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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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Finances: an honest discussion

When I was about 12 years old, my mom watched an Oprah show on managing finances.  She called my sister and me into the living room, and let us know how our finances would be handled:
-10% of our money would be given away
-20% would be saved for big purchases (like camps, cd player, etc)
-20% would be put into a savings account for college, or other large expenses
-and we could spend the last 50% on whatever we'd like.

My mom later told us that, as we pouted down the hallway, one of us screamed out "OPRAH RUINED OUR LIFE!"

You see, we had just started babysitting and making money for the first time.  So to be told we could only spend half of our income was no different than saying we could only watch half of a good movie, or eat half of our dessert.  It sounded ridiculous.

In hindsight, though, it was brilliant.  Not only did I have plenty of money to see movies, take the bus to malls, buy my own clothes (oh, yeah, that was part of the agreement too), but I also funded missions trips to Mexico and the East Coast, went to several camps, went on ski trips to Yosemite, visited my sister in Hungary (well, she helped me fund that trip), replaced retainers (haha), graduated college, and took a trip to Costa Rica with my husband DEBT FREE!  I can't think of anything I missed out on, and yet I can think of tons of stuff I accomplished, all because I saved.

Fast forward 5 years, and my husband and I have been visited by the debt fairy a couple times now.  Much of it was the result of owning a business, but not all.  Some of it was because I wanted "it" and I wanted it now.  We live in a time where credit card debt is normal and expected.  In fact, you can't get a credit score unless you have revolving loans (be them credit cards, car, or house loans), and you can't get loans unless you have a credit score.  We're expected to take on car loans, credit card debt, finance husband even informed me (albeit sarcastically) that Guitar Trader is willing to finance a new guitar for him.  Sounds good, honey.

But even more than that, an important part of Christian living is the ability to give and meet needs.  How absurd is it that we give, let's just say, 10% of our income to those in need, only to turn around and borrow that money on a credit card.  Have we really given?  Harsh, but I've done it.

With all that said, my husband and I have started a new financial endeavor:  to not open our home to the debt fairy again (with the possible exception of buying a house).  By the grace of God we have paid off over $10,000 in credit card debt (I know, some of you are like THAT MUCH?? Yes.  That much).  We now have our car loan to pay off, which ironically we didn't regard as "real" debt until recently.  But with a strict budget and living outside of "normal" we should have that paid off sometime this year.

With that said, I'd love some ideas on saving a penny here and there!  What are ways you manage to trim your family's budget?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Special Event

For the past few years, my Grandma has gifted us with San Diego Zoo passes (because, apparently, our children aren't wild enough).  We love them (the passes....and the kids).

One of the neat things about a zoo membership is the magazine that comes each month.  Well, not all the magazines.  I'll admit, some of them we never even open.  But there is one issue in particular that I love - the "calendar" edition.  It's essentially a free calendar, which I appreciate because I don't see the point in paying $15 to know what day it is.  We do have a local calendar fairy who leaves one-month calendars on our porch, but they're boring and the local real estate agent usually marks them up before we get to them. But the magazine calendar is glossy and, instead of pictures of Kevin Sheedy Realty, has interesting animals plastered throughout. So here is our calendar, in all its crumpled glory (crumpled, because I didn't realize it was the calendar issue and, well, it got tossed into a basket).

However, I walked by it recently and noticed an important event scheduled that was NOT written in my handwriting.  Or my husband's.  

It's left me wondering - is this some sort of celebration at the zoo?  Or.....uh oh.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Food: Potato Skins

I thought it was silly to include this in my "Health 101" series, seeing as there is little healthy about it.  But I wanted to clarify that this is focusing on a new recipe for me, so in honor of that, I've dubbed this segment Food.  Hopefully that fits the context well.

One of my favorite junk foods is potato skins.  I love them.  They're perfectly greasy, cheesy and oh so delicious.  But ridiculously unhealthy.  However, as Michael Pollan says in his book "Food Rules", you can eat all the junk food you just have to cook it yourself.  Sounds good to me!

So, I took 3 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed them well, and coated them in olive oil.  My son, who has been asking me for days if he can microwave 5 potatoes, had the honor of pushing the buttons and zapping the tots.  He didn't seem at all upset that there were only 3, but I am curious about the 5.  It just seemed like a random request to come from a kid.

