Thursday, December 16, 2010

Artwork with a Hand Sander

Ryan is getting back to his crayon art work. This time its not on butcher block paper but on wood. He is experimenting with using a hand sander to get the crayon on and melting it. He amazes me with his creativity.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

when to grill

Winter storm warning, 0 degrees, wind chill down to 30 below.  Option 1, call for delivery.  Option 2,
grill.  We called for delivery yesterday when it was just freezing rain.

Nancy also decided to grill last year on the coldest snowiest day of the year.  We also did delivery then too.  I chalked that time up to her being pregnant.

This time Nancy marinated eight venison steaks because we were planning on a party that has been postponed.  Rather than throw the raw meat back in the freezer we thought it was better to cook them first.  So yes I encouraged the grilling.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

15 Two 15 Four

This one is for the grandparents.  Anna is learning all about adding to 31, taking turns, and not folding cards.  She also says we need to turn up the heat in the house.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Kitchen Sink Cookies

This one is a twist on the old Quaker Oats recipe I got from my Grandma Voit :)

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 2 1/2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup craisins
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat the butters and sugars together. Then mix in the eggs and vanilla.
  3. Use the mixer to mix the dry ingredients except the chips and the craisins with the wet ingredients.
  4. Add the chips and craisins, stirring with a strong wooden spoon.
  5. Use a small scoop or a spoon to shape the ball and put it on a greased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. Let the cookies sit on the sheet 1-2 minutes and then put on newspaper to cool completely.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Our Financial Plan

I admit I am so frugal I have trouble spending a free gift certificate so having conservitive financial practices is not hard for me.

It has been two years since we have taken the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace class.  Five years since we have become debt free.  Eleven years since we started paying down our debts faster than the minimum payments.  We have had large incomes, and small, job losses, failures, and stupid decisions.  Overall, and most important we have gone from many money 'conversations' to few.  Even though we are now in one of the lowest incomes, highest spending times of our life our financial relationship is at it's best.

Over the years we have used Quicken, MS money, Donor Manager, Dave Ramsey software, DR paper forms, Crown Financial software, Crown paper forms, and our own forms.  The last two years we have been using a self made simple one page paper budget each month with good success.  A second quarterly paper form tracks our sinking funds and investing.  There is one other form, which we have not used since 2006, tracked how much debt we had, principle, interest, and number of payments remaining for each account.  Each of these forms are in excel, printable and readable on one page.

Going from having debt and not caring to a connoisseur of debt reduction programs I have now come come to rest at simplicity.  Most programs are way too complex esp for someone wanting to change.  My advice if you want to change your money habits start with this little simple workbook called The Household Money Organizer Workbook.  In a few years take a Dave Ramsey, Crown, or other course that covers everything about money from car buying to college to retirement but it is best to start now and start simple.

Looking back the below is how I wish we had done it.  It is a mashup of all the sources I have read.  Note I am stealing 90% of this from a post by Jason (gatherer) posted on YNAB discussion site at the bottom of the page.

0. Get term life insurance 5x your annual income if you are married, optional if single or its complicated.  It seams crazy to add an extra bill but so worth it given the risks.  Just get a 5 year policy it will be cheap, use a reputable vendor, like one of Dave Ramsey's ELPs.  Insurance sales is filled with scumbags who waste your money on thier boats and condos.
1. Have a spending plan.  Each month write a new one, call it a budget or a pain or Evil Aunt Matilda just know that once you set this plan it rules you.  Make it real, don't say you will spend $50 on food and $500 on the credit cards when you have 8 kids.  Spend nothing on things you want, as little on things you need and as much as possible on:
2. Live on last months income, make it last month - spend it this month.  This is your first goal.  For us this ends up as an emergency fund with about $1500 in the bank at all times.  If you are paid differently make a true emergency fund of money in the bank that is never touched unless there is a broken leg.  Dave says $1000 I say 1 month income.  Sell stuff, do stuff, make this fund a quick as you can.  If you have an emergency and spend it start back here and fill er up as quick as possible.  But still to make life easy have the spending plan based on what you made last month.
3. Pay down debt except the house.  Every single debt.  Use a debt snowball as Dave recomends.  This will take several years, take the time to learn more about money while doing this step.
4. Boost your term life insurance to ten times your annual income, the end of the term should be about the same time you plan to retire this will cost you more but you should have the money for it now.
5. Six month emergency fund.  What you spend for six months now, not what would last six months if you cancel the cable, phone and only eat spam and your front lawn.  In a long drawn out emergency, such as a job loss, you should be only use about 1/5th of this fund before you have an income again, any income such as pizza delivery.

