Top Ten Surprising Things After a Fire

Almost three weeks ago, our house caught on fire. Before the fire, I had never given any thought to how I might feel if our home caught on fire. I assumed it would never happen. But it did, and we’ve experienced a surprising range of emotions and experiences. Here are a few things that have surprised us about the experience.

  1. I am so thankful. Once we found out that everyone, including the firefighters, were safe, I didn’t even care about our home or the relatively few belongings that we lost. God protected us from so much. I’m so glad the situation is totally under His control–from the first spark to the small details of rebuilding our house.
  2. I was so thirsty. Maybe it was exposure to smoke, shock, or that I just hadn’t drank enough water the day before the fire, but I couldn’t stop downing water for the next day or two. When our insurance agent brought us a bag of food and toiletries, the first thing I went for was the bottled water.
  3. Smoke smells are everywhere. When I walked out of our neighbors’ house the night of the fire, I thought, “Wow, it smells like someone is grilling.” Then I realized that it was the smell of my house burning. Since then, we’ve smelled smoke everywhere. Sometimes it was in our hair or on our clothes, but it’s also from the projector in my classroom getting hot or walking past a restaurant.
  4. Fishing out damaged items was surprisingly unemotional. I imagine this would have been different if more of our things had been damaged. However, cataloging the damaged-beyond-repair items took a lot of time and felt more like business than a personal experience.
  5. I was exhausted, but could somehow keep going. We got about 2 hours of sleep, broken up into segments by our dog throwing up and me having to run into school, the night of the fire. Somehow, we made calls, wash and folded all of our clothes, talked to friends, and rode to Des Moines the next day. We spent the day packing and inventorying our things on Monday, and we were back at work on Tuesday. The adrenaline wore off that first day of work.
  6. Everything sparks memories of the fire. We now know exactly where the fire extinguisher aisle is at Target. I was at a conference today and had to answer a question about what had effected my life lately.
  7. We have too much stuff. I first realized this during our marathon clothes washing session the day after the fire. I really thought I might die if I folded another piece of clothing. After we sorted through our clothes at the hotel, we got a decent-sized pile ready to take to Goodwill. When your house catches on fire and you feel like you have too much stuff, you are blessed.
  8. We know a lot of awesome people. We had so many people leave comments on facebook, send emails, and even leave comments on this blog that I didn’t respond to. If that was you, thank you! Your words meant a lot to us. Our exhaustion and not knowing exactly how to deal with we felt about the fire kept us away from social media except to communicate that things were okay.
  9. Eating out eventually becomes a chore. Before the fire, I would have told you that I would LOVE to eat out every day for the next month. However, just deciding where to eat seems like more of a hassle than cooking and cleaning up after dinner. Restaurants are also not full of choices if you’re narrowing things down to what’s vegetarian or even relatively cruelty-free.
  10. We are not alone. So many people we’ve talked to know someone who has had a fire. There have been three other fires in our community since August. One was fatal, one destroyed an entire apartment building and more, and one was just down the street from us.

Perhaps the most surprising thing of all is that not only do we feel thankful for everyone’s safety, thankfulness has been the pervasive feeling throughout the past few weeks. I’m thankful for the firefighters who came and saved our home, the Red Cross who took care of us and our neighbors, and the good friends who watched our dogs and offered us a room in our house for the night and indefinitely. I’m thankful for parents who came ready to do whatever needed to be done–from hugs, to taking us out to eat, and to helping us empty our house if need be. I’m thankful for my husband–for being able to hug him and hold his hand when we couldn’t go home. I’m thankful for a lot more people who have listened to us, and offered to help.

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Top Ten Sugary Things I Will Miss

Photo Credit: inya (click for source)

I recently discovered that a not-too-serious heart condition I have (mitral valve prolapse) may be the culprit behind some breathing problems I’ve had for the past six years. I gave up caffeine a few weeks ago, and can’t tell if there’s much of a difference in my breathing. There’s agreement all across the internet that the really important thing is to cut sugar out of your diet. I was desperately hanging onto hope that I could keep my sugar if I gave up caffeine, but it wasn’t meant to be.

In the long run, I won’t cut sugar completely out of my diet. I’ll have the occasional piece of birthday cake or a treat on a special day (I hope!), but in order to see if sugar is the key to my breathing trouble, I’ll be cutting it out completely for a while.

