Life & Littles Podcast!

Exciting news!!!

Our own Dr. Annie is on this week’s episode of Doctor Mommy, MD’s podcast talking about second trimester of pregnancy. The Life & Littles podcast may just be your new favorite listen, friends!

Photo credit Fiona Margo Photography

“Imagine your best friend is a doctor and a mom, what questions would you want to ask her over a glass of wine? What questions would you text her in the middle of the night?” Sound helpful?

Grab a coffee or glass of wine and tune in on iTunes and subscribe to get all the upcoming fun times!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-littles-with-doctor-mommy-md/id1451847392?mt=2&i=1000429939961

You can also find Shelly on Instagram and Facebook @doctormommymd and should check out her gorgeous blog while you’re at it!

Xoxo!

Strong Women Series: Tackling Addiction with Compassion

Every day, millions of lives are touched by the disease of addiction. Whether personally, or through the eyes of family members or dear friends, many of us have watched and hoped while those we love fight their battle with addiction. According to the Surgeon General’s 2016 report, Facing Addiction in America, one in seven Americans will experience a problem with alcohol or drug abuse in their lifetimes, approximately 20 million Americans have current substance use disorders, and 78 Americans are dying from overdose every day.  Addiction knows no boundaries, and touches all walks of life and socioeconomic statuses, from celebrity to poverty.

addiction antibiotic capsules cure

Introducing Mary Page Shinholser

It is through this lens, that I am proud to introduce an amazing woman that I most definitely look up to, despite being almost 9 years older than her.  I first came to know Mary Page Shinholser through Crossfit, about a year ago, and found the more I got to know her, the more I admired her. I had only heard bits and pieces of her story, but I always found her energy positive and relatable.

One of the many reasons Mary Page is a hero to me is because she clearly answered a call from the universe to help, and teaches from her own personal experiences with addiction and empowers people to reclaim their world from its clutches.  Another is that she follows this call inexhaustibly, never failing to touch people and remind them that they are NOT ALONE. Ever.

In her words…

Here is Mary Page Shinholser’s story, in her own words:

Hello blog world! I’m here to tell you a little about me, what I do in the addiction and recovery field, and why it matters.

My experience in this world is long and personal. I have lost count of the funerals I have been to of those who have overdosed or had an addiction-related death. Some of the most amazing people in my life are in recovery. My father, step mother, three uncles, both grandfathers, a few good friends, two cousins, and a former boyfriend all are in recovery from Substance Use Disorders (SUD). They are kind, hard working, and compassionate people that as a child, I looked forward to spending the evenings with, either at Narcotics Anonymous meetings after school in a basement church, at cookouts, campouts, or holiday parties. I used to write some of my parent’s friends letters while they were in jail.  

MP and Dad
Me and my Father

I was always proud of the world I grew up in. I had a fantastic childhood. I vividly remember my very first drug talk at the age of seven, and my first drug test. Drug tests were kept on top of our fridge, and my first one was administered at the age of 12. I knew no different, in fact I was shocked to find out that most other kids didn’t grow up the way I did.

The first time I experienced the stigma attached to the disease of addiction (yes, disease, I’ll touch on that a bit later), was in middle school. I wanted to have a sleep over and my friend’s parents wouldn’t let her come over to my house because, she said “my mom said no because your dad is a drug addict.” I didn’t understand, and my little broken heart said “my dad is NOT a drug addict. He’s in NA, he is clean, and has been clean since before I was born! HE WORKED THE STEPS!” I was distraught. I cried, a lot. I guess that is where the educator in me was first born. 

Fast forward 15 years. I’m teaching 8th grade civics and economics and loving it. When I was told by the county that I wouldn’t have a job the following school year, I was absolutely crushed. Here I was, finally loving what I do and I was damn good at it. I had a 94% SOL passing rate, (do you know how hard that is to achieve with middle schoolers obsessed with Instagram and Fortnite?) I was coaching Track and Field, and I was making a difference. 

Throughout this period in my life, the opioid epidemic was at an all time high, and it really pissed me off. I heard this little voice in the back of my head saying, “Mary Page. DO. SOMETHING.” Well, the universe heard me. Soon after that, I had a recruiter reach out to me on LinkedIn and asked me, “Have you ever thought about teaching people about addiction and recovery?”

