Friday, February 28, 2014

Part 6 - Events Leading Up to Our Move - The Big Move

This is Part 6, the final segment in a series telling about how we came to the point in our lives where we were willing to sell half of our belongings, give up our lifestyle, and move away from family and friends, including our 3 teenage daughters, and move to the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia so my husband, Chad, could go to seminary. For earlier posts see:

Part 1 How we reconciled our marriage.
Part 2 How we found Dave Ramsey.
Part 3 How we got out of debt.
Part 4 How we desired to live a more simple life. 
Part 5 How we made the decision to sell our house and move to Virginia.

Chad and I sat in the Realtor’s office on June 8th, 2013, just 22 hours after listing our home.  In front of us sat the purchase agreement with an offer for our listing price.  This was the price we needed in order to make moving away to seminary feasible.  The only stipulation in the contract was that we needed to close in just 6 short weeks. 6 weeks!  We didn't even know where to begin.  In a matter of a day everything had turned upside down.  Chad had been fortunate working for a wonderful company for 11 years.  Over the years they had promoted him so he oversaw 12 different banks and had over 70 employees.  He was very, very good at his job.  We had a lovely home in a beautiful neighborhood and no financial worries since getting out of debt in 2011. But by signing the purchase agreement to sell our home we were basically giving it all up.  It would put in motion the plans to give up our lifestyle, his well-paying, stable job, moving across the country, away from our families, and enrolling in seminary.  Oh, and in the midst of all that, getting our 17 year old twin daughters settled in Tennessee, where one would be in college full time, while the other worked full time for a year while she decided what she wanted to do for a career.  Talk about a lot on our plate!! 

I will take a little step aside now and tell you how I hate stress.  Hate it!  I do everything in my life to avoid it.  I like knowing what is happening day to day and do not like the unknown.  I love my quiet, stress free life that I typically have.  But on the other hand I work extremely well under stress. So well in fact that in a matter of weeks not only was I able to travel to Virginia and obtain a for our family, but also an apartment in Tennessee for our 17 year old daughter.  I also rented the U-Haul, sold half of our belongings, and packed up the rest of our house. Chad was still working during that time 60-70 hours a week, so basically the move was up to me.  It is still somewhat of a blur in my mind looking back.

When looking for a place for us to live in Virginia I had one stipulation if I moved:  I wanted to live in the country. I grew up in the country and had longed to move back for years.  Not only that, I still had a desire to have a garden, raise chickens, and hang our wash on the clothesline; something that isn't too feasible in town. Also, with a 12 year old boy who loves anything and everything to do with outdoors and our yellow lab, Koda, a country house seemed ideal for our family.

Because of Koda and our limited budget, house after house fell through.  Most rentals do not take large dogs, something I could understand, but they didn't know MY dog.  

He is well behaved and a part of our family.  I call him my 5 th child.  (Yes, I’m one of “those kind” of dog owners.)  Finally, I found a country house in our price range, but of course it said “no pets”.  I decided to email the people anyway, telling them our story, hoping the idea of an older seminary student and his family would help our case.  After visiting with the lady on the phone, and driving 1,200 miles out to meet her in person, I was able to obtain the quaint little country house on lease.  And when I say quaint, I mean basically original to 1910 when it was built, with the narrow doorways, low ceilings, and chipping paint.  But it suited our needs.  It was in a beautiful, safe location just a short drive from Chad’s school.  It was surrounded by fields with mountains in the distance, giving me the peace and quiet I desired.  And it had a big yard for our son as well as ponds and hunting grounds for him to explore.  The house, while simple and shabby, had plenty of room.   The kitchen was big enough for me to do the cooking I loved and it had a yard the landlords said I could till up for a garden and raise chickens.

Chad had given his notice when we listed our house, but his last day was not until August 2nd.  With our closing being in 6 weeks, that meant we needed to be out of our house by July 15, leaving us a good three weeks in limbo.  On closing day we pulled out of our cul-de-sac and lovely neighborhood saying goodbye to our life we had lived for the past 11 years.  I cried a bit, but was excited for the future.  After 2 days on the road we arrived in Tennessee where we unloaded and kissed goodbye our 17 year old little girls, and traveled on to Virginia.  We spent a few days there unpacking our belongings before heading back to Nebraska for 2 weeks for Chad to finish up work.  We were able to stay with a friend and had a few weeks to spend time with our friends and family, especially our oldest daughter, Oksana, who was 19. On August 5th Chad, Rem, and I pulled out of Nebraska and headed off for Virginia and our new adventure.

We have now lived here a little over 6 months and it feels like home.  Chad greatly enjoys his classes and we love the beautiful area we are in and the people we are meeting.  We do miss our family and friends though, especially our girls.  But we know that this is where we need to be at this point in our lives.  We get asked a lot if Chad plans to be a pastor.  After much discussion on the matter we both have agreed that is not the career path he will be taking with his degree.  He certainly wants to work in some kind of Christian field, perhaps in a college environment, either teaching or working with outreach ministries within the school.  He currently works part-time for the college he attends now; placing undergrad student with local churches, and loves his job. His job is flexible enough so he can balance school, work, and family time, for which we are thankful.

So that is our story….It is amazing how we were brought from one place to another.   

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Recipe - Strawberry Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Even though I have been wheat and dairy free this month I still have had my fair share of sweets.  Instead of going to the store and spending money on sweets with many ingredients I can’t pronounce and with artificial colors and flavors, I like to make my own sweets at home. Not to mention, have you seen the price of gluten-free treats?   But making sweets without flour, milk, or butter gets a little tricky.  I have experimented this month with everything from gluten free brownie-in-a-cup to coconut milk hot cocoa; neither of which scored too high on the "tastes good list".  If I am going to eat a sweet it needs to be worth the calories I am eating, and both of those were definitely not worth it.

Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day with temps close to 70.  Chad and I took Koda on a walk mid-day with the sun beating down. Pair exercise and sunshine together, and by the time I got home I was craving ice cream.  Now of course, ice cream is a no-no on my food list, so I needed to make due.  Enter coconut milk, fresh strawberries, organic raw sugar, and my Cuisinart Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt & Sorbet Maker. In about 30 minutes I was able to whip up about a quart of this deliciousness and it totally satisfied my ice cream craving.  Not to mention since it was made with coconut milk it was full of healthy fats.   While I still like good old fashioned ice cream made with fresh cream, this is a very good substitute for those who are dairy intolerant.  The Cuisenart machine was picked up at Sam’s Club a few years ago for under $75.  An old fashioned hand crank ice cream machine would work as well.

Here is the simple recipe I used:

Strawberry Coconut Milk Ice Cream

2 cups fresh strawberries, stems removed and quartered
¾ cup sugar (I used raw organic sugar, also known as rapadura)
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ fresh lemon, squeezed
2 ¼ cups full fat coconut milk (I buy the stuff in a can that you can find in the Asian section)

In a blender pulse strawberries, sugar, vanilla, and lemon until smooth.   Let this sit in a fridge for up to 2 hours.  (I’ll admit, I usually skip this step, but it does help bring out the strawberry flavor.) Next, pulse the coconut milk into the strawberry mixture until smooth.  Pour into whatever kind of ice cream maker you have.  My Cuisinart machine takes about 25 minutes for the ice cream to be soft serve.  This is best eaten immediately as soft serve.  If you do have leftovers you can store in the freezer, but it will freeze solid.

