Thursday, December 30, 2010

homemade christmas presents

this year for Christmas we decided to make homemade gifts to exhance with Ryan's sister & her husband.

we had no idea what to expect.
we had no idea what to make.
we must of changed our minds 20 different times.

it was so much fun!

we are already a gazillion steps ahead of ourselves for next year.
we already know what we're going to make!
{which is half the battle!!}

this is what we made them. this past summer they bought their first house! 
so we opted for this painted black wooden sign where they could change out the sign to whatever they please!
Click here to see how this was made.

look what they made me/us!
{i am LOVING this!!}
a gift wrapping station
how cool is that?!

click here to see how this was made.
Already can't wait for next year!

{musical family}

i come from a musical family.

Like real musical. 

my grandma was a piano teacher
my dad had an Christian Album back in the 80's & has sung w/ Simon Estes
my aunt is a professional pianest
my sister is a music teacher...
my other sister sings all the time-- no mater who is around.

...they all love to perform
 and I get that. 
 I love that. 
I really appreicate that.

I must of missed the family meeting about loving to sing in public.
i rarely do it.
i get sweaty hands,
want to faint,
& all over curse myself out when I agree to it.

A few weeks ago I fell under a weak moment & agreed to sing @ my grandparents church Christmas Eve. 

When I agreed to this I completely forgot...

...that there are usually 550+ people that attend that service
...that i want to toss my cookies
...that my entire extended Rhoads side family would be there
...that my hands become really,  really sweaty
...but after its all said and done I'm glad I did it, and don't have the desire to do it for another 5+ years.

here is the video.  quality is not that good becuase the lights were out due to the spotlight on Mary.  
We sang Breath of Heaven (I started it out, then Carly then Haley with some duets & trios in the mixI start)
I started out super shakey, but got more confident as the song went on :-)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas 2010 Top Highlights

2010 Highlights :

Tucker turned 1! He is our little ball of energy. He loves anything that moves, especially balls, paint brushes,  anything that makes noises or sings! :-) He constantly keeps us entertained and on our toes.

Family trips. This year we headed to Chicago, Illinois --to help Ryan's sister move, St. louis, Missouri-- Cousins' Reunion on the Houck side & finally headed to Lafayette, Indiana for a family wedding on the Huhn/Tudor side.

Cyclone Football. For six weekends this fall we had the privilege to attend all the ISU home football games. (Thanks to Uncle Paul & Aunt Vickie!) We had a great time cheering on the Cyclones. Ryan is determined to make Tucker a Cyclone die-hard like himself!

Intramural Sports: This past year Ryan and I were involved in a few sports teams. Last winter Ryan played City League Basketball while I played volleyball with a few girlfriends. This summer we played together on a co-ed volleyball team. Ryan was a little nervous (since he had never played before), but he turned out to be a powerhouse player!

Financial Freedom Goals: If you don't know what we are doing right now, please click here. Last September we got serious about kicking our debt to the curb! We are making tons of sacrifices {hense this tacky inexpensive way to send out holiday cheer!} We hope to shout it from the rooftops be out of debt entirely by September.

Final duplex remodeled: In the spring we remodeled our last duplex, and boy, did it feel good! It took about 8 weeks. This project was my primary nightmare focus while Ryan made the money! :-)

Midwest Appraisals' 1st Anniversary: On May 1st our appraisal company turned one-year-old! We are constantly blown away by what God is doing & how he is blessing us!

God is so good!

We hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

Ryan, Ashley & Tucker

Monday, December 20, 2010

hot deal on ESPN magazine

every year for Christmas I get my Grandpa Rhoads {sports enthusiast!!} a subscription to ESPN magazine.  he loves it.
I was able to score it for $2.99 thanks to some awesome frugal blogs out there.
need a last minute gift for a guy in your life?
Get a 1 Year ESPN Magazine subscription for just $2.99.
Just use code ESPN at checkout. This is a limited time deal, so the price may go up quickly.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

latest favorites.

 {loved these personalized gift wrap you can print with step by step instructions!}
{ Loved candy cane bark tutorial from my friend at Homemade by Monica.}
{loved this free printable tag}

these are just a few of the ideas I'm loving these days.

