Things I Think I’ve Forgotten to Mention This Week…

Frugality:  Grocery costs totalled $40 this week…ten bucks under budget.  This month’s takeout is a little over….about $65.  I went out with my friend Sarah for Mexican on Tuesday…unplanned, but very worthwhile expense.  I’m all for budgeting, but I don’t want to forsake hanging out with a friend who needs some time out of the house. 

Knitting:  I worked on my mom’s skinny scarf at choir last night.  I need to work on my bell-sleeved shrug, too.  From reading other knitters’ comments about this pattern, it appears that I’m not the only one who noticed that it was waaaaaaaaay too short.  Someone gave the measurements for how long they knitted the sleeves and back, so I’m back in the game.  And, on a slightly unrelated note, I got a solo on a pretty awesome song for our conference in March.  Yay!

Grad School:  Discussion posts done for World Lit.  Will commence discussion posts for Asian-American Lit soon.  Good reading, good movies.  Lots of work.

Eating:  Not great…I weighed myself this morning.  We’ll leave it at that.

Work:  This week, I’ve discovered yet another new way that I’m just like my father (which I definitely don’t mind, fyi).  Meetings are worthless.  Just leave me alone and let me do my job.  I’ll be much happier that way.  So will my clients.

Weather:  Today:  Sunny and 60.  Tomorrow: Cold and Rainy.  Tomorrow night/Saturday am:  1-4 inches of snow.  The grocery stores are packed.  People must have bread and milk.  I swear, in the South, I think that even VEGANS buy milk when they hear that snow is coming.  Perhaps it’s a conspiracy between the grocery industry and the dairy board…hmmm…

Shelli:  We haven’t had a pee incident in a month.  She is now allowed in the bedroom without supervision and we’re not shutting the bathroom door anymore.  The toy of the day has been the mouse on wheels that Gma-Gpa got her for Christmas.  She drug it out of her basket last night.  It rolls really fast if you pull it backward and then push it forward.

TV:  Fell asleep during our taped-watching of NCIS.  The State of the Union Address meant no Criminal Minds.  No McGee and No Dr. Reid….a sad week…

Fitness:  Killer workouts on Monday and today.  Will probably go back tomorrow.  Joey worked out with his friend (and drill-instructor) Wesley.  He keeps crying every time he coughs.

I wish Shelli didn’t always look pissed when I take a pic.  I also don’t get many “in motion” photos in the winter.  The house is on 60*.  She ain’t moving.

So many toys, so little time…

Last Week’s Menu Wrap-up and Menu Plan for the Week

My original menu plan for last week:

  • Sunday:  Falafel and Salad
  • Monday:  Veggie Fajitas
  • Tuesday:  Veggie “Fried” Rice
  • Wednesday:  Leftovers
  • Thursday:  Calzones (homemade dough)
  • Friday:  Japanese Soba Soup
  • Saturday:  Spicy Potatoes

Here’s what we ended up having:

  • Sunday:  Falafel/salad
  • Monday:  Fajitas
  • Tuesday:  leftovers/scrounge night
  • Wednesday:  Veggie “fried” rice
  • Thursday:  noodles and cheese
  • Friday:  Homemade pizza (with homemade whole-wheat crust)
  • Saturday:  Spicy baked potatoes/salad

So, not too bad…we stuck to the plan very well, and even when we didn’t, we used things that we had at the house and didn’t run out for takeout or to buy anything else at the store.

This week’s plan:

  • Sunday (today):  Brinner (eggs, pancakes, maybe homefries)
  • Monday:  Cabbage and Rice
  • Tuesday:  Falafel (by Joey request.  I’ll be tweaking the original recipe)
  • Wednesday:  Leftovers/scrounge
  • Thursday:  Spinach/mushroom macaroni bake
  • Friday:  Sweet potato gnocchi
  • Saturday:  Veggie Fajitas
  • Sunday:  Homemade pizzas, one white and one regular.

Today is grocery shopping day; I’ve got my list ready!

