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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oh Play Me Some Mountain Music

Last weekend we had the good fortune of renting a beautiful cabin in Spruce Pine, NC...for $50 a night! Spruce Pine is right near Grandfather Mountain, Boone, and Asheville, but it is waaayyy up in the mountains! My parents drove up from Atlanta to meet us there. We spent the weekend there, even though it rained pretty much until it was time to leave. However Sunday morning we woke up to see a crystal clear, sunny day! At least we got to enjoy the views and sunshine for a few hours before we had to head home. The first few pictures are of the cabin (I should say house, it was 3 bedrooms with a basement), and then the views from the porch.

We're cute, aren't we? Let me know if you find my upper lip, I seemed to have lost it.


The community had a nice little greenspace with a waterfall that we could drive down to. Andrew was so amazed by it, and quickly proceeded to throw rocks into the pool. Give the boy a rock, and he's happy.


In order to actually GET to this waterfall we had to ford (yes, ford) a river four (yes, four) times (eah way!) in the Jeep. I think Brian was secretly enjoying it, he got to use the four wheel drive, finally! Andrew loved it when we had to cross the streams, he kept saying "more more!"



On the way back home, we went to nearby Mt. Mitchell, which is the highest point east of the Mississippi. Andrew was closer to the sun than he has ever been in his whole life. A feat not many 2 year olds can claim. However, he was so uninterested. Maybe it was the altitude? Then his luck changed...there, in the middle of a picnic shelter, was a huge puddle of water. And leading to that shelter was a path of, you guesed it...ROCKS! So, here we are, highest point in the East, and he's throwing rocks in a puddle. Nana invented a game where we all had to line up with two (and only two) rocks each, and Andrew would say "Go!" Then we all had to throw our rocks in at the same time. Whatever keeps the boy happy....






And one last picture for laughs. Here's Andy riding a goose door-stopper that was in the cabin. My lil' cowboy!









Disclaimer--- The Manley household used no (NONE) GPS hand held devices during the duration of this trip. However, the Hargraves household used two (TWO) devices (for the same car). My mom and dad each have a GPS, and they use them at the same time, in the same car. They set the directions and let their GPS's "race" to the destination. I guess when you reach a certain age you gotta get your kicks however you can. Love you, Mom and Dad.

I Love Mema & Pop


Last week Mema and Pop came down to visit Andrew for the afternoon. Mema and Pop are Brian's grandparents, Andrew's GREAT-grandparents! They look good, don't they :)


They enjoyed playing cars with Andrew, and then stayed for dinner. We love you Mema and Pop!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gazelle Intense, Vol. II

It's high time for another Total Money Makeover update! It's been three and a half months since Brian and I made the commitment to get out of debt. We're following Dave Ramsey's guidelines, from his book (Total Money Makeover). I have friends and family that either have done it (successfully!) or are currently doing it, so it's nice to have a 'network' of fellow gazelles. So, for the update:
  • We've paid off FOUR medical bills, totalling around $1,000. We're not a sick family, we just apparently like to have surgery. Last year Andrew and I both had surgery, and Brian the year before that (which we were still paying off!)
  • We've paid off and CLOSED a credit card! Only one card left.
  • For the one remaining credit card, we've payed it down almost $2,000. Almost there! This one we'll pay off, but will keep open.
  • We have been able to stock away $1,000 (in addition to Dave's $1,000 emergency fund). It's a good thing, too, because it looks like we need a new roof.

We're extremely proud of ourselves, and thankful to the Lord for allowing all of this to happen. Like I've said in my other "gazelle" posts, we haven't gotten a raise, no extra jobs, we've just learned to manage what we've got, learned to budget (and coupon!), and most importantly, learned the difference between 'need' and 'want.'

As soon as that last credit card has been 'put down' as Brian and I like to say, we'll be diligently paying off my car, which should only take a few months with the snowball (the accumulation of payments to other previously paid-off debts). Then it's on to my student loan, Brian's car, then Brian's student loan!

I continue to encourage all you others out there on this similar walk of life. You can do it, we can do it! We ARE doing it!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Swaggin'

I wanted to share with y'all the new phenomenon of Swag Bucks! It's a new search engine that rewards you with points for every time you search the internet using their search engine. You randomly recieve SwagBucks when you do searches, and the points add up over time. You can redeem these points for Amazon.com gift cards! So far I've cashed in for a $10 Amazon gift card! All for doing something I already do! I use the SwagBucks toolbar instead of Google (and you really can't tell the difference!) It's a great way to earn those gift cards to buy things that aren't really budgeted, like the occasional book splurge, or, I don't know...the new upcoming release of Twilight the movie?

If you're interested, click on this link:

SwagBucks

You'll sign up for an account, and you can either download the toolbar (which I recommend) or just sign into SwagBucks.com everytime you need to do a search. It's a great way to get some extra cash (or at least gift cards)! They offer Amazon gift cards, Subway gift cards, and even Starbucks! Try it out!

Get rewarded for something you're already doing!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Welcome, Spring!

We're so glad spring is here (or almost here). We're loving this warm, beautiful weather we've had these last few days. We went to the zoo Saturday, washed both the cars, and worked in the yard!
Andrew really enjoyed the zoo. We've been countless times, but he's just now at the age to appreciate what he's seeing (and actually physically SEE it). Here are a few zoo pictures:
He was very excited about the bears! They were both on exhibit, and were, you guessed it, rasslin'!
Daddy and Andrew cheesin' it up in front of the baboons.When we got home, we washed both the cars! I guess daddy just wanted a nice, clean car for all the pollen to stick to. Of course, all that zooing around town can wear a boy out. So we had an Oreo cookie break on the steps while daddy got the cars ready. Notice he's sporting a choco-stache' in the car-washing pictures :) Andrew really wanted to 'help' wash the cars, so I gave him his own sponge. He went to town...




























