Is it possible for one woman to eat an entire pan of rice crispie treats by herself in a day?
Yes. Yes, it is.
Is it possible for one woman to eat an entire pan of rice crispie treats by herself in a day?
Yes. Yes, it is.
My Little Man loves cereal. In our house, we don’t buy “kid” cereal, so Little Man has never been exposed to the mind altering goodness that is a Lucky Charm. He loves “big cereal” - which is really just homemade granola chunks.
Now, although the CDC and local universities aren’t interested in researching him, my Little Man is very unique. Through some weird genetic mutation, he has developed taste buds in his fingers. By simply feeling an object, he can determine if he is willing to eat it or not. It is not unusual for him to take a finger, probe his food for a few seconds, and then randomly declare it “yucky” or “mmm”. If I knew what he was feeling for, every food I served would have it. But, as it stands, it is still a mystery.
For a while, I was making a very simple granola with just brown sugar, honey, and oats because every other thing I could add in was picked out, touched, and declared “yucky”. To work around this, I had to get a little sneaky…
I imagine there are tons of other moms out there who have done this exact same thing, but on the morning I decided to give it a try, it was as if I had an inspiration directly from heaven above.
The only way to get bits of healthy foods into Little Man’s “big cereal” was to make them too small to be distinguished from the oat clusters and felt individually. Cue my trusty, old food processor.
For my most recent batch of granola, I pulverized 2 cups of almonds (stopping just before they became butter) and 1 cup of bran cereal before I added it to the oats. Genuis.
So, here is the basic granola recipe.
3.5 cups rolled oats
1 cup processed bran
2 cups ground almonds or other nuts
½ cup oil
½ cup honey
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
Heat oven to 350. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl add the oats, processed nuts, and bran. Mix thoroughly. In a sauce pan, combine oil, sugar, and honey. Heat on low until the sugar is melted. Remove from heat and add the vanilla and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Pour the honey mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until all of the dry ingredients are evenly coated. Spread granola onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Then turn off the oven, crack the oven door, and allow the granola to cool in the oven. Crumble the granola after it has cooled or break it into larger pieces for a child who likes “big cereal”.
Take a peek: Could you pick out an individual almond or bran flake? No? Neither can my hawk eyed, picky toddler!
Last week, I planned to run out to the store and pick up a new pair of maternity pants because some of the pants from my last pregnancy are already a little tight due to, ahem, er, um, water weight. Since the idea of buying things straight off the rack at full price makes my head hurt, this purchase was going to take a little planning. I found a $5 dollar off Target maternity wear coupon; this was good. Better seemed to be the Kohl’s % off plus sale coupon. Even better would be if the second hand maternity wear store had something for sale.
My plan was to head out at lunch and swing by the second hand store. If there wasn’t anything there, then head down to Target and check the clearance rack for some pants that fit. If there weren’t any good deals there, later I could head to Kohl’s. But, when I woke up in the morning it was snowing. Hard. Yes, it’s spring in most areas of the country, but up here it is still very much winter. We accumulated almost a foot of snow over the course of the day.
I had a good, long think.
Driving all over town in a snow storm is never any fun. What would happen if I decided not to buy new pants? I certainly wouldn’t go naked. My current pants are tight but not bursting at the seams. I have two pairs of stretchy pants that will last until this little one makes his/her appearance. As warm weather approaches or if times become desperate, I will be able to transition to skirts, which will increase my maternity bottoms selection.
If I were unable to buy another pair of maternity pants, would my quality of life decrease appreciably? No.
“So,” I thought to myself, “Why was I so wrapped up in finding a deal on new pants?”
New pants were something I wanted. They weren’t something I needed. If not for the snow, I would have spent a great deal of my time and energy traveling around looking for a something I could certainly live without. This was a great reminder of a few things that sometimes get lost in the day to day shuffle:
- Wants and needs are not the same.
- As detailed here, there are other things I can buy that will move my family towards stability.
- I am already blessed with more than most and need very little.
I saved 100% on the pants by simply being content with what I have and not buying them. I can take the money I saved and buy something else; something that will grow and generate income and eventually help support my family.
Next time, before you take the time to research, plan, and execute an elaborate shopping excursion, ask yourself:
- Will the item add significantly to my happiness?
- Will my life or the life of my family be harder or less satisfying without it?
If the answer is “no” to these questions, just stop. Take a moment to appreciate what you do have. Use the time you would have spent shopping and spend it with your family. Take the energy you would have put into a great deal and use it to maintain what you have presently. Enjoy the life you have.
My life as a middle class, happily married, American woman is rich in more ways than I can count. Even when times are hard, I am so lucky to have my health, family, and friends. I am taking a moment to humble myself by reflecting on my past few days “first world problems”. You know, those frustrating events that seem unbearable but, in the grand scheme of things are really insignificant? I have a few of those. Every once in a while I like to put them in perspective.
