September 28, 2015

30 Days of Nothing - Winding Down

I guess I thought it would be more dramatic.  That I would be kind know, twitching and having all sorts of glee about the last few days of "nothing".  Plotting out where we'd go first.  Scheming for all things sushi.  Because after all, Thursday marks October 1st AND the end of my suffering.

Except, as we sat around the table last night talking about the past month - we realized some important things.  First, it wasn't that bad after all.  (Did I just admit that?)  It helps that AB is a stellar (and I mean, STELLAR) cook.  That softens the blow.  It helps that I don't really like to shop.  Not for clothes, not for shoes, not for really anything.  That helps.  But I've said many times over: this is a counter-culture experience.  Most people are genuinely impressed that we did it.  Or shocked maybe?  Or just shrug their shoulders.  But I found that when I would share about this challenge, people would actually shudder.  As if to say "no way, no how".

At the beginning of this challenge, I argued that our lives were so busy we would never make it.  We couldn't possibly find MORE time in which to prep, cook, eat, and clean up (thirty days x 3 meals a day).  After all, weren't we overwhelmed and tired ALL the time?  How can having to cook at home alllllllll of the days and nights be helpful?  But it turns out, we could.  Turns out?  It sometimes takes that long to go somewhere, wait to be seated, order, be served, wait for the check, and head back home.  Granted - there's less work involved for us - and sometimes you just need that.  But several times a week?  We decided, no.  Definitely not.

If your budget allows, then God bless ya!  Our doesn't.

We realized that what we really needed with this challenge was a mental reset, if you will.  A chance to stop a pattern dead in its tracks and start over. 

Does this mean we'll never eat out?  Nope.  Does this mean you'll never see us in a drive through line with our littles after a long day of work and soccer practice and homework or at our favorite sushi place on date night?  Nope.  Because you will.

But we also got a thirty day reminder that a lot of times we eat out (and spend our $$) because we forget that eating at home is just as good with a little extra effort.  That planning is key.  That smart grocery shopping is worth it. 

There were days when we forced ourselves to stick to this challenge when we ALL wanted to do the opposite.  There were late nights when ALL OF US wanted to cave and grab a burger - just for the sake of time.  I'm happy to report - we didn't.  We forced ourselves to come home, get creative, and stick to it.  I'm proud of that, because it was HARD TO DO.

Will I be glad when it's over?  Yes.  Do I feel proud of what we accomplished and pleased with what we gleaned?  Absolutely. 

September 22, 2015

30 Days of Nothing - Sirens Call

I'm not saying that it can't be done.  No.  Not at all.  I'm just saying that it kinda stinks.  Like my attitude.  I don't know...I'm on the fence.  There are some days when we get so creative and the food we make is so tasty, that we don't care as much.

But there are also times when, drive by your favorite Mexican place and you can literally smell the food in your car.  (Thanks, La Hacienda.  You're killing me.)  You can try to will yourself into dwelling on all the good you're doing by following a discipline - but the impulse.  It's powerful.  It is like a siren...following you around all the time.

Then there are the times like last night when AB cooked up Pioneer Woman's Pasta Besty...and we all drool into our bowls and no one talks and our heads are down and focused on our forks.  There's shrimp in there, friends.  And the whole thing was so good I almost wept.  Those nights it's so much easier to forget we're even in the middle of a no-spend challenge.

AB's delicious and super easy version of Pasta Betsy © Bushel & A Peck

I'm not sure why the siren call is so freaking loud?  When there's no challenge, we're over all of it.  Over the fried food, over the crap, over the prices and loud restaurants when you're tired and want to be at home.  But gracious, when the challenge is in place, we're like salivating wildebeests for all things fast!  And food!  And not at home!  And served with no clean up!  What the heck is that about?  Habit?  Simplicity? Convenience?  All of the above?

This time around, there have been a few grocery trips.  And to be honest, I took the pressure off (of myself at least) right out of the gate and said we're getting whatever we need/want to get.  It's a big enough challenge that we haven't hit up a drive through in 22 days.  I'm getting shrimp at the grocery store.  You feel me?

Meanwhile, last Saturday we realized that our son could no longer get his feet inside his soccer cleats.  So we did head out and get him a new pair of cleats.  Technically, that is "counter" to the challenge.  However, it became a necessity and so we just took care of it.  These things happen.

