caloric spying

As part of her health class this year Katie was required to download an app to record her caloric intake and outflow (via exercise, etc.). I didn’t think much about it but the other night while we were eating dinner Katie made an interesting announcement.

“Mom, do you realize that we eat about half of the calories that we’re supposed to?”

She confessed to me that not only had she been tracking her own caloric intake but that she had also been secretly tracking mine as well. All of those casual questions about what I had eaten during the day suddenly made sense. She had used a mapping app to calculate how much I walked and then padded my numbers with extra food when she forgot to ask if I had snacked after she went to bed.

While she never told me the actual numbers (I was so stunned I forgot to ask), she revealed that not only did we eat about half of what the app said we needed for our activity level but that her friends ate double the amount we were supposed to yet were less active.

The funny part is that her teacher informed her that we both need to start eating more.

We discussed this and decided that since we eat when hungry and stop when full (and judging by our weight we are not missing any meals) that we were going to ignore her teacher’s advice.

Have you ever counted your calories?

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sugar minimalism

As a child I suffered from severe food allergies. The medical profession of the 1970’s were unable to determine the source so at one point my parents feared I would never reach my second birthday. Fortunately for me my parents solved what the doctors could not.

As a result of these allergies I was unable to gain weight as a child. To combat this my parents stuffed me full of sweets and soft drinks, even racing with me to see who could eat the most junk food in a sitting to help me gain weight.

While I grew out of the allergy I developed a craving for sweets and would turn to them when stressed or bored. Here is a photo of me close to my heaviest.

While minimalism has assisted me greatly in my weight loss goals I still have to deal with my cravings for sweets. To deal with this I have been gradually curtailing the sweets I allow myself to ingest.

delightful discovery

A few weeks ago a friend of mine had a birthday and I was given a piece of cake to celebrate. I took one bite and had to force myself not to spit it out. It was too sweet.

When you consider that at one time I could sit and eat an entire cake by myself, this is amazing progress, so now I’ve stepped things up a notch. Instead of the syrupy sweet coffee creamer that I normally use I switched to plain milk and have gradually decreased the amount of sugar I use per cup. I’ve limited the small amount of soft drinks consumed even more than previous, substituting water and sports drinks when the desire for an occasional treat hits.

Katie’s reaction

Katie isn’t too happy with this development. She is accustomed to us eating sweets on occasion and is disappointed that I now find many things too rich that we previously consumed. Rather than tell her that I’m pleased with this I’ve had to tell her that my tastes have changed to avoid hurting her feelings.

weighty matters

I haven’t weighed myself for quite a while but I’ve noticed that my energy levels have definitely improved. Others my age now complain that I act like a 20-30 year-old instead of a proper mid-forties woman.

Since I can now dance all night or walk the two miles to Walmart with ease, I try to ignore the haters.

I am a bit curious about my weight so as soon as I come across a scale I will weigh myself. While I don’t believe I’ve lost any numbers on the scale I believe that I have gained a fair amount of muscle. I also plan to get a friend of mine to take some full-body shots for comparison purposes.

While I’m happy with the way I currently look I have become self-conscious because people now say I make them feel fat. At times it’s almost like they are judging me for making them feel bad. I’m rather puzzled at that response.

questions

Have you ever tried minimizing the amount of sugar that you ingest? Do others ever make you feel bad because they are bigger/smaller than you are? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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Fire on my street

There was a fire on my street the other day. The house that Mr. A used to live in burst into flames. Fortunately no one was home.

This time the house burned faster and harder than when Mr. A resided there; as a result the home will surely have to be bulldozed.

As a result of this I have been involved in an arson investigation. I possessed photographs of the previous fire and recorded a video of the latest one so I spent yesterday digging through my archives for the authorities.

A lot of rumors are flying about this latest disaster. Because of this (and the ongoing investigation) I’m not at liberty to discuss many details and I’m hesitant to post any photos right now.

The community has already began reaching out to provide for the family that lived there. My sources indicate that they are going to be okay and will have another place to live shortly.

We don’t have much to share (being minimalists) but my daughter gathered up some of her old toys for the child and I have been striving to help the authorities get some answers. Sometimes the best way to help is not with money but by using what you have.

I wish them the best of luck.

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Frugality Misconception

One misconception about frugality that I am guilty of is the thought that you can save more money if you do everything yourself. I used to believe that it was more economical to make my own clothes, do my own yard work, and even can my own food for example.

