I Did Not Know That! Genius Parenting Tips & Tricks

So, in the Good Old Days, everyone had a cool Nana that lived with them and basically told everyone what to do.

So Parenting Tips & Tricks weren’t really needed.  Nana knew all this stuff.

Then, we all decided to start moving around and multi-generational families weren’t so common.  And all of a sudden, it’s 2am and the kid is screaming his lungs out and there’s no one to tell you what to do!


Thus, behold the Awesome.

Genius Parenting Tips & Tricks:


1. Use a little glue glitter to make “Tooth Fairy Money.” (Editor’s note: a FIVER?  Hah!  My kids are lucky they graduated to a buck a molar.)




2. Wiggly kids that have a hard time sitting still long enough to study? Invest in a stability ball.  Long-term studies are showing increased concentration for longer periods of time–and an improved core! Find some good selections here.


3. Make your expensive iPad safe with “Kid Mode.” This feature locks the application and disables any hardware controls that could lead your toddler on a wayward path. Learn how to turn it on here.


4.  Use a shoe caddy as “kid central” for long drives.  Rather than paying $150.00 for a fancy car organizer (I’m not kidding.  $150 bucks!) I bought a hanging shoe caddy for $10.99.  Neatly stores everything and keeps it within reach of grubby little paws.


5. Temporary tattoos that help locate your little person. These are by a company called SafetyTat.  So brilliant that I can’t even stand it.


(Cover image credit: Sarah via Flickr)

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5 Tricks To Make Your Produce Taste Better & Last Longer

5 Tricks To Make Your Produce Taste Better & Last Longer. Well, no wonder produce is so blasted expensive!  Simply between getting it out of the store or from the Farmer’s Market and into my fridge has been enough to make some of these nervous nellies expire right in the grocery bag.  Spend the extra $ for organic, and you can see the mold creep on to that peach as you enter the checkout line.

However, a chat with your produce fella at the store can yield some valuable advice about how to make these most delicate of flowers continue to bloom at home in your crisper.  They just need a little help.


5 Tricks To Make Your Produce Taste Better & Last Longer

1. Your Lemons & Limes Can Be A Home Decor Item Or Food. Not both? Here’s why. Yes, your citrus does stay juicy and nice sitting on the counter and looking pretty in a bowl–for about a week at the most. However, everything from oranges to grapefruit will stay juicy and tasty longer in the fridge–usually two weeks–longer than sitting out. However, if you take out your lemons a few minutes before using them to let them warm up to room temperature, they’ll be delightfully juicy.



2. Grapes Are Sneaky. We have to do a little reading to see how fresh they actually are.  First, checking to see if the grapes are wrinkled where they meet the stem is task #1. But read the label: grapes from Chile could be months old by the time they reach the grocer– no matter how well the growers try to store them. Grapes from Mexico tend to be from field to store within a week. Store the grapes in their little perforated plastic bag in your fridge the keep them fresh for 2 weeks.


3.  Asparagus Need Water. Notice how they’re usually sitting up with their stems in a bit of water at the store?  Asparagus is actually part of the Lily family: they need water to stay crisp.  Store them upright in the fridge with the stems in a half inch of water.  Sneaky inside tip: those little green guys went limp? Roll them up in a wet paper towel for an hour and they’ll get nice and crisp again.


4. Eat Your Strawberries Warm, Not Chilled. Strawberries are at their most heavenly when pulled off the stem and popped into your mouth, right?  Sun-warmed, sweet.  Eating strawberries directly from the fridge hugely dulls their flavor. Sneaky inside tip: if you quicky simmer (like, 1 minute!) the berries in very hot water, then let them air dry on a paper towel before putting them in the fridge, you’ll extend their life by stopping mold growth.


Correct Tomato Placement. Fussy, eh?  Here’s the deal: if you’re putting them on a sunny windowsill to ripen, store them stem-side up.  This way, the fragile top of the tomato doesn’t “get gooshy,” as my Zoe says.  However, if the stem is already pulled off, store them stem-side down so that air doesn’t enter and moisture doesn’t escape from the opening where the stem used to be.


