31 January 2012

Pin it. Do it. Week 13.

This week's Pinterest project can hardly be called a project.

Because I did nothing. Well, I did something, but that something took about six seconds.

I put the ends of my store-bought green onions in a jar of water. Then I set it on my kitchen windowsill.

And guess what? Just like on the pinterest board, my green onion stumps grew back! Regrowth started immediately, and we were using the onions within a week.

I haven't bought green onions since - we just snip off what we need with kitchen shears.

Every so often I change the water and rinse the roots.

Rocket science, isn't it? Well, you people are smart. I'm sure you can manage.

Momma Hens Coop

Tip Junkie handmade projects

30 January 2012

Funday Monday: FruMo Wrapup

If this is your first visit, you might want want to start here or here for some background information.

Here it is, the official results of our Frugal Living Challenge. We committed to spending as little as possible for three weeks, with the goal of finding $800 extra above our regular monthly savings.

We put off purchases, we discussed every bit of money spent, and we ate from our pantry and freezer.

We found $1000. Extra money.
Source: fredflare.com via Mel on Pinterest

Now, for some points of clarification. We don't normally spend $1000/month on random junk, and we don't have this money sitting around and we just didn't know it. This is money we budget for certain expenses, like household items, clothing, food, etc. After keeping ourselves fed, we put every dollar possible towards this challenge and went without coffee with friends, dinner out, and impulse purchases.

We have a few items we truly need to buy, and they will come out of February's budget. We probably could not sustain that amount of frugalness every month, but we are so inspired by our success that we plan to implement this challenge again in a few months.

I know not everyone has this money available, and I know many people are barely able to pay the bills.

But what if you could find just $50 in a month, or grow your own vegetables and knock $10 off your grocery bill? What if you emptied the change out of your pockets at the end of every day, and counted it at the end of the year?

What if?

27 January 2012

Five Minute Friday: Tender

Get your thinking caps on...it's time for Five Minute Friday with The Gypsy Mama.
We just write without worrying if it’s just write or not.
Won’t you join us?
    1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
    2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
    3. Go a little overboard encouraging the writer who linked up before you.
OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:


The tears that spring into his eyes because he accidentally squashed the bug that he was trying to rescue. The excited voices as they tell me their latest plans for the animals they will keep on their farm. The tiny arms that circle my neck as she says,"I love you soo much, mama."
It's a part of them, it is a gift that is given to the smallest of us, to the most naive of us, and it is fleeting.
Soon to be replaced by callousness after learning that not everyone wins. That not everyone is nice. That not everything is full of sunshine in their lives.
It can return, in pieces.
When I hold her in my arms for the very first time. When he falls asleep next to me holding his teddy bear. When I read a story I've written here so I'll never forget. I find it again. I find that tender place in my heart.
Under the doubt and skepticism. Behind the harsh words the world has taught me.
And then I remember the time when I too had tenderness more often than bitterness.
And I want to lock them in a closet to shield them from losing it. 
But instead I hold them close and [pray they will find it again one day as well.]

Do you also remember the tenderness you once had? Do you find it in your children? Please, go write it down! None of us is perfect. Not one. But here we try to lay out what is on our hearts. Read the stories of others. Share your own story.

26 January 2012

Game ON! Progress Report

If this is your first visit, you might want to start here and here for some background information.

The first official week of our Game ON fitness challenge is well underway. I've been following the Primal Blueprint diet for my eating plan. To summarize, this style of eating emphasizes good fats and quality proteins while limiting grains and legumes. The premise is that by controlling insulin production, health and fitness come naturally.

So far this week has been going well, but it ain't easy. Part of the difficulty is that we are finishing our FRUgalMOnth, so there is no room in the budget for expensive meats.  That ends in five days, though, so you can guess what I'll be doing first thing. Yup, food shopping. Let's just say I'm getting a little tired of eggs and cabbage. That said, I feel so satisfied after a meal that it is hard to think of it as a "diet." It's not, really.  It's a lifestyle change, and who would mind a change that involves snacks of fresh berries with heavy cream and cinnamon on top? It is a little tough to resist my fresh from the oven homemade bread while I am making sandwiches for the kids...but I've stayed strong, and I have a day off coming up, so I might indulge then. But only if I really want it.

