Thursday, September 30, 2010

Financial Update for September

I've update most of my sidebars with my new numbers, but am still waiting for M to send me a couple data points.

  • We underspent on our food budget! We allocate $800 a month for food (groceries & eating out), but I've been trying whittle that down to $600/month - $400 for groceries, & $200 for eating out. This month we spent $611.04, which I'm pretty excited about. Biggest change over the past few months? We're eating out much, much less frequently. And, I'm using cash for groceries, which has made a big difference.
  • Our net worth grew by almost $100K! $98,487.32, to be accurate. September is always a big month for us, as we get our yearly raises, bonuses, & stock awards. The market recovery also helped both of our 401K accounts.
  • I have also snowballed $573, which is just over my goal of $500. I'm feeling pretty excited about that. The money comes from a variety of sources, but mainly breaks into: survey payments, refunds/rebates from products I buy, etc. I count the cost of those products out of my grocery bill, & then snowball any associated rebates.
  • M & I both received raises & sizable bonuses, which we are saving for a few projects at our house. My raise should equal out to an additional $175/month, which is always appreciated. I'm not clear on the specifics yet, as my paycheck has been fluctuating due to taxes on my bonus, and maxing out my 401K.

  • Not exactly financially related, but I only lost 2.2 pounds. I could have easily hit 8 pounds this month, and I'm disappointed I'm not heading into my vacation at a lower weight. I feel like I'm stuck in this same 5 pound range, and I really need to kick things into gear.

  • Weight: Started September at 160, now down to 157.8. Total loss of 2.2 pounds
  • Vacation House: Started September having paid off $2805.39 in principal for a our vacation house. Paid off another $414, for a total of $3219.39. Total owing on this is $328,881.
  • Primary mortgage - no change. The September payment is due at the very end of the month, so it hasn't cleared the account yet. Total owing remains at $565,354.19.
  • Second mortgage: Started September at $189,801. Now owe $189,144.96, so paid off $656.04 this month.
  • Youngest son's college account (we're focused slightly more on this one, as it's quite a bit lower than my older son's account. Once we had two kids in daycare, paying for college got a lot trickier. :-) Purchased 2 additional GET credits, bringing the total from 86 to 88.
  • Older son's college account: No change
  • 401K loans. Paid off $753.77 toward each loan - M & Blondie's. Total balance remaining (for each loan) is $45,387.
  • House values. We had an appraisal done as part of our refinance, and our vacation house has gone up quite a bit in value, which accounts for a big jump in net worth - +$70,000. We bought the house at the very low point of the market, & negotiated a great deal since it was on the market for a year. We've also done quite a few interior improvements.
  • Blondie's 401K: I managed to max out my 401K, and the market has recovered a bit, so I saw big gains in this account. Started September with $145,720.64, and ended the month with $160,395. Total gain of $14,674.
  • M's 401K: M also had huge gains, & he started September with $136,829 & ended with $157,184.03 - for a total gain of $20,355.03. Go M!                   
  • Stocks: We both received stock awards in September that will vest over the next five years, as well as had additional stocks vest for us to sell within the month of September, so lots of activity into & out of the accounts. I took this year's vest and invested in in a short-term account, & will use that money to cash flow our vacation house. This provides much more cash flow flexibility than we had last year, and was our plan when we bought the house. So, the decrease doesn't reflect the money I have in my brokerage account, but I no longer want to count that as an asset, as it's earmarked for a standard expense. Not sure if that makes much sense, but I think it keeps things cleaner from an accounting perspective. Anyway, on to the numbers. We started out the month with $172,191.33 and ended with $168,325.98. The stock price we measure this against also dropped, which accounts for the biggest drop month-over-month.

9/30 Fitness Wrap Up

Summary: too much junky/snacky food today, & not enough fruits & vegetables. I also didn't get to work out - very stressful work day, & it's amazing how I turn to not great food choices when I'm stressed. I did manage to keep the calories in check, but was not a great day nutritionally. I also need to be more flexible with my workouts. I tend to give up if I get caught in meetings & don't have 90 minutes for the workout (60 for the workout, 30 for walking to/from, changing, & showering). I need to consider 60 minutes adequate, as I can still squeeze in a 30 minute work out. A work out is my best stress reliever, & cuts down on the snacking, so that's an all around win.

Weight = 157.8

  • English muffin (130) + 1/2 laughing cow (20) + morningstar sausage (80) = 230
  • Coffe with milk -20
  • Cheese - 90
  • Baked ziti - 300
  • Mini Lara bar - 100
  • Costco pub mix - 150
  • Handful of carrots with hummus - 40. Dinner:
  • 1/2 costco hot dog with relish & mustard - 300
  • apple - 60
  • 2 servings spicy nut mix  - 300

Total calories = 1590

Fruits/Vegetables = 1/2

No workout.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Giving a Little Thursday

I was at the gym today, thinking about my little $300 bonus splurge, & the items I might return. As luck would have it, I was also leafing through a magazine, looking for nuggets of style inspiration. And, what I found wasn't at all what I expected. I was hoping to find a few recommendations for a new beauty product, best fall jeans, or a fun top. Instead, I read an editorial in Glamour (the link isn't online -sorry I can't include it. It's from the September issue with Jennifer Lopez on the cover, page 326 for those of you who have the magazine) about the rise in crimes against Haitian women living in the camps/tent cities that have sprung up, post-earthquake. I won't go into all the details, as some of them are graphic, but a $50 donation to KOFAVIV at provides women with a security kit, flashlight, whistle, and cellphone to help keep the women safe & avoid sexual assault while they are in the tent cities. Please note that I'm in no way incented to write about this topic, it was just something that resonated with me personally.

It was a pretty easy choice to forego the rest of my bonus splurge & send a donation to help the women in Haiti stay safe. I've also decided that I'm going to create a personal challenge for myself each month. M & I make a yearly contribution via our company's giving campaign, but I'd like to give more - more time, more money, and on a more personal level.

In addition to the Haiti donation, I'm going to create a challenge for myself - for each pound I lose per month, I'm going to donate $10/pound to a charity of the month. I'll do some research each month & the charities will likely vary, but I'll post them.

I know that charity is an incredibly personal topic (much like finances), but I'd love to hear more about your philosophy with giving, the ways in which you donate (be it your time, money, household goods), ways you're teaching your children, or ways that your parents did or didn't make an impression on you when it comes to charitable giving. What inspires you? Volunteering at a local school? Tutoring kids? Donating to your church?

So, for the first ever Giving a Little Thursday, please join in. I've been trying to register for an official linking tool, but it seems that is no longer accepting new registrations for the time being. Given that, feel free to write up a post on your own blog discussing giving, & link up to it in the comments. It's an old school round up! :-) If you have suggestions for another linking tool, please share.

9/29 Fitness Wrap Up

Weight = 158.6. Finally, trending in the right direction again! The mini goal I'm shooting for right now is 153, which is the weight I was at when I got pregnant with my second child. I need to be better about getting closer to 1300 calories/day, as yesterday I was under 1200 calories. It was unintentional, I didn't add up my calories until bed time, & didn't want to add anything right before bed. As a result of not getting enough calories yesterday, I'm *starving* today. Must figure out how to be more balanced. :-)

And, today I had candy, which is not a good use of my limited calories. I'm setting a goal starting tomorrow - no candy between now & November 1st. Note that will hopefully get me through Halloween without going into sugar shock!

  • Coffee with milk - 20
  • Breakfast sandwich with morningstar - 240

  • Costco pub mix - 150
  • 1 piece of cheese - 90
  • Pluot - 40
  • Lentil Soup - 200
  • 4 pieces of candy - 200. Subtotal = 940.
  • Lasagna Style Baked Ziti (This made 8 servings, not 4, so I'm cutting the calories) - 500
Total calories = 1440

Fruits/Vegetables = 1/3. Still need to work on my fruit intake.

50 minutes on the elliptical machine, level 11.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Gap is Back

I promised myself that I could take part of my bonus money & buy a few things for my upcoming vacation, and/or for work, so today I headed to the mall for a little much appreciated indulgence.

My limit was $300, and I need to take a few things back, but I spent under that. Will update with the complete total soon, but I'm thinking I spent about $125.