** Another idea if you do not have an ice cream machine is to pulse the mixture until smooth and add to popsicle molds and freeze. Since this freezes solid it works well for popsicles. 

** Want real ice cream?  Swap out the coconut milk for 1 cup whole milk and 1 ¼ cups heavy whipping cream for a traditional strawberry ice cream.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Part 5 - Events Leading Up to Our Move - The Turning Point

This is Part 5 of a series telling about how we came to the point in our lives where we were willing to sell half of our belongings, give up our lifestyle, and move away from family and friends, including our 3 teenage daughters, and move to the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia so my husband, Chad, could go to seminary. For earlier posts see:

Part 1 How we reconciled our marriage.
Part 2 How we found Dave Ramsey.
Part 3 How we got out of debt.
Part 4 How we desired to live a more simple life. 

In August of 2012 Chad started online classes working towards his masters in Biblical Studies.  3 months into classes for Chad and a turning point came.  The classes were not exactly what he had been wanting.  The time spent, the cost, and the quality of the learning materials were not what he had hoped they would be. Since he was not in a classroom setting there were no lectures and no other classmates to interact with, leaving the learning experience something to be desired.  At about this same time, he was offered a fairly significant promotion at the bank.  With this promotion came a pay raise, and also many, many hours on the road.  With school not being what he had hoped, he finished the class and did not enroll for the next semester and took the promotion with the bank.  Chad was still able to teach his Sunday school class and decided maybe God wanted him to stay with the bank so he could support others who worked in the ministry.

We continued this way for 6 months, putting the extra money he was making in our savings.  We were also able to help support more ministries.  But I could tell things were not going well for Chad.  While he enjoyed his job and the people he worked with, the time spent on the road was wearying him.  He had very little time in Bible study and our evening family time was cut greatly by him coming home late or working from his home office.  I knew things were not ok, and I kept asking him what we could do differently.  He didn’t know.  Should he find another job? Should we downsize?  Should we move back to our old community so he could be more involved with church programs there?  None of these options seemed like the right one.

Finally, one day he told me something had to change.  The desire to learn more about the Bible to be better equipped in sharing it with others was still something he wanted to do.  If I had learned anything over the previous 10 years of our marriage, it’s that if I let my husband do the ministries he loves, and by encouraging him, he is so much better equipped as a husband and a father.  This is something he desperately needs in order to be a balanced person. Chad is one who loves to interact with other like-minded men and is a person who learns better in a classroom setting.  I asked him if it would help if we moved so he could do schooling on-site. He thought possibly, but that was a big step to take – to sell everything and move halfway across the country.  But I knew something had to change. Perhaps this was it?  

Our 2 middle daughters were graduating at that time and already planning to move to Tennessee that fall for college and careers. That would leave only our son, Chad, and me as our oldest daughter had moved out in 2012.  With only the three of us, our expenses would be lower; but we would still have to be really frugal if he was going to be a full-time college student for 3 ½ years.  I wanted Chad to be able to devote himself to schooling and not have to worry about working; in order to do that we would have to have enough in savings to live on for that amount time.  We crunched numbers, and crunched them again, and came up with a number of how much we would need to live simply for the next 3 ½ years.  We calculated how much we would need to sell our house for and shook our heads.  We would never get that much for our house, even with the improvements we had recently made. Regardless of this, we decided to talk to a realtor. Interestingly, when he came to inspect our house he suggested we list it for $5,000 more than what we thought we would need.  Although we still did not have hopes of it selling for that price, we took his advice and put our house on the market the week after our twin daughters' graduation party.   

It sold in 22 hours for full asking price.  We had got our answer.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Day 24 & 25 No Wheat/Dairy

Saturday, Day 24
Today was a fairly good day over all.  I had some minor tummy issues after supper, but nothing too serious.  It could be that I was super busy all day and didn't have time to eat much, thus stuffing myself at supper.  My back has been hurting very badly today so my only exercise was a 30 minute walk with Koda and Chad this morning.  I know I need to do some yoga, but by this evening I could hardly walk, much less bend and stretch for yoga. L

Breakfast: 16 oz room temp water with ½ organic lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee

Lunch: 4 oz pulled pork, 1 banana

Snack: 1 cup herbal tea with honey

Supper: chicken fajita meat and vegetables served on Mexican rice, corn chips, and pico de gallo

Snack: 6 oz homemade coconut milk hot cocoa

7 – 16 oz glasses of water

Sunday, Day 25

Today was another good day with no tummy issues. I think it is safe to say that cutting out wheat and dairy has been good for helping everything get back to almost normal.  Today was beautiful day.  Chad and I enjoyed taking Koda on a 30 minute walk.  I was also able to do a small amount yoga before bed.

Breakfast: 16 oz room temp water with ½ organic lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee, ½ apple, 1 clementine

Lunch: Leftover Mexican chicken, vegetables and rice, corn chips with pico de gallo

Snack: Homemade strawberry coconut milk ice cream (recipe coming on Wednesday)

Supper: Homemade popcorn, green shake

7 - 16 oz glasses of water

Have a great day!!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Day 22 & 23 No Wheat/ Dairy

Thursday, Day 22,

Today was another day of feeling good.  I have gone a good week now without any tummy issues what-so-ever! Workouts today were 2 - 30 minute walks with Koda as well as 45 minutes of weights, planks, push ups, dips, and stretching.

Breakfast: 16 oz room temp water with ½ lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee

Lunch: Leftover Thai Noodles, 1 cup coffee

Snack: 1 handful almonds

Supper: 6 oz chicken breast, 1 cup asparagus sautéed with coconut oil, garlic, and sea salt, 1 clementine

Snack: 2 cups herbal tea with honey

7 – 16 oz glasses of water

Friday, Day 23

I feel like a broken record but I am feeling good today and have plenty of energy.  Chad and I went on date this afternoon so my meal times were all messed up.  He does not get of work until 2:00 so I eat a late lunch/early supper and then a larger snack in the evening.  Today’s exercise was only a 15 minute walk with Koda as it was rainy and windy.  My back has been bothering me so it might be better to rest it anyway.  It was pretty sore last night after all of yesterday’s workouts.

Breakfast: 16 oz room temp water with ½ lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee, 1 banana, 1 handful of almonds

Lunch: homemade popcorn popped in coconut oil with sea salt

Supper: chicken, vegetables, and rice bowl from Chipotle with corn chips, 1 soy chai from Starbucks

Snack: 1 cup herbal tea with honey, 1 apple, 1 large handful pistachios

7 – 16 oz glasses of water

Have a nice weekend, friends!

Part 4 - Events Leading Up to Our Move - 2012

This is the Part 4 of a series telling about how we came to the point in our lives where we were willing to sell half of our belongings, give up our lifestyle and move away from family and friends, including our 3 teenage daughters and move to the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia so my husband, Chad, could go to seminary. For earlier posts, click on the links directly below.

After reconciling our marriage in 2009, getting control of my spending and finding Dave Ramsey in 2010, and getting out of debt in 2011, 2012 was an interesting year for us.  After years of being in debt, we both kind of sat back and thought, now what? The next step in Dave’s plan was to save 3-6 months of expenses, so we began adding to our savings account.   We also added extra envelopes for updates to our home, travel, and savings for a different car for me someday. Instead of going out and buying a different car and financing it, we put an equivalent of a “car payment” away in savings and I continued to drive my Suburban.  Here are some thing we were able to pay for with cash since we had been putting money aside in envelopes.

