Fall in Texas & Things I Love

Monarchs on their way to Mexico.

Monarchs on their way to Mexico.

Isn’t this a great photo?  I snapped it while Andrew and I were viewing property last weekend – there was a small grove of trees with tons of these white flowers (milkweed?) and at least 100 migrating monarchs!  I wish I had taken some video of all the monarchs flying everywhere: it was incredible.  Fall in Texas can have some beautiful moments.

Things I Love

I am on week 3 of a pretty solid gym schedule, which has been wonderful!  I can even lift 20 pounds more than I could when I started!  *flexes* | Halloween! | The Teal Pumpkin Project – I made a teal pumpkin for trick-or-treating and a teal pumpkin with a glittery teal stem for our front porch. | Lending Club | My daily tarot reading.  I have started doing a daily 1 card reading, which has been a wonderful way to get back into the routine. | Kabocha squash | Grammarly.  I have been using this for everything from my blog posts to my daily e-mails to checking work documents I created years ago.  It’s a great application – I wish I had started using it sooner.

Teacher Thank You Gift – Summer Edition

This is the season of thank you gifts at my work!  I make thank you gifts for the returning teachers, and I make thank you gifts for our amazing summer teachers who take care of my classroom and kiddos so my fall and spring lead teachers can have a well-earned break.

Thank you gifts, ready to go!

Thank you gifts, ready to go!

This summer we used a curriculum called “Dr. Seuss Changed My Life.”  It also happened that the Target Dollar Spot had a decent selection of Dr. Seuss themed items this summer.  My first thought was to get them all the Dr. Seuss wall plaques, but then I thought it would be better to do something with a nod to the curriculum used and then items that are fun and summery.  Once I decided on that, I bought Horton bags from the Dollar Spot since one of the lessons was about that book (and what can I say?  I love Horton!).

Details of what went in the summer gift bags.

Details of what went in the summer gift bags.

Here’s what I included in the bags.  A coloring book, a package of crayons, a pinwheel, a package of Sour Patch watermelon candies (delicious and summery!), and a thank you note that says, “Thank you for making our summer so colorful!”

Easy Teacher Thank You Gift – You Rock

Part of my job is making sure that the Sunday School teachers know how much they are appreciated, so one of the things I do is make little thank you gifts for them a few times a year.  I was a Sunday School teacher for several years – so I know how much time, effort, energy, and heart they put into their work.  If I could I would leave them little gifts every week!

I really wanted to have small gifts waiting for them for the beginning of the fall semester.  This gift was incredibly easy to put together, and the teachers really loved them!

You rock gifts being assembled - fortpoppin.com

The gifts being assembled.

I found the little desktop caution signs at the Dollar Tree, so I immediately bought everyone that said “Caution!  Rockstar at Work.”  While I pondering how to turn these desktop signs into a fun gift, I remembered Pop Rocks and decided that I would tie it all together with a note that says “You rock!”  I wrote, “Thank you for teaching our lil’ UUs this year!” on the back of each note.

"You rock!" gifts ready to be handed out.

“You rock!” gifts ready to be handed out.

Review: Digit

Digit logo

We recently opened a Digit account.  Digit is a savings account that analyzes and learns your spending habits, and then transfers money from the account you linked to your Digit savings.  In fact, Digit doesn’t transfer any money the first few days after you open your account – it sends you a text update of your current bank balance.  The goal is that Digit transfers small amounts of money that you won’t miss, so you can build up your savings.  

I did a lot of research before opening our Digit account, and the biggest thing I learned is that Digit accounts do not acquire interest for you.  However, you can ask Digit to save less money, more money, put a pause on payments, or transfer money back to your bank account via text message.  I check our Digit account once a week, and once we have $100.00 saved I transfer it back to our bank and move it to our house downpayment savings account.

We have had our Digit account open for about a month now, and have saved $343.68!  Overall, I really like Digit – it has been a great way to build up our savings.


