my thankfulness

An early morning sunrise I recently caught on film

An early morning sunrise I recently caught on film

I was very tempted to blog about something negative this evening. I even got a few lines typed before I decided to be positive instead. I had been thinking all day about what I am thankful for, seeing it is Thanksgiving week. This morning in my son’s Sunday school class, they made little crafts showing what they were thankful for. It made me think about how we always rattle off things like food, family, friends, yada, yada. That’s all fine and good, but I thought I would be specific with my list this year. Here’s what I’ve come up with after mulling it over most of the day:

  • a loving God who blesses me daily and is building me a home in heaven right now
  • a wonderful, hazel-eyed husband who puts up with my craziness and lets me snuggle up to him each night
  • a beautiful son who makes me laugh and smile every day while showing me how innocent the world can be
  • a loving mom who raised me in a Christian environment and taught me the value of thank you notes
  • a loving dad who has shown me the value of a dollar saved and hard work
  • a sister who turned me on to wheat pasta, reusable shopping bags, and cooking from scratch
  • another sister who surprises me with hand written notes in my mailbox and lives a carefree life I can only dream of
  • in laws that treat me like their very own daughter (and grand daughter)
  • fresh, clean drinking water in abundance
  • the ability and desire to exercise and stay healthy
  • a flexible work schedule that allows me to spend more time with my family
  • enough money to provide all of my needs and most of my wants
  • the freedom to worship and live the life I desire
  • healthy blue eyes to witness the amazing beauty of nature, sunsets, and all the other gorgeous things on the earth
  • a warm bed with clean linens
  • hot showers
  • a car that’s paid for
  • good books and colorful magazines
  • a church family that gets along and supports each other like a family

This list could go on and on forever, but I’m honestly pooped right now. It’s about time for bed, but if I think of anything else I missed, I’ll add as another post. I challenge you to think outside the box and come up with your own thankfulness list.

sentimental father & son moment

Last night, I was a little tired and not too patient. Do I hear any “amens” from toddler parents out there? Anyway, I’ve been having a time getting my almost-2-year-old to pick up his blocks. He loves to dump them out and always promises me he will pick them up, but it’s an act of congress to get to follow through. We haven’t started time out yet (I see it our very near future), so I was just saying “Come here and help me pick up these blocks.” I think my husband could sense my frustration, so being the wonderful man that he is, he took over.

He got our son to come sit with him in the block pile, then he took my son’s little hand in his and they played a game where they picked up blocks with both of their hands. It was really good and our son got to giggling about it. Then, he started picking up his blocks all by himself. Ain’t that sweet? We clapped and made a big deal over each block he dropped into the bag.

I don’t give my husband enough credit – as a husband or father – a lot of times. I think sometimes if I just step back, he’ll step in and take over, which is nice. One time, a wise woman (and blog reader) told me that the mom will always do more than the dad. I find this is true. It’s not a bad thing, but it is true. I think as moms, we step in and take over for some reason, when the dads would do a little more if we just let them.

I thanked my husband this week for helping with our son, keeping our house clean (he keeps it spotless!), and working to provide for our family. He has a job in corrections that I would never want and he commutes about 90 minutes each day he works. That’s not easy and I really appreciate him.

Have you thanked your man lately?

bird watching

I love birds. I remember being little and my grandma Reba feeding the birds. She would point out different feathered friends and tell us kids what they were. I guess I get my appreciation of birdies from her.

The other day, I went outside to get something out of my car and these birds were eating the berries out of our Bradford Pear trees. I just stood and watched in amazement because they were only a few feet from me. Some would stop and cock their head, giving me a questioning look, but some continued to eat their berries without noticing me. They would fly from the pear tree to the tall poplar trees and all you would hear was the beating of their wings. It was pretty magical.

I went inside to get my camera so I could get some photos or videos, but they were gone when I came back. To my pleasant surprise, they were back when I brought my son out to go to work. We stood and watched the birds and he seemed to enjoy it, too.

Yesterday, we took a stroll and I picked up pine cones. This weekend, we’re going to make old fashioned peanut butter, bird seed pine cone feeders. Won’t that be fun?!

They were Cedar Waxwings. Photo compliments of

They were Cedar Waxwings. Photo compliments of

two empty bottles…

…of water, that is. A few weeks ago, I discovered that I was drinking my one bottle of water pretty quickly and then I found myself buying Diet Dr. Pepper or some other drink. So, I had a genius moment where I realized if I just bring TWO bottles of water to work, then I won’t be tempted to get something else when I run out of water. It’s working so far! I’ve drank 2 quarts today and there are still hours left. I finished off one bottle in spin class this morning – we were all dripping sweat after those hill climbs!

