How To Be Awesome When Times Are Hard

sun through trees

Thus far, the year of the snake has not been our year. The ever growing list of calamities is too long to mention, but let’s just say supply is not keeping up with the universe’s demands. It’s so easy to get depressed and believe that it’s never going to end. That things will never get better. That despair will always be a step away. No matter how hard you work, things will never change.

They say that money can’t buy happiness, and this time they’re right. But let’s not pretend for one second that a lack of it isn’t difficult. It is. That’s just a fact of life. But today, I want to change my story. Maybe I can convince myself by trying to convince you. This is an unusual type of post, but this blog has always been about real life, and making things awesome with less. It’s a necessary departure in our journey.

Here are five ways to stay awesome when $20 a day is a luxury.

Kailua sunset

Take back your power

I made a plan to cut our spending and try to rebuild our savings. I don’t know if it will work, but we’re going to give it a shot. Having a sense of control over your destiny, even if it’s an illusion, is empowering. I’m doing something about it, rather than just letting my problems control my life. I’m not throwing up my hands. I’m taking back my power. 

Making a budget is too much like math. I don’t do math. But building obscure plans and rules is right up my alley. I came up with a strategy for my husband and I to try to limit our spending and put some money back into our savings account. And there are rewards at the end when goals are met, so the incentive is awesome. It will force us to make some tough choices, but hopefully, we won’t have to live like paupers. Too much restriction is depressing. Too much freedom is a slippery slope to the poor house. I hope we’re hanging out somewhere in the middle. Somewhere called awesome. 

flower

Get outside

This is, of course, both literal and figurative. I find the best way to clear my mind is to take a walk, preferably somewhere with beautiful trees and flowers. Sitting in one place and dwelling on your problems does absolutely nothing to solve them. It just makes you feel like crap. Decidedly unawesome.

Get up, get out, breathe deep, and just put yourself somewhere else for a while. Nature won’t ask you to spend a dime. The exercise will do your mind and body good. And if you go with a friend, there’s a good chance you’ll find something to laugh about. Getting out of your house, and outside of yourself, can be a tremendous relief. It’s awesome out there. Go get in it.

on the wall

Be exactly who you are

Sometimes you’re just flat broke, and there’s no way around it. Often, though, I find that my feelings about my lack of money have more to do with society’s expectations than from anything actually related to who I am or what I want. If I don’t have a decent house/car/clothes/pet/phone/gadget and on and on, people will think I’m a failure. If I don’t have a high paying job with an impressive title, people will think I am a useless waste of space. Wait a minute? Since when did I start caring so much about what people think?

It’s so easy to give into expectations, even if that’s not truly what makes you happy. Honestly, the thing that’s brought me the most contentment lately is writing this blog. It makes me about five cents a day. I don’t want to spend all my time doing something I hate just so I can buy stuff. It’s only making me miserable and making someone else rich. I would like to be more secure, but I don’t need things to prove that I am successful. I don’t need to play that game. I do occasionally need $5 for a mai tai.

So, you strike a balance. Trade some hard work for the moments of pleasure where life really happens. And you scheme to tip the balance more toward the wonderful moments. And you ignore the voices that tell you what you should be because you know who you are, and who you are is awesome.

love

Open up to love

Getting through hard times is so much about shifting your perspective. You have to confront your problems, sure, but you don’t have to dwell in them every moment of every day. It’s easy to isolate yourself, especially when you don’t have money to go out. Don’t do it!

Reach out to the people you love, and they will help to take you away, if only for a moment, from the heaviness. I, myself, sometimes have to dig a little deeper to find the happiness, but I’ve come to a point in my life where I want to make an effort to dwell more in the light and push the darkness to the edges. Gather your friends and family around you. If you need some time for catharsis, take it. But skip to the laughter as quickly as possible. That’s where the living happens.

And if you ask nicely and make a pouty face, they might bring a bottle of wine.

city

Gain perspective

Even with all the problems we face, they are still first world problems. We’re struggling in the perspective of our neighbors, but worldwide, we’re in the top 12% in income. The fact that I can walk into my kitchen and have drinkable water at any given moment is a blessing and a miracle. I may not have a dryer, a dishwasher, air conditioning, or access to affordable healthcare,but I have safe drinking water. I have a roof over my head. I am able to read. I really am privileged. Everybody’s life is complicated, regardless of income. We all have struggles. My problems are not any less real, but neither are my blessings. It’s worth remembering.

I know we’re not the only ones struggling these days. I am determined to hold onto my awesomeness. I just have to choose it. Who’s with me?

Double Chocolate Muffins from Awesome on 20

Double Chocolate Muffins

Double Chocolate Muffins from Awesome on 20

Sometimes you need to wake up to chocolate. Sometimes it’s 80 degrees in your bedroom and the tradewinds are dead and your fan is feeble and sleep is impossible. It’s going to take something extra special to get you going in the morning.

