Monthly Archives for September 2020

Giving vs. Spending: What’s the Difference in My Budget?

Finance - Ruth - September 29, 2020

One topic that came up during the recent No Spend Weekend Challenge was that of giving vs. spending. It’s a spiritual question that we answer with our physical lives. Choosing how and when to use our money gets complicated when funds are tight. How we allocate our available resources can reveal our true priorities.

I believe giving and spending are very different things and should be addressed differently in a budget. Spending is trading money for something you want. Giving is offering something, money or goods or services, to another person or entity with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

Giving and spending can, on the surface, look a lot alike. It is in examining your motives and potential return that you find the difference. Motives can be a difficult thing to force ourselves to consider because they can appear beautiful on the surface but be ugly underneath.

Let’s make it a little less personal and look at it from the perspective of a business. Suppose the local fitness center, we’ll call it “LFC” for short, sponsors a charity 5k. LFC goes all out and becomes the title sponsor. The name of the organization is used every time the 5k is advertised, as in, “Come to the LFC Charity 5K next weekend!” The business logo appears on all of the event signs and is the largest and most prominent image on the back of the event t-shirt. LFC’s owner is invited to make an appearance at the event and has a photo op with the head of the charity and some cute little kids who have benefited from the charity’s work.

Is sponsoring the charity event giving or spending (specifically on advertising)? Do you see what I mean? It’s complicated. I’m not saying LFC’s owner is bad or phony for sponsoring a charity event. The owner may really want to support the charity. It just seems at some point the sponsorship crosses a line from giving into spending. It’s hard to tell.

Here’s another example, one from my own life. My husband is a minister and as such we are often called to lead by example. We take the responsibility seriously and strive to live up to our calling in Christ in everything we do, including how we handle our finances, even though we know we don’t always do it perfectly.

A few years ago our church embarked on a fundraising campaign and all of the church leaders were called upon to make the first pledges to the campaign as visible proof to the congregation of the importance of the project. Naturally the Senior Minister and his wife were expected to do their part. We certainly wanted to support the project, but it would be easy to ask where one draws the line between the “cheerful giver” of 2 Corinthians 9:7 and merely fulfilling a job responsibility. We had to search our motives to be sure we were giving out of love.

So what about you? Are you giving a gift to impress your boss? To bless your neighbor? To control your children? To encourage your friend?

I don’t profess to have those answers. Only the individual can evaluate his own heart and mind. While I still think gifts given with less than stellar motives can be used for good, please let me encourage you to honestly evaluate how and why you give or don’t give, particularly if you are having financial difficulties. If you are giving out of a grateful heart that is overjoyed to have something to offer during a lean time, then good for you! Just as Jesus honored the widow’s mites I hope he will honor and multiply your gift. If you are giving to get ahead or maintain appearances, please reconsider your spending priorities and get to a place where you are free to give out of joy, not manipulation or obligation.

Isn’t it interesting that God promises blessings for giving (not spending)? In Malachi 3:10 the Lord basically double-dog-dares us to give and promises great things if we do. I suspect He knows our motives even better than we do, so it seems wise to examine them ourselves.

What do you see as the line between spending and giving? How do you prioritize giving and spending in your budget?

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DIY Large Candy Bouquets

DIY, Recipe Box - Ruth - September 25, 2020

Over the weekend my husband and I decided we needed to provide thank-you gifts to two teams of caregivers who have been helping a family member. It just so happened that the same store that was selling the Candy Bouquet mugs I wrote about here was also selling larger candy bouquets. That seemed like a good gift to give the caregivers since we weren’t sure exactly how many people were involved and a large candy bouquet would provide a little treat for everyone on the team.

Since I already detailed how to create a smaller candy bouquet in this post and how to make bows in this post, I won’t repeat it all here. I will share some pictures of the assembly process for these larger bouquets since everything had to be scaled up a little bit.

And since I did a more detailed cost analysis for the smaller bouquets, I’ll just mention here that the store was selling the large bouquets for $19.99 (US). I had some supplies left from my previous candy bouquet projects but had to buy a lot more candy to fill the larger vases, so I estimate I spent about $12 per large bouquet, including estimated costs for the supplies I had on hand. While the percentage savings wasn’t as great for these bouquets as for the smaller ones, it’s still money that stayed in my pocket rather than being spent and the gift was of my time rather than that of someone I paid to do it for me.