1: We put a new air conditioning unit in our house when the old one died.  This expense was covered mostly by what we had been setting aside in the “household” envelope. We did have to take a little from savings, but not much! It was so wonderful that it didn't put us in a financial bind.

2: We were able to help our twin daughters buy cars; (we matched their savings up to a certain amount for their cars).   We were able to use our tax refund for this.  Any other year our tax refund went to debt. It was wonderful being able to assist them in buying something they had been saving for for many years.

3:  We paid for our middle daughter’s braces.  We had been adding money to a Health Saving Account monthly and were able to pay the entire sum in cash, saving us 10%!

4: We paid for our oldest daughter’s graduation party after setting aside money each month for the year leading up to it.  I also shopped sales for party supplies and food and was able to buy 50 pounds of roast for sandwiches at her party for $1 per pound. By doing the food myself we were able to provide a nice meal at the party for about $1.25 per person.

5:  After saving for about 6 months we went to Colorado on a hiking trip for our 10th anniversary. We stayed in a simple house in a quiet neighborhood with a lower rental fee.  This worked fine since we were mostly out hiking.  It came equipped with a kitchen, so instead of eating out we cooked most of our meals and only went out to dinner twice. We enjoyed going out for dessert out a little more often, but it was much cheaper than eating out 3 meals and snacks a day.

Paying for things with cash from money we had set aside was a totally new experience for us.  Our savings was growing more slowly with the added expenses, but regardless, we were able to add significant amounts each month.  For the most part we continued to use cash, although I would use my debit card more for the ease of paying when grocery shopping. I was able to keep track of each expense in a money program to keep my spending on track within each virtual “envelope”.  

That year, my grocery spending took even more of an overhaul than when we were trying to get out of debt.  We switched to mostly whole, organic, foods, and I made many of my own cleaning products, lotions, and personal care products. I started a small garden plot and grew the vegetables we ate the most of and also frequented the farmer’s market which also saved a great deal.  I also started to buy in bulk.  I make my own bread, buns, and tortillas, so we buy 25 pounds of wheat every few months which I grind into flour.  We also buy honey, oatmeal, nuts, dried fruit, raw, organic sugar, and olive and coconut oil in bulk.  With these I made my own granola, bars, trail mix, and cookies for a quick breakfast or snack. Even with buying organic I was able to lower our grocery budget $200 more per month by being mindful of what we were eating, buying in bulk, and eating in season, when possible.  We also went mostly paperless.  I bought some cloth napkins on clearance for about the price of a package of paper napkins. We still use these after over 2 years and they are in great shape. We also had cloth cleaning rags we used in the kitchen to greatly reduce our paper towel usage.  All of these little changes added up to big savings.

During this time I found I had a real love for doing things the “old fashioned” way.  I realize that this isn't for everyone, that some women work full-time or part-time, or that some simply do not have an interest in spending hours a day in the kitchen.  That is ok! That is the beauty of our country that women have so many different options.  But this is what I loved and what worked for my family.  Chad, too, loved the home cooked food and the savings we had by my making things at home.  After staying out of stores for so long I had really lost the desire to shop like I once had. And my mind had slowly shifted from what I consumed to how I could save.  I actually made more selling clothes that year than I spent buying them.  I loved the freedom being debt free (except for our house) provided.  

But in the midst of this, the desire to get out of the rat race of our typical suburban life was becoming more prevalent in my mind.  Let me say right now, we were SO fortunate to have what we had, but even though I was thankful for our beautiful home and nice neighborhood, I had the desire to have a quieter, simpler life.  I wanted a life where I could quietly serve my family, raise more of my own food, and perhaps someday help and encourage young women who also had similar desires.

Chad during this time was having a desire as well; to learn and share more about the Bible.  He loved sharing with other men and encouraging them in their walk with God.  He also greatly enjoyed teaching his adult Sunday school class. He wanted to be better equipped to do both of these things, so after talking it over with me, he decided to enroll in seminary online, while continuing to do his job at the bank.  So in August of 2012 he started classes.  This caused people to ask what he planned on doing with this degree.  While at that moment, he did not have a clear picture, he felt it would be shown to him in time.

I was not sure how our two desires would mesh, but we talked.  The more we talked the more I realized our desires were similar.  While I wanted to have a quiet, more simple place to devote myself my family, Chad wanted to have a simpler life so he could devote himself to learning more about God and perhaps encouraging others along in their Christian walk.  We both craved a more simple life so we would have the time to reach out to others. Even though we had simplified our lives drastically, there was still the house payment that had to be made and the regular 8-6 job that needed to be kept to pay for it, leaving not much time for him to devote to his desire.  We did think we could sell our house and downsize, but what exactly would we need to do so Chad could spend more time doing what he loved best?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day 20 & 21 No Wheat/Dairy

Hello, friends!!  I am coming down the stretch of my 30 day no wheat and dairy challenge.  While I like that these posts help keep me accountable to staying on my plan, I know they are not the most interesting to read.  Starting next month I will still have occasional health posts, but the daily journal will stop.  I still plan to stay wheat and dairy free-ish, but I will not be as strict as I have been this month. I have definitely seen a positive difference in how I feel when wheat and dairy are removed from my diet, but on the other hand, I don't want it to rule my life.  It will be a balancing act for sure.  I have found many great substitutes this month and hopefully will continue to find new ways of making my old favorites in the future. On day 30 I will have a full recap, so stay tuned!  

Tuesday, Day 20

Today was a fairly good day, other than back pain.  My tummy has felt fine.  Exercise today was two 30 minute walks with Koda, (one with Chad, too) and 30 minutes of yoga. The beautiful weather has returned to Virginia, and since the days are longer Chad and I can start walking Koda together in the evening again!

Breakfast: 16 oz glass of water with ½ lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee, 1 apple, 1 handful of raw almonds

Lunch: 2 cups Simple Pico De Gallo with corn chips, (yes, I can eat that much pico in one shot, I LOVE it!) 1 cup coffee

Supper: 6 oz pulled pork, salad with dried apple and pecans, green beans sautéed with coconut oil and garlic, carrot sticks

Snack: 1 cup herbal tea with raw honey

7 -16 oz glasses of water

Wednesday, Day 21

Today was another good day as far as my tummy goes.  I had a massage today so my back is feeling quite good tonight, too.  I have found massages are good for helping easing the back pain I experience. Now I just need to find a chiropractor here in Virginia as well. Exercise today was two 30 minute walks with Koda and 45 minutes of yoga before bed.

Breakfast:  16 oz glass of water with ½ lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee, 1 green shake, 1 handful of raw almonds

Snack: Carrot sticks, 1 handful of corn chips

Early Supper: Spicy Thai Noodles, 1 clementine

Snack: Homemade gluten free brownie, 1 handful pistachios, 1 cup herbal tea with honey

7 - 16 oz glasses of water

I found a recipe online to make myself a one serving brownie-in-a-cup for those nights I have a sweet tooth.  I substituted coconut oil for the butter and gluten free all purpose flour for the regular flour.  Other than being a bit chalky it was pretty tasty, and took care of my chocolate craving. 

