Stress Management and Making Things

Crochet Daisy Doily

Hello everybody! It’s been a very long time! How was your Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years??? Mine was very busy, and I didn’t have the time or the inclination to post anything. Things have been good, but stressful with family health issues, a decrease in the number of my students and therefore the decrease in my take-home pay, and the fairly unsuccessful launching of my Etsy shop (which you should totally go to and buy something, FYI.) The thing I’ve been obsessing over since Thanksgiving that has been helping me through the tough times is my crochet, and that got me thinking about how much I rely on my hobbies to help me manage my stress.

Crochet may be the thing that I do now to manage my stress and my snack cravings, but it wasn’t always. For years I would read Science Fiction and Fantasy novels to escape from my reality – and my reality isn’t a particularly difficult one, but was a place I didn’t like to be for a very long time. I even created my own world of magic and mutants where my alter-ego defeated bad guys and aliens – whatever book I was reading or show I was watching at the time – and she helped me become the stronger me that I needed to be. It wasn’t until a few years later when I tried to write her story that I realized that 1) the whole story was too big and I couldn’t write it all down and 2) I had flat-out stolen waaaaay too much from books, movies, and TV shows so if I wanted to make this story sellable, I would have to change pretty much everything.

Here are just a few of the influences in my alter-ego’s story (primarily the early influences):

I haven’t completely given up my alter-ego and she still helps me blow off steam on my bad days, but since I’m now in a place where I want to be, I don’t need her as much. However, I do still put my stress in my back, so I go and get a massage every month, I do yoga, and lately I’ve been getting back into crochet.

It all started back when I was in high school. I used to dance ballet back then, and while I was waiting for my class to start, a mom whose daughter was in the class before mine was crocheting a blanket. I asked her about it, and she showed me how to start a project and a stitch. I got myself some stuff – a hook and some yarn, not realizing that the sizes needed to match but lucking out anyway – and wound up making a blanket over the next seven years. I put my stuff away, but at Thanksgiving last year I decided to make everyone a gift, so I hopped on YouTube and made everyone a Trivette pair.


Lots of people liked them, so I decided to make a few more to sell. I also started looking up a bunch of other patterns so I could make Zig Zag Afghans, Coffee/Tea Cup Cozies, and Crochet Rose Pins. It was a lot of fun making these things, and I noticed that my back wasn’t hurting me nearly as much as it had been before (this was before I was able to get my regular massages). But, these weren’t the items I really wanted to make, and winter wasn’t going to last forever, so I decided that I wanted to make this:

Grandma June's Doily

It was a doily my grandmother made. I’ve never met my Grandma June because she died before I was born, and my mom gave this doily to my sister. I tried looking it up on YouTube, and boy oh boy…. I didn’t realize how many different doily patterns there were! I watched a video that explained crochet thread sizes and hooks, and then, after much learning and messing up, I made a Gothic Pineapple Doily, and then I made a matching Centerpiece (and yes, I am linking to all of the products that I have made and am selling in my Etsy shop, Phoenix Gate Crafts; I’m shameless that way). But, after a lot of trial and error, and never finding the right pattern, I made this first attempt at recreation:

Attempt 1

It wasn’t quite right, so I practiced some more. I also couldn’t find quite the same thread, but I did find something much closer. So, this is the final product:

Attempt 2

All of this learning I’ve been doing has been a lot of fun, and I like showing people my new crafts! Then I found this article about the science behind creative hobbies and how it helps with stress reduction and to help keep the mental faculties sharp. Its an interesting read and not very technical – in fact, I’m sure there are better articles out there that prove the same thing – but as a naturally tense person I can attest that doing something that isn’t work, yet still makes something definitely makes me feel better! And there’s nothing like the feeling of finishing something that somebody can use (and the even better feeling when a stranger sees the value in the thing you made and goes to your Etsy shop to buy something, hint, hint!)

So please, go visit my Etsy shop and have a look around. I would love to hear from you, so leave a comment about something you do in your spare time that helps you get through the stresses of life! Its time we all feel good about the things we make.


…And Then Something Happens

The one thing I seem to be having the most trouble with in sticking to my exercise regimen is when stuff happens. I’ll get into my exercise routine and do it consistently for a few weeks… and then I go to a dog sitting house and can’t do floor exercises because the puppy will come over and smell my face. I’ll do it for three days in a row… and then I’ll get food poisoning. I start a new batch of FitnessBlender routines… and the air conditioning stops working during a major heat wave. That last one happened twice this summer – once at the house where I was pet sitting and again at my home last week. It’s Too Darn HOT!


Even if it wasn’t 107 outside, something else probably would have happened to throw off my groove. That’s just how it works. Nothing goes according to plan; just like Murphey’s Law:

  1. Nothing is as easy as you think
  2. Everything takes longer than you expect
  3. If something can go wrong, it will

So what do you do? You imagine your worst PE teacher is behind you after you skinned your knee yelling “Suck it up, Buttercup,” turn YouTube to a fun video, and once the disturbance is over (seriously, best to wait for that new AC unit to be installed or for the food poisoning to pass before working out at home again) then you just pick up where you were.