(All images courtesy of Pixabay)

Hot Weather Helpers – The Best Body Care Products For 100 Degrees

Hot Weather Helpers – The Best Body Care Products For 100 Degrees

“Lady Anti-Monkey Butt?” My best girlie Caryn stared at me like I’d just slapped a dirty diaper in her outstretched palm.

“Trust me,” I promised, “you’ll thank me for this.” I know there are blissful little spots where summer temperatures never move above 70 degrees and cool winds blow gently through the trees.

We don’t live in one of those places. Summer in Utah is a blast-furnace of merciless heat and even the tired old, “Yeah, but it’s a dry heat!” means absolutely squat. I’ve been putting together hot weather survival care packages for visitors for years to our life-sucking Dust Bowl Of Death. I feel like a terrible hostess when the only place they can be comfortable is lying directly over our air conditioner vent.

Here are my top ten must-haves…


Hot Weather Helpers – The Best Body Care Products For 100 Degrees




Lady Anti Monkey Butt – My girlie Jen gave this to me on our last sojourn into the Salt Flats (a super intense spot in the desert here in Utah where the evaporated salt shimmers and glows) to avoid the inevitable… rash. It smells lovely and does the trick without getting all weird and gooey. $5.69


The Coldest Water – Right around now my running habits migrate into the evening hours when it cools down. Then, night. Which unfortunately is right around the time the rattlesnakes around our home in the foothills like to stretch out on the street. Umm.. back to the day-time hours, then! The Coldest Water band saved my life- throw it in the freezer, then wrap it around your neck or the small of your back. The velcro straps keep that sucker tight and against your sweaty skin. $20


WOW Dream Coat Supernatural Spray – This delightful little bottle tames my hair from the freakish spiral of fuzz that 100+ degree days seem to inspire, to a well-groomed ponytail. It’s refreshing to not look like there’s a pyracantha bush living on my scalp. It smells lovely, and when faced with a blowtorch of a day, will not melt down your neck. $28.00

IHHAPY Handheld Mini Fan- This adorable little fella charges off a USB port, and gives you between five and six hours of blissful chill. We tried this out during an outdoor concert on the Fourth of July- I looked behind us at the end of the fireworks and there were 11 people clustered behind us, trying to get in on the breezy action. $19.99 – There’s a 20% off coupon here.



Snake Brand Prickly Heat Powder– I did not know “prickly heat” was actually a thing until my first summer in Southeast Virginia. I looked like I’d come down with some appallingly invasive rash and I itched compulsively. Even my boyfriend wouldn’t sit next to me. The moment the powder slid over my skin was sweet, sweet relief. If I had to pick water or prickly heat powder for my survival kit… well, I’d be stealing your water. But I’d be rash-free while I did it. $98 for a package of 10.


UCOOL Body Cooling Band So the Todd – who loves gadgets – presented this to me with great ceremony, insisting on reading the entire booklet. “As your body heats up,” he instructed me, “a special heat wicking fabric inside 31 superconductive fins draws heat away from the body, replacing it with refreshing coolness.” Superconductive fins? Sign me up! As it happens, this thing works great and I slap it on our son Zachary when we go hiking because the kid insists on running up the steepest grade we can find, no matter what the temperature is. It’s nice having a child who doesn’t resemble an overcooked lobster. $24.99


“Arf” Cooling Mat – While we’re on the subject of children and pets, forgetting your furry little buddy at home is a terrible idea. The “Arf” Cooling Mat is an easy-peasy way to keep your pets comfortable, especially if you’ve got a long day and they’re languishing on the porch. The pad actually self-charges, so it’s zero-maintenance. And you’re the best pet owner on the planet. $69.99


Toes Home Outdoor Magic Buffs – I got my first buff as a gift at Burning Man, where it became my best friend during 50 mph dust storms, keeping my waist-length hair and associated irritating flyaway bits out of my mouth. I barely took it off long enough to wash it. These lovely little things are stretchy, dry instantly and make you look polished… put-together… like a Woman Of Adventure. $9.90 for a six-pack.


