March 30, 2011

How do you keep your family happy?

"Money can't buy happiness."
Well, if money can't buy it, then where can we find it? Happiness doesn't have to be an elusive thing. There are several simple, no-money-required, things that the average family can do to help foster an attitude happiness. Here are a few of my favorite "happy makers."
  1. Begin a dinnertime tradition. I recently read in a magazine about a family that makes it a point to share "What I like about you." It can be simple as saying: "Do you know what I like about you?" Share praise for those special qualities, characteristics and attitudes that you admire. I think this is a great way to promote happiness among those in your household.
  2. Focus on people, not things. Things can be fun, but they cannot guarantee happiness. Focus your family's attention on building relationships and memories, not in acquiring more "stuff." Perhaps consider taking a family trip instead of buying more video games (unless of course video-gaming is a family activity).
  3. Cut the complaining. I could definitely use some improvement in this area. It’s not too hard to find something to complain about. If you’re looking for something negative, you’ll be able to find it without too much difficulty. Instead, if you focus on the positive attributes (whether in an individual or a situation) you’ll find contentment and happiness much easier to find.
  4. Moms: Take some time for yourself.  As busy parents, it’s easy to put our needs on hold. I’m not advocating selfishness or neglecting our God-given responsibilities, BUT it’s sooooo important to take care of yourself. If you are rundown and burnt-out, it’s so much harder to foster  a happy attitude at home.
  5. Get some exercise. Get moving. Not only is exercise good for your body, it’s also good for your mind. Exercising releases endorphins that help you feel better.
  6. Surprise! I love you. Look for special ways to let your family know how you feel about them. Slip a note into a lunchbox or briefcase. Buy/make their favorite snack and leave them a note telling them you’re thinking about them.
  7. Watch what you watch. What you watch can make a difference. What you put into your brain makes a difference. Fill your mind with positive messages, tv programs, and movies. If all you see is the negative, then that is what you will tend to focus on.
What are some things that you do with your family to keep everyone happy? I love hearing your ideas!  


“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Farm Rich blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

March 25, 2011

Online Professional Blogging D

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Ashworth College for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I have to admit that I am a huge fan of blogging. As the stay-at-home-mom of a toddler (with another on the way), blogging has provided me with an outlet to connect with other moms and people all around the world. Blogging has also allowed me to provide my family with a few extra perks from time to time - everything from gift cards to some fantastic products to review. There's also potential to earn cash through sponsored posts and the selling of advertising space. This has enabled me to provide my family with a little extra spending money, and has also introduced us to some of my absolute, favorite products that I now use on a daily basis.

It takes a bit of time and work to build your audience and contacts in the social media world, but it can be well worth it. Online Universities are picking up on this increasing demand for social media marketers/bloggers. Ashworth College is now offering a Professional Blogging Career Diploma. They offer qualified instructors and resources to help start, manage, and promote your blog, vlog, podcast, or webcast.

When I first started out in blogging, about a year ago, I didn't have a clue about things like SEO or Google PR. I've had to do a lot of research on my own through online forums and fellow bloggers. For those interested in having all of the information all in one place, an online degree like this one from Ashworth College might be useful, especially considering that the instructors all have knowledgeable experience in the field of blogging. Want to take your blog to the next level? Check them out. 

Visit Sponsor's Site

March 22, 2011

God is faithful

I mentioned a few weeks ago that the husb and I are working our way through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. For those of you not familiar with Dave, he's a get out of debt, stay out of debt financial guru. He encourages people to be "weird" because "normal" means debt up to your eyeballs and struggling to make ends meet. His motto is "Live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else." Meaning that, for now, you might drive an older car, eat beans and cornbread, and buy your furniture at yard sales, but by living on a realistic budget and paying with cash instead of credit, you are setting your family up for a secure financial future. Keeping up with the Joneses is out. Keeping current on your bills and plans for the future is definitely in.

In the three months we've been in the program, we've managed to pay off over $2000 in debt (this includes all of our credit cards (which are no longer in my wallet, by the way), a student loan, and a medical bill), establish a $1000 emergency fund, and set aside enough cash to cover the anticipated medical expenses of our second child's upcoming birth (in about 7 more weeks!!).

Just so you know, we're an average American, single-income family. It's not like we've got loads of surplus cash floating around. We have enough to cover our expenses and to allow us to eat out and see a movie from time to time. Learning to be disciplined with our spending has made all of the difference to us financially. Now, before I buy anything I ask myself two important questions: Do I really NEED this item? Can I afford it (aka - is there money in the budget set aside for this)?

