When It All Came Down Around Me

D is for Doozy

Divorce is a doozy, but somehow we made it through still good friends and supportive of each other in countless ways. The warning you hear sometimes is about your finances. We were never huge savers when together but C was in charge of the money and I tried not to spend too much of it. And often I would hear the words, “we are on the credit card” because we’d run out of money. This happened before we went bankrupt and eliminated $40,000 of debt, none of which were my $60,000 in student loans. We then got new credit cards afterwards (do people never learn?) and slowly the balances crept up.

Post divorce, the debt I had personally collected was my own and the balances were not tiny. Then there was my personal student loan debt. And so I started out on my own, not really having a system in place, no real budget. I paid my bills, mostly on time, most of the time and started to feel the stress crawling it’s way up my neck. A few weeks ago, I tried to use my credit card and was denied because my auto-payment no longer covered the minimum balance. I then had a panic attack on the way to work when I realized I had no control of what was happening to me financially.

So there I was. A new car with an unknown fortune still owed, $60,000 in student loan debt, $6,000 in credit card debt, $3000 owed to my teacher training program and all this on an assistant teachers salary and child support.  No wonder I had a panic attack.

Ground zero.

This bring us to the bottom right? Where the hell to start? Well here’s the thing. I love simplicity. I love simple living. I love making food from scratch and making the most of what I have. I love living for long baths, playing with my kids and reading books from the library. So where did I go so far wrong?

The good.

Here’s the good. I already downsized from $1400/mo rent to $890. I reduced my health insurance payment from $200 to $80. I reduced my internet from $60 to $30. But these were things that were pretty easy for me. I was still driving through P.Terrys and Starbucks on the regular.

Entitlement

I feel that many of us share this feeling of entitlement. We are entitled to an iphone, nice car, big space to live in, good quality coffee, organic food from nicer stores (my children need it!)… I loved simplicity but I also loved lattes. I had also spent a long time not looking at real alternatives. I reduced my Starbucks order from $4 to $2.87 instead of NOT going there.

Hope

And this weekend, I had my aha moment.  At the end of this long financial journey, at the bottom of this deep hole, after everything in pandora’s box emerged, I found that last sliver. I found hope. I found my fuel for this fire. I really started using mint (that had been there untouched all along) to look at how much I spent on eating out last month ($150.) I actually figured out how much I owe on my car and then took my beautiful, very expensive car to carmax to see if there was a more affordable option there for me. Turns out I owe $3000 more than they offered me for my car, so I’ll have to figure that one out in a few months. I had a friend take a look at my finances and we made a whole spreadsheet with income and expenses. I went to the grocery store and bought simple ingredients for half a week of groceries for $12. Did you know dried beans are $0.88 for a 1lb bag which is 10 servings?? And a 1lb or brown rice is under a dollar too. THEN! I went home and my kids helped me chop veggies for our healthy dinner and we ate together, not at a drive-thru. Hot damn, this was amazing. And hilarious. and made me feel pretty dumb.

Head, meet sand

There was a time where I thought if I didn’t look at it, it wasn’t there. Object permanence is something most 6 months olds figure out. Why I didn’t know it at 30 is beyond me. So I finally took my head out of that sandy place and reached out to my Facebook friends and got a few good references, Dave Ramsey and Mr. Money Mustache. I started reading, listening to anything involving debt reduction and found so much good.

So simplicity.

So simplicity. My blog is called “The Little Things” because that is truly what I believe makes you happy. It’s the relationships you build. The love you give, the small pleasures in creating something yourself. So if you need me, I’ll be cooking or baking, taking pictures,drinking tea, or taking a walk with my kids. If I need something, I’ll be at my favorite thrift stores. And I’ll be here. Writing about my successes and my failures, hoping you take this journey with me.

Simplicity Manifesto

I looked at Chris a few weeks ago and said. “I want to own as little as possible.” He agreed. I think I finally put words to a nagging feeling that had been building over the weeks and months. I grew up in a house of wants. My family always wanted more. As Americans, it is woven into our very being to “strive.” Strive for more money, more prestige, more house, more cars. The problem with this striving is that it never ever ends. In my house growing up, we finally made it to upper middle class, but I don’t remember us feeling okay, safe or comfortable with our financial standing. We actually were regularly overdraft in the bank account throughout those years. My family looked at fashion magazines of clothing worth a month’s salary and even to extended family’s wealth as dreamy and lucky.
I don’t want that life anymore. And even more, I don’t want my daughters to grow up feeling that way. I want us to love the  home we create simply because we all love each other so darn much. I want to enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company and find the beauty in the little things. The books “Simplicity Parenting” and “You are Your Child’s First Teacher,” both Waldorf leaning helped me see a huge benefit in creating simplicity in a child’s life- very few toys, no screens, simple routine, healthy meals. Both books celebrate home life and the everyday. I am so happy I have my children every day all day. Our rhythm is so much better and deeper now than when Charlotte was in school. Her temperament has gotten both more confident and calmer.