These are the top ten things I’m missing without sugar in my diet.

  1. Pop. I don’t drink pop very often–I never want a whole  glass. But I do love the occasional fizzy sip of Dexter’s Coke.
  2. Apple cider doughnuts. This farmers’ market tradition will have to be replaced with something savory, like a local burrito or an heirloom tomato and basil auf lauf.
  3. Chocolate chip cookies. These cookies beat out any fancy schmancy desert I can think of. The crispy-chewy-sweet-salty-chocolatey goodness will be hard to go without.
  4. Honey in my tea. I’m thinking that when I decide to cheat (and I plan to cheat if I can), I’ll cheat with honey. I drink tea a lot during my work day, and I’ll miss the little squirt of honey in my afternoon cup to fight off my craving for sweets.
  5. Weekend brunch baking. I am a fan of brunch. I love breakfast foods, and a lazy morning with eggs and doughnuts, scones, muffins, or quickbreads is something I look forward to all week. And let’s be realistic–I’m not in it for the eggs.
  6. Yogurt & oatmeal. I know people eat these breakfast staples without sugar, but I’d really rather not. Hopefully I’ll be able to load them up with enough fruit that they taste sweet enough.
  7. Chocolate. I have a friend who says she doesn’t feel right if she doesn’t have some chocolate every day. I think she’s got a point, and I might be a little crazy at the end of my no-sugar trial period as a result.
  8. Ice cream. And just after I compiled all those recipes! Maybe I’ll try to overload the ice cream with fruit.
  9. Restaurant desserts. Eating out is special, but ordering dessert makes me feel like I’m really on a date.
  10. Convenience. It’s a little tiring to check labels for HFCS, trans fats, animal products, and caffeine. Adding one more label to the list doesn’t sound fun. I’ll probably be making (even) more things at home.

(I know I could get lots of these things with artificial sugar, but at least for the time being I’ll be avoiding those because of the health consequences, the taste, and what they do to my…ahem…digestion.)

What would you miss the most if you couldn’t eat sugar?

Linking up to Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten Ice Cream Recipes

Dexter and I are alike in a lot of ways.

We love dogs.

We love to read.

We love pizza and ice cream.

(I know. Can you believe people with such uncommon interests found each other in this great big world?)

One thing we do not agree on is what kind of ice cream makes a good dessert.

Dexter likes vanilla. I found out a long time ago that it drives him crazy when you call vanilla-flavored things “plain.” (More recently, I found out that we are done with that joke at this house. So you won’t find any disrespect of vanilla’s identity ’round these parts.)

I, on the other hand, think of ice cream the same way I think of pie crust. Yeah, I like it, but I’m not going to waste my calories eating it if it’s not holding something else delicious. I’ll turn down a bowl of chocolate ice cream without flinching, but top it with toffee or peanut butter cups and I’m a goner.

One thing that complicates our love of ice cream is the source of the milk it is made with. Although I’ve made the switch to dairy from humanely-raised cows for all the dairy products we consume in our home, we haven’t yet given up going out for ice cream. But I want to.

Instead of going cold-turkey, I’m going to try the “switching addictions” technique. I need to stock my freezer with ice cream so good that we won’t want to go out. I also need to ensure that there’s enough variety available that we can both have flavors we enjoy.

Alden’s Organic Ice Creams are locally available to me. Their product is delicious, but their website does not delve specifically into how their cows are treated. In my eyes, the more detail, the better. (I’ve contacted them for more info to see if I should continue to consider it an option.) Also, a good sale for this ice cream is $4.50 for 1.5 quarts, which is about $.50 more expensive than the regular price of other high quality ice creams.

So this summer, I’m hoping to try to kick my ice cream shop habit with some of the delicious sounding recipes below. I’ll let you know how they turn out and try to come up with a cost analysis to see if it’s worth making my own.

Fresh Bing Cherry Ice Cream – Dexter requested this flavor after we picked up a bag of cherries from the co-op. They’re on sale for even cheaper this week, so I’m planning to make this as soon as I can! (Thanks to Karen from The Hazel Bloom for use of the photo.)

Vanilla Ice Cream – When you eat vanilla ice cream, you don’t have anything to cover up the flavor if you use a crummy recipe or sub-par ingredients. That’s why I went to Ina. It’s my theory that she tells Jeffrey about all the men she hangs out with throughout the week as he eats this ice cream, so he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care.