1. This morning, my son had a ridiculous tantrum when I told him it was time for daycare instead of allowing him to munch on some granola I made the night before. That’s right, I was frustrated by the screaming and crying of my toddler because instead of feeding him the healthy, homemade food we have in abundance in our house, I wanted him to get ready for his daycare program where he would spend all day playing with his little toddler friends, supervised by his favorite teacher, Miss Irene. I wasn’t thankful I have the food or the means to send him to a child care placement he loves or that I have a wonderful job that was waiting for me or that I travel around to all these places in a safe, reliable car. No, I was frustrated he wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted in a timely and calm manner. It took a couple seconds, but when I really thought about it, the whole thing seemed ridiculous. He got a big hug and I took a deep breath.
2. A few days ago, I was diagnosed with another sinus infection. I was wondering why I had headaches and constant bloody noses. I attributed it, like everything else that is off with my body, to pregnancy. After a brief consult with the ENT, I was put on more antibiotics and told I may have to have another surgery in the future to address my nose issues. I do NOT want another surgery. I do NOT want to have to be on another long course of antibiotics. But, in reality, having access to first class medical care, antibiotics, and fantastic health insurance is a real blessing. Yes, it is uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as it would be if there were no medicines or doctors. I would love to be in perfect health all the time, but sometimes having problems can make you remember what you do have in abundance.
3. And for my most shameful…a few nights ago, I was ready for bed and all tucked in. We live in a cold climate and keep our bedroom a toasty 55 degrees. Yes, you read that right, 55. It’s really quite lovely. We have a large, wool filled comforter and warm flannel sheets. The contrast of warm comfy bed and cool night air is perfect for sleeping. However, once I am in my light, comfy sleep clothes I do not want to get back out of bed. I was tucked in and realized I had forgotten to refill my bedside water glass. Knowing that I had to choose between being parched and being cold led to a moment of pregnancy hormone filled rage. After a little temper tantrum of my own, Husband and I joked about how horrible life was that I had to get out of our comfortable bed, in our climate controlled bedroom (it was in the single digits outside), in our nicely sized house, in a safe neighborhood, in a country with a stable government so that I could walk about 20 feet to our indoor bathroom with a constant supply of clean, safe running water.
What a hard life! I have the opportunity to work with some families that have come to the US from refugee camps in Africa. Just thinking about how embarrassed I would feel making these complaints to one of these families makes me cringe. To be so ungrateful, if only for a moment, for such an amazing life is truly sinful. I hope that maybe one person reads this and takes the time to be thankful for what they do have, even if times are tough. In America these days, there are many families who are struggling, but in reality, even when we think nothing is going right, there are many, many reasons to feel blessed.
If you happen to be like Husband and I, you spent the past few years paying off debts and building up an emergency fund. When we first graduated, we paid around one thousand dollars towards our student loan debt every month. A thousand bucks, and that was on the 30 year extended payment plan! This did not include our car loan, mortgage, or boat loan. To pay it off quickly, we worked long hours and put every extra penny we could find toward our debt. When we finally paid off the most burdensome debts, we were left with quite a bit of money every month.
We spent a couple of months sitting around watching the money accumulate in our checking account. We bounced around a few ideas about what we should do with it:
- A down payment on a bigger house
- A really nice vacation
- A new car for yours truly
- A few new toys for Husband (this is still the outcome Husband prefers)
We decided that the best course of action was to use it to buy lots of different kinds of stuff. Over the past four years since we unloaded the car loans, boat loans, student loans, and other debt, we have bought all sorts of stuff and every single bit of it has increased our net worth.
We didn’t buy tangible objects that we could use, wear out, and throw away. We bought investments that have been slowly increasing in value. We researched carefully and spent our hard-earned money on stuff that has been appreciating in value or paying us dividends. We focused on investments that were diversified and established with a low to medium expected rate of return including mutual funds, exchange traded funds, bonds, and CDs.
None of these items add to my day-to-day enjoyment of life. They are all long-term investments with the goal being the future financial stability of my family and freedom from money related stress in the future. They add to my long-term life satisfaction.
We don’t invest in the latest fads. We don’t own gold or Apple stock. We aren’t investing to get rich quickly. While that would be nice, the slow and steady pace is usually best. Our portfolio includes a small selection of IBonds (bought before the fixed rate dropped to 0); two exchange traded funds that focus on dividends; a selection of mutual funds, some managed in our employer sponsored retirement plans; and a good old fashioned cash emergency fund we could live on for six to eight months.