MP fam
Me with my Dad and Stepmom

“Well, Hell YEAH!” I thought, and a few interviews later, I received an offer that I just could not refuse. I landed a Community Relations role with a treatment center that truly is on a mission to provide the best high-level treatment and care in the field. #winningforeveryone

My job is to travel around the state of Virginia, let people know who I am, who we are, what we do, and how we do it. I get to talk to people in probation and parole, inmates, counselors, doctors, lawyers, politicians, school counselors, and beyond. I not only get to teach people about treatment, but I also get to give people hope. I get to tell people they’re not alone. I get to give people a first, second, third, or fourth chance at a better life. Most importantly, however, I get to educate people into getting the right treatment options for them. And if we are not right for them, I point them in the direction of the best fit for their recovery.

What is SUD?

SUD is categorized and defined as a disorder and mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association and is listed in the most recent version of the DSM-5. There are three subclassifications (mild, moderate, and severe) that fall into four major categories: impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria.

Brain
Photo Credit The Recovery Research Institute

Addiction is not a one size fits all disease. There is no single treatment that works for everyone who walks through our doors. There is no chemotherapy, blood transfusion, surgery, or transplant that can cure it. It is pure hard work. Tackling recovery, whether it’s your first time or your twentieth, is majorly hard. It is emotional and it is raw.

In a way, I have found my purpose in life through this new role I am in. I want to educate people not only on addiction, but also on mental illness in general. There are so many diseases and disorders out there that people know nothing about, but cast judgement upon it, which makes it so much harder for people to reach out and get the help they need. If I can reach one small group of people, or even just one person, and let them know, “Hey, I see you. I will help you. I love you, and you are not nor will you ever be alone. I will fight with you and I will fight for you,” then I can sleep soundly at night.  

I want to end this post with two things. First, if you or anyone you know are struggling or even showing small signs of SUD, reach out and ask for help. It is out there and it is closer than you think. Second, be kind and be compassionate.

The human race has mastered the art of covering things up with a smile. You never know when you’ll be faced with SUD head on, but I can guarantee you this; this community is strong, this community is welcoming, and this community is filled with fighters.

I will say it again, so you can hear it. You are Not Alone.

Feeling Inspired?

Big thanks to Mary Page for telling her inspiring story! For more resources and further reading on SUD and addiction, check out the Surgeon General’s full report on Addiction in America, or this fantastic TED talk by Johann Hari. And please, pay your knowledge and compassion forward. Share the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website and free confidential helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) with those you love. The SAMHSA offers 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Let’s commit to saying it loud, together: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Stay tuned, because Mary Page has an awesome Podcast launching later this month entitled “Ment”. It will primarily focus on mental and behavioral health issues that fly under the radar. People who have suffered from these disorders will be given a platform to share their stories, how they reached a point to seek recovery, and how their recovery is thriving. The hope behind this new endeavor for Mary Page is to pay recovery forward. To allow people to know that you are “Ment” to be right where you are in your journey.  You can look for more updates as they come on our Real As A Mother social media sites.

 

IMG_5091

 

Kristy is a birth doula, massage therapist, homesteader, mother of two, and supporter of strong women in Virginia.

 

 

I Am Not a Part-Time Parent

I cannot believe we still have to have this conversation, but here we are. Someone recently made a comment to me that it must be nice to be a “part-time parent” because I, like my husband, work outside of the home in an office during the week.

I was pretty surprised at the comment. “Part-time parent?” I asked. “Yeah,” she said, “You basically only have a few hours a day with your kids and on the weekends. That sounds pretty part-time to me.”

eye roll

Once I was able to convince myself not to hurl myself at this person, I decided to put pen to paper on a few thoughts, juuuuuust in case anyone reading this has had the same misconceptions about what it can mean to be a working mother.

Image result for working mom gif

1. When I work during the day to help earn income for my home – to help pay the mortgage, lights, car payment, insurance, etc, I am being a parent.