Some may think that "budget" is a bad word, but really it has provided so much freedom. Now, I don't have to worry if there's money in the bank to cover a high electric bill, or if we've got anything set aside for an oil change. Living on a budget has brought with it freedom from stress and worry - and accountability for our actions.

But to be honest, I have to give credit where credit is due. God has been more than faithful to provide for our needs. Sure, it's been in little ways here and there, but I wanted to share a few of the "coincidences" that have made a difference in our family in the last couple months.

I'm an independent Pampered Chef Consultant (which I LOVE, by the way). In the last few months I've gone from having two months with no booked shows to all of a sudden having four shows booked in less than six weeks. My last three Pampered Chef parties have enabled me to pay off both my student loan and a medical bill. I'm thankful for that unanticipated extra source of income. Business has gone from a dead halt to booming.

Our local water company offers rebate for water saving devices. My husband and I were needing to replace an older toilet in our home. We essentially got a brand new toilet for free - something we were needing. We also got a rebate on the washing machine we purchased last year - which means we now have an unexpected $300 credit on our water bill.

Just yesterday, a member of our church generously provided us with beef from a cow he slaughtered, enabling us to save money on our grocery bill.

I just found out that through the Pampered Chef I can save 10% on our cell phone bill which equates to around $240 a year.

Through my blog I've been able to earn over $100 in gift cards to cover expenses like diapers and wipes.

Some may overlook those sort of things, but I've learned not to take even the little things for granted. Every dollar we're able to save puts us one step closer to being debt free. They are little blessings, but to me, they are evidences of God's faithfulness. He has blessed our efforts to be good stewards of His resources. I look forward to continuing this process and hope to soon by completely debt free (apart from our home mortgage which is going to take a LOOOOOONG time). It's going to be a long road, at least a year based on our current situation, but it's going to be a good journey.

My prayer is to one day be able to provide for my children to go to college without the burden of debt, to live in a paid-for home, and to be free to use our resources to live and give freely. Is it going to be hard? You betcha. Is it going to be worth it? Absolutely.


"Beauty Out of Chaos" - Journal for a great cause

Back in January I shared about the tragic car accident that took the life of Brie Gomez. If you missed the post you can read about it here.

Brie was a fellow blogger and a godly mom who loved her babies and her God. Her family and friends have recently turned her blog into a journal format. Funds from the sale of this journal will go to help cover the family's expenses. Her little boy, Curren Blaec Gomez, was delivered nine weeks premature immediately following the car accident and remained in the NICU for an extended period of time.

He has recently been released from the NICU and is doing well at home with his daddy and two big sisters.
I know the family would continue to appreciate your prayers and support as they adjust to new challenges. 

Journals are $25 (this includes shipping) and can be ordered online through . This would make a great Mother's Day gift for the moms in your life. If you can't offer financial support, I know that your prayers for the Gomez/White family will make a tremendous difference!

God Bless,


March 21, 2011

Mmmmm Nutella

When I was pregnant with my first son I craved ravioli. This time around, I've continuously craved Nutella. I spread it on fruit. I spread it on a warm waffle. I dip pretzel sticks in it. I've even been known to dig right in with a spoon from time to time (don't judge). What is Nutella? It's magical, chocolate, hazelnut goodness in a jar.

I first tried Nutella in college and I've been hooked ever since. When the folks at Mommy Parties and Mom Select mentioned hosting a Breakfast Nutella Party, I was excited to sign up! Who needs an excuse to get together with friends, chat, and enjoy some Nutella for breakfast?

The folks at Nutella provided a selection of recipe cards, coupons, a travel coffee mug and Nutella samples. As the busy mom of a toddler, I enjoyed our brief Nutella break. I had a few extra goody bags left over since a couple of guests had to back out at the last minute, but I plan on sharing the love and taking them to our local MOPS (Mother's of Preschooler's Meeting) tomorrow.

Have you tried Nutella? Do you have any tasty Nutella recipes (I'm always on the lookout for new ideas)? My current fave is a warm strawberry waffle with Nutella spread topped with fresh berries . . . mmmm. II think I may have to go try another right now :-)

Happy Snacking!


March 18, 2011

"A Trail of Ink" by Mel Starr ** Book Review

A Trail of Ink: The Third Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon (Hugh De Singleton 3)Master Hugh de Singleton came to Oxford with the hopes of finding a comely lass to make his wife, what he found instead, was a theft, a murder, and a mystery.

Set in 14th century Oxford, A Trail of Ink, is an enjoyable medieval mystery. This is the third installment of the  Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon. I have not read the previous two works, but was able to easily jump into the story without feeling like I was missing any important background information.

