Nov 28, 2011

A soapbox of sorts...

Being on "this side" of the home selling process is, in a word, brutal. I much prefer the comfy, cushy, driver's seat as Your Friend in Real Estate, Stacy.

The Hubby and I have sold two houses in the last 6 years. Both sold within 3 days of listing. Neither required more than two showings. Tonight, we're five weeks into the process and on the eve of showing #6.

And, though I'm SO thankful to have showings-- especially this time of year-- doing all of this with two kids in tow is totally and utterly exhausting.

That said, here's my formerly professional opinion of how to prepare for a showing.

1. Mow or shovel- or employ someone to do it for you. Approaching a house with knee-high grass, or having to shovel your way to the front door is unacceptable. (And, yes, I have had that experience!) While you're at it, sweep off your front porch.

2. Do your laundry. I know, I know, you have 100 million other things to do. Well, throw some wash in while you do the other chores. Piles of clothes all over is unattractive, and covering the piles with a sheet or towel is just downright goofy.

3. Empty your trash. It's that simple.

4. Clean out/organize your closets. Yes, they get opened. It's horrifying when a pile of junk falls out, and the buyer has to cram it back in.

5. Clean your oven, microwave and refrigerator INSIDE and OUT... this is especially crucial when the appliances are being sold with the house. Lets get serious, if you can't take care of the thing that holds your food, that you look at daily... why would I think you're taking care of the thing that's hidden underground holding the food that has left your house... ifyouknowwhatimean.

6. Spritz a little Windex on your front and back storm doors. Hasta la vista, finger prints!

7. Want to know how serious the buyer was as they walked through your home? Vacuum. Footprints in your carpeting can give a pretty good indication as to how in-depth the buyer looked at your home ;) A little stalker-esque? Perhaps, but they're the ones walking through your home!

8. For the love of all that's holy, please DO NOT LEAVE CANDLES BURNING! Do you ever leave your home with candles burning? Why would you do it now? It was, and still is, a fire hazard! It's also a major distraction to the agent showing your home... who is now more concerned with blowing out candles than they are selling their buyer on the features and benefits of your home!

9. Wipe down your kitchen sink. A little Comet goes a long way. If you have a garbage disposal, run it and stick a quarter of a citrus fruit (think lemon, orange, grapefruit) down it to let out a fresh scent.

10. Lights on! Any and every light you have should be on. Switches! Lamps! Pull strings! The agent will do their best to turn most- if not all- of them off, but it's not their top priority. You want your buyer to see everything they can... closets (see #4), basement storage areas and crawl spaces, attic, etc.

11. If you're able, get all vehicles out of your garage. It makes it look bigger. Go park the extra car at Walmart, or in your neighbors driveway-- but help that garage look as big as possible!

12. Scrub your toilets, and then leave the cleaner in without flushing. Makes for a nice, fresh smelling bathroom.

And, while I'm at it, here are the things I would say NOT to worry about:

1. Putting away allllllll of your family photos. It's still your house. Let it have some personality.
2. Setting your table. It looks nice for photos, but it's unnecessary for showings.

So there. I've said it. I feel much better. Six years of pent up steam ;)

T-shirt Scarf

*Editors Note: Sisters and female cousins that are like a sister, you will likely see this under the tree with your name on it. Sorry to spoil the fun, but I had to share the love for any others looking for some inexpensive gifting options!

So here's the deal: The Christmas fund never got funded. Boo. For. Me.

That being said, I have found some super fun, FREE, Christmas gifts to craft! (Thank you, Pinterest, and my crafty/thrifty friends!) This one I love for many reasons, not the least of which is: 1) It's FREE (Did I mention that already?); 2) It's easy; and 3) It gets rid of some of the "abundance" in our home.

In an effort to put my "wordiness" at bay, I took as many photos as I could while I was whippin' up this little fella.

Side note: Why I put this together on my stove, I have no idea. There are about 1,462 other place in my home that would have worked just as well, but this is where I ended up. So, when you see the stove top coils in the background of photos, think nothing of it. Heat is not a crucial element of this project ;)

You ready?

