Author Archive

Amy’s Notebook 02.18.15

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

DIY book lover necklace via Darice

Source: Darice Blog

 

My book-lovin’ heart just loves this.

Can’t wait to dig into this new series.

I love this trick for breaking in tight shoes.

Freezer Mediterranean breakfast wraps- yes, please!

5 Memorable Moments from SNL 40 you need to watch.

Braided Cable Cowl- beautiful!!

Hand lettering tips- something I’d love to master.

My favorite book is coming to Hulu!

A lesson in disability.

The ugly fact that most farms are unsustainable- this piece made me really think.

Asian chop chicken salad via Dine and Dish

Source: Dine & Dish

 

I always love a good salad.

10 resources to upgrade your grammar and writing skills.

I can’t wait to try this for our next day date meal!

This is the most beautiful crochet work ever.

10 things that make people with ADHD highly successful.

A foodie bucket list.

It’s baaacckkk!

Real men braid hair.

I really, really loved this NPR interview and message of this book.

Creating a simple life doesn’t happen overnight.

I can’t wait to see this movie!!!

amys_notebook

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

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Goodbye, Old Friend: Asking Jealousy to Leave

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Asking Jealousy to Leave

Editor’s Note- I wanted to bring this article back for our money management focus in our m challenge. This article truly illustrates my own struggle with jealousy and wanting to keep up with others. Yup, I’m human. I struggle too and I really struggled a lot after my husband lost his job in those lean and difficult years.  What I am learning though is that there is so much peace in knowing that we are finally going to be closing in on some major financial goals and that all of these sacrifices that we make and the planning we are doing is going to be oh-so-worth it.  Wherever you are right now, don’t give up. xo 

I pull into the parking lot and park my beat-up car between a Hummer & a Mercedes. I let out a sigh and turn behind me to find him sitting in the backseat between my two children. “You can leave now. You aren’t wanted here,” I say. He looks back at me, absently, dismissing my request with a blank smile.

We all head into the store and I push my cart through the aisles, walking by other people who have filled their carts to the brim. They are buying all the things that I want to put in my cart, but I stick to the basics and whisper, “Please leave!” as we head to the checkout aisle.

As we load up the car and pull into our house I think of all the unfinished projects, the longing for more space, the dreams for something newer and better…and he sits down to join me for my afternoon coffee.

“Don’t you have somewhere better to go? Why don’t you go to someone else’s house?”

He just offers me a green-eyed smile and hangs out in my kitchen for the rest of the day.

I hate him and I hate myself for having him over. He is the guest that will not leave and I am ashamed that we have this kind of relationship.

Yes, I am referring to jealousy and how it can take up occupancy in my heart. To say that these moments of discontent have not graced my life would be a lie. I feel the same urges to shop and the same urges to keep up just like everyone else. I can honestly say that the green-eyed monster has enjoyed more than one afternoon sitting at my kitchen table.

The question is how do you overcome your jealousy issues and lead a simple life? It is easy to tell people to not be jealous, but we live in a culture where bigger is better and there is a constant need to compete with our neighbors. While I am as guilty as the next person of feeling like this, I want to share some of the ways that I have found to ask the green-eyed monster to go and to help me work on finding that inner peace with what I have.

 

Caring for the Things in Your Life

When I think about adding possessions to my life, I have started thinking about what is going to be required of me to care for and maintain them. In the example of buying a bigger home, for example, I think of how much more space I would have to clean. Seeing as I have difficulty maintaining and keeping up with the things that we already have, I realize that adding a new house to our life would actually make things much more difficult for me financially and the added space would not be as rewarding as what I already possess.

When I feel the urge to shop, out of boredom or out of competition with others, I try to think of things that I already have and how I can take care of them. My house is an endless supply of odd jobs and cleaning or organizing projects. Making a list of these things, I can try to focus my energy towards these things instead of the negative energy that I am feeling when I am focusing on what I don’t have.

Likewise, organizing what you already have can shed light on your shopping habits and how much you have already bought. So many times our homes are brimming over with duplicate items simply from lack of organization.

I also find that when my house is tidy and organized, that I feel more satisfaction in what I have. The sense of order, in a house that is usually chaotic, can be a much more satisfying feeling then buying and trying to find a place for another bag of stuff.

Creating Traditions

Our children may also have trouble with jealousy and that is why we have tried to take the focus off of buying things for our kids and instead focus on the traditions that we can create for them as a family. Instead of loading them up with toys and the latest gadgets, we come up with ideas that we can do with our kids to show them how important family is.