It is evident that the author, Mel Starr has a background in medieval history and literature. There were times I felt like I was reading something written centuries ago (that's not a bad thing). I appreciated the research and talent it takes to write in this style without it coming across as "put-on" or forced. I feel like I had learned a lot about medieval Oxford by the time the story concluded.

I found the plot to be interesting and the mystery intriguing. I looked forward to solving the mystery alongside Singleton. If you're looking for an enjoyable medieval mystery, check out this latest work from Mel Starr, A Trail of Ink.


I received a complimentary copy of the book to facilitate my review. I was not obligated to give a positive review of the book.

March 14, 2011

"The Very Hungry Caterpillar" Healthy Eating Habits Giveaway!!

It's hard to believe that it's been forty years since Eric Carle first released The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I remember reading the book as a child, and have LOVED reading it with my own son. Now, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the American Academy of Pediatrics are joining together with The Very Hungry Caterpillar and We Give Books to help promote healthy eating habits in an effort to combat childhood obesity.

Starting this Spring, over 17,500 pediatrician's offices will be provided with special editions of the book that feature growth charts and healthy eating tips. The Alliance's mission is to help educate and promote healthy eating habits among growing children.  

Teaching our children to make good food choices is an important part of our role as parents! Like the caterpillar we can learn that eating too much can lead to a pretty bad tummy ache, while eating the right sort of food can help us grow healthy and strong. This is such a fun book and a must-have for your child's library!

THREE lucky readers will have a chance to win their own copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. 

How to enter:
Leave a comment telling me how you encourage healthy eating habits in your home.

Extra Entries:
Follow Mommy's Minute on Google Friend Connect, Facebook, or Twitter (one entry each)
Tweet this giveaway using the hashtag #HealthyCaterpillar (please leave your tweet link - can be done once a day for 1 entry)

Giveaway open to US only, 18+. Giveaway ends 3/21 at 11:59 PM (MST) Prizes and samples provided by Penguin Books. I received a complimentary copy of the book to facilitate my review. 


March 12, 2011

"Chasing Francis" by Ian Morgan Cron *Book Review

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's TaleIf you asked me how much I knew about St. Francis of Assisi, I would have to confess that I'm only really familiar with the stone garden statue of the saint spending time with animals. That's about it. Although, I've heard about him, I was never really familiar with his life story or his impact on Christianity.

Chasing Francis is the story of one man's pilgrimage to get in touch with authentic Christianity. Chase Falson seemed to have it all together - the pastor of a large church plant, successful ministry, growing congregation - but a tragic loss shakes his faith and results in a fall from grace. The Elders encourage him to take some time away to reevaluate his role as pastor of the church. A trip to Italy to visit his uncle, a Franciscan priest, introduces him to the world of St. Francis of Assisi. Falson realizes that he has a lot to learn from Francis. His pilgrimage leads him to reevaluate his view of his own faith and that of contemporary American Christianity.

As someone who's been involved in Christian ministry (I'm a third generation pastor's wife), I've witnessed first-hand the stresses, frustrations, and danger of potential ministry burnout. Part of what drew me to this story was the fact that it was the story of a burned out pastor wanting to get in touch with an authentic, growing faith. It's easy to get cynical when dealing with the stresses of ministry on a daily basis. Francis' story is helpful reminder that the Christian faith is about authentic living. One of the most admirable things I learned about Francis is that he genuinely sought to live out Christ's commands. He was a peacemaker, a nature-lover, and took seriously to mission to communicate the message of Christ in a way that the common man could understand.

The book also features a "Pilgrim's Guide" to allow the reader to work through his/her own pilgrimage while reading the story.

Whether you've grown up learning about St. Francis of Assisi or if, like me, you're largely unfamiliar with his story, Chasing Francis is an enjoyable/educational novel. The author does a great job of weaving the biography of Francis into the narrative. Cron does a great job of sharing Francis' story and encouraging the reader to pick up where he left off.


March 9, 2011

What Makes you Feel Lucky

Redbox is currently running an AWESOME promotion called "Lucky to Have Friends Like You." Each fan gets their own web address. You get a FREE rental for every friend who rents through your individual address between now and St. Patrick's Day, March 10th. You have ten days to redeem your free rental. If five friends rent movies then YOU get five rentals free. I am all about "free."

In keeping with the "Lucky to Have Friends Like You" theme, Redbox has asked, "What makes you feel lucky?" I know that as busy wives and moms it's easy to pull out the ole reliable answer of "my family." Although this is definitely true, I believe that I am lucky in so many different ways.

