Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Paleo for Beginners


I can’t even count the number of email inquiries I’ve gotten from people who are interested in Paleo but have NO idea where to start, so I’m going to provide you with a helpful how-to guide.  Whether you’re just curious or you’re ready to take the plunge, this information should be at least a little helpful.



Important notes: 
1)  I am NOT an expert.  I also cheat sometimes because Carpe Diem (that’s how people born before 1990 say “YOLO”).  Cupcakes are my vice.
2)  I also am not “Paleo” in the strictest sense of the word because even though we adhere to Paleo most of the time, we continue to consume modest amounts of dairy products (milk, cheese, butter – no yogurt).  Some people call that “Primal.”  Eric likes that term better because it sounds rugged and manly.  I don’t really care, so I use them interchangeably.
3)  It is difficult, if not impossible, to be strictly Paleo when you go out to eat.  There is no way to ensure that the chicken you’re eating isn’t laced with hormones or that the vegetables you’re being served are pesticide-free and organically grown.  Just do your best.  And stop eating out so much.
4) Being legalistic about this diet (just like anything else) will set you up for failure.  Give yourself some grace.

The basic premise of the Paleo/Primal diet is to only eat things that would have been recognized as foods ancestrally.  Our bodies were designed to process certain foods.  Over the years (especially the last century or so), we’ve started putting stuff into our bodies that our bodies aren’t capable of processing (or processing well).  If a caveman would look at it and call it food, then it’s food.   If it has to be modified drastically to be consumed, then it’s not food.  With that principle in mind, here’s stuff you should stay away from (and the reasons behind it)...

FOODS TO AVOID
Corn:  Sorry, kids.  This veggie isn’t really a veggie.  It’s a grain.  Grains were found only in minimal quantities back in the caveman days, and as such, they weren’t consumed very often.  If you enjoy corn, enjoy it very rarely…like a couple of times a year (not once a week).  Need another reason to stay away from corn?  Monsanto.  If Satan decided to be the CEO of a company, Monsanto is the one he would choose.  I know that’s harsh, but if you do a little research, you’ll agree with me.  They are genetically modifying a lot of our nation’s corn so that explodes the stomachs of insects.  If it can explode the stomach of insects, doesn’t that make you wonder what it can do to yours?  And your children's?

Potatoes:  Potatoes were likely never eaten raw (due to toxins in their raw state), and experts say that they are a relatively modern addition to the human diet.  Our family loves to eat sweet potatoes in moderation (once a week or once every other week) as a french-fry-like treat!

Stuff That Comes in a Box:  If it comes in a box, I can guarantee with 98% accuracy that you shouldn’t be eating it.  I'm lying...I totally just made that statistic up.  But it's probably pretty close.  The only exception that I can think of is boxed organic beef broth (but even that is better when you make it yourself).  Dry goods (boxed, bagged, or packaged-how-you-like) have usually undergone some type of refinement or processing.  This means pasta too, friends (sorry!).  I can’t picture a caveman cutting noodles and making his own pasta, can you?  There is, however, probably some good packaged food out there that I’m not considering, so here’s the safest way to check out if your boxed-thing is good for you:  read the ingredients.  If it has more than 5, don’t eat it.  If any of the 5 are difficult to pronounce, don’t eat it.  If it contains any of the forbidden ingredients (sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn, wheat, etc.), don’t eat it.  Boxed stuff is man-made.  Man-made food is not Paleo.

Grains:  For all of the same reasons that you shouldn’t eat corn, you shouldn’t eat grains (this includes rice).  Even though you can roast a grain and eat it, how many grains do you think our cavemen were out there roasting and eating?  Not many.  Since Sadie is not adhering to the Paleo diet like Eric and I are, we buy sprouted bread for her.  The nutrients in sprouted bread are more dense, the bread is super tasty, it is made without preservatives, it uses organic ingredients (grown without pesticides and herbicides), and I just feel better about giving her bread that doesn’t have a ton of crap in it.

