Happy Labor Day

Happy Labor Day, folks!

If you’re like me, you don’t know what Labor Day is actually about – just that you get the day off and use it to be outside.

I found this little summary that you might find helpful.

 

Enjoy the day!

A. Rose (1)

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Quick Fix: Towel Hooks

This post is part of my Quick Fix Friday Series. The Quick Fix Friday Series is comprised of cheap and simple tricks to make your life easier. I started this series because I often feel like I have no time to make a change in my apartment, and I wanted to remind myself that it’s true. I also have realized that while there is a plethora of information about quick fixes when you own a house, that isn’t necessarily true when you live in an apartment. Each of these tasks takes under five minutes.

You can see the others in the series by following these links:
Couch Cover
Space Swap
Reusable bags storage solution
Shower Shelf


With the first week of school underway, I am craving all projects that take a really limited amount of time – Ha! Anyone else in that same boat?

That’s why I’m excited to share with you a simple tiny-apartment change that I made this week. I talked in this post about my dreams for my little apartment. One of the little things I talked about was needing to find space for my towel to hang dry because of this situation:

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Super classy…

So, there was this spot on the other side of the closet, similar to where my robes are hung (to the right of the doors in the image above). It was perfect. But it has been home to a bed frame I borrowed from my mom that had been there for like, a year, because even though I see her most weekends, getting a bed frame to my mom in my little Chevy Malibu is…complicated and easy to forget about.

I wrote it down a thousand different places, and finally asked if I could put it in her car one day when she picked me up to go to the Farmers Market. Brilliant!

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Now, I have the perfect little spot for two towel hooks – one for my body and one for my hair!

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I hung these Command Hooks adjacent to each other, since that provided more space than placing them next to each other.

When I take my morning shower, I usually leave my body towel to hang over the door until I’m just about ready to leave, then I hang it on the hook. That way, it isn’t super moist and doesn’t get all mucky quickly.

I have to tell you, even though I wrote this super positive post about why it’s okay to chill out and take your time with things, it feels SO good to have gotten this done!

Here’s a little update of where I’m at on this list as of today:

  1. Talk to sisters about coffee table
  2. D – wtf is with this bean bag chair??
  3. Find home for reusable bags
  4. Bed frame to moms house
  5. Hang towel hooks in bedroom
  6. Find new home for donations
  7. COUCH
  8. Arrange bedside table
  9. Lower super high shower shelf
  10. Revamp system for online selling
  11. Get a rug – $45
  12. Refinish coffee table – $20
  13. Get Bedroom Art – in process
  14. Replace the truck with a dresser that can hold DVDs – in process
  15. Make desk a workable space
  16. Move off kitchen table
  17. Window treatment for sliding glass doors
  18. Reorganize Bathroom closet
  19. Upgrade the trunk
  20. Reupholster dining room chairs

Phew! Truthfully, this list has actually gotten longer over the last few months. Once  I have it mentally sorted out, I’ll put it all down on electronic paper for you!

What kinds of little, inexpensive projects have you done recently? I would love to hear or see what has made your life easier.

A. Rose (1)

How to Budget When You’re (Close to) Broke

Ahhhh… Money. Everyone’s favorite topic, right?

Ugh.

It’s one of my least favorite things to talk about. But as I’ve been writing these posts, I’ve realized how much of my behavior is dictated by trying to save money in these little ways. So I thought it might be helpful to write these things down. Maybe make a little series of it.

Here’s the thing though: I’m not a financial adviser or banker or accountant. I’m just a young person who has mostly worked in education and has only managed to make over $11 / hour in the last two year years. If you need serious financial counsel, I highly recommend you consult a professional. But if you just want to learn how to not be freaked out about money all the time, these tips might help.

Copy of Christmas in September

There’s a lot out there on how to make a little side money, and things that people will tell you (like turning off lights in the room you’re not in) to pinch pennies and legit – those things are great and I definitely recommend that you do them.

