Thursday, May 31, 2018

Paleo Vegan Tzatziki Recipe -- Mediterranean Yogurt Cucumber Sauce

Growing up my mother made this delicious dish that she called "cucumber salad with yogurt". Yup, that's what it was called. And I absolutely loved it! But then I found out that it actually has a real name! It's called tzatziki in Greece where it's eaten as a sauce for meat or as a dip.
Looking up about tzatziki for the purpose of this post, I've discovered it has many different names and variations and is used throughout the Mediterranean region, from cacik in Turkey to tarator in the Balkans, talattouri in Cyprus, jajeek in Iraq, and mast-o-khiar in Iran. With so many versions and names, I understand why my mother just decided to call it "cucumber salad with yogurt."

But as I don't eat dairy because it causes me stomach issues, I figured out a recipe for a cashew based one that is both vegan and Paleo and full of good nutritious things, and pretty much friendly for most diets other than nut free or low fat ones.

Of course if you can use dairy, or prefer to use a dairy free yogurt, feel free to replace the cashews, water, and lemon juice with yogurt to make a more traditional tzaziki.

I highly recommend this recipe. Every time I've made it, people have devoured it and begged for more. Feel free to use it as a topping for anything you'd like, or even just eat it plain as a side dish.

Paleo Vegan Tzaziki Recipe -- Greek Yogurt Cucumber Sauce

How Using Technology Can Save You Money

Some people eschew tech, and claim that it saves them money. My view is that as long as you use tech correctly, there are so many ways you can use it to save money. Here's a few ideas from a reader.

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Saving money where we can is always a good idea. Somehow, though, many of us have trouble sticking to the habit, which means payday can sometimes feel like an eternity away. What can we do to make those pennies last a little bit longer? Without changing our lifestyle too much, how can we learn to put aside a little bit each month for a rainy day - a holiday, a weekend away, that special birthday present for the special person in your life?

Below is a list of money-saving ideas. By following our tips you’ll still be able to enjoy the same things, but at a fraction of what you usually pay. Sound too good to be true? It's really not - it just requires a bit of thought and preparation. You will have to change the way you do things a little, but the fun you'll get from seeing those pennies grow into pounds in no time at all will make it all worthwhile.

The one thing that connects all these ideas is the use of the sort of technology we have in the palm of our hands. A smartphone can save you thousands of pounds if you use it properly, and most of the time you won't even need to leave your house. Life has never been so easy…

Monday, May 28, 2018

An Update and Some Latest Frugal Escapades

Sorry I haven't posted the past few days. So I wanted to update you with what's been going on in my life.
I've been working on a really cool blog post about something I'm passionate about (take a guess in the comments below what it is) but it's taking a lot of mental power and focus to write it (because of all the mathematical calculations -- my math brain is a little rusty as of late) so I haven't gotten that up yet since I haven't finished it. But stuff is in the works.

On Thursday when I first woke up, I was searching for my glasses on my night stand and in my fumbling, accidentally knocked a small speaker (and yes, i mean small!) onto my big toe and was in excruciating pain. Not long after my toe turned purple and had a giant blood blister next to it, and the pain did not subside. I didn't rush to the doctor because there was no way I was going to be putting on shoes, and the local doctor wasn't in that day, and I wasn't going to go by bus to the urgent care in the next city when I wanted to cry from pain, especially when even if it was broken, the doctors likely wouldn't do anything to it, since there isn't really what to do with a broken big toe (and I confirmed that with my dad as well as my uncle who is the head doctor of an urgent care center).

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

When Your Therapist Prescribes Self Care

Last month, I had a really interesting and insightful interview with my friend Daniella about her experiences in therapy, and I mentioned there how much I support going to therapy. Here's the thing, though. As moms, very often we put ourselves last, and when we're living a frugal lifestyle, either by choice or by necessity, it is hard to convince ourselves that we're worth spending money on. If there's any money available, we feel guilty spending it on ourselves. We have an easier time justifying spending money on our kids, but for ourselves? This is probably one of the hardest things for us to do, because when it comes to parenthood, there's so much guilting involved, both from society, and from ourselves. (Just look at my last post, and see how someone commented, trying to guilt me for parenting badly because my children can be destructive....)

