Taking a Break

Given everything that is going on in our lives right now, we need to take some time away from the blog.

As we have spent a lot of time discussing priorities, it is only fair to say that neither of us have room in our priority list to do this blog justice. It is time for us to practice what we preach.

At this time, we are not permanently saying goodbye, but neither do we know when we will return. Know that we will not return until we have the bandwidth to devote the proper attention to create new content.

Thank you for the time you have taken to read this blog.

Amanda and Ronnica

Traveling with Dietary Restraint

As I am writing this, I’m in the 36-hour window between two business trips. Somehow, I’ve swung getting 4 business trips this year…all for a position that requires no travel. I still have 2 more to go!

Traveling was less stressful before I decided to get my diet under control. I’m trying to give myself grace while traveling, but it’s hard not to spend a lot of time working out what I should eat. In my everyday life I do all my meal planning for the week at once, so I’m not used to having to think about it during the week and do much better when everything is pre-planned. This just isn’t possible when you’re eating out and on another’s schedule.

For these trips, I’m doing as much research ahead of time that I can. For last week’s trip, I was told ahead of time who was catering each meal, so I used that information to pick out the healthiest options I could. I also pre-planned my airport meal for DIA (smaller airports are proving to be more difficult), so I knew exactly where to go.

chocolate decadence
The picture isn’t great quality, but this is the “chocolate decadence” dessert that I allowed myself. It was worth the wait!

I knew that on these trips that food would be available in abundance that I do not need right now, including desserts. I decided to allow myself one dessert for the week, and ate that on the last night. That made saying “no” to the other sweets much easier and less stressful.

For the upcoming week, my schedule is more loose. I’m going to research the local restaurants and find a handful of meals that will work, so that I have options. Something else I’ll be doing on this trip is bringing chia seeds with me…eating differently is causing dietary issues on the other end, so I want to add some additional fiber to my travel diet. I should be able to add the seeds to my breakfast to help myself out.

As much as possible, I’m trying not to stress about food while I travel, as I don’t want food to rule me in that way, either. So far, I’ve been able to enjoy the good food while also keeping it mostly within my usual limitations. I’m okay if I’m not losing my 2 pounds a week during this time, but I also don’t want to gain anything back.

Stress Relief

As I am writing this on September 11th, I am entering a couple very busy weeks. As an introvert, some of the most stressful times are those when I am spending every waking hour with people. Add to that a lack of routine, and I can be quite discombobulated.

So what can I do to combat this stress? Here are a few things that I have found to help me stay a little more sane.

1. Get proper rest. This can be hard, especially as my schedule changes. As I transitioned from evening work hours to day work hours, I had few nights in a row of sub-optimum sleep. I know that there are people who live on fewer hours of sleep than I do, but I know that if I am going to perform my best, sleep cannot be skimped on.

2. Remain on a good (little d) diet. This is not something I’ve ever really tried before. Previously when I entered stressful seasons of the year, I used it as an excuse to become even more excess in all the junk I craved. By keeping on my healthy diet, it has helped me not to feel entirely off kilter. Helps to stay regular in the bathroom, too.

3. Find the fun. Right now part of the stress is that I’m preparing to play a team game at work. While it can be easy to think of the game as fun (and it is!), the pressure to study as much as you can and perform well can be great, especially as this pressure is mostly internal. I’m continually reminding myself that this is fun and to enjoy it.

Even when my primary task is not preparing for a game, I want to do what I can to find the fun and the purpose in what I’m doing, and remind myself of it.

Ronnica at Fern Falls4. Find a vacation. This time last year I went on a 3-day weekend in Estes Park, and I loved it. I had hoped to do it again this year, but my budget (of time and money) doesn’t have that much room. However, I did take a full day to hike in Rocky Mountain National Park a hike that I have been wanting to do for over a year. That was just the “vacation” I needed before I dived back in to these busy weeks.

5. Give myself permission to let go. In order to focus my mental energy on the task at hand, I’ve had to stop some things temporarily, like extra reading. I can’t do it all, and I need  to constantly reevaluate what is important to me at this time and focus on those things.

6. Keep things in perspective. Ultimately, a game is just a game. While I am stressed, I have taken on this stress because I really love it. Others are in stressful situations due to circumstances outside of their control. This too is temporary, so I want to enjoy the good parts while I can.

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?