My Craigslist corner

My "Craigslist Corner"  is a section in our house where I stash everything I am currently selling on craigslist.

This week we had a twin mattress & a chair (both sold TODAY-yeah!)

My little T-man discovered he could crawl up on the piano bench with the mattress being there.

Enter the next video. 

Not gonna lie, mainly for the family.

Enjoy our little Mozart.
(Auntie C will be so proud!)

Borders Coupon, 50% off!

Borders Books has a printable coupon for 50% off of one regular price item in their store
 (good thru Thursday)

Monday, December 13, 2010

2 BIG wooley boogers to go!

"Wooley Booger"

that was an expression used often in my childhood by my dad.

growing up on a hog farm it usually meant....

difficult, or a big challenge coming up (usually from something breaking down)

when he used that term I cringed inside. 

I dreaded it.  

since we are working HARD to become debt free, we named our student loans affectionately, Wooley Boogers.

When we started our "debt free" endeavor last August we started with 10 different wooley boogers. 

or, 10 small loans.

we have been working from the smallest loans to the biggest loans...adding momemtum every step of the way.

we have been working HARD...

...sacrificing alot.

...and as of last thursday

we are down to 2 wooley bugers left!!!!

We are excited. 

We are thrilled. 

...but  these are the biggest two left

... the ugliest wooley buggers we have to  face.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

weekend plans in pictures


my 29th birthday!

amazing story.

you may want a box of kleenex by your side.

Friday, December 3, 2010

confession time

tonight I got the pleasure of running errands ALL BY MYSELF.

I should  be baking. 

but i'm not.

I went out, enjoyed an evening all by myself...

i doddled in the store asiles

I listened to the radio really loudly.

I treated myself to a pop from the bottle, not from the fountain {big deal in the Houck household!} :-)

You see, tomorrow we have my husbands side Christmas with his extended family. bring baked goods to share.
Ryan's grandma takes great pride in baking all sorts of yummy treats.

She would be appauled if she knew I brought something from the store.
i bought a store bought angel food cake
....which I'm going to try and get away making it look like I  baked it by putting it in my cake platter.

please tell  me I'm not the only one who has done this!

hope i can pull this off!

...i love mom's night out. 

angel food cake anyone?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hallmark Gold Crown Stores: $5 off a $5 Purchase

Free cards or wrapping paper! 
...or whatever your little heart desires!
Use click here to print a $5 dollar of ANY $5 dollar purchase.
hurry two days only.
I am looking forward using this for a singing card from my Grandpa & Grandma Huhn for Christmas.
They. Love. Them. 
Normally those cards are $5.00-$6.00 but with this coupon...only for a buck! 
Valid 12/3-12/5.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

a youtube party

in three weeks we are helping host our first youtube Christmas party.
There will be six small groups representing and each group will select two youtube pieces & at the end of the night we'll see who gets the most votes.
so, we've been scouring youtube for funny pieces.  

i was forwarded this youtube clip today.
loved it & thought I'd share it.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

happy thanksgiving

Friday, November 19, 2010

Disney DVD's Half off today

My sister Carly has a BIG thing for disney movies.  
This post is just for her...
Today, Amazon has some Disney movies priced 40-50% off. Titles include Snow White, Pinocchio, Monsters Inc. and more. Shipping is free with a $25 order. Click HERE

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hobby Lobby: 40% Off Coupon

hurry, expires November 20th.
Click here!

i'm from the country & i like it that way {you know that song?!}

one thing you must know
 (and  hopefully appreciate about me)
we love living out in the country.

With saying that here are a few thoughts I've had lately...
{all have happened to us within the last couple of weeks}

{ I love when your from the country...}

I love when your from the country they give you directions like "turn right at Ray's corner" instead of turn right when you come to Lincoln Highway Road
I love when your from the country you vote in a shed, literally a shed.
 {picture below: Ryan Voting}

I love when your from the country & you list a piece of farm machinery equipment item on craigslist they know exactly who is selling it from the background of the picture you posted. 

country love.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Starbucks: Buy One, Get One Free Holiday Drinks (November 18-21, 2010)

November 18-21, 2010 from 2-5 p.m. Starbucks is offering Buy One, Get One Free Holiday Drinks!