I just want to send a major shout out (I promise, they didn't pay me or incent me in any way to say this) to The Gap. Their new Black Really Skinny pants are amazing. And, you know the full scoop on my size & weight, so you know I'm not a skinny girl. :-)

Seriously, check these out. I also picked up a cheap black tshirt that's cute & casual, & a summery black dress that was on clearance. M thought it was too big, so I may try to exchange it for a smaller size when I return my other stuff.

I also bought this dress from Ann Taylor Loft, but M isn't digging it, so it's going back.

Happy bonus day to me! :-)

Garden Roundup

Today we picked the last two cucumbers, which my kids quickly ate. They love them peeled, with a little salt. We will *definitely* be planting more cucumbers next year.

Based on something I learned at An Oregon Cottage, I checked my tomatoes for splitting due to the wet weather. Sure enough, at least 10 tomatoes were splitting & starting to rot on the vine, which was frustrating. I picked most of the remaining tomatoes that were orange/red & and left just a few on the vines, as we're supposed to have a few days of sunshine this week. We shall see. I don't trust the forecast these days. ;-)

Here's my question for all of your experienced gardeners/canners. I don't want to can, but am okay with cooking/freezing. I want to use up about 25+ tomatoes & would love recipes for either freezer salsa (does this exist?), or cooked tomatoes that I can just throw into recipes. Also, I have a ton of jalapeno/chile peppers, so if there's something that uses both of those, that would be even better. Do you have any recipes you could share?

Check out the garden roundup at An Oregon Cottage for more great garden harvest links.

9/28 - Fitness Update

I had a very good day yesterday, so I'm feeling much better about my choices. It's amazing how a few days of poor eating can screw up your motivation & self image.

Weight = 160.2 Moving in the right direction again.

  • Coffee with milk - 20
  • Breakfast sandwich - 240
  • 1 piece of cheese - 90
  • Nectarine -80
  • Risotto - 300
  • Diet Pepsi - 0
  • Fiber One Bar - 140
 Total Calories = 1175

Fruit/Vegetables = 2/3

40 minutes stationary bike - level 13

Monday, September 27, 2010

9/27 Fitness Goals - the I'm scared to admit this post

I feel like a lousy blogger, and a poor influence on others, with my eating choices & lack of exercise last week. But, I'm keeping it real, and in real life, I make mistakes, eat too much,& get caught up in work & don't exercise. That's the truth.

I'm committed to getting back on track with my healthy choices this week. I feel much better when I'm eating well & taking care of myself, & I'm going on vacation in two weeks & want to look & feel my best.

Weight - 162. Gulp. to be fair, I had a very late dinner last night, so I'm hoping to see a huge jump down tomorrow.

  • 2 small pieces of cheese - 50. I was not feeling well & went back to bed & woke up around 11:30.
  • Nectarine - 80
  • Spinach risotto - 300
  • 10 almonds - 80
  • 1 light beer - 99
  • 1 taco on a small tortilla, 1 mini taco salad - 500
Total = 1109
Fruits/Vegetables = 1/2

30 minute walk. Feeling really weak today, but did manage to get out & enjoy some fall sunshine.

Ambitions for the week - 9/27-10/3

I'm still in recovery mode after my tragically unproductive week last week. I'm going to keep things pretty basic.

  1. 5 workouts this week.
  2. Blog regularly.
  3. Pick all produce left on the plants, & either immediately use it, or put it up. Still need to find pine nuts so I can make pesto with the basil.
  4. Spend $100 or less on food.
  5. Do a little writing (non-blog), to get back into the habit.
  6. 1500 calories a day or less. I really need to hit this target, as last week was a wreck.
  7. Start planning for my vacation & create a packing list.
  8. Stress less about work - hoping to use pilates or yoga to do this.
  9. Attend one group fitness class at my gym.

How did I do on my ambitions for the week - recap

These were my ambitions for the week:

  1. Work out 5 days this week. Colossal fail. I squeezed in one pilates workout.
  2. Read two books. Fail. No reading.
  3. Blog regularly. Achieved.
  4. Donate a bunch of old toys to Goodwill. Fail. Haven't made it to Goodwill yet.
  5. List a few pieces of jewelry on eBay. M agreed to handle this for me. So, achieved.
  6. Clean out my drawers. Fail.
  7. Spend under $100 on groceries. Achieved.
  8. Create a list of our favorite meals. Work in progress. I don't have a complete list yet, but we're working on building it.
  9. Declutter & organize the kitchen. Fail. Last week was nuts.
This week was a bust all around. Late nights at work, out of town this weekend, plans with friends. . . Lots of stress & very little time to get things done. Better luck next week!

Menu Plan 9/27-10/3

We made two fabulous recipes last week, so first I'll tell you about those. I made this Spinach risotto on Friday night, & it was simple & absolutely lovely. I paired it with the balsamic chicken from this recipe Balsamic chicken & spinach salad (skipped the salad/dressing) & it was amazing. The best/easiest chicken dish I've ever made. Even my incredibly picky husband loved it.

I know that I probably am going against the grain by eating risotto as a leftover (a food purist would eat it all immediately or toss it), but my palate is not quite that discerning. I think it's fine as a leftover. Not as good as the immediately upon serving, but it works for me. :-)

  • Monday - Leftover spinach risotto
  • Tuesday - Lentil soup, from the freezer
  • Wednesday - Leftover spinach risotto
  • Thursday - Taco salad
  • Friday - Leftover grilled chicken & cucumber salad
  • Saturday - Lentil soup, from the freezer
  • Sunday - Leftover baked ziti


9/26 Fitness Goals

We stayed the night at my parents house yesterday, so we had brunch with the family, & then left to pick up our kids. Lunch was on the road & I have a dinner with my friends this evening. Not a good weekend for the diet - at all. I'm scared to get on the scale tomorrow.

Weight - didn't weigh at my parents house.

  • Coffee with creamer - 30
  • Quiche (400) with grapes (30) & scone (200) - 630

  • 1 1/3 McDonald's cheeseburger - 400
  • Large fry - 500.
  • Out with friends. 1 glass of wine, appetizer, shared entree, & dessert - 1000.
Total for the day = 2560.
No workout.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Spending Recap - week of 9/20-9/26

My goal for the week is to be mindful of every purchase, & keep my food/grocery spending under $100.

  • Monday - $1.00 on vending machine snack. *blush*
  • Tuesday - $0. Busy day at work, lunch & dinner paid for by the company.
  • Wednesday - $0. A coworker treated me to lunch. Free for today, but I will reciprocate next time.
  • Thursday - $32.84 at Costco for a Christmas gift - a photo book for the inlaws. $59.42 at Costco on groceries. I ended up with laundry detergent, bananas, eggs, 2 bottles of wine, english muffins, pineapple, napkins, & nectarines.
  • Friday - $0.
  • Saturday - $4 road toll. $10 Quiznos. $3 Starbucks iced tea. $7.79 at Bath & Body Work Outlet on 4 soaps.Total for the day = $24.79
  • Sunday - $4 road toll. $14.80 McDonalds. Total for the day = $18.80
Total for the week = $126.85. Wow - I'm impressed with how close I kept it to $100, considering that I bought a Christmas present out of that. Without the present, I spent $94.01. Very nice!

9/25 Fitness Goals

Weight - 158.4

We traveled yesterday, so it was a bit of a crazy day.

  • Coffee with milk - 20
  • Muffin (140) + egg (80) + 1/2 laughing cow (20) - 240

  • Small quiznos sandwich (375) & salad (350) - 725

Dinner: (We were at my Dad's party)
  • Wine - 350
  • Shot - 100
  • Appetizers - 900
  • Cake - 300
Total calories = 2635. Oh dear sweet mercy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

9/24 Fitness Goals

Weight = 158.4. Finally, heading back in the right direction!

  • Coffee with milk - 20
  • English muffin (140) + 1/2 laughing cow (20) + 1/2 tomato (10) + egg (80) - 250
  • 10 Cashews - 80
  • Roasted vegetables - 150
  • Nectarine - 60
  • 3 mini cookies - 90
  • chocolate milk - 160.
  • Balsamic chicken with spinach risotto - 350
  • wine - 120
  • Apple - 60
Total calories = 1420

Fruits/Vegetables = 2/4

Exercise = pilates

Simple fresh tomato sauce recipe

Last night I needed to use up a bunch of fresh tomatoes we had from the garden. (This is loosely based on an Italian Cooking Encyclopedia recipe, but I couldn't find it online).