When Did Napping Become So Fun? And a Milestone in my Depression/Anxiety Journey

It goes without saying that Shelli thinks naps are awesome.  She’s a cat, so she spends somewhere between eighteen and twenty hours doing it.  And, since we keep it so cold in the house to save heating costs, she’s practically hibernating anyway.  But, to be honest, I’ve never been very big on naps.  I used to take them every now and then when I was in high school after I got home from school.  Until the past few years, though, Joey would be the napper and I’d stay up and watch tv or read or surf the web.  There’s so much going on these days, though, that I’m really starting to appreciate the joy of the nap…today, I slept for two hours and was so groggy when I woke up.  I hate being groggy in the afternoon, though.

I need to plan our menu for this week so we can go grocery shopping tomorrow.  While I didn’t stick totally to the plan for this week, we have had all of our meals at home and haven’t eaten out or strayed from the budget.  Our final grocery total for the week:  $49.00!  We were at $47, but we might have a guest for dinner tonight and needed to get him a potato.  I’ve done three new recipes this week also(Falafel, whole wheat pizza crust (with no yeast) and spicy baked potatoes).  Building your recipe repertoire is an excellent way to keep yourself from falling into the takeout trap.  Who needs to spend twenty bucks on dinner when you can whip up something pretty tasty in just a few minutes on your own?

Meal planning has also helped me to eat better this week, which will pay off for my weight loss goal.  Rather than hoping that the restaurant didn’t cook the food in tons of oil and knowing that they covered it in a greasy sauce, I know exactly what we put in the food.  And, I’m looking for ways to sneak veggies into everything I make.  My big success this week has been adding tomatoes to my omelets in the morning.  Sprinkle a little parm in there too and add hot sauce and it’s got a good buffalo flavor!

Yesterday was a pretty awesome milestone for me; a year and a half after I began treatment for my depression/anxiety disorder, I was finally able to go see my psychiatrist and tell him that I’m doing great and that I finally feel like I’m at a point where it’s manageable.  He was thrilled and really made me feel like I’d accomplished something huge, which I guess if I really think about it, I have.  So many people either never seek treatment or never follow through with it because it’s hard.  Depression/Anxiety is such a difficult thing to understand…you hate it and wonder why other people are able to cope with life, but it’s also what you are used to; it’s comfortable.  You desperately want to escape from the dwelling, fear, constant replaying of things in your mind, the repetitive negative and fearful thoughts, the hopelessness and worthlessness, but you also worry that, if you seek help, someone’s going to think you’re “crazy.”  You think that you may be blowing things up in your own mind and that everyone goes through this.  You’re afraid that, if you seek help and it starts to work, that it may stop and you can’t live with going back.

It took me years and years and years to finally admit that I probably had a problem that other people don’t have and that I needed to get help for it.  I had gotten to the point where I was asking him whether he thought I had cancer about every five minutes.  Because I work in life insurance, I didn’t want to go to the doctor because I know how much having tons of testing done can screw up your insurance rates (as though I was actually planning to apply any time soon).  I was paralyzed by the fear that every pain or little problem I was having surely must be terminal cancer…I had even gotten to the point that, when trying to make decisions, I would think to myself that it didn’t really matter because I wouldn’t be around to face whatever consequences there were.  And it wouldn’t stop.

The past year and a half have been a tough journey…the meds helped, and then the help would wane.  Once my anxiety was under control, my depression started to get a little out of hand.  But here I am, nineteen months later, at a point where I’m able to cope with the world.  Not only am I free of the constant fear that I have cancer, I also care enough to try to make changes to help prevent preventable illnesses.  I don’t leave a party or a night with friends thinking that I must have said something ridiculous and that they’ll never like me.  I don’t have days of diahrreah before I sing in front of lots of people.  I’m relaxed.  I care less about what people think of me.  I’m brave enough to do things that would have scared me before (firearms training and tattoos).  I finally feel like I’m relatively “normal.” 

