A Peek Into July at Our House

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A Peek Into July at Our House
Every month in 2019, I’ll be sharing a photographic peek into the previous month. I thought this would be fun to give you a behind-the-scenes look at our month and recap some of the highs and lows and special memories of the month. I promised to tell you all about our trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone in my June recap. My dad paid for all of us to fly to Utah for our extended family trip (his Christmas gift to all of us), so we decided that since we were already going to be in Utah and would be so close to Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, we’d add two days into our trip and go visit Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and spend some time in Idaho and Montana, too. Many people thought we were crazy to try to fit two National Parks and three states into less than two days… but we ended up having the BEST time! Jenny Lake (at Teton) was breath-taking! We didn’t get to the Parks until later in the day, so we avoided all the crowds and had parts of the Parks completely to ourselves! I took SO many pictures and videos, but I had to narrow it down to some of our favorites to share here. These photos do not do this scenery justice… I literally felt like it was a glimpse of what heaven might look like. We’re working on getting better at taking family photos with the timer set. I propped my phone up on the car hood with a book and my makeup bag. It didn’t turn out quite like I envisioned, but hey, the sign and us are all in the photo. 🙂 Yellowstone Lake (I clearly love lakes!) Again, this photo isn’t even close to showing how gorgeous this area was! This bison and elk were sitting in the same field for at least 30 minutes just minding their own business while dozens of people took photos and videos. Since we saw our first geyser in Iceland a week before, we really wanted to see more geysers in Yellowstone. We waited an hour to see Old Faithful erupt, but it was so worth it! Best of all, since it was 9:37 pm, there weren’t many people there watching and it kind of felt like we got our own private showing! (While we were waiting, we got to see another geyser erupt, too!) We spent the next day in Montana and Idaho! We especially loved West Yellowstone, Montana! These bear trash cans were a new thing for us. It took us a little while to figure out that’s what they were (trash cans designed so bears couldn’t get into them). We came home to our bathroom getting renovated. We hadn’t really thought about the fact that we wouldn’t be able to sleep in our room while they were re-doing our bathroom! 🙂 We ended up sleeping on the couch and on a twin mattress in the bonus room! We had so much fun picking out paint colors and lighting… and are so happy with what we ended up with! We went to Home Depot in July. (Hang tight, I’ll tell you about these plants in a minute.) For now, let’s all pause to let the statement that I went to Home Depot sink in. Your girl right here who is not handy at all, who has zero desire to ever renovate a home or even use a hammer, spent over an HOUR in the aisles of Home Depot. Did I mention I have never, ever even so much as nailed something on a wall on any house I’ve lived in? But since having our master bathroom renovated, I’m doing and learning all sorts of new things. For instance, I went to the tile store to pick out tile. I realized quickly I was in over my head and the first question I had to ask the associate was, “Um, so we’re kinda new to this. Could you tell me what tile goes on the wall and what goes on the floor??” So back to Home Depot: We had gone in to pick out lighting fixtures for the bathroom (something I’ve also never done in 37 years — mostly because we’ve been in rentals so much of our marriage) and paint. Folks, I got so invested in the process that, pretty soon, I began gaining confidence in my renovation expertise and started spouting off things to Jesse like, “Since we have so many straight lines in the bathroom (subway tiles/flooring), we really need to pick fixtures with more dimension to offset things.” (I don’t even know what that means exactly, but he must have thought it was convincing enough because he bought the fixtures I picked out!) When we got to the checkout lane, I basically felt like I was ready for Joanna Gaines to consider hiring me for her next reno. And that’s when I saw the $5 succulents… it just felt like it was something she would choose, so I bought them (for all I know, she hates these plants!) And I’m very proud to report I have managed to keep them alive for over a month. A whole MONTH, people! If you need help with your next reno or your plants, my website and consulting business is coming soon. Sarcasm aside, are you a plant person? Best advice for keeping my new purchases alive? Also, anyone else out there who has never nailed anything on the wall? Nope, I didn’t think so. (Yes, see?? They are still alive!!) In other shocking news, I also did the 21 Days of Squats Challenge in July. “I despise squats!” This is what I’ve said and believed for a number of years. But inspired by @sarahaleyfit and her #21DaysofSquats challenge, I decided to commit to do what felt like a ridiculous number of squats every day for 21 days. Was I crazy? Well, maybe a little. 