Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Budget is a Six-Letter Word...

Well 2011 is almost gone and 2012 will be here before we know it. Typically I do not do the whole New Years Resolution thing as I believe that when you feel something needs to be changed, why wait for the New Year to do it?

This year however my incredible knack for procrastination has allowed me to make a New Years resolution regarding moolah. It's time to get a handle on me money-spending and pay down my debts!

 For the past 3-4 months I've been keeping track of practically everything I spend money on. Hanging onto all receipts, noting all bill payments, even vending machine purchases! My purse has since become a bottomless pit of paper and yuck at any given moment. The goal of this little project? To actually see where most of my money is going of course! And what did I learn from this?

I spend an obscene amount of money on FOOD!

My list of catagories for each purchase reads like this:


You get the picture.

May seem like a hassle to keep track of everything that you purchase over the span on a month (I did 3 months but I'm an overachiever) but I'll tell you it is really helpful to know just where it's all going in the first place so you know where to make the proper changes.

My first attempt to set up a budget resulted in my staring at a blank Excel spreadsheet for 5 minutes then giving up and switching to Facebook. When a friend suggested that in order to prepare her budgets she periodically keeps track of all spendings in a month, a little lightbulb went off in my head. Of course!!

~Blushes while pretending she knew it all along~

So the next step will be to sit down with all my awesomely created spreadsheets and figure out a decent average to keep as my budget for every catagory. The hope for this process will be to keep it reasonable and realistic.

Let's be honest. There's no way I'm eating cans of tuna and ramen everyday for the forseeable future no matter how tempting the money savings might be.

I really don't see how this could fail unless I just completely ignore my budget altogether. Hoping by 2013 I will be a student-loan and credit card paid off free kind of girl.

 Will continue to keep updated on this part of the experiment.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Random Christmastime Musings

I quite enjoyed this whole "Who's Still Standing" show on NBC this past week. Nothing says Merry Christmas like dropping random strangers down a trap door for answering insanely easy questions wrong. Way to perpetuate the stereotype my friends!

I've been spending way too much time on this Pinterest thingy...Whoever created it I would love to shake your hand, then smack you in the back of the head. I can now create a holly garden wreath out of pine cones, hot glue and a paperclip.

I am starting to wonder if Christmas brain is a real thing. This time of year people seem to forget how to drive, common courtesy, how to walk a straight line...(I see you out there with the heavily spiked egg nog!)

I resolve to go on a diet come New Year. Then in 3 months when I've dwindled I resolve to go on a diet again...lather, rinse, repeat until next New Years.

I do believe that Elton John's "Step Into Christmas" has got to be the most annoying Christmas song ever...

To me, Christmas doesn't really feel like Christmas unless it's cold. Do Australians feel the opposite? (If I ever get a viewer from Australia, please feel free to let me know!)

Midnight Mass is at 6pm this year. It's like the Early Bird Special for Spirituality.

Yes, yes I did watch "My Big Fat Gypsy Christmas". I do have horrible taste in reality TV.

I watched an online video recently. Some parents were asked by Jimmy Kimmel to film their children getting crappy gifts a few weeks before Christmas. I found it hilarious and cruel all at the same time. Reminded me of that year my parents tried to psych me out by giving me a can of spinach which I had specifically said I did not want per my letter to Santa. That was traumatic. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Why is it that whenever I'm asked what I want for Christmas, I come up blank yet now two days before I can think of a half dozen or more little things that I wish I would have asked for instead.

It's Festivus today! I can whip all y'all in Feats of Strength...

Top 3 Christmas movies of all time (according to me): 1) Christmas Vacation, 2) A Christmas Story, 3) Elf (Yes I'm non-traditionalist)

Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds should fisticuffs shirtless, oiled up (I will do the oiling). This has nothing really Christmas related but just to make it so we can put some Santa hats on them or some tight elf pants...

But I digress.

And last and actually least, 

Because it's in my head now, it should be in your as well: You are welcome.

