Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cheap Get-Aways and Nights Out

Currently I am on a strict budget where much of my money goes towards paying debt.  It has been really hard at times to say no to some fun concerts and most recently to a mini-vacation with friends.  I just remember that my main goal is to be debt free by the end of the year and save up for a healthy emergency fund, which will make life so much better in the long run.  Sometimes you have to say "no" to do what you know is right in the end.  Finally, I have learned to use that word when necessary.

Since my fiance and I are both working towards being debt free and saving for the wedding/honeymoon, expensive vacationing is simply out of the question this year.  Life can become monotonous however, so we are finding ways to get out of the house on a tight budget.


First, we have discovered the fun of camping.  I realize camping is not for everyone with the dirt, bugs and lack of electricity, but it is nice to connect with the environment and turn off all the electrical noise to just exist.

One thing I never thought about before was the price of a camp site versus a hotel.  We realized that we could travel to various places and stay at a camp site for super cheap, versus spending about one hundred bucks on a hotel for a night. 

Bike Adventure

We took a trail that covers a large distance in North East Ohio and discovered places, towns and cities we didn't know existed.  We only rode for a couple hours, but you can cover a vast distance on a bike if you have good stamina.  Not only do you get exercise which is good for your health, taking a bike adventure is free.

We took a trail called the Towpath, then walked around a town called Canal Fulton.  My fiance picked up the map for the trail from a local bike shop. 

Free Shows/Concerts

Where we live there are free shows at local bars, such as the ones our local radio station does for up and coming country stars.  I actually got to meet Thompson Square at one of these shows before they got huge!  Check your local paper or city website for free events.

I got to meet the Jane Dear Girls and many other up and coming stars as well!  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Oriental Poppy Flowers

They have large, furry and jagged leaves with light green alien like pods.  

Almost weed like, they are not asethetically pleasing to the eye, that is....until they bloom.  

I have fallen in love with these oriental poppies that were planted by the previoius family, the only owners who built this home from ground up over fifty years ago.  

Since we purchased the house in winter, I was unaware of the beautiful flowers planted on the property.   

I look forward to watching these bloom each year, for many years to come. 

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Behavior Change - Keeping a Food and Exercise Log

It seems that the past two winters I have fallen into unhealthy eating patterns.  Summers tend to be no problem since I am not teaching, but come December with high stress levels and unruly students I find my self loading up on coffee and refined carbohydrates.  Since I can see this is a pattern, it is time to start over and work to prevent this next year!

Knowledge does not always equal behavior

Knowledge is an essential part to changing behavior.  If you are going to eat healthier you must understand what foods are good for your body.  Most of us know that eating a diet high in sugar, chemicals, fast food, refined carbohydrates, etc. is bad for our health; however, this knowledge does not always equate to positive behavior.  What we know is not necessarily how we behave.  Sometimes, there are obstacles in the way preventing us from changing the behavior or sometimes it is a lack of motivation.  Possibly it is apathy.

Motivation and Overcoming Barriers

First, one has to be motivated to change behavior and willing to make the commitment to overcome any obstacles that block success.  Understanding what barriers exist is beneficial.  For example, one of the reasons I tend to eat unhealthy is because I am stressed out and on the go during the work day.  My obstacle is time, therefore I need to plan ahead by having meals already prepared for the day in order to succeed.

If you don't succeed immediately, don't give up!  Behavior change takes time.

There is this idea called the "rule of three" in behavior change, meaning that it can take up to three times of doing something to successfully change the behavior.  I believe it may take more attempts then three because one is breaking an old habit and starting a new behavior.  Once something becomes a good habit, it is automatic.  It is difficult for some to push past this uncomfortable stage as there will be relapse.

Here's what I am doing to try to eat healthier....