However, I have learned that in some cases the time (or financial commitment) is actually more when you do certain things yourself. For instance, to can foods you need to purchase jars, lids, seals, and canning equipment. This can become quite expensive. If one has a large family to feed the expense may be justified but for my small family it cost more in labor and equipment than we gained. In fact, for the two years I did it I calculated a sizable loss.

The same goes for clothing. When you factor in the cost of the material and the time spent creating fashionable clothing, you can save a lot more money by simply shopping yard sales and thrift stores.

As a result I’ve learned to consider several factors before going the DIY route. With my yard, I realized that I could not justify the cost of a mower nor the time spent caring for it when it only cost a few dollars a month to keep it reasonably trimmed.

Of course, some things are still more frugal to do yourself than to have done. A manicure can be done at home with a little time and a bottle of cheap polish. Hair coloring can be done with an inexpensive box of dye rather than a visit to a professional. A steak dinner prepared at home is much more frugal than a trip to a restaurant.

Of course, these decisions depend upon everyone’s individual situation. Some may inherit canning jars and equipment, making it more affordable to preserve food at home. Others may already own a lawnmower, making mowing your own lawn a sensible decision. Still others may have health issues that justify the expense of hiring someone to clean their home.

The moral of the story is to factor in all aspects before making a decision. Time is money and lack of supplies means that they will have to be purchased before you can do a task yourself.

This is why I share the tasks I do myself (like the time I repaired my own washer) and the times when for me it isn’t worth it. I do this in hopes of demonstrating that there are times when doing things yourself can save money, and times when it will not.

What are the things you do to save money, and what things do you have hired out because it is not worth the savings to do them yourself? Pleas share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Mowing

Spring is upon us so now it is time to gear up for the mowing season. I don’t possess a lawn mower so I arrange for someone to do my lawn care every year. Normally Mr. A does it but with him gone I searched for a replacement.

Traditional mowing services are out because I’m very particular about frequency. I am well aware of the amount of poisons that are spewed into the atmosphere whenever you mow so I prefer my lawn to be trimmed as little as possible. Most official services want to visit every week or two, and my lawn can go a month or more between cuts.

I discussed this with my neighbor and he immediately understood. He actually seemed pleased with the fact that I cared about mower fumes. Now I have someone who will trim my lawn very short on occasion and will allow me to stretch the time between trims as long as possible.

This is my little contribution to help the environment.

How often do you mow your lawn? Do you worry about the poisonous gases that lawn mowers release? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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March Update

This month has been rather busy. In fact, I hadn’t realized so much time had passed since an update until I received several emails asking if we were okay.

We are doing fine. It took a week to get the water pipes fixed, but we’ve got it all sorted and life has moved on. I have been focused on two nonfiction projects, one fiction project (I am determined to publish a novel), polishing a submission for a local magazine, going to writer’s club meetings, helping out a friend, and dealing with the chaotic weather.

My beloved Katie is now registered for her sophomore year of high school so I am now budgeting for the extra expense of the AP exams she will need to take next spring to add increased weight to her GPA for college. She wants to be a video game designer and eventually own her own software company so I have been working hard to ensure that she has the best start that I can provide.

The kitten we rescued late last fall (he was discovered hitchhiking beneath a vehicle) is off to be neutered in the morning. I hadn’t planned to keep the little thing but Katie fell in love and what she wants, she gets (if it is within my power). She named him The Doctor after the main character in Doctor Who when he demonstrated his propensity to be the most annoying, meddlesome critter we’ve ever encountered.


The Doctor

His favorite game is to "attack" me as soon as he realizes that I’m busy working. Sigh.

New Laundromat

A laundromat has opened just a couple of blocks from us so we can now do laundry whenever we please instead of stretching it for as long as possible. We still stretch our laundry, though–we just do smaller batches.


Today we walked up in the beautiful spring sunshine and spent the morning doing our wash. It cost us several dollars less than the old laundromat we used to visit and we get to use brand new Maytag washers. Heaven! Thanks to this treat we no longer have the need to acquire another appliance.

Cooking

As you know, I am not big on cooking, but here lately I have been doing a lot of it. Tonight we split a small steak and fixed bird’s nests, which are peas nested in mashed potatoes. Katie wouldn’t eat either vegetable when she was a child until I gave the combination a name, and tonight she requested it for dinner.