2. When I stay late to try to close that deal or finish that project, so I can try to earn some extra income to save more for college for my kids, for example, I am being a parent.person holding pink piggy coin bank

3. When I show my kids that a woman can be equal to men with regard to financially supporting a family, I am being a parent.

Related image

4. When I rearrange my day and client meetings to care for a sick child, take them to an appointment, or join for a field trip, I am being a parent.

5. When I do an entire presentation to a group of potential investors with baby spit-up down my shirt, covered by a suit jacket, without missing a beat, I am being a parent.  (BTW, this did happen, and I always felt like Michelle in One Fine Day with the dinosaur shirt on…)

Image result for one fine day michelle gif

6. When I stay up late to study so I can propel my career forward with the dream of creating an even better life for my kids, I am being a parent.

7. When I get home in the evening, exhausted from a particularly trying day, and I help my kids with homework, clean up the dinner my husband kindly made, give the kids a bath and tuck them into bed with a kiss, I am being a parent.

Related image

8. When on the weekends, I attempt to catch up on some piles of laundry and cleaning I couldn’t tackle during the week, I am being a parent. Yes, my house might not be perfect, but that’s not my priority right now. We all prioritize things differently, it’s what makes us uniquely ….you guess it…..parents.

Image result for exhausted mom gif

9. When I work on my laptop for a few hours on a Sunday to catch up because I had to pick up my kid from school because he was sick earlier in the week, I am being a parent.

10. When I take some time to go to the gym so I can set an example for my kids to prioritize their physical health, taking them with me to show them safe and effective examples of doing so, I am being a parent.

45677017_10105130052096349_1485442781810786304_n

Dear mamas, none of you are less of a parent if you work inside the home, work outside of the home, have a nanny, don’t have a nanny, or sit in a bubble bath in your spare time.

I am a parent 100% of the time, regardless of whether I am physically present with my children or not. No one can convince me anything about my parenting is “part-time” so don’t let anyone make you believe it either!

Also, let’s take this opportunity to remind each other to stop spending time with people who don’t feed your positivity. You know who they are. They are the women who smile to your face but are threatened by your happiness or success. They are the ones who will talk snidely about the fact that your house isn’t as clean as theirs or that you gained a couple more pounds than last year. These “Frenemies” have no place in my life and I hope you make a conscious decision to remove them from yours!! (See Discovering and Coping with Energy Vampires). In the words of Sophia A. Nelson:

Be a  woman other women can trust. Have the courage to tell another woman directly when she has offended, hurt, or disappointed you. Successful women have a tribe of loyal and honest women behind them. Not haters. Not backstabbers or women who whisper behind their back. Be a woman who lifts other women.

People who truly love you will understand that your shining light never dims their own. They won’t call attention to your faults or your struggles. They won’t be jealous of your happiness and try to ruin it. They will highlight your strengths and your triumphs. Those are your people. And those people know there is nothing part-time about love.

Love,

Margo

018 (1 of 1)

Margo is the silly lady in the blue dress, a full time mom of two, supporter of other parents and financial advisor.

 

Green Smoothie Wednesday

Yep, you read that correctly. GREEN Smoothies! Cue all kids (and arguably a large percentage of adults) tuning OUT. But stick with me. We all know that eating our greens is important for health and fitness reasons, and today we are blending up the original green superfood, spinach.

green leaves in white ceramic bowl

Packed with calcium, iron, and vitamins, spinach has boasted major staying power through diet fads and gleaned nutritional street cred from modern nutritionists to legends like Popeye himself.

The calcium in spinach can help strengthen your bones to fight against injury, and vitamins A and C, fiber, folic acid, and other nutrients fight against colon and breast cancers. Spinach also helps to lower damaging protein levels in the blood and can protect against high blood pressure and heart disease.*

Basically, spinach has nutritional benefits for all ages and all stages of life. The good news is there are much more fun ways to get your daily spinach in than a bowl full of salad every day of the week. (And whose children would ever do this BTW?!) Enter – the green smoothie. Delicious smoothies sneakily stocked with spinach.

