Always, Katie: 2018


Monday, July 2, 2018

Barbados: Getting Around the Island



[Big thanks to BabyaGoGo for providing a complimentary rental in exchange for a review of their services!]

One of the interesting challenges when traveling is how to navigate the locale. Especially for destinations that are at least a flight away, getting around is going to require a little more creativity than hopping in the family car.

Barbados is small, just 21 miles by 14 miles, so the whole island is really accessible for exploration. While you're there, it would be a shame to not take in as much of the beautiful country as you can! Fortunately, there are several options available and you should be able to find ways of getting around that fit with your needs and comfort zone.


Walking

Barbados Fertility Centre is ideally located on the south coast, very near a bunch of great hotels. The clinic can provide you with a list of hotels that are nearby - some of which even have special rates or bonuses (like complimentary breakfast) for BFC patients. If you pick one of these, you will be easily able to walk to your appointments, and to plenty of delicious dining options. Barbados is very safe, and as long as you take the same precautions you would take anywhere (like, zip your purse... pay attention...), this is a great, comfortable option for most excursions. On days when your ovaries are extra tender, or following procedures, you may want to opt for one of the other modes of transportation. :-)


Taxis

This was our favorite way of getting around on our first two trips to Barbados. We have a favorite driver and his phone number programmed into our phones. We'd still walk to most of our appointments at the clinic, but he helped us get home after procedures, drove us to the grocery store and came back to pick us up, and even took us on a lovely tour of the island as he drove us to Bathsheba on the east coast.

Taxi prices are pretty reasonable, really. Our trip to Bathsheba cost around $75 USD, which is comparable to the organized tours, but with personal attention and conversation with a delightful guide! Taxis in Barbados do not run meters; instead, they charge a flat rate. You should always establish the rate before you enter the car. As in many cases in Barbados, you can pay in USD or BDS, but your change will be in BDS. The exchange rate is an easy 1 US dollar to 2 Barbadian dollars, which makes this casual mixing of currencies possible, and so so convenient!


Buses

Buses in Barbados are plentiful and very cost-effective! Rides cost $2 (Barbados) per person, per ride - no matter how far you ride. I didn't know anything about the buses when we were in Barbados in 2014, and I wasn't quite up for attempting them with two toddlers this trip, so I still have never ridden one. You can learn more about buses in Barbados from Barbados.org.




Rentals

If you are the adventurous sort (I am NOT), you can always rent a car or a scooter. The catch? If you're an American, you're going to need to learn real quick how to drive on the "wrong" side of the car and the "wrong" side of the street! Bajan traffic is a little more aggressive than American traffic, but much more orderly and polite than we saw in France and Italy. So if you're feeling brave, go for it!

On the subject of renting, if you are bringing older siblings along on your trip to conceive younger siblings, you are probably going to need to rent a car seat!  BabyaGoGo rents a huge range of baby and child necessities - from car seats and strollers to cribs and even play equipment! We brought our own stroller because of needing it in the airport, but the ability to rent two car seats very inexpensively rather than dealing with checking them and all that was SO wonderful! BabyaGoGo even provides complimentary drop-off and pick-up to and from your hotel, or they and the clinic can help you arrange to have the driver who picks you up from the airport have your car seats already on board, saving you some hassle and worry :-)  The car seats we borrowed from them were very nice Britax models, in fantastic shape. You can learn more about their services from their website, and send them an email to check availability and get a quote!

I hope this helps you feel more prepared to find your way around Barbados! Your best bet depends a lot on where you stay and where your comfort zone is, but there are definitely options that are great for every traveler. If you have any questions, shoot me an email! If I don't know the answer, I'm glad to help connect you with someone who does.

+

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Pack for a Purpose (Bougainvillea Barbados)


(This post is in no way sponsored - it's just something that touched my heart and I wanted to share!)

One of the resorts that we will be staying at in Barbados in June is Bougainvillea. While I was reading up on the property, I found this information about an organization they are affiliated with, Pack for a Purpose

I have been our church's coordinator for Operation Christmas Child for the past few years, and this initiative reminds me of that outreach. They ask visitors to the island to save some room in their luggage for school supplies for economically or physically disadvantaged students, and provide a list of most-needed items. 

