Tuesday and Veggie Meal Maker (Giveaway)

>> Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Internet has been spotty at best. Just hopping on to share some photos from this morning's beach stroll. I absolutely love when it's windy and cloudy at the water's edge.

Ada has been doing well so far, but between naps, work, and workouts . . . We have yet to return to the sand.


And now to highlight one of our sponsors: Veggie Meal Maker!


Who are you? Veggie Meal-Maker is a small family business that strives to help families save time, save money & eat healthy. Our family is composed of Nick (owner/operator), Shae (stay at home mommy) & Paisley (15 months).

What is your business? Our goal is to make the process of planning, purchasing & preparing healthy meals - easy! We offer weekly dinner menu suggestions, a growing recipe database, the ability to import, organize and save your personal recipes plus build personal menus & shopping list based on your recipes. For you smart phone users you can access your account via our mobile site to reference your menu, recipes and shopping list from anywhere!

Why should I use your site? A healthy lifestyle does not happen without a plan. As a newly married couple we spent our Sundays laboring over menu planning with the goal of eating healthy - on a tight budget! When we took the time to make a plan we did awesome...we we didn’t we blew through our budget by eating out and impulse shopping and we didn't have what we needed on hand to make healthy meals. Veggie Meal-Maker was born out of our struggles to plan and organize our meals and it has revolutionized our meal planning process!


Nick and Shae have been generous to offer a GIVEAWAY with two winners! Check out the details and be sure to enter by Wednesday, August 8th by midnight ET.

First Place
Calphalon Santoku Chefs Knife ($35)
Bamboo Cutting Board ($25)
1-year Subscription to Veggie Meal-Maker ($72)

Second Place
Cute Vintage Apron ($25)
1-year Subscription to Veggie Meal-Maker ($72)

How to enter? Signup for a free 30-day trial at: veggiemealmaker.com then leave a comment below -- make sure to include some way to contact you -- sharing your biggest meal planning struggles (or victories).

Good luck! If you haven't yet, check out yesterday's post with some Tips for Beach Running. This morning's workout: 5 miles with a total of 75 burpees at random parks I found along my route.

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Beach Running Tips

>> Monday, July 30, 2012


I look forward to beach running all year long. The nearest beach to where we live is at least three or four hours. So, it's a real treat to train at the ocean. The minute I smell the salty air, I slip off my sandals and don't wear shoes -- unless they're required -- until we head home. Not even for running.

Likely, if you're running at the beach, you're on vacation. You're sleeping in a different bed. Eating different foods. So, don't expect your runs to be the same as they usually are.

A few tips to help . . .


#:1 Run in the AM. The sun is not your friend. Neither are crowds. And you don't want to be that person slogging through all the mid-afternoon sunbathers. Also, if you're at the beach, it's probably warm. Stay cool. Run early.


#2: Go barefoot. It isn't essential, but for the full beach running experience, you'll want to bare your toes. I see plenty of people wearing shoes on the beach . . . and if your feet aren't used to minimal support, you may want to ease into it with a walk/run approach.


#3: Pay attention to the tides. The day we arrived, the tide was high. I tried my best to jog, but the sand was soft and people were in the way. (I didn't take my own advice. It was in the hot afternoon sun.) If you run at low tide, you have maximum real estate. The sand will be nice and compact.

To track the tide, just visit these Tide Tables.


#4: Don't worry about pace. Chances are, the wind will be wicked by the ocean. Either at your back or in your face. On this morning's run, I headed out -- the wind blowing hard against me -- at 8:50 pace for the first couple miles. On the way back, I was at 8:00 and then 7:30. Yup. Average for five miles was 8:28, which is around my usual, even pace.

(And when I'm on vacation, I usually take things easy anyway. I only wore a watch today to mark distance for future jogs.)


#5: Stay hydrated. There isn't any shade on the shore. The sun is hot. It's sort of a water, water, everywhere-and-not-a-drop-to-drink scenario. So, figure out where water fountains are (in our case, on the boardwalk) or bring your own.