Thanks, Chi-Town Cheapskate!

Friday, November 12, 2010


1.The beautiful weather outside! {it reached 70 degrees three times this week!}
2. Getting together with two of the best friends a girl could ask for Saturday night to play cards with our hubbies!
3. Gods grace {enough said!}
4. Diet Mountian Dew
5. A husband & best friend who L♥VES me no matter what
6. SO thankful for my little one year old & the excitment he provides.
7. odd jobs that pop up our direction so we're able to pay off a BIG loan saturday.
8. friends & family who are so helpful & encouraging.
9. babysitters
10. a  sleeping little boy when I get home from working a night shift whose crib i rattle so he wakes up long enough to hug & hold for a few mins then goes right back down to sleep without his dad knowing ! :-)

so thankful.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

most creative halloween costume

my husband came across the most creative halloween costume we have ever seen!

Remember the volleyball "Wilson" from the movie Cast Away?!

Check out what these creative parents dressed up the little one as...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Picasa: I'm feeling lucky!

Photo Editing

quick photo editing for dummies.

{thats me!}

move over picnik you have met your match!

heard of picasa? 
Picasa is free photo editing software from Google that makes your pictures look great..
Once you have downloaded Picasa and have selected the picture you wish to edit click on the button titled "I'm feeling lucky" and Picasa will automatically edit your photo for you--yes, it IS just that easy!!

...this literally takes one second and you can highlight as MANY pictures as you want to.  What a quick and easy fix you can do before you post your pictures on facebook or your blog! 

Step 1:  download picasa
Step 2: hit 'I'm Feeling Lucky'


check out a few before & afters:
at the difference just one click on ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ gives me!

so simple. 
so easy.
thats my type of photo editing!

I'm Feeling Lucky


I'm really lacking blog inspiration & creativity lately so here is what I got.

a. area code: 515
b. bed size: twin.  yep, you read that right.  the hubs and I are sleeping on twin beds.  that is changing soon though!
c. chore you hate: cleaning the toilet
d. dogs name: don't have any pets.
e. essential "start of the day": a can of diet dew or strawberry crystal light.
f. favorite color: it used to be purple, but lately I've been loving turquoise
g. gold or silver: either, not picky.  too much of a tomboy to care too much. :-)
h. height: I'm short: 5'3.5 (that's right, I'm keeping that .5 on there and there's nothing you can do about it!)
i. instruments i play: piano
j. job: full time wife & mom, also part-time server
k. kids: we have one kiddo right now, but starting to get the itch to expand the family!
l. living arrangements: if you read this blog, then you know our living arrangments.
m. moms name: Marce
n. nickname:  When I was little my dad always called me "schnookie."  My husband calls me "cakes" and our little one calls me "maaaa"
p. pet peeve: feeling rushed, and overall rude people
q. quote from a movie: "as you wish"
r. righty or lefty: Right
s. siblings: 2 younger sisters, 1 brother, 1 sister-in-law & 1 brother-in-law
t. time you wake up: 6:01, but don't get out of bed til usually 6:20ish
u. underwear: I really don't know where to go with this question.
v. veggies {your favorite} carrots cooked or raw
w. ways or reasons you are late: usually Tucker. :-)
x. x- rays: Nope
y. yummy food you make: don't know if I have any favorites. i make a mean red velvet cake. :-)
z. zoo animals you like: Monkeys

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

{super easy} Bacon & Cheese Egg McMuffin Cups

this might be the easiest breakfast...ever!

the picky plate   shared this recipe.
~ which has become a HOUCK favorite!~

'cause sometimes a warm breakfast is soooo good!
{sometimes if we omit english muffins}

Bacon and Cheese Egg McMuffin Cups

3 whole english muffins, split

6 slices ready cooked bacon, not microwaved, just right out of package
1/2 Cup shredded cheddar cheese
6 large eggs

Pinches of kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Press english muffins carefully into bottom of a 6 cup Texas size muffin tin. Form a little circle with the bacon and place around inside of muffin. Sprinkle inside with cheese then top with a whole egg in each cup, keeping inside the bacon ring. Sprinkle with pinches of kosher salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until egg is cooked through, not jiggly

2. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before removing from muffin tin. Serve as is or with some of your favorite hot sauce and a side of fruit!!