And best yet, no one is actually yelling at you.

Fitness Getup
Feeling proud. I’m ready for a walk with my home-made Bat Belt! Now… if only the outside temp would be so kind as to fall below 100!

Less is More: Money-Saving Tips on Beauty and Health

Senior Photo
Pretty picture of me in high school

I was washing my hair the other day, and I was thinking about Kelly from Fitness Blender because she washes her hair the same amount that I do. It really heartens me when I go online and see a person I respect does something the same as me, because it’s a sort of proof that I’m doing things right. It got me thinking – because what else are you going to do in a shower besides sing – about all the other things I do that simplify my life that marketers like me usually try to sell a product for. So, here are a few of those things in a handy-dandy list. (BTW, click on links highlighted in blue to see what I’m referencing).


Me and my hair when a couple friends and I chopped it off to donate. 

As I mentioned before, Kelly (whom I’ve never met, but I think she’s awesome!) has the same hair regime that I do. It is simple and sounds disgusting, but it really does work. We simply don’t wash it very often. You see, what happens when you wash your hair, regardless of how “gentle” your shampoo is, you strip your hair of its natural oils and nutrients and conditioner doesn’t actually return that to your hair. When you regularly strip your hair of its natural health it reacts in one of two ways: it either dries up and frizzes or your scalp starts to over-produce natural oils to compensate, making your hair look like Severus Snape’s. It took a while for my hair to adjust to infrequent washes, but now my scalp is mostly clear of acne, my dandruff is under control, and as long as I don’t sleep in my wet hair, it doesn’t look so flat anymore.

I still was my hair about once ever three or four days, and I do shampoo it twice and condition it once. But, because I am only washing my hair twice a week instead of 4-7 times, I find that I don’t run through my shampoo or conditioner nearly as often. That means that one set lasts twice as long, saving me about $8 whenever I don’t need to buy it.

Further, I’ve found that getting a good haircut saves me a fortune in hair products. Most women don’t realize it, but if you wear your hair up in ponytails or buns all the time, you will actually look good with short hair because short hair frames your face in exactly the same way. Short hair uses far less shampoo, and you don’t need to use any moose or hair ties because a good cut means your hair naturally falls into place easily. Even if you still choose to go longer, taking your hair’s natural waves/curls/lack thereof and your face’s shape into account will mean that your hair becomes much easier to manage while requiring fewer products. And we all know how much fancy hair products can cost us.


Soft hands!

Much like hair, skin also gets stripped of its natural oils when washed, and lotion rarely puts much back. That’s why I also shower fairly infrequently: whenever I wash my hair. This doesn’t mean that I sit around in my own filth like Pig Pen because I do wash up in the sink more often and reapply deodorant, but you don’t need to use soap every day. In fact, most sweat and grime we pick up on a regular day that doesn’t involve sick people is water soluble and rinses off pretty well.

If you have acne, you actually don’t want to use a lot of harsh chemicals or exfoliates on your skin because that will likely make it worse. Instead, rinse your face with plain water once a day, and at night take off your makeup and wash with a regular cleanser. Most acne cleansers have a specific harsh chemical that over dries your skin (benzo…. something…. I forgot and can’t find the article I read it from in my Facebook feed since I may not have re-posted it). This facial wash doesn’t have the chemical in it, and it is a generally good cleanser. But, the best thing to keep skin healthy and clear is to eat a lot of fresh fruits and veggies and drinking plenty of water, since most of the acne-causing action happens under the skin.

Makeup is another thing that can be saved on. I have a friend who won’t go out without makeup on because she feels she needs to cover up her acne and bad skin. The thing is, by not wearing foundation and only putting on a minimum on makeup (most of us can get away with mascara and lipstick and nothing else) she would probably be able to clear up a lot of the skin problems that make her feel insecure. It’s a horrible cycle – wear makeup, get acne, wear more makeup to cover up acne – and it is completely preventable.

But, the thing you should put on your skin is SPF. According to my friend Carla with BeautiControl, SPF is extremely important in protecting your skin from the damage of UV radiation, both for skin quality and cancerous reasons (we kind of all knew that already). Carla also said that you want to get a good quality sunscreen that absorbs into your skin, because that film that stays on your skin actually gunks up your pores and causes a ton of problems. More importantly, getting more than 30 SPF is redundant because that’s as much as your skin can absorb at a time. So, this is the one where you want to spend a little more now so you can to save yourself some major medical costs in the future. But, you don’t need two products for this: if you already use lotion on your face that has SPF, you don’t need to apply sunscreen on top of it. Don’t buy two products if you don’t have to!

Multi-Use Products

Deoderant: not just the pits!

The biggest way to save money, though, is to just not buy as much stuff. Single-use products like garlic presses, slap-it mincers can easily be replaced by a really good knife, and there’s so much more where that came from.

