Digital Coupons: Click and Save

Hi! Jennifer Hallmark here. I’m super excited about our topic this month: Best Ways to Save Money. I don’t know about you, but I’m always searching for new methods to stretch a dollar. Be sure to drop by every Monday and Friday in June for a new post. And now, my take on digital coupons.

Extreme couponing. I tried it. Bought the special notebook, fixed all the tabs inside, and purchased a newspaper. According to the instructor (yes, I even went to a class), the money would soon be rolling in.

Except that was the only newspaper I ever bought. By the time I clipped all the coupons and filled my notebook, I was confused. And you don’t even want to know about the shopping trip with me stumbling all over Publix.

It didn’t work.

Now I’m not saying it won’t work, because people have proven it does. It just didn’t work for me. So I put my notebook in a drawer and whispered a prayer. “God, if I’m going to save money, there has to be an easier way.”

Cue the angelic choir.

Did you know your smart phone can carry digital coupons?  I’m no expert at this but I can tell you how it works with the stores that I clip them from. You can add what you want and when the coupon expires, it disappears. Most stores probably work in similar ways. Just get out your smart phone and let’s start collecting coupons and saving money.

The area I live in is very rural so I do most of my shopping in the small town of Moulton, fifteen miles away. The stores I use for couponing are Dollar General, CVS, and Gateway Foodland. I also use Publix digital coupons, but it’s about 35 miles away. Let’s start with the one I use most.

Dollar General-go to their website and sign up. Then you can go to digital coupons. You can look through the available coupons and add what you want to your phone. When I get an email with their new ad, I go to the coupon section and add more. At the moment, I have 292 coupons. Any time I’m shopping I can look through my coupons and add them to my list. If I’m in a hurry, I still enter my phone number in the payment terminal before I check out so it will look over my coupons for me. I’ve saved $99.43 so far using these coupons.

Gateway Foodland & PublixI do the same thing. Make an account, add coupons, then start saving. I have 190 coupons loaded at Foodland and close to that at Publix. And new coupons come each Wednesday to my email.

CVSThis one is a little different. I signed up for their extra care card since I purchase my prescriptions here. I add their deals from the app on my phone. I also get extra care bucks back (I have to spend at CVS) when I fill so many prescriptions and at different times get coupons for a percentage off certain items.

I love couponing this way. Wednesday is usually the day I sit down, add all my coupons, and make my list. I can have everything added in thirty minutes or less and make my list for shopping.

One more tip of a way I save money. I have the Wal-Mart app on my phone and I’m signed up for Savings Catcher. Again, I first created an account. I scan each receipt as I get them and they search for all the stores in the area for a lower price. Say, if Foodland has milk cheaper in their ads, Wal-Mart loads the difference on an e-shopping card. So far, I’ve saved over $50 from price compare.

Hooray! I can chunk the notebook, put my scissors away, and rid myself of the headache. I wonder what people will think up next?

Click to tweet: “God, if I’m going to save money, there has to be an easier way.”

Writing Prompt: Cassie gripped my hands, her eyes pleading. “But by using digital coupons, I can save enough to pay for my phone in less than a year.”

I shook my head. Then…

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Hope For the Heart of a Mother

By Tammy Trail

You know how you wish you could go back and do things over again? Yeah, me too! One regret I truly wish I had a “do over” with is mothering my daughter. If I knew then, what I know now kind of thing.

Amanda came into the world with her own idea of how her world should go. Any deviation from it and there was hell to pay. She is stubborn, extremely strong willed, and opinionated.

I used to pull my hair out every morning when it was time to go to work. My little darling would stomp her tiny foot and refuse to wear the outfit I had picked that day. I was late to work practically every day no matter how much I  planned ahead, or prepared myself to rebut a three-year old’s arguments. One December morning,  I envisioned myself tossing her bare naked into the snow.

