Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Spending Fast Update: 1 month down, 11 to go!!

Hey everyone! 
Remember how I mentioned here about my decision to tackle a 12-month spending fast, after being inspired by And Then She SavedWell, today is the last day of month #1!

To recap, I have been figuring out FREE ways to spend my time for the past month so that I can use my money to pay off my credit card debt.  To be honest, so far it has been a bit easier than I thought!  My calendar has still been pretty darn busy, and I've still been able to spend time with my friends without spending dough.  

I decided to keep a little spreadsheet to track all of the things that I probably would have spent my money on for the month.  It has really been helping me get a visual on how much money I am not spending.  It's the opposite of tracking where my money is going, and instead shows me where my money is NOT going.  What did it show me this month?  How much those little things (a beer here, a coffee there, a lunch here, a dinner there), REALLY add up!  

What I also realized is that even when I estimated my amounts pretty darn frugally (only ordering 1 beer at the bar instead of 2, stuff like that), I would still be spending beyond my means with all of the credit card bills I have to pay every month.  No wonder I've struggled so much with paying down my amount!  It's funny because at first I thought that this spending fast would be holding me back from things I wanted to do, but in reality the debt has been holding me back this entire time!  Who knew? 

Now, I know - I did have a couple of friends / family members who offered to pay for my food & such when I went out.  But when it comes to my wonderful parents, there is no saying "no" to that offer, and most of the other times it was in exchange for me getting my friend a free ticket to something.  So there's that! 

Now I couldn't put this full amount to my credit card debt, as I still needed to make some monthly minimum payments, and you know, buy groceries.  But that's a HUGE number!!  I am still working hard to get extra money coming in wherever I can (trying to sell crafts, and I will have some cash coming in from being a lab rat for science), which will all go towards my debt.  And it's also tax-return time, so that's good!

Things that have helped me get through January (some helpful tips): 
Fitness Activities!
Instead of inviting a friend to lunch, or out for happy hour drinks, this month I invited friends to join me for a walk in the park, or to go rollerblading.  I've even been doing a weekly run-club at a bar - it's a great way to hang out, meet new people, exercise, AND you get free pasta & garlic bread afterward!!  Choosing free fitness instead of spending money at a bar or restaurant is a total win-win!

Tracking my non-spending! 
Creating my Excel spreadsheet seemed a bit excessive at first, but now I know that it's a tool that will really help me in the long run.  You know how financial gurus always tell you to use cash instead of credit cards so that you can always see your money going away when you spend it?  Well, it's kinda the same idea!  It has really helped motivate me to keep going.

Eating at home with friends instead!
This month I invited friends over for dinners, and even a potluck brunch this past weekend!  I asked my friends to bring something to share, so that we could save the money on going out.  And you know what?  I think most people were REALLY happy to not be spending the money themselves at a restaurant, and it was so nice to hang out with my friends with no distractions.  People love potlucks! 

So that's all for now!  I feel pretty darn happy about how the month went, and although I did have one little slip-up (I spent about $2.75 on wine when my gift card wouldn't cover the whole thing), it wasn't enough to throw me off the horse.  I am thrilled and energized, and ready to take on month #2! 


Monday, January 30, 2012

Short-cut Peanut Butter Rice Pudding

Hope everyone had an awesome weekend!  Mine was relaxing, but not nearly long enough... 

I did get a bit of a sweet tooth craving on Friday night, but I didn't have anything in the cupboard pre-made that I could satisfy it with.  I did find some cooked brown rice in the fridge though, so I figured I'd start there!  And to my surprise, my concoction turned out DELICIOUS and I'm totally going to make it again.  

Beth's Short-cut Peanut Butter Rice Pudding (vegan)
serves 1
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 to 1 cup of soy or almond milk
1 tbsp maple syrup (or other sweetener - honey, brown sugar, etc)
1 tbsp peanut butter (preferably no sugar added)
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup vanilla soy yogurt
honey (for drizzling - optional)
slivered almonds (or other nuts - optional)

In a small saucepan, add rice, soymilk, maple syrup, and peanut butter - warm over medium-high heat, and stir well so that everything is blended.

Heat everything through, then add cornstarch and mix well until thickened.