Some Oils:  There are plenty of amazing Paleo/Primal oils (I’ll get to that), but there are also bad oils…ones you should avoid.  These include:  Corn oil, cottonseed oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, rice bran oil, and wheat germ oil.  Lots of off-the-shelf products contain these oils.  Pay particular attention to potato chips (even ones that are touted as being really good for you) – make your own chips with sweet potatoes or zucchini.  Also pay attention to food found in jars – mayonnaise, ketchup, etc.  You should usually make your own condiments.  Stop scoffing, it takes 5 minutes (or less).

Dairy Products:  These are supposed to be a no-no on the Paleo plan, but we consume them in moderation.  If you’re going to do dairy, go for pasture raised, grass-fed, full-fat, lightly pasteurized (or unpasteurized if you can get it from a KNOWN source) milk.  Pasteurization takes away nutrients.  If you know your farmer (or if you ARE your farmer), then you can get quality milk without the processing.  Full fat milk keeps your bones healthy, strengthens immunity, and adds a lot of important vitamins to your diet.  If you’re drinking milk, stop drinking skim (please).  It’s not good for you…better to drink no milk at all because you're not getting anything beneficial from it.  Check out this article about Skim Milk.  Same thing goes for cheeses – pasture raised, grass-fed, and whole.  Get it as raw as you can get it…like a caveman.

Legumes:  Peanuts, peas, beans.  “Why not?”  Because legumes typically can’t be eaten without extensive preparation.  There are a lot of other really good reasons why you shouldn’t eat legumes...you can find most of them here.

Refined Sugars:  If you must have a sweetener, please use local honey (local honey has added health benefits!) or grade B maple syrup.  You can also use Stevia if you can get your hands on it.  None of these things are really technically Paleo, but we do honey in moderation (maybe once a week or once every other week). 

Soft drinks:  Hello, high fructose corn syrup.  No.  I am speaking as a former Coke addict (sounds awful, doesn't it?).  Just say no.  Let the words, "I'll have water, please!" come out of your mouth before your brain has time to think about it.  Also, fountain water is free.  (Yay for saving money!)

Fruit juices:  Juice them in your juicer at home, or don’t drink them at all.  Read the ingredients on fruit juices--even organic ones.  I bet you’ll be surprised.

PALEO FOR WEIGHT LOSS:
  • Adhere to all of the above PLUS the following…
  • Limit fruit intake (especially the super-sweet fruits).  Blueberries are a really good not-so-sweet fruit if you’re trying to lose weight.
  • Try to keep your carbohydrate intake to 50mg per day (I used fitday.com for a few weeks to track this, but now I have a pretty good idea of my carb intake, so I don’t need it).
  • Try to get 60% or MORE of your calories from fat.  (used fitday.com for this too).  EAT FATS.  Fat is not bad for you.  Fat does not make you fat.  That’s a myth.  Stop believing the lie.  I’ve lost almost 25lbs by eating really good fats ALL DAY LONG.

If you do all three of the above strictly for 21 days, watch what happens.  It’s not hard.

But Wait!  What Can I Eat?

This is the good part, n’est-ce pas?  You can eat ALL KINDS of stuff, and the food you’ll be eating is DELICIOUS because it’s REAL.  You’ll discover foods you didn’t even know you liked!

