Friday, November 27, 2009

Food, Shopping, and a Parade of Lights


Tis' officially the Christmas season!! I'm so excited for this Christmas... we get to spend this Christmas in our hometown of San Diego, CA!  YES!  We are going to spend every moment possible outside enjoying the warmer weather.

This year's Thanksgiving was one we will not soon forget!  Thursday morning we drove over to Jenny & Mike's house (my in-laws) and had breakfast with the family.   With the exception of one oven fire, the day was a pleasant one.  We searched through Black Friday ads, played games, and cooked a ton of food.  This year I contributed cream corn..which I think turned out a little too creamy but it was still delicious!

Yesterday we (my mother-in-law Jenny, grandmother-in-law Sandy, Zoe and I) braved the mall, Target, and Kohl's.  We shopped from about 9:30am to 3:30pm.   I always forget just how exhausted I am when afternoon arrives the day after Thanksgiving!  Wow.  I could barely move my legs!   After a few hours of relaxing,  we all (Gage, Grandpa, and Mike included) went to the Parade of Lights in downtown Sioux Falls.   I love parades, especially when they are Christmas parades and it's not too cold outside.   Zoe had a great time at the parade!  She loved the horses.  She was not a fan of the big trucks though.

When the parade ended we walked over to Michelle's (a local coffee shop) and bought some delicious hot chocolate.  We also walked down to the brand new toy store that opened yesterday! It's a wonderful store!  Zoe had a great time in there.   I'm sure we'll make many more trips to that toy store.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I first heard about Swagbucks several months ago on a blog.   The ads for it are very tacky and "Earn free prizes!" seems so unbelievable, so I didn't think much of it for a long time.  Then I saw a friend that started posting about Swagbucks on her blog so I figured I'd try it out.   I am impressed! It is by far the easiest and best way to earn a little extra money or prizes.  All you do is set up your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc) to use Swagbucks search engine (which is powered by Google & Ask) and whenever you search the internet you can earn Swagbucks.

A lot of people redeem their Swagbucks for gift cards.  It takes a few weeks to a month to earn enough to get a $5 Amazon gift card but it's worth it because you're not doing any extra work for it.   Just search the web you would any other time.

You can earn more Swagbucks by installing their toolbar, promoting, referring friends, following them on Twitter and facebook.  I don't do much of that though (except the referring).   I'm on my computer enough these days and I don't want to spend extra time searching for Swag codes...but if you are into that, by all means do it! You'll get more Swagbucks, earn more prizes/gift cards. It's a great deal! Definitely check it out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's New?

A bunch of random updates this week...

My first ever GIVEAWAY is coming up soon! :) Stay tuned...

This week I have been reading about and trying online survey companies.  I've read about a few good ones and so far so good... I also discovered Swagbucks this week.  By using their serach engine (which uses google and instead of google by itself, I earn swag bucks!  I plan to use them to get $5 Amazon cards every few weeks, since I can buy pretty much anything (even groceries!) on Amazon.   There are tons of other gift cards and prizes you can redeem swagbucks for though.  Good deal! I highly recommend this site!

My Dad mailed me a copy of his new CD "Stand in Awe" and I was thrilled to see two of my photos in the CD artwork! I remember he did ask me if he could use the photos but I forgot about it until I saw the CD.  Very cool!  I'm working on a photography blog that will be used as my website for now.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Re-usable Wrapping Paper

I know, I know... Christmas talk already?  Talk of Christmas and putting up decorations before Thanksgiving just shouldn't be done.  Unless of course you are my friend Kristin! :)

BUT,  I just came across a nice Christmassy giveaway on a blog I frequently read that I would love to win ;)

Live Renewed is having a giveaway here for some re-usable Christmas bags!  They are beautiful and a great idea.  I plan to make some of my own as soon as I learn to sew... haha.