(Thanks YouTube, without you I will not have a plethora of horrible music videos and useless but wildy entertaining viral videos to choose from)

Safe Travels and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Quick Tasty Bite

I've always been a huge broccoli fan, even as a child. I was that strange kid in the lunch line who always asked for 2nd of the mushy cheesy broccoli thing. My mom is the one who actually got me on to eating it this way.

Not having much experience with balsamic vinegar, I was a little leery at first. The smells coming from the over that first time were very pungent but not necessarily in a bad way. Can't get more simple recipe-wise though.

What you need:

Fresh broccoli florets--enough to cover a baking sheet of your choosing
Balsamic vinegar (or balsamic vinaigrette)
A wee bit o' oil (omit the oil if you're going with vinaigrette)

(Sorry I don't have precise measurements on the amounts of vinegar and oil. Just enough to give the broccoli a nice coating.)

What you need to do:

Just mix together the oil and vinegar and lightly toss the broccoli in it to coat them and spread them out on a baking sheet. I'll even go so far as to drizzle a little of the excess over the broccoli but that's up to you and how much baked on balsamic vinegar you really want to scrub off the sheet pan when you're done.

Bake them in the oven for 10-20 minutes or until you achieve your desired degree of broccoli done-ness. I like mine pretty tender.

Voila! Balsamic broccoli!

I'm sure it can be used as a nice side dish if desired but the first time Mom and I made them together they didn't make it to dinner! We were just popping them by hand off the baking sheet! The balsamic adds a sweet and tangy taste to the broccoli and I like the contrast. Baking the broccoli allows it to achieve a different texture.

Because of the inconsistencies in broccoli floret sizes in a fresh broccoli head, the smallers often get very well done. I almost like them better! It's a very small concentrated burst of tartness and chewiness.

Give this recipe a try if you dare!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Big Pimpin'...Spendin' G's

So, it's that time of year again!

The air is crisp, lights are being strung upon evergreens, the smell of clove and cinnamon permeates the air, and Walmart is quickly becoming a place I can only hope to get out of alive and without being pepper sprayed over a $300 40" flat screen. (If I ever do Black Friday, I'm wearing pads)

Of course we all know should know and focus on the real reason for the season, however it can be difficult with ads blowing up our newspapers and email inboxes stuffed with offers to free ship just about anything you could think of buying,

This has all got me started thinking of my own Christmas to do list. It's not always easy to stay budget conscious while still trying to provide your loved ones champagne and caviar gifts. (~sings~ If I had a million dollars, I would buy you a green dress...)

This year my sister has suggested (since her dishwasher decided to go on permanent strike and her stove isn't that far behind) that we keep our gifts to $20 and under...or homemade.

Now while I would love to be (and keep trying to learn!), I admit I'm not exactly the most creative or talented when it comes to making stuff with my hands. What does that leave? $20 and under.

Seems simple and easy and great for someone trying to stay on a budget right?! 


I cannot for the life of me figure out what to get her that would be unique and fun enough to fit her wonderful personality yet can still be found near the clearance rack. I know, I know I'm more than likely over-thinking this whole thing. She's going to love whatever I get her, but the moral of this story is:

My sister is hard to buy for!


Gifts for under $20 aren't as easy as they may seem!

I am hoping maybe a stroll around Retail Shopping Hell (aka: the local mall at Christmastime) will result in something decent to send to my sister in her holiday care package this year. Wish me luck with that...it's highly likely she'll be getting a scarf and some form of semi-goofy hat.

She will not be the most difficult on my holiday list this year however. That title has always been held, and will likely always be held by my dad. Here is how our annual Christmas gift conversation almost always goes with little variance:

Me: "Hey, Dad! What do you want for Christmas this year?"

Dad: "Huh?"

Me: "Christmas, Dad. What do you want?"

Dad: "Oh...nothing. You don't have to get me anything"

Me: "You're not helping. I'm not NOT getting you something."

