Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sarah Graduates!

Take a quick look at Sarah's Spot for a quick re-cap of her graduation evening.

Hard to believe she's a High Schooler. Does that mean I'm old? (Don't answer that.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Bargain Post!

A couple days ago I mentioned that I had gotten the following request for a blog dedicated to cost saving tips.

Q. How about Becky Smith's cost saving tips? You seem to have a great handle on that. How do you do it? Please share with us or at least me. Tips from anyone welcome.

Anon, That is a great topic and one that we can learn from each other on, especially since frugal living is on a lot of minds right now. Here are a few budgetary things that come to my mind; at the end, I also included a few tips from my readers.

1. Eating Out

We eat out very rarely. (Maybe once a month unless we’re on the road somewhere.) I figure that it costs a family of three at least $30-$40 to eat at a steak house or at an Applebee’s type restaurant. And then I figure that I could buy meat for our family for two weeks with that money and it doesn’t seem quite so hard to eat at home! (The good thing about not eating out very much is that it’s quite a treat for us when we get to do it.)

We also (almost always) order water instead of soft drinks/tea when we eat out.

Also, since most portions are huge at restaurants, Steve and I either split an entree or take the leftovers home for lunch or dinner the next day. (And speaking of leftovers, I am the Queen of Leftovers. It’s amazing how much mileage you can get out of leftover stuff if you apply some creativity to them)

2. Staying organized.

I can’t say that I succeed at this all the time, but I am working at being more aware of what things are in my cabinets, cupboards, closets and freezer. Just last week, there were two non-food items that I needed and was planning to buy. In the process of reorganizing a few areas of the house, I discovered that I already had those things; I had just forgotten about them. I saved myself almost twenty dollars, just by doing a little organizing.

3. Thrift stores

If there is one thing I hate in life, it is walking into a store and paying a high price for an item of clothing. I can get one pair of pants for $40 at a department store or go to a good quality thrift or consignment store and get a bag full of stuff for $40. No contest!

In the past, Steve has not been real sold on thrift stores because (in his words), “Men hold on to their clothes a lot longer than women do, so there’s not as much good stuff to choose from.” That’s no doubt true!

However, recently he’s been stopping in at the thrift store right up the street from us and has scored several nice pair of dress pants for about $4 each. Sure, he might have to dig a little bit, but $4 instead of $80 makes it worth it! (Men’s dress clothes are so expensive)

4. Window shopping

I have discovered that window shopping is not cheap. If I go to a mall just to “look around,” 9 times out of 10, I will see something I didn’t know that I “needed” and will buy it.

The solution? I don’t shop unless I am looking for something specific. Besides, life’s too short to shop for no reason!

5. Fix its

I am blessed to have a husband who is wonderful at fixing stuff, all the way from doing household repairs to engine repairs. Over our 28 years of marriage, he has saved us tens of thousands of dollars by doing work himself.

Obviously, not everyone has a family member around who is so handy; however, if there is something that you can do (or take a quick class and learn to do), it’s a great feeling of accomplishment to do something yourself and save that layout of cash.

6. Craig’s List and Freecycle

Our “old faithful” copier/printer/scanner broke right after we spent $40 buying new ink for it. I happened to see the very same machine on Craig’s List for $25. Bought it, installed our unused ink cartridges and we’re back in business!

Also, Craig’s list is not just for buying. If you have a bike, a ping pong table, or a couch that you’re not using it, list it, sell it, make some cash! (And is a great place too, if you like giving/receiving things absolutely free.)

7. Greeting Cards

As a pastor’s wife, I am always needing (and looking for) greeting cards for all different occasions. Instead of going to Hallmark or Wal Mart and buying them individually, ($2 to $4 apiece) I get nice ones in a box, which come out to less than .50 apiece. I’ve been amazed at the excellent quality of the boxed cards; you have to shop around a bit, but they’re out there!

8. Cost Comparison Websites

Nextag, Bizrate and Pricegrabber all allow you to type in the brand and model name of products and see the price you’ll pay at a variety of stores, including shipping and sales tax.

