Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Gym Myth

Worth their weight in weight loss

I tend to live in waves of fitness brought on by fatness. Basically. I live the healthy life for years, and then one day my mind overrides my habit and convinces me that I really don't feel like eating a salad, much less taking a bike ride.

I had this mental ambush about three years ago. FINALLY I conquered it, but what I discovered is this. The gym didn't do diddly for me. The gym is a scam. I'm 53 years old, and months of well meaning workouts alone amount to nothing. My most recent victory over sloth brought this fact to light. And here's why.

Sugar Sweet Talked Me Into 20 Pounds

God, I love sugar. As my head slowly killed my motivation to move faster than a stroll to the bathroom, I convinced myself that 3 Oreos a day was nothing. Then I blanked out and never saw the other crap I was eating. I appreciate those movies where guys decide to eat crap diets for sixty days. You know why? Because they are right. That mental and physical decline is real. 

If I felt bad, stressed or bored, I went for the sweets. I came home and agreed to taking a night off from cooking and had myself a greasy, fattening plate of restaurant food. A cooking break is welcomed by me, but the problem wasn't the break. It was what I ordered wherever I dined. Plus it became a frequent practice to split dessert.

I religiously made my way to the gym, and nothing happened. Nothing happened.

This fat Christy went to the gym daily

Step Back - She Could Be Dangerous

If a person pays $50 a month to stay in shape and that person loses nothing but the $50, that person will finally accept the truth. It isn't how hard your work out, it's what you eat. And with that admission, I stopped eating sugar and gluten cold turkey. I abandoned the gym and went back to a simple nightly yoga routine. I took more walks on the very nice greenbelt at the end of our street.

I lost 5 pounds a week for 3 weeks. Then it slowed down just a bit and finally settled back to my normal weight - my healthy weight, and I never went to the gym. I should have been a total crank, but after about day 3 I was o.k. I then stopped dairy and corn. I was a little depressed by the food deprivation. But I survived. I stabilized and now I can think like a rational person and maintain a healthy diet, yoga, and even running in the greenbelt.

It  is a mind game to do this. It requires will power. It requires resistance to peer pressure. No matter what you read, or what some celebrity promises you, it is not the workout as much as it is the food. If you accept that sugar and junk foods are demons, you'll be able to enjoy even the richest foods without guilt. Bacon has nothing on an Oreo cookie when it comes to weight gain.

Hoppin' John made from scratch

So let's do a little food budget analysis to see if I'm spending more money on whole foods than a quick, processed version of the same dinner. Option #1 has hidden fats, sugars, salt and preservatives. Option #2 is completely fresh and whole.

A Weekday Dinner

This is something most of us feel is impossible to cook, so we either skip cooking altogether or we pick something up on the way home. If you're like me, and you do cook dinner, you're probably looking for something fast and easy.

So I'm going to pick a meal and make it two ways, and compare:

Chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans.

Option #1
(Fast and maybe cheaper.)
Heat & Eat Chicken Nuggets - $4.62 - bake for 20 minutes
One boxed mash potatoes - $.91 - about 5 minutes
Can of green beans - $.50 a can - about 5 minutes
Total Cost & Time - $6.03 - Including prep time, 25 minutes tops.

Option #2
(I'm assuming you have basic spices and butter/milk to season your meal.)
Fresh Boneless Chicken Breasts - $4.27 - season and broil in about 15 minutes
Fresh Russet Potatoes - $1.83 for 5 lb bag. Use 3, so really $.61 - 20 minutes
Fresh green beans - $.75 - about 10 minutes
Total Cost & Time - $5.63 - Including prep time, 35 minutes tops.

Honestly, there isn't much difference here, so why choose processed foods over whole foods?
To be fair, I can prep a meal pretty fast because I cook all the time, so it might take you 40 minutes the first few times, but the quality of the food and the control of calorie intake is worth it.


Option #1 - Potato chips - $2 for 11 ounce bag - It says there are 11 servings per container, but come on. We know it's more like 5 servings; which adds up to 240 calories per honest serving.

Option #2 - Apples - $2.98 for 3 lb. bag. There are about 15 small apples in a bag. Even if you eat 2 at a time, the apples are going to last longer than the chips and cost about the same amount per serving. A small apple is more like 70 calories, so two wouldn't be more than 140 calories.