 The Wind & Weather Soothing Herbal Aromatherapy Neck and Back Wrap – This sucker rules for so many reasons- it cools down even the most overheated body, comforts you with a gentle weight on your shoulders and even offers several different scents to chill you out mentally, too. Throw it in the freezer and you’re set. I was surprised at how well this worked for pain relief- The Todd gets debilitating headaches during hot weather and he gave this two blissed-out thumbs-up. $37.99


EnduroPacks All-Natural Liquid Electrolytes – This handy spray bottle squirts a tasty mixture of electrolytes into your water, it’s sugar, gluten, and calorie-free with no artificial ingredients. It takes getting sunstroke just once (cough- me!) or several times (points at the Todd) to know that the fastest recovery is the best one. Or, if you’re not dimwitted like we are, maybe keeping hydrated with something tasty like this and never ending up with sunstroke. We exist to be your walking, talking cautionary tale. $17.50





The 5 Best Gifts In A Jar



The 5 Best Gifts In A Jar

So, it turns out all those mason jars I bought for handy crafting (go ahead and laugh, I’m waiting for it) will come in handy after all!!

There’s so many “first responders” that I want to thank- not only medical workers (we’ve had a stream of them staying in our guest suite because we’re so close to three of our local hospitals) but firefighters, paramedics who stopped by my elderly neighbor’s home twice “just to check in.” And more – like the grocery clerks at our local store who’ve been working 14 hours a day to stock the shelves and check out a countless stream of customers. Finding gifts for these lovely people was a little problematic, until I remembered that there was a safe way to show our appreciation and maybe offer them some comfort.

Editor’s note: anything food-related here was made according to the Utah Department of Health food service worker’s sanitary guidelines, you can find those here. Clearly, practicing safe food preparation is crucial.


The Five Best Gifts In A Jar

(image credit: Vairane)


1.  Salted Caramel Sauce with Fresh Apples in a Jar: Especially perfect as we’re heading into fall and teacher gifts become important. (Editor’s note: especially in this house. I do a lot of sucking up to a good teacher. A lot.) There’s a good salted caramel sauce recipe by clicking here. 


(image credit: Personal Creations)

2.  Pies in a Jar: There’s a heart-stoppingly good recipe for Pumpkin Pie in a Jar by clicking here, but any recipe looks adorable.


(image credit: Nicole Vaughan)

3.  Sewing Kit in a Jar: Especially helpful as a dorm or new apartment gift, since every Millennial I know is genuinely perplexed by the concept of sewing up hems or replacing missing buttons. Crap. I just sounded like my grandmother there, didn’t I?



4.  Memories in a Jar: I make these with the kids every summer – we collect sand, shells and such from the beaches we visit and include some sepia-toned photos. During the winter, they love to unscrew the lid and “take a sniff of summer.”


(image credit: soulinasuit)

5. Salad in a Jar: You really can’t go wrong here and there’s a wild array of tasty combinations. Fine 30 different salads in a jar here.


Cover image credit: Nina Nelson

Homeschooling During the Coronavirus Confinement? Five Sanity-Saving Resources

Homeschooling during the Coronavirus confinement? Five sanity-saving resources.

The true horror of my daughter’s situation just hit her today when I came home with her packet from school.

“What is that?”

“This is your school coursework while we’re homeschooling during the quarantine.”

“What?” Zoe’s voice rose to a pitch that could shatter glass.

“This isn’t a vacation, honey, this is a quarantine.”

Then, there was wailing and a lot of “It’s not faaaaair,” and “this is terrrribbllleeee…” Zoe likes to draw her infuriated monologue out for extra drama.

But her flailing and grief did prove a point. There has to be more than just keeping up on homework during this bout of staying at home together, or we’ll all lose our collective minds. So here’s some free resources that might be just the thing that makes the difference between happiness and insanity. We’re in this together, honey.


Five sanity-saving resources for homeschooling kids.

Epic video explorations.

