August Goal Progress

Good Morning!

For anyone who is new here let me catch you up. I’m working toward a goal to reduce the amount of hours I work at my day job. I’m currently 100% FTE and I’d like to be 75% or 80%. I set my goal for June 2015, however realistically it would go into effect on July 1, 2015 as to align with the fiscal year. The work I do is grant funded and it would make the most sense to make the change with the fiscal year. I’m sorry did you fall asleep while reading that?

So, how was August?

Awesome!

I had a ton of successes in August:

  • I started working with Cat which has been an amazing experience. In addition to getting expert knowledge and support, her inaugural class has created this little community that I just love and appreciate so much.
  • I got a writing gig! That’s riiiiiiiiiiight.
  • I feel more connected to the PF community.
  • My Alexa rank is so close to breaking 200,000.
  • My traffic is up, my followers are greater. I’m so grateful!

I had a few challenges too:

  • The balance of work/blog/home can be difficult. Sometimes I wonder how in the world I’m going to make this happen and keep this pace sustainable. I keep reminding myself that I gave myself a year because I wanted to take it slowly.

August Side Income: $65

Goals for September:

  • Figure out more of schedule and organized way to work
  • Write a few guest posts

September will be without a doubt bigger and better. Stay tuned!

How did your goals fare in August? Tell me about a success and/or challenge. What do you have planned for September?

Guest Post: Chocolate Crazy Cake with Whipped Vanilla Frosting

Happy September! And, Happy Labor Day to my U.S. readers.

Remember those Birthday treats I  stuffed myself with last week? Well, the baker behind the cake is here to share the recipe! Welcome Meghan to The Daily Whisk to share her Chocolate Crazy Cake recipe.

My lovely friend and co-worker Kara gave me a little baking love shout out on her blog last week.  She suggested I do a guest post about some of my baking adventures.  So here it goes…I’m not much of a writer so please forgive me, but I think I’m kind of a good baker!  It was  Kara’s birthday last week, and I wanted to make her a cake for her special day.  For Kara I made a chocolate “crazy cake” and frosted it with whipped vanilla frosting.  This cake is amazingly moist and delicious.  The recipe came from my Mom and is a super easy go to cake for any occasion.

Chocolate Crazy Cake with Whipped Vanilla Frosting

Ingredients

Cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 12 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups cold water

Frosting

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter(softened)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

To make the cake:

1. Measure dry ingredients into bowl (or 9×13 baking pan) sift or whisk together.

Crazy Cake 1

2. Make three holes in dry mixture. To the first hole add the vinegar, to the second hole add the vanilla and to the third hole add the vegetable oil, pour cold water over and mix with a fork.

Crazy Cake 2

3. If mixed in bowl add to cake pans. If mixed in 9×13 pan leave in pan and bake.

4. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

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Whipped Vanilla Frosting

1. Stir milk and flour in saucepan over medium heat until thick.  Set aside to let cool (I refrigerate).

2. Whip together butter and sugar until light and fluff. Gradually add cooled flour and milk mixture. Once blended together add vanilla.

Crazy Cake 3

Frost decorate and serve!

Crazy Cake 5

I promise this will be a hit.  I’ve also used cream cheese, peanut butter and chocolate frosting on this cake.  I hope you all enjoy!  Thanks Kara for inviting me to post!

Thanks, Meghan for sharing your recipe! 

Did you bake anything this weekend?

Weekly Blend #2

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Welcome back to the second edition of my Weekly Blend, a selection of baking, balancing, and budgeting posts from the week.

Baking

Every other Thursday a few of my co workers have a bake off. Their bake off always includes a twist. In the past they’ve done a gluten free challenge, an almond challenge, and the infamous cool whip and beans challenge (for real). Yesterday their challenge theme: Birthday challenge! I basically only ate cake yesterday which I’m totally fine with.

Balancing

Kassandra celebrated a Birthday this week (like me!) and wrote a beautiful Birthday post.

Budgeting

Aldo tempted me to make my own laundry detergent.

I’ve decided I need Mrs. Frugalwoods to be my personal consignment store stylist.

Also, check out my posts from this week:

How to Overcome Your Weakness in 3 Steps

It’s My Birthday and I’m Grateful

Have a great weekend!

 

It’s My Birthday and I’m Grateful :-)

Birthday cupcake

Good Morning! Today is my 33rd Birthday and I’m here to share with you 33 things I’m grateful for. Practicing gratitude is something I put a lot of focus and attention on in the past year. Sometimes I’ll be in a terrible mood or feeling sorry for myself, or suffering from a first world problem and I force myself to practice a little gratitude. It’s really simple and really powerful.

