February 27, 2013

Spending Break: Final Update

We're at the end of the month and my spending break is almost over. I'll admit, I'm relieved. And that's only ONE month ~ lame. But it has taught me tons. Here's how I did on my goals:

Use What I Have
I used many art supplies I had on hand to create gifts like this. I "made do" with what I had in the pantry before buying new. Instead of purchasing water bottles, I assigned everyone their own and simply refilled. I used up lotions and soaps I found in the back of cabinets. I used up powdered drinks leftover from parties. I even reused morning coffee to create iced coffee drinks.

Get Rid of What I Don't Need
I cleared out my closet BIG TIME. I'm down to thirteen hanging items. I'll show you this at some point. I know that sounds like a tiny amount, but it makes 74+ outfits. That may seem extreme but it's helped me live simply which has reduced my stress. And nothing is ever wrinkled from squishing. As for the rest of the house, I didn't do so well. I'd hoped to really make headway in getting rid of excess in the kitchen and front rooms and I did manage a little bit but not nearly what I'd hoped. That's okay, I'm still working on it.

Take Advantage of Free or Discounted Stuff
I had planned on using MidAmerica Food to help with groceries this month but a weird thing happened with their online ordering and they had to refund my money; so I didn't get the food. Hopefully I can try it next month. BUT I did discover a cool store called, Whoops! They have brand name foods or items whose boxes got damaged. The stuff inside is still in good condition and marked waaaayy down. I ended up spending twenty dollars on food that I usually wouldn't buy because it's too expensive (I got 35 packages of instant Starbucks coffee for $2.50). I'll be returning! I only allowed myself a small allotment of grocery money so I wouldn't spend on things I don't need, which would be ~ wasteful.

Make My Own Fast-Food
I rocked this one in my opinion (my kids might not agree). I realized there are natural fast-foods for those too-tired-to-cook nights. Eggs became my hero: scrambled, fried, breakfast burritos, french toast, boiled, egg salad and beyond. Seriously, I think I could go on about eggs for awhile. Spreads are another quick food: bagels and cream cheese; hummus and carrots; or (the always famous) peanut butter and jelly. Not to mention smoothies!! You can pack a ton of vitamins and protein into one little smoothie and be quite cost effective. Of course I still used my crock pot for soups, stews and casseroles. I even passed barbecue tuna off for barbecue chicken (wait, don't gross out) and dished them onto hamburger buns like sloppy Joes. I know you won't believe me, but after simmering all day in the crock pot, you really can't taste the tuna. Really. But shhh, don't tell my family! (Oh, you want the recipe? Simple: 4 cans tuna + 1 bottle barbecue sauce simmered all day in crock pot = delish!)

I'll admit that while I learned so much, I am still highly spoiled. I am dying for Friday when I can actually spend on something other than my list. You better believe I'm going out for coffee and my kids are begging to go to Quick Trip. But what I did take away was that it's okay to say no to buying stuff we don't need; you can still meet people at restaurants even if you don't eat; and staying home is always cheaper. I'll be less inclined to reach for my wallet (after discovering just how often I do that) and more inclined to wait. At some point I'd like to try doing a spending break for a longer period of time, but I'm not sure I can do that without my family on board. I'll have to work on them. ;)

Have any tips on saving money? Or any go-to quick meals you'd recommend?

February 25, 2013

Fairy Sightings: Snowfall and Roses

She brings her own version of beauty to the new fallen snow. The winter wonderland is heightened by her presence and her gift of a blooming white rose. She's out of her element here, her norm of springtime and flowers. Other fairies have flown, but she remains because she knows there's a secret hidden in the tender snowfall. A secret of forgiveness. The world's imperfections all forgotten in one simple, white blanket of snow.

{In case you're curious, here's the previous fairy sighting}

February 22, 2013

Patterned Painting

For this painting, I thought it'd be fun to create a pattern in the background before I started. I've been making my own stamps, so that's where I began. I used Distress Ink to stamp with because I like the idea of creating neutral outlines to paint in, on, or around. I thrive with boundaries like this. I know that sounds counter-artistic, but it's something that works  well for me. This is going to be fun!

What have you up to lately?

February 20, 2013

Lyric Art

I've been dying to paint a canvas with lyrics ever since seeing this one painted by Elise and this one by Elsie. I thought it would be a perfect (less frilly) art piece to give my husband for Valentine's day. He's a huge fan of U2, so naturally I chose one of their songs. When starting this piece, I was nervous about the letters. I set a spool beside the canvas to help guide me on size and spacing. But once I got into a rhythm of dipping the brush in paint and just going for it, it was so fun! I'll definitely be painting more script on future pieces.

February 18, 2013

Sometimes the World Slides

Sometimes the world slides and things get topsy-turvy.

And you find yourself standing on the sidelines watching people you love are go through hard things that you have no control over. You can't stop it. You can't fix it. You can only stand there with arms around them, holding tight till the world stops shifting.