Barbados is the most developed country in the Caribbean, but there is still significant poverty. We experienced first-hand how expensive imported goods can be on the island, and nearly everything has to be imported. So school supplies that we take for granted here are much-needed in Barbados. 

Ethan and I will be packing some things to take with us to donate at Bougainvillea, and wanted to offer to deliver items for my readers, too. 

Local friends and family can drop supplies off at our house (or church or wherever else you see us). Far-flung friends and family, if you want to bargain shop locally, can email me for our shipping address. I've also made an Amazon wishlist with some of the most-needed supplies that can be shipped straight to us if purchased from the list. For those shopping in person, so many of these items can be found inexpensively at dollar stores or Walmart! 

I need to have items in-hand by June 1, 2018 so that we can get it all packed up. Anything that arrives to us later than that - or that we can't squeeze into our luggage - will be packed into Operation Christmas Child boxes at my church this winter. 

I love that Bougainvillea is involved in this organization, and I'm excited about this opportunity to give back a little bit to the island that has given so much to us! 


Thursday, April 26, 2018

NIAW 2018: Flip the Script - 10 Gifts that Infertility Gave to Me

This past week has been National Infertility Awareness Week - NIAW - and Resolve has asked bloggers to write on the theme "Flip the Script."

As I thought about the innumerable ways of interpreting that phrase, I decided to write about an infertility topic that doesn't seem to make sense. Infertility is a monster. It steals so much from couples who experience it. That much is indisputable. But what if I talked about the gifts my infertility gave me?



Numbers 1 and 2 - Abbie and Sam

First and always foremost, our infertility battle gave us our twins. Abbie and Sam are our beautiful gifts at the end of a five-year struggle, and every single shot, every single appointment, every single night spent sobbing... were worth it when we hold our precious children. Had we not had to do IVF, those specific sperms would not have met those specific eggs (no pressure, embryologists...), and Abbie and Sam would not be the incredible people we have come to love so fiercely.


Number 3 - A Strengthened Marriage

Huge struggles - like infertility is - can make or break a marriage. Thankfully, it strengthened Ethan's and my teamwork skills, and taught us how to work together to face down a monster that felt bigger than either of us. We learned how to be strong when our spouse is weak, and how to hold each other up when neither felt like we could walk another step of this journey.


Number 4 - A Strengthened Faith

Similarly to marriage, infertility can make or break a person's faith. I learned to trust in a plan I couldn't see, and to trust that the Lord was leading me to something wonderful. I still firmly believe that He saw us through our struggle, and that our children - while the products of a lot of hard work from a lot of incredible experts - are a gift from Him. I love our testimony, and I love to share what a wonderful work God has done in our family.


Number 5 - A Community

The online infertility community is warm and supportive, and I have made lifelong friends through this blog and through Instagram. In fact, my best friend found me when I mentioned infertility in a guest post for a fellow diabetes blogger that she and I both follow. It's so cool to have a community of people who understand and validate the struggle and the darker feelings that come along with an infertility battle.


Number 6 - A Ministry, an Outreach

People find my blog often when searching for info about the fertility clinic we used, and they reach out to me. I love sharing my experience with BFC one-on-one, and for the last couple years, I've also been offering to add these ladies to a private Facebook group I administrate (extremely high privacy settings, so it can't be found in search, and their friends can't see that they're in it, unless the friend is also in it). There are almost 100 women in the group now, and they support each other and love on each other, and it makes me feel like I'm making a difference in the world. The feasibility - and AWESOMENESS - of pursuing IVF overseas has become a platform for me, and again, a vehicle that has introduced me to some lifelong friends.


Number 7 - More Compassion

It's so true that everybody you meet is facing some sort of battle you know nothing about. Watching so many infertility stories unfold - including ours - has taught me that people handle the stresses in all kinds of different ways. Seeing unkind behavior in strangers or acquaintances now makes me wonder what private pain has precipitated that behavior, and that pause allows me to show more grace to them than I may have in the past.


Number 8 - Twin Mom Club

I MAY have had twins on my own if we hadn't had to do fertility treatments. I mean, spontaneous twins are totally a thing. But I definitely increased my chances by having two healthy embryos transferred. :-) I had heard about support clubs for moms of multiples, and I knew there was a local one because Ethan's boss at the time was a member. So I looked it up online and joined. It is so wonderful to get out of the house once a month and meet up for fellowship and programming with dozens of other moms who are either where I've been or where I will be soon. They're a great resource for twin parenting advice, for venting, and for a good laugh. I'm really thankful for the support and information I've found there!