The Shedd Aquarium sent out their penguins to take a tour of the aquarium when the Chicago legend had to close. Every day since, there’s been video updates of their adventures around the aquarium. Go on a virtual field trip with incredible video adventures set up by age or grade. The Metropolitan Opera is streaming performances for free – a wonderful chance to expose your kids without buying a pricey ticket. Twelve of the world’s most famous museums – like the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam – are offering virtual tours of their treasures, find a complete list here.


Get moving!

GoNoodle.com has free dance and exercise videos that are vastly entertaining, even to a bitter, jaded mother like myself. (Cat Party is a personal favorite.) FluencyandFitness.com diabolically gets your offspring to learn while they’re moving, and they’re offering 3 free weeks for parents. Two birds = one stone. Then there’s the Fitness Blender Kids Workout – 25 Minute Fun Workout for Kids at Home.

This is old-school, but I simply drag my complaining offspring out the door and on to a nature walk, where they have a list of items to find (ie: pine cones, a bird’s feather, etc.) before we can come home. Hmmm… That sounds vaguely punitive, but I swear we always have fun.


Keep Learning.

I’m stunned by how quickly our school district put together a rather detailed and info-rich homeschool packages for my kids. It was like the scene from Apollo 13 where they threw everything out on the table and tried to figure out what would work. If you haven’t been as lucky, there’s so many free, excellent sites to help you. Scholastic hastily created an excellent website – Scholastic Learn at Home with educational plans by grade. Bamboolearning.com is another spectacular option and offering many free courses to support parents during the confinement period. HippoCampus has over 3,000 free videos for 13 different subjects. Beanstalk.co is also free during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Become an artist with Draw with Mo Willems.

Ten art history classes you can take online for free from Art.sy.

Iron Chef Michael Symon is hosting free daily cooking videos on Facebook.


Non-screen activities.

  1. Write a thank-you letter to a local hero.
  2. Create a secret code. Write it in disappearing ink for extra difficulty. (DIY disappearing ink instructions.)
  3. Hold a photo session. Use your iPad, mom’s phone … play with the images and add extras and special effects with a free photo service like PicMonkey.
  4. Write a play, assign roles to family members, pets, etc.
  5. Recycle Art: gather stuff from the recycling bin and from around the house to create new art.
  6. Send a homemade postcard to your teachers. Tell them what you appreciate about them and how they’ve changed your life.
  7. Invent a new board game! Use a local location or activity and build around it, creating an adventure. You can make your own rules and mom and dad have to follow them. Oh, the power.
  8. Make a kitchen table fort or “under-hammock.” (See photo above.)
  9. Make homemade ice cream in a bag.
  10. Ready for a bigger challenge? Since eggs, butter and milk are increasingly short supply, what recipes can you make without them? There’s Vanilla Crazy Cake, or the English Water Cake, made during WWII when these items were extremely rare.

Reach out.

Sewing face masks! Hospitals and clinics are desperate for face masks and many are requesting the public’s health. Here’s some info from an Indiana hospital chain:  “This does follow CDC protocols that you can find on their website that if all other supplies are not available, that handmade masks that meet certain criteria are acceptable,” Deaconess spokeswoman Becca Scott said. The release with the video, pattern and instructions was posted to the Deaconess Facebook page Thursday morning and is available at www.deaconess.com/masks. A PDF of the pattern is available here. Editor’s note: I’ve called three of our local hospitals to see exactly what they need and what they can accept. I would suggest doing the same before launching your sewing project.

Support your local food bank and outreach meal projects. Feeding America has a very long list of local food banks and outreach projects who would love your donations and also your volunteer time. The demand is nearly triple on most sites and volunteer assistance is dwindling. There’s a list of more emergency food programs here.

Become your neighborhood “community captain.” I’ve noticed tons of offers of help on our local neighborhood website, but not many takers. Most folks who need the help may be shy to reach out or unwilling to post in such a public way. If you have a nextdoor.com page for your local area, there’s a “help map” with locations and contacts for people who can help, and the people who need it.