By the time Amanda was eight years old, both our foreheads were sore from the constant head butts and collisions of life. Her second-grade teacher approached me and wondered if I had thought about counseling. That threw me for a loop! When I talked to my husband about it, he agreed. He was tired of playing referee. I asked around and was given the name of a therapist who I will be grateful to for eternity. Now we would get answers. Now we would find out how to fix my sweet girl.

Once a week, Amanda and I would go and talk to Sharon. After a few weeks, Sharon privately asked me about my background. Where I grew up, what kind of parents did I have, siblings, etc. Then she asked me a very odd question. She asked me why I hadn’t married an alcoholic, like my dad?

She told me I had not followed the statistics, I should have married an alcoholic too. I told her it was because I had determined at a young age, I would not live like that when I got married and had children. I would love my children and treat them well. Our sweet therapist then informed me, only a person with an extremely strong will could have made such a plan unfold and not follow the normal path.

Then it hit me! I made Amanda the way she is, it was in the DNA. She then explained to me that having a strong will is not necessarily a bad thing if directed in positive activities such as  academics, sports, or music. But once a negative influence gets in there, watch out!

I wish I could report all was fine and dandy after that revelation. Amanda’s teen years were awful. We had moved from our tiny community to a big city, with big city drama. My prayers increased as she made more defiant choices. Yes, God does answer prayers!

Amanda had taken classes to become a certified nurse’s assistant while still in high school. A year later, she completed a med-aide course in order to give medication to her nursing home residents. The responsibility of working, making her own money, and the choices it allowed helped her to blossom into a mature young lady.

After her marriage to Curtis in 2012, she was more determined to finish her schooling. In December of 2016, she graduated with honors as a registered nurse. So, the strong will in the right direction did pay off. Now, I don’t want to you to think that Amanda was a terrible child all the time. We were always delighted with her sharp wit, and her big, tender heart. She will always cheer for the underdog.

Her son, Kayden is just as strong-willed and stubborn as she ever was. Amanda understands it, and gives him grace; something I had to learn to do. Her father and I are so proud of her!

Click to tweet: Strong-willed children. The good and the not so good.

Writing prompt: Let’s talk about children. What parenting books would you recommend?

Teaching Life Lessons to Your Children and Grandchildren

By Jennifer Hallmark

May, at the Writing Prompts blog, is all about families and children. We have a wide variety of posts to share since this topic is so full of possibilities. Today, my thoughts are on teaching your children life lessons. My children are grown, but I have six grandchildren who can profit from the wisdom and experience I’ve gleaned over the years.

I love object lessons. When my daughter and son were young, I enjoyed explaining different truths by using simple items that I had around the house. They were able to better understand what the Bible says and I believe it stuck with them. Jesus gave us the pattern through His use of parables. Here’s one of my favorite ones below that you and your family might try.

Jigsaw Puzzle Activity

An ordinary jigsaw puzzle provides a meaningful family activity to help your child or grandchild learn about the body of Christ. Begin with a simple puzzle, twenty-four to two hundred pieces, depending upon their age. Encourage each child to examine the pieces as they remove them from the box.

Consider these questions:

(1)        How are the pieces alike?

(2)        How are they different?

(3)        Can one piece be effective by itself?

Discuss how each piece consists of different colors and designs. Though similar, each piece has its own individual characteristics.

Take a moment to read I Corinthians 12:12-27. As you cradle a puzzle piece in your hand, explain how God gifted every person with talents and abilities, unique to them.

As your family builds the puzzle, mention the fact that each piece only fits in a certain place, the same way God has a given place and plan for each life.

Each piece connected together completes the puzzle in the same way each individual in the body of Christ works together to learn and grow, leading people to a relationship with Jesus. Take a moment to elaborate on the ways each person in the congregation contributes to reaching your community for Christ.

Now it’s your turn. What can you use in your house to illustrate truth? Share some examples below in the comments…

Click to tweet: Teaching life lessons to your children and grandchildren.