Dump rice mixture into a bowl or mug and top with the vanilla soy yogurt, drizzle with honey, and sprinkle with almonds. 


I also had the chance to make some vegan muffins over the weekend too - apple & raisin with brown sugar baked on top.  They were delish!  It was from a really simple recipe in How it All Vegan, my favorite cookbook on the planet.  You'll have to check out the book from the library (or heck, just buy it) for that recipe! :) 


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

African Curried Coconut Soup with Chickpeas

Kinda crazy that my new blog is called "Chickpeas & Hulahoops", and today's recipe includes chickpeas!  OK, I guess it's not THAT crazy.  
Unfortunately it doesn't contain any hulahoops though. 

Anyway, my friend Megalops (that's her derby name kids, don't worry) made this recipe for a potluck a few weeks ago.  It was SO GOOD I begged her to send me the recipe.  Although this picture hardly does it justice (hey, I had to take it at work 'cause I forgot to take one right after I made it), it still was scrumptious!! 

African Curried Coconut Soup with Chickpeas
yield: Makes 4 servings

Adapted from the Epicurious recipe
    2 tablespoons coconut oil (or canola)
    1 medium onion (about 6 ounces), chopped
    1 medium red bell pepper (about 6 ounces), chopped
    1 jalapeño chili, seeded and finely chopped
    2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
    3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (original recipe only called for 2, but I would've liked it with a bit more liquid)
    1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (or black-eyed peas if you'd prefer.  I actually think I could have done with a bit less chickpeas - it was a bit overwhelming using almost 2 cups worth.  So maybe only use a 1/2 a can first and see how it looks - you can always add more later!)
    1 cup diced tomatoes, canned (you can just use 1 15oz can of this - I wish I had!)
    1 teaspoon mild curry powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
    Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
    3/4 cup cooked white or brown rice (optional - add it for a more hearty meal, or omit it for a lighter one)
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

    2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey (optional - I like my curry a bit sweet!)
In a medium stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and chili; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.

Add the broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, curry powder, salt, and black pepper; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.

And there you have it!  John and I ate the leftovers for 2-days - it's great the next day!  It's also a perfect hearty soul-warming soup on a very cold winter's day.  


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Another, Blog? Girl, you CRAZY!!

Why yes, yes I am. 

My derby wife (I may have mentioned her before), and I have started a new blog, called Chickpeas & Hulahoops.

The name was kind of a fluke, but we'll post about how we came up with that. :) 

The whole idea is something we've been working on for a while, and it has finally come to fruition!  We're just going to post silly stuff, and be ourselves.  So it'll be a lot like this blog, but with even more FUNNY. 

Please check it out and show some love! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

A bit of a stinky Monday, but I can make it work.

This morning started off great - Stacey and I did a 20 minute run, and hashed out relationship stuff, gave some advice, and started our day right!

Then I got into work and things kinda went downhill from there... I won't get into the boring details, but there was some arguing with certain family members, anger and crying, and a whole crap-load of frustration.  It's been bringing me down all day, which bugs me that I let it do that - but I guess it happens.


Anyway, I told my awesome derby wife Quentin (Megan), about my shithole of a morning, and here's what she had to say:

"Sorry to hear you are having a shitty morning.  How about a picture of a delicious strawberry to cheer you up?" (see attachment):

That's why I love this girl.  :)

After that, I tried to remind myself of good things so that I could stop wallowing in my own frustrations.  I reminded myself that John and I had a fantastic weekend, and welcomed a good friend back into town.  We got to see a TON of awesome friends, sleep in, and relax.

I'm also down 11 pounds.  Oh yeah, I may have mentioned that. ;)

Also, I'm going to do a recap of all of the money I HAVEN'T spent this month due to my spending fast.  I've been keeping a chart for everything that I wanted to buy (but didn't), or things that I in general just had to say "no" to.  It's been helping to give me a visual of how much money I could have spent, and how well I'm doing so far.  I don't want to give away the surprise, but it's a pretty significant sum!  It makes me happy and mad all at the same time because I never realized how much I was spending every month on things that I don't need!