Last year, above, I brought my hydration backpack. Worked out great!


#6: Find a landmark. Scope out something -- a particular hotel sign, for example -- at the beginning of your run so you know when you're back. And this tip is also helpful when figuring out distances. As I mentioned above, I used Stephen's watch today to map out miles. I took note of landmarks at each so I can go watch-free for the rest of our stay.


#7: Wear Deodorant. (This tip is from Stephen.) Not in your underarms -- well, there, too. But apply it to your bikini zone -- especially if you plan to run where the sand meet the surf -- to avoid the salt/sand chafing.


#8: Watch the weather. In the morning it isn't quite as much of an issue, but beach areas tend to attract isolated thunderstorms. Just random bad weather spells. If you're on the beach, you're vulnerable and have little options for taking cover if lightning strikes.


#9: Wear clothes you don't mind getting wet/salty. Obviously. But I like to swim for a while when I'm done running. And why not! The ocean's right there, calling to me. So, you may not want to wear your nicest gear.


#10: Have fun. We get fewer than 10 days of beach training in each year. If I'm having a bad day or don't feel like fitting in a workout, I at very least get out and walk. Vacations aren't necessarily the time to go nuts with your running routine, so being active is the key.

Soak in as much sun and fun while you still can.


For a few vacation photos, check out Writing Chapter Three!

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Ready, Set, Weekend!

>> Friday, July 27, 2012


Happy Friday. I thought it'd be fun to share a variety of things I've been meaning to sneak into posts, but just haven't yet. There isn't much of a theme here. So, let's get to it!

#1: Grace wrote to us because she enjoys our Food for Runners series. She sent along the link to an awesome cookbook called Power Foods: 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients.


Grace writes: "Power Foods starts out with info about 30-40 of the most nutrition-packed foods out there and explains why each are good for you and how to best to prepare and store them. Next, it's got tons of recipes containing all (and pretty much exclusively) these super foods."

"It's not aimed at eating light or weight loss, but at how to feed your body what it needs to keep it strong and healthy. Right up your alley. The recipes are great too. I want to make every one of them! And the majority are vegetarian. The photos are excellent to boot. I highly recommend it."

You can buy Power Foods on Amazon.com for $16.

#2: Christina writes: "I just started running this summer and really enjoy it . . . I recently came across this way of running called 'Chi running' and was wondering what you thought about it. Have you tried it, and, if so, is it worth venturing into?"

What is Chi running? Check this out . . .



I'm sharing this topic because I, myself, don't know much about it. Stephen, on the other hand, read ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running and watched several videos like the one above. He now swears by the method, which he says has "helped [him] use the downward pull of gravity to [his] advantage."

#3: Kim writes: "At a race I did recently, the results had a column for something called 'Age Grading' . . . I hadn't seen that before. What do you know about this number? Does it matter much?"


I came across the age grading thing in the same way, Kim. I had never heard of it before, but then I saw a number in the results of a race one day. Basically, age grading is a way of judging everyone -- regardless of age -- on the same scale based on their performance versus exact time. There's more information about specifics on the Compuscore site.

The scale is as follows:

100%= Approximate World Record Level
Over 90%= World Class
Over 80%= National Class
Over 70%= Regional Class
Over 60%= Local Class

To calculate your age grade for a recent race, just check out this nifty Runners World Calculator.

Do you know anything about Chi Running or Age Grading? We'd love to hear your thoughts and help answer these questions. Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.


And read all about our Tornado Thursday today on Writing Chapter Three. What a wild afternoon it was.

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Reader Question: Running Wardrobe

>> Thursday, July 26, 2012


Briana writes: "I started running in the spring, so I don't have many active clothes in my wardrobe. I appreciate that you guys are budget-conscious. What things, minimum, do I need for running year-round (I live in WI -- it gets cold in winter!). Also: Where do you find the best deals of your workout clothes?"

