Monday, July 31, 2017

DIY Pallet Wine and Liquor Rack

I was so excited to share my husband's last pallet wood project with you... only... it no longer is his latest project! He's since built something even more awesome than this, but you'll have to wait for me to post about it, but let's just say I'm amazed by his skills and ability to transform simple wooden pallets into masterpieces.

So for now, I'm going to gush about this project of his- a pallet wine rack. Though I'll admit, we do store other things on there, not just wine. Like vodka, and whiskey, and other distilled beverages. I guess that makes it a wine and liquor rack. Why not? Yes, it only holds wine glasses, not glasses meant for other types of alcohol, but in our home we don't stand on ceremony, we'll drink anything from a wine glass.

Managing Finances While Unemployed

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
I am very happy that my husband works in a very much needed, if underpaid, profession round these parts. He'll hopefully never be unemployed, and that hasn't been an issue of ours since we married. However, those in other professions often do face layoffs or end up unemployed for whatever reasons, and I really appreciate this post by reader, Amy, about how to manage your finances in such a situation.

There are lots of reasons for being unemployed. A majority of people are unemployed abruptly. They may have been let go or laid off with no warning. This is why it’s recommended you have an emergency fund equal to three months of expenses saved up. That way if the unavoidable happens, you have a backup plan. Plenty of folks don’t always have those expenses saved up and if they do, they could very well find themselves unemployed longer than those 3 months. Or even experience more hardship that depletes their funds quickly. This changes how we need to manage our finances when we become unemployed. Here are our top tricks on what you can do to help you manage your money and hopefully stay afloat.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Easy Healthy Eating Menu Plan for Weight Loss- With Recipes

Sauted mushrooms and kale, seasoned with curry powder,
and seared curry spiced tuna
Someone I care about was told that they need to lose weight desperately, go on a diet, because otherwise they have a very, very high risk of having medical complications.
This person currently does not eat healthily at all, is not much of a cook, but wants to, and doesn't have a lot of time or energy to be spending all day in the kitchen. I was asked to make this person a menu plan, to help them lose weight, and fast.

I will add at this point that I am not a dietician nor a doctor nor do I profess to be one. The whole point of this post is just to share some tips that worked for me, some easy menu ideas that are weight loss friendly and aren't too time consuming to prepare. If you're unsure of what you should be eating for weight loss reasons, run this by a doctor or dietician before starting. I don't think I shared anything controversial at all, though, just well rounded healthy meals.

I have personal experience with losing weight by going on a Paleo diet, especially one with lower amounts of carbohydrates, but I think that that change might be a bit too big for someone who currently doesn't eat healthily. So I would not suggest that this person go completely Paleo, just a gluten free, clean eating, low carb, moderate fat, diet, and if that doesn't seem to be working, then I'd suggest she tweak it to be different, as needed.

The basis of the diet will be three square meals a day, carbohydrates strictly limited, lean proteins, unlimited amounts of lower carbohydrate vegetables, and fats moderated but not limited as strictly as carbohydrates. I read a post on a while back (but can't find the link anymore) about why many people who go on lower carb diets lose weight at first and then start gaining it back, and part of what he said is that it is not just carbohydrate intake that affects weight loss, but overall calories as well. Usually when people first start going lower carb, they eat fewer calories as well, since they can't stomach the higher fat content of a diet in which fat replaces carbohydrates. However, gradually they start eating more and more fatty foods and this causes them to gain weight because they end up eating just as many calories, if not more, than where they started out, replacing carbs with high fat foods like nuts and cheeses. Because of this, I think its important that people trying to lose weight don't overdo the fats. I'm not saying avoid them entirely, but be cognizant of how many fats you are eating. Don't snack on nuts, for example.

Investing for the Average Joe

If, like myself, you're not a maven in investing, but want to know more, thankfully Nancy Evans wrote this informative post to help teach us more about investing money.

Where and how you invest your money is a decision that is critical. That being said, being able to fully understand the different types of investments you can make might just require you to take a crash course in just the terminology. Here is a quick look at a few of the terms and investment types that might help you gain a bit of an understanding of the process of investing while allowing you to make better, more informed decisions.

A cryptocurrency is a digital type of asset that has been developed and designed in such a way that they function as a type of exchange (just as with money) online. Cryptocurrency is managed and maintained by the use of cryptography, and this acts as a measure of security. You can invest in this asset by either purchasing it outright or by mining for it with a company such as Genesis Mining. There are quite a few types of this currency, but Bitcoin is the most well – known. There are also Litecoin, Ripple, MintChip, and Ethereum.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Homemade Ranch Dressing Seasoning Mix Recipe--Vegan, Paleo, and Allergy Friendly

Growing up, my family didn't have lots of ranch dressing (French and Italian and Thousand Island were more common), but we did periodically buy it.
And we used it as a salad dressing, period.

