Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Makeover Week: Part One - A Tween's Bedroom

I don't know what got into us, but this spring has been all about the makeover. For Catherine's 11th birthday she got a new room. She was thrilled, and I had a pretty fun time taking a beige guest room and turning it into a tween's solo space. Some items given by family as birthday gifts paired with a few up-cycled things, made this makeover pretty light on wallets without sacrificing a look Catherine loves. I failed to capture photos for the process, but did share a couple before and after videos on Instagram.  

In addition to the bedroom revamp, we made over a full set of patio furniture and a piano! I did not fail to snap some pictures as these items transformed, so we'll share them on the blog this week! 

Check back this week for part two and three of our spring makeovers. 

Oh, and as you can totally tell we are not DIY superstars or home decor experts, please see....well, a million other great design blogs to get your fix. We are a pretty regular family with our own very real budget, time constraints and creativity limitations. Let this short series be a reminder that us Average Joes can get it done, too! And let's give permission to be pretty dang proud of ourselves!  


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Share It Saturday: Actual King Spoken Word

A church we attend created a great video of some wonderfully written and performed spoken word poetry. We're bringing back our blog's "Share It Saturday", so today is the perfect day to post a link to the video. Enjoy!

"Let's remember the King. He's not here, but he's not gone. Because a King is a King. Even if we got His crown wrong."

Click here to see full video.


Do you have an idea for a Share It Saturday post? Send it to us!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tony Gould at Thirty-Thirty Coffee Co.

Tony performed at thirty-thirty Coffee Co. over the weekend. Besides thirty-thirty's pretty great coffee - you can order it online and they offer free shipping, yo! - they are also pretty great about supporting local talent.

Now that you've had a second to glance at the photo above, I'm sure you were all immediately like, "Whoa ... that's one handsome man behind that guitar." I know! That was my first thought, too. I told Tony you all would think that. (He just shook his head at me.) Your second thought was probably somewhere along the lines of, "What could possibly be more unnerving than singing/playing with a giant bear directly behind you?" Good question; to which I think I know the answer.

Playing your own stuff! 

Playing your own music is terrifying. And that, my friends, is exactly what Tony does. He writes/performs his own songs and when he does he displays a sense of vulnerability and bravery I only dream of having. And he's so good, too! Hand on a Bible, Tony is so talented. (I might have to fight hard to keep lines like that last one from being edited out - we proof each other's posts). And you guys, he has been killing it lately and last weekend was his best performance yet.

Tony has had quite the musical journey. From garage band to youth group gigs - college band to solo stuff - an album release in 2008 to a constantly fighting for time to play/write over the last couple of years. His relationship with music has changed over time, but they've never broken up. I see Tony and his music in a deeply committed relationship. "They" are in it for the long haul as people say of other couples and I'm really excited about the direction it's going.  

There is a lot in the works right now with Tony's music, and I want you all to get in on the front end. I want our loving framily - I fully embrace this as a word! - to be the first to know about his next steps, and honestly Tony would love your support. So here are some new ways to stay in the loop:

Follow Tony Gould Music on Instagram
Like Tony Gould Music on Facebook
Follow Tony Gould Music on Twitter

Coming soon.... (website under construction)

Also, coming soon.... Tony is going on his first tour! If you want him to make a stop at your favorite venue, or you want to book him for a house show, email him (tonygouldmusic@gmail), tweet him, send him a message or get a hold of him the way you usually do!

Peace, love, and coffee!


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"...ready to explore being 11"

Emily: We celebrated Catherine's 11th birthday at the beginning of the month. Oh my 11! I'm learning she's smack dab in those in-between years where one moment she seems so "big" and then the next she's just a "little girl". She can go from holding a conversation about girls' access to education to making up a song about armpits. One second she's graciously giving her little sister the bigger piece of candy and then the next she's loosing it over colored pencils. It's a wonderful and confusing time for sure, and turning the page to her next year of life has me feeling excited and sentimental.

Funny thing is I'm not the only one in this house who finds herself rather sentimental this year. Catherine has been working hard to reconcile her eagerness for more independence with her uncertainty about growing up. On facebook, I shared an 11-year-old picture and a little bit of a conversation which finally revealed, on the eve of her birthday, she was ready to face 11 with all the positivety she could muster.

"Catherine turns 11 tomorrow! While she's thrilled about another celebration, she's taken her time getting used to the idea she'll be a little bit older.  
This afternoon she told me, 'I'm trying to have the best last day being 10, because I know I'll never be 10 again. I guess I'm ready to explore being 11. I'll be old, not old like you guys; I'll be a young old.' 
We live with our own sweet Peter-Pan. — with Tony Gould."