6 servings


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

3 Tricks to take the work out of housework!

I recently read this this article on housework from the how does she  gals.

~loved it~

She listed three trick to help with your housework...

One thought provoking idea she said was give your house an identity
 Give it a name. 

 So often we say, "when I move to a bigger house, this is only a temporary place, etc"  
I am so gulity of that. 
So after some thoughtful deliberation I wanted to name the home where we live now. 
(even though Lord willing--its temporary) 
 I named my grandparents house...

it is warm, loving and gooey in the middle. 

I was talking with a friend about this and she jokingly said ..."hmmm, can i name my house 'money pit'? "  haha.
another fun one I thought of (maybe someday) is 'leading lady' or someday I hope to have an acerage and name it  "Green Acres" 

think of the style, era, charm of your house... what does its history or future hold?

Soo....what would your house be named?!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

a whole lotta updates!

Just wanted to do a quick update on life right now on things we are loving, us, and our current favorites.  One day we want to look back and go, oh yeahhh we loved that show or season of life!

Living with B & G 
(or Boppa and Grandma as we've affectionaly dubbed them!) going great.  We could not have asked for a smoother transition.  Tucker loves the pieces out of Boppa and the feeling is mutual in return!  The other night Boppa had retured from being gone all day and they were both running towords each other with open arms & then hugged.  PRICELESS.  Our most asked question is does it work?  I cook, clean & do laudndry for all five of us.  We buy roughly 85% of the grocerys. Which is working out great.  Then, every once in awhile Boppa will  make dinner and I don't have to cook!!! AMAZING! One other great advantage we are loving right now is leaving to go see a movie or grab ice cream after Tucker goes to bed @ 7:00.   We leave the monitor with B & G. DATE NIGHT! Its also been nice having muscles around, also known as Ryan, to help lift grandma off the ground (which happens more often than not these days) :-(  We are loving this stage of life right now & getting LOTS paid off all due to their generousity. Couple of fun facts we've learned since living here:
Once a farmer, ALWAYS a farmer.  After each rain we always ask how much rain we got because that'll make Boppa's day.
Dancing with the starts.  Oh boy.  Boppa is obsessed :-)  We really believe he thinks he is friends with all of them.  On Monday & Tuesdays night we constantly hear..."OH WOW!"  "grandma, did you see that!?!" 
So funny.

 Last spring I joined the Story City chapter of MOPS.  It meets every other tuesday for 2 hours.  A fun time to get away with other moms, have a devotional, craft and the best part...time away for your kiddos! 

Ryan & I aren't big TV watchers so when we found one show we liked last winter we netflixed EVERY episode of NCIS.  We are what you call obsessed. :-)  Every Tuesday night like clockwork after we get back from small group you'll find us watching NCIS.  It is our little escape time

 About a month ago I deactivated my facebook account.  It was either facebook or the blog.  And, lets face it, I love bloging.  It is such a good de-stresser for me.  A visutal scrapbook & ideas and family posts.  A number of months ago I read an article if you say "yes" to one thing, then you are saying "no" to another.  When I started Hickory Park I decided it needed to go.  I didn't want to be caught checking facebook when I had 5 loads of laundry that needed to be done! :-) So, for now I made the choice to simplify life a little.

 HOLY Cow!  Is going great.  Ryan is roughly 15+ appraisals behind which is becoming very stressful, but we are completely in awe how God has built our business after starting it from scratch roughly 1.5 years ago. Go God, because it is SO because of HIM!  I've been helping drive alot (I'll drive while he works on his laptop) to get comp pictures or go to appointments.  And, tucker gets to come along as well.  Which means we still get some family time in there too.  Ryan is such a great worker for our little family!  There have been a few tears on my end of not getting much qt time with Ryan, so getting in a date night here and there {in the midst of this craziness} has been so beneficial to our marriage!