FOODS TO EAT! 
Meats:  Get the most whole, organic, well-raised meats you can find.  Don’t get meats with additives, preservatives, hormones, or other crap.   You get a lot of nutritional value from meats that don’t contain extra crap…and the extra crap is why 8 year old girls have boobs.  Stop.  Give little girls hormone-free meats, please.  Girls should start getting boobs when they're 12 and 13...not when they're 8.  Buy grass-fed beef.  Buy chicken without antibiotics.  Think about what you’re putting inside of your body.  Hormones, antibiotics, additives, and crappy food were not good for the cows and chickens, and they’re not good for YOU or your family.  My great-grandparents were farmers.  They lived long, full lives.  They pasture-raised their cows and slaughtered their own meat.  There’s a lot to be said for that, you know.  If you can’t slaughter your own cow, you should buy a farm...just kidding.  If you can't slaughter your own cow, at least make sure you can source your meat.  Support farmers who aren’t trying to poison your family for profit…

Fruits:  If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t eat a ton of fruit.  If you’re not trying to lose weight, eat as much as you want!  Avocados are an excellent source of good fat.

Veggies:  Steam, bake, fry in a good paleo oil…doesn’t matter.  Eat veggies.  Don’t eat them in moderation, eat them until you think you’re going to turn into a vegetable.  Our favorites are mashed cauliflower, steamed broccoli, and baked asparagus. 

Nuts:  Real ones…not peanuts.  Don’t forget, peanuts are a legume.  Walnuts, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts.  I eat a tiny handful of nuts each day (maybe ¼ cup).    Please don’t buy the national brands…they are processed with bad oils.  Get ‘em raw.  I either get mine from a local produce store or from Whole Foods.  They’re delicious…you don’t need oils that are not naturally occurring inside the nut.

Eggs:  Any way you like them!  The "incredible edible egg" is a staple Paleo food.  I eat approximately two eggs per day…usually hard boiled, but sometimes scrambled.

Fish:  Pay attention to ecological practices, but that aside, eat whatever fish you want.  There are some good websites that tell you which fish are safest to consume.  This is a good one.  We like whatever is fresh-caught and local (and cheap). :)

Fats:  Some amazing paleo fats include:  lard (yep…I said it), olive oil, nut oils, avocado oil, palm oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, and our family uses butter and full-fat milk as well.  You can't get past the word "lard," can you?

Drinks:  water (what humans should be mostly drinking anyway), herbal teas, coffee (in moderation), alcohol (go for red wines or local beers – both in moderation), fruit and veggie juices that you juice yourself at home.

Spices:  Have fun.  Don’t use refined iodized salt, though…use sea salt instead. 

CondimentsMake your own.  They taste amazing, and you aren’t ingesting crap.  It takes me about 3 minutes to make a batch of ketchup…maybe less.

Snacks
  • Artisana Coconut Butter – It has the consistency of peanut butter with a sweet flavor…it doesn’t taste at all like coconut.  I eat it by the spoonful, and an expensive ($12.00) jar of the stuff lasts me a little over a month.   
  • Strong Extra Dark (85%) Chocolate – We eat this by the piece (not by the bar).  It takes me about a week to get through a bar of chocolate.  Learn to be satisfied with a little taste of something – it’ll rock your world.
  • Blueberries – I eat a handful of blueberries sometimes when I have a snack attack.  They quell it easily.
  • Cheese – If you’re going the non-dairy route, avoid this snack (duh), but if you are willing to budge a little, a nibble of cheese is a good snacky food…I eat it with blueberries.  It feels very French.  We eat a brand called “Kerrygold.”
  • Caveman Cookies – You can get these at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and probably a myriad of other hippie food stores.  Sadie and I like the tropical ones better than the original.
  • Way Better brand Sweet Potato Chips – These are NOT Paleo.  They are processed with sunflower and/or safflower oil, BUT, my husband loves chips, and these are better than Lays.  In other words, don’t let Paleo legalism lock you in chains.


What to Expect When You Start
The grocery bill.  It's time to address the #1 reason people don't start something like this:  It's too expensive.  Put simply:  IT'S NOT!  We are spending the same amount on whole, natural, unprocessed foods as we were spending on their overly-tampered-with counterparts...how?  Even though item-for-item, the food costs more, we're saving money for a few important reasons:
1) We don't eat out as much
2) We don't buy junk food.  Junk food adds up quickly.
3) We aren't buying breads, pastas, and other wheat products.