Here we go!

You need:
a t-shirt you're ready to part with (that might be the hardest part of this craft)
a pair of scissors

1. Flatten out the t-shirt

2. Cut the bottom hem off, and throw it away.

3. Cut the t-shirt in to strip/loops about a 1/2 inch. Variety in width is good. Spice it up!

4. Cut all the way up to the old 'pits. Then stop.

5. Gather three or four strip/loops in your hand.

6. Stretch those babies out! I mean, STREEEEEEEEETCH! Work your triceps. Give the toes a little point-n-flex action. STREEEEEEEETCH.

7. They will naturally coil themselves up and look like this. You might have to pull them apart from one another.

8. Gather all of the strip/loops that have been stretched.

9. Cut off a sleeve.

10. Cut a strip/loop from the sleeve section. Then, cut it open (so it's no longer a "loop.)

 11. Stretch the sleeve strip like you did all the others (see step 6). It will now become the piece that ties all of the strip/loops together. You can do this anyway you choose, but the next several photos show how I did it.




12. And there you have it! Depending on the size of t-shirt you used, it may loop once, twice or even three times. 

There are lots of cute variations you can do too.
-Do a few different colored t-shirts at a time and have a multi-colored scarf.
-Braid some of the "loops" and mix in some braids.
-Add some beads.

The varietes are endless.

Oh, and when it's time to wash it, I'd reccommend a lingerie bag. Otherwise, you've just created your newest mophead.

Nov 26, 2011


Oh what a difference a year makes...

Our precious little boy might have Down's Syndrome. What does that even mean? ..."

I'm not a big journaler. Every now and then I write out my prayers. I jot notes during sermons. I love to go home and look up lyrics to songs we sang during worship.  If I read or am told of some poiniant Scripture, I write it out for the sake of reflection.

So, looking back on my journal, much like I imagine it will be to look back on this blog, I don't see chronology. I see ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys. I see times where I'm desperate to hear the Voice of the Lord, and others where I've let the noises of this world drown Him out.

This past Sunday, Pastor Jay talked about hearing in "mono" rather than "stereo."

It's a lesson I've been learning for more than a year, and continue to need to hear.

"I don't need answers right now, I need YOU. Invade my life. Capture my heart."

Thank you, Lord, for never giving up on me.

(Hear more about our precious Boy, and other ways to see Jesus' power here.)

Nov 21, 2011

No-Bake Energy Bites

Delicious AND nutritious, I think ;)

1 Cup oatmeal
1/2 Cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)
1/3 Cup honey
1 Cup coconut flakes
1/2 Cup ground flax seed
1/2 Cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Mix everything above (I did dry ingredients first, then wet one at a time) in a medium bowl until thoroughly incorporated. Let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour. Once chilled, roll into balls and enjoy! Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Thank you, Pinterest.

Her tree

This weekend we did something we've NEVER done before: decorated our house for Christmas before Thanksgiving. I know, I know. It goes against everything I believe in, too! However, we had the TIME, the energy, a 7-month-old taking a killer nap, and knowledge of a crazy-busy weekend next week. So... all signs pointed to: DO it. Take the insults that will surely be hurled ;)

One of my favorite memories of Christmas is the extremes that my parents went through to decorate our home and make it look "Christmas-y." I don't have grand memories of us all gathering around to decorate the Chrismtas tree and drink hot cocoa. My memories involve going to bed in our same old house, and waking up to a red and green Santa's Toyshop-esque Winter Wonderland. It. Was. Awesome.

Among many other things, my mom put up a Christmas tree in every room of our house-- including the bathroom. Yes, the bathroom.

As we (rather, The Hubby) brought up box upon box of Chrismtas decor, I saw the little tree I inherited from my Grandma's Christmas collection when we moved her into an assisted living facility this fall. PERFECT!

It's now The Girl's tree, and we decorated it just like the tree that was in the bathroom my sister and I shared for so many Decembers...

...with hairbows.

