This Is Me

Jessie Bee
I am a seeker of God, a help-meet to my husband and a mother to my 3 children. I love hot lattes, good books, cold weather and anything that inspires me to be creative. I desire simplicity and authenticity, but often have to remind myself to seek those .
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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Let's talk finances...again.

Let's ignore the fact that I've managed one blog post in the past year, and get straight to where my heart is at right now.

Just over a year ago (aka two posts ago), I posted a blog about sinking funds.  The concept is relatively put a little money away each month and over the course of time, it adds up.  We do this to cover all our annual premiums.  Now I'm standing here, a year later, stressing to you the importance of getting on track with your finances.  Because it's not always gravy.  

Since we started getting serious about our finances, things have been pretty smooth for us.  We paid off our debt in record time, we saw our savings account grow, we nailed the process of sinking funds, and we stuck  to our monthly budget.  We were on track to finish an expensive adoption in the summer, and and save up a down payment by the end of this year.  I mean, it almost seemed too easy.  

But honestly, who has ever had it easy forever?  We are all susceptible to hard times, and Stuart and I got to face them in abundance these past several months.  This began with our car getting totaled in October, a hefty unexpected tax bill, workmans comp issues with our business, a "successfuly-failed" adoption, and some expected and unexpected medical bills (including upcoming ACL surgery for Stuart, and a baby due this November).  The financial portion alone would likely bankrupt the average American family, and I won't lie, it has hit us pretty hard.

However....because of several years of budgeting and saving, it hasn't ruined us.  (So far) we've been able to face ALL of it head on and remain debt-free.

My intention here is not to brag.  I understand grace enough to realize I don't have a right to.  And I don't intend to imply we were filthy rich; we weren't.  But we had enough to weather some tough storms, and I cannot get over how grateful I am that we were prepared.  In June of 2013, I ended my blog post encouraging people to start sinking funds, saying "One day you'll be glad you did.   Like in 2014."  From where I stand now, truer words have never been spoken.   

I'm going to do the same thing here.  This year, get a plan in place for paying off debt and building your savings account.  I will never, ever regret it.  

P.S. If you need a place to start, I strongly recommend looking into Dave Ramsey's book, The Total Money Makeover.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Coming Full Circle

If you look through the hodgepodge of posts on my blog, you'll find I am passionate about a few things: food, my family, getting crafty, and finances.  

The latter subject came about from a life change almost 3 years ago.  My husband and I were over $20,000 in debt - a combination of a car loan and credit cards.  That's a humbling number to write when, just a few years prior, we were bragging about getting through college without any student loans or other debt, period.

So, there we were, $20k in debt and making stupid decisions like applying for another credit card, just so we could do some Black Friday shopping.  Three months later, my sister called me and told me to read Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book.  She even offered to buy me a copy of it.  I read it in a matter of minutes (well, I guess it was a day or two, but it felt fast).  I gave it to my husband, and he read it, too.  It basically told us to save a little bit, pay off our debt as quickly as we possibly could, then start saving some more.  Very basic, and yet so genius. 

Starting a budget (and sticking to it) wasn't easy.  We had to give up lots of random, fun things like having a million different drinks in our fridge, regular pizza nights, movies and eating out.  We had to be intentional about our grocery budget, and start sinking funds for items that required annual payments.  And we had to learn patience, because it takes a lot of little baby steps to make great strides.  

But we did it; we made huge strides.  You know how I know this?  

Because exactly three years ago, we owed over $20,000 in credit card debt and car loans.  
But last week, we paid cash for this, and still remain debt free:

You guys, we have come full circle.  

So please, please, please believe me when I say it's possible to get debt free and stay that way.  If you want a little guidance, try reading Total Money Makeover.  But start today.  Who knows where you'll be in three years.  =)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Planning for 2014

It may seem odd that I'm writing to you about 2014 right now, in June of 2013.  But really it's not that odd.  