I've lost three pounds, which is a lot, but I usually lose the most weight in the first week. Plus, when I weighed myself the first morning, I probably had some excess water weight from the nachos I'd eaten the night before! I expect this number to slow dramatically as I build muscle.

Speaking of, I also completed my first High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) this week. It only lasted about twenty minutes, but oh man am I sore. They say if you aren't completely taxed then you aren't doing it right. Well, I'm doing it right. I cannot believe the effectiveness of this type of workout. I did a strengthening session with pushups, crunches, jumping jacks, squats, and jump squats. I plan to do a cardio based session tomorrow during my run. Seriously, if you are looking for a short but highly effective training session, I recommend trying it out.

How about you? Are you meeting your fitness goals for the week? Every day is a new chance to live the live you want to live, so have fun and just do it.

25 January 2012

Challenge Wednesday #18 - Whatcha Readin'?

Today's guest post is from Jen @ A Drop in the Bucket:
So, last week Tracey asked me the following question: What are you reading right now, how do you like it, and do you have any reading recommendations for us?

Well...here is the issue.  I had just started reading a book when Tracey asked me the question.  I have been so bad about reading lately!  Too many other shiny things, I guess.  What I am reading right now is this: 

I've never read any of Maya Angelou's pieces, but I am excited to start.  Any suggestions for which one I should read next?

But, Tracey also asked if I have any recommendations.  And that, I do.  Two of my all time favorite books aren't actually fiction...

One is pretty famous at this point, but if you haven't read it, think about doing that.  Once I read this book back in 2008, life has never been the same for me.  And I return to it now and again for a reminder.

The other is a bit lesser known, but the suggestions for how to be truly happy have truly made an impact on my life.  As I am reminded of it, I think I am going to have to go read it a bit, I might be needing a little picker upper with all of the foods and drinks I am not having now that I am taking part in our Game On contest.   Seriously, check it out.  Some of the quotes included are worth the read.

I know that I am not giving these an intensive write up, but trust me.  They can speak for themselves.  

Because really, who wouldn't want a Happiness Makeover and find out what the Secret to the universe is?  

And now Tracey...its your turn.  Tell me what your favorite fictional book of all time is and why.  Because that will be my next read.  

Jen, this is very interesting to me.  I might ask you to expand on your quest for happiness in the near future, just a heads up!

I have a little different take on "the secret to happiness." While I am not opposed to self-help books in general, I do think the answer is often simpler than we make it. I'd like to add my own book.  It is the greatest love story of all time, and a pretty good self-help book too.

I am not one of those fundamentalist Christians full of judgement and thou shalt nots. I believe we all want to be loved, truly loved, and happiness comes from this sense of worth. And sometimes we let all that judgement keep us prickly when someone mentions, you know, Jesus or God. And sometimes we ignore or choose not to believe or forget that we are invaluable to Someone Greater Than Ourselves.

Thanks for the post, and the challenge, Jen. I'll have to think about my favorite work of fiction...I love so many books, it will be hard to decide.

24 January 2012

Pin it. Do it. Week 12.

Twelve weeks of PINTEREST projects? Wow, I'm a little surprised impressed that I've been on the ball enough to keep this up. It's fun, because it expands my horizons and emboldens me to rely on myself more than, say, the supermarket.

This week's project came out of necessity.  We decided on a kid friendly dessert to get them involved for a Christmas party we were all attending.  Buckeyes are very fun, because they get to roll the balls just like playdoh and then dip them in chocolate. Except, I couldn't find dipping chocolate anywhere. Or paraffin to make my own.  So, to pinterest I turned.

Here's the link to my pinboard, and here is the original recipe .

