Priority shifting

I have been shifting focus in life back to what I really enjoy.  I forgot that I liked to craft and create when I was younger.  Painting was something I have always enjoyed but always felt less than adequate at.  My husband make a great date night for us at Cheers Pablo and I instantly remembered everything I love about painting … and everything I don’t love.  Looking around at everyone else’s painting, I again felt less than adequate.  Even though the subject is the same for everyone they all look so different.

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Our completed paintings

I spent most of my weekend crafting.  I made some adorable wall hangers for organizing either jewelry or headbands and hair clips for little girls

I made these great mason jar cozies too.  I found tops to convert the jars into drinking glasses and just can’t get enough!

I also made a small handful of baby hats and a not so small handful of baby headbands.  Those projects to come.

It has been so fun but makes me sad for how fast the weekend goes.  Work tomorrow is going to seriously cut into my crafting!

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Bucket List Memory Keeper

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I have been working on my bucket list lately but the problem is that I haven’t found a great way to really capture what I want to do, why, if it was accomplished and what I learned from or got out of the experience.  A simple list will not suffice as my bucket list items have a deeper meaning and I want to document the experience.

I recently figured out how I am going to do this – a memory keeper!

Here is what you’ll need:

  • 2 packs of levenger or arc system rings
  • 2 front and back covers if you choose
  • either a pack of levenger or arc system paper or the appropriate punch to make the pages
  • a bucket list and a reason

Each bucket list item will have it’s own page, on the front side I will record the what, the why and the date added to the list.  This page will be placed in the ‘to do bucket list’ book.  Since the pages are removable and reinsert-able, after the objective has been achieved I will use the back page to document the accomplishment with a picture, ticket, play bill, or whatever else would represent the memory, a date of accomplishment, and an explanation of what that was like.  This will then be moved to the accomplished book.  

I am so excited about this idea!  Not only will it provide me with the motivation to keep accomplishing my goals by reminding me why it was important to me but it will also allow me to document the memories I have made.  Since both my husband and myself will be adding to the bucket list ‘to dos’ we will have an added insight into why something is important to the other person and hopefully serve as a motivator to help the other achieve goals that may not speak to ourselves personally.  Bonus with the removable pages – as we add to the list we can rearrange by date added, level of importance, or feasibility of completion.

I started my binder slightly superficially with the objective to travel internationally first class.  It’s excess spending but who doesn’t want to be treated a little extra special?

The loss of a great man

I can’t think of an appropriate title for this post.

Today is something of a special day.  Even typing that seems odd, honestly the things we anniversary.  Last year, about this time of day, I learned that my grandpa had passed away.

This is a normal part of life, but at 26 years of age I had lost my first grandparent.  That isn’t exactly true since I had a paternal grandfather pass when I was about 8 but I maybe met him once and he was the (as I understood it) estranged father of my father, my mom had remarried and her husband and his family are my family.  

My grandpa was sick for about 3 years before he passed and it was the hardest thing I have had to watch.  He was one of my all time favorite people in the world, I had maybe seen a tear in his eye exactly once in my life and he and my grandma retired to a hobby farm where they had cows, chickens, and a vegetable garden. He was still chopping wood and loading a wood stove to heat their house when he got sick.

I wasn’t prepared for the hurt that comes with such a loss.  The uncertainty that becomes life.  Even though I was 26, I somehow still thought my grandpa was invincible – he wasn’t.  Of course I knew he wouldn’t be around forever, I knew  that some day I would have to live a life absent of his jokes, and I knew with each passing year that day was getting closer.  What I didn’t know was how much I really loved him.  I knew I did, and I knew it would be hard, but you really don’t know until you know how much it hurts.

