Monthly Archives: April 2014

10 Surefire Ways to Build an Emergency Fund Now!

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Do you have at least $1,000 tucked away for a short-term crisis? Emergencies always happen when we least expect them and can be financially devastating when they do. How we manage our lives and stress, unfortunately have a lot to do with money, or lack thereof. Most financial experts suggest every household should have a minimum of $1,000 in savings to cover unexpected calamity. If you have less than this in savings, or nothing at all, it’s time to focus on changing that.

The following 10 surefire ways worked to build my family’s emergency fund and can make a huge difference in your path to financial freedom, too.

1. Make the decision you MUST, CAN and WILL save for an emergency. To inspire you read, “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey. It’s a step-by-step guide based on biblical principles with simple strategies to guide you out of debt for good. No matter your circumstances, it’s never too late to change the direction of your finances and that’s empowering. Read the book as soon as you can.

2. Set up a budget and get your family onboard. Share the plan and your excitement with your family. While reading the book, you will be able to share with them the many success stories included from families just like yours. In the meantime map-out monthly income and expenses, include dates you receive paychecks and dates bills are due. Figure out the monies left after paying bills, and determine the amount of money you will consistently deposit into the emergency fund from every paycheck.

3. Get a second job if necessary. If your family is barely living off of one income and you can manage to work a second job, consider a temporary, part-time job as a solution for earning your emergency fund.  A seasonal or holiday job might fit your needs perfectly without the obligation to long-term employment.

4. Sell what you don’t use and everything else you can. It’s not easy to part with stuff, but if you’re not using it, and you’ve already spent the money anyway, turn it into cash. Scour your home and plan to get rid of extra things. Begin preparing for a garage sale, or listing items on eBay and other online selling sites, or through classified ads (look for newspapers that also provide classifieds on their website). Share what you are selling with your friends on Facebook, and join your community’s yard sale page. Ask friends for referrals to reputable sites they have used to sell stuff. Host your own booth at a local flea-market or tag sale. Enlist the kids! We offered our sons a percentage of what sold at our garage sale to get them excited. Not only were their efforts invaluable to me, they learned basic business skills, and enjoyed the process, which made the whole thing more fun for me, too.

5. Save on groceries. Cut back to mostly needs and forego the extras like snacks and soda. By cutting back on the essentials one week out of the month, you will reap even more savings. Purchase most everything you need on sale. Clip and use coupons. Keep track of everything you put into your grocery cart on your phone’s calculator and stay on budget. Shop the discount dollar store for paper, laundry products, school supplies, canned and boxed foods. Remember this is a short-term change with a means to an end.

6. Stretch your meals. Eat less if you’re healthy enough to do so. Turn leftovers into a different entree the next day. Use them to make a hearty soup with beans and grains, or add vegetables, saute and serve with rice for an altogether different dish. Get creative and have fun coming up with new recipes. It is possible to eat healthy on a budget.

7. Go meatless once or twice a week. Instead of meat, try eating eggs one night a week. Breakfast for supper is a super grocery bill slasher!  There are plenty of filling ways to get protein in your diet through vegetables (like avocados), nuts and grains. This one switcheroo will save you lots of money.

8. Shop your pantry and freezer. Most of us have an overstock of canned, boxed, and frozen items but forget they’re on a back shelf or at the bottom of the freezer. Bring your canned and dry goods out to the countertop where you can see what you have, then plan meals around them. Make a list of frozen items and do the same.

9. Save your coins. Display a pretty jar as a reminder to empty your pockets and purse of all your change each evening. I recently exchanged our randomly collected coins and left the bank with almost $200! Don’t forget to take back soda bottles for your deposit money also.

10. Put a temporary hold on eating out and other extras. You already know the value of this tip, but for reminder’s sake, avoid your favorite coffee shop and fast-food restaurants. In fact, don’t eat out period until you have met your $1,000 goal. Instead, prepare refreshments and food at home and take them with you. Carry an apple or healthy snack in your car or purse to curb moments of drive-thru weaknesses. Think about every scenario where you may be tempted to spend, then plan ahead to avoid them.

One of the greatest joys I have found from learning how to cut debt and save money has been to share with others how they can do it, too! My youngest sister shared “The Total Money Makeover” plan with me first, I then shared it with our other sister, who began the plan right away. We have marveled at how the original biblical concepts on money still remain the best guidance today. You can read more about how they tie in inside Dave Ramsey’s book.

