End of year thoughts and other musings

Hello there, end of 2015. How the year has passed by already, seems as if it was actually on fast forward. I know everyone is saying it, but as I quickly glanced through some photos of the year, it was hard to believe the time was so long gone already. This has been an interesting year for me, I'd say. Interesting in the sense that I've felt as though it was a year dedicated to figuring things out. Maybe it is every year, but more-so now than ever. A lot of growing is mixed up in there too, mothering, wifey-ing, and learning new things. So much learning, in fact, that I can officially say I am three classes away from graduating, and am 90.99% certain I'm going to pursue a graduate degree next. All this to say that I've spent considerable time weighing options and trying to figure out what I truly want to do with this phase of life. It sure is interesting, isn't it? Getting older. I recently told my mother that I was going to think of it like this: I'm grateful for this next birthday, for getting to turn another year older - because not everyone is given the honor. It's still a funny thing though. But I like what I learn and I love the freedom to make choices with my husband for our family. I don't have big plans for the upcoming year, but I have a few ideas of things I'd like my family to do. I don't intend on making goals or resolutions, I simply want to ease into January and do my very best to be present and mindful. I want to document those moments, as I usually do, but with even more intention, love, and grace.

I wish you all a very wonderful last few days of 2015 - what a year! I wish you all the very best in 2016!

I Ran Today

As I arrived to the beginning of the trail, I immediately broke out into a jog. My first thought is, "Why do I ever stop running?" I took in the insanely beautiful morning and took it as a warm welcome to what I hope is a next phase of my life that I can actually commit to. I love running. I just have to keep running when the weather isn't so welcoming.

I ran a lot as a kid and early teen, but it wasn't until I was in the Army that I discovered how much I love it. I actually remember the exact moment. I was in bootcamp, we were running an early morning 7 miles before the sun rose. We all start in A group, the fast runners, mostly guys. I was always determined to stay with them, but often fell to B group, slightly slower, some guys and some girls. I refused to be apart of C group, the slowest of them all. Anyhow, that morning we had a young, fit, running lover Drill Sergeant leading our group. He would explain a few tips as we ran to maintain good posture, breathing, and stride. I would watch him as long as I could keep up, and quickly realized there's a science to this running thing. In bootcamp, I always ran home. In my mind, that's how I made it on the full 10 miles runs before sunrise, that's how I kept up in B group. I ran home.

Yesterday, we had dinner with some dear friends. We talked a lot about how I had inspired them from my last post on spending less while eating well. Off and on for a few hours, we kept circling back to that topic. I am quite passionate about this lifestyle. Eating well. Spending less. I love cooking and I love knowing that I'm instilling good habits in my kids and feeding them food that is good for their bodies.

On the way to their house, we stopped at the bank. My husband ran in and I just observed around me. It was 4 minutes to close and I watched this woman, an employee, walk from a back office, toward the front door. I guessed she was going to lock it, then thought better since it wasn't actually time. As I saw her cross in front of me, I noticed an almost sad look to her face. I wanted to hug her. She moved slowly, somewhat overweight, and wandered around the main room and finally behind closed doors. There was another woman also, talking to someone I couldn't see, but also a healthier build. She seemed happier. 

It's noticing how people are when they carry themselves, wondering how they must eat, their lack of exercise, and the mood they carry around too. I notice this most when I'm grocery shopping, I tend to peek into grocery carts, wondering how they're eating. (Is this weird?) No, let's just say no. More times than not, I just feel sorry that they don't know what they're missing. Food can be so good. Good food, good for you, tastes good. Fresh herbs, oh man, do they make all the difference! Most people will never even know what fresh basil or rosemary tastes like (!!!). I've realized, however, that it is because they just don't know. Many of us weren't raised on real, whole food. I wasn't and it's really sad.

It was after watching this woman slowly and solemnly walk across the bank that I thought to myself, "I just don't want to be like that." I love to be happy. I love being active. Why don't I do that more? I've come to be the queen of being able to talk myself out of things. When my alarm goes off in the morning, it's easier to stay in bed. 

Not today though. No, not one more day. It will get easier, I will get back to this. I just told my husband that we're getting older, that it's only going to get worse and more difficult to get back into shape. It's time. Right now. So I did it. I put on workout clothes, dropped my kids off at school, and went to a nearby trail that I knew I would enjoy since I don't care for running on city sidewalks. It was magnificent. In all honesty, I only went for 20 minutes. Then I came home and did 20 minutes of yoga. But that's ok, I'm giving myself grace as long as I stick to it. Tomorrow will be a little bit longer, and each day after that, will be longer time and longer distance.