I've always heard that running is the least expensive sport. All you need is a pair of shorts, a shirt, and shoes. And if you're into barefooting, you don't even need those. But those of us who have been in the sport for years know that it isn't quite as simple as that.


Not only does the weather dictate what's best to wear and when . . . but the selection is continually increasing. You can really go crazy with apparel. You don't need too much, but if you're running 4 to 6 days a week, it's good to have a solid selection to choose from, especially in the tricky fall and spring months.

Here's what I would consider essential:

  • 2 good sports bras 
  • 1 to 2 tanks w/ shelf bra 
  • 1 to 2 sleeveless or short-sleeve, loose shirts 
  • 1 to 2 long sleeve shirts 
  • 1 to 2 breathable jackets or hoodies
  • 1 fleece vest
  • 1 to 2 pairs of cold weather tights 
  • 1 pair of 3/4 length tights 
  • 2 pairs of shorts 
  • 1 hat or fleece headband 
  • Socks (several of you mentioned in the comments). I'm weird, though, I don't often wear socks unless it's below 0!
It might seem like a lot, but -- really, it isn't. You don't want to do laundry every single day, and I think this list means you can go 3 days without doing a load. The key for the cooler months is layering. I use my sports bras a lot during the summer, but tend to wear tanks layered with a shirt and jacket or vest in the winter.

But the more I think about it, clothing choices are certainly personal based on your own preferences and climate. For example, you may not want a vest at all. I just happen to like them for layering over a jacket because it very cold here in the winter. I suspect, Briana, that it might be chilly in your area, too! However, you might also want gloves, whereas I don't like wearing them.


As for where I find the best deals:

  • I buy most of my tops and bottoms at discount stores like TJ Max and Burlington Coat Factory. You'd be surprised with the high quality items I've found! Usually at least 40% off what I find at retail stores like Dick's Sporting Goods.
  • Target's selection of sports bras (among other running gear and stretchy yoga threads) has increased in recent years and is especially good for the small-busted athlete. Plus, their latest line of colorful Lululemon-esque stuff is cute, but is only a fraction of the cost.
  • Ever since I started my jobs as Deals Editor at Wise Bread, I've found a whole new world of savings. I hunt around at stores like Running Warehouse (where our runners club membership earns us a 15% discount) and Road Runner Sports. For example, today on Amazon.com, there's up to 50% off Under Armour gear -- I never used to take time to seek out those kinds of savings.
  • I have bought a few items at thrift and consignment stores. I don't usually find much there -- slim pickings -- and the integrity of what's there isn't always the best for long-term wear. Still, I shop for a lot of my regular clothes there, so I usually take a look around.
  • I also deal with what I have and wait for gift cards or holidays to add to my collection. For example, Stephen bought me the top and shorts above for my birthday, which is Saturday -- he gave me the gift early -- this year! (He also used lot of coupons!)
Start small and add as necessary. I have had many runs made or broken by the weather, so suiting up the right way is important. Just shop smart, and -- over time -- you can amass what you need. The good part: I have had a large majority of my workout clothes for over 5 years . . . and 8 years in some cases. The stuff lasts if you treat it right. (Psst: Here are some tips we wrote up on Washing Your Workout Clothes.)

Is there anything you consider essential that I missed on my list? And what are your tips for saving money on workout clothes? It's worth the investment in tech fabrics for comfort and not all brands are created equally. Still, without attention, the $$$ can get out of hand . . . fast!

And today on Writing Chapter Three we have a video of Ada saying her first word. Maybe. You tell me!

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Spicy Basil Stir-Fry

>> Tuesday, July 24, 2012


We got another load of basil in this week's CSA basket. Last week, we made a nice batch of Vegan Walnut Basil Pesto. This week, I wanted to do something different. One of Stephen's favorite Thai dishes is Spicy Basil with tofu.