~Me walks away and asks Mom who inevitably gives me a good Dad idea~

But for however much I may complain I love this season, I love my family, I love the feeling of giving those I care about something with love from me. And, I do love and try to keep my eye on the true meaning of Christmas. Thank you, God, for letting us have your son on that day. I may sometimes get distracted, but it always comes back to You.

Happy Retail Shopping Season, everyone! 

Be safe, be good, and know that Drunk, Creepy Mall Santa has his eye on you!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving of Thanks and All That Jazz...

As well all get ready to embark on that journey to grandma's house for massive helpings of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and good natured-motherly guilt lets all take a moment to think about what we are thankful for this Thanksgiving. Randomness and otherwise...

1) I am thankful for bosses who email at 9am saying we're closing at 3pm day before Thanksgiving.

2) I am thankful for the health of myself and my family and friends. May we Jedi's live many more long happy years!

3) I am thankful for Ryan Reynolds...just because wouldn't you be?

4) I am thankful for friends who are totally honest and tell you when you look like a stuffed sausage in that tube top.

5) I am thankful for family who are always there to listen as you bitch about whatever (Note to self: New Year's Resolution: bitch less)

6) I am thankful for that cool nip in the air that we're feeling now as late fall sets in. My favorite time of year.

7) I am thankful for my fuzzy little companion, Asher. Sure he seems to like the taste of my blood sometimes but he's my little monster and me loves him.

8) I am thankful for Ryan Gosling. (ie: see Ryan Reynolds above)

9) I am thankful for friends. They say friends are the family that we get to choose. I may not have that many good friends, but I know those there for me are there for good.

10) I am thankful for my parents. Those people who gave me life and love unconditionally. I know I've not always been the best child, but I hope I've done you justice.

This list is by no means all inclusive, but just a random bit of what was on my mind as we get ready to leave work (shhhhh) at 2:50 on Wednesday.

I hope that as you enjoy your buffet and subsequent turkey coma this year, you take a moment to think about all those things you are thankful for in your life and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sassy and Corny... Just Like Me!

In honor of my new goal of reducing salt and just plain cooking more in general, I give you my very first recipe recommendation! Please hold your applause...

While perusing Kraft.com I found the following recipe:

Sassy Potato Corn Chowder (Courtesy of KraftRecipes.com)

What You Need
4 slices
OSCAR MAYER Bacon, chopped
1 can  (14 oz.) fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth  
1-1/4 lb. baking potatoes (about 3), peeled, cubed  
1 pkg.  (10 oz.) frozen corn, thawed, drained  
2 stalks celery, sliced  
1/2 cup  chopped onions  
1/2 cup MIRACLE WHIP Light Dressing  
2 Tbsp.  flour  
2 cups milk 
 Make It
COOK bacon in large saucepan until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; drain on paper towels. Discard drippings from pan.
ADD broth and vegetables to saucepan. Bring to boil; simmer on low heat 15 min. or until potatoes are tender.
MIX dressing and flour in medium bowl. Stir in milk. Add to potato mixture with bacon; cook 3 to 5 min. or until slightly thickened and heated through, stirring constantly.
 This seems tasty so let's give 'er a go!

Step 1: Collect your ingredients! (Ain't they pretty?)

Step 2: Start frying up your bacon. Have a moment of panic as you realize you didn't plan out your prep work and have not yet thawed your corn, diced your potatoes or sliced up your celery...take a moment to thank God for microwaves with defrost functions.

Step 3: I playfully call this step "Darn it, I miss!" You spend some time cleaning up the mess you made of your kitchen floor while peeling your potatoes in haste. You then remember your poor neglected bacon and take it off the burner after it has been thoroughly petrified as per below:

Step 4:  Enjoy the facial as you combine your veggies and broths. (This takes time...lots of time it felt like...)

Step 5: Make creamy!

Step 6:  Let thicken up a bit and enjoy! (I would have preferred a more aesthetically pleasing bowl for this picture, but unfortunately I've not run my dishwasher yet)

While I did find this soup tasty I did find it lacking a bit in flavor and seasoning. You won't get any judgies from me for adding a little extra something whether it be extra salt, cheese, or whatever floats your boat. The bacon adds a little pizazz and I feel this dish might benefit even more by sitting a few hours, or overnight. I had also used skim milk for the recipe as it was all I had. Using whole or even 2% milk might benefit as well but I'll let you be the judge of that. 