·         1 2/3 lbs tomatoes, chopped
·         1 stalk of celery, chopped
·         1 carrot, chopped. I didn’t have any celery, so I went with two carrots instead.
·         1 medium onion, chopped
·         1 clove of garlic, minced
·         5 tbsp of olive oil
·         Fresh basil (chopped), or other dried Italian seasoning
·         Salt & pepper to taste

Add all of the above to a big skillet. Simmer for 25-30 minutes. Dump it in a food processor or blender & puree. Taste & add additional seasoning (salt and pepper, basil, garlic, etc) to get the flavor right. Then simmer again for 15-20 minutes.

The key with this one is after the sauce is ready & the pasta is cooked (we used penne), toss the two to coat. The noodles really absorb the sauce. I topped with grated fresh parmesan & basil. It was fabulous. You can freeze the remaining sauce. We had 3 main dish servings last night, & froze about half, so I'm guessing it make six generous main dish servings.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

9/23 Fitness Goals

I'm feeling good & back on track today.

Weight = 158.6

  • english muffin (140) + 1/2 laughing cow (20) + morning star sausage (80) - 240
  • Coffee with milk - 20
  • Lentil soup - 150
  • roasted veggies - 150
  • Grapes - 50
  • 3 chocolates - 120. Subtotal = 730
  • Penne with homemade tomato sauce & parmesan cheese - 400
  • Wine - 120
Total = 1250
No workout. Groan. This week is not going well for workouts. I'm committed to a great workout tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Garden roundup - the fall edition

I believe yesterday was the last day of summer, which means we're on to the fall garden update. I'm excited to report that my tomatoes are finally, finally ripening in volume. We're probably getting about 5-6 ripe tomatoes/day, which is pretty impressive given the extremely lazy sun we've had. We've been making lots of Greek salad from the tomatoes & few remaining cucumbers, and enjoying tomatoes on just about every thing we eat. Luckily for us, our kids love tomatoes.

We have one cucumber left on the vine, that I think we can pick tomorrow. In the plans for next year, I plan to plant at least 6 times the number of cucumber plants. They required zero maintenance, produced extremely well, & my kids loved them. What more could you want? :-)

We also have a ton of ripe grapes - enough that my kids are eating them every day for their lunches, & we're picking one bunch at a time. We probably will have about 10+ lbs of green grapes by the end of the harvest.

We also have boatloads of radishes, peppers, & basil. Still undetermined what we're doing with all of that. The peppers that my father-in-law pickled a few weeks ago should be ready to eat soon, so we're looking forward to trying them out.

I did try to make squash bread & it was a bust. Not sure if I used the wrong variety, or something else went wrong, but it was nearly inedible.

For the entire list of garden roundup posts, check out An Oregon Cottage.

9/22 Fitness Goals

Today sucked. I'm feeling heavy & icky after yesterday's eating. It was very interesting to note how my body was feeling after the two heavy meals I ate. I don't like the way it feels & I far prefer the lighter/healthier feeling I get after eating well. All I can do is push on & move forward.

Weight - 158.4 :-(

  • coffee with milk - 20
  • oatmeal - 160
  • Granola bar - 160
Lunch: (had to go out to lunch for work on very short notice)
  • Restaurant: turkey sandwich, chips, soup - 800? I hate trying to estimate restaurant calories. :-(. Subtotal = 1140
Roasted veggies & 3 granola bars - 600 :-(

Total = 174
Fruits/Veggies - 0/2
No Workout.

Slight recap note. I finally understand why people enjoy eating a healthy diet. I've never quite understood the skinny people who ate an extremely well-balanced diet - if you're not trying to lose weight, why not splurge? I think my complete derailment was highly educational. It's because *drumroll*, it feels great to eat well. Your body feels lighter, you have more energy, no sugar/carb crashes. And, the opposite occurs when you have big splurge days. Interesting.

9/21 Fitness Goals

I have an all day meeting today, as well as a dinner event with a client. My goals are to keep my calories in check, & make healthy choices. I always am challenged by this on days like today when the food is catered & the restaurant we are going to is a steak house, with limited healthy options. Unless my meeting ends early, I will not have an opportunity to work out.

Weight - 157.8. Not surprising, up a bit from yesterday.

  • coffee with milk - 20
  • Instant oatmeal - 160
  • 1 small granola bar - 160
  • Turkey sandwich - 300
  • Bag of chips - 210
  • 1 chocolate chip cookie - 350
  • small apple - 40
  • 3 oz of steak, bread, sides, & a few bites of dessert - 800?
  • 2 glasses of wine - 160
Total calories = 2200

No workout. We ended up going to a different restaurant, which screwed up my plan. I'm disappointed in today, all up.

Monday, September 20, 2010

9/20 Fitness Goals

Weight - 157.4 - down slightly from yesterday.

*Today was a rough day. I'm feeling irritated by work, & it DEFINITELY showed in my eating choices. In the past, I would have gone completely off the rails after such a rough afternoon, but I'm happy to say that knowing I would have to post my eating choices for the day did make me stop eating, so that was good news. :-)

  • Coffee with milk - 20
  • 1/2 pc whole wheat lavosh bread (120) + egg (80) + tomatoes (20) + feta (60) - 280
  • 1 pc cheese - 90
  • Vegetarian lentil soup - 150
  • 3 mini candies - 100
  • chex mix - 210. (I know, I was starving, my soup was't nearly filling enough, & it was the most remotely "healthy" item I could find in the vending machines.)
  • 2 serving of mini cookies - 300
  • 20 cashews - 160
  • 1 mini chocolate - 60
  • small salad, handful of grapes, 3 bites of pasta - 200
  • Granola bar - 200
ETA: I had a granola bar that I was making for the boys. It was delicious, but I so did not need the calories. If you want the recipe, check here.
Total calories = 1520 1720

Fruits/vegetables - 2/2
i came home early to squeeze in a pilates workout, & I couldn't get our new TV/DVD player combo thing to work. GRRRR. M has kindly shown me how to do it for next time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

  • Monday - Lentil soup , although I made it without the sausage, because I realized mine was freezer burned & had to be tossed.
  • Tuesday - Work meeting - catered lunch.
  • Wednesday - Leftovers from business dinner on Tuesday. The place we're going has huge portions.
  • Thursday - Taco salad, fruit
  • Friday - Veggie sandwich with fruit. (My favorite is toasted wheat bread slathered with hummus, sharp cheddar, sliced tomatoes & sliced cucumber. Yum)
  • Saturday - Depending on what time time we hit the road (dropping off kids & driving to my dad's party), we may be eating out. Probably Subway or Quiznos.
  • Sunday - Chicken paninis & fruit


9/19 Fitness Goals

Weight = 157.8 - unchanged from yesterday. Down 2.4 lbs from this time last week. I'll take it!

  • Coffee with milk - 20
  • 2 pcs whole wheat toast with egg & 1/2 a laughing cow - 240
  • Berry smoothie - 200
  • 2 pcs wheat bread with hummus, cheese & vegetables - 285
  • Rice - 200
  • wine - 120
  • 1 mini meatloaf sandwich - 190
  • 3 pcs of chocolate - 180
  • 1/2 nectarine - 40
Total = 1475. After reviewing this, I see that I ate 5 pcs of (small) wheat bread. Uhhh, not sure what happened. We're in adjustment mode as we try to eat our way through a bunch of groceries left behind by the inlaws, & I start cooking & meal planning again.

Fruits/Veggies = 3/3

60 minutes on the elliptical, level 13. Definitely felt this workout, & I achieved my goal of 5 workouts this week. Woo!

Ambitions for the week of 9/20-9/26

Here are my ambitions for the week:

  1. Work out 5 days this week.
  2. Read two books.
  3. Blog regularly.
  4. Donate a bunch of old toys to Goodwill.
  5. List a few pieces of jewelry on eBay.
  6. Clean out my drawers.
  7. Spend under $100 on groceries.
  8. Create a list of our favorite meals.
  9. Declutter & organize the kitchen.