I used to bring a gallon jug of water to work and refill my cup when it got empty. That’s something I could pick back up. I have really good well water – I’m not a city water drinker. Yuck! Plus, I try to refill my plastic water bottles so I’m not ruining the environment.

What’s your trick for drinking water?

mandy’s top 10 ways to live on what ya got

I had a young lady tell me today that she wants to make more money. When I say “young lady”, I mean a gal that’s about 10 years younger than me. I’m not old (31), but I’m not a young lady anymore, either.

So, our conversation went back and forth. I guess I’m really a mom now, because I told her that the more you make, the more you spend and so on, and so forth. It got me to thinking (while I was peeling apples for my last round of apple butter) about the lessons I’ve learned in my adult life about managing money. I’m not rich by any means, but I’ve learned to live with what I have.

When I changed jobs about a year ago, I took about an $8,000 pay cut. Ain’t that crazy? I was stressing wondering how I would ever make it on that much money, but I figured less gas (I cut my commute by about 60%) and brown bagging my lunch (I used to spend $10-$12 a day on lunch out!) would make up for most of that. And, I knew the good Lord would provide.

So, without further ado, here are my top 10 ways to live on what ya got, to matter how much money you make:

  1. Pay your tithes: If you are a God believing Christian, it’s your duty to pay your tithes (10% of what you make). If it weren’t for God, we wouldn’t have a single thing to our name and he expects us to give back. So, give back 10% of what you make to your Father. You will never have a need. Now, I’m not saying you will get all your WANTS, but your needs will be met. I have seen this happen time and time again. I’m glad my momma taught me this important life lesson.
  2. Create a budget: This one is a no brainer, but it’s dang hard! I really don’t have a full blown budget, but what I do is write down all my pay days and write what bills I have to pay with that check. I got in a bunch of financial stress years ago by NOT doing this, so this actually works. After I pay my bills, then I look at what I have left and know that’s my grocery and gas money, plus anything else I need/want.
  3. Put money in savings AUTOMATICALLY: Earlier this year, I set up an auto transfer from my checking to savings account, which occurs the Monday after each payday Friday. I really try not to touch that money in savings, but if times are tight or I have an unexpected expense, then I dip into that before adding to credit card debt. If you do it automatically, you don’t realize it’s missing.
  4. Save $1000 for a rainy day: I learned that from reading Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” book. Thankfully, my cousin sent me that years ago and it was a lifesaver. I have managed to keep $1000 in savings for several years now. I may not be much more than that, but it’s there if I need it for some unknown emergency. And, it doesn’t take as long as you would think to save that much if you put your mind to it. AND, once you save it, it’s so darn hard to let it get below $1000…you feel so guilty!
  5. Buy clothes used: Up until this year, I thought I was too good for thrift stores, consignments, or Goodwill. But, when I bought a pair of new Levi jeans at Belk in the spring for $40, it made me sick! Since then, I have found Eddie Bauer and Ann Taylor jeans at second hand stores in wonderful shape for no more than $5 a pair. I feel SO much better about that and no one has to know I didn’t buy them new for 10 times as much.
  6. Make dining out a treat: We normally go out to eat about once a week as a family or couple and I will eat lunch out about once a week. Otherwise, we eat our meals at home and I pack my lunch. A can of soup and a peanut butter sandwich can be a satisfying lunch over a good book or magazine (or talking with a friend). I have grown to love cooking since I started working less hours. It’s actually fun and healthier (see #11) and you can eat well on a budget. One tip: eat less meat. Meat is so expensive and isn’t that fantastic for you. Invest some of your meat money into fruits and vegetables!

    My husband and son at Ruby Tuesday last Christmas after seeing Santa.

    My husband and son at Ruby Tuesday last Christmas after seeing Santa.

  7. Use coupons: I’m not one of those maniacs that have a binder full of 1,000 coupons (not to say I won’t be before my life ends), but I DO cut out coupons for things I buy like toothpaste, diapers, baby food, etc. I don’t cut out coupons for things I don’t need or that are too expensive. Just stick with the basics. And sign up for online coupon for dining out. I get Ruby Tuesday coupons all the time. The other night, my husband, son and I went out to eat there and we got out for like $25! I had a coupon for a free flat bread with any adult entree purchase, so I ate that while the husband had his customary ribs. That saved us probably $10 or more.
  8. Pay off your vehicle loan and keep it…and take care of it: I paid off my car last July after a SIX year auto loan (what the heck was I thinking?!) and I plan to keep it until it’s no longer driveable. Is it new and flashy like the 2014 models? No. Does it have scratches and dents? Yes. Do I care? NO! The seats are stained, but I keep the oil changed and all that jazz and it should last me (Lord willing) many more years. I really hope I can get 10 more years out of the thing if I play my cards right.
  9. Make money doing what you love…or at least LIKE: I loved the job I had for about 9 years, until my son came along. Then, I realized the stress of that job was going to interfere with my family. So, I made a change and I’m so glad I did. I really do enjoy work and helping people live healthy lives. I’ve liked most all the jobs I’ve had in the past. If I didn’t like them, I found something else. I’ve been a waitress, toe seamer at a sock factory, gas station attendant, cashier at a grocery store, website designer, technology sales person, and a Longaberber basket sales person. I really enjoyed selling those baskets and I made good money doing it. Do what you like! AND, if you find yourself in a job that you don’t like, work toward a job that you enjoy.