In our opinion, there’s no better way to keep healthy eating rolling through the new year than incorporating smoothies into your regular routine.  The great thing about using spinach in smoothies is that it actually has a very mild taste so it blends well with other ingredients. So, whether you are new to the pursuit of your daily greens, or a regular green-juice goddess, we’ve compiled a list of our Real as a M*ther all-time favorite green smoothies that are packed with nutrient-rich spinach and actually taste really good.

photo of milk near almonds

Nut-Butter Banana (and Spinach! Just don’t say that out loud) Smoothie

  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup organic no sugar added nut butter of your choice (almond, peanut, and cashew butter all taste great)
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (optional – omit to keep dairy free)
  • 1 cup milk of your choice (we typically use whole milk for our kids, but also love almond and coconut milk dairy-free options)
  • Our favorite optional add-ins: vanilla protein powder, chia seeds

Makes 2 large or 4 small smoothies.

vegetarian juice on table

Green & Glowing At-Home Smoothie

Whenever we take our kids to Whole Foods, (which as you may know if you have ever taken 3 or more children to Whole Foods, is a frantic 2-hour endeavor with a $500 minimum) we all end up at the smoothie bar to fill up on one of their delicious Green and Glowing smoothies. When we are not at the store (hallelujah), we make this knock-off version at home.

  • 1 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 cup frozen peach
  • 1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut
  • 1 -2 cups milk of choice (adjust for preferred thickness)
  • 1/4 cup flax seed
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach
  • Our favorite optional add-ins: vanilla protein powder, collagen peptides (for the grown-ups “glowing” skin)

 

clear highball glass with purple liquid

Greens-on-the-Go Smoothie

We love this smoothie for the flexibility of its ingredients (basically whatever we have in the freezer actually works), the ease with which we can throw it together on-the-go (which is pretty much constantly – we have ten kids between us, remember?), and for the fact that it tastes vaguely like the most nutritious PB&J you’ve ever had.

  • 1.5-2 cups spinach
  • 1 tbsp nut butter of choice
  • 2/3 – 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1 handful of oats
  • 1.5-2 cups berries of choice
  • 1 shot of maple syrup
  • Our favorite optional add-ins: A shot of maple syrup to sweeten it up for the kids, a 1/4 cup or more of yogurt for a creamier smoothie, and coconut oil for extra good fats and coconutty flavor.

food dark brown white

Chocolate Crush Smoothie

Ok, so this recipe doesn’t involve eating any candy. Womp, womp. Sorry folks, this is a green smoothie post, after all. But, the nutrition-packed ingredients of this creamy smoothie give it a chocolatey, nutty, flavor that is almost as good as having candy for breakfast (or lunch for that matter – this is Kristy’s fave weekday lunch) and always keeps us coming back for more.

  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups spinach (or 1 cup kale)
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 avocado
  • Optional add-ins: Anti-oxidant boost (Kristy uses Nerium’s Youth Factor Superfood Powder), coconut oil or flakes

close up drinks flora flowers

So Fresh and So Green Smoothie

This smoothie is a super-refreshing pick-me-up any time of the day. We love it particularly while dreaming of warm tropical days, or while recovering from an afternoon of chasing our kids around the house. The superpowers of spinach and mint combine to make this almost, just almost a better green alternative to coffee. TBD.

  • 1.5-2 cups spinach
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2 tbsp – 1/4 cup mint
  • Our favorite optional add-ins: vanilla protein powder, coconut flakes, chia seeds

green dessert

That’s a wrap on green smoothie Wednesday! Don’t forget any of these smoothies can be made into delicious smoothie bowls by decreasing the amount of liquid, and topping with nuts, fruit, and/or granola. Now, let’s see if Popeye was right about all this spinach. Watch out, 2019!

b8fd0f48-abdd-41a9-9b27-0b537b307a55

Cheers, and Happy (green) New Year from all of us at Real As A M*ther! Moms to 10 kids, doctor, lawyer, doula/massage therapist, financial planner, and green smoothie makers.

 

 

 

Sources: * 4 Incredible Health Benefits of Eating Spinach by Melanie Rolland, @ guidedoc.superfooods

Discovering and Coping With the Energy Vampires In Your Life

Do you ever find yourself wondering, watching through exhausted eyes as the kids get back on the bus after winter break, why the holidays left you so unimaginably drained? The more I think about it, stories of heightened stress around the end of the year holiday festivities have my thoughts pointed in a singular direction. Overwhelming. Amounts. Of. People.