😉 But also, I wanted to challenge myself to do something I really disliked for three weeks to see how my perspective changed on it. Because I’ve learned that sometimes we tell ourselves something over and over again and we believe it to be true when we really haven’t tested the theory enough. Yes, I’ve done squats before, but never more than a few times a week and never this many in number. When I did them before, I literally told myself before, during, and after, “I hate squats!” Guess what happens if you tell yourself negative thoughts like that over and over again? You believe them to be truth — even if you’ve never really given yourself the opportunity to believe anything different. I’ve been working hard to rid my brain of this stinkin’ thinking and to replace my long-held negative mantras and beliefs. So I got bold and committed to 21 Days of Squats assuming I was going to actually prove that this whole, “I despise squats” belief wasn’t negative thinking; it was going to be a proven fact. The first 3 days were grueling and painful. I was sore and felt frustrated that I publicly committed to this challenge. But I pushed through and by Day 5, I realized it was getting stronger and less frustrated. By Day 8, I was all, “This isn’t too bad!” I made it to Day 21 and I didn’t miss a day — even when we were traveling and I did the squats in the ironing closet area shown here. I’m here to tell you I not only survived, I can actually tell a physical difference in my body, AND I’m sort of starting to like squats and I almost wished the challenge were longer than 21 days!! In July, we also had our first foray into foster care. We got to do respite care for our friends’ 2-year-old foster daughter and y’all it was the most beautiful thing to watch my kids love on this precious little girl. They had so much fun with her and we laughed so much together over her antics. Watching them feed her, care for her, make food for her, take turns playing with her, talk with her, comfort her, and be silly with her… I saw such a sweet, nurturing side to each of them and it warmed my heart something fierce. It was such a confirmation to me that stepping out in faith and saying to foster care is what God is calling us to. My friend had told me, “I think your kids will surprise you how much their heart will expand and how giving and sacrificial they will be.” I got a tiny glimpse of that. We don’t know what the future holds, but I wholeheartedly believe it is going to stretch and grow all of us in really powerful and life-changing [...]
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6 Ways to Save Money at Culver’s

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6 Ways to Save Money at Culver’s
Love Culver’s? Don’t miss out on these 6 easy ways to save money at Culver’s! {Also be sure to check out 16 Ways to Save More at Restaurants and our Master List of Restaurants Where Kids Eat Free!} Guest post from Bridgitte of BrigitteBrulz.com Ask anyone in my immediate family what their favorite restaurant is and Culver’s is the answer! It’s something we all agree on! What’s not to love about ButterBurgers and fresh frozen custard? Well, if you are on a tight budget… possibly the price. On the rare occasion my family does go out to eat, we often end up at Culver’s. As a result, I have learned a few tips to save money on those Culver’s visits. 1. Buy kid’s meals. One of the easiest ways to save money at Culver’s is to eat kid’s meals. Even adults can purchase a kid’s meal at all of the Culver’s I have visited. Less calories, less cost, and enough to fill my belly (but not my husband’s who does order from the “adult” menu). Each kid’s meal automatically comes with a coupon for a free scoop of custard and a Scoopie token. Just don’t forget to take the coupon and token off the side of the kid’s meal bag before throwing it away! You can save ten Scoopie tokens to get a free kid’s meal later. You can also save the free scoop of custard coupon for a future visit. It’s nice being able to go out as a treat for just custard and not having to pay anything! I keep the coupons and tokens in an envelope in my purse (along with gift cards) until I am ready to use them. If you are automatically charged for a drink with the kid’s meal but prefer water, you can ask for a cup for water (free) and bring the carton of milk (included in the meal) home to use later. 2. Sign up for their e-mail list. If you want to save money at Culver’s, be sure to sign up for their email list! Those signed up for a free MyCulver’s account receive coupons, updates, a monthly flavor forecast, and coupons for free custard on each family member’s birthday by email. The monthly flavor forecast gives you a calendar of the “flavor of the day” for each day of the month for your local Culver’s. Just keep in mind those flavors are only for your local Culver’s. If you are traveling, you can find the flavor of the day for any other Culver’s on the Culver’s website or the Culver’s App. 3. Purchase Culver’s gift cards during the holidays. Culver’s typically runs a promotional deal on gift cards just before Christmas. For each gift card you purchase (at the amount required), you receive a free value basket coupon. You can keep the free value basket coupon for yourself and give the gift card to someone else for Christmas. You can also purchase the gift cards for yourself to use throughout the year (and still keep the free value basket coupons)! 