There are many advantages to an emergency fund other than having it available when you need it. A savings will lessen financial burden on your family and give peace of mind; you will begin to see it is possible to live a debt-free, more worry-free life by continuing to practice good saving habits; and teaching your children about money and living by example are priceless blessings with far-reaching benefits.

Here is the link to 5 Fast Rules For Debt-Free Living For Life if you would like to read more on how to break-free from debt. To read future posts on this topic you can follow me on Facebook at Modern Hen Home.

“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8

Lisa

 

So Simple Baked French Toast & Pecan Streusel

 

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On Saturday I prepared this so-simple and special breakfast treat for baking the next morning.  My husband said it was a “10” on his taste scale, and the teenagers used the word, “amazing”. In other words, it was a winner in our house!

This dish is easy to whip-up and wonderful for special weekends and holidays when you want to serve something a little more decadent than usual. I used my grandmother’s old cast-iron skillet to bake the bread in and it came out perfectly — crunchy on top, moist in the middle, crispy on the bottom.

So Simple Baked French Toast

Ingredients:
1 loaf French or Italian bread, cut into 1/2-inch slices
8 large eggs
3 cups half-and-half (or whole milk)
3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
Pecan Streusel (recipe below)
Maple syrup
Blueberries or fruit & powdered sugar (optional)

Directions:
1. Arrange bread slices in a large greased cast iron skillet.

2. Combine eggs and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl, whisking until well blended. Pour egg mixture over bread. Cover and chill 8 hours or overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle Pecan Streusel over bread slices. Bake for 45 minutes or until slightly puffed and golden. Serve with maple syrup. Serves 8-10.

Pecan Streusel
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans

Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl; stir in pecans. Makes 3 cups.

Lisa

 

Garlicky Spinach & Angel Hair Pasta

 

garlicky spinach & Angel hair

This savory dish is one way to stretch a meal with leftover pasta. Generally, I serve it as a side to chicken or fish, but it’s a family favorite all by itself.  We prefer the thinner Angel Hair pasta over traditional spaghetti noodles, and I add extra red pepper seeds and parmesan because we like the heat and pungent flavors.

Be sure to have all ingredients, cooking utensils and serving bowl close to your cooktop because this dish is prepared in 3 fast steps ~ saute, toss to mix, and serve hot.

Garlicky Spinach & Angel Hair Pasta

Ingredients –
½ lb angel hair pasta (cooked/drained – about 1/2 box of Barilla brand)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper seeds (or to taste)
1 tbsp minced garlic (Spice World Squeeze bottle brand), or 3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups frozen fresh chopped spinach, thawed/drained, or 1/2 lb fresh spinach, loosely chopped
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
coarse salt to taste

Step 1. In skillet on medium-high, saute olive oil, garlic and red pepper seeds until brown, 1-2 minutes.

Step 2. Add spinach and coarse salt to pan, stir 1 minute until wilted. Fold in cooked pasta, butter, lemon juice and mix lightly.

Step 3. Add parmesan cheese, toss to mix in, pour into serving bowl.

* For a twist, add marinated artichokes, Kalamata olives or capers.  Be careful on the capers though, they can add a lot of saltiness to the dish. I would start with half a teaspoon and then add to taste from there.

If you like this easy recipe you can receive future posts direct to your email inbox by signing up on this page. I try to post recipes, DIY projects and helpful features most days of the week.

Lisa

10 Best Vacation Tips: How To Travel Stress-Free With Your Dog

*This post originally appeared in April, 2014, and I am reposting in lieu of the upcoming holiday.


If your family is like mine this is the time of year you are discussing and planning for your spring and summer getaways.  You’re probably also thinking about how to travel with the kids and dog for a smooth trip with the least amount of stress on everyone.

My family’s upcoming vacation involves a day-long road trip and we’re taking our dog Toby with us. In fact, the biggest reason we are loading up the car and hitting the roads this weekend is so that he can travel with us to enjoy the fun we are planning.  Traveling by car is the simplest Continue reading

10 Lovely Script Fonts — FREE!

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I wanted to share these beautiful and FREE fonts from The Graphics Fairy with you!

Wouldn’t they be perfect for wedding, graduation, birthday, anniversary and shower invitations?