Wipe out!

Let me be the first to say that gift giving is not a love language that I speak very well. (I'm referencing "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. If you haven't read it, I HIGHLY reccommend it!) First of all, "gifts" --outside of our parents, siblings and kids birthdays, and Christmas- are not in our budget. And, second, I don't get to SEE many people on their birthdays, so it seems kind of silly to show up a week (or month) early or late with a gift!

That said, on Friday night we had our small group over to celebrate a 30th Birthday. Being that I'm home now and have TIME, and that I was seeing this friend-- with the sole purpose being to celebrate her birthday-- I thought it would be nice to give a gift.

Recently, on Pinterest, I had seen some fun ideas such as: 30 suckers with a sign that read "30 sucks" or a cute jar full of bubble gum with a sign that read "30 blows." But they're so "negative." (I mean really, is 30 that bad? I don't know, I'm not there yet!) I started to think about how I can make it positive (30 rocks?) and do so by spending no money.

What do I have 30 of around my house? Cookie cutters-- "You're 'cut out' for your 30's!" But I don't want to give away all of my cookie cutters! (Some dear friends gave my hubby 30 golf balls, with fun things-- quotes, etc-- written on them!)

Meanwhile, I was chatting with my brother and he shared a story involving toilet paper. (It's not what you might think-- it involved missionaries, running out of money, and a toilet paper survey-- in a nutshell.) Voila! That's it!

And that chat gave birth to this...
On each of 30 "plies" I wrote an attribute of the Proverbs 31 woman, which I so easily see in this friend. A cute bow, a gift bag, and there you have the gift that keeps on giving. Oh, and it was free ;)

Now that's something my budget REALLY liked to give!

Honey Pecan Crusted Chicken

This was delish!

You need:
1/2 Cup finely chopped pecans
3/4 Cup cornflake crumbs (I used more like 1.5 Cups.)
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4-6 boneless chicken breasts, pounded (I just sliced mine horizontally to make them thin.)

1. Combine pecans & cornflakes in a shallow bowl.
2. Combine honey & soy sauce in 2nd shallow bowl.
3. Dip chicken into honey mixture, then into pecan mixture.
4. Bake on sprayed baking pan for 10-15 minutes per side at 425 degrees, or until done.

Meal idea-
Serve with some chicken rice (Uncle Ben's, for instance) and glazed carrots.

Glazed carrots:
Steam 16oz bag of baby carrots until tender. Toss with 1Tbsp lemon juice, 1 Tbsp honey, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a sprinkle of ginger.

Nov 17, 2011

Important Indiana Property Tax Notice

Lets just get this out there up front: Property taxes in Indiana could not be more complicated.

Please read this whether you bought a new home OR if you refinanced! ANY CHANGE TO YOUR DEED REQUIRES REFILING YOUR EXEMPTIONS. Interest rates have been AWESOME, and I know many people that have refinanced. What most people don't know is that ANY CHANGE TO YOUR DEED REQUIRES REFILING YOUR EXEMPTIONS- that includes a refi.

That said, here are some important notes as we near the end of the year:

-If you bought a home in 2011 you most likely filed for your homestead exemption  at closing, however, it is imperative that you verify it was accepted and posted by the Auditor prior to December 31, 2011.

-If you refinanced or took out a new mortgage AFTER to March 1, 2011, you have until December 31, 2012 to file for your mortgage exemption.

-If you refinanced or took out a mortgage PRIOR to March 1, 2011 you have until December 31, 2011 to file for your mortgage exemption.

You will need to bring your key number or tax parcel number along with your mortgage recording umber, lender name and loan balance when you file.

(The information above was provided by Meridian Title Corporation.)

In St. Joseph County, this can be done downtown at the county-city building.

And, because we pay property taxes a year in arrears, it's pertinant that you double-check you have filed your exemptions NOW. There's nothing worse that figuring it out 12-18 months too late (ie. when the bill comes OR when your mortgage holder calls to tell you there's a shortage in your escrow account... which means your monthly payments will go up!) And, trust me, this is a very painful, and sometimes finacially impossible situation!