Writing Prompt: Take a broom or a mop and think of a simple analogy to explain a life lesson to a child. Share it with our readers. 🙂

 

3 Questions Wednesday with Kathy C. Houser

Welcome my friend, Kathy Houser, a local children’s author with her debut children’s book, Houser Post Office. 

With great pleasure, we welcome her to 3 Questions Wednesday!

First question–

What inspires you?

Kathy: The laughter of children, their imagination and their love. I’m also inspired by all God’s creations. Sometimes one word can start a story, sometimes one glance at beauty can start a story.

That’s so true. 🙂 Now…

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Kathy: Rainbow, because all the colors you see are beautiful. Like a butterfly, each a beauty in its own way!

I love a rainbow, especially while it’s still raining and the sun peeking in. Last question…

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Kathy: Veterinarian, because of my love of animals.

My granddaughter, Sadie, wants to be a veterinarian also. Thanks so much for stopping in, Kathy!

Kathy will soon be releasing her second children’s book, Dino’s Adventure. Read more about it below…


Dino Adventure

 I was inspired to write because my son, Jamie and his daughter, Ellie have such a love for the giant creatures. While doing research, I found myself intrigued by the mystery of the dinosaurs. I wanted to know more about these creatures and I even took a biblical look into the creation of these giants that roamed our earth so long ago. Research on dinosaurs brings out the imagination and intriguing aspects of how they existed and how they evolved into some creatures that still exist today!

During the writing of this story, I put together dinosaurs that were plant eaters and could have possibly traveled together in the same period of time. Even though Dino Adventure is completed, I still enjoy reading about them. Join me on this awesome journey of your imagination into the world of dinosaurs!


Houser Post Office

One day, the arts council asked me to read a story at the Chicken and Egg Festival that would be held in a small town that I lived in. I asked them if I could just write a short story to read to the children instead. So this is how the story about mail on a farm started!

I started on the story one night. I thought about how unhappy some of my customers were when they didn’t get any mail. Then I thought about how happy my son was when I would read animal stories to him. The combination of the two inspired me to write this story!


Author Kathy C. Houser

Kathy C. Houser, after I grew up, I worked full-time with the Post Office as a City Carrier and raised my son.  After thirty-two years, I retired and here I am, six months later, with two new books! My debut book is Houser Post Office and my second one is Dino’s Adventure. It thrills me to know that children all over the place will be reading my books. I look forward to writing more!

Terry Jo Compton-Illustrator of Dino’s Adventure 

I live in Decatur, Alabama, with my wife, Paula. I became passionate about art at the young age of five years old and spent some of my teenage years working as an artist on signs for businesses, lettering, illustrations, commercial buildings, giant water trucks, and even stage props, stationary, and home decor.

Framed art is my favorite to produce and I love that my art hangs on the walls of someone’s home. I am inspired by fine art, architecture, and old buildings dating back years and years ago. I consider it an honor and privilege to produce artwork that will last for years to come. My love for art has also led me to oils, water colors, and acrylic painting.  The talent I have is all-natural and God-given…no lessons!

Christina Travis-Illustrator of Houser Post Office 

I’m sixteen years old, born in San Marcos, Texas, and raised in Trinity, Alabama. I’ve always had a love for the arts, whether it’s music or drawing. I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember, every day when I would come home from school that was always the first thing I wanted to do. It wasn’t until the seventh grade when I realized that I had talent. I would normally do a quick sketch, but when I really sat down and committed to drawing for hours, from then on I knew that I wanted to draw professionally. So I began drawing portraits for friends and family. I am so thankful for all the love and support I have received while on this journey.

