Vacation

10471393_10102174189199379_1160426533217566397_nI’m on vacation this week, in colorful Colorado!

This vacation has been a long time coming.  We have had a lot on our collective family plate over the past few weeks, so to be able to spend time together, unplugged (lucky for us, we are staying at one of the few places in the area that has no cell service, no TV, and only one phone!), in the fresh mountain air is incredibly restful and refreshing.

I have some exciting news to share when we get back.  Be sure to check back next Tuesday!

Kicking the Heels off (and Other Lessons from Purging)

homemade jewelry holder
My homemade jewelry holder is looking a little bare. Maybe I’ll downsize to a smaller one at some point.

I’ve been very slowly continuing through the zones I’ve identified using Marie Kondo’s decluttering method. Most recently, I used my Memorial Day holiday to attack 4 areas:

– Toiletries
– Makeup
– Accessories/shoes
– Jewelry

I was surprised at how purging these items affected me emotionally. While I’m definitely a below average American woman in the amount of time and money I put in these categories, there were times that some of these things meant to me more than they do now.

The most difficult thing to part with was my nail polish. Up until a year ago, I painted my fingernails weekly. Since then, I’ve only done it once. I’m not ready to say that I’ve given it up for good, but I also know that I won’t get back to that weekly habit. I had spent a lot of money on that nail polish and it has given me a lot of joy…but it’s not currently giving me joy. I decided to keep 8 colors that I can most likely see myself still using, and gave the rest to a family that would use them.

IMG_2777
Most of my shoes fit in the closet, but these are the ones I wear more regularly.

I felt similar emotions cleaning out my jewelry. I simply don’t wear it anymore, apart from a special occasion. Some of the pairs of earrings that I got rid of had been some of my favorites to wear…in the past. I did keep a few pieces that I still really like and can see myself wearing.

One area where I really enjoyed cleaning out was my high heel collection. Why did I still own them? I always opt for a pair of flats when flip flops (or going barefoot!) is not appropriate. I had been holding on to them “just in case”, but all they have been doing since I moved them 2 years ago is gather dust. I now own 17 pairs of shoes…which still sounds like way too many (flip flops add up). I’ll continue to pare that down as most that wear out will not be replaced.

What things have been unexpectedly hard for you to get rid of?

A Favorite Summer Recipe

51F9MMASVHL._SX343_BO1,204,203,200_It’s hot here in Kansas.  Hot and humid.

That makes me far less inclined to spend time cooking over a hot stove with the oven on, so I rely pretty heavily on my slow cooker.

Here is one that has been on heavy rotation lately, courtesy of Crazy About Crockery, which has to be one of the best cookbooks EVER.  Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Chicken Tetrazzini

4 whole chicken breasts, split, skinless

2 cans cream of chicken soup (or use Ronnica’s recipe)

1 can cream of mushroom soup (Since we aren’t big mushroom fans, I usually omit this.)

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1 tablespoon dried minced onion

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 pkg (8 oz) spaghetti pasta or other shaped pasta (we like egg noodles)

2 teaspoons parsley flakes

2 teaspoons basil

1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper

Place chicken breasts in slow cooker.  Cover with cream of chicken soup and 1 cup water.  Cover with lid and cook on high for six hours  Remove chicken and cut into bite-sized pieces.  Return chicken to slow cooker.  Add all remaining ingredients except pasta and cheese.  Cover slow cooker and reduce heat to low.  Continue cooking for about 1-3 hours.  About 30 minutes prior to serving, stir in sour cream.  In separate saucepan, prepare pasta according to package directions.  Cook until tender, but firm.  Rinse and drain.  Serve slow cooker mixture over pasta.  Top with shredded cheese.

Joint Book Review: Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan

gratitude diariesIn Gratitude Diaries, Janice Kaplan takes a time of personal uncertainty after a loss of a job and decides to focus on gratitude in her own life. She focuses on gratitude for an entire calendar year, with different emphases each month.

You know how Amanda and I love a good “year of _______” book.

Amanda’s Take

It should come as no surprise that this book appealed to me before I even cracked it open; as noted above, I thoroughly enjoy a “year of” book.