But there’s this other piece that people don’t know about, I think: how to not feel afraid when it’s time to pay the rent; how to purchase groceries in a way to make sense; and how to still be able to go out with your friends everyone once in a while.

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I’ll be real honest: its taken me almost six months to write this because the topic of money stresses me out so much. So we’re in this fear together. Let’s start with the real game-changer: actually making a budget.

What’s a budget?

A budget is a detailed list of expected income / expenses. Your income and expenses should match. Start by listing every expense you can think of. For me this looks something like this:

Rent
Utilities
Cable & Internet
Credit Card
Medical
Gas
Food
Fun
Fun food
School Book Money
Misc.

Note: You always want to have a “misc” category – that’s where things like birthday presents come from.

Then, add in the “fixed” rates. So let’s say we have $1000 to work with (because that’s easier). Fill-in what you know isn’t going to change:

Rent: $400
Utilities
Cable & Internet: $80
Credit Card: $25
Medical
Gas
Food
Fun
Fun food
School Book Money: $10 (I know I’ll need X amount of money each semester, so I set a small amount aside each month)
Misc.

That’s $515, so you have $485 left over. Next, overestimate each of your monthly bills.

Rent: $400
Utilities: $50
Cable & Internet: $80
Credit Card: $25 (minimum payment)
Medical: $50
Gas
Food
Fun
Fun food
School Book Money: $10
Misc.

Notice the things that aren’t bills. Those are the things you can flex and challenge yourself to bring down.

So now, we’re at $615, meaning we have $385 leftover. I typically do gas before food, because gas gets me to the job that lets me buy the food. I also have a lengthy commute. If you don’t, or if you have a family to feed, you might need to do food first. Estimate how much you think you spend each month on those things:

Rent: $400
Utilities: $50
Cable & Internet: $80
Credit Card: $25 (minimum payment)
Medical: $50
Gas: $60
Food: $100
Fun
Fun food
School Book Money: $10
Misc.

So now we’re at $775, meaning we have $225 leftover. So, that looks like a lot of money to have fun with. Except we’ve only listed expenses. We haven’t listed savings. Month-to-month, my Fun, Fun food, and Misc category change.

There are seven birthdays in the first two weeks of August, so July has a pretty big Misc. section, but Fun as like, $10 in it because I spend so much time just being outside (which is free).

You can do this two ways: you can decide you’re going to save a specific amount and the remainder goes to fun, or you can decide you’re going to spend a specific amount and the remainder goes to savings.

Giving you the option is really counter to what literally everyone says about money, including my dad who taught me how to make a budget.

What I’ve learned over the years, though, is that you will never stick to a budget that isn’t honest. For most of my life, my Fun Food category was four times the size of my actual Food category because I hated cooking. It didn’t feel “grown up” to have things arranged that way, but it did keep me in check.

Those are the basics. What do you think? What about this is scary or feels good or is both at the same time?

A. Rose (1)

What’s with All the Questions?

You may have noticed that I end nearly every post with series of questions, asking you what you would do/ what you think/ how you do things.

I have a love/hate relationship with this concept – sometimes when I read a blog, it feels like someone scraping from comments; and sometimes I need someone to push me to that next step with a concept and the question does it for me.

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I started this blog back up because I want to share with the world; but sharing doesn’t just go one way.

I don’t know if you’re this way, too, but I have a hard time being vulnerable. No matter how many Berne Brown TEDTalks I watch or books I read, there is still this part of me that struggles to ask for help, admit my faults, and listen to the wisdom of others.

I don’t mean to need to be right. Maybe it’s just youngest child syndrome. Maybe it’s insecurity.

Family

Those tiniest of feet are mine

So as I’ve been thinking about the kinds of intentions I want to put into this incredibly public space, I’ve decided to use it as practice for the rest of life. I try to think through the process of each post and ask the questions that I don’t have the answer to right now, so that I can lean on the world to find them.