I still cry and cry over cruelty to animals, over injustice to people.  I still worry about my parents (although not to a crippling level anymore).  I still get down over stupid things.  But it doesn’t control my life anymore.  So, if you read this and you’re struggling with depression or anxiety:  GET HELP.  NOW.  Don’t think it over.  Find a good psychiatrist.  If you’re a Christian and you’re afraid, don’t be.  My psychiatrist shares my religious beliefs and would never blame my faith for any problems.  Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of well-meaning “Church” people who tell you to pray about it or to trust Jesus more.  That’s a load of bull.  These problems don’t have to do with your faith.  They are PHYSICAL problems that have MENTAL/EMOTIONAL symptoms.  You’re not a bad Christian if you have to have medication to help with that.  And if someone tells you that, then they’re not being a very good Christian.

When I got to the point where I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of having to spend the next sixty years of my life feeling this way, I realized that it was time for action.  Don’t wait that long.  You’re worth more than that.

Ok, enough of that….time to get to the potatoes:).  Have a good night!!

The Blur That Was 2009

This year:

  1. I started graduate school and completed five classes, getting straight A’s in each.
  2. Joey and I went to the beach for a short weekend getaway.
  3. We spent every moment possible hanging out with James before he left for Iraq for the year.
  4. I made a lifelong friend in Shannon and we got to be a part of the Garzoni family.
  5. We camped in July and October, the latter in tents and with sleet.
  6. I sprained my ankle.
  7. We took James to Indy to report for duty and, for the first time, I had to say goodbye to a friend as he went off to war.
  8. I learned to knit cables.
  9. I finally got control over my depression and anxiety and found out that I’m stronger than I think I am.
  10. I made an almost-100% handmade Christmas.

I also started a food blog, started writing as a featured publisher for FoodBuzz, and I started writing for Examiner.com as Charlotte’s Frugal Living Examiner (yes, I’ve been super-slack this month).  And, one of the most important things that happened this year was that I became a vegetarian after we lost Lady in February.

Time always goes so much faster than you want it to.  I’ve noticed this already…last month, Joey and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary.  My ten-year high school reunion (which I couldn’t attend) was this past weekend.  Ten years.  I don’t feel that much older.  I don’t feel like my family is that much older.  It all went so fast.

However, this year, I think I’m ready for 2010.  While I am proud of what I was able to do in 2009, I also left a lot undone:

  1. I was not successful in my diet/exercise endeavors and, in fact, gained ten pounds this year.
  2. I continue to procrastinate at school, which makes me feel like I’m squandering a huge opportunity I’m being given.
  3. I let my frugality go for the sake of convenience…takeout, the grocery store near the house, etc.
  4. I did not declutter my house.

So, there are things that I want to tackle in 2010…a list will come later, but I know that I’m ready to let 2009 be the past and to jump headfirst into 2010.

Surviving Christmas-Mania…

I’d been dreading the past two weeks for most of the latter part of the year because of how much I would have to do…last week, it was the five final assignments for the semester plus ITC09.  This week, it was the myriad of holiday events that I had scheduled.  On my calendar, I had:  Tuesday night:  Work ornament exchange party, Wednesday night:  ITC09 wrap party, Thursday:  Office gift exchange, Friday night:  Office Christmas party.  Two of these things were going to require that I buy something and one would require me to cook something.  Here’s what I did to pare down:

  • I bowed out of the Ornament Exchange Tuesday night; that made THREE work events that week, and while I love my coworkers, I don’t really relish spending two nights out with the same people with whom I spend the bulk of my waking life.  Bowing out of that cut out both one event and one gift to buy!
  • Rather than making a homemade dish for Thursday, I bought a tub of hummus and some fancy chips on sale at the Teeter.  Time spent slaving in the kitchen cut from the calendar.
  • I got a gift on clearance for the exchange Thursday while we were killing time before the wrap party on Wednesday night….getting something done during dead time, another calendar clearer!