Training and Food Diary

First, I am planning meals and snacks so I know exactly what I need to buy when shopping.  Next, I am holding myself accountable by keeping a food and exercise log.  I feel that eating healthy is very necessary, but exercise is one of the single most important things you can do for your body.  We as humans are built to move and nothing signals our cells to decay more then being sedentary.  I find that I have lower stress when I exercise, which was one of my obstacles above to eating healthy.  Therefore, exercise will help to alleviate stress and planning will help to alleviate the other obstacle, time.

My food and training log

Writing down food that is eaten each day helps build awareness towards patterns in your diet that are unhealthy.  Also, you become conscious of what you are consuming and putting into your body.  My log has separate pages for both daily food intake and exercise.  This has actually become fun for me to fill out and I find that I work to improve upon my exercise regime each week.  

I could use some more veggies in my diet!

Types of Foods to focus on

If you have health issues or other problems, consulting with a nutritionist or doctor can be beneficial before starting to exercise and changing dietary habits.  When I found out I had food allergies the dietitian guided me away towards foods that could cause me harm.

There are so many diets on the market that claim quick weight loss.  Much of this is modern day quackery and a scheme to make money.  Eating healthy requires adopting a new way of life.  A quick fix diet will not  permanently change your behavior, however American spend millions believing these claims while our nation becomes fatter.  Your diet is simply what you eat on a daily basis.  From my studies as a health educator, I believe it is important to limit refined carbohydrates (white bread, cookies, many packaged snack foods) and processed or packaged food loaded with extra chemicals.  Incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into each day is essential as it will add nutrients and fiber.

Taking control of what you eat by preparing your own meals much of the time instead of eating out will make the process much easier.  Eating when hungry and eating slow is important because it takes the brain about 20 minutes to know you are full.

Overall, behavior change takes time and patience.  Be kind to yourself in the process but stay motivated and results will come.  Stay excited to work towards adopting healthier habits!  

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Friday, April 20, 2012

I Love Schnooodles

Maestro the Schnoodle 

Schnoodles are part poodle and part schnauzer.  I love our Schnoodle Maestro.  Actually his full name is Maestro Sugarbaby Hecate which is inspired by our love of music, all things cute and the heavy metal genre.  It's funny that when you get to know the personality of something that all of a sudden a new nickname starts to stick.  We often call Maestro "Pigs" or "Mr. Pigs" because when he gets excited he starts grunting like a pig.  
Why I love Schnoodles....

1.  They are Soft and Cuddly 
Maestro's fur is extremely soft.  Since schnoodle's are part poodle, they have more of a hair like texture.  Shedding tends to be very minimal to non-existant with this dog.  Certain dogs seem to bother my allergies, but since Maestro is part poodle I have not experienced any difficulty.  This dog loves to snuggle and sit on laps.  

2.  They Have Unique Personalities 
Though maestro is small at fourteen pounds he is very athletic, maintaining a big dog mentality.  He is great with people and other dogs.  He has his own unique quirks and is always entertaining to watch.  My fiance swears the dog has said "I love you" and "Hello".  

3.  They are loving and loyal
Maestro will rest his little chin at the sill of our big picture window with his tiny head peeking through the curtains just waiting for us to come home.  We do not have a problem with him running out of the yard, because he hates being away from our side.  Though schnauzers can have a stubborn streak, we have found maestro to be extremely loyal to follow command while consistenly displaying his gentle character.     

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Fling

I had a week off work for spring break which was absolutely lovely.  No set in stone plans were made and I was able to actually relax for a change.  I enjoy being alone to simply exist.

The trees are flowering....

It actually felt like spring a few days over break which is sometimes unusual for an Ohio vacation in April.  Of course it tried to snow a few of the days, but seeing the sun shine through the trees in the morning was pleasant. 

Taking the time to just breath and soak in the beauty of my backyard was refreshing.  It is imperative to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the outside world and enjoy some of the simple things in life.  