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream – My mouth is watering. I will make this. I will eat it right away. And I don’t predict feeling any remorse. (Thanks to Joy from Joy the Baker for use of the photo.)

S’more Ice Cream – I love s’mores when I’m sitting around a fire, and I’m pretty sure I’d love them just as much in a bowl with ice cream! To make this totally cruelty-free, I’d use homemade marshmallows and slavery-free chocolate. (Thanks to Megan from Megan’s Cookin’ for use of the photo.)

Brown Sugar-Balsamic Swirl Ice Cream – One of my favorite restaurants ever serves an amazing, liquid-centered chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, strawberries, and some sort of honey-orange-berry concoction on the side. In college, my roommate and I referred to it as chocolate paradise. One day, they were out of vanilla and asked if they could substitute balsamic ice cream. I am so glad they did, because it was delicious, and I’ve been wanting to recreate it ever since.

Burned Peach Ice Cream – I discovered last week that I do not like grilled bananas. They seem to lose their flavor, get dry, and develop an extra layer of skin. I do, however, like grilled peaches, and can’t think of a better way to eat them than in vanilla ice cream.

Pumpkin Ice Cream – I love pumpkin, so I won’t wait for the holidays to try this one. You can use canned or homemade puree.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato – If I didn’t need the money so badly during college, I would have accepted the chocolate-hazelnut gelato from Capanna as pay. As a former gelato maker, I can tell you that this recipe will not make real gelato. It will make really good ice cream, though, if you live to far away from Europe or Capanna to get the real thing.

Bacon Ice Cream with a hint of Maple – If this isn’t incentive to start eating meat, I don’t know what is.

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream – This will be the perfect way to use the mint that has been flourishing (yes, flourishing!) on my front porch.

What is your favorite flavor ice cream?

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Top Ten Random Facts About Me

I’ve posted about once a week for the past several weeks, and I feel out of the blogging loop. To help me ease back in I thought I’d make my top ten list about something I’m familiar with–myself. Here are the top ten things you might not know about me.

  1. I met Dexter when I was 17. We were friends for about six months before we officially started dating. We first said “I love you” on during our freshman year of college at Gray’s Lake Bridge. I told Dexter that if he proposed during our freshman year, I would definitely say no. He proposed three days before Christmas our sophomore year of college. We got married the following summer at 20. Almost five years later, I’m sooo happy I went against what is normal and got married young.
  2. I really dislike young adult fiction written for girls. I had to start reading Jane Austen when I was 12 because I had burned through Nancy Drew and the L.M. Montgomery books and couldn’t stand any of my other options.
  3. I learned how to cook by watching Rachael Ray, so even though I eat sandwiches and not “sammies,” she has a special place in my heart. In college, I’d always turn off the TV as soon as her show was over because I thought Good Eats, which came on next, was obnoxious. Now it’s my favorite show.
  4. Dexter and I worked in the same building at an agricultural research company for three weeks two summers before we met.
  5. The first concert I ever went to was The Waiting. I went with my friend Betsy and both our moms. I bought a cassette tape with Susan B. Anthony coins and got a poster signed by the band. They were one of my favorite bands for a long time–the kind where when they make an album, you buy it, because you know you’re going to like it. They stopped performing a long time ago, but thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that they’re recording a new album this year. I’m really hoping they have a concert or two in the midwest this summer!
  6. I’ve tried to train for a 5K three times but have never finished. I’ve even signed up to do races, but that didn’t motivate me enough. I can flake out with the best of them. I did day 1 of a nine week plan on Sunday night and I think I have time to devote to training. My plan is to run 3 days a week and do 30 Day Shred 3 days a week. If I stay on track, I’ll have run a 5K by my 5th anniversary.
  7. I know how to make gelato, which is fancy, delicious, healthy(er) Italian ice cream.
  8. I am a sports wimp and quitter. I decided not to try out for softball with my friends in elementary school because I was too scared. I played on the losing-est volleyball team in the league when I was in middle school. I faked sick during a pre-season swimming clinic so I could go home and quit (after my mom bought me an expensive swimsuit). I stayed on the golf team in high school for an entire season because I was too embarrassed to quit (and possibly because my mom made me). I drilled a goose with one of my best hits ever, and I think I got par on my last hole of the season.
  9. I have watched every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And yes, I am in the running for best wife of the year. But I actually like the show. I didn’t do so well with the subsequent series, Deep Space Nine.
  10. I had two poems published when I was in high school. One was even on it’s very own page. I think it was in the book’s top ten list.

