Category Archives: Fun

Feed The Pig {Small Savings, Big Reward}

Hey y’all! Do you want to go on vacation next summer? Us too! We can’t afford to make a line item in our budget for a vacation, so we’ve had to get tricky and think outside the box in order to fund our first ever family vacation. Yes, I said first ever. We’ve never been on a real family vacation before, so we’re planning to take one in 2017 no matter what. 

But how will you fund this thing, you ask? We’re feeding our pig! No, we don’t own a real pig. We have a big, chubby piggy bank we’re feeding every time we find a coin or cash in our bottles and cans for money. All of that goes straight into the pig.

Seriously the saddest photo of a pig I’ve ever seen. This pig needs to go on vacation!

How did you ever get such an odd idea, you ask? I got this idea on my birthday when I was thinking up ways to give a gift to my family because they have given me the gift of love everyday. I shared my idea with them and they love it!

Originally, we’d started saving coins in a clear two and a half-gallon jug, but we could see the coins and after years of emptying it every time we had an “emergency” we decided that just wouldn’t work, so now we’re feeding the pig! So far, we have it about half full already! We estimate there is about $50 in there, but to be fair…it was already about 1/4 full when I first got the idea.  I’m excited to crack that piggy open next summer and see what’s inside!

You might be asking “well, what happens when you fill the pig? Will you empty it out and refill it?” Well, yes and no. We’re going to leave all the money in there until next summer. When this pig is full, we’re going to fill another pig. Ideally, we’ll make our own pig out of fun recycled materials. If we do, I’ll be sure to share the tutorial of how we did it. If not, you know me…I’ll fess up and humble myself enough to tell you we broke down and purchased one at the Dollar Tree or a yard sale. 😉 I estimate we’ll fill this pig by the end of summer, but we’ll see!

We have some ideas about what we want to do. The kids obviously want to go to Disney Land, but I am vehemently opposed. I do not fit that into my list of values. There are much more frugal things to do with that money, y’all! Personally, I’d prefer my kids experience a national park or a cool new beach. I want to experience the outdoors and reset our natural clocks…maybe get Anthony to wake up before 8 am for once? (Yes, I am one of those annoying morning people. I wake up happy, want the house cleaned and children fed before 9 am. I swear, I was meant to be an Army drill sergeant. I missed my calling.)

Anyway, this is going to be a really interesting experiment. If we can all keep up with it, we’re going to have an amazing time. If not, well, I hope the kids like beans and wieners cooked over a campfire at a local campground because I am absolutely serious when I say we’re going on a vacation next year and it’s absolutely not going to be funded by our line item budget – this is all to be funded by coins and bottle returns.

What is the oddest way you’ve ever funded a vacation? Have you ever tried to fund one from bottle returns and coins? How did that work out for you? Share in the comments below. And remember – feed your pig!


A random photo of my adorable son enjoying his first BBQ rib last night. Because my sense of humor is nuts and I love showing off my super amazing kids. Enjoy! 

Today Is A Gift!

Today is a gift

Brothers and Sisters, today I just wanted to remind you that today is a gift from the Lord! Whatever your worries, whatever your struggles, the Lord is aware of them. He has given you this day as a gift and wants you to deeply rest in Him, trusting in His providence and sovereignty. Take some time today to remember all the Lord has done for you and know that there is still so much yet to come.

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father, today I lift up to You all who feel burdened by heavy worries. I ask You to surround these brave souls with Your loving care. Place a hedge of protection around them. Surround them with Your people who will remind them to slow down and enjoy the preordained blessings of this beautiful day that You have created. In Christ’s Precious Name I pray. Amen.

Your sister in Christ,

Mandy 🙂

Baby, Baby, Baby!

Since finding out for sure on Sunday that I’m expecting another baby, I’ve been utterly consumed with pregnancy. Anthony and I got right to work and settled on two names – one girl, one boy name.

Girl: Roosevelt Madeline Elizabeth

The Roosevelt family had a lot of obstacles to overcome, but they achieved success with much style and grace. Eleanor, Teddy and Franklin all affected our country in big and amazing ways. Why not honor that?

