Archive | July 2013

Buying A Car

car_salesmanWe just purchased a new-to-us car. While the process never seems to be simple, there are a few tips and tricks that can make the process easier.

  1. Get organized before you go. Before you even head to a dealership gather all your financial paperwork. You will need recent pay stubs or award letters, a bank statement showing where these are deposited, the correct name, address, birthdate, and social security number of anyone that will be on any financing. You can even apply for financing (if you must) and walk into a dealership with a check from your bank or finance company before you ever look at a car.
  2. Research! Research! Research! It is best to head to a dealership know what car your want and what options are must-haves and what you can live without. Whether you are buying a new or used car, putting together a list of what you want and don’t want can be very helpful. You should also research values and reliability of any car you are considering and your trade-in. Dealerships use NADA for used car values and pricing. Know what your car is worth and what the car you are buying should be priced at. Check out reliability and other reviews at sites like Edmunds. If you aren’t sure what kind of car you want prior to visiting a dealership (i.e. you need to see what good used cars they have), don’t sign on the dotted line until you have taken a day to pray, think, and research.
  3. Test real-life driving situations. In our family, my husband does all the dealership stuff and I do the organization and research. But whenever we are close to buying a car, he brings it by the house and we pile all the kids, car seats, and things we regularly use or keep in the car (i.e. our beach chairs) into the prospective car. Then we drive around town to places we regularly visit. This allows us to see if the kids really are comfortable in the back seat and if it is realistic for daily life. We also test out favorite suitcase and cooler in the trunk/cargo area to make sure those items that we travel with the most will fit.
  4. Consider gas and insurance costs when purchasing a car. Be sure you contact your auto insurance company to find out what your rate would be for the car you are considering. Understand the gas mileage on the new car and calculate the increased gas expense or savings from the new car.

Doing your homework and having information gathered before you visit a dealership will greatly improve the process.

TIP: Average cars will last 10 years or 120,000 without significant maintenance costs. Instead of buying a new car, when your car is paid off continue making “payments” into a savings account. Then, when you do need (not want!) to replace your car, take the cash you have saved to pay for a good, reliable 1-2 year old used car. Cars 1-2 years old are the best deal as they are generally still in good shape and have a lot of life left, but the depreciation that happens the second you drive off the lot has already happened.

Vacation Folio (Binder)

familyVacationStackedCarClipArt[1]Yes, around here even our vacations are hyper-organized! While we always leave room for spontaneous fun (I DO NOT plan every minute) having all the paperwork and information about the vacation in an easily accessible folio helps me to relax and enjoy the trip.

Start with a 1/2 inch 3-ring binder or an expandable folio file. I prefer the folio or a binder that can be secured closed (think Trapper Keeper). You will need clear plastic protective sleeves for all your documents. (I like these that have colored edges so I can classify documents by type using the colors.)

Start by creating a vacation itinerary with each days driving or flight plan, address and phone number of where you will stay each night, what you will be doing that day (i.e. For a non-travel day, list that you will be at Disney’s Magic Kingdom on that day) and any reservation confirmation numbers that pertain to that day. Print this out and put it into a sheet protector. This should be the first page of your folio.

Print out all reservation (hotels, dinners, etc) and flight and/or rental car information. Print copies of anything you have pre-purchased (amusement park tickets, photo packages, etc). Put each reservation into a separate sheet protector. If you use the sheet protectors with colored edges, use one color for each location OR use one color for all hotel info, another for all dining info, etc.

Research your destination and travel route. Print out any information about interesting stops, rest areas, etc. and then put them in sheet protectors and file so that they follow your route (an interesting place to see on travel day two comes before a restaurant you want to eat at on travel day 7).

Next type up current health and medical information for each family member (1 sheet per person). Use the linked form or make a list of current prescriptions and pharmacy information, doctor who prescribed it, and any other relevant medical conditions. Print this and keep it in your folio.

