Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover


I made it! From scratch!

Last week, I decided to participate in Money Saving Mom’s Make It From Scratch Week. I already make most of our food from scratch but there are some things that I’d been slacking on, so this was a great opportunity (and motivation and incentive) to give it a try (and to restart the pioneer project that kind of fell by the wayside over the summer when we moved). I made it through 4 of the 5 projects I had planned and only one of them turned out terrible. I consider that a major success. And I didn’t have to spend much money to complete the projects, which I also consider a major success.

Here’s what I did, along with the links to the pins that gave me the ideas:

Onion soup mix–I made this so I could make onion dip without those little packets. Either I messed up by using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or this mix is not intended for that purpose. Doesn’t really matter, though, because it turned out terrible and also the turmeric made it an unappetizing yellow. I do not suggest you follow ink my footsteps and make this. However, if you have a good recipe for homemade onion dip, I’d love to see it.


Breakfast sandwiches–now that we live 15 minutes from my husband’s work, he feels that leaving 10 minutes before he needs to be there is sufficient time. I don’t get that math but math has never really been my strong suit. In any event, he doesn’t eat breakfast at home so in order to make sure that he does, in fact, eat breakfast, I made these so he can just heat them up at work and chow at his desk. And I eat them, too. Also I cooked the eggs in a muffin tin. That was fun.


Oatmeal packets–also a breakfast idea for my husband as I do not eat oatmeal, nor does our daughter. Because we’re smart and oatmeal is gross. In addition to leaving promptly 5 minutes late every day, my husband also does not pack his lunch the night before (please do not get on me to do it. He is a grown man and can put leftovers and fruit in a lunch box by himself) and this way he doesn’t have to spend extra time putting breakfast together, too. He can throw a bag in his lunchbox and heat it up at work. It also gives variety to the breakfast sandwiches.


Salsa–the previous owners of our house didn’t just leave use carpet stains and dog hair. They also left us a dying tomato plant that we’ve brought back to life and now it won’t stop giving us tomatoes. They come off at a rate of about 5000 a day. Before one round went bad, and some have because they produce faster than we can eat them, I decided to make salsa since I actually had all the ingredients in the house. Even fresh cilantro. Which is a pain in the ass to work with.


Glitter barrettes–didn’t get a chance to make these. But they’re on my list for the next installment of Pinterest project Tuesday. Which I totally need to resurrect.

Did you participate in the challenge? What did you make? And would you be interested in following along on my pioneer project?

10 strategies to improve self-esteem, part 2

If you missed part 1, you can read it here

I am constantly working on improving my self-esteem. It’s not something that comes easily to me. At all. Most of the time, I’ll say something nice to myself and follow it up with a dig or a “but”. Which kind of doesn’t make sense. Why give myself a compliment only to follow it up with an insult?

I don’t know. It’s just how I’ve worked for so many years that it’s almost impossible NOT to do. But when I insult myself, I give others the freedom to do the same. I really don’t like that. Being insulted hurts and further damages my already damaged thought processes. Also, the insults make me feel like the negative voices are right. And they can’t be right all the time. Right?


So every day, I battle to make them wrong. I do it following these steps:

post quote6. Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparison is dangerous. Comparison to others is probably the worst possible thing you can do to yourself if you’re trying to improve your self-esteem. Because there will always–ALWAYS–be someone who, on the surface, seems perfect. Perfect looking, perfect job, family, social life and OMG, look at how much money they have! But you never know what’s going on beneath the surface. Maybe that person inherited that huge house because both of her parents are dead. Maybe that person with the seemingly perfect family had to work really, really hard at conceiving her children. Maybe that fancy vacation and all those parties they attend are sponsored by work on you’re only seeing pictures from her one night off. You never know what the true story is. So don’t compare yourself because what you’re comparing might not be real at all. If you find this hard to do, take a Facebook break. Because Facebook is the worst place to go if you’re working through this step. And it’s also the source.