We create traditions that do not cost a lot of money like having a pizza night, making crafts together, having a special date night with one parent, reading stories together, making special holiday traditions, and just being together as a family. The things I remember from my own childhood include the special traditions from my family and I have few memories about what they bought me. These are the kinds of things that I want my children to be focused upon and less on all of the toys that could fill their room.

choose- gratitude

Remember How Much You DO Have

Gratitude goes a long way in helping bring perspective to all you do have.  I have found the quickest way to gain perspective on all that I do have is to give my time and talent to others. There is nothing more gratifying than knowing that you have enough and you even have enough to share with others. Consider investing in a gratitude journal (I love this one from Money Saving Mom)  to begin documenting all that you already have in your life.  Beginning your morning with a new ritual of devotion and thankfulness is a great way to kick jealousy to the curb and start your day out on the right foot.

I also have many goals for myself and for what I am doing with my life, which take up a lot of my time. Instead of looking at what everyone else is buying, I am trying really hard to focus on building my business and creating goals for what I can be doing in the future. I find the work that I do to be rewarding and it helps me to stop thinking about possessions and to think more about being a success in what I do.

However you cope with jealousy, do not be afraid to ask him to leave. It is your home and your heart- not his. You are the only one who has the power to ask him to go and to fill that empty space with positive substitutes. Do your best to refocus your energy towards caring for what you own, creating traditions for your family, and learning to live a life full of gratitude and positive goals. Before you know it, you are going to be the envy of others around you!

Do you struggle with jealousy? How do you ask jealousy to leave your heart?

Apron Full of Giveaways 02.17.15

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Child's Apple Apron via Etsy

Source: Kelleen Kreations,  $23.00

 

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we are not giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Good luck to each of you!

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Reader Transformation: Cherie Lowe’s Money Makeover

Monday, February 16th, 2015

Cherie Lowe_Slaying Debt

Author of Slaying the Debt Dragon (our m challenge book for February) Cherie Lowe, together with her husband, Brian, paid off $127,482.30 in a little under four years! She wrote about the ups and downs of their debt-slaying journey on her popular website, www.QueenOfFree.net. Cherie so so inspirational – I loved reading about their journey towards slaying debt and am so excited to be sharing her expertise with you today. Be sure to snag her book for our discussion next week. In the meantime, here are some motivational words from Cherie! 

Hi my name is Cherie and my family paid off over $127K in debt in four years.

Wait. Let me start again.

Hi my name is Cherie and I’ve made some pretty ridiculous money mistakes.

I’ve purchased more than I could afford, wracked up debt, and simply not paid attention.

I’ve been angry with my husband over what we could and couldn’t spend, overindulged my kids, and believed the lie that just one more dinner out/cute outfit/gift for someone else really couldn’t hurt.

I’ve felt guilty, ashamed, overwhelmed, and stupid for my own decisions. And then I crawled into a place of hopelessness where I quietly tucked away the mistruth in my heart that we were the only ones.

No one else could have made this many mistakes.
No one else could feel this out of control.
No one else could have been that dumb with money.

Those emotions locked up my soul in a dungeon where I couldn’t find the key. Tightly gripping my heart, they paralyzed me from starting to find a way out.

Personal finance is personal. Money is emotional. You can have free budget printables. You can have a rock solid strategy and all of the best information to guide your journey. You can even have the wherewithal and guts to get out of debt. But from my experience it takes even more than that.

Unless you slay debt, it will never truly be gone. Here’s the difference. If you merely get out of debt then you can get back into debt again. But if you slay debt, it is vanquished, dead at your feet, never to come to be resurrected.

Want to know the good news I already know about you? You have what it takes to be successful with money and slay your debt dragon. You are smart enough. You are strong enough. And while it might not seem to be true right now, you have the resources to complete your epic battle.

My main purpose in writing Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After was to spread hope. I didn’t want anyone else to believe the lies I bought into. I didn’t want anyone else to feel alone. Instead, I wanted to remind fellow debt slayers of some of the things they already knew and provide practical tools to guide their journey. I wanted to share what I learned from our days of battle – the good, the bad, and the ugly – so that others could find victory from our mistakes, encouragement from our story. From what it looks like celebrate your child’s birthday when living on a tight budget to how to manage your meals more effectively, from the essentials of communicating well with your spouse about money to realistic budgeting methods, you can begin your very own financial happily ever after.