Seven minutes later, the potatoes were perfectly steamy and soft.  I pulled them out of the microwave and cut them in half, then dug out a little bit of the pulp, leaving about 1/4 left inside.  I sprayed the inside with a little oil, and broiled both sides of the potatoes for appr. 10 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, my middle daughter assisted in pulling out the necessary toppings:  grated chedder cheese, sour cream, and bacon.  We cooked the bacon (1 strip is plenty for 6 potato skins) while the potatoes broiled, then cut it up into pieces.  With the potatoes now done, we pulled them out and topped them with a sprinkling of cheese, and stuck them back in for a minute, allowing the cheese to melt.  Pulling them out, I plopped on a dollop of Daisy (okay, it was Trader Joe's Organic sour cream), sprinkled on some bacon, and sent my husband outside to snip some green tops off the onions in our garden.  We didn't have chives, but I wanted something green on top.  It worked perfectly.

Let me tell you, these potato skins were SO good!!  And not only were they sugar and gluten free (a plus), but we were also in complete control over the amount of salt (which was none, besides that in the bacon), preservatives, and other "unknowns" that would normally come in store-bought or restaurant-ordered potato skins.  Yum.

When you think you have it all together.... don't.  

Thursday is my errand-running day.  Since my husband is currently uber-busy with basketball practices, games and work-related stuff, and my go-to babysitter recently took off on a sprint towards her college degree (GO MOM!), I've been spending a lot more time on the home front.  My errands, which formely took place sporadically throughout the week, now consume most of our only free day - Thursday.  It's my breathing day, my thinking day, my get-to-wear-a-nice-shirt-if-I-want-to day.  I love Thursday.  

Needless to say on Wednesday night I actually typed up my shopping list in the order of store attendance, and stacked it along with my necessary coupons (can you say World Market $10 off $30 and Michaels 40%??) and reusable shopping bags, prepping myself to bolt out the door as soon as my husband got home from his 3-hour work day.  And bolt I did.  Right to the bank.  Which was right next to Starbucks.  Hey, what'd you expect?  Cash and coffee in hand, my day officially began.  

Now, I'm not going to bore you with ALL the events of the day (including my attempt to coax plastic forks off their 9 foot perch with 8" paper plates - didn't work).  But what I will tell you is that one of my stops was the blood bank.  You see, my Dad is amazing for a number of reasons, one of them being the number of times he has come home with a band-aid around his finger and neon medical tape around his arm.  He faithfully donates blood.  And rightfully so.  It's one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways we can help save lives, and it requires SO LITTLE!  (That's my little plug to encourage YOU to donate!)  Thus the reason for my regular visit last Thursday.  I was a bit anxious as they tested my hemoglobin levels, given that the last time I was here they were too low.  But since then I had been taking iron supplements and focusing on my intake of spinach.  And with success - my hemoglobin levels were higher than normal - yay!  So I took my position in the chair, gave some blood, and accepted the information booklet they give every time, the one that's always coupled with the statement "...and if you experience any flu symptoms in the next 24 hours, please call the 800 number on the back."  Sure, no problem.

Well wouldn't you know it, the next day I came down with the worst flu I've ever had.  I knew it was bad when I threw up in my car (thankfully I had one of my reusable bags handy.  I won't be reusing it).  In 3 pregnancies, with a combined total of 12 months of non-stop nausea and vomiting, I NEVER threw up in my car; I was always able to stop and get out in time .  Haha...doesn't this paint a pretty picture of me .  At least I'm not the unmarried daughter of Mrs. Bennet .  But don't worry folks, I wasn't selfish with my flu.  I made sure to share it with a good friend of mine (and I hope that friend is feeling better...).  

Thankfully, 4 days later, the flu is nearly gone.  But it left me with some thoughts.  I know this post is not organized (I warned you about this!) but the moral is this:  when you think you've got it together, you don't.  My attempts at a good deed were completely fruitless.  I had to call the blood bank and have them discard my donation.  I was completely humbled, sitting in my car, vomiting into a bag.  I was lethargic, shivering, smelly...I was a mess.  But didn't God warn me of this?  He said that, on my own, my good deeds are as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) That aside from Christ, I am a sinner, helpless to myself. (Isaiah 53:6)  But praise God, I am not tied down to that.  Look at the deal God is willing to make with us in Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:  though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land."  