The funds, both exchange traded and mutual, have gone up and down over the past few years. However, it doesn’t bother me. We are investing in these funds using the money we don’t need for our daily expenses. The lifestyle of my family doesn’t change based on the fluctuations of the market. Even if the price of the fund decreases, we still get dividends that are reinvested every quarter and interest on our bonds. Uncle Sam and a few corporations pay us for buying their investment products. It’s a pretty nice system.
Now that we are in a terribly busy and active time of our lives, we have slightly increased our living expenses, which has decreased the amount we have available to invest and save every month. But, our previous investments keep growing. Our net worth is slowly increasing and we are getting closer to financial freedom because we spent the money we saved on income generating investments and not new purses, hunting gear, or kitschy knick knacks. Long term, having a share of a mutual fund that will pay me dividends is much more important to me than a pair of shoes that will drift out of fashion in a few seasons.
So, next time you decide to bake pizza from scratch instead of eating out, forgo the new dress in favor of the one you bought last year, or walk over to the library instead of Barnes and Noble, take the money you save and use it to buy something that will actually lead to increased net worth and security in the future.
Little man’s second birthday is rapidly approaching.
When he turned 1, everyone asked, “Are you having a Birthday Party?”
Husband and I discussed it and decided that Little Man would probably prefer a trip out to grandma and grandpa’s for his birthday celebration. He loves his grandparents, their dog, and taking trips. It seemed like a grand idea for a first birthday treat. We spent some time the week before planning our trip. Grandma, who is an amazing baker, offered to make the birthday cake. I went out to the local Target and picked up bath toys. Husband went out to the book store and picked up a couple new books.
Last year, we arrived at the grandparents’ house ready for a great little party.
But, Little Man wasn’t impressed. He didn’t like unwrapping his presents. He opened one and became engrossed in playing. He would scream every time we tried to redirect him to another gift. He didn’t want to eat the cake. He preferred pureed sweet potatoes.
We tried to make his Birthday special and he was having none of it. None. Of. It.
In reality, it was refreshing and lovely. The only part of the whole experience that he really enjoyed was when we were all singing Happy Birthday. He loved having everyone paying attention to him and singing a fun song.
Somewhere along the way, most of us lose focus on what brings true joy to life. Happiness doesn’t come from the piles of stuff, the treats, or the fancy wrappings.
It comes from being the center of everyone’s attention.
That was a test to see if you were paying attention. Sheesh.
Happiness comes from being in a safe place surrounded by people who love you.
This year, we will have a fun outing but don’t plan on having a birthday party. Maybe when he turns 3 we will reconsider, but for now, we will lavish him with love and attention and skip all of the trappings of a traditional birthday.
“Oh my goodness! I thought she was dead.”
Nope, I’m not dead. I was just sucked into real life. After a not-so-awesome surgery, I was lucky enough to get a promotion. I love my job but it took a few weeks of long hours to get up to speed. Then, I found out I was pregnant (Yay!). My first clue was an inability to move without being sick. Unfortunately, early pregnancy, and in this case mid pregnancy as well, didn’t treat me very well.
Now that all of that is behind me, I am back to share my attempts at balancing my family’s unending wants with my need for financial security. Allow me to start with a story from last week that should cause each and every one of you to close this blog and never read it again…
12pm: Lunch time at the office. Two co-workers are chatting.
Coworker 1: Hey do you want to grab some take out for lunch?
Coworker 2 (thinking): I shouldn’t eat out for lunch. Maybe I should eat the lunch I packed.
Unborn Child of Co-Worker 2: FEED ME THAI FOOD AND CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES NOW!!!!
Coworker 2: Sure, that sounds great! Want to get Thai food and cookies?
Coworker 1: Um, OK.
Coworker 2: I’ll grab some cash. Do you have change for a $100? I don’t have anything smaller.
Coworker 1: Goodness, you sound like a Real Housewife.
Coworker 2: Well, I had to go to the bank to get cash to pay our cleaning service and they just gave me 100s.
Coworker 1: Seriously? Did you seriously just say that?
Yes folks, I am eating unrestricted amounts of take out, flashing around large bills, and have a cleaning service. Last night, I spent eight dollars on a giant coffee cake at Costco knowing full well that I had all the ingredients to bake it from scratch at home and would probably only eat two slices before deciding that I didn’t want coffee cake anymore.
Everything has spiraled out of control and I love it.
Our years of watching our pennies, saving our dollars, and living well below our means has given us the wiggle room to find a cleaning service so I don’t have to endure becoming violently physically ill at the thought of cleaning out the refrigerator. It has given me the freedom to throw my food budget out the window and indulge all of my cravings now that I can eat again. It has allowed us to save a sizable down payment for a house to accommodate our growing and active family (house hunting starts this spring!). Our past semi-frugal lifestyle means that even during the times we aren’t actively saving money, our nest egg is still growing thanks to dependable investments.
This next year is going to be both exciting and ridiculous! I can’t wait.