Number 9 - Confidence in My Ability to Overcome

We have been through some tough stuff, and done things I almost can't fathom. And we came out stronger on the other side. We both remind each other of this whenever we are feeling daunted by something in front of us. We now have a solid track record of winning when we feel like we never will, and this has changed the way we see ourselves. We're winners. We're overcomers. We are smart and strong and tenacious.


Number 10 - Island Home-Away-From-Home

Had we not needed to do IVF, I think our dreams of world travel would have been put on hold while our kids were young. We probably never would have spent more than a cruise's port of call in Barbados. I would never have met the clinic staff who became more than a medical team, I wouldn't have fallen in love with the warmth and humor of the Bajan people, or the sparkling waters that make my breath catch even in photographs. I wouldn't have a beautiful island calling to me all the time, and I wouldn't be planning a return trip to show my kids this unique part of their story. 

While I wouldn't wish the pain of an infertility battle on anybody, I also can't bring myself to wish away our own. Without that pain, I wouldn't have found these wonderful gifts, and my life would probably not be as rich or full.


PS: You can read last year's NIAW post here: NIAW 2017 - Listen Up!
And you can learn more about IVF in Barbados (and our return trip) here: IVF in Barbados

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

9 Things We are Packing in Our Toddlers' Carry-On Bags



When we go to Barbados this June, it will be the first time our kids have ever been on an airplane. Because they'll be a few days past their third birthday, and are generally very well-behaved, we're optimistic that with adequate preparation and strategic packing, they will enjoy their first flights.

We will be packing each twin their own carry-on for a few reasons:
  1. It will be a good chance to teach them to be responsible for their own gear.
  2. It will hopefully reduce bickering over what item belongs to whom.
  3. Each paid ticket gets two carry-on items, and we may as well maximize that as best we can.
  4. Their Daddy and I will have enough to carry on our own.
Now, three-year-olds aren't very big, so we don't plan to load down these carry-ons too much.  We're going to be very strategic in what we pack. We're going for quality items over quantity - items that will hold attention for a long period, rather than many things that will each only entertain them for a few minutes each.


The Packing List

(Some of the following links may be affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may earn a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!) (CozyPhones were gifted to my kids for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts about them are entirely my own.)
  1. IPad - Okay, my first item is cheating a little bit. I'm not brave enough to trust a three-year-old to carry my iPad, so hubby and I will each be packing our own with the intent of letting the kids use them for games and movies.
  2. CozyPhones - We LOVE these!! I suspected that normal headphones would not go over well with my duo, but these soft, adorable fleece headphones are a huge hit here! Thankfully, the earphone parts and cord can be removed so that the bands can be washed (because... toddlers!), but also so my kids can wear their beloved fox and panda around the house without trailing cords! As far as I can tell, the sound is great quality and clear, and my super-picky and stubborn children are more than happy to leave them on! I'm sure everybody in the airports and on the planes will appreciate not having to listen to Word Party and Secret Life of Pets on repeat. I know I will. ;-) I'm so impressed with the construction and softness, a set of grown-up CozyPhones is going on my birthday list! I can't keep normal buds in my ears for ANYthing!
  3. Color Wonder pages (we like these blank pages) and markers
  4. iSpy books - My kids really enjoy expanding their vocabularies. These books are great for that, even if they don't quite get the riddles yet, and talking about the pictures keeps them both entertained for a long time. Plus, they learn!
  5. Fruity snacks - These are a special treat that the kids don't get to have often, so they will be excited when they come out at take-off time. We hope that chewing on these gummy treats will help keep their ears from hurting while we take off.
  6. Cereal necklaces - I plan on making up a bunch of these before we leave. Some for the car ride, for the airplane, maybe just for around the island. I'll put a few in their carry-ons for the first leg of the trip, and save the rest in my luggage for the return trip.
  7. Diapers - They're not potty-trained yet, and we're not going to push it. I'd rather bring diapers than be frustrated by a regression caused by a change of situation.
  8. Wipes - To use with the diapers, for meal clean up, or for any of the 8,9q3,705 other things they come in handy for when taking care of toddlers!
  9. Change of clothes - A fresh shirt and pair of shorts packed into a quart-sized zip-top baggie. In case of a messy accident or lost luggage.
The flight to Barbados is only about 3.5 hours long, and I am confident that the above will be enough to keep our toddlers entertained for that long. I also like that these items will fit comfortably in the carry-on bags I am making for each of them. Stay tuned for those bags! They're some of the most involved sewing projects I've attempted, so a fun challenge. :-)

