Stuff

I’ve posted on Twitter & Facebook quite a bit lately about my long process of packing our house & preparing to move.  Or rather, I’ve complained a lot.  I thought I’d explain a little more in detail, and since that takes more than 140 characters, I figured I’d throw it up on my long neglected blog.

When we bought our first house 8 years ago (2007), we never planned on living in it for longer than five years.  Fast forward two years (2009) and one baby later, Chris started a fantastic company with a few friends.  During the first year of the company, he worked a regular day job and worked all night on the company.  Then came a time he needed to focus on the company - which wasn’t making money yet - and we lived off our savings for three months.  Also during this time, the housing market collapsed.  We, however, were doing just fine because we had underbought by almost $100k.  Our tiny payment on our tiny house saved us.

A few years later, the company was doing well.  The market was getting better.  Interest rates were low.  Not ready to buy something bigger, we decided to refinance our house.  However, the banking environment had changed, and because our taxes were tied up in an LLC running in the red on investor money, banks didn’t want to refinance our home (not to mention give us a loan on a new home).  (Lesson here - unless you want to run a small personal business, an LLC is not necessarily the way to go.)  The company eventually converted to a C-corp in 2013.

Well, that was all honky-dory, but banks want a full year of tax returns before you can refinance.  In the fall of 2013, they wouldn’t even let us co-sign on a lot loan.  There is no way around those rules.

So now it’s 2015, the company is doing very well, and it’s finally time to find a new home.  However, I’ve since discovered this process isn’t as simple as the last time.  When we bought our current house, it was our first house - that was a relatively easy process.  This time around, we have to sell this house first.  Selling a house is hard work.  Seriously hard work.  When our agent came by, he said, “It’s a nice starter home with too much stuff.”  Tell me about it, buddy.  That’s why I’m feeling trapped.  I like stuff too much (and animals).

And so began the packing process.  Packing up the stuff so you can see the house under all the stuff.  Stuff stuff stuff.  Add to that, Chris has been crazy busy and it’s summer break from school.  So I’ve been packing, pretty much alone, under the constant interruption of my child.  Stuff.  Lots and lots of trips to our off site storage unit.  Full of stuff…

On top of “decluttering”, there’s an endless list of projects that need to be finished.  New paint. New carpet. Fixing drywall holes. Power washing. Cleaning. Updating fixtures.  Cleaning appliances.  Rearranging the stuff that gets to stay.  

I’ve given myself (and announced to our agent) a goal date of August 1.  T-minus 5 days.  If you see me with paint in my hair and a deranged look in my eye, just know I’m scrambling to the finish line.

Stuff.  

New Year’s Resolution 2014

Every year I set New Year’s resolutions, despite sneering at the concept.  I suppose I dislike the idea of waiting until January 1 to stop bad behaviors and make changes in your life.  But, in a way, I get it.  It’s a chance to start fresh. It also gives you a great way to calculate your success.  For example, we started our austerity commitment on December 30th.  However, I’m not going to tell folks that I’m not spending for 33 days.  That’s silly. I’m not spending in January. Round numbers that are easy to check off a list. No more judging folks for “resolutions”.  (Then again, I should just stop judging folks…)

This year, I wanted to focus on things I could check off.  No vague ideas like “I want to become a better driver.”  Instead, I’m making lists that can have a notable completion date like “I want to master parallel parking.”

This year, I will:

1. Read 33 books

I wasn’t much of a reader as a kid, but over the past couple years, I’ve fallen in love with the library. Education and entertainment for free!  Last year I read 32 books.  This year I want to read one more.  I track my progress on Good Reads.

2. Wash one load of laundry every weekday.

I get behind in laundry. It’s easy to toss a load in the washer in the morning.

3. Drink 8 glasses of water a day.

I recently downloaded a daily to-do template by Thyme-is-Honey.  It’s helped me stay on track with my water (among other things). You can buy your own copy on Etsy.

4. Leg press 250lbs.

5. Reduce my body fat percentage below 20%

Currently, my body fat is around 22%.  That’s considered the “Fitness” level by Ace.  The Jackson & Pollock chart consider it “Ideal”. Don’t get me wrong - I do not have a problem with my body.  It’s a fitness goal like improving my running pace.  I’ve buckled down and started focusing on my weight lifting.  It’s a way to monitor my success.  Also, it’s noteworthy that I don’t necessarily want to keep it below 20%.  I just want to get there.