Ok those steps done in order.  If there is a setback start at that and rebuild, two steps forward one step back is life.  Now for the ones that you can do combined after the ones above are done, and stay done.

6. Create sinking funds.  For example once each year we get hit with bills for life insurance, car insurance and stuff insurance.  They total $3000 so each month we set aside $500 for those bills.  We drive two cars over 12 years old so we put $400 into savings for our next car.  We want a house so $1000 each month into the house fund.
7. 15% of your pretax income to retirement.  I do a Roth 401k that my work matches.  They are invested in the 4 mutual fund types Mr Ramsey recommends, that is what I recommend too.  I have also rolled my pension and old 401Ks into IRA's (most are Roth because in 2006 I had no income so the tax hit was not bad for me.  One fund is not because the phone jockey at Fidelity did not do what I asked...)  Keep it simple and buy index funds like Gail Jarvis says in "Saving For Retirement Without living like a pauper."  
8. Help out the kids for college.  Tell them to plan on two years at a community college, and three at a university after that those kids are on their own.  Hopefully you taught them #0-5 by now.
9. build sinking fund accounts into super-fund accounts... "these are accounts where if you need a car you take the interest you've earned off this money and go get one. these are accounts where you don't drain them to 0 like the sinking fund accounts. replace sinking fund accounts with this type of account - can use a snowball method to get this happening ..." -Jason (gatherer) 
10. pay off the mortgage.  OK I don't even own a house.  Renting is good.  I owned two houses and spent so much changing them I lost lots of money.  Being a renter means that we pay $1000 a month and that is it.  I have a great landlord he pays for the materials for the fixing up projects.  Mortgage is debt and debt is dumb so get rid of it.
11. retire wealthy.  Be reasonable, if you find yourself with insane amounts of money you need to:

12. give give give.  Because really that is the goal goal goal of doing this whole thing for me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Saving for a pillow pet

Anna has been saving for a Unicorn Pillow Pet. She saw it on TV and it stuck.

When I knew this one wasn't leaving her brain I made a chart for her to see how close she was to getting it and every 2-3 weeks we would do a total. She would color up to the line and we would talk about chores.

She earns:
0.10 for emptying the dishwasher silverware
0.25 for organizing the shoes in the closet
0.02 per nail we can cut (this is to discourage fingernail biting)
There are other jobs. We just want her to feel the work that goes into getting her valued stuff. I give her extra when I feel she did a really good job.

Her friend next door came back on a Saturday with hers. She got it from being good. Anna looked like she would cry. Her words were "Mom. When I have the money can you make sure the store has them?"

I made sure, I called all the stores in town and one did have it once that pig was good and fat.

Anna is sleeping on Nay Nay right now . I am a very proud mommy.

Now she wants to save up for Samaritan's Purse shoe boxes because there are kids out there with no toys or Christmas.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Just add meat

Todays harvest are some cherry tomatoes, black green beans and some calypso beans. Just add meat and you have a single serving of chili.

I admit I ate 4 of the cherries on my way inside. Needed the nutrients to make it 20 feet from the plants to my door.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Anna is in Kindergarden

Anna is now in her 3rd year of school and she is 5.5 years old.

Year 1 - PreK at St. Andrews in Little Mount India with Mrs. Ursha

Year 2 - Preschool at Small Wonders in Waterloo Iowa with Mrs. Kirby

Year 3 - Kindergarten at Kingsley with Mrs Anderson

I am grateful that Anna gets to be active and educated all day with Mrs Anderson. That gives me time to rest and spend some time Lilly :) I pray that she will be educated on mathematics and English and kept away from swearing, fads and just trying to be like every other kid. She is a unique individual and still very impressionable. I want to keep my baby safe like all other moms.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Decorah DigIN

We spent the day touring farms and sustainable homes and farms around the Decorah Iowa Area.  I have a even greater respect for those out there that are making a living by providing us with organic food.

Thank You.

And thank you even more to those of you that take time out of your busy schedule to tell all of us about what you do via your blogs and Facebook posts.

Monday, August 16, 2010

In a pickle

Anna and I canned pickles today. She helped plant, pick and cut them. I am very proud of my five year old.