Here we go! A little bit of serious and a little bit of silly. In no particular order.

  1. I’m grateful I get to celebrate my Birthday! Life is so precious.
  2. Matt (my husband) a.k.a. The Daily Whisk’s biggest fan!
  3. Our kids. They are the light of our lives!
  4. Our pug trio. They are getting older, graying, and they bark at everyone who walks by our house, but they are best snugglers in the world.
  5. Cousins! My cousins, my kid’s cousins. Cousins are so special.
  6. My parents and my in-laws. They are great parents and AWESOME grandparents.
  7. My sister in law. It’s easier just to say sister.
  8. My friends
  9. Running and reflecting
  10. Farms. Beautiful Vermont farms.
  11. Blogging and amazing support in the PF blogging community!
  12. Our house
  13. Our backyard
  14. Vermont
  15. Vermont in the summer
  16. Creemees (do you know what I’m talking about?)
  17. My job. The right fit for this point in time.
  18. Amazing coworkers turned dear friends
  19. I’m grateful for my strengths
  20. And hummus
  21. Almond butter cream frosting
  22. Costco
  23. Amazon Prime
  24. Orange is the New Black
  25. Maine
  26. Dancing
  27. Gymnastics – my favorite sport in the whole wide world and the source of my original side hustle.
  28. Reading. Especially to my son before bed.
  29. Sleeping
  30. Our garden
  31. Free preschool. We’re going to a preschool open house today!
  32. The opportunity to freelance
  33. You!!! Did you make it this far? I’m so grateful you’re reading my blog today. Thank you!

What are you grateful for today? What is your favorite kind of cake?

How to Overcome Your Weaknesses in 3 Steps

As you may know I’m working on starting my own web-based business which includes a foray into freelance writing. I knew this was something I wanted to try out, but in reality I found the idea quite daunting. After stalling for a few months I decided to work with Cat to help me jumpstart my freelance writing career. Now that I’m moving forward (and I’ll include all those details in my August goal progress post next week) I’m starting to notice there are areas in which I excel and there are places I could stand to use a little improvement. You know, my weaknesses!

I know that if I want to achieve my goal I can’t run away when things get difficult. I need to acknowledge my weaknesses, own them, and work to improve them. And this my friends is how you can overcome your weaknesses in three steps.

1. Acknowledge your weaknesses

Acknowledging a weakness is the first step in overcoming it. When you acknowledge a weakness you’re accepting a truth about yourself. It’s not the same as blaming yourself for not being good at something. It’s recognizing an area for improvement.

2. Own your weaknesses

No one is perfect. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, so it’s okay to be open about areas where you need improvement. I’m even going to share mine with you today!

  • I’m not naturally resilient. There I said it! I’m not hard-wired with much grit.
  • I get distracted easily. I have to work really, really hard to stay focused. Because of this sometimes I’m not as efficient or productive as I’d like.
  • My sentence structure and punctuation is a mess sometimes. I’m always second guessing myself and I definitely make mistakes.

3. Improve yo-self

Once I was able to acknowledge and own my weaknesses I had two choices. I could give up or I could try to improve. Since I know that overcoming challenges will ultimately help me grow and improve I’ve chose to work on my weaknesses. For example, I spent a good part of yesterday reading about run-on sentences and comma splices. I even took a quiz to test myself! And guess what? I’m improving!

What is a weakness you have improved upon? What steps did you take?

Weekly Blend #1

The Weekly Blend

I had started a somewhat infrequent weekly wrap up post series called Whisk Ups, however I was never in love with the name and I never had a real direction with those posts. After I changed my tagline, I decided to change up my weekly wrap up post as well.

Born is the The Weekly Blend: a selection of baking, balancing, and budgeting posts from the week.

Bake

While I don’t have a baking related post to share (still waiting on those food and baking blogs Kristen and Meghan), I hope to have a little zucchini fest in the kitchen this weekend with plans to make zucchini bread muffins and stuffed zucchini.

Balance

When I first started blogging I struggled with overwhelming feelings of vulnerability. To be honest, I still struggle with those feelings occasionally. When I read about Erin busting out of her anonymous shell I was so pumped for her!

Budget

Who doesn’t love a little bill slashing discount? Check out how a 15 minute phone call can save you some serious cash at Mom Makes Sense.

Also, if you haven’t already, check out my posts from this week:

How to Be Even More Frugal Than You Already Are

My #1 Tip for a Stress Free Morning

What have your baking, balancing, or budgeting successes been like this week?

Have a great weekend!

