Archive | March, 2012

A Banner Day

16 Mar

Today’s a good day! It’s Friday and 70+ degrees outside. The Jayhawks are in town playing in March Madness. And one of my favorite people in the world is moving into the neighborhood as I type.

I put together this banner this morning and put it on their new house’s front porch while they were at the closing.

I thought it was a fun way to show them our excitement, welcome them to the neighborhood, and let the rest of the neighbors get to know their family name.

I did a similar one for my 20-year reunion last summer. You can kinda see it in the background here.

And here it is later in the night.

They are so simple and kinda folksy, which I like.

Seriously, a few minutes to print out the letters at 400-point type and some time at Kinko’s (now known as FedEx Office, but I don’t agree with that so I still call it Kinko’s) to buy colored card stock and use their trimmer and glue stick, and you’re good to go. I hung them both with curling ribbon and used toe-nail clippers to make the cuts.

That bit of brilliance came from some blog that I read regularly but have done searches on all of them and can’t find the post. Grrr . . .

Anyway, I’ve been seriously giddy all day with excitement so I wanted to share. Here’s to you having a Banner Day!

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A Total Money Makeover

13 Mar

This is off topic–not exactly about my house and my decorating but very much about how I live my life and why. I’m posting it because I had to speak in church on Sunday so I feel like I did my writing already this week and because it’s a great topic.

Last week our minister, Eric, spoke about the gift of being thunderstruck.  The whole time he was speaking, I was thinking about how I had been thunderstruck. It was a gift.

Eighteen months ago I picked up Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and I was thunderstruck.

This book spoke to me right when I needed it most.

See, in our house, my husband Mike handled the big picture stuff.

He dealt with our long-term finances handling our 401-k choices, life insurance, IRAs, making decisions about mortgage re-financing and any other “bigger” investments.

I struggled to keep track of our everyday bills.

I was in charge of the checking account, paying mortgage and utilities, car payments, credit card bills, debit card spending ($4 here, $8 there) and never really balancing our checkbook (turns out few Americans do).

It overwhelmed me. Mike would ask how our finances were and I would snap. I’m a marketing director with a journalism degree. I don’t do numbers. I’m no good at math. I would try to do a home budget for us but it never seemed to stick.

And then I read this book.

It’s just a common-sense approach to personal money management and paying off debt, but it truly changed our lives

Mike and I signed up for a Financial Peace University class and got on the same page in terms of where we are financially. I was finally engaged in the big picture stuff and he was finally aware of what was happening day to day. It hasn’t been easy but it’s definitely worth it.

I got so excited about Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University that I asked Eric if I could facilitate a class for Countryside (our church).

He agreed and we started in September with 10 families represented. Among those 10 families, we had more than $560,000 worth of debt.

That DIDN’T include home mortgages. It was lots of student loans, car loans, credit card bills, etc . . .

A few of the families had no debt. They just wanted to get organized and learn how to budget, pay for college, buy insurance, and other aspects of personal finance.

The course is 13 weeks.

In those 13 weeks we met every Monday for two hours. We watched a video of Dave Ramsey speaking about different elements of money management. We discussed what we learned and we shared our successes and challenges in becoming debt-free.

We also collected all of the credit card offers we received in the mail. . .

This is only some of them.

The other thing we did in that 13 weeks was we paid off more than $85,000 worth of debt! (applause happened here)

So, how’d we do it?

We got MAD at that debt.

We got seriously organized in looking at our finances.

We learned how to budget.

We learned how to live within our means.

And we supported each other as we chipped it away.

So we’re starting another class on Monday, March 19.

The cost of class is $89. You get a book, workbook, all of the lessons on CD, and the support of your peers. You also get a lifetime membership to Financial Peace University and you can always come back to class for a refresher.

Sign up if you’re interested, or just come to the first class and check it out. It will change your life!

When Mike and I first started doing Financial Peace University, I was a little embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know that we had debt and were doing a video class to help us. I was frustrated that we were in that situation even though Mike works with investments, but it’s like the old saying the cobbler’s kids wear holey shoes.  It was time to put OUR financial house in order.

Some major home renovations in the middle of a job change and a rental house emergency had gotten us there . . . but it wasn’t the first time. We had jacked up credit cards before but then paid them off. And when I say I tried to budget, I really did. It was just hard because our income can be inconsistent.

Reading Total Money Makeover was an absolute epiphany in my life. We’ve made some sacrifices in the last 18 months but it’s made us a stronger family. Mike uses Dave Ramsey’s principals in his work and it really resonates with people. And we have changed our ways. I create a budget every month. We pay in cash a lot more. Instead of the mall, I go to thrift stores when the shopping urge hits. We no longer “have” to take a yearly trip to Mexico (although I can’t wait to get back to that). And I’m thrilled to say that we just refinanced our home to a 15-year mortgage, and it was the first time in 10 years of marriage that I was actually engaged in the process.

