Author Archives: Deanna Michaels

My Favorite Books I Read in 2018

I am a huge fan of reading! It keeps your mind thinking and learning and allows you to see things from other’s perspectives.

I set a reading goal for myself last year and didn’t  come close to making it.

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But that’s okay . Because after several off years, reading again became a habit and I made it through many good books. So that is a success.

This next year I hope to read at least double and am currently making good progress.

As you are choosing books to read, I suggest selecting a variety of genres. I’m reintroducing children’s literature into my rotation and so enjoying it. It’s been so great to re-read some of my childhood favorites.

This list  does include a lot of non-fiction but I’m hoping that this year I can increase the number of biographies I read.

I’ve divided my reads in these categories:

Children’s Literature (GREAT read aloud options for your kids)
Other (Primarily: spiritual, self help, and parenting )

After the list, I’ll share a few of my favorites from the the past year. Most all of these books are worth reading, but I have a few that come to mind I enjoy talking about.

Children’s Literature

Sarah Plain and Tall
Caleb’s Story
More Perfect Than the Moon
The Hundred Dresses
All of a Kind Family
Understood Betsy
The War That Saved My Life
Bud, Not Buddy


What Did you Expect Paul David Tripp
The Meaning of Marriage Timothy Keller
When Sinners Say “I Do” Dave Harvey


Under Our Skin
Just Mercy
I’m Still Here
Foreign to Familiar


The Lady of Arlington

Other (Spiritual, Self Help, Parenting)

Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus
Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes
Your Best Year Ever
Book Girl
Hands Free Life
In Bloom
Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes
Life Together
Nothing to Prove
Own Your Life
Raising World Changers in a Changing World
Just Open the Door
You Can Stay Home With Your Kids
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World
Sun Stand Still
Made to Crave

Let’s get to a few favorites. I loved, loved, loved Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus and Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes. My eyes were completely opened to how I have been reading the Bible with my own limited Western view. There is so much there that we miss out on when doing that! I learned so many things and I want to learn more. I highly recommend every believer read these books.

I also very much enjoyed Lady of ArlingtonYes, it was the only biography I read, but it was so interesting. I knew nothing about Mary Lee and basically nothing about Robert E Lee so it was like meeting and getting to know someone for the first time. Mary was a pretty amazing woman.

Paul David Tripp’s What Did You Expect was excellent! So convicting. I have his book Parenting on my list for 2019.

Different was an encouraging read as you parent kids who have their differences.  It’s an especially important read for parents with kids who have a lot of different diagnoses – OCD, ADD, ADHD, etc. It’s written by Sally Clarkson and her son Nathan who grew up struggling with being different.

I also discovered that I have a soft spot for children’s novels and rereading them and adult classics I read as a child. They are such a good comfort read. They made me feel at home and happy. Most of my childhood/teen rereads were better than I remembered!

Just Mercy was a hard, good read about inequality and  unfairness in our justice system. It is one of those reads that makes you sad and angry.

If hospitality is something that you are wanting to pursue this year, Just Open the Door is a great book! Hospitality doesn’t have to be flashy and impressive, just open your door where you are at.

What were your favorite reads of 2018? For some other great books, check out this list of my favorite reads from a few years ago!

Affordable Birthday Traditions Your Kids Will Love

Here is a great list of birthday traditions that your kids will love! Fun ideas that are also cheap and easy and don’t involve a party.

Birthday cake with colorful candles as part of birthday traditions your kids will love.

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Whether you do a big birthday party with friends or not, these suggestions will help make your child’s birthday special.

I love finding simple ways to celebrate and make memories. The easier and more affordable a  birthday celebration is, the more doable they are to keep up with year after year (and kid after kid).

Being on a tight budget and not having money to spend doesn’t mean a birthday can’t be special. You can still find ways to make your kids feel important. I think your kids (and you) will love these new birthday traditions so much they will want to continue them even year after year (if you are throwing a huge party).

We have one birthday a month for 4 months in my house and I know that’s really nothing. Growing up 3 of my sisters all had birthdays within 28 days of each other! We loved February because it meant lots of ice cream and good food. 🙂

Easy Birthday Traditions

Breakfast in Bed

This is so much fun when you are a kid! Selecting a birthday breakfast and then getting it served to you in your bed makes you feel like royalty. My mom did this for every birthday all of our growing up years. Even more fun when parents and siblings sit in the room and chat while the birthday child eats. Of course, as they get older they might enjoy eating breakfast alone better. 😉

Bedroom Door

Have streamers either hanging down from their bedroom door frame or taped across it (and they can break through) to greet them when they wake up.


Again, while they are asleep, blow up dozens of balloons and scatter them around their bedroom floor.

Birthday Dinner

Let your birthday boy or girl pick what they want you to make for supper – main dish, sides, and dessert!

Side note, it’s perfectly fine if your child doesn’t want a traditional birthday cake. There’s a lot of kids that don’t love cake. Let them choose what they want. Growing up we had a lot of crazy chocolate cake, angel food cake, Mississippi mud pie along with other assorted desserts. Both of my older kids’ current favorite birthday dessert is a cookie cake.

Birthday Plate

Have a special “fancy” plate that you only use for a birthday child or other special occasions and let them use a fancy cup.  It’s all about making the child feel special.

