Category Archives: Experiments

DIY Christmas Wreath

After a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend spent at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and enjoying great food with friends, I was feeling festive and wanted to create something in the spirit of the holidays for my house.  I’m not particularly crafty.  As a matter of fact I don’t think I’ve ever actually successfully made anything.  My mind is pretty creative though.  I have tons of ideas swimming around in my head for things to hang on my walls, curtains to hang over my windows, and ways to add meaning to the things in my home, I just don’t always know how to make it come to life.

For some inspiration and how-to tutorials, I went to pinterest of course!  I decided that a homemade wreath was a great place to start.  I’ve always wanted to hang a holiday wreath but I always cringe at the prices for pretty wreaths in the stores.  I figured I could find something fun and try to make it for less that $25!

These were my two inspiration wreaths:

 

I liked the look of the twiggy wreath on the right, but Travis didn’t like the colors of the yarn. So, I found the second wreath (left) for color/arrangement inspiration.

Off to Michael’s I went, armed with inspiration and a desire to stay under $25.  Since I’m not generally crafty, I needed to buy everything for this project.  I decided on a couple of different colors/textures of yarn, two different sized Styrofoam balls, and a medium sized twiggy wreath.  Travis is a weird guy and already had a glue gun with the little glue stick things.  That was a bonus!  I also picked up a container of bells and a couple of twigs with berries and pine cones.

First up I had to make all of those little yarn balls.  Since, again, I’m not overly crafty, this took some trial and error for me (and my awesome helper)!  We discovered that you basically just have to wrap the yarn randomly around the Styrofoam for it to “stick” to them and pull the yarn as tightly as possible around the ball as you go.

To assemble the wreath, I basically just used a hot glue gun to hot glue various yarn balls into place and then I filled in the extra space with a little bit of greenery, berries, pine cones and a few festive bells.

Here’s an in-progress (about half way done) shot:

And the finished product:

For my first attempt at craftiness I think I did a pretty good job.  I now have so many additional ideas swimming around in my head for other small ways I can make the house look festive for not a lot of money!  Speaking of money – I think I came in under budget.  My receipt at Michael’s said I spent $32.  However, I spent $5 on Christmas ornaments and technically I didn’t use all of the bells, styrofoam balls, and I didn’t come CLOSE to using up all of that yarn.  So – I think I’m under $25 AND I have some leftovers to decorate other places in the house!

I hate Verizon. I killed them with Google Voice.

While there is competition in the cell phone market, it’s hardly competitive. For whatever reason, it always seems as if there is really only one option for a service that you “need”. We loved T-mobile. Unfortunately, when we moved out here to to Newark, the service wasn’t reliable enough to be useful. The pricing between Verizon and Sprint is pretty much the same.

If you ask me, any service that requires you to be locked in is immediately suspect. When that contract is up and you need a new phone, like now, because pieces keep falling off, that huge discount on that fancy device is alluring. The two year hit seems easy to swallow.

But what sort of company simply passes off taxes and fees onto the customer? All that government stuff should be covered by them. I’m sorry, are they not rolling in money? Can they not simply increase the price when my contract is up. Apparently, the contract is only one way. They can increase taxes and fees, but I can’t get out. (Although you can change any aspect of your plan whenever you want, just not cancel it.) When I signed up for the contract it was $70 for the family plan, $10 for the extra line (mine), and $60 for 2 unlimited data plans which included all sorts of fancy messaging. Taxes and fees of course can’t be estimated (cause they increase EVERY month). That’s a base $140 minus the 15% NJ Teacher’s Union discount which hopefully would off-set the taxes and fees. I have yet to pay under $160. Apparently, billing was just restructured so I can now expect over $200 including the discount…every month. Taxes and fees this month are $50.

After a long sweaty bout of screaming obscenities and calling them bad bad names, I decided to execute my right as a consumer to not give them my money. Of course, I can’t cancel the contract, but I can alter it, including closing extra lines attached to the account. I have a home phone that doesn’t get used thanks the to the Optimum Triple Play (which I hated up until this point, but that’s another rant). They can’t port a cell number to a landline unless the area code matches.

To the rescue is everyone’s favorite Big Brother, Google. Google Voice phone numbers are free. I have been using it as a business number that forwarded to my cell. Now, it forwards to my home number. For a $20 one time fee, Google called Verizon, took my cell number, and closed the line for me. Texts go to my email. Since I am only out of wi-fi range for 10% of my life, I should be alright. I can even still use my smartphones wifi to get my messages.

I simply do not need, nor do I want to be, that easily accessible anymore. You people have become far to comfortable not leaving voice messages or thinking texts are acceptable for important information. I’m bringing contact back into being apart!

I am seriously considering a Pay-as-you-go Virgin mobile hotspot and a iPod Touch. $10 for 100mb or 10days and it rides any towers Sprint has access to. Pretty handy for the 10% I don’t have free wifi.

My favorite thing? All cell phones are legally required to ALWAYS make 911 calls, activated/on a plan, or not. As a customer, I am paying “NJ 911 System/Emerg. Resp. Fee = $0.90” every month. WTF?!

On the food front…

So you may be wondering…how’s the food adventure going?

So far, it’s going swimmingly!  We’ve been making small, simple meals at home every day/night!

I never did make it back here on Sunday night to post the menu, so I’ll give you an update on that now.

Sunday: loaded baked potatoes

Monday: baked buffalo chicken salad

Tuesday: baked chicken parmesan

Wednesday: Pasta/Rebbeca had a veggie panini from Kean, paid for by free University money!

