2019 Pantry Challenge #1

Welcome, February–I kind of took the month of January off for several reasons. First off I really needed a break from creating content. I refused to just put up blog posts just to put up blog posts. In my mind, I’ve always wanted my blog to remain as good as the really good blogs I follow. I’ve always been like that when it comes to blogging. Admittedly I’m not perfect and I know some of my content could have been better over the last ten years. So my goal for 2019 is to produce stellar content. I’ll be honest that before coming to this decision I thought long and hard during my holiday break about not blogging anymore. I’ve been working hard to promote my business over on IG. But by the end of the year the answer was clear to me–no I did not want to quit blogging. I’m a writer and though not perfect in my sentence structure or grammar, I feel compelled many times a year to write. And so my blog goes on. Some things will change. I may integrate some vlog information and a chance for my readers to see me in action rather than just word. So, I will be sharing a video here and there in my blog posts. I want to engage more with my audience. I have found that making videos can be a great way to accomplish that.

I have many different projects to complete this year. I want my content to be informational on my blog as well as include the lifestyle that goes with it. So I will be focusing more on food, food sourcing, safety, storing, and lifestyle.

Pantry Challenge #1
In January one of the first things I do is take stock of everything. So– an inventory of food on hand, household goods, a new budget created, appointments scheduled, areas decluttered and cleaned and so on. I decided that completing a pantry/freezer challenge was a great thing for my family because it would accomplish several things at once. First, it would help me to put together a menu for the entire month. Because I was taking inventory of food on hand, creating a 31-day menu would be fairly simple. Second, it would allow me not to have to make a big shopping haul this month when I am quite busy with other things (first of the year, tax season, bad weather). Lastly, we could save some money? Possibly $3-400.00 worth of money (win-win) The video below is how I started my pantry challenge and I also have one up about the success of my pantry challenge. With two fill-in shops, I still managed to save $200.00 this month on my grocery budget. I would encourage anyone looking to clean out their freezer, fridge, or pantry to give this a try. I do this four times a year and then take the saved money and buy household items as needed– preferably when they are on sale.

I’ve had a productive start this new year and hope you have had one too. Soon–container garden planning and I’ve got a lot of new ideas for that as well. Until next time—Take Care!

Here’s my pantry challenge YouTube video!


What’s New for 2019!

I started a YouTube channel here

It’s almost time to start thinking about my container garden–this year I’ll be making videos!

Since last fall I’ve lost nearly all of my houseplants due to lack of sun. In our apartment we get most of our sunlight from the west. In winter we get almost no sunlight from the north–and all year round no sun from the south or east. It is extremely hard to grow anything in this apartment. Add into this we’ve had three periods since fall where there was no sunlight at all for nearly two weeks at a time. Everything withered, rotted, and died. Either they ended up being overwatered because they weren’t totally drying out between watering times, or they turned yellow, brown and then died.  I still have my opuntia, and several of my succulents, and thank goodness my sansevieria. I’ve decided that as long as we live here–which I hope isn’t much longer, I will grow succulents and sansevieria only for my indoor plants.

Besides my YouTube channel, nothing will change for my blog posting. I hope to continue to post every week. I created 60 posts in 2018, grew my blog by 51 followers, and my most popular blog posts were about my container garden. Thank you to everyone who follows my blog.   I hope to produce just as good of posts about my gardening and more this coming year. Until then–some of my next posts will be my container garden plans and a post about my current pantry challenge. Have a fabulous 2019 everyone!!

