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.

 

Time Out

I consider my children to be one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given (right up there with my husband).

With that in mind, you would think I would treat them as the treasures they are, without a second thought.  Unfortunately, I fall into the trap so many of us do:  I take them for granted far too much.

All the moving preparation (we accepted an offer on our house!) means a lot more work and emotional energy being expended.  Recently, I decided to drop what I was doing and go on a walk with the kids–one of our special activities–because Bean said, “Mama.  I want to spend time with you.  Can you stop working?”

Yes, sweet girl.  I absolutely can.

And I’m so glad I did.  I need to get this picture framed to remind me to stop more often and enjoy the amazing gifts I have been given.

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Learning for Free

notebooksI love to learn. As a kid, I remember how hard it was to sleep the day before a new school year because I was too excited. I anticipated starting school as much (or more) than my birthday or Christmas.

In college, I loved the first day of class when you would receive the syllabus. It was so much fun to read over what we would be studying and reading!

When I worked at Walmart, I loved ringing up school supplies. Almost as fun as buying them myself, though I was making money instead of spending it. Plus, my items rung per hour would go really high during August with all those small items.

Given how excited I’ve always been about school, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to find out I have a history degree as well as a graduate degree from a seminary. When I finished formal education almost 8 years ago, I wasn’t sure what I would do. Would life without studying turn out to be dull?

Turns out, it hasn’t been. While I’m no longer reading for credit, I read just as much now as I ever did as a student. (Bonus: I get to pick out the subjects I’m studying!)

Despite my own education background, I now value the education that can be found outside the classroom more than what I got in class. There are plenty of valid reasons to get a formal education, but I don’t think it’s the only way to learn.

Here are a few ways to learn for free:

1. MOOC it up. MOOC = Massive Open Online Courses. There are many places where you can take free online courses. Some formal institutions are offering them these days, or you can go through a site like Coursera, like I have done. All the benefits of an online class you’re paying for, without the cost.

2. Hit up the library. Think of a subject you’re interested in learning more about and find a book on the subject. Search for a good one online or take advantage of your local library’s research librarian. Even if your local library doesn’t have it, they can request if for you through inter-library loan.

The only problem is that you’re bound to think of related topic you want to explore more thoroughly so be prepared to have to repeat the process.

3. Apprentice yourself to someone doing what you want to do. If you have a skill you want to learn, ask to learn from someone who already has it. Cooking, gardening, carpentry, sewing…so many possibilities.

4. Listen while you work. Find a podcast or audiobook on a subject that interests you and listen to it while you do another task. I listen to hours of content a day this way. Even if you can’t listen at your job, you probably can listen in the car, while doing dishes or while mindlessly surfing the Internet. (And no need to pay for audiobooks: your local library probably has many available, on CD or in electronic format).

5. Make friends with someone whose first language is one you want to learn better. Practice your conversational language skills with them while getting to know them.

So even if you aren’t going back to school formally this fall, take some time during this season to renew your desire to learn!

Photo by Kitty Ireland

Joint Book Review: Locally Laid by Lucie B. Amundsen

51QtHln5c0L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This month’s joint book review is Locally Laid:  How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm-from Scratch by Lucie B. Amundsen.  Detailing the process of how the Amundsen family created and developed their vision of a humane and healthy chicken farm, Locally Laid also provides information on the industry, and demonstrates the importance of local businesses with both humor and passion.

Amanda’s Take

I picked up this book because it came highly recommended for being both informative and humorous.  That’s a win for me!

This book did turn out to be both informative and very funny.  It also had the added effect of inspiring me to never raise chickens–at least not on the scale of the Amundsen farm, Locally Laid.  I would rather spend my time and energy on something I am a little more motivated to work on; the closest I have ever come to chicken-raising is watching a friend’s small flock for a weekend, and while educational, it is also laborious and, well, dirty.

A more subtle theme in the book is what it takes to start a business from the ground up–and not surprisingly, it entails a lot.  I really admire the courage it took for the Amundsen family to leave all they had known and take the leap of faith in starting a chicken farm.  They started out not knowing a great deal about the birds, but they followed their passion (or, in the case of the author, her husband’s passion) and learned a lot along the way.

Check out this book for more insight into what it takes to start a business–especially one involving animals–and for a lot of laughs along the way.

Ronnica’s Take

Reading Locally Laid gave me a much more realistic view of what it would be like to raise my own chickens. I don’t know that I ever will, but it’s something that I consider when I dream of growing most of my own food. I’ve always been more comfortable with plants than animals, but I think it would be a good thing to stretch myself in this area…if I get some first-hand experience first.

I enjoyed this book as it was one example of someone seeing a problem in our food system and taking action. I buy the cheap eggs (when I buy them, which isn’t that often), but I can see the merits of supporting businesses like Locally Laid. I’ll be honest, knowing more about where my food comes from is something about which I’ve willing stayed ignorant, sadly.

