Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Clean Eating Revisited............AGAIN

If you remember, like ten zillion years ago (not really), Roman and I tried to do the whole "eat clean" thing. I wrote a post about it back in August of 2012 here, and then another post in April of this year here, in case you missed them and want to play catch-up.

Almost a month ago, I purchased an eBook bundle. It was called "The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle." In it was a TON of resources specific to clean eating. Right now, I'm reading two of those books: "Better than a Box" by Katie Kimball and "Real Food on a Real Budget" by Stephanie Langford. Roman and I have decided we are going to try and give this clean eating thing another shot, but we are approaching it differently this time.

**Sometimes, it just is not feasible to eat *totally* clean.

In Better than a Box, Katie Kimball shows us how to take processed food recipes and reengineer them into clean foods. I’ve learned so much about cooking in general just from reading her book. She has all sorts of tips, such as what spices go best with what meats, how to do your meal planning, and the basics of baking. She also has a TON of recipes in there that she has already reengineered. I’ve tried several of them, and so far we have had 100% success.

BUT, I will say this: sometimes it just is not feasible to make everything from scratch...because she literally does make everything from scratch. Even her chicken stock is made from scratch. It’s a really long process where you boil chicken bones in a big pot for like, eight hours and you can’t leave the house and you have to be awake to watch it. So for someone like me, there is NEVER a time when I am at the house for eight hours straight (while being awake). So what did I do on the recipes that had chicken stock in them? I went out and bought chicken stock. The rest of the recipes I was able to make with “clean” ingredients, so I don’t think that one cup of chicken stock is going to kill us.
So the lesson? It is totally okay to cheat sometimes. We can’t be superheroes all the time, and sometimes we have to take some shortcuts. And that’s perfectly fine and acceptable. One reason why I think the clean eating thing didn’t work with us the last (two) times was because we were so strict on ourselves that it was exhausting and we eventually just gave up. So when/if you are looking at “clean” recipes, allow yourself to take a shortcut if you need it. Because one unhealthy ingredient in the middle of a bunch of healthy ones is a whole lot better than just giving up and ordering pizza. Just saying!
**Eating clean can be expensive, so we have to do everything possible to stay on budget.
In Real Food on a Real Budget, Stephanie Langford shows you how to eat clean on a budget. She has all sorts of good information on how to find fresh grown foods and not pay a killing for them. Although the information is great, and I have learned some things and put them into practice, it’s not quite accurate for our situation.
We live in a very small town that has one grocery store and a Wal-Mart. Unless it’s hiding somewhere, I don’t know of a Farmer’s Market that sells food grown without pesticides/chemicals. So all of her tips on going to Farmer’s Markets and such are not applicable to us, because there aren’t any in our area. If we really wanted to, we could drive an hour or so and there would be a couple of Farmer’s Markets, but the money we would pay for higher quality groceries plus the money we would spend on gas would totally break our grocery budget.
So what do we do? We buy our veggies and fruits at our local stores, wash them really well, and eat them. And our budget sighs in relief at the same time. This kind of goes along with what I said earlier, but basically the lesson here is that the point of eating clean is not to make you bankrupt, so you have to find a happy medium between grocery costs and budgeting.

We are still learning as we go. And we definitely have not been perfect with this. Last weekend we went out of town. What did we eat? Hot dogs, breakfast bars, chips, cookies, and all sorts of other things that are definitely not “clean.” But I don’t think perfection is the point. I think we are on a journey to take better care of ourselves, and we are making progress. Maybe one day I’ll be one of those wives who has time to make her own chicken stock and can her own vegetables, but that day is not today, and I’m okay with that.
Interested in the two books I’ve mentioned here? Well, I am excited to tell you that the Bundle I bought a few weeks ago will be back for the Black Friday weekend (November 29-December 2). You get 86 eBooks as well as access to other tools for only $29.97!!  To see the details of what all is included and to purchase the Bundle, click here. And it's not all about clean-eating, either. Some of the topics include: Allergey-Free/Special Diets, Meal Planning, Natural Skin Care, Natural Health, Fitness, Gardening, and Healthy Kids & Babies. Seriously, go check it out. If you can find only five or six books that you are interested in reading, than it is worth it to buy the bundle and get access to all the other books as well. (Note: this is not an affiliate link, I just really enjoyed the Bundle and wanted to tell you guys about it.)
Got any questions on how Roman and I are tackling this clean eating thing? Feel free to leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them!