My #1 Tip for a Stress Free Morning

Brown Paper Bag_TDW

Lately I’ve been feeling like I suck at mornings! I wake up later than planned and rush around trying to do 10 things at once. I get impatient when the kids need something at the exact same moment I’m doing something else, and when things get real ugly, I yell at the dogs for getting under my feet. Don’t you wish you lived with me?

Back in March, I shared my tips to get out the door stress free and on time. Clearly, I need to follow my own advice, most importantly the one single step I can take every day to ensure a stress free morning.

Prepare the night before!

Easy to say, never as easy to do. I get tired at night, people. After playing, cooking, cleaning, story time, and the bedtime routine, all I want to do is lay on my bed face down while my dogs cuddle around me. My tired self and logical self fight and bargain about what needs to get done and what can wait until the morning. Hint: nothing should wait until the morning

However, I know that if I can just get through my list of nightly to-do’s my morning will be undoubtedly less stressful which will in turn start my day off on a positive note.

For me, preparing the night before means:

Putting the kids to bed on time – We’ve been loose with our summer bedtime schedule, and when we put them to bed late we end up shorting ourselves of our valuable free time.

Pack the kids’ daycare bag – This is the one thing I consistently do at night.

Pack my own lunch – At night when I’m full and the kitchen is clean, this is one of the last things I’m interested in doing. I need to revisit my easiest make ahead lunches, like these black bean burritos.

Check the weather – This helps me make quick decisions when dressing the kids in the morning.

Pick out clothes – I can waste serious time trying to figure out what to wear in the morning. I need to know what I’m wearing in order to keep the morning momentum going.

Pick up / clean – Waking up to a clean kitchen makes me happy. Please, someone, tell me I’m not the only one?

Okay, enough complaining! I know what I need to do to keep my mornings as stress-free as possible.

What could you (or do you) do at night to prepare for a stress-free morning?

How to Be Even More Frugal Than You Already Are

Piggy Bank

I thought I was a pretty frugal person. I almost never fall prey to impulse purchases. I look for sales, compare prices, and I’m able to wait patiently for the right deal. Sometimes I even use coupons…sometimes. However, it occurred to me the other day I was missing out on one key concept of frugality.

Buying Used!

I’ve been contemplating two purchases lately. 1. A running watch and 2. A balance bike. I spent a couple weeks researching with no urgency to purchase. You see, I have this built in “good deal” barometer and nothing was measuring up. So, as I was waiting patiently for an unbelievable deal to pop up, it suddenly occurred to me. Hey, why don’t you check for a used running watch or a used balance bike? Do people even sell used running watches? Anyway!

What I found interesting about this thought process of mine, is that while there are certain items which I’d instantly consider buying used, such as a car, there seems to be a category of items which I hadn’t even considered buying used; running watches and bikes included! I realized that as frugal as I thought I was, I still have room to improve. I suppose we all do.

So, I racked my brain (and the brains of my friends) for a list of our most favorite frugal methods. In addition to purchasing used items, here are some other ways to be super frugal.

Compare Prices

As I  said, I brainstormed this list with a few friends and everyone brought up comparing prices along with stores, models, brands, and promotions. A little bit of research can really pay off as you discover who is selling the item you want for the lowest price.

 Use Coupons

This frugal tip is obvious, but clipping and organizing coupons can be a huge deterrent (I know it is for me). Take advantage of smart phone coupon apps, email and social media promotions, along with traditional coupons, especially the ones that are super easy to use (hello, Bed, Bath, & Beyond).

Borrow and Trade

Do you need something for one-time or short term use? Instead of buying the item you need, borrow it. Trading items is a good method as well. I’ve swapped baby and toddler clothes with a few of my coworkers and found it’s a great way to off load what you no longer need while getting things you can use in return.

Eat leftovers

I hate letting food go to waste! In my opinion leftovers are the easiest meals. Take meal planning one step further by making a double batch of a recipe to yield leftovers for quick meals or lunches.

Shop the clearance section

Not only shop, the clearance section, go there first! Don’t even tempt yourself with the full priced items until you scan the clearance or sale section for what you are looking for. One of the best feelings is a score from the clearance section, am I right?

Take advantage of rewards programs

There are countless rewards programs available that offer discounts, cash back, and gift cards. Most of these programs require as little signing up and swiping your rewards card or clicking through their site to purchase items you’d be purchasing anyway.

Stick to your budget

Well first, set a budget! Then, stick to it. If the item you are looking to purchase is out of your budget, find a budget friendly solution. Consider a different brand, an older model, even a used version. If those methods aren’t possible think about putting off the purchase until you can save more money. Research the times of year certain items are more likely to go on sale.

