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Monday, October 31

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I may be paid a small commission from sales via these links. Thank you for your support of my blog.

If you are new around these parts, the Mister and I took the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University course through our church last year. We have a goal to pay off half of our consumer debt this year. You can catch up on our journey by checking out our previous recaps:

October Budget

October has been a bit of an interesting month. As I shared in our September update, last month the Mister was unexpectedly let go from his full-time job. Fortunately, God is faithful, and through some connections, new employment was found within a week.

But the change did throw a kink in our budget simply because we had to adjust to a new payroll schedule, and he actually only received one full paycheck in October. Luckily, we had plenty of extra income to offset that since the Mister picked up about 4 extra shifts at his part-time job and finished up a painting gig that he had been working on the weekends.

Also, some big sales that I had been working through my job finally paid out in commissions, so I took an extra paycheck home to offset the adjustment.

October Victories & Blessings

This was a big extra income month for us. Like I said before, God is faithful, and we had several victories to celebrate:

  • We sold my Prius! This is bittersweet since I loved that car, but I'll never have a car payment again. That loan is out of our lives.
  • I was awarded the scholarship to cover my black belt exam fee. There were still several other expenses that come with testing, but every little bit helps. The extra income from selling the car covered almost all our clinic fees.
  • In addition to kicking the car payment our of lives, we also paid nearly half the balance of the credit card that we're working on in our debt snowball. It was good see that balance drop so dramatically.
In fact, between the car sale and the extra income, we paid an knocked nearly $10,000 of our debt snowball last month. MAJOR WIN.

If you want to take control of your finances, I'd suggest reading The Total Money Makeover. Or go online to to find a Financial Peace University course starting near you.

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Friday, October 28

Good morning, lovelies!

It's time for the Friday Confessional party. Confession is good for the soul, so stop by to share all your dirty, little secrets. You'll feel better when you're finished, and we promise not to judge.

I confess...

This week has involved holding down the fort because the Mister has worked late a lot. The other day the work van blew a tire on the interstate while they were on their way back from a job. I know these things happen and staying late is part of the package, but I was not a happy camper that evening.

I confess...

I think the hard thing about the nights that he works late is dinner. I don't really want to start cooking because I don't know what time he'll be home. Then I wind up cranky and hungry. It's kind of ridiculous; I just feed myself and fix him a plate to reheat when he gets home.

I confess...

That on a positive note, I get a lot of crocheting done for Chasing Blue Jays when I have the house to myself. And that's certainly good since I've been getting more requests from friends for custom pieces and I really need to get more Christmas inventory made for that trunk show in December.

I confess...

I cannot believe that November starts next week; this is the start of the busiest season for me at work, and it just came on too fast. Can we go back to summer?

I need more afternoons in the sunshine.

Want to play along? Grab the button and link your Friday Confessional below. Please comment after linking.

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Thursday, October 27

Hello, friends!

Welcome to the Monthly Coffee, a little linky party hosted by me and Miss Angie from My So-Called Chaos. This party is all about sharing those fabulous blogs that you've read this month.

It's time to grab a steamy beverage and get caught up on our favorite blog reads in the month of October. The Monthly Coffee party is for sharing and discovering new blogs to love; join the party and grow our blogging community.

Let's grow our blogger community by sharing the best posts you've come across. You'll find new blogs to read, and we'll all make new friends.

So pour yourself a steamy beverage, grab the button and share your favorite reads this month. That said, here were my favorite reads lately:

The Difference Between Treats and Rewards

I love how Sage Grayson's Life Editor blog has great tips to help me run my life more smoothly and be more productive. Before reading this post, I had not really thought about the difference between a treat and a reward, but it's a distinct difference. And I love that they're both important.

Making Big Things Happen in a Small Workspace

Another blog that always gives me great tips for organizing my home is IHeart Organizing, and this month, I found a great post over there about getting the most out of a small workspace. My home office is tucked into our spare bedroom, and there are some great tips in here for maximizing efficiency in my workspace.

Make Your Bullet Journal Work for You

I have to admit that I'm intrigued by the trend of bullet journaling and that I really want to give it a shot. I've read a lot of posts about the trend, but I found this post by Busy Being Jennifer about ways to make a bullet journal work for you to be helpful and encouraging since I'm the type of person who would try to jump in and track everything.

