the Christmas I let go

I was reading through some old blogs this morning, and came across my Christmas Manifesto from five years ago.

And I have to say that five years later, I still stand by it.

This year, I’m continuing my search for simplicity and sustainability. Shopping is done, though I keep having this niggling thought that there’s one more gift I need. The house is decorated…mostly. That mantle still isn’t totally done and it might not ever be. We’ll survive.  I have a few plans for baking. Friday night, when Tom and the kids head to Fresno, I’m having a wrapping party with myself. The only big thing left to tackle is cards.

Right now, there’s a Pooh bear as an angel with my Grammy’s Nativity and a Matchbox monster truck near baby Jesus.

I’m going with it.

I never thought I’d call the holidays relaxing, but somehow they are this year. Even with 19 people eating Thanksgiving dinner at our house, it was easy. Christmas seems to be following suit.

And I am taking a deep breath, letting go and enjoying the season.

There will be some hectic days – two Christmas services at two churches in two days – but this is a very good place to be.

Pooh bear angel and all.


on budgeting, one year later

One year ago, we started using a cash budget system for the first time. It’s been a year of so many lessons learned and so many tweaks and changes and even failures, but overall it’s been a year of success.

We’ve lived on the lowest income we ever have as a family, and we’ve done it well. Bills have gotten paid off, savings have been established, we enjoyed a wonderful vacation last Spring Break, Christmas was completely enjoyable and done within budget and my stress levels have been so much lower. There have been very few times we’ve had to skip on doing something we really want to because the money wasn’t there – and none of those have been important.

Can I just say, though, that the biggest impact has been mental. I used to lay awake night, worrying about finances. That does still happen once in a while, but it’s only if we’ve slipped from our budget significantly. I can’t figure out how or why any family would live without a working budget, and I don’t know why it took us 16 years to start one!

Our one big problem has been this month, August. Even though I saved all last year for new school year expenses, I didn’t take into account all of the other miscellaneous stuff that happens at the end of summer. It’s definitely an account I’ll be beefing up this year.

I love the accountability of a cash based budget. It’s so much easier to say no to impulse buys when you check the envelope and the money literally isn’t there. It’s helped to tame so much unnecessary spending and has shown me that it is possible to save on a low and irregular income. And for the first time ever, we’ve been able to tithe regularly and are even tithing above what we pledged last fall. God has truly been gracious to us!

We’re going to continue to have that irregular income this year, though it is a little bigger due to Tom being assigned to pastor a second church. It’s definitely nice to have that extra cushion, but I don’t want to become any less diligent with my planning.

I’ve been playing with the Mvelopes software for the past month, and am hoping to put it to use in September. While using cash for everything but the bills has been a huge help, it’s been a bit cumbersome – our nearest bank branch is about 20 minutes away. Combined with the up to six paychecks a month that we receive now, it’s hard to always have the cash we need on hand.

What sort of budget system do you prefer?

My earlier posts on budgeting:


August goals

It’s August.

We did a little back to school shopping yesterday, for my freshman. I can’t tell you how over-whelmed I am by that. I am not possibly old enough to have a freshman in high school, and she is not possibly old enough to be a freshman in high school.

I always wonder how our lives can possible get crazier…and then they do. Back to school for the kids, a second church to pastor for Tom, more needs to fit in our busy hours, and hopefully back to school for me. I’m still not sure how it’s all going to work or what our days will look like, but I do know I’ve got to be on track with my eating and exercise to even attempt it all.

So I set a few goals for August.

Because, you know, my summer ones have just gone so well.

And by well, I mean mostly not at all…except the house isn’t a disaster and we’ve actually been eating fairly well.

But for myself, this month I plan to:

  • continue with month 2 of my Turbo Fire plan – which is harder and longer and will require me being up by 6 once school starts
  • lose 5 pounds – although more would be nice, but I’m being realistic
  • walk or swim 3-4 evenings a week – which seems to be helping me sleep better, burns a few extra calories and just seems to help my mental health in general
  • keep eating the way I have been, but cut back to 2 servings of fruit a day – funny, I think this will be the hard one. all of the fruit I love is in season right now, but I know I need to keep my sugar and carbs a little bit lower than I have been.

Have you set any goals this month? I’d love to hear about them! If you want to share, I’ll try to post a weekly check-in.

menu plan monday: 07.30.12

This Sunday, my husband officially becomes the pastor of two congregations.