It’s helping. In case you were wondering. And I really would like to know if this is hard for you too, and what kinds of things you do to practice being vulnerable.

A. Rose (1)

 

Learning to Can, Part 2

This post is part of a series on teaching myself home canning. I decided to do this series in part because the reflection that’s part of learning is really interesting to me, and because I think it’s amazing the things we can teach ourselves when we’re dedicated to it!

Learning to Can, Part 2

So I shared a little while ago that my interest in home canning was connected to both health and a class.

I got this book and started taking notes. But as I tend to do, I got partway through the reading and just started doing it myself.

If you’re interested in home canning, I highly recommend that you don’t go that route because you can screw things up in a dangerous way. I realized that once I’d already kind of started doing things and had to go back to my original plan.

I picked up what’s called a water bath canner at a hardware store. I recommend getting the kit because a) it’s cheaper and b) it’s – legit – everything you need.

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It turns out that home canning is super easy. Basically you fill up a bunch of jars with natural foods that you’ve made, boil them and then wait until you hear them seal. That’s it.

The tricky part is cooking large volumes and knowing the correct duration to process them for (“process” here means heat in the water bath canner). This is why a book is helpful.

I learned how to make Bread and Butter Pickles for my first round of canning!

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Y’all – they were not hard at all. You just chop cucumbers and onions, mix them in a bowl with pickling salt and cover them in ice for a few hours. Then, you mix up some vinegar and spices, bring it to a boil, add the cucumber/onion mix and voila! Pickles!

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I’ll keep you posted on what other kinds of things I test out. This summer I’m hoping to make a red spaghetti sauce, a jam and some apple butter.

D’s brother-in-law has a garden growing, so I want to learn how to preserve things like onions, carrots and green beans.

Seriously though, if you have a little garden, this is totally worth learning. I think I spent about $40 on the canning supplies, and jars are about $9 for 12 jars. But think – that’s 12 jars of homemade, organic goodness. Totally worth it, if you ask me.

What kinds of summer projects did you have? Did any of them turn out to be easier than you thought they’d be? How about harder? What were you most surprised to learn about yourself when you took the project on?

A. Rose (1)

Quick Fix Friday: Shower Shelf Dilemma

This post is part of my Quick Fix Friday Series. The Quick Fix Friday Series is comprised of cheap and simple tricks to make your life easier. I started this series because I often feel like I have no time to make a change in my apartment, and I wanted to remind myself that it’s true. I also have realized that while there is a plethora of information about quick fixes when you own a house, that isn’t necessarily true when you live in an apartment. Each of these tasks takes under five minutes.

Copy of QFF_ Trading Spaces

The funniest thing about this Quick Fix Series is that each of these things only take a couple minutes, but I never do them.

I mean, obviously I’m doing them because I’m writing about them, but I’ve had lowering the shower shelf on my “to-do” list for months and it wasn’t until my bathroom ceiling started to leak and had to be repaired that I bothered to do this.

Getting this fixed was a week long process, since I’m a renter. It was a major problem, with quite a bit of mold involved. Talking through this with a rental company, and ensuring things went correctly was complex, especially trying to keep my feelings in check. Would a post about that be interesting to you all? #rentallife

This is how it goes for me, sometimes: the quicker the fix, the longer it takes me to do it unless something really dramatic happens.

You can see in the picture above just how high that top shelf is. You can kind of see conditioner peeking out from the second shelf. It’s fine. But it’s also not great. So, when the leak happened, I pulled everything out of the bathroom and stored it in my bedroom.

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This was a great time to do a quick adjustment to the shelves, since I had already removed it from the shower.

If you’ve never done this before, or if you got here because you were trying to figure out how to assemble your shower shelf, this is SUPER easy. You start by lifting the shelf and back ring.

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I used my nails to move that little rubber piece down about 18″

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Then I pressed the black ring and shelf back down, on to the rubber ring.