I love this paraphrase of a G.K. Chesterton quote:

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

Your dragons can. be. beaten. There is a way out. Hope abounds. Step into your story. The greatest adventure is just about to begin.

Debt-is-your-enemy-not-the-budget.-2-300x300

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Sundays With Writers: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Sundays With Writers

Happy Sunday, friends! This week I am so incredibly honored to be featuring Cristina Henríquez and her amazing book, THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS in our interview series today.  I decided to pick this one up after discovering it as an Amazon Best Book of the Month selection and read it in just a couple of short days over my winter break. It’s one of those that I couldn’t put down and I found myself reading portions of it out loud to my husband because it touched upon so many issues with what life would would be like as an immigrant coming to America. It has, in fact, made me more aware and more empathetic to others who may not be from our country. It’s that kind of book- the kind that resonates with you, long after you shut the pages.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

I featured this book in my January 2015 Must-Read round-up and had my fingers crossed that I would get to interview Cristina. This lady is so busy with promotion right now, but she graciously took the time to share about her book with you. I hope if you’ve read it, you can leave her a comment and tell her how much you enjoyed this one too- I’d love our authors to know how lovely it is to read these stories behind the stories. It’s a treat for me and I hope it is a treat for you too!

Told from alternating viewpoints all from immigrant neighbors in one apartment complex, it gives the reader the opportunity to see America through an immigrant’s eyes. From struggling to make ends to meet, to the struggle to communicate, to finding a job, to sending your child off to school, to the sacrifices that are made when leaving your own country for something you believe will be better than the life you are leading- it looks at it all through new eyes.

The story hinges around two sets of parents who have sacrificed everything for their kids and the blooming love between their children in a beautiful coming-of-age story. Honest, human, and so moving.  I am just going to say it, this is a MUST-READ this year. The New York Times even named it as one of its 100 Notable Books of 2014. This would make a fantastic book club selection because there is so much to talk about and you can even print out these handy book club questions for your group.

Now grab your coffee and settle in with this amazing writer today!

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

Although this is a fictional story, you deal with the real & true issue of immigration and the hurdles that immigrants face when they come to America. Why do you feel this was such an important story to tell and why did you chose to tell it fictionally rather than as a work of nonfiction?

The story was important to me because it was personal. My father is an immigrant who came to the United States from Panama in 1971. I wanted to honor him and stories like his – ordinary people who come here for their own reasons (in my father’s case, he came as a student to study chemical engineering at the University of Delaware) and who are trying to find a place where they belong even though the country they come to and the people around them are often inhospitable. As for choosing to tell it fictionally, that was a no-brainer. I am just much happier writing fiction. I am very, very content hanging out with imaginary people all day.

As a mom, I really related to Alma’s guilt over the tragic accident that caused her daughter brain damage, and I also related to her overwhelming need to protect her after the accident happened. As a mother, could you relate to Alma’s guilt and overprotectiveness? Has a situation ever happened in your life with your own children that helped to shape that story?

Oh, absolutely! I feel guilt and overprotectiveness almost every other day! That said, there was no specific incident in my own life that gave rise to that part of the story. But as I was writing it, any time even something small happened to one of my kids – they slipped on a patch of ice or they fell off the climbing area at the park — I found myself thinking about Alma and the weight of the guilt she was carrying with her. I knew how terrible I felt even in those minor situations, like somehow I should have been able to protect them better. Magnifying that to imagine what Alma must have felt was an easy leap.

You crafted a beautiful story told through many different points of views from all of the immigrants residing in the apartment complex. It seems everyone had a voice in this story except Maribel. Did you choose not to write her voice because you felt it would be difficult to tell with her brain damage or did you want the reader to come to her own interpretations of how/what Maribel felt?

This is a question that keeps coming up, and the answer is an exceptionally boring one. Basically, I had structured the book in my mind this way: Alma, Mayor, neighbor, Alma, Mayor, neighbor, etc. I wanted that to repeat throughout. I also knew that Alma and Mayor notwithstanding, I wanted there to be only one narrator from each family/apartment unit. For reasons that become obvious when you read the book, I felt strongly that from the Riveras that person should be Arturo. Which meant that Maribel was necessarily left out. Maribel is central to everything in the book. Everything everyone does from the start to the finish is because of her. It’s true that she doesn’t get her own chapter (neither do a few of the other characters), but I think there’s something powerful about her being the core of everything without having to say much at all.

