civilized couponing 101-Lesson 2

Did you guys think I gave up on couponing? 
Well I didn't!  I was out for a couple of weeks because of illness but I am in it more than ever and getting better every day!  I was so excited to hear that I got so many of you to at least try to get in the game and I am convinced that THIS post will get even more of you into it...are you ready for how awesome this will be?    

This week, I aim to convince you to at LEAST try CVS...or at least start there.  THIS is my best series of trips to date and I am excited to share the details with you!

Now these items were purchased on one trip...I honestly don't remember all the specifics but I'll share what I remember. 
All the razors and cartridges were on sale for $9.99 each.  For each one you got $4 in Extra Bucks (CVS money) and I had a coupon for $4 for each razor and set of cartridge.  In the end each item was $2 each...I do remember averaging the cost of each razor blade and it being .88c each.  Not too bad right? 
I know the Thermacare was free with Extra Bucks.  I think the Colgate was .50 each with coupons and Extra Bucks. 
What I DO remember...is that on my next trip to CVS...
using ONLY Extra Bucks, coupons and $3...I got ALL of this and $9 in Extra Bucks...so really CVS paid me $6 to buy this stuff. 

And if you notice, it's all normal stuff that we would normally use!

There are no tricks involved...I only used coupons, cash and CVS Extra Bucks.  I do now buy two newspapers because I learned that the bigger papers (I get the Washington Post) give you MORE coupons and higher value coupons. 

HERE is a great post on how to learn CVS and other drug stores. 

I would also encourage you to follow For the Mommas and Hip2Save for really great daily deals and heads up on hot coupon items!  I don't regularly visit their blogs but just follow them on Facebook.
For example...earlier this week Hip2Save posted about this great deal at Target that I was able to scoop up because of her heads up on Facebook.   Target had Mederma (think stretchmarks?) on sale for $2 (normally $17) and the Mederma website had $2 off coupons making the Mederma....FREE! :)

See?  Easy stuff.  (Nearly) effortlessly saving amazing amounts of money on NORMAL things! 

I've made it my goal to never pay full price for anything ever again...and I will work hard on getting all my toiletries for free or pennies!

So have I convinced any more of you to jump in?  WHY pay full price?   
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no words needed.


 (for the scrap book)









When we were done I took a photo of him on my phone and then showed him...he gasped a little and reached up to touch his head with both hands like he had no idea what was going on up there.

Still handsome as ever.  

We're hoping for a Samson kind of effect...you know, like maybe his naughty was stored in his long blonde locks?
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painting wooden spoons!

Yesterday was STRESSful for me.  I know I will sound like a complete wuss but it was.  Aaron had his first dentist visit and came out with SIX cavities.  :(  That completely bums me out for him.  Add to that the verbal scolding I feel like I got from the dentist and his helper and I was in the pits yesterday.  It completely baffles me...Moses and Aaron have the same diet essentially and one has perfect teeth and the other apparently inherited both my super soft teeth and Doug's close together teeth.  Not a nice combo for keeping cavities away.

I felt like the doctor didn't believe me when he asked...well does he drink a lot of juice? Does once every few days count?  Does he eat a lot of candy?  Does a couple times a month count? Don't give him food or drink after brushing teeth before bed.  Never done that.  Don't let him have soda.  Has never happened.  Does he eat a lot of those "kid" yogurts?  Never.  I swear they went down the whole list and I could say with conviction that my kids don't eat a bunch of junk.  It has to be genetics.  Were any of your kids that way?  

Anyway...I'm happy to have dental insurance and I am thankful that they are baby teeth.  And I am making Doug take him for the fillings.     
Yesterday seemed like a good day to tackle this project.  After seeing it on House of Earnest, I just knew my wooden utensils were meant for greater things.  I gathered them up, scuffed the shiny ones a little with sandpaper and painted myself a rainbow.   
Once they are dry they will be coated with a layer of food/baby/people safe shellac.  I used regular non-toxic craft paint and was sure to keep my painted area pretty far from where it would come in contact with food on a regular basis. 

And now to find the right way to display them in my kitchen....
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marshmallows and toothpicks!