Fortunately, I've had some mentors over the years who have convinced me that I'm worth spending money on, but that took a while for me to be able to make it to that place that would let me feel comfortable spending money on something I really wanted, a home birth. But even with that big thing, in the day to day, when we have so many errands on our to-do list (take care of the kids, take care of the house, cook meals, work, run errands, etc...) that its hard to justify doing anything for ourselves, because that seems like an "extra", especially when it feels like there are more things to do than hours in the day in which to accomplish them. I am not kidding when I say that I have discussions with my friends that include questions like "Does a shower count as self care?" "Does an OB appointment count as self care?" I mean, it's a bit ridiculous that we generally do so little for ourselves that we try to consider things on our to do list as self care.

When someone starts going to therapy, especially therapy styles that are more goal oriented, one of the first things that many therapists will talk about is the importance of self care. While we think that our needs as human beings are food, shelter, water, and clothing, our actual needs are much more complex than that. Our psyche needs certain things to be able to continue functioning, and those include relationships, love, and honestly, happiness. When we constantly put ourselves last, and never stop to consider what we want, or what will make us happy, this takes a huge toll on us, and can lead to depression and many other issues. Someone wise I know once told me that while we like to differentiate wants and needs, when we constantly negate our wants, and tell ourselves (consciously or not) that what we want doesn't matter, those wants actually end up becoming emotional needs, without which we cannot function.

After the Accident: Steps to Take When You’ve Sustained Injuries

My husband was hit by a motorcycle a few years ago. Fortunately he didn't sustain any injuries other than being covered in scratches from thorns (a real miracle) so he didn't need to do any of these steps. However, unfortunately many people aren't as lucky, and many do get injured in car accidents, and it can cause them problems. If this happens to you, hopefully this post by Nancy Evans will help you figure out your next steps.

You’ve been involved in a car accident and have sustained injuries through no fault of your own. Unfortunately, this means that you’ll be out of work for a while to recover. You’ve got some money in savings and some sick time you can cash in, however, it's probably not going to last very long. Your car is likely wrecked, medical bills are adding up, and although you may have adequate insurance coverage, the process for getting compensated accurately can be long and tedious. The trick to getting some peace of mind is to act swiftly and follow these important steps.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Buying a Table and Chair Set for the First Time

I've been an adult for 12 years already, and married nearly that long, and I have to say that even with all that, I've only really felt like I've become a "real" adult for the last year and a half, since we've moved into our own home. It honestly is less the fact that we own the place, and more what we did with it; each milestone in it, especially buying something "new" made me feel more and more like a "real adult".
When we bought our first couch set when we moved into this new home, it made it turn into a "real" home and not an makeshift home, made it a home I felt proud to share. Roughly the same time we also bought a new washing machine, dryer, and refrigerator. For the first time ever we had brand new things, and not stuff bought second hand or salvaged from the trash. And it started to make me feel even a bit like an impostor. Because how could I, the frugal lady, the one who is known for doing things super cheaply, actually have new and nice things? The fact that we bought them cheaply, even if new, meant that I wasn't compromising my values, but it still was something hard to wrap my mind around and feel comfortable with.

But even with our nice new house, and our new appliances and so much in our house that we were proud of, our dining area left much to be desired.
When we first got married, we got a nice sized solid wood 8 seater table for free. It had no leaves, but it was more than large enough for us. When we moved to our smaller home, our landlords offered us a free table that looked similar to the one we had, only this was an 8 seater when closed, but had 2 leaves so could open to seat 12. It was also narrower than our old table, so perfect for our small apartment. It was no brainer, so we gave away our old table, and since then had the hand me down from our landlord. Over the years, the table started showing signs of wear and tear, and my handy husband fixed it as best as he could, but it still had issues. Although he fixed the table legs that were shaky, suddenly when we moved the table we had to be sure that the leg actually moved with the table or the entire table would collapse. The latches to keep the table together and closed when there were no leaves also broke. Essentially it got to be a real pain to have the table.

Turn Your Home into an Energy-Efficient Haven

Energy bills can be pretty preposterous, especially if you live in a high cost of living area, or in areas with extremes in temperatures. Fortunately, there are ways to keep down the costs by making your house more energy efficient, as this post by a reader shows us.

