Saturday, June 25, 2016

12 Reasons To Raise Backyard Chickens

My computer is down right now, so I am attempting to post directly from my tablet. Not good on the eyes! Or maybe it's just middle age. Regardless, If you have been thinking about getting chickens, but have been on the fence, I want to share with you why you should dive right in to the world of back yard chickens. We have had our two chickens, Padme and Princess Leia, for a year now, and they have given us much more than eggs. I guarantee that the work you will put into caring for them is worth it.

Here are my 12 reasons why you should have a back yard flock:

  1. It is a great lesson for you and your children to help care for them. 
  2. Your children will learn that their eggs come from an animal, and not the grocery store.
  3. You will have greater control of your food source.
  4. You will know that the chickens who produced your eggs were treated well.
  5. You will have fresh eggs to barter or gift to friends and neighbors. 
  6. You can't get any fresher than collecting the eggs for your breakfast that morning.
  7. You will become an expert in all things chicken related.
  8. They are quite lovable and have distinct personalities.
  9. Seeing chickens strutting around the back yard will have you smiling.
  10. You will discover a whole new world of like minded people who also raise chickens.
  11. Depending on the breed you choose, you can have green, blue, brown, and speckled eggs.
  12. While they might not have the most beautiful bird call, waking up to hear the sound of them clucking will fill you with joy.
Before you do go out and buy some chickens, however, make sure you are familiar with your town or city's ordinances regarding back yard livestock. Here in San Antonio we are allowed three chickens without getting a special permit, but some subdivisions have HOA's that don't allow them. I am lucky to live in an older neighborhood where city rules apply. 

Fair warning, however. Once you have chickens, you will start thinking about raising chicks and hatching eggs. You will go to the feed store in the spring and have to fight off the urge to buy chicks. You will start dreaming about a bigger back yard or a little piece of land in the country. You will get coop envy looking at other people's coops. But, seriously, raising back yard chickens is wonderful. One day I will have that little piece of land in the country so Padme and Princess can have a whole flock of companions and I can be a crazy chicken lady.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Balancing Act of Being Frugal and Enjoying Life

A recent Facebook post by financial advisor, Suze Orman, talked about evaluating your spending habits to find out where you are carelessly spending money in order to reallocate that money to savings, investments, or to pay off debt. The main point of the post seemed to be that there are always little money leaks we can plug in order to put that money to better use. The post was well meaning and on point for most people, but as someone who has struggled to climb out of poverty, I wanted to get the point across that this wasn't a concept that applied to everyone. My first year as a single mom I couldn't risk any frivolous spending. Getting a hair cut, purchasing new clothes, stopping at Starbucks for a coffee were things I simply could not risk spending my money on because any purchases outside of necessities meant I wouldn't be able to keep the lights on or a roof over our head. Even now, I only stop at Starbucks if I have a gift card and I can't even understand how anyone would spend $50 on an item of clothing. For far too many people out there struggling, there truly isn't any way to cut spending, and this is what I wanted to get across in my post. Too many people can't comprehend what it truly is like to be at rock bottom financially.

I agree that even people who are poor can spend their money on bad choices, but for me and many others, we watch where every penny goes. We brew our own coffee, buy clothes from the thrift store, avoid eating out, go without cable. We have already narrowed our budget down as far as it can go. And there is still nothing left over for an emergency fund, let alone investing.

An interesting point came up in the conversation I started, however, that got me thinking. One woman posted how it seemed sad to her that some people on the thread were so caught up in saving money that they missed the joy of going on vacation or other ways of spending their money that might bring them greater happiness. Is there such thing as being too frugal, especially when your income falls below the poverty line?

I watched an interesting speech by Harvard Business School professor Micheal Norton called How to Make Choices That Bring You Sustainable Happiness. You can watch the entire video here. He makes the interesting claim that money can buy happiness if you spend it on the right things, such as experiences or helping others. Even if you are poor. From my experiences I can say he is right on target.

But, wait a minute. How do you balance keeping a roof over your family's heads and food in their stomachs with spending money on experiences or helping others, especially when you are just getting by? Here's the deal. You don't have to spend big. All it takes is a little extra gas money or bus fare to get downtown to enjoy the free night at the museum, or maybe a day at the park, or an unlimited number of other experiences that cost little other than your time and the transportation to get there.

Spending money on others can be as simple as buying a bag of apples to hand out to the homeless or putting a couple extra dimes in a strangers parking meter that's about to expire. Again, it doesn't have to be high dollar to have meaning.

It's scary, though. This spending money on things outside of basic living expenses. When you are scraping by and unsure of how you are even going to make rent, every dime counts. Let me tell you something amazing. Every time I stepped back and spent outside of my comfort level on an experience for myself and my children or helped someone out that needed it more than me, things would alway work out. Always. And because of my choices to find ways to give my children wonderful experiences camping at the beach or roaming one of the local art museums on their free family night, my boys have wonderful memories made in the middle of some dreadfully awful times. To others looking in, our trip to camp at the beach may have seemed extravagant at the time, and maybe even a little risky. But to us, it was worth far more than I spent on the trip. How can you put a price on happiness?