It's the way you choose to think about your eating and exercising habits. You can tell yourself the whole food way is too difficult, but you can't tell yourself it's more expensive. If you're not a big fan of exercising, then the diet change alone will be of benefit, but it makes total sense to at least take a walk.

To sum it up, I can drop my gym membership and save $50 a month, and I won't have to use any of my savings to offset the cost of a healthy diet.
It's nice to be back to my old self.

Back to normal
Don't forget to check out our product recommendations and reviews because you should keep the planet as healthy as your own body.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Brew Your Own Kombucha

Kombucha has become rather popular. This fermented tea has been around for centuries with many unsubstantiated claims to cure just about anything from cancer, to GERD to hangovers. Depending on what you read, you'll either get the hell scared out of you and avoid it, or you'll start draining your bank account on $3-$4 bottles of tea fizz.

An integrative medicine doctor recommended I start drinking the stuff to right the bacterial and yeast balance in my body, and hopefully calm my overactive thyroid. It did not cure my overactive thyroid, but it didn't kill me either. In fact, Tammy and I are somewhat addicted to the stuff. This same doctor told me to make my own to make it cost effective. So I do.

What is Kombucha?

It is literally fermented tea. It ferments due to the addition of a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Also known as "mother" or "scoby." This thing looks like a big, flat, grayish brown booger. However, the scoby is the good bacteria and yeast our bodies need. One gallon of sweet tea will turn into fizzy kombucha in about 7 - 10 days. The scoby will grow until you have two scobies, and so forth.  I'm currently up to 4 scobies and 4 gallons of kombucha. We have a lot of fizzy tea in the refrigerator.

Whenever you grow any bacteria culture, you have to be very very sanitary. Although kombucha has been brewed since pre-sanitation days, it is entirely possible to grow yourself the wrong bugs and get super sick. So rule #1. Be very clean.

An Inexpensive Kombucha Recipe - Make Your Own Scoby

I used a recipe from The Kitchn because it was simple. I made a few modifications for cost and convenience sake.

There are a number of recipe books available; including ones you can download onto our kindle or phone (if you're a clutter free reader).

You will need the following:
4 Family-sized tea bags - I use 2 Lipton black tea and 2 Lipton green tea. You need some black tea to give the scoby and you some real nutritional benefits.
One Cup of Sugar - Again, I'm not going fancy. The scoby couldn't give a hoot whether your sugar is organic or fancy. I use HEB sugar.
One 16 oz bottle of plain Kombucha - I use GT's Original. GT makes the very best kombucha, if you ask me.
3.5 Pints of Water - Regular old water. I use tap water. There. I admit it. Not distilled. Not bottled. Not spring. Tap water. I'm practical like that.
Six 16 oz. Mason Jars - I know it's trendy to bottle in those cool Grolsch-style flip top bottles, but they're expensive, and this is about saving money. You can get 24 mason jars for less than $9. You'll need the other 18 if your scoby grows and multiplies like mine has.
One Gallon Glass Jar - Even a cookie jar will work if you really don't want spend $20 on a fancy jar with a spigot. In fact, the spigot will just get clogged with scoby and present a sanitation risk.
Tightly woven cloth and rubber band - A bar towel or cup towel works well. Not the terrycloth kind, but the smoothly woven kind.

Here's how to make your own scoby:

Scoby in starter tea
  1. Bring 3.5 pints of water to a rolling boil.
  2. Dissolve one cup of sugar in the water using a wooden spoon.
  3. Turn off the heat and add your tea bags.
  4. Let the tea brew to a preferred darkness. The longer it brews, the more nutrition for the scoby.
  5. Let the tea cool to room temperature. I recommend brew at bedtime, and let it cool overnight.
  6. Add your starter tea to the glass jar.
  7. Pour in your sweet tea.
  8. Tightly band the towel to the jar opening.
  9. Place jar away from direct sunlight and keep it at about 70 degrees.
  10. Let it sit until you form a scoby. It will take about 2 weeks.
  11. When the scoby covers the surface of your tea, and is about 1/4 inch thick, remove from the jar.
  12. Put the scoby in 16 oz of the tea and set aside.

