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Giveaway for Locals: Grass-fed Meat and Organic Produce, Delivered!

Hey local readers! It’s somebody’s lucky day! I have two awesome prizes to give away.

  • A pound of t-bone steaks, a roast, and pound of hamburger from local, grass-fed cows, courtesy of Grass Fed Moo
  • One week of organic produce delivered to your doorstep, courtesy of Absolute Organics

We’ve been eating Grass Fed Moo and Absolute Organics around here for a while, and we love them!

Grass Fed Moo

I discovered Grass Fed Moo through my local Mommies Network. The local moms raved about this delicious, grass fed meat. The cows are given no steroids, eat grass without pesticides, and are given no hormones or antibiotics. I had known that conventional meat can be dangerous for our family, and this gave me a wonderful, reasonably-priced alternative. You can order a 1/32 of a cow, up to a whole cow, with obviously a variety of cuts. Here are the things I love:

  • Reasonably priced – it costs about $5 per “meal.” I feel like this is pretty reasonable, considering it is such high quality, and some of these meals are several steaks or a large roast.
  • You get to try a variety of cuts. I’ve wowed guests with the short ribs, my husband LOVES his steak (go figure), and I love making homemade beef broth from the bones. (Really. It’s delicious!)
  • I’m supporting a local farm with good farming practices.

I’m excited to share this absolutely delicious meat with a reader!

Absolute Organics Delivered Produce

I was never a crazy-organic fan before having kids. But once I had little babies – and I’m sure many a parent identifies – the idea of feeding that precious untainted little bundle a serving-full of pesticides and dangerous chemicals…well, it all become more relevant.

Organic produce was often out of my budget and hard to find, until I began using Absolute Organics. Here’s a sample basket I got recently. (This is the $30 basket.)

037

If I had bought the above this week at Harris Teeter, it would have cost $27.12, AND it wouldn’t have been delivered, AND, that’s not even for organic. Organic, it would have been much, much more expensive.

I love the idea that I’m feeding my family healthier produce, and it might just be my imagination, but it seems to taste better?!?!

Here is how Absolute Organics works. You order online (please mention my name if you place an order!), selecting the fruits/vegetables that you do and do not like. You can choose from three different sized baskets and weekly or bi-weekly delivery, to your home. (You can cancel at any time.) You leave out a cooler and get your produce! I’ve been really pleased with the owner, Vonda, on her level of communication and service. And also the quality of produce. It’s always been extremely fresh.)

The winner of this giveaway gets, in addition to the steaks, a $30 basket of your selected produce, delivered to your door. (They deliver to Charlotte, Concord, Mooresville, Huntersville, Davidson, Cornelius, and Gastonia and also to the Hickory, NC area including Conover, Newton, Lincolnton, and Denver.)

To enter to win the steak and produce, all you have to do is:

  1. “Like” Smartter Each Day on facebook, or follow blog via email if you haven’t.
  2. Comment below with your favorite vegetable. I’ll even be liberal with the term “vegetable.” Like when my sister’s high school boyfriend said, “macaroni and cheese” because it was on the Cracker Barrel “vegetable” list. You can even answer macaroni and cheese if you want, and no judging here! 🙂

I’ll announce the winner here Monday, at 8pm and the winner has 24 hours to claim her/her prize. Good luck!

** Special thanks to Eileen from Grass Fed Moo, and Vonda from Absolute Organics for helping me host this giveaway!

Priscilla’s True Life Story: Gluten-free by choice!

I met Priscilla years ago, before she had three kids and a husband! Here they all are now:

priscilla

Aren’t they cute?🙂 I knew that Priscilla and her family had made some radical changes in their diet, and I asked her to share her story about eliminating wheat and GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) from her family’s eating. I haven’t hopped on the gluten-free bandwagon totally yet (mostly because I feel like we have eliminated enough foods with Sam’s allergies!) but I sure see the merits of a diet with healthy proteins and produce at the center.