Recreating this restaurant favorite was fun -- and perfect for what we had in the fridge. Don't be alarmed with all the ingredients you see listed. Many of them are just a dash of this and that required to make the sauce. If you don't have something, don't fret.


SPICY BASIL STIR-FRY WITH TOFU

What you'll need . . . for the stir-fry

  • 1 cake of tofu, extra firm -- drained well
  • 4 cups (loose) napa cabbage, sliced 
  • 1 white onion, sliced 
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped 
  • 1 large yellow squash, sliced thickly 
  • 1 cup red and green peppers, chopped 
  • Scant tablespoon chili oil 
  • Scant tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce 
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
. . . for the basil sauce

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced 
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar 
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

Method . . . 

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. When your tofu is well drained (here's how), cut into triangles or squares and then fry on all sides until golden. Set aside.
  3. Place all veggies on a rimmed baking sheet and top with the oils, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. Roast for 15 minutes. Then stir. Repeat twice, until golden and caramelized.
  4. Heat a large, deep pan over medium-high heat on your stove-top. Heat all the basil sauce ingredients together -- EXCEPT the basil. Then toss in your veggies and tofu. Stir a few times, cooking maybe five minutes total.
  5. Then turn off the heat and sprinkle in the basil. Let sit for a few minutes until basil wilts.
  6. Serve immediately with brown rice.

Stephen always eats his stir-fries with chopsticks. Actually, he uses chopsticks for most any meal you can think of. I shovel mine in with a fork. (What do you do?) However you eat it, though. This is a dish you'll want to make over and over again.

A couple notes: If you don't have sesame oil, use another Asian-y flavored oil, like peanut, perhaps. If you don't have chili oil, use a teaspoon or so more red pepper flakes. No white vinegar? Apple cider vinegar will do the trick. Or maybe more lemon juice instead. And feel free to play around with which veggies you use.

Basically, this recipe isn't pretending to be authentic. At all. I tweaked it as we were making it to see what tasted most like what we've had out.


While we ate our dinner, Ada noshed on some pureed green beans and soft brown rice. She laughed as she ate it, too! PS: If you'd like to check out photos from our 4-day music festival camping adventure, I just posted 'em on Writing Chapter Three!

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Flax Seeds and Flax Meal

>> Monday, July 23, 2012


I hope you don't mind, but I enjoy going back to the basics from time to time. I feel like I post a lot of recipes and don't always explain the ingredients or methods -- the hows and the whys. I am planning to do a series on topics like this one over the next couple months.

(Sort of like our Food for Runners series!)


Of course, I'm sure you've heard of flax clothing. But if you've strolled around the natural foods section at your grocery store, chances are you've seen flax seeds and flax meal in bags or in bulk bins.

Consuming the seeds is well worth it. Health Benefits, according to WebMD:

  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids, "good" fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s. 
  • Lignans, which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities. Flaxseed contains 75-800 times more lignans than other plant foods. 
  • Fiber. Flaxseed contains both the soluble and insoluble types.

You may want to use ground versus whole because with the hard seed shell, it's difficult for the body to break down and absorb otherwise.

Regarding storage: "Whole flax seeds are chemically stable. Ground flaxseed can go rancid at room temperature in as little as one week." (Source)


The easiest way to enjoy the benefits of flax seeds is to add flax meal to smoothies or sauces. A tablespoon tossed into a smoothie or Vegenaise, for example, is a super simple addition. Don't add much more than a tablespoon, as you'll understand in a minute.

We often use flax meal as a replacement for eggs in baking. When you add water, especially if it is warm, you'll get an almost gel-like substance that helps stabilize and bind together baked goods. So, added nutrition AND sans-eggs.

One egg equals 1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water. Let sit for a couple minutes. Then add as normal.


If you'd rather eat the seeds, you can make crackers. The recipe is simple and the cracker is extremely interesting and worth making at least once if you're curious. Here's our recipe, which -- minus spices -- only requires three ingredients!

