Monday, January 30, 2012

5 Quick Ways to Save Money

I'm always looking for little tips to save money.  Whether I want to put the money saved towards a bill or save it for a house project or spend it on some new cloth diapers, it's nice to know when you're able to save a bit.  Here are some easy, quick tips to save money.

1. Drop a small (or large) bill.  Look where your money is going each month.  Can you find a cheaper gym?  Do you read those magazines or can you get a cheaper e-version?  For us, we dropped our Netflix when the bill went up to $16 a month.  We weren't watching that many movies and for that price, we could rent almost 16 Redbox movies to justify it.  And Redbox had all the new releases and Netflix didn't.  Now, we end up getting a Redbox movie maybe once a month, costing us $1 versus $16.

2. Make a shopping list off your grocery store flyers and follow it.  Browse your grocery store's flyer and make your weekly menu off of that.    I have a major weakness in that, when I'm hungry, I'm hungry.  My friends and family know I turn into a monster without food and get sick.  If I neglect the dinner menu, I either run to the store and come home with ice cream, Doritos, sour gummy worms, and frozen taquitos or I send my husband out for fried chicken.  See, no menu=no self-control=YUCK.  So check out the super sales and plan your shopping list.  If you need inspiration, this is a site where you can enter ingredients and in turn, are given recipe ideas!

3. Drop the land line and consider your cell phone service.  For years, people have been getting rid of their land lines and directing all their phone calls to their mobile phones.  Great way to save.  However, cell phones prices and addendums have continued to snowball, leaving some families, who opt for services like unlimited data, text and talking, with monthly bills reaching $1,000.  It may be worthwhile to pay your contract severance fees and find a pay-as-you-go or prepaid phone.  I have several friends who are happy with their $45 a month mobile phone bill and service and don't find it inconvenient to buy minutes and data as needed.

4. Check reviews and prices.
  Shop before you buy.  With nearly everything online, there's no reason why you can't Google a review for that new blender you want.  In doing so, you may find that the $40 machine is good, but there is a $30 blender, of a different brand, that has better reviews and a longer warranty.  Besides, thinking about your purchase (when it's not physically in front of you) quite often makes you reconsider before making a hasty decision with that new birthday money.

5. Don't buy it, make it.
  You saw a cute canvas photo print in a store but didn't like the price tag?  Replicate it.  Have a craving for Chili's salsa?  Make it.  Have a baby shower coming up and you need a gift?  Check out this list of 12 baby shower gifts you can make.  Laundry soap killing your budget?  Mix up your own.

My mantra!

Saving money can be easy and not as painful as one might think!  Hope this encourages you and maybe gives you some ideas as to how to fatten your wallet!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Hello, Cookie Lips

Baby girl and her bright, inquisitive eyes

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Limiting Your Household Plastic Usage - Guest Post by Jakob Barry

When it comes to rescuing the environment we don’t have to be part of a large organization to make a difference. Much of the work can be done right at home and a good place to start is with our use of disposable plastic.

Plastic was invented in the mid 19th century but only began to be mass produced around World War II. Since then the material has done wonders for fields such as medicine, sports, technology, and house remodeling but over the years the ecological impact on our planet has in many ways been disastrous.

Most plastics take long periods of time to biodegrade and chemicals used to manufacture containers for food packaging often cause bodily harm by leaching into the product, which is then consumed by people and absorbed by the digestive system.

That’s why the more we cut down on using plastic the faster the world can begin to heal and we can have a better future. Here are a few easy to implement tips on limiting every day plastic usage in our lives at home:

  1. Plastic-ware: Most people use plastic-ware not because it looks better or that it’s fancier than stainless steal, silver, or even wood. It’s usually out of convenience which is sometimes necessary and unavoidable. At the same time each plastic fork that gets tossed in the trash could take up to 100 years to biodegrade and as it’s breaking down the chemicals used in the manufacturing process pollute the ground. That’s why whenever the opportunity presents itself get back to using reusable flatware instead of plastic utensils, plates, and cups. It will mean a change in routine and more patience having to wash things out but the long term benefits out way the immediate hassles.

  1. Plastic food bags: Both adults and children use plastic bags regularly for snacks and sandwiches for lunches but these can effortlessly be replaced by reusable containers. Try having several and of varying sizes available, especially for those mornings when you forgot to wash out the one from the day before.