This quest for simplicity has made me look around at my personal environment much more critically. Do I need all these pajama bottoms that I never wear? 15 tank tops? Do I need 35 coffee mugs? I love the idea of a few beautiful cherished items filling our home. Ah, and clean counters. They are so much prettier than 10,000 one use appliances.
The other life-altering benefit of simple living is the money it frees up. Instead of money going towards tons of stuff, it can be saved, security had and maybe even a vacation could be taken. I hope one day we can fully own a house, my husband can do whatever his job may be because he adores it, not because we are in so much debt.
Good goals if you ask me, but large goals. Too large to encompass my day to day life. For today, I’ll be getting rid of some coffee mugs.

Rehydrate with Healthy Homemade Gatorade or Pediayte

homemadeelectrolites

As the weather heats up here in central Texas, I find myself extremely parched more often that I would like. Although I down water, my body often needs some real hydration. If you have kids, you are familiar with the suggestion of pedialyte to rehydrate after or during illness or whenever fluids are needed. Unfortunately pedialyte is filled with food dye and corn syrup and other additives (as is gatorade.) Instead make this affordable, really simple version for yourself or your little ones. The orange juice gives your body needed carbohydrates and slows down the digestion to help your body absorb more water and the salt helps your body retain the water to further hydrate your cells.

Gather

3 1/2 c filtered water

1/2 c orange juice or other juice

Pinch of salt

 

Make

Combine all in a large jar and shake with the lid on securely or stir. Add ice if so desired.

 

 

Homemade Bubbles Recipe

10260600_10101233972935208_1556201294_o

Charlotte and I have been enjoying the warm weather out on our porch blowing bubbles together. Simple pleasures right? We made our own bubble mix and were somewhat happy with the mix until my good friend Jackie passed along an even better recipe that saved the day and makes enough bubbles for months for about $1. We use them in a a no-spill “fubbles” bubbles bucket that allows three people to blow bubbles at the same time.

Gather

1 cup water

1/2 cup dish soap

1/4 cup tbsp glycerine or maple syrup

 

Make

Pour all ingredients into a bowl or large jar. Mix well and refrigerate for a few hours. (For whatever reason, the mixture works better once it’s settled a bit!)

 

Homemade Monochromatic Crayons

IMG_4132IMG_4129

Earlier this week we were hit with a freak hail storm and we were more or less trapped inside. We decided to explore within our walls and make some new crayons. Skinny stick crayons wrapped in colored paper just seem to get broken or need sharpening. I love the monochromatic look (many shades of the same color family) and thought it would look great in a set of large crayons. I also hoped it would offer a quick, affordable new spin on arts and crafts time. Charlotte adored these and we really want to try with different molds in the future. Silicone molds are the easiest to use as the wax pops right out and IKEA sells tons of these as ice cube trays if you happen to be in the neighborhood of one. We used muffins tins this time around which also work just fine!

Gather
Silicone molds in desired shapes or muffin tins
A large collection of crayons in a wide range of colors
Vegetable oil spray
Exacto knife (optional)

Make

Peel off the paper from the crayons with your fingers or with an exacto knife.

Preheat oven to 300. Spray molds or tins with vegetable oil spray.

Break up the crayons and separate by color family.

Add to molds and bake at 300 for 10 minutes, or until completely melted.

Swirl crayons with a toothpick to integrate color and let cool completely.

Place mold in the freezer for 5-10 minutes and remove. Crayons should slide or pop right out.

Homemade Brown Sugar (Using Demerara or Turbinado Sugar)

IMG_4040Turbinado and Demerara sugar are delicious alternatives to white table sugar. Both have larger crystals and naturally have a hint of carmel flavor.  I started using Demerara in my coffee and mmmmmmmm. They also has more trace minerals than the regular variety so if I am going to use sugar, I try to use turbinado or Demerara. Many of my recipes call for brown sugar, and as far as I know, my local health food stores don’t carry brown turbinado sugar. So I make my own and the molasses smells fresher and the taste is more complex and just delectable. It’s also absolutely wonderful not to have to go to the store for brown sugar ever again.

Gather

3 cups turbinado sugar

3 tbsp molasses

 

Make

Blend with a wooden spoon or food processor if you desire a finer grain.

Easy Homemade Chicken Stock (Slow Cooker Method)

20140324-100433.jpg
I think I should change this blog to “Soup Lovers Anonymous.” I hope you like soup at least one tenth as much as I do. To continue on our soup loving adventure, I bring you chicken stock. The food blogging world has been abuzz with the use of chicken wings instead of leftover carcass or necks or backs. The results are unabashedly delicious. This stock brightens any soup or dinner item. It take 3 minutes of prep and cooks all in its lonesome in a slow cooker. Freeze in quart size storage bags, quart mason jars, ice cube trays or regular muffin tins (for 1/2 cup size)

Makes: 3 Quarts (ish)

Gather
2 lbs chicken wings
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 bunch parsley
3-5 celery stalks
3 quarts water
Cheesecloth
Fine meh strainer

Make
Throw it in the crock on high for 5-6 hours or low for 8-10!
Let cool, strain with cheesecloth-lined mesh strainer!
Freeze! (Or refrigerate!)