Children’s Books Featuring Simple Living

Here at Striving Stewardess, we talk a great deal about books for adults that feature simple living, minimalism, financial knowledge, and even books on chickens.

We haven’t really discussed books that are good reads for kids that encourage these ideas (though I haven’t yet learned of a good chicken book for kids!), but that does not mean such books do not exist!  Quite the contrary, children’s books that feature topics such as simple living are numerous, and serve as a great teaching tool for the littles in your life.  Here are a few to start with:

511mhgnbxwl-_sx367_bo1204203200_The American Girl Series/Anne of Green Gables/Little House books. Although each of these are a very different book series, all three encompass the “historical fiction” genre, and discuss encounters with simple living, minimalism, and even thrift.  I first became acquainted with the “Kirsten” character from American Girls as a first grader, and came to love the simple life lessons found in each book of the series.  Anne and Little House soon followed.  These would probably be best suited for those in elementary school, or older (as in the case of the Anne of Green Gables series).

51ugghaxdal-_sx370_bo1204203200_The Clown of God.  In this retelling of an old legend, Tomie dePaola reaches out to the picture book crowd, helping to teach youngsters that what matters are the gifts of yourself and your talents, not the fancier, earthly things.  This books seems especially well-suited for preschool age children and older.  Our son loves the illustrations in this book, and I love the religious undertones of the story as well.

The Bible (and many other religious texts).  I find it interesting that the common theme found among many religious books is the theme of simplicity (Jesus encouraging the rich man to give away his possessions, for starters). The great thing about books of faith is that there are different ways to present the material, from children’s Bibles, to religious instruction, that can be presented in an age-appropriate way.

I would love to hear what children’s books you know of that encourage simple living!

 

 

Joint Book Review: Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin

ymoylThe latest version of Your Money or Your Life has been updated from the book that Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez had written in the early 1990s. It details the 9 steps of the “financial independence” (FI) system.

Amanda’s Take

This was another worthwhile read for me, and should be on your “must read” list if you are looking to improve your relationship with money.

One of the key takeaways for me was something I already felt strongly about:  there are many non-monetary costs to working; they include less time for your family, working endless hours, and stress.  This certainly does not mean one should not work; rather it means one should be wiser about their expenditures and priorities.  The discussion on your real hourly wage is one everyone should stop and consider.

If you are looking for a book on money management that is a bit more in-depth and involved, Your Money or Your Life is worth a peek!

Ronnica’s Take

Reading Your Money or Your Life was inspiring. I like the idea of measuring money in the hours of “life energy” that you gave for that money. It was very eye-opening to realize that I work 62 hours a month for my rent.

The chapter that was most surprising to me was the chapter about finding a high-paying job. In contrast to most advice to find something that you find fulfilling, Robin encourages her readers to pursue paid employment that yields the highest pay while still “consistent with your health and integrity” (p. 233). By doing so, it allows you to focus the bulk of your time on activities that you most want to pursue.

I did step through the steps outlined in the book, but I couldn’t help but compare these steps to Dave Ramsey’s system, which I am more familiar with. Quite simply, I find Ramsey’s plan much simpler to work through.

However, what I think the FI system does better is frame financial principles in terms of life value. After all, money has no inherent value: its value is in its representation of the things that you can do with it for yourself and others.

Couch Parenting

As much as I enjoy being a hands-on parent, there are times–sickness, or at the end of a particularly long day–when I just don’t have it in me to budge from my spot on the couch.

Fortunately, there are some activities that provide some enrichment and bonding opportunity for the kiddos, but also allows me to relax a bit on the couch without turning on a screen to entertain the kids.  Win!

unnamed-1Letter Game.  Although I have also used this with magazines, newspapers, and even junk mail, I recently located some fun simple word flashcards at the store for very cheap.  I have the kiddos look through the words in front of them, and ask them to find certain letters.  The kids have added a competitive flair to it, by seeing who can find the letter first.

Games.  I Spy is a particular favorite, but also a version of “Continue the Story”–where each person provides a sentence or two to a story.  These can turn pretty amusing very quickly!