They can be found here, along with an easy “how-to” for downloading them to your computer.

I love free stuff, don’t you?

Be sure to check out my Font Love page on Pinterest for more free fonts!

 

 

 

 

Before & After: Well-Worn Bench to Versatile Extra Seating

This past week I received the sad news that a special and dear friend of mine passed away.

My sons affectionately called him Mr. Gene.

I worked with him for over 18 years before he “re-retired” last summer at the vibrant age of 92 to move closer to his daughter.

Before leaving Mr. Gene gave me a few items to keep in remembrance of him — an old, tattered picnic bench set among them. Both benches were worn and rickety… their smudged paint and banged up slats signs of the workhorses they had become for my friend.

And I loved every scar...

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When I brought them home my husband asked me what in the world I was going to do with them.

I had no idea.

We didn’t need the extra seating on our patio and the weather would just add further damage.

So I hosed them down, spiders and all, tightened the screws and brought them inside.

I chose not to paint them and added a cushioned seat to both.

And this is how it went…

Supplies:  2″ thick foam cushion, cotton batting, pre-washed fabric, staple gun and staples, nailhead strips, hammer, scissors, fabric marker or pencil, tape measure.

Directions:

Securing cushion with batting

1. Fold the long piece of cushion foam in half, mark it and cut it into two pieces, putting one of the cushions to the side for the second bench. Turn the bench upside and lay it on one cushion, trace around the seat with marker and cut away extra foam.

2. Lay batting on the floor, then the cushion, and the bench upside down on top of both, allowing enough batting on all four sides for stapling over the seat. Mark and cut the batting.

3. Pull the batting up over cushion and underside edge of bench. Staple once in the center on each side and smooth out wrinkles along the way. Finish by stapling all around to secure.

Adding upholstery fabric

4. Trace and cut upholstery fabric same as step 2. Allow all four sides of the bench an extra 1-1/2 inches for stapling. (I used extra corduroy fabric from my storage.)

5. At one end, staple the fabric over both the cushion and the wood seat, being careful to keep the pattern or lines straight.  Fold edges under as you staple to avoid future fraying. Turn bench over, smooth it out, pull tight and staple once in the center at the other end, then repeat next two sides. Finish by stapling around the rest of the underside to secure.

6. Carefully fold corner fabric back onto the bench ends like shown in the photo below.

7. Add nailhead strips around the bottom edge with hammer for a finished look. (Joann Fabrics had the strips, Hobby Lobby did not. The strips are much easier to keep in a straight line.)

 

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When we have guests, the dining chairs can be moved closer together and the bench pulled in closer to allow for more seating.

 

 

The matching bench is at the foot of our master bed.

It’s been great for keeping a blanket off the floor, as a place to sit and get dressed, and as a springboard for our dog!

 

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Both benches work well in our home… sweet reminders of a loyal and faithful friend.

“Loyal friends love through difficult times.” Proverbs 17:17

“Faithful friends are a rare treasure.” Proverbs 18:24

Heirloom Tomato Caprese

If you like tomatoes, you will love this salad inspiration. My mother introduced me to the vinaigrette, which tastes great as a meat marinade. The dressing and the fresh tomatoes are key to this easy recipe’s tantalizing flavors.  This Caprese is a bit more “Greek” in flavor with the Kalamata olives, but you can exchange the olives with fresh, chopped basil for the more authentic Italian version.

I’m the tomato lover in our home but maybe, just maybe, this salad will change some minds!

Heriloom Tomato Caprese


1 large green tomato
2 medium yellow tomatoes
2 red tomatoes on the vine (available in stores)
4 – 6 slices fresh mozzarella
8 – 10 Greek Kalamata olives, pitted
2 tbsp chopped green onions

Classic Vinaigrette (Garlic Expressions brand)

1 – Loaf freshly baked Italian bread

Slice tomatoes medium thickness and place in the center of a large serving plate. Add fresh mozzarella and the Greek olives on top. (Be sure they are pitted.) Drizzle vinaigrette over the dish, top with green onions. Tear large pieces of Italian bread from loaf and serve on the side. The chunky bread tastes divine soaked in the dressing and juices.

Tip:  Storing tomatoes in the refrigerator will evaporate their flavor. Leave them on the counter or in a bowl until you are ready to use.

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Enjoy!

Lisa

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