We've also made Fluffy Flax Pancakes and Flax and Wheat Bagels, among other things. But if you search for "flax" in the search box near the top of the page, you'll discover that many of our recipes incorporate the ingredient!

Do you use flax in your cooking/baking? Or do you consume flax oil supplements? It's a great source of omega-3s for vegans. I definitely took advantage of it during my pregnancy with Ada.


PS: Today on Writing Chapter Three, I've listed some of my favorite DIY projects for my hippie baby.

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Food for Runners: B-E-R-R-I-E-S

>> Wednesday, July 18, 2012


The produce aisle at the grocery store and stands at the local farmers market are teeming with plump fresh berries -- blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc. -- this time of year. And what are berries rich in? Antioxidants!

Who are antioxidants good for? Runners (and everyone else)!

So, we're continuing our Food for Runners series with berries, specifically those that are in season, which I'll get to in a moment. If you're catching up, we've covered bananas, garlic, quinoa, and kale -- and included our favorite recipes from across the web.


Simply put: "Running and other intense exercise is known to increase free radicals." (Source)

Also simply put: "Fruits, especially berries, are full of antioxidants" (which combat free radicals!) (Source)

I was interested to learn that "because we metabolize large amounts of oxygen while running, and antioxidant levels tend to quickly run low in our body, free radical damage is commonplace in runners. Research shows that hard training endurance athletes often have low levels of antioxidants circulating in their bodies." (Source)

And if those snipets of information aren't enough Running Times magazine has some more scientific evidence for your to pour over.


Here are some of our favorite recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner:

Holly, Annie, and Chelsea's Green Raspberry-Mint Lemonade
Alina's Buckwheat Blueberry Pancakes
Julie's Cherry Morning Rolls
Meeta's Poached Plums and Blueberry Granola
Christina's Raspberry Plumb Breakfast Bars
Jaimem's Strawberry Salad with Candied Almonds
Angry Asian's Chocolate Cherry Panini
Maria & Josh's Blueberry, Strawberry, and Jicama Salsa
Sala's Mango Blueberry Quinoa Salad
Branny's Strawberry Pizza w/ Goat Cheese (original recipe uses bacon, omit for vegetarian)
Mary's Blackberry, Wild Rice, and Barley Salad
Lisa's Rye Crust Blackberry Tartlets
Our Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Simply Life's Whole Wheat Cherry Zucchini Bread
Our Vegan Chocolate Cherry Cake


Many of Our Smoothies feature berries -- of all sorts of varieties -- as the main ingredient
. Nothing easier than plopping them into a blender! Ashley has me hooked on using frozen coconut milk cubes.

Be sure to check out this handy chart with information on which berries and in season and when.


What's your favorite way to use berries?

Don't forget to read up on these other healthy ingredients:

Food for Runners: B-A-N-A-N-A-S
Food for Runners: G-A-R-L-I-C
Food for Runners: Q-U-I-N-O-A
Food for Runners: K-A-L-E

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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Tuesday Quick Tips

>> Tuesday, July 17, 2012


#1: Want a tasty, filling breakfast? Eat cottage cheese!


I am obsessed lately with fruit (in this case: nectarines and blackberries) and my favorite 1% small curds. A nice change from Greek yogurt and green smoothies. A piece of whole grain toast or two goes great, too.

#2: Too hot to run? It has been here . . .


Rather than skip my workout, I did this awesome and super challenging (for me, at least!) Squat Challenge followed by a mile jog. Then I returned home, drank a glass of water and sprayed myself with our hose.


I did another mile jog. Drank water, got the hose again (Silence of the Lambs?!). Then did another round of the Squat Challenge. Seriously, those squats had me in tears the second time around. Overall, half an hour well spent!

#3: Need a snack? Make kale chips!


We've already talked about all the health benefits of kale. If you missed how to make the chips, it takes a mere 10 minutes -- instructions are in this post. This afternoon we mixed our kale with some napa. Made 'em extra "cheesy" with a hefty dose of nutritional yeast.

