Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pumpkins, pumpkins, we love pumpkins!

I thought it would be fun to do a pumpkin theme this Fall and incorporate it into our homeschooling lessons.  Here are some of the fun things I found around the internet to do:

I made pumpkin pie scented playdough, put out some things to attach to the playdough for fun, and away they went!

We wrote down adjectives to describe pumpkins:

Some creepy crawly sensory bins were made with waterbeads.  Not strictly on the pumpkin theme (although there were little pumpkins in it), but a good one to do before Halloween:

We filled out a pumpkin observation sheet before we carved the pumpkin (into an angry bird face of course!), describing it and guessing how many seeds there were in it:

We poked little pumpkins with pins, and stretched elastics in different designs around the pumpkins because, come on, how is that NOT fun??  At least until someone gets poked (which may, or may not have happened in this house....ahem....):

We painted little white casper pumpkins:

And of course we read stories about pumpkins.  Tomorrow we will end our pumpkin theme with some baking:  pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  And then the kids will go trick or treating and eat insane amounts of sugar before I try to put their little excited selves to bed.  All in all, a great two weeks of pumpkin fun!  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Travelling on the Cheap

Growing up my family didn't travel.  So I didn't know what I was missing.  Until recently.  Last year my family and I took a trip across Canada in our beat up tent trailer.  We saw the mountains, teal blue glacier water, and wildlife I didn't even realize existed in Canada!  I was hooked. I wanted to make these kind of memories with my family more often! Problem is, travelling can be expensive.

This year we are staying closer to home. BC is just not in the budget this year. (but believe me, it's on the list to happen again. :) )  However, I wanted to travel a bit still.  We decided there were some areas in Ontario, our home province that would be great to explore.  We are planning on going to the Bruce Penninsula this year as it is an area we have never been.  Here are some tricks we are using to be able to afford a small trip.

1.  Combining it with work.  I sell tie dye.  I am taking part in a craft show in an area close to where we want to explore.  So I will spend the weekend working while we camp, and then we will move on and use the following few days to take our mini vacation.

2.  Canadian Tire money.  Gas is expensive.  And you can't use Canadian Tire money to purchase gas.  But you can use Canadian Tire money to purchase a gift card, and you can use a gift card to purchase gas.  We always get our gas at the Canadian Tire gas station so we have a nice chunk that should get us almost 40 dollars of gas.

3.  PC Points Card.  If you have a bank account at President's Choice Financial, and you use your card at various places such as No Frills or Independent Grocer, you get points.  You can then redeem those points for groceries.  It takes awhile to accumulate them, but 20 dollars of free groceries is 20 dollars of free groceries! :)  We will be using that towards our food purchases for camping.

4.  Swagbucks.  Swagbucks is a site online where you can accumulate points and then redeem them for gift certificates for various stores or for paypal money.  While laying in bed putting my toddler to sleep I have used this site on my mobile phone to gain some points.

5.  Mystery Shopping.  I have done a few mystery shop assignments.  It is not huge money, but again it is a little extra that goes into my paypal account for our trip.

6.  Airmiles.  Recently I heard that airmiles have changed their program so that your points can expire after 5 years.  Apparently in 2016 points can start expiring.  We have been collecting the odd point here and there since we were first married.  We don't use the card enough for it to be enough for a flight, but it turns out you can redeem them for other purchases such as gift cards, or gas. :)

All of this combined with cheap camping, doing free or cheap activities, and eating food you pack all helps towards being able to take the family on a trip to make memories. :)

What ways do you save so you can take your family on a vacation?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Know Your Audience

I don't really like to write controversial posts.  I worry that I will hurt someone's feelings, or open a can of worms that just isn't worth being opened.  But every once in awhile I get worked up enough that I write something and hit the post button, wondering if I really should be posting it.  So, fair warning, this is one of those times.

A very good friend of mine and I often have chats that often include one of us saying to eachother, "know your audience."

If it took you 6 months to get pregnant, don't complain that it took you forever to get pregnant to people who have dealt with fertility issues for years.

If you get straight A's in school, don't complain that school is such a struggle for you to someone who works their butt off and still struggles to only pull in Cs.

If you make $80,000 or $100,000 dollars yearly, don't complain that you have no money and finances are slim to someone who pulls in $20,000 annually.

If you find yourself in the first group of these statements and other situations like this, I am not saying you don't have struggles in this area.  I am saying that you most likely can't fully understand what the person in the latter part of these statements is really going through.  And by saying these types of things it can sting in the heart of the other person.

Honesty alert(because, really, sometimes you gotta be real): My family and I currently pull in roughly $20,000 a year at this time.  And if I had a nickle for everytime someone who makes $80,000 or more complain to me about how tough finances were, well, i might actually be rich.

I don't pretend to know what is going on in everyone's life. I don't always know if a crisis has happened in your life that has momentarily put you in a bad spot financially.  What I do know is that when I hear you say you have no money, and I see your lifestyle or I know what your annual income is (because friends, sometimes we do feel okay to share that number which is okay), I wonder what you must think of me in my $3 Value Village shirt purchased on 50% off day, if you are feeling bad about your own money situation while looking like a rockstar in your designer boots.