You can get rid of all your special cleaners and replace them with four simple products: vinegar, ammonia, baking soda, and bleach. Vinegar and baking soda is a volcanic combo that can clean any tub or sink. Baking soda can be sprinkled on carpet and upholstery and then vacuumed up to eliminate pet odors and help get rid of fleas. Windex is basically ammonia mixed with water with blue food coloring added, and using it as your mop water does the same thing to your floors. Bleach soaking in the toilet will sanitize it and, with a quick scrub, gets rid of brown stains. Vinegar cleans coffee pots. If you run out of toothpaste, just mix up a little baking soda with a few drops of water to make a paste and brush with that, and swishing with it after eating acetic foods will protect your tooth enamel from decay. Best yet, each of these products costs less than $5, and you can also cook with two of them!

But, my favorite and most underutilized multi-tool, is deodorant. Not only does it kill bacteria and help prevent perspiration in your armpits, but it does it anywhere you sweat too much including, but not limited to, between fat folds, under breasts, and even the bottoms of your feet! You can also slide on a layer anywhere that you chafe, because chafing happens when skin becomes moist – usually from sweat – it grabs onto things, and when it grabs onto something that is constantly rubbing the other way, such as your other leg, your skin eventually starts to rub itself raw and create micro-tears that are prone to infections like yeast. Deodorant keeps that area dry so none of that happens.

I hope this helped you out. What are some other ways that you manage to save money while doing things that are healthier for you???

One Hour Per Day

It’s kind of a funny thing: time. We all have an unknown, limited amount of it in our lives, but every day is the same set twenty-four hours. In that twenty-four hours we need to work, entertain, eat, clean, tidy, pay bills, take care of the garden, go to the gym, etc., etc., etc…….. and don’t forget to sleep! I’m lucky in that work as a tutor is seasonal and that I get very little work during the summer (though, that’s not so good for my pocket book) because it means that I have plenty of time to rest and recuperate after the crazy we call the spring semester.

It’s really amazing the amount of stuff I can get done in an hour, and the effect that hour can have. In an hour I can clean my apartment. I can make a gourmet meal. I can have a meeting that sets in motion a marketing plan for the whole next year. One hour a day of undivided attention to your child fulfills their need for attention and creates a strong, open relationship that will keep the child out of trouble in their future. We allot so much time of our day to work and school and chores that we forget that sometimes forget that we need to make time for our children, our families, and even ourselves.

My ninth grade science teacher was quite the hard ass, but he said something at the beginning of the school year that has never left me. He said that he would be seeing us for one hour, five days a week, and that was more time than most of us spent with our parents. Now that I’m an adult, I noticed that when I’m spending one hour, twice a week with my students I’m still giving my students more undivided attention than their parents. My mom gave me an hour every day where I would come home from school, eat a snack with her, talk about my day, and maybe play with her a little bit before she had to go do her own chores, and to this day we still have a great relationship. I have just as good a relationship with my father because, although our time together wasn’t so structured, I spent just as much time with him as with her. Even today, when I’m thirty, married, and moved away I still see my parents at least once a week. Furthermore, I’ve never been in major trouble in my life, nor have I felt the need for a rebellious stage.

Now imagine how much time those parents devote to themselves if they can’t find time to devote undivided attention to their kids. I know there is a concept of “work hard/play hard” but the people I know who ascribe to that philosophy seem to live with more stress and have more emotional breakdowns than people who pace themselves. There is a saying that panic attacks aren’t a sign of weakness; they are a sign that someone has been too strong for too long. In reality, panic attacks aren’t a sign of strength or weakness; they are a sign that someone hasn’t been dealing with their stress effectively.

In this blog written by the World of Psychology, Suzanne Kane writes about seven reasons why you need quiet time. Quiet time doesn’t mean that you sit and do nothing – its a time where you can sit and think, listen to music, read a book, go for a walk with your family, or even meditate or do yoga. Just because it’s quiet time doesn’t mean you have to do it by yourself, but the goal is to feel fresh and restored at the end. Furthermore, making sure there is time in your day to devote to the at-home things that are important, especially your spouse and your kids, will help prevent burnout, and will help keep your marriage healthy and happy. I am a major believer in work-life balance.

But how do you make sure you have time for everything when there are only twenty-four hours in a day? Well, you prioritize! Do you have to bring that work home? If you do it this time, it will be expected that you do it next time, and before you know it you are working fourteen hour days and you’re missing soccer games and ballet recitals. Its better to make realistic deadlines at work than to always be bringing it home. Also, your spouse is supposed to be your partner. If you find yourself working all day and then doing all the household chores, then it is time to start delegating responsibility. Children can do chores and learn to look after themselves from a young age (here is a list from WebMD that can help put that into place) and your significant other is, presumably, an adult and can help out. You aren’t as alone as you think.

So, no more excuses. You are an important person who gives a lot, but as the old adage goes, you can’t give what you don’t have. So make time for it. You’re worth it!