Last week I set out a big bowl of mini-marshmallows and toothpicks and declared that it was family time.
There was no arguing.
It was fun, easy and cheap!
Good for the littles, too! 






There was a lot of eating.  I was ok with that. :)
Then happy mayhem ensued. 



You should give it a go!  It was a hit here and I can't think of any age that wouldn't love this!
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what i made for monday-salted caramel butter bars!

salted caramel.  butter.  yum!

Here's what I made for Monday!  They were delicious and decadent.  Not too much and not too little.  Easy and fairly quick to throw together.  Plus, you know, salted caramel and butter.  Yeah, that. 

Salted Caramel Butter Bars (recipe adapted from  Cookies and Cups)
Bottom layer ingredients:
1 lb. salted butter room temp
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbs vanilla
4 cups all purpose flour
Top layer ingredients:
1 bag (14 oz.) caramels (about 50 individual caramels), unwrapped
1/3 cup milk 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
coarse sea salt 
 
Preheat to 325F.
For the crust:
Using mixer on medium speed, beat together the butter and sugars until creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth soft dough forms.
 
Spray a 9×13 inch baking pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Press one-half of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust, and place the remainder of the dough in the fridge to chill.

Bake until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown approx 20-30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool about 15 minutes.

Prepare the filling:
Place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the milk and vanilla.   Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. If caramels are not completely melted, microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth.
Pour the caramel filling over the crust.  Give the caramel layer a good salting...same as you would salt your plate.

Crumble remaining chilled dough on top. 
 
Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and lightly golden, about 25 – 40 minutes.
Let cool, cut and serve! 

Enjoy these! :)

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unfathomable testimony.

Two amazing points of testimony I give you, especially to the people who say that the Bible is faulty, full of nice fable an written by mere men.  I give you this (YAY!):

And this bit of info that our pastor shared this morning:
If you take the probability of fulfilling eight of the most difficult to manipulate prophesies about Jesus that he fulfilled (there were over 300+ that he did fulfill) you get a number that is 1 x 10 to the 17th power.  That is the equivalent of covering Texas in stacks of silver dollars two feet deep, marking ONE of them, shuffling them completely up, blindly grabbing one it it being the ONE that you marked.  

WOW.  Just think about that.  Both of them.  Amazing, awesome testimony of who our God is.

Nothing from nothing can't produce that. :)
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thank you and a cute video. :)

video

I wanted to thank each and every one of you for your kind words and emails on my last post.  Between you all, you showed me that indeed, I was supposed to share my thoughts and heart on a matter that it seems we all struggle with.  Your emails and comments sharing your same thoughts, struggles and doubts gave me assurance and confirmation that it was more than I that needed to share that last post.

I strongly believe that giving our struggles a voice, makes them less powerful.  Sharing something "out loud" this way somehow minimizes it (in a good way!) like saying to the enemy "I know what you are trying to do and you won't be keeping me in the dark". 

And really, since writing that post, I have gotten so much awesome confirmation about so many things, God has blessed me beyond my expectations.  It's like crying out has opened the flood gates. 

I can't wait to share with you all the awesome details He is working out. 

And for the record, Doug has ALWAYS supported me in staying at home.  I told him from date number two that that was my intention and he has always lovingly supported that.  He also thinks I'm a pretty hot mama. :)

To say a little thank you...enjoy this super sweet video of Aaron trying to say the Lords prayer. :)  
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deep breaths and sighs.

This post sucks to write. 

But it feels like one of those posts I am supposed to share for reasons unknown to me.  It would be much easier to ignore it and pretend like it doesn't exist but the truth of the matter is that it does.  And if I ever feel like I am supposed to share something, I do.  Because even if I am wrong, at least I am learning to obey and that is key to me.   If this blog has taught me anything, it is that God can use me and my experiences in ways that amaze me if I only let him.  I want to be obedient to his will for me, even if it means looking foolish. 

We, the Johnsens, have a lot on our plate at the moment.  And like I have shared before, I can't quite share all of the details but you better believe I will as soon as I can because I believe God will continue to show up in amazing ways that MUST be told!  So while we are in the midst of an amazing God time, you wouldn't be surprised to know that it is also a major time for attack and negativity from the enemy.