#4: Need a laugh? Put your cat in a t-shirt!


OK. This "tip" is quite ridiculous and not a tip at all. Instead, it's an excuse for me to share that I bought what I thought was an infant t-shirt at the Salvation Army yesterday. I discovered after washing it that it was -- indeed -- a cat/dog t-shirt. With a cupcake on it. Seriously.

#5: Want to achieve something? Stop whining and start doing something about it!


This tip is sort of written specifically for me. I want to start strength training (again). I've been complaining about my loss of definition in my arms/back since pregnancy. I took a long, hard look around and realized it's been 8 months since I had Ada. There are no excuses. If I want to achieve my fitness goals, I need to start doing something.

So, after a long break from push-ups, hand weights, and discipline -- like you see with the 2010-me, above -- I'm going to start working toward my goal.

Have any quick tips to share with us? Anything fun you've learned lately to help with fitness, make for snacks, etc.? We'd love to hear 'em! Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.


Today on Writing Chapter Three we're celebrating Ada's 8-month birthday. Check this post for an update on what she's eating, how she's sleeping, and how she's moving around these days.

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!.

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Vegan Walnut Basil Pesto

>> Monday, July 16, 2012


For how much I love the stuff, you'd be surprised to learn that I've only made pesto a couple times in my life. Our food processor is back on the mend (OK. I discovered that the "problem" with it was user-error -- oops!). And this weekend's CSA basket came teeming with all the right ingredients.

HOORAY for local garlic and basil!



(NOTE: Several of you have asked us which food processor we have, it's the Cuisinart Pro Custom 11-Cup -- great for making anything, including nut butters! It's a great deal for such a heavy-duty machine, too.)

(ANOTHER NOTE: We also used to have the small Kitchen Aid 4-cup, but it died a year after we got it, so I don't necessarily recommend it.)


Like I said, I've only made pesto a couple times, and I've never made it with pine nuts. Actually, I rarely have pine nuts on hand -- but one of my friends suggested trying walnuts. I've been hooked ever since.

Bonus! We have walnut oil we bought at Home Goods for the full experience.


WALNUT BASIL PESTO

What you'll need . . .


  • 3/4 cup walnuts (or pine nuts)
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves (loosely packed)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped up a bit
  • 1/2 cup walnut oil (or olive oil)
  • Salt, pepper -- to taste


Method . . .

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. In a rimmed baking sheet, spread your walnuts and then roast for 5 minutes. Stir. Roast another couple minutes, until you can smell 'em. Then set aside to cool completely.
  2. Microwave or boil a cup (or so) of water and then "shock" the basil (helps keep the green color longer) by placing it in water for 10 seconds. Then immediately pour into colander and rinse with cold water and pat dry with a tea towel.
  3. In a food processor, combine all ingredients. Then pulse until well combined. You may need to scrapes the sides a couple times to get everything incorporated. 
  4. Store in an air-tight container for 2-4 days in the refrigerator for use or freeze in ice cube tray for the future.
Makes enough to fill an 8-ounce Mason jar.


We used ours as pizza sauce (not shown). Atop toast with fried eggs. As sauce for a tofu stir-fry with napa cabbage and onions. And as flavoring for hummus (to accompany a Mission Wrap lunch "pizza").

Just plop in a couple tablespoons and you're good to go!


OTHER PESTO RECIPES

Basil-Pesto French Toast
Pesto French Toast, II -- with Avocado Butter
Pesto Quiche with Oatmeal Crust
Pesto Garlic Knots
Pesto Portabella Sandwiches
(Pesto) Smothered Mother

Today on Writing Chapter Three, I have shared 10 ways to Start Fresh in under 5 minutes. If you've ever wanted a do-over on your diet, exercise, or life -- you should check 'em out. And if you have tips to share, we'd love to hear them!

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!.

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