Let's Talk Benjamin Franklin

 Today I'm going to dive straight into the prickly issue of money.
Let's talk Benjamin Franklin (or we can talk smack about it if you'd like)
To be straight up honest, money is NOT my favorite conversation to have.
I think I feel like I'll break out in hives every time we have to have our weekly budget conversation.  The husband and I.

I feel like I grew up with a considerably healthy view of the dollar.
My parents were ahead of their game, so to speak.  They implemented things way back then, that are just becoming 'money smart' now.  
And I know I have them to thank for the financial rewards I'm reaping today.
I never felt like it was a terrible thing to have money, or be wealthy.
But I know that a tremendous amount of people have a mental block about wealth.
Like God doesn't want you rich.  That money is a pitfall that opens Pandora's box to all kinds of sin and temptation.

Myron and I are over the halfway point in the Financial Peace University course we have been leading this winter.
You guys, if you haven't done it, take this class!  
It will totally rock your financial world, and begin to set your finances right side up!
We've had some cool testimonies come out of this class already, and we're not finished!
If you live local, stay tuned.  We're going to be putting another class together later this summer or fall.  You don't want to miss it!
And just a plug about an FPU class:  while you can do this course on your own, at home, it is so much more worthwhile to do with a class.  You get accountability (a huge factor in making it work), you learn off of each other's successes/mistakes, and you get to hear each other's cool stories and be motivated.  So please, do the class with a group!

 Myron and I have budgeted for quite a while, but got super serious about it again a while ago and instead of budgeting purely to know where our dollars went, we're serious about TELLING that dollar where it goes and making it work for us, not the other way around.

While Financial Peace University says that it will bring peace to your finances,
Oh. My. Gracious.  This is my 2 cents: it will bring turmoil before peace.  Insert scowly emoticon.
We have had more heated discussions over money this winter, than we've had heated discussions period, for years.  I'm not a big spender to begin with, and to try to squeeze my dollar so hard I 'give George Washington a headache' has given ME headaches also.  I'm in it for the long-term result, so the short-term discomfort is just going to have to work it's self out.
Myron is definitely the 'nerd' about money, and I'm more of a 'free spirit'.  He is a fanatic about crunching and entering numbers (which is totally what is going to make this whole budget work for us),  I just don't spend more money than I have to so when I'm asked to 'ingest pennies and poop dimes',  I tend to get a little cranky.  

But ya'll, I'm LEARNING!  YAY!  (We're getting somewhere!!!)
I've been obsessed with getting my hands on any good books I can find out there that back up what is taught in FPU.  Just kind of drenching myself in money talk.  I love reading books that reinforce and grow what I already have stashed in my brain database.  These are some of the books I read, just in the last week:

While I didn't enjoy all of these, here are some books I'd totally recommend:
The Millionaire Next Door 
Complete Guide to Money (of course!)
Smart Money Smart Kids (We are implementing this with our kids, 20 years from now, ask me how it turned out)
Rich Dad Poor Dad 
5 Lessons A Millionaire Taught Me 
I know there are so many more books to be read, and more that I have read, but these are just a few of my current favorites that I've read recently.

I'm not a teacher, so I won't proceed to explain and direct you into all things budget-ey,
But I will point you toward some terrific online tools to use for creating and maintaining a budget.

Here's a few to get you started
 This has been around for a while and if you're a computer genius you can make your own spreadsheets and work the system like you want.  We're not like that.
 We used to use this.  It's great for tracking WHERE your money is going.  It didn't really work for a zero-based budget (Which BTW, is the only way to budget) (essentially TELLING your money where to go, not just tracking it).  This also can be linked to your bank account, so in essence, it recognizes your purchases and puts them in certain categories.  You still have to do some legwork to divide them then, say for instance, you went to Wal-Mart and bought food as well as clothing.  It would recognize Wal-Mart, and probably place it under the grocery catalog, but then you would need to change it and divide it properly into categories.
If you've taken FPU in the past, this seems to be the version replacing the Gazelle Budget tool.  We tried the Gazelle budget and it just didn't work for us. Also, it was a little pricey to pay for it's use. (Which, if your budget tells you it ain't there, it ain't there.  Free is always good) The EveryDollar budget system seems to have real promise.  It's got an app, and it's free (at least for now).  
This is what Myron and I use.  We've loved it so far.   It allows you to move money between categories, it's connected to Drop Box but downloaded on your computer, it's got a slick app that you can enter purchases into at the time of purchase, and you can also pin a location so that when you are at, say Aldi, it will recognize that and all you need to do is enter the amount.