It turns out, that little corner spot that holds the shelf also holds a great deal of gunk. #goodtoknow

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So I gave the tub a quick scrub because ew, and then put the shelf back in!

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So. Easy.

Then, I put all the items back on the shelves, after clearing out anything that was empty.

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Yes, that’s dish soap in my shower. D works on trucks all day and the only thing that gets his hands clean is the incredible duck-washing power of Dawn. #seriously

Now, when the curtain is closed, you can’t see the conditioner anymore!

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Glorious!

Seriosuly: why did I wait so long?

I think sometimes that the reason I can’t bring myself to do these things is because I’m a renter, and in my mind, I’ll just be moving again in 9 months so why bother? This is the longest I’ve lived anywhere in over a decade, so I’m still adjusting to the idea of making even very little changes.

What kinds of things do you find that you don’t do because you’re a renter? & What kinds of things do you despite the fact that you’re a renter? #teachme

A. Rose (1)

Mind / Body / Spirit

I’ve been wanting to write down my thoughts on the connection between the mind, body and spirit for a long time, but I haven’t been able to find the words lately.

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I’m a pretty dedicated user of the HeadSpace app, I’ve been doing yoga since I was 15 and I work really hard at loving my body for the life it gives me.

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I started out thinking I’d like to write a post about what I believe the connection between the two is, how to facilitate it and what to do when you fall off-course. But, I decided that instead of that, I’d rather hear from you: what do you do to calm down? What provides balance in your life? What little things are part of your day that without them you would be struggling?

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For me, some of those things include: meditation, yoga, being barefoot, making lists, singing and laughing. I’ve been trying to focus more on being balanced. I tend to take on too much and then later wonder why I’m overwhelmed (how many of you can relate?). So I’m interested in hearing from you. Let me know in the comments how you stay balanced.

A. Rose (1)

Limiting your Wordrobe

When I wrote this day in the life post, I talked about having a limited amount of clothing options for work.

The truth is, I sort of generally have a limited amount of clothing options.

Closet

I try not to have more than 5 work outfits that work in all temperatures and then 5 work outfits per season (season for this Florida girl is defined as hot and not hot) and 4 “play” outfits. So 14 outfits in rotation at a time. Of course, you can mix and match pants / jeans / tops, and I do own six cardigans. But that’s it.

I own two pairs of jeans, grey and black slacks (one pair each) and three skirts (jean, black and grey). Everything else is dresses, and I typically only have 4-5 per season.

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My family and friends are always like “Hoooooowwwww?” and “Whyyyyyyy?” because it’s definitely not common to operate this way.

What really happened is that I hate laundry.

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I started out the way most people do: by getting rid of clothes I don’t like or don’t wear, but I still found myself doing six to eight loads at a time! As a single person, that’s nutty. What was happening is that I hate it so much that I just wasn’t doing it, so it built up and turned into this monster task that took forever and reinforced how awful it is to me.

So, I started to think about how my sister told me once that dreadlocks were a sign of giving up the sin of vanity. I’ve always loved that idea. And I love the idea of not regularly supporting a society that tells me that I must have the current trend, the prettiest hair, the best of everything.

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I like certain things that I don’t really want to give up; things like my Pandora bracelet, flowy dresses and nail polish. I’m not trying to go rogue with my look. But this amount of clothing works for me and picking out an outfit for work in the morning isn’t hard because there are so few things to choose from.

The truth is: I love to get dressed up. I love to window shop and create and come up with a style. Love it. And if my schedule were more laid back, I would probably bring in some more options. Maybe. I seriously hate laundry that much,  y’all.

Mixture of Whites

But one thing I’ve learned from a combo of time and reading (shout out to you sharing your journey, Megan, it’s made a huge difference to me!) and getting older, it’s that need to feel good. I need to look in the mirror and like what I see when I have no clothing on at all.