Only 8 more days to go!  Have a great day!  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Recipe - Simple Pico De Gallo

Today I have a recipe for one of my favorite foods. This is usually more of a summer time food for me, but yesterday I was craving it so I made due with what I had in the kitchen.  This is a super easy-to-make recipe and best with vegetables fresh from the garden or Farmer’s Market.  But today, even in the dead of winter, it was pretty tasty with canned tomatoes and vegetables from the store.  And, of course, it's wheat and dairy free. 

Simple Pico De Gallo

2 cups roma tomatoes, core removed and chopped, (or 1 can diced tomatoes, drained)
1 - 2 jalapeños, seeds removed and minced (I used one larger jalapeno today)
¼ cup onion, minced
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced or put through a garlic press
Juice of ½ lime
1 teaspoon raw sugar
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Drizzle of olive oil

Chop all vegetables and place in bowl. Squeeze lime; add spices, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Combine gently. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

This can be served with chips or tacos or even on a grilled chicken breast.  In the summer when I have tomatoes and jalapeños in the garden I make this almost daily! I usually use Roma tomatoes, but any kind should work in this recipe.  If you are going to make it in the winter, I would suggest you use canned or thawed frozen tomatoes rather than the "fresh" ones you get from the store.  This time of the year "fresh" tomatoes have no flavor what-so-ever, and who knows how long they have been sitting on the shelves.  Even with canned tomatoes this beats store bought salsa any day!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Day 18 & 19 No Wheat/Dairy

Monday I had a major cooking fail in the gluten and dairy free department.  I woke up craving pancakes.  Knowing that I am not allowed to eat things like that I tried to forget about it and proceed with my day, but as usual the craving stayed.  I went to the internet and googled recipes for gluten and dairy free pancakes and found one with ingredients I have here at the house.  I had just picked up some all-purpose gluten free flour yesterday, so I thought I would give pancakes a shot. The recipe called for applesauce, but I substituted mashed bananas.

I mixed them up and they looked quite promising, the batter was similar to regular pancake batter and they smelled quite good while cooking.  But things started going downhill from there.  First of all they stuck to my pan terribly, even though I greased it well with coconut oil.  Regardless of the fact, I put my newly-formed-muscles (my weight circuit is paying off!) into scraping them off the pan and flipping them.  Now they were a bit crinkled, but still looked and smelled eatable so I let them cook a few more minutes.  Excitedly I got out my plate and again, scraped them off the pan and onto my plate where I ran a small amount of maple syrup over them.  Sitting down I took my first, highly anticipated bite.  I’m not sure how to exactly describe the flavor or texture.  A gooey, slimy, lump of cinnamon and banana flavored chalk, would probably be the best description. Yuck!

Now for a fairly accomplished cook, having unappetizing food is not something I deal with too often.  Not since the whole peanut butter noodle recipe fiasco in 2005. (Somehow that was supposed to taste like a peanut/thai dish but it ended up being hot peanut butter paste on noodles.  Quite nasty.)  I hate to waste food so I downed the 3 pancakes, which ended up sitting in my tummy like a rock for the next few hours.  I think I will go back to my green shakes…..

Sunday, Day 18

Sunday was a good day for my tummy, but I had a headache all day, so no exercise was done.  Not sure what caused a headache unless it was that I watched a movie the night before and was on the computer a good deal.  I often get headaches from eye strain.

Breakfast: 16 oz water with ½ lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee

Lunch: 6 oz chicken breast with 1 cups broccoli sautéed in coconut oil with sea salt and spices, 1 apple

Snack 1: carrot and celery sticks, 2 cups coffee

Snack 2: pistachios

Supper: spaghetti with quinoa gluten free noodles

Snack:  herbal tea with honey

7 – 16 oz glasses of water

Monday, Day 19

Monday my tummy was still feeling fine.  My headache was gone so I had a productive day.  Took Koda on a 30 minute brisk walk, did 45 minutes of my weight circuit, and did 20 minutes of yoga before bed.

Breakfast: 16 oz water with ½ lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee

Lunch: gluten free pancakes with maple syrup (gag me!)

Snack 1: 1 handful of almonds, 1 clementine

Snack 2: 1 handful corn chips, carrot sticks

Supper: homemade chicken strips with almond breading, roasted potatoes, and steamed broccoli

7 – 16 oz glasses of water

Have a great day, friends!!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Confessions of a Former Shopaholic

A brief side story; in 2006 I walked into Banana Republic to behold a cozy, blue, cashmere sweater.  I wanted it.  I needed it.  It was cashmere, the ultimate in luxury!    It was priced at, GASP, $160.  For 1 sweater.  And not even a fancy sweater, mind you, but one that looked like a sweatshirt.  

I went back and forth thinking of all the (imagined) envious looks I would receive from the friends who (I imagined) wanted a cashmere sweater.  So what that my Banana Republic credit card balance was over $1,000 and my Chase card was over $2,500.  It was Christmas for crying out loud and my family needed nice gifts.  That was why the credit card balance was so high.  And after spending so much on them I “deserved” a cozy sweater to wear while shopping for them.  So I bought it, for regular price; but hey, I got points on my card!  

Fast forward to 2012.  I had gained 20 pounds so the cute, cashmere sweater has been sitting in my closet since 2007, unworn.  For the past 3 garage sales I had tried to sell it, for $20 of course - it's a $160 cashmere sweater!  No luck, so I took it to my consignment shop thinking perhaps someone will recognize its quality and buy it.  No one buys it.  I had another garage sale in May.  Disgusted that I have not been able to sell it, I lower the price to $4.  $4 for a cashmere sweater, what a deal!  The garage sale goes on for 2 days and no one buys that darn sweater.  The last 2 hours of the sale I mark all but a few items down to 25 cents. The sweater is included.  A nice lady walks out of my garage with a $160 cashmere sweater for 25 cents.  I sit back and marvel at how stupid I was in 2006.  I've come a long way, baby!

 Here is an old picture of me in the infamous sweater.  And oh, the $160 Uggs and $150 premium jeans I bought about the same time. I was setting such a wonderful example for my daughter. (Insert sarcasm here!)  As you can see she was trying to mimicked how I looked.  What other parts of my life was she trying to mimic?  

And by the way, I have no problem at all with people buying $160 sweaters, Uggs, and premium denim skinny jeans, if they have the cash and can afford it. I have several high dollar items I have bought with cash over the past few years that I love and use/wear regularly.  I saved for them or purchased them with money gifted to me.  My point is I did NOT have the cash and at the time could definitely NOT afford it.  Please don’t make the same mistakes as me, my friends, it only leads to heartache!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Day 16 & 17 No Wheat/Dairy

Friday, Day 16 

Today I felt good.  I had plenty of energy all day and no tummy issues or pain.   Chad and I had a nice lunch date for Valentine’s Day at Chipotle.  Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy gluten and dairy free options there, not to mention we had a buy one get one free coupon!  No fancy date for us, we were in and out for less than 10 bucks!! But that is ok; we have fun just going out, wherever the place may be.  We were blessed to be gifted some money at Christmas time that we use for our weekly dates, otherwise with our budget it would be much less often.  The snow is already starting to melt here so Chad and I were able to take Koda on a walk in the afternoon after our date.  I also did 45 minutes of yoga before bed.