You're Ready to Brew Your First Batch of Kombucha

This is short and sweet. Follow the above directions to make sweet tea.  Then do this:

  1. Pour one 16 oz bottle of original kombucha into the glass jar.
  2. Pour in your cooled sweet tea.
  3. Remove the scoby from it's tea and place it in the jar.
  4. Your scoby may sink or float sideways. It's ok. 
  5. Cover with the towel and band it tight.
  6. Set the jar aside out of direct sunlight, at 70 degrees (this is a recommended room temperature).
  7. Let tea ferment for 7 - 10 days.
  8. Start tasting at 7 days until its the right combination of sweet and tangy to suit you.
  9. When you're satisfied, remove scoby and pour 16 oz of your tea over it. Set aside to start your next batch. At this point, the you can use this tea as your starter tea and free yourself from the $3 bottle of GT's.
  10. Pour tea into Mason jars.
  11. Set aside for 3 days.
  12. On day 3, move to the refrigerator.
  13. Don't drink more than one a day. 
I like to zest ginger into my jars before I add the tea. It makes a fantastic flavor.
I've also added shredded apples. Add any fruit you want. It's really up to you at the bottling stage.

As you brew more tea, your scoby will get thick or make a separate offspring. When this happens, you can start a second batch.

Fresh batch of kombucha ready to ferment

Watch out for green or black bacteria growth. A healthy scoby is grayish, tannish or brown. Little stringy bits of it will also float in your tea. Boy howdy, you'll know if the bacteria's gone to the dark side because it will smell nasty and rank cheesy. Healthy kombucha smells vinegary.

My Perceived Benefits

I'm less hungry.
My skin looks better.
I'm maintaining a steady weight (because I got fat, y'all).
All of the above could also be attributed to knocking sugar and gluten out of my diet. I have a free day, but not every day. I also eat whole. I do not eat processed foods if at all possible. I drink a lot of water. I run, bike and do yoga. I lift a few weights. Therefore, I can't promise kombucha will do anything by itself. You'll need to make a 100% commitment to being healthy. 

As an anecdote, we do give it to our kid. She went on a junk food spree that included throwing away her healthy lunch and hustling up unbelievably massive amounts of chips and cookies. This was her primary diet. She was a monster. She was rumdum. She was in serious trouble. Currently, she's doing better and drinking kombucha. I WILL NOT SWEAR BY THIS. Any moment, she could decide to eat herself to death, but for now, kombucha is helping.

Try it. See what you think. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Water - Get It While It's Free

I heard on NPR that the "desert" has moved as far east as Ft. Worth. Climate change is real. Whether you believe it's a man made event or just the natural evolution of the planet, it's not to be ignored. Ranchers, farmers, gardeners, and naturalists pay attention to the seasons because natural resources are seasonal. We're in the water season, y'all. I'm taking this opportunity to get some free water.

Guess What We Use More Than Electricity


That's our April utility bill. 

I've pointed out that water and wastewater are the biggest consumption in this family of three women. If you check out the Product Recommendation page, you'll see that I recommend you think about how much water your family uses everyday. Not only will you understand how valuable the resource is, but you'll probably get the urge to conserve.

Rainwater Collection Tank is Fully Operational

We put a 500 gallon rainwater collection tank on the cabin. My goal is to keep it off the grid forever. We would have a water well rather than city water if we ditched the rainwater collection system, but a water well requires electricity. A water well is regulated, and here's a news flash. Water wells are not like personal holes in the ground. They are taps into the greater water table that everyone uses. So consumption is not controlled by you.

In the current set up, this tank catches water from half the roof, and that's about 168 square feet. With one inch of rain, I'll collect about 100 gallons. 

How did I do that math?  Simple. Write this down - Sq ft of roof x 60% for every inch of rain. 
Rain is free. Rain is celebrated. This is the rainy season. 

Rainwater Showers are Divine

Once the tank and gutters were in place, and I knew I had some water in it, I went about setting up a way to get water from the tank to our little outdoor shower/washing station. Basically, I set it up the same way one would set up an RV system. I used a Shurflo 4008 water pump, attached it to a small accumulator tank (aka pressure bladder), and mounted the set up on an old piece of 2x8 scrap board. Tammy always keeps her lumber scraps, and this is a smart thing to do.

Purchase both on Amazon for $110

I also added a little pre-pump strainer to catch any debris that might come from the water tank.