Knowledge is power, people.

Raising Respectful Children

This morning, my friend, Anitra, spoke to our MOPS group about Raising Respectful Children. As I've watched her raise her three precious kids, I've seen her LIVE OUT what she discussed with us today. I'm so thankful for her example, a mother I can walk alongside of. What a blessing!

Some highlights of her "talk" that made it to my notes:
-Somewhere in my house (over the kitchen sink?) hang a sign-- "What respects God most and reflects HIS WAYS?" So convicting. Such an important thought to remind myself and instill in our kids! ("So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." -1 Cor. 10:31; "Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them." -Isaiah 43:7) Remind The Girl, especially in disciplining, that she was created to love God and give HIM glory!
-Pray for characteristics in your kids. Divide them out and pray specifically for one each day.
-Think about what I'm UNintentionally teaching my kids, as well as what I'm intentionally teaching them. I know what I'm teaching them intentionally, but have I asked God what they're learning from me without my even trying? Yikes!
-Respect of adults/authority: Yes ma'am, No Sir, Mr & Mrs.
-Why is it that our kids can be totally entertained, and then need us the moment we get on the phone or into a conversation with someone? Teach your kids that when they approach you and you're talking to someone else, to come and hold your hand. Acknowledge that you know they're there and need something by putting your hand on top of theirs. Then, they can choose to wait until there's a break in the conversation (or you're done talking) or they'll know that you'll come and get them to chat as soon as you're available. I LOVE THIS idea!
-Trust God to fill any holes that I'm leaving in teaching our kids about respect. The most important thing is to instill GOD'S LOVE for them!

You can read more about Anitra's entire talk on her blog.

Hambuger Skillet Supper

This isn't something I would serve to guests, but it certainly makes a quick, easy, fill-your-belly-with-stuff-you-probably-already-have-in-the-house, meal. It's cheap, too.

You need:
1 lb ground beef
2 (3 oz) package ramen noodles (I used beef flavored)
2 Cups water
2 Cups vegetables (frozen mixed vegetables, thawed)

1. In a skillet, cook beef until no longer pink. Drain.
2. Add noodles with contents of seasoning packets and water.
3. Bring to a boil; cook for 3 minutes or until noodles are tender.
4. Add the veggies and cook until tender, about 3 minutes as well.
(5. I sprinkled a little garlic powder in to add some extra flavor.)

Makes about 4 servings.

Do you have any good ramen noodle recipes?

Nov 15, 2011

Old Faithful

Confession: I'm a girl that needs a plan.

I like to think that I'm flexible. I think I go with the flow fairly well. But, I like to at least START with a game plan... a road map... an agenda.

This is especially true in my kitchen.

I am completely, 100% INCAPABLE of grocery shopping without a list. I take that back. I am completely, 100% INCAPABLE of grocery shopping and staying on any sort of a budget without a list. Does that mean "extras" never make their way into my cart? I wish! But it means that all the must-haves DO make it into my cart... which means less "quick trips" to the grocery throughout the week... and therefore less "extras" conintuing to make it into my cart. (Can you see the vicious cycle?)

My old faithful in the kitchen? The weekly meal plan. Without it I'm a wreck... a disaster. I might as well be curled up in the corner crying come dinner-making time. Unlike my mother, and so many other great meal-makers I know, I'm incapable of "throwing together" a meal.

So, here's what I do. It's what works for me. (Coincidentally, I rarely, if ever, get asked "what's for dinner?" The Hubby knows where Old Faithful is kept, and can sneak a peek anytime he wishes. I think it's how he decides how much to each for lunch!)

The first thing I do is get out the calendar. Not only do I need to know what's going on throughout the week for the purposes of how much time I have to cook (ie. how complicated of a meal to make) but I also need to know how many means to plan for (ie. how long until my next trip to the grocery!) Sometimes I plan/buy for two weeks, othertimes it's just 3-4 days. (It depends on how much money I have left in the "grocery" envelope!)

