Thursday, December 11, 2008
This year, enter the new and improved pod-person.
We had a free-range turkey that was never frozen. I made pumpkin pie from actual pumpkins, not canned. I made sweet potato casserole from actual sweet potatoes, not canned. The bread cubes in the stuffing were made from my home baked bread. Best of all was the cranberry sauce. As shown in my previous post, my attempt to make my own jellied cranberry sauce was a success! The only part of the meal that wasn’t from scratch was the broccoli-corn casserole. The chopped broccoli was frozen and I used a can of creamed corn. I’ve already been looking at creamed corn recipes for next year.
Thanksgiving was actually a lot of fun this year. I really enjoyed preparing everything. I enjoyed the “challenge” of trying to figure out how to get the sweet potatoes to the same state as they are when they come from a can because from that point, I know what to do. (I ended up micro waving them although boiling and roasting were the other options.) I learned while trying to prepare the pumpkin that I probably needed to cook it longer in the oven. I’m also not sure if I need a bigger, more powerful food processor or what but when I put the pumpkin in, nothing happened. Essentially the blade simply spun around and the pumpkin stayed where it was. I finally added a little bit of water and that seemed to help move things along. I still ended up picking pumpkin chunks out of the puree.
Anywho, it went very well and we had a very nice day.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
So I tried kale for the first time. It was pretty good. I prepared it by sauteing it with olive oil and garlic. I think I like swiss chard better but I would definitely eat kale again. A definite plus is it's ability to hold up. It was forgotten in the refrigerator for a week. Most leafy veggies, especially those purchased in October, would be slimy and limp. However the kale looked great, in fact it was very pretty. It has dark green, slightly glossy leaves with a really nice, course texture that remains even after cooking.
Today I decided to make hamburger buns, just to see if I could. Again, less than stellar rising. They taste good but are flat. I could use two of them to make up the two halves of a bun. This recipe even calls for instant yest. I just put in the second batch and they're looking a little flat as well. On the way home from work earlier, I stopped at the store and bought more yeast. I'm hoping that the problem lies with the yeast (wouldn't that be nice) and not something else. This is so frustrating!
I did have one success in the kitchen today. Attempt number 3 of jellied cranberry sauce worked! After chilling in the can for several hours, I took it out, ran a knife around the edge, coaxed it out and viola! it stands up on end! I can also slice it. The two most important features of jellied cranberry sauce are it's ability to stand on end when removed from the can and it's slice-ability. Mine has both! It also has an amazing pink color and tastes fantastic - bonus!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
As part of my transition to a pod-person, I’ve been trying new foods or working with foods I’ve ate before but never worked with myself. The list of foods I’ve tried for the first time or worked with for the first time this year includes;
Tomorrow I will be trying kale, assuming it hasn’t gone bad. I keep forgetting it’s in the refrigerator. I’ve always thought it seemed weird to eat a decorative plant, but hey, the new and improved pod-person me is willing to broaden her horizons and try strange, new foods.
Some Other Recent Culinary Experiences
For whatever reason, I purchased “The Joy of Cooking” last weekend. Once I got home I actually sat down and started reading it like a book. It’s pretty cool to see how easy it is to make things that I would previously have purchased at the store. Ever since then I’ve been feeling the need to bake and cook from scratch.
Earlier this week I made butternut squash ravioli. The butternut squash was fresh and so was the pasta. I learned that pasta dough is a lot easier to work with than pie dough. It doesn’t stick or rip. It holds together easily and in general is very easy to work with. The only thing I need to work on is getting the pasta rolled out thin enough for the ravioli. I did pretty well but it could have been thinner. It was also a little tough because I couldn’t bring myself to remove the ravioli from the boiling water after just 1.5 minutes. It was just too weird. I’m so used to dry pasta. Next time I’ll know better.