I tweaked the recipe a little, though.  I didn't need the sweetness of chocolate chips, and I prefer to control sweetness myself.  Instead, I used good baking chocolate and the same quantities:

Homemade Dipping Chocolate

12 oz. baking chocolate 
1 Tablespoon cooking oil (I use olive or coconut)

Put ingredients in a double boiler, or fashion one yourself by placing a couple inches of water into a large pot and the ingredients in a smaller pot placed inside the larger one. Melt chocolate into oil and whisk to combine.

Dip anything you can think of into chocolate, and refrigerate.  

Or eat immediately if you can't wait.  With a spoon. Or your finger. Messier, but just as tasty.

NOTE: I've read that you CANNOT substitute butter for the oil, or else the consistency will be off. I've never tried it myself, mainly because I didn't have the time to start over if it failed.

That's it.  The coconut oil adds a light sweet and nutty nuance to the chocolate, which is perfect if you are using raw chocolate.

Using a chopstick instead of toothpicks makes it very easy for the kiddos to dip their own.

The best part about this simple-as-it-gets idea? Complete control over the ingredients in your food, with no more effort than it would take to buy pre-packaged at the grocery.



Toys In The Dryer

23 January 2012

Funday Monday: FruMo Continues

If this is your first visit, you might want to start at the beginning of my Frugal Challenge posts by clicking here and here.

Our FRUgal MOnth is going strong!  We have stuck pretty well to the food budget, although the freezer is not nearly as full as it was a few weeks ago.  We have made very few purchases and are on track to save our goal amount of $800 extra money above our regular monthly savings.

So far the hardest part of living frugally is how to balance our social and cultural obligations without spending.  A couple times I was invited to a cafe with someone I hadn't seen in a while, and I needed to make a game plan before I arrived.  I ended up using some of my "allowance" money on a cup of coffee (no Starbucks here...coffee is about a Euro) because it was more important to me to feed the friendship than save a coin. A couple other times I just invited friends to my house and we drank coffee here at home.

We have had some very creative entertainment, including a boy sleepover that was full of laughter and very little sleep. We haven't left the house much, and I have to say I am digging it.  My typical Tuesday morning is to take the Little to the babysitter, go to work for an hour or two, and then do a little shopping until I pick her up.  I always felt like it wasn't worth it for me to go home and then back out again because I didn't have enough time to actually do anything at home and the time would then be wasted.  Instead, this month I have been coming home for an hour before I pick her up, and I have been surprised at the amount of things I can accomplish in that time.

While we are almost finished with our challenge, I am thinking this coming week will be the hardest one for a couple of reasons.  First, we are so close to the end, and I have a few things already on the list to buy come next month, that I am fighting the urge to justify the purchase on the basis that I am planning on buying it anyway so it doesn't really make much difference.  However, experience has told me that if I hold off on a purchase for a week or a month, I usually don't need what I thought I needed.  Second, Husband is traveling for a few days so it will be harder not to cheat and spend "just a couple euros" on a cup of coffee or a treat for the Little.

I'm committed to staying strong, though, because I am excited to report the results next week.  Stay tuned...it's gonna be great!

20 January 2012

Five Minute Friday: Vivid

Fridays are for writing.  Not editing or worrying about it being just so.  Fridays are for spilling your soul.  For only five minutes.  You can do that, right?  Here are the rules, courtesy of The Gypsy Mama:
For only five short, bold, beautiful minutes. Unscripted and unedited. We just writewithout worrying if it’s just right or not.
Won’t you join us?
    1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
    2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
    3. Most important: comment and encourage the person who linked up before you.
OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:



I sit in this comfy chair with my laptop on a pillow and I am nursing a three day headache.  The picture outside is bleak: gray, coldish, and rainy and has been that way all week.  But never in my whole life have I seen my future so vividly.

The next two years will be ones of great change such as I've never known.  Although I cannot yet see the end, I see all the colors and pictures and it is coming into focus.