Photo Credit The Carson J Spencer Foundation blog

Whether it is travel, being around family, or the financial pressures we place on ourselves, it seems after that shiny disco ball rings in the New Year, a collective sigh of relief audibly guides us back to our sense of normalcy. Does anyone else ever find themselves asking… “why?”

After all, we can mostly push the proverbial pause button on school, morning routines, and after school/work activities for a bit. We’ve spent time at home, in our pajamas, sipping coffee and smiling at each other while the kids relished in the magic of the season, right?

Oh wait…I forgot.

 

building christmas tree indoors mall

There were school parties; work parties; friend parties; shopping in crowds; returning gifts; family to see, cook for and entertain; traffic; neighbors; gaggles of children…must I go on?

The point is, during this time of year we are almost forced to be around people that we may not see throughout the year. Sometimes this is a great thing and we are filled up with warm fuzzies, but other times we leave a situation feeling drained, overwhelmed, angry, depressed, anxious, threatened, and just down right OVER IT.

If this is you, my friend, then you have yourself what I have become accustomed to calling, an “Energy Vampire.” 

Photo Credit headinablender.com

The easiest way I can describe this is in terms of positive and negative. A positive person is in tune, energetic, with a light that flows outward. A negative person’s energy is blocked from the source, so their energy is dense, almost like a black hole, within themselves. The blockage does not allow the energy to replenish, so in order for them to be filled, they have to seek the energy of others.

These individuals may creep up on you, engaging you in a conversation that leaves you feeling empty.  They may not even realize that this is what they are doing to you! They just know that they can dump their emotional “stuff” into your bucket and feel better, regardless of how it leaves you feeling.

No matter what you do, how you try to steer conversation or the direction of the friendship, this one person always finds a way to latch onto you and send you energy revolving in an orbit of negativity around them.

woman and man sitting on brown wooden bench

Most of these individuals are emotionally and energetically immature, so they lack any sort of empathy to recognize the social cues one might give them that they are being too draining.  They also may not care even if you socially cued them right upside their head, because they derive energy from other individuals, and they don’t know how to stop themselves from doing it.

I can’t stop them for you; however, I’m gonna give you some garlic-laced energy ammunition to protect yourself.  Just in case your cat-like reflexes kick in and make you situationally aware when people are waiting for an opportunity to jump into your bubble, I am going to give you some positive tools to use when your emotional capacity is plentiful and you want to be of help.

Photo Cred Joyful31.com

1. Know Your Personal Boundaries

In order to ward off an “energy vampire attack”, we have to be aware of our own personal struggles, mood, and headspace.  “Energy vampires” tend to feed on the weak. The higher your energetic capacity is, the less likely your energy will be drained. Daily, self-centering practices such as meditation, and self reflection are helpful keys to prepare yourself when you have to interact with these types of people. If you know your cups are low, avoid them at all costs.

men and women standing infront of dining table

2. Roll Deep When You Can

If you can avoid one-on-one time with an energy-draining individual, then do. Interacting with negative people is almost always easier in group situations.  Dealing with them in groups not only sways the attention from being directly on you, but often makes the individual less likely to engage in immature behavior. Supportive friends and family are always great allies in these situations.

3. Make a Clean Break

Sometimes, the best way to deal with “Energy Vampires” is to recognize them for what they are and simply keep your distance. Maybe for a short term, maybe for a long term, or maybe until they, or you, are in a better place to communicate with each other. But sometimes you just need to make a clean break. It is important to ask ourselves

“what value is this person/these people actually adding to my life?”

If you are spending way more time solving their problems, listening without reciprocation, coming to their rescue, or worst yet, taking the fall for them when sh*t hits the fanthen it behooves you have to take serious inventory as to what this person is adding to your life. This is not to say that we don’t stand by old friends when sh*t hits the fan. On the contrary.