The reason I bring it up is because today my husband and I put some things on the calendar for 2014.  Not big, huge, amazing things.  But things that require a little money.  So immediately after we put those things on the calendar, I then put them in our budget, because a couple years ago I learned a valuable lesson:

$$$ ÷ now = $$$


$$$ ÷ time = $

I wrote a little more about it in this post.  The concept is called "sinking funds" and it's so simple, it's brilliant.  You start putting a little money away now for future commitments (annual bills, trips, big purchases) so that when you need to write the check for the large amount later, it doesn't hurt.

Seriously, I encourage you to start doing this.  Keep it simple and pull out some envelopes, write next years plans on them, and start putting a small amount in them each month.  Or transfer it into another bank account, separate from your regular checking account, and record it in a notebook.  One day you'll be glad you did.  

Like in 2014.  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dessert: Bread Pudding

1. Get yourself some yummy nummy bread.  I used Panera's cinnamon raisin bread.

2. Slice it up and broil it in the oven for a few minutes until it's nicely toasted.  Eat.  
Or if you can muster up the strength, continue to step 3.  =)

3. Gather your other ingredients.  For my bread pudding I used vanilla extract, half n half plus some milk, butter, eggs, and sugar.  Oh and caramel.  Lots of caramel...

4. Mix all of  your ingredients.  Rough measurements would be 2 cups liquid, 2 tablespoons butter, teaspoon or two of vanilla, 3 eggs, small scoop of sugar, and caramel.  Lots of caramel.  ;)

5. Cut up the bread into large chunks.  Pour the mixture over your bread.  Make sure all of your bread gets moistened.  Stick it in the oven at 375 degrees for about 25-35 minutes, or until set.  

6. Top with some more caramel.  EAT.  Repeat.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dinner: Pineapple Teriyaki Burgers!

Though I have not been blogging much, I can assure you I've been doing several other things.  Like eating, for example.
photo credit:

My twin sis recently told me about a food blog called Skinny Taste.  I initially thought this was another one of those healthy sites that gave you normal-recipes-turned-gross because it substituted yummy stuff for yucky stuff and then - viola! - the dish is automatically considered delicious for its lack of calories.  I don't like those kinds of recipes.

Well, this site does that.  Kind of.  But not really, because all the recipes (that I've tried so far) really ARE delicious.  Like her Chicken Tikka Masala.  I am a huge fan and a huge critic of chicken tikka masala and this recipe was fantastic!  No heavy cream, no butter...Pioneer Woman would not be happy (until she took a bite).  And definitely not too shabby when paired with some homemade na'an.  =)

Don't judge the bad pic...I didn't plan on posting this publicly.
Another example is her Teriyaki Burger.  I, for one, am NOT a burger person.  I almost shouldn't be American for two reasons: I can't stand ranch dressing, and I could easily live without eating hamburgers.  So why did I try this recipe?  Mostly because it gave me a chance to try out my new pineapple corer/slicer (it worked awesome, btw), but also because my kids absolutely love hamburgers.  I might have also been tempted to try it when I noticed that sriracha sauce went into the hamburger mixture (no worries...the spice doesn't stick.  My kids ate it and never knew.  But I did put loads extra in the teriyaki sauce!).  I also loved the addition of the grilled pineapple.  

The consensus?  This burger was amazing.  So amazing that I called my twin sis and told her how amazing it was.  And she knows I don't eat burgers.   

Look at my iphone camera skills!  This was the actual burger I ate.   

Monday, April 15, 2013

Kids and Chores

I've always so badly wanted be the kind of organized mom who always has her house in order: who always has all the important papers neatly filed away, who always knows where the scissors are, or even just the household phone...of which we have FOUR, who can manage to cross everything off her "to do" list, and who always remembers the passwords on the computer.  But I'm not an organized mom.

With that said, I wasn't surprised when chore charts didn't work in our home.  I've purchased three different styles in the past year, all with good intentions, but our lifestyle is not one that allows for everyday chores such as "set the table for dinner" when half the week we just eat picnic-style around the coffee table.  Our schedule and lifestyle are really not conducive to hanging up a chore chart and filling it up with daily tasks.