And finally, here are a few comments from readers.

Guerrina said:

1. I barter my computer/graphic skills, sewing skills and staging "skills". Sometimes I receive money. Other times I've had an expert redo my resume and once I received a keyboard that looks like a piano (now for some sheet music - I only have a book of Christmas songs which is great in December!)

2. I save my old shower curtains and use as drop cloths for projects and painting and outside for the annual dragging of the fallen leaves back into their woods. They do make good tarps!

3. I found out a neighbor down the street does small engine repair ($40) versus the local "big business" that wanted to charge me almost $100 for the same repair.

4. Another person in my life is an auto mechanic for a big dealership and does work on the side for wholesale prices. Another person left working for an HVAC company and cleans / repairs furnaces on the side (and is not invested in a particular oil company).

5. I've learned that there are only a very few recipes that I need to buy brand specific ingredients for and can often go with the store brand. So I try to find the "little guy" down the road that charges less.

Now if I could just find someone who needs one or two of my skills in return for cutting down some (more than 5) trees! :)

Leece wrote:

Here's my money saving tip. I have a rectangular greenhouse...I think in America they may be called glass houses - anyway, you grow your veggies in them! For years now whenever the glass breaks I simply hang up a clear plastic shower curtain instead of paying for new glass. I know it sounds weird but it works really well, the heat and light can still get in even if you use a patterned one. I use hooks to hang them on and wedge the bottom to the floor with flower pots.

(If you have some good tips of your own to share, please leave them in the comments area.)


And just because a blog entry is always more fun with pictures, here are a couple (completely unrelated photos) of Nathan and Meagan that I love. Don’t you love a picture that shows a man doing dishes? (This was in our house in Smithfield.)


This is more current, taken in Florida; it’s especially cute the way he’s looking at her. They are a wonderfully wonderful couple!


The Shorn Snowy Saga Continues

Sarah and I were both quite touched by everyone signing in and being sympathetic to our poor, shorn doggy's plight. You all are so sweet and Snowy sends his most sincere, doggie thanks.

The other thing we hadn't considered with this hair cut is that even in the middle of the summer, he's cold all the time. Just being in a house with the a.c. set at 72, we've still had to wrap him up a little bit in order to be his "substitute" fur. Poor little guy.

Also, a couple of you mentioned a recent post that I just written about Snowy being groomed and wondered why he had to be groomed so often.

Well, that answer will reveal to you the "scheduling life" of a blogger. Sometimes I set a bunch of pictures aside and just hold on to them until I come to a day when I don't have anything current to write about; then I grab those pictures (or a story I've kept in mind) and make those into a post.

And that was the case with the most recent grooming pictures; they had been languishing in my "kept aside" photo bin for quite a while. We actually try to keep his grooming appointments to just three or four times a year, just because he's such an expensive little fella. However, the way he looks now, we may get by for a decade or two before he has to be groomed again. There's always a bright side!

In the meantime he's snuggled in beside me, pressed up against my leg, trying desperately to stay warm. And probably also trying desperately to dream of the days when he was both cute and fluffy.

Now he's cute and non-fluffy. But we love him just the same!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Please Don’t Laugh. You’ll Hurt Snowy’s Feelings.

Today was not a good day for Snowy. Not a good day at all.

The time had come for him to be groomed and since the last place we had used in Manteo was quite expensive ($50!) we shopped around to try and find something cheaper. We finally found a place that would do it for $30, even though we had to drive 45 minutes round trip to get him there.

But we thought we’d give it a whirl. I mean, twenty dollars is twenty dollars!

After Sarah and I picked him up from his very own personal appointment, he immediately went into hiding. Behind Sarah’s neck. So that no macho doggies would see him.


Macho doggies, er, dawgs, like this one.


And why did Snowy want to hide? Why was he so embarrassed?


Um. Here is the reason. Look how short his hair is! Look how chopped off his poor little ears are! He looks like a completely different breed of dog! He is humiliated! And discombobulated! And distressed! And dismayed!

“Does this haircut make me look fat?”