Head over to Oh Amanda for more Top Ten Tuesday!
Top Ten {Tuesday}

Top Ten Pros & Cons to Starting Another Blog

I have always thought that although our Total Money Makeover became the main focus of my blog, that I was still kind of a food blogger. I decided to make a recipe page the other day to compile all the amazing recipes I’ve shared with you over the past three years. And…um…there really aren’t that many, so I didn’t do it. I’ve been going back and forth about creating another blog focused on cooking or homemaking or switching this blog to another URL and having a wider scope in general, but I’ve had a hard time deciding. I’m sharing my pros and cons list with you and hoping you’ll weigh in and make my decision for me give me your advice.

Pro #1 – I’d have my own, personal, online recipe database! No more searching through friends’ blogs to find that recipe I read two years ago and loved but didn’t print. No more searching through my disastrous highly organized cookbook cabinet for a recipe I copied and l threw into the whirlwind filed away.

Pro #2 – I’d be encouraged to try more new recipes and reflect on how successful they were. I’ve recently started cooking dinner for four, so I’ll even have a panel of willing taste testers.

Pro #3 – Each of my blogs would have a more narrow theme, which “they say” is good for growing readership. It would also help me organize my thoughts better.

Pro #4 – After we get out of debt, I won’t have to change the theme of my blog. I’ll just cut back on my money blog and continue my food blog.

Pro #5 – A new blog would allow me to have a new title and URL that might give more information on my focus than “Mrs. Dexter.”

Con #1 – I’m deathly afraid that none of my readers (especially my new ones that clicked over from Freshly Pressed!) won’t follow me to a new blog. And then my stats page will be so sad.

Con #2 – Having two blogs will probably cause me to post only one or two times a week on each blog. (Although a new blog with combined themes wouldn’t have this problem.)

Con #3 – I might feel pressure to try new recipes and stress myself out when I don’t have time. I’m thinking about doing some freelance writing to get our debt snowball moving faster, so I’m afraid that I’ll be taking on too much.

Con #4 – The lighting in my kitchen is terrible. So maybe the fewer food pictures the better?

Con #5 – The idea I have for my new blog idea is focused on a demographic that Dexter and I joke we belong to (but the real members of this group would totally know we didn’t).

What do you think? Should I start a second blog? Should I start a new blog to replace this one? Should I leave well enough alone?
Top Ten {Tuesday}

Top Ten Ways My Dogs Are Preparing Me for Parenthood

Before we adopted our dogs, I joked that they could teach us about parenthood. (Honestly, I was secretly hoping. I had killed so many plants that I doubted whether I could keep anything alive.) Little did I know how much I would learn about parenting! These are the top ten lessons I’ve learned that will help me prepare for becoming a parent someday.

