Monday, October 10, 2016

hello 27 (goodbye poverty luxe.)

assuming you have fast enough internet that the picture loaded before the words (is slow internet still a thing?), youre probably like, "WHAT THE HELL, VICTORIA?!?!", but just in case it didnt, im going to type it right here: tonight, on the eve of my twenty seventh birthday, im ending my "career" as a blogger here on poverty luxe. i know this may come as a shock to the approximately three people that still read here, especially since my last few sporadic posts made sure to include something about "definitely wanting to continue blogging", but... for me, right now, it feels like the natural next step given whats been going on lately. 

and i couldnt possibly pick a more perfect time to do it than my last night of being 26. 

i started 26 at by far the lowest low that id ever seen. thankfully i didnt stay there, but obviously in order for that to happen there needed to be a considerable amount of growth and change. which there was, and im both incredibly proud and incredibly grateful for all the ways ive changed this year and all the things weve accomplished. 26 started off terrible but ive been joking for a while (mainly to myself because i dont have any friends) that 26 was the year that all my dreams came true: i bought an actual car, found (and worked) my dream job, finally got my teenage crush to pay attention to me (in real life!), and (just last month) moved into a not-terrible apartment with TWO BEDROOMS. meaning, the kids can go to sleep and james can watch tv (because we have one now) and i can do whatever i want and NOBODY IS BOTHERING ANYBODY. its amazing. life isnt perfect, and it never will be, but 26 is one of those years that was definitely full in a good way. 

but ive also changed a lot. im not who i was a year ago and im DEFINITELY not who i was when i started this blog three and a half years ago: when i started this blog, i was in a really bad place, and i needed an outlet to be creative and to distract me from how miserable i was with everything that was going on in my life at the time. blogging gave me a place to pretend that i had it all together and for a while it really did help me to feel happier. but it wasnt real happiness so much as it was the illusion of happiness, and what i didnt realize (until just a couple days ago when i was wrestling with how and when i was going to write this post) was that because i spent so much time on crafting the illusion of happiness, i had tricked myself into thinking that i was actually working on making myself happier. but i wasnt. happiness (for me) doesnt come from the things i do online, whether its sharing a craft or a recipe or a listicle about minimalism, it comes from the things im actually doing in actual real life, and i can honestly say, that this year of not really blogging anymore has been one of the happiest of my entire life. 

theres also the branding issue. branding in the blogging world is a really tricky thing, and, not that i did a great job at branding poverty luxe, its still a pretty specific brand with a pretty specific connotation. and its a brand that im just not sure i identify with anymore. i mean, we dont have that much money than we did when i started this whole thing, but im not letting that define us and our lifestyle anymore. any time ive had an idea for new content lately ive had to really stretch myself to make it fit into the poverty luxe brand and by time i can make it work im over it. so i was left with two choices: i could rebrand this site, or i could start fresh somewhere new. 

which brings us to my last point: my personal/career goals have changed so much, that maintaining a lifestyle blog of crafts and recipes and listicles about minimalism just isnt a productive use of my time and energy. the older i get and the closer i get to graduating and the more i get to do my weird little jobs in the creative sphere the more i realize that my original intention of having a million babies and staying home with an etsy shop or something just isnt where my life is headed. it turns out that freelance teaching/pattern making is a way more viable path for us, given my recently discovered need to be not at home sometimes and my not so recently discovered but recently begrudgingly accepted as not ever going away expensive tastes. 

even though i really feel like my time as a blogger is over (and i genuinely do feel really good about this decision), i am definitely too much of a self absorbed insecure millennial to not maintain an internet presence (also theres that aspiring freelancer thing), so if you want to stay in touch, there are a few options for you: 1. instagram is basically like a blog anyway that i just happen to update a lot more frequently, 2. twitter is where i say a lot of hilarious things mostly about my kids, and 3. you are always more than welcome to send me an email ( also, ill probably have a new, not-branded website up soon thats a bit more relevant to the direction ive been heading in, which will be announced on social media when that happens. also, because i really do genuinely enjoy writing im probably going to actually start working on that memoir i was going to write when i was 19 and then forgot about until my internet friend carrie anne tweeted about writing a memoir (why did i think i could write a memoir at 19? youll see when you read the memoir). 

as for the content here, im probably going to stop renewing my domain name but leave the old posts up since it seems like a lot of people need help making fitted sheets (thats one of the few posts that still gets traffic). 

and before i close the chapter of my life that revolved around this little blog, and move on to whats next, i just want to say thank you to the internet for being so kind and letting me do my thing here and being mostly supportive and not starting a GOMI thread about me. youre the best, internet. 