Ambitions for the week - recap

My plan for this week. Forgot to post this, but I created my list at the start of the week. Here's how I did.
  1. Work out 5 days this week. I need to step up my progress if I'm going to hit 150 workouts by the end of the year. - achieved.
  2. Finish photo book for my mother-in-law. - achieved.
  3. Finish menu plan for next week, after the in-laws leave. (They're heading home on Sunday). - I only planned Saturday & Sunday, but achieved.
  4. Clean/inventory freezers. - achieved.
  5. Clean/inventory pantry. - achieved.
  6. Clean fridge. - achieved.
  7. Re-organize all pots/pans/dishes/plates/etc after the in-laws leave. Things are in complete disarray, as they have their own things they need to put in the cupboards, & didn't know where things went - so my normally extremely organized kitchen is making me a little crazy. achieved.
  8. Read one book. achieved - I read three books
  9. Implement 9/15 budget plan after I get paid. Achieved.
  10. Use or freeze/"put up" remaining summer produce - pesto, squash bread, etc - Tried a squash bread (terrible) & Trader Joe's still doesn't have any pine nuts for pesto. We've been eating the cucumbers, grapes & tomatoes as they ripen. Small harvest due to the weather. Achieved.
  11. Use up all gift cards (with the exception of the ones I'm saving for Christmas). They go to waste lingering in my wallet. - Used up one from Target. Still have a few to go. Partially achieved.
  12. Sell or donate a bunch of kids toys that we no longer need. - Did not get to this one this week.
  13. List a watch on eBay. - Did not get to this one this week.

Weekly Spending (9/13-9/19)

Here's how things went this week. As you can see, the car expenses were very spendy.

Monday - Lunch out with a friend to celebrate her engagement - $14 (had a gift card to cover the rest). School pictures for the boys - $24, and that was the cheapest package. M had to buy new mats for my car (they had holes in them?!! & were getting caught near the gas pedal) - $67.33. Total for Monday = $105.33

Tuesday - no spend day.

Wednesday - 50,000 mile car check up. $924.57. Yikes!

Thursday -  $16.53 at the grocery store, detailed in an earlier post.

Friday - $.28 on 2 pictures at Costco - needed these for some form for the boys preschool. $3.94 at Rite Aid - picked up some shampoo & gum. The shampoo had a rebate form attached, making it essentially free once I get the money back. $12.12 at Fred Meyer - picked up yogurt, salt, OTC medicine & a dishwasher cleaner we need. Don't know what is up with me stumbling onto all of these rebates lately, but the dishwasher cleaner also had a rebate, so it will be free as well.

Costco - $109. Here's where the money went:
$6.89 - Pam Spray
$3.45 - Garlic
$26.84 - Glass containers (trying to get rid of the plastic for food storage)
$38.41 - Meat (chicken, ground beef, salmon)
$9.04 - Dairy

Total spent for Friday - $125.34

Saturday - Trip to Target for band aids, bread for lunches, & I found two Melissa & Doug puzzles on Clearance - perfect for my nephew's Christmas presents. - $9.09

Sunday - 1 smoothie at the gym ($5.15), & childcare for both of my kids while I work out ($24). M was at the airport dropping off the inlaws. $29.19

Total for the week: $1210.05. Yikes. Not a cheap week, at all. On the positive financial side, the inlaws are now on their way home, so I'm expecting my food costs to drop fairly drastically.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

9/18 Fitness Goals

Weight - 157.8. Steady but slow, here. :-)

  • Coffee with milk - 20
  • Egg with english muffin & 1/2 a laughing cow - 290
  • Nectarine & pluot - 120
  • Two pieces of toast with cheese, hummus & veggies - 295
  • 20 cashews - 160

  • 3 mini cookies - 90
  • wine - 120
  • Rice & salmon - 400
  • 1 nectarine - 80
Total calories = 1575. Wish I would have skipped the cookies, but I was STARVING today. I think it was a combination of my workout & just general hunger, but I was pretty pleased that I limited myself to a small snack.

45 minute run/walk (mostly walk). Caveat on the workout - my mother-in-law got into a brief tiff today, & I decided it would be in all of our best interest if I left to take my run. I threw on my clothes & ran out of the house. I forgot my running watch & I also neglected to *ahem* use the bathroom before I left. This caused . . . challenges, shall we say, when I attempted the running portion of the workout. What can I say? I'm a mother of two kids. The in-laws leave tomorrow - after living with us for 90 days!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Using cash for groceries

. . . is seriously helping me. I've always dismissed the idea that using cash to pay for groceries would have any meaningful impact on what I purchased. After all, I generally stuck to my list, made good choices, & etc. Apparently not, because I've been using cash to pay for groceries since 9/1, & it's definitely, definitely helped me be more aware of my spending.

Today, for example, I had $112 & some change. My normal weekly budget is $100, but I rolled over $12 from last week. I paid attention to every item, tracked how much I was spending, put back a few unnecessary items, & ended the trip with a total of exactly $109. Nice!

I think this will be super helpful as I work to reduce our overall grocery spending.

Other ways I saved this week:
  • I had on my "needs" list that I needed more eyeliner to leave at our vacation house. I was on Sephora & about to order it, when I I thought to check my extra makeup bin in our pantry. Can you believe that there were 5 eyeliners in the bin?! Embarrassing. Anyway, saved myself the money & waste of yet another eyeliner.
  • I always try to save those extra last pieces of fruit my kids don't eat (when I cut up an apple, pear, strawberries, melon, etc for them) & toss it in the freezer in a ziplock. I later use that fruit for smoothies. Frugal & cuts down on waste!
  • I considered doing a few *deals* at Rite Aid & Safeway, because the items were so cheap. After thinking about it, & considering how much it would take for me to earn that money (as a snowball, from a survey, etc), I decided that I don't even need those items - I was only considering them because of their heavily discounted prices.
  • I always, always, always buy new clothes for vacations & special events. In the next few weeks, I'm attending a milestone birthday for my father, & going on vacation. Today I decided to shop my closet & found just the right things for both the vacation & the event. I'm going to rock my Trina Turk bikini (I have it with straps)!

Now, post how you saved money this week! Either a great purchase, a frugal tip, or a way you *avoided* spending money. :-)

9/17 - Fitness Goals

Weight - 158.4

  • Coffee with milk (20)
  • english muffin (190) + 1/2 laughing cow (20) + morningstar sausage (80) - 290
  • 20 oz blueberry smoothie (guessing - it was big) - 240

  • Toasted cheese, tomato & hummus sandwich - 285
  • 12 cashews - 96

  • 1 1/2 small glasses of wine - 120
  • 1/2 pita with falafel, yogurt & tomato - 400
  • 1 bite size butterfinger - 33

Total Calories = 1481
Fruits/Vegetables = 3/2

40 minutes elliptical machine, level 13. I bumped it up to 13 today, & definitely felt the difference.
18 minutes strength training (legs & arms, mostly arms)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mixed success on my grocery trip

I went to the store to take advantage of a few good deals (hot dogs for $.99 - the kids love them, $1 pineapple, etc) but the store was sold out of a bunch of stuff I wanted. Always irritating.

I then tried to do the Kraft cheese deal, & my $5 coupon wouldn't work. The cheese was still a good price, so I didn't return, but I would never have bought five to have on hand if I'd known the coupon wasn't going to work. On the other hand, I ended up getting six boxes of Ronzoni pasta for free.

Here's what I got, & how the pasta deal worked (fyi, this was at Safeway):
  • 6 boxes of Ronzoni pasta. On sale for $1. There were blinkie coupons next to the Ronzoni for $1 off of 2 boxes. Bringing the per item total to $.50 each, or $3 total.
  • Pilsbury fudge things. Can't remember their name - this was an impulse purchase for my son. They were $2.50 & I had a $1.00 off coupon.
  • Cheese - this came out to $10 for 5 packages. I THOUGHT I was getting an additional $5 off, but that didn't work.
  • Transformer sticker/puzzle books. These were 75% off, so I picked them up for stocking presents for my kids. Total was $1 for 2.
  • Cantaloupe - $.99
Total was $16.53.
I also had a Ronzoni rebate, so I'll be getting $3 off in the mail, making the pasta free. All things considered, I got six boxes of pasta, 5 packages of cheese, a treat, a cantaloupe & 2 stocking stuffers for $13.

9/16 Fitness Goals

Weight - 158.6 (same as yesterday).

  • Coffee with milk (20)
  • Homemade English muffin (190) + 1/2 laughing cow (20) + 1 morning star sausage (80) - 290
  • 1 piece of cheese - 90
  • 1 pluot - 40
  • loobia polo. The serving I ate was larger than normal (I unsuspectingly grabbed a tupperware out of the fridge & threw it in my lunch this morning). When I noticed it was bigger than normal, the smart thing to do would have been to eat half & save the rest for tomorrow. As I'm sure you can tell, that didn't happen. :-( - 450
  • Hummus & crackers - 190
  • Rice, chicken & spinach - 400
Total calories = 1640. :-( The bigger lunch killed me.