Other than that we’ve ate lots of scrambled eggs, baked potatoes, some pancakes, several pots of beans, and salads. Katie is on a burger kick so I’ve even managed to master cooking a decent hamburger.

I’m on a roll!

Katie

Katie will be sixteen this year and it is finally hitting me that soon she will be leaving the nest. I’ve been dealing with this by spending lots of time just listening and enjoying her. She has spent the month creating multiple gifts for my upcoming birthday. She drew me the map from Lord of the Rings, a crazy ones poster featuring the Cheshire Cat, a painting with an inspirational saying, and a jar filled with a piece of inspiration for every day of the next year. I’ve meant to take photos but time has escaped me.

She is studying for her learner’s permit now so that she can begin to drive. We still don’t have a vehicle but I have arranged for friends and family to teach her when the time comes.

She is also planning to get her first official public job over the summer. She wants to help out on expenses and buy her own school clothes come fall. I’ve been sending out feelers to help make that happen.

Summary

In summary, I want you to know that we are alive and well, just busy as bees. I plan to release two projects by the end of the March to meet my goal of increasing my writing income. The books I have already published have demonstrated that I am headed in the correct direction so I want to keep the momentum going.

In the meantime, is there anything specific that you would like me to write about? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.

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How to Make Homemade Feather Pillows

In the old days feather pillows were common. Householders would take the feathers of chicken, ducks or geese and place them within fabric sacks called ticking. This art has been lost largely because of mass-manufactured materials made of plastic and petroleum.

The beauty in feather pillows is the pure simplicity of design. The only materials present in each pillow are feathers, cotton material and some pieces of thread. No flame retardant additives, no chemicals–just pure natural goodness for a soft comfy sleep.

Feather pillows have the unique ability to help keep the sleeper warmer in the winter yet cooler in the summer through the natural insulation properties inherent in the feathers.

Feather pillows are simple to make and require few materials. With a sewing machine a pillow can be ready to stuff in a matter of minutes.

Things You’ll Need:
2-4 pounds feathers
30 inches feather ticking material
Thread
Sewing Needle

Step One:
Fold the ticking material in half lengthwise, right sides together.

Step Two:
Stitch a seam around the three sides, leaving a 6-inch opening for turning and stuffing. Double-stitch this seam for extra reinforcement.

Step Three:
Turn the pillow ticking right-side out.

Step Four:
Fill the pillow to the desired thickness with feathers. Some recommend lightly pinning the bag containing the feathers to the pillow opening and shaking them in to minimize mess and feather loss.

Step Five:
Sew up the opening in the feather pillow.

Step Six:
Hang the finished pillow in the sunshine to air out for several hours. This step blows the down off that may be sticking to the outside of the tick and fluffs up the feathers.

Caring for Your Feather Pillow
To care for your feather pillow hang it outside to air on breezy cloudy days. When you make your bed lightly shake the feather pillow to distribute the feathers within. If you hang your pillow out in the sunshine the heat will draw out the oil in the feathers and will decrease the lifespan of the feathers as a result.

When the ticking (fabric) on the feather pillow gets worn or dirty make another ticking and transfer the feathers to the new pillow and discard the old feather ticking material.

If the feathers get wet dry the pillow in the dryer in low heat or hang it in the sun until dry but take caution at the temperature that the feathers get to preserve the oil in the feathers.

Homemade feather pillows can last for several decades if properly cared for. Some feather pillows have been known to last for over 50 years–a far cry from modern pillows that barely last a year! Try making one today and experience the difference for yourself!

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How to Make an American Futon

Futon–the name alone evokes images of Japanese homes filled with Tatami and cherry blossoms. In the United States we have had an American version of the futon for hundreds of years but we have called it by different names.

Over the centuries we have called them Feather Beds, Straw Beds, Shuck Mattresses, Feather Ticks, Straw Ticks, Hay Ticks and a host of other titles but they all meant the same thing–a cloth covering sewn with boxed corners containing a soft material for use in sleeping. A futon by any other name….

The modern American futon can be constructed of traditional materials or use more readily-available supplies as desired. Instead of feathers, straw or dried corn shucks the filling can be composed of polyester fiberfill, layers of old comforters or even re-purposed packing peanuts! You could even take the filling out of a worn-out futon and fill a new one with that!

One primary difference between American futons and their Japanese equivalent is that of size. American futons are generally the size of two fabric widths–approximately the same as a full-sized bed.