The day-to-day struggles from simply putting your child on a bus and knowing when they will come back to communicating with the grocery clerk about what you need are so beautifully told and pulled so very much at my heartstrings. Did you interview immigrants who had come to the states to find out about their struggles to help shape your book?

No. I read some nonfiction accounts about the experiences of Latino immigrants, and I relied to some degree on my own observations of my father. But anyone who has traveled to a country where you don’t speak the language or speak it only haltingly probably knows the feeling of disorientation that the Riveras experience in the book. The last time I was in Panama, I tried to return a bottle of sunscreen that my husband had mistakenly bought. My Spanish isn’t very good, and returns are not a common occurrence in Panama, so I had two things working against me from the get-go. And it was amazing to me how embarrassed and how anxious I felt, fumbling through an explanation to the clerk about how my husband didn’t realize we already had enough sunscreen. It was a simple interaction, or what would have been simple in my life in Chicago, and it was suddenly so difficult and so fraught. I felt so conspicuous, so clearly an outsider. I tried to imagine the situations that Alma would find herself in that would make her feel the same way.

What do you have in store for us in your next book?

I wish I knew! I do have an idea, but it’s still very nebulous. Slowly, slowly, it’s taking shape.

If you could tell anyone to read one book (other than your own) what would that book be?

That’s so hard. But this one has been very much on my mind lately so I’m going to say Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

You can connect with Cristina Henríquez on GoodReads or on Facebook or through her website! I’m always thankful for these moments with writers and I hope you will pick up this amazing book! You can always connect with me on GoodReads,through our books section of our site, and you can read our entire Sundays With Writers series for more author profiles. Happy reading, friends!

*This post contains affiliate links!
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Freebie Friday February 13, 2015

Friday, February 13th, 2015

freebie friday Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! As always, we would like to thank Couponing 101 for assisting us with our freebies each week for loads of deals, savings, and freebies!

This week on MomAdvice we’re maximizing our m challenge focus on money management with a peek into the purse of family finance blogger, Kelly Whalen. We’re also rounding up all the posts Kelly wrote for us during her stint as our money & finance contributor so you can get back down to basics with your finances and planning. Mary Carver is sharing her heart about money and marriage, listing all the thing she wished she knew about money before getting married. I’ve got an amazing slow cooker carnitas recipe for you that will save you big bucks over eating out and I hope you’ll check out this week’s edition of It’s the 3 Little Things to get your weekly dose of happy.

You can find lots of inspiring reads, DIY, food, decorating and craft ideas in our popular Notebook, and be sure to check out all the contests you can enter on our weekly round-up of great giveaways, too.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Food & Drink
Health & Beauty
Pet
Entertainment
This Week’s Freebie Events: February 14 – 20
14th – Barnes & Noble: Story time featuring I Love You Just Like This, 11 am
14th – Lakeshore Learning: Create an Uncle Sam’s U.S. Mask, 11 am – 3 pm
14th – Lowe’s: Build a Sweetheart Picture Holder, 10 am
14th – Pottery Barn: Create a Valentine’s Card for a special child in need all week long
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Kelly Whalen’s Down to Basics Money Series

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

K. Whalen Money Series

All through 2014, as our Money & Finance contributor Kelly Whalen, from The Centsible Life, walked us all through the basics of budgeting from start to finish so that we would be able to have a stronger grasp on managing our family’s personal finance. One of the best things we can do to save our family money is to begin to control our funds (and to not let them control us).  As part of our m challenge focus on money management, I thought this would be the perfect time to gather all of Kelly’s brilliant tips in one place! 

Kelly Whalen’s Down to Basics Money Series

Budgeting 101: 5 Easy Steps to a Budget that Works

Reducing Expenses: Put the ‘Personal’ In Your Finances

Money Savvy: How to Deal with the Unexpected

Earn More Money to Help Save More and Pay off Debt Faster

Evaluating the Cost of Home: Renting vs Buying

Cars, Trains, Bikes, and Feet: How to Get Around for Less

Can Debt be “Good” Debt?

5 Ways to Teach Kids Money Management

Do You Really Need That Degree? College Loans, Options, and Savings

Planning for your Second Life: The New Retirement

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Amy’s Notebook 02.11.15

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

spring classics

Source: Kendi Everyday

10 spring wardrobe must-haves.

Amazon’s 100 books to read in a lifetime – how many have you read?

The state of the capsule wardrobe- love this update.