    From a Longaberger basket party I hosted YEARS ago.

    From a Longaberger basket party I hosted YEARS ago.

  10. Be happy with what you have: Like I mentioned to my friend, I really believe if you make more money, you will spend more money. You think you have to have the nicest things, and you end up working harder and needing more money to pay for it all. We have lived in this single wide, 1987 mobile home for 10 years and we’re finally getting ready to get a house. Am I scared? I not really. We’ve looked at the numbers and can see we can afford it, but we’ve lived mortgage/rent free for 10 years! It won’t be fun to have 360 payments looming over our heads, but it will be nice to have something new (and that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to heat during the winter!). I’m going to miss this little trailer we call home, but I know it won’t hold up forever. Our plan is to pay extra and get it paid off in 20 years.
  11. BONUS! Get/stay healthy: The most valuable thing you have in life is your health. If you’re not healthy, get that way right now. Or make steps to get as healthy as you can. The cost of health insurance isn’t going down and the more healthy you are, the less it costs to live. That gym membership may seem expensive, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to having high insurance rates, lots of prescriptions and doctor bills.
Me running a 5K a few years back.

Me running a 5K a few years back.


beautiful sick day

I’m at home again today with my little boy who has run a low grade fever since yesterday. He seemed to feel good yesterday evening and then this morning he was up an hour and a half earlier than usual, warm again. I dosed him up with some ibuprofen and then we played a little in the house until I put him down for a nap a few hours ago. He’s sleeping hard! I didn’t stay home yesterday because he seemed fine (besides that little fever), but today I thought it would be best for him to stay here and rest. There’s no place like your own house when you’re sick. I don’t know if he’s teething or has an earache or what, but he’s eating and drinking well and has no other symptoms. A call to the doc revealed that I should just keep him home unless he starts running a high fever or doesn’t get rid of this small fever in a couple of days. He had a fever a couple of weeks ago and it only lasted half a day or so. I think there are lots of little viruses running around that he’s catching and building up his immune system.

It’s a beautiful day here in ol’ Virginia and I hope we get to go outside and play some when he wakes up. I think it’s supposed to be in the 50s or maybe even 60s today. We better enjoy it before the next cold front rolls through early next week.

I hope to get a short workout in this afternoon and I’d like to do it outside if possible. My friend shared it with me and it looks like a good quickie.


My sweet mom came to see us after she got off work. Even though we work together, we don’t get to visit very much, so it was nice to chat with her for an  hour or so. And she brought me lasagna for lunch! Can’t be that, huh?

I gave my son this pillow I had made back in middle school and I picked it up today and looked at the date on the tag. It says 1994. When I started counting, that’s almost 20 years ago!!! I honestly can’t believe I’ve been out of middle school that long. It’s so hard to grasp time these days. They say having kids will do that to you.

I made this whale pillow in the 6th or 7th grade.

I made this whale pillow in the 6th or 7th grade.


wednesday workout & swimming

We worked hard in my 6:15 morning class today. I had my folks warm up walking around the gym while I set up this circuit:

  • balance disk squats
  • resisted crunches on stability ball
  • BOSU crossovers
  • body bar front row
  • kettlebell squat thrust
  • seated row with resistance band
  • ladder agility drill
  • bicep curls with band
  • Russian twists with medicine ball
  • dumbbell triceps extensions

We did 90 seconds each the first round, then 60 seconds the second round. They were troopers! It’s a hard little workout if you put your best foot forward.

I won’t be teaching this class for the next three weeks since I’ll be taking a lifeguard instructor course. In a way, I’m sad, but in a way, I’m looking forward to the break. I have to get up at 5:15 on Wednesdays, but I won’t have to for a while. It’s nice not having to go out in the freezing cold dark! Hopefully, by the first week of December, I’ll be certified by the American Red Cross as a Lifeguard Instructor. That will make me even more valuable, eh?!

My son splashing in his kiddie pool this summer. He's gonna learn how to swim at a young age!

My son splashing in his kiddie pool this summer. He’s gonna learn how to swim at a young age!