As an adult, I learned how versatile ranch dressing is. How it can be used as a sauce on nearly anything from pizza to chicken to fish to french fries and so many other ways. But you don't even need to have the dressing to get the yummy flavor- ranch dressing seasoning mix can also be used in a variety of ways to add deliciousness to a variety of dishes.
My friend Kerryann uses ranch seasoning mix on brussel sprouts. I find it is absolutely out of this world on zucchini. Popcorn also tastes great with it. So does chicken and fish and rice and potatoes and roasted carrots... You name it, its good with ranch dressing seasoning mix.

I made my own after seeing ideas on plenty of different sites. I added nutritional yeast to give it a cheesiness, but if you don't like nutritional yeast or don't have it, you can leave it out. If leaving out the nutritional yeast, make sure to use the smaller amount of salt listed, or it'll be too salty.

If you want ranch dressing or dip instead of just the seasoning mix, you have a few options. You can take mayonnaise and buttermilk or regular milk or non dairy milk or sour cream or non dairy sour cream and mix two or more of them together with the seasoning mix, added to taste, until you have it just right.
If you want to keep it vegan, you can mix it with cashew cream (soaked cashews blended up with lemon and salt) or vegan mayo (like my flax seed mayo) or a mix of the two.

Everyone in my family adores my ranch dressing and seasoning mix- I hope your family enjoys as much as mine does.

Homemade Vegan Ranch Dressing Seasoning Mix Recipe

1/4 cup dried parsley
2 tablespoons dried dill
1/4 cup onion flakes
1/2-1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder or granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)

1. Mix all the ingredients together.

2. If you have a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder grind until a little more fine. It doesn't need to be powdery- some chunks are fine.

3. Store in a dry place until using.


Are you a fan of ranch? Do you tend to use the seasoning mix or the dressing? What is your favorite use for the seasoning mix or dressing? Do you tend to make it from scratch and if so, how? Or do you buy it ready made?
Does this look like a recipe you'd try?

Diversified Investments: Examples to Help You Gauge Your Future

Image courtesy of Pong at
I literally know nothing about investing, but it is an important stage in taking care of your finances- save money and then once you have it saved, invest to grow. That is why I appreciate this post by reader Nancy Evans about how to invest better. 

Investment diversification is a hard topic to grasp if you’ve mostly relied on autopilot investment strategies like a company 401K. A recent story in Bloomberg highlights why more people are taking an active interest in their future finances: employers are rapidly slashing benefits. From 2001 to 2015, there’s evidence that workers lost a collective quarter of the value of previous generations in benefits. Simply put, retirement is expensive and companies are scaling back to cut costs.

That puts the lion’s share of work on you to figure out where and how to invest. If you’re a beginner, and you’re wondering what a healthy diversified portfolio looks like, here are some examples and thoughts to stimulate your mind.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Frugality When Dating

When you meet people in person, especially when it's through friends, you often know something about them already based on how you met them. If you met them through frugal mutual friends, or doing a frugal activity, you'd have an idea (though maybe not complete) about how they live, that they may be frugal oriented. But if you meet them through dating websites such as Yes Dates you can't make any assumptions about whether or not they'd be on the same page as you vis-a-vis frugality, and therefore, it should be discussed on dates early on in a relationship to make sure you're compatible in terms of lifestyle and financially.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Story of My Redbud Flower Wine and Its Transformations

When I read Pascal Bauder's book "The New Wildcrafted Cuisine" I got so inspired by his taking wild plants- fruits and flowers- and turning them into alcoholic beverages. He has a whole section about that in his book, including how to make these beverages without any added yeast, just using the wild ones in the area.

Mid March I took a bunch of foraged redbud flowers and mixed them with sugar and water and let them sit, to see what would happen to them. I don't remember the exact proportion of sugar to water...

Boost Your Home’s Resale Value on the Cheap

I am so grateful to have been able to buy a house in a community I love that I have no plans on moving away from this place any time in the near future, if ever. But I do know, though, that many people are trying to sell their home, and in order to increase its resale value often invest lots of money into their property first. This post was sent by a reader, and hopefully it'll be useful for those of you in need of some ideas on how to boost your home's resale value without needing to spend too much money on the process.