What I admire most about Priscilla is her passionate determination to make her family healthy! Gotta love that. Hope you enjoy her story! You can find Priscilla blogging here. Thanks for sharing, Priscilla!

Priscilla’s story:

Around this time last year, I was introduced to a book entitled Wheat Belly by William Davis. Dr. Davis is a cardiologist who has done a tremendous job shedding light on the history and effects of modern wheat, or as he calls it, “Frankenwheat.”

He explains why this wheat has gotten to be very poisonous and dangerous for us all. The day I started reading the book, I stopped serving “Frankenwheat” to my children and stopped eating it myself. It took a few more weeks to get my husband to understand and read the book and then he was on board too.

What I learned was so disturbing that I couldn’t in good conscience serve my children bread the next morning.

The book basically explains that the original wheat (Einkorn wheat) has been hybridized and crossbred to make the wheat plant resistant to environmental conditions, such as drought and pathogens. These dramatic and detrimental genetic changes have occurred for monetary reasons including yield-per-acre. This is the wheat that we all can find on the shelves in the supermarket in hundreds and thousands of products. Even “organic” whole wheat bread is still made from this horrible hybridized wheat. What was very troubling for me was the fact that it affects virtually all systems of the body from the brain to the skin to the intestines and the whole nervous system. Dr. Davis links it to autism, ADHD, various cancers, diseases, and even depression.

It’s been nearly a year since we decided to go gluten free. We are not perfect, but I have noticed big differences in my husband the most. He lost 30 lbs, feels more alert and actually has stomach pains when he accidentally has food with wheat in it. My three boys don’t really remember even eating wheat before! Cannon, my three year old, poked at a roll at the Thanksgiving table and asked, “What’s that?!” Since they are not allergic, it’s harder to say, “no,” but I know it’s important to us to eat healthy.

We don’t do a lot of “gluten-free” products, since we are also GMO free. Dr. Davis says that many substitutions for wheat are not good for us either, since they raise blood sugar just as high as wheat. In the book, he goes into depth on why sharp spikes in blood sugar are really detrimental to everyone’s long-term health. We have bought gluten free bread, but usually we just don’t do bread at all.

Breakfast usually consists of buckwheat pancakes with pure maple syrup (which the kids prefer over the old wheat pancakes), eggs with sausage or bacon with avocado, smoothies, or baked oatmeal. For lunch, we usually have left over dinner or do grass-fed beef hotdogs with sweet potato or rice with an egg on top with veggies.

I finally have a really great list for dinner options that everyone enjoys that don’t include wheat. It took a while of trial and error, but glad that we now have a go-to list instead of always searching and wondering if it’ll work.

Some favorites are brown rice pasta with meat sauce, stuffed peppers, meatloaf, honey-spiced chicken with mashed sweet potatoes, pot roast, chicken roast, and shepherd’s pie. Snacks typically consist of apples with peanut butter, fruit cup, cheese sticks, raisins, popcorn, bag of chips, cucumbers with hummus, homemade applesauce or some sort of homemade GF baked good. Check out my pinterest page for more ideas!

priscilla fam

 My boys have been doing great with the gluten free meals. The hardest part is when we to go to someone’s home or a birthday party. They are allowed birthday cake, but I do notice they get more hyper after they eat the wheat!

As for me, I lost about twenty pounds, but I also gave birth four months before I started the whole gluten free diet and was already losing weight slowly. It definitely accelerated the weight loss though! Overall I feel great with our diet and the changes that we’ve made.

I’m in the kitchen a lot, but we’re making it work. The kids always love to “help” with the food preparations. I enjoy teaching them what ingredients are in the foods that they are eating, just to give them an awareness of where their food originated from and the process it has taken to get to the kitchen table.

We hope to one day have our own farm with cows, pigs and chickens and grow a vegetable garden to really know and be in control of what’s in our food! Who would have thought this Puerto Rican princess from Long Island would one day want to be a farmer? LOL. Crazier things have happened, I guess…

*I highly recommend reading Wheat Belly by William Davis and also checking out westonaprice.org for additional information concerning the other changes we’ve made in our diet besides being gluten-free. I also highly recommend watching Genetic Roulette- a documentary shedding light on the GMO controversy.

