Vacation Fun: The Married Way

Jason and I went to North Carolina for a wedding this June and we made a couple of pit stops along the way.  I think it is critically important to switch things up from time to time in your marriage.. basically because monotony scares the poo out of me!  

Jason loves to be outdoors. I like to pretend I like to be outdoors. Therefore, on most trips we plan a day or two to really enjoy the outdoors together. We like to hike for a couple of reasons: it’s cheap, it promotes good conversation and the beauty of God’s creation is simply breathtaking! This photo was shot in Andrews, North Carolina at Cover Falls.


 

                         

The hubs and I are both grossly independent so we try to spend our trips doing things that we both love. This time I requested a pitstop at Biltmore Estates in Asheville, NC. It was absolutely gorgeous. Biltmore is a little pricey so we purchased tickets in advance at a discount through AAA. We also brown bagged our lunch (healthy and frugal… two points!). Biltmore really has something for everyone and since I like “shiny” and Jason likes “history” it was well worth the trip! 

Marriage can really take a toll on your fun-o-meter and as a result occasionally you need a pick me up. That’s why on vacations, we always try to do something fun! This trip we went to Deep Creek area of the Smoky Mountain National Park and hiked. We went back for day two because of these tubes. People rent these tubes for $5 (cheap!) and ride down the rapids. It takes around an hour or so to go down (you can go down as many times as you’d like) and it’s really inexpensive fun in the sun! We had a blast! I’m quite clumsy so I did scrape my knee… but otherwise, this was a total win! 

Every night on vacation, we would play games before bed. Rummy and dominos are our games of choice. The picture above is Jason’s losing face… I dominate in dominos! A little competitive fun really helps us wind down and gives us time to recap our day! 
I love traveling with my husband. In our dating life, traveling helped prove to us that we could work as a team. We always travel with such ease and really pay special attention to accommodating both of our interests. We love to experience new things with each other. Even with a low budget, mini-trips can offer a renewed spirit and revive a relationship in a flash! 

Weekend Savings

Last week I thought it was really fun to share with you the ways I saved money over the weekend.
My goal is not to bore you with my personal purchases but to challenge you to take the extra step and find savings for the items you purchase regularly! 
Here’s how I saved —
Jetts Pizza: Saved $7 off our order (Click link to see local coupons listed).
Old Navy: Saved $40 total, used a $10 off $50 purchase coupon listed on their facebook page. I used their stock up and save sale to buy Jason a few polos for work and gray under shirts.
Victoria’s Secret: Saved $15 with a coupon found in my e-mail. Offer Code listed below… I don’t know if it can be used multiple times but the certificate number is 220278976.
Ken Towery’s Oil Change: $11 off synthetic blend oil change.
TOTAL SAVINGS: $73.00

Triple Chocolate Chunk Muffin Recipe- Low Cal


Before we get to the nitty gritty of this post I think it’s important that I confess. I am only learning to be domestic, it does not come natural to me… and occasionally, even though I have made improvements, I have epic failures in the kitchen! As a result, it took me two attempts to make these muffins before they were edible. 


On attempt one, I threw in the egg shells into the mixing bowl instead of the egg whites…the muffins were super crunchy and AWFUL! (Sometimes, you just have to rip the band aid off and come clean). I don’t have an excuse worthy for print of why I made that mistake, but it happened. My husband and I laughed all night about the mishap…but that did not change the taste of the muffins, let me tell you. YUCK! 


On the second attempt, I had better luck and the muffins are delish! 


Here’s the recipe:


Ingredients


1 3/4 c oats


3 egg whites


3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa


1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce


1 tsp. vanilla extract


1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or regular plain low fat yogurt)


1/2 tsp cream of tartar (or 1-1/2 Tbsp. vinegar)


1-1/2 tsp. baking powder


1-1/2 tsp. baking soda


1/4 tsp. salt


1 cup hot water


1 cup sugar substitute (like Splenda granular) OR 1/4 cup + 2 tbs stevia


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with foil cupcake liners, or spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.


In a blender, (or food processor), mix all of the ingredients together, except for the chocolate chips. Blend until oats are ground and mixture is smooth.


Place mixture in a bowl and gently stir in chocolate chips. Scoop into prepared muffin pans.


Place in oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool before removing muffins from pan.


Servings: 24 muffins


85 calories per muffin (5g fiber, 5 protein, 21 g carbs, 1g sugar).                        


Method


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with foil cupcake liners, or spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.


In a blender, (or food processor), mix all of the ingredients together, except for the chocolate chips. Blend until oats are ground and mixture is smooth.


Place mixture in a bowl and gently stir in 1/2 of the chocolate chips (set the rest aside). Scoop mixture into prepared muffin pans.


Place muffins tins in the oven for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, remove muffins from the oven (but don’t shut oven off), and distribute the other half of the chocolate chips on top of each muffin.


Place  the muffins back into the oven and bake for an additional 2-5 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. *Note, you could skip this step by putting all of the chips in the batter, and baking the muffins for 12-15 min straight, but this method gives the muffins the traditional ‘VitaTop Muffin’ look with the chocolate chips on top!
Cool muffins before removing from pan. ENJOY!!! 