Getting Older as a Lifelong Reader – Some Realizations About my Reading Habits and an Argument for Fantasy


Last year at about the time I was getting married, one of my bosses had me compile a list of books she’d read to completion over the course of the year. She had read fifteen books, and that number didn’t change by December, or so she told me. Compiling that list got me thinking: how many books had I read over the year? I’m not the reader I was in high school – I love my life so much more now and no longer feel the need to escape into an alternate reality the way I used to – but I’ve been trying to get back into it and I figured that I’d probably read at least fifteen books!

My list probably wasn’t completely accurate. I probably missed a few novels that I’d read and counted a few that I hadn’t read that year, but by January 1, 2017, I figured that I’d read about 32 novels and novellas. I didn’t count magazines, blogs, or fanfictions because those don’t require any commitment… and there’s no way to accurately figure exactly what I’d read since fanfics are notorious for never being completed. But, thirty-two novels and novellas aren’t anything to sneeze at!

I told my boss about my accomplishment a few weeks ago and she was suitably impressed until she learned that pretty much everything I’d read were science fiction or fantasy. Then she dismissed it as if it were nothing but fluff reading because she’d read fourteen self-help books and one emotional tragedy.

Clean Sweep
Not an Emotional Tragedy

Well, that kind of ticked me off. I started raging at her in my head (not aloud because I wanted to keep my job) that Sci Fi/Fantasy is way smarter than that crap she’d read. Fantasy – be it futuristic, modern, or historical in nature – involves monumental amounts of world building. In urban fantasies you have to show how the magical world fits in with our known world: What do the muggles know and how much do they understand about magic? Do the worlds of magic and the mundane touch or are they separated by a wardrobe door? Does the future have angels? Does technology continue to develop or is it nullified by an electromagnetic pulse? Does a middle age of magic look like Rivendale, or more like a great throne made of swords? The imagination it takes to visit these worlds we can only see through words written by another mind is so powerful that people make movie and television series to help bring them to life (though the book is always better).


One of my favorite authors, Juliette E. McKenna, wrote an essay that was published at the end of her book titled The Swordsmans’s Oath where she argues that Sci Fi/Fantasy always asks the question “what if.” Fiction has always been a medium to explore human nature and ethics, and fantasy pushes those definitions even further through questioning the natural order. It isn’t always easy to get through, either; Game of Thrones was too darkly convoluted for me even though I love all the heartbreaking tortures in Anne Bishop novels.

But, that conversation with my boss got me thinking more about my reading choices of late. When I was in high school I had needed an escape from the tedium that was my life. In middle school I would bang through an Animorphs book in a day, and during my senior year I could read my then-favorite book, Exiles; The Ruins of Ambrai by Melanie Rawn, an 800 page masterpiece, in three days. I also loved reading Star Trek novels despite never having seen a single episode at that point, as well as mysteries like The PMS Outlaws and the historical fiction novels of Jean M. Auel. On top of all that fun stuff, I was forced to read boring crap like Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, and Mark Twain for school, the latter of which was the only book along with To Kill a Mockingbird that I actually enjoyed. It all made me think that maybe I should broaden my horizons a little bit and read some “better” material.

Written In Red.indd
Though nothing can be better than an alternate past!

Then my love of reading was killed in college. I’ve read a meme that says 77% of college graduates will never pick up another book after graduation. It makes a lot of sense when I remember that one week I had to read eleven 50-page chapters from one textbook for a single class. Every week was like that, and I got very good at learning while never cracking open my texts. That’s when I got into manga and fanfiction – short bursts of story that took little time to read and had no commitment.

Dealing With People You Can't Stand
Very handy knowledge. Helped me deal with a monster of a boss.

Now I’m thirty and past my Master’s program by a few years, soI can safely get back to reading things I enjoy. Since that conversation with my boss a few months ago, I have been trying to incorporate some different genres into my reading if only to branch out and play at self-improvement. Most self-help books, I’ve noticed, assume that their readers are dumb and talk down to them. That’s why John C Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, was such a pleasure to read – he assumed his reader was intelligent and striving for betterment! But, for the others, I’ve taken to writing arguments to the author on mini post-it notes that I stick in the pages of the book. The author will never read them, but in my head I am confronting him/her for being a verbose dumbass who can’t get to the point and I feel better (btw, the secret they keep referencing in the book The Secret is positive thinking, and the author never says it directly).

I’m also reading more humor books and my guilty pleasure: gay romance novels. I’m a straight cisgendered female myself, but I find a story about two guys defying the odds to develop a loving, functional relationship to be endearing. But, my true love will always be fantasy, no matter how much I try to branch out into other genres. I will forevermore pre-order upcoming Kevin Hearne books so I can get them the day they are released! I have over 380 books on my e-reader, and a vast majority of them are Science Fiction or Fantasy.

Just to name a few that I own in paperback 😀

And do you know what? As of today, May 10, 2017, I have completed reading 18 novels and novellas, and I’m working on two more including Tom Sawyer and a lovely fantasy detective book about a world where dinosaurs didn’t go extinct and are hidden among us humans.