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

embroideries and epiphanies.

a few semesters ago i took a fashion illustration class from the most wonderfully insane woman who really pushed me out of my comfort zone as an artist and was unbelievably encouraging the entire semester, despite the fact that my drawings are mediocre at best. any time my drawings got wonky with messed up proportions or hideous faces (im the worst at faces. i wont draw figures with faces anymore) she would always say i was "in transition". by that she meant that in order for me to move forward with my drawing skills, things were going to get awkward and my drawings were going to get worse before they got better. i always hated when shed point out that my drawings were "in transition", but she was right, the transitions were necessary in order for my drawings to improve. 

long story short, this all happened about two years ago and i havent done much drawing since, but it recently hit me that what miss baizer said about drawing was true about real life too: everything is in a constant state of transition and those transitions are messy, but things do get better over time. and my response to what ms baizer said about drawings is still true in regards to real life: i hate transitions. 

im a very black and white person, i want things to be here OR there, not somewhere in between, and, well, ive spent a lot of the past few years living in the "in between", and well, ive always hated it. i hated being engaged, i hated being pregnant, ive hated every time weve been between jobs or houses or there was any kind of unknown going on around us. i feel like most people are really into the thrill of the anticipation and i am just not. in all honesty, it just stresses me out. 

i used to think this meant that something was wrong with me and that i was a miserable unhappy person that would never be satisfied with anything in life, but then i had a major epiphany: different people thrive in different environments. i thrive in routine, predictability, stability, and well, thats just not the life ive had lately. and thats totally ok. its ok that these last few years have been hard for me because theyve been chock full of big transitions and i do not do well with transitions. (that was bolded mainly for me)

and even though im not a fan of prolonged transitional phases, a lot of ours are coming to an end: mainly, i graduate next may and james should have a year or less before he journeys out of his apprenticeship. so everythings going to be ok. 

i want to say i had that breakthrough a month or so ago and since then, ive been on a roll with epiphany after epiphany and since this recent outpouring of clarity is going to (probably drastically) change what happens here on the blog, i thought id take some time to let them all out at once (instead of dragging them all out or having to explain myself overtime something changes. also, yes i realize its been forever since i posted last, ill get to that later). so here we go: 

1. my "public persona" and "blogging voice" are so not who i really am. 

im not exactly sure how it happened (and how it happened isnt really important anymore), but ive spent the past few years trying to be the kind of person i thought i was "supposed" to be, the kind of person that other people would like since i didnt have any friends. what that meant was that in an attempt to gloss over all my flaws and the serious trials i was going through, i created this laid-back, easygoing, overly cheerful persona that is just so not me. of course this totally backfired because since i wasnt ever really honest with anyone, i still had a hard time making friends, and it got to the point where i wasnt really sure what i was even actually like anymore. so now im working on not doing that, and while its a been a challenge, i feel like its a step in the right direction.  

2. i want to keep blogging but i hate what the blogging scene has become. 

all this time ive been not-blogging ive been thinking about blogging, i swear. but i havent been able to actually start typing because... well... i am just OVER the blogging "scene". im sick of this whole "brand yourself as an expert in your niche" thing (which i totally fell for and started writing posts that i totally hate because branding), and the way that blogs now are just fronts to get emails to promote webinars to sell courses that cost WAY too much money. im sorry if ive offended anyone but thats what the majority of lifestyle blogging has become, and im over here just wanting to write blog posts...