Moving is never easy, both from the aspect of logistics and emotionally. Leaving your home for a new place you may not know much about can be stressful. However, if you are able to get a good price for your home, you can be more content with the whole situation. Prepping your home for the sale doesn’t have to cost a whole lot of money if you do it smartly.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Our Family's Frugal Accomplishments This Past Week

My husband's frugal project this week.

It's been some time since I did a weekly frugal accomplishment round up, but I've been missing those. For those new here, it's when throughout the week I tally up the various frugal things I did, and then share them with you at the end of the week. Sometimes I do more frugal things, and sometimes less. Sometimes I look back and say "Wow, I really had a very unfrugal week"- that happened this week, I'll admit- and then when I write up the post I get reminded that, despite thinking I flubbed frugally (and I'm not saying that never happens, or that I didn't do anything unfrugal this week), I still did things to save money that are worthy of acknowledgment, even if they are small.

So here they are- the various frugal things my husband and I did that saved money over the past week.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Biking, Exploring, and Cooking- My Polish Vacation, Day 2

Sorry I didn't get this post the day it happened, about 2 week ago. I wrote most of it then but was too tired to post it, and then decided to save writing and posting about my trip until after I came home.

If I had to sum up my first official day on Poland (because the day I was traveling there can't officially be counted, for real), it would be with the words biking, exploring, foraging, and cooking. My Airbnb hosts Piotr and Karolina are really wonderful people, first of all. They speak decent english, are very helpful and kind, and I believe I just made some new friends.

Piotr and Karolina gave me a bike to use for while I was there, and though as a child and teen I bike rode a lot and enjoyed it, I haden't ridden a bike in 15 years. My goal was to explore the countryside and bike to a park 12 kilometers away, possibly, or stay more local.

My day started out seeing this gorgeous view from my balcony window, at my AirBnB in Jastkow, Poland, a village not far outside Lublin:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Give Your Bathroom a Facelift on a Budget

I am really excited to share this post with you. Fortunately, living in a brand new house, our bathroom is quite beautiful (if I may say so myself), and hopefully soon I plan on sharing pics with you. But I know what it's like to live in an older home especially with a bathroom that is far from ideal, so this post filled with lots of affordable ways to give your bathroom a makeover, from the most basic to the more extreme, depending on your skills level and budget. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Have you been through this motion? However often you clean your bathroom, it always seems just a bit too tired and never quite shines as you would want it to? Maybe it is time to remodel it. Companies such as Plumbing Plus of San Diego offer a wide variety of choices. However, remodeling can be a costly endeavor and not everyone can afford it. Yet, there might be an easier, more affordable solution. Give your bathroom a facelift where it counts. This article contains several ideas for refreshing your bathroom without much investment.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Authenticity and its Pitfalls

Some of you might have wondered about my post last month, and about the relatively infrequent posting on my blog since then...

I'm authentic on this blog when it comes to sharing my lifestyle choices with you, even lifestyle choices that may be very different from the norm. This is an extreme frugality blog, and I do other extreme things, so yes, I'm daring to be authentic here...

But I get pushback. Sometimes I get criticism, and that I can usually take, because I'm confident enough in what we do and that our lifestyle is the right one for our family. But sometimes I get such cruel responses, attacking me and my character and my morals and everything else I hold dear... and that's when it makes me do a double take and question sharing so much.

I was reading a book by Brene Brown (awesome speaker, writer, etc... look her up on Youtube to see her Ted talks if you haven't yet) called "The Gifts of Imperfection; Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are" and came across this segment that spoke to me so much, you have no idea, especially as it relates to this blog, and inspired me to keep on being me and authentic, despite the kickback I inevitably will get. Because that is the price for connecting, and I've connected to so many of you readers via this blog, and I wouldn't want to give that up for the world.

And now here's what Brene said.

Friday, July 14, 2017

BBQ Rub and Seasoning with Coffee and Garlic Recipe- Inspired by Trader Joe's

My sister in law visited from the United States, and brought me along some gifts that I really appreciated- some spice mixes from Trader Joe's. One of them was this delicious coffee and garlic spice rub that I loved to put on nearly everything, though baked chicken was my favorite... but as with these types of things, I eventually ran out of it...
I decided to try to mimic the recipe, and reading the back gave me a good idea of what was in it. However, I found this link to a copy cat recipe for it, and then modified it to use what I had in the house. I left out the orange/clementine peel, but you know what? I think it's just fine without it. Can I say it tastes exactly the same? I don't know, but it's great, and my kids just wanted to sit there eating the spice mix plain, its that good.
Feel free to use this spice mix on pretty much anything you want, such as roasted veggies, chicken, fish, beef, etc... It doesn't need to be barbecued- just baked is fine, or even sprinkled onto your food right before eating.
This is a vegan and gluten free recipe, and depending on how you make it, it can also be paleo (if you use coconut sugar).