A comment on using an effective budget, and especially YNAB, you will learn to spend the money you earned the previous month.  So, in April, you will be spending March's income.  That money should all be divided into categories, every dollar going somewhere, until your budget equals $0.00.  This is a zero-based budget.  And you're only spending the money that you actually have.  Yay!  No more adding on debt.  It's a little tough the first few months to get started, since you may not have that whole paycheck in your bank account anymore.  We transferred that amount over from our savings, so that we could start out fresh, but if you don't have that money available, you'll be pinching your pennies super tight to save that base amount to start your budget.  And BTW, everyone declares that when you're tight financially, you eat a lot of mac and cheese and tuna.  My calculations tell me that tuna is not,  I repeat, NOT a budget friendly food.  That's just fishy advertising.  

There are so many areas to jump off of, into this area of money.   I've got a whole list of awesome books to read, on the 'spiritual' side of money.  Since I believe in the supernatural and definitely want to see God as my ultimate Provider, I don't want to base all of this money talk on purely the logical side of money.  The actual pennies and dollars on paper.  Sometimes we need to see how God provides ABUNDANTLY, not just logically through our paychecks.  I've heard some pretty awesome sermons on spiritual provision and God's blessing on economics, and have got some great books to recommend also.  That will have to be an entirely different post.  

But I have begun learning one thing about 'spiritual money'.  It's that God blesses and multiplies the assets of a person who is a faithful steward of what He gives.  People double their incomes, folks, just by following Godly financial principles.  He also smiles strongly on the cheerful Giver, and I believe you won't lack for anything if you give graciously.  It's like the law of gravity, what goes up, comes down.  Except, with money, when you give, it's given to you.  Even some of the 'worldy' books I've read on money, recognize that it is a universal law of life.  And I'm not being greedy by saying I want more, so that I can give more.   So we will budget, and budget hard, and we will 'Live like no-one else, so that someday we can Give like no-one else'.  And if this means I don't get out of the house much, rarely eat out, buy second-hand clothes, and have holes in my socks, then by golly, I'm giving it my best shot.  I'm putting it out there: I will squeeze and wheeze my way into that budget every month.  One last personal note: when it came to cutting our grocery budget back, I put my foot down on cutting back on hospitality.  Hospitality can be costly, it can cost you water, electric, food, other resources.  But to me, this is part of my giving to God.  And hospitality was not getting kicked to the curb EVER.  So I encourage you, to take what you have, and use it wisely to bless and be blessed.

What are some of the best money tips/advice you've received, that have benefited you tremendously?  What methods have gotten you the most bang for your buck? 



Mmm.  If I had to pick a favorite pastry, creme puffs would be in the top running.
There is something about their light, fluffy poof and cream
That creates a sort of denial of the calories they contain.
It's like the pillowy puff will allow you so much less guilt, than any richer dessert.

I've been a fan of creme puffs for years, and have literally tried my hand at them 
Ever since I was like 13 or 14.  A long time, folks.
But this past Christmas, I made some that just reminded me all over again, Why I love them so much.

I did these for a banquet, and easily doubled and even tripled the recipe with great results.  If this is your first go
at creme puffs, then I'd suggest you start with just the basic amounts before you get too crazy about going for doubles or more.  It will blow your mind how very simple they are to mix and bake.