I’ve also been trying to make jellied cranberry sauce just like from the can. My father and I love cranberry sauce that comes out of the can in a solid tube in the shape of the can. I thought it would be funny to make my own and then mold it using a jellied cranberry can. I purchased the can of jellied cranberries as well as a bag of fresh cranberries. I slid the cranberry jelly out of the can and cleaned it to use for my own. I’m on attempt number two to try and get the cranberries to actually gel up enough to hold the shape of the can once it’s been removed. I’m going to try again tomorrow. In the meantime I have an excess of cranberry sauce. I still have part of the original sauce from the can, plus I have my first attempt from two nights ago, which is a little tart but still very good. Finally I have the batch from tonight that is really good but just a little too runny. It did gel up a bit but not as much as I would like. Hopefully third will be the charm.
In the oven right now are clover leaf rolls that I made from scratch. I figure I can freeze them if they turn out alright and use them for Thanksgiving.
O.k. just checked on the rolls, they didn’t turn out like I expected. They tasted kind of yeasty. After reading through the recipe again I realized that I used 2 ¼ tbsp of yeast rather than 2 ¼ tsp. CRAP! Perhaps I shouldn’t bake when I’m tired since I seem to make mistakes. Duh! 2 ¼ tbsp doesn’t even make sense! 2 ¼ tsp is the equivalent of a packet of yeast. 2 ¼ tbsp is the equivalent of like…3 packets. At least I know what happened and can try it again with (hopefully) better success. Damn, I can’t believe I did that! Oh well, live and learn.
And so continues my adventures in the kitchen. Maybe I’ll be back tomorrow with an update of my third attempt at jellied cranberry sauce, my second attempt at clover leaf rolls and my first ever taste of kale!
Monday, November 10, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
Pollan makes the argument that the various nutrition and health related claims, suggestions, recommendations, etc. haven’t made us healthier, in fact in some cases has made things worse. He gives the example of margarine. It was touted as being healthier than butter because it contained less saturated fat. What people didn’t realize at the time was the trans fat in the margarine was actually worse than the saturated fat.
My brief little blurb here doesn’t do it justice. If you’re interested on a different viewpoint on the food industry and “nutritionism”, I would highly recommend it. You may not agree with what is offered but it should at least give you chance to look at nutrition and health claims from a new angle. My only criticism is that it’s poorly written from a grammar/punctuation standpoint. Pollan must write like he talks which doesn’t work out well especially since I don’t know him and therefore can’t imagine him saying what’s written. There are several run-on sentences and I frequently had to go back and reread a paragraph because I couldn’t follow what was written. If you are a stickler for proper grammar and punctuation, the interesting content won’t be worth the frustration of reading it. Heck, if you’re a stickler for grammar and punctuation, you’ve barely made it through this review!
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
I’ve lightly tossed around the idea of selling my house, paying off my credit card debt and moving someplace warm, but then reality (fear) sets in. In order to sell my house, I would really need to make some improvements which of course cost money! Then, the chances that I could actually sell my house right now aren’t very good. Then of course, even if I sold my house, I’m not sure I would have enough leftover to completely pay off my credit cards. I feel like I’m in a rut. I’m searching for something more in my life but I’m stuck by prior bad decisions.
I’m also tired from working two jobs. It really sucks getting up at 5:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. The funny thing is, I was thinking about how much faster I could pay off my debt if I got a weekend job as well. I’d REALLY be unbearable with a third job! I’d be a raging bitch most of the time rather than just some of the time.
I need a vacation! Oh wait I’ll be heading to Florida in a mere 57 days! Notice how I’m not quite so impatient to pay off my debt that I give up going on vacation? I have my priorities AND this will serve as a nice example of the new, moneywise Jenny. This will be my first vacation EVAR that has been paid for entirely with cash! It can be viewed (rationalized) that this is an important test case, a chance to prove that I can be fiscally responsible. (Using big words gives the rationalization more … umph!) Obviously, just writing about my vacation has improved my mood.
In fact, here’s a picture to remind me of what I’ll be enjoying in a mere 57 days! Ahhh, Mojitos!