Here's the thing.  We have one vehicle.  We live in a small, OLD home. My kids are blessed with being able to take swimming lessons because I walked into the YMCA and applied for subsidy.  Not the funnest moment, let me tell you.  But my kids are worth it.  When I do buy clothes it is 9 out of 10 times from a thrift store, and soccer is paid for by Christmas money given to the children by relatives.  We don't have cable.  When we travel this Summer we are combining it with work to make money and using CHEAP camping accommodations. I don't go to the salon, or buy fancy lotions or makeup or creams.  Actually, I make my own bar soap to save money.  I hang laundry often. And in the winter we keep our temperature in our house on average around 16 or 17 degrees.

And I don't tell you this so you feel sorry for me.  Actually, I would HATE it if you did.  Because this kind of stuff doesn't make my life horrible.  Sometimes it enriches it.  Sometimes it strengthens my character.  And yes, sometimes it does cause me to complain because I am human and no matter where we are in our life, we are caught complaining about something that we shouldn't be complaining about.  But I imagine if I was in a conversation with a homeless person and started complaining to them about  how finances were tough that they might feel frustrated with what was coming out of my mouth.  Because to them, having a warm bed, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and never going hungry....well, that is something they dream of. I have all those things, and feel so fortunate! And for me, I often see these financial struggles as a temporary situation because one day my kids will be older and I will have more time to work and bring in income for the family when they won't need constant supervision or have such an attachment to their parents. But for now, when I hear those comments it makes me feel like there is this huge totem pole, and that I must be on the very bottom because if you feel like you don't have enough, it makes me think you look at me and just pity me and my children.

And you know what?  I am HAPPY for you that you make a comfortable income.  I think that is something you should feel proud of and thank God for.  I think it is something you should celebrate! I would love to hear how you were able to take a much needed vacation, or you were able to add renovations to your home you were dreaming about, or how you finally could put your child in those horse ridinng lessons they wanted so much.   All I am saying is, when we share our struggles, let's work together to know our audience.  I am guilty of this too...oh, how there have been times in mid-sentence I have realized I have said something that just shouldn't have come out of my mouth. There are many struggles people around me are going through that I really have no idea how hard that valley is they are walking through.   I want to learn to be sensitive to those around me.  Let's do this together. :)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How to Fight Depression

Depression sucks.  It lies to you and tells you you are not enough, that you are a failure, that everyone dislikes you.  On top of that, it physically causes you pain too - headaches and stomach aches, fatigue, etc.

Since I was a teen I have struggled with depression.  Right around the time my parents split up, my mom left, and I was trying to make sense of everything, deep feelings of sadness and hopelessness crept in.  It wouldn't be until years later that I would have a name for what I was feeling, and it wouldn't be until more years later that I would finally move past the shame and stigma of depression and learn how to properly treat it.

Winter is often the time people with depression struggle more.   And if you live in Canada, even if you have never experienced depression before, this  possibly eternal winter that makes me feel like we are living in the Disney movie, Frozen, can bring the happiest person down.

 Here are some of the things I've learned over the years to help lift your mood when you are feeling low:

1.  Let the sunshine in.  Open up those curtains!  Soak up that vitamin D.
2.  Go outside.  The fresh air does wonders for your mood.
3.  Exercise.  I have yet to hear someone say they regret exercising.  Exercising gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy!
4.  Eat healthy.  I struggle with this one, but I can tell you that I often feel sad after I eat too much sugar or wheat or caffeine.
5.  Get out of bed.  When you are depressed you want to stay in bed.  Sure, sometimes you may need an extra hour, or a nap to rest, but don't make it a habit.  Staying in bed too much when you are down will only make the problem worse.  Get up and get moving!
6.  Get dressed.  Being a stay at home mom it is easy to put off having a shower and living in sweats or pajama bottoms.  Take a shower, put something on that makes you feel beautiful and be amazed at how much better you feel than before you did that!
7.  Don't treat your pain with bad habits.  Too much shopping, drinking, or in my case - eating junk, will in the end leave you feeling worse than before.  It is only  temporary high, and when it is over you will feel guilty for your poor choices.
8.  Don't beat yourself up when you do.  We all do things we wish we didn't.  Don't beat yourself up.  Just get back on the horse.  Beating yourself up will only leave you feeling more depressed.
9.  Keep your schedule.  It's easy to want to cancel out on commitments when you are feeling so discouraged.  But continuing with life will help you get through the tough days.
10.  Form a support system.  Family and friends, positive influences in your life, and those who will lift and encourage you are the ones you need in your life.  Look to people you can trust to confide in.
11. Dance around your kitchen.  This ALWAYS makes me feel better.  Don't believe me? Try it. :)
12.  See a doctor.  Sometimes people need medication.  And there is no shame in that.  If nothing else is working and you aren't feeling better, go see your doctor.  I have been on medication on and off for 7 years, and consistently for over the past two years.  I used to hide this information due to fear of judgment, but over time I realized there were many around me who are on medication as well, and there are others who want to talk to their doctors about medication options but are too scared to.  When we are open about this kind of thing, it can help others seek the help they need.