Not bad, huh?

All the highlighted links above lead to books on that I recommend, even if I complained about them. I feel it makes quite a decent reading list! What books would you recommend for me???

The Economy That Comes From Having Too Much Stuff


Three weeks ago I went and got married. We did all the parties that are associated with it – bridal shower, bachelor/bachelorette party, wedding, reception, and even an after party. I was registered at Amazon and Target, and for several weeks before the big event we were receiving packages in the mail about every other day, maybe every third day. Combine that with the gift cards and money that was also coming, and later with the cashing in of the gift cards… I found myself in a unique position where I needed to pare down my belongings a little.

My desk today. Can you believe that this is the cleaned up version?


It’s not like I’ve never been in this position before – living at my parents’ house for the past several years and trying to cram a single-bedroom apartment’s worth of stuff into a bedroom, half an office, and half an outdoor shed made me really appreciate the duplex in which I now live. My things had the space to linger in cupboards, and if I was given a lovely new bed spread, there was a spot for it in the linen closet. My beloved husband moving in didn’t disturb my possessions very much as I had left space for him and he didn’t bring in much in the way of towels.

But now my kitchen doth overflow, and I am very happy because I can do all the baking I want! But, I had to bring in those tricks I used to use to cram more stuff into less space again. That’s when I realized (also when I was helping my then-fiance pack up all his stuff for his move) that I’m a master at the game of Tetris. When it comes to packing things away, or fitting them into a cupboard, I am the expert. Don’t know where to put your furniture? Place each piece next to the other around the perimeter of the room. Need a place to put that filing cabinet that just doesn’t fit anywhere? Consider the closet. Too many lids and not enough space for your pots? Line your pots with paper towels and stack them, then use commando strips to create a hanging place for the extra lids.

I’m the master of this ancient game of, “Where does this thing go?” Of course there are some tips (don’t worry, I’ll keep them brief).

I swear, I wasn’t drunk when I set this up!
  • Remember that size only matters if it fits, and that bigger things go in the back. You see in the above picture that I have all my baking ingredients on a single shelf, with smaller things in front and bigger things in back. I also have them arranged so that if I need the sugar (big white container on the left) I only have to move a couple things out of the way.
  • It doesn’t matter where it’s supposed to go in the design of your house or kitchen, it matters where you need to put it. I put the electric griddle above the vinegar and below the baking stuff because I wanted it in the kitchen and within easy reach. Also, the Crock Pot Trio is on the bottom, and the cook books are easier to reach on the shelf above it. Everything is the level of reachable-ness that I need it to be based on how much I expect to use it.
  • Everything should have a system, even if you are the only one who understands that system. In the picture below, you see the “mess” that is my spice shelf. The thing is, I know exactly where everything is, even though I can’t see past the first row. Sometimes, if I’m grabbing something I don’t use as often, I’ll have to make two attempts, but in the nearly seven months I’ve been living here I only had to use a step-stool to see up there once – when I was arranging everything the day I moved in.
My Glorious Spice!
  • It doesn’t matter what an item is meant to be used for, what matters is what you can use it for. Command Strips are my favorite tools. You can find them easily at any hardware store, they’re inexpensive, and they don’t ruin the paint on your walls. I’ve used them to hand everything from calendars to pot and pan lids, even a bead curtain. Measure twice and stick once, and you’ll be fine! And it is on our to-do list that we are going to arrange them so we can hang some pot and pan lids inside the cupboard doors. I just have to measure the ones I got to make sure the lids will fit first. I also love my filing cabinet. The top two drawers  contain most of my manga collection, and this picture below is of my third drawer, where I keep our office supplies. Finally, they’re off my desk!
Yep, we have two staplers. Actually, there’s three, and they’re all mine. I… also have a million packs of staples hidden in there. Let me know if you need any. I’m set for life!

These are some of the things I’ve done to conserve space in my home. What sorts of things do you do to fit things in?


Some Thoughts on Motivation



Recently, a friend of mine wrote up the list of books that she’s read so far this year. There were 15 books on her list, and a lot of them were either feel-good tear-jerkers or self-help books. Not my kind of reading, but to each her own. That got me thinking about the books I’ve read this year – lots of urban fantasy and a few fluffy romances – and I tallied them up. However, I wasn’t entirely sure which books I had already counted – sure, I meant to only tally up books after I finished them, but was that mark for this book or the last book? – so I went through again and wrote out an actual list. Turns out I have ready 25 novels and novellas so far this year.

I know that seems impressive! We are currently 41 weeks into the year, and I’m averaging about 1 book every 2 weeks. Considering all the other stuff I do in a day, that isn’t surprising. However, I remember a time (back in high school) where I would bang through a book in a day! If it was really thick, over 800 pages, it might take me as many as 3 days to finish. I can’t lie on my bed all day and read like I used to, but I know I’ve actually read more than 25 books. The thing is, I just haven’t finished the books. There’s at least another 5 that I nearly finished reading, but just never read the last few chapters. There are another 20 books that I abandoned when I got to about chapter 2. Many books I never got past the Introduction.