After all that, we planted a few pansies in the front yard to spruce up the porch. After all, the house is on the market, and flowers are an 'investment', right? Hopefully I won't get carried away and put a $200 flower 'investment' in the yard this year... :) We don't have any flower-planting pictures, we were all too dirty to hold the camera. But he did learn how to put the flower in the hole, cover it up, and give it some water! Gotta start 'em young!

Rasslin'









That's how us southerners say 'wrestling.' And thats what's going on here in the Manley household. (Or rather, a few nights ago...) Andrew just loves to rassle his daddy after dinner. And we love it too because it's Andrew's last hurrah before bedtime, and he works out all that leftover energy.

This is daddy's signature move: the steam roller!!




The sweet, tired face of the champion! See...daddy's worn out, stretched out on the couch!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Frugal Flower

Many of you know that I've been toying with the idea of starting my own business as of late. The business of floral arranging, mainly weddings, but I suppose I would encompass funerals, churches, etc. I had spent four years in college working at Oak Hill (Martha Berry's home) on the grounds crew, and was able to get lots of floral arranging experience under my belt. Every Friday we (and a lot, a LOT of Fridays it was just me) would put a fresh flower arrangement on Martha Berry's grave. We actually went, every Friday, to a wholesale dealer, picked the flowers, did the arrangement, and delivered it. I probably did a few hundred...four years of Fridays? Two hundred, easy.
Then, I started to "play" with making bouquets. My college roommate, Beth, thought they were gorgeous and I had a skill, so she actually hired me to do her wedding! By the time I graduated from Berry I had done five weddings. And since then, I've done four more and have been hired to do two this spring/summer. I've never taken a 'formal' class on arranging, it just so happens that God blessed me with this talent, and it happens to be one I truly enjoy. It's such a great feeling to be a part of somebody's wedding, to help create the moment and the memories. It's almost like I get to get married several times a year! In a way I get to re-create my own wedding, using somebody else's ideas :) I've done a tulip/lily wedding, a daffodil wedding, a fall wedding, rose weddings, gerbera daisy weddings...and am doing another rose wedding in July and a peony wedding in May.

So my question to y'all is, do you think I should do it, and do you think I'd be successful? I'm toying with the name "The Frugal Flower" as the business name. One of the big reasons I'd like to do this business is to give brides another, much less expensive option for flowers. I mean, do y'all REALIZE what the markup is on flowers? It's a total ripoff. At a wholesaler, florists buy bundles of 25 long-stem roses for around $24. Do you know what they charge for just 12 of those roses? Upwards of $40. And they charge thousands of dollars for weddings! Ridiculous! Should be a crime! In all of the weddings I've done, the most expensive one was around $450. Total. That same wedding (of about 400 gerbera daisies) would have cost easily a thousand dollars, as a conservative guess. So, my business plan would be to provide affordable, reasonable service in the wedding industry. Does the name "Frugal Flower" make more sense now? Do y'all like the name? Would anyone give me any referrals? I'd be happy to do any wedding, pretty much anywhere! My longest-distance wedding was Seattle!

Please, y'all, give me any advice, comments, encouragement you may have!

Snow? S'no snow here.

We didn't receive a single flake of snow. Well, not a single flake that stuck around. It snowed for about 30 minutes , just long enough for us (well, mainly me) to get excited and think, "well, maybe it will be a big storm after all!" And then that was the end of it. I had such grand visions in my head as to what the yard would look like, what Duke and May (the pets) would do, and mostly what Andrew would think of it. They were predicting 3-5" inches for us, which is pretty significant. And we got zilch. So you can imagine how disappointed I was, and it really put me in a mood. I had to turn the T.V. off so I wouldn't see how much snow everyone else got. I mean I got really bitter!

And then I realized, I was envious. I wanted that snow, and I was pouting because God didn't give it to me, He gave it to everyone else. I forced myself to realize that, okay, we didn't get snow. Big Deal! It's cold, wet, and the dog would track it all over the house (and extract possibly a few explicit words). Andrew probably wouldn't have liked being cold and wet anyways. And I also didn't want the snow/ice to hurt the peach blossoms. So maybe God realized (before I did) that I didn't need, or really even want, the snow. I mean here I was, just last week (and just last blog post) complaining about winter and praying for the quick appearance of spring and warmth.

It's typical human nature, I suppose. Get fixated on one thing, then the next new, shiny thing comes along and it becomes your new obsession. And throughout, God is faithful and delivers on what He knows you truly desire. I really am wholeheartedly looking forward to warmer weather. There's so many wonderful things that happen once the spring and summer arrive. We spend much more time together as a family, participating in all sorts of outdoor activities. We plan, plant, and nurture our garden, and reap the benefits. We travel, go camping, hiking, and immerse ourselves in the beautiful world God created just for us. There are so many more "teachable moments" that I have with Andrew when we're outside or travelling. All in all, I feel like a better wife, a better mother, and a happier person in general when it's warm. (And to think I lived in Alaska for a few years...I shudder at the thought now!)

So I'm "over" the fact we didn't get snow. God knew I didn't really want it. And God has much greater things in store. In fact, I'm very much looking forward to the 75 degree weekend we have coming up!