You'll also notice a light switch attached to the set up. This is super easy to do. It's DC (direct current) wiring. This means I will get my power from a battery rather than an electrical plug. The pump comes with a DC wiring configuration. You will need to buy extra black wiring and extra red wiring. Get it in the auto department at Walmart. Also buy some electrical tape because you need to splice your wires to get enough length to get to a battery.  

The end result looks something like this.

Here's step by step instructions:

  1. From the pump, securely attach the red wire to the light switch. Secure the wire under one screw. 
  2. Secure the rest of the wire to the other screw in the switch. This wire will go to your battery.
  3. A 10 amp fuse is recommended between the switch and the battery. I couldn't find that size fuse, so I skipped it. Don't be a fool like me. Find the little fuse, and wire as it is in the image.
  4. Extend the length of your black wire so that it is long enough to make it to the battery.  I have my battery a few feet away from the pump.
  5. Purchase battery connector clamps, and attach them to the ends of your wires. You can find these at Walmart or any auto parts store. They are smaller versions of the clamps on your jumper cables. 
Pump Wiring

Battery Connector Clamps

If you are unsure of how to wire this pump, take it to an auto parts store or local hardware store. Go local. The people at the box stores probably don't know how to really help you. Your local store has someone who really wants to help you. Or ask for my help in the comments. I'll PM you on Facebook.

I did not permanently install this pump set up because it's not weather proof. I set it up each time we go to the country. I push it under the cabin and set the switch up on a floor beam to keep it from getting wet and shorting out.

Finally, I have a water hose from the tank to the inflow side of the pump, and a water hose from the outflow side of the pump bladder. That hose has a hand controlled sprayer. That means extreme control of the water. We don't need much because that little pump and bladder make incredible pressure. Short blasts work great, and we greatly conserve water; which will be pretty scarce after June. 

All of this lo-fi plumbing and electric are powered by a lawn mower battery. It's such a small amount of power that I don't need a big juicy deep cycle battery. We only flip the switch to "On" when we use the water. Otherwise, it's off to avoid a short or fire or unwanted shock. 

Finally, I connected a propane on-demand hot water heater that can be purchased at any store that sells camping equipment. I purchased an EcoTemp L5 Portable Tankless Propane Water Heater from Walmart. 

I've had a few rainwater showers.
My skin and hair.

This was a lengthy post, but well worth it.
If you are thinking about rainwater catchment, now is the time to set it up.
If you're in Texas, get it in place by Memorial Day. We historically have big rain storms around that weekend.
And finally, don't drink the water. It's not safe due to debris that invariably gets in the tank. If I find an effective way to filter it, I'll share my recommendations.

Check out our product reviews and recommendations here!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

How to Remove a Bedroom Door and a Bad Attitude

What is it with adolescent girls?
Is that a rhetorical question?
Why do I feel like we're the only parents who suffer?
Is threatening to substitute ROTC for Theater electives too mean?

Always Keep Your Promises

Y'all. I just followed through on Tammy's threat. I was sitting here in the office, working on this website, and I heard, "I will take your door off..." And then I heard a tone in Mama's voice that told me that a certain teenage girl didn't think that would happen.

Always keep your promises.

 Make an impact when you enter your kid's bedroom

As I write this, we are minus one bedroom door. 

Moms Can Remove Doors with Ease

It's not hard to remove a bedroom door. All you need is a phillips screwdriver and a helper. I had Tammy as a helper, but if you really want to make a statement, have said sassy teenager be your helper. 

1. You can remove the pins. In this case, you'll need a hammer, too. There are two pins holding the door in place, and they allow it to swing open and shut. If you choose to knock out the pins, place the screwdriver under a pin and start tapping it out. Repeat. I personally find this to be a pain because you don't have much clearance at the lower pin.

2. Unscrew to door from it's plates (which are connected by the pin). I prefer this method. Tammy held the door steady, and I removed the screws from the plates.

3. Hide the door. Do not underestimate the determination of a teenager. Hide the door. 

If you're unsure about the hinge and it's pin and plates, I'm including a photo. See how lining up that pin can be a hassle when you decide to replace the door?

Be Prepared for Disciplinary Emergencies

Bad attitudes don't come with a warning. There are no attitude bomb shelters. They show up with the potential to ruin all other home inhabitants' day. Therefore, as a mother, it is imperative that you have a tool kit and know how to use it.