3. i HAVE to stop being so afraid of everything. 

i have a really bad habit of not even trying things just in case i might fail. for example: you may or may not know that i majored in fine arts in college. i spent FOUR YEARS making art in a fairly serious manner. i have shared approximately none of it. why? because i was afraid to. i dont know exactly what i was afraid of but i have portfolio after portfolio of art that i never showed anyone, and because i never did i never got any feedback and because i never got any feedback i assumed i was terrible and eventually just quit making art together. well in an effort to be more "me" i bought some embroidery supplies last week to make some embroideries because i freaking love doing embroidery. even though i was super excited to start this project it took me DAYS to share my first piece on instagram because i was so self-consious about it (like, i was finishing up the third one and still hadnt posted the first). you know what happened after i posted it? i got a ton of really nice and encouraging comments from not just my friends, but also from the person who wrote the song it was based on. obviously that made my day and i had a super nerd freak out about it, but also i realized how stupid it was that i never show off the things i make. 

what does this all add up to? i dont know, honestly. so far i know it means that im definitely ditching all the things ive been doing that just arent me and trying not to be afraid of failing at that. which is... a lot easier said than done...

so yeah... that was a lot of navel gazing and i applaud anyone that made it all the way down here to the bottom, i know it sucked but i really feel like i needed to get all this out of the way if i want to write any actual blog posts anytime soon. so thanks for sticking things out with my most vulnerable blog post yet!

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

mothers day with the akola project.

we all want to treat our moms to something special for mothers day, dont we? well what if by treating our moms to a little gift could do big things for other moms around the world? how great would that be? pretty great, right? 

with the akola project, you can do exactly that. 

every piece of akola jewelry is beautifully handcrafted in uganda from local materials by women who live in rural poverty and have never been educated. akola not only employs these women, giving them the means to provide for and educate their children, but they also provide holistic education programs and vocational training to these women to empower them to become business owners and leaders in their communities. the akola project is a nonprofit whos model goes beyond merely providing aid to bring lasting, sustainable income for the over 400 women they employ both in uganda as well as dallas. 

akola jewelry not only does amazing things for the women who make it, its also beautiful, versatile, and amazing quality. akola has four different lines that feature different locally produced materials: paper, glass, metal, and horn. akola was kind enough to send me the vela necklace in onyx, which i wear nearly every day. this necklace has a mixture of hand rolled paper beads and small metal beads, and because of its extra-long length, it is incredibly versatile: i can wear it as a long necklace (as i styled it on instagram), doubled as a short necklace (as ive styled it here), or wrapped several times around my wrist as a bracelet. its the perfect accessory piece for my minimal wardrobe. 

if you want to gift your mom with some amazing akola jewelry (which.... um... i may have gotten for both mine and jamess moms, but... shhhh... dont tell), order quickly because their last day for guaranteed delivery in time for mothers day is this coming tuesday! and be sure to use the code MEYERS30 for 30% off your entire order!

one of my favorite things about akola jewelry is how with all their different collections, they really do have something for everyone. what's your favorite akola style? what are you getting your mom for mothers day? 

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

on disappearing again (hashtag sorry not sorry)

im just going to start this post address the elephant in the room: yes, i posted five days a week in january and havent been back since early february. no, i am not sorry about it at all.  also, yes i did just post a post with no image or tags like some kind of blogging noob. 

i just wanted to come back and say that no, i did not quit blogging, its just that theres been a lot going on here and ive been really overwhelmed so blogging hasnt been a priority. and thats ok with me. 

january was really awesome blog-wise, i got into a really good writing routine, put out posts that i was really proud of, and felt really good about how much i was able to build my brand online working around 10 hours a week. i was able to write posts ahead of time, actually think about how i was marketing them, and even started on working on what the blogging circle calls "content upgrades" (and by that i mean like, printable recipes, patterns, and checklists). BUT i need to be really real here: 

this blog doesnt make us any money. 

it by all means can, and im absolutely working toward being a professional internet person someday that makes real money at the internet. 

but were at a stage of life where i need to be bringing in an actual income, a real life direct-deposited every two weeks enough to pay some of the bills income. not a hypothetical potential maybe a few bucks here and there every few weeks after the affiliate commissions clear income. 

i mean, weve got two little kids, jamess job just isnt all that consistent during the school year and ive still got two more semesters of school (after i finish this one). our financial situation really isnt all that bad (actually for us were doing pretty well right now), BUT things (especially school and the car we just bought) cost money, and me just staying home isnt working anymore. 

so i got a job. a real life paycheck getting taxes paying not minimum grown up job with a commute and a title that actually uses the things i learned in college job. its only one (partial) day a week, but theres a fair amount of prep and research involved and the drive is the most RIDICULOUS la drive ever (its 17 miles but takes over an hour to get home). even though its challenging, i do really enjoy my new job. BUT the few hours a week that it takes up basically eat up any free time id have available for blogging. 