“Mom, you’re not going to post these pictures on Smithellaneous, are you?”


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Poor, poor beloved doggie.

The only words of comfort I have for him are the ones I’ve heard a billion times in past years of my life when a hair stylist would inadvertently take seventeen inches off my bangs.

“It’ll grow out.”

I always hated hearing that. And I’m sure it’s not much comfort to Snowy either.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he’ll be wearing a hat in the next pictures I take of him. You never know to what lengths a doggie’s vanity may go!


Just so we don’t end with disturbing and distressing pictures of our shorn pooch, I’ll close with a couple pictures of Sarah and the tie dyed shirt she made during the last week of school. I’ll also be posting some pictures and stories about her graduation on her site real soon.

What a lovely (High School!) lass.

IMG_4848 IMG_4851

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Camel Livers. Clabbered Milk.

I wrote on Monday that we had a missionary couple with us in church on Sunday and then at our house afterward for lunch.

As I was thinking through the menu earlier in the week, I started stressing just a tad thinking, “Hmmm. I wonder what they like to eat. I wonder if there are certain dishes they don’t care for.”

And then it occurred to me. These are missionaries. To Africa. They have been missionaries for thirty-four years, for Pete’s sake. They probably aren’t extremely picky.

And they weren’t. They ate my humble meal with joy and appreciation.

However, as I doing some last minute lunch prep and we were all chatting, I couldn’t resist asking Bob, “So is there anything you really do not care to eat?”

He thought briefly and then responded, “Camel livers.” And Murriell answered, “Clabbered (curdled, sour) goat’s milk.”

They had been served both of those things in their long tenure in Africa, along with numerous other “interesting” dishes. When we asked what the ramifications were of turning down food, they said something quite surprising. (I had always thought a missionary had to eat or drink anything that was offered for fear of offending the very people with whom they were trying to build relationships.)

However, they said there was actually one people group they worked with who put an extremely high priority on honesty. And so, if the McCulleys were offered something to eat that they didn’t like and ate it anyway, then that would be highly offensive to them. Quite interesting to learn!

Anyway, I informed Bob and Murriell that we were fresh out of camel livers and clabbered goat’s milk and hoped that chicken scampi would be okay instead.

They didn’t even seem to miss the livers or milk. Imagine that!

And just because I think it’s good for all of us to occasionally to take a step or two away from our comfort zones and learn about people who live in a much different world than we do, here are a few McCulley photos which show both their dedicated lifestyles and the precious African people they have given their lives to reach.

Both of the McCulleys are heavily involved in education in Africa, traveling extensively to teach, lecture, mentor, work with schools and seminaries, and even write and create curriculum.


Slide2-1 Slide4-1

Something that especially caught my attention during their presentation on Sunday were the pictures of the house they’re building in Africa. The house’s “core” is a metal shipping container which Bob said was a great thing to have around their bed when the bullets started flying at night.


The house with a bit more work completed on it.


Here’s Bob with the vehicle that the American teenagers of our denomination provided through their donations.

That truck has been the “star” of some amazing, heart gripping stories.


And finally, here are the two of them, doing what they do best—sowing their lives into people half a world away.


Our family was so honored to have the chance to spend time with the two of them. I was especially thankful that Sarah got to sit at the dinner table and listen to real heroes tell real stories of hardship and joy and fulfillment and miracles. Indiana Jones and the Iron Man really have to wear the “hero cape” pretty lightly when they get put in the same line up as the McCulleys. They’re such an inspiration and an example of what it means to live our lives for others.

Even when it sometimes does involve camel livers. And clabbered milk.


As an interesting postscript, we found out on Sunday that Bob preached his first sermon in Manteo over forty years ago. (He said it was a terrible sermon.) Also, Bob proposed to Murriell in Manteo--he said it wasn't his first proposal to her, but it was the one she (finally) accepted.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cleanliness Is Next To . . . Fun.

I really like to clean up messes. In fact, I even think it’s fun! (And no, I don’t have a fever.)

And at the risk of sounding a bit cocky, may I also admit to you than I am rather good at it? In fact, really, really good? In fact, almost scary good?