Upon finishing, this book served as a catalyst for implementing my own version of a gratitude journal.  When I am faithful about intentionally noting what I am grateful for–even if it doesn’t seem as though I have much to count among my blessings–I notice a spillover effect in the rest of my life.  I tend to be more positive overall.

Kaplan’s book was an entertaining and enlightening read for me.   I recommend it, especially for those like myself, who may need a nudge in the gratitude direction.

Ronnica’s Take

I wish I could say that gratitude is something that I was good at. Unfortunately, I spend way too much time focusing on all the things that I wish I had or wished were different.

I needed this reminder to be grateful for what I have and where I am. Truly, I have so much to be grateful for.

I enjoyed reading Kaplan’s journey through gratitude, especially how sad she was to see the year be over. We truly can change so much in our world by changing our attitude towards it.

While I think that gratitude is important, I want to focus more on who I should be grateful to. I’m not sure I would find much solace in gratitude as a concept without having an understanding of who is behind it all.

Outsiders

13442218_10103670593932299_3612704563831867025_nOne of the ways I waste time online is by reading articles on child-rearing and homemaking.  To be sure, in reasonable quantities, this can be helpful; in fact, I have learned a great deal in my “continuing education” endeavors. (It is only when one spends large quantities of time on this–like yours truly does–that it becomes an issue.)

In one such online session, I came across an interesting fact sheet regarding the value of time spent outdoors.  One fact that stood out is that the average American child spends 30 minutes or less outside.

I took this as a call to action.  I like to think we do a pretty job of getting the kids outside and off screens, but reading this really hit home how absolutely essential play–especially unstructured, outdoor play–is.

Not only can playing outside bestow all the benefits mentioned on that fact sheet, but as a mother, I also notice a huge difference in my kids when they spend time outside versus when they don’t.  For starters, I notice they sleep much better–Mother Nature is a great sleep aid!

Their behavior is also vastly improved when they spend a few hours outside, perhaps in part because of the amount of sensory input they receive while outdoors.  They are less likely to get into mischief when they have had a daily dose of the outdoors.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, their appreciation and concern for nature is unparalleled, and I believe this is as a result of the large amount of time they spend playing outside.  I see more environmental awareness come from two small children than from many adults I know–myself included!

Maybe one of the best stewardship practices out there is to take a page from children, and relish spending time outdoors!

Sometimes I Wish

Sometimes I wish I had spent less on Dr Pepper, movies and eating out when I was in high school. Maybe I could have used that money to offset the cost of college.

Sometimes I wish I had studied engineering or computer science in college. Maybe I could have found a higher-paying job in STEM than I have now.

Sometimes I wish I had studied the law after my bachelor’s degree. Maybe I could have used a law degree to serve the underprivileged.

Sometimes I wish I had started saving earlier, instead of living paycheck to paycheck. Maybe I could have bought a house by now.

Sometimes I wish I had moved to Colorado sooner. Maybe I could have had more time to enjoy this beautiful state where I so obviously belong.

Sometimes I wish I had started to aggressively fight my weight as a young(er) adult. Maybe I wouldn’t have such an uphill battle to fight.

flowers on the side of the pathSometimes I wish I could take a leave of absence from my job. Maybe I could hike my state from one side to the other.

Sometimes I wish I could quit full-time employment. Maybe I could support myself off an urban homestead.

But I can’t live in the “what ifs” of these wishes. The cloudiness of discontentment will keep me from seeing the beauty of where I am now, and the blessings that God has given me on this path, not the ones I didn’t take.

Instead of focusing on what I could have done, I must focus on making the best decisions today that will get me where I want to go.

2016 Goals Update: June

unnamed (12)My 2016 goals continue to progress about like I expected they would:  slowly but surely. It’s been awhile since an update; here are some highlights:

Make one extra mortgage payment.  Hmm, maybe I should ditch this one.  Plans have changed–imagine that!  In trying to strike a reasonable balance between frugality and seizing the day, we are toying with the idea of taking a brief family vacation in the coming weeks.