I was worried about the lilac bush as it was looking ragged, but the deep purple flowers are coming in nicely.  Surprisingly, spring break in Ohio has been wonderful!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Candle Making Adventure in Hartville

Yesterday I ventured to the Hartville Marketplace  to watch Ashley, owner of the store "Candles of the Light", in a candle making demonstration.  There was a demonstration, free wax tartlet sample and best of all I got to make my own delicious smelling palm wax candle!  I have been slightly obsessed with candles for some time now so learning how to make my own is exciting!  

Candle Making Demonstration 

The Hartville Marketplace

If you live anywhere near Summit County you have to check this place out.  There are tons of vendors and it is filled with treasures. The indoor part pictured below is open all year round and the summer time calls for endless hours of shopping as the additional vendors set up shop outdoors.  

Hartville, OH

About Candle Wax

First, Ashley discussed the various types of waxes that are used in candle making:  paraffin, soy,  palm  and beeswax.  As you can see, paraffin is NOT a safe choice.  Soy and beeswax helps support the American economy.   

Paraffin - derived from petroleum 

Pros:  None

Cons:  non-renewable, not natural, produces soot, toxic, carcinogenic, not an odorless wax, not biodegradable 

The chemicals used to refine paraffin are acetone, ethylene, acrylic acid, benzene, toluene, and more

Soy Wax - made from soy beans 

Pros:  natural and renewable, biodegradable 

Cons:  produces soot, not free of toxins

Hexane may be used to refine soy wax

Palm Wax - made from palm fruit 

Pros:  natural and renewable, produces minimal soot, toxin and carcinogen free, odorless, no chemicals are used to refine, biodegradable 

Cons:  Palm wax from Indonesia and Malaysia is contributing to deforestation 

Bees wax - bee hive of honey bees 

Pros:  natural and renewable, clean burn, long lasting, gives off more light, sweet natural fragrance, emits negative ions, toxic free

Cons:  more expensive

Preparing to pour the candle.  Dye dropper to the left.   Jigger on the right to measure fragrance oil.  Small coffee straw for stirring.  

Melting the Wax

At home wax can be melted using the double boiler method.  Ashley used a electric hot plate made specifically for melting waxes.  She noted that if melting wax at home to make sure that the metal pot used will not be used for preparing food as it is difficult to clean all the wax off completely.  So make that pot for melting candles only.  Her container had a lip to pour from, which made things much easier.   

Dyes and Fragrance 

A very small amount of dye is needed to color the candle.  Adding or subtracting drops can change the color distinctively.  Ashley purchases her scents from a company who specializes in creating fragrance.  I asked her about using essential oils and she said this was safe, but make sure to read the label and do some extra research to confirm the safeness of the brand as well as the scent.  Some essential oils are safer to use in candles then others.  Of course some scents go together better then others so finding your favorites combinations may be trial and error.     

Pouring the Candle

The wicks, which can be bought at any craft supply store, were attached to the bottom of the glass jar.   I liked the clever popsicle stick like device with the hole through the middle to hold the wick in place.  Before this class, I probably would have tried to hold it with my hand like an idiot and risk burning myself!  After the wax is completely melted and in a liquid like state have the glass jar ready.  It is important to make sure the container is thick enough to deal with the heat of the candle.  Ashley heated up the glass jars slightly before pouring in the wax.  She said they can be put in the oven on a baking dish for a few minutes until warm.  

Next, the wax was poured in and directly after I added 2 small drops of dye from the extractor, and my jigger full of orange sorbet scented oil, I stirred with a small straw both clockwise and counter clock wise.  It is important to get all the dye mixed in completely.  Some dye will start to settle near the bottom and can easily be missed if not careful.  After about 2 minutes of stirring the candle was ready to set.  I perused the flea market and came back after about an hour and a half to my beautiful palm wax candle.  Palm wax forms a crystallized type texture which I find visually pleasing.  Even though my candle was set and ready to take home Ashley said to wait at least three hours before enjoying. 

