case you were wondering.

Well, today is my first day at home in, oh, two or three weeks, and I intend to snuggle down on the couch and read until I fall asleep. Then I'm going to wake up and paint something. Anything, I just feel the need to paint! My intellectual and creative needs have been neglected for far too many days.

Just thought you might all be curious about my plans today. Once I finish a couple books and at least get a sketch on my canvas paper, I'll check back in. I actually have alot of interesting stuff to blog about, once I get my sanity back.

Pass The Hand Sanitizer


Earlier this week I went shopping with my mom. I actually did fairly well - I didn't spend too much money! Sometimes I just like shopping too much . . .

Ever since I was young I've had a slight dislike of thrift stores. I'm not sure what seems so horrible about them, because alot of times I'll comment on some cute article of clothing or decoration and I'm told it's from a thrift store. You can get some great stuff from them, so they really can't be all bad. But whenever I leave I feel like I need to sanitize my hands.

One of the items we were trying to find yesterday was a little baby gate so that we can block off a section of the basement for Ralphie when we're gone. We've been trying to keep him in his kennel, because Quincy does fine in hers, but Ralphie is a really small dog, and he just can't hold it. It's so sad when we get home and he comes out of the kennel all wet - he looks so relieved just to be out! But then we have to give him a bath, and he just looks so lovably pathetic. Ralphie hates baths.

My mom is quite a smart shopper, so she thought it might be worth it to check a thrift store to see if they had a baby gate that was inexpensive (those things are not cheap if you buy them new). I walked in there, and I was fine as long as I just looked, but once I picked something up I got that annoying urge to wash my hands again. Honestly, thrift store merchandise can't really be that dirty! Most people probably wash things before they give them to a thrift store (at least we always did). Sometimes I think I have a mild case of OCD.

Anyway, we were on our way to another section of the store, browsing as we went, when what do you think I saw? A pair of roller skates! I couldn't believe it, because roller skating has been on my mind since I visited my friend Hazel. I was actually thinking about calling different roller skating rinks to see if any of them were selling their old skates. I think it would be fun to have my own pair so that I could skate around this lake in town if I wanted, or even skate on our cement pad out back (we have this huge cement pad next to our house that will eventually hold a garage). I love skating - it's one form of exercise that I truly find enjoyable.

The skates were a size too big, but they were only six bucks! I figured I could stuff a little bit of toilet paper in the toe and they would work wonderfully; and for six bucks you can't go wrong. Do you know how much skates cost brand new? If you can even find skates - they aren't too common anymore. I can't do roller blades because my ankles are too weak - I've never been able to hold my ankles straight when ice skating or roller blading. I really like the stability of the four wheels on roller skates.

Well, needless to say, I couldn't pass up an opportunity like that. So I bought the skates. I haven't been able to try them out yet, but I'm pretty excited! Maybe on Friday, since I'm planning on spending the entire day being lazy and having fun. It's been a crazy two weeks.

I think I need a skating buddy though - maybe I can convince Derek to skate with me if he gets a pair.

Come to think of it, I was so excited by the skates that I don't think we ever ended up looking for a baby gate for Ralphie at the thrift store! Never mind it was the entire reason we went in there in the first place. Oh my.

And just in case you were wondering, I did sanitize my hands once we were in the car. Twice.

Pumpkiny Goodness


Autumn is here, and I've been waiting all year to make this soup again! This recipe is from VeryBestBaking.com. It is creamy deliciousness, and it just screams "fall".

On top of that, it's also really easy to make. I'm going to put all the ingredients in my crockpot today before I leave for work. Then when Derek gets home he can just turn the crockpot on, and by the time I get home the house should be filled with a scrumptious aroma! I actually don't even do the last step with the blender, and it turns out just fine.

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

• 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
• 1 can (14 1/2 fluid ounces) chicken broth
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
• 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1 can (15 ounces) LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
• 1 can (12 fluid ounces) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:
MELT butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and sugar; cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until soft. Add broth, water, salt and pepper; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Stir in pumpkin, evaporated milk and cinnamon. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

TRANSFER mixture to food processor or blender (in batches, if necessary); process until smooth. Return to saucepan. Serve warm.



Enjoy and have a great Wednesday!

Image from VeryBestBaking.com.

Our Trip To Hazel's; Warning: Lots of Pictures!

This past weekend my sister and I went to visit some dear friends of ours at their ranch on the eastern side of our state. We had alot of fun! I met Hazel when I was nine years old - we had just started going to a new church, and I remember the first time I saw Hazel she was standing by the merry-go-round outside the church in a long beautiful furry black coat. She stood there grinning at me, and before we knew it we were fast friends! We've remained friends even though Hazel and her family moved away a few years after I met them, and we still have all kinds of fun times together when Hazel and her sister come to visit Rae and me, or visa versa.

Good life-long friends are hard to come by, so I know the Lord truly blessed me when I met Hazel!