6. Change the bed sheets once a month.

Um…I don’t do this consistently.  Sometimes it’s couple times a month.  Sometimes it’s every other month. I’m gross; I’m sorry.

7. Attend one yoga class per month.

Attend a class, not teach.  Since I started teaching a month ago, my yoga attendance went down.  And if I’m being really honest, it wasn’t too hot before that because I was working full time.  Time to get my butt back to class.

To keep myself on track, I’m going to schedule a monthly resolution check-in, which will take place mid-month.  That will allow me a few days to completely my monthly tasks if I get behind. I’m also allowing myself some grace.  If I don’t get my water in one day, I’m not going to say, “Forget it.” That’s what I dislike about resolutions - when folks fail and give up. 

So those are my goals.  What are yours?

Lessons from my Child

I’m a yogi, almost stereotypically so. I buy organic. I recycle. I drive a hybrid.  I lean blue. I rescue dogs & cats. I buy the homeless paper. I do it because it’s what my heart wants me to do and not based on any preconceived notions or expectations from others. Sometimes my predictability disgusts me as much as it does my friends.  It’s okay.  I promise not to wear my aromatherapy oils around you.

And of course, as a parent, I want to pass my passions onto my child. Cecilia’s love for peace signs is not by accident or part of the trend (though the availability is nice).  She was taught very early that peace signs mean “Love Everybody” long before she had a concept of peace. I think, for the most part, she does love everybody. She’s rather remarkably even-keeled.  She doesn’t judge other. She rarely gets upset.  For the most part, Cecilia has always had a very pleasant disposition.

For many years, we’ve participated in various types of charitable giving.  It’s not a large amount, a few bucks here or there or $50-100 to the homeless shelter for holiday dinners, etc.  Last year, as a family, we adopted an angel from the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.  We let Cecilia pick out the child - a girl around her age - and shopped for her as a family.  I have to admit - I was afraid.  I wasn’t sure that she, at age four, would understand that she was picking out toys for a child in need.  After all, taking a child to the toy aisle at Target is like walking into the lion’s den and waving a steak directly in front of the lion’s eyes. There’s a chance you’ll walk out with an arm mauled off. But like the even-keeled kid that she is, she wasn’t phased.
Angel Tree 2012

 Due to our chaotic schedule, this year I did most of the Angel Tree shopping by myself online.  Cecilia did accompany me to several stores to find the right toy, including Toys’R'Us.  Admittedly, I did buy her a small toy on that excursion.  Any kid that can hang with her mom shopping in multiple stores in one deserves a $5 toy. However, given the toy allowance and little involvement in the other purchases, I was worried that maybe she didn’t quite get it this year. 

Fast forward a few days.  We were running into the grocery to pick up some bacon before the big “snowstorm” hit.  (Or maybe it’s just because we needed bacon.) The Salvation Army bell ringer was outside.  Cecilia asked we give him money before we went in the store. She insisted.  Then, at checkout, she noticed the Angel Tree that they have set up inside the grocery - the one that provides Christmas dinner for a family for only $25.  We did participated in this type of Angel last year too, and Cecilia LOVED hanging the paper ornament (also your tax receipt) on the tree.  She asked if she could pick one of these out too. And I hesitated. 

Here’s the thing. The first paycheck of the month pays two mortgages - one for the house and one for the farm. We also haven’t paid off one of credit cards from vacation.  And I knew that we had a big medical bill coming.  But then I looked on my cart. Organic produce. Freshly sliced deli meat and cheese.  A couple packages of sushi for dinner.  If I can justify those purchases, I am not in need. Twenty-five dollars will not break me. Hell, I probably won’t notice it. So I let my sweet hearted baby girl pick out a family from the tree.

And then when she asked for money for the children’s hospital bank at the register, I gave her the coins in my wallet. There are a few things that you just don’t say no to.  Kids will forget about the toys you wouldn’t buy them at the store, but if you can help them keep an open heart, you’ve provided them with feelings and memories that will carry them through their lifetimes. 

