Thursday, January 31, 2013

"No Spend Month" Comes to an End

Today is the last day of my No Spend Month and I must report to you that I did okay. Not great. But okay. I spent less money than usual and I thought carefully about every purchase. I took time to consider whether we needed that item or merely wanted it. I didn't shop the after Christmas sales because I knew I wouldn't buy anything I needed.

No Spend Month Blog BadgeI did buy some new clothes this month, but I needed them for a new job that I started last week. See, I had work clothes, but my daughter decided to be helpful and do laundry...she washed all of my good shirts with some of her jeans...and an open chapstick...and an open lipgloss! After 3 attempts at removing the oil spots, I cut them up for rags. Here's the clincher, though: I did not buy a single item at full price, only spending $101.00 including tax for 9 shirts and 2 pair of pants! Original prices for these items added up to over $500! I won't need clothes for a long time now and , as an added bonus, it feels so good to have clothes that fit. (The clothes that got ruined were purchased when I was 22 pounds heavier, but I was trying to make them last a little longer.)

I did not eat out for lunch this month. I pulled out the lunch bag that's been collecting dust and...get this...I used it! Salads, leftovers, snacks, and even drinks went to work with me and I was able to abstain from the temptation to hit a drive through or order an expensive salad from a local restaurant. 

Speaking of local restaurants....My daughter and I frequent three local restaurants so much that they know us and know what we want to eat. Of course, I know that it's expensive and is only necessitated by laziness. We only went out to eat twice this month and we were smart about our bill, ordering water with lemons and taking advantage of the free salad with any entree at one restaurant (we ate the salad for dinner and the entree the next day for lunch). 

Our grocery bill was about half what we normally spend in a month and we ate healthy foods all month long. How did we do that? I opened the cabinets, threw out the out-of-dates and stales, organized the super healthy foods into one cabinet, the canned/boxed but still good for us foods into another, and the stuff we should only eat occassionally (sugar, flour, pasta, etc.) into another. When  we could really see what we had, we found out that we had so much more than we realized! We bought some local meat and produce, as well as milk and eggs, but otherwise we ate what we had been collecting in those cabinets!

I spent less gas by carpooling with my sister whenever possible, too. This didn't happen much, but those little trips add up and over a year we could both save a good bit of gas by continuing to ride together whenever possible.

Most importantly, I attended a budgeting workshop at church and I made a real working budget!!!!! And I'm learning to live by it! It's posted on the refrigerator so that I can easily look at it and my daughter can see, too. I showed her how to read it and we cross things off when the money we budgeted for that category is gone. 

Did you take the No Spend Month challenge in January? If you did, how did it go? If not, you can still try it for February or any month you choose. Click here for more details and the link to the original post from which I got the idea.  Or click the piggie picture above to see all of the helpful posts on Growing Slower that are intended to help you get through your own No Spend Month.  

Remembering Grandma

I'm sharing a very personal moment with you here. My grandmother recently passed away from this world and into a better one. My mom and my aunts asked my generation, her grandchildren, to think about our favorite memories with Grandma so that they can compile our memories into a keepsake for us and other family members. 

Sounded like very, very unpleasant homework to me. I put it off and put it off. But today I finally came around to the idea and decided to tackle the task. It was hard but easy. The tears kept coming and I didn't want them to come. But the words came easily, too, and the memories fast, like a movie in fast-forward. When I stopped writing and read what I'd written, I thought "My Grandma was somethin' special" and suddenly the momentous task wasn't such a bad thing after all. I was glad I was sharing my memories. I wanted to share. These are the words that made it to paper tonight...