 

ways to save money you haven’t thought of

I don’t know what these leaves have to do with the post, but aren’t they pretty? 🙂

I know this is going to shock you. But in our family, I am the one who has mini-panic attacks about handles the finances. I’m the one that says, at least every two months, “Honey, this is it. I just did the budget, and it looks really bad this time. We can’t spend any money. None. We’re done.”

Fortunately, everyone in our household is on the same page. However, Todd does sometimes accuse me of exaggerating (weird?!?!), and acting like the world is going to fall in once a week. (How is it my fault that almost does?!?!)

We just bought a van. Every time I have to write a check that large, I kind of hyperventilate, and then for a couple days I am on high financial alert. I start obsessively turning off lights when I leave a room, I scrape the very bottom of the ketchup in the name of frugality, and I (gasp) cut off that deliciously hot shower a few minutes early, fantasizing of the dollars I’m saving in for my sacrifice.

It usually wears off, unfortunately.

But this go-round I’ve actually discovered some really interesting ways to save money, and been reminded of some good ones I knew a while ago.

I’d like to think I’m not the only one who gets a sick feeling in my stomach when I think about how much (more) I need for retirement, and the unfathomable amount of food that must be needed to satisfy two teenage boys. Gulp.

So here are some ways to save some moo-lah. First, the FUN ones. I say that in the “teacher sense” of the word “fun.” Remember when your teacher said she had a “fun” worksheet? Think of it that way.

Fun ways:

  1. Have a yard sale. Serve hot chocolate, put out good signs, advertise on Craig’s List. Spend a few weeks going through each room in the house. Let your eyes fall on every object you own, and ask yourself: “Self, would I rather have (this object), or $1?” The only sticky part comes when one half of you would like to hang onto a rusting, corroding key chain collection, and one half of you unfathomably feels an emotional connection to said key chains.
  2. Use coupons. Oh, don’t roll those eyes. I use this link to see what coupons align with my local store, Harris Teeter. You don’t even have to do it every week! If you got your Sunday local paper, set aside the coupons, and drug them out for “Double Coupons” or “Triple Coupons” weeks at your grocery store, you’d be amazed how much free or next-to-free items you’d rack up.
  3. Set a reasonable but strict grocery budget, and get out cash for the month to put in an envelope. I was skeptical of this system. By biggest fear, aside from realizing I actually spend 4  times the amount I think I spend, was losing the envelope. So far, so good. It makes me so proud to know I’m staying in my budget! I plan to reward myself with a nice cold frappachino with part of my surplus. Ahhh, the many, many perks of being a stay-at-home mom. It’s a crazy life I live.
  4. Subscribe to the blog Money Saving Mom. I used to think she was only coupons and freebies. I have recently discovered that she is full of genuinely practical and helpful ways to make money from home and creatively budget. Everyday she has at least 20 different deals and tips. Truly amazing! So far (and it’s only been three weeks) I’ve won two giveaways, about 30 free ebooks, gotten a gift card, and made some blogging connections. Success, I’d say!
  5. Also subscribe to Free Homeschool Deals. It is far more than “homeschool deals.” Just today, I ordered about 10 free ebooks, about everything from homemade Christmas gifts to sharks and donkeys to everyday desserts.
  6. Use Swagbucks. If you use swagbucks to search the web (instead of google or whatever), you earn points to redeem for giftcards. I have friends who earn  over $100 a year in gift cards by doing nothing more than search the web. When you install swagbucks, send me an email so that I can get a referral! Their referral prizes are terrific. It’s been a month and I have a $5 gift card to Amazon, just by doing business as usual online!
  7. Sell books, etc on Amazon trade-in services. If you are like me and have old textbooks lying around, you can sell them for cash on amazon. Amazon even pays the shipping!