Mommy Guilt

Today I didn’t clean anything.  I also didn’t do a craft or learning activity with the kid.

Here’s what I did do: 1. Taught 9am yoga class.  Managed to get me and Cecilia out the door and to the gym with 5 minutes to spare.  Some speeding involved. 2. Shopped for flowers at Home Depot with the kid.  Let her pick out her own flowers. Couldn’t resist a couple tomato and pepper plants.  Remembered that I had a $5 off coupon in my email.  Still spent just over $50. 3. Unloaded plants. 4. Picked up Chris and had lunch at Jason’s Deli.  Again, kid in tow. 5. Walked around downtown with Cecilia. Window shopped most of the time. Splurged on a $10 for her Calico Critter collection. 6. Arrived home.  Cleaned up puppy poop and pee deposited by our three foster puppies. 7. Opened new toy and helped girl set it up. 8. Transplanted some seedlings that were started indoor two months ago.  Also planted new tomato and pepper. 9. Planted flowers with Cecilia, which included a conversation on how boys are not stronger than girls. (Sometimes we don’t need anatomically correct definition.) 9. Changed girl into dance clothing. 10. Chiropractor appointment. 11. Dance class. 12. Made dinner. 13. Consumed dinner. (If you have a child, you know this deserves it’s own number.) 14. Watered garden with Cecilia’s assistance. 15. Walked chubby dachshund. 

So after all that, I feel bad because I didn’t clean or teach my child.  This is the definition of mom guilt.

A Non-Runner’s Runner

Though I don’t regularly post to the blog, I haven’t given up on completing my to-do list, which includes:

#63. Become a runner

It’s a goal that I keep coming back to time and time again.

Earlier this year, my bff asked me to join her for a run after school.  She had an extra jogging stroller, and it would be a great way to get in some socializing, exercising, and kiddo time all at the same time.  I was coming off a nagging sciatic injury, and she was suffering through knee problems.  We both couldn’t run far, couldn’t run up or down hills, and loved to talk (which doesn’t suit well with panting).  Match made in heaven.

Then her knee issues got worse, which eventually lead to double knee surgery.  My sciatic issues, which was caused piriformis syndrome (aka my big butt made my leg hurt), actually got better.  Basically, she was out for months, and I had no excuse to stop exercising.  I returned to the gym, but it just wasn’t the same.  The place I once found comfort in 4-5 days a week felt so closed and lonely.  I missed the outside.  I missed the company.  I missed the challenge.  Suddenly the machines that kept me energized and fit for five years felt like prison.

So one day, I got up the courage to run outside by myself.

Okay, I know that might seem weird. I mean, I’m so brazen.  Why would something as innate as running scare me? Our prehistoric ancestors ran.  Toddlers run (sort of).  Dogs run.  Everyone knows how to run, right?  I was intimidated by the other runners.  I was afraid that would know that I wasn’t one of them.

What to know the truth?  They probably do know.

I’m pretty slow.  When running, I run about a 9 minute mile.  Wait, that seems fast.  Well, it is fast until you realize that I can’t really run a full mile without stopping to walk for a bit.  Combined walking/running, I have a pace of 12 minute mile.  If you ask any non-runner, that’s fast.  They’re usually impressed that I try to run 5k three times a week.

Real runners run a 7 minute mile, without stopping, for miles and miles.  I have one friend that runs about 80 miles a week. WTF, right? Yeah. She’s not even my fastest friend. (Full disclosure - my fastest friend use to run professionally and completed in the Olympic trials after having her third child.  Again, WTF.)

Here’s the thing I’ve figured out.  To non-runners, I’m a runner.  They’re impressed.  To runners? Well, they know I’m not the fastest gal and I probably won’t (and shouldn’t) join their running club.  But this is the thing - “real” runners don’t care or judge me.  In fact, they are incredibly encouraging and always really helpful.

So despite the fact I’ll never be a competitive runner, I’m going to keep going.  In fact, I’ve signed up for my first race - a 5k in August that supports Down’s Syndrome.  After that race,  I’m going to cross number 63 off my to-do list.

