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!