My favorite childhood memories of "Grandma P" revolve around food. When we stayed with her there were ALWAYS tea cakes in the big white Tupperware container; if we were lucky, breakfast would be a fresh-from-the-oven made-from-scratch biscuit covered in maple syrup and served in a bowl with a spoon;  Grandma could make delicious vegetable soup from frozen leftover veggies and I got to pull the vegetables from the freezer once, which I thought was a special privilege; and whenever Granddaddy would cook a hog, Grandma would bake up some crispy skins and I'd watch through the oven window, waiting for them to be done. How many meals did we grandkids share at that little green kitchen table? How many snacks? How many hours did we sit there just to be in the kitchen with Grandma?      

My daughter and niece showering their Great-Grandma
with gifts and anxiously watching as she opens them.
Christmas 2012

Love you and miss you Grandma P... 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Melissa & Doug Giveaway Coming!

Free Blogger Event!
Hosted by Coupon Gator Mommy 
Prizes: $250 Melissa & Doug Toys Gift Card
2 Runner Up Prizes: $50 Melissa & Doug Gift Cards

Come back to visit Mama Making Changes 
February 1 through February 26, 2013, to enter to win!

Bloggers: Sign-ups are still open! Just click here!

Monday, January 28, 2013

It's Your Love

Are you thinking about your Loved Ones and Valentine's Day yet? It’s getting close to being about that time and we want to help our readers make the ones they love feel as loved as they are!!

Joy of Momma Joyner and Andersons Angels have teamed up to bring you the It's Your Love Giveaway Hop!!

Blogger Sign-ups are Now Open but are Limited to 30 Blogs! Click here to sign up now!

Mama Making Changes is teaming up with Glass Dharma again for this giveaway! I love their glass straws!

Come back to visit Mama Making Changes between February 2 and February 16, 2013 to enter to win!

Free Glass Straws!

2013 is the 5th year that Glass Dharma has attempted to giveaway 1000 FREE GLASS STRAWS. They did not meet the goal in the previous four attempts, so this year they've made it easier for you to get on the list and receive your free straw!

Glass Drinking StrawThere will be more details forthcoming in the Glass Dharma newsletter. This is key! It is essential that you sign up for the newsletter as soon as possible in order to receive the email that will be sent out next month. That email will tell you how to get your straw. And I will be soooo easy! 

Details of how to participate will be in the March 4th newsletter, so sign up now. A reply to the newsletter will reserve your spot to have your free straw shipping to you. Free shipping, USA & Canada ($3.00 allowance toward World Wide or add-on shipments).

I can't tell you any more at the moment. I will be posting more details soon, but for now you can click here to sign up for the newsletter and ensure that you don't miss the important communication about how to get your free glass straw! 


There's more good news! Glass Dharma is also sponsoring a giveaway on Mama Making Changes! Click here to enter between February 2 and 16, 2013. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: Papa Ben's Mandelbroyt

Papa Ben's Kitchen recently sent me every flavor of their Mandelbroyt to try. Mandelbroyt is a jewish bread that is twice baked, much like biscotti. Once you have a good recipe for the bread, you can add all sorts of other yummies, like blueberries or chocolate. In Yiddish, Mandel Broyt means Almond Bread. 

mandelbroyt almond breadWhen I first received the five boxes of Mandelbroyt, one flavor in each box, I was eager to try them. After looking at the ingredients, I was very impressed. There were no ingredients that I cannot pronounce! Wehat flour, sugar, eggs, canola oil, blueberries, almonds, lemon zest, leavening, vanilla, salt...It sounds like a recipe from Grandma's kitchen! I did notice that each flavor contains malic and tartaric acids. I researched these ingredients and found that both are acids that are naturally occurring in both grapes and wine. Satisfied that Papa Ben's claims to use only natural ingredients were true, I called the family around and we opened each box, tasting each flavor and sharing our opinions. These are the five varieties that Papa Ben's Kitchen makes:

Original Family Recipe
Minty Dark Chocolate
Chocolate Espresso Bean
Lemon Blueberry w/Poppy Seeds
Spicy Chipotle w/Ginger & Dark Chocolate

The chocolate espresso was first to be opened. Well, it's chocolate after all! This variety tastes more like chocolate than espresso, and I do wish I could taste the espresso more, although it would taste wonderful with any coffee drink or just a glass of milk! 