"She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens." ~Proverbs 31:15

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dear Dad

My Dad had a birthday on Sunday. I won’t say how old he turned, because I’m nice like that. But I will say that he’s getting ready to retire in a few months, because I’m only kind of nice.
I don’t really talk a whole lot about my parents on this blog, but today I decided to write something for my Dad in honor of his birthday, so here goes.
Dear Dad,
You are the first man I ever loved. You are the first man I ever kissed. You are the first man that held my hand. You took me out on my first date. You are the first man who ever told me he loved me.
I have so many memories of the time we’ve spent together. You have always been a present father, and for that I am incredibly grateful. I remember you teaching me how to ride a bike. I remember building forts with you and Stephen in the back yard. I remember you letting us help you plant your garden in the backyard, and letting us hand you tools while you were building that add-on to the shed out back. I remember you lying down with me at night until I fell asleep. I would ask you so many profound questions like, “how do airplanes stay in the air” and “how do boats float on the water” and you always had the smartest answers. I thought that you were a genius, and now that I’m in my twenties, I know you are.
You have been such a great father to me. You reminded me all the time that I was your princess, that I was beautiful, and that I was treasured by God. One of my favorite memories is you explaining to me what it meant to be a Christian when I was five years old. You held out your hand and said that when I accept Jesus into my heart, it’s like God puts me in His hand and shuts it tight, and no one can ever take me away from Him. You closed your hand into a tight fist and told me to try to open it again. You always had a knack for explaining complicated things in a way that I could understand. I gave my heart to Jesus that night, and I remember the joy on your face after you led me in that prayer.
You always checked my closet when I was scared of monsters. You comforted me during all of the bad thunderstorms and assured me that just because there was a dark cloud, it did NOT mean that I was about to get killed by a tornado.
As I grew, you helped me with homework. You helped me work through problems with classmates at school. You gave me so much advice on how to be a productive student and how to study. When I got into middle school, you helped me train for the cross-country team. Eventually, you wound up being a volunteer coach. Out of all of the cross-country and track meets from sixth through twelfth grade, I’m pretty sure you only missed one. And that was only because you were in the hospital. Very few people in America today can say that they have a father so dedicated to their success, and I am blessed to be one of those people.
I remember begging you to buy me a car on my sixteenth birthday. I really thought you were joking when you continued to tell me "no", but now I'm so glad you did. You helped me buy my first car right before my eighteenth birthday, and it taught me so much about being responsible for your things, being responsible with your money, and what it felt like to have a true commitment.
You walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. I remember asking you if you would cry, and you said “yes, because I’m getting older and I’m more emotional than when I was younger.” And sure enough, I saw your eyes get pretty misty when I came out of the back room and grabbed tightly onto your arm. Which then made my eyes get misty, because I remembered you telling me several years ago just how important walking all of your daughters down the aisle on their wedding day was for you.  
You danced with me in my room when I was a little girl. You would spin me around and watch me twirl like a ballerina in my princess dresses. And then you danced with me on my wedding day.

You have given me advice on my work issues. You have taught me how to be a good wife and a good Christian woman. You have shown me what it means to be a hard worker, to be loyal to the people around you. You retired from the Army and have served this great country of ours well.
You have come to my rescue late at night when Roman was at work and I thought someone was in my house. You also came to my rescue that terrible day when the roaches swarmed in my kitchen and I cut my hand open trying to get away. You have helped us move (twice), paid for meals and groceries, helped us out when we needed the money, and have done so many other things to make sure that Roman and I start off on the right foot. Oh yea, and you and mom still buy me milk. (I promise, one day I’ll start buying it myself!)
Dad, I love you so much. I love the man that you are, as a husband, a father, a Christian, a friend, and a worker. You are a rare breed….a man that places God before everything else. A man that loves his wife more than anyone else. A man that has always worked hard to provide for and support his family.
As we get ready to celebrate your birthday as one big family this weekend, I hope you know how much you are loved. I hope you know that you mean so much more to me than just a birthday cake and a present and a card. You are my Daddy, and you are my hero.
Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you!!!!!
"He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge." ~Proverbs 14:26 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