Somehow and someway he finds the just right time and opportunity to build himself a little foothold in our lives and once it's there it's like chipping away at steel and concrete to get rid of it. 

(here comes the sucky part)...

And I'm ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I have given him, gift wrapped nearly, two strong footholds.  And I have let him stay there long enough that I am having a tough time getting rid of him.

I bet you can guess the areas.  They are actually two facets of the same issue that I think every woman deals with. 

And they are....

YOU are not a worth contributor to your family.  You NEED a REAL job already.  Because of YOU, your husband has all this pressure on him to provide.  Because of YOUR laziness (in not having a real job) he has to work harder and handle more pressure than he should.  YOU are a failure in society.  YOU are making worthless contributions.   

And the other one, also a classic, thrown in just for fun and jest I am sure...


YOU are also unattractive.  Overweight, out of shape,  unlovely and unlovable as you are.  YOU need to lose weight, tone up more, eat better, get rid of those stretch marks and make yourself more attractive. Everyone around you is working harder than you to be "beautiful" WHY AREN'T YOU?

Ugh.  That is what has been playing in my head since January.  And even if I KNOW they are lies, the enemy provides plenty of proof that they are not. 

I am surrounded by loads of wonderfully successful women who manage motherhood and careers beautifully.  I have no desire for a "real" job.  

Their accomplishments are neatly measured, countable and publicly praised.  My measurements include butts wiped and underwear washed.  Things sewed.  95% of what I do is never seen.

I've always been happy and content with my body until...I have loads of friends frantically dieting and exercising and the enemy has convinced me that I need it more than they do.  Even if they don't. 

This past year has been amazing for me in terms of discovering who God wants to me to be and accepting AND loving the roles he has set in place for me.  The enemy is convincing me that they are selfish and not worldly enough.   

I finally become comfortable enough to say I am an artist and a sewist.  And the enemy convinces me that no one takes that seriously.  

I'm on a hamster wheel and I don't know how to get off.   And that is where I am.  I have no resolution to share at the moment because like I said, this is something I am still dealing with on a daily basis. 

And I have no idea why I was supposed to share this...because I'm sure it sounds like a huge pity party, but that is honestly not my intent.  I KNOW who I am in God I'm just having a hard time making the Lord's voice the louder one at the moment.  I'm doing all I know how to do...I am in the Word, I am reading encouraging books, but at the moment, it's like I am throwing things at the wall and waiting for them to stick. 

On the other hand, God has been showing me beauty in the mundane tasks of my day.  Finding JOY in washing the dishes, doing laundry and taking care of our home.  I'm proud to be a stay at home mother and my business is doing better than ever before.  Things, in reality, are going very well. 

It's a weird place to be...knowing your place and having questions and doubt thrown at it constantly.  Maybe I should take that as a sign that I am doing what I should?  I don't know yet, but I won't be giving up anytime soon.  I just know there is a lesson to be gained in here some where...

I'll keep you posted. 
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overheard at bathtime...


Last night during bath time I overheard this one telling his dad:
"Make sure you lotion my cheeks so that they are kissable for all the gwirls".  

We're in trouble.  And I love how he says "gwirls". 
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meet and greet-sponsor love-artsy matilda