And this is so important…

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with homeschooling, keeping calm about the pandemic, worried about elderly relatives and fears about losing your job, you’re not alone. If you’re having trouble homeschooling (I’m raising my hand, here) the New York Times has an excellent article with tons of great ideas.

If your little ones are having a hard time expressing themselves, here’s a helpful list of questions to ask them from PBS Kids, hopefully getting that conversation going. And of course, the great, great granddaddy of Awesome, Sesame Street, has a wonderful list of resources, too.

Maybe you’re the one who’s struggling. No surprise there, it’s hard to be the one who’s strong for everyone else. the CDC created a wonderful page that goes into how to cope with your fears and anxieties right now. If you feel like you need to talk to someone but don’t feel like you have anyone to call, please, please call one of these numbers as soon as you can. Don’t be afraid to reach out, you’d be there if someone needed you, right? Let someone be there for you. We’re all in this together.


5 Streaming Experiences That Make Quarantine Fun (Almost)

5 Streaming Experiences That Make Quarantine Fun (Almost). Yeah, I know we’re all going nuts.

Our family was quarantined early with Todd and our son getting sick right away … so we’ve had 26 days to get used to rattling around the house together. I’m not proud of it, but there’s times I’ve hidden on our back deck just to take a breath of air someone hasn’t already breathed in and out already. And the silence, the blessed silence.

But there’s never been such a wealth of online experiences that inspire, amaze and move us. Here’s my latest five that’ll guarantee to make our black, bitter hearts swell like the Grinch’s.

Don’t forget our epic resources for homeschooling – everything from exercise to educational sites to non-screen activities here.


5 Streaming Experiences That Make Quarantine Fun (Almost).

  1. Animal cams: The Georgia Aquarium has live video streams covering the antics of their most adorable residents, like the African penguins, beluga whalessea otters, and barrier reef-dwellers. The Jelly Cam at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is oddly mesmerizing. If you haven’t seen the Giant Panda Cam at the Smithsonian National Zoo, prepare to have your children taking over your laptop.
  2. Vakis Demetriou posts videos from his daily dog walk … but he’s not leaving the house in Greece, so his drone takes the leash and walks (apparently) the best dog in the world. It’s freaking adorable. For the hardcore dog fan, have a look at the Old Friends Senior Dog’s Home – they have a live stream for their elderly pups.
  3. Go to the theatre without having to dress up. Several theatres on Broadway are releasing streaming videos of some of their most popular stage performances. Patrick Stewart is reading his favorite sonnets by Shakespeare on his Twitter feed.
  4. A night at the opera. The Metropolitan Opera features “Nightly Met Opera Streams,” and there’s over a dozen other respected opera companies releasing performances as well as some of the most popular classical music performances from symphonies and orchestras all over the world.
  5. Google Earth is … wow. Zoe and I have been taking virtual tours all over the world every night before bed. There’s a quiz for the most popular natural formations on the planet, adventures in globe-trotting with Carmen Sandiego, an awe-inspiring underwater tour of the Mariana Trench. Plus, we’ve been spending a lot of time exploring all the bird species on the Galapagos Island. Where else can you find a Blue-Footed Boobie?


Don’t forget the wealth of free streaming experiences from museums all over the world.

Share! What streaming experience have you found online that’s bringing you joy?

(Image credits: Pexels.com)

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Have you been thinking about making a homemade hand sanitizer? With hand sanitizer gel currently sold out everywhere, there is a homemade option I got from a friend of mine who’s a doctor with UNICEF – they use this formula out in the field where there’s no Walmart just around the corner. But she emphasizes, “Wash your hands!! It’s just as important if not more so.” The full 20 seconds is important, singing “Happy Birthday” twice is about right.




Another important element is the aloe vera gel – alcohol alone is too harsh. Broken skin – even irritated, sore skin – is a more likely field for microbes to grow and flourish.