I am lucky to live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Even though my family and I are far from wealthy, we have a warm house to live in. We always have food on our table . . .and yes, Ramen Noodles DOES count as food. I have clothes on my back and shoes on my feet. I even have a shiny used minivan in my driveway. Compared the vast majority of the world's population, I am tremendously lucky.

I am educated. I had the opportunity to not only go to high school, but to complete a college degree. This is unheard of for many women throughout the world, some with little more than an elementary education. Sure, I currently spend my days wiping noses and bottoms, but my education has fully equipped me to be a well-rounded wife, mother, and citizen. I am educating the next generation, and my education helped shape me into the intelligent woman I am today. I consider myself even luckier when I realize that I was able to leave college without major student loan debt. Scholarships and hard work helped pay off.

I am lucky to have the Internet to enable me to stay connected with friends and family scattered literally around the world. I can video chat with a friend in Shanghai or share a cup of tea with a friend the next state over. These things were unheard of a few decades ago. I think we're all pretty lucky to be able to enjoy these things.

I am lucky to have good health and access to good healthcare. Now in my third-trimester, I'm thankful for a healthy baby and pregnancy. We are not guaranteed good health, so I definitely don't want to take my health for granted. It makes such a difference in the quality of our lives and in the lives of our families.

Although, to be honest. I don't like to call it "luck." I believe that I am blessed. I don't deserve any of these things, but I am certainly thankful that they are a part of my life!

What makes you feel lucky? What are you thankful for today?


“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and redbox blogging program, for a $25 Walmart gift card from redbox. For more information on how you can participate, click here.” 

Top Ten Tips For Getting Away with Great Family Travel Deals

Living on a budget is a recurring theme on my blog. Just because you're on a budget doesn't mean that you can't have any fun, it's just takes a little additional planning. Here are ten helpful tips for getting great deals for your next family trip!

  1. Plan ahead. You don't want a vacation that follows you home. All of the relaxing benefits of vacation quickly vanish when you open a credit card statement. Do you know that you want to take a vacation this summer? Start setting aside cash each month to fund your trip. A grandiose trip may take a little longer to save up for, but it's so much more enjoyable knowing that you have the money to cover your expenses!
  2. Look at alternative lodging arrangements. Some of our favorite vacations have been spent at vacation rentals as opposed to hotels. Vacation Rentals By Owner has been a helpful resource for our family. You get a lot more space for your money and a bit of privacy too.
  3. Save money by not eating out. If you follow tip #2, there's a good chance that your rental includes a kitchen. You can save tons of money by preparing a few meals in your condo/apartment/rental house. You can still enjoy a good meal out, just go out for lunch instead of the more expensive dinner option.
  4. Consider traveling during off-peak seasons. Most people think of Breckenridge, Colorado as a great ski resort, but did you know that it's a beautiful place to visit in the fall? Many places offer  discounted rates if you travel during these off-peak times. 
  5. If you must stay in a hotel, try an online search engine to find the lowest price. If you're not particular about which particular hotel you stay in, I would suggest trying out one of those "name your own price" type of sites. You can set the quality of the hotel (5 star, etc.) and then you get placed in an available hotel for a rate that's lower than the hotel's lowest published rate. We've only done this once, but it worked out well. 
  6. Take advantage of club discounts. My family and I are members of AAA. We get discounts on hotels, car rentals, even pretzels at the mall. They even offer travel packages, but we've never booked one through them. 
  7. Shop around. If you find a lower rate at a competitor, it's worth mentioning. The company may be willing to match their price on a comparable product in order to gain your business. It never hurts to ask. The worst thing they could do would be to say "no."
  8. Set a budget and stay faithful to it. This falls in line with the whole "plan ahead" tip. Even a "great deal" can turn into a bad thing if you don't have the money to pay for it. Travel within your means. You can have a great time at a wide variety of price points. Splurge on what's important to you, whether that be lodging, a nice rental car, or a fun night out. Don't go overboard, but enjoy what you've worked hard to save up!
  9. Ask your friends for recommendations.  Do you have friends at the same point in life as you are? Kids, age, etc. Find out where they've been lately and what deals they were able to find. Word of mouth can be a great way to find out about discounts, special promotions, etc. 
  10. Travel with friends or family. You can get more for your money if you are splitting the costs. Some friends of mine recently took a girl's weekend to a luxury hotel in a nearby town. I never would have been able to afford the hotel on my own, but split the price four ways and suddenly it's affordable. It's a great way to make lifelong memories and save hard-earned cash at the same time!
It's possible to travel, have a great time, and NOT break the bank. You just have to be wise in the way you plan your trip. There are great online resources, programs, and guides to help you make your travel dreams come true. Take a little time and do a little research - the savings are definitely out there! Happy Travelling!


“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”