Anyway, that's all for now.  I hope your week is off to a good start!  Just remember, don't let those shitty things get you down.  I swear, when I think of it - there are way more good things in my life than those sucky things that seem to wash out everything else when they happen. 

Also, Kendra and I are going to a free yoga class tonight.  See?  Just keeps getting better.

There you are, optimism!  I missed you. ;)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Boys don't make passes at girls who wear GLASSES

...what a crock! ;) 

I don't wear my glasses nearly as much as I should, and I don't like sticking contacts in my eyeballs unless I absolutely have to (snowboarding).  

I was just thinking of Marilyn Monroe's character in "How to Marry a Millionaire" (which she's hilarious in, by the way - you must see it).  She never wears her glasses because, as she claims: "You know what they say about girls that wear glasses..." - as the saying goes, "Boys don't make passes at girls that wear glasses".  So silly, isn't it?  

Anyway, she spends the film running into walls and even gets onto the wrong plane at one point!  Good for her though, because that's when she meets a man that wears glasses that tells her: "Are you kidding!  I think you look better with them on!"

Not that I'm saying you should require a man's validation of course, but it was still pretty cute. 

I'm trying to figure out how I can get myself to wear my glasses more, and I think finding a more fashionable pair would help.  I think my glasses are kind of boring - they don't make any kind of fashion statement, and all they seem to do is block the eye makeup that I take such time every day to put on!  Lame-o.  

This is Taza from the blog Rockstar Diaries!  Her blog is super cute (as is her little girl), and she has an amazing sense of fashion.  I just LOVE her glasses - they are my favorite by far!

This is another one of my favorite fashion bloggers - Andrea from Blonde Bedhead.  These girls find the best glasses, I'm tellin' ya!  They're not just there for function - they wear them as a fashion statement!  Love it!

The rest of these pics I found on www.weheartit.com (because that's what I do)! 

As you can see, I'm kind of in love with the big thick-framed glasses right now.  They seem to be all the rage, but I just love how they really stand out!  Super fun and cute.

I know what John would say.... "You hipster".  Ah well, sometimes I just don't listen to John. :)
And I love love LOVE this photo of Amy Poehler that I found on Girls with Glasses!!  Super cute website by the way, you must check it out. 

Now I just have to figure out a way to get myself a new pair!  Hmmmm.... 
PS - for the record - a lot of boys DO make passes at girls that wear glasses (and think they look super cute in 'em)!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I'm down 11 pounds!!

I know I shouldn't be factoring in weight so much, but when I got on the scale this morning & saw the number, I had to do a little happy dance. :)  Turns out, eating healthy, watching your portion sizes, and exercising actually WORKS!  Woohoo!

Carlton Dance

That's all for today.  Just had to share.  Only 29 pounds to go!  I truly don't mind if that comes off slowly, as long as it comes off (and stays off).  Happy happy me! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Weekend & Vegan Broccoli & Potato Soup!

Hope you all had an amazing weekend! 

I went to a free boot camp on Saturday morning and almost died (yes, I swear - it was the hardest workout I've ever done), then I got to have some quality time with my friend Katy.  We all went to an art gallery for an open house, and see my friend Marco's band play - again for FREE!  I love all the free stuff I'm finding so far! ;) 

 I loved this girl's work - it was really beautiful! 

There was another artist there that we really loved - he did all kinds of portraits (very design-like), and they were very colorful.  I was a little intimidated to take pictures of them though since we were standing there talking to him!  Ha! 

My friend Marco (on the drums) plays for a band called Doubters.  I'm not sure if that link worked, but it should go to their Facebook page!  They were really awesome - very 90's alternative rock, and made me think of early Thermals stuff.  I enjoyed the show a ton, and you should go check 'em out sometime if you're ever in the Denver area!! 

 Katy & I were tappin' our feets and boppin' around the whole time!  They really got us going! 

Sunday I had book club (no pics unfortunately), but it was a lovely time! 

That night I decided to use up some ingredients that I had in the fridge, and came up with one of my new favorite recipes!  I have been crazy about soups lately (probably the cold weather & all).  