So that's it?  For my curse to be lifted and for me to be treated like royalty, You only require willingness and obedience?  And as a result of the new covenant, that is pretty simple to do.

Sure, I'll accept that offer.  But would you consider throwing in flu antibodies, too?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Home Improvements

Hi.  My name is Jessie and I'm not a good blogger.

1. I take horrible pictures.  I have a wonderfully charged battery for my adorable pink camera.  I'm simply missing the camera it goes in.  Result: tacky camera phone pictures.  Sorry guys.
2. A new post appears approximately the same time an asteroid hits Earth.  That's every few thousand years, you say?  Sounds accurate.
5. I don't have a common blog theme.  Well, so what.  I don't have a common life, either.

With those confessions out of the way....

The past month has brought about a few changes, aka "improvements," to our home.  One was a small change in diet, as a previous blog alluded to.  No, we're still not perfect there.  But as an avid cook and baker, I'm having fun discovering our new options.  The latest was some pretty tasty pancakes:

These were made with brown rice flour and fluffed up with tapioca flour.  Topped with butter and paired with some French press, they were amazing!  In fact, after finishing off his plate, my son came up behind me, put his hand on my back and said, "Thanks Mommy."  Uhh, you're welcome?  Wait, did you even know what I put in them??  Oh, nevermind.

In addition to the cooking adventures, I've also created for myself a little workstation.  And here we have one of my tacky camera phone pics:

I am a stay-at-home mom so this area is the irony of all ironies since the entire house is my workstation.  But this is where my life gets to be organized.  I purchased this adorable desk off of craigslist for $50 (did I mention it's Pier 1?).  My sweet brother-in-law said it was nice, just needed "a few touch-ups".  Guess I need to have him over more and introduce him to the lovable world of shabby chic (Love ya Samuel!).  

Despite the fact that we own bookshelves, most of my personal books end up stacked.  I tell myself its for health reasons  - who reads with their head tilted sideways anyway?  I might end up with taco neck syndrome.  In actuality, I think my book stacks are just a lazy mans bookshelf.  Whatever.  Thankfully, my desk has room for my current reads:

(If you want to keep updated with my reading list, check out the main page of my blog.  But no worries, you only have to check it every other month to see a change .  Haha.) 

I have this opinion that every real desk needs a globe .  Why?  Well, because . That's why.  I don't really have a wonderful reason for this; it just seems to feel official.  So I have a globe.  
In addition to that, I keep a cute stack of homemade coasters that I won in a surprise raffle.  Well, the raffle wasn't a surprise, but the winning was.  And these things are so cute!  The purpose of hosting them on my desk was to protect my new area from my daily coffee habit.  But I haven't had the heart to untie the bundle so it sits there as decoration.  It's kind of like repurposing your garage while your $30,000 car sits outside.  But my desk wasn't $30,000.  So I guess its not really the same .  
And then there is the obvious pen cup.  But mine is no ordinary pen cup.  It holds pictures.  And no ordinary pictures.  If you look close enough, you will see a picture of my dad at 23 months old.  I love that picture.  

Next to my pen cup sits two jars of bottle caps.  Well, one of bottle caps, and another of bottle cap charms.  This will be explained in another blog, hopefully before the next asteroid hits our planet.

Last but not least, my bulletin board.  We had one of these growing up.  It was housed on the door that led to our side yard, and it was always covered with papers...thousands upon thousands of papers.  One tack usually secured about 15-20 sheets of paper because we kept losing all the tacks and nobody in our house was smart enough to buy new ones.  So when I went shopping for my own bulletin board, I walked up and down the aisles looking for a frame with a thousand papers on it.  I finally inquired about the location of the bulletin boards.  Imagine my surprise when I was shown an empty brown board.  Where are all the papers?  Well, you add them yourself.  Add them, myself?  You mean to tell me all those papers belonged to my family?!?  So now I have my own bulletin board, with empty space and extra tacks.  Maybe I'll donate some of those tacks to my mom.  
My hope is that, with this new workstation, my brain will appreciate the organization and actually get some work done.  So far its working beautifully. 

And in light of improving our home, my sweet daughter graciously boosted the appeal of my trash can, something I never would have considered:

Thanks sweetheart.
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