For a “birthday” plate, here is one option. (Not super cheap.)

For a “special” plate, it can really be anything. Growing up we had a big blue pottery plate. What we use now is a Pioneer Woman dinner plate  (without any flower print) that we bought at Wal-Mart.

Hiding Presents

I loved this as a kid and now all three of my children have to do it this way too. Instead of simply putting the presents in a pile for the child to open, hide the presents (in age appropriate locations) and let the child go and hunt them down and open them after all the presents are found.

The nice thing about this is that it extends the present opening time that otherwise goes way too quickly.

Birthday Date

Have dad (or mom) take the birthday child out on a date around their birthday. Dress up fancy, go to the restaurant of their choosing, and again make them feel special. Keep the phone put away and really focus on them.

Birthday Banner

Have a birthday banner that you put up in the dining room for every birthday! It’s not a decoration that will be destroyed so you should be able to use it birthday after birthday.

Check out these cute ideas:

Write a Letter

Each year, on their birthday, write a letter to your child from ages 1-18. Keep the letters together and gift them to your child when they turn 18, or move out, or have their first child.

Kind Words

At the birthday dinner table have everyone take turns sharing their favorite things about the birthday child. You could also share favorite memories from the past year.

Do Their Favorite Activity

Do something that child loves. Whether it’s finishing the day with a game or movie night, going to the park, taking a walk, or heading to the tennis court do what that child enjoys!

Birthday Hat

Have a silly birthday hat that the child (or adult) has to wear at the dinner table! A goofy tradition is always a fun idea. Amazon has several options like these.

Look at Pictures

Take some time each year to pull out the photo albums (or open up Google Photos) and look back at their pictures from over the years and reminisce and laugh and share stories.

Tell Their Birth Story

You can tell the child part of the story surrounding when they were born.  Kids love re-hearing these stories over and over again.

As you make plans for the next birthday that comes along try incorporating a few of these ideas.  Your child will feel like a million bucks and will probably request you to do them every year. I know that’s how it works in my house, anyway. We do something once and the kids see to it that it becomes a tradition. 🙂

What are your favorite birthday traditions?

A fun birthday hat as part of easy and affordable birthday traditions your kids will love!

Important Tips For Teaching Kids About Money

Dare I say, you’ve been teaching kids about money since they were born.

Let that sink in.

piggy bank and teaching kids about money

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When you think about it, what we actually do has much more influence than what we teach, lecture, or discuss.

Money lessons we teach our kids are no different.

The most important way to teach your children about money is to lead by example. Everything else will fall into place.

Let your child see you budget, discuss finances, save up for a goal, work hard to pay off debt. Let them see you say no to buying something because it’s not in the budget or is not what you are choosing to spend your money on.

If you are trying to teach your child to save but they see you buying everything that you want, they will see the hypocrisy. If you buy more than you can afford and take out loans or make payments, they will grow up thinking that’s the answer.

Getting your own finances in order is the first step! Total Money MakeoverIf you don’t know where to start, is a great book to read.

As they see your healthy relationship with money, there are other things you can do to teach your children financial responsibility.

child putting money in a piggy bank and teaching kids about money

Teaching Kids About Money

It Belongs to God

If you are a believer, this step is a foundation to teaching kids about money. Everything we have comes from and belongs to God! Isn’t that a scary thought? The Bible says “the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains”. When we use our money wisely, we are using God’s money wisely. As you talk to your children, make sure they know that everything is the Lord’s.

Take them Shopping with You

Even as a preschooler, your child will start picking up on things like price comparisons, saying no to purchasing a food item because there’s not enough money in the grocery budget, and that wanting an item doesn’t mean we need to purchase it.

These little weekly, if not daily, occurrences are being observed and taken in by your children with no extra work by you. Talk to your children as you are shopping so they know what you are doing – turn it into a money lesson and interactive experience.


My parents taught us how to tithe before we could work! Growing up, when we received birthday or Christmas money we got to tithe on it. My kids now get to tithe on their money and will even give beyond the 10%.

Again, lead by example. Let your children see you tithe off of your income. Let them see you give to charities and individuals. You can even get them involved in projects beyond tithing to church. (Like we did with the Operation Christmas Child Shoe boxes.)


Saving money is a part of life. Always will be. This is a skill even a born spender needs to learn.

Teach your kids to set aside a portion of all the money they receive. Just because you received money doesn’t mean you need to spend it all! It’s good to learn patience and self-discipline even if it can be hard – especially when the cash is burning a hole in their pocket. 

For young children, consider getting a save, spend, give bank. You can simply label three clean jars (or plastic containers) or you can purchase a bank like this. There are also these cash envelope zippered pouches you could use.

Setting Goals

This is a part of saving. Teach your kids to set financial goals. Whether it’s saving money to buy that expensive toy, a laptop, camera, or even to purchase a car or go to college it’s good to set age appropriate goals. Especially for your kids that are “spenders” because having a goal and tracking their progress can help their motivation and willpower stay strong when temptations come up.

For older teens, check out this list of financial goals they can consider as they move toward adulthood.