The kids go back to school here in two and a half weeks.

If everything works out, I go back to school the week after that to pursue a degree in nutrition.

And I can’t figure out where the heck summer has disappeared to.

This week’s menu plan is a little bit all over the place. It’s the end of what seems like a really long month when it comes to budget. It’s going to be busy and we’re going to be out of town a few days. Some of these meals might be dependent on when I can sneak in Costco and grocery trips.

So…this is probably more of a loose goal than an actual menu plan. As in the past, our meals are predominantly paleo or primal in nature (come back tomorrow if you want to know a bit more about what I’m eating now and why). We do, on occassion, enjoy sweet or red potatoes, sometimes white rice in small amounts and corn when it’s fresh and extra yummy. And I generally double the amount of meat I cook for each dinner in order to have leftovers for lunches.

Grilled Chicken
Corn on the cob

Mushroom Gravy Slow Cooker Roast
Mashed Cauliflower
Roasted Potatoes (for the kids)

Lemon Herb Rubbed Chicken
Cucumber Salad
Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Doctor’s appointment an hour away – either eating out or all beef hotdogs

Red Curry Glazed Chicken Skewers
Roasted Cauliflower (drizzling with coconut oil and my favorite vadouvan spice mix )
White Rice (for the kiddos)

Lime and Basil Beef Kabobs
Whatever fruit we have on hand

Mom’s Night Off/Leftovers

What’s on your meal plan for this week?

menu plan monday: 07.16.22

It’s been over a month since I’ve committed to a menu plan, and – amazingly – the world hasn’t stopped spinning.

And we’ve eaten pretty well and usually at home.

It’s the time of year I can do that. We picked up a new grill a few months ago and, as long as we have some veggies for the side, it’s been okay. We’re finally to a week that’s going to be a little bit quieter, and I have a feeling a bit more structure will help.

As in the past, our meals are predominantly paleo or primal in nature (come back tomorrow if you want to know a bit more about what I’m eating now and why). We do, on occassion, enjoy sweet or red potatoes and sometimes white rice in small amounts. And I generally double the amount of meat I cook for each dinner in order to have leftovers for lunches.

Grilled Chicken, seasoned with Magic Mushroom powder from the Nom Nom Paleo app
Grilled Veggies (squash, onions and maybe an eggplant – all gifted from a friend’s garden)
Mushroom skewers (marinated in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and a dash of balsamic)

Skirt Steak with Chive Butter (from Make It Paleo)
Steamed Broccoli
Green Salad

Red Curry Glazed Chicken Skewers
Roasted Cauliflower (drizzling with coconut oil and my favorite vadouvan spice mix )
White Rice (for the kiddos)

Rosemary Pot Roast with Cauliflower Butter Rice
Green Salad

Lemon Herb Rubbed Chicken
Cucumber Salad
Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Pineapple Bacon Burgers
Whatever vegetables are left in the fridge

Mom’s night off/leftovers

I’m excited – there are a few new recipes in there for the week. Anything new in your kitchen?

no excuses summer – goals

Remember last week’s post about my call to a No Excuses Summer?

So far,the family hasn’t revolted.

Or maybe they just never read it.

But I’ve been thinking and praying and planning, and here are a few areas I’m really the need to focus on. We may have some big changes coming in the fall if I’m able to go back to school full time, I need to work hard this summer to change some bad habits we’ve developed and replace them with good ones.

  • Food. Yep, in our house it all begins with food. What we eat affects our moods, our energy levels, our activity levels. I’m working to figure out the best version of paleo for our family – which I think is going to be just a little bit more carb heavy than usual and contain some cultured dairy. I’m realizing it’s better to be 90% paleo all of the time than it is to be 100% paleo sporadically.
    I’ll be posting some simple meal plans and recipe links – hopefully with breakfast and lunch ideas – every Monday if you’re looking for some new ideas.
  • Activity. Caleb got an XBOX 360 for Christmas and he loves it. My feelings aren’t quite the same. We’re going to have some big limits on gaming, computer/social media time and tv this summer, and I think they’re going to be connected to activity levels and whether or not a certain picky eater is eating what’s served, but no more than an hour per day.
    We’re lucky in that my grandparents and their pool live just a few blocks away – and I plan on taking advantage of that fact as often as possible – but I’m also hoping to start up some family runs at least a few times a week.
    I’m not sure yet what our daily schedule will look like, and I’m trying to stay somewhat flexible, but I’m definitely planning to include some daily reading time in their bedrooms. We’ve done that most years in the past, and it tends to be just enough break and quiet time to make the whole day move more peacefully.
  • Housekeeping. I’ve found it to be way too easy for the house to…hmmm…shall we say…explode during the summer. The kids and I have figured out recently that if we keep the house picked up, it takes about 20 minutes to dust, sweep, mop, vaccuum, clean the bathrooms and kitchen. No joke – we just need the right music.
    My hope is  to do daily “clean sweeps” each evening – a quick pick up to battle the clutter along with daily chores like laundry, dishes and a few other things that need to be done like windowsills – and do a deeper clean twice a week.
  • Words. I’m officially banning “I know” from the vocabulary in our house. There are a whole lot of other words and attitudes I’d like to abolish, but I’m not sure where to start. Lots to pray about and gently guide on this front.

