Summer Vacation and our Contest Winner

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by Liz

Summer is just about over, many schools are back in and the weather isn’t quite as hot…well, I assume that is the case in the majority of the country.  Here in Texas, the weather will continue to be summer-like until Halloween.

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The majority of us have taken their summer vacations, I know we finally did and MAN was it great! Although we tried our best to schedule and plan appropriately, unfortunately, due to work schedules, the entire family did not get to come. We spent a week at Pensacola Beach, Florida.  I would love to be able to write a post about all the ways we saved money on the trip, but we hadn’t taken a vacation in over 2 years and we budgeted and saved for the last 2 years for some extravagances, like enjoying many meals out that included “grown-up” drinks. And we enjoyed renting a pontoon boat for the entire day to enjoy over at Crab Island, Florida and of course the souvenirs, let’s not forget those. 

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We did manage to save some money; it wasn’t a total “open wallet” experience.  For instance, we drove from Fort Worth to Pensacola with a fully stocked cooler of sandwiches, snacks and drinks.  We rented a condo on the beach that included amenities that allowed us to cook and prepare some of our meals; (we ate all of our breakfasts and at least 3 dinners here) and the ability to do laundry (what a God send!). We went to the Naval Aviation Museum that does not charge admission hoping to catch the Blue Angels practicing, but alas, they were not practicing that day; and of course we spent lots of time in the ocean, playing like kids, jumping waves and getting sandy and many long walks along the seashore collecting seashells.

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Now that our Pensacola vacation is behind us, we will start saving for our next vacation, not sure where that will be yet, but nonetheless, we will start our savings.  In addition to that, it is time to get back to work, and as promised, we have chosen a winner of our first ever Fort Worth Homemaker give-a-way.

Congratulations to Sergio N. of Austin, Texas.  He is the winner of the August, Fort Worth Homemaker give-away!

We reached out to Sergio N. to ask him which of the items he would like to receive for his prize, either our elegant coffee cup or our decorative journal to help organize his days.  Sergio N. responded in kind:

“I love my coffee, especially on early morning weekends when I get time to sketch, draw or research for future artworks. With that being said and the colors of the beautifully styled Fort Worth Homemaker coffee cup noted, I’m more than sure it will make people do a double-take when they see me sipping my coffee from it, or sitting on my drawing table next to my current work in progress art.”

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Thanks so much for the compliment Sergio N. of Austin, your coffee mug is on its way! (Sorry Sergio, breakfast scones, not included).

Be sure to check out my blog page, and feel free to share with your family and friends as we will continue to bring you money saving tips, easy and delicious recipes and words of wisdom from this experienced homemaker!




Future Golden Girls

 

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By Liz

What can I say about the “Golden Girls” that hasn’t already been said? This is probably one of my top Simple Pleasures probably because it will always represent time I spent with my sister.

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“Picture it…..1980’s…”my sister and I were teenagers in the 80’s and it would have seemed unlikely that we would have enjoyed this show, since it was not the typical peer related television show of our generation. Sitcoms like; “The Cosby Show”, “Family Ties” or “Growing Pains” were more suited for our demographic, however, we are huge fans of sarcasm….and great sarcasm at that.




Apparently, we were not alone in our thinking. The show won several awards, including the Prime time Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, twice; three Golden Globe Awards for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy; each of the four stars received an Emmy Award, making it one of only three sitcoms in the award’s history to achieve this. The series also ranked among the top-10 highest-rated programs for six of its seven seasons. In 2013, TV Guide ranked The Golden Girls number 54 on its list of the 60 Best Series of All Time and in 2014, the Writers Guild of America placed the sitcom at number 69 in their list of the “101 Best Written TV Series of All Time”.

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My sister and I have always been close and as we became adults we would always joke and still do that when we become retired old ladies, and if our husbands pass before we do, we will probably be living together somewhere in Florida and living via Golden Girls fashion. I embody Sophia, while my sister personifies Dorothy. We have referenced quotes from the show over the years many times and I have assigned the show’s theme song as my sister’s ringtone on my phone and on more than one occasion, we have gotten together to binge watch some episodes, now that I own the Golden Girls complete series on DVD (thank you my wonderful husband for that Christmas gift!).

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When we get together for one of these Golden Girl gab fests, with this classic comedy on in the background we talk about all the usual things, work, dreams, life, kids, food (cheesecake) etc… Currently, my sister and I live in the same city, but on opposite ends, so we are about an hour’s drive away from each other, this may not seem like a big deal to most, but for two sisters who used to share a room while growing up, as well as a highly, dysfunctional family, sometimes it seems like thousands of miles.