Teach Them To Work

Money doesn’t grow on trees. Sometimes our kids think it does. Learning to work for money helps teach them the value of money and of hard work. We didn’t get an allowance growing up instead we pitched in and helped around the house (sometimes quite begrudgingly) because we were a part of the family.

We earned money doing extra jobs that weren’t a part of regular chores. Even for young kids you can come up with little tasks (that you know won’t be done perfectly) and pay for their help. This is how it works in our house now.

As your children get older, getting an outside the house job is a great way to earn extra money. Teaching them to work hard as kids and do an excellent job will be appreciated by future employers and will most likely set your kids apart from most of the other employees.

Raising them with that work ethic starts now. (Yep, I know it can be hard. My 5 1/2 year old still thinks any sort of cleaning or picking up is torture.)

Teach them the Dangers of Debt

If you are debt free, you can still talk to your kids about what debt is and why you don’t do it. Tell them how much you would have spent on interest.

If you are in debt, let your children see you working hard to pay it off.

Teach them how to avoid debt and make sure that they know it isn’t required! Culture all around them is telling them that debt is an everyday part of life.

Say No

Please, please don’t always tell your children yes. Your kids need to learn that they don’t need to have it all. It’s okay for them to walk away from something they think they want.

They need to see you sticking to your budget even when they are begging for something.

Learning to be content and to appreciate what you already have is so important. Stuff will never satisfy a person – there will always be something else. As a toddler the next flashy toy will grab their attention, Shopkins will be enough until the next fad comes out. Even as adults we are like this. Our phone is great until the newest one comes out. The same thing with cars and houses.

This is something so much easier to learn while you are young, so help your children out.

You might tell them a straight up “no, we aren’t having this in our home” or it might be a “no, we aren’t not buying this for you. If you want it, you’ll have to buy it yourself.”

Teach them to Set a Budget

Once your children are living on their own, they will have no choice but to budget (or else, most likely, get themselves into a financial mess). So do them a favor, and teach them how to budget their money now. It’s a great money lesson and life lesson.

As young kids it might be something as simple as: tithe 10%, spend 40%, save 50%.

When they get older they may want to break down their spending and saving categories further.

Once they are bringing in more money and have more expenses, teach them to write down their income and expenses and make (and stick with) a budget. Car insurance, gas money, cell phone, outings with friends, gifts, trips etc.

Let them learn while you are there to assist and help. Then, when they are off on their own they will (hopefully) simply continue what they already know.

Additional Resources:

Dave Ramsey has a set of storytime books for kids ages 3-10
Dave Ramsey also has Financial Peace Jr
Larry Burkett has a book Money Matter for Kids
Larry Burkett also has Money Matter for Teens and a workbook as well

Raising our children and teaching kids about money can be a daunting task. One that we won’t ever do perfectly and that’s okay.

Hopefully these ideas on teaching kids about money will help as you are on the parenting journey! You don’t have to make it difficult or time consuming, just start the conversation and begin taking steps to give your children the opportunity to handle money wisely.

piggy bank and teaching kids about money

Easy Ways to Celebrate a Family Valentine’s Day

February 14th. When you are dating, or married with no kids, you might go on a date or cook up a fancy dinner at home. Once you have children, even if you do go on a date, will have to plan to celebrate a family Valentine’s Day as well!

mug and heart cookies for a family Valentine's Day

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I like to find simple ways to make memories with my children and Valentine’s is a perfect opportunity to do that. Sometimes, life can be crazy and money can be tight. We don’t have to be elaborate. Even small things can get them excited and make a special family Valentine’s Day.

Family Valentine’s Day


Yes, food is always prominent for holidays. You have to feed your family anyway, so you might as well make it special. Look at doing all heart shaped or red colored foods! Your kids will think it’s so much fun. When they get older they won’t care about the shape, they’ll just enjoy eating! 😉

Check out these ideas:

Heart shaped pancakes
Heart shaped pizza
Heart Sugar Cookies
Brownies cut with heart cookie cutters

Think of your family’s favorites and see if you can turn it into a heart. The pizza is our go-to every Valentine’s Day. The kids talk about the heart pizza all year.

I want to try this artificial color free food coloring!

Also, consider setting a fancy table and lighting candles to make the meal more special.

Treasure Hunt

We loved this growing up and it is now my kids’ favorite! Instead of just giving them their Valentine’s gift/candy, make them a treasure hunt.

For pre-readers, draw picture clues that lead to the prize. For young readers have simple riddles and as the kids get older you can use more difficult ones. We try and have 6-10 clues for each child.

I will try and update this post with the clues we use for my three kids this year. In the meantime, here are some ideas you can use!

Heart and Love Themes

You don’t have to go crazy, unless you want to, but put up at least a few heart and love themed decorations. You can make them yourself or use something you buy even as easy as window clings or a banner you bought. Check Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, and even the Dollar Store for options.

The same with crafts. Either purchase a kit or come up with your own. This post has 25 cute ideas! This is a perfect afternoon project.

Tip: Keep your eyes on the Valentine’s clearance to pick up some craft and decoration items for next year.

Love Your Family

Use this day to purposefully share with the members of your family how special they are. Have each person write a note to each family member and have them at each person’s place at the dinner table.