This is something that’s pretty overdue; we have actually never vacationed with just the four of us–extended family has always been present, and while that is wonderful, we also want a chance to experience a vacation with “just us.”  It’s also an opportunity to teach the kids about travel and flexibility, and to put our money where our mouths are:  experiences over stuff.

To that end, any money that might have been going toward an extra mortgage payment this year will likely go toward this trip (destination TBD).

Screen time to four times daily.  To assist me in this goal (which is a LOT harder than I expected it to be), I am very seriously toying with the idea of giving up my smartphone and going back to a “fossil phone”–that is, one that doesn’t have anything beyond basic texting and phone call capabilities.  The only issue with this is that I use my phone as a camera as well; quality differences may impact my final decision.

In the meantime, I have read some sobering articles on the negative impact parental technology use in the presence of kids can have on children.  That’s definitely made me think twice before picking up my phone more than any app ever has.  Plus, I want to be fully present with my kids–I don’t want them to remember their mother always on the phone.  I want them to remember her interacting with them.

How are your resolutions coming?

Eating for Weight Loss on a Budget

Quick update: I’m now down 28 pounds. A quarter of the way to my goal!

I mentioned when I talked about losing weight on a budget that I am not spending more on food than I was previously. It’s a little early to tell, but I actually think I might end up spending less.

I’m sharing this today not because I think that everyone can follow what I do, but hopefully to give you some ideas of what you might be able to do yourself.

I don’t buy diet foods. Almost everything I eat, I make from scratch. This is absolutely how I can control the ingredients and keep the calories within the range I need to eat.

I no longer am eating for pleasure (though I do enjoy what I eat). I’m eating for fuel, and I believe that these are the choices that are not only going to help me lose weight, but also stay healthy.

Might be eating healthier if all but one thing from today’s grocery shop needs fridge/freezer.

A photo posted by Ronnica Rothe (@ronnicaz) on

Breakfast

I work evenings, so my “breakfast” is at noon. As it is my only meal at home, I make a smoothie with my Nutribullet.

Ronnica’s smoothie recipe
1 cup no-fat Greek yogurt
3/4 cup frozen fruit
1 cup spinach
1 small piece of kale
1/3 medium carrot
1/4 cup oat bran
1 tablespoon chia seed
1 tablespoon flax seed
1/2 cup water

I’ve had these every day (travel excluded) for the past 6 weeks, and I’ve not gotten bored. I vary the fruit according to my fancy. I will probably also start varying the veggies some, too.

To keep costs down, I’ll be shopping around for good deals on fruit this summer and freeze them.

To keep the spinach and kale fresh for a few weeks, I wash it, dry it, then place it in paper towel lined plastic containers. (I really need to invest in tea towels!).

Lunch

My 4:00 “lunch” at work is always muffins. I make my own, usually with a fruit or veggie in it. I make a week’s worth of muffins on my cooking day (currently Saturday). This has my only added sugar for the day: 1 tablespoon of sugar per day.

Dinner

Dinner varies from week to week, but it is the same every day in any given week, as I make a batch of it on my cooking day. I’ve made carrot-infused turkey meatloaf, mini quiches and stews with various spices. My favorite has been Mexican-flavored stew with a little bit of chicken and a lot of veggies. At one large chicken breast per week, this is all the meat I usually eat.

Snacks

If I have not reached my calorie count for the day, I’ll end my day with a snack. So far, I’ve been eating up the snacks I already had, but I’ll probably lean towards snacks of nuts or cheeses.

I’ll also be adding in more fresh veggies as the growing season allows. The great thing about veggies is that they allow you to feel full without adding in a lot of calories.

Weekends

Weekends I start my day with a smoothie, but tend to vary my evening meal. Lately, I’ve  gotten on a cheese bread kick (made with homemade, whole-wheat dough which I freeze). Though this is more calories than I eat in one meal any other time in the week, I usually replace both lunch and dinner with it.

What healthy, from-scratch meals do you make?

The Minimalist Wardrobe

20150301_222253Recently I had the opportunity to buy some clothes, and not from the thrift store either.  (Though I still prefer to do my shopping that way!)