Double Chocolate Muffins from Awesome on 20

That’s when you have to have double chocolate muffins made with buttermilk and cocoa and studded with chocolate chips. I mean, sure, you could pay $3 for one muffin at the coffee shop. You could also make your own muffins in about 30 minutes with ingredients you already have in your house (or at least I did). Then you’d have a dozen muffins so that when you come home from a late night of cosmic bowling, you can stuff a muffin in you face and chug some milk from the carton before falling into bed. And then have another muffin when you wake up. It’s the right thing to do.

Double Chocolate Muffins from Awesome on 20

This is an Alton Brown recipe, so you know it’s solid. I was never that into science in school, but I’m totally into muffins. And these muffins are crazy good. Get ya some.

Double Chocolate Muffins
Yields 12
Moist and super chocolaty muffins perfect for any time of day or night
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 270 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  2. 92 grams (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
  3. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  4. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  5. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  6. 263 grams (1-1/4 cup) sugar
  7. 113 grams (1 stick) butter, melted and slightly cooled (Just melt your butter first thing. It will be cool enough by the time you get to it)
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 1 cup buttermilk
  10. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  11. 1 cup chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 and grease your muffin pan.
  2. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mr. Brown would tell you to pulse your dry ingredients in your food processor first to sift and aerate them. I can't be bothered washing it, so I sifted them into the bowl and then gave them a good mix with my whisk.
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together sugar, melted butter, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract.
  4. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and quickly fold them together with a spatula. Work as quickly and lightly as possible. Try to make sure everything is moistened, but don't worry about getting out the lumps. You'll end up with tough muffins if you overwork it.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Scoop your batter into your muffin pan. The cups will be full.
  7. Put the pan in the oven and increase the heat to 400. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Turn out your muffins as soon as possible. You can give them a couple minutes to cool off so you don't burn your fingers off. If you leave them in the pan to cool, they may have soggy bottoms and you won't get that lovely muffin crust.
Notes
  1. These are best served warm, but can be kept in an air tight container for a few days. I recommend microwaving for about 15 seconds for ultimate chocolate gooeyness.
http://awesomeon20.com/
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Cookie & Cream & Mint Milkshake from Awesome on 20

Cookies and Cream and Mint Milkshake

Cookie & Cream & Mint Milkshake from Awesome on 20

Two of the things we love most in this house are animals and ice cream. They’re connected. Just give me a second.

My almost teenage daughter is with us for the month, and I’ve sort of let her take over the blog a bit, at least when it comes to picking recipes. Loco moco? Yeah, that was her idea. And today she wanted cookies and cream milkshakes with mint chocolate chip ice cream. She’s my baby. She can have whatever she wants. Sort of.

Here’s the catch. We’ve been trying to reduce our use of palm oil in this house. Like with most things, I’m not puritanical about it. I try to take a balanced approach, and I do my best to avoid it. 

See, palm oil is grown and harvested in delicate ecosystems in the tropics, like Indonesia and Malaysia. The fields that are cleared to grow palm oil are home to many endangered species including orangutans and Sumatran tigers. Palm oil production threatens their habitats and makes them vulnerable to poachers. Every time we buy products with palm oil, we are contributing to that destruction. 

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Okay, that was kind of a bummer, but there’s a touch more bad news. Most commercial cookies found in your grocery store aisles, including Oreos, which I love, are made with palm oil. So, we set out on a mission to find palm oil-free cookies. This took us to whole foods, where after reading a few labels we were successful in finding cookies at a reasonable price, about four dollars. What a relief!

We tossed about five cookies in the food processor with some milk, crushed them to smithereens, and then let them hang out for a couple of minutes to soften up. Then we threw some minty green ice cream into the mix, gave it a buzz, topped it with fresh, sweetened whipped cream, and of course, sprinkles. Almost teenage girls don’t eat anything without sprinkles.

Cookie & Cream & Mint Milkshake from Awesome on 20

We struggle to make ends meet in this house, which means that organic sustainable food can sometimes seem out of reach. But a bit of extra effort can sometimes lead to pleasant surprises. I love it when ethics come in the form of cookies.  Cookies which turn into milkshakes that taste awesome and save cute animals are the awesomest!

Cookies and Cream and Mint Milkshake
Serves 1
A milkshake loaded with cookies, chocolate chips, and a cool mint punch
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 chocolate sandwich cookies
  2. 1/4 cup milk
  3. 2 cups mint chocolate chip ice cream (Trust your eyes and make it as thick as you like)
  4. Whipped cream
  5. Sprinkles
Instructions
  1. Put five cookies into your food processor or blender with the milk and pulse until the cookies are smashed up.
  2. Leave the cookie mixture to soak up the milk for a few minutes. This might be a good time to whip your own cream by hand, if you're into that sort of thing.
  3. Add the ice cream and blend until smooth.
  4. Pour the milkshake into a tall glass and top with whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cookie.
  5. Put a straw in that baby and try not to implode your face. Or just eat it with a spoon. That's what I'd do.
Notes
  1. This would also be totally awesome with a shot of creme de menthe liqueur and maybe some Bailey's or Kahlua. Whatever you have on hand. Obviously, not for almost teenagers.
Adapted from Food Network
Adapted from Food Network
http://awesomeon20.com/
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Loco Moco from Awesome on 20
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