and with school, a husband, two kids, our house, and myself to take care of, i just cant sustain another thing. i mean, maybe i could. if i was more energetic or more dedicated and spent all my kids nap times blogging or put on a movie every day to get some work done or something, but i really dont want to be working all the time. 

i want to be able to relax and enjoy being a mom on the days im home and only worry about work when im getting ready for/at work or school. mainly, i dont want to burn myself out the way i have a tendency of doing, i want to still like blogging when im ready to go at it full force again, unlike knitting which i forced myself to still do while teaching knitting at joanns and now i hate knitting. 

so long story short, blogging isnt a priority right now. thats not saying that im done blogging, i just cant pressure myself with schedules and content calendars right now. honestly im getting really tired of not blogging, so until things settle down enough for me to re-launch a less overwhelming content schedule (im currently thinking something like, three posts a week on a rotation of six topics...), im just going to post whatever i feel like whenever is convenient for me. 

since its been a while, whats going on with you? 

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Monday, February 1, 2016

january happenings.

hey there, happy february! ive heard a lot of people refer to january as "the monday of months", and i cant quite argue with that. we made it through january and are very much IN 2016 (and hopefully not still writing 2015 on all our checks... ahem). 

anyway... as part of 2016s fresh starts, i decided to do this blogging thing a little bit differently: i printed out editorial calendars for the entire year and am planning posts and series way in advance. im also batching my work as much as i can, doing all the writing or photos or scheduling for a group of posts all at the same time. i really like doing things this way for a few reasons: 1. i can be more intentional in my post planning, keeping things seasonally appropriate and not missing out on key holidays (which ive never, really been good at before), 2. i can put together better and more cohesive post series by planning them out all at once, and 3. i can work ahead of myself so i can do things like finish all of januarys blog work an entire week early (just in time to have a really bad health week right when school starts, as per usual so, actually, im not ahead anymore). to be completely honest, id love to perfect this system to have blog posts done like a month (or more!) in advance so i can do better DIY projects and such. 

but theres one big downside here: working this way means theres not a ton of room for like, normal daily life kind of stuff. I'm sure there will be more in the future as i find the right balance here, but for now i figured ill keep up with my old "monthly update" posts as the first post of every month (as opposed to the first monday, as i was doing before). since i dont have big yearly goals to "check in" on every month, im changing the format a bit: instead of a long ramble about life lately followed by a recap of that months goal progress, im going to steal a little something from my friend carrie annes "snapshot" series, and just pop in with a quick list of whats been happening here lately. (aside from this new way ive been writing blog posts)

so without any further ado, here are januarys happenings: 

benedict turned 6 months old and has all kinds of new tricks! he can sit up and clap and sometimes it seems like he's waving! also, we got our health insurance situation sorted out enough to finally take benny to the doctor. the little guy is perfectly healthy and measures at 50th percentile for weight, 80th for height, and... 99th for head size. so, yeah, no surprises there. also he got shots which resulted in one day of great naps followed by at least a week of terrible naps. 

our car situation is turning out totally ok! first of all, jamess mom is letting us borrow her super fancy lexus hybrid, which is great because: 1. we were only completely without a car for like, three days, 2. i was able to find out first hand that i do not want to actually own a fancy robot car from the future (though the heated seats... im going to miss those), and 3. weve totally been able to thoroughly research what we want to do/can afford car-wise in the long term and not just jump on the first/cheapest thing available. researching cars/loans/insurance/etc. was not fun, but it was a valuable learning experience that will hopefully be over very soon. 

james worked for 4 straight weeks! at any other time of the year this would just be a refreshing change, but to happen in january! what an exciting surprise! its the middle of winter, but all the bills are paid and were all stocked up on buying stuff like its the middle of summer or something!

im mostly getting back into my normal routines for the first time since getting pregnant! having really solid routines for chores and errands and meal planning is what gives me the framework and stability to be an actually-pretty-ok mom and not just a wallowing-in-being-overwhelmed-all-the-time mom. unfortunately, i had at least a year where i just could not make it happen. this month, i made it happen. pretty perfectly i might add (for the first three weeks, last week i got sick though so im not going to count that because chore lists dont count when youre barfing). 