Be sure to include a copy of your car’s insurance and registration in a sheet protector in your folio. Also add in a list of important phone numbers (you never know when you might need an actual list in an emergency. Don’t just rely on a phone.). Include a map that covers your trip route. GPS isn’t always reliable and you don’t want to be lost someplace unknown without a map. We also keep several empty sleeves for adding brochures and other things we pick up along our route. Stick a Sharpie marker, a pen, and a small role of duck tape in the folio. We have used all of these at unexpected times on trips.

Finish off your folio with DVDs for the kids (if you have a computer or DVD player for the car) and keep them safe using 3-ring DVD sleeves. Include a couple that you enjoy too, as you are likely to hear them playing in the car!

Now your vacation folio is complete. Keep this in the front seat with you and bring it into hotels. Enjoy your vacation knowing you have all the information you need right at your fingertips!

Saturday Project: Pocket Pillow Runner

pocket pillow runnerMy kids always have a book and some little trinket they want with the in bed. Inevitably, something gets lost in the covers and other stuffed animals they sleep with. I was very excited when I found B. Jane brewing’s instructions for this lovely, felt pocket pillow runner. This lays under your child’s pillow and has a pocket for a book, glasses, or other small trinket kids want close at bedtime.



Photo Credit:


Give-Away : Trades of Hope

I want to let you all know about a great opportunity to help women and get some really great jewelry and accessories. Trades of Hope is a direct sales organization that offers products made by women who have been rescued out of human trafficking and slavery. These women are given the opportunity to produce jewelry, scarves, and other personal and home accessories to earn a living instead of having to sell themselves to provide for their families. Purchasing products through Trades of Hope offers you the chance to make a very real difference in the life of a woman who has been in bondage!


I have personal purchased many items from Trades of Hope, and I can tell you that the quality and beauty of the merchandise offered is second to none! Prices are reasonable too – but how can you put a price on helping a woman have a safe way to provide for her family?

To help spread the word about Trades of Hope we are partnering with them to do a give away! You have the opportunity to win this awesome aqua scarf! Between now and July 14, 2013 enter the drawing for this scarf by leaving a comment on this post with your name and contact information and liking us on Facebook ( if you have not already done so. On July 15, 2013 we will randomly draw one winner from all the entries.

To browse Trades of Hope products, make a purchase,  or to find out more about Trades of Hope, please visit the Trades of Hope website.

Legal Stuff: One entry per person. No purchase in necessary to enter or win. Prize will be awarded by a random drawing on July 15, 2013 from all entries. Duplicate entries will be thrown out. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries. Author received one aqua scarf as part of the promotion. Opinions are solely the authors and do not reflect any opinion or text supplied by Trades of Hope.

Oreo Delight

One of our historically favorite desserts for parties and potluck dinners is Oreo Delight. This rich dessert is based on the Oreo cookie and takes flavors from the cookie to form its layers. It is simple to make and always a crowd pleaser.

Prep time: 20 minutes       Total time: 4 hours 40 minutes (including refrigeration)


  • th1 package Oreo Double Stuffed cookies, finely crushed
  • 6 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tub (12 oz.) Cool Whip, thawed* (you will not need the whole 2 tubs)
  • 3 ¼ cups plus 2 Tbsp. cold milk
  • 2 packages (4 serving size) Chocolate instant pudding*
  • *sugar free varieties can be use with no change in the appearance or flavor


  1. Mix crushed cookies and butter in medium bowl.  Press firmly onto bottom of a 9×13 baking pan. Refrigerate 10 minutes.
  2. Beat cream cheese, sugar and 2 Tbsp. milk in medium bowl with wire whisk until well blended. Gently fold in 1 ¼ cups of the Cool Whip. Spread the mixture over the crust. Refrigerate while you complete the next step.
  3. Pour 3 ¼ cups milk into medium bowl. Add dry pudding mixes. Beat with wire whisk until well blended. Pour over cream cheese layer and refrigerate 5 minutes until thickened.
  4. Drop Cool Whip on the top and spread. Cover the whole top with a layer of Cool Whip. Use as much or as little Cool Whip on the top as you like. I usually use about 12 oz.
  5. Refrigerate 4 hours. Cut into 24 squares. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
  6. Makes 24 servings, 1 square each (We usually cut them into 15 servings per 9×13 pan)