6 Ways to Accessorize a Gallery Wall

Earlier this year, the Mister and I started a gallery wall in our dining room, and it has basically stalled with a handful of framed photos. As the urge to nest comes with cooler fall temperatures, I have been looking for inspiration to add to it. This list of additional accessories from Tatertots & Jello is a great starting point for inspiration to add some more personal touches to our wall.

Tips for a Successful Craft Fair

I'm not sure yet if it was a good idea, but I agreed to participate in a holiday trunk show in December to sell some of my crochet pieces. Given that this is my first craft show, I'm looking hard at ways to be successful, and The Friendly Red Fox has some great ideas about ways to have a great craft fair experience.

Want to play along? Link your Weekly Round-Up post here:

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Tuesday, October 25

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, and I may be compensated for purchases made via these links. Thank you for your support of my blog.

I've been thinking a lot about ways to grow my businesses. As someone who is self-employed in a well-established industry, I can look to my professional organization and industry leaders for best practices and ideas to grow my primary income.

On the blogging side of things, the water isn't always as clear.

Inspired Bloggers University

Because the Mister and I have the big financial goal of paying off half our debt this year, I knew that monetizing my blog would be one way to help increase our household's income, but how do I do it? I needed to find some tools to grow my blog and get more education to plan for and create profit.

I started researching, and earlier this year, I found Tabitha Philen's Inspired Bloggers University. I wish that I had found her years ago.

  • I relate to her because she grew a profitable blog in order to get her family out of debt. She's from the South, and she's honest about what works and doesn't work for her.
  • Tabitha isn't stingy with her knowledge. She does a lot teaching via live video so you can ask questions right then rather than waiting days for an email or Facebook comment to be returned. While she obviously sells courses to grow her blog, she has a lot of rich, practical content available to her audience for free.
  • I found that her information was geared to help you grow your blog whether you're a brand new blogger or have been working on a website for years, and I was pleasantly surprised to get my first blog payout before I even finished working through the first course I purchased.

Blog Success Planner

Obviously, the Mister and I live on a pretty tight budget, so I try to soak up as much knowledge as I can without opening my checkbook. Last week, I was pleased to get an invitation to a free webinar from Tabitha called "Planning for Profit."

During the webinar, one of the points that really stuck with me is that I need to be way more intentional about my blogging if I want it to consistently grow and be an income stream for my family. Tabitha and I could have been having a one-on-one coaching call because she was highlighting all the areas I knew I wanted to grow:

  • Planning an editorial content calendar
  • Learning to work on a blog niche
  • Being more strategic with affiliate marketing
  • Growing an email list
  • Focusing on which social media actually grows my blog traffic

Then she introduced a product to help me plan for and organize all of the moving parts of blogging - the 2017 Blog Success Planner.

Don't let the word planner fool you. There is so much more to this product than a planner than just a calendar. I think this is the tool to build a blogging business plan.

You can use the Blog Success Planner to orient your blog as a business by setting office hours, learning to track income and expenses, plan strategic content, and contact and pitch marketing campaigns to brands.

Tabitha offers two formats: a digital format with editable pdf pages and a professionally printed format. Whatever your preference is, this is the tool to help you take your blog from hobby to business. All the tools you need are included....I've even heard it referred to as the blogger bible.

Planning for Profit

Now, I have a confession to make.

By itself, this planner would be a bit too much for me to implement. Nearly 200 pages of blogging strategy and planning is a little overwhelming initially.

Luckily, Tabitha thought about that as well, and she's offering a course, Planning for Profit, to help you learn to use your planner and get strategic about making a profit with your blog in 2017. Because she doesn't want you to just purchase the planner and then have it sit on a shelf collecting dust; she wants next year to be successful.

This is perfect for someone like me, who wants to work at her own pace but still have the accountability of classes to keep me moving. The first live video lesson starts Monday, November 6.

If you don't want the course, you can get the planner by itself. But I personally opted for the digital planner with the course because I really want to use my blog to help my family get out of debt, and the Blog Success Planner + Planning for Profit course are definitely the tools I need to grow my blog.

I hope that you'll join in with the planning for profit movement - purchase your planner and join us for class. Let's make 2017 a great year.

Do you have questions about the planner? I encourage you to head over to Tabitha's site. She has a helpful FAQ and more product information about her Blog Success Planner and course to help you determine that this is the tool you need to make your blog more profitable.

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Monday, October 24


Start a meditation practice to help combat Open Enrollment stress. There is nothing like a little focused breathing to help calm a situation when I can't leave the office to work out (or drink).