Throughout the day, secretly do special things and kind deeds. You could either do them for everyone or draw names the night before. The name drawn is the person you try to secretively do kind things for.

Give your kids ideas – it might be doing chores, picking up something their secret partner forgot, leaving a piece of candy, nice words, asking them if they need anything etc.

Spend Time Together

Just spend time together. Put away the phones and focus on each other. Engage with them, be excited to spend time with your kids. Plan something your family will enjoy and have a blast.

The options are numerous. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Game Night
  • Puzzle and popcorn
  • Movie
  • Park
  • Any other family outing or activity at home

Just intentionally putting a little thought into your family Valentine’s Day can help create memories and traditions that your kids will remember years to come. They might even carry on one to their own families.

You don’t have to be fancy, elaborate, or expensive. Just do something and have fun!

What are your favorite Valentine’s Day traditions with your kids?

heart shaped candies for a family Valentine's Day

Disney World Tips You Need to Know

Last year we took our kids to what some call the most magical place on earth. It also has to be one of the most expensive places. My husband is a Disney fanatic, so he spent lots of time figuring out how to get the most out of the parks.  What resulted are some great Disney World tips.

Disney world castle at night and Disney world tips

I’m the queen of living on a budget and saving money. Our budget still isn’t exactly extravagant so you might be surprised to hear we went on this trip. Honestly, it took me a while to warm up to it. We probably never would have gone at this time had it not been for a friend offering us 7 nights of free lodging. Since it was my husband’s dream family vacation, we went for it.

Free lodging helped tremendously, we also applied our Christmas budget (the kids okayed going on a trip over getting presents), and put Christmas money we received towards it.  We just made up the difference of what was left.

Today, I want to share with you some of the Disney World tips we found most helpful – so you can make the most of your trip and also do it as frugally as possible.

Disney World Tips You Need To Know

Touring Plans

My husband highly recommends this service. It’s run by mathematical geniuses who work full time analyzing stats about the crowds, the wait times, and various other planning aspects for a Disney trip.  Their website has some free information but if you want to fully take advantage of what Touring Plans offers they also sell a year subscription which includes a mobile app for use in the parks. My husband used it frequently during his plannings and it saved us lots of time in lines and we were able to do more while in the parks. You can buy a membership for the standard price $15.95. He used this link to get 20% off!

Buying Tickets

One of the free features Touring Plans offers is finding the best ticket prices. You can search at this page. They will check prices from authorized third party dealers to help you get the best price. You will save hundreds of dollars on all the tickets for your family compared to buying tickets from Disney direct or at the gate.  Also, scroll down further on that same page for more tips on how to save money on tickets. Our tickets ended up coming from The Official Ticket Center, but depending on how many days and family members you have, it could be cheaper from a different 3rd party vendor.

Important: If you buy tickets through one of the third party sellers, you usually have to exchange for the actual tickets at a park will call booth before you can enter the park. We didn’t want to take time doing this on one of our actual park days so we exchanged for them the day before when we were out riding the Monorail.

When to Go

Touring Plans has a free 2 month predicted crowd calendar, but with the subscription you can see what crowds should be like for an entire year. Take this into account when planning your trip! Also, use it to select which park to go to on which day. Less crowds is always a good thing. Granted, these are just predictions so sometimes they change slightly, but they are usually pretty close and you can even check their historical accuracy on the website.  The crowds on our day at Magic Kingdom turned out to be a little bit higher than predicted for some reason, but overall we knew that the week we went was going to be one of the least busy weeks of the year.

disney castle at night

Setting Up Fast Passes

If you stay at the Disney resort you can book fast passes for rides 60 days in advance. If you are staying off the Disney resort you can book 30 days in advance.  You will be able to schedule 3 fast passes per day via the My Disney Experience app. You’ll be able to enter your fast passes at 7am EST 30 or 60 days before the day you go to the park . Be sure to set your alarm if you want to get fast passes for the most popular rides as they will fill up fast.  Some rides such as “Flight of Passage” at Animal Kingdom and “7 Dwarf Mine Train” at Magic Kingdom were already out of fast passes before we could book them. But don’t worry, later on I’ll tell you another way to ride these popular rides quickly without a fast pass.

Once You Are At Disney World Tips

We continue with Disney World tips for once you are actually in Orlando and at the parks. First, you’ll want to have the following two apps handy on your smart phone:

My Disney Experience App

This is the official Disney World parks app.  You can view your fast passes, book dining reservations and more.  You can also schedule new fast passes in the park. (After your original three have all been used.)

Lines App

If you purchased a Touring Plans membership, you get access to this app. They give you average wait times which are more accurate than the wait times listed at the actual ride entrances.  Sometimes Disney either doesn’t update the correct wait times or changes them on purpose to manage crowd control in the parks.  Users can help with inputting data by timing your own wait in line if you desire.  There’s a timer right there in the app.