Pretty sure I'd try this again sometime. It's a hearty, comforting chowder that stays with you. 

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNo - We Ain't Talking iPods

For my exciting new thing of the month, I've decided to join the ranks of those who desire to spend the month of November hunched over the glow of their computers late at night hammering out inspiration into beautiful prose. I am of course talking about NaNoWriMo.

If you've never heard of it?

Basically throughout the month of November amateur writers (and even some not-so-amateurs) take it upon themselves to complete a 50,000 word novel in the span of 30 days. Breaking that down, you're looking at writing just under 2,000 words per day. For me, I'll probably be lucky if I can get 100 words per day.

Now, why exactly you ask did I partake of such nerdish insanity that I probably have little hope of actually completing?

1) I am a nerd

2) I'm a little crazy

When I was little I was the only child and me and my parents lived on a block full of households that were probably only inches away from being considered for Medicare. My imaginary friends had imaginary friends (Yes, I was that good.) I would run around the backyard playing scenes in my head that involved secret passages and fairy kingdoms. Oh, the stories I was able to weave in  my vivid imagination...

Well the imagination has never really went away, it just doesn't manifest itself in my running and hiding in people's backyards with a stick for a sword. (That's kinda frowned upon by law enforcement after the age of 10) So instead I find myself attempting to put ideas and words onto paper. The only problem I've had in the past is making them coherent...

A few years ago, I started a story idea that has kept festering and picking at my brain (No, no summary as of yet. The idea is still forming and I'm not ready to share it. Nyah!). I always tell myself I'm going to finish it but I also have a nasty tendency to procrastinate. Those poor characters are probably sitting on their little corner on my jump drive thinking "Alright, already!".

I'm hoping doing this NaNo thing will get those creative juices flowing and get me to finish that idea I started so long ago. I have my doubts that I'm going to be able to make the 50,000 word requirement but I don't think they're going to cut off my fingers one by one if I don't.

I'm hoping also to make this a little exercise in living without regrets. Color me crazy, but I just have this feeling inside me that if I don't get this idea out on paper, don't finish this project, it's just going to be something that I live to regret. I don't want to live my life with regrets any longer. I don't want to be my own worst enemy and the cause of my own failure. It's time to start owning up to that.

I can't guarantee that I'll get this story out and done before my November 30 deadline, but I do make this promise to myself that it will get done eventually.

Bah enough seriousness! Wake up, little minions in my head! There is work to be done... ~hobbles away~

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Love and a Whole Lotta Other Drugs...

At the ripe old age of 28 I'm officially falling apart...

I believe a little backstory is in order. Travel back in time with me... ~wavy lines and dreamy crap~

About a month ago I went into my family physician for my regular yearly physical. Everything was going hunky dory (aside from those few extra pesky pounds that make me go ~whine~) until they tried to take my blood pressure. 158/95?? What the crap?! I've never  been that high ever before. In fact, I've always been low!

Lather, rinse, repeat with the same results. ~ le sigh~

Well I had been getting these nasty headaches and they were getting worse so I reasoned it might have been the medication I was taking for those. Doc put me on some other tabs for my headaches in the hopes that that was the problem and gave me orders to come back in a month's time to get re-tested.

Okay okay. I can deal with this.

A month goes by and headaches persist. I start seeing a back-cracker but the pills seem to be doing what they're supposed to do so I take it in stride.

I go back a month later or so and voila! 160/98 WHA?!! Oy vey, guess who is the proud new owner of her very own 50 miligrams of Atenolol (BP medication)? This girl!. ~le sigh~ Supposed to go back in another month and get meself tested once again. Hope this solves the problems....

I think I'm ready for my walker and cane now though. Matching set.