She says our tomatoes will be next.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Family Pictures

We took the opportunity to have some family pictures taken of us. Sadly it was an overly sunny day with high winds so most of the pictures are squinting with windblown hair.

We also all picked up a touch of poison ivy, Anna must have gotten it on her hands when she picked some flowers and given it to Lillian on her face, who gave it to mom's arm and chest, who gave it to dad's arm. Not a lot of blistering, just enough to be annoying. Lillian is too young to scratch, and the rest of us did our best not to scratch and it was gone in two weeks.

It did take a while for Anna to warm up to the camera and photographer. But Lillian was good for a smile from the get-go.
A fun afternoon for us. Followed by dinner at Zippys.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Our Garden and Scapes

What is a scape? Green garlic, the stalk of the flower to a bulb of garlic.

This year we are growing a garden, a huge one! Anna and I planted garlic cloves last year. Its coming up and about to flower. You have to cut off the flower or all the energy of the plant goes into the flower and not the garlic underground.

I made asparagus soup last night with the scapes from our garden. I added chives and spring onions, all from Iowa farmers markets.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Crafts on Saturday

Lowes has a wonderful method to figure out what kind of parent you are, and what kind of child you have.
From several weeks of projects there are:
1) Parents that yell at kids while kids do project.
2) Parents who do the project for the kids.
3) Kids who stomp off.
4) Parents who stomp off.
5) Parents and children who have extreme patience with each other and can finish a project together.
Add to the high possibility of not putting the project together correctly will add even more frustration. These projects are not easy, for being simples 3d puzzles with predrilled nail holes. Nancy and I are good about having Anna be the one to nail the parts together. And if possible get the part and put it in the right spot. Sometimes this is not easy for me to figure out.
It is easy to get distracted by all the other kids and parents, some no longer on their best behavior. I am still amazed how much patience I have. Anna only hit my finger once with the hammer. We got the project together and Nancy was given a $10 off $50 coupon. It was great to have my parents there to watch :)
We found two other families we knew there. Peggy had three of her grandkids there. I helped 3 year old Lilly put hers together but she much preferred working with her grandma. :) My feelings were not hurt by that. We also saw Mia and her mom just starting their project as we were leaving.
As these projects are free, as well as an easy challenge this is a good way to spend a Saturday morning with your child. Way to go Lowes (and Home Depot) for offering these projects!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


One of the biggest challenges of life is naming someone.

Names have so much meaning. And we only get to choose one, I guess we could string together several but in our culture that is not common.

How did we name our children?

We start with lots of prayer. Then Nancy and I have lots of discussion, reading names in the credits of TV shows and movies, blurting out names, perusing websites, books and listening to friends and strangers. Then we keep praying. And we start comparing names. For example Anna vs Emily, no Em wont work because that is a cousins name... Anna vs Dutch, no we are not naming our child after the cat. Not the cat, Ronald Regan one of the greatest presidents this nation has had. ... this goes on for nine months or more. Yes we are looking for names that tie back to our surname and could reasonably be given to someone born in Netherlands but Dutch is just not going to work.

If there is a name we like we will research it on the internet... learning that the majority of girl names out there mean grace. And most baby name websites are more about the adds on the side than the quality of the information about the names. They all give the same limited information. And for some reason think I want my child's name to be associated with some Hollywood starlet of questionable values.

With Anna we prayed, and Nancy had a dream that that is what the name of our child is. The Biblical reference of Anna in the temple greeting baby Jesus with celebration is a comforting added touch.

Lillian was much harder, no dreams or visions of what to name her. The choice was on us. And while we can give a child any nickname the real name should be solid and good. Contrary to what we say when you ask us what we are going to name our next child, we like traditional names. We want a name that could be in the Freakonomics 2015 list. So why Lillian? 1) We enjoy garden ponds. 2) It is old fashion, yet somewhat popular. 3) It has variations, Lil, Lilly, Le-an. 4) we could not think of anything better. Most websites state that Lillian is a variation of Lilly and Ann. or Flower and Grace. Graceful Flower. One website said the name came from Elizabeth. Ellie. Lilly. My God is an oath.

My God is an oath is a much better biblical reference than consider the Lillies. When I pray while holding Lilly I know that she is and will be my comfort.