Tony: As her father, I want her to be brave enough to see the world for what it is, but I also want her to have enough kindness to still be motivated to serve. I also need her to understand how she deserves to be treated and why. Although she might have a different background than some of her friends or other people she meets, she is still a child of God and created in His image. That's a beautiful thing, but can be difficult for an inquisitive 11-year-old to grasp. 

And yes, the girl is beautiful. And yes, I better look out. And yes, I better start preparing now. And as much as I pass these comments off because my little girl is only 11, deep down I am hysterical. Will I be okay with her dating? When will that even be? Surely I have at least 20 more years, right? I would guess (scientifically, of course!) that close to 80% of the people Catherine has met in almost the past 2 years comment on her height or her beauty. As her father, I want her to know she is beautiful inside and out. I try to compliment her brain over her beauty and let her know she is capable of doing anything in life. You know, I have the feeling that there are days she gets it. I feel like deep down she knows she is strong, smart, capable of changing the world, and, oh yeah...just happens to be beautiful. 

Tony and Emily

Thursday, March 26, 2015

10 ways to eat healthy on a budget

I'm far from a health nut or financial guru, but when the stars align my family is able to prioritize healthy food while maintaining a family budget. After a friend ask me about healthy eating on a budget, this post was born and I officially join a bazillion others who have written on the topic. Stop reading now if you are done with 10 ways to do...anything. I won't be upset.

A good grocery budget is possible (so I've heard), but it can be super hard for the average family. I'd love to stick within our food budget each week, but we can go over. Sadly, this means we dip into our "entertainment" funds to pay the grocery bills. Sure eating is quite enjoyable at times, and I even consider myself a closet foodie, but I am not really okay with our grocery shopping habits snatching up the money we try to set aside for movies, concerts, or theme parks. Or heaven forbid, new shoes or jeans - should things really get out of control. (Girls, it's cool to go barefoot. They're called capri pants!) Maybe if new and exciting restaurants were nibbling away at our entertainment or clothing allotment (joking!, kind of) I would turn a blind eye, but I'm so over giving those allocated funds to my local grocery chain. 

My girls are big eaters, I don't do so bad myself, and my love, Tony, is often training for something - currently an Ironman triathlon. We simply consume a lot of food. I try hard to view this fact in positive light. Two growing kids and a family of healthy, active people - needing lots of food, is a good thing! So is living in a place where organic or high nutrient food is available, even at an increased price. 

Tony and I often have a conversation about our grocery budget and the "cost" of scaling back. As we know, there are many unhealthy options available much cheaper than their nutritious counter parts (hello "dollar menu", government food subsidies, and overwhelming obesity rates among the poor). Simply going with the cheapest items every time doesn't work for us even though our budget decisions have left us with a rather small amount to feed the family. We see our grocery trips as a balancing act and like most areas of our life we try to weigh the pros/cons and sometimes compromise. So please understand, while I am sharing my thoughts on the subject, sometimes we deviate from my grocery shopping ideals as we balance healthy eating with a small grocery budget.

Here are a few things we do fairly consistently: 

1) Skip the meat or pre-packaged meat alternatives. With a vegetarian in our household, the meat-eaters among us often go meat-free; however, I find that the meat alternative products are expensive, too. Do you have to go completely meat-less to make this tip work for you? No, vegetarianism is not for everyone and cutting meat out of your diet even one day a week can have a huge impact on your grocery bill. I read in the Huffington Post article 10 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill While Eating Healthier (they seem to think 10 tips is about all we can handle on this topic, too!) that grocery bills could be higher by $80-$100 a month for a family of four which chooses to eat meat every day of the week. 

2) Cook from scratch. Pizza crust, pie crust, bread, cookies, whipped cream, pancakes, croutons, hot cocoa, french fries, salad dressing, spaghetti sauce. Those are just a few of the foods I easily make from scratch. True, this can be tricky with time constraints, but it really can curb your grocery bill. This is also a great way to control your ingredients and make things a lot healthier. I never add high fructose corn syrup to anything I cook at home, you know!

3) Cook ahead. If I am making pancakes I try to make a ton and freeze them (in freezer safe bags, between pieces of wax paper), so I can pop them in the toaster for breakfast during the week. Also, I love to make extra chili or soup, so that I can freeze it and eat it later in the month. If I cook based off of sale items, then double or triple a recipe, we can eat that same meal later at the discounted price, even if the items are no longer on sale. Bonus: This tip helps save on dishes!

4) Price match and use cell phone app rebates. I tell my grocery store clerk about sales at other stores when their company will price match. If the price matching lowers the price by less than a couple dollars I'm rarely asked to show the ad, although these days you can easily pull them up from your smart phone. I use apps in place of coupons often. Both Ibotta and Checkout 51 (this is not a sponsored post, just sharing the love because) give me rebates on food after I've shopped. The cool thing about apps like these is that unlike most store or manufactures coupons, they will give you cash back (small amounts, but still!) on things like apples, honey, celery, milk, bread (any kind) and eggs. I never see a produce coupon in the paper and eating more fresh food is key in a healthy diet! Bonus: Pair these rebates with traditional or online coupons and maximize the savings!