This distinct lack of motivation I’ve had to finish books honestly bothers me. Its the same lack of motivation I had to look for a better job when I worked at Barnes & Noble, and its the same lack of motivation I have for keeping on a health regime. I go at it full tilt, and then I run out of steam. There are some things and projects that I managed to power through – crocheting a blanket, planning my wedding, just to name a few – but most of the things I start, I’m not able to finish. And it’s all about motivation.

Sustaining motivation is really just hard. Whatever you want to do is worth doing well, but getting out of bed and actually starting to work on it is a royal pain in the ass. Once I’ve started, I’m fine, but starting to work on it every day is super hard; its like doing homework. I could do anything else in the world, but sitting down to start my homework without my dad telling me to was virtually impossible.

I’ve found that keeping a positive mindset about what I want to do helps. It is so easy to bitch and moan, or to procrastinate with another episode on Netflix, but reminding myself of the happiness at the end of the tunnel – being married to my husband or having a job that pays a living wage – keeps the attitude positive while I’m working on it. Even better would be to enjoy what I’m doing, because then the difficulties aren’t impossible, they’re challenges.

Also, having a support system is crucial. I did my best when Andy and I decided to do Fitness Blender together, so we set aside time every day to do one of their routines. Because somebody was there to day, “Come on, lets do this thing,” we actually wound up doing this thing. Mom nagging me about job applications I’d put out and asking about interviews got me to actually apply to a place that I customer recommended to me, which led to my current job at Club Z Tutoring (an awesome place to go if your child needs a little extra help on homework, BTW). The support system can be friends, family, or even apps. If I didn’t have my FitBit app, and if my friends and I didn’t start doing the Workweek Hustle Challenges, I wouldn’t be nearly as active as I am. It’s really been a help, and sometimes I just need that help.

Having a deadline, especially if it is set for me by somebody else, keeps me on track better than anything else has. It’s a basic part of goal-setting – Create a big goal, determine small, measurable goals that will help you achieve your main goal, have a support system, create a system for achieving each goal. Deadlines a big part of that. For example, today I need to do this list of items if I want to have a clean house. Therefore, I have to do all of this by dinnertime today (because activity ends for me after dinnertime). I’ll probably need to start at about 10am to get it all done. Then I will wake up at 9, eat breakfast, drink coffee, and get to work.

But, keeping an attitude of thankfulness has really been helping me to stay on track lately. Little things, like saying “thank you” at the end of my emails, even when I didn’t get what I wanted, has helped to keep me a pleasant person despite the disappointments and challenges that have come my way. Having to say thank you forces me to accept the setback for what it is – a setback and not the end of the world – and gives me the opportunity to think my way around the challenge. I can say thank you, and then I can decide to do better. I can find a new motivation to do what I want to do. My favorite quote is something I found on a plaque in an antique shop: “If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.” Failure isn’t the end, it’s just one path that won’t work and you need to find another way. Then you just keep up your positive attitude, and work your way onward and upward.

I hope this has helped us (yes, me too) to continue doing what we need to do to get what we want. What other advice would you give to us to help keep us motivated? I’m pretty sure this wasn’t a complete list by any means.

Weddings – Important Things to Know to Avoid Going Crazy

So, that magical thing happened to me last weekend: I got married! It was a wonderful day, with a 30 minute blessing ceremony and a party afterwords. It was a magical day, despite the priest having a minor melt down at the rehearsal a few days before because he didn’t like our choice of music and I couldn’t find a connector I had for the sound system to connect to my computer (I found it! But only after Andy’s uncle drove to our house to look through our mess in a mad dash). Of course things went wrong, but they were handled and I didn’t go nuts. Apparently, that’s pretty rare.

So, I do recommend a few things when planning your wedding so that when you’re in that final stretch you don’t feel the need to rip your hair out. Do them in this order:

1. Choose a date that’s far enough away. This is the biggest party you will ever plan, with the most moving parts. You will have up to two venues if you’re having your ceremony in a place that is different from the reception, photography options, cake and food vendors, flowers and other decorations which need to be put up and broken down, dress, hair, makeup, nails, tuxedos, ties and pocket squares, party favors, invitations, a bridal shower and a bachelor/bachelorette party. Make sure you have enough time to shop around and make decisions because I promise you, that 15 months of time I started with didn’t feel like long enough at the end. I recommend at least 8 months, preferably a year.


2. Figure out who you want involved in your wedding. How many people do you want in your bridal party, and who exactly do you want standing up there with you? Is your father going to walk you down the isle? Are your parents going to pay for anything, and what are they going to pay for? Do you want a little kid to be responsible for not losing your rings? You can’t choose an appropriately sized venue until you know about how many people you are willing or able to invite. I was lucky that my parents paid for the reception venue and Andy’s parents paid for the church. Then the best man’s mother offered to make me a wedding dress, and ended up altering my mother’s dress for far less than it would have originally cost despite having to re-fit it after I gained some weight. All that financial help allowed us to put our savings to better use elsewhere.