  1. Bodily functions – Vomit. Poop. Pee. We’ve had this stuff everywhere in our house. We never had candles lit around our house until we had dogs. Now I realize why some people are so into candles. Once we have a child, poop that I can consistently find inside of a diaper (as oppose to in the hallway, in the bedroom, in a dog mouth…) might even seem refreshing!
  2. Injuries – My mom once said that the only thing worse than being in pain is seeing your child in pain. We’ve made a few trips to the emergency vet for ripped toenails and allergic reactions, so I’ll have a little practice for dealing with scary injuries when my future son comes inside with a bleeding chin.
  3. Feeding someone – I was never good with plants because they don’t tell you what they need. At first, Fitz didn’t tell us if we forgot to feed him. Now, he whines and barks if it’s a couple of hours after his normal supper time. Although I’m assuming my baby will cry if I, for some reason, am not compelled to feed her on time, I at least have practice remembering to care for someone.
  4. Being consistent – I think one of the hardest things about parenthood will be disciplining (or redirecting) my child for bad behavior time after time. With our puppies, we’ve seen how one or two instances of “letting them off the hook” can turn your dog into a table-begger or bed-sleeper.
  5. Hurting someone with a purpose – Parents don’t like taking their kids to get shots. It’s not fun to try to get your child to eat broccoli or clean his room. It’s also not fun to take dogs to get shots, to clean their ears when they have an ear infection, or to clip their toenails. However, inflicting necessary pain on my dogs for their own good will hopefully help me steel myself in similar situations once we have kids.
  6. Someone always wanting my attention – A few months after we got Fitz, I started feeling really lonely and distant from Dexter. I finally realized that it was because Fitz forced himself in between us in bed and on the couch, so our physical contact went WAY down. We’ve finally found a balance between paying enough attention to our puppies so they feel loved and getting to spend enough time together. I imagine new parents need to find a similar balance.
  7. Lack of sleep – My friend Sarah recently posted on how their family has started co-sleeping–something she never really planned on doing. It reminded me of our own bedtime situation (only we have a smaller bed and bigger snugglers). We force our puppies to hop off the bed and to get in their own dog beds before turning off the light each night. Every morning, we wake up to curled up dogs between our feet or in the middle of the bed with their legs stretched out, somehow hogging 75% of our blankets. However, I don’t plan on swatting my children and yelling, “Off!” at them to get them out of bed.
  8. Loving someone undeserving – Jesus loves us, even though we don’t deserve it. In fact, we reject him, sin against him, and give him a bad reputation. My dogs steal the covers, rip up my couch pillows, eat Dexter’s shoes, chew holes in our undergarments, poop in our hallway, and stink up the air with their terrible gas. And I choose to love them and not let them loose on the street because they are micro-chipped and the shelter would send them back to me they are my responsibility and that’s what Jesus wants me to do. Although babies are cute and kids can often be profoundly sweet, their behavior doesn’t always inspire all those lovey feelings.
  9. Photo-craziness – It seems like lots of new parents, when they aren’t feeding, changing, or sleeping, are snapping photos of the new babies. I am embarrassed to say how much computer memory is taken up with cute photos of Fitz and Watson. I avoid sharing them on my blog, not for the privacy of my puppies, but because I’m afraid it would get out of control and this would become “Fitz and Watson’s mom’s photoblog.”
  10. Accepting staying in – We can’t spontaneously choose to zip out of town for the weekend or stay out much more than eight hours at a time. While, for new parents, this is kind of a “duh” thing, it took me a while not to be frustrated that I had to make my errand running less convenient or my night less entertaining because of my dogs. We’re practicing giving up the fun stuff you can do when you don’t have kids to be responsible for early, so it might not sting so badly to say no to something fun when we’re home because of a human baby.

Top Ten {Tuesday}

PS –  I know my dogs are different from your baby. Don’t be offended. I’m just learning what I can in anticipation of parenthood.

Eight Years Later: What I’m Learning from Ragamuffin Gospel

Accepting God’s grace is something I’ve struggled with for years. I fear that if I acknowledge that I’m a mess, that God has saved me, and that I can stop feeling guilty about my sin that I will somehow let myself off the hook, stop trying to live in a way that honors God, and just start to love a life of sin. However, I’m convinced that God doesn’t want me to be a slave to guilt.

In high school, a group of friends and I read Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. I didn’t like it. I thought it was written by this sinner who had no remorse for his sin. It was way over my head. I think that God wants to teach me about grace right now, so I’m reading The Ragamuffin Gospel again. This time, I’ve found passage after passage that resonates in my heart. I hope they encourage you as well.