Here is the recipe:
  • Puff Shells
  • 1 C water
  • ½ C butter (1 stick)
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • Custard  
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 C warm milk
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Sweet Cream:
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • Granulated sugar to taste
  • Vanilla to taste
  1. For the shells:
  2.  Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Set aside a large (12 or more) muffin tin, very lightly buttered.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, bring water and butter to a low boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and add flour, stirring well until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat. Stir in eggs, one at a time, beating with spoon or large fork until dough is smooth. Beat additional 10 seconds to continue to increase volume of the dough.
  4. Using a tablespoon, drop dough into deep muffin tins. Divide all the batter between 12 tins. You can also divide the dough by TBfuls onto a cookie sheet, for less puffy, more spread out, shells.
  5. Bake shells in 400 degrees oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Important that the puffs are golden/crisp or they may collapse. Remove from oven and cool completely.
  6. (The shells can be prepared the day before. Just lightly cover when completely cooled and let sit at room temperature.)
  7. For the custard cream filling:
  8. Place the 4 egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk them together and set aside.
  9. Mix sugar, flour and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in warm milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly. Mixture will thicken and bubble. Once it starts to bubble, cook one minute more while still stirring.
  10. Remove from heat. Stir about half of the mixture into beaten egg yolks.
  11. Blend this back into remaining hot mixture in the saucepan. Stir constantly just until mixture begins to bubble again.
  12. Add vanilla and stir until combined. Remove from heat. Set aside.
  13. For the sweetened cream:
  14. Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form, and add sugar and vanilla to your liking.
  15. Assembling the cream puffs:
  16. Cut off shell tops and scoop out the insides of top and bottom to make room for the custard and whipped cream.  Often the puff is so full of air inside, there will be a natural indentation and you won't need to do this step.
  17. Dip the bottom of the puff into powdered sugar, then repeat with top of puff. This will coat the puffs  and gives a "French pastry"  look.
  18. Fill bottom of puff with Custard Filling. Top generously with the whipped cream.
  19. Replace top of puff. Place puffs in refrigerator, uncovered, chilling for 4 hours (at least one hour). Do not cover the puffs in fridge or the powdered sugar will disintegrate into the puff. 
Makes about 12 cream puffs if made in muffin tin.

These cream puffs make an excellent carrier for chicken salad, tuna, eclaire fillings, fresh fruit and cream, and the list is almost endless.

*On a side note: I have no idea why the French word for cream puff is sometimes Profiterole.  All I can think of when I read that is: Profit and roll.  Elementary, I know.  I'm just thinking that if I had a restaurant, I'd be making creme puffs to make a profit-roll too.  (I'm not even sure that I should be laughing at myself right now either-major eye roll)

laissez les bons temps rouler!


(Black is still) The New Black

Black is such a lovely color to me.
If you've ever been in our home, you probably noticed that.
Black and white may just be my favorite colors, 
If they're even allowed to be in the color family.

I notice that black and white pop up when I take pictures,
like the one above.

Our master bedroom is black and white and I find it so soothing.  The only thing I'd really change, is to add in white linen curtains.  I adore linen also.  The curtains we have are actually from the fabric markets in Thailand, they are a sheer black with white ribbon roses stitched onto the sheer.

The handwriting on the wall (quite literally) was such a fun project.  I just went at my white wall with a yardstick and a sharpie.  I love it so much.

I've got black on my walls in our living space
and black on cabinets, countertops, and in decorations.

 I have such great admiration for those fun spaces you see in peoples homes.
All full of bright colors, in turquoise, yellows, and so much more.  I'm such a fan of happy spaces. 
But I'm ok with those colors just not being my thing.  
Black and white are calming to me, and I love the freshness
of a space, minus the chaos of color.  
Airy, but dramatic I guess.
All I can say though is, gracious, I hope colors don't identify
your personality that drastically.
Because if that is the case, I'm either dull and boring
or incredibly moody and dramatic, as well as airy.
Let's just not go there.
Even the outside of our house is white.
And if I didn't need to go through the Historic District Board
to do it, my front door would probably be painted,
you guessed it, Black.

 My pinterest board looks like someone took an eraser to it
and completely scrubbed out all the colors, 
except for black and white.

One of my favorite online magazines, delivered to my inbox
has so much monochromatic going on, I can hardly stand it.
Est Magazine 

I also love to follow this blog
Her pinterest board is amazing.

I'm in love.
And I think that Black is Still the New Black.

What about you?  Are you a bright happy color person?


(Chocolate) In A Box

 On Saturday, the Great Day of Hearts (properly celebrated by some, over-celebrated by others, and completely dreaded by the rest of the population), we completely sealed our 'valentines is about others' deal.  I wrote a minor report on what I've taught my kids to think of Valentines, and although I do mildly regret -at times- teaching them it's not just for lovers, I am now withholden to practice what I've been practicing and preaching up until this point.  So they come into Valentines, fully expecting that their father will lather on the goodies for them, and that we'll be treating someone else to some fun Valentines-related treats as well.  The thought never crosses their minds that Myron and I would go out together -sans kids- on Valentines.