  •  Candy to fill the vase. How much depends upon the size of the vase you choose. My vases actually held more than I thought they would.
  •  Dry floral foam. I actually used less foam per vase than I did per mug for the smaller candy bouquets because I was just filling the neck of the vase.
  • Bamboo skewers. I used 8″ skewers and cut them down as needed. For this project I only needed a couple of 8″ skewers per vase but cut several more down to 4″ or 2″ lengths for most of my fillers. I used about a dozen total 8″ skewers per bouquet.
  • Clear packing/mailing tape. I used the roll I worked from on the other projects and I still have tape left.
  • Candy to make the bouquet. How much depends upon your vase. I used 8 candy canes, 5 marshmallow snowmen, and a “million dollar” candy bar for each bouquet.
  • Colored cellophane. I used about a dozen pieces that were roughly (very, very roughly) 8″ square for each bouquet.

What to do:

Start by filling the vase with candy. If your vase has a narrow neck, like mine, then fill it up to the neck. If your vase has straight sides then leave yourself about 3″ between the top of the candy and the top of the vase.

Fit a piece of floral foam snugly into the neck of the vase to fill as much of the remaining space as possible. The neck of my vase was totally full but there were some small gaps between the edge of the foam and the top of the vase because the vase angled outwards. Make sure your foam doesn’t wiggle around in the vase. You’ll need it to be snug. You can look back at the original DIY Candy Bouquet article if you need more information about fitting the foam.

Attach skewers to each of your fillers. I used an 8″ skewer on each candy bar with 4″ skewers for the snowmen and candy canes. More information about attaching the skewers to the candy is in the original post here.

Make your cellophane fluffs. Directions are here in the original DIY Candy Bouquet post. I used both 4″ and 2″ skewers on the fluffs.

Start assembling your large candy bouquet by putting the candy bar in the very center. Then arrange the 8 candy canes evenly around the outside edge. I alternated red & white and multi-colored candy canes, angling the red & white candy canes slightly outward and the colored ones more sharply outward.

Arrange the 5 snowmen as a center ring around the candy bar. I put 2 of the snowmen so they were somewhat framing the candy bar and then placed the other three in the back.

Put one large cellophane fluff behind the candy bar, between it and the ring of snowmen, to hide the skewer on the back of the candy bar.

Arrange a middle ring of cellophane fluffs on 4″ skewers among the snowmen. Then add cellophane fluffs on 2″ skewers around the very edge of the vase so that the fluffs somewhat hang over and cover the edge of the foam and the vase. You may end up pushing the 2″ skewers in almost sideways.

Tie a piece of wide, wire-edged ribbon around the neck of the vase, almost exactly as you would tie a bow on your shoe. Use the wire edges to help spread the ribbon out in the back of the bouquet to cover the foam. Fluff the bow in the front of the bouquet. Trim the streamers on the bow. If you want a more elaborate bow, you might want to read this post on “How to Bow Like a Pro.”

To whom might you give a candy bouquet? Would you like to receive one?

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Green Coffee Extract Weight Loss Supplement Delivers Promising Health Benefits

Food & Drinks - Ruth - September 19, 2020

A recent weight loss and nutritional health research study has shown pure green coffee bean extract to be a natural alternative to help burn fat and lose weight without the need for major changes in a diet or exercise routine.

As featured recently on the Dr. Oz show, pure green coffee extract is a natural weight loss alternative proven effective to speed up metabolism and burn body fat naturally.

During the show Dr. Duncan, a decorated and respected certified nutritionist who has researched green coffee in depth, with the help of Dr. Oz, went over the benefits of raw green coffee extract with millions of viewers and a live studio audience.

The reason why green coffee extract has received so much praise from both doctors on the show is due to a recent study, which shows participants lost a significant amount of weight after taking the supplement.

Doctor Joe Vinson from Scranton University conducted the studies and revealed to the world in March 2012 the promising health benefits and results.

The study was initially set out to test the benefits and effects of raw green coffee for weight loss, along with a placebo test for a better perspective on the true findings of the study.