And it is absolutely nothing like what I imagined it to be.  I had a grip on my life.  I am thirty-five years old.  I have three gorgeous children.  I am married to the perfect man for me.  I am a professional, and I am good at what I do.  I am a city girl. I am about to be turned onto my head.

I love Jesus.  I believe in God, and I look to Him for where our paths take us.  I see His hand in every part of my life up until now.  He has never before given me a glimpse of what is to come.

But this time He did.  I don't know all the answers.  But I know something is coming.  The picture is clear and vivid and bright.  And wow.  If we thought we were on an adventure before, then we have no idea what that word even means.  It's scary and exciting and ours.


What is vivid in your life right now? Care to share?  Hop over to The Gypsy Mama and read some inspiration in what other people have written.

19 January 2012

Game ON! The Lowdown

So, Last Week I mentioned this health and fitness competition that I've joined.  This week is the introductory phase where we outline our goals.  The real game begins Sunday.  How exciting!

I'm ready to get this party started.  Here's the deal:

We get points for following our diet of choice.  My choice?

Husband and I have been thinking about this plan for a while now, because whenever we experiment with decreasing grains and/or gluten we feel fantastic.  We figured now is a great time to try it out short term and see how it goes.  The hardest part for me will be all. that. meat.  Oh, and the no grains thing.

But first things first.  This is NOT an Atkins or South Beach Diet.  Whole foods are encouraged, and any diet that completely cuts out certain plant products is not a sustainable eating plan.

I skimmed the book this week, and I *think* I agree with a lot of the principles.  Basically, the author makes the case for a diet low in grains, high in fats, and moderate in protein.  While some of the claims he makes are pretty extreme, I do think this lifestyle is a good way to monitor intake without monitoring calories.  Why?  I truly believe a diet high in the right fats keeps you feeling satiated, curbing the urge to snack on not so great stuff. We have been cooking with healthy fats and using whole milk creams and cheeses for a while with no adverse effects.  In fact, the six pounds I want to lose only became a problem when the holidays rolled around and I started eating more processed foods (like refined sugar, cereals, and snack foods).  And really, I had the six pounds during my marathon training, but it was in the form of muscle mass, and now, well, it's not.

We also get points for breaking a bad habit and starting a good habit.  Mine?

bad habit: late night eating.  No food after 8:00 PM.  I am a major night snacker, so this will be difficult.
good habit: one High Intensity Interval Training session per week.  This is my plan to increase my running speed.

I'll also get points for very night I get at least seven hours of sleep, drinking 3L(!) of water each day, exercising at least 20 minutes, and communicating with team members and opponents.

My goal is six pounds lost and lean muscle built.  I think it's a realistic goal.

What do you think?

Disclosure: I am in no way endorsed for the opinions I provide on certain products. However, I am an Amazon affiliate, so if you click a link posted on my website, I will earn a portion of your purchase price.

18 January 2012

Challenge Wednesday #17

Once again I'm posting over at A Drop in the Bucket today.  Yesterday I wrote about making this sweet note for the Bigs.

Hop over to A Drop in the Bucket to see how they liked it.

17 January 2012

Pin it. Do it. Week 11.

This week's Pinterest project came about because of a challenge given to me by my bloggy and IRL friend Jenny, at A Drop in the Bucket.

Every week we challenge each other in some way, and last week she asked me to strut my inner perfect mama by making sweet notes for my kids.  Tomorrow I'll guest post on her blog about how that went over.

But today, I'm going to show you what I made.

 Cute, isn't it?  And easy, an essential criteria for me.

Here's what to do:

1. Trace your hand.  Don't make the mistake I did with the first one.  Trace just one hand, and use that one as a pattern for the other.  Otherwise the two hands won't match up when you make the sign.

2. Cut out.

3. Write message on a strip of paper and accordian fold.

4. Tape one side of message strip to each hand.

5. Done.

Great idea for a Valentine's note, don't you think?  Tune in tomorrow when I share how it went over with the Bigs.
Tip Junkie handmade projects