Holiday Gifts

Write out our holiday gift list. Since most of my family now lives long distance to me, I need to get organized on making gifts and getting things shipped so they'll arrive in time for Christmas.

Christmas cards

Last year we waited too long to even think of photo cards. If I can plan a shoot now, we have the best shot at getting great discounts. (Like 20% percent off purchases at Shutterfly with code EXTRA20, expires 10/26/16)

Holiday Crafts

If I want to participate in the craft show I was invited to, I need to get brainstorming on my product list and make a supply list. Then I can be strategic about coupons and sales in gathering supplies. And allow myself enough time to make inventory while still getting our personal gifts finished.

Etsy Sale

Set up a fall fun sale on Chasing Blue Jays because a little buzz never hurts anyone. Plus, the extra income can pay for those craft supplies.

What's on your to-do list this week? Are you planning for the holidays now or waiting until closer to December?

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Friday, October 21

Good morning, lovelies!

It's time for the Friday Confessional party. Confession is good for the soul, so stop by to share all your dirty, little secrets. You'll feel better when you're finished, and we promise not to judge.

I confess...

I haven't really known what to do with myself this week since things have slowed down at the dojo. It's wild to have all the exam pressure behind me. Work is getting really busy since my first enrollment period started this week, so I guess it's good to have the extracurricular accomplishments done.

I confess...

Having more free time in the evenings has allowed for time to do more crochet for Chasing Blue Jays. I've fallen in love with planned color pooling, and I may make a bunch of gifts using this pattern.

I confess...

On the note of crochet, a friend asked me if I'd like to participate in a holiday craft show this year. I want to, but at the same time, I'm worried that I won't have enough pieces finished.

I'm also worried that no one would like them enough to buy them. It's kind of a silly concern since I've had orders on the Etsy shop, and friends are starting to ask me about custom pieces. I guess I'm just the type of person who gets nervous when contemplating something new. If I do want to do this, I really need to get moving with some holiday pieces.

I confess...

I don't think that I've be a very good blogger if I didn't remind you one more time that I have a special Grove Collaborative offer for a free Mrs. Meyer's Fall Scents Set that's active until Sunday. Be sure to check it out so you don't miss the opportunity.

Want to play along? Grab the button and link your Friday Confessional below. Please comment after linking.

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Wednesday, October 19

The SC State Fair opened last week, which is the official start of fall in my mind. You can almost mark the calendar that the temperatures will turn chillier where I live the second week of the fair, although the weather man seems to disagree with me this week.

Since we're finally getting cooler nights and crisp air in the mornings, the Mister and I have the windows open. I've also been drooling over recipes for cozy, belly-warmings soups and steamy, hot beverages. The best part of this time of year is the all the fall scents that come with baking and autumn harvest.

However, my schedule has been jam-packed lately, which hasn't left any time for baking to get the scents of apple, cinnamon and oatmeal raisin cookies wafting from my kitchen into the rest of the house.

Instead, I'm relying on simmer pots to fill my house with all the fall scents. Putting a simmer pot on the stove is an inexpensive, natural way to add fall scents to your home, and it helps add some moisture to the air if you've already switched turned your furnace on.

To start a fall-scented simmer pot in your home, you simply fill a large saucepan or crock pot with water, add ingredients and bring to low simmer, adding more water as needed.

Here are a few recipe ideas to get your home filled with all the best seasonal scents.

Apple Pie Simmer Pot

1 Sliced Apple
Peels from 1 Orange
1/2 tsp of Nutmeg
1/2 of Ground Clove
2-3 Cinnamon Sticks

Orange Vanilla Simmer Pot

Peels from 1 Orange
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2-3 Cinnamon Sticks

Lemon Ginger Simmer Pot

Peels from 2 Lemons
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
2-3 Cinnamon Sticks

For safety, be sure to check the water levels on your simmer pot regularly, adding more water as necessary. Never leave a pot simmering when you leave your home or while sleeping.

If you're looking for another way to add fall scents to your home naturally, check out the Mrs. Meyer's Fall Scent Set, which is available free to my readers this week.

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Tuesday, October 18

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by Grove Collaborative and includes affiliate links. All opinions are my own & I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe my readers will enjoy.

With shorter days and being inside all the time, the house is bound to get dirty! Although I’d rather curl up in front of the fireplace than spend hours scrubbing, I still want my house to be a clean, inviting space to spend time in.

Enter Grove Collaborative: my secret weapon for making my house feel warm and welcoming.