How are your summer plans coming? We’ve got just over two weeks to go.

Menu Plan Monday: 05.21.12

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve gotten a menu plan together and, as always, we’ve paid for it. In the past 3 weeks, we’ve had three houseguests and enjoyed a short vacation, and have had just a whole lot of running around going on. With only three more weeks until summer break and the start of our No Excuses Summer, I’m working hard to get my own daily schedule in place and some bad habits taken care of before the kids are home all day.

A menu plan is always one of the best places to start.

I’m also working on keeping meals a little simpler – we were able to pick up a new barbecue, which will help immensely, and I’m starting to see farm stands pop up with awesome (and cheap!) vegetables. As I always do at the beginning of summer, I’m craving simple and fresh meals.

Fajitas (just dumped on a big salad for me, with corn tortillas for the kids)
Tossed Green Salad

Grilled Chicken, seasoned with Magic Mushroom powder from the Nom Nom Paleo app (which is brilliant, by the way)
Grilled Squash – I have a bit of a glut already and summer isn’t even here yet!
Grilled Sweet Potatoes

All beef, no weird stuff hot dogs
Carrot sticks

Skirt Steak with Chive Butter (from Make It Paleo)
Steamed Broccoli
Green Salad

Red Curry Glazed Chicken Skewers
Roasted Cauliflower (drizzling with coconut oil and my favorite vadouvan spice mix )
White Rice (for the kiddos)

Easy Chicken Cacciatore
Quinoa pasta for the kids
Spaghetti Squash for me

Mom’s Night Off – leftovers or whatever you’re capable of making on you’re own

What’s your plan for this week?

nailing down the plan

In my post a few week’s ago about the lesson’s I’ve learned this past Lenten season, it was painfully obvious that things just aren’t working.

I need a new plan.

The old one – eating foods I shouldn’t, not exercising, totally mis-managing stress, neglecting my Bible study and prayer time, and a lack of structure to my day – wasn’t working.

At all.

I’m still working on some sort of framework for my day, but I think I’m getting closer. Right now, this could be my ideal:

6 am – wake up, exercise and shower

6:45 – wake rest of family, make breakfast

7:20 – nephews arrive

7:50 – take big boys to school

8:00 – meet with Hanna to go over homeschool assignments for the day

8:15 – Bible study, quiet time

rest of morning – play with Ian, laundry, cleaning, kitchen needs, help Hanna as needed

12:00 – lunch

12-1:00 – Ian down for a nap (hopefully), time for whatever project I currently need to spend some time on

2:35 – pick up boys

3:45 – boys go home, start dinner

4:30 – dinner (Little League game nights)

5:30 – dinner (non-game nights)

6:30 – kitchen cleaned, homework done, family time (non-game nights)

9:00 – bedtime

I know. In bed at 9…it seems a little early, but truthfully our entire family is in bed at 9 most school nights. For me, a good night’s sleep is crucial and it’s a pillar of every paleo/primal/ancestral plan out there for good reason.

I’m also working toward a few other changes:

I started the 21 Day Sugar Detox (finally) yesterday. My Mom has been going strong on it for a week and is amazed at the results so far. I’m hoping to stay on it through the end of April and then get back to a solid paleo diet.

I’m working hard to heal my gut (the more I read about leaky gut, the more convinced I am that it might have been the root of the serious health issues I had develop a few years ago). I’m taking a probiotic supplement, finally got brave enough to order supplies to get started making kombucha and am working on implementing more gut-healing foods. Some time ago, I stopped making my own bone broth and have missed it. I’ve got a chicken thawing to get a batch started. I found I really enjoyed a mug of broth a la Nom Nom Paleo, and I’ve been terribly tempted to pick up a pressure cooker to make it quicker.