7. Acknowledge your talent and skills. It is my belief that every single person has some sort of talent, even if it’s small or weird (like eating spaghetti with your feet). If you’re anything like me, you don’t recognize or admit what you’re good at because for some reason, it makes you feel like you’re showing off or bragging. Guess what? You’re not. If you’re good at something it’s because you were blessed with a talent and then you worked hard to get better at it. You put in time, practice, effort, and you deserve to be proud of what you can do. There is no absolute no reason to hide your talents or to let them wither away. Acknowledge them. Use them. Embrace them. Share then with the world. Or at least your family and friends. It’ll be hard at first but as you get more comfortable with sharing, you’ll gain more confidence and realize that yes, you can do this! You ARE good at (fill in the blank). And there’s no shame in being talented. post quote 2

8. Rebut the argument in your head. Anyone who knows me well knows that maybe, every now and then, I like a good argument. Actually, I’ll only get into an argument or debate if I know I’m right or if I passionately believe in something. Which is why this is the hardest part of the 10 steps for me. When I’m feeling particularly down, I do my best to go all Lincoln-Douglas on myself and usually, I just wind up in a draw. It’s hard sometimes to convince myself that I’m better than I think. I’m assuming it’s hard for some of you, too. But that’s when we need to do it most. When you tell yourself something negative, you need to combat it with a positive. Or reframe the statement in a positive light. Or just stop saying negative things to yourself (it’s hard for me, too). Negative self-talk is probably the most damaging, hurtful you can say, and if you say it to yourself to make sure that no one else says it first than we’re more alike than you know. But we need to stop saying those words. (more…)

A few thoughts on 9/11

I’ve always purposefully avoided writing about 9/11. I never know what to say, and I fear that anything I say will be misconstrued, won’t be sympathetic enough, taken as callous or selfish, or they simply won’t make sense. There are others who write more poetically or beautifully or sympathetically about the day than I will. But I’m going to give it a try anyway.


Like most people, where I was on 9/11 12 years ago is burned into my brain. My story isn’t very interesting or important in the grand scheme of things so I’ll spare you the details. I will tell you that being from New York, having friends and family living and working in Manhattan and not being able to contact any of them did not do anything to calm the anxiety I felt while stuck outside 30th Street Station (Philadelphia). It’s also the only time I’ve ever hitchhiked. Good judgment and reasoning ceased to exist that day.

I felt more emotions in that 24 hour span of time than I had felt in most of the years before it (and most of the years after as well) but the strongest emotion I felt was sadness. I still get sad and it’s perhaps why I still can’t watch a movie or documentary about 9/11 or why I still get teary when I see footage of anything related to that day. It’s just too much for me to process.


Twelve years later.

While I’ll always remember the sense of patriotism throughout the nation that day and in the days following, the heroics of first responders and average citizens, the lives lost, the promises that we, as a country, would rise above and rebuild, I’ll never understand the caliber of hatred that led to the attacks on our country and my home state of New York. I just can’t process hating strangers so much. And when I start to write about it, my brain goes in 17 different directions and what I’m saying devolves into me being on a soapbox. 

This is not the time for me to be on a soapbox. This is a time for me to offer a sympathetic ear and prayers for those who need it. For those who are hurting that extra bit today. For those who live with the literal scars of those events every day. For those whose lives were changed forever. For those who’ve had to rebuild. And to remember those we lost.

While it’s perfectly fine to go about our normal lives today, please take a moment or two to reflect on what you’re thankful for and to remember. Remember so that they’re not forgotten.

Although it’s been overplayed and use a lot in conjunction with this day, Miami 2017 (I’ve Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) is one of my top 3 favorite Billy Joel songs. But it doesn’t stop being amazing or powerful. Because this:

“They turned our power down

They drove us underground

But we went right on with the show”


10 strategies to improve self-esteem, part 1

It’s probably no secret around here that I have fairly low self-esteem. Self-confidence, feeling good about myself, believing in my talents and abilities are all rare forms of currency in these parts.