Madeline was the deacon at the church I grew up in. In my formative years, she had a massive (positive) influence on me.

Elizabeth is the name of a wonderful friend from my years as a Navy wife. She helped me through a dark time in my life and ultimately, reminded me why marriage was worth enjoying, and parenthood worth savoring. Though we’re no longer friends, (through my own stupidity), I still want to honor that massive transformation in my life, and the lovely lady that helped me through it.

I also love that the Elizabeth from the Bible was faithful to God and gave birth at a late age to a special son, John the Baptist. Great things come from great faith! 


Boy: Jackson Henry Aaron  

To be entirely honest here, I’ve always loved the name Jack. The first time I heard the name Jackson used as a first name, I fell in love with it. It’s both presidential and masculine in nature. My husband and I both are invested into politics, and he with American history. President Jackson stood for a lot of the things we stood for (though not all! We are republicans, after all.)

And yes, the two middle names are a nod to the late great Henry Louis Aaron aka “Hank Aaron”. Not only are we baseball fans, but we’re also for integration and basic human rights. We felt that Hank Aaron’s story was a great example and expression of that.

Also, Aaron is a wonderful character from the Bible. His story is significant as well. He helped Moses free his people from the tyranny of Pharaoh. We’d love for our son to be helpful and selfless as well.

After 8-1/2 years of naming babies, these names came to us fairly easily. We hope you enjoy them. Choosing names has made it easier for our daughters to talk to my belly as well. They’re already bonding with their new brother or sister, and it’s a sweet sight to behold.

Facebook Fellowship

I’m never quite sure how I feel about social media in the long-term scheme of things, but I’ve decided to open myself up a bit more and allow people in further than the front door, so to speak. So…if you’re on Facebook and have nothing better to do, look me up and we’ll be Facebook Friends, maybe? 

Nest Full Of Birds on Facebook



Going Amish?



One of my all-time favorite books is Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth. I cannot read this book enough! Right now, I’m reading it for the fourth or fifth time and taking more intensive notes than I ever have before. God has been placing it upon our hearts to live more sustainable lives and to love and tend His creation. For the last couple of years, Anthony and I have been working really hard to live more with less. We got off track about a year ago when we moved back home to Oregon, but we’re slowly getting back to where we want to be. Eventually, we will switch from 100% electric lighting to 100% non-electric lighting, from owning a clothes dryer, to not owning one (and line drying all of our clothes), and we will cut down on our use of a car for any errand within five miles of our home (unless it’s on the way home from church or work, which are both more than 10 miles from home). We’re selling pretty much everything that is non-essential and that does not honor God. This includes home decor, clothing, and most small electrical kitchen appliances. This change began in the heart, and is moving outward, to our actions. It’s not so much that we want to be Amish, as that we want to honor God in all we do and say, and we want to be sure we’re considering long-term cost to our environment, neighbors, and our wallets, as opposed to short-term gain for ourselves.

The more we pare down, the freer we feel. We live in a small (by “normal” standards) two bedroom, one and a half bath apartment. It’s around 900 square feet and it’s ample room for the four of us. We park in a community car port and we live less than half a block from the schools, and less than one-quarter mile from a local grocer’s. Everything we need is within one mile of our home. Though we do not have a backyard, we do have a small patio, and we are using that to grow some food. We currently have cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, mint, rosemary, basil, oregano, broccoli, limes, lemons and oranges growing on our back patio. There is still room for our two girls to play out there as well. We plan to increase our crop by double next year, adding beans, cilantro, potatoes, radishes, cucumbers (for pickling), and tomatillos or some other type of peppers.

