Monday, November 30, 2015


If you like me on facebook, you know that starting tomorrow (December 1), I am going to share a review of a book you might read with your child this holiday season every day as we countdown to Christmas. I am really excited about this! Each book will get its own post, but I will update this page with links to each review so you have all of them in one convenient place.

Are there any Christmas/winter books you hope I feature?

Day 1: Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale
Day 2: Merry Creature Christmas!
Day 3: Baby's First Nativity
Day 4: The Crippled Lamb
Day 5: The Message of the Birds
Day 6: The Christmas Cat
Day 7: Danger on a Silent Night (an Imagination Station Adventure's in Odyssey book)
Day 8: The King's List
Day 9: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
Day 10: The Story of Santa Claus
Day 11: A Christmas ABC
Day 12: The Mitten (Brett)
Day 13: The Donkey's Dream
Day 14: Pine and the Winter Sparrow
Day 15: The Mitten (Tresselt)
Day 16: How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Day 17: The Legend of the Christmas Rose
Day 18: Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree
Day 19: The Christmas Baby
Day 20: Mortimer's Christmas Manger 
Day 21: Ho-Ho-NOOO! (a TJ & the Time Stumblers book)
Day 22: The Story of Christmas for Children
Day 23: The Nutcracker
Day 24: The Tale of Three Trees
Day 25: Legend of the Candy Cane

Monday, November 23, 2015

7 Things NOT to Get the Person Who has Everything

You see the posts pop up like a snowstorm around this time of year providing you with a convenient list of things you can buy the person who has everything.

Here's the thing, some things seem to show up on all kinds of gift lists this time of year that absolutely should be nixed*. Here are my top seven.

1. Coffee Mugs
Let's be honest, unless you know someone actively collects coffee mugs or they drink coffee all the time and would want something commemorative (like this mug) they probably have a cabinet overflowing with these. Ever looked at thrift shops and seen the multiple shelves of coffee mugs sitting there? There's a reason - people get rid of them because they have too many. Skip this one.

2. Blankets/Throws
Like coffee mugs, these seem the perfect cold weather gift. Casually bring this one up in conversation if you can - sometimes all the blankets someone uses when watching TV go thread bare at the same time, but from my observation most people have a plethora of throws. Plus, are you really sure it goes with their decor? That's taking a pretty big risk.

3. Picture Frames
Don't get me wrong, picture frames can be awesome gifts IF they match decor &  the recipient actually has a place to stand or hang it. Otherwise, it'll either get stuck in a drawer or closet waiting to be used, or it'll go in the donation bin.

4. Socks/Slippers 
First off, do you actually know the size of recipients foot? If not, you're shooting in the dark anyway. Besides, are they a crazy sock person? Would they wear warm fuzzy socks around the house? Can they only wear a particular kind of sock due to health issues? Are they a slipper person? Clog or shoe style? Are you sure they want little sleeping bags for their feet? Do they want ankle, no show, crew...? There's a lot to consider. This is not a safe gift item unless you know the person really well.

5. Anything Tech
If they already have everything, that includes the latest tech, too. For everyone else, are you sure this is compatible with their devices? Is it something they want or would even use? If not, you're going to sink a lot of money in to a wasted gift.

6. Anything the lister claims will "go with anything"
Um, no. I haven't seen a single thing that actually met that claim. Some things are more flexible than others, its true, but reclaimed wood (metal, mirrors, etc) does, in fact, not match every decor style. Even if a person loves a particular style, have they been able to decorate their home that way? Will they be able to use it in their current space? Or will they really wish they could and feel bad that they literally have no room for it?

7. Candles
This one is tricky - I know several people who either have an allergy to most scented products or who have an intolerance to scented things due to health reasons/lung issues. Are you sure your recipient isn't one of these? And if you are sure, are you positive they are more of a Hawaii Aloha Passion Flowers person? Or would they prefer something citrusy? Something woodsy? fruity? floral? spicy? ambiguous? There's a lot of choices ... and if you're already uncertain what to get someone, this is probably not the route to take. 

What about you? What would you add to this list?

*unless you know the person really well & know they want/need an item.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Awesome Online Sale!

Ok y'all, I don't usually post on the weekend (yes, I consider Friday night the weekend - don't you??), but I was so excited about these deals from DaySpring I couldn't wait to share! I typically share daily deals on my twitter account @seeking4wisdom, so follow me there to keep up with the latest freebies, discounts, and sales!

We are entering into the season of the most parties and get togethers for the year! DaySpring has some great sales and deals running right now and through the month of the November! Here's some of what's hot now & what to look forward to.