Nevertheless, I still wanted a clean house, and I wanted my kids to help me with it.  At their ages, they're more than capable of helping out and lightening my load a bit.  So after brainstorming, I found something that worked in our crazy disorganized home.

I filled a mason jar with tasks that can be completed by my kids.  About half can be done daily (but we'll live if they're not), and the other half are weekly chores.   If it's a daily chore, I put an asterisk at the end.  The kids know to put this back in the "To Do" jar when the job is complete.  If it doesn't have an asterisk, it gets put in the "Done" jar until the beginning of the following week.

Our rules are as follows:
1. They must do two jobs per day.
2. They are not paid for these jobs.  This is part of being in a family.
3. They cannot put their slips back in and try for a "better" jobs.
4. They may trade a job with someone else, so long as that is agreed upon by both parties.
5. They get to take a break on the weekends, or if we're out of the house all day.

To be honest, my children are not outstanding at all of these jobs.  Sometimes they are great, and sometimes I get frustrated when they don't realize that simply pulling the tops off of the weeds does nothing beneficial.  My 5 year old has no idea what a baseboard is, much less how to wipe it down.  But I remind myself that we're working on habits now, and proper form takes times.  I always ask them if they are proud of their work, and praise the heck out of them if they stayed focused and tried hard....even if there is no obvious indication that work was attempted.

Do I still wish I was organized and put-together?  Of course.  But thankfully I'm learning that households can be a wee bit chaotic and still get things done.  And that kids can figure out a ton of other things to do with unused chore charts and their coordinating stickers.  =)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Homeschooling Lesson #1: How to copy paper

I'm really no stranger to homeschooling.  After only 3 months of middle school, my parents pulled us all out of public school and began the journey of de-socializing us.

Oh I jest.  That didn't happen until our second year of homeschooling.

We began homeschooling for the sole purpose of avoiding the evil that was our local middle school, fully intent on returning back to society come 9th grade.  But strange things happened and we made friends.  Like, good friends.  Friends that went on to lead normal lives and that I still frequently talk to.

I managed to graduate high school, attend and graduate college with honors, and build a little family of my own in the process.  And now I'm in my second "official" year of homeschooling my little champs.   And that's no small feat!  I have a kindergartner, firsts grader, and second grader this year!

When my kids are in kindergarten, I do very little as far as official schoolwork.  I buy about a thousand glue sticks and round-tip scissors at the beginning of the year, and a couple workbooks (strongly recommend Explode the Code!).  I teach math by also teaching cooking and we read Roald Dahl.  Now that I have a first grader and a second grader, we use a lot more curriculum and worksheets, and last week I learned that I was lacking a fundamental albeit crucial and necessary skill for any homeschooling parent:  I didn't know how to copy paper.  

I started out optimistic.  I had my coffee (all aspects of homeschooling require coffee), and my two piles of paper going: to copy and already copied.

Such beauty.

I learned right away not to lift the copy lid too fast, or else the paper would fly out the back and land behind the 200lb filing cabinet.  However, despite the immediacy of my lesson, I managed to do this 5 more times.  So then I learned a new lesson:  don't keep sliding the filing cabinet back against the wall. 

This is a top view of the paper having fallen behind the cabinet.
No copy job is complete without the fear of God 
being put in you by these three words:

I had to copy about 100 pages and I have no clue how to change the cartridge on this machine.  So I did what any normal woman would do - I copied my pages anyway. 

 (P.S. I totally won that challenge.)   

After doing half of my copying, 
I had to flip the pages over and copy the backside.  
I analyzed that machine over and over, picked up printed pages and simulated them going through the machine, and deduced the correct direction my papers needed to face to print correctly. 

Guess who printed them wrong?

So here's to all you new homeschooling mommies out there 
(or the veterans who failed to learn the art of the copy machine):

1. Put your printer in the center of the room, where a fallen paper does not equal a workout.
2. Have your husband put in a new cartridge before you begin your job.  Or don't.  ;)
3. Stock up on glue sticks and scissors - you're about to make yourself a huge pile of scratch paper.

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