Breakfast: 16 oz glass water with ½ lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee, 1 handful almonds, 1 banana

Snack: 2 cups herbal tea with honey

Lunch: Date with Chad at Chipotle.  Rice bowl with brown rice, chicken and heavy vegetables, salsa and corn chips

Snack: Soy Chai from Starbucks (I realize these are not good for me, but I believe it is ok to have one of these drinks occasionally.  It’s all about moderation and being healthy MOST of the time!)

Supper: homemade chili, celery and carrot sticks, 1 clementine

7 - 16 oz glasses of water

Saturday, Day 17

Today I felt so-so. A few minor tummy pains in the morning and afternoon, but they went away by afternoon.  I felt pretty tired all day though so I did not do a work out.  The weather was dreary, which may have caused some of the tiredness…well that and the few hours spent on the computer writing for this blog!!

Breakfast: 16 oz glass water with ½ lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee, breakfast rice with raisins, raw honey, cinnamon, and almond milk.

Snack: 1 cup herbal tea with honey, 1 handful almonds

Lunch: green smoothie

Supper: Thai Noodles, 1 clementine

Snack:  1 handful pistachios

7 - 16 oz glasses of water

Have a blessed day, friends!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Day 14 & 15 No Wheat/Dairy

Day 15

Thursday, Day 15: Today marks the halfway point of my no wheat/dairy experiment. While I definitely can see a difference in how I feel, it hasn’t been the cure-all I was hoping for.  I still have days where my IBS flares up, but I am thankful now it only seems like once or twice a week rather than every day. I know the next step would be to cut out all grains, but at this point in my life I am not willing to do that. I love to cook (and eat!), cutting out so many of my favorite foods is just as discouraging as feeling badly all the time.  We will see how the rest of the month shapes up.  In better news, I have lost about 2 inches around my tummy area, (the area where I tend to gain weight first) and about 6 pounds.

Today was a beautiful snowy day and Chad had a snow day from school!  I had a few issues earlier on today with my tummy, but by late afternoon they were gone.  My energy was up today, too. Chad, Koda, and I went out and played in the snow for about a half hour since the roads were not clear enough for a walk. I also did my 30 minute weight circuit and about 20 minutes of yoga.

Breakfast: 16 oz water with ½ organic lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee, green smoothie with almond milk.

Lunch: leftover red curry with jasmine rice

Snack: 2 cups coffee (snow days equal lots of coffee consumption), 1 handful pistachios

Supper: homemade chicken noodle soup with rice noodles instead of wheat noodles, 1 apple

Snack: homemade popcorn made with coconut oil and sea salt (can’t have a movie night without popcorn!), 2 cups herbal tea with raw honey

Day 14

Wednesday, Day 14: Felt so-so today. Had some tummy issues all day and energy was pretty low.  Today was a total rest day as far as exercise, including a walk, since we had snowy, unplowed roads.

Breakfast: 16 oz water with ½ organic lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee

Lunch: Leftover Red Curry with jasmine rice, 1 clementine, 1 handful pistachios

Supper: 6 oz roasted white/dark chicken without skin, mashed red potatoes, salad

Snack: 8 oz chocolate homemade almond milk, homemade gluten/dairy free brownie-in-a-cup (major chocolate craving going on tonight!)

Have a great day, friends!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Our Love Story

In honor of Valentine’s Day I thought I would share the story of how Chad and I met.  Ours is an unusual story, just like everything else in our lives. J And while this post is a little long, I really think you'll enjoy hearing our story.

Before I can start the story I need to tell you a little of my background before we met.  I married at 16 (yes, you read that right, 16) to my high school boyfriend, Jeremy.  On May 27th, 2001, just 7 months before Chad and I met, Jeremy died of a medical condition while fishing by himself one day.  I was left a widow at the age of 24 with 3 little girls and a little boy on the way.  I was 8 months pregnant at the time of his death. The next 7 months following were full of tears, trials, and growth as I had never been on my own before.  I would not have survived if it had not been for my church family who loved on me, helped me, and prayed for me through that time. As you can imagine, the last thing on my mind when January rolled around was looking for a boyfriend.  Not to mention I had no great hope of any man coming into my life and not only loving me, but also my 4 children.  But I was ok with this.  I had plans to move forward with my life, possibly going to college and then on to a career, but also to move to a neighboring community.  This was not something I had envisioned for myself, I had always wanted to be more focused at home, but I knew I needed something for my future.  

My good friends, Renee and Melissa, had thought they would use their match-making skills to find me a man, or at least another single person who I could spend my time with.  Renee knew Chad from the bank he was working at and had enough conversations with him to find out he was a great guy, single, and involved in a church and singles group at a nearby community church.   They knew I had plans to possibly move to this community and even though they assured me that their only idea was to find me some new friends, looking back I can see what their motive was.  J So Renee talked Chad into calling me, telling him of my plans to possibly move and of my background losing my husband.  Thinking of me as a ministry opportunity, Chad called me on January 16th, 2002.  Our conversation ended up being 100 minutes long as we talked about our background, families, hobbies, and spiritual beliefs.  At the end of the conversation he asked if I would be willing to go out to dinner the following week, to which I agreed.  While I really was not interested in a “boyfriend” at the time, I was still excited for the day of our “blind date” to arrive.  My friends had refused to give me much details on him other than he was a nice man.

To say I was blown away when we met would be an understatement.  Not only was he extremely good looking, but he was an all around genuine person.  He too, was attracted to me, although, at the time neither one of us showed it in any way to one another.  We had a great time on our dinner talking more about our lives, backgrounds, and future plans; although I kept saying to myself he was only doing this to get Renee off his back and I most likely would not hear from him again.  Interestingly enough, 3 days later he called me and asked me to go to a hockey game with him.  Another great time was had by both of us at the game and the dinner we went to afterwards.  For an introvert like me this was nerve racking, but as the evening wore on I found that I was able to be more myself as I got to know him better.  The following 2 weeks we talked on the phone a few times and he came to my house to watch a movie with the kids and I.  It was then he asked me to go to a town 75 miles away for dinner at a very, very nice restaurant.  There was something in this request that made me very nervous.  This was not a hockey game, or a movie, or a conversation on the phone.   This was something more serious.  I already had felt myself wondering where this was going and thoughts about how I didn’t want a “boyfriend” were almost a thing of the past.  While we still had not really shown each other how attracted we were to each other, this request made me think that there was the possibility of our relationship becoming more serious.  Chad had met the kids and had immediately clicked with them on our movie night.  My children were, for the most part well behaved, but you would think the thought of 4 of them, ages 7, 5, 5, and 6 months would send any man fleeing the opposite direction.  After all our conversations he knew how important the kids were to me and how I wasn’t interested in having random boyfriends around to confuse them.  This whole invitation out to dinner made me think he wanted to be more than some random boyfriend. 

So the day came, I dressed in a little black dress, which was appropriate for the venue where we had dinner.  That afternoon the snow had started to fall, just lightly, not enough to worry us about going out; this was Nebraska after all.  The evening was fantastic!  A lovely old Victorian house turned into a restaurant with delicious food and a cozy atmosphere.  Chad was the ever attentive date, taking my arm to guide me over the icy sidewalk on the way back to his car.   Over the course of the evening the snow had really picked up; but despite the fact, we went over to my friend’s house and then out to coffee with her and her husband. At the end of the evening my friend whispered and asked if we were actually “dating”.  I didn’t know.  It certainly seemed like it after the wonderful evening, but I was not sure, nothing had been said about the status of our relationship.  I was hoping he would bring it up, but also scared that he would.  I was feeling too attracted to him to just continue casually going on as friends.  I needed to know if I was feeling too much, that maybe he was this attentive to all the girls he was friends with and I was reading too much into it.