Christmas Around the World: My Russian Legacy

Christmas around the world is our topic for December. Many people rejoice over the birth of Christ and with different countries come various celebrations. Food, church services, gift-giving, decorations, and lights are some of the ways people show their love for the Babe born in Bethlehem. Join us for our trip around the world, starting with Russia…

By Jennifer Hallmark

2013-10-22-15-01-22

Uncle Paul, Grandma, Grandpa, Mom

Christmas Eve and day were spent with my dad’s family and my husband’s family, sharing traditions familiar to them. Southern food, presents galore, and catching up on the past year were an important part of their holidays. The New Year would come and go. Russian Christmas would finally arrive.

My family would drive to my parent’s house on January 6, which was the eve of the day Christmas was celebrated on the old “Julian” calendar. The excitement would build as our children, Mandy and Jonathan, looked forward to the small, decorated tree, presents and a special supper to commemorate this second Christmas of the year.

russian-dinner

wikipedia image

On Russian Christmas Eve, Mother would set up and decorate a small tabletop tree. We would prepare a special seven-dish Russian meal, which included salmon, stuffed potato pies, borscht or beet soup, stuffed cabbage, polish sausage, boiled cabbage, and special rolls filled with raisins and prunes. We ate by candlelight and recelebrated the birth of Jesus, then exchanged small presents as we shared stories of culture, heritage and family.

russian-food

My stuffed cabbage and peppers

I’m glad to remember and share my heritage with my family. Today we celebrate different traditions tied to my heritage and home in the Deep South. We rejoice with love, fellowship, food, and gifts.

One Christmas at a time.

 

Writing Prompt: Share your favorite Christmas tradition.

 

Glow Worms at the Dismals Canyon

grand-canyon

Grand Canyon

By Jennifer Hallmark

Natural Wonders is the topic for October and goes right along with our subjects this year which include favorite vacations and world travel. The difference lies in the definition.

One source mentions that a natural wonder must be a clearly defined natural site or natural monument that was not created or significantly altered by humans. Our Crew at the Writing Prompts blog will be pointing out several natural wonders such as Mammoth Cave, Victoria Falls, and the Dismals Canyon.

What? You haven’t heard of the Dismals? Read on to find out more…

Glow little glow worm. The 1952 release of the song Glow Worm was sung by the Mills Brothers and talked about little glow worms, shining and glimmering. It’s a fun song and I’ll share a You Tube recording of the song at the end of this article.

Possibly the songwriter had visited the natural wonder tucked away in the northwest corner of Alabama called Dismals Canyon, a national natural landmark near Phil Campbell, Alabama.

The website for the canyon says:

Past twilight, the canyon lights up with tiny bioluminescent creatures we call Dismalites. These “glowworms” require a select habitat to survive and are unique to only a few places on Earth. They are “close cousins” of the rare glowworms found in Australia and New Zealand.

dismalites

Dismalites

It’s been a while since I visited what locals call “The Dismals” but it remains a magical place filled with streams, waterfalls, hiking trails, and a guided night tour to view the Dismalites. Besides hiking, activities include swimming, camping, cabin rentals, and a country store and restaurant. The canyon itself is rich with native plant life and the stream, Dismals Branch, enters the canyon through Rainbow Falls.

 

rainbow-falls_dismals-canyon

Rainbow Falls

On the one-and-a-half mile hiking trail, you’ll see the falls, boulders, natural bridges, and cliffs, while you’re surrounded by giant trees and ferns. This natural wonder contains one of the oldest primeval forests east of the Mississippi River untouched by ax or fire that is open to the public. The canyon is thought to have been originally occupied nearly 10,000 years ago by native tribes.

So if you’re ever in North Alabama, make sure to plan a visit to Dismal Canyon. It is open seven days a week and cabin rental’s possible year round. And plan to be there on a Saturday night so you can go on the guided night tour to see the shimmering glowworms. You’ll be glad you did. I’m planning an adventure there soon with the grandchildren. I know they’ll love it as much as me.

Writing Prompt: The odor of damp earth mingled with the green ferns and vines surrounding me. I stepped into the cave and flipped on my headlamp. Suddenly…