Fruits - 1/Vegetables - 3.

No exercise today.

What are your feelings on real estate?

After the recent housing market crash, I have mixed feelings on considering your home an "asset", so I'm curious about how others feel about this. While I get all of the uproar about the folks that bought a home & considered it an investment that could be used for quick profit, I'm not sure I agree with the follow-on philosophy that your house is a bad investment.

Certainly, it could be a bad investment, but it's also possible that the house you purchase will go up modestly (or more) in value, and upon retirement will be worth a chunk of change.

In our situation, when we retire, we will have two paid off properties that are worth more than they are now. We will likely sell our current residence and keep the vacation house. We may live there permanently, or we may split our time between that home & a sunnier weather destination. Either way, selling our current residence should yield us an enormous sum (factoring in even the most conservative growth - $1.5 million). We are definitely paying for the privilege of living there (via keeping current on updates + mortgage/interest), but we would be paying to live somewhere, regardless of if we owned or rented. We will want a smaller place when we're ready for retirement, and good schools will no longer be at the forefront of our minds, so we'll sell and move somewhere that requires much less maintenance. Moving to a paid off second residence will certainly keep our retirement housing costs in check.

We consciously chose to live in a great neighborhood with excellent schools, but we also purchased one of the worst houses in the neighborhood. We've slowly been upgrading it, as finances allow.

We love where we live & feel like this was the right choice for us, but by no means do I think the way we handled it is the *only* way to go. Real estate is our biggest splurge - we own two homes & if M has his way, we will likely by a 3rd home in the next 5-10 years. After we have our 401K loans paid off & can afford to put 20% down. We will take the money we are currently paying for childcare, and devote that toward a third home. We shall see. What are your thoughts on real estate? Something you splurge on? Scrimp on? Don't consider an investment? No right or wrong answers, just curious how others approach this enormous expense. When you consider your retirement, do you plan to live in your paid off home? Sell it? Move somewhere smaller, or in a lower cost of living area? Does that factor into your retirement planning?

Big retirement news

One of our 2010 goals was to hit $300K in our retirement accounts, & I'm excited to say that we did it! Our 9/15 bonuses put us near the limit for 401K contributions, & the stock market has cooperated. :-) M is proudly reporting a 5%+ return on his 401K, while I'm hovering at 3.2%. Not great, but certainly better than last year.

This number is subject to change, of course, based on the market performance, but we're at $302,713. Woo! Now I'm confident that we'll achieve at least one of our 2010 goals.

Why gaining weight cost me money

One caveat before I dive in. One, if you noticed that my weight loss tracker (on the left) looks different, it's because I'm an idiot. In my head, I'd lost 30 pounds, when in reality, if you do the math, 180-158.8 is. .. uh, not 30 pounds. More like 20, give or take a few. So, I adjusted my tracker to reflect my appropriate weight loss. *hangs head in embarassment*

How I got where I am:
Here's a little background about my overall weight. I was at a healthy weight until I went to college, but I remember having to work hard to maintain a healthy weight ever since about middle school. I would work out & watch what I eat, paying close attention to making good choices. My parents are both very healthy people, & taught me early on about healthy food & balance, as well as the importance of working out. I have never, ever had a fast metabolism. I played sports year round in school, and the exercise is what kept me at a healthy weight. Fast forward to college - I went from 130 lbs to 160 lbs (I'm 5'5"). It was not good. I was unable to really lose any meaningful weight until I graduated from college & started my first job.

My first job came with a plush gym membership, which I utilized. I paid attention to what I ate, and worked out 5 times/week. I got back down to130 lbs within about 5 months, & maintained that weight for 7 years, until I went to grad school. Grad school was not easy on my diet. I was in an executive program where you work full-time, and go to school in the evenings/weekends. The program provided all of our food, to make life slightly more convenient. I am not good with these situations & the food choices were rarely healthy, & always involved dessert. I also didn't have time for regular workouts, & had to quit my soccer team to study. The end result? I got up to 144 lbs.

My first goal upon graduation from grad school was to ditch the weight. I signed up for a two week surfing camp in Hawaii, hired a trainer, & got serious about losing the weight. M & I went on a celebratory trip to celebrate my graduation & came home with a small *souvenir*. I first discovered this souvenir when I was working out with my trainer & had to stop to hurl. Despite taking all appropriate precautions, I was pregnant! :-) I was worried about starting my pregnancy at a higher weight than I had hoped, but my doctor assured me all would be fine. And, it was. I had a beautiful baby & ended the pregnancy at 180 lbs.

Immediately after I had my first son, I started working out religiously & paying attention to what I ate. I did pilates, went for runs, & hit the gym - a minimum of 5 times/week. In fact, I was at 153 pounds four months later. Woo! M & I went for a little trip to have some alone time, & we had a fabulous time in Las Vegas. (Do you see a theme, here? :-))Again, I was taking all of the appropriate precautions.

I'm sure you can imagine my complete & total shock when I went to the doctor to have my IUD put in & discovered that . . . I was pregnant again. I had a 4 month old baby at home, & I was pregnant. . . . It actually happened to be my first day back from maternity leave at work, & I remember sitting in the bathroom & crying. I was so ridiculously overwhelmed. Anyway, the surprise of my life arrived 9 months later, & child #2 is the light of our lives. Can't imagine not having him, of course.

I'm not exactly sure how to articulate what happened next, but M took a job where he was traveling 40% of the time, & I was working full time & juggling motherhood to two small kids. I never lost the baby weight, and in fact, gained more. I topped the scales last Christmas at 180 lbs. That's right, the same weight I was at the day I delivered my first child. *shudder*

After I saw pictures of myself over the holidays, I decided it was time to get serious. I hit the gym again, started tracking calories, and I've lost 22 lbs. (Sadly, not the 30 I had in my head.) I'm almost 1/2 way to my goal of losing 50 lbs, so my next goal is to hit 153 by our anniversary trip in 3 weeks. That's the weight I was at when I got pregnant with my second child. It's totally within reach, and is 5.6 lbs away. My eventual goal is to be back at 130 before my oldest son is 5. His birthday is in February.

How gaining weight cost me money:
Now that you have a better picture of how I got here, I'll give you some details about how this has cost me money. First of all, let's consider my 1 year membership at Weight Watchers, which did nothing for me. I believe that was about $800. And, the personal trainer I hired - $1500. I also had to join a gym in my office building, as the one my employer pays for is not close to our current location. $100/month, so a $1200 hit for the year. If I wasn't desperately focused on losing weight, I would use our treadmill at home, & focus on non-gym workouts. 

Bringing me to, by far, the most expensive part of this. Back when I was a yuppie single girl, I spent a minimum of 20% of my generous salary on clothes, shoes & personal maintenance. It wasn't my brightest move, but I was saving plenty of money, fully funding my retirement, and not necessarily thinking about the future. I have upward of $5000 of clothes in my closet (I'm guessing this is conservative, but I'm too scared to do any real calculations) that don't fit me. I've had to buy everything new since having kids: undergarments (expensive!), workout gear, jeans, work pants, suits, dresses, bathing suits, jackets. . . you name it. Some of my shoes don't even fit, and my gorgeous watch won't clasp over my wrist. My rings are too tight. . . The list goes on & on. And, I have a closet full of gorgeous clothes that don't fit me. My plan is that for every 10 lbs of weight I lose, I ditch some of the clothes that I had to buy after I had kids. I was sure I was going to lose the weight right away *snicker*, so they are not high quality items. I want to get back to my nicer clothes! I'm sure they will be out of style by the time I fit back into them, but most of them are classics that I should be able to work back into my wardrobe.

My first goal is to fit back into my favorite pair of black JCrew cords - size 6 - in the next month. Sadly, I also have them in a size 4 in my closet, but first things first. I'll post a picture when I get them on again! :-)

If you stuck with me for this long, I'd love to hear about how gaining weight has cost you money, or any challenges you've had on a similar roller coaster.

Oh bonus, how quickly you disappear

Yesterday was a very ironic money day. 9/15 is the day that both M & I get our yearly bonus, and raises. As you can imagine, our paychecks were *much* larger than usual. Oh, happy day. Except, I couldn't access my Chase account, and had a bunch of things I wanted to do with the money. And, I wasn't sure exactly how much my bonus would be after tax. I finally, finally accessed my money, after 27 attempts on Chase's web site. I'd also like to give a big shout out to Chase for paying 9 of my bills late. Especially the two I initiated on Sunday that as of yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon, were still marked as *pending*. Way to rock it, Chase. You'll be hearing from me if any of my bill recipients charge me late fees.