The roads had really turned worse as we turned towards the 75 mile drive home.  The trip that normally took one and a half hours now took three and a half.  Even with the bad roads we continued to talk about everything, everything except what was on my mind.  Ten miles from home I could not stand it anymore, I had to know.  I told him how I was getting questions from all my friends about our relationship.  He, too, had been getting these questions.  I told him I would really like to know what to tell these people, but I wasn’t really sure what we had going on.  He agreed. He then told me how he really wanted our relationship to be taken to the next level, but wasn’t sure how to approach it since I was fairly recently widowed.  He was not interested in it being casual; but when he dated, he wanted it to be with a person he could see himself possibly marrying, if it that's the direction we felt it should go.  He had also been in a serious relationship in the past and had no desire to jump into the typical “dating world”.   I told him I was not interested in casual dating either, for the kids’ sake as well as my own. We agreed that this was something we both wanted, but rather than decide right then, we decided to think about it and talk more the next day. After safely arriving back to my home, he walked me to the door and we parted.

The next day we both knew.  We wanted to date with the serious intention of marrying at some point in time if we both continued to feel led in that direction.  There were no “I love yous” at that time, although we both knew we cared for each other.

Over the course of the next several weeks we saw each other more often and our attraction continued to grow; not only physically but mentally and spiritually as well.  Chad would often come over and have supper with the kids and me and we would put the kids to bed and spend hours talking before Chad would drive home.  We spent many, many long hours in conversation about our thoughts on life, beliefs, and children.  We found that we shared many of the same core values.  Chad admired the fact that I would rather be a stay-at-home mom than having a career and that I enjoyed serving my family.  I loved the fact that if we married, Chad would want to adopt and raise the kids as his own.  As the weeks progressed I found myself falling in love with this man who seemed to be exactly what I needed, the kind of man my mother had prayed for since I was a little girl.  On March 2nd  Chad told me he loved me, which of course I returned, and on March 18th he presented me with an engagement ring and told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and raise the kids as his own.  Through tears of joy I accepted.

We married just 9 days later on March 27th, just two and a half months after our first phone conversation.  There was no wedding, just a justice of the peace.  We were so in love we did not want to wait to begin our life together, and although I wish I would have put a bit more thought into the plans of that day, (we married when the kids were in school!) I do not regret at all the decisions we made.  Over the course of the last 16 years we have had many ups and downs.  There were times of not seeing eye to eye, stresses of raising kids, and sadness of losing loved ones.  However,  there have also been times of great joy and contentment knowing I am with my soul mate who completes me.

Chad and I at our reception in 2002.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Day 12 & 13 No Wheat/Dairy

Day 12 

Day 12 was a good day.  I felt very good digestion-wise today.  But man, have I been craving carbs!  My back was bothering me pretty badly today, so the only exercise I did was a 30 minute walk with Koda.

Breakfast: 16 oz room temp water with ½ organic lemon, squeezed.  Breakfast rice with almond milk, raisins, raw honey, and cinnamon, 2 cups coffee

Lunch: 2 bowls homemade popcorn popped in coconut oil with sea salt

Snack: 1 handful of almonds, dried, unsweetened apple chips, 1 serving organic corn chips

Supper: Taco salad with 4 oz ground beef, a few organic corn chips, herbal tea with raw honey

2 cups decaf coffee

7 - 16 oz glasses of water

Day 13 

Day 13 and my IBS is back with a vengeance.   I am glad I have kept a food log because after looking back I can see I have flare ups after eating corn products. And yesterday was a heavy corn day.  While I really don’t want to cut anything else out of my diet, I think I can manage to at least cut back on corn products.  Exercise today was a 30 minute walk with Koda and 30 minutes weight and 30 minute yoga.

Breakfast: 16 oz room temp water with ½ organic lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee, 2 free range eggs scrambled with onion, green pepper, and 2 pieces nitrate free bacon (Yes, I eat bacon occasionally. I think it can be enjoyed in moderation.)

Lunch: Green Shake

Snack: 1 apple, 1 handful of almonds

Supper: Chicken Red Curry Soup with jasmine rice

Snack: 1 cup herbal tea with raw honey

 7 - 16 oz glasses of water

Hoping for a better day tomorrow!

Recipe - Kang Dang - Chicken Red Curry Soup

Today I have another Thai recipe for you.  We love Thai, if you haven’t figured that out by the amount of Thai food we eat.  I was introduced to red curry back in Nebraska at our local Thai restaurant and fell in love. I think I could eat this daily! I finally have created a recipe that is very close to what I would get there.  It is perfect for a cold day, or if you have a head cold because of the heat of the curry paste.  It is a bit on the spicy side, so if you are not into spice you may want to adjust the curry paste in this recipe.  I had intended to go to the Asian store yesterday and get more authentic vegetables for the picture below, but although the weather was lovely here, we are in a winter storm warning and I didn't want to brave the packed stores with crazy people stocking up for the apocalypse blizzard.  The nice thing is you can pretty much put in whatever vegetables you have available. I also apologize for the cell phone pictures, a new camera is in the budget, you’ll just have to bear with me until I save enough.

Kang Dang - Chicken Red Curry Soup

2 chicken breast, diced, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (I use Napa Valley Organic)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 15 oz can chicken broth
1 15 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce or soy aminos 
1 4 oz container red curry paste, (this is the kind I use)
2 tablespoons honey
2 carrots, julienned 
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
   salt to taste

Thai basil for garnish, if desired
Lime wedges for garnish, if desired
Hot jasmine rice

Dice chicken, set aside.  Chop carrots, set aside.  Chop green pepper and onion, set aside. Chop green onion, set aside.  
 Pretty Vegetables

In medium sized pot, heat sesame oil until shimmery.  Add diced chicken and sauté until browned on all sides.  Sprinkle with ginger, salt, and pepper. Slowly add chicken broth and coconut milk and bring to a simmer.  Add curry paste, soy aminos, and honey.  Add carrots and simmer for 5 minutes. Add onion and green pepper and simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and add salt, if desired. Depending on the type of broth and soy sauce you use you may need to add up to ½ teaspoon of salt. You can also adjust spice if needed; adding more pepper or curry paste, if desired.  Add green onions the last minute and serve over hot jasmine rice and garnish with Thai basil and lime.  

There are many other delicious vegetables you can add or substitute to this dish.  Thai eggplant, bamboo shoots, or bean sprouts would all go nicely. 

Kang Dang - Chicken Red Curry Soup


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Part 3 - The Events Leading Up to Our Move - How We Got Out Of Debt

This is the Part 3 of a series telling about how we came to the point in our lives where we were willing to sell half of our belongings, give up our lifestyle and move away from family and friends, including our 3 teenage daughters and move to the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia so my husband, Chad, could go to seminary. If you missed earlier posts here are Part 1 and Part 2.

In order to pay off $20,000 of debt in about a year and a half we had to really buckle down.  We had to sacrifice some things we wanted and be organized.   We followed Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps very carefully.  For those of you who are unfamiliar here is his plan in a nutshell.