Are you looking for some sensible health advice regarding your coronavirus concerns? Try the Harvard University Health Review or The Washington Post. It’s easy to freak out – I don’t want to brag, but that is my specialty – but there’s plenty of excellent, professional information available. Are you looking for some good reasons to not panic? Allow me to introduce “Coronavirus: Ten reasons why you ought not to panic.”




Stocking An All-Natural Medicine Cabinet

Stocking An All-Natural Medicine Cabinet. I knew I had to get rid of all my sugar-drenched kid’s meds when my 8-year-old Zoe announced three days in a row that “Ow!  Mommy, I have a headache.  I need medicine.

And she was looking lovingly at the bottle of bubblegum-pink sludge ibuprofen.

I know that taking medicine to feel better shouldn’t be a punishment, but there are so many safe, natural elements that have been used for centuries.  They’re not drenched with sugar, and you don’t read those dispiriting reports that you’ve been dosing your kiddos with meds from a factory that was shut down for gross negligence.  (Editor’s note: yeah, I’m talking to YOU, Tylenol…Motrin…Benadryl…Zyrtec!)

Important Note: if you’re new to natural meds – even if you’re not – be sure to check with your pediatrician or qualified nutritionist to make sure you’re administering the proper dose for children.  You can check the FDA website here for the best-quality sources for your meds.

Looking for gentle ways to care for yourself during stressful times? We have some ideas here.


Stocking An All-Natural Medicine Cabinet

Vitamins and Other Supplements

  • Cod liver oil: Usually a supplement for us, but I “prescribe” extra during illness because Vitamin D is so good for the immune system.
  • Vitamin C (with zinc and echinacea)
  • Vitamin B: This has proven to be very important for my husband, and I take it occasionally when I’m really dragging and want to ensure that my B vitamins aren’t too low.
  • Calcium/Magnesium tablets: These are great for headaches, for relaxation when having a hard time sleeping, and especially for muscle cramping. I’ve been taking mineral supplements and cal/mag specifically this pregnancy and it’s the first time I’ve never had a single leg cramp.
  • Probiotics: To boost immunity, good for tummy troubles.


  • Oil of Oregano: It really shores up the immune system and helps to fight off viruses quickly. We take it at the first sign of sickness.
  • Mullein: This herb is very soothing for the throat and for coughs. I use it in boiling water to create a mullein steam. We put a towel over our heads and breathe in the steam for several minutes at a time to help with really stubborn coughs.
  • Garlic: I’ve written an entire post about using garlic. It’s worth a read.
  • Ginger: Same as garlic. See the post!
  • Chamomile: I make this wonderful tea for my 8-year-old Zoe. It’s great for upset stomachs or if she’s having a hard time calming down or going to sleep.
  • Peppermint: This is also very soothing on an upset digestive system. Teas are wonderful to sip on.
  • Astragalus: Taking this in capsule form to boost your immune system when you’re fighting something.


Essential Oils

I have plenty of oils that I keep to use in cleaning supplies, homemade beauty, and skin care, and anywhere that I want something that smells beautiful. I also have a section that are most commonly used for medicinal purposes:

  • Peppermint: I put a couple of drops in water to help with nausea and indigestion. It can also be used straight on the skin (with caution- it is a strong oil) as a muscle rub. A friend rubs it on her neck to help relieve her tension headaches and she swears by it.
  • Eucalyptus: I make a very simple chest rub with this, for coughs and congestion.
  • Tea Tree: For infections.
  • Rosemary: My midwife turned me on to this for rubbing on my temples (a few drops in a carrier oil, like olive or almond oil) for headaches. It’s pregnancy and nursing safe.
  • Lavender: Anti-bacterial and soothing as well. I often add a few drops to baths.


30 Days of Our Cash-Only Crusade and How We Saved Over $900

I like cash. Who doesn’t like cash? The soothing little ‘whrrrring’ sound it makes when you count it. The feel of the crisp bills in your hand. But actually shopping in the real world with cash is a pain. However, when I pulled up our bank statement and found out we were $900 over budget for the month, I realized I’d turned into a soulless, plastic-carrying zombie that just blindly swiped when the nice machine told me to. Yeah, even with our super-strict budget, I have no idea where that extra money went. We launched a cash-only crusade for 30 days to see if we could stop the budget leak.