The mint chocolate would also go well with coffee or milk and tastes much like the Thin Mints that Girl Scouts sell. You can definitely taste both the mint and the chocolate flavors in this variety.

The lemon poppyseed is very lemony! This one is a favorite for me and my daughter! It has little blueberries here and there that are a sweet, chewy surprise when you get to them. This flavor is great as a snack, but would also make a great side with hot tea. We ate these for breakfast this morning actually! I will definitely be ordering more of this flavor!

The chipotle worried me a little. I wasn't really eager to try this one. When I finally did, however, I was pleasantly surprised! It had a cinnamon flavor with a very subtle spicy after-taste.  I ate it with a glass of iced tea and truly enjoyed the the warm flavor. 

Finally, their is the Original Papa Ben's Mandelbroyt. This yummy recipe includes almonds and cherries and is just the tiniest bit sweet. If you like shortbread or vanilla wafers, you will love this variety. It's amazing because of it's simplicity.

I was intrigued by Papa Ben's story, as well. The short version is on the back of each 8 oz box and the longer version can be found on the Papa Ben's Kitchen website. In a nutshell, he learned to bake as a child, working alongside his father and using their stone oven. Ben later immigrated to the United States with his sister, both Holocaust survivors, and began baking his traditional recipes in a family bakery. Papa Ben, aka Ben Lesser, also founded the Zachor Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, which informs and educates on the Holocaust itself, remembrance of those involved, and tolerance of all people. He also sent me two of the Zachor Foundation's lapel pins. 

You can learn more about this fantastic company in the video below, showing Papa Ben's Kitchen featured on the Ricki Lake Show! And through January 30, 2013, you can win a five-pack of Papa Ben's Mandelbroyt for yourself! That's a box of each variety! Just click here to visit the Green Resolutions Giveaway Hop.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Versatile Blogger Award

The ultimate complement for me as a blogger is one received from my peers. It means so much to me when a fellow blogger tells me my site looks great or that she especially enjoyed a particular post. Likewise, to be nominated for any blogger award by one of these ladies is always special. I started blogging in 2012 and in the same year was nominated for several of these awards, which are a great way for bloggers to recognize and support other blogs they enjoy. Thanks so much!

This month I am honored to have been nominated for the 
Versatile Blogger Award 

Thanks so much to The Heart & Art for the nomination and for the support! Just click here to visit her creative blog about being a crafty mama!

As a nominee, I now get to nominate 15 blogs that I've recently discovered and enjoyed. Please visit some or all of them and you'll see why I picked them! I also get to share some things about myself. Here goes:

15 Bloggers I’ve Recently Discovered

7 Things I'd Like Them To Know About Me

  • I started blogging in March 2012.
  • I try to live by the motto: "God first, family second, work third".
  • I am a homeschooling single mom with a full time job outside the home in addition to my blog, so I stay busy.
  • I nearly always wear a smile. Life's too short to frown!
  • I am extremely tender-hearted, but often have trouble showing that side of myself to others. Defense mechanism maybe? I don't know...
  • My nieces and nephews call me Aunt LaLa...and I love it!
  • I'm a "Carolina Girl" through and through. I have a long list of places I want to see someday, but I'm not sure I could ever make a permanent move outside of South Carolina. There's so much to love about this place!
If you made the list, congratulations! Here's what you do now:

  • Write a post about the Versatile Blogger Award.
  • In your post, thank the blogger who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  • Select and nominate 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly for the Versatile Blogger Award.
  • Tell 7 things about yourself.
  • Leave a comment on the blogs you nominated, telling them that they've been nominated and the link to your post.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Organic Living Conference

I was so excited to learn today that the 2013 SCOOL (South Carolina Organization for Organic Living) Conference is going to be in Columbia, only an hour from our house! I hurried to the website and began to look at the offerings. I got even more excited when I discovered that they are offering classes for Middle School students! My daughter can take four classes for a grand total of only $20! Classes for her age will include: 

  • The Dirt on Dirt
  • Raised Bed Gardening
  • Making Environmentally Friendly Hand Sanitizer and Sunscreen
  • Turning Your Hobby Into a Business
She's now as excited as me! Only problem now is to decide which classes I want to take! 