This is where the old pros and cons lists comes in handy. It sounds silly, but, I absolve you of any guilt-ridden feelings in performing this task.   You need your energy for the things you love, giving it away to those who won’t hold it dear is not something vital to your happiness. End. Of. Story.

man s hand in shallow focus and grayscale photography

4. Be Direct

If your kindness kicks in and you want to lend a hand, try and keep your conversations direct. Instead of saying things like “tell me about it,” ask them directly “what can I do to help you?” This can ring very deeply in their empty well, and help them feel listened to and appreciate you on a different level.

For example, as a sleep deprived young mother my energetic cups were often very low and easily sucked into others’ negative inner turmoil. Hindsight is certainly 20/20 as I look back and see that if I could have found the energy at that time to simply ask directly what I could do to help with these individuals’ problems, we may have been able to work together to forge a constructive way to work out our differences, and we would have all been better off. And I could have saved myself a lot of energy-draining days.

5. Have a Self-Care Plan

If interaction with your “vampire(s)” is inevitable (for example with a coworker one cubicle over, or family member that seems to always “drop in“), have a routine for self-care in place for after you are around them (to remember your awesomeness, of course).  Maybe it’s a hot shower to rid yourself of their energy, or doing something nice for yourself or someone your care for – it all comes back to doing things that make you smile and re-fill your energetic “cups.” Whatever it is, tell your partner that you will need to have that time to fill back up immediately after the interaction is over. Your relationship with yourself and with all parties concerned will be better for it.

Photo Credit The Country Workshop

Setting boundaries, remembering who you are, listening to your own needs, engaging in direct conversation, practicing self care, and making a clean break when necessary, are the key components I have found successful in protecting oneself from those who feed off of your energy. I hope these tools help you to recognize who the “Energy Vampires” are in your life (OR if you are one to someone else!) and  go more confidently into situations with your own potential “Energy Vampires” and allow you to more deftly navigate them so that you aren’t left with an empty tank.

Now, go forth and be awesome!

004-1-of-1Kristy is a mother of two, Massage Therapist, and proponent of total body healing in Virginia.

Finance Friday: Financial Resolutions

When I ask my clients, “So, what’s your 2019 resolution?” I get a lot of very similar responses, particularly with the uncertainty of the stock market as of late.  A lot of people are saying:

“I want to go on a financial diet.”

person holding piggy bank

BLLLEEECH.  “Diet.”  That dreaded word.  It makes it sound so… boring, and restrictive.  Yes?  Ok, so let’s rebrand it.  Let’s call it a “Financial Reawakening!!!”  No?  Too much?  Ok, well, whatever you want to call it, here’s what I suggest you consider doing right here, right now, in 2019, to improve your finances without feeling like you are sacrificing things and experiences that make you happy.

1.  Take a Good Look at Your Budget

I highly suggest you either use something like Mint.com (free!) or a good old-fashioned spreadsheet.  Whatever you use, the important thing is that you look honestly at what you are spending and why.

pexels-photo-870902.jpegStart asking yourself, “do I really need the gym membership/pet insurance/lawn service I’m paying $100 per month for?”  Or, “Am I really watching my cable or do I only watch Netflix/Hulu?”  See if you can cut out things that are monthly (re-occurring) expenses that aren’t really adding anything to your life, that you can afford to live without, or are costly services that you can manage to take on yourself.

2. Take Control

Speaking of re-occurring expenses, get a good handle on those.  I love Madison Reed hair color, but I haven’t ordered it.  Want to know why?  They want permission to bill me monthly and send me more on a regular basis.  As a financial advisor, I hate these auto-billings and reoccurring orders, unless it’s truly something I use every day and run out of on a regular basis if more doesn’t arrive at my doorstep.  Take back control.Cancel these auto-payments and take some time to understand what you really need, when, and order it yourself.  You’ll save yourself some money right there.

3. Start Small

Make some MINOR adjustments to start.  If you usually spend $500 per month on eating out at restaurants, cut it back to $450, then back to $400, and until you get to a point where you feel like you are still able to socialize and have a good time, but can still save money.  Do not say, “No, I can’t hang out.  I’m trying to spend less money.”  That’s a Debbie-Downer attitude that will spell out short-term budget success but long-term burn-out.  (And probably like zero friends.)