Rider Switch

If you have a child or infant that’s too short for a ride, take advantage of using the Rider Switch option. One parent stays with the too short child/infant and the other parent goes on the ride with the rest of the group. Once the first group gets off the ride, the 2nd parent goes right on through the fast pass line with up to 2 other people.  If group 1 has a fast pass for the ride, they get to use that, but if not they will have to wait in the stand by line.  Rider switches are scanned on your ticket/magic band by a cast member at the ride entrance. Take this into account when scheduling fast passes!

girl hugging minnie mouse

Rope Drop

There is a big advantage to being at the park before they open. For one, the crowds going through baggage check and the ticket scans will be way faster but you will also be able to go straight to one of the big rides with little to no line when the cast members drop the rope to first let people in. This is especially helpful for those popular rides you weren’t able to get a Fast Pass to. We did this to ride the new Avatar: Flight of Passage ride at Animal Kingdom. Its also good to do this for the 7 Dwarfs ride at Magic Kingdom and will probably be essential with the opening of the new Star Wars land later this year at Hollywood Studios.

Bring Food and Water

One of the generous things Disney lets you do is bring in your own food.  We saved so much money packing food. Sure, it might not have been the most amazing food, but it saved us hundreds of dollars versus buying food in the parks. Even if you want to purchase some Disney food, at least considering bringing your own for a few meals. We packed granola bars, fruit, vegetables, snacks, sandwiches, chips etc. Enough to get us through until we got back to our resort (at 10-11pm) each night. Store in a backpack or bag attached to your stroller. No glass containers.

We also brought bottles of water, however you can get a free cup of ice water at any Disney quick service location in the park or refill your own water bottles at drinking fountains.


You will save so much money buying these off site. Check out a Wal-Mart near Disney World and there will be vast options. Countless t-shirt options, hats, autograph books, mouse ears, bags, magnets, postcards, mugs, and on and on! We were surprised at how much there was. One thing our kids enjoyed buying in the park were those souvenir pennies from the machine.

family with mickey mouse


If you have young kids, bring a stroller. It’s great not only for the kid, but also for hauling your stuff around in. All the food, jackets if it’s cool, umbrella etc. Our youngest was 2 1/2 and used the stroller most of the time. The 7 1/2 and 5 1/2 year old did lots of walking. The only time the 5 1/2 year old used it was getting from the bus back to the car because he fell asleep.


If you drive and park at Disney, it costs $25 a day! Crazy expensive – especially if you go multiple days. Staying at a Disney resort, you have access to their bus system. If you are staying off site, there is one parking hack you can use. It will add a bit of time to your commute, but you will save a lot of money.

Park at Disney Springs in the Strawberry parking lot. You will want to go as far back as you can. These lots are free. Hop on the nature trail sidewalk and walk across the bridge that goes through the golf course, keep following the trail and turn right at the guest drop off area when you first get to Saratoga Springs Resort. You’ll then take a left at the first sidewalk and use the bus stop on the other side of that road. It is called The Springs. Because this is a resort bus stop, that bus will take you directly to any of the parks. Be sure to have your stroller folded before loading the bus.

Why walk to Saratoga Springs instead of taking a bus at Disney Springs? If you take the bus stop at Disney Springs Town Center, it won’t take you directly to a park. It would take you to a resort and then you’d have to get on another bus to go to a park.

Monorail and Downtown Disney

If you have free time on a day before you go to a Disney park, there are a some free “teaser” adventures you can do.  One thing is to ride the monorail.  There are 3 monorail lines.  The Epcot line actually goes in and around the park.  You can also stop and get off to walk through the resorts it travels to. Another free area of Disney is the recently renovated Disney Springs shopping area.  The Boardwalk is another nice free place to stroll through and shop or eat at.

Space Your Days Out

If you can plan a day off between park days, do it. If not, try and do no more than 2 days in a row. We had all 3 park days back to back (simply because that’s how it worked with our schedule) and I don’t know that any member of my family could have done 4. It was exhausting. We left where we were staying between 6:30 and 8 each morning and didn’t get back to the resort until between 10-11pm. The kids definitely slept soundly. Off days would have helped them recover, though, and we probably would have been able to make more than one rope drop.

I hope these tips help you if you are planning a Disney World vacation.  If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll try and help (or I’ll have my husband answer 😉 ).

Have you done a Disney World trip before? What are your best Disney World tips?

P.S. If you can’t afford a Disney vacation right now, be encouraged. The first 12 years of our married life, our trips have been to see family/with family and a few mini 1 or 2 day trips we took our kids on. Not going to Disney doesn’t make you a bad parent. Find ways to make memories with your kids without the expensive vacation. Work on getting situated financially and then you can start saving for your dream trip.

Disney world castle and Disney World tips Disney castle at night and Disney world tips

Printable Goals Planner To Get It Done

Are you making some goals? I want to help you out with this goals planner you can print off and use as you are planning.

samples pages of the goals planner

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Goals are a great thing. Or great as long as they are the right goals for you and you actually follow through and take the steps you need to get them accomplished.

As moms, our focus is going to be different than what they would have been as a college student or if we were single business women.

We want our goals to help and set us up for success, not be a source of conflict and frustration with us and our families. I find goals help motivate me and also cause to to slow down and evaluate my life and my family.

Printable Goals Planner

Let’s start with making your goals.

I’m sure you’ve seen the acronym SMART. When you come up with your goals, you need to make sure they are specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-bound.

Let’s stop here for a minute. I just read a book by Michael Hyatt called Your Best Year Ever. He changes things up a little. His acronym is:


 In SMARTER the first “R” stands for risky. If you stick with super realistic goals, you’ll be setting the bar too low.  So be sure to realistically push yourself.