Vegan Broccoli & Potato Soup
Makes about 6 servings

1 head of broccoli (just the florets), or about 1 1/2 cups frozen
1 medium baked potato* (diced)
1/2 a medium yellow onion, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 a package of Firm Tofu (pressed with a paper towel to remove extra moisture, and cut into large chunks)
1 cup Soymilk (or Almond milk), unsweetened 
3/4 cup cooked brown rice
4 cups (approximately) low-sodium Vegetable Broth
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp Braggs liquid amino acids (or Tahini / Soy Sauce) 
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil
Whole wheat bread (optional - for croutons)

Place a large pot over medium-high heat, and add olive oil.  Add the onions & the garlic, cooking for about 2-4 minutes, until slightly clear. 

Add the broccoli, and cook stirring for about 1 minute.  Add the vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, Braggs, brown rice, and baked potato.  Cover & simmer for about 25-30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, place the tofu in your food processor or blender.  When the soup is done simmering, scoop out part of the chunky stuff (very little liquid), and add to the food processor on top of the tofu.  Blend until smooth, place in a large bowl, and set aside.  Add the rest of the chunks into the food processor (you'll have some broth left in the pot), and blend well - then return everything (including the bowl you set aside) to the pot.  

Turn stove on medium heat, and add the soymilk, and the salt & pepper.  Keep an eye on it, as sometimes soymilk can bubble over - just keep it medium to low & simmer for another 5 minutes or so. 

If desired, cut whole wheat bread into cubes and place on a cookie sheet.  Spray with spray oil (Butter-flavored is best), and sprinkle with garlic salt.  Pop into the oven at 450 degrees for about 5-6 minutes (or until slightly brown).  They might still be a little squishy, but John and I liked them that way! 

*You may not have a baked potato lying around, but I had this leftover from earlier in the week - that's why this recipe is so great for leftovers!  But just as a tip, baked potatoes are GREAT meal starters for vegetarians / vegans.  You can make a bunch on a Sunday to start your week, just leave 'em in the foil and stick 'em in the fridge. 

I love to heat up some of Amy's Vegetarian Chili and dump it over top of a potato, or do a Mexican-style theme with beans, brown rice, Daiya "cheddar" shreds, tomatoes, hot sauce, and shredded lettuce.  Sometimes when I'm being really lazy I will make a can of vegan cream-of-mushroom soup, add a little cornstarch to thicken it, and slop it over a baked potato like a gravy!  It's SO GOOD and great on a cold winter's day!  

They are also great thickeners for soup (as you can see!).  An added bonus: potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber - and for the thrifty vegan, you can't go much cheaper than potatoes!  Win-win!  :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My own beautiful breakfast (and the Joy of Books!)

This morning it was snowy and cold here in Denver, but somehow Stacey & I managed to get up and go for a jog!  It was actually so beautiful and quiet out at 6am - the snow was falling in big fat flakes, and there was no one around.  It was so peaceful!  We tried out our Yak Trax for the first time (the little strappy things you put over your shoes so that you don't slip), and they worked amazingly.  I guess now we have no excuse to miss running when it's snowing now huh?  Haha! 

After being inspired by the photographs from yesterday, I snapped some pictures of my breakfast this morning.  I had oatmeal with almond milk, blueberries, and a little bit of honey (and a sprinkling of coconut).  And of course a cup of steaming hot green tea!

I made the mistake of putting a little bit of blackstrap molasses on top of my oatmeal too, and spent some time trying to scoop it off.  Not the best taste in the world, but it's a great source of iron.  It tasted pretty awful on my oatmeal though!

This is the snow we woke up to this morning!  Yesterday it had to have been about 60 degrees, and now it's a winter wonderland!  That's what it's like living in Colorado, that's for sure.  It's supposed to warm up again by this weekend, so I'm hoping that the snow will be melted so that I can go outside & skate around!  Ha!

And check it out!! I even had time to work on some Sudoku puzzles this morning.  I realized that I already had lunch from yesterday at work (my dad took me out for a salad instead), so I had some time to myself.  Pretty rad!  

I remembered I got some pretty awesome pictures of our morning-after-new-year's celebration as well.  John & I were up in Breckenridge with our friends Bill & Geneva.  After a night of partying, we woke up late to a beautiful sunny day.  We walked down to a little breakfast place and got some delicious breakfast burritos, and coffee.  It was lovely!  