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
My current credit card debt is at $22,971. That's over $3200 paid off or 12%! It's really nice to realize I've paid off 12% in just 8 months. That's significant. I KNOW this but I'm still struggling with how long it's going to take me to pay off the rest of my credit card debt. I used a snowball method debt reduction calculator to get an estimate on how long it will take me to pay off my two credit cards. I will be free of credit card debt in March 2011. YAY/UGH! That's only/over 2 years! AND that's only assuming I can maintain my current payment amount. During the summer, I won't have my second job so I might not be able to make $900/month to my cards.
Perhaps you can tell I'm all over the place here. A year ago, I was using my credit card without a second thought. Now I've gone 8 months without using it at all. I'm doing great but I want it to go faster!
My goal of running the Des Moines marathon came to a screeching halt when I injured my hip and was unable to train for almost a month. Instead, I walked the 5K. It's not nearly as glamorous but it was something. I'm back to running and will hopefully be in good enough shape to run Living History Farms Cross Country Race in three weeks. I'm currently dealing with a sore calf/ankle. I'm so sick of these pissy little injuries that keep cropping up. I thought being more active was supposed to make me healthy but I just seem to be moving from one injury to another. I just want to feel good and enjoy my improved fitness.
Actually I AM enjoying my improved fitness. Now that my hip is doing better, I've been able to resume my weight lifting to the degree I was before I starting putting in a lot of miles training for the marathon. I've really been trying to push myself and I love it. I like seeing how much I can lift. I like being exhausted at the end of the session. My shoulders and back are coming along nicely and my legs are really looking good! My next fitness goal is to be able to do an unassisted pull up. Whenever I do assisted pullups, I crank my music (frequently Lenny Kravitz version of "American Woman") and I picture the most amazing shoulders and back I can think of. I'm making progress. I know this will be a slow process. Being able to do push-ups took me a long time so I'm prepared for pull-ups to take awhile as well.
I was talking with a coworker who also lost a lot of weight and during our discussion (which was wonderful) he recommended that I read the book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" about a family who goes a year trying to feed themselves entirely from food that they raised/grew or that was locally grown. It was extremely interesting and really got me thinking. So much of what I eat is grown hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles away. It's covered in pestisides and then has to be trucked across the country or even an ocean. Bananas, citrus fruit, cinnamon, olive oil, pretty much all fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter: they all come from somewhere else. We take our huge selection of food for granted, forgetting that much of it is not native to our region or at least shouldn't be readily available during the winter. Even during the summer, we'll purchase tomatoes at the grocery store, grown in California, rather than support local growers who produce a superior product for less money. We're so oblivious and brainwashed that we mindlessly throw inferior food into our carts and move on. Many people don't even realize that what they're eating is inferior. They've never been exposed to fresh, organic, locally grown foods and therefore are clueless that they're missing out. In all honesty, I really shouldn't write "they", I should write "we". My only saving grace is that we had a garden growing up. I understand how food is grown and how much better fresh vegetables taste. I simply ignored it for several years (and ballooned to 260 lbs in the meantime.)
Anywho, I'm now struggling with the concept of trying to eat more local foods. I think I've realized that I need to do this slowly. First, I need to learn more about what's produced locally an then I need to convince myself to give up some of the foods I take for granted. Bananas, fresh fruit and vegetables during the winter are going to be really hard. I lost 100+ lbs eating more vegetables and I'm not about to risk gaining back any weight by jumping onto the local food wagon before I've had a chance to figure out what works best for me. Even the family in the book had a few items that weren't local such as olive oil from California.