Here is my finished candle!

Palm Wax Candle

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sprucing up the House Plant

A few years ago I went to an Eco-friendly convention in downtown Akron and learned about the many decorative uses of water absorbent polymer.  I would describe these little gems as solid water.  They are great for plants because they help keep the soil hydrated.
If you have a plant that needs some sprucing up this is a neat look.  You will need a clear vase jar if you want to enjoy the beauty of the polymer.  A variety of shapes or sizes of glass vases can be used based of the size of the plant.   I had a plant that was already potted in a cylindrical glass vase with sand at the bottom.  Next, I took out the plant, which was in desperate need of some fresh soil and disposed of the sand.  I used some soil we had left in a pot that a tomato plant was grown in last year.  Some leaves and other materials had composted nicely over the months as we left it outside.  The plant loves this composted soil.  

What you will need along with your plant:  clear glass vase, water absorbent polymer such as Aqua Gems, glass stones or stones (glass beads are pretty because they reflect light), soil 

You can use any color in the aqua gems.  They do not stain!  Fill them at the bottom of your vase.  Make sure you leave room for the soil and room for the roots to grow.  You can place the beads through out the polymer.  I used different shades of green and gold glass stones to match my decor.  I put a few in between the soil and polymer for some stability.

This plant has been very healthy living in this condition and since I have a hard time remembering to water it as much as I should, the water polymer helps to keep in moisture.  I'm hoping to get a new camera this summer as the iPhone 3 does not capture enough detail!!

Further more, I have seen this done online without soil.  Here is the link:  water crystals

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Nature's Highlights Gluten Free Pizza Creation

 Gluten Free Pizza 

When you are not only sensitive to wheat, but corn, soy and nuts it is very difficult finding a ready made crust.  I have been using Nature's Highlights brown rice pizza crust for a few years now.  It only contains two ingredients (brown rice and potato).

This is a healthy option, but it of course does not taste exactly like a doughy gluten pizza many are used to.  The brown rice gives the crust a chewy texture with a mild nutty flavor.

The crust does need to be put in the oven for a few minutes before topping.  The texture will be much better if you follow the directions on the box for heating before adding toppings.  Next, for the sauce I used Dave's Gourmet butternut squash pasta sauce, which is gluten free.  It is absolutely delicious with the crust.  The sauce has red bell pepper pureed in to give it a nice kick.  I used a garlic herb yogurt cheese for a bit of extra flavor and sprinkled some parmeasean on top.  You could really top with a variety of different items, but I used yellow and red bell peppers, red onion and torn basil.


Nature's Highlights Brown Rice Pizza Crust
Dave's Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
Parmesean Cheese
Herb or Garlic Yogurt Cheese Shredded
Red and Yellow Bell Pepper
Red Onion
Torn Basil
Drizzle of Olive Oil

The final tasty product. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Teal Mason Jar Craze

The teal or aqua colored mason jars have peaked in popularity.  If you are looking to make a few bucks and own these beauties, you may be able to sell them on Ebay for a profit. An older relative may have a few of these relics tucked away in storage.  My parents gave me a few of my grandmother's old mason jars.  At one time they were using the quart sized teal jar to hold change.  I also inherited a cool "atlas"  pint sized jar.  The jars look rustic and simple, yet can make a stunning centerpiece.  Many brides to be are planning to use these for their rustic wedding themes.  I like the aqua tinted jars for spring decor.  I'm sure the mason jar craze will end and people will soon find something new for decor that they will endlessly pin on Pinterest, but I plan on keeping my jars until I can pass them down.

Here is how I used my mason jars in my dining room.  I wanted an Easter themed centerpiece.  I found a cute little rabbit I received in an Easter basket a few years ago that I have been waiting to use.  He has found his place this year a top an old mason jar lid!