I have been pretty busy these days, but I have also started making my own kombucha!  We’ve been having lots of fun trying out different combinations for second fermentation.  The kiddo asked for some strawberry kombucha and right now we also have some blood orange, lemon thyme, and honey kombucha fermenting.

The kombucha corner in my kitchen!

I also started my first batch of almond milk kefir this afternoon and I am super-excited to see how that turns out!

Noteworthy things: 

There has been a pretty big recall of frozen fruits and vegetables, including Trader Joe’s and Costco.  Please take a few minutes to read this: I have a bag of peas in the freezer that I need to return to Trader Joe’s!  You can also check the list on the FDA’s website.

Groceries & Things I Love

Right now I am trying really hard to eat out less, use what we currently have in the pantry, and get better about not wasting the food we buy at the grocery store.  We have so many odds and ends and a pretty full pantry, and yet with my busy work schedule we go out to eat most evenings, so we have been wasting money at the grocery store and at restaurants.  Not cool.  

Right now I have some mushroom broth simmering (mushrooms, onion, and some sweet bell peppers I found in the fridge) and I am making some gluten free pumpkin-chip muffins for breakfast this week.  Tomorrow I will see if there are any other veggies that I need to get to ASAP.  My step-mom brought me some kohlrabi from her CSA basket today so I need to figure out how to incorporate that into a meal this week.

Gluten free, vegan pumpkin chip muffins - Fortpoppin.com

Gluten free, vegan pumpkin chip muffins doubling as dessert!

We actually had a pretty huge moment today.  I work at the toy store until noon on Saturdays and I usually come home and we either go out to eat or pick up some tacos.  Today Andrew hadn’t eaten breakfast, the kiddo had been at a Harry Potter sleepover, *and* we had a few church work-related errands to run right after my toy store job.  But we still went home and made lunch after running the errands instead of going out to eat!  I know it’s a small step, but I am really excited and I am hoping to keep up the momentum.

Things I Love

Honey – this is a great site!  Once you add an item to your cart the plug-in automatically tries every coupon it knows about so you can get the best deal!  I saved $20.00 the first time I bought something online after signing up. | Strawberry daifuku!  The Japanese grocery store made some recently and I only bought one, but they haven’t made any more and I am pretty much obsessed with this stuff now.  I need some more! | Elderberry gummies.  I also make elderberry syrup, but sparkling water hasn’t been sitting well with me recently.  Elderberry gummies to the rescue! | I have been redecorating my office at work, and I was told I could paint the walls any color I like!  I went with Behr’s Lilac Tan, and one wall has two coats of All That Glitters paint.  I am about half-way done with painting, but I am loving the new color! | Simbi.  I haven’t really gotten a chance to fully utilize this site yet, but it looks really promising. | Brewing kombucha!  I have just started this, but am having a lot of fun.

Operation Zero Debt – Current Status

I haven’t updated much about Operation Zero Debt because sadly, not much has changed.  We took our family vacation to San Francisco, which I am incredibly proud to say we paid for the entire vacation in cash!  Almost immediately after our vacation we moved, which is always a more expensive endeavor than you realize.  However, we were also able to pay for all of our moving expenses (both planned and unexpected) in cash, which is pretty amazing!

The one thing that we did not pay in cash for?  Our new sofa.  That’s right: we went to Rooms to Go (which I do not recommend, by the way – we pretty much had awful customer service as soon as we signed the purchase paperwork) and applied for their store card.  I know, I know!  We were approved for about twice as much as we actually used.  Andrew kept saying things like…we need a new chair, what do you think about this table?  But honestly, I didn’t love any of their other furniture to justify buying it for the sake of buying it.  We found a nice sectional sofa that works perfectly in our new, huge living room and only purchased that.