I'm going to keep up with my kids, I'm going to be healthy, I'm going to take care of my one and only body and life. There are no more excuses and I'm going to hold myself accountable and develop my discipline again. What are you waiting for? Lace up, let's go!

I went a month without grocery shopping, then spent $165 the following month

It might not seem possible these days to not spend $300+ per month on groceries. But it is. I don't walk out of the store spending more than $100 these days, and certainly not over $200 for the month. For the past two years, I've been determined to cut down on groceries. It didn't seem right that I had to spend so much money on feeding my family well.

I find myself increasingly overwhelmed when it comes to shopping these days. Determined to go on bigger family trips, cut back on consumerism, and cut out debt, I really want to make our purchases worth it. It started with purging foods completely out of our diet that we just didn't need anymore. Then I went to our regular shopping habits and determined if we actually need the things we're buying. Fast forward to our grocery bill and a strong desire to eat healthy and teach my children good food habits, and I'd say our success is near!

Two summers ago, I started my first vegetable garden. This past summer, I included a greenhouse. I don't provide enough to sustain our family yet, but I do cut out some things when the harvest is good. I have a really small yard and very little experience, so don't be discouraged, it's possible and it helps drastically.

Before I get into how I've made these changes, let me assure you that you truly have to be determined to make these changes. It takes time set aside, getting through the adjustments, and being mentally and physically strong, but it also takes a lot of grace. For example, if you aren't someone who drinks water, it is really hard to give up the sugary and caffeinated beverages you usually have. In fact, water tastes utterly bland and boring. Your body needs it more than anything else. While I don't cut out everything, I allow myself to indulge from time to time, but it's not frequent and it's not going to affect my spending habits overall. You just have to give yourself and your body the time to adapt.

The first major cut on our food bill was NO fast food. Eating out can be a treat, so make it one. We used to eat out once a week, maybe two. Now, we maybe eat out once a month. So, here are a few of our most valuable tips and lessons we've learned.

  • You can grow many fruits and vegetables year round, you can grow many of those in containers right on your porch or in a sunny window spot. Money saver!
  • It is all in your mind. Set aside time to prepare fresh snacks (cut up fruits and veggies, cheese and meat, etc). If you don't have the time, there is no other option (this is one of the hardest thing to teach yourself).
  • One of my big problems while grocery shopping, were impulse purchases. If you can't justify a purchase, don't buy it. If it's easier to make yourself, do it. I am in constant debate with myself, but it's gotten so much easier.
  • My husband loves to roam aisles. If you don't need to go down an aisle, don't. Simple enough, right? I typically shop the outside of the store (produce + meat), except for flour and a few spices.
  • Sometimes we plan meals for the week, other times we don't. It really helps though, because it gives you time to be prepared. Being prepared is the key to eating healthy and spending less.
  • Eat what you have, not just what you want. Meal prep helps here. I heard someone recently say this is their biggest problem with using up what they already have and spending. Well, last month when I decided not to purchase anymore groceries, I would creatively come up with new meals based solely on what was on hand. When I couldn't think of anything, I'd type in a few items I did have into google and found new recipes to try! Win!
  • The biggest decision we made as parents is to feed our kids what we eat. There are no special kid-friendly dishes. We will leave our the extra spices and only add them to ours if it might make their meal too spicy, but that's about it. There is one exception - when you have small kids, they favor easy, finger foods. In this case, I cut up small pieces of what I'm preparing and make a plate for them that way.
  • When my kids ask for something at the store, our rule is that they have to be able to pronounce everything on the label. They also love picking a new fruit or vegetable we haven't tried or had in awhile.
  • I try to make lists, and usually stick to them, but I'm not the best at always remembering the list, or sticking to it. Either way, no impulses. 
  • This might be the biggest and most important part of eating healthy and saving money on groceries: STOP buying pre-packaged foods
    • For example: A box of prepackaged applesauce snacks range from $10-$30. A 20 lb box of apples from the produce market is $10-20. I can make over 10 jars of applesauce and apple butter with those. Then, I make cinnamon apples for a snack, oatmeal and muffins, and have plenty of apples left over for easy snacks. You're paying for convenience here and while it's nice to have, it's really not necessary.
    • Example 2: A package of decent granola bars are about $5. I can buy an entire container of oatmeal for about $2-3 and spend 10 minutes adding honey and raisins, chocolate, nuts, fruit, etc... and have an entire pan of granola bars. I could probably make 20 pans with the box of oats.
    • Don't have time to make those things? Sure you do, schedule time when you'll be home. It's an easy project to include your kids on and do together. You'll be amazed what your kids will like to make, mine love to make their own bread.
  • I go to the farmer's market when they're in season and a local produce stand for all fruits and veggies. And once a month, or every other, I'll buy meats and pantry staples.
  • When seasonally available, I purchase big boxes of fruits and veggies to prepare and can or freeze. If you don't can, that's ok. You can freeze things instead.
  • We cut our meat intake in half. One day, I realized that we didn't need to consume nearly as much as we were, especially because the cost of meat is pretty hefty these days. Start cutting up your chicken breasts and split that among your family (whether butterflying meat, shredding, or dicing). I can use 2 instead of 4 that way. 
  • Fresh herbs are way better. At the produce stand, I purchased 2 bundles of cilantro for $1. To get a good jar at the store would've cost around $5. Know what else, it's super easy to dry and store yourself. Better yet, growing your own herbs is super easy and fun!
  • Just over a year ago, I developed an intolerance to dairy. Sad, sad day. I kept buying the usual things for my family, because they were just fine with dairy. But over time, I kind of forgot. Guess what though? We only purchase one gallon of milk a week, some yogurt, and minimal cheese these days. None of us really miss it anymore either. Not only are you cutting back those extra calories, but tons of $ too! Side note: Calcium and Vitamin D are found in many vegetables!
  • We love our condiments, and they'll last a good amount of time, but there were many that we didn't need in our diet anymore. Ranch and Blue Cheese are the biggest ones for us. My husband wasn't thrilled with this, but I did come up with a dairy free ranch recipe (using things I have on hand) that even the biggest skeptics seem to love and it's a huge treat to have. Otherwise, it's been manageable to give up. Making your own salad dressing is super simple.
  • No more fruit juices or other flavored drinks. Water is easily flavored (with lemon, lime, mint, or fruit) and all your body needs! Milk, water, tea, and coffee - that's it! Calories cut, money saved!
  • It's an adjustment, be patient. My entire family didn't wake up and excitedly get on board with me on all these things. In fact, it was a labor of love, because I was determined. While I do most of the cooking, my husband can prepare good meals for us when I can't. He's learned just like I have. My husband and kids make their own lunches for work and school as well, and they know to look for leftovers (I always make an extra 2 or more servings per meal) or fresh foods to pack. 