Now, the not-fun ways:

First, a story. {Isn’t it funny how you remember weird snippets from your childhood? I’ll never get out of my mind the time we were at an amusement park during closing time and the french-fry vendor gave us his leftover fries for free. Ah, what a wonderful memory.}

Also, one time my dad and I were cleaning out our car. He said something like, “You know, people don’t think it’s important to do maintenance on things. It’s the tyranny of the urgent – they only fix what’s broken. And it comes back to bite them.”

I’ve never forgotten that.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m horrible at it. But I know he’s right.

Here are the ways to save money, not but making money, but by not spending it. Gee whiz that sentence was deep.

  1. Keep anti-virus on your computer.
  2. Speaking of your computer, don’t let your kids play with the power adapter, don’t set drinks near your computer, and never set it on the floor. Where you will step on it. Or your kids will sit on it. Or drive a bulldozer over it. Etc. Etc.
  3. #2 above, for the cell phone. Add to not make phone calls on the toilet. (Who does that??)
  4. Keep the change. Literally, keep all the change you have/find/have been ignoring under the couch cushions. Get piggy bank.
  5. Keep your car in the garage.
  6. Change the oil regularly.
  7. Don’t grind up spoons in the garbage disposal.
  8. Don’t suck up paper clips and other plastic gunk in the vacuum.
  9. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth. And don’t (gasp, ahem, looking over at husband) run the shower for five minutes while you brush your teeth, go the bathroom, search for that perfect pair of boxers, clean out your ears, etc. etc. etc.!!!!!!! Wow. I guess that’s been bothering me. 🙂
  10. Only use HE detergent in your machine if it calls for it.
  11. Clean out the dryer vent.
  12. Replace the vacuum filter every six months, or whatever the manufacturer calls for. (Look, I warned you these were going to be boring!)
  13. Don’t let your kids “ride” your vacuum while you use it, even if seems like it is the highlight of their existence, because otherwise the “motherboard” gets damaged. (Who even knew non-spaceship items had “motherboards”?)
  14. Don’t drive places you don’t need to drive.
  15. Pay your bills on time.
  16. Repeat: pay your bills on time.
  17. When you’re buying something, look twice at the size/item #/thing you thought you were getting, to make sure.
  18. Brush your kids’ teeth after eating raisins. (I know, random. But they’re the worst, says a dentist I know. raisins = cavities = money.)
  19. Use a drying rack/clothesline instead of dryer sometimes. The dryer is your the biggest use of electricity.
  20. Keep your termite pest control treatments up-to-date.

I think I’ll stop there, because I’m starting to fall asleep. Did I just say “termite pest control?” I did. Anyways, you get the point. I realize this list is not going to become an overnight sensation on Pinterest or anything. But I thought we could all use a reminder to take care of the things we have! Listen to my dad!! Go change your oil!!! 🙂

Giveaway Winner!

I’m excited to announce the winner of the ebook Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas…Kathy from Kangaroo Mama! Congratulations! I’ll be emailing you with your code to enter at checkout!

I have been devouring my copy of Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas. This is an extremely helpful, well-written little book. It is just jam-packed with tips, websites, recipes, crafts, gift ideas, etc. etc.  For the next three days it is on sale for $.99 at Amazon! I’m quite sure you would make that back with the money-saving tips that Crystal provides. Click here to purchase!

Thanks for all the cookie suggestions! I was surprised how many I hadn’t even heard of! Stay tuned here for next week’s Wednesday giveaway!

Today-Only Giveaway! preparing for Christmas ebook!

I have one copy of “Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas” ebook to give away free today!

I have recently become a fan of the author, Crystal Paine, from the blog Money Making Mom. She has daily info on freebies, hot deals, coupons, etc. But she’s also full of practical, sound wisdom about how to be a good homemaker on a budget. I’m curious to hear her tips for Christmas, including:

  • freezer cooking for the holidays
  • making a December budget
  • simple, homemade gifts
  • fun family activities, and more!