During the study, participants were instructed to take a raw green coffee supplement on a daily basis without making major changes to their diet or exercise routine. After a few weeks of the study had taken place, the health benefits of raw coffee became evident. After two months participants lost an average of 18 pounds as a result of taking pure green coffee extract continually.

Further analysis of the results of the pure coffee extract study lead Dr. Vinson and his colleagues to conclude that the weight loss benefits of green coffee bean extract were due to a compound found naturally in raw coffee beans.

It is commonly known as Chlorogenic acid. The acid was found effective at speeding up metabolism, accelerating fat elimination and balancing blood sugar levels, which is crucial in controlling the fat percentage in the body.

A lot of times losing weight can be one of the most frustrating things for an overweight person to achieve. After an individual comes to the realization of the positive effects that losing weight can have in their lives, action has to be taken to see results.

Most overweight individuals believe extreme dieting and exercise is the only solutions to get down to a desired weight, however many studies on the field have shown otherwise.

Even though dieting and exercise are effective ways to lose weight, raw pure green coffee bean extract was shown as a significant alternative to boost body fat reduction effects. Backed up by leading nutritionist and doctors in the industry, pure green coffee has enough supporting evidence to be considered a suitable weight-loss alternative.

As it has been the case with other natural supplements, which flood the market with thousands of brands after the news has been released to the public; it can be overwhelming to choose a green coffee extract supplement that works.

Some brands make different promises but when it comes to results, most fail to deliver due to poor quality ingredients.

To experience the full health effects of pure green coffee extract it is best to read the supplement facts and label to avoid purchasing a brand with fillers and additives.

As Dr. Oz and his team instructed during the show, choose a supplement made with a pure green coffee bean that is free of additives or fillers.

Green Coffee Pure is a leading brand that is free of colorants and fillers commonly found in supplements with poor ingredients. Green coffee pure supplements are made with only the best ingredients, which have shown to deliver results.

During the doctors show it also went on to mention a beneficial range of green coffee bean dosage for best results.

When taking a green coffee supplement is important to take into consideration the studies that took place at Scranton University. During the study participants who took a high dose of 1000mg 30 minutes before meals, two times a day, had better results than participants who took a smaller dose.

Green Coffee Pure capsules contain 1000 mg of the extract and are free from empty binders, additives, and fillers.

Many people interested in green coffee have wondered why drinking regular coffee doesn’t provide the body with similar weigh loss benefits.

The main reason why regular coffee drinking does not promote the same health benefits is because the coffee most people drink has been roasted and brewed.

Roasting is what gives coffee its taste and aroma, but roasting also destroys the Chlorogenic acid compound found in raw coffee. The process of roasting involves heating the beans at high temperatures, destroying the natural compounds in the beans.

On the other hand, the process used with natural coffee beans to create a raw coffee supplement, keeps the beans intact and preserves the Chlorogenic acid content.

Unlike roasted coffee, raw coffee beans lack a pleasant smell and are bitter in taste. Doctors recommend taking a raw green coffee supplement to avoid the bitter taste and make it easier to stick to a green coffee diet for at least three months.

When taking a coffee supplement choose one with quality ingredients, like Green coffee pure.

Green Coffee PURE is manufactured by a company out of Portland Oregon who has been in business for over 10 years. They source quality ingredients and couple pure green coffee bean extract (chlorogenic acids) with other powerful fat burning ingredients and extracts to make a complete weight loss supplement available for purchase online.

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How to Make Vanilla Sugar

Desserts - Ruth - September 19, 2020

Since I bottled up my last batch of vanilla (read about it here) I was able to dehydrate my “used” vanilla beans and make a batch of vanilla sugar. I use vanilla sugar for baking and in my coffee (of course!) and to make gifts. More on that in future posts. But for now, let me show you how easy it is to make vanilla sugar.

Vanilla beans fresh out of the package are plump and moist and fragrant. ( Olive Nation is having a vanilla sale through August 3, check here. Save 15% with the code VAN15. ) After a few hours in the dehydrator, and it doesn’t take long, they are shriveled and crispy. That’s good, because my sugar has been lumpy enough with the humid weather lately. I don’t need to add more moisture.