But I’m working on it.

When I was in therapy, my counselor and I talked about ways to undo the “maps” in my brain that automatically took me to the places where I feel worthless. We went over the whole “would you say that stuff to a friend or family member so why do you say it to yourself?” business. We discussed methods for acknowledging achievements, accepting praise and compliments, and all the other things that people with healthy doses of self-confidence do regularly and without having to think to hard about it.

She didn’t do a very good job of helping me because our sessions usually made me feel worse. It’s only now, about a year after I fired her and stopped attending therapy completely, that I’m able to truly work on building myself up after tearing myself down for so many years. I don’t know if it’s because now I’m actually at a point where I can fully commit to working on it or if the changes I’ve put in place since I’ve let her go are finally bearing fruit or something else that I can’t explain or maybe some combination of all of the above.

I do know that I took the first step to changing a few months ago when I decided I would just stop hating myself. It’s hard–and maybe too painful–to discuss why exactly I have such hard feelings towards myself but it might have something to do with impossible standards that I expect myself to achieve. In fact, I typically set standards too high, knowing that I’ll never achieve them in the limited and ridiculously short time frame I give myself so that when I inevitably fail because I’ve created a situation where it’s almost impossible to succeed, I can admonish myself failing.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I don’t recommend doing that. It doesn’t work. Actually, it makes things worse.

Because I recognize that what I’d been doing wasn’t working, I realized a few months ago that I really need to change my strategy and my thinking, if for no other reason than I needed to think about the example I was setting for my daughter. How could I encourage her to have high self-esteem and think she can conquer anything when I couldn’t do that for myself? I need to live the example I was setting as words are meaningless without action.

So I started implementing 10 strategies. I’m still working on them, and I encourage you, if you’re in a similar situation, to start doing the same. We can be a team, even.

  1. Forgiveness. Forgive the people who’ve hurt you, forgive yourself for making mistakes, forgive yourself for not living up to the standards you or someone else has set for you, forgive past behaviors and mistakes. Something I’ve had to learn is that forgiving does not equal forgetting but when you forgive, it makes it so those behaviors and choices aren’t eating away at your heart and soul, and it makes it easier to move on. forgiveness quote
  2. Eliminate negative influences. We all have people in our lives who drag us down. They constantly make mean spirited comments, put us and our choices down, and go out of their way to make us feel worthless and unimportant. They’re unsupportive, condescending, and rude. And they need to go. Admittedly, this is harder to do with family than with friends but if you have friends like this in your life, they’re not really friends. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk but friends also don’t make friends feel like shit. It’s hard to feel better about yourself when someone else is making you feel bad.
  3. Have a mantra. Remember the old Stuart Smalley skit on SNL? The one where he would look into a mirror and say “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me”? It’s that concept. While it’s funny to think about, having a mantra is essential. Having those inspirational words to repeat to yourself in moments of self-doubt does wonders to combat the creeping negative feelings. A mantra doesn’t have to be a self-affirming statement, either. It can be a quote, a movie line, a song (these work best for me). Anything that you can say to yourself that makes you feel better. (If you’re stuck, you can follow my quotes and sayings board on Pinterest as a starting point)
  4. Accept flaws, quirks, and imperfections. It’s okay to be weird and have quirks. I have plenty of them. Instead of feeling bad or embarrassed by them, embrace them. Instead of apologizing for them, wear them proudly like a badge or medal. The flaws, quirks, and imperfections are what make you uniquely you. They help give you perspective and also maybe make you fun at parties. Trying to be whatever “normal” is doesn’t work for everyone and feeling bad about the fact that you’re different is pointless. Don’t be like everyone else. You are great the way you are. Even Billy Joel thinks so.