2018–A Year in Review

(All figures approximate)

# of hours I worked–2500 hrs

# of hours my spouse worked–2500 hrs

# of meals I made– 720 meals

# of lunches I packed–500 lunches

# of loads of wash–1440 loads

# of times I vacuumed and dusted–104 times

miles hiked-50 miles

miles biked-80 miles

miles in a car– 20,000 miles

# of books read–55 books

# podcasts listened–100 podcasts

# theater movies watched–24 movies in our local theater 

# new customers I served in my business Living Simply-30 new customers

# hours volunteered–120 hours

# of times I hosted a dinner party/meal/gathering–6 times

Thinking about things like this really puts into perspective how I spend my time and how much of my time I spend doing certain tasks or daily things in my life. In a perfect world I would volunteer more and work less–this I know. Perhaps when I retire that will be an option. This year my husband and I are going to be looking at changing a lot of things we do in our day to day to cut down on how much wash I do, and whether or not I need to cook every day & perhaps try freezing meals ahead? Those are two of several things we are looking at because whether I want to believe it or not I am 1/2 way to 60 years old. I work way, way too hard and sleep or rest way, way too little.  Ideally, I would like to retire from accounting when my business Living Simply is closer to being a full-time business. I would still do some form of accounting and for certain would take care of all business/admin aspects of my business.

I think jotting down information like this is very crucial to good time management–at least it gives you a starting point. The hours don’t have to be exact but should be fairly close to as accurate as possible.

A social media detox is something I am willing to try this year! I don’t have any issues with my phone but I do check IG more than a couple of times a day.


Well, that’s a wrap for 2018–I hope you’ve all had a good year and here’s hoping that 2019 brings you and yours good health and lots of happiness!!

An Old Fashioned Christmas–All the Things!

The first old-fashioned thing we did this year was to attend a Christmas parade in a town about 40 minutes away from us. At the end of the parade, the entire town gathered to watch Santa light up the Christmas tree above the Al Ringling Theatre.

My YouTube channel with Santa lighting the Christmas tree video is here

The second thing we did was gather to watch the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train stop and perform, gather food contributions for the local food pantry, and then go on their way towards their next stop. We try and catch this festive treat every year because we both love trains and we love that they collect food for local food pantries.

My YouTube channel with CP Holiday Train video is here

The third thing we did together was travel to La Crosse WI and see the Rotary Lights–which are an annual thing for us and enjoyed thoroughly!

My YouTube channel with the Rotary Lights video is here

The fourth thing I did was by special request by a local library and that was to read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to a group of children one afternoon shortly before Christmas.

And finally, the fifth thing we did was to buy tickets to see an afternoon viewing of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Al Ringling Theatre in Baraboo WI.

We work extremely hard all year long to get work, projects, shopping, and plans set in stone as much as possible so that we have the whole month of December to volunteer during our free time and enjoy Christmas. There’s no last minute shopping or wrapping or unexpected this and that. Baking is done at a leisurely pace and any dish I need to make for a work potluck or get together is handled quickly. This has worked out really well for us for a number of years and has helped us to enjoy Christmas without stress and live each day throughout the holiday season with much more intention.

Next up>>That’s a wrap–A Look Back at 2018.

Change is a good thing-twenty-five things in twenty-five years!

Random post here that I felt the need to document for safekeeping for the days I’m not feeling positive about change.

  • I’ve quit every single thing I’ve ever been addicted to in the last twenty-five years.
  • I got married almost 25 years ago and I’m still married.
  • I learned how to say I’m sorry and mean it.
  • I discovered, for the most part, my purpose in life.
  • I found my best friend.
  • I grew up.
  • I became ultra-responsible.
  • I learned humility.
  • I also learned I don’t know everything.
  • I admitted to myself and others that I’ve made some really bad choices, decisions, and mistakes.
  • I haven’t had a traffic ticket in 31 years and knock on wood. I’ve never been in an accident where I was driving, but when I was a teenager I was in a couple of car accidents (minor) while someone else was driving.
  • I’m a foodie. I went from being someone that was not that into food, except as a means of survival, to someone who LOVES food and spends an awful lot of time writing about it.
  • I’m a business owner.
  • I finally went to college (eight years– three degrees)
  • I advise people on their taxes, estate planning, finances and work as a CPA.
  • I speak two languages and I’m working on a third.
  • 75% of what I watch is international television and film with subtitles.
  •  I’ve had a savings account for fifteen years that I actually deposit money into.
  • I’ve managed to not have to take any prescription medication of any kind and I’m almost 55.
  • I’ve discovered that I’ve spent my entire life in a reactive state vs. responsive state (I’m working on it).
  • I laugh a lot.
  • I take care of myself–the biggest change>> I eat 3 healthy meals a day.
  • I spend less time being angry.
  • I’m not scared of confrontation.
  • Quitting isn’t an option.