  1. Plastic shopping bags: Believe it or not billions of plastic shopping bags are used worldwide by consumers annually and each bag could take up to 1000 years to biodegrade. If you think about it, that’s a lot of plastic lying around ecosystems internationally. The easiest way to get off the plastic bag hitch is to start phasing them out while finding reusables made of cotton or canvas for hauling your groceries home.

  1. Plastic bottles: When it comes to all things plastic people recognize bottles as an obvious candidate for recycling but still consume more. To get around purchasing drinks like water use the tap more and drink out of reusable water bottles. Furthermore, if you like soda, buy a soda carbonator and make your own flavors. Most of these machines don’t use any electricity and after a few months you’ll be saving at the register as well as feel a little lighter not having to carry heavy six packs home.

  1. Plastic trash bags: The next time you decide to throw something away take a good look at it. Is it paper? Recycle it. Is it plastic? Recycle it. Is it from a fruit or vegetable? Compost it. Ninety percent of the things we toss in the regular trash have another use and it’s up to us to decide how to be more resourceful with our garbage. By doing this we will use less plastic trash bags around the house. Alternatively, whenever possible use paper bags instead.

Finally it’s important to note that if you’ve been using plastic disposables all your life and it’s hard to make the transition to mostly reusables try Greener brands which biodegrade faster or consider those made from paper or vegetable matter. They may be a little pricier but will help make a smoother shift towards a completely plastic free life.

Jakob Barry is a home improvement journalist for He blogs about eco-friendly kitchen topics for pros across the U.S. like Anaheim flooring contractors.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Weekend Reading: 1/13/12

Hi everyone!  It's been quite a while since I've done a post of weekend reading, but with old man winter finally showing up for many of us, I figure this is the perfect time to grab some tea, read some thought-provoking posts, challenge ourselves and pray for others!

Happy weekend and happy reading!

Sarah's post, called Emotional Nudists, challenges me as I struggle with vulnerability sometimes. From the post:
But, I say, I will not, I cannot feel that kind of hurt again. I pad my heart so carefully against injury. So I put up walls ... I build up bricks of protection ... Never again, I say. Never. But with all love comes some hurt. With all real emotion comes transparency and with living in an emotionally naked way comes vulnerability.

Please be in prayer for Courtney, as her son, Tripp, is nearing the end of his little life on this earth.

Vanessa asks if $1 really makes a difference in the fight for racial equality.

Read about (and even sign) the petition to bring breastfeeding back to Sesame Street.  I remember when it was on there and didn't think a thing of it!

Emily at Frugal Granola shares a free tutorial on making Homemade Bulk Shopping Bags.

Annalise shares how to make lovely, homemade pure vanilla extract!  Yum!

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Natural Family Planning

Well, hello!  To add to the topics that make my family members embarrassed to call me their own and might even got some feathers ruffled, today I share with you some information on family planning.

Yes, family planning.

*waves hello to all the family members reading this post (you all can turn around now if this is TMI)*

My life has been a learning forum, and this blog, in part, is used to share useful information. 

Since I share candidly on this topic with friends and have even taught courses on it overseas, this is some information I may as well publicly share with the blogosphere.

Many of you remember that I've never been anxious for India to sleep through the night.  In fact, many times I set my alarm and woke her up to nurse, to keep my cycles at bay. That method of family planning, falls into the category of Lactational Ammenorrhea, and I was quite successful at it!  As cute as India was, I didn't want another little one running around.  Between nursing frequently and because I had previously tracked my cycles, I knew what signs normally meant my body was getting ready to ovulate.  I won't be covering lactational ammenorrhea in this post, but instead will focus on others methods of natural birth control.

Natural Family Planning (NFP), as it's most commonly known, is also known as the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), sypmtothermal method, charting method, or the Pull 'n Pray method.  It can be a very effective tool for avoiding or achieving pregnancy.  For the ease of everyone, I'll refer to these symptom-based methods as FAM, since that's what method I'm familiar with.

In short, FAM is exactly what it's called: being aware of your body and your fertility.  Through a course of monitoring your body's signs you can know much about your body. 

Some people get headaches regularly, which can often be tracked back to ovulation.  Others can easily explain how, after using FAM, they were able to figure out their luteal phase was too short.  I've heard several stories of women who have tried to get pregnant, but didn't until they tracked their cycles.

How does it work?