The "growing pains." We were EXHAUSTED for the first couple of weeks.  It takes about that long for your body to figure out that it’s getting enough fat for energy and doesn’t need the carbs for energy anymore.  One day, it just sort of clicks, and your body says, “oh wait!  I don’t need those stupid carbs…look at all this FAT I’m getting!”  Then you wake up, and you feel AMAZING.  

The results.  You’ll wake up refreshed, you’ll have plenty of energy, you’ll never be hungry, you’ll appreciate *real* flavors in food (as opposed to fake ones), you’ll feel good about where your nutrients are coming from, and you’ll pat yourself on the back for being less likely to die from some Standard American Diet driven disease.  You’ll be eating the food that your body was designed to digest.  And as if being truly healthy isn’t enough, you’ll probably lose some weight and inches.

Paleo is hard to start and easy to continue.  I will never look at food the same way again.

Here are some resources that I used for the info above as well as some things you should check out "just because":
Visit:

Watch:

Read:

And we use this cookbook (and love it!):  Make it Paleo


Friday, July 27, 2012

Sadie's Hidden Play Nook


In the Philly suburbs, extra square footage means extra pricey, so we opted for an apartment with a little less space.  While learning to live in a smaller footprint has had its challenges, it has also been rewarding to get creative with small space problem-solving.  The living room in our apartment was more than large enough for our apartment sized furnishings, so instead of wasting the additional space by spreading out our furniture, we used part of the room to make a little play nook for our daughter, Sadie.  As a bonus, we saved a LOT of space in Sadie’s bedroom for bigger toys and storage (like her toy box and art easel).

The space is hidden behind three contiguous lateral bookshelves in our living room.  In order to minimize costs while making sure that the area reflects Sadie’s fun spirit and love of color, we ended up with a lot of colorful DIY pieces.  Concealing the space behind the bookshelves means that Sadie gets a hideaway all her own for imaginative play…it also means that the toy clutter is invisible from the living room (score!). 

  





Source List:
Room divider bookshelves:  Target
Fabric for back of bookshelves:  IKEA (discontinued) (DIY tutorial)
Rhinestone Letter “S”:  DIY
Kitchen:  Target (discontinued)
Three-photo frame:  IKEA (artwork by Sadie)
Bunting: DIY
“Princess Closet”:  Repurposed white Target bookshelf (DIY)
Mirror:  KidKraft



Show and Tell

Sadie asked if we could paint last night...do you keep a back stock of canvases in your house?  'Cuz you should.  I think Sadie finds art almost as therapeutic as I do...

purple paint + gold paint pen + fabric + decoupage + glue + rhinestones + buttons = 





She was so proud of her finished masterpiece that she took it for show-and-tell today at school. (Despite my argument that it was too big/fragile for show and tell, she and her daddy agreed that it was too cool not to share at camp today.  {sigh})


It is pretty cool :)

5 Year Check-up!

Sadie's 5 year check-up was yesterday.  I knew she'd be getting shots, and I am very anti-lying-to-your-kids-about-shots.  So I told her.  She was totally fine with it and we made a bargain that she could get ice cream afterwards for being a big brave girl.

Wellllllllll, guess who didn't have to have shots?!  Magically, she's all caught up until next year.


She had to jump up and down (one foot...now the other foot...now both feet!)

And she had to draw a picture of a person, write her name, identify and copy shapes, and talk about letters...


And since the little stinker and I made a bargain, she still got ice cream afterwards :)


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Read, Reflect, React...



Inspiration to react to grace viscerally instead of out of obligation.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Jeans :)

What's that sound?  I mean...besides the sound of me bragging?  Oh, that's just the sound of me putting all of my size 12's into a BIG FAT DONATION BAG for the Salvation Army.



That's right, sisters...my booty is now officially the size that it was when I was 14 years old.  What. The heck.  

