Tuesday, January 8, 2013

#8: The last bit

My Mom is an expert with a spatula.  I've never seen anyone with talent like hers.  But for the rest of us, here is a tip for using up the last remnants in food jars.

Peanut Butter:  add a half cup of oatmeal, some milk, sugar, dried fruit, whatever floats your boat.  Let sit overnight and in the morning enjoy a nourishing cup of soaked-oatmeal!

Mustard:  Add a little olive oil and some vinegar to create a lovely salad dressing.

Catsup:  Fill the container half-way with warm water, shake then pour into any soup meatloaf, or casserole that has a tomato base.

love always,

#7: Gifts

Somehow I think I grew up in a family with a  wrapping paper problem.

Ever since I can remember, my Mom has saved wrapping paper off of presents and it's one thing I haven't been able to escape.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit; I do it, too.

Here is a fun way to re-purpose used wrapping paper without looking uber-cheap:  Run used wrapping paper through a shredder and use it as packing in gift bags or boxes.

love always,

#6: Pizza, anyone?

 Here's an awesome one:  Did you know that you can use the bottom of your cast iron pan as a pizza stone?!?  I've always wanted one but never had the big bucks to shell out.

Homemade pizza can cost under $2 for an entire pizza.  Here is the link to a homemade pizza crust that really tastes like a store bought one but takes only a few minutes to make (scroll about 1/6 of the way down the page).

love always,

#5: Credit Cards

 This is a really good one I just heard:  erase the stored credit card numbers from your online accounts.  I think this one could easily save me a few dollars each month, because it's almost too easy to pop onto Amazon or iTunes or some app store.  "It's only 99cents!!"  Well, those certainly add up!  I'll have to think twice if I have to run out to the car, find my wallet, and reenter all of those numbers just for one little dollar item.

love always,

#4: 30 Day List

I read recently that a good way to keep an eye on minor spending (the kind that can add up so quickly) is to keep a thirty day list.  You simply write down the little things you think about purchasing and then wait 30 days before you actually purchase them.  Knowing myself, I'm sure I would not return to purchase that tube of chapstick or mp3.  How about you?

love always,

Tip #3:Utilities

One time my friend had a technician at her home looking at her air conditioning.  He told her that if she left her fan on all the time it would better circulate the air in her home and the air conditioning and heater would kick on less, thus saving her money on her utility bills.

love always,

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

#2: Tires

So over Christmas break I had a lot of extra time on my hands, especially after I was bedridden with the flu for several days.  Having run out of things to read or watch, I decided to check out past episodes of Mythbusters , a show I had not watched before but came highly rated by my 13-year old ;)

On this particular episode the guys checked into the myth that under-inflated tires create worse gas mileage and found it to be true.  You'll have to watch the episode to hear all of the cool ins-and-outs.

So today's money saving tip is:  Check your tires regularly to save money when driving.


1.  Find out what your car's tire pressure is supposed to be at.
2.  Acquire a tire pressure checking device and use it regularly (I'm reading weekly, I think every time I fill-up will do).
3. For even better savings, take the time to find out which gas stations near you offer free air.  You won't actually be saving anything if you end up spending $1 for air every time you fill up!!

Here is an interesting discussion about the science behind why cars lose air pressure in the winter.

Safe driving!!

love always,

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Today is Day #1

"Wait, what?!?"  you say. "Two letters in one day!!"

Yes, it's true.  Maybe I've turned over a new leaf ;)

Actually, in the spirit of New Year's Resolutions, I am making one I'd like to share.

This is going to be a fun and challenging year for me as I try mixing full-time school, part-time work, part-time Homeschooling, and full-time parenting.  One of the biggest challenges I see in this year for me will be a financial one.  Working only part-time will mean less money.  But my goal is that it doesn't have to mean that we feel like we have less money.

Moving into this house, one of my goals has been to create a home where my older kids would feel loved, welcomed, invited, and a part of the family.  I know there has to be some hurt in their hearts from the years I was away and I am doing everything in my power to at least make now as warm and welcoming as possible.

This has included for me making a place for each of them in my home, welcoming them at all times, making sure that there is enough food, or pillows, or whatever that they don't feel like a second-class member of this family.  Because they never will be.

Everyone was excited about my new plans.  Everyone, that is, except for Daniel.  Daniel has seen this last year the difficulties I have placed us in due to my poor planning, and I am certain that he is worried big time when he hears we are about to live on less.

So my number one goal this year is to find ways to live the best we've ever lived while living with less than we've had.  I've been reading and thinking and making plans.