Every day in the month of November, DaySpring is offering a Deal of the Day - this changes at 4pm every day (except Friday's deal which runs through the weekend). So be sure to check back every day for that! I can tell you they have some great things lined up!
Deal of the Day

Additionally, they are having a Black Friday Sneak Peak Sale! These are super discounted items that will be marked down from when they are posted to 11/30 or when stock runs out - whichever comes first! New items posted each Monday through the end of the month.

They are also offering some more great deals like Buy 2, Get 1 Christmas card boxes starting 11/19 with discount code B2CARDS.

PLUS you can get early access to their sitewide Black Friday deal! Get 30% sitewide (INCLUDING sale and clearance!) with code 30FRIDAY15. This code will be vaild through Cyber Monday.

If you need anything for Thanksgiving be sure to check out their selection.
Here are some of my favorites:

What are a few of your favorite things from DaySpring?

This post does contain affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive compensation for referring business. Thank you for your support!

Monday, November 9, 2015

12 Tips for Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes

Growing up, we always packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. It was a simple way to help teach us about giving to others who needed things more than ourselves. The ages and gender generally correlated to the child(ren) packing the box. We all got to help and choose things to include.

I filled my own box when I was on my own, and my husband and I did after we married. Especially now that we have children of our own, this is something I want to make part of our family tradition - even though our children are too young at this point to remember.

What is Operation Christmas Child (OCC)? OCC is an outreach of Samaritan's Purse whose aim is to provide humanitarian aid to those in need while sharing Jesus with them. OCC specifically shares the gospel with children alongside giving them a box full of goodies (which is where you come in!). Many of these children have never been given a gift before. All are impoverished. OCC needs people to fill boxes to send to these children, they need volunteers to collect boxes, and volunteers to distribute them. We can make a real difference world wide! To read more about OCC, go here.

So, here are 12 tips to help you fill your own box(es) for OCC:

1.  Use a standard shoebox size container. I know, you're feeling generous and want to pack out that box that held your new boots. That's great! Instead of filling one large box, fill two regular sized boxes. OCC wants the boxes to be as equitable as possible, and may actually redistribute from your boot box into other boxes to ensure this.

You can order shoeboxes like this (below) in bulk from OCC here. You can also find these at some stores around the country, Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby are two I know commonly have them available.

2. If possible, use plastic shoeboxes. You can find them at Walmart, Target, and the Dollar Tree. 6 Qt is the standard size, and they usually don't cost more than a dollar. You can absolutely use regular cardboard shoeboxes, but a missionary sharing about OCC said that the plastic boxes are great because they are more durable than cardboard and don't attract insects and rodents.

These boxes are going to children who have probably never been given a gift before, and may never receive another present. Ever. They don't have their own room or drawer to store things in, so the plastic shoeboxes gives them somewhere they can keep their treasured possessions - the very ones you are sending them!

3. Include something fun! A ball or jump rope, for example. A doll that is fairly neutral in skin tone & who doesn't have hair that will get all gross and matted (remember, they might live in a mud hut! definitely not in a middle class neighborhood). OCC encourages stuffed animals, but I've heard mixed reports about this from missionaries on the ground: sometimes animals have very significant meanings in particular cultures. You don't know where your box is going & what significance that animal might have at its destination.

I read one story about a boy who started screaming when he opened his box because it contained a stuffed owl. Owls were omens of evil where he lived. Not exactly the message we want to send! But I've also read stories about children who were beyond thrilled to get a stuffed animal in their box. So, prayerfully consider what you include. Personally, I try to find something else fun & not risk the animal.

Check around seasonal changes for sale items at Walmart and Target - the past couple years I have found jumpropes for $0.25 or $.50 when summer items go on clearance! Keep your eyes open & strike when the iron is hot!

4. School supplies are awesome. Paper, pens, highlighters, pencils, manual pencil sharpeners, crayons, markers, colored pencils, solar calculators (solar, not battery operated one), extra erasers, etc. These are practical gifts & also fun as they can draw & color as well as use it for learning. I've also heard missionaries state that whatever we send over from the states lasts much longer than what the children are able to acquire in their country.

I always try to include a pencil pouch or pencil case to hold these supplies in addition to the shoebox. That way, they can still keep these things together & safe, but gives them a little extra storage room inside the shoebox should they want that space for something else.

I have found that labor day weekend is a fantastic time to go to Walmart and get these supplies for next to nothing. Saving money & still being able to send good quality items is a win-win!