If I could change anything from the last months of his life, I wish I would have named my daughter after him.  My daughter – the first born of his first born daughter’s daughter – was the last baby he held.  My grandpa wasn’t a man of many words and he would hang out in the background when it came to mushy family things, but on Easter last year he asked to hold her – not exactly characteristic of my grandpa, but possibly the most amazing gift he has given me.  I just wish that she had the privilege to know him as I did.  I can only hope that her grandpa will dig out slivers with a pocket knife, plant her favorite veggies in his garden, tease her about selling cookies from a garbage can, and give her a hard time about ‘boots’ the boy down the street.

I am told time heals all wounds but today it hurts just about as much as it did then, today I am just as empty without him as I was then, and I am just as honored to feel that hurt as I was then.  My grandpa was the first man in my life to show me true love – and with great love there is great risk of loss.  If he can see us or hear us I hope he is proud of the family he left behind.  

Kicking coffeehouse coffee to the curb

In my household I might be know as something of a coffee snob.  What can I say I LOVE my Starbucks.  Seriously nothing else has quite measured up.  So it would seem that this is that low hanging fruit in my budget.

I think I have Starbucks coffee at least once a day 5 or more days per week and occasionally I will have it twice on Tuesday.  Since Tuesday is a social coffee between classes with a new friend before my 4pm class on research methods begins, I won’t be giving that one up.

Through the power of pinterest I found a copycat recipe for one of my favorite fall drinks.  Disclaimer it doesn’t quite do the trick if you are craving that salted carmel mocha but it sure will replace my morning latte – at least until I find a copycat for that.

I adapted the recipe from Eat Craft Parent.  I made a few tweaks for my convince and my tastes.

Here is what you need:

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate almond milk
  • 1 brewed k-cup of Starbucks carmel coffee
  • 1 tbs carmel coffee syrup
  • 1 tbs toasted hazelnut coffee syrup
  • Sea salt

Here is what you do:

  • brew the k-cup.  I made a 16 oz cup and added the coffee to taste.
  • While the k-cup is brewing put the hazelnut syrup, the carmel syrup, a dash of sea salt and the 1/2 cup almond milk into a sauce pan.  Heat until warm.
  • Pour into a mug and add the brewed k-cup to taste.  I like the coffee flavor so I used almost the whole 16 oz.

*if you choose to put whip on your coffee I would recommend holding the tbs of carmel to drizzle over the top of the whip and sprinkle sea salt on top*

I am sure it is a million times yummier with the whip on top but not only is Starbucks tough on your wallet, it’s tough on your waste line too.

This cup turned out to be 140 calories

  • K-cup – 10 cals
  • Almond milk – 50 cals
  • Carmel syrup – 80 cals
  • Sea salt – 0 cals

Of course using sugar free syrup would help bring that down even further.  The real deal with no whip and nonfat milk is going to run you about 290 calories for 16 oz!

Happy sipping!

Family Traditions – Easter Edition

Now that A is getting old enough to actually partake in holiday traditions and we are celebrating second holidays instead of first, I am trying to be more aware of and intentional about the traditions we start.

The trouble I am having with Easter is simple – I hated egg hunts and searching for Easter baskets.  I understand she may not have the same thoughts on the subject but it was always something I dreaded.  I think this is part because I am a logical thinker … and the Easter Bunny always seemed to hide things in strange places without rhyme or reason, there were never clues, and it wasn’t like I had a map to guide me.

I feel like I have a few options here but with only a week before the holiday I am feeling like I am running out of time.

Option 1 – We have a basket for A (and each kid as more come along) and they get to put them out the night before Easter.  The benefit is that we can conserve money and resources by each kid having a basket they use each year and expect to use.  Everyone knows where his or her basket is and there is no question about ‘is this one mine or yours’.  There is no risk of someone finding someone else’s before the owner of the basket has the chance.  The downside? As the kids get older this won’t be the experience their friends are likely having.  Also no packing the basket ahead of time.

Option 2 – Make it a treasure hunt.  Hide the basket and leave a trail of hints starting with a hint taped to his or her door.  Down side – A won’t be able to understand hints at this point, prep time could become extensive, and there is a serious waste of resources in the department of paper although it would be a great way to use scrap paper.  Benefits – there is still a hunt, the option to fill baskets ahead of time, and a twist on a common experience.

