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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a number that helps others to understand your financial health. It is used by lenders, landlords, medical providers, and others to predict how likely you are to make payments on time. It is increasingly used by potential employers to predict what kind of an employee you may be. Your credit score can affect whether or not you can get loans, what your interest rate will be, whether or not you can rent an apartment, even whether or not you would make a good employee.

A good credit score can save you money and make your life easier. A poor credit score can make a serious impact on your life. Do you know how your score is calculated?

Around 35% of your score is based on your payment history. It includes how many of your accounts are past due, how many are paid on time, whether or not you have delinquent accounts, and how long a time period you may have had overdue bills.

Around 30% of your score is based on the amount you owe creditors. An important part of this score is how much credit is available vs. how much you owe. For example, if you have a credit card with a $1000 limit, your score is higher if you have an unpaid balance of $100 on that card vs. $900.

Around 15% of your score is based on your credit history--how long you have owned a particular credit card. Cards that you've owned a long time and managed well reflect positively on your credit.

Around 10% is based on the number of credit cards you have recently opened. Applying for or opening several cards at once makes it appear that you may be in need of credit to survive--not a good signal.

Around 10% is based on the mix of credit used (mortgage, credit card, auto, etc). A mix of credit is better for your score than only one type--don't buy a car with a credit card!

To improve your score:

-don't carry a balance on your credit cards. It is a myth that carrying a balance on your credit card improves your credit score!

-don't open multiple lines of credit "just in case".

-don't open multiple store credit cards to get a percentage off of that day's purchase.

-make all of your payments on time.

-don't ignore past due bills.

-when possible, don't buy things on credit that can and should be saved up for.

Other things to consider:
-for the healthiest score, owe as little money as possible and pay your bills on time.
-not all credit accounts are the same. Medical bills are weighted differently than, say, a credit account at the local shoe store.
-your credit score DOES NOT include your age, gender, occupation, where you live, religion, or salary. A potential lender may ask for proof of your salary, but it is NOT part of your credit score.
-bad credit scores can be improved.
-check your credit score once a year to make sure there are no mistakes or identity thief issues. These are the three main credit report companies: Eperian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Do not give personal information to a third parties who offer to get a free report for you!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Won-Ton Chicken Salad

Do you remember the fabulous salad that was served at Hearts and Hands? We finally got the recipe from Kathleen Walker, the Hearts and Hands coordinator for Billings Stake who prepared the wonderful 2010 luncheon.

Won-Ton Chicken Salad

2 heads of romaine and 1 bunch of spinach (or whatever greens your family likes best)
3-4 chicken breasts, grilled and cubed (you can marinate these in a little soy sauce and pepper for an Asian flavor)
2 cans mandarin oranges, drained
3 avocados, cubed
1/2 bunch of green onions, diced thin
toasted slivered almonds and sunflower kernels (I put a handful of each in a frying pan with a pat of butter until browned)
1/2 package of won ton wrappers, fried in vegetable oil (find these at Wal-mart by the bag salads)


1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon accent (optional)
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Blend the dressing in a food processor or blender for best results. (Note from Kathleen: I think this is a lot of dressing, I use less)

The good thing about this salad is that you can leave out the things you don't love (or don't have) and it will still be great!

Serves 8 perfectly with a good piece of bread.

Kathleen Walker

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Juice Steamers

Did your grandma have one of these? Mine did! This is a handy item known as a juice steamer. It is used to extract juice from fruit and vegetables. Steamers can be expensive when purchased new, but you often see them at garage sales, estate sales, and on various online sites at a reasonable price. I've also seen them for sale at various hardware stores around Billings.

For years, my neighbor had an apple tree growing next to our mutual fence that dropped apples all over my lawn. It was aggravating--they had to be picked up before we mowed, and they were not great tasting apples.

Then I got a juice steamer, and turned those apples into delicious, fresh apple juice. Wouldn't you know it, the very next summer my neighbor cut down his apple tree.

. The steamer consists of three pots: the bottom pot for boiling water (right), the middle pot where the extracted juice collects (center), and the strainer/top pot where the fruit is placed (left).

Today I'm making rhubarb watermelon juice. I have a large rhubarb growing in my garden,

and a small watermelon leftover from a reunion.

I cubed the unpeeled rhubarb, cut off the rind and chunked the watermelon, and put them in the strainer. You generally don't need to peel or seed your fruit. Watermelon rind is one of the few things that leaves a distinctive flavor I don't care for. You can also add sugar or spices at this point if needed. Add water to the bottom pot and bring to a boil. Put the middle pot on top of the boiling water and the strainer with fruit on top of the middle pot. Do not let the water boil dry. Steam fruit until it appears dry. As the fruit steams, it drips into the middle pot as pure juice.