Every month, you pay a price for your home comfort. While it's important to keep your family warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and healthy year round, you shouldn't have to pay a premium for it. If your energy bills are on the rise, it's time to take a closer look at what you're paying for. Try these tricks to create an efficient haven with low energy bills and optimal year-round comfort.

Seal Your Ductwork

Image via Flickr by Grant Thomas Goad
You don't often look at your ductwork, so you may not know what state it's in. If you haven't properly maintained your ducts, they probably have leaky areas where air escapes into your attic before ever reaching your home. Have your ductwork professionally sealed and insulated to recapture this energy loss and keep your heating and cooling inside where you want it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Paleo on a Dirt Cheap Budget -- Or How to Really Eat Like a Caveman

My friend Ron Stresing with the birds he hunted
I was put in touch with someone who is very short on cash and for health reasons needs to be on a very low carb, high protein and fat, processed food free diet. In other words, very low carb Paleo. She was frustrated with how much her food was costing her, an I understand why. A Paleo diet, especially a very low carb one, is lacking nearly all of the cheaper food items people on a low budget use to stretch their grocery budget- grains, legumes, and other starchy fillers. Without them, you end up needing a lot more of the expensive proteins and expensive vegetables to satiate yourself, and grocery bills can easily skyrocket.

For that reason, I previously wrote this post on how to eat a paleo diet when short on time and on a budget (including a sample menu). but sometimes that isn't enough. If you're short on cash, even following the tips in my previous post might not lower your grocery budget enough so that it is manageable.

However, there are ways to cut back your expenses even more, while still being on a low carb Paleo diet. There is a trade off, however. You can't be super frugal and super time efficient for most things- one or the other takes precedence. Yes, there are ways to be frugal when short on time and energy, but generally they aren't as extremely frugal, or they are still not going to allow a super frugal low carb diet. You need to decide which two things you'll focus on; as frugal as possible and as low carb as possible, or as frugal as possible and as time efficient as possible, or as low carb as possible and as time efficient as possible, but you can't have all three.

As I've already posted before on how to be frugal when Paleo and short on time, as well as how to eat a super healthy (but not specifically Paleo) diet on a super frugal budget, as well as how to make your family's diet as absolutely frugal as possible (but not Paleo or particularly super healthy), this post won't be for everyone (but hopefully some of the previous ones would have worked for you), but in the event that you need to be as frugal as possible while at the same time eating a low carbohydrate Paleo diet, this is the post for you.

Yes, some will be extreme. Who am I kidding? Most of this post will be extreme. But for some people, there isn't a choice really, because you've gotta do what you've gotta do to survive and take care of your health.
When I was telling my friend about my plans for this post, about how its a "super frugal caveman diet" she commented about how that is actually a "true caveman diet" because the cavemen, after whose diet the Paleo diet was modeled, weren't exactly rolling in cash, nor did they shop at Whole Foods... (I wrote a post in the past about whether or not cavemen really did eat "Paleo" but can't find the post; let me just sum it up that I'm not convinced.)
So here it is, how to spend as little money as possible and eat as healthy and low carb of a diet as possible.

Paleo on a Dirt Cheap Budget -- Or How to Really Eat Like a Caveman

Exterior Home Improvement Projects That Are Worth the Cost

I live in a brand new house that, fortunately, doesn't need much by way of improvement (though my husband is working on improving the garden, building pergolas, and fences, and we hope to put in a wooden deck). For those living in older homes, though, and want to improve the value of the hope, hopefully this post by a reader will be helpful to you.

You pull up to your house and sigh, your lack of curb appeal is really starting to become embarrassing. Not to worry, you can invest some time and money into the exterior of your home for a pretty decent ROI. In fact, curb appeal projects like new doors and siding generate higher returns than improvements done on your home's interior. In other words, first appearances really do make a big impact.