Our girls are expected to help water the plants, feed the pets (we have a small dog and a cat), and clean up after themselves, as well as set the table, prepare some simple foods (like cutting olives with a table knife, tear lettuce for salads, stir baking mixes, etc), fold laundry (towels, wash cloths, socks, underpants, cloth napkins, etc.), and sweep and mop tiled areas, to name a few. I also expect them to clean the bathtub every Monday evening. (They love that particular chore, since it means they’re the first to take a soak in a clean tub!) We do not pay our girls an allowance. We had been using a rewards system to bribe them to do chores, but we’re removing that from our home, since we don’t believe that it’s spiritually beneficial to bribe them to assist the family, or for any other reason. This can lead to a sense of entitlement, and that is not a spiritual blessing in any way, shape or form. Instead, we reward ourselves with time spent outside, such as a daily walk to the park to play on the playground. We live exactly a half mile from two different parks (one in each direction), both with playgrounds. Taking a walk to the park is a daily occurrence, provided it’s not pouring down rain outside. This is ample reason for the girls to complete their chores in a timely manner. They absolutely love going to the park with enough time to spend socializing with the neighbor kids.

We have significantly decreased screen time for our children, to a mere 20 minutes a day (for computer games on Sesame and one movie a week, on Fridays, when we make popcorn and settle in on the couch as a family. This week, we watched Beauty and the Beast and all of us girls were delighted to discover that my husband knew all the words to every song in the movie! Anthony and I have cut down screen time for ourselves, as well. We’re working on cutting it down even further. It’s a tough habit to break! He is in online school, working towards a degree in forensics and criminology and I home school Theresa, using the internet as a frequent resource for her. (I have found very helpful videos on YouTube for my visual learner.) We have to be very mindful of how we are using the internet. It’s so easy to become distracted!

Our financial situation has always been bleak. We were love-sick kids who got married on borrowed time and borrowed money. We barely had two nickels to scrape together, and then we started having children. You can guess how that’s all turned out. 😉 We tried chasing after the “American dream” but found that for us, it’s more of an “American nightmare.” We have little interest in corporate America and even less interest in working far from home. We value our time together as a family, and our small home that allows us to be in close proximity to one another. Yes, we do occasionally (read: daily) drive each other nuts, but we also have some insanely funny moments. I would not trade this time with my family for anything, nor would I desire a larger house so that I could “escape” from my husband or my children. We make time for each other, and for ourselves. It all “comes out in the wash” as they say.

Behind our home is an empty property, full of grass, wild flowers, birds and often, deer. We love to stand on the patio, quietly talking to our friends, the deer. Right now there are five young bucks that make the trek to our “backyard”. It delights our girls to no end to see them out there, munching on the sweet grasses or laying lazily in the sun. I love listening to the hundreds of birds outside our window. There is a stream about 50 yards away, down a bit of a ravine, and I know the area is teeming with wild-life. I am in heaven here. There is always something new, something beautiful to enjoy, even in the middle of a small town.

Because we enjoy our friends the birds and deer so much, we want to preserve their land. Limiting our time in the driver’s seat, cutting down our carbon footprint, and reducing our use of non-renewable energies. We’re beginning to shop locally (which is an adjustment, I’ll admit! I love Fred Meyer!), frequenting farmer’s markets, purchasing locally made toiletries, using cloth napkins exclusively, cleaning with water and vinegar, and clearing our home of unnecessary clutter. (Clutter equals fire hazard, among other things.)

The reactions we’ve received about these changes have been, surprising to us, mostly negative. People ask why we’re striving to be so different, and ask why we’re trying to buy our way into heaven. It’s not about buying our way into heaven at all! It’s about ensuring there’s still a planet with fresh air, healthy (recognizable, non-genetically modified) foods, and room to run and play and explore nature, for future generations. Most of all, it’s about living in a way that allows us time to be free to do what we love best, and that is to love God by serving others. I cannot serve others very well when I am tied down to a large house, cleaning lots of things that I do not really need, and working at a job I hate just to be able to afford these things. That, to us, is the opposite of a dream.

God has deeply and richly blessed our family. I can count on one hand the amount of times we’ve discussed leaving this town to go somewhere else and make more money, and on one finger the number of places and situations I’d rather be in. God has planted us here, and we intend to bloom right where He’s planted us. This, above all things, is the Amish way. We will bloom where God has planted us until it is time to be with Him forever in Heaven.


I had completely forgotten about some adorable webcam videos I’d made of my girls a few years ago. They were rediscovered this morning while I was looking for something else. Apparently I’d started a YouTube channel while my husband was on deployment. My favorite of the videos is of the girls having a tea party. So here it is now, revived for your enjoyment!