The second thing I do is print off the weekly plan from  (A friend of mine directed me to this Dave Ramsey endorsed site, and I LOVE IT!) I don't make every meal, every week, but it's certainly a good starting point!

Next I grab some scrap paper and start planning! It usually ends up looking like this: day of the week, what we have going on (in parenthesis), what the meal will be, and where I go for the recipe (in italics). (It's as basic as it can be!) I try and consider what I have going on that day, and how much time I have for preparing the meal... or if it needs to be a crockpot night. (I have no shame in using my crockpot 3-4 times/week!)

The Girl is also at an age where she loves to "help" in the kitchen, so I try and get a meal or two that she can help prepare, or at least a snack (ie. Pumpkin Chip Muffins.)

*Disclaimer- I am NOT a couponer. Do I clip them? You bet! But, mainly I just glance at what's on sale (via the Sunday ads) and plan our meals around that. takes into consideration what's on sale at the store I've selected for them to make our meal list from. BONUS!*

So, this week looks like this:
M- Pan Pizza, Garlic Bread, Corn on the cob; MM
Tu- (Small Group) Baked French Toast; white binder
W- (AWANA- Stuffing challenge) Hamburger Skillet Supper; white binder
R- (Thanksgiving Feast at school- fruit) Honey Pecan Crusted Chicken, Chicken Rice, Glazed Carrots; MM
F- Ravioli Florentine, Italian Salad, Garlic Bread; MM
Sa- Southwest Batter Bake, Parmesean Zuccini; MM
Su- (Friends over after church) Crockpot Beef Stew, Biscuts and Honey; MM
M- Tired-of-Cooking Chicken Soup, Celery N' Peanut Butter; MM

Snacks for The Girl to assist with: Pumpkin Chip Muffins, No-Bake Energy Bites

As I've made the plan, I put post-it notes or some sort of marker in my cookbooks so there's no hunting! Once all of the meals are laid out, I make my grocery list. I start at Monday, comb through the recipe, double check what I already have in my pantry, and list away! Quick tip: Organize your grocery list by "areas" of the store. I try and group dairy, produce, canned stuff, baking aisle, etc. This makes grocery shopping SO much faster!

In a nutshell, my meal planning isn't as complicated as I feel like this blog post might make it seem! This whole process usually takes about 30 minutes of my Sunday night, and saves many, many painstaking moments of "It's 6pm!!! WHAT'S FOR DINNER?!?" throughout the week.

Nov 14, 2011

Time for our feast?

Since Thursday, when The Girl learned she'll be enjoying a Thanksgiving Feast at school, I've heard countless times, "Is it time for our Thanksgiving Feast?" My responses have varied:

"Not yet."
"A few more sleeps and it will be."
"You'll know when we get to school."
"Lets look at the calendar."

What it has taken me five days to realize is this: Three year olds have NO CONCEPT of time.

And you know what I think about that? Good. For. Them.

How different our lives would be if we could live life away from the calendar and clock!

It's no coincidence that the sermon we heard on Sunday was about a passage of Scripture that addresses this very topic:

 1 "There's an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

2-8 A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace."
-Ecc. 3: 1-8, The Message

I'm so thankful for seasons, and time. There have been seasons in my life that I wished away, and others that I begged the Lord to slow. This morning, rather than being annoyed that I was going to hear this question for another day, I decided to stop and enjoy the sweetness of her JOY for this holiday. I might even go so far as to call it a teachable moment. (Perhaps for both of us?)

Over the years I've taken a few notes from my older siblings parenting skills. Making "chains" has been very effective for counting down with my nieces. So, this morning, we made The Girl's Thanksgiving Feast countdown chain.

Will the question no longer be asked? I doubt it. But at least we can practice counting along the way. (Her, the links. Me, the deep breaths.)

You need: construction paper, markers or crayons, scissors and tape!
Step One: Find a calendar and count down how many days until the big event!

Step Two: Cut strips of paper from construction paper.