  1. The bending of the mind by the powers of this world has twisted the gospel of grace into religious bondage and distorted the image of God into an eternal, small-minded book-keeper. The Christian community resembles a Wall Street exchange of works wherein the elite are honored and the ordinary ignored. Love is stifled, freedom shackled, and self-righteousness fastened. The institutional church has become a wounder of the healers rather than a healer of the wounded. (17-18)
  2. The difference between faith as “belief in something that may or may not exist” and faith as “trusting in God” is enormous. The first is a matter of the head, the second a matter of the heart. The first can leave us unchanged, the second intrinsically brings change. (28)
  3. “The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.” -Julian of Norwich (37) 
  4. The child of God knows that the graced life calls him or her to live on a cold and windy mountain, not on the flattened plain of reasonable, middle-of-the-road religion. (40)
  5. In essence, there is only one thing God asks of us–that we be men and women of prayer, people who live close to God, people for whom God is everything and for whom God is enough. That is the root of peace. We have that peace when the gracious God is all we seek. When we start seeking something besides him, we lose it. (46)
  6. Several times in my ministry people have expressed the fear that self-acceptance will abort the ongoing conversion process and lead to a life of spiritual laziness and moral laxity. Nothing could be more untrue. The acceptance of self does not mean to be resigned to the status quo. On the contrary, the more fully we accept ourselves, the more successfully we begin to grow. Love is a far better stimulus than threat. (49)
  7. “It is possible to attain great holiness of life while still being prone to pettiness and insincerity, sensuality and envy, but the first move will always be to recognize that I am that way. In terms of spiritual growth the faith-conviction that God accepts me as I am is a tremendous help to become better.” -Peter Van Breeman (49)
  8. Whatever we have done in the past, be it good or evil, great or small, is irrelevant to our stance before God today. (53)
  9. Because we never lay hold of our nothingness before God, and consequently, we never enter into the deepest reality of our relationship with Him. But when we accept ownership of our powerlessness and helplessness, when we acknowledge that we are paupers at the door of God’s mercy, then God can make something beautiful out of us. (78)
  10. The (spiritually) poor man and woman of the gospel have made peace with their flawed existence. They are aware of their lack of wholeness, their brokenness, the simple fact that they don’t have it all together. While they do not excuse their sin, they are humbly aware that sin is precisely what has caused them to throw themselves at the mercy of the Father. (80)

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Top Ten Coffee Shop Drinks You Should Know

Have you ever walked into a coffee shop and wondered what the heck all those things on the menu were? Here’s a crash course on some of the most mysterious and misunderstood drinks on coffee shop menus everywhere. You’ll find a little glossary of other coffee shop terms, compiled by yours truly, here. If you’re ever at a coffee shop when they’re slow, take the opportunity to ask your barista questions. Chances are they’d rather talk to you than sweep the floor. Also, feel free to leave any coffee shop questions you have in the comments section since I have some coffee shop experience under my belt.

  1. Espresso (es-PRESS-o) – A strong flavored coffee made by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans. One “shot” of espresso is approximately one fluid ounce. It contains approximately 75mg of caffeine, compared to the 200-300mg of caffeine in the typical 16 oz. cup of coffee from a coffee shop, 100mg in 16 oz. of tea, and 35-40mg in a 12 oz. can of cola. (source) The light brown froth on the top of a shot of espresso is called the crema and contains much of the coffee’s flavor.
  2. Macchiato (mah-kee-AH-tow) – From the Italian word for “marked,” a shot of espresso topped with a dollop of froth from steamed milk. This is different from the popular Starbucks drink, the caramel macchiato, which is a vanilla latte “marked” with caramel syrup.
  3. Con Panna (kone PAH-nuh) – A shot of espresso topped with whipped cream.
  4. Americano (uh-mare-i-KAH-no) – Hot water topped with one or more shots of espresso.
  5. Latte (LAH-tay) – Espresso topped with steamed milk. A small amount of froth may be found on top of the drink. Most coffee houses offer skim, 2%, or soy milk. Sweetened flavors, such as caramel, vanilla, or hazelnut, can be added.
  6. Breve (BREH-vay) – A latte made with half-and-half.
  7. Cappuccino (kap-uh-CHEE-no) – At most coffee shops, this is a latte with extra froth on top. At pickier coffee shops, it will be 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 froth.
  8. Mocha (MOH-kuh) – A latte with added chocolate, or hot chocolate with added espresso. Most coffee shops offer regular and white chocolate. Flavored syrups can also be added. Many coffee shops will have menu items that combine chocolate and other flavors, such as a “s’more mocha,” which is chocolate and marshmallow, or a “turtle mocha,” which might be chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut.
  9. Cafe au Lait (cah-FAY oh LAY) – Half coffee and half steamed milk.
  10. Chai (chI) – This might be called a “chai latte” or even a “chai tea latte” on some menus. The funny thing is, “chai” means “tea” and “latte” means “milk,” so if you’re ordering a chai tea latte, you’re ordering a “tea tea milk.” It is a sweet Indian drink made with black tea, milk, and spices that may include ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and black pepper. Most coffee shops, even in India, use a flavored syrup to make this. It’s still good, but it’s not too difficult to make a batch of homemade chai. I’ll be sharing how to do that soon!