5. Include personal hygiene items. Toothbrushes (with travel cap, or travel toothbrushes), toothpaste that expires at least 6 months after the collection date (if you live in the US, Canada doesn't allow it at all) in a ziplock bag (that way, if it leaks its contained), soap, portable soap dishes if you can find them (n.b. I have a really hard time finding these! Any ideas? This year my bars of soap were skinny which worked out great because all I could find were denture cleaner containers!), washclothes, etc. These are items that most of the kids don't have easy access to.

The reason I mention a travel cap or travel toothbrushes and a travel soap container is because these children don't have bathrooms. They don't have a room. There is no place they can safely put a toothbrush or bar of soap down and reasonably expect it to be in the same place or clean when they return. These help preserve things longer.

6. Dinnerware is special. This is a new one for me that I heard mentioned this past year. A lot of children don't have their own cup or bowl or silverware! They eat with their hands or they share a communal cup or ladle. When I read that it reminded me of Little House on the Prairie when Mary & Laura were so excited to each get their own tin cup for Christmas! Melamine bowls should be durable. Water bottles help keep the water clean (at least as clean as it gets) and they can have more at a time. Get creative when packing your shoeboxes with these items! Don't just put a water bottle in there, put a jump rope or pencils or cloth inside so it doesn't take up valuable space with that empty interior!

7. Hair things are useful, too. I try to find a travel sized brush (or a collapsible one) & comb to include. For girls I like to include ponytail holders and/or headbands. I know not every hair type can use a brush or a comb, but many can, and its not something easy to just get in these countries.

All these things above are great, but there are also some things you should NOT do.

8. No batteries. If you need batteries for a particular item, don't include it - even if you include spares. Eventually, they will run out & the child won't be able to use your gift to them. This is not a requirement from OCC, just something I noticed multiple missionaries mention.

9. Do not include military themed items (or items like Disney Princesses). War is bad - some of these children have lived through it. We want to create positive memories, not bring up bad ones. Also, be very careful if you get balls or anything with pictures printed on them. I mentioned animals having significant meaning in some cultures, but you have to be careful of human pictures too. Disney princesses? Out. Not only is it for a specific race, but you very well could be sending images of what some cultures would consider immodest women because their skin is showing, or they aren't wearing a hijab, etc. Just play it safe.

10. Do not include anything liquid (exception of toothpaste, if you live in the US) or anything breakable (exception of a folding compact mirror) or anything sharp or hazardous. If you include these items OCC will remove them from your shoebox before distribution & donate them to a charity.

11. You can include hard candy (suckers, peppermints, cinnamon rounds, etc), but no chocolate, no gummies, no gum - nothing that is not hard cardy - all these things can melt and cause a mess. We don't want that!

12. If a toy/game you want to include needs instructions, don't include it. And don't assume a child knows how to use toys that are standard here (jacks, yo-yos, etc). The missionary workers to children ratio is small, and explaining these concepts and toys takes a LOT of time. This is not an official OCC rule, but I've read where more than one missionary requested these items not be included in the boxes because the games can be really hard to help the children understand.

OCC does request you include $7 for every shoebox you fill to cover cost of shipping it to the child. This is NOT a requirement. I know there have been many years it was all I could do to fill a shoebox, so don't feel bad if you aren't able to do this! But please consider writing a check to cover shipment if you do have the wiggle room in your budget. 

Want to fill a shoebox but are unable to get out and do the shopping for it? You can still fill a shoebox by doing it online! How cool is that? The suggested donation price is $25, which includes shipping. You can find out more about this option here.

One more thing: I read mixed accounts online about whether or not it was acceptable to unpackage new items to put in the shoeboxes. I reached out to OCC for clarification on this. You ARE allowed to unbox items if you choose, as long as they are brand new, unused. I was thrilled to hear this because sometimes packages just take up so much unnecessary space I could be filling with another gift (*cough* ink pens, *cough* highlighters)! This also means you can buy things like pencils or toys in a multipack and split it up between multiple shoeboxes!

Reminder: Don't forget your labels! You can print these if you don't have any on hand.

Collection week 2015 is next week: November 16-23! You can find drop off locations near you by clicking here.

It's a little late for this year, but OCC is one of the things I shop year-round for. Being able to save money on things adds up and helps us be able to give more generously.

What tips do you have for packing shoeboxes? I'd love to hear them! Comment below & remember to share this post with your friends so we can spread the love of Jesus around the world together!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Money Making Mom

Crystal Paine, author of the very popular Money Saving Mom blog, has just released a book to let women everywhere in on what to do and what not to do when trying to work from home.