Things You’ll Need
8 Yards of Feather Ticking, Unbleached Muslin or heavy, tightly woven cotton material (45″ wide)
Needle
Thread
Ruler
Pencil

Stuffing Options:
20 pounds of feathers
1 bale of hay or straw
Dried corn shucks
Polyester fiberfill
Old comforters, sleeping bag stuffing, etc.
Repurposed styrofoam packing peanuts

Step One:
Take the 8 yards of fabric and cut it in half, creating 2 strips of material 4 yards in length.

Step Two:
Place the two strips of material with right sides facing and sew a seam down the entire 4-yard length of one side. This will create a piece of material approximately 90″ wide and four yards long. Double-stitch your seams to make them more durable and open the completed length of material.

Step Three:
Open up the material until you have a long sheet, 2 fabric widths wide with the right-side up. Fold this length crosswise, right-sides together, matching up all ends and corners. The resulting fold will be two layers of material, 2 fabric widths wide by 2 yards long.

Step Four:
Stitch a sturdy seam around the three open sides of the folded material, leaving a 18-inch place open for stuffing and turning on one side.

Step Five:
Fold the material at each corner, making the side and end seams touch. Use the ruler to locate the diagonal area on the corner that is six-inches wide, and mark with a pencil line. Sew a sturdy seam across the pencil line to create the boxed corners on the futon. This creates a futon mattress that is 6-inches thick. For a thicker futon, sew a wider seam and for thinner futons sew a narrower seam).

Step Six:
Turn the futon right-side out using the hole you left in the side. Use your hands or a broom handle to fully open up the boxed corners.

Step Seven:
Stuff the futon with the filling of your choice. Some materials like hay, straw or fiberfill will compact after a short time so you may want to “overstuff” a bit if using these materials.

Step Eight:
Sew the opening closed.

Tips:
To make a smaller American Futon (for a single person), use a single width of material. A piece of fabric that is 45″ wide will make a futon mattress slightly wider than a twin-sized bed.

Air out your futon occasionally to lengthen its’ life.

To make the futon you will need to flip the futon over and smooth out the contents of the futon (if feathers or something that does not stay in one place).

You may need more or less filling material than recommended here depending upon your individual preference.

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focus on the important

focus quote

The other day Katie shoved a picture in my face as soon as she walked in the front door. “What color is this dress?” she demanded.

“It’s blue and black,” I responded as I glanced at the photo.

My daughter huffed and went on a rant about the dress debate.

I went back to work.

My daughter has been fussing over the color of that thing for days now.

I have been focusing on my latest book.

If we want to achieve any goal in life we need to limit our focus to the things that will help us attain success. Distractions only push us away from our goals. When we concentrate on the work, we do and achieve more than our distracted counterparts.

What are you focused on?


Last notice: The price on my book The No Poo Experiment will be going up to $2.99 when it is released tomorrow. Buy your copy today to save a dollar.

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Things that Represent Me

A friend of mine challenged me to write this post. You are supposed to share several things that you feel describe you:

  • A painting
  • A book
  • A song
  • A movie
  • A moment

Here are mine.

A painting. As a teenager I went on a field trip and I saw “Quadroon Girl” by Henry Mosler. The image of that girl, placed in chains because of the blood in her veins, haunts me to this day. I am reminded of how we still discriminate not only based on race or education levels, but by how we dress and how much (or little) money we have. It makes me ill and sad.

A book. 1984 by George Orwell. As I grow older it chills me to see how accurate his novel has become.

A song. Originally I thought it was “Living in a Moment” by Ty Herndon but I’ve changed my mind. It is really “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw. I try to live my life this way.

A movie. “Fight Club”. Tyler Durden’s philosophy about the unimportance of stuff (among other things) makes this just…me.

A moment. One defining moment of my life occurred when I was going through my divorce. An old friend offered me $100 to spend some time with him because he “knew I needed the money.” I promised myself that not only would I never sell myself that way, that I would help other females escape that trap and show them that there was a better way, that we don’t have to RELY on men to take care of us, that we were strong enough to provide for ourselves and the children we create.

I’m going to add another one to this post:

A person. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple and co-founder of Pixar. His focus and determination made Apple what it is today and taught me that you CAN succeed if you apply yourself. I have learned a lot from his quotes and wish I had met him.

A challenge

I now challenge my readers to share what describes them, either in the comments of this post or in their own (come back and share a link in the comments).

I look forward to reading your responses.

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