Author: Becca Eby

Favorite Things – Key Limeade

I hate drinking water. If I could get away with it, I would be fine drinking nothing but Diet Coke and coffee. I know I need to drink more water, so I’ve tried to find a way to make it more appealing. I love Crystal Light Peach Tea powder added to my water. Jed makes lemonade by adding lemon juice and Splenda to a glass of water. I love it. I decided to try it with my favorite flavor – key lime. Amazing. I can drink it all day long. It is great without the Splenda too. When we were at the beach in Florida, I used this little recipe to save us from the taste of the tap water. Don’t be insulted, Florida friends. We have some areas of nasty tasting water here in Texas (Frisco – I’m talking to you). We didn’t have to buy bottled water, which saved us a ton of money. So, if you are a fellow water hater, try some limeade or lemonade.

For 24 oz of water (the large Tervis Tumbler size):
add 2 packets of Splenda
2 tbsp of lemon or lime juice

Hydrate or die, people. πŸ™‚

A Trio of Burlap and Shell Beach Shadowboxes with Tutorial

We found a ton of shells this summer, so I’m trying to find creative ways to display them. I decided to make these three little shadowboxes for my bathroom. I actually bought the sand dollar and starfish, but found the shell. I was mad because we found several sand dollars (already dead) after I bought this big one. Oh well. I’m sure I will find a home for them too.
I bought three of these 5×7 shadow boxes at Hobby Lobby for $4.50 a piece. They were on sale and cheaper than their friends because they are a weird grey color.
I taped the glass to avoid getting paint on it, and then painted all the wood with antique white paint and a foam brush. I let it dry, and then sanded it to give it a worn, beachy feel.
I cut each piece of burlap to cover the backing from the frames. I tried using Gorilla Glue first, but it didn’t hold. I definitely Gorilla glued my fingers nicely. My friend Whitney pointed out that I should use wax paper next time so I wouldn’t get glue on my fingers. She is a genius. I glued the burlap down with hardcore craft glue, and pressed it with the wax paper. You have to be careful with glue placement, because it may still show once dried.
Once the glue dried, I trimmed the burlap to fit exactly inside the frame. My frames wouldn’t allow me to wrap it and staple on the back, as I had originally planned. Then I centered each shell and glued it down, pressing for 30 seconds.
Then I put the finished product into their frames and hung them in my bathroom. I love the rustic, beachy simplicity. This project was a little time consuming, but worth the effort.

If you don’t have time to make your own, I’m selling these on Etsy, made with found shells only, for $20. Check out my Etsy site on the sidebar.

Don’t forget to link up to the Beach Week party!

I’m linking to some great parties. Check them out here.

How to take your own beach photos without harassing strangers or hiring professionals.

We’ve all been there. You are on vacation, wanting a group photo or a couple photo, but left without anyone to take it. If you go on a trip as a couple, you end up with lots of photos of one of you while the other holds the camera. I take tons of pictures and Jed always feels awkward posing by himself. We have harassed strangers to take our picture more times than I could even count. They always end up cutting off someone’s head. Then you feel bad making them do it over again. We know people who hire professional photographers to come and take their family beach photos. That is not exactly in our budget. This summer, we found a solution to this quandary.
No, we did not ask a stranger to watch us make out. We did a 15 minute photo shoot on our own on the beach in Playa del Carmen.
This is the group that went on our family vacation to Navarre Beach, FL. Do you know how long it takes to get a group this big to pose and smile at the same time? It takes a while.

Our new solution is two words:

We bought a small compact tripod for $20. It folds down to pack easily in a suitcase or carry-on. I can even carry it in my purse. How did I not think of this before? We simply set the tripod up on a beach chair or deck and found the angle and height that we needed.

My camera has a 10 second timer setting, so it gives me plenty of time to run back and join the photo. It took me a little while to get the hang of setting it and running, but thankfully I have a patient husband. For a big group photo, you just get 1 person to stand there while you set it up, then bring out the rest of the troops when the camera is ready. Make a place for yourself to jump in, and go for it.

There you have it. It isn’t rocket science, but it saved me a ton of headaches and stranger harassment this summer. My other beach photo tip is to take stage your shoot in the morning or evening, rather than midday. The light will be much more flattering.

How cute is this instant scrapbook page from! Seriously.

Do you have any beach photo tips? Share them with us!

Don’t forget to link your beach posts to the Beach Week Link Party!

I’m linking to some great parties. Check them out here.

Frugal Friday – This is Dallas.

*Image found here.