Wrapping paper usually doesn't cost much money but neverthelesss, it costs money.  I've always thought of wrapping paper as a huge waste of money and paper.  I try to save paper gift bags and re-use those as much as possible.  Making your own "wrapping paper" is another great idea!

For some other great ideas on gift wrapping, check out this website.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Saving on Organic Groceries

I'm new at buying healthy food.  I've always just bought whatever was cheapest.

Now I'm on a search to find good food while still maintaining a budget. I'm not one who believes all groceries need to be organic.  As long as the food is nutritional and there are little or no artificial ingredients or preservatives, I'm pretty happy with the food.  Depending on what you are buying, sometimes the nutritional value stays the same regardless of whether it is organic or not.  As a rule of thumb, the more natural the food is the better nutritional value it is going to have.  Organic just means it's about as natural as it can be.  Foods raised organically do not contain pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, or preservatives.  Organic food is more expensive, but in my opinion the nutritional benefits of many of these foods outweigh the extra cost of food.

There are ways to purchase organic foods while sticking to your budget!

Zenni Optical - Prescription Glasses for $8!

About a year ago we heard about Zenni Optical, a website that offers high quality prescription glasses for as low as $8.00!   I kid you not.   This website is very affordable and the glasses are wonderful!  They have single vision, bi-focal, and progressive eyeglasses.  All you need is your prescription information.

The last pair of glasses I bought were $12.00!   Just about everyone in our family orders glasses though Zenni now.  The word is even spreading throughout our church.  I no longer worry about losing or breaking my glasses.

My daughter accidentally broke my glasses a few weeks ago so this time around I plan to buy memory titanium glasses (bendable) so that my daughter will have a tougher time breaking them and even then, it's only going to cost about $25.  There are hundreds of choices, check them out here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Crockpot: Savory Bean and Spinach Soup

This is not a recipe I have tried yet but it is one I have wanted to try, so hopefully on our next shopping trip I will remember to buy the ingredients needed for this.   Today is, however, the Nourishing Crockpot Carnival over at Passionate Homemaking and I wanted to contribute!

Passionate Homemaking is one of my favorite blogs, I have learned a great deal about natural and healthy living from Lindsay, the author of the blog.  I appreciate her dedication and all the hard work she pours into her writing.   I highly recommend checking out her blog if you haven't already.

Anyway, here's the recipe!


  • 3 14 oz. cans vegetable broth

  • 1 15-oz can small white beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 15 oz can tomato puree

  • ½ cup uncooked brown rice

  • ½ cup finely chopped onion

  • 1 tsp dried basil

  • ¼ tsp salt

  • ¼ tsp black pepper

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 8 cups chopped fresh spinach or kale leaves


1.    In a 3 ½ or 4 quart slow cooker, combine all but the spinach or kale
2.    Cook on low for 5-7 hours or high 2 ½ - 3 ½ hours.
3.    Just before serving, stir in spinach or kale.

Yields: 6 Servings

Monday, November 16, 2009

She's got Style

I love this little girl so much :)

Zoe: "Mama!  Want Cookie, please?"

Mommy: "Oh, you want a cookie?"

Zoe: "Okay!"

Monday, November 9, 2009

Our 1st Professional Family Portrait

Our Family - Oct 09

I'm a photographer and I take a LOT of pictures.   Because of this we have only had professional "studio" pictures taken of Zoe one time, it was when she was 6 months old and it was a local photographer, total cost was  $35.    This time we were going to take pictures for our church's first color directory and the photos were taken by Olan Mills (Ooo lala!).   I'm very happy with how our photos turned out! We received one free 8X10 and we ended up buying  a couple more because we know we won't be getting more family photos for a while.   I did hear from my cousin that Portrait Innovations takes great photos and they are reasonably priced, so I think we may try them out for Zoe's 2nd birthday.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Self-Esteem in Christ Alone

"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." - James 4:6

If God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, why is self-esteem even an issue among Christians today?

As Christians we are no longer controlled by our sinful nature, we have been blessed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit!  The Holy Spirit brings forth good fruit - the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.