My advice boils down to this: be frugal in the everyday areas of your life. Make due with your 17 year old robe. Drive a used car. Disconnect your cable. Simplify your life as much as possible. But, every once in a while splurge on an experience with your family. Even if it's just going out for ice cream. When you are struggling to get by you get so focused on survival that you can forget to take time to find enjoyment, but if you want to do more than just survive, I argue that being a little irresponsible every now and then is actually the most responsible thing you can do.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Chocolate Banana Protein Pudding for One

Crossfit has had the positive effect of really focusing me on my diet and healthy eating. It's a lifestyle change that was easy for me to make, since organic and healthy were already at the top of my list of priorities, but I did need to fine tune things a bit. Like increasing my protein intake and decreasing added sugar, which is a big deal with my sweet tooth. But I was dismayed that while crossfit encourages clean eating, most of the protein powders on the market were anything but clean. The first protein powder I tried had a significant amount of added vitamins and a warning on the side that it wasn't intended for children. Well, if it was bad for a child, was it really all that healthy for me? I know that the added vitamins were at a higher dose than what a child should take, but did I really want to be adding synthetic vitamins to my body? Plus, it left a vitamin aftertaste in my mouth that I really didn't enjoy.

I found a pea based protein powder that was close to what I was looking for, but it had carrageenan in it, which can cause gastrointestinal distress and has become a very controversial ingredient. I also tried hemp powder, which is too gritty for my taste in smoothies. I will still use it as an additive to baked goods and pancakes, but I'm not sold on it for regular use. I finally settled on Juice Plus Complete after a friend gave me samples and enthusiastically shared her love of the product with me. In fact, so sold was I on Juice Plus Complete, I jumped on board as a distributor. If you would like to learn more about Juice Plus and the products they offer, click here. If you would like to become a part of our team, contact me and I'd be glad to give you more information. If you are serious about health, it is a great company to be a part of.

While I mainly use Juice Plus Complete in protein shakes, pre and post workout, sometimes I want something a little different. I came up with this yummy single serving sized pudding as an option to my usual shake. It also satisfies my craving for something sweet. It is easy and quick to make ahead for a grab and go snack. It is also healthy to share with your kid, making it harder to say no when they catch you eating something yummy and ask you for a bite. You may have to go into hiding when eating it, or make up a double batch to share.

Chocolate Banana Protein Pudding for One

  • One ripe banana
  • 1 TBSP chocolate nut butter
  • 1 scoop Dutch Chocolate Complete Protein Powder
  • cacao nibs, unsweetened shredded coconut, walnut or pecan pieces
Mash banana with a fork until smooth. Stir in nut butter. Slowly add in protein powder until mixed thoroughly. May also use a food processor to mix ingredients together until smooth. Spoon into serving dish and top with cacao nibs, shredded coconut, and/or nuts. Refrigerate until cold or eat at room temperature, depending on your preference and patience level. 

Variation: use almond butter and vanilla complete instead, for a banana protein pudding.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Overnight Oats Workshop and Two New (Dairy Free) Recipes

One of my goals here at The Hippy Home is to share with people how to eat healthy no matter what your budget. Yesterday, I held an overnight oats workshop at my home. It was small and cozy, with four of us sharing ingredients and good conversation while we made the easiest grab and go healthy breakfast ever. After getting to spend the evening with these wonderful ladies, the next best thing was not having to cook breakfast this morning, even though I wasn't in any particular hurry to go anywhere. What have I learned here? In addition to being a great grab and go breakfast on a busy morning, they also make a great breakfast for a lazy summer morning as well. They are perfect little hand held breakfasts on any day. Or lunch, or afternoon snack. Did I mention they are also easy to make and healthy? And kid friendly. My seven year old likes the strawberry one, minus the chia seeds.

We made four different recipes last night. The Strawberry Vanilla and Blueberry Cinnamon can be found at this link. They both contain Greek yogurt, though if you are vegan or dairy intolerant you could probably use a dairy free yogurt. The two new flavors I am going to share with you are Banana Nut Bread and German Chocolate Cake. Both of these overnight oats are dairy free and vegan. The chocolate flavor is really subtle in the German Chocolate Cake overnight oats, so if you are like me and craving a stronger chocolate flavor, you can use a chocolate flavored nut milk and slightly increase the cocoa powder amount. Adding a good, high quality chocolate protein powder like Juice Plus Complete, would also be a great way to increase the chocolate flavor and the protein. Vanilla protein powder would be a yummy addition to the strawberry and blueberry oats. I think the banana oats would be tasty with either flavor. I have some experimenting to do!

German Chocolate Cake Overnight Oats

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup almond milk 
  • 1/2 banana, mashed
  • 1 Tbsp pecans
  • 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1-2 Tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup
Mix all ingredients in a quart sized jar with a lid. Place in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, give it a good stir and eat. It will keep in the refrigerator up to five days. 

Banana Nut Bread Overnight Oats

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup almond milk, or other favorite nut milk
  • 1/2 banana, mashed
  • 1 Tbsp chopped nuts
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp nut butter
  • 1/2 tsp maple syrup
Mix ingredients in a quart sized jar with a lid. Place in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, stir and eat. Top with banana slices right before eating for more banana flavor.