This is the first time we've been able to go out and see them at their ranch since I got married, and we did all kinds of fun things while we were there. Here are some pictures (by the way, let me know what you think of the new camera).

This is Hazel and Heather's house.



Hazel and her family are building a missionary house on their property for missionaries to stay in when they're on furlough. The basement is lovely for roller skating (Hazel and I are big fans of roller skating).





Hazel's family got this cute little Easter bunny figurine set at an auction, and Hazel, Heather, Rae and I all sat down and painted it. It took a long time, but it turned out rather well, if I do say so myself.







This is Hazel and me, and that's the missionary house in the background.



On Friday night we had a picnic supper in the basement of the missionary house. It was delicious!





Hazel and Heather also had a tent set up in the basement of the missionary house, and that's where we slept. I thought it would be terribly cold, because it was a pretty chilly day, but the four of us were pretty snug in that tent. I didn't get cold at all!



Hazel gave us a sneak preview of her new book while we were there. Hazel already has a book published, and she's hoping to publish this one when she's done. She might let me proof-read it!



Hazel's older sister, Holly, took us on a ride in their chuckwagon, pulled by their oxen. It was alot of fun! And that's their dog, Jill.










This is the lovely panoramic picture I took on our ride. I think it turned out pretty neat! Though you can kind of see where the pictures were stitched together, but that's okay. It's really cool, because the camera has you take three pictures and it lines them up automatically! I'm really impressed with it. Unfortunately it is rather small when I try to put it on the blog, but you get the idea.



This is a picture of us writing short scary stories and reading them to each other! Except by "scary" we mean tense and suspenseful. We don't do horror.







Whew, that was alot of pictures - more than I thought I had. We had a really wonderful trip out there, and we got to do alot together in the twenty-four hours we were there! Thanks for your hospitality Hazel and Heather! We had a ton of fun visiting with you guys!



So what do you all think of my camera? I'm not sure I can tell if there is a difference or not. Do you think the pictures are any clearer?

Camera Tragedy

Last Thursday a catastrophe happened! My camera was dropped - the camera we've had for over a year, the camera that my grandparents gave us for wedding gift. At first it seemed like it was fine, and it even took another picture that turned out great. But when I turned it off and tried to turn it back on, the lens wouldn't come out all the way. I tried everything I could think of to get it to work properly, but I think the lens was jammed when we dropped it.

I think I had a warranty on it, but it was probably only for one year, and regardless of how long the warranty covered the camera, I can't find the paperwork anywhere. It would probably cost more to fix the old camera than to just buy a new one, so that's what I did.

This is my old camera:



Goodbye Old Friend.

This is my new one (though it's just silver, not grey):



My old camera was a really nice Olympus, so I decided to stay with the Olympus brand because it had served me well so far, and I still have an Olympus battery and a memory card, so I was hoping to use those for the new camera as well and save some money.

Derek told me to pay a little more for a nicer camera if I had to get a new one (he's such a thoughtful husband), so I got this little beauty. I payed two hundred dollars for it. It's 12 megapixels (my old one was 8 - I'm really excited to see if the extra megapixels translate to clearer pictures when I post them on here - you all will have to let me know), and it has two settings that I'm dying to play with. One is a beauty setting - it basically detects your face and smooths out any imperfections. The other is a panoramic setting. That's right, panoramic pictures! I'm so excited!

This past weekend my sister and I went to visit some friends and I got to try it out - get ready for some pictures of our trip, taken with the new camera, coming up soon!

By Popular Demand . . .

Earlier this week I had a flood of requests for pictures of the dress I got for Derek's cousin's wedding (okay, okay, it was technically only two requests for pictures, but to me that's a flood)! So my wonderful mom took some pictures for me. Here they are; these pictures were taken on my parent's property - it's finally starting to look like fall here (as opposed to summer or winter).

Please ignore my painfully white legs - I just threw the dress on for pictures, no time for nylons. Of course I'll be wearing nylons and black pumps with it at the wedding.



I got this dress for ten dollars on clearance at TJ Max. I love the clearance sections at those already-cheaper-than-normal stores! The belt I got at The Icing for twelve dollars - not that great of a deal, but the total price of the outfit isn't bad.



I thought I'd also throw in a couple pictures of my new winter coat. Remember how I was telling you that I needed a winter coat, since it's snowing here already?



Well, I thought I'd have to pay at least a hundred for a nice peacoat. Bet you'll never guess how much I got this coat for. Forty dollars! I love Ross. I knew I either wanted a winter coat that was an interesting color (like red or blue) or had an interesting detail. Black is a pretty basic color, but what I like about this coat is the over-sized lapels - that makes it interesting to me! I like to pick clothes that have some interesting feature about them if I can, so I was very happy with this find. And I could hardly pass it up for forty dollars, even if it isn't red or blue!



So what do you think of my purchases? How do you like the dress for an evening wedding in October?
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