This list may seem quite random/all over the place concerning things I’ve accomplished or overcome or even skills that I have developed. And for the most part that is true–though the list doesn’t quite tell the whole story. You see twenty-seven/ twenty- eight years ago I was homeless, working as a CNA, in a relationship with an abusive drug addict, and really so close at any given time to become another statistic. I had an eating disorder brought on by years of not eating properly, I was constantly injured at my job and on pain medications, and I survived on 40 oz bottles of beer, cigarettes, and mountain dew. I owned nothing. A few years before that I was in another really bad relationship and was being emotionally and sexually abused regularly. I didn’t own anything then either not even a decent car (even though I had 3 jobs). Mainly because I was helping the person I was with to pay his bills. I also had a spending problem–buying things I didn’t need and lending money to “friends” all the time. I was angry all the time and had been since I was a teenager. I was immature even though I often did very mature things in my life. I was irresponsible even though I took some of my responsibilities seriously. I quit a lot of jobs–and in some cases never even collected my last check because I was scared of confrontations. I refused to go to college, instead opting to get into healthcare. I loved working in healthcare but I never made more than $6.00 an hour until I worked in healthcare management. I suffered six serious back/neck injuries from working in nursing homes that were short-staffed.  I refused to commit in either of my relationships and I am so happy about that. I never believed I would ever get married and didn’t until I was 30 years old. I lived like a rock star for twelve years straight. I suffered from severe depression from the time I was 13/14 until my mid-thirties. Learning a new language seemed impossible to me and subtitles really annoyed me twenty years ago. I was once a very reckless person and was often given “passes” when caught driving recklessly or acting irresponsibly, even driving under the influence when I was in my twenties. Not proud of this at all. Twenty-eight years ago I was arrested for writing 3 bad checks for groceries and to help pay my rent. I spent thirty days in jail and I was on probation for two years. Almost ten years ago now I stood in front of a Governor’s board and asked to be pardoned for that crime. If you’ve never had to look into the pardoning process I will sum it up in two words—really hard. I wrote several essays and was able to prove to the Governor’s board I hadn’t had so much as a traffic ticket for over twenty years. I was granted a pardon after I stood up in front of a whole room of people and made my case. I learned true humility and I grew exponentially from that experience ( from arrest-pardon).

So, in closing. Change is good. No matter how much we fear it. Some of the things I changed about myself were really really hard and at times seemed impossible. Some of the things that changed over the years saved me. There are other things that have changed in the last twenty-five years that are not so profound and not entirely positive. But, the good definitely outweighs the bad and that is where I am at today.

Many blessings to all making changes.

FODMAP–What is it ?

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP is an acronym for–“Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols”

“And what that means is when you eat something that is a short-chain carbohydrate, which for you is highly indigestible,  your gut bacteria will then use these carbs that didn’t digest as fuel to produce hydrogen gas which will cause you extreme pain and/or discomfort in your digestive system. You may also experience mild or severe diarrhea because this process also draws water into your intestinal tract.”  This information was found here.

I’ve blamed my inability to be able to eat sauerkraut, kombucha, onions, even grapes on allergies, intolerances, even IBS for years. Turns out IBS may have been part of it all along. I’ve had IBS since I was an eleven or twelve-years-old (maybe I’ve had it all my life?), but didn’t get diagnosed until I was in my twenties. For me, that meant an upset stomach and bouts of both constipation and diarrhea in the same day. There has never been enough known about IBS to say that there are known foods to avoid. So, I’ve never avoided food because of IBS. That said in the last fifteen years I have experienced a lot of food intolerances starting with gluten. If I eat something that has wheat germ or wheat protein in it I get seriously sick. On the other hand, if I eat one piece of bread with wheat flour I may only get a small rash. I have been unable to eat onions, garlic, kombucha, relishes–basically, anything fermented or that ferments for about twenty years. As the years have gone on the list has gotten progressively longer and finally about a year ago I decided to continue my research and find out why. Finally, I found the problem-FODMAP, that’s my problem.