The conference is on March 2, 2013, but registration is open now. Adult registration is $60 and middle or high school students can register for only $20. There is also an early bird discount if you register quickly. If you're in South Carolina, click here to head over to the website to check it out and get registered. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hangin' In There

Ever feel like you're taking two steps forward and three steps back? In the last six months it seems like every time I feel like things are turning around and looking up, something happens to knock me down again. 

It's been tough at times, but I'm trying to keep my chin up and be optimistic. I know that God has a bigger plan and that what we see as trials are really just preparation for something in the future. 

It helps me so much to actually list the things for which I am thankful, even if it's just a mental list. I always feel better when I remind myself of the good stuff. The short list:
  • My children 
  • My family, especially my parents and my 5 amazing sisters
  • A few really good friends
  • My church
  • Music
  • Flowers
These are just some of the things that are always good at making me feel better. Sometimes they overlap. A few days ago, my daughter picked some flowers from a tea olive bush for me; tea olive flowers are my favorite because for some reason their scent is comforting and relaxing to me. 

What makes you feel better when life tries to get you down?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Green Resolutions Giveaway Hop

Mama Making Changes is pleased as punch to be participating in the 
Green Resolutions Giveaway Hop
hosted by Happy Mothering & Mama Chocolate!

Green Resolutions Giveaway

Did you make any resolutions for the New Year? So many people resolve to live healthier and greener lifestyles each year and in 2013 we'd like to help you succeed! To help our readers start their New Year off Green, members of the Green Moms Network have come together to offer giveaways valued at $25+. After entering my giveaway below, please visit the other blogs listed under the Rafflecopter form to find the rest of the green giveaways.Each participating blog on the list is giving away one or more items that will help you keep your green resolutions!

Here at Mama Making Changes, I am happy to be working with Papa Ben's Kitchen!

Papa Ben's Kitchen is a family business that makes mandelbroyt, a type of Jewish twice-baked bread that is very much like biscotti. Mandel means almond and broyt means bread. Using all natural ingredients and a family recipe, they make five flavors:

Original Family Recipe
Minty Dark Chocolate
Chocolate Espresso Bean
Lemon Blueberry w/Poppy Seeds
Spicy Chipotle w/Ginger & Dark Chocolate

In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th, Papa Ben's Kitchen is giving away a 5-pack of their mandelbroyt that includes one of each flavor and has a retail value of $34.95 if purchased separately!

Not only is Papa Ben's mandelbroyt made with all natural ingredients, but it's also dairy-free, kosher, and only 80 calories per slice! That means this sweet treat is actually healthy, low-carb, and low-calorie!

Read the full review here for more info!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, January 13, 2013

We Did It!

We did it! 

We've officially completed the 7 Day Real Food Challenge! 

There were many times we were tempted to give up, but by supporting each other we hung in there. When I was too exhausted to cook because I worked ten or twelve hours, my sister stepped in and made dinner. When dinner was late and the dishes got left, my daughter did them next morning. When my sister worked late, I did the cooking and she prepped the night before. 

Not only have we enjoyed eating healthier, but we learned that it is possible to eat at home, even when our schedules are hectic. And the kids learned about real food versus processed foods. 