As I write this entry I'm watching Obama win the election. I've been pretty indifferent about this race. I really wasn't for either side and today I voted for the person I thought was the lesser of two evils. However, I must admit, Obama's acceptance speech was very good. He is an excellent public speaker. Whether that means he will be an excellent President remains to be seen but I did enjoy his speech.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I think my weight lose has rewired my brain. I've been searching...changing...experimenting more. I feel the need to simplify my life which seems odd to me because I wasn't aware it was complicated. Maybe I'm simply trying to finally become the person I should have been all along. But that doesn't feel right. All of the choices I've made and experiences I've had, made me the person I am today. More likely, I'm finally starting to feel confident in who I am and that confidence is now extending into other areas of my life. Anyway, it's very odd to be 39 years old and finally feel like maybe I'm starting to know myself a little better. It's also comforting to know that I'm really enjoying this time in my life. I'm enjoying learning new things about myself and finally having the self confidence to challenge myself. Hmmm, it's definitely not boring being in my brain lately.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
- Upped my car insurance deductible
- Canceled my landline
- Canceled online music subscription
- Canceled genealogy website subscription
- Canceled unneeded services on my cell phone plan
- Reduced the number of times I meet with my personal trainer
- Signed up for budget billing for my utilities
- Signed up for automatic payment for all bills to reduce late fees
- Canceled an unused email account
With all the changes I've made I was expecting to notice that I have a little more money each months. It turns out, I don't have extra money, I simply have enough to support myself without using my credit card. I'm not sure whether to be proud or depressed. How did I allow myself to live like this for so long? How did I allow myself to get so far into debt? On the other hand, yay me! It took awhile but I did figure it out and am now taking steps to fix my situation. I haven't used my credit in damned near 5 months! That's freakin amazing. It's so cool to get the statement and see that the activity has been my monthly payment (and of course the finance charges.)
So, I continue to move forward oh so slowly. I'm both in awe at what I've accomplished in four short months and shocked at how bad I allowed it to get in the first place.
Monday, June 02, 2008
Saturday I finally ran Dam to Dam, a 20K race held in Des Moines Iowa. I've been training for this event for 11 weeks. Actually, for the last few weeks "obsessing" about this event would be a better way to describe it. I've been very nervous about it. The 10 mile training run I did two weeks prior did a lot to help alleviate my anxiety but I was still nervous.
Race day was BEAUTIFUL! It was warm but not hot, the skies were clear and blue and for the majority of the race there was just a light breeze. I ran with a friend who came down from MN. We had never run together before but we both agreed to take it slow and planned for a 12 minute mile pace. This is a little slower than what I had been running but I knew if I didn't force myself to remain slow at the beginning, I would burn myself out.
When the race started, it took us about 3 minutes just to get to the start line. There were 4000+ racers that finished the race so that should give you an idea of how many were at the start. We stuck with our plan and remained walking until the majority of the pack was ahead of us. At one point we were literally at the very end of the runners. However that didn't last long. Even though we were only running a 12 minute mile, we passed people the entire race, especially on the last hill where it was just a string of people walking. We actually did a great job of maintaining our pace. Towards the end it got harder to check because the math got harder (8x12 is how many?) and we were getting tired. As we crossed each mile marker we cheered. Sometimes we got others to join us in our cheering, sometimes not.
Around mile 10 my right leg was trying to cramp up. The cramping feeling came and went over the next 2 miles but then really kicked in the last 1/2 mile or so. This was really frustrating since I really felt like I had the "umph" to speed it up just a bit for the end. As it turns out, we stayed at our pace and I was able to run across the finish line rather than hobble.
After the race it took us awhile to find the other people we rode with but then there was food and drink. Not only was the beer free but they were handing out Smirnoff Ice. Yay. So there I was, I just finished my first 20K and I'm drinking a Smirnoff Ice at 10am!
Sunday I drove to Cedar Rapids to finish up the Rescue Diver class I took in March. This was the open water section of the class. I was nervous about some of the underwater scenarios since I knew with all of the recent rain the visibility would be poor and I wasn't keen on pretending to search for a missing diver using a circular search pattern in a cold, silty lake with no visiblity. It turns out that although the water was cold, the wetsuit I had was fine and although it was poor visibility, it wasn't zero. After I went down and got used to looking at silt floating everywhere, I was fine. In fact I had a great time. The scenarios went well and I think did a good job. Again, the weather was amazing, picture perfect. I also managed to purchase more scuba gear, how shocking! The compass was a planned purchase, the new mask was a little more spontaneous but "oh well." I didn't use my credit card so I guess that's something.