What is your favorite coffee shop drink?

Top Ten {Tuesday}

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Photo Credit

Top Ten Reasons My Husband is Awesome

Top Ten {Tuesday}
Do I need a reason to shower my husband with praise? I think not. Here it is, in no particular order.

  1. Commitment to our marriage. I’ve been known to be super a little emotional and crazy from time to time–probably making the corner of our roof look like a pretty good home. However, when I don’t make sense, he just tries harder to understand me.
  2. Commitment to work. Dexter has had four jobs in the past eleven years. He’s had more cars than that. The only reason he left any of them was because he moved to another town. He’s blessed right now to work with two of his best friends. Sometimes, working with friends might make it harder, because it’s easy to take things personally when they come from people you know personally. However, he’s humbled himself, compromised, forgiven, and been forgiven, and stuck it out like he has in the tougher times of our marriage, while also enjoying the blessing.
  3. Graduated from college. Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but Dexter could’ve gotten just a 2-year degree in his field. But, because him having a college degree made me feel more secure (and probably made my parents agree more readily to our marriage), he graduated with honors with a BFA in Art/Graphic Design. Even though that meant he had to take four semesters of torture Spanish.
  4. Sense of humor. The man makes me laugh. My favorite thing to laugh at? When he sees something funny on TV or online and cracks up till he cries.
  5. Spiritual growth. Like me, Dexter is not content to hang a cross on the wall and call himself saved. He’s pursuing a real relationship with Christ. In the past six months, I think he’s grown more than I’ve ever seen him grow before. And there’s nothing more attractive than a man who’s becoming more like Christ.
  6. Protector and defender. Most of Dexter’s favorite movies are about men fighting for their families. (Unfortunately, their families usually die at the beginning of the films. I’m trying to get over that.) Dexter has a strong desire to protect those who need protecting.  Whether it’s farm animals, child slaves on chocolate farms, or people at work who need standing up for, he doesn’t hesitate about whether to step up or step back.
  7. Gift-giving excitement. My birthday is October 3. Dexter’s not a huge planner, so he used to start thinking about what to get me for my birthday at the beginning of October…and two days isn’t a lot of time to shop. I realized that might have been for the best. This year, for my birthday, Dexter started planning in early September, and two weeks before my birthday, there was paper-wrapped sphere sitting on our fireplace. He asked me every day if I wanted to open it, and told me, “It’s a bowling ball,” about every half hour so he wouldn’t blurt out what it really was. Finally, when I was having a really bad day, I caved and opened it early. It would have been great to open an iPod on my actual birthday, but opening it a little early made him SO happy.
  8. He’s proud of me. He tells me all the time how cool it is that I’m a teacher, how he appreciates the food I made, how much he likes my blog. I’ve never been the cool girl in any social situation, but Dexter makes me feel like I am.
  9. Story-telling. Our kids are going to have the best bedtime stories. Dexter has an awesome imagination and is working on writing out a story he’s been mulling over for years. During our last car trip, Dexter described what he was writing and I’m pretty sure that man is fit for Hollywood. I’m so excited he’s finally taking the time to write so his ideas don’t go to waste.
  10. He’s a good driver. A few weeks ago, I joked to Dexter that some day was the best day of his life because of some silly reason. He looked into my eyes and said, “No, the best day of my life was when…you told me I was a better driver than you–I mean, when we got married.” Dexter is a very careful driver and has driven me safely back and forth between our home and my parents’ home many times in some really bad weather. I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, so sometimes I don’t like to admit that other people can do things better than I can. I’m a good driver (in my opinion), so it would have been easy for me never to admit what I knew was true to Dexter. But, because I love him soooooooo much, I told him anyway.

Find more Top Ten Tuesday posts at OhAmanda.

Top Ten Tuesday & My First Blog Giveaway

Top Ten {Tuesday}

Ten months ago, Dexter and I started on our Total Money Makeover journey. Since then, we’ve built a $1,000 emergency fund and paid off almost 20% of our debt. Last month, Dexter and I gave a presentation at our house church about the basics of Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and biblical money principles.  Dave doesn’t pay us to be excited about his financial plan or to tell people about his methods, but beginning to follow Dave’s baby steps has changed our financial future so much that I can’t help but be excited about the hope it can bring people.