Here's what also happens when you challenge yourself to no spending for a month.  You will find every clearance rack, every sale, every "too good to pass up" deal on everything you never knew you needed.  Those shoes you've been wanting?  On sale.  That dress?  Half off.  That new cooking gadget?  Marked down. Books, Groupons, clothing, shoes, makeup, fall decor, on and on and on...yep.  All beckoning.  The siren call.  That's what happens when you say NO to parting with your cash for 30 days.  And guess what?  It's the worst.  It's hard.  I don't like it.

In other news; 8 more days.  Sirens be darned...can't give up now!

September 14, 2015

30 Days ~ Two weeks down

I like to think I'm organized.  Day to day, I have a calendar and a to-do list and a million little things stored in my head about how the hours of the day will go.  This type of "planning" comes naturally to me and I re-adjust my expectations as needed to get through any particular day or week.

30 Days of Nothing, it has become clear, is all about planning.  Unfortunately, it's all about MEAL planning - one of my least favorite things to do.  This explains so much in my own life.  But it also explains why 30 Days feels so difficult to me.  Planning meals out for this day and often the next two makes me want to crawl back in bed and cover my head.  I can't tell you what sounds good now for Wednesday!  I don't know.   How will I know that until 5 o'clock Wednesday rolls around?  (insert deep chagrin here)  I can't tell you what to make for dinner tonight!  Who knows?  Maybe Mexican will sound good?  Or Italian?  Or hamburgers?  Who can say?!  I'll let you know. 

Therein lies the problem so many of us have.  Because we're used to deciding what's for dinner when we're just about to have said dinner, we end up gazing at a menu while we wait for our drinks to arrive.

In and of itself, waiting on those drinks and looking at that menu is not a problem.  The problem for us is when that becomes the norm and eating at home becomes the anomaly.  Not so good and a real financial drain on the budget.  Also Starbucks.  Ahem.  I confess to having had a couple days where I slipped up slightly, and felt really bad about that.  Did I mention it's not easy?  This is not my forte.  It does NOT come naturally to me. 

Enter the picture above.  We've been planning out our meals a couple days in advance, and last night I walked through the kitchen to discover that Anton had carefully set aside the things he needed to make Monday's dinner for us.  (for the curious, it's beef roast or in our house "stringy meat")  This got me thinking about how sometimes just a little bit of extra planning makes all the difference.  The expectation is set.  This is what we're having.  The supplies are already in hand.  The prep work can be done ahead so that we have less to try to "weasel" out of come dinner time.  And also?  I got to wake up to the glorious smell of perfectly seasoned beef roast searing in a pan this morning.  UH-MAZING.  And into the crock pot it went...

Saturday, when we might normally head out for lunch after our late morning soccer game, we instead packed a picnic lunch and invited some of our soccer family friends to join us at the park.  Additionally, because AB had planned ahead, we already had a delicious pulled pork bubbling away in the crock pot for dinner.  Because we had plenty, we extended the invite to some friends and had an impromptu (and delightful) "pulled pork tacos" evening. 

Meanwhile, I'll be transparent and say that this does not quench my love of dining out. First of all, some things you just can't duplicate at home.  Second, my kitchen counter has been littered with a CONSTANT and overwhelmingly large influx of dirty dishes.  My dishwasher always full.  My hands?  Soapy.  So, three meals a day and I'm baked.  Pardon the pun!  Have I mentioned how, out of all the chores on the house list, the kitchen is my absolute and utter LEAST favorite to tackle?  I do not deny that I despise kitchen clean up.  

On the other hand, the discipline itself - you can't deny.  It's a shock to your system to just STOP spending.  The fact that so many people will not even entertain the idea of this type of challenge gives you the info you need.  Have I said this already?  It's not easy.  

Tomorrow is the half-way point and I'm convincing myself that this can be done.  But I'm lying if I don't tell you that I'm ooooooovver it.  I'm weak.  Yes, I am.  Here's an actual conversation from our home this week and I'll paraphrase:

AB:  Do we have plans on October 4th?
CB:  Yes.  We do.  We have plans the first five days of October.
AB:  We do???
CB:  (deadpan) Yes.  We're booked.  You'll find me living in gluttony having dinner and drinks at pretty much every eatery in town from October 1st through the 5th.

I joke.  (cough)

But the struggle is real people.

Pressing on...

September 6, 2015

Week 1 - 30 Days of Nothing

Ham Sandwich courtesy of our kitchen.  ©Bushel&APeck
Well, it's uneventful to report daily, so I felt weekly would be more efficient.  