It was a good weekend.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Anyway, we're both completely enjoying this lovely evening. Nothing fit or frugal here, just enjoyment.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
I was also very nervous about running with this group. I'm not sure why but for whatever reason, they intimidated me. I didn't have anything to worry about because other than the pre run talk where we review the route, it's pretty much just like any other run. Everyone started spreading out, running their own pace. Except for the fact that we all started at the same time and were running the same route there really wasn't much of a group. I ended up running by myself which is what I would have done anyway so it wasn't a big deal.
The run itself went well. There were a few challenging hills but except for the two water stops where I also did an energy gel shot, I ran the whole time. The last mile was definitely hard but I did and finished in 1:54. My goal was to finish in 2 hours so I'm very pleased.
This was the last long training run until the race itself. It seems weird not to run more than 5 miles the next two weeks but I'm following the training schedule of experienced runners so I will trust them. I'm also trusting them when they say that the additional 2.4 miles will be "easy". I keep hearing that the adrenaline will keep me going. I freaking hope so!
Thursday, May 01, 2008
I also opened a "Save Yourself" fund. Basically I deposit at least $50/month for a year and at the end of the year Ameritrade will deposit an additional $100. Seems easy enough, I'll gladly take their money.
My biggest accomplishment was going an entire billing period without using my credit card. This is huge! I can't remember the last statement I had that didn't have at least $200 worth of purchases.
April started off o.k. but then went downhill for a couple of reasons but essentially because I allowed it to happen. What really contributed was my tax refund. I kept making purchases outside of my budget because I had the extra money sitting there. I made another $0 Spend Days goal of 20/30 days for the month of April. I started off great but then completely fell off the wagon and went 10 days in a row with frivolous purchases. I injured my arm towards the end of April and I allowed that to be my excuse to start eating out since it hurt to cook. It actually DID hurt a lot but I could have made better choices. Instead I basically gave up for a week and a half. It's scary how quickly I let my goals fall to the wayside when I have something upset my routine. I'm really concerned that if an actual crisis came along, I would really let things go to hell and find myself 100 lbs heavier and even more in debt. I also experienced a similar feeling of losing control when I went to visit my parents earlier in April. There's always good (think unhealthy) things to eat there. My parents seem to have a self control that I don't possess. I really need to have a plan ready to implement the next time I go to visit. Something that will give me the willpower to avoid the damn cookie jar!
April wasn't a complete bust. I ended up going 15/20 $0 Spend Days. I didn't hit my goal but I did better than say...3 months ago.
I also accomplished a few other items on my debt reduction to do list,
- My emergency fund has $1000.
- Since my emergency fund was where I wanted it, I upped the deductible on my car insurance to $500. That will save me about $100 a year.
- I cancelled my Ancestry.com census records subscription. I hadn't used it for several months but it was still hard to get rid of.
- I got rid of my EasyEdge plan on U.S. Cellular. I didn't use it much, it was mostly a toy and a waste of money.
- I opened an online savings account for my "Scuba Fund". Right now it's for my trip in June. After that it will be to save money for another trip in January 2009. Maybe to Bonaire, maybe to Hawaii? That is yet to be determined.
- I've gone another billing period without using my credit card. Now that is really something to cheer about. Even though I let things slide the past few weeks, I didn't whip out my credit card. I'm not making huge payments towards my card yet but at least I'm not adding to the debt. Yay me!
So what's up for May? Figure out what I want to do with the rest of my federal tax refund (there's not much left) what to do with my federal rebate (go to Scuba Fund) and what to do with my state refund (holy crap, it was $400+!) Once I move my money where I want it, I will be forced to stick to my budget.