Once I finally had my eyes on the money & was knee deep in instituting our "9/15 budget plan", as we call it, I get a phone call from M. Something was wrong with my car & he called around for quotes. It was time for a 50,000 mile check up. Fine, fine. The cheapest place gave us a range of $700-900. Good times. We picked up the car yesterday, & the total bill was $924.57. What a fun way to use the bonus money! ;-)

In even better news, the check up revealed that my rear brakes are functioning at 5%, and the front brakes at 10%. They need to be replaced immediately. Quote for brake replacement - $1388.77. M is thinking about ordering the parts & doing it himself, if he feels confident. We shall see. Even if he does it himself, we're looking at a minimum of $600 for parts.

For the record, I've never paid for anything other than a routine oil change for my car, in the almost six years of ownership. It's been a fabulous car & I'm pleased with it overall (although, if I could go back in time & buy something a little less *status-y* & a lot more *kid friendly*, I would certainly do that). I realize that cars need maintenance, but I'm still laughing that part of the bonus was spent before it was lingering in my account for 24 hours. Better luck next year, I suppose. :-)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

9/15/10 - Fitness Goals

Weight - I'm at 158.6 today, so it's nice to see my weight continue to drop. It's slow but steady progress. :-)

  • Milk with coffee - 20
  • Persian bread with feta & homemade blueberry jelly - 255
  • 1/2 a 100 calorie pack of hummus + crackers - 190
  • Small portion of loobia polo - 275
  • Cheese - 90
  • Chocolate milk - 160
  • Pluot & apple - 150
  • 10 Cashews - 80
  • Persian rice with meat & yogurt sauce + tomatoes - 500
Total for the day = 1445
2 fruits/1 vegetable - need to focus on this tomorrow, and hit my goal of 3 each.

32 minutes on the stationary bike, level 12. 15 minutes weight training (arms). Side note - I'm shocked by how weak my arm muscles are. I used to be in reasonably good shape, & I can now only lift about 1/2 the amount I previously could. What a huge wake up call!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 8 - 9/14 Fitness Goals

Changing around the titling of the fitness goals. I can never remember what day I'm on, & I think it's more logical to title these by date. :-)

Weight - 158.8 Woo! Feel like I'm finally making progress. Next big milestone goal is 153. That was my weight when I got pregnant with baby #2 (unexpectedly, when my first child was still an infant).

  • Coffee with milk - 25
  • Homemade English muffin (190) + 1/2 a laughing cow (20) + a Morningstar sausage patty (80) - 290
  • 1 cup Honeydew - 60
  • 1 piece of cheese - 90
  • Small serving of rice & 1 small piece of chicken - 275
  • 1 pear - 90
  • 1 chocolate milk - 160
  • Pluot - 40
  • 1/2 tomato - 20
Loobia polo with yogurt - 400

Total calories = 1555. Over my target. I feel good about my choice today, and think of 1400 as a range. I like to see the calories between 1400 & 1500, but as long as I'm losing weight consistently & making good choices, I'm happy.

Fruit 3/vegetables 2

I'm not counting this as one of my 150 workouts for 2010, but I went on a 30ish minute bike ride with the kids. My boys are 3 & 4, so it was a lot of stopping & starting. :-)

Updating tracker with 2010 Goals

Although the year is 3/4 over (70%, to be precise), I decided it would be helpful for me to post & track the 2010 goals I'm focused on. I also have monthly goals, where I break these down into more specificity & add a ton of others, because I'm Type A like that. I'll spare you the boredom (for now) of the more granular goals.

Here are my 2010 goals!

  1. Make an extra $500. I'll be snowballing this money into my 401K loan payoff savings account. (Reminder, I can't pay it off until I have the full amount).
  2. Stick to my Christmas budget. I currently have $970 that I have allocated, but I'm fine as long as I don't exceed $1200, as I know there are things that will come up over the holidays. I do not have a special Christmas savings account, as I use my last few paychecks of the year to cover this. Specifically, my last few paychecks do not include a 401K deduction, as I'll be maxed out by then. The money that normally gets deducted for the 401K gets saved for the holidays. I'm hoping to be maxed out by 10/15.
  3. Complete a 5K run. I'm slowly working on increasing my running time & distance. Ideally, I'd love to complete a race, but I'd be okay with doing a personal run of 5K between now & the end of the year (if I can't find a local race that works with my schedule).
  4. Learn to make bread. I want to try the "5 minutes a day" artisan bread thing. Yeast makes me nervous.
  5. Try pilates again. I love pilates, but haven't done any for the entire year. I have a DVD I enjoy, and my gym offers free pilates classes.
  6. Make a family photo album. I actually just finished one as a gift for my mother-in-law, & would love to make a 2010 year in recap album for our family. Otherwise, digital images do nothing in our house, other than linger on our computers.
  7. Save/pay $5000 toward my 401K loan. See #1 - I can't pay more than the monthly payments, so I'll make those on time & then save the remainder in my snowball amount.
  8. Log 150 workouts for the year. (In 2009, I had a goal of 100 workouts, which I hit). As of today, I'm at 91 workouts for the year.
  9. Lose 50 lbs. I've worked hard & lost 21.2 lbs since January 1. 50 might be aggressive in the next few months, but I'm pushing on!
  10. Hit $300K in our combined retirement accounts. M & I each have a 401K account & I have a random IRA out there. We're currently at $286K. We'll see if the markets cooperate & our end remaining contributions get us there.
  11. Learn to speak Farsi. I'd love to surprise M & learn his native tongue. It would be especially helpful for family visits. :-)
Readers (I hope there's at least one out there!), how are you doing with your 2010 goals? Have you done a recent goal review? Link up in the comments or share your progress.

End of summer garden roundup

For a full list of garden updates, check out An Oregon Cottage.

Perhaps last week I mocked our summer garden (and the Seattle weather) too much, because things have improved! As a result, we've had at least one tomato ripening each day. We've also had quite a few peppers since last week (7, maybe), & 10 cucumbers. Our grapes are very close to being ripe, and my kids eat them with regularity, despite the slightly sour taste!

I've also discovered that our squash plant (that I must confess I forgot about, hidden as it was behind the pumpkins) is producing. We made a saute one night for dinner, & I plan to make Squash Bread this week.

Our pumpkins are continuing to ripen & grow. Here's a picture! My kids are anxiously awaiting the day when we can pick them. Question for the more experienced gardeners. We planted the pumpkins in early summer - will they be too ripe by Halloween? Should be plant more if we plan to use the pumpkins for Halloween purposes?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Weekly Money Catch Up

Brought to you via My Pretty Pennies
1. The most I’ve spent this last week was on groceries: $113.98 for one Costco trip!

That doesn't count the second Costco trip, plus a few other random stops. We have six people living in our house (they are leaving after a 90 day visit on Sunday :-)

2. Today I feel very pleased about my money. M & I both get our yearly bonuses on Wednesday. I have a guesstimate of how much it should be, but can't wait to see that money in the account & make final adjustments to the budget.

3. Money can’t buy happiness. One free/inexpensive thing I did last week that made me happy was going for two runs. I'm a total novice runner, but it feels good to get outside & improve.

4. I will consider this week a success if I work out five times & eat well.

5. One of my most memorable birthdays was when I turned thirty. I was massively pregnant, & knew I might go into labor at any moment. The anticipation of expecting my first child was great. We had planned a trip to Italy, but six days afte rmy thirty birthday, I got the best gift ever!

Day 7 - Fitness Goals

Current Weight - 159.4. This means I lost 2.8 lbs in the last week, which makes me feel good. :-)
Starting Weight - 162.2

Next weight loss goal - shooting for 157 by next Monday, 9/20.

  • Coffee with milk - 20
  • Homemade English muffin (190) + egg (80) + 1/2 a light laughing cow (20) + honeydew (30) - 320
Snack: 1 nugo bar - 170

  • Chicken salad with apples, tomatoes, & goat cheese (dressing on the side - used sparingly) - 350
  • Chocolate milk - 160. Let's just say that I was dying for chocolate or candy, or dessert at the restaurant where we ate lunch. Instead, I came back to the office & had a cup of chocolate milk. It wasn't perfect, but it did the trick. :-)
  • Grapes from the garden - 30
  • 1/2 a wheat pita (75) + 1 1/2 persian cutlets with yogurt (500) - 575
 Total = 1455. 3 fruits/3 vegetables.