4. Use expired coupons. One of my tricks to save money at Culver’s is to not throw away my expired Culver’s coupons! You may want to ask your local Culver’s if they will accept expired coupons, but all of the ones I have asked have accepted them. The birthday coupons for free custard typically state they expire in two weeks. The free value basket coupons received with the gift cards at the end of the year typically state they expire at the end of February. BUT, since my local Culver’s accepts expired coupons, I don’t have to use them (or throw them away) until we are ready to use them. 5. Fill out the survey on your receipt. Sometimes the receipts will have information about taking an online survey. If your receipt does, you can go online, answer the questions about your recent visit, and receive a code for a free scoop of custard. Write the code at the bottom of the receipt and bring it in the next time you want a a scoop of custard (possibly on a day that has your favorite flavor of the day). 6. Only go if you have coupons and/or gift cards. I typically purchase a set number of gift cards at the end of the year (when Culver’s has their gift card promotion) using money set aside for that. We also get Culver’s gift cards as gifts from others who know we enjoy Culver’s. Those gift cards and coupons last us for the entire next year of Culver’s visits. If we don’t have a gift card or free custard/free value basket coupons, we don’t go! What are your best tips to save money at Culver’s — or your favorite restaurant? Brigitte Brulz is a homeschooling mom, creator of Reading Journals for kids, author of the book Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles, and freelance writer. She offers free coloring pages, activity ideas, and more on her website at www.brigittebrulz.com. [...]
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Grocery Shopping in Iceland

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Grocery Shopping in Iceland
Want details on grocery shopping in Iceland? We went to Bonus — a discount grocery store — on our trip to Iceland. Here’s a little peek into our shopping trip and what the prices were. You might also like my post: Grocery Shopping in South Africa. Grocery Shopping in Iceland One of the things I heard over and over again as I researched how to save money when visiting Iceland was that the price of food was really high. So we prepared accordingly by bringing an entire suitcase of packaged food with us (you get a free checked bag per person when you fly internationally). This suitcase of packaged food saved us at least $700 to $1000 in food costs while we were in Iceland because we only ate a few meals out (and we went to really inexpensive places). We also booked an apartment instead of a hotel so we could cook our own food. Shopping at Bonus On the first day we got there, we walked to Bonus — a discount grocery store in Iceland. I had heard that this was one of the best and cheapest grocery stores to shop at there. This store was located in a pretty touristy part of Reykjavík and was a smaller store. It kind of reminded me of a mix of Aldi + the Indian grocery stores I went to. They had a lot of American brands — especially when it came to cereal. And there were a lot of things written in English, too, which made it really helpful when shopping! 🙂 One of the coolest features was that all of the refrigerated items were in a big refrigerated room. (You can see a video of it if you look on my highlights on Instagram stories.) Were the Prices Really High? Well, compared to paying for a meal at a restaurant, it was much cheaper to go buy groceries and make your own food. However, compared to what I am used to paying at a discount grocery store (or by combining coupons with sales), most things were at least 2-3 times the price I would typically pay. Here’s what we ended up buying: 1 dozen eggs Loaf bread Head lettuce Bunch of bananas 3 bottles of Coke (the kids get to drink soda pop once a week on Saturdays and we were there on a Saturday, so you better believe they bought their Coke! ;)) 1 large bottle of water (for my sinus rinse) 12-pack of bottled water (you can drink the tap water in Iceland, so we bought these to just refill throughout the week) 1 carton cream (for my tea) Our total was 2,997 ISK — which is around $24 USD. What We’d Do Differently Next Time Around If you ever head to Iceland, I highly recommend bringing a lot of your own snacks and food. I also would recommend shopping at Bonus. We brought trail mix, nuts, dried fruit and veggies, granola bars, beef jerky, and some protein bites and bars. So we had toast and eggs and bananas for two of our meals and I made salads with the lettuce and topped with a little trail mix and beef jerky. And we ate a lot of jerky and trail mix and dried fruit for snack-y meals. If we did it again, we would definitely bring oatmeal packets and a few other types of things that we can add hot water to in order to make hot food. The kids got pretty tired of cold packaged food after two days! 🙂 [...]
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