Big Yellow Teapot

Hobbies {Toy Collecting}

Anthony and I love to shop at yard sales when we can. We’re a really frugal family who hates to pay full price for anything that can be had for less – and most things can be had for less. One of our newest hobbies is collecting old toys, especially well made, wooden automobiles, trains, and little play sets that activate the imaginations of kids. One of our latest additions was a 1972 Mattel’s Putt Putt train set. We bought it for $2 at a yard sale recently, along with a large amount of small wooden blocks. Our kids are ecstatic! They love the blocks, trains and cars and will sit on the living room floor and play with them for hours. Anthony and I join them often and play right alongside them.

Wooden blocks, trains
Theresa playing with blocks, cars, and trains

Honestly, I never saw myself becoming a toy collector, but I’m really enjoying it! It’s so much fun to research where the toys came from, how they were made, what the complete set looks like, and the original cost of the toy when it was purchased new. It’s a delight to rediscover the past this way, but also to embrace well-made toys, rather than some of the “fluff” that is sold in toy stores these days. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly brand new toys will fall apart and break once taken out of the package. Why do we waste our money on these things?  We’re now in the slow process of completing several play sets for birthdays and Christmas. As we collect more of the well made toys, we’re selling some of our kids’ plastic toys (with their enthusiastic permission) because they’re not playing with them. The more plastic toys we sell, the more well made toys we make room for.

Some of our collections include:

  • 1972 Mattel’s Putt Putt train set  (Ebay link for those interested in seeing it)
  •  1981 Bluebird Toys The Big Yellow Tea Pot set (from UK) – yes, it’s plastic, however, it’s high quality and follows higher standards of production and safety than most toys sold in the U.S. (Ebay link for those interested in it)
  • Old wooden, hand carved cars, trucks, trains, etc. We pick them up, knowing they’re hardier and better for constant indoor play than matchbox cars. Also, the larger sizes are easier for small hands to pick up and navigate.
  • Vintage Barbie dolls, clothes, furniture and her more recent friends and pets (we don’t keep the small shoes, accessories and hair brushes though. Those get sold almost immediately, rather than risk getting sucked up in the vacuum or sifted out of the dog’s food bowl.)

What about you? What do you collect?

I’m Turning 31 Soon!

Income Tax day is coming up in a few weeks, and so is my birthday! Yep, I’m an income tax baby. I’ll be 31 this year and I’ve decided to share 31 reasons I’m thankful. I’m on a journey to appreciate the little things in life, so here goes:

  1. The squeal of a happy child as they’re being chased by the Tickle Monster
  2. Rosie’s reaction to the cat toy on a string. Apparently my French Bulldog/Pug mix thinks she’s a cat, too.
  3. My neighbors daffodils, dancing in the wind
  4. Reading two of my favorite children’s books to my daughters – Bob by Tracey Campbell Pearson, and Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner
  5. The sweet sigh of happy children falling into a deep sleep
  6. Dog toots. Rosie has hilarious, squeaky toots that freak her out. She runs in circles, attempting to find the source of the squeak.
  7. The smell of my husband’s cologne.
  8. Our bedside lamps. I’ve wanted matching lamps for years and this year I found the perfect ones at a church rummage sale
  9. Coffee first thing in the morning
  10. The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide. I’ve been really blessed by both the daily scriptures and the insights from various writers.
  11. My husband’s hugs.
  12. My Student Bible. I love the deeper look into the origin of certain passages. I get so much more out of my daily reading this way
  13. Long burning white candles, no scent. So worth the money! And I don’t get a headache from them since there’s no scent.
  14. Fred Meyer‘s coupon system. They send me so many coupons for organic products, produce and grass-fed beef that it really pays for me to shop there.
  15. Netflix. I’m currently hooked on the 2010 show Parenthood (I’m on the 3rd Season out of 5) and I’m really hoping Crosby can get it together soon.
  16. The silly lawn gnomes and other garden sculptures I see at the store near the entrance/exit. They’re so fun to stop and look at.
  17. Putting pancakes or bread crumbs on my back porch to attract blue jays. They’re so cranky and they have the nerve to shout at me before taking a mouthful of sustenance back to their nests.
  18. Playing Toy Story 3 Yahtzee Jr with my 4-year-old. She rolled three “Poctor Dorkchops” and got really excited. (Evil Doctor Porkchop)
  19. Pig tails on little girls. So cute!
  20. Looking at baby pictures of my girls, with my girls and attempting (futilely) to explain to them that they can’t actually remember the events they’re looking at.
  21. Sun setting over the ocean
  22. My 4 year old’s unique sense of fashion
  23. Hugs from my 6-year-old.
  24. Watching my 6-year-old practice Tee Ball
  25. Listening to my husband rant about work. (He works in corrections, so his rants can be particularly hilarious on any given day)
  26. Reading Flywheel for the fourth time and still learning new Truths from it
  27. The Cinderella adorned Laundry and Chore charts I just printed the other day.
  28. The pink and purple curtains in my daughters’ bedroom. So pretty and such a pop of color in a white rental house bedroom.
  29. My husband’s excitement over the blackout curtains I just purchased for him.
  30. Growing my own food. Right now I have strawberries, tomatoes, garlic, key limes, Meyer lemons, venous oranges, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers, oregano, rosemary, mint, chocolate mint (delightful for tea!), kale, and basil growing. And I live in a small apartment with 2 kids, 2 pets and my husband and I. Oh yeah…it can be done folks! (I’m also going to start growing green onions and potatoes soon.)
  31. Pastor Yang. I’m so grateful for my Pastor’s wisdom and insight that he shares with us each week.