At this season of each of our lives, we are both busy and get together when we can. Sure we spend the holidays together with our entire families in tow and while neither of us would trade those times for anything; sometimes we just miss the alone time of just the two of us… Sophia and Dorothy.

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So to you, my dear sister: *”Thank you for Being a Friend”!

*”Thank you for Being a Friend”, by Andrew Gold, copyright 1978

 


Affording to “Pay it Forward”

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By Liz

My life and circumstances have not always been easy and like most people I have had struggles and hardships at different times in my life.  However, whether the strain was emotional, physical or financial I have always known that I have been blessed.

You see, like you, I have been chosen to be a child of God and He has given me the greatest gift of all: free will to choose him as my God, my Father and my Creator, so I have always felt the desire to give back and to help others, after all, it is what we were created to do.

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But what happens if you feel like you can’t afford to give back?  Society has perpetuated a notion that, “giving back” has a monetary value to it and only by this avenue alone will we make a difference. This is entirely untrue for both the giver and the receiver. Giving of one’s time is just as valuable as money, if not more so.

We have all seen and heard ads for the conglomerate types of charities asking you to give financially; tugging on our heart strings making us feel guilty if we don’t whip out your checkbook at that very moment to help their cause. Now, I am not trying to bash some of these worthwhile causes, many of them do much needed research and work and many use the funds wisely and efficiently, however some larger and well known charities are operating on a “for profit” budget, so a large portion of our dollars that we donate go to paying their sometimes hefty salaries and go to throwing large, garish parties to bring in even more profit.

When I left the corporate world, it didn’t take me long to feel the restlessness of extra time on my hands. Don’t get me wrong, managing a household of 7 people and 4 dogs takes up a lot of time, but unlike before, when I did not have the time to donate physical time for a cause or charity that was close to my heart, I now found myself in a position to do so.

The question before me was: with so many needs for local volunteers and charities how did I want to make a difference? I started to investigate some of my local organizations that were looking for help. I had approached this as if I were researching a large purchase for my home.  I felt deep down, if the cause did not resonate with me, then both myself and the organization were not going to benefit.




I was not having any luck with my search, until one day after Sunday services I mentioned to my priest my dilemma. He actually pointed me in the direction of one of the community’s food pantries. Later that week, I gave them a call and they were more than happy to have me come and help out. They had told me that if I wanted, I could volunteer a few times to see if it was going to be something I would want to continue doing before they added me to their permanent roster.  I went and volunteered for an afternoon shift of 3 hours of work in the back room of the pantry, packing up food for families in need. My fellow team mates were in their retirement years and older, and at first I thought this was not going to be a good match for me, but when the 3 hours were over, I had really enjoyed the work and the people enough to come back and do it again. I am happy to say, that I have been volunteering at this food pantry with the same great group of folks a few times a month for the past 3 years and I genuinely   look forward to each time it is my turn to help out.

So while we as a family do tithe to our church on a weekly basis, we have also given back in ways that may not be considered when thinking of charity.  Some examples of how we and you can give back without making a huge impact on your wallet and making the “for profit” charity organizations wealthier:

1.We have donated clothes, household items and furniture to Goodwill or Salvation Army that we no longer want or use.

2.We have donated old blankets, towels and a bag or two of cat or dog food to the local animal shelter.

3.We have purchased an extra bag or two of groceries for some of our neighbors that had fallen on hard financial times.

4.We have made extra batches of food or cookies for family, friends and neighbors that have had suffered a loss.

homeless5.We have collected items such as toiletries, socks and blankets over a year’s time and donated them all in one shot to the local shelters.

6.We have volunteered at charity walks and 5-K runs as staff members that pass out water or food, help people sign in and other organizational tasks.

7.We have given bottles of water, cups of coffee and bought lunches for people who were in obvious need as we passed them while we are out and about.

8.We have helped seniors play bingo at a retirement home.

9.We have read to children at “story times” at libraries and schools.

10.We have packed backpacks full of supplies for kids going back to school.

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Some have argued that giving back is purely a selfish act, that it makes one feel better about oneself or that they are waiting for a glorified pat on the back. Giving back is rewarding, I believe that Jesus gave of himself to us, over and over again and I have come to realize I have been blessed in so many aspects in my life; whether it be my health, my family and friends, the comforts and necessities that help me sustain my life, my intelligence, my patience and compassion, and the list of blessings and gifts that have been bestowed upon me goes on and on.  I am grateful and happy that I have the luxury to “give back” and I gladly look forward to doing and giving more of my time and efforts for many years to come.