Self-esteem is what brings us to believe we are worth anything on our own, to believe we deserve all of the good things and don't deserve all of the bad things that happen to us.   Self-esteem is what leads us to believe we are inherently good people; that we should not (nor will we ever) be punished for our sin.   It is self-righteousness.
In one sense, low self-esteem is the opposite of pride. In another sense, low-self-esteem is a form of pride. Some people have low self-esteem because they want people to feel sorry for them, to pay attention to them, to comfort them. Low self-esteem can be a declaration of “look at me” just as much as pride. It simply takes a different route to get to the same destination, that is, self-absorption, self-obsession, and selfishness. Instead, we are to be selfless, to die to self, and to deflect any attention given to us to the great God who created and sustains us. - Click here for full article.

Encouraging Sermons for Mothers

It is my prayer that these sermons and messages would be as much of an encouragement to you as they have been to me.  Each of these sermons/messages are 45 minutes - 1 hour long.   These are just a few that I've come across in the past several months.  I'm sure I will add to this list as time goes on.

Honoring the Biblical call of Motherhood - John Piper

A Woman who Fears the Lord is to be Praised - John Piper

Revive Our Hearts Series: This is Nancy Leigh Demoss' radio show.  There have been several series' on motherhood, this is their most recent series on motherhood.

A Call to Intentional Mothering with Holly Elliff:  (You can read the transcripts or click on "Listen" to hear the show)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

CCMH Worship Band - New Album! "Stand in Awe"

CCMH Worship Band "Stand in Awe"

Band: Calvary Chapel Mission Hills Worship Band

Album: Stand In Awe

Songs by: Greg Skodacek

Released: October 25, 2009

King David, Maranatha Praise Band, Brian Doerksen, Hillsong, Brenton Brown, Hillsong United, Gateway Worship, Desperation Band
Band Interests:
Bringing people into a place where there is true communion between mankind and the Creator God, where all the glory, honor, praise, adoration, and worship He alone is due, can be expressed from the heart, in spirit and in truth.

I'm not usually one to write reviews of books, CDs, or movies because...simply put, I'm horrible at writing reviews.  However, this is something I felt was worth writing about! It is the long-awaited Worship album by the Calvary Chapel Mission Hills Worship Band with all songs written by Greg Skodacek!

Greg Skodacek (my Dad) has been leading Worship for nearly 20 years.  I grew up listening to many of these wonderful songs!   These songs have been sung in several churches in the San Diego area for many years and now, finally,  an album has been released with these wonderful congregational songs.   The album has a contemporary-rock worship style of of music and the lyrics are scripturally based and glorifying to God.

This album is all about praising and worshiping our Lord Jesus Christ, as we (who are in Christ) will do for all eternity!   "Unto Holiness" has been a favorite of mine for many years.  "Oh Glorious God"  is simply beautiful.  I also love "All to You", which is sung by my little sister Gabrielle on the album.

If your church is looking for some new music, these are some fantastic songs to try out.     The album is currently available via download and  it is only $6.99!  You can hear several full songs and buy the album on their website CCMH Worship Band.   You also can listen to samples and buy the album on Amazon, iTunes, and e-music.   You can also become a "Fan" on Facebook here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Family Traveling on a Budget

Recently I've had a few different people ask how we are able to take family trips, especially since we are living on one part-time income!   Well, we are able to take trips for a several reasons:

1. We have 3 people in our family.   Traveling with a family of 3 is easier and cheaper than a family of 5 or 6.  When we have more children our trips will probably become less frequent, but we have no intentions to ever stop our traveling.

2. We set aside money specifically for trips.  We have a "trip fund".  Most of the money we save goes into our savings account to put towards emergencies or towards our future home.   However, sometimes we'll end up with an extra $10 or $20 here and there and that is the money we usually put into our trip fund.

3. We usually don't go very far.  Most trips are within 4 hours of where we live.   Taking day trips is easy to do and cheap!