Have you traveled with toddlers? What are some of your must-haves? Our list won't leave a ton of empty room in their bags, but we may be able to squeeze in another thing or two if you clue us in on something we're totally forgetting!


PS: Don't forget to sign up for my "Return to BarBABYdos 2018" newsletter! Details under my IVF in Barbados tab! :-)



Thursday, March 8, 2018

Katie's Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know that everybody's (or their mom's) chocolate chip cookie recipe is the best... but mine really is ;-)


I love a slightly puffy cookie with lots and lots of chips, so I combined and tweaked recipes I found online and on chocolate chip packages and finally came up with a winner. These cookies have a bit of a cult following in my area, and I love to make them to go with new mom meals, or for other folks who need a pick-me-up. They whip up quickly and easily, with a minimum of dishes, and are a real crowd-pleaser. 

They're great anytime, but if you can deliver or eat them still warm and gooey from the oven, you will NOT regret it! 


Ingredients:

3/4 C margarine, soft. (I know everyone calls for butter, but let's be real. I use margarine because it's cheap. If you're a butter person, give it a whirl, but the recipe was developed with margarine.)
3/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C chocolate chips (I like semi-sweet, or a combo of semi-sweet and milk)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with foil. (I'm a lazy baker, and crumbling up and discarding foil is so much easier than washing baking sheets, haha!)

Cream margarine and both sugars together, in the bowl of a stand mixer, until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix. (Quick note - I like to remove the chalaza from my egg before I add it to baked goods. Yeah, they're safe and edible, but chomping into that by surprise can ruin a perfectly good cookie or brownie real fast!)

Add flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and mix until the dough is smooth. Scrape down the sides if you need to in order to get everything incorporated. Gradually add the chips. It's a lot of chips for the amount of dough, so your mixer may struggle if you add them all at once. :-) But the more, the merrier, right?!

I use one of these nifty scoops to drop globs of dough onto the foil - roughly a tablespoon. Bake for 8-10 minutes. The tops will stay pale, but the edges should be starting to get golden. (See photo below.)



I usually get 2-3 dozen cookies per batch, but I am the WORST at consistent batch sizes, so your mileage will vary ;-) 

Enjoy!! If you make these and happen to Instagram them, tag me (@always_katie) and let me know how you like them!


Saturday, March 3, 2018

My Child Wants to do IVF in Barbados!


So your son or daughter just told you that they are considering going to Barbados for IVF treatment, and there's a pit in your stomach. You've decided to scour the internet and figure out how to convince your children that they need to abandon this plan, and this research has brought you here.

I understand your concern. My husband and I did similar research almost four years ago (back in 2014), and I'm now a mom myself. I can think of several reasons why this decision would make a parent nervous. Please allow me the opportunity to respectfully try to calm some of those fears.


"Barbados sounds dangerous."

Barbados is the most developed country in the Caribbean, and the crime rate is low. The citizens - especially near tourist areas like the one in which the clinic is located - are warm and friendly, and everybody speaks English with easy-to-understand accents. The same advice for traveling to any foreign country (or, let's face it, anywhere in the US, too) applies... keep a close eye on your belongings, stick to populated areas, make good choices... but Barbados is absolutely a safe country to visit. One of Barbados's nicknames is "Little England," because it is one of the most popular vacation destinations for British people, and several famous people have homes there. Simon Cowell is a pretty tough critic, and it gets the thumbs-up from him!


"But are those doctors even 'REAL' doctors?"

Dr. Skinner, the medical director and one of the founders, was educated in Ireland, at the famous and prestigious Trinity College. IVF was created in the UK, so her training comes from right by the source! Medical advancements and extremely high-caliber medical training can happen outside the US, I promise. Dr. Skinner has published research in respected medical journals - my husband and I found her articles while we were researching the clinic - and is a world-renowned expert in artificial reproductive technology. Practicing in her beautiful native Barbados only enhances her practice, it does not detract from it.