were introducing the concept of chore charts to alice with very mixed results! alice is very much to the age where she needs to start helping around the house on a consistent basis. she wants to help, to do what i do. so far weve figured out that shes totally capable of doing easy chores (with supervision), and is easily motivated by checking off the boxes on her chart. the thing is shes smart. so shes been finding every possible loophole in every chart system we devise for her. including, i am literally not making this up, filling in the box where a sticker would go for doing a chore with a drawing she described as "me crying because im sad that i didnt get to watch a movie because i only got two points". yeah... i dont even know how to turn that back into a lesson about chores...

i kind of have a job right now and its really cool! its not like, a job job but im helping my friend (a drama teacher) with the costumes for her schools jr high play. basically, im getting paid to do crafts with materials that somebody else payed for. also, this is probably the first time ever ive used any of my actual formal education in an employment situation. there really is a first time for everything! 

my school schedule is really great this semester! instead of going to class two or three different days every week, i only go on fridays (for most of the day) and then monday nights (but only today and four more times). so like, i actually have free time sometimes!

im super, super excited to do our taxes! i look forward to doing our taxes every year because thats like, the one time ever i feel like im really good at adult things. we need one (possibly two) more papers to come in the mail and then were good to go. and after taxes we can go buy that car we need to buy...

unfortunately, we did have to say one last goodbye to our beloved disneyland goats. thats pretty much our one really big bummer for last month: thanks to stupid star wars land there are no longer goats to pet at big thunder ranch because big thunder ranch is no longer a thing. 

over all, january was pretty great. exhausting, but really productive and definitely what we needed after our doozy of a december. so hello february, lets do this! (and by this i mostly mean taxes because i just really want to do taxes). 

how was your january? what are your big plans for february? 

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Friday, January 29, 2016

the poverty luxe kitchen vol. 26: leftover fried rice.

here in the meyers house we eat a lot of white rice. partially because its cheap as heck and goes great with things like salmon, curry lentils, and cajun red beans, and partially because im asian and freaking love white rice (no, im not making this up, my dad is literally filipino). the thing with rice though is that its really hard to correctly guess how much of it were actually going to eat. since rice takes a long time to cook i always end up making extra just in case and then we end up with way too much rice. 

and well... leftover rice is  kind of a difficult thing to deal with when you dont have a microwave or rice cooker for reheating it. for a long time all our leftover rice used to languish in the back of the fridge getting drier and drier until either i cleaned out the fridge or needed the container it was in and threw it away. 

recently i remembered my mom saying that cold, leftover rice was the perfect start for making fried rice. on that particular day we happened to have some leftover rice, so i threw some things together to try it out, and... it was great! not only was it a quick, tasty, and reasonably healthy lunch, but it totally helped us up all kinds of bits of leftovers. once i perfected the right recipe, i made a habit of always making extra, extra rice so i can make this for lunch the next day. 

leftover fried rice. 
(serves two)

heres what you need: 

2 cups cold, leftover rice
1 carrot
1 rib of celery
1/4 of an onion
1 cup shredded cabbage
2-3 cloves garlic
1 egg
2 tablespoons soy/tamari sauce
olive oil

heres what you do: 

finely chop all of the vegetables and heat a small amount of olive oil in a very large pan. 

sauté veggies in over high heat until fully cooked (approx 7-10 minutes). 

add rice and continue to cook, stirring constantly (making sure to break up any large chunks of rice) until all of the rice is hot. 

scoot the rice away from the center of the pan toward the edges, forming a "well" in the center of the pan. 

crack the egg into that well, scrambling it well and quickly stirring it into the rice and veggies as it cooks. 

continue to stir until eggs are completely cooked and toss with soy/tamari sauce. 

*note: one REALLY great thing about this recipe is that its SO easy to scale up! if you have more rice, just add another egg and some more veggies and make as much as you want

this fried rice is a super tasty way to use up leftovers that would otherwise be thrown away, whats your favorite way to repurpose leftovers? 