Then again, this is maybe just the kick in the pants that I need to get fully active again. I'm by no means obese at 150 lbs and I try to exercise at least 4 times a week including my cardio kickboxing classes (see: "Kicking Boxes and Other Exercise Misadventures") but there's always room for improvement. With diet and exercise Doc seems to think there might be hope to get off of them so here's hoping!

We're just going to take this little setback as a new motivation to dig in and learn to be a better person (physically).

Until that happens though, please pass my Metamucil and prune juices. I don't want to miss my Wheel of Fortunes...

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Epic Battle


is ka-rot.

Ka-rot and I are trying out a new thing after my recent breakup with snack bad boy, Cheez-its.

Ka-rot is nice, Ka-rot is orange (just like Cheez-its), Ka-rot treats me well (unlike Cheez-its). In theory Ka-rot is perfect!

The only problem is that Ka-rot is like the very nice, but very dull boyfriend. He is the personal accountant to Cheez-its's super spy. It excites you less. With Cheez-its, good times were very good (handprints on the rear when cheez laden hands are wiped on back pockets.) and the bad times were very bad (that third cellulite divot from the right on previously referenced rear)

Ka-rot is really trying hard to be a good substitute for naughty snack-affair but the truth of the matter is.

We're both still adjusting to the switch...

Cheez-its is not giving up without a fight either. Even now, it's tempting me with cheezy crunchiness and calories! Even more attractive than when we were still together... ~le sigh~I just snag another ka-rot and try to put the temptation out of my mind. It's only the first day! I refused to be quite that weak.

It's about time to find a snack that helps me to become that person I want to be without guilt, judgement and self-ridicule. Ka-rot is that. Ka-rot is my Superman snack!

Then why is it that I can't stop thinking about Lex Luther...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Joy of Healthy Cooking Episode 1

Salad win!


Salad FAIL!

I needs to learn moderation when on the subject of extras...oh well.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kicking Boxes and Other Exercise Misadventures

In my effort to better myself, I've decided a (not-so) new lofty goal would be to lose about 15-20 lbs. This would put me at my target body weight of about 135 and not to mention help to firm up my flaggy arms into something lean mean and sexy.

For about a year now I have been taking aerobic kickboxing classes. How about a little before shot?

The Sara before:

Okay okay, maybe not quite that bad, but really it's done me wonders. Since starting I've lost about 30 lbs. I unfortunately have gained a nice chunk back during a period of epic fail (and mass Cheetos).

My personal goal now is to get back to that goal by eating better and getting back into my exercise routine.

Last Wednesday was my most recent kickboxing class and dare I say I was a little hesitant to go.

Right brain says: Go home and stuff your face!
Left brain says: You should really go to class!

Well left brain won out and there I am standing in the sea of fellow box kickers. Our very peppy and happy instructor comes in and my spirits lift a bit. Sure, this will be great fun tonight! Get me energy for the rest of my night!

Flash forward about 30 minutes later and I am this:

(minus the fur, stripes, and, well...make it a very sweaty human)

Our instructor is still all peppy, happy and ready to get on with the second half of our workout! Abs!! I've never wanted to punch somebody so badly in all my life at this point. I grin bear it and do it anyway though!

25 minutes later and I am still breathing, barely. I did, however, complete the workout and the sense of accomplishment is terrific. I feel no guilt for not going and maybe I'll be less likely to go home and un-do all the good I did in class. One step at a time and I will reach that 135 lb. goal of mine. I'm 1/1000 of the way to being that smexy mama I've always wanted. Small steps...yes but steps nonetheless.

Can't you just smell the progress?

I didn't say it smelled sweet...Just plug your nose and it'll be just fine.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011




Yeah I know, that statement is probably not making a lot of sense to you right now, but nice discount grocery store sold me this generic version of Honey Nut Cheerios and dammed if they don't taste just the exact same as you get in the General Mills box **emphasis** but CHEAPER!