You can start with the small stuff like lighting and expand into the more expensive territory to slowly expand into bigger projects that impact your ROI. Here's how to get started and what to expect in your exterior home improvement journey.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Perfect Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Recipe -- Allergy Friendly, Dairy Free, Vegan Option

When cooking gluten free, especially when it comes to baking, there is definitely a learning curve involved. I've made so many recipes that just didn't come out tasty, so when I find something that tastes great, it becomes a keeper, and it makes me not want to venture out and try other baked goods that may or may not come out so good. For this reason, since I've discovered/tweaked the recipe for my decadent chocolate cake, it has been my go-to cake recipe for pretty much every occasion that calls for a cake, and it has been enjoyed by nearly everyone. Everyone other than my 6 year old daughter Anneliese. For so long she has been begging me to make her vanilla cake, and so many attempts at making vanilla cake just flopping miserably. I'm not sure why they all flopped (though one time, I'll admit, I sort of forgot the sugar). But since she requested so passionately that I make a vanilla cake for her birthday party, I decided to try once more, and this time it paid off.
My friend Louise recommended this cake recipe mentioning that it works well with other flour mixes as well, including homemade all purpose flour mix, but the first time I was attempting the cake I didn't want to risk it flopping (since I was making the cake also for a school birthday party and also for a birthday party at home) so I shelled out the money and purchased an expensive gluten free flour mix from the store, and it came out phenomenally, with the changes listed below. I got absolutely rave reviews from the gluten eaters who came to the birthday parties; no one was able to tell that it was gluten free, which is amazing.
The next time I made it with a homemade flour mix, I also used ground flax seeds in place of the eggs and apple juice in place of the orange juice and I also added sprinkles (attempting to make a funfetti type cake) but it ended up being a darker brown than the first go around, but just as tasty. I'll have to figure out which of the changes I made affected the color, but it still is amazing no matter what.

This recipe makes two round cakes, the perfect size to pile on top of each other to make a nice double layered cake. (For my kids I ended up doubling this recipe, keeping a single layer cake for the birthday party at home and a triple layer cake for the school party.)

Baltic Amber Necklaces: Not Just for Teething

Anneliese, smiling in a big pile of freshly picked calendula, wearing her amber necklace
I first heard about Baltic amber teething necklaces when my first daughter was born, how it helps reduce the pain of teething, just by having the amber sitting on your skin. I figured it was worth a shot, and my daughters wore them all the time, and I never saw them suffer a lot from teething pain. I noticed my sister in law, Viki, wearing Baltic amber necklaces, and I never understood why she used them; she wasn't teething. I first learned from her that there are more uses to Baltic amber necklaces, beyond just teething pain. For example, my sister in law used to suffer constantly from tension headaches, and as soon as she started wearing her Baltic amber, the pain went away. This post was written by Jenn Sanders of Baltic Wonder, about her experience using Baltic amber necklaces.

I had only ever heard of Baltic amber when referring to teething infants. They had hit the scene a little after my first child was turned one, and so I never really looked much into them. When my son turned 2, he started having a really hard time with separation anxiety. I wasn't sure what to do about this, as I had to finally go back to work, but I didn't want to scar him forever in the process.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

I Love My New Dishes

In my family, there are 4 children. A home with 4 children means that things break a lot. Because kids are, as you know, kids. And I'll admit, adults also break things. For that reason, I am loathe to use real dishes in my house, because I've had to deal with far too many shattered plates, bowls, and cups throughout the years.
However, while I do use disposables from time to time, I prefer reusable things that don't break to disposables. For cost reasons predominantly, but environmental reasons is another bonus.
Quite a few years ago (I tried searching this blog to find a date, but couldn't find the post) I bought a set of plastic dishes that looked like real ones, like Corelle, but doesn't shatter into tiny slivers when dropped on the floor. (If anyone wants to give me grief about using plastic, how unhealthy it is, you're kindly asked to keep your thoughts to yourself.)
We had many good years with them, I got lots of compliments on them. They were a complete matching set of large plates, small plates, and bowls.

And then over time, they started deteriorating. Some got cracks. A few did break after a few too many drops on the floor. (Even plastic doesn't last forever.)

So recently I've been searching for a new set of matching reusable plastic dishes.

And boy did I have a hard time.

The first time I found my dishes, it literally was the first store I walked into to look for them, and found a complete matching set. (They were sold as individuals, but there were plenty available there so I could buy a whole set.)