I know that most people might be tempted to brag about other sorts of skills—golf, playing the piano, drawing, cooking, writing songs, etc. But me? I’m good at cleaning. I certainly do hope that I don’t engender too much jealousy in your hearts as I talk about this particular gift. Especially since I was just born with it. I didn’t go to college to learn it. I don’t have a Doctorate in De-cluttering. It’s just a God-given talent that was present from the womb. In fact, when God put me on earth He said, “This particular child of mine shall verily be very and exceedingly good at cleaning!”

Now before I go any further, let me just make something clear. When I say that I am good at cleaning and that I think it’s fun, I am talking about clutter cleaning, not dirt-n-germ cleaning. Dirt-n-germ cleaning, i.e., toilets, shower stalls, kitchen floors, is no fun. At all. But give me a room full of clutter and I am one happy woman. (Yes, Steve already knows that I am so easily—and cheaply—entertained.)

So anyway, last week while Steve was out of town for four days, I decided to declare war on the clutter that had sort of just “appeared” in our home office. When we moved into this house six months ago, all of the miscellaneous miscellany seemed to float off to the second floor and congregate and coagulate in the office. (Do you have any congregated, coagulated rooms in your house?) And then to compound all the congregating and coagulating, during the weeks following my surgery, my cleaning suddenly seemed to consist of just throwing stuff into the office to be dealt with “later.”

Well, “later” finally arrived.

The first category of mess I had to deal with was our wrapping paper stuff. Gift boxes, tissue, gift bags, ribbon, wrapping paper—it was everywhere! And whenever I would run upstairs to try and do a quick wrap job on a particular gift, I would find myself spending half an eternity in the office, trying to locate just one appropriate gift bag. And matching tissue. And I would think, “Someone needs to organize this stuff!”

And so someone did.

I pulled out every gift bag, piece of tissue paper and strand of ribbon that had made its way into the awful, messy morass. I stacked them up all around me and started sorting and organizing. (Humming happily to myself as I did.)

IMG_4722 IMG_4724


Snowy felt compelled to place himself outside the office and guard me from any bad guys while I worked.


This is what I finally ended up with. A container just for small boxes.


A bin (which I already had) for gift bags and tissue paper.


I lifted up one of the inner containers to show that the tissue and bags are stored separately. (I had to tuck a few of the really big gift bags around the outside of the container.)


And here it is, all stacked in the closet on top of plastic drawers that will be my next organizational objective. (If you don’t have an extra closet, a lot of this could also be nicely organized in under bed boxes which I use all the time.)


Here is a container for rolls of paper and a cardboard box for shirt boxes. The little white plastic bag in the corner holds all of our packing materials, Styrofoam peanuts, etc


After attacking (and happily organizing) the gift wrap stuff, I turned my attention to the desk area. (It isn’t always that messy—I had temporarily stacked some stuff there from the closet.)


I eventually ended up with this.


And here’s our book case, finally neatened. (We have another big book case downstairs which holds some of our more lovely books.) We could actually use yet another book case in the house since we are all inveterate bibliophiles.


The bottom line? I finished my cleaning job with joy. And happiness. And gratefulness that I got to spend some time doing something I love. Also, Snowy and I got to spend quality time together with me cleaning and him guarding me while I cleaned. And he was so effective in his guarding that not even one bad guy came and got me.

Fluffy, cute watch dogs are obviously the best.


A question was left concerning whether or not Nathan has found a job yet.

Unfortunately, no. He’s been putting in applications everywhere, including Disney World. We’re going to keep on praying for something to open up soon!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Three Down. One To Go.

Just got back from my expander-filling appointment.

Ouch. Yuck. Ug. (And any other one-syllable words denoting unpleasantness that you can think of.)

Steve had to call the pharmacy to see what I could take for pain in addition to what I'm already taking. Hopefully that will make a difference in my discomfort level.