Don’t buy it yet? Here are our top ten reasons to do a Total Money Makeover with Dave.

  1. Freedom from financial bondage. Proverb 22:7 says, “The rich rules over the poor, but the borrower is slave to the lender.” There are things we can’t do or don’t feel like we can do because of our debt. Once it’s gone, no one will be making claims on our income.
  2. Building character through discipline. Many people believe God doesn’t care about their money. In one sense, they’re right. God doesn’t love rich people any better than he loves poor people. However, our money habits often shed light on the condition of our heart, and God cares about our hearts. Persevering through a journey toward debt freedom can build character as well as financial security. James 1:4 says, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
  3. When we honor the Lord with our finances, we reap his blessing. I’m certainly not saying that God will reward you financially or immediately for the responsible choices or generous giving you do. However, Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine.” God sees the bigger picture and may choose to bless you eternally rather than materially on Earth.
  4. Ability to give generously. It is thought that Theophilus, who was mentioned at the beginning of the book of Luke, allowed Luke to dedicate time to writing important accounts of the life of Christ and the early church by providing financial support. Being able to support children through Compassion or missionaries through Gospel for Asiais a great way to participate in the spreading of the gospel worldwide. Right now, Dexter and I do tithe at our local church and give to certain charitable organizations, but once we are free from debt, we’ll be able to give more and accomplish more with our money.
  5. Know how to provide for loved ones through debt-freedom, insurance, savings. We’ve learned about the benefits of debt freedom (and how to get there), important kinds of insurance to purchase, and what good savings goals are. Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep our future children’s childhoods free from stressful financial chaos, teach them biblical and practical truths about finances, and help our family and friends on their journey to financial security.
  6. Everything is simplified. After we canceled our credit cards, I was amazed at how streamlined balancing the checkbook and tracking our budget became. Instead of tracking purchases from 3 or 4 cards, forgetting to pay bills for cards we didn’t use often, and accidentally recording transactions for the wrong card, I now only have to look at our checking account. Since we use cash for groceries, household items, and discretionary spending, the number of transactions I have to track has significantly reduced. This has been a huge timesaver.
  7. Preparation for emergencies. Things that used to be stressful emergencies can be planned for, or at least taken care of with the emergency fund or sufficient insurance.
  8. Actions and patterns of thinking to set us apart from the world. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Dave Ramsey often says, “If normal is broke, I don’t want to be normal.” Having the priority of financial responsibility and generosity will set us apart in a consuming culture.
  9. Fulfilling dreams. Some of our dreams include traveling, working from home, and adopting children. All of these will require saving money and building financial security. What dreams could you fulfill if you weren’t worried about finances?
  10. Learning how to change your financial future just got easier! Because Dave Ramsey’s plan has blessed us so much, we wanted to pass on some of our newfound knowledge to you. Below, see information on the books I’m giving away and how to enter the giveaway.

The first book I’ll be giving away is Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. I’ve read this book a number of times and have consulted it to refresh my memory on some of Dave’s core concepts. It contains lots of inspiring stories about people who worked hard and succeeded at paying off their debt.

I’ll also be giving away a copy of Financial Peace Revisited, the companion book to Dave’s Financial Peace University class. In it, you’ll find information about Dave’s own journey from wealth to financial trouble and back again. It also contains snippets written by his wife Sharon.

Finally, I’ll be giving a way a copy of More than Enough: The 10 Keys to Changing Your Financial Destiny. In it, Dave addresses unity in marriage, building financial vision, and practical information about how to implement a financial plan.

If you’ve never learned about Dave’s plan, these books are a great introduction. If you are well-versed in the seven baby steps, these books make a great gift to someone you know who is looking for financial guidance.

Enter the giveaway up to four times by following the steps below.

  1. Leave a comment below telling me what you do if you were financially free. If I don’t know you in real life, include your email address or your name on Twitter so I know how to reach you if you win.
  2. Post about this giveaway (with a link) on Twitter. Leave a comment here telling me that you did.
  3. Post about this giveaway (with a link) on Facebook. Leave a comment here telling me that you did.
  4. Write about this giveaway (with a link) on your blog. Leave another comment telling me that you did.

The giveaway will end on Sunday, December 12, at 11:59 pm CST. Winners will be announced on Monday, December 13.

This post is linked to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh Amanda and Giveaways Galore at Money Saving Mom.