This time around, I had a hard time finding stores that carried these types of dishes, period. And when I did find some, they were just the ugly very plastic looking brightly colored plastic plates. Then sometimes I found these bamboo dishes that were very childish looking, with cutesy characters on them, and definitely not a whole set.
You have no idea how many stores I walked into, attempting to find something, anything. And the one time I did find something that sort of fit with what I was looking for, they didn't have a complete set with the same design. I wanted 12 large plates, 12 small plates, and 12 bowls. 12 cups would have been a bonus but unnecessary.

Then on Monday I decided that I wouldn't give up looking until I found what I needed, because our current set was getting more and more broken, and I wanted to be able to host guests and have enough dishes.

Affordable Tricks for a Comfortable Home

For the longest time, because we had no other choice, our home was basically making do with the bare minimum, but now, I am really appreciative that I have a home that makes me happy, aesthetically as well as phyiscally. Here's some tips from a reader on how to make your home more comfortable, affordably.

Nothing is quite like spending a quiet evening inside with the family, but you won't find a larger buzzkill than being stuck inside a house that's too hot or cold or is in need of a new look. Unfortunately, the costs of a complete renovation can add up quickly. The good news is that some creative ways exist to make a space more enjoyable for you and your family. Consider the following affordable tricks for a comfortable home.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Spicy Garlicky Stir Fried Eggplant Recipe -- Paleo, Vegan, and Easy

Eggplant is one of those foods that you either love or you hate. Growing up, I was a huge fan of it, but I started making it less since I've been married because my kids don't like it, and my husband thinks it bothers his stomach. For a while, I also thought it might be bothering my stomach, so I didn't make it for some time. However, recently I've been getting eggplant at such good prices that I experimented with it, and fortunately it doesn't seem to be bothering my stomach! So exciting!
But whatever I make with eggplant, I have to eat it myself (unless we have guests) because no one else in the family will touch it. Oh well.
You might laugh at me, but I have a pretty good memory when it comes to food. (My husband, on the other hand, can't tell you what his favorite foods from childhood were. I kid you not.) When I was a teenager, we went on a trip to the Grand Canyon and then concluded the trip in Las Vegas. While in Vegas, we had this absolutely scrumptious sweet, spicy, and garlicky eggplant stir fry, and I'll admit, for years I've attempted to recreate that, and never even coming close.
This past week I got a bunch of eggplants cheaply that looked the shape of Japanese eggplant, which inspired me to give another shot at my recreation attempts. No, I still didn't get a version that tastes exactly like it did then, but this recipe came out so delicious that I had no problem devouring it all myself.
If you're an eggplant fan, try this one out. Hopefully you'll love it as much as I did! Extra bonus; in addition to being gluten free and refined sugar free, this recipe is also Paleo, vegan, and allergy friendly (no eggs or dairy among other things), so it's good for anyone, as long as they're not nightshade free, pretty much.
While you can definitely enjoy this plain, I really liked this over rice (which isn't Paleo, and I really don't regularly eat). If you follow the Paleo diet, eat this over riced cauliflower, riced sweet potatoes, or spiralized zucchini.

Spicy Garlicky Stir Fried Eggplant Recipe -- Paleo, Vegan, and Easy

3 Lessons to Teach Your Teen About Car Maintenance

I don't own a car, nor do I foresee myself owning a car any time in the near future, but I do know that most readers of this blog probably do own at least one car, if not two. Hopefully you'll enjoy this post by a reader about things you can teach your kids about how to take car of your car; even I learned new things from this post.

As a mom, you hope to be a guiding example for your children in as many ways as possible. And since driving is such an integral and important part of your everyday life, soon enough, you'll want to show your teen the ropes about basic car maintenance.
Whether your kids are in middle school or are fast approaching age 16 — and will be driving before you know it — the following car maintenance tips are a great place to start:

1. Measuring the Treads on Your Tires

Kids of all ages love hands-on lessons — and routinely inspecting the treads on your tires will let them do just that. So head out to the car and explain to your soon-to-be teen driver how the treads on your tires are like the soles of their shoes — if they get too worn and slick, their vehicle will be more likely to slide all over the road in bad weather.