I wanted to utilize my money the smartest way I could, so I searched and asked around to try to determine what, exactly, makes a good minimalist wardrobe.  Here’s what I learned:

1.  Go timeless.  I hate clothes shopping, so the longer I can make these clothes last and be “on trend” the better.  I kept the colors fairly neutral, staying with blues and pinks (which look best on me) and blacks and whites.  Nothing too loud or garish for this gal!

2.  3/4 sleeves.  ‘Nuff said.  At Ronnica’s suggestion, I stuck with 3/4 sleeves for most of my tops, because, as she correctly noted, “It is appropriate for all but the hottest days of the year.”  I bought sweaters to layer with when things get too chilly for just 3/4 sleeves alone.

3.  Research what pieces are “must haves.”  In doing a quick internet search, it became apparent that “every woman” should have a few items in her closet, including but not limited to:  a little black dress, white blouse, and nude heels.  These and other must have pieces provide a good foundation for a wardrobe, and have served me well so far!

4.  I only purchased what I needed.  In my case, I really needed new tops and a couple more pairs of jeans.  I saw some clothing articles that I really liked, but refrained from buying them–they would have blown my budget, and wouldn’t have achieved my “minimalist wardrobe” goal.

5.  For every item brought in… another item went out.  My closet is itty bitty, so I couldn’t keep everything!

What are some essential clothing pieces for you?

Losing Weight on a Budget

Last week I shared why I wanted to lose weight. Initially, I planned on putting today’s post in with it, but as you read, I had a lot to say about motivation.

Now that I’ve covered my motivation, here’s the tools I’m using to lose weight:

IMG_27341. Apps – Fitbit and My Fitness Pal

I’ve had a Fitbit One for over 2 years now, and it’s been one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever received. I’m motivated by competing against others and against myself. I like that it also tracks the number of floors I climb. I sneak in steps wherever I can to make my 10,000 step goal at least 6 days a week.

I only recently started using My Fitness Pal. I like the ease in which I can log food from my computer or app. I’ve logged food in the past, but I’ve forgotten how much it helps in eating within my designated calorie range. Tracking food takes me only a couple of minutes a day, but it’s a huge tool in losing the weight.

2. Accountability

I haven’t needed accountability to remain on track…yet. I know that won’t always be the case. I recently asked 3 friends to hold me accountable to my eating and exercise goals. While it’s not their job to keep me on track, I will be encouraged to stay on track knowing that they that they will be asking me about it.

3. Food

What I eat is the biggest change I made 6 weeks ago. I’m not following a formal plan,  I’m simply eating the way that I know I should.

Half of what I eat now is now veggies (and a little fruit). I eat very little processed food and on most days, eat less than a serving of meat. When I’m eating what I make (which is most of the time), my bread products are almost exclusively whole grain, though I don’t eat a lot of it. I eat a tablespoon or less of added sugar a day, only allowing myself to cheat this on special occasions.

And oh yeah, I’m eating a whole lot less than I used to. By eating so much less, I am spending no more than I used to, though now most of what I am buying is real, unprocessed food.

4. Supplements

I’m not using any weight-loss “supplements” or plans. However, I have found a supplement (called inositol) that aides my PCOS symptoms, including my intense craving for sugar. I had no idea that my craving was medically-driven, but I’m thankful to have now identified it.

I don’t know what medical factors may be contributing to your own health issues, but I strongly encourage you to seek a doctor for guidance as you begin your own health journey.

5. Exercise

I’ve listed this last, because it’s been the smallest factor in my weight loss thus far. I have been walking 10,000 steps most days for a couple of months now, but it wasn’t until I added the diet changes that I started to see major health changes. In addition to the steps, I’ve added strength exercises once a week.

I would like to add in strength exercises an additional day a week and to start swimming laps again at some point, but for now, I’m happy with the amount of activity I am getting in.

Next week in the 3rd part of this 3 part series, I’ll be sharing more about how I have changed my diet.

I received no compensation for mentioning a few specific products in this post. After all, veggies don’t have a big promotional budget.