Don’t do it!

Have fun.  Go out.  Just be more budget-conscious when you do.  Maybe don’t order the surf and turf at dinner (every time) unless someone new you met on Bumble is treating you. 😉

4. Stop Boredom Shopping

No judgment, of course, but I see you – Yes YOU, the one reading this.  At the top of your web browser, there is that tab open to Amazon.  I challenge you to stay away from shopping online when you should be doing other things, like working, sleeping, or hey, catching up with your spouse about his or her day over a glass of wine (a budget-conscious varietal of course).

woman holding card while operating silver laptop
Stahhhhhp it!

It used to be that when exhausted, burned-out parents zoned out at the end of a long day, they’d just watch TV.  (I’m not saying that I personally did, of course, I’ve just heard from certain trustworthy parents that they binge-watched a few shows after the kids went to bed…) Ok, ok, Netflix is still in the rotation. But now, with the enormous growth in online shops, we also have retail therapy constantly at our fingertips, and with our “virtual wallet” we can easily order just about anything (did you know you can buy a hot tub on Amazon?!?!) at anytime without even looking at our debit card, let alone our account balances.  That can be a very dangerous habit.  Make a commitment to yourself that you won’t shop when you are bored or sleepless.

5. Understand Needs vs. Wants

Before making any purchase ask yourself:  “Is this a NEED to have, WANT to have or NICE to have item?”  If it’s a NEED to have, like new tires to safely drive your family vehicle, then by all means, go ahead and make that purchase. (These are almost always the least fun to spend our money on, FYI.  Chock it up to #adulting. Womp, womp.)

silhouette of man and child near white hyundai tucson suv during golden hour

If it’s a WANT to have, don’t deprive yourself, but don’t go crazy.  An example of this is a fancy latte.  You may arguably need a cup o’caffeine to perform your best at work after your kids wake you up at 3am, but you don’t need a Starbucks “double-shot, extra whip, no-fat, extra whatever” you could make a pot of coffee at home.  However, sometimes it just feels good enough to be a little #extra that you can justify spending a few more bucks. Make a commitment to treat yourself to these WANT-to-have items a few times a week, but not every day.  Finally, if it’s a NICE to have (like a boat, a motorcycle, or a Prada purse), don’t purchase it until you have no credit card debt and at least three months of expenses in a savings account. Sorry to break it to you, sailor. 

When in doubt, skip the boat. (Keep the flippy-floppies.)

6. Treat yo’self.

Did you just save $100/month for three months because you were doing these things?  If so, go get a $100 massage.  Yes, I realize that means you’re saving $100 less for the year, but this is about long-term success.  Did you save more than that this year?  $5k?  Go on a trip to Italy with a friend for $3k.

man riding on the motorcycle beside woman standing on the road

Treating yourself because you are making more sound financial decisions will reinforce this behavior and ensure it sticks.  And the longer you do this, the higher the chance is you will see REAL results.  Yes… just like a regular diet.  The rules are the same. Cheating never works and it takes longer than you’ll want. But it feels damn good when you succeed.

HAPPY NEW YEAR and sending my best for your Financial Reawakening!!!!

053 (1 of 1)
Margo Cook is a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two on Maryland’s eastern shore.

Holiday Baking Hacks

“Twas the night before the holiday party and all through the fridge, not a stick of butter could be found, not even a smidge…with the children in bed and the dog in her crate, I’m wondering if Amazon delivers this late… “

 

man in santa claus costume
“No butter?!?!” It would be nice if the big man delivered late night baking essentials too…

The week of last-minute-everything

It’s the last week before Christmas, y’all. The final countdown. The week that in our home is unofficially known as “the week of last-minute-everything.” Between the perpetually forgotten stocking stuffers, out-of-stock toys, procrastinated holiday cards, cookie exchanges, white elephants, and school holiday performances; the office, classroom, and social holiday parties that often tend to occur during this same chaotic week have a tendency to sneak right up on me. Which is bad enough when you can’t find your ugly sweater, but even worse when you realize you’re on the hook to bring holiday treats for two dozen preschoolers and are plum out of a key ingredient.