Calendar-based: Based on the assumption that a woman's cycle is 28 days long, ovulation is estimated at Day 14.  Days 8-19 are considered fertile days.  While this has a 95% effective rate, I personally would have been pregnant years ago had I just gone off the calendar.
Symptothermal: Using a woman's cycle as the base of calculations, a combination of symptoms are observed: daily temperatures recorded upon waking, cervical mucous, cervical position and opening, and some consult ovulation tests for added confirmation.  It sounds like a lot of work but it really takes less than 5 minutes a day during your most fertile point.  As you approach ovulation, you either practice abstinence or take some sort of preventative measure.  Ovulation is confirmed with a rise in your basal body temperature.

Chart from  You can see the direct rise in temperature, confirming ovulation.  Days 13 - 16 would either call for abstinence or a barrier method is preventing pregnancy.

Does it work?

If you do FAM guessing on dates, skip taking your temperatures and having lots of "oops" sex, the answer is: no.  There is a church in my town in which many of the newly married women practice some sort of calendar or symptoms based method.  I'm friends with several of these women and it became quite a joke as one by one, most got pregnant fairly quickly after getting married.  We'd laugh together as they would share their "oops" stories!  Many of them will tell you it doesn't work.  

However, if you are aware of your body (which after 3 - 4 months you will know your cycle VERY well), FAM can work well at preventing or achieving pregnancy.  Some studies have found that there is a 99.6% effectiveness rate!

Why not just take the pill? 

Because I wanted my body to function as intended (which includes ovulation), I wasn't comfortable taking the Pill, getting an IUD or taking any shots, and I chose FAM.  I wanted to be natural and aware of my body.  Suppressing ovulation, stopping something my body is supposed to do, didn't seem like a great idea to me.  I also wasn't comfortable with the fact that sometimes those methods of birth control fail and don't suppress ovulation.  When that happens, fertilization of an egg is possible, thus creating a little life.  However, the above methods of birth control make your uterine lining inhospitable, making it very difficult for the fertilized egg, or in my opinion, a new life, to implant and therefore, greatly increases your chance of spontaneous abortion.  Of course, we all hear stories and know women who get pregnant on the pill or with an IUD, and deliver a healthy baby.  There's a lot of ifs and thens, but because of these two reasons, I've decided to stick with FAM for the last 10 years.

Yes, 10 years.  So, yes, I'd say it's been very effective at preventing and achieving pregnancy!   Perhaps I'll post more on that in the future.  But for the people who say it's impossible: I'm here to tell you, it's not.

OK, so where do I start?

I think the best resource on any symptothermal method is Toni Weschler's book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility.  It's the most comprehensive guide and takes a very balanced approach (unlike traditional NFP which doesn't allow for barrier methods).  Reading this post or even reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility can seem so daunting, but really, it's not that difficult to grasp.  The first month or two, as you're learning your body, be sure to use some sort of barrier method unless you're absolutely positive you're not fertile.  As you get more comfortable with the course of your cycles, you'll quickly know, through observation and temping, when you're ovulating.  Many women also use Fertility Friend to easily monitor their cycles and I noticed they even have an easy online primer course to get started!

Knowing what your body is doing helps give explanation to so many other symptoms that occur in a woman's body.  This simple knowledge, that costs next to nothing and takes very little time, is something that every woman can easily know about her body if she wants.

Have you ever used or considered a symptothermal based method?

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Not Wordless Wednesday: Holiday Photo Highlights

I've been super behind on posting anything about our time during Christmas, so here are some picture highlights, spanning about 8 days, of our fun Christmas activities!

Even babies need to nurse!

Sitting by Uncle Nick in her own chair!

Hanging with Grandma

Poor girl also got the flu on Christmas Eve night.  She was all better and FULL of energy on Christmas morning after a bath...

Crazy on Christmas morning!

She loved opening all her Christmas presents!
She played in her new kitchen for hours!
The play kitchen was actually a gift for her birthday in July, but she didn't have any play food, so we had to wait until Christmas!  She LOVES it!

Mama got the flu shortly after India did, and Daddy got it a couple of days later, right as he was preparing to travel to Ghana, Africa.  NOT fun to be sick while you're traveling so far!

India missed a lot of naps, which caused her to press the limit....

...and the lack of sleep also caused some meltdowns.

Having a meltdown, but still so cute!

Beautiful girl!

In the end, Christmas was wonderful and I'd say India enjoyed her second Christmas much more than her first!  We're still sorting through gifts and toys (and preparing for a garage sale)  and even through sickness, missed naps and late nights, it was worth it all!

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