If you want to enter:

  1. Comment below, or via facebook. What’s your favorite Christmas cookie? (Gearing up for my sister’s cookie contest!)
  2. “Like” Smartter Each Day on facebook, OR subscribe to the blog (see link on the right!)

I’ll randomly select a winner and announce tomorrow!

mineral makeup review!

my mineral makeup samples!

Some weird things have been happening to me recently. One, I can’t stop thinking about houseplants and decorative greenery. Two, every time I try to type on an “iphone” or some sort of new communication contraption, I keep hitting all the letters at once and I can’t figure it out. I think I’m getting old.

Also, I started feeling really grimy putting on my usual lotion and makeup. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve caught a bit of the clean and green bug. (Not too, too much…I still have my microwave. And my Taco Bell, every Sunday.)

But for some reason every morning after showering, it just didn’t feel right to slather on all those dyes and chemicals directly onto my fresh, clean morning skin. I have no idea where this came from finally after 31 years, but here we are.

So I recently discovered that Everyday Minerals foundations received a “low risk” safety rating on the EWG’s Cosmetic Database. Since you can order samples for $.01, I gave it a shot. You are allowed to order up to seven different products to sample. I tried some matte and semi-matte foundations, and their “soft bronzer” as well. I also like that their foundations are reasonably priced. Sometimes you feel like you are consuming gold dust itself for the price of some “natural” products, but not in this case.

As I mentioned in my original post, I did not expect much. First of all, it’s missing all the typical (essential?) dyes, chemicals, parabens and other things that I’m not really sure what category they actually are, besides “things I can’t pronounce.”

And second, it’s a powder. I’m a liquid girl. I’m a “powder can’t possibly cover up everything” girl.

Well.

I am HAPPY to report that I was incredibly, wonderfully, surprised!! Five stars!! I remembered another company’s instructions about application for mineral makeup and used that technique. It’s more like painting than a soft brush. You smear a lot of the mineral makeup on the brush and sort of press pretty hard as you do a slow back and forth motion with your brush. In other words, you don’t just lightly dust  on as you would a finishing powder.

That said, after I had taken my time to apply it correctly, it looked terrific!

No, that’s not the before…it was morning, people!

I’m not sure that my camera, and wet hair, and bathrobe, and morning eyes really capture it here. But take my word that the finished product was smooth, covering but not pasty, healthy looking, soft, and pretty. Todd said he liked it as much or better. So score. While I anticipated just using it “around the house,” I take it back. It’s date-night worthy! I do think I would like to test their concealer. As apparently I’m one of 256 women in the whole wide world with both wrinkles and pimples. But whatever.

Also, I was not as much of a fan of their “soft bronzer.” I am a bronzer girl. Like, if I’m stuck on a deserted (yet public?) island, I’m taking my bronzer. So I may continue to use my yucky commercial bronzers. But I look at it like this. If the moisturizer and makeup applied directly on the face are healthy, it’s like adding bacon to a salad. It cancels out, you know?!?
Anyway, if you are interested in a healthier foundation, try it and let me know if you like it too!

baby steps to a green(er) home

I remember the first time my Aunt Rebecca showed me the movie What About Bob? and claimed it was hysterical.  For the first ten minutes Bob made me very uncomfortable. Or maybe it hit a bit too close to home, all the crazy germophobia and anxiety disorders. Who knows. Then of course, I fell in love with Bob, and Gil, and Dr. Leo Marvin. A friend of mine had “must love What About Bob” on her husband-to-be checklist. I thought that was smart, and not overreacting at all. Simply put, if you do not love that movie, what is wrong with your sense of humor?!?! Furthermore, it is insightful.

I can’t tell you how many times I, like Bob, tell myself, “Baby steps, Jessica…baby steps.” But this post is not about Bob Wiley, although clearly he does deserve his own one day. This is about bringing natural, clean living inside your home.

Now look.

If you are already clean and green (and you know who you are), then do not read this post. Better yet, do. Because you’ll feel really good about how you are ten years further away from cancer than I and the other novice environmentalists.