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

tips for making a meal plan that doesnt suck.

obviously, I'm a huge advocate for meal planning. it has a lot of huge benefits (saves time, money, stress and encourages healthier eating habits when done right) with a minimal time investment (i do mine in about ten minutes every wednesday morning). but the big potential downside with meal planning (well, any planning, really), is that if your plan sucks... the whole week sucks. you might end up eating too much of the same thing, spending too much time in the kitchen, eating meals no one really likes, or ending up with a ton of uneaten food. be been fine-tuning our meal planning system for a few years now and i can tell you that all of those situations have happened here at one point or another. but to save you from meeting the same fate, here are a few helpful hints for making a meal plan that wont suck: 

account for the nights you arent eating at home. 
i feel like i shouldnt have to say this, but dont make a five or seven night meal plan if you know youre only going to be eating dinner three or four nights that week. this will save you a lot of time and money and wasted groceries. 

dont repeat meals in the same week. 
some meals i make (like curry lentils or black bean chili), are HUGE and feed us multiple times. to keep us from getting bored/sick of eating the same thing, i only serve that meal once the week i make it, freeze the rest in one-meal portions, and only pull them out once each week until they run out. added bonus: most weeks my meal plan is halfway done from freezer meals!

if you do freezer meals, balance what you put in and take out. 
unless you have like, the worlds biggest freezer and dont mind eating food thats been frozen for three years, dont put more meals in the freezer than youre taking out on a weekly basis. this is just basic math. 

plan for a "treat" meal in every week. 
ok, i know typically the whole point of meal planning is to eat healthier/save money/save time/whatever and thats great and all, but pushing too hard for any one of those things gets old fast. so plan on one dinner each week being something good, even if its not the healthiest/cheapest/fastest thing there is. we typically eat really cheap and healthy, but every week i make sure we have something really nice like salmon (or in n out, if theres room in the budget...). 

balance labor intensive meals with easy ones. 
ill be honest: no matter how much i like cooking (which is more and more the older i get and more i learn to make), i do not like slaving over an elaborate meal (and the corresponding elaborate mess) every single day. so for every big, messy dinner like shepherds pie or mac and cheese, theres a meal that gets pulled directly from the freezer. 

get the whole family involved. 
even though the meal planning/grocery shopping/cooking is more or less my job, im only 1/3 of the people in this family that need to eat. so im always asking james and alice their thoughts on what were eating, what they like/dont like, and what sorts of new or different recipes they want to try. 

plan for "leftover night" if necessary. 
we dont end up with a lot of leftovers, and when we do, i typically eat them for lunch since im home all day. BUT if leftovers ever are an issue, we do what i like to call a "leftover extravaganza" and kill two birds with one stone: leftovers get used up and thats one less meal to shop/cook for. 

keep to one "new" meal per week. 
a great way to drive yourself (and your family) insane and spend all your money ever on groceries is to make your entire meal plan of new recipes that youve never made before. trying new recipes is an awesome thing to do (saying this mainly to myself because i really need to do it more), but they can use a lot of new ingredients and dont always turn out (or maybe you/your family just dont like them). so just to play it safe i recommend sticking to a once-a-week rule with new recipes: the worst case scenario is that youll have one lame night the whole week, but the best case scenario is that every week has an exciting new dinner. 

keep it quick, simple, and flexible. 
contrary to what pinterest may have you believe, meal planning should not involve complicated calendars or spreadsheets or eight hour days in the kitchen (unless youre into those kinds of things, then i guess go for it). heck, i dont even assign specific days for the meals on my plan. meal planning is supposed to make your life easier. if its not, then theres absolutely no shame in trying something else. 

when done wrong, meal planning can be a total drag (i have very un-fond memories of a few times my mom tried to do the "month of freezer meals in one day" thing...), but by keeping a few things in mind, you can totally put together a plan that makes everyone happy. 
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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

10 ways to declutter in five minutes or less.

one of the reasons it took us so unnecessarily long to get onto the minimalism wagon is that i thought we just didnt have the time to do it. i thought the only way to really clear out our home was to do a giant, sweeping purge of the whole hose all at once which was obviously so overwhelming and terrifying so i never bothered to do it. 

well, these days im a lot older and wiser and more experienced in the field of decluttering. and one of the most important lessons ive learned through this whole thing is that you totally can make a huge difference in a small amount of time (especially if youre consistent about it). in fact, small, frequent purges are probably more effective than big drastic ones because they make decluttering a habit, rather than a single event. 

and it really doesnt have to take much time at all. i mean, there are tons of ways to take baby steps toward simplifying your life that take literally less than five minutes. and we all have five minutes, right? 