First we established an emergency fund of $1,000.  Since we already had over that in savings we applied the rest in savings to my credit card balance and started sending all extra money towards that balance.  I do not like having that little in savings so it motivated me to get with the program of paying off debt. 

Next we took a look at our budget and nit-picked every single thing we were spending money on. We started cash envelopes for everything from dry cleaning (at the time Chad wore a suit everyday) to car maintenance.   Some envelopes, like groceries, we would use the entire sum every month, while others, like car maintenance and household, we would carry over for when we needed it.  We agreed to go without some things and spend less on other things.  We budgeted a little money for fun spending for Chad and I.  That money could be used how ever we saw fit.  We could save it for a bigger purchase, or use the entire sum one month at Starbucks. We also budgeted for a date night for Chad and I.  We found this very important so we could get away and have uninterrupted conversation.  These two areas we actually cut quite a bit because before I was spending at least $100 on "fun" just by myself. Here is an idea of what our envelopes looked like.

*Car Maintenance
*Dry Cleaning
*Charitable Donations
*Household (for repairs that may have come up on our home)
*Fun Spending
*Date Night
*Koda (dog food, vet appointment, ect)
*Kid's School Activities
*Kid's Allowance

All other bills like our mortgage, insurances, phone, internet and utility bills were paid through automatic payments.  All the money left over after funding our envelopes went to our debt.  Here are a few things we cut out of our budget or changed in order to give us more cash flow.

Gym Membership – This was a hard one, and not one everyone will be able to do.  We were able to keep up our fitness with things at home and save the $60 per month.  This was only temporary; once we were out of debt we added it in our budget again.

Car Insurance – We raised our deductible to $1,000 from $500.  Since we had the $1,000 in savings for emergencies, that would cover the deductible if we were in an accident.

Life Insurance - We restructured our life insurance a bit, lowering what we had on me since if I were to die Chad would still have a job.  I was still insured, but just at a lower amount. We kept Chad's the same.

Other ideas would be cutting out cable, but we hadn't had cable since 2002.  We did have a Netflix streaming account which was $10 per month for our entertainment, but we kept this during this time. Another one most people can cut out or at least lower is eating out.  The only eating out we did during this time was if we were on the road traveling for the kids' activities, and even then I would often pack lunch if it was just one meal.  We also ate out on our date night every few weeks since that was in our budget. But the rest of the meals were cooked at home.  This is totally doable, even if you work full time, if you own a crock-pot.  Chad took left-overs, sandwiches or wraps, fruit and vegetables for lunch to save the expenses of lunches out. A cooler and some ice packs were all he needed to keep it fresh.

With the budget established, the real frugal living began.  Following Dave’s plan we started working on the debt with the lowest balance (my credit card).  Applying the savings money to the balance, we were able to start paying down big chunks monthly.

I began to look for ways to add money to the money to the pay-down each month.  I had a garage sale, I took some of my high dollar clothing that I thought I couldn't live without to the consignment store, and others I listed on eBay.   I even took some old gold to one of those creepy, hotel conference rooms, gold buying people. (Note: you are better off taking your gold to a reputable jewelry store that buys old gold.  Lesson learned.)  With all this I had several nice piles of money to add to the debt reduction. 

Then I took a look at my grocery budget.  We eat pretty healthy; a lot of fruit, vegetables and lean meats are part of our diet. This was not something I was willing to sacrifice.   I began to look through the sale adds every week in the paper.  I shopped at 3 different stores compared to the 1 super-store I had shopped at before.  When the cost of a bell pepper fluctuated more than 75 cents per pepper at different stores it paid to shop sales and more stores.  I was able to lower my grocery budget around $100 per month just by shopping sales ads.  Yes, I did have to drive to 3 stores, but our town is small enough it wasn't a huge drive.  I devoted a few hours once a week in the early afternoon to shop.  I added coupons to my grocery list, paired with the things that were on sale.  I only used coupons for things we actually regularly bought and would combine them with a sale item.  The majority of coupon savings were from health and beauty and cleaning and laundry products.  By couponing I saved about another $50 per month. I usually spent about an hour a week with the sale ads and my coupons seeing what I needed to get at each store before I shopped. But you know what the biggest money saver was?  I stayed out of stores.  With the exception of the grocery stores I did not go into any clothing or home stores unless it was absolutely necessary! This was another $100 per month, at least, that I saved.

With these simple steps we were able to pay off my credit card balance in a matter of months.  Any extra money went to that balance.  It became exciting to make payments.  One time I made 5 payments in a month.  It was very motivating!  We were now left with only our 2 car payments to deal with.  We began with mine since I had the lower balance.  All money we were paying to our credit card now went to my Suburban along with the regular payment.  Bonuses came along for Chad, so we added that to the payment.  Any other year it would have meant new things for us and the family, but not this year!   I took more clothing to the consignment store and listed more on eBay.  With these steps we paid the remaining balance off on my Suburban in about 7 months!  We were now left with only Chad’s truck payment.  By now it was a fairly large amount to pay towards it with no other debt besides the truck and, of course, our house payment.  We had been almost a year into our debt reduction plan and already we were way ahead of where we needed to be.  We both were pleased. With more momentum we sent every extra dollar to Chad’s truck loan and by the time 2012 got here we were debt free except for our house.  You can’t imagine how good it felt!  I have had debt my whole adult life.  True, there may have been a month or two where I was caught up with my credit card balance, but I can only think of a handful of times that had happened.  I vowed to keep it this way this time and for the last two year it has been. 

Next time I will share the following year of getting out of debt, the things we continued to do to save money, and the restlessness we felt to live a simpler life.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Day 10 & 11 - No Wheat/Dairy

Hello again blog readers.  Here is a recap of my 10th and 11th day of no wheat or dairy. 

Day 10 

To start off I will admit right now that I really need to be better about eating earlier in the day or taking food with me when I go places.  Of course I went shopping after only having had a shake and handful of nuts and it took all of my strength to not go and get a sandwich.  I am not used to getting so hungry in the afternoon!  I’m sure it’s because I am exercising regularly again.  Obviously, it’s been awhile since that has occurred! Ha!  Well, even though I was able to resist the sandwich with bread and cheese, I did indulge in jelly beans again. L  Another reason I should eat more before I shop.  Bad decisions are made on an empty tummy.  They were delicious, but I know I really should try to limit my sugar intake a bit more.  But I can’t cut out everything….this no bread and cheese is hard enough!  On a brighter note, after only 10 days on this plan my jeans are fitting looser.  I actually tried on a smaller size and they fit!  But I did not buy them as I am saving my money for spring clothes, plus I want to make sure the weight loss lasts.  (For those of you who wonder, I sell clothes and household things that we are no longer wearing or using in order to have a little “fun” money for myself.)

Koda and I went on a brisk 30 minute walk and I did 30 minutes of yoga.   I felt good and had no symptoms of IBS.  I had plenty of energy until about 5:30 when I became extremely hungry and exhaustion set in.  My back did bother me quite a bit tonight, but that could possibly be because I shopped 3 hours in addition to my exercise.  Food is below.