31 minute run/walk. I set a goal last time to increase the time spent running, & set a goal to run 17 minutes. I ended up running 18 minutes/walking 13 minutes, so I feel good about that. Next goal is to run 20 minutes.

Menu Plan Monday

This is my last week where my mother-in-law is doing the majority of the dinner cooking. (She's been living with us for three months & leaves this weekend). As a result, I'll focus on breakfasts & lunches this week, & taking over the reins again for cooking on Sunday night.

I made quite a few items over the weekend, so we have fresh choices to choose from. I made two batches of these English muffins, in an attempt to ditch the more expensive Costco versions. Not in love with the way these came out - tasted more like a biscuit. M called them "pasty white". Will have to keep experimenting.

Made 4 batches of banana wheat germ muffins with some bananas that were about to go bad. These are amazing & extremely easy to make.

Made 2 batches of blackberry muffins with blackberries we picked & froze earlier in the summer. Cut the butter in half & found that they still tasted amazing. Yum, yum, yum.
  • Monday - out with a friend to celebrate her engagement. Getting something healthy, as I'm trying to hit a weight loss goal by Friday!
  • Tuesday - Persian Chicken Kabob (similar to this) with herbed rice (similar to this)
  • Wednesday - Zucchini stew (similar to this) with hummus & crackers on the side, & fruit
  • Thursday - Meat & split pea soup (similar to this) with pita bread & fruit
  • Friday - Toasted cheese sandwich with hummus, cucumbers, & tomatoes
  • Saturday - grilled chicken panini or leftovers
  • Sunday - Leftovers

I'm also going to try my hand at a squash bread, to use up some of the garden bounty. It sounds a little sketchy, but the reviews look promising!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ambitions for the week - Recap

Here's a quick re-cap of what I accomplished, off of my Ambitions list for the week:
  1. Finalize September 15th budget. I call it the 9/15 budget because both the husband (M) & I get our yearly bonus & stock awards on 9/15. We need a plan in place before the time comes, or else the money gets frittered away. This generally makes up 25% of our yearly income, so it's critical to have a plan in place. I'm close to finalizing this.  - achieved
  2. Make a photo book for my mother-in-law. This is a surprise going away present, so it needs to be done in the next 10 days. - About 80% done with this.
  3. Work out 4 days this week. - achieved
  4. Plan my menu for the rest of September (post-in laws) & figure out groceries, what I can prep & freeze in advance, etc. - About 1/2 done.
  5. Return a pair of running shoes to Kohls. - achieved
  6. Work on my anniversary present for M. I'm at a loss for an excellent 5 year anniversary present, so I'm planning on writing him a letter & perhaps making him a photo book as well. - Done. I wrote the letter & ordered his physical gift that I wanted to get for him.
  7. Figure out what to do with the huge volumes of unripened tomatoes. Looks like summer is over & I have over 100 green tomatoes on the vine. - Looks like these are ripening! We have already eaten a few, & now there are quite a few turning orange.
  8. Organize clothes in master bedroom. Put away summer clothes. - achieved
Bonus items:

  • Made two batches of these English muffins, in an attempt to ditch the more expensive Costco versions. Not in love with the way these came out - tasted more like a biscuit. M called them "pasty white". Will have to keep experimenting.
  • Made 4 batches of banana wheat germ muffins with some bananas that were about to go bad.
  • Made 2 batches of blackberry muffins with blackberries we picked & froze earlier in the summer. Cut the butter in half & found that they still tasted amazing. Yum, yum, yum.
And, now my plan for this week:
  1. Work out 5 days this week. I need to step up my progress if I'm going to hit 150 workouts by the end of the year.
  2. Finish photo book for my mother-in-law.
  3. Finish menu plan for next week, after the in-laws leave. (They're heading home on Sunday).
  4. Clean/inventory freezers.
  5. Clean/inventory pantry.
  6. Clean fridge.
  7. Re-organize all pots/pans/dishes/plates/etc after the in-laws leave. Things are in complete disarray, as they have their own things they need to put in the cupboards, & didn't know where things went - so my normally extremely organized kitchen is making me a little crazy.
  8. Read one book.
  9. Implement 9/15 budget plan after I get paid.
  10. Use or freeze/"put up" remaining summer produce - pesto, squash bread, etc
  11. Use up all gift cards (with the exception of the ones I'm saving for Christmas). They go to waste lingering in my wallet.
  12. Sell or donate a bunch of kids toys that we no longer need.
  13. List a watch on eBay.

What's on my wish list?

M recently asked me for ideas for our 5th anniversary, & I was surprised that I could easily come up with more than one idea. I'm usually pretty terrible at coming up with gift ideas for myself. Of course, I didn't ask for more than one of these (just the car detailing), but here are the things I'm currently lusting after. . .

1) Getting my car detailed. In fact, M detailed it for me this weekend. What a doll!

2) A new black Lululemon jacket. LOVE.

3) Glass storage bowls. I want to replace my plastic tupperware.

4) A massage. . . *sigh* That sounds so fabulous right now.

Let's hear it - what's on your wish list at the moment?

Day 6 - Fitness Goals

Weight: 160.2

ETA: I'm feeling like dog doo today, so I didn't get terribly worked up over my goals. Pressing on toward tomorrow.
Here are my fitness goals for today:

  •  One 30 minute (or more) cardio workout - Fail. Not feeling well.
  • A weight training workout (15 minutes, minimum) - Fail. Not feeling well.
  • 1400 calories for the day - Fail.
  • Minimum of 3 servings of fruit & 3 servings of vegetables - 3 servings fruit/2 of vegetables. Fail.
  • Coffee with milk (20) + English muffin (90) with peanut butter (95) & jelly (40) & honeydew (30) - 375
  • Nonfat latte from Starbucks - 100
  • Sandwich on wheat bread with hummus (170), 1 piece of cheese (100), cucumbers & tomatoes (40) - 310
  • Rest of hummus (100) with crackers (140) - 240
  • Honeydew - 30
  • Glass of wine - 120
  • Rice with chicken - 350
Total calories for the day = 1525

No workout for today. I'm not feeling well.

Weekly Spending

Monday - No spend day

Tuesday. Total = $77.88 - Spent $77.88 on groceries (& laundry detergent at Costco). I'm trying a new system where I bring $100 each week for grocery shopping, & stick to that. I can also roll over any savings for weeks that we need to replace staples. My family is full of produce hounds, so we go through both a lot of volume & variety. Out of that total, the breakout is as follows:
  • $15.32 went toward laundry detergent
  • $46.14 went to produce
  • $7.44 went to bread (pita for the inlaws, English muffins for myself & M. I'm determined to find a cheaper replacement for the muffins - $3.45 is a rip off, even for multi grain!
  • $3.99 was for yogurt
  • $4.99 was for individual packages of hummus. I've tried to buy the bigger container & divvy it up, but I'm not good about remembering it, & tend to hit the cafeteria for their $2.99 mini pretzel/hummus combo, so this works out to be FAR cheaper. It would be about 20% cheaper if I divided up the bigger container, but so far I'm a lazy fail on this one. :-)
Wednesday- Total = $113.98 - I had assumed this would be a no spend day, but I got home from work & the inlaws had another list of grocery items from Costco. The lack of planning is killing me, but they are leaving shortly. Given that my mother in law graciously cooks, I tried not to grimace at the thought of hitting Costco two days in a row. The good news is that after my shopping trip on Tuesday night, I discovered that my oldest son needed winter pajamas, so I was able to get those on my second trip. Total at Costco was $113.98. Breakout is as follows:
  • Winter pajamas (2 pair) - $19.68
  • Placemats - $10.39 (an impulse purchase, but something we've been needing forever)
  • Dairy (milk, Laughing Cow cheese) - $12.33
  • Produce - $17.86
  • Coffee - $14.59
  • Olive oil - $19.99
  • Chicken - $15.14
  • Pita bread - $3.99
I'm expecting/hoping the grocery bill will go down drastically once the in-laws leave.