50 Pound Weight Loss, 10 Minutes at a Time

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By Liz

No one needs to tell you how to save money, the equation is simple, spend less than you earn. The same common sense formula applies to weight loss, burn more calories than you consume. It is that simple. You have to eat in moderation and you have to exercise.

However, in today’s, quick and convenient world, many of us choose to find the fastest, easiest and in many cases costliest ways to achieve weight loss. Procedures such as; starvation diets, diet pills, meal replacement shakes,  bariatric surgery, gastric bypass surgery, cool sculpting, diet food subscriptions, and the list goes on and on and so do the prices.

weight-loss-04Unfortunately, many of the above named procedures are not always a success story.  For instance, when I worked in the white collar world, I knew of 2 rather large women who had both undergone the costly, surgical route.  While at first, they each seemed to be melting away in front of our eyes, as they had each approached their one year anniversary date of their procedures, their old lifestyle ways were back and so was the weight. They were once again, back to a sedentary lifestyle, in addition to poor eating habits.  Not only did each of these ladies gain the weight back they had lost, they had both gained extra to boot.

I too, like so many, struggle with my weight, I always have and I probably always will.  I never had the resources for any of the above methods of losing weight and I probably never will.

About a year ago, I had to undergo total knee replacement surgery.  No big shocker, at the time, I was overweight and according to my doctor, not by a little, but by about 50 pounds. He had explained to me that generally most patients get this operation done when they are in their 60’s and 70’s because this kind of procedure should really be done only once in one’s lifetime.  Due to me being only in my mid forties, this new knee was going to have to last me the rest of my life and for obvious reasons, the less weight it had to carry, the longer it was going to last me.  So, like it or not I had to lose weight.

I had put the surgery on hold for 3 months, because I wanted to lose at least 20 pounds before going under the knife and what they say is true; it DOES get harder to lose weight as you get older. I have never had an issue with the diet portion of my weight loss battles (except the will power segment at times).  I love to cook, and I have always been able to find or create lower calorie and lower fat food options without sacrificing flavor. Even with this knowledge, I am still aware, that whatever it is I eat, has to be in moderation and it has to be well balanced (you know what I am talking about; imagine the food pyramid image).

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My downfall would always come by way of exercise. I hate to exercise. I can’t say that enough, so I will say it again, I hate to exercise!  I would rather scrub toilet bowls with a toothbrush than exercise.  However, being an intelligent woman, I know I have to. To me, it is a necessary evil in maintaining my health.

When my orthopedist told me I needed to lose weight, I took it seriously and maybe, finally, this was the wakeup call I needed to lose weight and maintain my weight loss for the long haul.  In the past, all of my weight loss attempts had been for pure vanity reasons but now my longevity health was at risk.

Anyone with knee problems will tell you, when you place stress on that joint, no matter how much or how little… it hurts. You might be fine while engaging in the exercise, but afterwards is a pain filled nightmare.  I was limited in the kinds of exercises I could do; this made the whole process even harder.

Swimming is the best option for people with joint problems, however, not everyone has access to a pool and joining a health club gets very pricey. Instead, I invested in an elliptical machine. The motion on my knee was fluent without the shocking impact on the joint that I would have gotten from walking or using a treadmill. So once it was assembled, there it sat in my bedroom, waiting to be used. I can’t tell you how many times I really just looked at that thing and wanted it to just become a clothes hanger, but I knew I had to start using it.

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So one morning I decided it was time to start on this journey. I started off with no resistance setting at all.  I just needed to start moving.  I got on for 10 minutes.  The time went by rather quickly, considering it was so short, yes my knee was a sore afterwards, but it wasn’t horrible.  After lunch, I decided to do another 10 minutes, same feeling, same results, and then another set before dinner.  At the end of the day, I had done it; I had exercised for 30 minutes.  You can probably imagine that the next day, I was in pain! I did not use the elliptical that day, but the following day I did, I felt better and repeated the same 3; 10 minute interval way of exercising and kept up this method for months.