The neat thing about our culture is we also have middle names so we have some method of emphasizing our disappointment in our children. Or if the unfortunate event they are one of the few sick souls that have attacked a US president. A common theme in our family is that the middle names start with a K. Anna has Kathryn, an unused spelling of a very common name up both family trees. The ryn is a play on my name. But Lillian, her middle names starts with K, ends with K and is only one character long. Yes Lilly I hate to break it to you but you do not have a middle name you have a middle initial. This is just like your mom, she has a K. Your mom is adamant that it is K. K PERIOD. So technically you do have a two character middle name.

What does the K. stand for? Well we like ponds, it could be Koi. It could be so many other things. But no Lilly K. does not mean anything. In math K means 1000 which is pretty close to infinity which is pretty close to everything. So my little Lilly when people ask you tell them that K. means everything.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lillian K.

Lillian K. DeVries

8lb 1.5oz


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

1000 Things Update

In 2009 I only worked part of the year, as a result we cut back on our giving. Usually we are above the standard deduction for giving, not so in 2009 and it looked like the value of our 1000 things would not get us there. Being so thrifty weNancy just took things weshe did not want and put them in a box in the basement under the stairs waiting for 2010.

I think there are more than a 1000 things under the stairs now that I added the 4 things I don't want.

Now that 2010 is upon us weNancy is entering into DeductionPro, that wonderful sister program found with H&R TaxCut. This helps to assign a realistic value to all our wonderful gifts to charity so we can get an accurate tax write off.

Nancy has entered in about 150 items so far. Lo and behold DeductionPro is helping us get there! Lets go through an example. Shirt, thrift store value $1.00. Save file. Open file. Shirts $5.00 total. Save file. Open File. Shirts $25.00 total. Save File. Open File. Shirts $125.00 total. Nancy called the help desk and was able to figure out a work around before the person at the other end could even understand what was going wrong. No it is not PEBKAC. For some reason if anything is donated and assigned to the other category there will be five of them if that file is reopened. Open and close the file again and there will be 25 of that item. All other categories are fine and stay correct, there are issues with other. The work around is once you save and close a file, never reopen it.

A file is supposed to represent everything given to a specific charity on a specific day. Our plan was to catalog everything thus far and then call St. Vincent and have them pick the stuff up. New plan is to tell the software we are donating each day then when it is all documented call St. Vincent and have them take our many days of donations away in one day.

Late breaking news! Nancy just found another solution. Use her computer instead of mine.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Baby Update

The update is that the baby is still on the inside. Nothing is happening, no contractions and the Doctor doesn't think I will go into labor. Normally they would go for a C-Section at 39 weeks but thankfully Dr. O is on vacation.

Baby DeVries - we don't know if its a boy or girl yet

Convant Medical Hospital
3rd Floor
441 East San Marnan Drive
Waterloo, IA 50702


3:30 pm on March 22nd


Because its too comfy for a baby to stay in me :)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saying Goodbye

I wish we did not have to say goodbye,

even though I know it is for the best.
I think about the times we shared and cry,
you never acted like I was a guest.
Remember the time we found the bird's nest?
We thought about the birds all afternoon,
until they flew around and became pests.
Then there was the time we found the balloon,
the colors on it were white and maroon.
We wanted to split the balloon in half,
But all it did was fly up to the moon.
Remember the time we just sat and laughed?
I am going to miss you my dear friend,
even though I know this is not the end.

-Angie A.
October 1992, 6th hour English with Mrs. Magennis

(I also have the poems of Kerri V., Erin D., Amy R., Kirsten W., Denise W., Jim G., Jennifer C., Creager, Tim H., Kari B., Kerrie L., Scott B., Ryan B., Audra B., Steve S., Darrell D., Scott T., and a Heather)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

4 weeks left

I can't believe we have 4 weeks until the next baby comes.

Sorry we don't know if its a boy or a girl. I am glad I kept the unisex clothes I had when Anna was born. Any name suggestions?

Sorry this is the best picture I have of me pregnant at the moment and yes I do have a neck. Pay no attention to the little girl sitting on the counter.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

1000 Things

We have a lot of stuff. It filled 26 feet of length of an ABF you pack trailer. Well now Nancy and I have set out on a challenge to reduce the stuff. Yes we did the garage sale before our last move and are doing some Craig's List and eBay. But for the most part much of our stuff is not worth the effort of selling.

So we are committed to giving away 1000 things this year to Goodwill. Sounds like a lot? That is about 3 things a day. Not that much to select and bring to the box in the basement. Only a few things have come back out of the box in waiting.

Lego blocks count as one toy not one block each, same with other toys.

Maybe 1000 things is too few, for now it is a start.