So, just a few small moves reduced my schedule to something more bearable and helped a ton with my stress level. Finding yourself stressed to the max this holiday season?  Take a hard look at your calendar.  Write down your commitments and also write down the “costs” of those commitments (cooking something, buying something, driving two hours to get there, etc).  After that, first look for events that you may be able to cut out entirely.  Three work events in one week?  A little excessive.  Bow out of one.  Then, look for ways that you can streamline the events that you choose to keep.  Let the desire to make things from scratch go a little this year.  You’ll be thankful and much less frazzled.

Thursday was our Office gift Exchange; check out the spread!

It was great food and a great time; our gift exchange even went smoothly without anyone getting violent;).

Last night was our nice Christmas party…our boss had it at his house and it was catered in.  I wish I could have taken pictures because everything was so beautiful.  After a great dinner and a few rounds of Rock Band, we were all thoroughly worn out and left around 10:15.

This morning, we met Mom and Dad for breakfast before the dress rehearsal for their musical.  Joey is sick, so he’s piled up in the recliner under a blanket:

The strange tumor on his torso is Shelli.

A Minimalist Christmas…or an Attempt, at Least

A vintage Kins-shot to start the post; I found lots of old pics on our external hard drive, so I saved some to include in posts for you.  This one was particularly cute, I think…Shelli was very interested in the camera.  you can also see her little shaved belly; they spayed her at six weeks; sometimes they do that to help them be more adoptable.  It helped us a lot because we couldn’t have afforded the spay fee.

I don’t feel like talking about food today.  Suffice it to say that I had too much of it yesterday and the day before and that I’m pissed about that and plan to eat extremely cleanly for the next week at least.  Also suffice it to say that I’ve learned a very important lesson about being a vegetarian at omnivore family gatherings:  I will need to bring a very good veggie dish to every one I go to.  Green beans?  Cooked in beef stock.  Turnip greens?  Same thing.  My options?  Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes.  I’m sick of them.  Anyway, on to other things.

One of the most fundamental aspects of voluntary simplicity is the idea of “minimalism,” or reducing one’s possessions down to what is absolutely necessary and/or important.  Possessions should reflect one’s values, and those values should not include amassing as much “stuff” as possible.  One of the first steps, I daresay, into a more simple life is taking inventory of one’s possessions and paring them down to the important stuff.

We’ve done this a few times; we’ve had two or three yard sales and have made decent money, but we’re still really bad about keeping stuff because “we might need it later.”  I’m over that.  We have an office that we can’t even get into, and the dresser in the bedroom is so covered with junk that I have to stand on tiptoes to put my hair in a ponytail in the morning.  Our mission for the next few weeks is going to be to get those rooms cleared out.

A truly minimalist Christmas is impossible for me; I’m stuck in the corporate world, and we have THREE, yes, you heard me right, THREE holiday “events” that we have to participate in.  And, as much as I like the people I work with, the amount of time/energy/money that we have to spend on those events is incredibly draining.  Then, our church puts on a musical every year, with six performances (and a dress rehersal) that ends up taking up an entire week of our lives, and then we need to fit in a Sunday School fellowship…etc, and the list goes on.  For me, this year, our commitments will not allow for minimalism (although watch out, because that very well may change next year), but at least I can take some steps now to help reduce the clutter and stress of the holiday season.  Here’s what I’m doing:

  1. cleaning off the dresser
  2. getting rid of articles/paperwork that I don’t need anymore
  3. putting away/organizing my shoes
  4. getting the bedroom closet so that we can store clothes in there again.
  5. starting on the office

Now, anyone can “clean.”  The point of the minimalist-driven clutter project is to take a very hard look at EVERY item and asking oneself whether or not it’s really that important.  Have you used it in the last three months?  four months?  If not, then you probably want to sell it, donate it, or chuck it if you can’t do anything else.  Don’t be overly sentimental; just let it go.

If you need help mustering up the courage to start, check out Far Beyond the Stars.  This guy is extremely serious about the minimalist lifestyle, to the extreme.  While the lengths to which he goes may not be for everyone, his philosphy is something that can really be taken to heart, and his tips are worthwhile, regardless of what level you’re comfortable taking them to.

Enjoy your Saturday!