Dr. Corona is a breathtakingly accomplished doctor who speaks several languages and has studied and worked in more places than I can wrap my brain around! While I have not yet been fortunate enough to meet her in person, I am in awe of her background and have heard wonderful things about her from fellow patients.

As a chronically ill woman, I have had dozens of doctors. Many of them well-respected and at the top of their fields. I've maybe met one or two whose education and experience rival this team's, but to be frank, their bedside manner was NOWHERE near as great as what I experienced from Dr. Skinner and have heard about regarding Dr. Corona. This doctor duo is educated, accomplished, and genuinely kind, in a combination and to a degree that is truly rare. Your adult children could not be in better hands.


"Foreign clinics aren't as clean or safe as American clinics."

Barbados Fertility Centre has earned the prestigious Joint Commission International (JCI) gold seal accreditation continuously since 2007. JCI is an American agency, and accredited clinics must meet or exceed American standards for cleanliness, clinical outcomes, and infection and mortality rates. Every three years when they apply for renewal, BFC opens their doors to incredibly detailed inspection, and they work very hard to be above reproach. It is not an easy or a casual thing to earn JCI accreditation!


"There's a perfectly fine clinic just down the road!"

I'm sure it's a lovely clinic!

However, in my experience, patients at American clinics often feel like numbers on a chart more than like people. Barbados Fertility Centre actively cares about their individual patients as whole people and as couples, and their patient-focused approach has resulted in astronomical success rates. Compare their success rates to the clinics near your child. I think you'll be surprised by how well BFC stacks up!

BFC has a Life Wellness Centre upstairs from the medical clinic. The Centre offers services such as counseling sessions, nutrition counseling, massage, acupuncture, reflexology, and Reiki. This is part of the whole-person approach, where they strive to help their patients be at peak wellness in multiple facets of health.

Cost is also a factor. IVF in the States can run from 2-5x as expensive as a full cycle in Barbados. I live in a relatively-inexpensive area for IVF, and by the time we paid for our flights, hotel, food, entertainment, medications, treatments, and spa services, we still saved a couple thousand dollars compared to what we would have spent on JUST treatment in Ohio. Plus, we got to do it in a beautiful, relaxing, distraction-free place.

Bottom Line

If your child and their spouse are considering IVF in Barbados, they are adults. They have no doubt researched this decision extensively. While they probably value your opinion, this is a decision they will have to make as a couple. At the end of the day, if that's the decision they have made, you need to try to trust that you raised them to make good decisions and that this is one of them. And if they have entrusted you with the details of their fertility struggles and treatment, they need your support and encouragement.

You are about to become a grandparent, and that means your role in your adult child's life is shifting once again. This can be difficult for many parents, but it's a natural, healthy part of raising children. I hope that the information and links I have provided can help you come to peace with their choice. And I wish them (and you!) the very best of luck!

If you (or your child) would like to email me with any other questions, my email address is alwayskatieblog@gmail.com and I am always happy to chat :-)  You can also explore my "IVF in Barbados" tab at the top of my blog page to read more about my own IVF vacation in Barbados.


PS: Follow me on social media (links in my sidebar!) to follow my family's return to Barbados this summer! We'll be introducing our twins to the clinic staff who helped conceive them, and writing about lodging and attractions around the island!


Monday, February 12, 2018

Matthew 22:39 - Bible Art Journaling

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:39


A counseling session back in April of last year was a turning point for me in many ways, and it gave me a new way of looking at a familiar Bible verse: Matthew 22:39. We've all heard it. It's the one where Jesus tells us that the second most important commandment is to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

The word we overlook far too often in that verse is "as." Love your neighbor AS you love yourself. To do this, you have to actually love yourself. I realized - and I'm sure I'm not alone in this - that I was expending enormous emotional and physical energy loving others, but not honestly loving myself. That's not His plan, and it's not His commandment. His commandment requires loving ourselves.

Pouring from an empty cup

You've probably heard or seen the admonition, "You can't pour from an empty cup." The illustration I painted in my Bible by Matthew 22:39 is of a teapot pouring into a cup. The cup is not tilted to pour out, though. As I told a sweet friend recently, it's not selfish to refill your cup just for you. It doesn't have to be with the sole purpose of pouring it back out.