The truth is I really like facilitating these classes at church. It feeds my soul to share with others as they figure this stuff out. I enjoy doing my budget each month and think that living more frugally has made me more creative.

Now stay tuned for more of that creativity and simplified living. And meanwhile, enjoy your week!

Personalized Pizza Peel

4 Mar

Hi guys, my first Guest Post (yay!). My sister Kim, who lives in Denver, has made us some great gifts over the years and this Christmas was no exception. Enjoy!

Stacy asked me to guest blog about the personalized pizza peel that I made her for Christmas. I found the wax paper transfer idea on Unexpected Elegance while blog hopping one night and became obsessed with giving it a try.

Wax paper, ink jet printer, credit card and an old cutting board–I had it all lying around. I grabbed a cool French graphic over at the The Graphics Fairy and was on my way.

A Google search found pizza peels at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $9.99. With a 20% off coupon in hand, I decided this was an even better gift then I originally thought–cheap.

I really liked the shape and size of the peels but the colorless pine was begging for a bit of stain. Staining something designed to serve food? Wasn’t so sure about that. I searched around a bit but no one seemed to have a solid answer. So I did what I always do when I can’t find comfort in the World Wide Web, I called upon the expertise of strangers working in the real world. I called one of the local woodworking (insert conundrum here such as plumbing, antique, etc) stores in town. I always keep my fingers crossed to get an experienced-sounding person on the phone, perfectly willing to give lots of, in this case, woodworking advice. And if his advice doesn’t start with “You need to get your husband…,” I drink it all in.

According to Howard, all stains are non-toxic once they dry. I didn’t double and triple check Howard’s factoid but I wasn’t overly concerned since no one on my gift list has a home wood-burning pizza oven. I’m assuming that my peels would be more decorative than functional, but I wanted to be more safe then sorry. So I set up shop on the pool table downstairs and stained both sides with some Golden Oak we had left over. Since I’m sure the peels are cheapo pine, I used a wood conditioner first in hopes to get the stain as even as possible. I gave each side two coats of stain with a light sand between. Make sure you do both sides so you have an alternative blank side if your first transfer doesn’t work.

While I loved the graphics, I wanted to personalize my gifts with the recipients’ last names. Using PowerPoint, I gave it the same look and feel as one of the antique French graphics that I liked. I found myself drawn to the foreign word examples, and since it’s a pizza peel, I created mine in Italian. Using an online translator to figure out the specific words and spellings, I came up with this:

It says “Murphy Family Restaurant, 88th Street” in Italian or close enough.  Once you finalize it, print it out on plain paper, line it up on your wood and mark the corners lightly with a pencil. Before you print on the wax paper, reverse the image (in PowerPoint, check the Mirror Image” check box under Print, Properties, Finishing tab). I had the best success printing in the “Normal Fast” Print Quality. The ink often smeared inside the printer when printing in the slower, “Best” Print Quality option.

The original instructions said to feed the wax paper through carefully but often mine jammed the machine. I made several of these and found taping to wax paper to sheet of card stock worked better.  I cut the wax paper the exact same size with a paper cutter and taped it to the card stock on all four corners, and it fed through without issue. (I was freaking out a bit, because had it jammed and ruined my printer, my cheap little peels would be one expensive gift.)  Here’s how I taped it:

Make sure your graphic prints reverse.

Seems simple I know, but when it comes out of the printer, the ink is sitting on top of the paper so you have to handle it carefully. Taping it this way allowed me to quickly run an X-acto blade between the wax paper and card stock without damaging the ink. Once you free the wax paper, carefully flip it over and line the right corners (or left if you’re a south paw) on your pre-marked corners before you touch anything to the wood. Working from right to left or left to right, use a credit card to burnish (rub) the wax paper over the wood. It’s a very similar process to applying shelf paper (or a protector cover to your iPhone if you are not an anal shelf paperer like me), but you only have one chance to get it down even.

Do not move the paper or the image will smudge. If you want the ink from your image to be darker, lightly wet the wood before applying the transfer. I rubbed my peels down with a barely damp cloth, after I cut the tape and right before I flipped the transfer to apply. To polish them up and make them look more authentic (and provide a little protection from potential toxins), I applied a few coats of food grade bee’s wax. Overall I was very happy with the way they turned out.

Me too! Have a good week, All. Thanks to Kim for this post!