in five minutes you could: 

clean off one shelf. 

clean out one drawer. 

unsubscribe from 10 email lists. 

unfollow 10 social media accounts. 

set a timer and delete files from your phone of computer. 

toss expired foods/medicines. 

fill up one box/bag of junk. 

throw out old mail. 

toss empty/unsued bath + body products. 

clean out your purse/wallet/planner. 

see, these small steps are totally fast and easy (and i made sure to include some that help combat the "other" kinds of clutter that are just as problematic as junk) . while they may not seem like they accomplished a whole lot at first, over time enough baby steps will start to turn into big changes. 

how do you like to do some quick decluttering? 

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

7 surprising things that have totally saved us money.

ok, i want to be completely honest here: my absolute #1 pet peeve with the majority of personal finance/frugality type bloggers is that they tend to make saving money into a neat little system and say that their way is the only way and as long as you do exactly what they say your money problems will disappear. well, i shouldnt have to tell you thats a huge load of bologna. there are as many different ways to save money as there are people on earth. and depending on the needs and preferences and even location of your family, some of the traditional "money saving tips" end up doing the exact opposite. 

it can be really frustrating, trying to figure out how to make your budget work, researching different ideas and having them not work at all. i cant even tell you how many times thats happened to us. so in the interest of showing the other side of things, and maybe help encourage anyone out there who is not having good luck with the typical frugal living tips, heres a list of a few of the more surprising ways weve saved (a lot) of money: 

quitting coupons. i used to be big on coupons, but theyre a lot of work for not a lot of savings, plus i had to buy newspapers/paper/ink and keep all of the coupons organized... one day i lost my coupon book at sprouts and never looked back. surprisingly, our grocery spending went down because i was just buying what we needed and not trying to work in the things i had coupons for. 

ditching the "normal" grocery store. about a year and a half ago i stopped shopping at vons and just bought groceries at sprouts. the grocery bill went down like $20 a week. i was like "wait what how is that possible because its vons that has the crazy sales", then i realized that everything else at the regular store is marked WAYYY up to compensate for that cheap cereal. 

avoiding thrift stores/yard sales, etc. one of the most important things that took me way too long to learn is this: if you dont need a thing, no matter how cheap it is, buying it is just a waste of money. now we only go to thrift stores if were dropping stuff off or my sister calls me frantic that theres a gorgeous vintage emmaljunga pram at salvation army that i have to buy RIGHT NOW. 

getting rid of as much as possible.  embracing minimalism and getting rid of as much as we possibly can (which were still in the process of, apparently this never ends) taught us that we dont actually need about 90% of the stuff we think we do. so we buy about 90% less than we used to, saving about 90% of the money we spent on clothes and miscellaneous house stuff (mostly at thrift stores). 

not shopping at dollar stores. this kind of goes along with the thrift store one, except that basically everything at dollar stores is either so crappy you just have to replace it with the more expensive version of the thing you were trying to save money on, or (in the case of food and cleaning supplies) its so small/watered down that you have to buy 10X the amount youd buy at target for like 50 cents more. 

my gluten free diet. being gluten free forced us to pay more attention to what we eat and basically only eat fresh, homemade food because gf packaged food is absurdly expensive. also, we have WAY less options for eating out so we eat out WAY less than we used to. 

moving back to california. southern california has a reputation for being the most expensive place on earth, and maybe it is (our one bedroom apartment costs literally twice as much as the much nicer one bedroom duplex we rented in northern arizona), BUT were in a MUCH better position financially, partly because james makes way more money here but mostly because we need way less stuff, utilities arent a million dollars, and we dont have to drive up and down a mountain to get anywhere. 

long story short, saving money isnt a one size fits all thing. just because something works for one person, does not mean it will work for you. you just might find savings in the most surprising of places. i know we have. 

have you had any surprising money saving decisions? id love to hear about them in the comments! 