We moved to Dallas 2 years ago next week. I was immediately overwhelmed by culture shock. In Asheville, most people that we know drive used cars and dress as though they are about to go hiking. Bathing is optional and there are more white people with dreadlocks per capita than anywhere else in the nation. Dallas is all about shiny new cars, high fashion, and looking put together. Jed recently commented that he didn’t feel pretty enough to shop at Whole Foods. He went there during the lunch hour and it was like a singles’ mixer for J.Crew models.
Needless to say, my Chacos, Danskos, and Crocs do not fit in here. There is a saying here that we quickly learned to say when we are shocked by the excess and luxury that surrounds us – T.I.D. “This is Dallas.” Take one trip to North Park Mall and you will say it a lot.
Don’t get me wrong, we love it here. We love our friends and our community, but we are still overwhelmed sometimes by the excess in this town.
The Dallas Morning News (our local paper) is running a series called “Drowning in Debt” that I love. It gives a great perspective on the debt crisis in our nation and in our city. I was not surprised to read that Dallas has the 2nd highest consumer (non-mortgage) debt of any major city in our nation. I think this has a lot to do with the T.I.D./keeping up with the Jones’ attitude. In this town the Jones’ are Jerry Jones and his crew, and there is just no way to keep up.
Here is what the Dallas Morning News had to say about debt in Big D:

For the last four years, Dallas-area consumers have been dogged by debt.
During that period, the area consistently has had higher average consumer debt loads and lower average credit scores than the nation as a whole.
Among the 20 biggest U.S. metro areas, Dallas trails only Seattle in average consumer debt, according to Experian, one of the three national credit bureaus.
Dallas-area consumers in March carried average debt of $26,599 excluding mortgages, compared with a national average of $24,775, Experian said.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area also has had lower average credit scores than the rest of the nation.

To be sure, many consumers find themselves deep in debt through circumstances beyond their control. Many lose jobs and struggle to keep up with bills. For others, unexpected medical expenses overwhelm their budgets.
But personal finance experts estimate that at least 10 percent of debt woes are a direct result of overspending – pure lack of discipline.
“It’s an epidemic in our country,” said Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist and co-author of Mind Over Money. I am finding that people with excessive debt associate money and material things with increased power, status and happiness, thus leading them to overspend.
Experts say several psychological motivators drive consumers’ urge to splurge, including the desire to fit in with peers, the need to relieve stress or escape from problems, and the sense that their self-worth is derived from how much money they have to spend. Sometimes, consumers overspend just to change the way they feel.

We have no debt and plan to stay that way. But, I have definitely made purchases to fit in and dress more like my friends. I shop at a certain overpriced store (that I love) because the clothes are beautiful and even a t-shirt from there is way cooler than the Old Navy version.
After college I bought a brand new car, because I thought I deserved it. I had to sell it one year later for a $3000 loss because I couldn’t afford the payments. That was a BIG mistake.
The debt that we had prior to becoming debt free was almost 100% caused by lack of discipline. We spent more than we made because we wanted more stuff. The difference now is that we have to get past caring about keeping up. I don’t know if we will ever stop caring completely, but I hope the feeling of being debt free will keep us going.
Have you ever bought something you regretted – either to keep up/look cool/because you thought you deserved it?

Festive Paper Flower Wreath – A Tutorial

Back in May, I decorated my living room with handmade paper flowers. They are cheap and easy to create, and I love the festive color they add to our home. I intended to make a wreath of the same flowers to hang on the door between our kitchen and living room three months ago. I just got around to it. The Queen of Procrastination strikes again.

I found a wreath at the Dollar Store, and already had the tissue paper and wire. I decided to create a tutorial this time around, because several readers asked for it last time.
1) Cut a rectangle in your desired size from at least 4-5 sheets of tissue paper. You can cut it all with one cut. Your flowers will be the size of the smaller end of the rectangle. The number of sheets and length determine the fluffiness of your flower.

2)Start at one of the short ends, folding like a fan in one inch (ish) folds. Continue these folds all the way to the other end.

3)This shows the fan like folds.

4)Cut two small triangles in the center of your folded paper.

5)Cut a 10 inch piece of wire and wrap it around your flower. Twist it at the bottom of the flower so it hangs like a stem.

6)Start fluffing your flower from one side, then the other. Do this by separating each piece of paper from the others, one at a time.
You can cut the edges into points, rounded edges, or leave them straight. I prefer the rounded edges.
Take each flower and twist the wire around the wreath. I created flowers of all sizes for this wreath. You could create a more homogeneous design with flowers all the same size or same color. I like the festiveness that the different sizes and colors create.
Here is the finished product. I think it is bright, happy, and pure summer fun.

I’m linking to some great parties. Check them out here.

Frugal Friday – What a difference a year makes…

One year ago this week we were driving down to Kingwood, TX, for Jed’s ten year high school reunion. The photo above was taken at the reunion. Jed had been telling me about this guy Dave Ramsey who had a plan for our finances. We stayed with Jed’s brother Sam and his wife Michelle, who were on the plan. On the trip down we listened to “Debt Free Friday” on the Dave Ramsey radio show, and I cried every time one of the famillies screamed, “We’re debt free!”. Over the course of the weekend, with some major encouragement from Sam and Michelle, we decided to jump on board. We made a budget, joined the “Total Money Makeover“, and were on the road to financial freedom.

We cut up our credit cards and started using cash. We got serious about paying off our debts. In four months we paid off $13,000 worth of debt, and were totally debt free for the first time in our lives. Then we started saving up and emergency fund. You can read more about that here. We finished our emergency fund in May with 3 months of expenses saved in an account we don’t touch. In July we started Baby Step 4, investing in our retirement. We are also saving for our first house and for a baby.