5) Choose to do without. Not a fun option, but when you need to make it work, sometimes you just go without. Choose meat OR cheese on your sandwich, drink more water instead of juice or pop, etc. Tony and I find that we have to be careful with this tactic. We've felt so deprived on occasion it ends up coming back to bite us. At times we go without for so long that finally we break and binge at the store, because we miss so much stuff. Then feel guilty and go without again for a time to counter act the spending (repeating the cycle over again until we identify it). In the end we end up spending more in the binge than if we had treated ourselves a little bit here and there along the way. So use this advice carefully, and make sure to treat yourself once in a while. We want these habits to stick.

6) Use dried beans (lentils, peas, etc.). We try to buy dried beans. The canned ones are not only more expensive, but also higher in sodium and can have added ingredients. I like to cook the dried beans in a pressure cooker. We were gifted a stove top one for our wedding and I received a microwave pressure cooker for my birthday last year. If you don't have a pressure cooker, don't fret. You can soak beans, lentils, peas, etc. and rehydrate them on your stove top. Just google it! The tricky part when using dried beans can be the need to plan ahead and start your beans the night before (if not hours before). Good news is that you can cook a lot of them - think tip number 3! - and freeze them in smaller servings, so you don't have to go through the whole process so often. Yes, you still have to thaw your beans, but that is faster than going from dried to cooked/rehydrated. Plus, as I already said, they are healthier! 

7) Make your own veggie stock. Making your own stock can be a lot healthier and way cheaper. Keep your veggie ends and scraps (freeze them as you go) and then boil them down into your own homemade veggie stock! I've learned to stay away from cruciferous veggies; broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and other green leafy veggies. Also, make sure you save clean vegetable scraps which are not rotten! No one wants dirt or spoiled food in a broth. You can freeze the stock in individual containers based on your common cooking needs, including ice cube trays if you use small amounts in various recipes. Bonus: Even if you don't want to try to make your own stock, products like vegetable bullion are cheaper than canned or boxed veggie broth and will last a long time. 

8) Eat leftovers. We don't always feel jazzed about it, but we try to eat our leftover. If we can't I have been known to freeze them, even if the portion is small. There are nights around here where we are all eating something different, because we have a little bit of this or a little bit of that. This happens sometimes at the end of a weekend or right before our next shopping trip. I can pull out those frozen leftovers on those occasions.

9) Maintain a herb garden. When you buy herbs from the grocery store it can cost between $3.00 to $6.00 Those herbs only last us one, two, maybe three meals. Potted herbs, on the other hand, cost from $2.50 to $4.00 and they last for months. Or you can try to go even cheaper and start from seed! I like to use fresh herbs when I can, because it can help add a bunch of flavor to dishes. Also, it allows me to minimize the "boring" feel of some simple/healthy dishes.

So here we are at the final tip for eat healthy on a budget. This, my friends, is where my family often fails: 

10) Meal Planning. It's just hard. Tony and I try from time to time, we'll be going strong, and then we mess up. Either we're going out that night or we don't "feel" like what we've scheduled. I do meal plan, but stink at sticking with it. My mom got me a membership to eMeals as a gift. (You should know I happily endorse eMeals and remind you once again this post is not sponsored. I wouldn't have protested if they wanted to sponsor the post; it's just that no one sponsors any of our posts. Like ever. I suppose we'd have to hustle a bit and prove that we carry a lot of clout. - laughing at the last sentence - ) So back to what I was saying, Yes, eMeals. They will do the meal planning for you and email you weekly with all the recipes and even a shopping list! You guys, they have all sorts of meal plans, too. Low calorie, paleo, clean eating, kid friendly, low carb, low fat, vegetarian, gluten free, budget friendly...I know I missed a few. Just make sure you check them out. This meal planning service has me doing better lately, honestly I still drop the ball, but we'd be a bigger mess without it!

So have you seen all these tips before? Are any of them new to you? Which tip to eating healthy on a budget do you like most? Who has become a part of a CSA? A food co-op? Leave your tips in the comments below.  


Bonus tip!:  Make your own yogurt. Disclaimer: I don't do this, but my mother has in the past and a friend of mine always does, so it's possible people! Plain yogurt is so versatile and can be used in place of so many other things to make a recipe a bit better for you. Also, when you make it in your home you easily control what you add to it. Plus, it grows! This is so weird and amazing and science-y! It grows and you don't have to keep re-buying it. Yea, yogurt!