From there, grab your smartphone from your pocket or purse and search online for ways to measure tire tread and ensure your tires are safe to drive on. The old penny and quarter trick goes a little something like this: Hand your teen a quarter and show them how they can use the coin to measure the tread depth.

If George Washington’s head is partially covered by the tread, assure your teen that your set of tires has at least 4/32nds of an inch of tread depth left. At the end of the lesson, encourage your teen to always have a quarter handy to check the treads on their own.

2. Checking the Oil and Fluid Levels

While your teen will likely not pursue a career as a mechanic, it's still important to teach them some basic car maintenance tips, including how to check their oil and other fluid levels. Since kids of all ages tend to adore YouTube with every fiber of their being, point them to some worthwhile tutorials and how-to videos related to car maintenance.

For instance, search for videos about how to check your oil and then practice using the dipstick to check the oil in your own vehicle. Naturally, YouTube also features plenty of videos that can teach you how to check other fluid levels, like the wiper and power steering fluids.

3. Knowing a Clean Car is a Happy Car

If your car’s interior contains fast-food bags, empty Capri Sun pouches and forgotten toys, then it's high time to teach your teens the importance of cleanliness. Much like you would instruct them to not leave any trash in their bedroom that can attract insects and rodents, make it a point to tell them a clean car is a happy car.

With that in mind, grab a plastic bag and spend a few minutes with your teen cleaning the car's interior. You can even use a handheld vacuum to clean up crumbs from the seat and floor. You might even want to ask your teen for ideas about how they plan to keep the car clean.

Finish out the day by washing the exterior together. Of course, you can wash your vehicle in your driveway or take the kids to a self-car wash and let them go at it spraying and cleaning the car.

Failing to keep your headlights clear of mud, snow, and buildup can greatly dim their output, leading to poor visibility on the road. But, aside from wiping them down before you leave, car headlights also require some specialized attention since the plastic covers can fog up with time.

Fortunately, you don't necessarily have to replace your headlights just because they've become discolored or oxidized. With a headlight restoration kit and you’ll be able to restore your headlights in a matter of minutes.

Make the Lessons Fun and Informal

After starting with these basic car maintenance lessons, your kids will likely ask you to teach them more about vehicle maintenance.

By asking the experts and searching online for tips and tricks, you will not only get to spend more time with your kids, but you may also learn something in the process.

See my disclaimer.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

My Daughters' Fun and Frugal Last Minute Birthday Party

My life has been rather busy and full lately, all with good things, fortunately, but still very full. For that reason, things don't always happen as promptly as I would like them to happen, which is why my daughters, whose birthdays were in December and March, finally had a birthday party today, the first of May. Better late than never, right?

A little while back I was at a discount store, looking for ideas for things to do for my girls birthday party. I was on the lookout for girly girl things, because both of them are as girly as they come (pink and princess and makeup and doll and ballerina obsessed), but most of the craft stuff I saw either didn't speak to me, were too expensive, or weren't the types of things my kids would enjoy. I saw these little pink rolling pins being sold for 40 cents each, so decided to purchase 10 of them and pink modeling clay (4 for $2.25 each) and use that as the activity for the party. I set it aside and honestly forgot about it, until I rediscovered it recently.

My daughter Anneliese was supposed to have her birthday party in school today (the teacher was also running really late with celebrations this year) so I decided that if I'm anyhow making a birthday cake for the school party, I might as well hit two birds with one stone, and make a birthday party at home for their friends the same day. The hardest part about making a birthday party, in my books, is making the cake, mixing the batter, waiting for it to cool, making the frosting, making the food coloring, frosting it, etc... and making two cakes didn't seem like it would be any harder than making one. So I messaged everyone yesterday, to see if they could come to a birthday party today, and they all were able to!
So I made the cakes... and then found out from Anneliese's teacher that she made a mistake when telling me the date of the school birthday party, it's next week and not today... So that cake went into the freezer, but I still planned and put together today's birthday party from one day to the next. And as I didn't want to go back out to the store to buy anything (because of time as well as money), I was looking for ideas of activities to do with the girls that could be done with things I had already around the house. I turned to Facebook, and so many people gave me good ideas, many that I didn't end up using but had in the back of my mind to pull out in case I needed more activities.