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Monday, January 25, 2016

five ways to use essential oils without a diffuser.

when people think about essential oils, they usually associate them with being used for aromatherapy in some kind of diffuser. and while that is a great way to use them (and i do love diffusing oils) diffusers can be on the pricey side and i can see where that would be a turn off to someone who wanted to try out oils without making a giant financial commitment (this is coming from a person who spent over a year interested in trying/learning about essential oils but not doing it because i could NOT fathom dropping $100+ on a diffuser to try). 

well i have some great news for you: you totally dont need a diffuser to use essential oils. in fact, diffusing is just one of many ways that we use them in our house. to be completely honest, diffusing is probably the least frequent way that we use oils (not that i dont like it its just not always convenient to set it up). so how can you incorporate essential oils into your daily life without buying a diffuser?

(again, in the interest of transparency: while i am very much not in the business of selling oils, i am technically a doterra wellness advocate and any purchases made through any links in this post would, in theory, earn me a commission. also, anything i say here is my own personal opinion/experience, has not been evaluated by the FDA, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease)

in the shower. 
a great way to get the aromatic benefits of essential oils is to put a few drops on a washcloth and put it in the bottom of the tub while you shower, the combo of the steam and the oils is very similar to the effect youd get from running a diffuser. 

on jewelry. 
tons of artisans and crafters make jewelry from materials that absorb the oils so that you can apply your favorite oils to them and enjoy them for the whole day. i have this necklace that i wear every day with a couple drops of citrus bliss to keep me energized and happy and i love it. 

on your pillow/linens. 
honestly, i dont like running the diffuser at night (mainly because it has water in it and the cats knock it down and im 90% sure that had something to do with our first one breaking), so when we need help sleeping or are feeling a bit stuffy, ill put a drop or two of the oils we need directly on our pillows or sheets. 

in diy skincare/cleaning products. 
a lot of natural skincare and cleaning products are super expensive, and the thing that makes them special is... essential oils. you can save a ton of money (and have a ton of fun!) by making your own with common household ingredients and a few drops of essential oils. just spend like, two minutes on pinterest and youll have projects for days. 

many (but not all, please be careful and do your research!) essential oils can be used topically (that is, directly on the skin, either with or without being diluted by a plain "carrier" oil) to take advantage of their benefits. they can be used to enhance massage (like lavender for relaxation), directly to a specific area (like deep blue on sore muscles), or on the bottom of your feet so you can use them without having to smell them constantly (ideal for oils like oregano, which is great for immunity but not that great smelling).                  

as you can see, diffusing oils is only one of the many ways to enjoy essential oils, so dont let the cost/commitment of buying a diffuser deter you from trying out essential oils. 

*though, if you are looking for a diffuser, i cant say enough good things about our petal diffuser, which i like MUCH more than the aroma lite diffuser we used for about a year before it broke (apparently youre supposed to clean them....), mainly because its VERY hard to knock over and our house is full of littles and cats. 

do you diffuse essential oils? what kind of diffuser do you have? 

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Friday, January 22, 2016

the poverty luxe kitchen vol. 25: merengue cookies.

i believe ive talked about my fondness for hollandaise sauce (yes, yes i have), and let me reiterate: i freaking LOVE hollandaise sauce. i literally named my son benedict because of how much i love hollandaise sauce (benedict, like the eggs. i seriously dont understand how i am allowed to adult). 

the thing about hollandaise sauce though is that it only uses the egg yolks. so what the heck do we do with all those whites? obviously we dont just throw them away (actually once upon a time we had a dog and i would feed them to the dog). what we do is we make merengue cookies. 

merengue cookies are amazing little things: theyre naturally fat and gluten free and taste like lucky charms marshmallows. also, theyre really easy to make, AND (if youre already using the yields for something else) practically free! the only caveat is that you do kind of need an electric mixer of some sort (thank you, my dear kitchenaid) and they take kind of a long time to bake (for cookies). but still. theyre awesome. 

merengue cookies. 
(makes 1 cookie sheet full, approximately 30-35 1.5 inch cookies)

heres what you need: 
3 egg whites, at room temperature (this is very, VERY important!)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

heres what you do: 

combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla in a large bowl (or bowl of your stand mixer), and beat at a high speed until foamy. 

slowly ad in sugar and continue to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. 

gently transfer merengue into a gallon ziplock bag and cut a small hole in one corner. 

pipe small (1.5 inch in diameter) dots onto a foil lined baking sheet. 

bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes, or until completely dry. 

let cool completely before removing from baking sheet.

store in an airtight container for up to a week. 

that was easy, wasnt it? whats your favorite easy dessert to make? 

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