Guess what?  Whole lot a' shakin going on.  Actually, I'm lying.  There's nothing going on.  Because news flash?  30 days of nothing isn't something - it's the opposite.  It's nothing.  Nothing to see. Nothing to report.  There are no Friday night dinners with friends to weigh in on, or frozen margaritas and chips and guac on late summer night restaurant patios, or sushi date nights to wax poetic about.  No, none of that.

There's some home cooking (AB...and all that).  There's reheated leftovers.  There's bread baking (again, AB).  There's been weeping and gnashing of teeth (me and all that).  And there was also the time in the past six days where my son was craving burgers from a popular burger joint and declared "I wish this was 5 days of nothing!"  To which his little sister gave a hearty "yeah!"

So there's that.

Basically, we're weak.

I mean, we haven't caved.  But we're undisciplined goons when it comes to money.  Or at least when it comes to eating out.  

I would be lying to you if I said we were as strict with ourselves as we were in, say...2011.  When we wouldn't even buy groceries except for absolute necessity.  I'd also be lying if I told you I didn't hate that particular year's challenge.  Ugh.  Cleaning out the pantry darn near killed me.  

This time, we've been to the store.  We've allowed ourselves to buy some of our grocery favorites.  We've even had a quick dinner at our local grocery store (they have a small table area - we bought the food and ate there).  I know that's not technically "nothing", but we rationalized that we were, after all, in the grocery store.  (no stones)

Another day, a friend graciously provided lunch for me at a local fast food chain.  I accepted greedily.  Ugh.  I'm like a junkie.   

In the spirit of full disclosure, I can tell you that yet another day we met Keira's Kinder teacher from last year for an ice-cream social.  Technically, that was full-on cheating.  But we felt it was worth it and gave ourselves grace.  

Outside of that, and who am I kidding - you might think we're pretty pathetic at this point - we've eaten all other meals at home or as left-overs for work, etc.  The kids have not bought lunch at school.  We have stayed away from Starbucks and $1 drinks in the drive-thru and buy one get one whatevers from wherever.  We have otherwise abstained.  

I'm here to testify:  this is HARD.  It is completely counter-culture not to spend in small and big ways all the time.  I have had people email/text/message/even call me to say "I admire what you're doing, but we CANNOT do it."  Like they literally cringe just thinking about it.  They, like us, rely too heavily on the convenience of eating out or drive-thru or take-out or shopping.  

Listen, I get it.  We're trying to swim against the flow.  Sometimes it feels unremarkable.  Other times, it feels almost impossible.  Like Saturday when we did yard-work for over eight hours in the sweltering Texas heat and I thought I would drop on the ground and die a long theatrical death if AB wouldn't cave and take me to a Mexican restaurant and let me have a margarita and tacos.  Die, I tell you.

Instead he grilled steaks and corn and veggies and we had a wonderful meal in.  It was just buckling down and making ourselves recognize that it's one day, one meal at a time.  It's fighting the urge in the short-term so that we can afford other things in the long-term.  So we can teach ourselves how to keep to our budget better and think before we swipe and measure what we've been given with what we expend.  

It's hard.  It's not really that fun.

On the other hand...none of our paychecks this month will be going to local restaurants.  Not a dime.  Instead, we get to keep all that money.  And it adds up really fast with a family of four. 

That's kind of fun come October 1st.

August 31, 2015

30 Days in One Day

Tomorrow is the big day and I'm not lying to you good people - I'm dreading it.  Ha!  AB?  Totally into it.  Ready.  Willing.  Stoked.  All manner of "let's do this".  Me?  Well lets just say that over dinner last night, Quint said "but what about Chipotle, Mommy???"  Indeed, son.  Indeed

So...lots of interesting struggles ahead and a handful of people joining in this time around, so that's always fun for me to see.  It's a CHALLENGE.  No doubt.  It's very counter-culture to save instead of spend.  In and of itself, I should note that both AB and I fancy ourselves a good dining out experience.  We also really really like convenience.  So as much as he loves to cook, we have our fair share of prepared meals from some of our favorite eateries, say...on a regular basis.

However, he made this hot crunchy sourdough bread last week and I'm just here to say: Preach.

You guys.  I would think 30-days would be no big with this stuff in the background of my life. 

So I guess I'm ready.  Ish.  No...let's do it.  Discipline 101.  Right?  Gulp.