We all wish we could bake cakes out of rainbows and smiles, but in reality, we need butter. and sugar. and eggs. And sometimes… we run out. So, here are a few ways to save yourself if you come up in a bind in the kitchen.

Favorite “Baking Hack” substitutions

Here are some of my favorite ways to get the job done when a run to the store is just not going to happen.

  • Heavy cream – for every 1 cup of heavy cream, substitute 3/4 c. whole milk and 1/3 c. butter. Melt butter and mix into milk.
  • Eggs – Substitute 1 tbsp cornstarch whisked together with 3 tbsp water, whisked together, per egg.  I use this substitute all. the. time. It’s great in a pinch, but also for saving eggs for brunch, for when that one vegan relative comes over, or even for cookie dough you know the kids will be sneaking. (No raw egg to worry about here!)person peeling the egg
  • Baking powder and Baking Soda – Contrary to popular belief, you can substitute baking soda for baking powder, and vice versa. ON ONE CONDITION. The substitution is NOT ALWAYS EQUAL. Baking soda is much more powerful than baking powder and contains an acid. Read carefully!
    • Baking Powder: Substitute 1/2 tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice for every 1 tsp baking powder needed.
    • Baking Soda: You may substitute baking powder for baking soda at a 3:1 ratio. So simply use three times the amount of baking powder as you would baking soda.
  • Sugar – Both honey and maple syrup (or a combination of both!) are good sugar substitutes in baking. Use 3/4 cup honey or syrup per every cup of sugar needed. Color will be darker if you’re subbing for white sugar here. (Note: Some recipes suggest reducing liquid and adding 1/4 extra tsp. of baking soda for each cup of sugar replaced. I haven’t done this, but you may notice less of a difference in texture with these adjustments)
  • Vanilla – Equal amounts of maple syrup, slightly less almond extract, or (something I always have in the fridge) vanilla almond or soy milk. When cooking for adults you can also spring for a boozy dessert by equally substituting any dark liquor like bourbon, rum or brandy.yellow pastry on white powder on brown wooden table
  • Butter – You have a few great options here.
    • Greek yogurt: For every 1 cup of butter required, substitute 1/2 cup of greek yogurt.
    • Coconut Oil: Substitute in equal amounts, but note that taste can be noticeable (I think this can be a bonus, but non-coconut lovers should proceed with caution). A combination of coconut oil and greek yogurt is also fantastic!
    • Applesauce: For every 1 cup of butter, substitute 1/2 cup of applesauce.
    • Avocado: Substitute equally.
  • Shortening – Coconut oil is the same texture and subs really nicely here. It will give your baked goods a coconutty flavor, as noted above, so not the choice for you if you don’t want that. You can also substitute butter (if you’re not out!) at equal parts plus two tablespoons per cup. But expect a softer dough if you’re making roll-out dough for cookie-cutting. making gingerbread cookies christmas cookie cutters

If it’s healthier holiday treats you’re after, some quick (and sneaky) ways to make seasonal sweets less sinful are to:

  1. Reduce sugar. You can do this without being skewered at the cookie exchange by adding extra vanilla and/or cinnamon if applicable. You can also cut up to 1/4 cup of sugar from most sweet bread and muffin recipes simply by sprinkling a teaspoon or two of sugar on top before baking.
  2. Choose healthy fats. Butter, coconut oil, avocado, and whole milk yogurt are all good fats that top hydrogenated shortening, vegetable or canola oils in our kitchen any day.
  3. Add fiber. You can easily add fiber to bread and muffins by reducing flour and adding flax, wheat germ, chia seeds, and/or oats in its place.  These substitutions not only add fiber but naturally cut calories and boost other nutritional benefits too.
  4. Add protein. You can squeeze protein into bread and muffins (and even cakes!) by adding a scoop or two of your favorite vanilla or unflavored protein powder. Chia seeds are a nice addition to some baked goods as well.

Turns out you can have your holiday cake (and cookies and muffins) and eat it too.  Now that’s some joy definitely worth spreading.

happiness is a piece of cake close up photography

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and amateur late-night holiday baker. (Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography)