Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My NeedLess Goals


1. Spend Less, Save More.

2. Only nurture relationships in my life that fill me up.

3. Focus on experiences, rather than "stuff."

4. Spend more time with my children and husband.

5. If it doesn't feed my soul then move on.

Specifics (updated 1.9.11)

1. Learn to say "no" more often when asked to give of my time.

2. Only spend $125 a week in groceries and $50 on weekend dinners & entertainment ...yikes!!

3. Only use cash...double yikes.

4. If we can do it ourselves, than do it...but if it causes more stress* for me to do it then consider hiring it done.

5. Practice the Sacrament of the Present Moment.

*Before going back to work in 12.08 I had given up my housekeeper and lawn men in order to save money, but I am happy to report they are back! It gives them another client and us piece of mind knowing we won't have to spend what little time we have together as a family mowing the lawn or deep cleaning the house.

So all of this is in good fun, right? But I have very high expectations that The NeedLess Experiment will catch on and we will form an international community called "The NeedLess Society." We will be featured in Real Simple Magazine, Oprah will invite us to lunch and we may even win some sort of award...perhaps something that rhymes with "global cheese guys."

Spooky Tree Centerpiece

We couldn't wait any longer to start making our spooky crafts for Halloween. Our first is a Spooky Tree Centerpiece. I actually just made this up on the fly yesterday morning when our plans changed and I needed a craft for "mommy school."

I bet you have this stuff laying around your house and yard too. Remember...kids learn from the doing. So let them get dirty and messy. Put them on the patio or garage floor if you need to. The final product could (and probably will) be not-so-great...so prepare yourself. Manage those expectations. No Martha's allowed in the NeedLess Society.

We made the ghosts to hang on it out of tissues. Tomorrow we will be making the cats and bats...maybe some spiders. Honestly it is going to be whatever we have on hand in the craft closet.
p.s. I kept the littlest one busy with our quick kit art caddy.

Activity: Spooky Tree Centerpiece


1 clay pot with dirt

3 to 5 short tree branches

foam paint brushes

paint (fall colors)

glitter (a staple in any art project)


ribbon or string



1. Clean the outside of the pot.

2. Prepare a place to create. Plastic or vinyl tablecloths are awesome!

3. Let the kids paint and glitter the pot

4. Poke the sticks in the dirt (gathering the sticks could be an adventure all together!)

5. While the pot dries, Make the ghosts by wading one tissue into a ball, placing in center of other tissue and tying with ribbon. You remember this don't you?

6. Draw faces on the ghosts with a marker (google eyes anyone?)

7. Place ghosts in tree, put on your table. Which table is up to you...

Quick Kit Art Caddy

Sprinkles...little things that make life sweeter!

Quick Kit Art Caddy

It's just what it sounds like...throw a bunch of art supplies in a little caddy (ours is an old play doh thingy) and have it on hand to keep the kids busy while you are cooking dinner, doing homework with an older sibling, making the grocery list, checking e-mail, trying to have at least a 5 minute phone conversation, etc.

Here's what is in ours:

safety scissors

glue stick

pad of paper

scraps of construction paper



scotch tape

colored pencils

last weeks oreo...kidding, kinda.

When in doubt, just throw it in there.

They will make something amazing, but most importantly give you 10 minutes to breathe.

The 2030 List

With all of this talk of living with less I really want to focus on giving our children amazing experiences. It is where we tend to error to the side of overindulgence. Our children do not have a ps2 or playstation or xbox or whatever else is out now, but they will get to go places and experience things that will shape them for life.

As a family we have this ever-evolving list of things we want to do together.

It's the 2030 List.

It is a list of things we want to do, places we want to travel and other experiences we want to have before the year 2030. That is the year our youngest kiddo should be graduating from college (no pressure B) and we figure by then Lu will be 28 and well on her way to having her own family. (snif, snif, I can't talk about that right now.)

It is a variety of things including:
learning to snow ski, growing a garden, going to a U2 concert, attending a World Cup match, reading To Kill A Mockingbird as a family, working on a dude ranch, seeing an opera at the Sydney Opera House, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, touring Italy on bicycles and on and on and on.

One that I am particularly excited about is to surf in Hawaii. So recently I came across this website of how to surf. What an amazing gal!

Isn't it great how we all have gifts that we can share with eachother!

With the holiday season coming up, let's think of the gifts we can share or experiences we can give rather than the goofy "stuff" that we buy.

Share the Joy Oatmeal Cookies

picture coming soon...i didn't want to make a batch today because my jeans are a little snug.

These cookies are so yummy. I can't even tell you why, but their simplicity makes them undeniable. I have made them several times this month and my friends keep asking for the recipe, So here it is...

They are called Share the Joy Oatmeal Cookies for two reasons.

First, they make a bunch! For my house I usually cut the recipe in half. I know I could freeze the other half and save for later...but I would eat them all! Secondly, you can share the joy by adding your favorite things in them...chocolate chips, pecans, raisins, m&m's or my personal favorite...toffee chips.

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
4 cups old-fashioned oats

1. Mix together first five ingredients
2. Add dry ingredients.
3. Drop by teaspoonfuls on cookie sheet
4. Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes (6 minutes for soft, 8 minutes for crunchy)


Monday, September 29, 2008

Friday Night Friends

Sprinkles...little things that make life sweeter!

Friday Night Friends

Stop worrying about your house not being "ready" for company and start living in it! Have a Friday night friends potluck! Invite your friends over for hors d'oeurves and cocktails and have everyone bring something. Or if you have children just keep it simple...pick up pizzas, make burgers on the grill, or in the winter make stone soup. Remember that children's story? So fun!

The goal is to focus on the relationships and not obsess over the cobwebs on your ceiling fans. No one cares. And if they do...repeat after me..."They really aren't your friends." Run the other direction as quickly and calmly as possible.

Start this Friday! Bon Appetit!

Slow Cooker Pork Loin w/Mashed Potatoes

Super Easy and could possibly be enough for some lunch box leftovers.


2 to 3 pound boneless pork loin, trimmed

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tbsp. Montreal seasoning

salt and pepper

1 small onion thinly sliced

1 to 2 pounds red potatoes

1 tbsp butter

1/4 c milk

1 tsp. garlic pepper seasoning

green beans

olive oil, salt and pepper to taste


1. Thaw pork loin overnight in fridge

2. Put pork loin, vinegar, seasonings and onion in slow cooker

3. Cook on high 4 hours or on low 8 hours

4. When done turn off and let rest while preparing side dishes

5. Make mashed potatoes...you know how to do this, right?

6. Make green beans with seasoning

7. Serve up on your Family Platter and let the kids think it's chicken.

Why do kids eat chicken better than any other meat? Weird? I mean don't they know that pork is the other white meat? So picky.

Pumpkin Patch!

Yesterday we went to the pumpkin patch at our church to let the kids play and pick out some "baby pumpkins" for a scarecrow project we will be doing later in October. Don't worry...I will share all of the details with lots of pictures when we get around to doing it.

I will actually be at the Pumpkin Patch every Sunday from 3pm to 6pm taking candid portraits, but it was a great excuse to get out of the house (yes, it is still hot...91 degrees yesterday.)
The girls were both so excited to teach Bennett about pumpkins and share in our tradition!

With my little eye...

I saw something like this at a retreat not too long ago. They had rice in their bottle, but I used barley since I was out of rice and was trying to use what I had in the house.

The barley is a little dusty in the bottle, so I recommend rice if you've got it.

Activity: Eye Spy Bottle

1 clear bottle (water, bbq, ketchup, dressing)
rice (enough to fill it 3/4 of the way)
sheet of cardstock or construction paper (or funnel if you have one)
treasures to put inside (alphabet beads, shaped beads, etc)
hot glue gun or super strong glue like Aileene's

1. Clean and dry bottle (best if done in advance)

2. Once the moisture is out of the bottle, have the kids fill with the treasures

3. Funnel the rice in using the sheet of paper or actual funnel...but who has one of those handy?

4. hot glue the lid on.

It can be used as a fun eye spa game on it's own or you can actually play it with the kids. Shake the bottle, find something and say "I spy a yellow heart." Then shake the bottle and hand it to the child for them to find the yellow heart.

Good fun!

NeedLess Litmus Test

Trying to decide if something is "NeedLess?"

Here is what you should ask yourself...

1. Is it to the detriment of my body, mind or spirit?

2. Is it to the detriment of my family's finances, safety, health, or spirit?


3. Is it filling a hole that needs to be filled with love?


a spa pedicure...

If the money and time spent on a pedicure is to to the detriment of your family's finances or time together, maybe not such a good idea. But if you have plenty of money and time to spend getting a pedicure then go right ahead.

a bottle of wine...

If you do not have the money and you are using it to numb a problem...probably NeedLess. Not an alcoholic and have plenty of funds then go right ahead and grab a girlfriend and reconnect. Remember...relationships are what make life worth living!

shopping at the mall for a new handbag or clothes or even stuff for the kids...

If you are paying with credit and trying to portray a lifestyle that you cannot afford...definitely NeedLess. If you have plenty of money and your ego does not rest upon the tags of your clothing or accessories then go for it.

Seriously though...do you really need to spend $300 on a pair of shoes? Could that money be better spent feeding a homeless person? If you think I am harsh, then sorry. But to me the only thing worse than buying designer knockoffs is spending money on things to feed your ego.

Have a great day!
I wanted to end on a sweet note...soapbox no longer needed.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Harvest Oatmeal

There are a few dishes I can't wait to make each autumn. And even though it may be cool and beautiful everywhere else...it is still 90 degrees in Texas.

But the pumpkin patch is in full swing...so that is how I mark the beginning of fall each year.

Try this super easy breakfast recipe out with your family. My kids always ask for more sugar so you may need more than the recipe calls for...

Harvest Oats

1 apple, sliced and diced
3 1/2 c. water
pinch salt
2 c. oatmeal (non-instant)
1 tsp. butter (more or less to taste)
1 tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds

1. Put apple, water and salt in medium pot and bring to boil
2. Boil for three minutes
3. Add oats
4. Turn to simmer and lightly boil for 5 minutes
5. Take off of burner and add remaining ingredients
6. Divide among bowls and top with a little milk, if desired

Thursday, September 25, 2008

NeedLess Guidelines

Each family will have to determine your own NeedLess Guidelines, but ours are pretty simple and will continue to evolve as we grow as a family.

So far they are...

1. Eat dinner together as a family each day. (pray and play high, low, ha!)
2. Focus on our mental, spiritual and physical health individually and as a family.
3. Enjoy what you do, do what you enjoy. (aka - soccer, piano, art, dance)
4. Give of our time and treasure.
5. Cut spending to mostly needs and only buy with cash.
6. Manage our expectations - there is no such thing as perfection.

last updated 1.09.11

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

NeedLess Deal of the Week

Week of September 23rd - September 29th

This week's needless deal is an 80 ct. package of baby wipes for $1 at local Albertson's stores.

These are great for throwing in the car, diaper bag, extra changing stations...wherever. And they are good. Unlike the Sesame Street wipes I bought last week at Dollar tree.
Those stunk...literally.

Friday, September 12, 2008

NeedLess Savings

So over the past nineteen days I have gained 5 pounds. No kidding. So I started paying attention to what I was eating since we have been on a much tighter grocery budget. ($125 a week for a family of five, no eating out, and that includes diapers and other household items.) I looked back at my purchases and in order to save money I cut back on my fresh fruit and vegetables. Yikes! And I have three growing kids to worry about.

I looked back at the bread store purchase and realized that, yes, I saved over $8 on three items (2 bags of donut gems and a box of cherry pies) but I would have NEVER purchased those in the past. So really instead of saving eight, I wasted three. I came to the conclusion that if it is something you don't or wouldn't normally purchase, even though it is a great buy, then you really aren't saving money - aka NeddLess Savings.

This week I vow to get back eating healthy and to figure out how to do it on my budget.

We'll see how it goes this afternoon.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Angel Food

I have many reasons for creating this experiment and openly discussing many details of my life. (Probably so much more than you ever knew to hope for.) But the most important reason for this experiment is to show that simple can be enriching.

We don't need everything we think we need.

When discussing the experiment with one of my friends she told me about Angel Food Ministries website. What an amazing and generous organization! It is a national, non-profit grocery co-op with thousands of host sites. Check it out!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Listening Rocks

Today is the first day of Mommy School this week and our activity was making these Holy Listening Stones. Now since I have a bible study on Mondays and MOPS on every other Tuesday...I don't plan anything but home activities for Wednesday. It has worked out well today since it is raining and 11am and we are all still in our jammies. Well, except for Miss Molly who has already changed four times.