August 28, 2015

30 Days of Nothing is BACK

That's right.  If you've been following this blog for a while (read = years) you might recall that we enjoy a good challenge now and again.  And for a while, we did an annual "30 Days of Nothing".  Well, we decided it was time....

For the month of September, we're going to try our hardest to make it through 30 days without spending.  GULP!

Since there's no sense in recreating the wheel, you can read re-caps of rules and what we've done in the past HERE

You can also get additional rules and info HERE

That is of course assuming you're interested in knowing what it's about, what good it does, and what the stinkin' point is of the torture.

I can tell you this - it's hard.  It should be easier than it is, but you will be amazed at what a consumer driven society we live in when you all of a sudden try to stop spending.

Also?  Since we're not spending, we use this time to try another challenge called "Empty the Pantry".  We, like many, buy TONS of groceries that either eventually out-date the Olsen Twins or never get found/seen/heard from again.  OK, we throw them out.  Isn't that the worst feeling?  Throwing out food you bought but never ate?

So during this Challenge of not spending, we add in trying to cook/make/eat up all that food just sitting in there.  We get creative, we make new recipes, and we try to just make do.

The horror!  (wink wink)

So, Tuesday is the big day and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit dreading it.  Shows you how much I still love my Chipotle.  Ahem.

Wanna play along?  Leave a note in the comments.  I'd love to know!

I'll be blogging throughout with the "on scene" excitement of what 30 days of Nothing actually looks like for a family of four.


June 26, 2015


Caring when you're angry

My news feed and Facebook wall today has probably looked a lot like yours. Opinions, articles, celebrations and lamentations.

To be honest, it all made me feel wonky inside.  Like Swiss cheese, but not as holy. Yes, that’s a pun.  It was kind of like being drowned in my own life lemonade, the one I’ve been trying so hard to make while I watch our world (and yes, even my own life) change, flux, and shift. 

It grieved me to see such a great divide amongst my family, friends, and even strangers. Those on both sides of the debate.  I read a wide range of articles and blogs on the subject, and found the comments were littered with hate, fear-mongering, threatening slander, name calling, and more – from both sides.  Sad.

I read rants admonishing others who didn’t share their viewpoint that they would be “un-friending” those whose ideas and opinions did not line up with their own.  From both sides.

One camp hurt, disappointed, discouraged, angry, saddened, indignant.  Another camp moved, happy, elated, relieved, triumphant, and yes, also angry and saddened at those who didn’t share in their joy.

You don’t need my opinion.  But I’m giving it anyway.  Maybe if I purge some of this urgency, I can stop feeling like Swiss and a little more like a strong sharp cheddar.  I don't know.  Whatever the heck.  Stay with me...

Here’s the deal: I’m a woman who loves Jesus and is trying to live according to His call.  Which, by the way, is not a loud shout-out to my own good deeds or perfectly clean living, but rather a humble admission to how broken and fallible I am, and how much His perfect grace has become my source of strength.  That’s the truth right there.  Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…

But that’s not what I want to talk about anyhow. 

What I want to say is this: whether you or I agree with the decision made today really has no relevance.  That is to say, it doesn’t change the bottom line anyway.  It's been decided.  It is what is.  There you have it.

To see all kinds of vitriol plastered over the web or even to stand on the side of hate and disdain for one another - what does that do but foster more anger, frustration, hatred and mistrust?  Why does having a difference of opinion somehow equal drawing lines in the sand against each other.  How is one version of hatred better than the other?  We sometimes forget that our opinions and beliefs, though comfortable for us, are not the only ones out there.  (Looking at you…everybody

I was thinking about that line in the sand that Jesus drew.  (John 8:1-11)  Are we throwing stones?

The reality is, I believe there is a greater Truth – a universal Truth of right and wrong - and it doesn’t change just because any one of us will it to.  It was and is and is to come.  God is not on a lunch break.  Ok?  If you believe in biblical truth then you and I agree that this is actually a part of the greater story.  So why are we wasting our time fighting and blaming and hating others when we should be doing exactly the opposite?

I know some of you are heartbroken today.  Use that heartbreak for good.  Love each other.  Extend your love.  Shine your light.  Let others see Him.  Care for others, love on them, even when you’re hurting. 

We are called to love.  Love ALWAYS has and ALWAYS will reign, because from His very core and being – God is love.   It’s WHO He is, quite literally. It’s His concept.  His plan.  His entire motivation for sending Jesus.  Love already won. Long ago. 