I know a lot of you are probably rolling your eyes and thinking "Duh!", but for years I was duped by the pretty colors, the goofily loveable characters and thinking the taste would be different. Yeah, now I know this little secret, I'll never buy the brand name again! Stupid little bee and all his powers of persuasion...I've got my eye on that crafty little leprechaun too...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Food Snob

I. Hate. Grocery. Shopping.

But I do love to eat and according to my receipts I spend an inordinate amount of money on food every month (Which is probably why every morning my pants and I enter into fierce battle for dominance around the area of my ass) Grocery shopping though? Not on my list of Top 5 favorite activities...

Which is why after seeing the extremely bare contents of my cupboards I decided it was time to brave the crowds and go out and gets something more than a box of chocolate pudding and some dry whole grain pasta (Now, that would be quite a culinary adventure...maybe for another blog.)

I donned my headphones and put on a little Muse for energy, Pat Benatar, for the hell of it, and Dirty Dancing, which was a mistake. Apparently breaking out into spontaneous dance between the lemon-scented Pledge and the Swiffer Sweeper is considered mentally unhealthy.

The grocery store vaguely resembles something out of a Mad Max movie with carts zipping around each other while other manage to serve as frustrating roadblocks. I tend to be more the Mad Max. Rule of thumb, do NOT get in my way or I might be inclined to ram you out of it.

How is it that when you go to the store, you always end up getting more than what was on your list, never fail? I had a list, albeit a hefty one and did get everything on it but when all was said and done I additionally ended up with a whole rotisserie chicken, a bag of minestrone soup (makes a half gallon, I live alone...you do the math), and some kicky new nailpolish.

Well there blows the grocery budget for this month. When all was said and done I had spent the upside of $140 and earned about 5 separate trips up my apartment stairs with my loot (Plus side: no need for the gym today!)

I did happen to notice a lot more generic store labels in my purchases this time around which is a major turn around from when I wasn't quite so strapped for cash. I used to be a major food snob. Old way of thinking: "But brand names are tried and true! I know I'll like them!" New way of thinking: "Screw it and give me the cheapie oatmeal!" I've learned the taste is not that different (oftentimes tastes the same!) and I save money! Little lessons learned are still a lesson learned right?! Small steps, my friend. Small steps.

Somehow these still managed to hop into my car when I wasn't looking though...

What can you do? When it's right it's right no?

Thursday, October 6, 2011


After much poking and prodding and self doubt and some time in the fetal position. I've decided to just start putting my ideas of simple things I can do to help me help myself down on paper. It then occurred to me, who uses paper anymore? Next best solution: blog it of course!

I keep telling myself I'm going to read more, or Imma gonna cook more or I'm going to be awesome with money and become the next Warren Buffett. Does it ever really happen?...no, not really. I'm going to make this blog my accountability for actually doing what I say I'm going to do now! If this blog is going to live a long happy life, I need to give it fodder otherwise it will die sad and alone. That is unacceptable. So we'll see how this goes. I'm welcome to suggestion so throw 'em if you got 'em.

After that little spiel...last night I was craving something sweet. This almost never happens so when it's right it's right no? Problem: It's late in the week and my pantry is bare. I had been trying to save money by living off of tuna fish and cheez-itz (but that is a story for another time) so I'm due up to shop this weekend. I find no sweet things in my cupboards except granulated sugar which (trust me) not worth the sweet fix...Oh but wait, I also see some lonely little tortillas in my fridge. I think that maybe with the proper TLC they could become...(say it together)...awesome!

So I decide to try for a poor man's sopaipilla (even though the actual recipe is really nothing like a true sopaipilla, but just go with it okay?). I took those oddball little tortillas and gave them a nice sponge bath in margarine. Spread a little sugar and cinnamon and even a dash of nutmeg on top to make them fall-ey and baked until crispy and browned.

They were pretty darn tasty, and (even with tortillas, butter, and sugar) were probably less calories than other desserts...say....cheesecake or the fried decliciousness that is an actual sopaipilla.

Yes, I DID take a bite out of one before I took this picture. So?

Viva la Mexico and my poor version of it!