Quiet Reading. Unless I am feeling ill, I enjoy reading quietly to the kids on the couch.  It keeps everyone entertained, calm, and fairly controlled.  If sick, I have found the best modification for this is to either have the kids read to each other (also an amusing time), or to read to themselves.  Just because they aren’t readers yet, doesn’t mean they can’t be readers of pictures!

Beauty Parlor.  This is one of my favorite couch parenting activities, though only one child really enjoys it.  Bean grabs some lotion and massages my feet and hands.  It is so simple, but so relaxing!

For those times when independent play is not a viable option, it is good to have some backup “couch parenting” activities at hand.  Let me know some of your favorites!

 

For the Love of Routines

Recently at work I received a new schedule. While my new shift is only 30 minutes different than my previous one, I decided to take this opportunity to reevaluate my routine.

I absolutely love routines. I feel more at peace if I can practice the same routine. If I don’t make up a routine for myself, I’m bound to fall into one anyway, making habits of things I’d rather not make a habit of. I’d rather be proactive on this point.

sunny streetOne of the best things I’ve added into my routine this year is a morning walk. While I could get my 10,000 steps in other ways, this 30 minutes walking outside not only ups my step count, but it gives me a good dose of fresh air and sun. This is a great way to start my day.

Another part of my routine that I’m definitely keeping is the 30 minutes of cleaning I do. Between dishes and laundry, this seems to be a daily necessity. I’ve been able to clean up my apartment into its cleanest state it’s ever been by spending a few minutes a day on this task.

As a part of my routine, I’ve also been able to read Scripture more regularly than I have in previous years. This provides the proper spiritual grounding for my day.

With my schedule shifting later, I have decided to shift some of my reading time from the evening to the morning (going to bed about the same time I was on my earlier shift). This will help me from using that time watching TV as I’m more prone to do in the evening.

While I’m glad that I spent some time thinking through this, it looks like my next few weeks are going to be a bit up in the air. More on that later!

Photo by David Schiersner

Family Mission Statement

IMG_0431With the move currently in progress, I have come to the conclusion that a big move is a great opportunity for fresh starts–an additional opportunity to create a sort of New Year’s Resolution.

One of the possible “resolutions” I have come across in my online browsing lately is the concept of a Family Mission Statement…and I definitely want to implement it as soon as we arrive in Texas.  As explained in detail at artofmanliness, a family mission statement is simply putting into writing what your family’s purpose and goals are.

While we will need to hold a family meeting once we are settled so all family members can have a say in the statement, I want to have some of the focus be on our goals and future–for example, what do we want our family to do?  Or what do we want our family to feel like?  What do we want our relationships with each other to look like?

These are questions I have not stopped to really consider before, but questions that deserve thoughtful answers.  What would you include in your family mission statement?

Recipe: Vegetarian Chili over Roasted Potatoes

healthy chiliI love football. As in, I love watching others play football. (Boomer! Sooner!)

Watching football always makes me hungry for a few things: Diet Dr Pepper, junk food and chili. This is my first full football season without the first two.

But there is no reason why I can’t do chili.

Though generally, I want to eat my chili with Fritos and a lot of cheese and sour cream…that’s not happening these days.

So how do I make a tasty chili and fixings that also comes in at under 450 calories? Here’s how I did it:

Black Bean Chili

1.25 cups dried black beans (soaked in water overnight)
1 16 oz can of tomato sauce (hopefully homemade one day)
1 white onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
2 cups vegetable broth (I now make my own)
seasonings to taste (I used salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, thyme and cayenne pepper…basically, chili powder)

To make the chili, dump all the ingredients in a small crock pot. This recipe makes 5 servings, but can be easily doubled for a big batch in a standard-size crockpot. Cook on high until the beans are soft when bitten (6-8 hours).