Learning how to embrace my body has made me care both more and less about what clothes I put on it. I insist on high quality, only wear things that are comfortable, and require they be adorable. But, I also don’t need gobs of clothing like I used to because it’s my body that’s great, not my closet. My wallet thanks me for this.

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Now, if having a lot of clothing is important to you and you don’t mind (or have to do) the laundry that goes with it then rock ‘n’ roll – keep it up and keep doing what you love the way you love it!

I’d like to know – how do you keep your closet feeling fresh and clean? What kinds of things do you love that are in there? What’s your relationship with your clothes?

A. Rose (1)

Quick Fix Friday: Trading Spaces

This post is part of my Quick Fix Friday Series. The Quick Fix Friday Series is comprised of cheap and simple tricks to make your life easier. I started this series because I often feel like I have no time to make a change in my apartment, and I wanted to remind myself that it’s true. I also have realized that while there is a plethora of information about quick fixes when you own a house, that isn’t necessarily true when you live in an apartment. Each of these tasks takes under five minutes.

QFF_ Trading Spaces

You might remember my little galley kitchen from my Apartment Tour post.

It looks something like this:

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When you’re a renter, there’s not much you can do about 70’s faux-wood cabIinets with cream counter tops, so you just have to appreciate your kitchen for its’ deep sink, massive storage (relative to the size of the space) and random potato drawer that makes you smile.

I took this photo on a day when things were kind of just how they are – not when I was just done cooking, but not when I had just finished cleaning – because I want this to be an honest space.

So, what’s not lovely is what happens when D comes in and all the things in his hands go on the counter in front of the microwave, which means the microwave can’t be used without moving all those things. I usually don’t notice until I’m in the middle of cooking something and my hands are full. Then, I get frustrated.

So I went through a thousand ideas: should D have a backpack? should I chill out? should I ask him to put things somewhere else? does that fit with my ideas of organic organizing? What about a shelf in the front hall? Do I even need a microwave? The questions kept coming.

Then, one day, I just decided to move the microwave and man-oh-man was it the right decision!

Updated Counter

This may not look like much, especially since there are still items on the counter, but f’rill – it’s a HUGE change. Now there’s space on the counter for dinner dishes that need to be washed; there’s still space on the right side of the sink to prep foods; and, best of all, D’s stack of items is no longer in front of the thing I need.

So just a little reminder that sometimes the best solution is the simplest.

What kinds of things have you switched around that made a big impact?

Thirty Minute Dinner: Stir Fry

This post is part of my 30 Minute Meal Series. The 30 Minute Meal Series is comprised of recipes that either take 30 minutes or less of hands-on time. I started this series because I believe that good food doesn’t have to take forever, but what should be forever is the impact that sharing this food with others and your body has on your life.

30 Minute Stir Fry

This meal was born out of boredom: I was tired of the food I was eating. I wanted veggies, but I didn’t want them raw. I pretty much always want rice. I needed something warm because it was week 4,098,204,495 of snow in the tundra I live in. So, I decided that I could probably make stir fry even though I had no idea how to do it.

I understood the basics enough – I know veggies have to cook longer than rice does. And I know you add soy sauce. Everything else in this meal is flexible, and based almost entirely out of what’s in my house already – feel free to make the changes you need to make!

img_4689First, I set some rice to boil. This whole meal only takes five minutes more than it takes to make rice. Caveat: I keep chopped onion and carrots in my fridge all the time and have a garlic press. If you don’t do/have those things (a) I recommend them and (b) you have to also account for chopping garlic and onions in your process.
If you want to do what I actually did next the first time I made this for this post, you should then dump out the rice because your boyfriend decided to take you to a steakhouse instead. Then, start over again the next day. #eyeroll #itwasworthit

If you need to chop onions, carrots and/or garlic, you should do that now. I use about a quarter of an onion, one and a half large carrots (five-ish baby carrots) and five cloves of garlic but everyone’s pallet and tummy is different – just do what’s right for you!