My husband, me, and our entire bridal party.

3. Decide what your deal-breakers are in advance. Must you have real flowers, or will fake suffice? Do you need professional photos, or will disposable cameras distributed to all the tables be more affordable? Must you have your reception at a restaurant that provides food, or do you need to have it catered? Decide what you have to have first, and get an idea of how much it will cost.

Me and my AMAZING photographer, Dee Yates, who was integral in making my reception run smoothly. Could not have done it without her!

I knew that alcohol at my wedding wasn’t necessary, nor were real flowers, and I found it far simpler to have my reception at a restaurant where food would be provided either by buffet or by plate. I had fake flowers, a real-life photographer, and I knew I wanted to make my own dance playlist. Andy really wanted to get married in the Catholic Church. Our budget reflected that, and we got what we wanted. A friend of Andy’s is getting married later this year and is paying $35,000 because she wants to have a bar and gambling in a casino. So, now you know what you want and what you can live without, it is time to…

4. Create your budget. I know it seems counter-intuitive to not create your budget first, but it is super dependent on who is helping to pay for the event and knowing the things that cannot be sacrificed. Both my mom and I wanted our weddings to feel like parties, and that affected what we spent money on. I have a couple of friends who have had back yard weddings on the cheap, but they spent a fortune on fancy invitations and their party favors need to be shipped from Florida. I bought fake flowers at the dollar store, ribbon from Wal-Mart, and honey sticks from Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies to make bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres, and party favors by hand, but I paid $400 for a live group to play at the ceremony. We figured as much as we could into the budget once we had all our volunteers and we knew what we wanted and how much we could afford to spend. The budget just fell into line after that.

The fake flowers that decorated my table at my wedding!

5. Turning the plan into action is the hardest part. So, between deciding on your must-haves and creating your budget, a plan has mostly formed in your mind of what you want for your big day. It won’t be completely solid, but you’ll have a good idea of what you want and need. That is good – you don’t want it to have too many details because getting other people to do what you want at the price you want will be supremely difficult, and you will find yourself at the mercy of others. Some things you will have a firm vision of in your mind, and other things will be more a concept than a picture. For instance, I knew I wanted to get a manicure, but I didn’t have a picture in my mind of exactly what I wanted my fingers to look like. I’m glad I didn’t because I ended up with the perfect nails.

Diana Nails ladies do amazing things to fingers and toes!

My cakes were beautiful, my dress fit me perfectly, and my music was lovely. By not having a solid vision, I could direct things into the direction I wanted them to go instead of forcing them into my teeny-tiny little picture, and my vendors all appreciated me more because of it. In essence, I didn’t create an impossible standard for others to try and make, and when things turned out beautiful organically, I could be happy about it.

6. Sacrifice hurts, but it isn’t anybody’s fault when it happens. I’m not going to say that I wasn’t disappointed when our Priest started freaking out when he found out that I had chosen secular music for our religious ceremony. I hadn’t chosen anything inappropriate – no swear words or foul subject matters – and in fact had chosen some oldies that Peter, Paul, & Mary and Bette Middler had sung, which are often played at Catholic ceremonies. It was just that, two days before my wedding, my Priest found out and couldn’t get his head around it. It was too late for our musicians, the Issac Howl, to learn new music, so we decided to compromise by not having them sing. It bothered me, but there wasn’t another option. I was fine with it. I had to be. Throwing a fit wouldn’t have made it better, and it wouldn’t have reflected well upon me. And it was still lovely!

7. Remember, there is an after-the-wedding time, which will last the rest of your life. After the wedding we had an after-party, then our honeymoon. This week we paid off everybody who did something for our wedding, and next week we both start back at work. After that we will have to pay off our bills and credit cards where we accrued costs during our honeymoon and during the course of our existence. Life will go one, and one day, no matter how amazing, does not make or break how the rest of our time on this Earth. I want to thank all the people who helped me make my wedding day so wonderful, and I wish you, future brides and grooms, a truly enjoyable day to share with your loved-ones. Congratulations!


Some Facts About Raw Honey

So, several months ago I bought some Really Raw Honey from one of those online retailers, Thrive Market. I like that place because it’s pretty inexpensive on many items, and if you look on Facebook you can find those deals where if you buy a certain amount, you get an item that’s normally pretty expensive for free. I don’t shop there often because a regular grocery store tends to cost less overall and I get my food immediately, like this Honey from Raley’s.

Anyway, I’ve been holding off on opening my Really Raw Honey because I was sure it’s good stuff, and at the time I had a little bottle of cheap stuff that didn’t taste very good, and I didn’t want to get spoiled, run out, and find myself stuck with a bottle of cheap crap afterwords. I like honey better that sugar because it helps me control my allergies, it tastes good, and it has soothing and antibacterial properties. So, imagine my surprise when I finally opened my special jar of Really Raw Honey and saw a bunch of gunk at the top!