Hickory Park:
 is going great. Been working there about a month now and roughly working 15-22 hours a week.  The hardest part is not having any days off with Ryan, but we have been trying to sneak an hour or two of quality time in there! The hardest part is walking out the door.  By nature I am wired to be a full time Momma so I'll be glad when this season of life is over.  But, for now its been a HUGE blessing.  It has been awesome to have family right next door to help out with Tucker from time to time!

this fall we've had the opporunity to attend all the home football games courtsey of my Uncle & Aunt Rhoads.  (thanks aunt vickie!!) Its been alot of fun cheering on the cyclones!

Tuesday night we lead a small group @ church.  We really cherish all the friendhships we've made and the playdates as well through the weeks! We love our Tuesday nights to get refreshed and redirected to whats really important in life. 

and lastly...but not least TUCKER he is our never ending BALL of energy! It is SO fun to see him learn & grow with each month.  He loves to be outside, peek-a-boo, "catch", running after leaves and slides... and has a thing for paint brushes right now.  We love being parents to that kid!

okay, I'm going to stop there!  I just wanted a recap of all the things I've been meaning to post lately!  That is us in a nutshell right now, things are crazy busy, but we are loving this stage of life!

Friday, October 15, 2010

weekend plans {in pictures}

{movie night}


{Watchin' ISU Football Game}


{pumpkin patch}

then ...

What are your weekend plans?!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

new to me {fun find}

i love finding a blog that is old time traditional recipes.
no foof.
the old standards.
with ingredients everyone has.
i'm old school like that.
what can i say...i grew up on a farm! :-)

Check her out.

October: The Most Critical Month of the Year


I am a planner by nature. 
 For better or worse.
Last Saturday I budget planned all the "extra" expese we'd have this December/Christmas.

For Examples:
Christmas Cards & Postage
Extra Baking
Family Gift Budget & a few friends gift Budgets
Small Tenant Gifts & Baked Goods
Extra Eating Out
Toys for Tots
4 Family Members birthdays {including mine}
Cornerstone's Christmas Production

Then I read this article copied below.
 As I've mentioned numerous times before, we are working our tales off to become debt free and no longer be a slave to the lender.  After reading this article (by Dave Ramsey) I felt I was in the right directions. 

 Check it out. 

 Let me know what you think.

October: The Most Critical Month of the Year

Regardless of your financial standing, October is a critical month for determining how your bank account will look and affect your life over the next few months—and even next year (which, by the way, is less than 90 days away).

Marketers have realized that as we approach the last few months of the year, we tend to let our emotions influence our spending at a new level. What this really means is that they've been carefully studying our habits. They know the value of having thought-out and well-executed plans. Can the same be said of you? Are they ahead of you in their planning?

There are two options—plan or don't plan. The lack of planning in October can really set you back financially and cause stress through the holiday season. Therefore, have a reality check with your money and plan accordingly now before the temptation to overspend is here in full force ... times three. On the flip side, your diligent planning and focus will pay off and set you up for fun times with less money worries!

Even if you have already made Dave's advice work for you by writing down your goals and refocusing on your monthly budget, every month is different and requires your undivided attention once again. And when you throw a full holiday season in the mix, you better believe extra attention is vital!

Because, really, who wants to be paying for Christmas in April? No one.

So before Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and all the little "emergencies" in between get here, sit down tonight, write down a separate plan for your holiday money, and pinky-swear, spit-shake or whatever you must do to establish that you and your family are committed to this plan. If you've already added this part to your regular monthly budget, good for you! Keep it up and stick to your plan. Don't let your guard down now so close to game time. Stay diligent so you can reap the rewards of your hard work!

Remember, it doesn't have to be complicated. Just a simple agreement of "We are going to spend X amount of dollars for gifts, X amount for potluck-gathering food and X amount for traveling" will be sufficient. But you must take care of all the ongoing necessities first before you budget these fun things.

Don't stress out if the amount you've set aside for these celebrations isn't as high as you want it to be. Gifts are fun to give and receive, but they definitely shouldn't make or break your enjoyment. So keep this in mind as you're working through your plan: Is it worth it to buy hundreds of dollars of stuff now, pay for it later, and still be in debt?

You know what Dave would say and do. But the decision and action is up to you!

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