This year did not disappoint.  We rose early, made some heart shaped bacon and eggs, and went full on into the day.  We had some fun desserts to prepare, flowers to arrange, new stranger-guests to be had for a delightful afternoon/eve and pizza, as well as some babysitting thrown in there.   Myron and I have some single, guy-friends who had it on their heart to serve some of their lady-friends, a 5 star dinner for the evening, and we got nominated to do dessert.  They put together a fabulous (from what I've heard) dinner, and we provided the dessert and the flowers.  It was so fun to make these chocolate boxes, filled with a light chocolate mousse, brownie bites, and raspberries.  Drizzled in white chocolate. 

While I know Valentines Day is over, at least for this year, I love the idea of these chocolate boxes so much.  They're just a perfect way to serve up something 'a little fancy' and make anyone feel special.  They would make a terrific Easter brunch extra: Made of white chocolate and filled with fruit.  Or bridal shower food.  Or just to show your handsome husband how much you love him. 

Here's the process:
1 chocolate bar of your choice
Extra chocolate for melting.

Cut the chocolate into 4 pieces.  Or you can get fancy and go for 5, using the 5th piece as a 'lid'.
Melt the additional chocolate and dip the 4 pieces into it, on the short ends.  'Glue' the four pieces together by holding them upright until the chocolate has cooled enough to stand on their own. 

Here's my mousse recipe:
Simple and easy version-
3 C. cold milk
1/2C. instant pudding mix 
1 16 oz. carton of heavy whipping cream
Chocolate syrup (if desired)

Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat on high until peaks form.  You can add in as much, or as little, chocolate syrup as you like.

The complex (and very worth it) version involves making your own custard, instead of the instant pudding, melting in the real chocolate and then cooling.  After which you would whip in your heavy cream until peaks form.  I love this version with white chocolate, instead of milk or dark.  

I think mousse almost always screams "Add fruit to me!  I'm not complete or perfect without it!".  Mousse is like the dessert of my dreams...light, fluffy, only mildly sweet, and yet so smooth and easy on the taste buds.

laissez les bons temps rouler!


 Isaiah 40:6,7-"Everyone is as frail as grass, and their loveliness fades like flowers in the field....when the breathe of the Lord blows over it".
(loosely translated)

Last week we attended my grandmothers funeral.  She was an old soul, and we all desired greatly for her to be in the presence of Jesus for some time.  She lived life full and well and had turned 90 at the beginning of winter.  Death, after a life-cup brim to overflowing, feels so different than one that is abrupt, young and only partially lived.

In a sense, I feel like 'history' died with my grandma.  Like suddenly I realize just how close I am to growing old and being 'that generation'.  I also have this overwhelming sense that, along with her, died memories and stories of my dad.  Even in her last years of partial dementia, she would always say something about him when we would visit her in her elderly-care room.  She would fuss over how much my husband looked like him.  Remind me of how my dad would've loved his grandkids if he could've been here.  It's like a part of him lived with her, and I feel this great loss of him all over again, now that she isn't here to remind me.

We know we aren't made to be here forever.  And I feel great joy over the release of her old body into a new one, one she lived her life to be rewarded with.  She was fiery, motivated, and didn't mince words.  She spoke her mind but she prayed hard.  And in the last years, she struggled graciously as her body and mind gave out on her but there was a level of trust and sweetness that came out during these years that I had never seen before.

My grandparents were married for 71 years.  And my grandfather faithfully went to see her in the nursing home, almost every day, for the last 3 1/2 years.  My grandfather is 'fit as a fiddle' at 92 years old and he so tenderly cared for her.  It was like their relationship mellowed and sweetened during these years.  The loss of his Love was heartbreaking to watch.  He bent low over her casket and gave her the tenderest of kisses as he said goodbye with tears streaming down his face.  And I got this big old knot well up in my throat and my tears then were not for me, but for him.  Seeing the missing and the longing and all the memories of loving, desiring and cherishing come to a close as the lid of the casket thumped shut.