Back to School

Cecilia’s school has been out on holiday break since the beginning of time December 21st, and while Chris has been helped tremendously, the share of childcare responsibilities have fallen on me. Something about the CEO is more important than the company administrator, yada yada yada.  (Just remember who write the paychecks, bud.  Or hell, knows where the checkbook is.)  Tomorrow, Goldilocks heads back to the schoolyard, and I’m more than ecstatic.  Having her at home is fun for the first half of a day, but by the afternoon, someone needs a nap and she just won’t let me get one.

Beyond peace and quiet, I’m really looking forward to the return of school so I can pack her lunch.  Yep, that’ right. Packing her lunch excites me.  You see, I bought her a nifty bento box and a new Hello Kitty lunchbox.  What’s a bento box, you ask? It’s a cute Japanese lunch box with little compartments.  You often see bento boxes at Japanese restaurants on their lunch menu, but your typical kids made-at-home bento is much more elaborate and creative.

* picture from ohdeedoh.com 

I bought several veggie cutters and Hello Kitty cookie cutters (for sandwiches).  I’m hoping this will inspire Cecilia to eat more of her lunch.  Unfortunately, a lot of her lunches come back with hardly any food consumed.  I suspect she’s a little jealous of her classmates overly processed Lunchables (sorry, guys, but meat shouldn’t come wrapped up like that).  If anything, I think the fun shapes and colors will intrigue her friends, and Sass loves the attention.  It’s also a great way to style leftovers to make them more appealing.

*picture from  flickr.com

Bentos are just for kids.  Chris also got a box for Christmas, and he loves it.

If you want to read up on Bentos, there’s quite a bit of good information out on the web.  If you need ideas on how to create cute boxes, there’s a few Bento blogs.  Sometimes they’re hard to find in the US for a good price.  (The ones I’ve seen on Amazon are expensive!)  However, I found some great deals on Bentos and accessories on eBay from sellers in Hong Kong & China. Make sure you check your shipping costs!

Happy Bento Boxing!

Happy Halloween 2010!

halloween 2010

I don’t think this picture shows the true excitement that Cecilia felt this year.  We joined some friends for trick or treating and dinner, and it was a ton of fun to watch a group of toddlers experience Halloween for the first time.  Cecilia got quite the loot, and she was so enthralled with the process that she didn’t even ask to eat any of the candy.  I’m so proud of my big girl.

I’m also pretty proud of myself because I made her costume this year and completed a task on my to do list:

89. Sew my daughter’s Halloween costume

I asked Cecilia several times over the past month what she wanted to be for Halloween, and she always said, “A kitty,” and never changed her mind.  She’s had a couple opportunities to wear her costume, and since it’s basically a shirt and pants, she can wear it long after Halloween.  (There are more pictures in the flickr sidebar.)

Off topic - I’ve decided to turn off comments on posts.  I’ve been inundated with spam comments, and since I’m not posting as often as I once did, I’m turning them off.  I debated taking the site down completely, but Chris suggested I just turn off the comments.  If I start posting regularly again, I’ll consider turning them on again.

Turkey Burgers & Roasted Delicata Squash

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turkey burger

I realize it’s been two weeks since I posted.  Things got busy.  Life got hectic.  I got food poisoning from Chili. Then I got 2 liters of fluids, morphine, and some Zofran from the ER.  (Well, first I got a very low blood pressure of 89/45 from all the retching and dehydration.)  Needless to say, it’s taken me a few days to get the energy to type, let alone type about food.  But I finally mustered up enough energy to cook dinner tonight and enough courage to eat meat again.  Yippee!

Of course it had to be something really easy and pretty quick to make.  For me, that usually means something Chris can grill with a microwave veggie on the side.  However, I decided to get a fancy and roast a veggie.  Also, if Chris fires up the grill, he usually throws some onion slices on it for good measure.

Turkey Burgers & Roasted Delicata Squash (and Grilled Onions) (3 servings)

Burger Ingredients

  • 1 lbs lean ground turkey $1.99
  • 1/2 dry ranch dressing package $0.50
  • couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • homemade hamburger buns $0.25 (maybe less)

Squash Ingredients

  • 2lbs delicata squash (other winter squash will do) $2.00
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil $0.10
  • salt (to taste)

Toss in olive oil. Sprinkle on salt. Roast in preheated 4oo degree oven until soft and golden.