And I would be remiss without saying...

Dear Paleo Diet,

I love you not only for the hopes that you will one day give me back my fertility (please, Lord Jesus), but also because you have the added happy bonus of forcing 25lbs of unnecessary fat off of my now-a-size-SIX body.

Sincerely,

P.S.  I know bragging is terribly unbecoming, but I'm willing to look unmannerly just this once.
P.P.S.  Did I mention that I am now wearing a size six?  Holla.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Olivia-Inspired Girls Room


Aversion to commercialized themes in kids’ rooms is prevalent in the design world, but most parents still feel that it’s important to be cognizant of children’s preferences when designing kid spaces.  While the big-box store themes can trigger gag reflexes in parents with a modern aesthetic, themes do not have to be all together horrible, right?  It’s possible to put together a room that is inspired by a favorite storybook or movie character without plastering the character’s face all over your child’s bedding and walls.  This concept can also be extended to other “theme-y” ideas (think sports, beach, animals, circus, etc).

This inspiration board for a sweet little girls’ room was inspired by one of my favorite literary pigs – Olivia!



Red, black, pink, bows, stripes, exaggerated lines, and fun pops of color...you get the idea...no wallpaper border with Olivia's face all over it.

As Olivia would say, “Rule of life #100 – Red is the very best color for absolutely, positively everything!”

Sources from the inspiration board:

I had so much fun putting this together...I might do another.  Suggestions?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Abba Means "Daddy"

This morning at 2:38am, Sadie woke up crying from a nightmare.  I sprinted to her bedside and she grabbed my arm, sobbing, and begged me to let her sleep in our room.  I scooped her up immediately. I laid her down between us, facing me, and watched as the tears dried in their path on her sweet little round cheek.  Eric - eyes closed - put his arm around her, pulled her close, kissed her on the back of the head, and I watched her entire body melt back into peaceful sleep instantly.  At that moment, I whispered inside of my head, "You're safe, little girl - Daddy is stronger than anything - even nightmares.  He'll protect you."  And I knew that she'd sleep soundly for the rest of the night.  And she did.


Today has given me some pain.  In the midst of it, I have been so thankful for the precious encounter between my husband and my daughter during the small hours of this morning.  I'm thankful because as I'm experiencing moments of hurt today, I have heard myself whispering inside of my head, "You're safe, little girl.  God is stronger than anything - even your pain.  He'll protect you." 

And He will.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Thirty Rocks.


I spent today with my two favorite people...



They hung out with me as I went through my list of 30 intentional acts of kindness.  After I got through about 27 of them, we went home for a few minutes, and while we were there, Eric and Sadie came into the living room with cupcakes for me....

When I opened their card, it was a scavenger hunt created by my rockin' husband.  Each clue led me to a gift and another clue.  By the time I got to the end of the hunt, I realized that my family had all sent me birthday money in contribution to my new sewing machine (they were all painfully aware that my old one died  about a month ago...apparently I talk about it a lot).  I just stood in our bedroom and cried.  I have the best family in the whole world. Truly.

On the way to pick up my new machine (because of course I had to get it today), I saw this little guy:

I call him "birthday bird."  Clever, I know.

Also, at some point on the car ride, my little series artist in the back seat decided to take up the camera and do a new series on feet.  Please enjoy, "Portrait of Sadie's foot #743" 

And then I met my sewing lady friends and brought home my new favorite toy. :)

Isn't it beautiful!?

I've been thirty for less than 24 hours...if this is what 30 feels like, I am happy to be here, kids.  
Feeling so thankful today.

Intentional Acts of Birthday Kindness

Months (and months, and months) ago, my friend Tatiana sent me this link to a blog with a woman who had done one kind thing for every year she had been alive on her birthday.  It took me about 2.4 seconds to decide that this was pretty much the best idea I had ever heard. Since then, I've seen it done other places, and I have been increasingly excited about doing it for myself.  I have literally been planning this day since January.