Depression doesn't define you.  And there IS help out there.  Don't let it win.  Make a conscious effort to BEAT it.  With God by my side I am able to get out of bed each morning and fight depression with all I've got.  And though some days are harder than others, I can happily say that I am winning the battle.  You can too.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Yummy Deliciousness Granola Recipe

I LOVE granola.  I remember the first time I ever had granola was at Summer camp.  Basically, my life was changed from that moment on.

Unfortunately, the price of a tiny bag of granola in the store is absolutely crazy!!  Especially when it is SO cheap to make.  Here's how I make it.

Yummy Deliciousness Granola
7 cups of rolled oats
1 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup of flax
3 individual servings of applesauce - I used unsweetened Motts Cherry Starfruit Berry applesauce
3/4 cup of honey
1 cup raisins

In a bowl, mix up the dry ingredients, except the raisins.  In a separate bowl, mix up the wet ingredients.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients.  Mix them up really well, you want all the dry ingredients to be coated by the wet ones.

This is the applesauce I use.

Pour the mix onto three separate cookie sheets.  Put them in the oven at 275 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  Stir it around with a spatula every ten minutes or so. Watch it carefully! Granola burns quickly and there is nothing more disappointing then having to throw out a fresh batch of granola!

Let it cool.  Mix in the raisins and put it in a jar. Feel happy knowing you have breakfast covered for the morning!

We mixed this granola with some homemade yogurt and bananas the other day.  So good!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How to be a Smart yard sale Shopper

My husband and I LOVE yard sales.  To the point where we get giddy when Spring comes because we are dreaming of all the browsing of people's junk we soon get to take part in.  Here are some tips to make the most of your yard sale trips:

1. It's not a deal if you don't NEED it.  Just because it is cheap doesn't mean you should buy it.  If you buy a cd you will never listen to, or book you will read just because it was a steal, in the end you just wasted money if you will never use it!

2.  Haggle.  I am not really good at this one, but have done it once in awhile.  Most people who are holding yard sales just want to get rid of their junk.  If you are offering a reasonable amount, but lower than the price they are asking, most people will give you some sort of deal.

3.  Try it out.  If the item you are buying requires electricity, ask if there is a way you can plug it in before you buy it to make sure it works.

4.  Limit what you buy for your kids.  It's easy to hand over some cash to the kids for a purchase at a yard sale, and I encourage it!  It's cheap, and it can teach them how to figure out how much they can afford, etc.  But if you hit up a lot of yard sales like my husband and I, it's good to say no as well.  No child needs a bedroom full of stuffies, no matter HOW cheap they are. ;)  A few are adequate enough.

5.  Go Early.  Serious yard salers are out first thing in the morning to get the best stuff.

6.  Go Late.  So, if you go early you have a better chance of finding items you might be looking for but if you go late, you may score some awesome deals as the yard sale organizers are getting tired, ready to shut'er down, and most likely just going to take the rest of the stuff leftover to the thrift store.

7.  Bring Snacks.  You need to keep yourself nice and hydrated and full of energy while out.  And we all know the kids will get hungry.  Avoid wasting all the money you saved by eating out in a moment of hangry weakness.

What are your tips for successful yard saling?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Save Money on Your Grocery Bill

My family and I, we like to eat.  And though I haven't made the best food choices over the past few months, I do like to be able to eat healthily even though I am on a tight budget.  Here are some of my top things I do to save on my groceries.

1.  Beans can be yummy!  You don't need to be a vegetarian to enjoy beans.  Mix some black beans with salsa and rice, top with some cheese, and enjoy!
2.  Buy dried beans over canned. I sometimes buy canned beans, but usually buy dry beans.  I cook the whole bag in my crockpot at once, then put them in freezer bags in smaller servings.  Then when I need some, I just grab a bag from the freezer!
3.  Make meat the addition, not the main course.  Add meat to soups and stews, stir fries and casseroles to make it go further.
4. Make your own convenience foods.  I've made my own jam, taco seasoning, granola, yogurt, pancakes and so much more!
5. Grow a garden.  Nothing tastes better than a fresh tomato from the garden!
6.  Cut out the cereal.  My family LOVES cereal.  But it is expensive.  To appease them, I will buy one box of cereal on sale.  Once it is gone, we eat oatmeal, eggs, or pancakes until we grocery shop.
7.  Buy discounted meat.  Okay, before you get all grossed out, hear me out on this one.  Meat is usually discounted because it is going to expire in a day or so.  Once you put the meat in the freezer, it will keep for a long time.  As long as you either cook it the day you purchase it or put it in the freezer it is fine.  Obviously, don't buy anything that looks questionable.
8. Menu plan.  How many times have you stopped at the grocery store on the way home, or the drive-thru because you had no plan for dinner?  Having a plan will avoid these unexpected trips.
9.  Shop the flyers.  Plan your menu around what is on sale that week.  And don't forget to price match!
10. Don't shop while hungry.  Oh man, everything looks so delicious when you are hungry!  You will end up spending more than you planned.  Eat before you shop.

How do you save money on your grocery bill?