So what can I do? The first thing I can do is to follow a low FODMAP diet.

So what is a low FODMAP diet?

A low FODMAP diet is one that requires you to no longer eat those foods and drink that are high FODMAP.

So, here are some foods that are high in FODMOP (this list is not complete):

Apples, applesauce, peaches, berries, cherries, canned fruit, and watermelon. All sweeteners–high fructose, honey, sorbitol, and xylitol to name a few.  All dairy products. All the gas-producing vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli +more), onions and garlic. Beans, lentils, baked beans, and soybeans. Bread, pasta, most cereal, tortillas, waffles, and pancakes. Also–crackers and chips. Barley and Rye and Wheat–so beer, fortified wines, soda with high fructose, soy milk, and fruit juice.

After reading that list you might ask yourself what’s left? Is cardboard at least safe? Because that’s what I thought I was reduced down to eating– my mind just reeled. On one hand, I had found the mysterious issue I have long dealt with and on the other, just about everything available for humans to eat (there’s a lot of healthy food on the do not eat list) was going to have to be eliminated from my diet.

So what did I have to personally eliminate from my own diet? Thankfully I’ve always been a picky eater so here’s the list–peaches, watermelon, soda, honey, onions, garlic, beets, peas, sour cream, cottage cheese, pasta, crackers, and chips. There is a lot of other stuff like–no longer do we eat in restaurants because I’m also sensitive to food additives and preservatives (xanthan gum, guar gum, carrageenan, msg, and sodium nitrite). None of those preservatives or additives are good for you anyway, so I’m kind of glad I can’t tolerate them. It’s hard to eat at other people’s homes or get-togethers because people become so offended if you don’t eat or end up bringing your own. Unfortunately nowadays several of our friends have some of the same issues I do so diets have really changed among our little group. The middle aisles of any grocery store have long been my enemy. We haven’t brought canned, frozen, or boxed food, packets, mixes, sauces, or spices into this house in almost fifteen years. So there’s that. It would have been really hard for me to take all of the restrictions at once. Fortunately or not several years ago I changed my diet drastically because I thought I was suffering from gluten intolerance.

So what can I/you eat — a low FODMAP diet includes:
Fish, red meat, eggs, fats, oils, bananas, raspberries, strawberries, all nuts except pistachios, maple syrup, lactose-free dairy products, tomatoes, turnips, yams, zucchini +more, corn, oats, rice +more, water, coffee, and tea.

*None of the above lists are definitive or exhaustive*
*Also everyone is different and what works or doesn’t work for some may work for others*
*Consult your physician before changing anything in your diet*

What does my new diet look like? Well, I still eat dairy. I’ve been eating yogurt, drinking probiotics and milk for years, and I do not have any plans to stop. I do not get gas, bloat, or discomfort from eating dairy. All of my dairy products are organic except my yogurt. I eat Activia yogurt every day. I don’t really eat any red meat or eggs, but I do eat a lot of fish and nuts, and peanut butter, and the occasional small helping of baked beans. I eat a lot of carrots, lettuce, yams, zucchini, and tomatoes. As far as fruits go I eat a banana every day (I like the partially green ones), I also eat strawberries and raspberries year round. I don’t snack so no worries that I can’t eat crackers, or cookies, or chips. I drink water, tea, and have the occasional cup of coffee now. I bought a Chemex coffee maker and have discovered the rich taste of coffee. Up to now coffee always tasted awful to me. Now I know why–the oils from the beans weren’t making it to my cups of coffee. With the Chemex pour-over style of coffee making the oils make it to each and every cup. What a game changer for me!