Now you have juice which you can drink after chilling, or make into syrup, or jelly or jam, or use as flavoring in other desserts. The booklet that came with my steamer has lots of recipes and ideas. Now that I don't have apples falling in my yard, I use my steamer mainly for the grapes and plums from my garden. You can also steam peaches, cherries, berries, tomatoes,--just about any fruit or vegetable you want.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Upcoming Events

Here are some upcoming Stake Relief Society events
you may wish to make a note of:

Saturday, August 7 "A Gathering In"--join us at the stake center at 10 am to learn what to do to get the most out of your garden or fresh summer produce.

Thursday, August 12 Hearts and Hands Quilting Night. We will be at the stake center from 6-9. Bring a dish to share if you wish. If you have a twin size quilt to donate, contact Francine Palmer or Chris Jones.

Friday, August 20 Interested in participating in a women's triathlon? Meet at Lake Elmo at 6 pm. Contact Ranee Berg or Brenda Snizek for more information.

Friday, September 17, 10 am and Tuesday, September 21, 6:20 pm Sisters at the Temple. Join us to do a temple session and stay for a luncheon or refreshments.

Saturday, September 25 Women's Broadcast Dinner will be served at 6 pm

Thursday, July 15, 2010

We love our missionaries!

About every 6 weeks the missionaries have either a district conference or a zone conference
at the stake center.
The district conference includes around 30 missionaries and the mission presidency, and the zone conferences can have 60+ young men and sister missionaries.

Did you know the in-town Relief Society sisters take turns feeding them at lunch time? The assignment to prepare and serve food rotates among the 5 Billings Wards and Shepherd Ward.

The sisters can prepare anything they want.
This is the delicious make-your-own sub sandwich Hilltop Ward prepared for their turn at doing the luncheon.
Lunch is served buffet-style.
The missionaries set tables and chairs up in either the multi-purpose room (for district conferences) or the gym (for zone conferences). Sisters can do as little or as much decorating as they wish. Missionaries take down the table and chairs, bring things to the kitchen, and sisters clean up the dishes and leftover food. We generally use paper plates.
Before they eat the missionaries always introduce themselves, one by one, telling the Relief Society sisters their name and where they are from. Then they "sing for their supper" before being served.
If your ward Relief Society president announces that it is your ward's turn to feed the missionaries, please volunteer to come and help if you can. It takes many hands to prepare and serve at these luncheons. So many of our sisters work during the day or have small children at home, and it can be challenging to find enough sisters to help. It is a stirring sight to see these dedicated young men and women and
feel of their love and excitement for sharing the gospel.
You'll love participating in this opportunity for service!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How's your garden doing? -and a garden recipe

Did your garden take a pounding from the recent tornado/hailstorm?

Mine did! I wondered if it would be a total loss.

I've been amazed and delighted to see the way my garden has sprung back to life.

My garden is definitely behind this year--I have only a few blossoms on my recovered squash and the plants are pretty small.

So far I have very few green tomatoes, and only a couple of ripe cherry tomatoes.
I think the plants took valuable time to regrow the broken and smashed leaves and fruit
and everything is going to ripen later this year.
I'm anxious to harvest some garden produce so I can use
one of my favorite recipes. It's a tasty mixture of sweet, spicy, and savory. The recipe was originally on allrecipes, although I haven't been able to find it there for a year or two.

Grilled Vegetables

You need:

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon basil

1 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon season-all seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper, or to taste (cayenne pepper)

Mix well.

you will also need fresh vegetables from your garden, such as







or vegetables from the store such as


or these sweet potato fries, (which are delicious!)

Use your imagination! It is good on any vegetable.

You can mix a larger batch of the spices and keep them handy in your cupboard in
a plastic storage container.

When you are ready to use the grilling spices, slice your vegetables, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with spice mixture, and stir well to coat.

Put on the grill on medium to medium high heat.

Grill for ten minutes.

It's a fast side dish that goes with everything.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hearts and Hands 2011

This evening we held a quilting bee for next year's Hearts and Hands.
We are always a little short on twin size quilts, so we thought we'd get a head start on next year.

We finished four beautiful quilts.
And enjoyed visiting with each other, as well as a yummy potluck dinner.

We're going to meet again in August. We hope you can join us! Your Relief Society president will let you know when we schedule our August quilting bee date.

If you would like to prepare a twin size quilt for tying next month, contact our Hearts and Hands coordinator, Francine Palmer, or a member of the Stake Relief Society Presidency for details.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ice Cream In a Bag

This is a recipe Hilltop Ward provided during a recent monthly
Relief Society meeting.
It's a fun activity to do with your children.
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup milk or half and half
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
6 Tablespoons rock salt
You also need:
1-pint sized Ziploc plastic bag
1- gallon size Ziploc plastic bag
Fill the large Ziploc bag half full of ice, add rock salt, seal the bag and set aside.
Put milk, vanilla, and sugar into the smaller bag and seal. Shake to mix.
Place the small bag inside the large one, and seal it again carefully eliminating the extra air.

Shake until the mixture is ice cream, which takes 5-10 minutes.

You may want to wear gloves to keep hands warm.
Wipe the top of the small bag; open carefully.