I also had a swim lesson with a lady this morning. She’s probably in her 60’s and wanted to learn how to swim with her face in the water. We started out with basic flutter kicking, then progressed to blowing bubbles in the water, some side kicking, and then a catch up pull & kick with the board. She didn’t have goggles, so it was hard to get her whole face in the water, but she’s getting there.

Before she and I had our lesson, I swam 20 laps. I’m so glad I can easily swim! Now, I’ve been at it for over 9 years and I’ve had lots of practice, but I’m so glad it’s a skill I have gained. I started swimming when my friend asked me to do a triathlon with her. Neither of us had ever done one, so I started practicing swimming on my own. Thankfully, the lifeguard at that time put me in my place by telling me I wasn’t going to swim a triathlon very well if I couldn’t swim with my face in the water. He gave me some pointers and lent me some DVDs to watch (this was before youtube was popular). It wasn’t an easy thing to learn, but I’m so glad I did. I really feel good when I can teach folks how to swim. Not only could it save their life at some point, but it also gives them a new way to stay healthy and fit.

It’s pretty cold outside and I think my husband wants to get into something after I get off work today. I think I’m going to call the bowling alleys to see if any are open so we can go bowl with our son this evening. I love to bowl when it’s cold outside! It’s just something I feel guilty doing if it’s sunny or warm out because I should be outside playing.

What are your favorite indoor cold weather activities? Especially ones that involve toddlers…

Me bowling at my 31st birthday party back in March. Fun times!

Me bowling at my 31st birthday party back in March. Fun times!

squash and spin

I made some good butternut squash soup last night. Well, it was good to ME, but my husband and son wouldn’t eat, the little boogers. So, I have still have a few servings of soup to eat. Let me tell you, peeling and cutting up a butternut squash is not an easy feat, but it made a good meal. I had the soup with a grilled cheese on whole wheat bread. Yum!

Then, I taught a kick butt workout in my 8:30 spin class this morning. It was inspired by IDEA Fitness Journal (Nov – Dec 2013). Went something like this:

  • 5 minute warm up
  • Progressive climb – every 30 seconds, add resistance until you end up in a standing climb (total of 3 minutes)
    • Round 2 we went 45 seconds each interval
    • Round 3 we went 1 minute each interval
  • 1 minute recovery
  • Seated speed work – start at 60% of your maximum effort, then add 10% each 30 seconds for a total of 100%. Go back down to 60% for the last 30 seconds.
    • Round 2 we went 45 seconds each interval
    • Round 3 we went 1 minute each interval
  • Hill plateaus – standing climb for 1 minute, then 30 second fast seated flat (plateau). Repeat twice for 3 minutes.
    • Round 2, we extended the flat to 45 seconds, leaving the hills at 1 minute
    • We ended up running out of time for round 3 since the class is 45 minutes and this workout is about a 60 minute one.
  • 8 minute cool down (slowing down pedaling, stretching, etc.)

I was happy that there was NO snow when I woke up this morning. I don’t mind snow when I have nothing to do, but when I have to be at work early, I’d rather it wait until the weekend!

good workout and recipes

Yesterday, a girl I work with and I did a short but hard little HIIT workout. The directions on this thing are confusing as heck, but we got through the workout  and I’m sore today. She texted me that she is too!


Then, I guess I negated all my hard work last night by eating pizza (just a couple of slices of cheese). But, I did make a turtle cake since we had company coming over. I only had a small piece with some vanilla ice cream, so I don’t feel too terribly guilty. I’m all about fitness and health, but I’m about enjoying life, too! The recipe was good, but I would recommend using a devil’s food cake mix and maybe just using caramels and not adding the sweetened condensed milk. That’s just my two cents.

I also made muffins last night to have for breakfast this morning. My husband had to go to work and I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to fix breakfast for my son and me, so I thought I’d make them ahead. They turned out really well. My son saw them on the counter this morning and said “cupcakes!”. Now, I never have cupcakes in this house, so I’m not 100% sure where he got that from, but I said “Yes, cupcakes! We’re having cupcakes for breakfast!” Why not get him excited?! He really liked them and I did, too.

Whole-Wheat Carrot Applesauce Muffins


  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened (but not melted)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup carrot shreds (I used a cheese grater)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper, foil, or silicone liners, and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.
3. In a large bowl fitted with an electric whisk (or beaters), mix the butter, honey, egg and vanilla together on
medium speed. Turn the speed down and slowly add in the flour mixture until well combined. The batter will be
fairly thick at this point.
4. Using a spatula, carefully fold in the applesauce and carrots. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
Bake for 22 to 24 minutes or until a toothpick comes and muffins are beginning to turn golden brown on top.
We recommend organic ingredients when feasible.
Copyright © 2012 100 Days of Real Food. All Rights Reserved.

Well, the husband just got home from work. Let’s visit while the son naps. Happy Sunday everyone!