In the beginning, I was using my elliptical 3 times a week, 30 minutes a day in my 10 minute “exercise blasts”. After about 3 weeks of doing this, I noticed my body was starting to get used to the routine, and it didn’t hurt as much.  I decided to try to challenge myself.  I started doing my routine 4 times a week.  My eating habits were also improving and after about 6 weeks of eating well and some regular exercise, I got on the scale to see that I had lost 7 pounds.  I know, a lot of you are saying “that’s it!” But I tell you this, it was a true 7 pounds, it wasn’t water weight so I knew it wasn’t coming back after only a few days.



My surgery was scheduled almost 4 months to the day I originally gone to see my orthopedist, and by that time, I had managed to lose 25 pounds.  I was still only half way to my ultimate goal. The recovery was long and I won’t lie, physical therapy was hard and painful.  I think it was “tough love” on their behalf, because I was so young to have had this procedure, my therapy sessions were rigorous. During that time, physical therapy had replaced my use of the elliptical.  I was going to the therapists’, 3 times a week, for 3 months, plus I was doing some of the exercises they taught me at home. Oh and did I mention that my orthopedist wanted me to be walking at least 30 minutes a day? (Yeah…he was tough). So there I was, each night, my husband by my side and me clinging to my walker, taking a 30 minute walk in my neighborhood and re-learning how to walk.  You can imagine that in the beginning, I was moving at a snail’s pace, it would take me 30 minutes to go 4 houses up and 4 houses back, it did not seem as though I was gaining much ground.  Funny thing though, after a few weeks, I noticed I could go 8 houses up and back in 30 minutes.  I finally lost the walker and in another few weeks and I could make it all the way up the street and back in 30 minutes, and so on and so on, I just needed to stay at it and after some time, I was able to go farther and longer.

I am proud to say that 8 months after my surgery, I had reached my weight loss goal.  I had lost a total of 50 pounds with sheer diet, exercise and time; no magic formula, no weight loss surgery, no starving or depriving myself, no harsh workouts that push me into the ground,  just a plain old common sense approach.

weight-loss-08I am glad to say, that I don’t mind exercising so much anymore.  I just needed to find the right exercise for me, one that I enjoy and doesn’t feel like a chore to me.  I have since replaced my elliptical with a stationary bike (recommended by my orthopedist to ensure flexibility and mobility in my knee).  In addition to using this piece of home equipment, (still in 10 minute intervals…..hey, I’m not a fanatic!) I take regular daily walks with and without my dog, most of the time while listening to music, but sometimes, just to take in the sights, sounds and glory of nature and use it as the “me time” part of my day.

Most people that struggle with weight loss want instant results.  That is unrealistic. Think about it, you didn’t instantaneously gain the weight; it took time to put it on, so why would one think taking the weight off would be different?  I now know and understand the severity of maintaining my current weight and I am fully aware that my lifestyle must contain movement and moderation each and every day all in efforts for a long and healthy life.




Savoring Coffee and the Weekend

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By Liz

Like most, our Mondays through Fridays are extremely hectic. That’s not to say that our weekends aren’t busy either, but we tend to tackle those two glorious days with more of a laid back vibe.

Even though we are family that tries to tighten our belts every chance we get, we do have some luxuries that we enjoy.  As I have mentioned in a previous article, my husband gave me a Keurig coffee machine many Christmases ago that gets a lot of use in our house as you can imagine with the 7 of us.  In fact, it seems as though our Keurig is always hard at work brewing a cup of coffee, tea or cocoa.  What I like most about it, is that it produces a hot, fresh cup of whatever our palates are craving at any particular time.  For example, I enjoy a regular medium roast cup of coffee, my husband enjoys hazelnut coffee, while the older boys enjoy some very strong, alternate flavored, gourmet coffees (that they buy with their own money) and while our teens turn their beverages into iced coffees now and then, they mostly stick to cocoa.




When my hubby and I got married, we received a French Press coffee pot as one of our gifts. It was the first time I had tried a cup of coffee from a French Press.  At the time, I was skeptical, because it reminded me so much of the same process used when making instant or peculated coffee, which is what I grew up on, needless to say, I was not a huge fan of either of those methods back in the day, but it was all we had. But from that very first sip of coffee that was brewed from the French Press coffee pot….I was hooked. The aroma, the intense, smooth flavor, the rich color….OMG!! I was in café heaven!

Mondays through Fridays, I start my days at 6:00 a.m. with a fresh cup of coffee every morning, brewed from my Keurig. While my Keurig is starting up, I will flip open my laptop, log on and start checking emails, start to work on an article for my blog, throw in a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, etc… before the rest of my brood even starts wiping the sleep crud from their eyes.  On an average day, I typically enjoy 2, sometimes 3 cups most mornings, another cup late in the afternoon and sometimes a cup at lunch, depending on what is on the menu.