I'm 30 today.  And this has been the best birthday EVER.  No contest.  Who says 30 is depressing?

Here's the list!

1.  Leave a cupcake and thank you note in our mailbox for our mail carrier.  The cupcake died on the way home from the grocery store, so we ended up doing a Snickers bar. (Our first "Resort to Plan B" of the day!)

2.  Pay the tab behind me at Dunkin Donuts.  Done - this is a super easy one...why don't people do this more?

3.  Mail a card to an old friend.  Do you have a friend that you love so much it hurts, but somehow you've managed not to talk to them in forever?  I do.  I have several, actually, but one in particular has been on my mind constantly, so I sent her a note today to tell her that I love and miss her terribly.

4.  Leave stamps in the stamp machine.  This was our second "Resort to Plan B."  There was no stamp machine at the post office we went to.  Instead, I bought a book of stamps, but a note on it, and gave it back to the employee behind the counter to give to the next person who came in for stamps.  He thought I was crazy.

5.  Give postal workers cookies.  Mr. "I-think-you're-crazy" thought I was equally weird for giving him cookies...but he took them and thanked me.  I hope he didn't think they were laced with anthrax.  Those guys are paranoid about over-cheerful suburban moms poisoning them with anthrax.

6.  Leave a "Free Sunshine and Rainbows" tearaway on the post office bulletin board.  What post office bulletin board?  Resort to Plan B Part III: We went to Whole Foods - they have a community board, so we put one up there instead. 

7.  Give stuffed animals to the police department for kids going through tough situations.  Kids are in car accidents, have their parents brought in for questioning, have to tag along with mom on some heinously police-related errand, etc.  They deserve some stuffed animal love.  Officer Ward was so appreciative - he said they were running low and were excited about a delivery!


8.  Give a Target gift card to the checkout person.  The manager said, "no, I'm sorry...we can't allow you to give our employees gift cards."  And I said (of the lovely African American checkout girl), "but what if I told you she was part of my family?"  And the manager said, "If she was family, you could do it!"  To which I replied, "Well, don't we look alike?"  Both of them laughed.  I won.  Checkout chick was excited, and so was I!

9 - 13.  Leave $1 bills in FIVE random toy bins in the dollar section.  Sadie picked ALL of the bins, but we actually ended up only doing four $1 bills because we saw our friend Lindsey out with one of her girls and gave them one of the stash :).  Sadie meticulously taped the dollar bills to the toys she chose and then strategically hid them inside the bins for another kid to find.  I'm pretty sure this was her favorite thing of the day...

14.  Leave a "Free sunshine and rainbows" tearaway on the community bulletin board.  Once again, this took some manager convincing, but as soon as they saw that a 5 year old drew the sunshines and rainbows, they were ok with it. :)

15.  Leave a fancy new pen for our server at lunch.  Resort to Plan B #4!:  Our lunch server had her own super fancy pen with the name of the restaurant on it...we figured they were required to use the restaurant-supplied ones, so we forwent the fancy pen and gave her a 30% cash tip instead.  I'm sure she was ok with that.  We *DID* leave a fancy pen for our server at Chili's tonight, though...

16.  Give a $5 grocery gift card to the next person in line.  What?!  There's no such thing as a $5 grocery gift card at our grocery store?  Resort to Plan B #5!:  We bought the groceries of the elderly lady behind us.  Wait - before you go off thinking we're saintly, she bought a newspaper and some cheese crackers...and we threw in her favorite candy bar: a 5th Avenue. She wheeled her little motorized chair right past the checkout without having to pay a cent.