I’ve also got to watch that I don’t use condiments because of the likelihood there is garlic or onion in most. So–no BBQ sauces, or most salad dressings, pickles other than Vlasic found in the refrigerated section, no chili, or taco or fajitas seasonings. I stopped eating tacos and fajitas –actually, anything really spicy about 15 years ago when I quit smoking. I probably never liked spicy stuff, but smoking made eating them tolerable. I’m one of those rare creatures that actually like to taste what my food really tastes like. I don’t cover up, or enhance, or flavor anything except with salt and pepper. As far as my husband’s diet goes he still eats everything he has always eaten–with the exception of most of the stuff in the middle aisles of the grocery store. That said he has never been one for boxed or frozen food as he grew up with a mom who loved to cook/bake and she made everything fresh or from scratch –three meals a day/365 days a year.

One last thing that is worth mentioning is to be aware of your supplements and vitamins when you have an issue with short-chain carbs or sensitivity to food additives.  I’ve taken supplements for almost 30 years–I use a Vit D. spray that is really working miracles on me, and I get a vitamin b12 shot regularly, plus magnesium, and iron every day. Recently I researched a better way to get magnesium and ordered some plant-based magnesium. I thought that I had researched everything, but what happened was I hadn’t. Turns out plant-based magnesium is red algae and extracted from red algae are polysaccharides which are better known as carrageenan, which I get very sick from. And sick I was, I was sick with a stomach ache/pain and diarrhea for 3 days. Once it was all out of my system I was fine. From this point on I’m going to stick with what I’m currently taking and not try anything new if I don’t have to.

To say I wasn’t sad years ago when my entire diet changed would be an understatement. I mourned and mourned for a long time. But the pain I experienced was so bad that I was willing to do anything to make it stop. I have been tweaking my diet for years and years and now may be the final tweak? Looking at all the forbidden foods makes me think I have always had this issue. I’ve had stomach aches, and distention, and pain in my digestive system for as long as I can remember. I think poor nutrition as a child played a major role. I also think my skipping meals, not eating enough good food, and at times eating too much nutrition lacking junk food finished me off. In my case, I compounded all of this with many years of drinking mountain dew and abusing alcohol for several years until I stopped drinking alcohol and smoking in 2003. I had stopped drinking mountain dew in 1997.

I’ve been changing my diet by trying something and either eliminating or sticking with it since 2000. First, it was dairy, which I fixed with buying organic dairy. And then it was gluten, which I fixed with the elimination diet, and then I discovered additives, preservatives, onions, and garlic bothered me. If you’ve ever looked at a food label you’ll know preservatives are in almost everything, and onions and garlic are in everything else.

Now, as I’ve said, I know what my issue really is and it is FODMAP. I don’t know what really causes this but I do know diet changes have helped me immensely. There are still plenty of things one can eat– you just need to try and then eliminate if need be and then try the next food item. And on and on until you create the right diet for yourself and move forward. You will adjust and no longer feel that there is virtually nothing left for you to eat. Good Luck and I hope my article helps you on your path to better eating!

Here are links to the information I found that has helped me:
What you can and can not eat on the low FODMAP diet
What are FODMAPS?

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


Before we get to the holiday baking, I thought I would take full advantage of all the pumpkins and make some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I bake cookies every week for my husband’s lunch and use Martha Stewart’s Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. The recipe for the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies is from Delish.com and they are/were delish. At the present time, they are almost gone—just two left for the hubby’s lunch through Friday! Hence why no picture, but I do have a lovely photo of my Martha Stewart Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies on my IG feed.

The last few weeks of autumn have been busy as usual. There is always a lot of planning of my time. Thankfully my health has been great though I cannot say the same for my husband. Every year he gets allergies from ragweed–which is what we thought he had six weeks ago. Turns out he had something like a bad allergy, but not quite the flu, and it has really held on. It really is impossible not to get sick when your co-workers come to work full of sick. He has now been given a large bottle of sanitizer and a can of Lysol because neither one of us want him sick for his vacation–he takes 10 days every November and a week in December and that’s all the time he takes off from work–no sick or personal days in over 20 years. We’ve got a lot planned for his vacation time. This year we are going to be having an old-fashioned Christmas which I will be blogging about soon. I will also be blogging what products I use to stay healthy and keep a strong immune system going. Until then enjoy your family, Thanksgiving week and weekend if you celebrate it, and be well.