Day One:

We took out the entire month’s budget in cash and split it between us. “This is it,” I warned Todd. “If we run out of money before the end of January, tough tamales.”

“Yeah, sure,” he scoffed. “You’ll cave by week two. You’ll be begging me for your debit card!”

Here’s where my spouse forgets that I’m motivated almost completely by spite. Oh, I am SO sticking with the plan! Until … I offer the guy at Starbucks a fifty because I forgot to get smaller bills. He reared back from the money like I’d shoved a rabid squirrel in his face. “We can’t take that!” he hissed.

So … no Starbucks then.

Day Two:

Crap. I forgot about our car insurance payment. Since I can’t pay it online with a couple of taps on the keyboard, I’m stuck driving to my agent’s office.

“You’re what?”

“I’ve got cash,” I repeat, “I’m paying with cash.”

John, my agent and a guy I’ve known since high school stared at me. “What’s wrong, honey? Did they cancel your credit cards? I could work out an extension-“

“Dude, no. Cash. Cash-only all month, Todd and I want to see where all our money’s going because our budget is all shot to he-“

“Is this like the time when you went without air-conditioning for the month of July because you were mad at the power company?” This is actually true.

“People used to pay for things in cash, John!” I am insistent. “This way, we’re forced to examine every dollar before we spend it.”

He was kind of a jerk about it, laboriously writing out a receipt for the cash “In longhand, just for you, Erin!” But I left the office feeling virtuous.

Looking for some free outdoor fun with your kiddos? We have oh, so many ideas.


(Screengrab: Paramount Pictures)

Week Two:

It hit me as I was cruising the aisles at the grocery store. I’m surreptitiously adding up everything that was being thrown the cart to make sure I have enough money. I haven’t done this since college! So when our eight year old tried to add a box of Mochi ice cream, I had to take it back out.

It was like I told her the hamster died. Huge brown eyes, simmering with tears. “But- but- but- we always get Mochis!” she wailed. I caved.

Lest you think I’m a total pushover, let me point out that the 2019 report from the National Retail Federation shows that nine out of ten parents admit their kids influence their purchases – especially with food. Generation Z has a death grip on their parent’s wallet. Eighty percent of us involve our children in our purchase decisions, way more than our parents did with us. In fact, I can’t remember my dad ever including my input when he bought something.

I was still adding the cost of everything in the basket while the cashier rang me up.

“So, that’s $128.36.”

I had $115.00. Remember that scene in Terms of Endearment” when Debra Winger had to put back groceries because she didn’t have enough money and the cashier announced over the store speaker that she couldn’t pay for her Motrin? Really? I’m the only one who remembers that movie? Anyway, I gave up the pork chops, my daughter gave up the Mochis, though the ride home was a stew of simmering resentment. For both of us.


(Image credit: Citymama)

Are you trying to save money on your sky-high utilities? We have all the money and energy-saving options we’ve tried out (with varying levels of success.)


Week Three:

“But we always get popcorn at the movies!”

My son is really into ritual and habit, but when I realized that a large tub of popcorn ($9.50) two bottles of water ($9.00) and a Diet Coke ($3.75) would set us back $22.25 in addition to the $32.00 I’d just shelled out for movie tickets, I was all, “Oh, that’s not happening!”

He was all, “But we always get popcorn!”

My dilemma: I didn’t have enough to get the snacks and still pay for parking to get us out of the lot. It’s little, dumb issues like this that make my palms sweat and suddenly all those extra expenses outside of our budget that piled up made more sense. Northwestern Mutual recommends going after the “low-hanging fruit,” that is, examining the expenses that don’t bring you joy. If the popcorn makes my boy happy, I’ll get the popcorn. But nine dollars for two bottles of water? Seriously? I’ve been buying them mindlessly every time we hit the movie theater. We go once a week, so that’s nine dollars times 52 which means I’ve been shelling out four hundred and sixty-two dollars a year on bottled water, just for mindless sipping during a movie. While, I might add, everyone else with two brain cells is sneaking them in.