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Then, put some oil in the biggest pan you have and heat it up on medium. So far as I can tell, it doesn’t actually matter what oil you use (it’ll change the flavor some, but get creative!). After a few seconds, add the chopped onion and give it a little stir.

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While the onions are cooking, chop your protein into cubes or strips. It doesn’t matter which one. Just try to remember the last stir fry you ate and which it had and copy that.

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Add the garlic and the carrots. If you don’t have carrots, don’t sweat it! We’re gonna add some frozen mixed vegetables soon, which also usually have carrots. Stir them around a little – maybe about 2-3 minutes. You just want to soften the carrots a little.

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But first! Add your protein. You can see I kind of pushed the veggies to one side. I like to be sure that the meat got cooked on all sides before continuing and it’s just easier this way. You don’t have to do that – you’ll be cooking meat for nearly 25 minutes so it’s very unlikely that it won’t be cooked through. Once it’s cooked on all sides (if you’re using tofu or another plant-based protein don’t worry about it), move on to the next step!

This time, I happened to have sugar snap peas and water chestnuts (D asked that we try them next time we made stir fry) in my house so I added those. Stir them around for about 1-2 minutes or as long as it takes you to get frozen mixed veggies out of your freezer and some kind of nut out of your pantry.

I use about half a small bag of mixed veggies because I have the carrots and water chestnuts. If you don’t, or you just really like veggies, add more! Just about anything goes with this stir fry. I also usually add either a very small amount of ghost pepper or Hot Shot at this point. We like spice in this house, but you definitely don’t have to do that.
This time, I used sunflower seeds because I had them. I’ve used cashews, pecans and almonds before. I don’t recommend the pecans. They were a little too pecan-y and threw the texture off, but you do you!
Check on your rice – how’s it looking? Can you hear it bubbling still? You want the rice to be a little wet still, so that you don’t dry it out too much when you cook it. Turn it off before it’s all the way done.

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Add your rice! Just dump the whole thing on your veggies and give it a good stir! Then, add some soy sauce. I add about three long shakes of the bottle – it’s probably about a quarter cup. Depending on how much salt you like/eat, do more or less.

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This part gets tricky. I move all the veggies to one side like I did for the meat and add some eggs. This makes a lot of stir fry and I usually take it for lunch for a few days, so I add four eggs. I actually push the pan so that the eggs are the main thing getting the heat, then add salt and pepper.

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I just scramble them like you would if you were making scrambled eggs. It’s totally okay if some of the veggies or rice get in with the eggs – it’s all going to mix together eventually anyway. But I try to keep the eggs separate for a while, so I know they’re getting cooked all the way.

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Then stir it all in! I don’t scramble the eggs all the way. I actually just get them close, so they’re still a little runny. I keep stirring for about three more minutes so the eggs have time to cook and then, voila!

stir fry

Stir Fry!

Here’s the quick and dirty version:

Tools You Need
Small pot for rice
Giant Pan
Spatula/Big Spoon

Food You Need
Onion – about 1/3
Garlic – however much you like, I use 4-5 cloves
Oil – any kind
Protein
Frozen Veggies (or not frozen; whatever you like)
Rice – 1 cup uncooked (you’ll need to cook it)
Soy Sauce – about a quarter cup
Seed/Nut – if you want
Spice – any kind of heat you like

Steps:
1. Start cooking rice. Chop onions and garlic.
2. Heat oil in a pan. Add onion and hard veggies (ex. carrots). Stir frequently. Chop protein into strips or cubes.
3. Add protein. Stir frequently.
4.  Once protein is cooked, add frozen (or not frozen) veggies. Stir frequently. Add heat, if you want it.
5. When rice is most of the way done, add rice to pan. Stir.
6. After a few minutes, push mixture to one side. Add four eggs. Scramble
7. Mix it all together.
8. Eat!

What’s in your favorite stir fry? Have you ever made it before? How did this recipe work out for you?