Sometimes we'd rather have things in neat little packages tied up with telephone cords (quirky but predictable). We're not big on surprises. We like to know what's coming. But sometimes you can't. And it sucks.

Sometimes you need a diversion like the Lizzie Bennet Diaries to remind you that life can be fun.

"Our scars make us know our past was for real." ~ Pride and Prejudice

February 13, 2013

Give Up Books?

I asked my husband what I should give up for Lent, and without a moment's hesitation he teasingly said, "Books."

Books??? What kind of crazy talk is that? Books are good and healthy. They aren't something to GIVE UP. 

But...then again, Lent is supposed to be sacrificial. Right. And it's supposed to be meaningful. Yes, but...(enter whiny voice) I love books. *hugs them tightly* 
Oh, I think I see why he picked that.

I'm not saying I'm giving up books, (grr!) but he's made me think about it. I'm not sure what I'm giving up. After reading all those live simply/quit being a selfish brat books, I seriously considered just eating beans and rice for Lent. I also considered walking to get my groceries. But with the spending fast and wardrobe reduction, I'm wondering how much change I can handle at one time. Then I remembered that one side of my garage is full of furniture I don't need. Oh yeah, I can probably handle a bit more change.

And in case you're wondering, I'm not Catholic; but I like the practice of Lent. It helps me think outside of myself during this season. Have you ever given something up for a time?

February 11, 2013

Over the Weekend

We celebrated my husbands birthday Saturday night by meeting at a yogurt place with friends. It was fun and laid-back just sitting around in a big group chatting. That's his beautiful fruit/yogurt creation, isn't is pretty? I love the options they give for toppings, so many to choose from.

How was your weekend?

February 8, 2013

Afghan, Computer and Me

I love to sit wrapped in a wool afghan with my laptop, in the dark, quiet morning.
Three little hearts. I tend to return to the number three, and I'm guessing it has something to do with my kids.
 Working on hubby's birthday present. I'm sure you've probably seen these on Pinterest.
 While it's not an original idea, the writings inside are all my own.
It wasn't hard to come up with 52 Things I Love about him.

Hope you have an incredible weekend!

February 6, 2013

Spending Break Update 2

Every now and then something comes along that kicks you between the eyes, knocks you down and leaves you sputtering. I've been reading a book called, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and it's moved me in big ways; especially layered on top of my break from spending. The first day of which, we ended up going out to eat for a friend's birthday. Before I left the house, I found myself rehearsing what people might say to me about not eating and how I'd reply. I caught myself mid-thought when it dawned on me--oh my gosh, I'm making this about ME. I'm toting it around like a medal. How does me-not-getting-to-eat-out for ONE MEAL, merit a speech? 
Enter book 7; hauntingly poignant and telling:"While the richest people on earth pray to get richer, the rest of the world begs for intervention with their faces pressed to the window, watching us drink our coffee, unruffled by their suffering." Ouch. I sat laughing and weeping through this book. How did I never make the connection that my spending directly hampered giving to those in need? There stood my why.
When did I start assuming I had a right to excess? So, back to not spending...
I'm going to be completely honest, it's been hard. The first day alone, I kept thinking, "I wanna get..." "Need to pick up some..." "Wonder if the kid's would like..." I think I counted ten times that I almost whipped into a store to buy a bag of excess. I stopped myself. But for someone who thinks themselves frugal, it was startling to realize how often I reach for my wallet. Startling and humbling. I can already tell this spending break is going to reveal a bunch.

What do you think of this challenge?

Click here to read the final update!

February 4, 2013

A Little Bit of This

I'm always happy to discover a little tidbits of art from my youngest daughter made from my leftover paint. She's so inventively creative! She doesn't see how this is art, silly girl.
I can't stop listening to this. Seriously addicted. If you haven't seen Les Miserables yet ~ go NOW.
Why is there a liberty bell sitting on my kitchen windowsill? Because I like to think I have a dinner bell, like Almanzo's ma. Except mine jingles more than rings, but still.
I've talked about Chantilly before, but I have to say it again: I looove her music. I've memorized almost all the songs. Isn't her packaging the cutest??
Oh, the fun of art messes. Many times I have white paper under my paint projects. They usually make interesting pieces to use again or inspire me.

What bits of life are happening in your world?

P.S. I promise the fairy feature will return; just haven't had the best of luck photographing them lately. ;)

February 1, 2013

Spending Break: Update 1

Unfortunately I didn't capture my painting in progress before the sun went down, which is a bummer because it would've really gone well with Wednesday's post. Ah well. On the other hand, I've been reading some incredible books and focusing on clearing surplus out of my house. Think I may need moving boxes! so. much. STUFF.

Today is the beginning of my spending break. I was prepping my kids and their first question was, "What does this mean [for me]?" I explained that we wouldn't be eating out and no QT runs (a favorite gas station stop). But I am going to give them a little moo-la on the front end to do with as they will (in case of a fast-food withdrawal emergency). Other than that, it's down to the bare necessities. 

Have an awesome weekend!

Click here to read the next update!