So far the rules of the game are:

1. We will still have all the luxuries I have already provided:  internet, cable (it's actually free, but...), phone service, plenty warm house, etc.
2. We will NOT end up eating only "beans and rice", like I have threatened in other hard times.
3. The kids will not feel like we are poor.
4. I will NOT skip birthdays, holidays, or other "fun" things for our family.

And yet:

5.  I will have approximately half the income from working as I had before.

I have decided that I am going to make a goal to learn one new money-saving trick every day for the whole year.  Things that will help me use less or make what I have stretch without the kids feeling the pinch.  Real, usable things that I am excited to pass on to you.  Here we go:

Tip #1:  Milk

I have found that if you buy whole milk instead of the 1% or 2% I'm assuming you usually use, you can mix it with water and it will taste just the same as the milk you usually buy but it will go so much farther!  I have been trying this for about a month now and have worked out the details:
1 gallon 1% or 2%  = approx. $2.50
1 gallon whole milk = about 30 cents more
whole milk can be mixed about 1:2 with water to create a milk that tastes just like the other
1 gallon "Mommy milk" = $1.05 

This can be done with soy or almond milk, also, I just haven't experimented with the amounts yet.

love always,

Happy New Year!!

I love New Year's, it really is one of my favorite holidays.  It's not a day I spend a lot of time planning, or purchasing for.  It's not a day I expect company or friends to drop in.  No, the reason I love this holiday is because of what it represents: growth.

I guess you could say I'm a personal growth junkie.  I really adore the feeling of planning new goals, charting a course, making plans.  For a long time I spent way more time planning than actually doing the things I had planned.  And I started millions of great crusades to make myself a better person, but since I'm not a fabulous finisher, I didn't get very far.  Or so I thought. 

A few years ago I decided to "free myself" of the chains of planning and live life off-the-cuff.  I stopped making goals.  I stopped planning out my week.  I stopped making lists and living on paper.   I just lived.  Cold-turkey, I felt both free and scared as I started living without a plan.

It was fun and freeing at first.  Of course, we also moved to Oregon right when I made that change and so the newness of the whole situation threatened to engulf me at times, too.  Living without a plan was strange at first, yet in our new surroundings, there was plenty to do and try, and not a big need for a plan.

Now I'm not saying I never wrote things down or made plans, that's not true.  I still planned out dinner.  I still planned our trips to the beach to enjoy every moment of our adventure.  But I stopped making extensive lists and plans for my life and future, reminding me to read a certain number of pages in my scriptures or be sure to mail birthday cards two weeks in advance.

By the time we moved back to Utah last year I was pretty good at not writing lists and setting goals.  I told myself I had sloughed off my stuffy old self and I was only better for it.  I still managed to accomplish and begin a number of self-improvement tasks, but I didn't plow through them at the same pace I used to.  I didn't think that was really mattering, after all, I wasn't spending half of my Sunday writing goals.  I wasn't using notebook after notebook to write lists and plans.  Life was more free.

And then, about a month ago, things began to feel like they were crashing down on me.

It all started with the Christmas music.  I like Christmas music as much as the next person.  Some of it probably even more, I really do like music a lot.  But when I found myself surrounded by Christmas music in the hallway at my school, back in November, it seemed too out of place.  It's nowhere near Christmas time, I said to myself.   And I continued to "live" and didn't give a thought to planning for this upcoming holiday time.

In early November my lovely white van had taken a turn for the worst and I found myself, unexpectedly, replacing it one evening after school.  All or nothing, the van was dead, and I needed not only to get home, but to provide safe transportation in the future for my family.  After a hurried day of silent prayers, I was directed to a place where I was able to both sell my van and to purchase a newer, safer, more economical vehicle.  I was both grateful and concerned about the new expense a financed vehicle would bring.  But what I didn't really give thought to was how my lack of planning all year meant that I was now selling off any hope I had of providing anything for my kids for Christmas!

I know, I know, Christmas is NOT about things.  And yet, as clearly as I know that, I also found that suddenly not being able to provide anything, not even candy canes, was really hard.  And listening to that Christmas music, day after day, got harder and harder as I faced the fact that I was the one who had made that happen, I couldn't blame it on anyone else.

Now this story doesn't have to be a long one, but it could be.  And amazing friend, learning that I was in such dire straights, spearheaded a plan to help us get things for Christmas.  And so I did, and so the kids, anyway, had a memorable and delightful Christmas.  Elizabeth declared that this was her best Christmas yet!  But my thoughts have been very distracted this whole Christmas season as I ponder the reality that planning would have prevented this whole mess in the first place.

And so as I greet this new year, I realize that I have been wrong, at least in part.

Letting go of planning freed me in some ways to just enjoy my family and embrace life, but it also chained me to accepting "whatever came along".  And often, that wasn't what I would have chosen for myself and my family.