When you engage in self-care, try to occasionally do it just to simply care for yourself. Not to refill your cup to pour it out for your family, but because you deserve to not be running on empty!

Bible Art Journaling Details

[Some links may be affiliate links. If you click them and then make a purchase, I may make a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


I prepped the page of my journaling Bible with matte ModPodge and let it dry thoroughly. It felt very plasticized. I sketched the teapot and cup and painted it all with watercolor. I'm very new to watercolor, but I kind of enjoy the unpredictability of the paint on the plasticized paper. I used letter scrapbooking stickers from Michael's, the glitter ones to emphasize "LOVE YOURSELF" in the verse.

Then, and this is my favorite feature of this page, the little card that is taped in like a flap is a lined journaling card from Project Life and Stampin' Up! I taped it in with washi tape so that I could journal about my counseling session and the growth that came from it, while still being able to flip it out of the way and read the whole page. I also like taping sermon notes from my church bulletins like a flap, and then sketching whatever sermon illustration pops out at me. While I have no qualms about covering text with images, I do like being able to keep journaling on flaps and out of the way.

Do you do any Bible Art Journaling? I have a really fun board on Pinterest, you should check it out! Have you ever made flaps like this?

Have you been filling your own cup only with the purpose of pouring it back out? Doesn't it feel like you can just never catch up, like you're always drained? How are you going to commit to leaving a little something in your own cup?


PS: You can  sign up to be alerted when new Illustrated Faith products are released!



Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Guest Post with Allen Michael: 3 Tips to Fast Track Your IVF Savings Plan

I have the distinct pleasure of hosting a guest blogger today. Allen of TheStickVacuums.com has written quite possibly the most comprehensive list of money-saving ideas I have ever seen. And I've read a lot of frugal blog posts! He's here today to share some of the ways he and his wife saved for IVF treatment, but these items and the other on his full list are great ideas for ANYbody looking to reduce expenses and save toward a specific goal or just a more comfortable financial future. Thanks for sharing, Allen!

Always,
Katie


Aside from the emotional and physical toll that the IVF process can take, it is also very financially burdensome. More and more, health insurances are not covering any infertility-related procedures, and this includes the various artificial insemination processes.

For my family, once we determined that IVF was our next step in order to have children, we sat down to look at the finances of the process. And, we realized we were going to face a five-figure bill. The next steps for us were to put together a detailed plan and budget so that we could afford the process.

Several years later, I’m happy to report that we have a beautiful little girl, and were able to pay for the IVF process without going into debt. The entire process for how we saved money every month is outlined, but here are a few specific examples to get you started.


Budget

It sounds obvious, but you need a budget. Not just a general budget either – you need a very detailed budget. It is hard to sit down and put together a detailed budget, but it will serve as your guide through the entire process.


Setting a budget doesn’t mean you need to cut every single thing out of your life, but it does mean you need to plan and allocate for every expense. Knowing where your money is going means that you can begin to control it.

We used an app called Every Dollar to set up our budget. There is a free and paid version, and we opted for the paid version because it automatically synced with our bank account.


Almost immediately, we noticed areas we were wasting money. It was amazing (and shocking), and this is where the rubber meets the road… you’ve got to do something about what you discover. Cut out the areas of waste, and you’ll be saving money for IVF much quicker than you thought possible.



Coupons, Rebates, and Earning Programs

One area we saved and earned money in was through a combination of coupon clipping, using rebates, and participating in several earnings programs.


It is amazing how much money you can save every week by using coupons. We would plan our weekly meals based on what was on sale. This actually had several benefits. Not only did we save a lot of money (chicken on sale for $0.79/pound!), but we had variety in our meals every week.


We also realized there are a lot of rebates available, ranging from energy to water to appliances. Starting looking for rebates you can take advantage of, and then make sure to look into them before making any future purchases.

Lastly, we joined Ebates (<- Katie's husband's affiliate link. Join through our link, earn $10 when you qualify! We'll get a perk, too.) and started getting paid for all of the shopping we were already doing.


Expenses

This is a broad category, but it was probably the single biggest area that we paid for IVF with. I mentioned earlier how we cut out random expenses through our budgeting, but it didn’t stop there. We changed our entire perspective on how we spend money.