I'm no expert here, but this is simply what I've learned over the past few years as I dedicated this part of my life and my family to eating well, developing good habits, and spending less. It takes time, I can't stress that enough. I give in to cravings when I have them, allow my kids treats sometimes. And I don't put extra stress on myself when I can't make everything I want from scratch. If anything, I've learned that it's ok to still purchase some items that simply make my life easier, but again, I always look at the label! Best of luck, friends!

My 10th Mother's Day

North Cascades | May 2015

After ten years of being a mother, I find that I'm still learning as much now as I was in the beginning. It grows and changes with the years, of course, but it's often a humbling experience to say the least. There are many frustrating days, but asking forgiveness and saying 'I'm sorry' come into place, working your patience until it seems every last drop has escaped are regular encounters. But it's really truly rewarding. So many of us are fortunate enough to have this memorable experience, others of us aren't. And so for the ones who can't feel it all, just know that I am appreciating my children and being a mother every single moment, that I don't take time with them for granted because we never know how long we have it.

So we had a tiny little weekend with just the four of us, we didn't hesitate to live as much as possible in those two glorious days. That our kids know how to pack for an adventure is a bit of an understatement, they're edging on professional. Kate decided to roll her clothes like a burrito (I have no idea where she learned this, honest) to fit in a gift box with her name on it from a few years ago, because she simply wanted to. All the right amount of clothes, books, and the good stuff. Alyx helps his sister settle in like he's been doing it his whole life, and is undoubtedly her comfort if needed. How can I not be grateful for that?

And they know me well, surprising me with gifts that are so sweet and simple. Honestly, I'm always surprised, the trip alone was more than enough. Together was all I needed. I mentioned to my husband a table and chair might fit in my new little garden space, there didn't seem to be any hesitation, it's certainly my most favorite place to be. I'm anxious to sip coffee there in the morning in hopes of seeing a hummingbird stop by.

I hope there was living in your days, glorious moments of being with those you love, simply because that's really what matters most. I'm still learning, and giving myself grace and knowing it's all going to be okay, tomorrow is a new day. How lucky are we?

See our last Mother's day adventure, HERE.


Great minds discuss ideas;
average minds discuss events;
small minds discuss people.
Learn form the mistakes of others,
You can't live long enough to make them all yourself,
To handle yourself, use your head;
To handle others, use your heart.
Many people will walk in and out of your life,
but only true friends will
leave footprints in your heart.

- Eleanor Roosevelt