Every so often you may see a new sponsor pop up over there on the right. 
I do offer a few slots but I am discriminate.  I only sell those spots to wonderful people (email me!).  They have to BE awesome and DO awesome.  Which is why Artsy Matilda fits right in.  She is one of THE most darling people I have met in a long, while. She is sweet and bubbly and happy!
Here's a little about Cheri:
Cheri has spent her entire life in performing and visual arts.  After 38 years of dancing from L.A. to Broadway, Cheri and her husband moved to the mountains in Northwestern NC and found a calmer, slower paced life.  Cheri began her mixed media mosaic art in earnest after meeting Chrissie Grace and has continued along that vein since 2005.  Not being able to stick to only one avenue, Cheri is also a fabric and paper enthusiast.  Her sewing skills from all those years in costumes and pointe shoe ribbons have taken a new turn into fabric inspiration and art journal making, ipod, ipad, computer, notebook and kindle covers, bags and purses.  Among the newer items are hand woven purses and journal covers, as well as “glass quilts”, which are made from vintage windows, glass and quilt designs.  Having always been an avid writer, Artsymatilda is the way Cheri records her journey while feeding her soul. 
Cheri was sweet enough to send me THE sweetest journal ever...each page was made with ME in mind.  I can only imagine the hours and hours and hours she pours into them. 
I couldn't believe the page after page of details.  I literally felt loved after looking through it. :)
You can just tell that she loves what she does, that she is an amazing artist that pours themselves into their work. 
Here is the darling one she made for one of you! :) I promise, with all the thought, love and care that went into this, that I have NO doubt that it will end up with just the right person.  This here journal is on a mission.  One of you NEED it, to document, to heal and to pour into words.

How can you enter to win it?
You can "like" Cheri's Facebook page. (You have to come back and tell me).
You can follow her sweet blog!  (You have to come back and tell me).
Or you can just leave a comment here telling me why this journal is calling to you! :) 
 
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failproof-easy-delicious chicken noodle soup {in a crock pot}

We are still trying to recover from illness...in fact this morning I had to take Moses to the doctor for what turned out to be an ear infection.  :(  Hoping and praying that we are on the mend!

Anyway, I woke up yesterday desperate for someone to bring me some chicken soup...and since I'm the mom, there wasn't a whole lot of chance of that happening.  I thought if I could just find a recipe easy enough...maybe I could handle doing it.  A little prayer and google later...voila.  I found/created the BEST chicken noodle soup recipe ever.

No joke.  Doug says it's the best homemade soup he's ever had.  And he's a picky eater.

Even better.  Prep takes less than ten minutes. And it cooks in the crock pot.

Don't stick your nose up like that...it's good!:)

If I insist on it, will you make this?  Quickly before winter leaves us, ok?

Here's my new favorite recipe for good ol' chicken noodle soup. 
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used these to make it easier...no bones or skin to deal with)
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste, depending on saltiness of broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 small onion chopped (about 3/4c-1c)
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly chopped (roughly the same amount as the onion)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 ounces egg noodles (I did two reach in the bag handfuls)
  • (if you INSIST you can add one chopped carrot but who would do that?)
Place everything but chicken and noodles in the crockpot.  Stir them all together.  Add chicken, raw.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours.  Remove chicken and cut up...I held the chicken with tongs and cut it up with kitchen scissors...put chicken back in.  Add the noodles and cook for another hour.  Remove bay leaf...Serve and enjoy!

See!  Told you it was easy. :) 
I love finding a good recipe for my crockpot!

And I just had leftovers for lunch!  The noodles were still good and the soup was still amazing!

Enjoy!
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20 minute crafter. super basic embroidery. little bit funky style.

I get asked a lot how I do my little hoops.  It's really easy to explain in two words.  Back stitch. 
Really, I use that stitch 90% of the time.  It's easy, fast and it doesn't require thought.  You can bet if I do something a lot, that means it doesn't require a lot of patience.
Here is some basic equipment you will need:
embroidery hoop (I find that 8in is a good working size)
(I get these from consumercrafts.com for less than $1 each)
scissors (bought from a local shop)
embroidery thread (averages about .33c per skein)
embroidery needle
iron on transfer pencil  (my favorite brand is clover in blue, you can find them on amazon).
pattern
fabric (i use all sorts but muslin is a good basic fabric to use)
My favorite way of transferring a pattern is to use the iron on transfer pencil.  You print your pattern of choice off of your printer in REVERSE, especially important if you have words in your pattern.  Once printed, you trace over the pattern with your iron on pencil, then iron it onto the fabric of your choice.  Super easy and uncomplicated.  
Here's the super easy back stitch.  Start with about 18in of thread on your needle, with a knot tied in the end.  Num one above is where you pull the thread through...into two and out three. 
Then four (which was two in the previous photo) and five. 
And repeat for your whole pattern.  

See?  Easy.  You can do it! :)  Any questions?  I'll answer them in the comment section!
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