Thursday: No spend day

Friday - Total = $61.35 - Bought yeast at the grocery story for $5.99. Plan to try my hand at making English muffins & reducing one of the higher priced items we buy regularly at Costco. Also had to pick up a vareity of over the counter medicine my in-laws want to bring home. Spent $20.20 on this at Rite Aid. And finally, finally got fall boots today. I spent $35.16 by combining a sale & my Nordstrom notes (from a Nordstrom credit card). The shoes retail for about $120, so I think this was a good deal, & it was under my budget I allocated for the purchase. Win/win! :-)

Saturday Total =$102.18: Shoes for both boys - $96.20. Yikes. When did kids shoes get so expensive? Also, $5.98 at Trader Joe's for whole wheat lavosh bread & cookies for lunches.

And, unexpected windfall! For my anniversary gift, I asked M to detail my car. While he was detailing, he discovered a gift card I thought i lost - $146 towards the gym/salon I frequent. Woo! I've been worried about that gift card for months (didn't know how much I had on it - that would have been even worse, as I thought it was under $50.) What a nice treat. :-)
Sunday Total = $104.29: Today felt like a spendy day. I did my best to match up coupons & ads against the items that we needed, but I still feel like I spent more than I should have. I spent $46.94 at Walgreens in one transaction, getting toothpaste (free after catalina), conditioner (free after coupon & catalina), & 2  Olay moisturizers that I needed. I really only needed one immediately, but there was a coupon in the paper that if you purchased two, you would get a free eye roller from Olay, which is $19. I then rolled the catalinas into my next transaction at Walgreens to get razor blades for M. The quattro blades were BOGO free, which I haven't seen before. Total for 12 blades was $10.13.
I also had to pick up a few things at Target (bread, foil, and a colander for making rice - ours tore apart & the metal was dangerous, & dry shampoo for the gym). Total was $18.22. I had a $5 gift card, so $13.22 out of pocket.

While I was at Target, I bought a $5 gift card at Starbucks & used it to buy a latte. I then registered the card on (via MyPoints, to get 25 MyPoints). Registering the card earned me a free breakfast sandwich coupon (in the mail or email, can't remember which).
Finally, I hit up Rite Aid to use a few UP rewards & pick up some items that were free/close to free after UP & the Single Check Rebate. I got two bags of goldfish crackers for school lunches, a new toothbrush, baby wash, teeth whitening strips, & toothpaste. I spent $29.00, and received $6 in UP rewards. I'm also going to be getting back $5 in SCR. Note that the cashier forgot to take off the $5 of stupid UP rewards that I went to the store to use. Groan. My fault for not paying attention.
TOTAL FOR THE WEEK: $459.68. Much higher than I had hoped. This is our first week of being really disciplined about tracking, so hopefully next week will be better. As noted above, our grocery expenses should definitely be going down as we will have two fewer adults to feed. I'm glad we tracked it, but not thrilled with the number. Onward & downward for next week. :-)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How I'm preparing for Christmas

Although Christmas feels far away, I like to prepare far in advance to both avoid a last minute scramble that leaves me feeling stressed, and blows my budget. Here are a few things I'm doing now to get ready for Christmas.

  1. Make a list. I actually have an Excel spreadsheet that I use & update after each Christmas. For example, last year I noted that a friend & I agreed to not get each other gifts and to go out for dinner instead. By removing her from my gift list, I'll remember not to purchase anything during the mad rush of shopping. My list is comprehensive & includes multiple breakouts: Gift recipients, How much I've spent so far (I track this during the year, if I happen to pick up anything, and up until Christmas), Gifts I've purchased, And, most importantly for me, my budget for the year. I assign a dollar figure to each recipient, and know that if I go over for one person, I'll need to come under budget for someone else in order to achieve my total budget. Of course, I also budget a couple of extra hundred dollars as "slush", as things have a way of creeping up unexpectedly. :-)
  2. Collect gift cards. I do various reward points throughout the year (Swagbucks, My Points, etc) & save all of the Amazon gift cards to purchase toys for the kids.
  3. Discuss early with family & friends. Last year, my immediate family (sister, parents) decided not to exchange gifts among the adults & keep the present exchange for the children. We kept the stockings & each contributed gifts to all of the stockings. That worked well & certainly cut back on a chunk of the budget, shopping, wrapping, etc. The one thing we noticed last year was how much we enjoyed the opportunity to watch the kids open their gifts, rather than hurrying through our own items. Just a few weeks ago, the adults also decided to nix the stockings. Although our situation is not applicable to you, there are likely people that you are exchanging gifts with that you could suggest alternatives if money is tight: skipping the gift exchange altogether, agreeing to meet for dinner (you could do a potluck, if a dinner out is too much), exchange hand crafted gifts with friends, or one of my favorites - do a barter exchange. A friend & I have exchanged babysitting time for birthdays, & it works out exceptionally well. Discussing early gives everyone an opportunity to come to agreement & ensure the early shoppers are not left with gifts they can't use, if you later decide not to exchange.
  4. Start looking for bargains. I'm sure those of you who are far more organized than I am are probably done with your shopping already. :-) You overachievers. I will say this, my kids tastes ebb and flow during the year, so I try not to buy too much in advance. Last year I bought a lot of toys at a summer sale at Target, and the kids had grown out of some of it by the time the holidays rolled around.
  5. Figure out how you'll be paying for the holidays. This, of course, is the holy grail of holiday planning. You must know how much you'll be able to save, and exactly where the money is coming from. This will enable all of the other steps to follow.

I'm mostly a novice at the holiday planning thing, so I'd love to hear from you! What are your tips for ensuring a smooth & (relatively) stress-free holiday season?

A letter to myself in 10 years

I saw a similar post when I was reading through the archives of Punch Debt In the Face. Loved this post & thought it was a great idea.

Fastforward to 2020
Dear Blondie-
How the heck are you? I sincerely hope you are healthy and committed to your fitness. You're in your mid-40s by now, & you can't afford to not appreciate & take advantage of your good health. Similarly, I hope you and M are having ample opportunities for date nights these days, because the boys are 13 & 14! I'm sure they barely want to hang out with you at this point in time, & spend hours roaming the neighborhood with their friends, and at sports practice.

I'm hoping we've traveled as a family, used the beach house regularly and built tons of amazing memories there - sandcastles in the sand, s'mores, bike rides, walks to the ice cream shop, & all of the amazing times that we (and the kids) will look back on and appreciate.

I hope that you are still treating your marriage as your first priority in your life, and treating M with all of the respect & love that he deserves. He's a wonderful guy - take good care of him!

I know you are not still working at the same place, slaving away for "the man", because if you are, I'll be disappointed. I hope you've taken all of that drive & ambition & either made a move to non-profit, or you're working for yourself. And, I hope the same for M.

In terms of finances, I hope in 10 years that you have the flexibility to retire early (now that M is in his mid-50s), and both of you can consider a more relaxed schedule with ample vacation time. I assume we have the boys college accounts fully funded, the vacation house paid off, 75% of our main property paid off, no debt, an extremely generous savings & investment fund, & 401Ks fully loaded.

But most importantly, I hope you've figured out how to balance your responsibilities between family & work, and that family always prevails. I hope you manage your stress well, have hobbies and friends that you love, & that you're making time for "you". And, that maybe you're a little less type A. ;-)

The much younger blondie

Day 5 - Fitness Goals

Weight: 160.6
Here are my fitness goals for today:
  • One 30 minute (or more) cardio workout - achieved
  • A weight training workout (15 minutes, minimum) - achieved
  • 1400 calories for the day -achieved
  • Minimum of 3 servings of fruit & 3 servings of vegetables - achieved
  • Coffee with milk & splenda. - 20 (Trying to ditch the creamer, as it contains HFCS. Not sure if Splenda is worse).
  • 1 homemade english muffin (90) with 1/2 a laughing cow (20) & an egg (80)
  • Strawberries & honeydew - 40
  • Honeydew - 40
  • Rice with chicken & vegetables - 300
  • 1 piece of cheese - 90
  • Pear - 80
  • Rice with yogurt & a persian dish that had egg & vegetables in it. Didn't love it, so I didn't eat very much. - 300
  • Light beer - 99
Total for the day = 1349
3 fruits/3 veggies

Today was my first day running with a watch, & it made a huge difference. I'm a beginner runner & do walk/run combinations. During the course of the run, I ran for 15 minutes & walked for 15 minutes. And I was really pushing myself to make sure that at least half of the workout was running. My next run goal is to move the run up to 17 minutes.