Camping on a Budget

tentFor several years, I have wanted to go camping. Not having a significant other or kids, I don’t have a built-in adventure partner, so I had to wait until it worked out for a friend to go with me.

A few weekends ago, my time to go camping finally came. While I had camped a few times as a kid, camping as an adult is a much different experience. Not that I’ve been scared of a little planning: I usually enjoy planning something as much as I enjoy putting the plan into action.

As my friend and I did not have any camping gear of our own, I relied on some camping-loving friends who let me borrow their gear and some of their expertise. Without this, the trip would not have been economically feasible. After all, for all we knew, this was our first and last camping trip, so investing money (beyond perishables and the site rental) into camping as a hobby would be unwise.

Starting the fire was the thing I was most nervous about...so I was really happy when I started this fire right up.
Starting the fire was the thing I was most nervous about…so I was really happy when I started this fire right up.

Turns out, we really enjoyed our time camping and are definitely doing it again. I have previously mentioned how much I love hiking, so camping is really an extension of that. We’ve already made tentative plans for a longer camping tour of national parks next summer.

Will I ever buy my own camping gear? Probably. But I’m not in any hurry to gain gear. I’ll probably just wait for good deals and buy used where I can. I already know that I don’t need too much. Really, camping appeals to my minimalist side because you are willingly choosing to live with less.

Giving Yourself Grace

With the moving process well underway, I wanted to share some ways that my minimalist/stewardship practices have changed.

unnamed (3)1.  The kids spend quite a bit more time with screens.  I am not thrilled that we have already exceeded Bean’s two hour per week screen time limit for this week, but the need to clean the house before showings, and the fact that we are stuck in the air conditioned car during the showings (due to the two 90 pound dogs that have to get out of the house and the heat outside), means the kids get to indulge a bit in their screen time habits.  It isn’t perfect, but we try to compensate with outside time and reading time.

04f11a8c-94b6-4eec-b3ca-25ba4fca02632.  I spend less time on elaborate meals.  I love to bake and cook, but depending on the time a showing happens, I am not always able to prepare anything elaborate.  There have been times in the past three weeks (the time since the house first went on the market) where our suppers have been YOYO (You’re On Your Own) nights, and other nights when we have gone with something to-go.  The family gets fed though, albeit not with all organic/local/carefully crafted ingredients.

ad30d24f-c63b-466d-baca-b555b048b25b3.  We got a second car.  I wrote about this last week.  It’s still sort of a touchy subject with me, but we had to do what we had to do.  Hopefully it is temporary!

In a nutshell:  we are in survival mode.  My non-moving, minimalist self cringes each time I have to compromise a bit on my ideals (see:  cloth diapers and other things that are too green for me), but that’s where I am at right now.  And I have to remind myself almost hourly that this is temporary.

I want to continue to strive to be the best stewardess I can be. However, I am learning that one of the lessons of this move is the fact that we need to give ourselves grace, especially when it comes to working through major life changes.

Practical Vegetarianism

I am not a vegetarian. I love bacon, burgers and pepperoni. While other people may crave meat, my cravings have always been more on the carbohydrate and dairy side: bread, cheese, and ice cream.

Since I started eating better, I just haven’t felt the need to spend some of my 1200 or so calories a day on something I don’t really even enjoy. While meat can provide good protein and nutrients, it doesn’t give me the best bang for my buck (calorie wise or budget wise). As such, I’ve almost entirely given it up.

Now, if it’s not a special occasion or a meal with others, I’m not eating meat. I get my protein mostly from dairy, whole grains and beans. I still enjoy the occasional burger, but I’m not missing meat.

Below is one of my recent recipes that I’ve concocted. I’m not sure if it is technically vegetarian since I added chicken bouillon, but I plan on making and freezing my own veggie stock soon. Just another step in making my food from scratch.

While it may seem like extra work to have to pre-cook the beans, veggies and rice, it really takes no more hands-on time than it would to brown meat.

creamy rice and bean bakeCreamy Rice and Bean Bake
Makes 5 servings

Nutritional info per serving:
411 calories, 26 g protein, 60 g carbs, 10 g fat, 7 g fiber

Ingredients:
1.25 cups dry black beans, cooked (I add some onion, cumin, thyme and chicken bouillon while cooking) 
1 cup brown rice, cooked (I add chicken bouillon while cooking)
2 cups non-fat Greek yogurt
1 yellow squash
2 bell peppers
1/2 onion
1 2/3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
salt to taste

Pre-cheese and baking
Pre-cheese and baking

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cut and grill or saute the squash, peppers and onion. I grill mine on a George Foreman. Cut them into bite-sized or smaller pieces before or after cooking.

3. Combine cooked veggies, beans and rice in a greased 9 x 13 casserole pan. Leaving shredded cheese to the side, add in remaining ingredients and mix.

4. Top with shredded cheese.

5. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.

I tried to keep track of the spices I used and in what quantities, but really, use what you like. The good thing about a recipe like this is that it’s very customizable…use what you like.