We’ve become so rich that we have forgotten something that is well within living memory: Americans used to have much, much less.

Yes, that’s just the pet lion in the swimming pool.

Braverman forever.

Recommendations for Serial’s next case.

YA writers on their favorite book for adults.

The secrets of highly efficient napping.

15 apps everyone should have in their phone.

Bring on ALL the ballerinas.

Tortilla pizza

Source: Serious Eats

 

Cast Iron + Tortilla equals pizza magic.

Vidal for President.

Just a little reminder what your kids really want- hat tip to Centsational Girl!

33 things to eliminate from your closet.

3 noticeable results from getting rid of stuff.

30-Day Minimalism Challenge- anyone want to try this?

Can’t wait to participate in Dine & Dish’s traveling book club!

The internet and television have finally converged.

A photographer makes the most of a small studio at the Sundance Film Festival.

amys_notebook

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

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Apron Full of Giveaways 02.10.15

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Navy Stripe Apron via Etsy

Source: Flirty Aprons,  $24.95

 

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we are not giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Good luck to each of you!

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Gluten-Free Slow Cooker Carnitas

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Gluten-Free Slow Cooker Carnitas

When you go gluten-free, there are only a handful of fast food restaurants that you can eat at and really enjoy without feeling rotten. Chipotle is one of my favorite places  and has been our go-to spot for a quick to-go dinner on busy weeknights for delicious gluten-free dishes. As I went to plug in our usual order this week though, I discovered there was a supplier issue of our family favorite…carnita meat isn’t at our location.

To be honest, I had a sneaking suspicion that this was eating away at our budget (thanks to its delicious convenience & a handsome Chipotle runner at my disposal) so I had been thinking of recreating this dish at home to save our family some money.

Necessity birthed creativity as I went on the hunt for a yummy replacement.

It seems fitting since our focus is money management this month for the m challenge that I could break a fast food habit with this yummy homemade alternative. Money. In. The. Bank.

gluten-free-slow-cooker-carnitas

This meat couldn’t be easier to create and the best part is that once you rub in the spices, this is a completely hands-off recipe. What isn’t easier is how freaking good it smells in your slow cooker all day which drove us absolutely crazy until dinnertime. The combination of spices is delicious, complex, and comprised mostly of ingredients I already had in my pantry. Garlic, red chili pepper, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, orange juice, lime juice, and beer.

slow-cooker-carnitas-4

I love the burrito bowl and making it couldn’t be easier. I just did a layer of brown rice made in my rice cooker (world’s best invention- here is the one I use for less than $25), a layer of black beans (canned or slow cooker homemade Mexican Black Beans), carnita meat, mozzarella cheese, diced tomatoes, and I do a mean scoop of plain greek yogurt with a dash of salt, and a squeeze of lime. Serve this giant bowl up with tortilla chips for scooping and you are done.

Since this makes such a large amount of meat, I divided and freezed it for our month. No more Chipotle runs (averaging $22 per pop) and leftovers for a week of meals? Um. WINNING.

What was even better was that everyone in our family thought these were better than Chipotle. I was hoping to just have a nice substitution on days where we need to save a little, but now carnitas at home are better than the ones we bought out and we save a lot of money in the process.

I hope you can give these a try too!

slow-cooker-carnitas-3

Gluten-Free Slow Cooker Carnitas
Author: 
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12
 
Carnitas just like Chipotle for a fraction of the price. Serve as a burrito or bowl and enjoy the savings!
Ingredients
  • 4-5 lbs. pork shoulder
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle hot sauce (optional- we left it out because we are wimps)
  • juice of 2 limes
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 12 ounces gluten-free beer
  • ½ cup salsa (I used a garlic salsa from ALDI- feel free to experiment with your flavors)
Instructions
  1. Place the pork shoulder in the slow cooker. Roughly chop the garlic and rub it all over the pork (top and bottom)
  2. Sprinkle the meat with salt, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, oregano, cinnamon, and cayenne. Rub seasonings onto the pork until they are well incorporated.
  3. Add lime juice, orange juice, beer, and salsa. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
  4. Shred meat with two forks directly in the slow cooker (or take out, shred, and replace in sauce). It should fall apart easily.
  5. Remove the meat and put into a serving bowl, pouring some of the drippings over the top to moisten the meat.
  6. Serve with tortillas, tortilla chips, or as a rice bowl (instructions above)

Slightly Adapted from Pinch of Yum

 

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