If you want more super fabulous low calorie and health conscious recipes, visit Dashing Dish. It’s my new go to blog for recipes and the gal that writes… presh!!! 

Weekend Savings

I really enjoy buying “stuff”… sometimes it’s a need and many times it’s a want. One of the greatest things I have learned from our Financial Peace University journey is that you should rarely pay retail.

I thought it might be fun to document my weekend savings in order to share with you how simple it can be to save money.

Here is goes:
Dry Cleaning: $5 saved. (Look on your dry cleaners site. Some cleaners such as Concord actually honor competitors coupons).
Kroger: $19 saved. (I only used coupons from the Sunday papers).
Pet Supermarket: $5 saved. (Sign up for their VIP Program and get monthly coupons e-mailed to you.)
Bare Minerals: $10 saved. (Ask for a rewards card. Get punches for every purchase. 10 punches equals $10 free).
Aerie: $7.50 saved. (20 % off purchase off purchase with friends & family discount).
Dicks Sporting Goods: $10 saved. (Entertainment book provided $10 off a $50 purchase).
Total Saved: $56.50. Woo Hoo! 

How do I do it?!? And no, I am not an extreme couponer…

Here are a few quick tips on how to save money:
1. Sign up for card programs like Pet Supermarket VIP or Bare Minerals.
2. Google Search for coupons likes the one I found at Aerie and for dry cleaning.
3. Look at fundraiser books from kiddos! The entertainment book I bought this year was chalked full of great deals! (Read before you buy, friends!) 

Time Budget

Why do I always complain about not having enough time? Why can’t I get things done? We have 168 hours in a week. Isn’t that enough? Our Lord who rules over everything and makes all things perfect, knew that 24 hours a day was adequate. Why don’t I see that? Is there a lesson here?
God called me to do certain things in this season of life. He called me to focus on: HIM, marriage, family, education, friendships and healthy living. Despite my knowledge, my dim-witted ideas get me in trouble and leave me feeling empty and defeated.
I feel like I need a budget for my time. A way to zero out the 168 hours that I am blessed with each week and actually become a better steward of this gift of time. Our financial budget has transformed our lives and I am certain that once tweaked, my time budget will do the same.
Here’s my first draft:
Class Per Week
4
Study Time Per Week
6
Sleep/Hygeine
65
Work
40
Meal Prep
7
Exercise
4
Family
10
Cleaning/Shopping/Laundry
5
TV
4
Internet
4
Recreation
4
Quiet Time
5
Miscellaneous
10
168
Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to complete a time journal. I’ll actually see how my time is spent and then make adjustments to the budget. For our financial budget, it took several months to get it “right”. I am certain that this budget will not be any different and am looking forward to the challenge.
During this time the cry of my heart is this: Lord, teach me to use your time wisely. Remove the grumblings from my mouth and help me to see the beauty in every hour and every task you have set before me. Thank you for your gift.

A Special Thank You.

Photo Card
View the entire collection of cards.

When our group traveled to Joplin it was not without the help of some very special people. I created a collage card with the help of Shutterfly to send out a personal thank you to those that provided money or gave donations!  You can view all that Shutterfly has to offer by following the link above. LOVE!

Non-Toxic Home Cleaners

Recipes–

All-Purpose Cleaners: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 2 teaspoons of borax into 2 liters of water.
Air Freshener: Grind up lemon slices in garbage disposal.
Dust: Use dryer sheet.
Deodorize Floors and Prevent Fleas: Sprinkle borax over carpet, let sit for around 48 hours and then sweep up.

I am not “green” by nature but I do like to save money and be a good steward of the kingdom in which God has given us dominion over. Therefore, from time to time, I like to incorporate non-toxic cleaners into my cleaning routine. Using products such as vinegar and borax are cheaper than buying other cleaners, are safer for the environment and bring less chemicals into your home (think pets and kiddos!).

America.

This year as America celebrated its 235 birthday with fireworks, BBQ and family fun, my husband and I went to help with the disaster recovery efforts in Joplin, MO. We spent two long, hot days working in the rubble sifting through debris. I fully believe that we celebrated the holiday in a way that brought honor to America and truly represented the “home of the brave”.
Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed on May 22, 2011 when a tornado ripped through a town of about fifty thousand residents. The people of Joplin have suffered a loss that I cannot simply understand. They lost loved ones, their belongings, their place of employment, their everything… and yet they stand so tall, so brave. 
One homeowner came by while we were working on his property and chatted with us. We found a basket of clothes in his fence line and had placed it on the foundation of his home. He wasn’t interested in the basket of clothing, he was interested in conversation with us. Who were we? Why were we helping? 
Another homeowner was sifting through rubble and making a sign when we walked by. The sign said “God bless you,volunteers.” She immediately shouted at us as we walked down the street and thanked us for serving their community. 
These people lost everything and still took the time to thank us, feed us and encourage us… so amazing! 
The other great thing about this trip was the reminder that America still knows how to come together as one. I worked alongside Christians, Hindus, white, black, young, old and from many different states across the nation. It reminded me that despite our differences people still care and still know how to work together. It was so encouraging. 
I am proud of America this year for our resilience and our hearts.