This is the Stuff of Romance

Last night I realized that I have known you for eight years. Eight years! Right around this time, eight years ago, a mutual friend of ours sent you my phone number. You had come to our fall festival, interested in another girl. But she didn’t want anything to do with you. However, upon further consideration, you realized there was a much prettier and fantastic girl in the room (a.k.a. ME) *ahem* and not all hope was lost. Then you promptly chased me through the fellowship hall with a fly swatter. Love at first sight, I tell you. This is the stuff of romance.
My friend asked me after you left if I wanted her to text you my home phone number. I said no. She did it anyways and didn’t tell me. You called me later that night and asked me if I liked you. I was too embarrassed to answer, but I finally agreed to give you my answer and then hang up the phone. “YES” *click* You called right back laughing because you didn’t think I’d really hang up. This is the stuff of romance.
My dad asked me that night who I was talking to. “Don’t worry, Dad. It’s just some guy I met at church. I’m sure he’ll get bored with me after a month or so.” This is the stuff of romance.
About two months later, we were at the same mutual friend’s house for a New Year’s Eve bonfire. It was just me and you standing in front of the fire for a few minutes….everyone else had gone inside to get something to drink. Your Aunt called, and you told her that you were at a bonfire with your girlfriend. I pretended not to notice that you called me your girlfriend. After you hung up, you looked at me and said “It is alright that I call you my girlfriend, right?” I giggled and said yes. When you left to go home that night, you kissed me on the forehead and I think I may have almost passed out from the butterflies. This is the stuff of romance.
Within a few months of dating you, I knew I wanted to marry you. I was so certain that I even put it into my tenth grade English essay...which you know, definitely makes it a sure thing. “I hope I get to marry him, but if I don’t, then we will definitely stay best friends for the rest of our lives.” Luckily, I got the best of both worlds and married my best friend. I also made a 100 on my essay. This is the stuff of romance.
We’ve known each other for eight years. We’ve been together for seven of those eight years. We pulled all-nighters talking on the phone. I got in SOOOO much trouble when I finally got a cell phone and my parents saw just how many minutes I spent in one month talking to you. We broke up at six months for *gasp* one day. Then we broke up for *gasp* one day a month after that. We argued. We had the typical drama that only happens when you have two sixteen year olds “dating”. My parents didn’t let you drive me ANYWHERE until Homecoming. We thought we were so cool when we hopped into your mom’s truck and drove off. This is the stuff of romance.
Senior year was rough. We had a major fight. We broke up for ten months. We both entered into unhealthy relationships. I’ve spent much of my adulthood trying my best to forget everything that happened my senior year. But I can say one good thing came out of it: that first time you hugged me after I managed to get free of my ex-boyfriend was the best. thing. ever. I was quite damaged. We got back together. Then I left you for two months because I couldn’t figure out what was up and what was down. God did a major re-work in my heart, and I figured out that you truly were THE one for me. I never knew just how much I loved and appreciated you until I had lost you. We’ve been together ever since. This is the stuff of romance.
We got married when everyone else said we were too young. My own best friend later admitted that she thought it was a terrible idea. But our wedding day was the best day of my entire life, because I pledged to be yours for the rest of forever. We took two weeks for our honeymoon, and everyone laughed at us because apparently that was the longest honeymoon in the history of ever. But I don't care what they say, those two weeks hold some of the best memories for me. We came home flat broke, living in that crazy-awful trailer. I still have nightmares about the hot water running out after ten minutes, the ugly wallpaper, and that terrible time I had with the roaches. We struggled our way through college, through jobs we didn’t like, through three months of summer with no air conditioning (hell, I tell you), through ministry and through complete exhaustion. We adopted a cat. Then another cat. Then a puppy. The puppy was against our parents’ wishes because they thought we would get tired of him and try to bum him off on them. HA! Yea right, that puppy quickly became our fur-child…..who still tries to sleep in between us every night and has a fit when you try to hug or kiss me. This is the stuff of romance.
We’ve made plenty of mistakes. Fought plenty of unnecessary fights. We’ve battled through fourteen months of infertility. It has been the most heartbreaking time of our lives, and it still isn’t over yet. We’ve endured all of the medicines, doctor appointments, negative pregnancy tests, tears, and doubts. We’ve questioned everything that we thought God had planned for us. It has been a test of both our faith and our marriage, but so far we are walking through the fire and I know that eventually we will see the good in all of this. This is what we do. We relish the great times, and fight through the hard times. We cling to our Father when the road gets rocky and praise Him when the path is smooth. We stay faithful to Him and we stay faithful to each other. Because that is the stuff of romance.
Our story is not perfect, but it’s ours. And I’m thankful for the life I’ve lived with you. We are in that in-between stage right now. We haven’t had our first child yet. We’re still unsure about what we want to be when we grow-up. We still act more like teenagers than anything. Eight years ago seems like such a long time, but it really isn’t. But I’ve had the best time knowing you these past eight years. I’ve enjoyed learning about you and falling in love with who you are. You are strong, funny, smart, incredibly handsome, and a hard worker. And one day (hopefully soon) you’ll make an amazing dad. You are a man of great faith and dedication to His kingdom, and that is why I love you most. I still can’t believe I get to wake up next to you every morning….but I really wish you weren’t such a cover thief. This is the stuff of romance.
Trials will come. The road will not always be easy. We still have plenty of unnecessary arguments in our future. We are still battling infertility. But despite all of that, I will always love you. You are my best friend. You are my better half. You are my husband. You are wonderful. I love being your wife and being able to see you grow into such an amazing man of God. America and Hollywood, take note: this is the stuff of romance. It isn’t sleeping around. It isn’t divorce. It isn’t having an affair. It’s following God’s plan for a family: marriage. It’s unconditional love. It’s sticking with that person no matter what comes your way. It’s the joining of souls into one flesh. That is the stuff of romance.       
To my best friend: Happy Eight Years of Knowing Me. I am certainly glad to have met you eight years ago. And I look forward to the many years of knowing you in our future.
“And the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”  ~Mark 10:8