The “E” stands for exciting. Choose goals that inspire and excite you – it will help you stay motivated.

The final “R” stands for relevant. Please, make sure your goals are right for you and your season of life and what you are wanting/needing to accomplish.

As you fill out this first page, be sure to keep SMART/SMARTER goal making in mind.

Now, that you have your goals written down, use the next page to break them down into action steps. Give yourself a deadline as to when you want to accomplish your goal. You can even set a reward to help keep yourself motivated.

From here you will want to take your goals as a whole and break them down into quarterly steps. This way you will know what you are focusing on when instead of being overwhelmed by all the things.

Yes, certain more habit goals you will be doing throughout all 4 quarters but others will have steps you need to take.

After you have your quarterly goals figured out, each week as you plan the next 7 days figure out exactly what steps need to happen to get you to accomplish those quarterly goals.

I know some weeks won’t got as planned (all of us moms say “amen”), so break these items down into most important, would like to, and if I have time. Then when a kid gets sick, or you have an unexpected problem that pops up, you know what to focus on.

You probably know where this is headed, but lastly there are daily goals. Each day, looking at your weekly goals write down what needs to happen. Go beyond the goals here and also include household cleaning tasks, appointments, errands etc.

Taking a few seconds each day to think over what you are grateful for also helps keep life in perspective and can change your attitude.

Have you made goals this year? Do you struggle coming up with a good plan? Some of my goal categories this year are reading, fitness, Bible reading, health, business, and of course financial goals. Hopefully I can get them accomplished!

I have these goals planner printables available in my resource library for free to my subscribers! Sign up below!

picture of the goals planner and a sticky note that says set goals

Yummy Healthy Winter Recipes on a Budget

pictures of 25 delicious healthy winter recipes

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Winter. The perfect time to turn on the oven and do some cooking and baking! It’s actually kind-of nice to heat up the house when you are in the kitchen. Unlike the summer, when I cringe at the thought of having to use the oven. The problem is coming up with healthy winter recipes – one’s that won’t break the bank!

So often the typical winter recipes are overly processed and just not that great for you. It also tends to be the time of year I don’t get outside and run near as often – so I don’t need as many calories to fill me up. 😉

So today, I wanted to share a list of healthy winter recipes we can pull from to enjoy cooking and filling our families up with nourishing foods at the same time. They aren’t even all soups, so you will be able to find something for everyone. My brother is one of those people who doesn’t like soup – crazy!

If you are looking for more ways to eat healthy on a budget, check out these ideas!

For some more recipes, check out these cookbooks.

Healthy Winter Recipes

Sheet Pan Dinner

This recipe for roasted sausage and veggies is so easy and delicious. Perfect healthy dinner for even busy nights. You can even change up the veggies. Check it out!

Crispy Baked Chicken Thighs

These are incredible and can be in the oven in 5 minutes! Super flavorful and crispy on the outside and tender perfect on the inside. | I'm adding these to my menu this week!

Chicken Spaghetti Made Over

Chicken Spaghetti without Velveeta or cream of chicken soup! Yay! We love this and the leftovers are awesome.

Spaghetti Squash Burrito Bowls

Spaghetti squash burrito bowls are the best! Full of Tex Mex flavors and so healthy. The entire family loves this recipe!

Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein

spaghetti squash chow mein in the shells. this recipe is so good and healthy!

Instant Pot Chicken Cacciatore – from Sweet and Savory Meals

Chicken Parmesan Casserole – from Thriving Home Blog

Lemon Garlic Butter Shrimp – from Dancing Through the Rain

Healthy Stuffed Shells with Ground Turkey and Spinach – Mighty Mrs.

Instant Pot Beef and Broccoli – Sweet and Savory Meals

Shepherd’s Pie – Iowa Girl Eats

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken with Veggies Thriving Home Blog

Whole30 Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs with Butternut Squash Mom Foodie

Ground Beef Cabbage Casserole – Melanie Cooks

Slow Cooker Cranberry Chicken Strength and Sunshine

Vegetarian Sweet Potato Chili Margin Making Mom

Chicken Noodle Soup

bowl of delicious homemade chicken noodle soup. Healthy, easy, and so good.

One Pot Orzo Vegetable Soup

Healthy Crockpot White Chicken Chili Heidi’s Home Cooking

Hearty Pumpkin Chili Recipe The Flying Couponer

Cabbage Roll Soup The Rising Spoon

Green Chili Chicken Stew Mooshu Jenne

Split Pea and Ham Soup Savor the Best

Balsamic Oven Roasted Root Vegetables The Rising Spoon

Healthy Sweet Potatoes

Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Muffins

baked chocolate banana oatmeal muffins in tin and a muffin split in half

Do you look forward to being able to use the oven in the winter without heating up the house? Hopefully this list will help you come up with some new, yummy healthy winter recipe ideas to add to your menu.

What are your favorite recipes to make in the winter?

3 pictures of healthy winter recipes

Examples of Financial Goals to Change Your Year

Do you want to set some financial goals but are struggling to come up with ideas? Here’s a great list of examples of financial goals to help you out!

stack of coins with a plan growing out of it talking about examples of financial goals

Start on the road to financial freedom today – you can change your family’s life!