I split my vanilla beans before using them to make vanilla extract, so they really do dehydrate in just a few hours. You can see in the photo how the fresh beans look plump and shiny. The split and dehydrated beans are dry and curled up. I divided my dehydrated vanilla beans between a couple of recycled tubs. Yes, black vanilla bean flecks do come off of the beans into the tub, which means the resulting vanilla sugar will have a few flecks, too. To me, that just proves it’s the real deal. Not a problem.

I covered the beans with sugar, snapped on the lids, and labeled the tubs with the contents and the date. Now they’re stashed in a dark spot in the pantry. I’ll pull them out around Thanksgiving to flavor coffee and cookies and to use for other projects.

And since I bottled up my last batch of vanilla I had to get another batch started. (Laura has wonderful instructions over at But I wanted to show you a side-by-side comparison of what the just-started batch looks like compared to the batch I just bottled. What a difference a few months of steeping makes! And yes, I do love my half-gallon Ball canning jars. I really wanted to use one for the vanilla sugar but I have them all full of other things!

Do you think you might make some vanilla extract or vanilla sugar? What other “gourmet” items do you like to make for your kitchen?

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6 Factors To Consider When Shopping For A Portable Ice Maker

Home Improvement, Kitchen Appliance - Ruth - September 13, 2020

Are you looking to buy a portable ice maker but have no idea about them? We got you covered. In this article, we will discuss the factors that you should consider when buying Portable Ice Makers. Without further ado, let’s start:

  1. Size and ice capacity

The majority of portable ice makers are small, since they are designed to with portability in mind. Having said that, even portable ice makers have variations in size. The size of portable ice makers determines the amount of ice that they can make in a single session. 

Ice maker vendors usually give the measurements and the ice generating capacity in the specs of the product, which makes it easy to check the size and ice capacity of any ice maker. Generally, smaller ice makers are a good choice if space is a problem for you (having a small kitchen, or using the ice maker inside an RV as an example.) Meanwhile, if you need to create and store more ice, we recommend you to get a bigger ice maker.

  1. Ice generation speed

Now that you determined the amount of ice that you want to produce, the next factor is how fast an ice maker can create ice. If you and other people living with you consume a lot of ice, you should get an ice maker that can create ice quickly. Most portable ice makers in the market can create ice within 10 – 20 minutes, however this number varies from one model to another. This specification can be found on the box or manual of a product, or their website if they have one.

  1. Price

Portable ice makers belong to the “fairly inexpensive” category of home appliance. The normal price range for portable ice makers starts at just 100 dollars, with higher end models going as high as $250. An in depth evaluation of product reviews shows that going for a product that is more expensive can be better in the long run. This is because most of the lower priced ice makers start to have issues within 12 months of continuous use. You can probably get away with buying a cheaper ice maker if you will not use the ice maker regularly. However, if you intend to use the ice maker every day with few exceptions, we recommend you to go with a more expensive option that will last longer.

Another advantage of going with a more expensive ice maker is for the advanced features. Naturally, more expensive ice makers come with better features that are not really essential but will certainly make your life easier. There are self cleaning ice makers, along with automatic timers, the ability to choose different sizes and shape for the ice, and the inclusion of ice scoops.

  1. User-friendliness

Generally speaking, portable ice makers are quite simple to operate, as stated in our other article (Read: 6 Reasons To Buy A Portable Ice Maker) They do not require any installation, and you can create ice with just one click after adding water to the ice maker. Suffice to say, you shouldn’t be too concerned about having a hard time learning about the operations of a portable ice maker.

  1. Smart water usage 

One of the best functions that a portable ice maker can have is smart water usage. Basically, ice that was left in the machine and subsequently got melted will be reused by the ice maker in another session. Of course, you need to clean it once in a while, but you can afford to recycle the water a few times. Being able to recycle unused water will be a great convenience for users who frequently create ice. It will also save you some money on your water bill.

  1. Weight

Another important factor to consider is weight, especially if you will be using the “portability” of portable ice makers frequently. If you intend to travel with an ice maker, or if you’ll be bringing it for camping or picnics, you should go with a light ice maker.

Generally, bigger ice makers will be heavier, so there will be some sacrifices with ice capacity if you want a lighter ice maker.

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