Not one to automatically presume that my honey had gone bad, but very worried that it had, I went online and found this Article that explained raw honey, and some other things about organic honey, strained, and filtered honey as well as honey bees. It calmed me down enough that I ate my Really Raw Honey, and now I really am spoiled on it!

Hope you find this useful. Tell me what you think!

Cleaning the Coffee Pot – Not a Metaphor

Its happened to all of us. A coffee pot we are supposed to drink from, be it a friend’s, a relative’s, a client’s, or, heaven forbid, our own, is absolutely disgusting. You find little black floaters in your drink, the inside of the pot is scummy, and there may be mold growing in the water reservoir. I’ve seen it all – the mold in the water reservoir is the toughest to clean out because my whole hand doesn’t fit. Well, you don’t have to throw it out. It’s easy to clean, and all you have to invest in is a big jug of white vinegar and maybe a clean washcloth.

Why You Should Clean your Coffee Pot:

There are several reasons to clean your coffee pot regularly – at least once a month. When I worked as a barista, we had to clean our giant coffee canisters every day with a super-strong non-toxic cleaner just to get rid of the old coffee residue in the brew pot and the canister itself. You know when you go to a place and the coffee is just bad? It tastes burned in the canister and just kind of yuck? They are probably brewing it right, but they aren’t cleaning the pots. The chemicals that make coffee taste good when its fresh break down after two hours and make the coffee taste bitter. That is what is left in the residue, and when it builds up it affects the taste of the fresh coffee poured into the container.

Also, where there is damp, mold will grow. Mold grows most easily on the plastic that makes up most coffee makers, but it will also grow on glass and metal if given enough time. That’s why you get those little floaters in your coffee or hot water after a while – you either have mold growing in the water reservoir or it is coffee liquid that had dried beneath the filter and is now flaking off. Regardless, you don’t want to drink it.



You will want white vinegar – not white wine vinegar or balsamic, but white. White vinegar has the mildest flavor and has the least amount of sugar in it of the vinegars. Most vinegar will probably work as well, but the white stuff won’t discolor anything and has a good amount of acidity for cleaning. Don’t worry, you won’t be using just vinegar, because it needs to be diluted with a lot of water and rinsed with water afterward. Also, if you’re anything like me, you will be getting water and vinegar all over the place, so a wash cloth or rag would come in handy.

Cleaning the Coffee Pots:

So, there are several different styles of coffee pot, but I’ve narrowed them down to three types – Mr. Coffees, Espresso Machines, and Keurigs. I don’t mean to favor a brand, but all other coffee machines are of a similar style to these brands and can be cleaned in the same way.

Mr. Coffee:


Cleaning a Mr. Coffee is simple – for every five cups of water you pour into the reservoir you pour about  3/4 cup of vinegar. Use more if it is really dirty, and less if this is more of a spot-cleaning. Fill the reservoir to the max with vinegar/water mixture. Then run the brewer without coffee or a filter. Then you want to fill the reservoir again with tap water alone and brew again to rinse. Do this twice to make sure you get all the floaters and the vinegar. Leave open to dry completely.

Espresso Machine:


All espresso machines are different with varying levels of automation. The above picture is my espresso machine, which is not automatic at all. If your espresso machine has an internal tank in addition to a refillable reservoir, refer to the Keurig section. If yours is simpler, like mine, then cleaning it is very much like cleaning a Mr. Coffee. Simply fill your reservoir 25% or so with vinegar and the rest with water. Brew without espresso in the pod, and rinse twice by brewing water alone. Again, leave open to dry completely.


Oh, Keurig, how I love and hate you at the same time! Your convenience is wonderful, while cleaning you is a pain in the ass. You see, most types of Keurig machines have an internal tank that never empties, so cleaning them becomes problematic. Keurig does have a cleaning agent that you can buy through them, but the internal tank is a sanitation problem through-and-through because the tank never empties, and the water in it never boils so it never gets hot enough to decontaminate itself. So, mold tends to grow in there and come out in your coffee as little black floaters. So, using their cleaning agent is a must.


Or, you can get the kind of machine I have – you only put in the cup of water that you need, and if you follow the instructions for the espresso machine, you can keep it clean. The K-15 is a simple machine with one reservoir that I fill every time I want a cup with only the amount of water I need. By leaving it open all the time, it dries out a little more, and by washing with vinegar (25% solution) and then rinsing twice I can clean out any buildup.

Leaving the Machine Open To Dry:


Very important: let your machine dry out. This prevents mold and bacteria from growing inside it because you aren’t giving it a nicely moist, warm environment to grow in. Also, be sure to clean anything that can come off the machine, like trays or inserts, so that nothing can grow there, either.


So, my friend, I hoped this helped. A big part of living a low-cost life is to not get sick, so please make sure you aren’t ingesting anything gross. I raise my cup to you and shout, “Viva la Cafe!”