Crystal has years of experience under her belt, both the successful blog venture and some not so successful one before that, which she talks about in her book. Her goal is to provide the know-how so other women can learn from her success - and failures.

She walks you through conventional and unconventional ideas to help you discover what might be the best fit for your family as to bring in some money. 

This book is NOT just for those looking to have a full time business from their home. Crystal knows everyone's situation is different and gives useful ideas from wanting/needing to earn just a little on the side to regular part time income and full time gigs. 

The big thing is knowing what you want to accomplish, and why. Are you trying to have money so your daughter can take ballet? Do you need to get out of debt? Wanting to pay the bills for your sickly grandfather? Once you know your goal for earning money, you're on the path to knowing how to find a way to actually earn the money.

Crystal encourages you to think about each opportunity presented to you - does it fit in with your lifestyle? with your goals? Will it be more trouble than it is worth? She wants you to feel free to say no, so that when the right opportunity presents itself, you are free to say yes.

Financial fear is no joke, but it's also not the way to live. Be intentional. Be creative. Believe you can own the situation. Having a can-do attitude frees you to look at your situation in a new light & brainstorm as to how you can make a difference in your financial future.

It will be scary at times, Crystal knows from experience, but as long as you are making changes and progress you are on your way to achieving your goals. But if you never change, you'll never go anywhere - and that's scarier. 

The important takeaway is that you do have a financial future. Things don't have to be how they are now. You can make a difference and finally take a vacation, or pay for that land so you can build your house, or pay off your student debt. And Crystal wants to help you get there. She knows there are no secrets, just good old fashioned elbow grease, and she wants to help you spend your energy focused on something that will make a difference - not have you needlessly spin your wheels.

If any of this has resonated with you, you should definitely pick up a copy of Money Making Mom. Even though we aren't where we need me to make money to make ends meet, we do have dreams of what we'd like to accomplish, and this book ignited a spark of inspiration. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in advance as a member of Crystal's launch team. All opinions are my own. This post does contain affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a small commission for referring business. Thank you for your support!

Monday, November 2, 2015

What NOT to do When Posting Pictures of Your For-Sale House

When you are selling your house, posting pictures online is pretty must a must nowadays. Given that there are some big (and little) things you can do to make your house stand out from the competition. Especially if you are dealing in big bucks, there is no reason why your house should have anything to detract.

So, as an example of some things NOT to do, here are a few pictures from 1100 Magnolia Lane, Brookneal, VA - a house (er, estate) listed for $5.5 million we can learn a few things from. 

Little thing: if you have candle holders, especially mounted ones, they need to have candles in them.
Big thing: if you have a fire place, there should be a fire going.
Nit-picky: if you have similar artwork, if should look balanced, pink & yellow is unbalanced.

Little thing: Showing off the hand-carved mantel from the mid-1800s is a great idea, so actually get something besides a chip in the paint in focus. The corner is a good option. Speaking of chips in paint - if you're going to focus on details, make sure they look pristine. There is no reason for chips in the paint ... especially in a house of this caliber.

Big thing: I like this picture, overall, but the bottom hanging down on the settee? Tacky. A couple staples would give at least a temporary fix, and not distract from the room as whole.

Big thing: I've already mentioned the need for an active fire if you have a fireplace, but it bears mentioning again.
Little thing: I previously mentioned that candle holders should have candles in them - in the far corner of the room, this candelabra DOES have candles in it, but they are haphazard. It doesn't take that long to make sure they are straight, and then it looks nice, not like a school child's pencil holder. Little things are important.

Unsure: A good rule of thumb is that if there is a light, it should be on for pictures, so I'm a little conflicted about this one. I think another rule of thumb is that if you're going to get a headache from the picture because of the light you should get a different bulb, or keep it off. The reflective paint/wallpaper with the highly yellow light is just not a good combination.

Little thing: Symmetry is important - make sure your curtains are pushed back equally, especially if you are showcasing beautiful doors.
Big thing: Make sure your doors aren't in distracting need of some touch up paint. It happens naturally, but speaks negatively about the condition of the house.

Really big thing: This, I believe, is one of the guest houses on the property. Power wash the mildew from the steps (or where ever it may be). It's presence is really not a good way to attract buyers.

Little thing: Highlighting a fountain? Make sure it's filled with water ... and running.

If you look through all 45 pictures (which still leaves a LOT unknown about the property!!!) on the link I provided above, you'll see they did do somethings right. Some things they did wrong more than once, and I only highlight it one time.

But what do you think? Do the big and little problems I point out stand out to you when you look at houses online?