Friday, November 1, 2013

November Update

Whew! Long time no see, huh?
Let me be the first to say, I am SO glad that November is finally here, because October was a doozy. Between going on vacation, trying to catch up after vacation, lots of stuff going on at church, and then being really sick this past week, we have been at a much higher level of crazy this past month. Most people’s schedules tend to get crazier the closer we get to Christmas, but we actually don’t have that much planned for this month (yet) so we should have some sense of calm and normalcy during November.
As we approach the final countdown for the year of 2013, I thought it would be appropriate to re-visit our financial goals. Also, I promised you guys an update last month when I was lamenting over the government shutdown. #warningitslong
Thankfully, our dear Congress did decide to pay everyone, so with my last check I got my $537 lost income back-paid, which was definitely a huge relief. Not-so-thankfully, we had to put four new tires on my car this past month. Womp womp. Basically, we took my car in for an oil change right before we left for West Virginia, and promptly found out that my tires were falling apart on the inside. The phone call went something like this:
Roman: Sarah, I have some really bad news.
Sarah: ……….
Roman: We have to put four new tires on your car. Johnny says they won’t make it to West Virginia because they’re falling apart.
Sarah: …………….. Okay FINE.   >:|   O.o   :(
So even though the government shutdown didn’t wind up setting us back financially, four brand new tires did….by like, a whole lot. And then Roman brought home a good chunk less than what we needed him to (for the second month in a row—this is when I hate commission), so that put quite a pinch on us as well.
Lesson learned from all of this?? We have GOT to get an emergency fund built up as quickly as possible. It made me so angry to have to charge basic living expenses plus new tires to our credit line when it was supposed to be paid off already. An emergency fund would take care of things like this…but so far we’ve been so focused on paying off debt that we haven’t been putting anything in savings. Literally, nothing. As in, the balance of our savings right now is $26. Yes, I know. Be ashamed for me. *hides face*
If you remember my September financial post, then you know we started paying off our debt using the Snowball Method by Dave Ramsey. (If you didn’t see the post, or want a refresher, click here.) Below are our updated goals from September using the Snowball Method, followed by the new goals due to the ridiculous amount of expenses in October:
Goal #1: Pay off student loan by January of 2015.
Updated Goal #1: Pay off student loan by February of 2015.

Goal #2: Pay off credit card by March of 2014.
Updated Goal #2: Pay off credit card by June of 2014.

Goal #3: Pay off credit line by October of 2013. 
Updated Goal #3: Pay off credit line by January of 2014.

Goal #4: Have $3,000 in savings by end of 2014.
Updated Goal #4: We aren’t pushing this one back any because we realize how important it is. If anything, we’re going to be pushing to meet this one a whole lot sooner.

Goal #5: Pay off couch loan and car by June of 2014.
Updated Goal #5: Pay off couch loan by July of 2014; pay off car by June of 2014.

Goal #6: Be 100% debt-free by January of 2015.
Goal #6: Be 100% debt-free by February of 2015.

You can totally see how much damage was done just because of one month of insanity. Thankfully, even though some goals got pushed back by three months, we will be able to do some catching up and are only one month behind on our final goal of being debt-free. The important thing is to never give up on paying off your debt just because things get hard. I’m hoping that with Christmas approaching, Roman will start bringing in a lot more (this is when I <3 commission) and then maybe we can get caught up. We should have a tax refund at the beginning of 2014 as well, although that will probably go towards our savings goal.

Now you can totally understand why I am so very glad that November is here. I was so happy to file away October’s budget and start with a clean slate in November. #nerd #accountingmajor
Anyways, we’ll just keep plugging along on our quest to be debt-free and you know we’ll be keeping you updated!  :)

And oh yea, TGIF!!!!!

“Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” ~Proverbs 13:11