With Grove Collaborative, I can stay cozied up under a blanket instead of rushing around the store. Grove delivers the best natural products (carbon offset) right to my doorstep, on my schedule. They remember my favorites, and remind me when I’m about to run out of hand soap or shampoo.

Plus, Grove introduces me to great new products that I never would’ve found at my local grocery store. Two of my fall favorites: Mrs. Meyer’s seasonal scents in Apple Cider and Mum. The Apple Cider smells just like real apples! It’s tart and juicy, with just enough spice. The Mum is a leafy, warm floral scent that reminds me of a fall garden.

With Grove's exclusive offer for my readers, you can experience Mrs. Meyer’s seasonal scents for FREE! I’ve been looking for the perfect fall soaps, and the matching hand soap and dish soap in this set are it. The soaps are hard-working, but still gentle and non-toxic. I love that they come in festive bottles to make my kitchen instantly feel like autumn.

My favorite item in this set? The multi-surface spray. It smells so good, I want to run around and clean everything! We do a lot of cooking during the colder months, which means my counters and stove get messy. A quick spray of Mrs. Meyer’s multi-surface loosens grime and replaces cooking odors with a subtle, inviting scent.

Isn’t this kitchen towel wonderful, too? It looks beautiful in my kitchen and is super absorbent for drying dishes. It also works so well with the multi-surface spray, you’ll wonder why you ever used paper towels. It’s even tough enough for serious cooking messes and can survive the washing machine and without fraying or shrinking.

You can get the set for free, in your choice of Apple Cider or Mum scent, when you sign up for Grove Collaborative using my link - free Mrs. Meyers Fall Seasonal set:

  • Free Mrs. Meyer’s fall seasonal hand soap
  • Free Mrs. Meyer’s fall seasonal dish soap
  • Free Mrs. Meyer’s fall seasonal multi-surface spray
  • Free Grove Collaborative Kitchen Towel
  • Free 60 Day VIP trial

To take advantage of the offer, your order needs to total $20. Here’s what your first basket might look like:
  • Grove Collaborative 70+ hour all natural soy candle $12.95
  • Grove Collaborative walnut scrubber sponges $3.95
  • Yes To Coconut protecting hand and cuticle cream $5.99

If you’re already a Grove Collaborative customer, you’ll get the set at 50% off when you use my link Half off Mrs. Meyers Fall Seasonal set. Don’t forget to take advantage of the free 60 day VIP trial! My VIP membership has paid for itself with free shipping alone, but I also get perks like price matching, exclusive sales, personal service, and free gifts!

You don’t even have to leave your couch to sign up — but you do need to hurry. 

There are only a limited number of sets available and they always go quickly! Here’s how to get yours:

  1. Sign up for Grove Collaborative here - Free Mrs. Meyers Fall Scents Set. You will receive the Mrs. Meyer’s offer for free when you sign up!
  2. Answer 4 quick questions about your home that Grove Collaborative will then use to customize your first basket (this takes less time than microwaving a cup of cocoa!).
  3. Once you’ve answered the questions, you can finalize your basket of products to suit your household needs by adding or removing items.
  4. To receive this offer, your order needs to be a minimum of $20. Choose the combination of products and scents you love and receive in your first box.
  5. You made it! Click Finish & Pay and place your order.

Tip to save: 

Once you’ve submitted your Grove order, be sure to sign up for the free 60 day VIP trial. You’ll get free shipping, free gifts, price matching, exclusive sales, and personal service.

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Friday, October 14

Good morning, lovelies!

It's time for the Friday Confessional party. Confession is good for the soul, so stop by to share all your dirty, little secrets. You'll feel better when you're finished, and we promise not to judge.

I confess...

I feel like the only thing I have to talk about this week is my black belt exam yesterday. To begin with, I passed. But I confess that I feel the exam could have gone a whole lot better. I was nervous going into it, and I continued to be nervous right up to the end of the exam.

Some of the other black belts in our school said that for them the nerves went away about three techniques into the exam and they got into a "zone" where it didn't matter who was in the room or what else was going on around them.

That wasn't the case for me, I continued to be well aware of anyone coming and going, when the testing panel was consulting with each other and when other people were looking in the door to see what was going on.

I confess...

I just did my absolute best to push all that to my periphery and focus on my partner (uke) and the caller who was calling my technique and acting as my advocate. I know that on a normal day when I'm training, I get too concerned with looking to my sensei for approval after a performing a technique and that I over think things if I do that enough.