Myron asked me on the way home, what I think would be the most difficult: losing a Love like that at a young age or when you are so close to the end of life.  Here is the thing: when you are young, the tragedy of it can be overwhelming, I believe.  There's a life to be lived without that One person and it can take your heart and leave you broken.  Losing someone at the end of your life is losing, well, your life.  There aren't time for new memories. You awoke every morning to care for that one person and what is there to awaken for tomorrow?  

I don't know.  I only know, that at whatever age, loving someone will always create an opportunity to feel the pain of loss.  Like Isaiah said, "We all wither and fade like a flower", and death is expected at some point.  Carpe Diem.


 Back in December, I had posted a picture on Instagram of the truffles I was making for one of my Christmas banquets.  A few people wanted the recipe, and let me tell you, these do not disappoint.  They are so creamy and delicious.
The recipe is not original with me, a friend brought us a beautiful box full one December day a very long time ago and I begged for the recipe. Here it is:
1 1/2 lbs. chocolate wafers or chips
8 oz. Cream cheese, softened
1lb. chocolate for coating

Melt the 24oz. (1 1/2lbs) of chocolate in the microwave.  Or my favorite way to melt it slow is to set a glass bowl over the top of a pan of boiling water.  Bring the water temp back a little, dump the chocolate into the bowl and it melts slow and smooth.  Add the softened cream cheese and flavoring (more on that in a minute).  Big tip: go scant on the chocolate.  The cream cheese makes them creamy and silky, chocolate tends to dry them out. Mix well. Refrigerate a bit.  Drop by teaspoonfulls onto wax paper; chill again until firm enough to roll in your hand.  Roll into balls; place on wax paper and again chill until firm.  Melt the chocolate for coating, then dip the balls into it.  This is the stage when you'd want to sprinkle with any fun candies,sprinkles, etc. I also really love to add in a dash of coconut oil to my dipping chocolate, since it makes the melted chocolate so smooth and also hardens quickly when cooled.  When hardened, drizzle with white chocolate, dark chocolate or candy coating.  
Here are some variations:
(Just make adjustments to the basic recipe above)
16oz. milk chocolate, 8 oz. dark
3 TB. strong coffee
Coat with 12oz. milk chocolate and 4 oz. dark

24oz. milk chocolate
10 drops creme de menthe flavor
Coat with 16oz. dark chocolate 

You can tinker with adding in other flavorings to the truffle or to the coating.(Think caramel, raspberry, key lime, etc)  Flavorings that contain alcohol will tend to dry out your chocolate faster as well, so just ease up a bit on how many drops or teaspoonfuls you use.  LorAnn Gourmet flavors packs a lot of flavor in just a few drops.
This recipe yields 50-60 candies 

Have fun and experiment.  This would be a fun Valentines project to do with the kids, or an irresistable treat for a special somebody.  They are beautiful tucked into a box with some tissue paper and wrapped in a bow.

I'd love to know if you try them!


Well, hey there.  WWwwwww...that was me, blowing off the dust that has collected on this blog.  If you've stuck around at all, checked in on me anytime, you'll know that neglect has set in dreadfully.  
For so many reasons:
+ the homeschool factor
+ the ain't got my own computer factor (which really, belongs fair and square in the homeschool sector)
+ the laundry/house/babies factor
+ the old 'everyone else is so much better at this than me' factor
+ the whole 'blogs are so yesterday' theory
And so on.... 

Really, I dearly love to write but it feels so personal to me.  I love to try things...many many things and attempt to be good at them.  When I find something that I really love, I become very protective of them.  I don't mind at all making mistakes on so many things, but when it comes to something that speaks to me, and makes me feel like 'me', I become a bit afraid of not being good enough for myself.  And others.  And all that.  

I've said it before, but I'll throw it out there again.  We'll dust this blog off, see where it takes us.  

It will be random, I'm sure, the path from here.  But I do have some yummy recipes I'm looking forward to sharing with you, some local blogger friends I want to introduce you to and I'm itching to get some guest bloggers over here as well as getting back to just sharing about life.  

I've been having a lot of fun over on Instagram during the last couple of months and you'll find me here: houseonmain.  

See you soon?