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I made these for the kids again this morning (their cousins are over). It’s really easy. It’s my adaption that is refined sugar free and uses bran flour instead of “enriched white flour” (we try to avoid white flour now as well).

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 c. bran flour
  • 2 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • splash vanilla
  1. Combine bran flour, baking powder salt in a bowl – make a well in the center
  2. In a second bowl, combine beaten egg, milk, melted butter, vanilla and agave – pour into well
  3. Mix until smooth
  4. Make your pancakes! 🙂
These are really yummy and very filling. My kids have regular syrup on them, I eat them plain. Using real maple syrup is a better alternative if your family likes it. (I do, but the kids don’t. Weird, I know 😉 )
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Money Mommy

I’m slowing learning about money – which makes no sense since I am now 41 years old! You’d think I’d have this all figured out. I blogged about Money and Happiness before, but until the past couple years, I never took it seriously. Not seriously enough anyway.

Like so many others, money has caused problems in our marriage. But still – I never really thought about what it does to our family; what it does to me.

I’m not what you’d call “High Maintenance” – I don’t shop constantly, I don’t have a million pairs of shoes or makeup or all that stuff. We don’t drive fancy cars, we really don’t mind the vehicles we do drive. But…we never had a real budget until recently. We’ve “dabbled” a little, but not for any length of time. We’d just revert back to our old habits.

We have spent money on technology – a little more than the average person because we’re a house full of geeks. I’ve been known to spend too much money on stuff that I think my kids would like – tending to buy too many things that they would end up not even playing with. I’m not sure why I did it, I’d rarely spend it on myself. But I would go crazy on their birthdays and Christmas buying all this cool stuff. I’d spend money in between “just because”, thinking they’d enjoy this or that.

Over the past two years, I’ve been cutting back. I’ve been trying to declutter and buy less. And it is finally starting to show. In a good way. We spend more time together. I rarely go to the mall. When I do need something, I shop locally and have even started to buy second-hand because that makes so much more sense!

Now that Krystal and I are working hard on our Minimalist Challenge, this is in the forefront of my mind. I have read many minimalist blogs that inspire me to change. As I change, my family has been changing. The kids are saving their money. My husband comes home with less because he is now thinking about his purchases before he makes them. I don’t “splurge” getting stuff for the kids as much. It is a refreshing change that we no longer fight about money!

I have been following a few blogs about getting out of debt and finding financial freedom. We’ve been inspired to follow some of their techniques. I recently began using an amazing budgeting tool called “You Need A Budget” and it is eye-opening and easy to use. I really see this working for us as we strive to stop living paycheck to paycheck and start moving forward in what we owe.

I intend to share more with you as my family journeys towards financial freedom. For now, I’d like to share some resources with you that may help you get out of debt as well:

  • Engaged Marriage – My friend Dustin has been a huge inspiration in his blog posts, and put me on to the YNAB software. He’s got a lot of great ideas!
  • You Need a Budget – budgeting software that I’m currently using
  • Financially Poor – a blog I’ve been following for a while that has inspired me as well
  • Enemy of Debt – this is a really good blog about managing your finances
  • ManVs Debt – more good stuff!
Anyway, I wanted to share these with you in the hopes that you’d be inspired to live more with less and get away from money controlling you.
I talk more today on my Simple Life Celebrations post that I wrote about teaching my children (and myself) about money: Minimalist Money

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One of my Go-als! for this year is to continue moving forward with becoming more Minimalist. I’ve never really described what that means to me and where I hope to go with it. I thought I’d share that in this post.

I just finished reading a wonderful (and free!) e-book from Faith over at Minimalist at Home (formerly Minimalist Mom) that describes what Minimalism is in an easily understandable way – download and read it – it’s simple, short and sweet! Thanks Faith!

Anyway, I was inspired to write down what Minimalism means to me.