Friends, we can believe differently and still love.  We can completely disagree about theology and yet, still love one another.  We can stand on opposite sides of many different fences – but we can choose love.

Jesus kept some pretty interesting company and it took many of them decades to understand what He came to do.  He loved them anyway.  I don’t think anyone missed His love.  How could they?  He lavished it on those he met, those he walked with, and even those who killed him.  And, by the way, He lavished it on you and me.  Just as we are, today, right now. 

Who are we to judge?  Stick to the story God is telling in your life.  Get to work on you.  Stop running around yelling that the sky is falling.  It’s been falling for…well, forever.  It’s actually old news.  Let’s you and I get to work on us.  Let’s remove that plank from our eye and try to restore some true sight.  I’m personally riddled with sin.  I’m not picking out any well-polished stones to hurl in any direction.

You cannot control others.  You can control yourself, your responses, your choices, and your direction.  And you can choose to love with respect.  No matter what.  That doesn’t mean you have to agree on whatever about whatever.  That doesn’t mean you don’t feel angry or spent or tired or depleted.  On either side.

To be clear, it also doesn’t mean you need to compromise your convictions in your own life or condone things which go against your faith.  You can have your opinion and love at the same time.  It simply means we choose love because He first loved us.  And not one of us deserved it.  Amen.

So when we find ourselves in dialogue about these and other sensitive issues in the coming weeks and months – do me a favor and lean heavily on love and the mountains of grace that have been so generously and graciously poured out for you.

There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear… 1 John 4:18

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love… 1 Corinthians 13:13

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

Grieving has a place here for some.  I wish both sides understood that with kindness, gentleness, and respect.  But we’re called to something much bigger and much better and so much more lasting…

Our job is to love, dear friends. 

Just as we are, today, right now.

June 23, 2015

Missing home

It’s been almost a year since I’ve written anything on my little corner of the web.  My blog.  My writing space.  I think about it all the time, and yet when I’m sitting in front of the keyboard, I feel at a loss. 

How do you pick up and start again?  Where do you start?  Do you re-cap?  Do you explain?  Do you just move on and forge ahead and forget the past and just…write?

Actually…I’m not sure, but I still feel I have things to talk about.  Even if it’s my kids.  Or AB.  Or food pics.  Or whatever.  What’s on my mind/heart/etc. 

I know the blogging world sort of shifted a few years back – over to Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and our faithful blogging lives took the new shape of 30 words or less with a picture.  Frankly, I’m disenchanted with all of that.  It can be a great tool to reconnect with long distance friends and family, but it doesn’t always tell the truth, does it?

Facebook is a snapshot of many of the best moments.  The carefully cropped, photo edited, color enhanced, swirly font textured images that conjure up the life most of us wish we actually had.  Let me ask you; do you go through your photos and post the blurry, funky, crazy hair, non-smiling images you find?  No.  We don’t do that.  Why would we?  We post the picture that gives our double chin the most advantageous angle.  See me THIS way, we tell them when we hit “post”.  See my kids are happy.  See we are smiling.  See all is well.  See we are on another adventure in life.  See we are deliriously happy and love each other and never fight or make messes or take each other for granted. Or whatever.  No judgment, I’m guilty.

And I suspect many of us can relate.  There’s more.  So much more behind the scenes.  So much more than 30 words or a picture can convey.  So much that has happened to each of us over the years to shape us and crush us and form us and here we are…posting a selfie on Facebook and saying how much we love sushi or this good book or this store we found.  And it has a place.  It does.  The sushi picture on Facebook.  Sure.  I love sushi…who doesn’t?

I think the point I’m making is that I’ve got stuff, man.  And Facebook was fun.  Is fun.  Sometimes.  When it doesn’t consume hours of my day.  A lot of my time has been eaten up by status updates and as great as that has been – I do long to actually connect with people through writing.  And I’m way too long-winded for 30 words or less or whatever the heck it is. 

So that’s the deal.  And maybe I’m back.  Or maybe I’ll write this and get sucked into life and laundry and forget to write again.  Who knows.  But I’m willing to try…

Here’s my peace offering for being gone so long.  The unedited, unflattering picture I have not posted.  (ahem…until now)

Ugh.  I don’t even know what made me do that to myself.  What am I all “ahhhhh” about?  Can’t recall. 

Ok but seriously, how about one of me and the kids that’s not all…whatever that is up there…but I still have the hat on?

Aren’t they HUGE?  Just don’t even get me started.