It’s funny how setting a goal can invigorate your mindset. For us, setting our goal and then seeing how small changes had big results lit a fire under us. The result was a changed mindset, one that focused on cutting expenses at every turn.


We didn’t just clean up our budget – we changed the entire way we spent money. We stopped going out to eat, and instead opted to cook at home every night… and we enjoyed it. We stopped buying new things, and only bought used… and we enjoyed the game of finding the product. We set up a home gym, got rid of the gym membership, and worked out more frequently as a result.


For me, this speaks to the mindset of saving. My wife and I wanted a child very badly, and we used that to focus our efforts and motivate us to sacrifice. In the end, it almost became a game.


Conclusion


When I saw how much IVF was going to cost us, I almost felt like it was too much to overcome. When we started saving for IVF, we realized that we needed a detailed plan to make it work. In the end, we accomplished our goal a lot sooner than we thought, mainly because we had a dramatic mindset shift. For us, the result was not just a successful IVF campaign, but we now have a financial mindset that will serve our family for decades to come.

Allen Michael is the founder and editor of The Stick Vacuums, a website focused on helping others keep a clean home as efficiently as possible. Allen stumbled onto stick vacuums while trying to help his family keep their home clean with less work, and has since become an expert on saving money and time in your home.


Friday, February 2, 2018

My Keto Valentine: Treats for Your Keto Sweetheart

Valentine's Day is coming up quickly! In past years, I've tended to celebrate my sweet Valentine with decadent desserts, candy treats, and fancy dinner. Valentine's Day can involve a LOT of sugar! Since June, my husband has been losing weight with the ultra low-carb Keto lifestyle. He has lost 85 pounds as of the writing of this post, and I am so proud!! But it did require me to shake up my usual Valentine's Day routine.



Here are a few ideas for ways you can treat your Keto Valentine. (Some links may be affiliate links - if you use them, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you.)


Breakfast.


If you like to start the day off with breakfast (in bed?), breakfast is the meal of the day when keto really shines! Eggs, meat, and cheese are all keto staples, so scramble, fry, or omelette up some eggs, make some bacon or sausage, get your sweetheart a nice hot cup of coffee just the way they like it (black, bulletproof, or try a nice sugar free syrup), and you're off to a great start! If your Valentine loves bready breakfasts, check out this recipe for "macro pancakes" or this one for "Keto Paleo Almond Flour Waffles" or even this one for cinnamon rolls for a really special treat.

Dinner.


I think a nice homecooked meal, served on real dishes at the dinner table after the kids are in bed is all kinds of romantic! Three of our favorite keto meals that feel luxurious to us are:
  1. Shrimp Scampi. Serve this with a cauliflower mash (make your own here, or purchase pre-made in the freezer section), or low-carb noodles like any of these (here, here, or in the freezer section).
  2. Salmon. I used to think salmon was fancy and tricky. Turns out with an Instant Pot, it just about could NOT be easier! There are a bunch of keto-friendly salmon recipes on Pinterest, but I keep it really easy: Place frozen filets skin side down on the wire rack in the IP, fill clear IP cup about 3/4 of the way with water, top off with lemon juice. Add to the IP. Sprinkle a tiny bit of dried dill weed and a pinch of salt on top of the salmon, add a dash of Old Bay to the liquid in the bottom of the pot. (I don't LOVE the taste of Old Bay, so I just like a hint in the cooking liquid.) Close lid, seal, set to "steam" for 9 minutes.
  3. Parmesan Crusted Chicken with bacon cream sauce. Again, this is great with a cauliflower mash (and maybe some mashed potatoes if one of you is non-keto. Like me, haha.)

Dessert.


My faaaaavorite part of a romantic meal! These all look decadent and so hard to believe that they're keto-approved!
  1. Chocolate Lava Cake. My friend Beth sent me this and I promptly drooled all over my phone screen :-)
  2. Chocolate Mousse
  3. Keto New York Cheesecake.

Candy.

  1. Check out these gummies (above!) I made him last week! I'll probably be getting some more use out of those heart molds before the 14th. :-) (Here's the recipe.)
  2. Lily's Chocolate Bar - These come in several rich varieties, and my husband is a big fan. The Blood Orange and Creamy Milk are his favorites.
  3. Fat Bombs - Some fat bomb varieties I've seen just look UNREASONABLY yummy!! A quick Pinterest search will turn up all sorts of options for you; I'm sure you can find one that will thrill your Valentine!