I’m thankful for so much more than this. I had a hard time stopping. 🙂 I’ve provided links for many of the items I’ve mentioned here so that you can be blessed by them too. I love sharing tips and ideas with people.

24 days until Christmas: Holiday Light Show {Opening Day}

Tonight was the opening day for our town’s annual holiday light show in the park. Anthony and I bundled up the girls and took them tonight as a surprise. I wish we’d remembered the camera, darn it! The girls had no idea what we were doing, so as soon as we drove up to the Winter Wonderland, they were excited!

Nature's Coastal Holiday Brookings Oregon
Nature’s Coastal Holiday Brookings Oregon

It was lightly drizzling and there is a fun new to us feature this year. They were giving out 3D glasses that made each light display appear to be made of colored snow flakes when you wore the glasses! How much fun is that? The admission was only $1 for adults and kids over the age of 12, making this a frugal and fun adventure we’re likely to enjoy again and again. (I’ll make sure to take my camera next time!)

What fun, frugal holiday activities are going on in your neck of the woods? Care to share? Let us know in the comments!


25 Days Until Christmas: Gift of Health

I couldn’t resist it! The sales were too great this weekend, and I had to go to my all-time favorite store for one stop shopping. I had to go to Fred Meyer! It wasn’t my fault. We were out of milk, oregano and eggs. I got a killer deal on the oregano and Organic Valley milk, but forgot the eggs. Oh well! The girls and I still had a blast! 

We found a bit more than we’d bargained for, which was perfectly fine with me since we’ve embarked on a mission to live a healthier lifestyle. We gave ourselves some Christmas presents early. We found beautiful oregano







German red garlic

German red garlic
German red garlic

and flowering kale plants to grow in our green house. The girls were especially excited about the beautiful kale because it’s not only a flower, but it’s edible, too! 

flowering kale
Flowering Kale

We enjoyed walking around the store and looking at all the fun holiday decorations on sale, but didn’t purchase anything because we’ve already decorated our home and are content with the way it looks. We’ll get a tree closer to Christmas because we’re in a rental home and don’t want the needles to make a mess in the carpet or cause damage to it. Basically, we’re a frugal bunch that can enjoy the fun without bringing home things we don’t need. I’m really proud of the girls for not asking for things they didn’t need and for seeing the value in plants they can eat! They’ve really enjoyed helping me grow tomatoes, pumpkins, and sunflowers this year and I know they’ll enjoy cultivating these new plants, especially since they’ll get to eat them!

What gifts are you giving to your family this year? Are you giving any distinct gifts of health? What kinds? And finally, do you grow any of your own food? Let me know in the comments!