Roasted Potatoes

5 medium russet potatoes or 3 large ones
1.5 tablespoons olive oil
Seasonings to taste (I used garlic salt, onion powder and paprika)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Scrub and chop potatoes (with peels still on), in chunks smaller than 1″. Place potato pieces on greased tray or casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil and add seasonings. Stir until evenly coated. Bake 30-40 minutes until potatoes are soft when pierced, stirring every 10 minutes. This recipe makes 5 servings.

Serve chili over potatoes and top with shredded cheddar cheese and plain Greek yogurt, if desired. I topped mine with 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese and 2/5 cup nonfat Greek yogurt.

This meal’s nutrition facts (topped as I did):

447 calories
27 grams protein
62 grams carbs
10 grams fiber
13 grams fat

Not bad for a filling football-watching meal that costs less than $2 a serving! And did I mention it’s delicious?

Apartment Modifications Part 2

Last week, I talked about how my striving stewardess ways were changed a bit while we spent time in the temporary corporate apartment as we transition to life in Texas. This week, I want to share a bit more about our modifications, because life in a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment is slightly different than living in a house with a yard.

unnamed (14)Appliances. Because we obviously didn’t get a say in the purchase of these, it was very easy to not consider the impact–both environmental and financial–of utilizing these.  I washed and dried a load of laundry daily, and freely used the detergent provided.  I didn’t change the “heat dry” setting on the dishwasher, because, hey, “it’s not mine!”

Although the appliances were lovely, they didn’t advertise their environmental friendliness, which leads me to assume they were not the greenest models out there.  Modification:  Short of picking out the greenest appliances out there (which unfortunately would likely cost quite a bit), I would need to be more mindful of my usage of apartment appliances–air-drying as Ronnica does, using the dishwasher only when completely full, etc.

TV.  Cable television came with the apartment.  Free! Having gone without cable for years, I was amazed at how easy it was to fall into the habit of channel surfing and mindless viewing.  Modification:  Many communities, be they apartment or otherwise, provide certain services, such as cable, for their residents.  Were the community we live in to ever offer free cable (or something similar), I would need to be very careful of falling into old ways, being mindful of good time management practices, and maybe even tossing the TV altogether!

I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to stay in an apartment.  As noted last week, it served as a good reminder to me to always be open to new ways of doing things, and also that there are several ways to live a life of stewardship!

Money in the Bank

Last week I had a conversation with a coworker about how many of my other coworkers eat out every lunch. He said that it was something that he, as a husband and a father, just couldn’t afford to do. I replied that I didn’t feel I could afford it either, even with only having myself to support.

His response, “So you have money in the bank.”

I’ve never thought about it in those terms, but that’s exactly what not eating out meals has afforded me. When I was younger, I used to be just like my coworkers, eating out most meals. Sure, they weren’t anything fancy, but $5-15 each meal adds up very fast. Not to mention the types of food I was eating added to the 112 pounds that I’ve been diligently working to get back off me these last few months.

So instead of all those delicious, convenient meals, I have “money in the bank”. I am still eating pretty tasty fare that is as convenient as sticking today’s previously-homemade meal in the microwave for two minutes.

This conversation made me realize I needed to re-calculate my net worth. Sure enough, for the first time in my adult life, my net worth is larger than my annual income:

Ronnica's Net Worth

It’s excited to see that number grow as I continue to squirrel away money towards a future home purchase and even more long-term, for retirement. I still feel like I’m playing catch-up a bit from the time I spent in my 20s spending every dollar I made, but slowly the numbers are starting to work in my favor. That’s only going to continue to be the case as my money starts working for me, too. As Chris Hogan says, “Interest paid is a penalty; interest earned is a reward.”

Apartment Modifications Part 1

unnamedWith the move in progress, the kids and I visited Riley in Texas recently for a whole week.  He has been in corporate housing (housing provided by his work until he gets more established), and will be for a couple more weeks.

This housing arrangement, while temporary, was a bit of a shock for me because it is a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment.  There is no yard, there are people around us to be respectful of (tough to do with two little ones who enjoy running and hearing their voices at full volume), and not as much space.