Put some fresh cut flowers in one of the jars to add a pop of color.  I like the contrast of the pink with the teal.  I used some fuchsia carnations with some light pink lilies.  I recently just switched out the wilting carnations for beautiful deep pink fresh cut tulips from our yard.  We have had unusually warm weather for March so the flowers are blooming!

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Epiphany

The epiphany seemed to come to me quickly, but the depression, anxiety and emptiness that built up for years seemed to continually drone.  I had tried to figure out why I could no longer find pleasure for quite some time.  First I thought if I went back to school, spending onwards of $25,000 maybe I could switch careers.  Possibly a more fulfilling career with a higher income would work (to pay of the horrible student loans that would follow).  I then realized I had no idea what I wanted to go into so I just settled on something, special education, where there would be job openings.  I concluded I may get tired of teaching health and would need a backup.  Once you are a teacher it is hard to leave the profession, with the time off and good benefits even if you are unhappy almost each day you enter through the doors of the school building.  I even read, “What Color is Your Parachute”, to find out that I am an introvert who prefers to work alone for the most part.  So that weeds out many professions with which I have experience.  When searching for a masters program, I came across speech language pathology and thought hey this is it!  Then I realized that to get a Master’s you need to take post baccalaureate classes, than pay to pass the GRE.  Plus, you cannot work when classes are only offered during the day!  It made no sense to quit working, plus I couldn’t afford it with a mortgage.  I spent the summer moping and depressed.  I laid around many of the days not finding the energy to do things I enjoy.  At this point my view on work and money was affecting me mentally, physically and socially.  I had put on 15 pounds since getting my new position as a split day health teacher at a middle school and high school.  I would come home from work mentally exhausted.  I would spend money just to fill whatever emptiness I was feeling.  Instead of cooking a nourishing meal that would be allergy free I opted to buy packaged foods or eat out.  I was slowly loosing myself as my debt increased.  At this point I realized I was not enjoying life, just going through the motions. 

I knew I needed to make a change now, no waiting around any more.  Starting with small tasks I could track and control seemed reasonable.  No credit cards would be used and a budget would be kept on finances.  This helped me to see where my money was leaking.  The credit card debt is huge because I owe money to corporations who are now charging me finance fees.  It felt difficult at first and overwhelming, but I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I have connected my consumption of material objects to my decreased happiness.  The more I work, the more money I make, the more I buy and the less I experience real life.  If I can get my debts paid off I will not need as much money to buy material objects.  You can’t take them to the grave.

Next, I needed to let go of the idea that work was going to get better.  I decided that I would do what I could and if something didn’t get done, it’s not the end of the world.  If a student is going to be impossible and not do what they are supposed to, too bad.  I can’t save everyone and I refuse to be a martyr.  I didn’t go to 5 years of college to martyr myself daily at work. 

I have some goals in life.  First, to pay off my debt.  Next, I really want to get married and start having kids in about 2 years.  Ideally I would like to work part time and raise my kids. I want to become more self-sufficient and lead a happier life doing what I enjoy.  I know this can be done!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Gluten Free in North East Ohio - Living with food allergies

I found out I had food allergies during college.  During this time I was a typical 22 year old college kid and ate a lot of pizza.  Oh, and I started drinking beer!  Living with roommates led me to trying different foods like pistachios and whole wheat products.  Now I have always had issues with my skin, but after I started drinking beer and eating more whole wheat the skin on my face became so inflamed that at one point a doctor wanted to take a biopsy and test me for lupus.  At first I thought I was allergic to alcohol so I decided before I get a biopsy an allergy test was important for a second opinion.  The test results revealed I was not allergic to alcohol, but allergic to wheat, corn, soy and nuts.  The beer and whole wheat bread I was consuming had been wreaking havoc on my poor skin and body!