I’m also reading Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst. I ordered it a month or so ago, but it fell to the side as things have been hectic. I’ve heard so many good things about it, and my brother-in-law (the CrossFit trainer) flipped through and liked what it said about exercise. Time to dig in.

Finally, I’m bringing back the daily and weekly to-do list. It just keeps me on track, and it helps to have it all in one place. I’ve been trying to tame the schedule using my iPhone calendar and it’s just not working. I need it on paper.

How do you tame your day and stress? I’d love to hear more ideas – I’m sure I’ll be tweaking this as I go!

Menu Plan Monday: 04.09.12

We had a lovely – and long – Easter weekend. Lots of family, lots of friends and lots of food. I’m finally getting started on my 21 Day Sugar Detox (last week was rather rough) and other than baseball, it should be a fairly quiet week.

Love those.

For this week’s Avocado Week at Celiac Family, I’ll be eating lots of avocado’s…just like I always do. I can’t get enough! I make guacamole at least once a week, slice it on burgers, dice it under chicken salad, throw half of one into smoothies and sometimes just slice it up and eat it with salt and pepper for a snack. I can’t wait to see how everyone else uses them!

Coco-Monkey or Green Morning Smoothies (21DSD)
Paleo Muffin Tops (for the kiddos)
Chopped Veggies
Green topped banana with almond butter
Scrambled eggs with leftover Easter ham

Monday (baseball practice)
Kale, olive and ham frittata (from Eat Like a Dinosaur)
Almond flour cinnamon rolls (to die for, and so easy! I’ll be skipping them because I’m detoxing)

Tuesday (allergy shots and baseball, assuming it’s not raining)
Balsamic and Onion Pot Roast (so good!)
Kale sauteed with bacon
Mashed potatoes (for the kids)
Mashed butternut squash (for me)

Wednesday (ballgame)
Shakey Pork BBQ  with Texas BBQ Sauce (from Eat Like a Dinosaur)
Steamed Broccoli
Tossed Salad

Pork and Cabbage Stir Fry
Cauliflower rice (I want to see how it freezes)
White rice (for the kids)

50/50 burgers (Eat Like a Dinosaur)
Sweet Potato Fries
Whatever vegetable needs to be eaten

Primal Chicken Tikka Masala
Cauliflower Rice
 Almond Flour Naan

Mom’s night off – it’s leftovers or whatever you can make for yourself

Shared at Org Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday and the Gluten Free Menu Swap at Celiac Family.

menu plan monday: 04.02.12

Last week, I had a menu full of new recipes.

I didn’t make it through all of them – the week got crazy hectic – but all of the ones we tried were really good.

Good enough to go into regular rotation. Seriously, the chocolate chip cookie recipe in Eat Like a Dinosaur is worth the price of the book alone.

This week, we only have one Little League game (whew!) and probably a few practices…but I’m starting the 21 Day Sugar Detox today, we have a Seder dinner at church Thursday evening, no school and friends coming for a cookout on Friday, a family Easter picnic in the foothills Saturday and then there’s Easter on Sunday.

I’m thinking we’ll try to keep it simple.

Coco-Monkey or Green Morning Smoothies (21DSD)
Kale, Bacon and Black Olive Pie (Eat Like a Dinosaur)
Paleo Muffin Tops (for the kiddos)…assuming my almond flour arrives soon
Chopped Veggies
Green topped banana with almond butter

50/50 burgers (from Eat Like a Dinosaur)
Steamed Broccoli
Jicama Fries (from the 21 DSD manual)

Tuesday (allergy shots)
Chicken and Vegetable Lo Mein

Wednesday (game)
Shakey Pork BBQ (p. 53) with Texas BBQ Sauce (p. 145)
Mixed Greens

Seder Dinner at church

Friday (cookout with friends)

Saturday (family picnic)
Tom is cooking the tri tip and I think I’ll bring a few of the sweetener free chocolate almond butter cups from the 21DSD manual

Sunday (Easter)
Mashed Cauliflower (Well Fed)
Cinnamon Parsnips (maybe with half carrots)
Kale with Bacon

Shared at Org Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday and the Gluten Free Menu Swap at Celiac Family.  We strive to “eat paleo”, following  an anti-inflammatory, hormone regulating, whole foods based ancestral diet.