17.  Give a $5 grocery gift card to the checkout person.  Alas, if you read #16, you know that there's no such thing as a $5 gift card for this particular store.  Resort to Plan B #6!: Her favorite gum was strawberry mentos...we got her a pack of that, and she was probably the most thankful person we interacted with all day.  Her name was Maryellen...she agreed to a photo op. :)

18.  Give a $5 gift card to the checkout person to give to someone who needs it later.  You know the drill.  Resort to Plan B #7:  We bought a $10 gift card - the smallest denomination they had - and gave it to a checkout person who promptly told us that a man who comes to the store on the bus and has trouble moving because of a disability could really use the money.  He was in the store while we were there, so she ran over and gave it to him before he checked out.  Awesome!!

19.  Tape quarters to toy machines.  Tape, schmape.  We just plugged 'em right in, ready-to-spin.  Another of Sadie's favorites today, of course.  

20.  Leave a "Free Sunshine and Rainbows" tearaway on the community bulletin board.  Sadie loved the idea that someone would actually want to take a little piece of her artwork home with them.


21.  Pick up trash at the park.  Crash. And. Burn.  It was gross outside, so we couldn't go to the park.  We had to make up for this, though, right?  Resort to Plan B #8: We were at a store today, and their pen died, so I gave them a replacement out of my purse.  Hooray for impromptu moments of serendipity! (is serendipity always impromptu?)

22.  Give out pre-stamped thank you notes for people to give out to someone they appreciate.  We sat at the mall and Sadie stamped all of the envelopes.  Then we took them to Chick-fil-a...the manager there was so nice (aren't they always?)!  He gave us an awesome spot to put the little freebies with the note we had printed up for them.



23-27.  Buy five carousel rides for the next five kids in line.  The lady in the booth looked at me like I was Medusa.  It took her a minute to register that I was trying to be nice, but once she did, she was super complimentary.  Sadie and I even got a ride!

28.  Place a giant pile of pennies by the fountain and leave a note about wishes.  SO FUN!  We left 50 pennies (one roll).  We even got to watch a couple of kids find them and toss them in while we were looking on from afar.  It was awesome!


29.  Give a $5 movie gift card to the person behind us at the theater.  This one was awesome.  We went to a theater that we NEVER go to.  It happened to be an AMC.  We happened to have an ancient AMC gift card for $25.  WHAT?!  We decided to watch Ice Age 4...total:  $21.50.  That left $3.50 left on the card for the person behind us.  It wasn't our original $5 plan, but apparently that was totally ok with the mom behind us...$3.50 off of a movie was $3.50 they could spend on popcorn!  She was so sweet and thankful!

30.  Watch for a random good deed and give the person a $5 Target gift card.  This took all day to find, but the person we gave it to was SO deserving.  I actually wasn't looking for someone who was necessarily doing a "good deed" for me, but that's how it turned out.  She was at a sewing shop where I was inquiring about embroidery, and she (while I was busy perusing thread) took it upon herself to write a list of about 10 different websites where I could find free (or cheap) embroidery templates.  Who does that?!  She didn't even WORK there - she was a customer!  She had no obligation to me whatsoever, but because she was kind and helpful, she did a nice thing for a stranger.  As it happens, her birthday was this week too - bonus!

The woman on the right was the one who helped me.  The one on the left was the proprietor of the shop and she gave me a $25 pack of thread for FREE because it was my birthday!  She, too, went totally out of her way to make sure that I was a happy customer.  I LOVE THEM!

I attached quite a few of these to the things that I did anonymously:

I also learned a lot...
1) People are generally receptive when you go out of your way to be nice to them.  Sometimes, they think you're luring them in to steal their purse, but the majority are just thankful that good people like them still exist.
2) Be flexible...nothing goes according to plan. I had to change quite a few things on my list, but it was still an awesome list.
3) This project was totally selfish.  I absolutely wanted to do nice things for people, but the primary reason wasn't because I thought it would be "nice."  The primary reason was because it feels good.  It just feels good to do good.
4) As birthdays go, this was not an expensive one.  We spent less than $100 and were able to bless a LOT of people, including (inadvertently) ourselves.

I loved every second of this day.

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