Be Patient

Try not to act on impulse, instead do some research on the item you are looking to buy. Read reviews and shop around. Assess how much of a priority this item is to you right now. Can it wait? Will you still want it in three or six months?

There are hundreds of ways to be even more frugal. What are your favorites?

P.S. I did end up finding a crazy great deal on a (new) running watch – thanks to comparison shopping and a coupon!

Our Preschool Costs

pencils

In just a few weeks our son (3) will start preschool. Ahhh! He’ll go two mornings a week and I’m beyond excited for him to learn, play, and make new friends. I’m also a little nervous because he is on the shy side, especially in new situations, so the first few drop offs could be a little rough.

You know what else is just perfect about his preschool? It’s free! Yep. It’s a free preschool program through his school district that happened to have an opening and a schedule we can swing.

Up until a few weeks ago I wasn’t sure if preschool would be in the cards this year as there seemed to be too many challenges in finding a preschool program that would work for us. The full time preschool programs are too expensive and other part-time programs that I looked into weren’t in a close enough proximity to our house/work/daycare to make a midday pick up possible.

After feeling sorry for our situation for a little while, I decided to take action. Determined to find something that would fit our family’s needs, I investigated further and amid my search found an opportunity that was pretty much under my nose all along. Funny how that works. After that everything fell right into place and I’ve been bursting with excitement and gratitude ever since.

Although this program is tuition free, we will be incurring a few costs and because I like to talk about money I’m going to share them with you today.

Transportation

Our preschool doesn’t offer transportation so we have to drive our son to preschool and pick him up. Fortunately it’s pretty much on our way to work and I can use my lunch break to scoot over, pick him up and drive him to daycare. I estimate this will add about 22 miles a week to my current mileage, so about a gallon of gas give or take.  Also, we’ll get a little extra midday Mom-son time which I’m looking forward to.

Lunch

Our daycare provides lunch, however on the days our kiddo goes to preschool he’ll eat lunch there. This means we’ll either have to buy or send his lunch twice a week. Since he only eats about 10 foods total, I suspect we’ll send his lunch with him. Also, I plan on buying him milk through school for the year ($30).

School Supplies

Because I’m an over giddy parent about to send her first born to preschool, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the school supply list. I’ve seen all sorts of school lists circulating lately and I was curious to see what ours would look like. It was actually pretty simple! He needs a backpack, obviously, and they are asking for donations of tissues and hand soap. Easy!

So, that’s it! A few extra costs that we will incur, yet I’m happy to pay for this wonderful, exciting, and free milestone.

What types of school-related costs have you incurred? What kind of lunch box did you have as a kid? I specifically remembering having an ALF lunchbox!

Taking Action Steps + 10 Things About Me

I was thinking the other day, about how taking action steps, even small ones, can really help when you’re feeling unsettled, anxious, or even downright unhappy. I’ll use myself as an example. I have felt unfulfilled in my career for a long time, if you know me personally I’ve probably complained about it to you at some point. I kept insisting that I wanted “more”, but I was never able to define what exactly “more” meant. As I began to blog more, realize potential in a side career, and take steps to achieve that goal, my outlook on my current job changed drastically. I’ve gone from pretty unhappy to totally content. The aspects of my job that used to bother me; the simplicity, lack of challenge, and monotony, are now aspects I truly appreciate. I’m able to go to work, plug away, and stay busy, but I don’t often get stressed out. I’m able to leave work at work and have the energy for my family and my side biz when I come home.

Have you ever had a change of perspective similar to this?

Bonus section!

I’ve wanted to share an “about me” post for a while, but I always chicken out. So, in the face of vulnerability and Monday, I’m pressing forward and sharing 10 Things About Me.

  1. I live in Vermont and I love it here!
  2. Gymnastics is my favorite sport by far. No other sport even comes in close to gymnastics…except maybe men’s figure skating, but that’s a distant second.
  3. My favorite beverage has always been… water! Simple, right?
  4. I have a newfound obsession with hummus.
  5. I love food and I love to eat.
  6. We have three pugs. They are all a little senior, graying, and shed like crazy. They are also the most fantastic cuddlers.
  7. I prefer to bag my own groceries. I enjoy it.
  8. Organizing is one of my favorite things. It’s like a little stress reliever in my life. If I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed I just organize a drawer or cabinet and I instantly feel better.
  9. So, while my house is far from perfect, it is pretty organized. Except, our home “office”. Ha, this room is a disaster! Here I’ll show you!

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10. Did you know you can find The Daily Whisk on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest?

Have you taken any steps lately to make something more fulfilling in your life? Have you ever been to Vermont? What’s your favorite sport?