Background: A few months ago we met an amazing woman who created First Steps Spirituality Center in Colorado Springs. Now I know what you are thinking...Colorado Springs? Mega churches and evangelicals. Not exactly. She is a Methodist minister who specializes in the spiritual well being of children and teens. Awesome!
Reverand Leanne Hadley has a wonderful website and in our short time together she taught us how important it is to listen to our children. We are their first teachers, true. But when it comes to experiencing God we can learn so much from each other.

Activity: Holy Listening Stones
All of the information is on her website but ours are pictured above. I would love to tell you that it was a beautiful experience making these with the little ones, but mostly it was me managing my expectations of a 3-year-old and 18-month-old and keeping the dog from carrying them off in his mouth. Only one stone broke and it was the smile. (I tried not to overanalyze that and just tossed it and made another one.) The stones are used to help the children communicate their feelings during Holy Listening.

A definition of Holy Listening by Rev. Hadley is provided below:

"When a person is fully present with another person: listening; not judging; not distracted; not analyzing; not diagnosing; and trusting that as they listen, God has joined them to offer wisdom, guidance and healing. As we enter into Holy Listening, God is present, and there is an air of holiness and sacredness." -First Steps Spirituality Center

I plan on using the stones with my children even if, at first, they just play with them.
The quote of the day: "Molly, please stop throwing the Holy Listening Stones at your brother."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hidden Camera Day

Some days are Documentary Days and others are Hidden Camera Days.

A Documentary Day is one of those wonderful days that everything is smooth sailing and you wish you had a camera crew following you around to capture the sheer genius of your mothering. Other days, Hidden Camera Days, stink. Everything keeps going wrong and spiral down, down, down until finally you look for the hidden cameras because surely someone is behind this madness.

Unfortunately, today I was seriously looking for those cameras.

Tell me if you can identify.

At 4:30am my six-year-old climbed in bed with us because she had a bad dream.

Right as I dozed back off around 5:00am the dog started making noise because he wanted to go for a walk. So I took him for a walk.

Got back right as the toddler was waking...gave him a sippy cup of milk. By then my preschooler was up and wanting her chocolate milk and "shows."

Started packing three lunches since Lu had school and the little ones were staying for lunch during my MOPS steering meeting. (If you have not heard of MOPS and you have preschoolers check it out and find a group near you! It is awesome!)

Then I spent thirty minutes making an egg casserole and muffins for my MOPS meeting. As I went past the kitchen to take a shower my plan was to turn off the casserole in the lower oven and leave the muffins baking in the upper oven. I would then go take a shower, get dressed and arrive back in the kitchen to perfectly prepared breakfast treats for all of my friends. I would be the envy of all the mothers.

Instead I turned off the muffins and left the casserole baking. So I arrived to underdone muffins and a burned casserole.

Dressed the kids and rushed them into the car. We had fifteen minutes to make it on time to the meeting and get set-up for the amazing guest speaker I had arranged months earlier. (Are you exhausted yet? Just wait...)

We pull into the parking lot as I receive a call from the speaker informing me that she has been "throwing up all morning and couldn't make it." I thought to myself, "Of course you are. Why wouldn't you be?" But I told her no problem I would improvise and to feel better.

I hussled down the sidewalk with an overcooked casserole, two back packs, a purse while holding the hands of my little ones when I realized that my strapless bra was now around my waist.

(Note to self: find stroller on Craig's list.)

At the meeting I won the MOPS Meal silent auction. Yippee! It was a prepared meal from one of our mentor moms. It was a steal at $12 and my plan was to take it to a friend that night who I had promised dinner since they had just had their fourth baby the week prior.

Hang in there it is almost done...thank goodness!

I arrived home at 3pm soaked from the torrential downpour that occurred for the approximately ten minutes I was loading my car at the church. As I opened the door from the garage into the kitchen I was shocked to see that the floor was covered in glass. Apparently our new dog, Henry, somehow got on top of the counter and licked the mixing bowl clean right onto the floor.

Lu steered the younger two away from the glass as I started sweeping it up. Afterwards, I vacuumed the floor to ensure that every shard was up. The sound of the vacuum sent Henry tearing into the garage. And what had I left in the car with the doors open to unload after I brought the kids in? The meal, of course.

So when Henry came tearing through the kitchen with half a tortilla hanging out of his mouth I just sat in the floor and screamed. Which was actually quite a relief. And since the kids were playing in the back of the house and the vacuum was on they didn't even hear me.

So I screamed again.