  1. Less stuff – buying fewer things has been the biggest change. Of course, we’ve also “purged” TONS of clothes, toys, kitchen things etc over the year. I used to think I’d just buy containers and “organize” the stuff and that would be better. Yeah, I just had more containers to trip over and reorganize because they’d be emptied. That wasn’t working!
  2. Less work – this has meant STOP bringing work home with me! This has meant less time ranting and raving, less stress and more time doing the work that I really love doing!
  3. Less emails – funny, I actually get A LOT of emails, but I do not let them pile up – my work email had ZERO emails in my inbox when I left for holidays! I kept that up pretty much all year. It means that I am more focused on the ones that matter and literally ignore the ones that don’t.
  4. Less “running errands” – I am shocked how much I DON”T run errands anymore now that I rarely drive anywhere. It has been inconvenient at times, but it certainly has set the priorities of what little “TO-DO’s” really have to get “done”. It has meant being creative in scheduling and birthday gifts and what we participate in.
  5. Less driving has meant more exercise for me. I’ve been a little lazy in the past month due to colder weather, but I did put a lot of miles on my bike and my feet before it got cold and will be hitting the streets again while it’s warmer!
  6. Less scheduling – we are not scheduled in very many things any more – we all “do” less and are not suffering, that’s for sure! There was a time that my daughter did more than 15 hours per week of dance for one example! It was crazy! We were all stressed from the running around. We’ve prioritized into what we REALLY want to do!
  7. Less TV, dishwasher, piles of laundry etc – watching less TV means I read and talk more (though I am on the computer/iPhone a lot still), using the dishwasher less means I’m talking to whoever is helping me, less clothes is less laundry and it’s done regularly so it never piles up anymore – weird! (but awesome!)
  8. Less yelling and freaking out! – it’s amazing how much having less stuff to trip over, less of a schedule to keep and less yelling and more asking nicely has created a much more relaxed house! I’ve noticed that the less I yell, the more they respond and pitch in and the better I feel even when they don’t.

In 2011, I plan on continuing with this process:

  1. More Master Bedroom “Room” – One of the ideas that Faith had before Christmas was completely EMPTYING the bedroom and re-evaluating what got put back. Bruce and I are really excited about that! We’re thinking about getting down to one closet and one dresser for the two of us to share. This means that the second can hold seasonal items and extra blankets. I have tried so many times to turn our bedroom into more of a sanctuary and “retreat”, but so often it ends up being the “dumping ground” – that is my main goal for 2011!
  2. More Time with Hubby – we started official “Date Nights” after our trip to Vegas – we’re continuing with those. This means less time with kids and friends on those nights, but I think we deserve at least two special one-on-one alone times per month! Hopefully, once per week!
  3. More Time with Kids & Family & Friends – I will say “No” to many “commitments” – I will set priorities and do only those things that are priority. This will free up quality time that I will be able to spend with the ones I care about. Sure, there are things that I normally volunteer for, but, it’s time for someone else to step up and take my place. I will let them.
  4. More Exercise Time for Me – I will spend less time at work during my lunch hours and get my butt back to the gym! I fell back into my habit of missing my noon hour workouts to “catch-up” at my desk. No longer!
  5. More Real, Productive Time – when I sit down to work, it will be focused on ONE thing at a time. No more “multi-tasking” at work! Email will only be answered at certain times of the day. I will not be interrupted unless there is an emergency. I will schedule my time and some may not like it, but my workflow has GOT to change! When I sit down to work on a quilt or my business or my writing; I will NOT be tweeting, facebooking, texting, getting distracted in general! FOCUS girl!
  6. More Priority – everything that I buy, do, eat or read, I will be in the moment and THINK first. Do I really need this item? What will I be getting rid of or miss out on if I do that? If I eat this, how will I feel after? Do I need to read one more blog post or book? Everything will be evaluated for it’s TRUE priority in my life.

Those are some of the specifics in my Minimalist Go-als! for the year. I would love to hear what you think of the idea of “Minimalism”!

What do you think? Are there areas in your life that you’re trying to do “more” with “less”? How do you “cut-back”? How does your family feel about this idea? What did you think of Faith’s e-book? (Be sure to let her know!) 🙂 Share in the comments!