Finding out you have food allergies or intolerance can be difficult.  You realize you can no longer eat the same things everyone else enjoys.  There is a period of mourning for the foods you once ate, but as you change dietary habits and start to feel so much healthier the cravings decrease.  There may be periods of relapse down this road of becoming allergy free, but the benefits of avoiding the foods that make you sick is well worth the tiny hassle of eating different then others.  The good news is that over the years more and more individuals have been embracing not only more natural food products, but gluten free foods therefore making it easier to find substitutes.  I hope to share more about my allergy free adventures on this blog in the future!

For those who are gluten free in North East Ohio I have compiled a small list of some locally owned restaurants and establishments that cater to us wheat free/gluten free individuals!  I find that it is easier for local restaurants to cater to my specific needs as opposed to big chains.  Many of these are in the Summit/Stark/Portage County areas.


The Bistro of Green

The Bistro is a locally owned restaurant in Green, Ohio that has a gluten free menu.  They use rice pastas and rice flours instead of wheat.  This is upscale yet casual dining and I love ordering off the gluten free menu.  There is a large variety of options and it tastes great!

Mustard Seed Market and Cafe

Mustard Seed has a gluten free menu available, just ask!  I enjoy the salmon wrap and they do have a gluten free flat bread pizza.  There are many organic and healthy, yet delicious options.  They have two locations, one in Fairlawn and one in Solon.


Samantha's is a little joint located close to the beldon village strip mall in North Canton.  They do have gluten free options.  For those of you craving carbs for breakfast....they serve gluten free pancakes!

Ms. Julie's Kitchen

I have not yet been able to visit, but there are gluten free, vegan and allergy free options.  The  hours look limited, but if you are looking for healthy and fresh options this would be a great place to try.

Bricco - Akron

Bricco is a fun restaurant in downtown akron.  They now offer gluten free pasta on their menu!

Tomato Grille

The tomato grille in Bath has the option for gluten free pasta with meals.  Last time I was there they used a corn pasta.


Mrs. P's Gluten Free Bakery

You can place orders for products online.  Ingredients for her creations are listed online under a description and picture of the product.  The cupcakes are amazing.


Altieri's Pizza in Stow

Altieri's has a variety of options to choose and they are very friendly.  The pizza tastes great!  One gluten free pizza will provide four slices.  They also serve gluten free pasta every day.  On Tuesdays and Wednesdays you can get gluten free fried chicken, jo jos and buffalo wings.

*Zeppe's and Fox's pizza now serve gluten free pizzas too.  I find them rather expensive for the taste and often would rather make my pizza from scratch, but if you are in a hurry and need something in your area this is always an option!

Many local restaurants who cook to order may be able to meet your allergy needs.  It never hurts to call and ask!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cutting the Cable Chord

It has barely been a month since we cancelled our cable service, but life has vastly improved.  I remember one weekend last month I just decided that enough was enough.  This particular weekend day was like many others where I was overwhelmingly tired from the week's worth of work and just wanted to disconnect.  Like many other days I was in a trance on my couch staring at the glow of our plasma screen.  Most of the days I veg out in front of the t.v. I don't even remember what I watch.  I remember seeing the same commercials repeatedly.  Often the commercials tell us we are overweight, wrinkly or need to buy the newest product on the market to be popular.  I then thought of all the other things I could be doing at that moment that involved something more tangible and meaningful.  It was mentally nauseating to contemplate all the time I was wasting as well as all the money!   

Not only does turning off t.v. lessen the compulsion to be a mindless consumer and force you to see what's around you, but it puts a big chunk of money back in your bank account each month.  We are saving about $80 a month! 

It has now been almost a month since we cut the cable chord, but I haven't missed it one bit.  My fiance and I make music together now instead of watching television and most importantly we have meaningful conversations that involve things other then a show we are watching.  I feel mentally detoxed and have come out feeling refreshed.

About Me

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Current stay at home mama and former teacher.  I'm interested in healthy allergy free eating.  I love music and trying new products.  I am working to reduce my consumption of the unhealthy elements in the world and increase my happiness.