I've also noticed that I haven't made the strides in personal growth that I had been making in the ten years or so before I "let go".  I had assumed that because I am fabulous at starting things but not as good at finishing them that I would make about the same progress with no plan at all, and I was wrong.  I can see that I did make more overall progress when planning, even if I didn't finish the plan, than I did when there was no plan in place.  I find myself at the precipice of the end of a rather bland year.  Yes, I made some overall financial progress this year. Yes, I began the rather difficult process of putting down roots.  But I can't really point to other progress in my life.  I read the Book of Mormon only twice this year and positively skipped the Relief Society lessons and Ensign.  I was pretty consistent in reading the Conference talks, but I haven't really studied them at all.  I haven't learned much that is new, I haven't read very many great books, I haven't taken many steps towards my future.

Now maybe you say, who cares?  Well, I will tell you, I do!  I have spent the last week thinking back, reading through journals and goals I set in the past, and I can truly see the power I had been creating by planning.  I look back at the goals I had written, at who I wanted to be, and I can see how I was the one who shaped my future.  Leaving it to chance is the surest way to make sure you don't go anywhere ;)

So here I am, January 1st, 2013, ready to try again to re-embrace my goal planning strategies and see how much more I can accomplish this year. 

One of my favorite ways to "create myself" is by writing my goals as a vision of the future.  I like to write what my life will be like one year, five years, or more in the future.  This helps me to envision what little steps will lead to this progress in my life.

Here is my most recent vision:  A Picture of Me at 40

Happy New Year!  What a great year I just finished and an even better year is beginning!

Let me back up a few months to my 40th birthday:  I had a big party (of course I orchestrated it!  I couldn't let something that important go awry!!) and surrounded myself with family and friends from all over!  It was wonderful - I have an album filled with pictures to remind me of all those who love me - well over 100 people attended!

Naturally, I timed the release of my book (my first - with many more to come) with my party.  I'm so proud to have finally completed it.

Christmas was so great!  I finally figured out how to create my perfect holiday - turns out each person has really  different needs that can impact their enjoyment of a holiday when not met.  So I've been focusing these last few years on learning my needs (and those of my family) so that there would be less hurt and disappointment.

Right before Christmas I really celebrated when I finally GRADUATED from College!!!!  Wow, that only took me 22 years!  I'm so proud of myself and excited for what this means.

I am moving forward in life!  I've applied to several different master's degree programs.  Beginning in January I am going to do the ESL endorsement with WGU (I should finish in one semester - so by June).  I found some work that will allow me to stay home while I'm at it, that will be nice!  I should be ready to start my master's degree in the fall, just about the same time my second book is due to be published.

This fall should be an amazing time of new growth and change for our family - Josiah graduates this year and will be leaving on his mission this fall!  Wow!  My first-born!

Daniel is doing well-he has a good job and still maintains his grades.  He is still good friends with Logan and Jaden, although the band only gets together sporadically.  I really believe there is  hope he will go on a mission next year!  His Young Men's leaders really made a positive difference in his life!

Hannah will be 16 this year.  She will be so relieved to finally be able to really date!  She is a beautiful young lady and I'm so impressed with her.  We do baptisms for the dead once a month-I know the gospel is a real priority in her life.

David turned 12 and got the Priesthood last year.  He is finally hitting a good stretch in his life.  Homeschooling was great for him-he exudes a confidence that will take him far.  He is so smart-sometimes it blows me away!

It's hard to believe Elizabeth is only 10, she seems so much older.  I'm so impressed with all she has accomplished so far in her life!  Last year she started a book club which meets at our house twice a month.  You'd think she was 20, the way she deftly leads.  I can't wait to see what she accomplishes this year (she's almost done with her second book-it's a race to see who finishes first!!)              

Do I expect my life to be just like this?  No.  But it does give me a really great road map for who I want to be and what I need to do to become it.

Like with school.  I've decided that I want to go ahead and finally move forward with my higher education and get some degrees that will give me more options in the future.  So this week I will be beginning the LAST leg of my bachelor's degree trip.  I am excited to get going and having a picture of what might be next makes it even more enticing!

Planning what my children's lives could be like doesn't mean it will necessarily turn out that way, but it puts the power in my hands to help them, instead of feeling helpless.  I can very definitely say I see in David and Elizabeth the person I set out to help them be when they were little.  The personality traits are theirs, but some of the habits and refinement are due to my persistent guiding.  (I have been enjoying this during the whole break-my careful "play quietly by yourself when you wake up, be thoughtful of others" teaching payed off big time - in the form of lots of delightful sleeping in!!)

So here's to you and yours, and me and mine, and a wonderful new year of growth!!

love always,