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My plan for my Easter Holidays was take on one of Krystal’s De-cluttering Challenges and use her expertise to “get a handle” on my paper clutter!

My paper piles have been haunting me for over a year! Something had to be done. It’s tax time again and every time I tried to get to my sewing machine, I would trip over the stacks of paper.
I planned for this project to take several days. It was that bad.
Here is the before picture:

I set up a “system” following Krystal’s advice. One of the most important things she said: Setup everything you need to organize the stuff within easy reach. I then tackled part of a pile at a time. I didn’t drag ALL of it out!

The “Setup” pictures:
I setup around the big comfy couch. I was going to put a movie on and watch movies while I tackled the piles.
The big bins are for the kids’ memory boxes. I just used the black dividers that I had for separating the kids’ stuff by age/grade. I labelled for all years from 0 to Grade 12 so that I just have to keep adding to the boxes as they bring “keeper” stuff home. I’m keeping things like report cards, birthday cards, special pictures and stories that they’ve made that I want to keep. Their pictures are in there as well.
Krystal’s filing system involves setting up a file for each month to contain bills, receipts, pay stubs etc; the regular stuff that comes every month. I pre-labelled everything for the year. There are also files for important things to keep. For example, two files per member of the family. One file for important papers: birth certificate, Social Insurance number etc. The second for certificates and things that I keep having to pull out, such as swimming lessons. There are also files for important papers like investments, warranties, etc that need to be kept separate from the monthly stuff.
I had a master sheet with a list of all the file folders as I was creating them so that I wouldn’t create duplicates. I used a filing rack to keep the special folders easily accessible. The monthly folders were just laid out on the table.
I got garbage bags and the shredder ready and within easy reach so that I could shred as I went so that I wouldn’t have yet another pile of shredding to do at the end.
The first day, it only took me 7 hours to process those piles! It wasn’t as bad as I thought! Then, the next day, it took me about 3 hours to go through the stuff in the drawers, get rid of a drawer’s worth and then put the new files into the ONE drawer!!! I thought this job would take me a week, but with the system, I was able to do it in about 10 hours total.

The Kids’ special stuff was organized into their boxes and all of that paper work was narrowed down to just one drawer!

What’s the best part? This system will be so easy to keep up with! As the bills are paid, I just put them in the 1 folder for that month. As the kids bring home “keeper” stuff, I simply put it in the corresponding year of school in that kid’s bin. Easy! As other important folders need to be created or added to, they are all right there in that one drawer! I have scheduled one hour a week to do that week’s paperwork. It is in my calendar. I know I can handle that!
Yippee!
Contact krystal@simplelifecelebrations.com for an interview. She can help you get control of the clutter too!
For more information about Simple Life Celebrations, check out our website: www.simplelifecelebrations.com

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We “celebrated” Earth Hour last night. At 8:30, my husband went downstairs and shut off the main breaker to the house.

We had prepared for the moment:

  • The flashlight was dug out of the camping gear (Note to Self: have flashlight more accessible in case of blackout!)
  • We had candles all over – mostly little tealights (Another Note to Self: Need candles for emergency lighting!)
  • Coffee and Bailey’s was prepared – mmmmmm  🙂
  • Hot chocolate was prepared
  • Backyard fire pit was burning and natural gas heater was on
  • Dug out book of stories and my reading light
  • Coats and shoes were on so we could sit outside comfortably

We were all very excited. The kids understood what we were doing this for. I had told them about what other countries were doing all over the world. Lucas suggested we make this a tradition every year; or even every month! He wished that his big brother wasn’t “missing out on all the fun”. Rebecca wants to start a campaign in town so that more people know about it for next year. She was concerned that not many around us had their lights out.

I think they were excited because it meant that we were spending some quality time together. Rebecca was so excited that she’d told her friends about it, so we ended up having a couple extra kids around. I would have liked to have just the four of us, but I couldn’t blame her for her enthusiasm!