Onions

  • 2 small onions $1.00 (maybe less)
  • olive oil (about 1/2 tbsp) $.05
  • salt (to taste)

Brush olive oil and sprinkle on salt.  Grill on direct heat until translucent with grill marks. 

Total cost = $5.89, or $1.9 per person.

Burger Nutrition (1/3lb burger w/ bun)

  • Calories: 400
  • Fat: 14 grams

Squash (1.5 cups)

  • Calories: 150
  • Fat: 5 grams

Onions

  • Calories: 45
  • Fat: 1.25 grams

Totals: 595 calories, 20.25 grams of fat per serving.

I realize this isn’t the lowest fat meal, but it’s not bad for a burger!

Budget Cooking

A couple of days ago, I was talking to a good friend about the challenges of feeding a family on a budget.  She and her family having been eating in more, but that has created a new challenge - how do you make delicious, healthy, inexpensive meals for your family?  Overall, I think it’s easy to hit two of those three attributes, but sometimes getting all three can be hard.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to feature some of the meals that I’ve been feeding our family.

There are a couple key elements in budget cooking -

1. Keep a full pantry, and stock it when things are on sale.  Even if you have 2 boxes of chicken broth on hand, go ahead and stock up when it’s on sale.  You usually can save a dollar or more when it’s on sale, and you won’t regret it later when you need it.  You can spend a lot of time and energy running to the store.

2. Invest in a deep freezer if you can.  They’re relatively inexpensive for an appliance (start around $100), and they allow you to buy meat in bulk.  For example, I bought 15lbs of ground turkey for Cecilia’s birthday party burgers two months early because it was on sale for $1.99/lb.  Regularly, it’s $2.99/lb. The same goes for boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I only buy it when it’s on sale for $1.99/lb.  I’m not sure what the regular price is, but it’s more than $2.99/lb.

3. Don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients.  If a recipe calls for red onion and you only have white, use it.  Fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables can often be interchangeable.  Recipe calls for walnuts, but you only have pecans? Fine!  It might change the flavor slightly, but it’s a lot cheaper to use what you have.

4. Freeze your leftovers.  That includes ingredients.  Not going to use all the chipotle peppers and adobo sauce? Freeze them in tablespoons.  Bananas turning brown before you can use them? Stick them in the freezer and make banana bread later.  (Or make the banana bread now and stick it in the freezer.)

5. Don’t buy ingredients you won’t use again unless you’ll use it completely.  A year ago, I bought star anise because I had a recipe I wanted to try that called for it.  The only problem is that I can’t find that recipe.  Now I have a bag of star anise sitting in my house (though it’s often found in various places because Cecilia loves toting it around).  If you really want to try a new item, look up several recipes that you can use it in, even if you have to freeze it.  (Interesting note - ginger root can be frozen.)

6. Flip through all your area grocery store ads - even Aldi’s.  Don’t be afraid to stop at more than one store.  Of course, don’t waste money by making an extra trip, but if you’re already going that way, stop on your way home.  For example, pork loins are $1.99/lb at Kroger this week, and I’m going to stock up.  Aldi has stoplight pepper packs on sale for $.99, and  it’s next to our YMCA.  Also, compare your coupons to the sales.  You’ll be surprised how often you can get cereal and other staples for nearly nothing.  And if there’s something you know you’re going to buy, regardless of the price, see if you can download a coupon.  It only takes a second to do, and it can save you a lot of cash!

7. Go meatless one night a week.  I know there are wives rolling their eyes right now.  They just can’t see their husbands going without meat.  I realize that your spouse may not be a tofu fan.  (Mine is, and for $2.50 for a package of tofu, I’m glad.)  However, there are other meat-free options.  For example, make pancakes for brinner (breakfast for dinner).  No dude would ever be disappointed with a big pile of flapjacks.  Trust me.

8. Remember that cheaper isn’t always better.  Lean meats are better for you than fatty meats, even if they cost a couple dollars more.  Generic canned fruit sometimes has more syrup (just know your brands).  Cheap coffee sucks and is a poor substitute for Starbucks.  (However $10/lb bulk coffee from the bins is awesome, and it’s still quite a bit cheaper than Starbucks.)  Budgets are about balancing.  We budget so we can spend wisely.