5. Do something every day that makes you happy. I had to work on this–and still have to work on this–every day to help combat my depression. Taking a few minutes out of every single day, even if it’s only 5 minutes, to do something that’s just for me, that put the emphasis on me, reminds me that I, too, am important. We live in a culture that praises selfless acts and condemns perceived selfishness, and thinking about others is really important. It’s crucial, in fact. But taking a few minutes every day to do something just for you makes it so that you are more able to care for others. When you’re happy, it’s easier for you to project that onto the world. And using 5 or 10 minutes a day to do that is okay.

That’s the beginning of my 10 point strategy to feel better about myself. It’s working so far and while I’m far from the most confident person in the world, I’m no longer the LEAST confident person in the world.

Which is a huge, monumental step.


4 frugal methods for pest control

Apparently, where I live now is considered “country”. As a suburban girl my entire life, country living takes some getting used to. For instance, did you know that here in the country, people actually talk to each other? Did you know that their kids play with each other? Outside, even? Did you know that neighbors offer to do things like lend you their lawnmower? And don’t expect anything in return? Did you know that they invite you to their homes and let you inside instead of making you stand on the doorstep?

It’s all true.

The niceness is overwhelming. You know what else is overwhelming? All the damn bugs.

You see, when you move to the country, bugs outnumber people by about 40 million to 1. Not only that, the bugs are everywhere. There are crickets in my garage right now. There are flies in my house. Let’s not even discuss the seemingly insatiable mosquitoes that are bad asses and are apparently resistant to bug spray, citronella candles, and jeans. Even when used in combination with each other. It’s disgusting. And then there’s the spiders. I’m pretty sure they’re bigger than my dogs and I’m pretty sure they’re going to eat me. Or at least wrap my house in a a cocoon of spider web, effectively making me their prisoner.

Also there are snakes. SNAKES.

My husband, who grew up in the country, thinks this is all fine and normal. My friends who’ve lived here for years are unfazed. I, however, am disgusted. It’s not that I hate nature; I don’t. It’s just that I want all the creepy, crawly, disgusting parts of nature to relocate to no where near where I live. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

However, until my creepy crawly relocation plan has had time to take effect, we’ve been having to do some pest control on our own. And while it’s somewhat satisfying to murder a spider with a flip flop (cruel? Perhaps. But when he’s as big as my fist and his web is preventing me from getting through my front door, he’s got to go), I’d rather not commit regular arachnid genocide or anything worse. So we’ve taken to doing the following frugal (and less violent) methods:

  1. Regular lawn maintenance. Okay, fine. My husband has been taking care of this, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I am terrified of the lawn mower. But the point is that by regularly mowing the lawn, keeping the grass short and the weeds out of the plants, we’re eliminating much of the breeding ground for snakes and bugs. This is an excellent start.
  2. Having an outdoor cat. An unintended side effect of having an outdoor cat (you can read her whole story if you want) is pest control. She’s great at killing mice, which are apparently a problem where we live. All we have to do is pay for food and flea treatment and she takes care of the rest.
  3. Bug repellent lights. We have several exterior light fixtures. Regular light bulbs attract insects of all kinds–including the ones that fly–and you have to run faster than Usain Bolt in order to get into the house without also letting in bugs. The repellent lights aren’t perfect but they’ve definitely decreased the volume. And they’re not too expensive either.
  4. Keeping outdoor areas clean. One of our neighbors told us that black widow spiders have been sighted in the area over the years (see, I told you that country folks are nice). No, thank you. Since these vile creatures live in dark, damp places (does it disturb anyone else that black widow spiders and mushrooms thrive in the same kind of environment?), we have to make sure that the area around our wood pile, our garden, and our outdoor storage bin stay clean and as dry as possible. Because if I ever see one of those, I’m moving.

We also plan on using a pest control company to spray around the house but we’d like to get it under control on our own before we introduce chemicals. Neither of us are a huge fan of them but if it’s going to make the unwelcomed four and eight legged, as well as the winged and the slithering, guest leave, I’m all for it.

I guess there’s a downside to living anywhere. For us, it’s the bugs. On the bright side, at least the weather is getting cooler. That’s the best free pest control I can ask for!