I cannot believe that it has only been a year since we started this journey. I cannot express in words the freedom I feel. We don’t make very much, and don’t have much hope of salary increasing. I’m in full time ministry and Jed is a teacher. Even with our modest earnings, we have found financial peace.

Just so you know how we have struggled in the past, I’ll sum up a brief financial history of us for you. In college we both got credit cards in the student union for the free t-shirts. We both started off paying them off each month. Then I started using mine to travel, go to concerts, etc. Probably the worst thing I did was put 5 plane tickets to NYC on my card for my friends. When they paid me back I didn’t put they money towards the card. It took me 8 years to pay for that trip. I don’t know what Jed spent his money on, because we didn’t know each other then. He came out of college with a mountain of student loan debt plus his credit cards. I spent the next few years being consistently late with payments, dodging calls from creditors, and still spending. I bought a brand new car I couldn’t afford, only to have to sell it a year later for a $3000 loss. In 2003 I consolidated $15,000 of debt into a loan. I promptly began to run up more debt. In 2005 I consolidated all of my new debt, $12,000 worth. I paid all of my debts off by the summer of 2008. Jed brought into our marriage the $13,000 worth of debt that we paid off this year. Basically we were both not to be trusted with credit cards, and in a finacial mess. Now that mess is gone and we are free. I never have to worry about a creditor calling me again.

Do you budget? Tell me about your financial story.

Click below to make a quick budget for yourself.

Cleaning Makeup Brushes – A Tutorial

I am a procrastinator. I am quite possibly the queen of procrastinators. One of the little tasks I always put off is cleaning my makeup brushes. I use Bare Minerals makeup, so my brushes get a lot of build up over time. I try to spray them often with Sephora brush cleaner, but they still get funky. I read on Real Simple that you are supposed to deep clean your brushes every month. It had been probably 6 months or more since I last cleaned them. Yikes. Here we go…
I used 3 different bowls so that I could soak brushes while I was swirling others. I added a teaspoon of antibacterial dish soap to each bowl.
Do not let your brushes get this nasty. Mine were seriously gross. The bacteria builds up and gets transferred to your face. Yuck.
I’ve read that you aren’t supposed to let the base of the bristles get wet, because it can affect the glue. My brushes were so gross that I had to soak them, and they seemed to be fine afterwards. Do what you have to so they will be clean. Take each brush and swirl it around until it comes clean. It may take a few minutes.
Think like Dory (Finding Nemo) and just keep swirling. And swirling. And more swirling.
Check out the nastiness that was in the bowls after I finished cleaning my brushes. Sick. When I poured it down the sink I was amazed and a little grossed out.
It is key to do this when you won’t need to reapply makeup for at least 8-10 hours. It will take the brushes a while to dry after you finish cleaning them. Just lay them out and give them some time. I’m so glad I finally got around to getting this done. My makeup looks better when I apply it with clean brushes, and I feel better about not putting gross bacteria on my face.

Do you use make up brushes? How often do you clean them?

What mundane task have you been putting off?

I’m linking to some great parties. Check them out here.

verse of the week – ephesians 5:1-2

“be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love; just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.”
-ephesians 5:1-2

how do we become imitators of God?

if my identity comes from being a child of God, a dearly loved child, how then should i live my life?

i am constantly trying to figure out a way to live like Jesus, and mostly failing at it. in the midst of my selfish existence, i hope i can find a way to live a life of love. i’m guessing it will be something i’ll be trying to figure out for the rest of my life. so much of our world is about hate, anger, greed, lust, and violence. i just want to be about love.

frugal friday – date night

*photo from shockya

how do you budget for romance?

we are on a budget. we use cash only, and try to stick to that budget like glue. at the same time, we have to carve out quality time in our busy week to spend together, building this marriage and keeping romance alive. to keep the budget in sync with the dates, we have to get creative. our latest discovery is a dollar movie theater about 4 miles from our house. we will never be the first ones to see a movie, but that is ok. we went out to a movie, shared popcorn and a diet coke, and paid less than $10 total. the regular movie theater costs $10.50 per person here in dallas, $13.50 for 3D. that is crazy talk. that means we would be spending $21 for 2 hours entertainment without any snacks. no thanks. i’ll take the dollar theater any day.

here are a few more of our budget date ideas:
share a bucket of balls at the driving rangeoutdoor concerts (bring a picnic)the zoomini golfhikingrent a movie at homebike ridesfield trip to ikea πŸ™‚walking through christmas lights (in dec., obviously)

what are your cheap date night ideas?

bare feet at the beach

i’m at the beach with my extended family this week, praying for no oil. it will be a week of sun, sand, waves, conversations, fun, catching up, playing, and all around good times. i won’t be on the computer much, but i’ve got some great posts scheduled, so stay tuned. feel free to grab my new beachy button from the sidebar, if you would like to display it. thanks for reading!