Option 3 – Good old fashion hide and seek.  Downside – I feel anxious for my children.  Upside – likely a similar experience among peers, pack basket ahead of time, and limited time invested in planning and prep.

I’d love to hear about it if any of you have a twist to the traditional basket on Easter morning.

Groceries on a $40 per week budget

I read this post by Money Saving Mom on surviving on a grocery budget of $30 per week.  I wasn’t in love with the menu she had posted – I get board easily and I enjoy cooking – but I did love the idea of putting a budget on my groceries so I took a few of her tips and made a budget for my family and headed off to the grocery store.

I started by looking at what I already had in my fridge, freezer and cupboards.  We had been prepping freezer meals and had left over meats from our last prep.  That trip was about $200 worth of groceries from a local club store, so we were already working with a decent base.  The trouble is that despite that great base – and stock of freezer meals – we were still lucky to spend under $100 per week for a family of 3.

My budget for the first week was $30.  I didn’t think it was possible but we were actually about $10 under budget.

Here is what I did:

  • Take inventory – what do you already have and what can you make with what you already have 
  • Make a menu – when can you eat leftovers and are there meals like turkey breast or pork loin that you can use leftovers to ‘remake’ into a second meal?
  • Find out where the best deals are – what is cheaper at what store?  Make a list and track prices.
  • Be prepared to make multiple stops – for us we start at Aldi, and then finish at Target.
  • Take advantage of coupons and loyalty cards … when it makes sense – I tend to use coupons just because I have them.  This isn’t always the best strategy, I end up spending money I wouldn’t have otherwise because it was a good price.  Target has an app called cartwheel that we use every shopping trip to save on what we buy.  Nothing goes in the cart without checking to see if there is a cartwheel offer.
  • Put aside unused budget – use this for weeks when you need to stock up, make freezer meals or just don’t have the time to sit down and make as detailed of a menu/shopping list.

The first week we didn’t need any meat because we had it all at home but we had meals such as:

  • Shrimp scampi
  • Pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches, sweet potato fries and side salad
  • Spaghetti and meatballs

The bonus was that buying less meant wasting less.  It always feels good not to have to trash food because you didn’t get to it fast enough.

The second week we decided that $30 was slightly unrealistic for a family of three that included a toddler who is a little picky and two adults who really like convince and eating out.  So we adjusted to a $40 per week budget.

Week two we were under by $15.  This time we had meals like:

  • Make ahead breakfast burritos
  • Beef stew
  • Chicken nuggets and sweet potato fries
  • Creamy chicken and broccoli with ramen noodles

We also use at least one freezer meal per week.  This is to cut down on cooking time and make eating at home easier since we are an on the go family.  I also bought $30 worth of coffee so we would stop going to the coffee shop and it was an amazing deal (I think I paid $25 and got $10 worth of gift cards).  The bonus gift cards went to cover our grocery cost.  For us coffee comes out of a discretionary budget that has yet to be defined … so this felt a little like cheating.  But since our going out to eat/coffee house budget is separate from groceries we allocated the big purchase to that budget.

I was feeling good when I went shopping yesterday since we had been under budget every week.  I had a $5 gift card from an Easter basket purchase that was allocated to groceries and the $25 cash that was excess from prior weeks.  

Unfortunately this week we went over our grocery budget of $40 by $15 AND that money already existed in the excess from the weeks before.  

This week we are eating things like

  • Stir fried ramen
  • Potpie
  • Chipotle inspire burrito bowls
  • Breakfast burritos

I am a little disappointed since that takes away the money from a future ‘stock up purchase’ but I am feeling confidant that our eating out budget will decrease.  I noticed we spent our eating out $’s on things like Chinese food and Chipotle.  Putting the little extra money into the Chipotle inspired dinner and the fried ramen should help protect the eating out budget and decrease my families spending overall.

Stay tuned for our first freezer meal stock pile on our new budget in the weeks to come!