I read Alberta Ghost Stories for awhile. The girls chatted excitedly about the scariness or lack of scariness of each story. Lucas was quiet, not surprisingly (thus my desire for having just the four of us!) as he listened too. It was a beautiful spring evening, and with the heater and the fire, none of us got cold.

The kids kept running into the house for various reasons. I think it was just because they thought it was so cool having no light except candle light! Just the excitement of doing something different on a Saturday night!

Our friends stopped by on their way home to enjoy the fire for a couple minutes. I always love how chatty kids get when it’s late and you’re all sitting around the fire! Krystal’s youngest talked my ear off; it was great! Again, they loved the fact that they were getting undivided attention. No TV, no computer, not even any lights!

The hour was long passed by the time Bruce went in and turned everything on again. We washed the dishes and smiled at each other, knowing that we’d done a good thing for the Earth and for our family.

…Then we had to listen to three, excited girls NOT go to sleep! Sigh……. 🙂

Check out Earth Hour here:

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March’s Happiness Project theme is having a tidier house. Those of you that have been here, know. ‘Nuff said!

I’ve also been feeling a lot of guilt over the past couple weeks. I’ve tried to talk myself out of it, tried to read myself out of it and listened to the advice of others to get me out of it.

This made me think today about GUILT. This made me think about my Happiness Project theme. Why did I choose this theme? How is it related to my feelings of guilt?

I have found such happiness so far here in my Happiness Project. I absolutely love the feeling I get when I workout. I especially love to ride my bike. I love the energy I now have because I’m in better shape. It has made me so happy to be taking care of myself. I am having FUN with my friends as we encourage each other and support each other in our fitness. I am happier because I have openly shown my love for those around me. I have brought them joy and found such love all around me. I have realized just how blessed I am.

So, this month, this “house” thing. Why?

I don’t think I’m doing this for the right reason! I am doing this because I feel guilty!

The guilt I’ve been having is that I’ve been feeling guilty about finding this happiness. Yes, that’s right – feeling guilty about being happy. Why?

  1. I feel guilty about the amount of time I’ve spent exercising. How I will choose going for a bike ride over vacuuming the house ANY day.
  2. I feel guilty about missing my kids’ bedtimes sometimes because I am at a workout. Their dad is there, but I am not.
  3. I feel guilty about making my kids eat healthier food that they don’t like. That’s ridiculous, I know!
  4. I feel guilty about the hours I am spending creating our new business – I am obsessed with the happiness I find there.
  5. I feel guilty that I’m no longer passionate about my day job, that I’m just putting in time until I can escape to do what I truly love – our business and writing. I have never been like that before.
  6. I feel guilty that I do not allow myself to be surrounded by negative, hurtful people. That I avoid them like the plague. I’m supposed to try to make everyone like me, aren’t I?
  7. I feel guilty that I am happy and others are not. Why should I be so lucky?
  8. I feel guilty that because I’m focusing on things that make ME happy, I’m neglecting making others happy. I feel like I’m neglecting them, even though they insist I am not.
  9. I feel guilty that I am not the perfect homemaker. That I don’t keep the perfect house that my mom and sisters and friends do. I am not good at it, and I want to be good at everything.

There you have it, in that last one. I want to keep a tidier house because if my house is tidier, it will show that I’m not selfish, that I’m making others happy, that I’m not neglecting anyone, that I will be closer to the picture of perfection.

Is that going to make me happy?

If the meaning of happiness is not feeling guilty, maybe.

But if in doing that, I am resentful; then I certainly can’t be happy and resentful at the same time.

And that is where the House of Cards falls down. The truth behind this month’s theme. I am not really believing in it because it is not really me. It is my guilt that is making me do it, nothing more.

I don’t really put a high happiness value on having a perfect house. Yes, I like to be able to find things. Yes, it does make me feel less guilty. But at what cost? My Happiness? My true Happiness that I’m finding?

So, let’s rethink this theme then shall we?

Maybe it should be less about a tidy house and more about finding Peace.

How can having a tidier house contribute to finding Peace?