The card was one of those “18 Months, Low Monthly Payments, NO INTEREST!” deals, but I still didn’t like that we had opened a new credit card, so we were focused on that and paid it off in about 4 months.  We are now going back to our original Operation Zero Debt with one major change: my paycheck is going to a different checking account, with a new bank.  Most of my paycheck is then going straight to paying off the current credit card.  If we stick with this plan, we will have the next credit card paid off before my birthday in 3 months.

Purrfect Party

This week I have been busy, busy working on a cat-themed party, nicknamed the Purrfect Party.  One of the first questions was what kind of food to have.  We decided on tuna sandwiches (with a separate platter of chickpea “tuna” salad sandwiches), milk (and almond milk), a fish bowl full of Goldfish crackers, and paw print cupcakes (along with lots of fruit, chips, and popcorn).

One of the things I found on Pinterest and thought was too cute was these paw print cupcakes.  However, I remember that when my kiddo was younger she was not a huge fan of cupcakes.  She thought she was, but really she was after the frosting.  I knew there were going to be lots of younger kids at this party so I tried to keep that in mind.

I decided to see if a mini version of these cupcakes would work, and I think they turned out wonderfully!  Full disclosure: there were so many parts of party planning that these cupcakes are made with Funfetti cupcake mix and canned frosting.  One box of the Funfetti mix made 72 cupcakes!  I used Mini Oreos and Mini M & M’s for the paw print decorations.

Pawsitively adorable mini cupcakes!

I love these yarn ornaments!  I made them using foam craft balls so that they could be pinned to the ceiling and not fall down.  The girls found some cute birds at the dollar store, so we added a few birds as well, since cats love bird watching!

Yarn ball ornament decorations.

And finally, this is probably my favorite game from the party.  The girls worked really hard on this game!  We bought some cat mice toys to use as the bean bags.  We added extra food crumbs because we think the food crumbs are pretty funny.

Tubbs Toss!

Tubbs Toss!

Other useful items for a purrfect party:


Questions:  Have you ever hosted a cat-themed party?  Would you add to make your cat party pawsitively purrfect?

Vacation: San Francisco

We just returned from our vacation to the San Francisco bay area!  We all miss the area but the week-long visit was enough to get us through until next fall at the same time.  ^_^  It was difficult deciding what we had to absolutely visit (Udupi Palace, Gather, Pier 39, Japantown, Fellini’s: the list could go on and on) and what places we just didn’t have time for this year.  We found a couple of neat new shops but also had a few encounters of, “you can never go home again” with some of our old favorite stops.

Crab Statue @ Pier 39 in San Francisco

Crab Statue @ Pier 39 in San Francisco


Things I Love, San Francisco Edition 

Trader Vic’s.  I always order a Menehune Juice so I can add another menehune to our tiki collection. | How easy it is to walk around in most of the towns | Daiso | Miso soup from Cha-Ya in Berkeley, CA. | Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco | The beaches | The public transportation!  The BART system puts the Austin-area public transportation to shame. |  The Soy & Tofu Festival.  If you are in San Francisco when this happens it’s worth the trip to Japantown. | The weather!  Coming from Austin, where it is still in the 90s, the bay area weather was a refreshing change, even though there was drizzle and fog. | This fog globe | The Presidio of San Francisco |  Pacific Redwood Wine by Frey Vineyards.  We stopped by the Whole Foods in Oakland and stocked up on these for the hotel!

Water Communion 2015

Yesterday was the church’s annual Water Communion.  I got to put several things together for this service, which was a lot of fun!  I was asked to work on fidget activities for the kiddos, so I made some ocean bottles and bought some ocean themed water snakes from the local toy store.  I was also asked to provide coloring pages for all age ranges.  I found several neat coloring pages online (thanks, Pinterest!) but I wanted one that was specifically for Water Communion so I made one: please feel free to use this coloring page at your church’s Water Communion service, too!  

Download: Water Communion Coloring Page


The table in front of the sanctuary full of activities for Water Communion.