Thursday: Tacos

And the plan for…

Friday: Dinner w/ missional community

Saturday: picnic lunch for a day hike and a possible dinner out to celebrate Oktoberfest at the end of the hike.

Sunday: Hot & Spicy shrimp lettuce wraps

Monday: Grilled Salmon, cous cous, and mixed veggies

I’m enjoying the plan.  And I’m enjoying the challenge.  Funny thing happens though when you stop spending money at restaurants: you spend a lot more at the grocery store.

Already we’re beginning to see how difficult this will be.  Take for example  our plan for Saturday; it includes the possibility for eating out.  The thing is, we’re spending all day out hiking with friends.  We’ve planned to bring a picnic lunch to eat during our hike.  These friends indicated the possibility/interest in participating in a little Oktoberfest celebration that’s happening at the mountain where we’re hiking.  It’s a bit difficult, if not impossible, to go and live in community with our friends and then say, “Sorry, we can’t be a part of that because we’re not eating out!”  In fact, I think it would be a shame to miss out on an opportunity to interact/share life with strangers who will undoubtedly be there celebrating as well.  So we’ll go.  And we’ll celebrate.  And we’ll spend money on beers and probably buy an appetizer or something to share.  BUT, we will keep track of what we spend and what we spend it on AND, we will recognize that when we do things that seem to “violate” this challenge we will make sure that it includes an opportunity to be purposeful and missional in the world that we might not otherwise have.

Adventures in Food

I still have yet to post the saga that was my summer and early fall.  I promise  it is something I want to write down, if only just so that I never forget how thankful I am to have received such blessing and provision from God.  I certainly would never be where I am, and our family would not be where we are today, without his ever steady hand in our lives throughout everything.  Truthfully, I’m still digesting and processing a lot of the changes that have happened and I’m not quite ready to let it all out.  In the meantime, there are many things that my heart has been wrestling with.  One of the major themes I’ve had on my heart lately is health.  Not just physical health but emotional/mental health, spiritual health, financial health.  As such, I’ve come up with this crazy idea/challenge for our household.  Here are the questions:

Can we walk though one year of our lives without eating out at a restaurant?*

Over the course of this year can we savethe money that we would have spent on food/drink and seek to use it for God’s purposes in our lives?

ok…I’m sure there are many of you thinking, “That’s crazy!” or “Why now?” or “How’s this going to work?”  I’ll try to address 4 major points about this challenge.

1.We believe that God is challenging us in the area of our physical heath.  Over the past year we have had seasons where we take great care of ourselves with regard to the food that we put in our bodies and other seasons where we get overwhelmed with the craziness of life and do not treat our bodies as the living sacrifices that they are.  We realize that this will be difficult.  We also believe in a God who will never leave us or forsake us.  Nothing in life that is worth doing comes without some work and sacrifice.  Because we believe that this conviction is from God, we also believe that He will walk through all of it with us.  We also know the great physical strength we feel in our bodies when we take the time to feed our bodies well.

2. We also believe that God is challenging us in the area of our finances.  I remember one day balancing our checkbook using our online account and being sickened by the amount of money that I could add up in my head of what had be wasted eating food/snacks at restaurants.  It was completely unacceptable.  We weren’t living on credit or beyond our means, but I sat there realizing that if we didn’t get this under control we’d never have the ability to save for anything that we ever needed: a house, a car, a missionary, a crisis.  There just wasn’t anything extra.

3. What we’ll try to do is post a couple of times a week the things that we’ve been eating at home.  This will hold us accountable and this will give all of you household cooks some ideas when you’ve run out.  Let’s try to set up a couple of days: how about on Sunday’s I post my menu for the week and on Thursdays I’ll check in and write a post about how we’ve been following it.

4. There will obviously be exceptions to this at times.  I do not expect to travel home to see our parents and have them not offer to take us out to dinner.  If we travel to a new east coast city I am sure that we’ll seek out recommendations for the best most affordable restaurant to visit that is a representation of that place.  What we will no longer do is just stop at a restaurant on our way home just because we are too tired lazy to make something at home.  What we will no longer do is tell ourselves that to hang out with friends means that we have to go out and spend money at a restaurant.  Why can’t we have fellowship in our own home?  Can’t we prepare a less expensive, and often better tasting, meal in our own home for our friends to come and enjoy?  This is our desire.

So…here goes.  I guess I’ll be back later tonight to post our menu for the week.  :)

Digital Nomad

Right now, I’m riding the PATH 33rd St train under the Hudson River. This post is being drafted, and published when we surface, completely on my Palm Pre and Poster app.

Digital Nomad

Today I’m heading into The City to meet with some airsoft buddies who are, like my new self, creative professionals. First order of business is to take a bunch of photos for Henry (http://www.henryshoots.com) to view and give tips later on. Then it’s on to lunch with Tom (http://www.californium.com) to exchange airsoft ideas and footage. Wrapping that up takes me on the N Express train to Brooklyn so Henry can give me the down low on Adobe Bridge and Camera RAW. About 5pm will take me back to the train and your regularly scheduled programming.

I have with me my Pre, MSI Wind netbook, and Canon XSi camera. I have power cords, USB cables, and a deck of cards. I think my next post a bit later today will be from either Grand Central Station or Bryant Park using my netbook and the free Mobile HotSpot feature I get on my Pre from Verizon.

…and I’m off!