Breakfast: 16 oz room temp water with ½ of an organic lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee

Lunch: green shake

Snack: handful of almonds

Snack: jelly beans

Supper: 6 oz baked chicken breast, 1 cup asparagus sautéed in coconut oil with garlic and sea salt, 1 apple

Snack: 1 cup herbal tea with raw honey

 7- 16 oz glasses of water

Day 11 

Today was another good day without any symptoms of IBS.  As much as I love wheat and dairy, cutting it out has really made me feel the best I have felt since we moved.  I had plenty of energy today, even with only 5 hours of sleep.  (Adult children tend to give me more sleepless nights than babies ever did.  But this is my own fault for lying in bed worrying thinking.)   Today for exercise I did a 30 minute walk with Koda and Chad, a 30 minute weight circuit, and 30 minutes of yoga.  I’m on a roll with exercise!

Breakfast: 16 oz room temp water with ½ of an organic lemon, squeezed, 1 cup coffee

Lunch: breakfast rice with cinnamon, raw honey, almond milk and raisins, handful of almonds

Snack 1: green shake made with water instead of almond milk (I need to make more)

Snack 2: unsweetened, dried mangos

Supper: Beef and Walnut Stir fry from Tosca Reno's Eat Clean Cookbook with steamed rice (This is beef, green peppers, asparagus, green beans and garlic sautéed in coconut oil with a sauce of soy aminos or soy sauce and a freshly squeezed orange, sea salt and pepper.) I highly recommend this cookbook!

Snack 3: herbal tea with raw honey

7 – 16 oz glasses of water

 Beef and Walnut Stir Fry

I keep forgetting to mention the vitamins I take.  I have been regularly taking a multi vitamin, B Complex, Magnesium, Biotin, and Omega 3/Fish Oil for several years.  The last few months I have added Turmeric which is supposed to help with inflammation.  I also take a pro-biotic and a digestive enzyme.  All together it is 15 pills a day, but I break it up throughout the day. J  I buy all my vitamins from Vitacost which I highly recommend. Here is a link for $10 off your first order of $30 or more.  The refer-a-friend program is great; refer a friend and not only do they get $10 off, so do you! Happy shopping!

Have a nice day!  

Friday, February 7, 2014

Part 2 - The Events Leading Up to Our Move

This is the Part 2 of a series telling about how we came to the point in our lives where we were willing to sell half of our belongings, give up our lifestyle and move away from family and friends, including our 3 teenage daughters and move to the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia so my husband, Chad, could go to seminary. Part 1 is here.

The drastic change that needed to happen to get out of debt did not come all at once, but over the course of the next few years.  At about this same time Chad was offered a promotion in a community 2 hours away from the one I had grown up in.  While this was great for his career and with his promotion came a pay raise, it was hard not letting it go to my head and keep up with the “Jones’”.  I knew I needed to get on a budget and not spend money we did not have.  I was able to keep my spending in check, and while I did not add any to the debt I had accumulated over the years, the balance never seemed to get much smaller.

Things were not easy.  Like I said before, marriage is work and there were so many things changing in our life and relationship. Not only was I trying to get a hold of my frivolous spending I had done in the past, I was also trying to be the wife that Chad deserved.  I will be honest; I failed many, many times. (I still fail at times!)   It was two steps forward and one step back.  I still questioned God at times and sometime let silly annoyances balloon into bigger issues.  Chad, too, was learning.  He was learning to balance his career, church involvement, and family time.  We were moving in the right direction.

By 2010 I had curbed my spending down drastically. I knew I needed to get with the program and knock out the debt, but the thought of going without scared me and I had no idea where to start.  For years I had bought new, name brand clothes every season, not only for myself but also the kids.  We drove very nice vehicles and went on a few expensive vacations.  We ate out several times a week. We had a beautiful house in a very nice neighborhood.  I knew we would have to do without many of the things I had been so accustomed to.  But I was at the point where I knew “things” were not going to make my life happier.  Even though things were going better for Chad and I, the heaviness of debt made me feel helpless.  I wanted the freedom that came with being debt free, a freedom I had not experienced my whole adult life.   After being laid up that year with a back injury (which bothers me to this day), I read Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover, followed by More Than Enough.  I approached Chad with the idea to start Dave’s plan and he was thrilled!  He had read the book in 2009 and had wanted to follow it, but was not sure if I would be on board. At that time he began to pray that I would be willing to do Dave’s plan together and here it was, a year later and I approached him about it!  Together we buckled down, followed Dave’s instructions, and knocked out $20,000 of debt in a year and a half.  By the time 2012 rolled around we were debt free except for our house! 

Living frugally in order to pay off our debt opened up a whole new world to me. I found out there are inexpensive clothes that are cute and fashionable!  I found that I do not need a vacation every year; a walk with our dog, a bike ride in the countryside, or a frugal get-away to a nearby town was enough to become relaxed and refreshed.   I found a love for cooking and that my homemade food tastes better than eating out and that if I try, I can replicate almost every restaurant out there. I also found that driving my old paid for Suburban was better than having a car payment. It was amazing!  And with this came the wonderful feeling of working together with my husband towards a goal.  

So what were the exact steps we took?  Next time I will go through each thing, great and small, that we did to reduce our debt.

For those of you struggling with debt, or even for those who are just starting out and want to do it right, I encourage you to check out Dave's website!

Day 8 & 9 No Wheat/Dairy

Day 8 was probably the worst I have felt since starting my No Wheat/Dairy plan.  Not only has my tummy been giving me fits, I have been sluggish as well.  I am wondering if my issues the last few days have been caused by the mixed nuts I have been eating.  I really should know better, as they are definitely not clean and they are roasted in oil.  So out of our pantry they go.  I have plenty of raw nuts in my pantry, but they just aren't as delicious as the mixed nuts roasted in oil with salt. J

Exercise was just a brisk 30 minute walk with Koda.

Breakfast: 16 oz room temp water with ½ an organic lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee

Lunch: 16 oz green shake, 1 handful mixed nuts, (they are now removed from our pantry)

Snack: Homemade popcorn cooked in coconut oil and sea salt

Supper: 6 oz pulled pork loin, salad and potatoes wedges roasted in olive oil, spices and sea salt

2 Cups decaf coffee after supper

7 - 16 oz glasses of water

Day 9 was a better day.  No issues what-so-ever and my energy returned.  I was able to do another 30 minute brisk walk with Koda, a 25 minute weight circuit and 30 minutes of yoga.  Chad and I did go on a date out to supper, but we stuck to Thai food so I did not have to worry about dairy or wheat.

Breakfast: 16 oz room temp water with ½ an organic lemon, squeezed, 2 cups coffee, breakfast rice, (1 cup cooked rice, ½ cup almond milk, raw honey, cinnamon, and raisins)

Snack 1: 1 handful raw almonds,

Snack 2:  Dried mangos, (sugar free), 1 cup decaf coffee

Early Supper:  Date at Thai. For an appetizer I stuck with the fresh rolls which are fresh vegetables in rice paper with a peanut dipping sauce.  This is a healthy alternative to egg rolls.  For my main dish I chose Red Curry which is chicken and vegetables in a coconut curry sauce served with a side of steamed rice.  

Snack 3: Pistachios (dry roasted with sea salt), 1 cup herbal tea with honey

7 - 16 oz glasses of water

Fresh Rolls

We are the people who get to the restaurant at 5:00 and eat with all the senior citizens.  Actually, we had planned lunch which is why I didn't eat lunch, but Chad was delayed at work so we decided on an early supper instead.