"Uhm, excuse me?  I believe I ordered the LARGE cappuccino?  Holy cow.  Look at the size of this thing!  It's like Campbell's Cup o'ccino!"  If you don't know what that's from, please go out & rent So I Married an Axe Murderer right now.  You will thank me for it!

Awww... John's all tuckered out!  Haha!  That's his hungover face.


I think the above photo is one of my new favorites.  Just a great moment, and I love the lighting!  :)  

On a completely different note, I just watched a video that my friend Denny posted on Facebook, called "The Joy of Books".  It's just wonderful! 

Honestly, I'm a bit sad about the booming Nooks and Kindles out there.  Sure they're ridiculously convenient, but there is something about holding a REAL book, turning a page, smelling the paper - it's just wonderful.  I hope that the world can still appreciate books even with the new technologies out there! 

Anyway - on to the snowy day!  Hope yours is a great one!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Breakfast is Beautiful

I think mornings are my most favorite part of the day.  You're just beginning new again, the sun is coming up, you're rubbing the sleep from your eyes & stretching, you have no idea what today will bring, and you get to enjoy the first meal of the day.

I love breakfast foods.  LOVE them.  I love eggs over-easy, eggs benedict.  I love tofu scrambles with lots of vegetables.  I love toast with fresh strawberries, and a cup of tea.  I love a steaming hot cup of coffee with an english muffin.  I love pancakes & waffles with fresh fruit.  I love a traditional English breakfast (vegetarian-style), with baked beans, toast, and fake sausage links.

I love waking up after a good night of sleep, early enough to prepare myself for the day.  I love hearing the birds sing, seeing low beams of sunlight stream through the window.  I love a warm shower and putting on my fuzzy slippers to shuffle into the kitchen and make myself a freshly-squeezed juice.  I love seeing the darkness turn into light.

I have really been digging all of the breakfast photography that I've been seeing lately too!  I think since I've been cooking more, I've been appreciating food photography a lot - but the breakfast ones really stand out to me.  I think it's the lighting that does it - it reminds me of all of those feelings that I have when I'm starting the day!

I actually wish that I could get myself up even earlier than I usually do to enjoy a leisurely breakfast.  What's funny though is that most days of the week I'm up about 3-hours before I need to leave the house so that I can workout, have a shower, make & eat my breakfast, and make & pack my lunch for work (then clean everything up) - without having to rush.

The only thing that would make it better is if I had enough time to sit down and read some of my book while enjoying breakfast, or work on a crossword puzzle / sudoku puzzle or something!  :)

Sometimes something as simple as a cup of tea with toast & jelly really hits the spot!

When I was doing my search for the above images (all found on www.weheartit.com - of course!), a lot of pictures came up for one of my most favorite movies of all time - Breakfast at Tiffany's, starring the wonderfully elegant Audrey Hepburn.

I almost forgot how much I love this movie, and I'm going to have to watch it again soon!  I absolutely love the character of Holly Golightly - she's strange, and loveable, and so scared of falling in love.  I think one of my favorite lines comes near the end of the movie... the whole time she's calling (the love interest) Fred, because she says "you remind me of my brother, Fred.  May I call you Fred?" - even though his name is Paul.  At the end of the film, he's had enough.  "My name is not, nor has it ever been Fred!  My name is Paul!  Paul Varjack, and I love you!"

Sigh, love it!

Wake up, Miss Golightly!  Time for breakfast!  :)  Oh, how I adore that eyemask.  Absolutely hilarious.

If you're into breakfast time as much as I am, I encourage you to check out the blog Simply Breakfast.  She takes beautiful photographs of her morning-time meals, and I just love looking at them every day!  Here are a couple of them just to give you an idea...

Her lighting and compositions are just lovely, and I get some great ideas of new recipes to make from her pictures!

If you're the type of person that always wakes up late, and is rushing out the door for work - I encourage you to try and take a little more time for yourself.  It's so wonderful to start your day relaxed and to have the time to mentally and physically prepare for whatever your day may bring.

Happy mornings to you! :)