While there can be benefits to apartment living (not having to worry when things break, for instance), our weeklong visit got me to thinking of ways in which my current simple living strategy would need to be modified for apartment dwellers, especially those with kids.  The rest of this list will come next week!

Playing outsideWe were lucky–the apartment we were at had both a balcony and a park within the complex.  That said, it was very warm, wet, and mosquito-y during our time there, so we did not spend as much time outside as we ordinarily do.  I can absolutely sympathize with those who cannot just open their back door and enjoy a backyard.  Modification:  We planned thirty minutes of outside time each day, and shared that expectation with the kids–a sort of accountability program.  And we packed the bug spray, so no excuses!

Keeping stuff in checkExtra stuff takes on a whole new meaning when you have a smaller space.  It enforces the “one in, one out” rule.  Modification:  There would be no room for error on this, if we were staying in an apartment for longer than a month:  we would have to pare our possessions down even further, and keep them pared down. Honestly, this is something that we would benefit from, regardless of where we were moving to.

GroceriesI had to haul four days worth of groceries up three flights of stairs, with both kids in tow.  That was enough of a feat in itself–I can’t imagine doing that with a couple of weeks worth of groceries.  Modification:  If I were staying in an apartment long-term, I would back off the “buy as much as you can to avoid shopping more often” rule, and would instead focus on saving money other ways, such as a store loyalty program or coupons.

Living in an apartment with kids for one week was a good lesson for me, and reminded me that everyone’s situation is different.  What works for one person, may not work at all for the next.  Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!

Halfway There

January 12, 2016
January 12

A couple of weeks ago, I reached the halfway point on my weight loss goal.

I started at 252 pounds in March, and now weigh 191 pounds.

When you have 112 pounds to lose to get to a healthy weight, even halfway is a big deal (pun intended).

If I had to pick up 56 pounds and carry them around all day, I’d struggle.

23 pounds down, May 17
23 pounds down, May 17

 

Reaching this milestone has had me in a reflective mood. Here are a few of those thoughts:

1. I now fit where I didn’t before.

While at a Royals game with my brother and niece, I realized I fit quite comfortably in a seat that would have been a tighter fit a few months ago.

I also overestimate how much space I need to get around someone/something (which helps my general klutziness).

 

30 pounds down, June 3
30 pounds down, June 3

 

 

2. Self-control isn’t so hard when you have already decided the answer is no.

Key for me has been to make a decision about food choices before the choices have been placed before me.

3. Fruit tastes so much better now.

Prior to four months ago, I rarely ate fruit. I had a doctor tell me one time that I should only eat fruit if I replace another carb…and I’d never replace bread or pasta with fruit.

40 pounds down, June 28
40 pounds down, June 28

 

Now, I eat fruit as a special dessert on hiking days and really look forward to it.

4. You can still eat according to your pleasure, even on a 1200-calorie diet.

I have craved Mexican, pizza, rice and pasta, and have allowed myself those options every time.

Since I’m making my own food, I’m choosing to alter those meals in ways that promote health by upping the veggies, using whole grains or using Greek yogurt as a creamy substitute.

 

50 pounds down, July 21
50 pounds down, July 21

 

5. But I still crave junk sometimes.

Thankfully, it’s never tempting while I’m at the store (again, making the decisions about what I’m going to buy before I set foot in the store), but sometimes when I have no access to the junk, the cravings come.

From past experience, I know that giving in to these cravings will not be as satisfying as I imagine.

6. Weight loss is more about diet than it is about exercise.

I suppose I could have upped my activity by 1300 calories a day instead of lowering how much I’m eating by that amount, but that requires more time than I have.

57 pounds down, August 15
57 pounds down, August 15

In 3-4 hours a week, I can shop for and prepare all the food I need from scratch, compared to multiple hours of exercise a day.

7. It’s been easier than I thought.

Of course, weight loss isn’t easy for everyone: there are so many variables. For me, I had no idea it would be this easy.

I kinda just fell into it, and staying in good habits once established was easier than doing something else.

I’m on track to hit my end goal sometime in the first quarter of 2017.

I’m excited to see how the next five months go.