I really like the Stanley 94-248 65-Piece Homeowner's Took Kit. It has all the necessaries, including that phillps screwdriver and a hammer. However, it also has pliers, allen wrenches, carpet knife, a measuring tape, small socket wrench set, a level, and a screwdriver with 30 different head types. I'm telling you. You will use every bit of this set.
Stanley 94-248 65-Piece Homeowner's Tool Kit

Folks, don't be afraid to use your toolkit to shut down the back talking. As for removing doors, it's not hard to do, and it doesn't take more than 5 minutes, so it's not like your kid will be gloating while you struggle.

I'm no parenting expert, so door removal may not be right for you. However, I think keeping promises is right for every parent; whether it's a promise to take your children to the movies or a promise to remove a door if they're disrespectful. More than anything. Keep your promises. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

We Can Do It

Lately, some women at my job have been organizing a Women's Leadership Program. I'm not actively involved for a number of reasons.


The word "program" implies we need to be trained and mentored into leadership. I don't like that word. No one else seems to see it that way from what I can tell. I would imagine the very male leadership has no problem with a program. It's not a threatening thing. It's like on the job training that doesn't promise you anything but a better skill set. But what do these women do with their newfound skills once they've graduated from the program? Probably not a whole lot.

Sorry for the cynicism, but truly; not a whole lot.

Playing into Stereotypes

I think "program" feels stereotypical. As if most women need to know how to lead. Women do the heavy lifting just as much as men. We make the important decisions. We mentor men. We problem solve. We have broad skill sets that make a difference. However, we're women. So we allow ourselves to believe we need a program to teach us how to be leaders. So stereotypical to allow men that fantasy.

We host parties and set up fun contests around sporting events. We discuss self-care and stress relief activities. We solidify that idea that women are best as caregivers.

The dudes dismiss us again.  ...but thanks for the cookies and massage.

We seek mentorship from men. (Because no one knows better than a man how to give a girl a leg up?) Are we perhaps intimidated by powerful women who might tell us something we're not ready to hear?

Work Like a Man

That doesn't mean men work harder. In my experience, they're slower and less capable of multi-tasking. So, work like a woman when it comes to the act of actually working. However, do a man's job and do it well. 

Maybe that sets up an antagonistic atmosphere. I don't know. And definitely it won't guarantee a woman equal pay. So think of it this way.

Become self sufficient in ways typically applied to men. Then work within a woman economy and support network. This blog is all about teaching women to do things that have typically been reserved for men.

Any woman can do the things I write about. Any woman can figure out how to create a solar power system, or build a structure, or negotiate with a contractor. Women just have to do it.

Try it Like This

I heard a woman say to another woman something that is so very correct and valuable. She said,
"I know it's hard to do, but you just have to start doing it. It will open up new pathways, and you'll change the way think and master something you can teach to others."

I knew nothing about solar power; much less the basics of electricity. I mastered it. 
I'm not a mechanic or plumber, but I mastered installing a water pump on my rainwater tank. I also mastered on-demand hot water, and effectively created an off the grid cabin that has electricity and water for free.

I share these things with you. You're with me as I open new pathways, and you get to try it for yourself.

Maybe off-the-grid doesn't mean anything to you. Just don't forget we're about to start natural disaster season. When the lights go out for a few day, my blog entries will be here. The men in your neighborhood probably won't be able to help you create a small solar power system.

Confidence Builder

Although much of what I write about may seem useless to you, think of these subjects as confidence builders that don't require a program to master. 

Years ago, I thought about starting a non-profit that taught women who had left violent relationships how to do the the things they thought they needed a man to do for them. Things like changing the oil in their car, using a chainsaw, replacing a toilet, replacing a light fixture, building a campfire, catching a fish, etc. I'm older and wiser now, and I don't want that responsibility. However, I must subconsciously want to build on that theme. 

So, browse through all the entries and try something new and useful. I'll have new entries pretty soon that discuss how I set up my rainwater catchment system, as well as the inevitable struggles I'll have keeping our country place comfortable on a budget. I'll do my best to encourage Tammy to create some entries on "How to Lay a Laminate Floor" since she's doing that right now.

Think of this blog as place where girls do "boy" things because there's really no such thing as "boy" things.