BBQ Rub and Seasoning with Coffee and Garlic Recipe- Inspired by Trader Joe's

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Foraging Wild Edibles in Poland- With Lots of Pictures!

Having never stepped foot in Poland before, I assumed that going there, I might recognize one or two different edible plants, and maybe do a drop of foraging. I was not expecting to recognize most of the plants there, with them being things I regularly forage locally, or plants I'm familiar with even if I didn't forage them myself.

Here's just some of the many, many, many edible plants I saw in Poland. I saw the vast majority of them the the first day in Poland, in the Jastkow village in the countryside outside Lublin, but saw very many wild edibles in the city of Lublin, proper, as well as in Warsaw.

When I first was being driven from the airport to the rural airbnb where I was staying at, at around 3 in the morning, I saw these giant leaves growing all along the sides of the country road. I couldn't identify them 100% because it was dark and the speed in which we were driving, but I saw that it was absolutely the most common plant I could find in the countryside. I suspected it was a type of dock/sorrel/rumex species, but decided to check it out better in the morning.

When I had a chance to walk and bike through the country side, I took a better look at this plant and saw that it was not dock, but rather horseradish!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

My Poland Trip- Day One, Sorta

It is currently 3:15 am Polish time, and I'm tired. I just decided that I want to write a blog post every day of my trip (or nearly) so I'll keep this short and head straight to bed, so I can be bright eyed and bushy tailed tomorrow for my bike trip through the country side.

This morning I wrote a menu for the family for while I'm gone, all easy to make foods, and then finished packing the last of my stuff and headed out the door. I specifically went to a change place in town instead of converting money in Poland or at the airport to get better rates. 

After that, I headed to the airport bus that goes straight from the city center to the departure terminal. It was very cheap, only $4.50.

I got to the airport really, really early. I mean super early. As in instead of getting to the airport 3 hours before my flight as they recommend, I arrived 6 hours early... Ok, plenty of time to relax and get things done (pick up my travel health insurance card, my sim card, etc...), but the flight ended up being delayed by 2 hours, so turns out I arrived to the airport 8 hours before my flight took off!

Once I finally got onto the plane, I was pleasantly surprised to see that despite my paying only 47 dollars round trip for my flight, the airplane was decent. It was a Boeing 737, I specifically asked as my son Lee is obsessed with airplanes.

The flight was decent. I talked with some of the people on the plane, made a few friends, including some that want me to stay in touch.

I took this picture of the plane so that Lee, who will be reading this blog post to follow along with my travels, can see what the airplane looked like.

Passport control was literally a cinch. Someone on the plane from Belarus, neighboring Poland, was telling me how much his visa cost, and I was wondering how much I'd have to pay for mine. 
They literally looked at my passport, didn't say a word to me, just scanned it and stamped it and that's it.

The arrivals hall was not what I expected. I don't know what I expected, but not this. Then again, after 2 am so....

Interesting and amusing and comforting and weird to see those rental car services I'm familiar with from the US, Avis and Hertz, in Lublin too...

One thing I've noticed so far- Poland has lots and lots and lots of doors. Every hallway has a door at the beginning and end of it. I was told by my airbnb host that it is to keep out the cold. But it's just weird to see so many doors...

Pleasantly surprised to see this nursing room in the airport right near the bathrooms.

My airbnb host picked me up from the airport- even nicer as it was at 2:30 am, and brought me to the place.

The room where I'm staying for $13 a night is large, comfortable, etc... even if its not necessarily my style decor. 

In the morning I'll explore more.

The bathroom is gorgeous but no pic of it yet...

So far spent today on this trip?  $4.50 on the airport bus, $23.14 on my airfare, $45 on my cell phone service plan, $13 on my airbnb, $11.34 towards my host for the ride from the airport, and $4 for orange juice and vodka as a treat for myself on the flight. $100.98 so far. I plan on keeping a running tally for the duration of the trip.

 And now, time for bed.


Hopefully will update tomorrow... (Or rather... today.)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Getting Ready for My Trip

Sorry I haven't been so talkative lately, still trying to figure out certain things about this blog... but in addition to that, I've been pretty busy lately doing all sorts of stuff, including teaching various foraging and shopping classes around and more importantly, getting ready for my trip!

I leave tomorrow for Lublin, Poland, and I'm really excited. My itinerary changed from what I'd originally planned- instead of just staying in the Lublin area, I'm taking a double decker bus to Warsaw where I'll be spending two days, before coming back to Lublin by train. I already found out details about the public transportation and purchased tickets.