Step Three: Number the strips of paper. (Write the numbers large and let your preschooler outline.)

Step Four: Write what you're thankful for on each link.

Step Five: Draw pictures or color to reiterate child's "thankful list."

Step Six: Link up the chain and let the counting begin!

Nov 9, 2011

Advent Adventures

It's hard to believe it's already time to think about Christmas plans. (Where did the year go?) The Girl is old enough that things will really start clicking this year, so I'm extra excited about traditions and memory making!

One of my favorite memories from Russell Family Christmas' was the advent calendar that we enjoyed. Each day we would pull a fun experience or event to enjoy together as a family. So fun!

Well, the fun will carry on, and here's this year's list. (You'll notice there are more than 25... a few are weather specific so I had to have backups incase the snow isn't available for "sledding with Dad" for instance! I tried to be budget conscience, too. The Girl will get to pull these every morning, and they'll be strategically placed on certain dates based on our schedule.)

So, without further adieu, and in no particular order:
Go and visit Santa in DTSB
Go see the Nutcracker ballet and eat out!
Watch Charlie Brown Christmas and eat popcorn
Learn about Saint Nicholas
Craft: Ornament
Craft: Marshmallow Snowman
Craft: Handprint ornaments
Write a letter to Santa
Make a birthday cake for Jesus!
Decorate cookies
Craft: Gingerbread house
Craft: Popcorn garland
Make hot chocolate, stir with candy canes and read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by the fire
Drive through Winding Brook light display!
Watch Frosty the Snowman and eat Peppermint ice cream
Have an indoor picnic next to the Christmas tree w/ all red and green food!
Use puppets/stuffed animals to tell bedtime story
Camp out around the Christmas tree
Buy a toy and donate to Toys for Tots
Craft: Paint a Nativity picture
Craft: Green hand print wreath
Craft: Gift tags for presents
Dance like crazy to Christmas music
Craft: Paper snowflakes
Call and sing a Christmas song to Grandparents
Craft: Red and green tree garland (paper chain)
Go sledding with Dad
Build a snowman
Build a snow fort
Go Christmas Caroling
Go Ice Skating
Watch "It's a Wonderful Life"

Nov 8, 2011

It's God.

Crazy, crazy things are happening.

After 6 years of selling Real Estate in Michiana, I've hung up my hat. CRAZY.
I'm a full-time wife and mom. CRAZY.
We're attempting to sell our house. CRAZY. In November. CRAZY.
I cancelled my Facebook account and started a new joint one with my husband. CRAZY.
I deleted more than 2/3 of my database-- about 500 contacts. CRAZY
I'm blogging again. CRAZY.

What. On. Earth.

It's God.

That's all I can say! I went to a women's retreat in Indianapolis earlier this fall, and that's where this CRAZINESS all began. I had been invited to join some girlfriends for this event way back in the spring, but passed on the opportunity knowing The Boy would be just 5 months old. But God, in His infinite wisdom, knew I needed to be there. And again, just a few days before the big event, came the invitation from a friend. This time, I felt the nudge. Something outside of me was saying "go." Magically, my work schedule cleared. Magically, my kids were cared for. Magically, my husband encouraged my departure. Actually, it wasn't magic at all.

It's God.

So, it was there that the wheels started turning.

"You want me to do what?"
"To give up work?"
"You obviously haven't seen our checkbook lately!"
"What about all of my clients?"
"What about my contracts that go into 2012?"
"What about my leadership roles?"
"Did I mention the checkbook?"

"MY. MY. MY." I see it. Yes, I see it, Lord.

You're right, Lord. I don't see you. I don't see room for you. All I see is me, my, ours.

So, as I mentioned at the start of this post, here I am, footloose and fancy free! Well, not exactly. I am still a major work in progress. I know that never really ends (until I'm in Heaven with my King), but this current renovation is still very much under construction. God is refining me.

I'm learning what it means to live in community... as a family, as a church, as a citizen. I'm seeing true examples of "dying to self" and it's blowing my mind.

I want in. I want ALL IN.


It's God.