Stuff.

  1. How about a shirt declaring their love for Keto? Etsy is filled with great options, starting with this one.
  2. A water bottle with a fun Keto saying on it? Hydration is super-important for Keto (and, well, everyone), so help them keep up with this thoughtful and playful gift.
  3. A Keto Box or Keto Krate - monthly curated boxes with full-sized samples of new Keto-friendly snacks and treats. My husband has discovered some really cool products this way!
I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day! Let me know if you try any of these, or if you have any other awesome additions to the list! <3


Monday, January 1, 2018

Stuffed Animal Organization: Easy DIY Crib Storage Sling

I've always been a BIG fan of stuffed animals - in fact, I just came across a tub of my childhood stuffed friends in the basement, and my parents sent home a nice big box full of stuffed Sesame Street characters last week. It seems my kids are following in my footsteps, too, picking up new furry friends at each holiday and when I can't resist a sweet plush face grinning at me from a shelf. :-) So, suddenly, it seems we need to figure out some stuffed animal storage solutions!

I had a fairly specific image in mind, but I couldn't find any patterns or tutorials on Pinterest that fit that vision very closely. I love this one from Lemon Squeezy Home, but we don't currently have corners open for them, and I'm not sure whether or not we will in the kids' big kid bedrooms. I also like the idea of using fitted sheets, this one from FaithTap and this from DIY Booster, but the elastic looks a little bit schlumpy to me somehow. 

So I picked up some snuggle flannel and bias tape from Joann Fabrics and combined the ideas into something that I think will work for our family!

{Affiliate links ahead. If you click a link and end up making a purchase, I might make a small commission on the order at no extra cost to you.}

Gather supplies:

1 yard fabric. (I used snuggle flannel, but anything not super-stretchy should be fine. I'd love to see a version in denim/chambray!)
1 package extra wide double-fold bias tape, coordinating or contrasting color
24 inches of ribbon
Thread, coordinating or contrasting
Usual sewing tools: rotary cutter, cutting mat, pins, wonder clips (this is the set I bought in November, LOVE them!) sewing machine, etc.


Pre-wash your fabric. Trim frayed threads, remove selvage, square up edges. When I trimmed my edges square, I lost a few inches, and was working with more like 31 inches than a full yard, but it'll
turn out just fine. This isn't an ultra-precise thing. :-)


Set your machine to the longest straight stitch it can do, and baste along one long edge about an inch in.

Gently, gently tug on the top thread to gather the edge until it measures about 28 inches. If your crib's side is shorter or long, adapt the final length to your preference. 


I tied my top and bottom threads at each side to prevent the gather from slipping.

This project is the first time I ever used bias tape correctly! I followed this tutorial, which I found straightforward and easy. 

Unspool the whole package of bias tape, find the center (1.5 yards in), and cut the tape in half. 

Mark the center of the gathered side of fabric and the center of the cut piece of tape. Align these two marks when attaching the bias tape according to the tutorial I mentioned above. 


The bias tape will secure the gather. Once you've done both steps of sewing the tape down, find the center of your ribbon and the center of the tape, and sew the ribbon to the tape on the "right" side of the fabric. (I sewed mine to the "wrong" side and regretted it.) Gently pick the basting stitches out, they've done their job.

Attach the other half of the package of bias tape to the other long end of the fabric, NOT gathering the fabric beforehand. This means that this long side, the front side of the sling, will be several inches longer than the gathered back side.


Line up the short sides carefully. right sides together. Pin/clip in place, then sew. Stop and backstitch securely just before you reach the bias tape. You do NOT want to sew the tape together! 


Clean up stray threads, clip the bottom corners so that they're sharper when turned out. Turn inside out, tie to crib!



Abbie and Sam each have one of these now, and I think I may also make an extra one or two to hang on the baby fence around our great room. :-) So quick, easy, and useful! I love the way the back stays more or less flat against the side of the crib, but the front bows open slightly to make it easier to get the stuffed animals in and out and makes the sling a little bit roomier. 

Are your kids into stuffed animals? How do your corral the critters? 


Blog Design by Get Polished