So, back to that ritual thing: we always meet up with our friends Jenn and Ryan every month for dinner together. It’s our one grownup date and a chance to speak to actual adults.

“How much are we taking for dinner?” I asked Todd, who was trying to find a shirt he didn’t have to iron.

“That depends. Do you want to be able to fill the gas tank, too?”

I blanched, “We’re seriously that low on cash?”

“Yep,” he was grim, showing me his thin envelope. (We’ve been using the envelope system all month, essentially, allocating different envelopes for utility payments, food, etc. There’s also budgeting apps that are designed especially for “in the moment spenders” like us, like Mint or Acorns.)

Counting the money left, I realized that we could not dine out and pay the babysitter – usually around $145 per date night – if we wanted to drive the cars next week and pick up perishables at the grocery store. I’m really not one for self-examination, but I had to think about whether I was worried our best friends would think we were cheap if we didn’t hit the place that was featuring the “Shaved Beet Tower.” Fortunately, Jenn and Ryan were cool with Sally’s Burritos, where there were 25 different kinds of burritos and big, fat margaritas. Date night: $53.74.


Looking for free study apps that’ll make your kid a genius? We’ve tested twenty of them.


Week Four:

Will the drudgery of this month never end? While I’ve been focused on all the little ways we’d been saving through our day to day expenditure drama, I’d underestimated some of the big ones.

“You have to put the $450 down now or you lose the reservation for the cruise!”

Crap. I’d forgotten about the “super cheap” trip we’d planned with my sister, and the down payment had to be paid immediately.

“Uh, Julianna…” We’d planned this, right? It’s okay if I break out the debit card for this? A heavenly four days in the Virgin Islands? Don’t we owe this to the kids? Traveling is so educational! Deep sigh. “We can’t.” Then I said the words that I had to drag kicking and screaming out of my mouth. “We don’t have the money for it.”


Just as I was about to crack, my sister said, “Okay, I understand that. There’s always a cruise line running some killer deal. We’ll find another one.” And just like that, I’d saved $450 that to be honest, we really couldn’t afford. No shaming, except for the bit I was lavishing on myself.

Why are we so embarrassed to admit those four little words? “We can’t afford it.” Who’s really judging us?

So, as the bleak landscape of January dragged to a close, I added up the result of the Collard Cash-only Crusade, as Todd had taken to calling it. We were under budget and saved $916 from the previous month’s expenses. We’d spent $916 in mindless plastic swipes in December, and for what? I’m not sure I could tell you. Will we stubbornly exist on cash-only purchases from now on?

Do I look like a masochist to you? NO.


But I downloaded an app to pair with my (hopefully less) mindless zombie plastic-swiping. And I’m looking at the purchase total before I do.

How about some free and lovely ways to care for yourself during stressful times? We’re here for you.

(Cover image credit: torange.biz)

You Never Knew You Needed a Crystal Wand. Until Now.

You never knew you needed a crystal wand. Until now. But once around the Rocktacular! Crystal and Gem Show and you’re waving one like Harry Potter. Why? Because it’s cool. Because there are nearly 50 locally-owned businesses all there to immerse you in healing and self-care. Empowerment and health. Treats and gifts and goodies and keepsakes. Crystal wands are just the beginning. Blow your consciousness wide open, honey!


It gets better. The show has free admission and it’s at Club 90 in Sandy, in case you want to grab a bite or have a tasty adult beverage. The next Crystal and Gem Show is Saturday, February 15th from 11 am to 5 pm. In the meantime, get to know more about the Living Light School and all the courses designed to educate and empower you – definitely check out the Crystal Healer Certification.


Kicking off the new decade with Laurie and the Living Light School is a perfect way to change a negative dynamic- it’ll give you a chance to speak with like-minded people and learn more about the healing arts. Have a reading with one of the glorious psychics, or get a massage. Do all the self-care stuff you told yourself you were going to do, even though you totally knew you were not going to do it.