Let’s Get Started!

There is no right or perfect time, so whether it’s the beginning of a new year or the middle of a summer month start making a plan and gaining traction on your money goals.

Let’s start with remembering that goals have to specific and measurable. Having “saving money” or “paying off debt” as a goal might sound good, but they don’t make the cut.

Instead, have your goal be something like this:

Have $1,000 saved for our house fund in 6 months or

Pay $200 extra on our mortgage each month this year or

Pay off our student loans by December 1st.

Give yourself a starting a date (now), an ending date, and state exactly what you want to do.

Examples of Financial Goals

  • Pay x amount off of your mortgage
  • Pay off your mortgage
  • Save x amount to purchase a house
  • Save x amount for a certain house project (windows, air conditioner, kitchen, furniture etc.)
  • Save $2,000 for our emergency fund
  • Save x amount for 3-6 months of living expenses
  • Pay off your car
  • Save x amount to pay cash for a new car
  • Pay off student loans (or certain amount extra toward them)
  • Pay off _______ credit card (or certain amount on it)
  • Pay off any other debts you have (fill in amount and what debt)
  • Save x amount toward summer vacation this year (or dream trip in 3 years)
  • Save x amount to give to a cause you believe in
  • Save x amount toward child’s college fund (or your college fund)
  • Save x amount toward child’s wedding fund (or your wedding fund)
  • Make a budget with your spouse by x date
  • Monthly (or weekly) budget meetings for the next  year
  • Input expenses into budget daily/weekly for the next year
  • Use cash envelopes for 6 months and see if you save money
  • Put x amount towards retirement in the next 12 months
  • Put x amount in other investments in the next 12 months
  • Read x books about financial planning/investing etc
  • Do Financial Peace University by 6 months from now
  • Reduce grocery spending by x amount each month
  • Take extra jobs to increase your income by x amount each month
  • Don’t use credit cards
  • Purchase Term Life Insurance for you and your spouse
  • Spend less than you make
  • Stop x addiction and put the money towards _______
  • No spend month in ___________
  • No non essential purchases until _____________

You can do this!

Everyone’s financial goals will be different. If you are low income and have a lot of debt, don’t despair. Baby steps will get you to where you want if you persevere and work hardDon’t compare yourself to anyone else. You are doing great.

If you are already debt free, you still need to tell your money where to go! Don’t blow money, instead purposely put it towards different goals and saving plans.

I hope this list of examples of financial goals helps you as you sit down and make a plan for you and your family.

stack of coins with a plan growing out of it talking about examples of financial goals

Best Basic Pizza Dough Recipe

Almost every Friday night, you’ll find an oven blazing with a round baking stone heating up inside. Homemade pizzas were made weekly when I was growing up and we’ve continued the tradition.  Try this basic pizza dough recipe and join in the tradition!

Last week I shared some ways to make homemade pizza frugally so that even if you are on a budget you’ll still be able to enjoy pizza night and my sauce recipe is here. Today I have my basic pizza crust recipe and baking instructions for you!

two lumps of pizza dough. The best basic pizza dough recipe and tips for making a perfect pizza. This is amazing and so easy. You need this for your pizza night tradition!

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My number one tip for a successful homemade pizza: A baking stone! We have a 15 inch round stone from Pampered Chef. It has become well seasoned over the years and is well worth the investment. 

My second tip: Don’t roll all of the air bubbles out of the dough. I use a combination of stretching, tossing, and rolling. I like to use my mini pizza and pastry roller (one similar to this).

My third tip: Preheat the oven and the stone. Give it longer than when your oven says it’s ready. You want the stone good and hot.

My fourth tip: Use a high temperature. I turn the oven to 475 degrees.

I know crust thickness is somewhat a personal preference. This crust recipe fits a 15 inch stone. in a hand tossed/New York Style type of thickness. If you like super thin and crispy, cut the flour back. If you like your crust thicker, increase it to 2 3/4-3 cups. Don’t forget, this means the water amounts will change as well. Gradually add the water to the flour until you come up with the right dough consistency. The first time you make this, it will be a little bit of a guessing game. Simply tweak it the next time to your family’s preference.

I prefer to let this dough rise for several hours but when I’ve been in a rush I’ve made and used it after a short 15-30 minute resting period and it was still good.

We’ve also used part whole wheat flour and all whole wheat flour. This will change the texture slightly and you’ll end up using more water.

Now that we are a family of 5, I always double this basic pizza dough recipe. Use a full tablespoon of yeast in a double recipe.
Picture of a lump of pizza dough and a yummy cooked pizza. The best basic pizza dough recipe and tips for making a perfect pizza. This is amazing and so easy. You need this for your pizza night tradition!