Cancel my Rhapsody music subscription. This will be hard. I really enjoy being able to pull up pretty much whatever music I want. I meant to cancel it last month but "forgot" until after I had already been billed for the month. This month I'm definitely taking care of it. I'll go to the libray with my laptop and acquire my favorites from the cd's there for free.
I've committed to 20/31 $0 Spend Days. Hopefully this month will go better than last month.
I also want to start riding my bike to work. I have a goal of riding it 10 days this month. Since May is National Bike Month and May 10-16 is Bike to Work Week, this seems like a great way to get started. I'll be getting a late start since my arm is still injured now and then I will be out of town through the 7th. Hopefully both my arm and the weather will be good to go next week.
Current credit card debt - $25789.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Later in the day, I talked to the construction guy again. I told him if it wouldn't be considered inappropriate I would give him a big hug and a kiss but instead I shook his hand and thanked him. I told him about recently losing 105 lbs and that he couldn't have given me a better compliment.
It was a good day!
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Sunday, March 09, 2008
One of the first steps I took was to attempt to create a budget. I had read Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace" so I decided to start with his budget example and go from there. Without going into too much boring detail, after playing around with a budget I realized I needed to do a few things to make my life easier and to increase my chances of success;
- Change utility bills to budget billing.
- Change another bill to an automatic payment to avoid late fees.
- Cancel my landline.
- Cancel an email account I've been meaning to get rid of for at least a year.
I also gave myself the goal of not using my credit card for one billing period. If I can make it until about March 22, it will be the first time in as long as I can remember that I haven't used my credit card. I looked back through my statements which go back until 2006 (I've had this card since the 90's) and the minimum amount I've charged in a month was $200.
The first thing I did was to freeze my credit card in ice. Next, I moved a couple of regular monthly charges from my credit card to my checking account and added them to my budget.
I've also been trying to reduce my spending. The past two weeks I've taken my lunch to work. This might be a first for me. I've also used the bus to get to my personal training session twice a week. I've joined another Women In Red board that has each member set a goal for a number of days they will try to go without spending or "$0 spending" days. Each member decides for themselves what they consider $0 spending. Some literally won't spend any money at all for a day, others, such as myself only include money spent outside of their budget. I'm really focusing on reducing the number of mindless, useless purchases I normally make such as M&M's at work or Starbuck's iced tea. I also really need to reduce my magazine purchases. I'm a complete addict. It's the glossy pages that are so colorful and enticing, I can't resist. Last year I tried to reduce the money spent on magazines by subscribing to them, since subscription prices are cheaper than newsstand prices, but it's still out of control. Anyway I found the $0 spend board on March 4, since then I have had 4 $0 spend days. My goal is 15 $0 spend days for March.
As far as sticking to my budget, I'm doing pretty well. I'm trying to use cash for stuff such as groceries and gas. I'm actually trying to come in under budget because I have some bills coming up in April that I'm worried about covering. One is to renew my domain name and the other is to renew my subscription to a genealogy website. Previously I would have whipped out the credit card and not given it a second thought. Instead, I think I will probably cancel the genealogy subscription and hopefully I can figure out something for the domain name.
All in all over the past two weeks, I've decided that living within my means sucks and I don't recommend it to anyone. With that said, I plan on sticking to it. $26K in credit card debt is outrageous and I need to make it go away. 100 lbs took 2 years, I know this will take a lot longer, but in the end it will be worth it (I really, really hope!)
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Since I have been successful at losing weight (maintenance phase is just beginning) I've decided to tackle my debt. I'm focusing on my credit card debt. I have a mortgage and a pretty meaty student loan, but it's my credit card debt that really galls me. Between two cards I have $26517 of debt. It's sickening. I'm hoping I can be as successful at losing debt as I've been so far at losing weight.
Anyway, I will go into further detail about my weight loss and debt reduction plans in future posts. For now I just wanted to get this started.