  1. Being able to find things – a lot less stress for everyone
  2. Being able to have someone over without being embarrassed – well, seeing friends means a lot to me
  3. Having a peaceful, tidy, comfy home just feels good – it’s warm and inviting to curl up with a book
  4. Being less overwhelmed – having the huge mess seems so hard to face every day
  5. Having a clean kitchen – that I actually do really love. It just makes my day to come out in the morning and be able to make my coffee without having to fight with dirty dishes in the sink
  6. Taking care of my family and teaching them the importance of working together toward a common goal – now that is worthwhile!

So, perhaps now that the House of Cards has fallen and I’ve looked at the truth; now I can really focus on this. I can be passionate about this theme  instead of being only half “in it”.

I have realized that it is not selfish of me to want to be happy. In fact, I truly believe that my increased happiness has affected those around me in a good way, not a bad way. I have not neglected anyone. They are happier because I am happy. They are inspired by my quest and I in turn am more inspired as well. I have realized that I cannot take care of anyone without taking care of myself. There is no harm in that.

I will shuffle those cards and build again.

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OK, well yesterday, my Happiness Project plan for starting on keeping a better house…well….didn’t happen. Well, I actually got groceries for the family, but I didn’t have a plan when I went there (not the best idea, and I was hungry), and I did dishes. That’s about it!

So…started over today! Try again, every day, right!?

My FlyLady list for the morning:

  1. Make Bed
  2. Swish & Swipe
  3. What’s for Dinner
  4. Morning Hot Spot
  5. Reboot Laundry

This went relatively well.

1. I usually do make my bed now – it became a habit when I started following the FlyLady about 1 1/2 years ago. It’s just nicer to climb into a made bed and my REALLY messy room doesn’t look AS MESSY? At least I’ll keep telling myself that!

2. Swish & Swipe – basically, FlyLady advises to give the bathroom a quick clean every day. Well, I don’t do it every day, but at least 2 to 3 days of the week. This is actually a really good idea. Quickly swishing the toilet bowl and swiping the seat keeps it from getting really disgusting (I have boys, so my poor daughter appreciates this!) And the quick swipe of the bathroom counter & taps (NO! Not in that ORDER!!!) keeps the toothpaste “spray” to a minimum! (I swear, that child deliberately sees how much area he can cover!)

3. What’s for Dinner – I have been REALLY bad at this one until today. I was OK for awhile, and it was so convenient! I absolutely HATE figuring out what to eat, because my kids whine for whatever I make unless it’s Kraft dinner and hotdogs! Sheesh! Seriously, they have no taste at all! Anyway, what I need to do is plan the week’s meals, then this is really easy (and ignore the whiner babies!) Today, I pulled out one of my freezer meals (that they will HATE, but I really don’t care!) so it will be a quick time getting that ready when I get home. More on Freezer meals on our web site: Simple Life Celebrations (it’s not there yet, but it will be!)

4. Morning Hot Spot – this idea is to tidy up that “hot spot” that always seems to be a mess. For me, in the morning, it’s the kitchen counter after everyone’s eaten and the latte’s have been made (my ONE vice! OK, maybe ONE of SEVERAL! ssshhhh!) I spent a few minutes (maybe like 15) putting dishes in the dishwasher and washing, drying and putting away others. This is very cool, because then I won’t have that $#%* mess to deal with while I’m trying to make supper. Very handy!

5. Reboot Laundry – I actually did this first, got the last load dried, folded and put away – YAY! More dirty clothes today, but that’s another story for later!

So, how did I accomplish all this before I went to work? I got up at 5:30!!!! Not cool, in my book! AAAAAHHHH! I am soooooo not a morning person!

However, saying that, I don’t really need to get up at that time. It just means that I need to get this stuff done first before I go on the computer to check my email and tweets! That is the real issue. PLUS, something else I’m going to work on this month – do more the NIGHT BEFORE so that I don’t have a million other things to do in the morning besides these 5!

And so begins the March Happiness Project theme – keeping a better house – does it make me happier?? We will see!

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