Basic Pizza Dough Recipe

Homemade Pizza Crust
  • 2½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (optional, I no longer use)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • Scant tablespoon yeast
  1. Place flour in mixer bowl.
  2. Top with salt, sugar, and yeast.
  3. Add water and oil. Should make a soft dough that isn't sticky at all.
  4. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic.
  5. Cover mixing bowl and let dough rise until at least doubled - a couple of hours. It's okay if it goes longer.
  1. Thirty to sixty minutes before you are going to bake your pizza, preheat the oven and stone to 475 degrees.
Rolling the Dough
  1. Gently put the dough on a lightly floured surface.
  2. Next roll, stretch, and toss your dough into a 15 inch circle. When rolling, do it gently so not to deflate all of the air bubbles. I prefer to use my mini roller.
  1. Remove the stone from the oven and carefully carry and place the crust onto it.
  2. Spread with sauce of choice.
  3. Top with meats, vegetables, and cheese.
  1. Bake for 8-15 minutes.
  2. Cut and serve
I always double this recipe and simply use a full tablespoon of yeast.


a lump of easy pizza dough! The best basic pizza dough recipe and tips for making a perfect pizza. This is amazing and so easy. You need this for your pizza night tradition!

Things to Do On Christmas Day

Christmas comes around every year. Often times we find ourselves doing the same things year after year, just because. This year let’s get intentional as we discuss things to do on Christmas day.

Ever wondered what are things to do on Christmas Day? Here are lots of fun and frugal Christmas family traditions you can start this year!

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Christmas normally means opening presents, eating food, and maybe seeing extended family but there are other ideas we can build into our family culture and enjoy making into traditions.

Life is all about finding what works for us and the life our family has been called to live. The same is true when we brainstorm things to do on Christmas day.

Things to Do on Christmas Day

Read the Christmas story. Read it straight from one of the gospels. Afterward you could also read it from a children’s bible. Something like Jesus Storybook Bible or The Big Picture Story Bible.

Special Breakfast. We grew up having homemade cinnamon rolls every Christmas morning. Add in a breakfast casserole to have some protein on the table and you are all set. Set out hot chocolate and hot tea to have throughout the day.

Opening Stockings. This is the first thing we open Christmas morning. There is something exciting, as a kid, about opening up stockings filled with little gifts. You can find many, many options for purchasing or making stockings. My stocking is the one my mom made me when I was born. I have now made all of my family one using the same pattern.

Open Presents. Of course, opening presents will still need to happen. Unless, of course,  you decided to go for the experience gifts. You just have to think about if you are going to have a free for all or have everyone take turns opening one present at a time. With my kids, they each take a turn giving out the presents they purchased for everyone else and they are opened one at a time. It also helps made opening presents last longer than 60 seconds. 😉

Fancy dinner or supper. Go all out for a formal dinner with turkey, ham, or even steaks or go simpler with something like a soup buffet. Lighting candles always makes meals more special. Have Christmas music playing softly in the background.

Snack supper. If you don’t want to spend the day in the kitchen, there is nothing wrong with putting on an snack feast! Pull out all your easy to throw together or make ahead appetizer recipes and I think you won’t find your kids complaining. 

Have Company Over. Find a family or individual that doesn’t have anyone to spend the day and invite them over for food and fun.

Watch a movie. Pull out a family favorite Christmas movie (Elf is a go-to for us) and spend a couple hours relaxing as a family.

Board game competition. Play any new games that were received for presents and get out some of your family favorites and let your competitive sides show.

Christmas themed games. Try some fun Minute to Win It style games or one of these Christmas games.

Play in the snow. Get outside for at least a short while. If you happen to have a white Christmas, build a snowman, go sledding, or have an epic snowball fight. No snow, still get outside for a brisk walk of a family football game.

Drive to look at the Christmas lights. You are in the last week of being able to enjoy all the bright lights. If you didn’t do it Christmas Eve, drive around and see the sights one last time.

Serve Christmas dinner with a food pantry, church, or other local ministry. There is most likely at least one or two organizations in your town that are serving a Christmas meal to those who can’t afford to cook their own. See if you can help!

Go caroling. Go caroling around town – stop by your friends’ homes to sing a song outside their front door. Don’t stay, just sing and leave you won’t have to worry about imposing on anyone.

Visit the nursing home. Not only will there will be individuals in the nursing homes that don’t have family to celebrate with but also employees that have to work. Stop by with some goodies and sing carols or just visit a while and give out hugs.

Bake cookies. Whip up the last of your cookie recipes you didn’t get to on Christmas Eve or earlier in the season!

Drink hot cocoa. Hot beverages are perfect for winter and especially Christmas day.

Write thank you cards. If you have time, get a jump start on those thank yous. Have everyone sit around the table and tackle them together.

Go technology free. Commit to Christmas being a family day – put up your phones and any other hand held devices. Enjoy giving your family your undivided attention.

Call or video message your family. Connect with your family that you aren’t able to spend the day with. Do at least a quick group video call to say Merry Christmas.

Share memories. Share stories from Christmases past. Tell about when you where a child and even when your parents were children. Let your kids share about their favorite Christmas memories.

Birthday Party for Jesus. Make a cake, put candles in it, and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. If Christmas day is too crazy for this, have a little party on Christmas Eve.

These are just a few things to do on Christmas day this year. Get your kids involved and see what would make Christmas special to them. None of these things cost much (or any) money – you can make them work on your budget.

What are your favorite things to do on Christmas day?

Ever wondered what are things to do on Christmas Day? Here are lots of fun and frugal Christmas family traditions you can start this year!