It was important to me that during the exam, that I did not let those mental stumbling blocks get in my way of performing. What I think happened as a result of trying to keep those mental elements at bay, I sacrificed my attention to detail while performing the exam, and it showed in the feedback I got from my exam panel.

I confess...

I was disappointed that some of the feedback was what it was...not because I disagreed but because I feel that had I been more relaxed and not in an exam environment, then I think that I would have performed better.

It's hard when you hold yourself to a really high standard and don't perform to that level, even if the performance is deemed acceptable. I supposed I need to take the advice that I give to my friends who are training and give myself more grace.

I confess...

I don't want this confessional to be all about what didn't go right. I can identify several things that I feel went well:

  • I didn't have problems remembering or mixing up technique names except for the very last two techniques on the exam.
  • I remembered to kiai (verbally express energy) on most of my techniques, and my uke told me afterward that it made a big difference for him, especially with the weapons lists.
  • I was able to perform my biggest identified problem technique, and it passed without needing to be repeated.
  • There is one list that required bringing your energy way up and maintaining it; I felt that I didn't break concentration the entire list.

I confess...

Now that I've talked through how I feel with several friends and written about it, I'm going to let go any feelings of disappointment because I passed! Next week, I'll make a list of things that I want to improve as I train. Today, I'm going to celebrate the win.

Want to play along? Grab the button and link your Friday Confessional below. Please comment after linking.

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Friday, October 7

Good morning, lovelies!

It's time for the Friday Confessional party. Confession is good for the soul, so stop by to share all your dirty, little secrets. You'll feel better when you're finished, and we promise not to judge.

I confess...

We're going into hurricane mode for the weekend. By that, I mean that we have bottled water in the house, candles, fixings for chili and plenty of tequila.

In all seriousness, we're so far inland that the most we'll likely have to worry about is high winds causing our power to go out, but a lot of friends and family have evacuated our coastline. I'm hoping this storm isn't as serious as the weathermen are warning it could be.

I confess...

Aside from getting ready for the black belt exam next week, we also have house guests staying with us during our jujitsu clinic, which means some serious cleaning will be happening around the house this weekend. Having inclement weather actually lends itself to that activity because I don't want to leave the house when it's pouring rain.

I confess...

I don't think I'm going to know what to do with myself when my exam is over next week. I know a bottle of champagne is on the agenda for that evening, but after the clinic ends there will have to be some exciting nights with my couch and a crochet hook. Many more pieces need to be made for Chasing Blue Jays to get ready for the holidays.

I confess...

I have to finish up my jujitsu notebook today so it can be checked tomorrow in black belt class. Writing out some of these last techniques is tougher than it seems. It's a good thing I can bounce ideas off the Mister and he understands them.

Want to play along? Grab the button and link your Friday Confessional below. Please comment after linking.

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Thursday, October 6

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I may be compensated from sales made via these links. Thank you for your support of my blog.

I don't know how we're in the month of October already. I don't know what happened to September. I blinked, and it was just gone, and here we are taking stock of the month. 

Let's look at my goals from September:

Complete Written Requirements for Black Belt Exam

Let's take a look at what that means:

  • Pass CPR/First Aid Certification - Complete
  • Pass Ethics Exam - Complete
  • Get letter from federation recognizing eligibilty - Complete
  • Put together log of mat activities - Complete
  • Participate in mat contest - Complete
  • Complete jujitsu notebook - 90% complete
  • Get letter of recognition from sensei - Complete
  • Application for exam - Still pending

Not too shabby. Everything else will get completed this week since the exam is a week from today!

I was shocked to receive my dojo promotion to black belt this month as well; I just didn't expect that until the week of the exam. I also found out this morning that I was awarded a scholarship to cover the actual exam fee.

Pass Written Massage Exams

I have to admit that I failed two of the three the first time I took them. My sensei handed them to me the day I had flown back from Las Vegas, and I'd had all of three hours of sleep.

After a good night's sleep and an evening of review, I'm happy to report that I passed the exams with flying colors.

October Goals

I bet you can guess what the big goals are for the month:

  • Pass black belt exam
  • Pass hands-on massage exam

I also need to send three big email campaigns at work regarding the upcoming Medicare and health insurance enrollment periods. Work life is about to get crazy.

Monthly goals button

Want to see other bloggers' goals for August? Click the button to check out the rest of the Monthly Goals linky party, hosted by A Peek at Karen's World and My So-Called Chaos.

Fitbit Flex Activity + Sleep Wristband
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