Weekends however are another story when it comes to java. I sleep in on Saturday and Sundays (usually until about 6:45 a.m.) on these 2 days, my beloved French Press Coffee pot comes out.  I brew a fresh, hot pot of coffee and then spend some overdue, quality time, relaxing and enjoying my java.  Depending on what kind of weekend it is, I pair my cup of coffee with a good book and a blanket, curled up on the couch. Then there are times when I sip on my java and watch an old movie; but my favorite is when the weather cooperates, I will sit out on my back patio and just enjoy another beautiful day that God has created, just taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the fresh morning air while sipping on my cup of heaven.

After well over a decade in the corporate world, which also included those rushed,” squeeze in all those tasks on the weekends because you were working all week”, and even now, though I am our COO and Home Manager, of a hustling and bustling household,  I purposely find time to savor the flavor of my coffee and weekend mornings.




Puzzled?

 

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By Liz

Just like most people, I am a product of my environment, living in an ever changing, hustling and bustling busy world; so therefore, I always feel the need to be productive or to be doing something.

While “stop and smell the roses”, is a great concept on paper, who has time when there is so much to be done in a 24 hour period?

Like most, our Saturday’s are just as busy as the rest of our week.  Generally we reserve Saturday’s to “date day” unless we have looming projects at the house, that are an absolute must, usually  this means a project in the yard, garage or home improvement.

However, this particular Saturday just felt like a bust.  The weather was less than cooperative and it had been overcast, rainy and cold all day.  Obviously we were not going to be able to tackle any outdoor projects or attempt to clean the garage, which was long overdue for a cleaning.  We had just spent the previous day doing our weekly housecleaning, and we were all caught up on laundry, we had a fridge full of leftovers, so cooking wasn’t a necessity for the day.




My husband and I were perplexed on how to salvage the rest of our Saturday and due a lack of motivation on both of our parts on this dreary day, we railed off suggestions to each other; after many suggestions, we were not anywhere closer to a compromise. Finally, my hubby suggested that we tackle one of the jigsaw puzzles that was sitting, collecting dust in our closet.

At first I was indifferent about this suggestion, but when the love of my life said he would build a fire, turn on the stereo and open a bottle of my favorite wine in addition to setting up the card table in our living room, I had a change of heart.

I am generally not a fan of jigsaw puzzles, mostly because as I feel I suffer from ADHD, so I had approached this 500 piece puzzle, with some reserve, thinking that after about 10 minutes, I would have surely felt like I was crawling out of my skin in frustration, but I had agreed to give it a chance.

There we sat in the middle of our living room at our card table, with a warm, crackling fire, listening to some oldies on our vintage console stereo, sharing a bottle of wine and enjoying each other’s company, so you can imagine my surprise when I found myself looking at the time and noticed that we had been working on this puzzle together for over 2 hours and were only half way done.

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When we decided to stretch our legs and heat up something to eat, two of our adult kids, who were home for the afternoon, appeared from their rooms, surely they had found something to pass the time on this dreary day as well. They walked over to the card table and upon inspection, asked if they could work on some of the puzzle while we were in the kitchen heating up some dinner.  I have to tell you, it was a thrill to see a couple of young adults, not staring down at their phones or tethered to a video game console for a period of time, in fact, they had gotten into this puzzle, just as much as my husband and I did.  We let them have at it, and before you knew it, an hour more had passed.

My husband and I, re-entered the living room to check their progress on the puzzle and found they had gotten much more of it completed.  For the rest of the evening, the four of us would take turns at the card table, in tag team fashion, completing this puzzle.  At times, we would find ourselves singing along to whatever song was playing in the background, we would find ourselves laughing at something one of us had said, and each one of us, were completely content in this family, friendly moment, and there was not an electronic device or distraction in sight. We were close to finishing, so none of us wanted to turn in for the evening until we had finished this 500 piece challenge.




At last, we had finally finished the puzzle and he had high fived each other, proud of ourselves for accomplishing the challenge we had started.  In total, we had spent 5 hours doing this puzzle…. 5 hours.  I know what many of you are thinking: “Do you know what I could do with 5 hours?!” Believe me, I do know what can be done, productively for 5 hours, in fact, like most, we have a laundry list of things that we could have been doing, but it came to me as an epiphany and was glad that it happened, I finally got it, we had “stopped and smelt the roses”.