And since my aching self doesn't feel up to making dinner, we are using a Subway gift card sent to us after my surgery. I've been saving it up for a much needed time and tonight is it! Steve and Sarah have just left to make the sandwich selections (we'll provide our own drinks, chips and desserts to make the card stretch for several more meals) while I stay at home and moan and groan. Piteously. Not to mention pitifully.

And since I'm on the subject, Nancy asked if I had the choice of whether or not to have the saline fillings. Yes, since I chose to do reconstruction, the saline fillings are part of that process. (There is another kind of reconstruction done at the same time as the mastectomy, taking tissue from the abdominal area to create breasts; I opted for the implants instead.)

She also asked how long the pain lasts. Fortunately, it's less than 24-hours or so, and then I feel pretty much back to normal.

And the really good news? Next week is my last filling! I will "top out" at 300 cc's and then I have to wait for three months before I can have the surgery to replace the expanders with permanent implants. (Which I'm sure will be loads of fun.)

So that's the news from here. And now it's off to nosh on some sandwiches and go to bed early.

With a book. And pain killers. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Monday Loveliness. And Yuckiness.

Just thought you could use a little dose of beauty with which to start your week . . .



And now, moving from black and white beauty to real life yuckiness, in just a few minutes I’ll be leaving for my third saline fill in the Ever Ongoing Expanding the Expanders Endeavor. (Last week, I took a break from the process altogether, which was lovely.) These visits are not something I look forward to (to put it mildly), but at least I did find a great thrift store near the surgeon’s office so that makes the whole outing a bit more enjoyable.  Bargains are a balm to the soul!

In other news, we had a wonderful time yesterday with Bob and Murriell McCulley, long time missionaries to Africa.   I cooked lunch for them after they spoke in our morning service and then Sarah, Steve and I sat entranced, listening to the amazing stories they had to tell.   I’ll write more about them in the next couple days but for now, here are a few pictures from our gathering. 



I love this one especially.  The McCulleys had met Sarah 6 or 7 years ago and she remembered them and they remembered her.  (Which is amazing considering how many people they’ve met in the intervening years.)   It was wonderful to see her life being impacted by spending time with these amazing people.  Murriell has her doctorate and has written a book so she and Sarah enjoyed some “book talk.”




And finally, let me answer a couple questions that have come in recently:

Q.  Are things as lovely and calm as they appear to be in Manteo? I need to visit if they are, because my life is anything but calm lately...Is it a vacation/tourist kind of town?   

--“A Mom’s Serious Blunder”

A. Although Manteo is only about five miles from the ocean, it is not as “touristy” as a lot of ocean towns  although we’ve heard that at particular times, the traffic through town can get pretty heavy, especially when all the cars and tour buses arrive each evening for The Lost Colony production.

While there are a lot of things for tourists to do (downtown harbor area with restaurants/shopping, aquarium, Elizabethan Gardens) it doesn’t at all feel like a tourist town to me—it just feels like Smalltown USA.  (Which I love!)



Q. Great photos! And that dinner party - oh my goodness! Love the decorations! Tell me more about the tulle & lights on the porch!   --Saffyres

A. Well, I would certainly love to tell you all about the tulle and lights on the porch, but I am probably even more clueless than you are!  The lights looked to me like tulle wrapped around wire cages that were hung upside down--almost like the wire forms that hold tomatoes up.

tomato cage

With the white lights placed inside, they were gorgeous!



There’s one more question that came in having to do with any tips I had to share about living frugally.   I have a few things to write about in that regard, but I thought it would be fun to also open up the Bargain Tip Blog to you, as well. What do you and your family do to save money on food, clothes, repairs, electronics, shopping, basic living?

I’ll add your tips to my post along with your blog address, if you have one.  I’m always interested in learning more about living well on less.


Well, it’s time.

I figured that if I sat here and typed long enough, I could just forget all about the appointment looming over me.  But alas, the clock has announced that it is time to wrap this up, and get into the car.  And drive.  And be poked.  And expanded.  And drive home.

After two weeks of feeling really good, I’ve been having some pain and discomfort in the last couple of days which means that The Procedure will probably be a bit more unpleasant than usual.

Happy, happy day.