We also learned some new recipes that we will definitely be using again. I love that we got up and made breakfast instead of pointing the kids to the cereal and skipping breakfast myself. We ate fritatas three times this week, and each time was a little different! The nut and seed bars will be made frequently in this household from now on and the peanut butter truffles were divine. Thanks Holistic Mama for sponsoring this challenge! 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Day 5 of the 7 Day Real Food Challenge

This lentil stew is delicious! With stock made from the chicken we ate on day one, carrots, sweet potatoes, greens, and a chopped apple, this thick and hearty stew didn't even need any seasonings!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Veggie Chili

This chili is amazing! The kids normally will not eat chili in my house, but tonight they finished before the adults! I got a recipe from HolisticMama's 7 Day Real Food Challenge guide and tweeked it to suit our family. Here's how!

In a large pot: Sautee on med-low a large onion in a bit of olive oil till clear. Add 4 cloves crushed garlic, 2 carrots cut lengthwise then sliced and sautee about 5 more minutes. Add 6 cups cooked black beans and 1 large can and 1 small can organic tomatoes (or about 1quart frozen tomatoes). Stir in 1 tbsp. ground red pepper and 1/2 tsp. ground cayenne (more if you want it spicy, but this amount was mild enough for the kids) and sea salt to taste. Add 2 cups water and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring often.

That's it! We soaked and cooked the black beans ahead of time and used some frozen tomatoes from the summer garden, so this didn't take much effort and it was so wonderful! Inexpensive to make, too!

Are you taking this challenge? What's your favorite "real food" recipe?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Real Food

Loving the food on this challenge!

Learning Frugality

I've told you about the Real Food Challenge. So far so good! We're eating some amazing meals and all home cooked!

No Spend Month Blog Badge
I also agreed to join a No Spend Challenge this month. I actually forgot about it! Oops! But not that I've remembered, I guess it's time to get on board. What better time to practice frugality than the right after overspending on Christmas? I'm also facing unemployment if I don't find a new job soon, since my employer is closing the store permanently.

The No Spend Challenge is different for everyone. For me it isn't possible to not spend any money this month. I work outside the home, so I need gas. I don't have a winter garden so I need groceries every week.  You get the picture. What I can do on this challenge is refrain from spending on non-essentials. That means stop eating out and start packing lunch; not buying new clothes or shoes except my daughter's soccer cleats, which are necessary for her to play soccer; no extras at the grocery store like magazines. I could go on...

Interested in learning more or joining the challenge? Just click here to visit the hostess, and good luck!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Prepped for the 7 Day Real Food Challenge!

We finished our shopping today for the first half of the challenge. There's another organic market on Wednesday so we can go there for fresh produce instead of getting it now and eating it wilted at the end of the week. 

We also made our nut & seed bars tonight, which will be our snacks for the next few days, along with the local organic apples that I bought. We have some natural peanut butter for dipping, too. 

My sister agreed to prep the veggies for the breakfast frittatta that we are making Sunday morning so that I could go to bed. I had a 10+ hour day at work. But I will get up before everyone else to cook in the morning. 

We've been invited to a lunch for our mom's birthday on Day One of the challenge, so I am cooking our grass-fed burgers alongside breakfast and we are taking them with us to eat for lunch. Not wimping out on the first day! They can have their bucket o' fried chicken!

Meanwhile, I have a nice bird thawing for our dinner Sunday night! An organic pastured chicken. :)

Did you join the challenge? Are you ready to get started? If you'd like to join, even though it's last minute, just click here for the details on!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Thursday, January 3, 2013

7 Day Real Food Challenge

I am so excited that my entire household has eagerly agreed to join the 7 Day Real Food Challenge hosted by Holistic Mama! Beginning Sunday, January 6, we will be eating "real food" only for 7 full days! 

What is real food? Real food is food the way nature intended. It's eating the food God gave us, the way he gave it to us. There are no artificial ingredients or highly processed foods. No potato chips, no hot dogs, no sodas! We will be drinking raw milk, water, locally grown and/or organic teas. We have eggs from local free range chickens. We will be eating organic, pasture raised chicken and pork and grass fed beef. We will enjoy fresh nuts and vegetables, organic canned veggies, frozen veggies from our summer garden, and even some locally grown organic apples. 

While this challenge can be individualized, we are going to follow the meal plan and recipes for simplicity's sake. There is even a shopping list for the recommended meal plan! Today I cleaned out the cabinets and designated an area for foods allowed during the challenge. I told everyone to have fun trying to finish the foods in the other cabinets before Sunday morning! We also went to the organic co-op farmer's market to get much of what was on the shopping list before picking up some items at the grocery store. We will need a few more things, but not until later in the week. 

Click here to learn more about the 7 Day Real Food Challenge if you think you would like to try this! It isn't too late to get started! 

Seeing the Effects of Healthy Changes

During 2012 I started Mama Making Changes because I wanted to become a healthier and greener household. One of those changes has been to eat better by choosing organic, local (homegrown when possible), whole foods. We stopped buying highly processed foods like potato chips and cake mixes and starting making things from scratch. Through it all, I struggled with the fact that I wasn't losing weight like I thought I would since I was eating so much healthier.

Finally, I sought out the help of a doctor who was recommended by a friend. I discovered that I was using grains and sugars too much, and not eating enough meat, vegetables, and dairy. I began buying whole milk, locally made cheese, and eating more meat and veggies. I stopped using rice and pasta and bought quinoa instead, which is actually a seed. I limit the amount of bread I eat and I make it from scratch when I do have it. 

Today I went for a checkup with my doctor. My blood pressure is lower and I've lost a total of 18 pounds in the last year. Most of that has been since I made the new changes to my diet. I am almost in a healthy weight range for my size now. I'm excited to continue now. And I feel better! In fact, I'll be posting more later about a Whole Foods Challenge that I'll be joining for next week! Maybe you can join, too!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year Brings Changes and Resolutions

My new year has gotten off to a rough start, I guess. I found out that the store in which I am office manager will be closing permanently on January 12. That's right. If you look for me on my days off, I'll be job-hunting. In the meantime, there is much to be done to shut down the store and incentive pay to stay and see it through. I'm working very long days for the next two weeks. 

I did manage to get New Year's dinner made, even if we did eat late! I made Hoppin' John with some field peas and snaps that were still in the freezer from last year's garden. My sister steamed greens with some fresh carrots that we got at one of the local organic farmer's markets. She added some sliced bell pepper that was leftover from a veggie plate at one of our Christmas get-togethers last week. The flavors worked together wonderfully and the carrots were so good that I can hardly wait to get back to the market to get more on Thursday!

Amid all of the hustle and bustle, I have finally put my New Year resolutions in writing, too. Here they are:

  • I want to make more products for our household instead of buying them. I have a collection of recipes for toothpaste, body butter, bath soap, laundry detergent, and more. This year I resolve to use the recipes!
  • I also resolve to write more frequently on Mama Making Changes. While wordless posts and giveaways are also fun, I want to have more articles, learn about and share information. 
  • I resolve to buy less from grocers and more from local organic markets. Along with this I resolve to eat more whole foods and less processed foods, and make from scratch whatever I can. My family will be healthier for it and the local economy needs the support. 
  • I resolve to buy products that are made or produced locally whenever possible, and made in the USA when not available locally. I want to be a part of ensuring that fewer Americans lose their jobs due to the economy, as is happening to me.
  • A negative attitude only makes things worse. Therefore, I also resolve to look at the glass as half full when times get tough this year.
  • Finally, I resolve to strengthen my relationship with God through becoming more active in my church and studying my Bible more often. My Bible is moving to my bedside table where I can read it at night instead of scrolling through Facebook status updates.
What resolutions have you made for 2013? What expectations do you have for this year? 

If you haven't already, take a moment to fill out the survey in the right sidebar. It's only 4 questions and will help me to make Mama Making Changes better for you in 2013!