Because let’s be honest, I am at least 12-24 months behind any semblance of a current trend, and whatever music I am listening to is – well, first of all, on a CD (?!?!) – and second, is already annoying the uber-trendy teenagers who have moved completely on. (And, for the love, is it Avett Brothers or Averrt Brothers??? Whatever.)

So anyway, the point is, I am new to being green. And it’s not easy, being green. (Ugh, ignore me! No self control today.) So these are some very beginning tips of things I am implementing around here. I would love to know what you are doing? (And also, what music are you listening to? and on what? ipod? ipad? itouch? always so curious what the cool kids are doing.) ANYWAYS, the list:

  1. My new best friend: (sorry, Todd.)

ahhhh….

It is truly amazing how God made vinegar so wonderful. {interjection: I officially am a senior citizen at heart. Who says that?!?!} But really, it is. It is harmless, kills mold, disinfects, cleanses, freshens, I could go on and on. Here are the things I clean with a spray bottle of vinegar:

  • my shower (I’ve heard to add a spritz of DAWN in with it to get it really sparkling clean)
  • my kitchen sink (Which is gross. Really gross. No, not mine, yours. Seriously, if you haven’t disinfected your sink recently, RUN, do not walk, to your sink right this minute and clean it. Now, isn’t that better?)
  • produce, especially non-organic. I add about a cup to a big bowl and fill the rest with water, soak my produce for 15 minutes and then rinse clean. I swear it tastes better after!
  • My windows. Bye-bye weirdly blue Windex!
  • Ty’s high chair. I know you’ve just gotten comfortable, but probably you should get up right this second and go disinfect your smunchy munchin’s high chair, also, if you have one. They get real gross too.
  • Kitchen counters.
  • Kitchen floors.
  • And I’ll be honest, I have also used vinegar to clean out my nasal cavities. And wow, let me assure you, it works.
  1. limit/eliminate bleach – this is supposed to be number 2, but I can’t for the life of me figure out to get number 2 down here. So, number 1.5…Bleach is known to be very harmful to us and the environment. I always try to find an alternative, such as vinegar for mold, and hydrogen peroxide or baking soda for laundry. {Although – disclaimer – back in the days of Norovirus ’11, when I read bleach was the only thing that killed it, I sloshed that stuff around here like it was water. }
  2. Replace antibacterial soaps with plain hand soap. I was surprised to learn that the FDA recently expressed concern that the ingredient triclosan in anti-bacterial soaps could in fact be harmful. There are oodles of recipes online to make your own soap, but that sounds like a really messy hobby for moms of toddler boys. Anyone? Confirm/deny? In the meantime, Dial and most stores produce plain hand soap you can use.
  3. Replace this :with this:
  4. Stainless steel is much safer than non-stick surfaces, which can release chemicals when cooking. Although I thought I would miss that nonstick surface, I have been completely pleased with how mine cooks.
  5. Get one of these for everyone. Glass is another good option. I love this one I got for Sam. And throw out those Nalgenes. Or use them for bath toys.  Or vases, if you’re the earthy, chocco-type.
  6. Limit/eliminate microwave usage. At the very least, never ever use plastic to heat up your food, which can release carcinogens. But I’ll be honest. At 11:37 in the day, if there is a half of a chicken enchilada calling my name, I wait 90 seconds and not 25 minutes for the forever oven. So there. I’ve confessed. But I do use my tea kettle for water, my saute pan for the boys’ breakfast sausage, and a sink-ful of cold water to thaw meat.
  7. This is super-simple, but open your windows for 20 minutes a day! Invite in some fresh air! I try to do this no matter what the temperature, even for a bit.
  8. Lastly, I have not implemented this yet, but it is my next step… I am going to get some house plants! And try not to kill them! I found a list on pinterest of air-purifying plants. I’m going to buy them all. I mean it’s pinterest, people! They are never wrong!

So there are my beginner tips! What cleaner, natural alternatives have you found?