4. We drive a very small manual car that is in good condition.   We were able to go down to Tulsa, OK  (from Sioux Falls, SD) and back for less than $150 in gas!

5. If we are going somewhere overnight, we camp if possible.  That is VERY cheap.  Tent-camping, cabin camping, or RV camping (if we're with Gage's parents or grandparents).   Camping ranges from $15-40 a night.

6. Allegiant Air - Several times a year you can find tickets to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando, and a few other places for as low as $39 each way.  That is about $80 a person.  The locations of this airline are limited.   Our small airport here in Sioux Falls happens to be one of them!

7. If it is a trip that requires several nights stay, we always make sure there is a place to stay that is not a hotel. We visit family and or friends who are willing to open their homes up to us.   If we do not know someone in the area (and we do not have an RV) we usually will not stay for more than a night or two.  Hotels are way too expensive.

8. We have very generous parents and grandparents!  Whenever we travel with family, many of our expenses are covered by family members or we split the cost between everyone on the trip, which ends up saving everyone money.

10. Gage is working part-time right now.  He is able to take time off pretty much whenever he wants.  Once he is finished with school and has a regular full-time job we'll need to get even more creative with our trip planning! :)

11. We bring as much of our own food as possible and, if we're going to be staying somewhere with a microwave and/or oven/grill we cook our own food.

12. Eat more at lunch than dinner.   If you're going to be eating out at restaurants a lot, have a big lunch and a smaller dinner.  Lunch is almost always cheaper than dinner.

Many of my favorite  memories took place on road trips.  My husband and I love to travel. We hope to travel around the U.S. as much as we possibly can, especially when our children are old enough to remember the trips!  I don't really expect to ever make it out of the country (except for maybe Canada or Mexico), but if we do, what a blessing that will be!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

We're Home!

Our Family - Oct 09

On Friday we drove from Sioux Falls, SD to Tulsa, OK.   This drive took us about 13 hrs because we made quite a few stops.  Our drive home on Monday was a little less than 12 hrs.  We arrived at about 5pm.  We went to Sams Club with Wendy to get some things for Jessie's party then we went out to eat at CiCi's with the rest of the family.

I always forget how incredibly beautiful Tulsa, Oklahoma is!  This was my first time being down there in Autumn!  WOW. It was gorgeous!  It reminded me of Kentucky for sure.   If Gage ever receives a job offer in Tulsa, we're going! hehe.

Saturday we spent the day checking out Tulsa and visiting with family.  Most of the day was spent with my cousin Wendy and her daughter Jessie.  We went to a beautiful park and let the girls run around a bit.  Later that evening we took the girls trick-or-treating! Zoe did so well.  She walked right up to the doors, rang the doorbell (with Daddy's help), and as soon as the door would open she'd yell, "Cannyy!" (Candy).  We even managed to get a few "Thank yous" out of her hehe.

Sunday we spent the morning hanging out with my Aunt & Uncle.  We played a board game that my Uncle's cousin created.  It's called "Rich Man, Poor Man".   It was similar to Monopoly, but it doesn't take as long to play! :)  Later on we (Gage, Zoe, and I) went to the Woodland Hills mall in Tulsa to have lunch and walk around for a while until it was time to leave for Jessie's 2nd Birthday party!   We arrived at the party at about 3pm.   There were cupcakes, princess decorations, many gifts, and an adorable little Princess :)   I can't believe she's 2 already.  Pretty soon Zoe will be 2!   I keep telling Zoe to take her time.   I love the age she's at right now - 19 months :)

It was a good trip!  Relaxing and fun.  I've gone on 3 weekend trips in a row now.  I'm ready for a break!  No more trips for us for a couple months.  We just found out today that we're going to California for Christmas! Woohoo!

Finding Joy in the Winter Months

For our family, this time of year is full of two things: celebrations and a slightly overwhelming sense of cabin fever. Both Gage and I cel...