Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Letter to the Best Food Storage Systems EVER

Dear Fit N Fresh:

Thanks for making the best storage containers for my work lunches ever. Seriously, you guys rock. Gone are my days of carrying bags of tupperware around, with multiple containers that risked disintegration and spillage at every narrow doorway. Instead, I have one container that stays cold and allows me to bring multiple things for lunch every day.

Today I'm enjoying your Lunch Chiller, although I also have your Breakfast Chiller and your Lunch On The Go box that compete for my affections. And look at how great Lunch Chiller is doing at keeping my food cold and separated:

So thanks, thanks for providing products that allow me to eat a healthful lunch without having to carry around a bag full of plastic containers. And thanks for making your products pretty snazzy-looking, too. Even though you aren't as cute as Bentos I still love you.


P.S. 1/4 cup ricotta with strawberries and granola on the left; stir-fried tofu, collard greens, broccoli and red bell pepper on the right.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Notebooks and To-Do Lists

I missed my bus to work this morning because I couldn't find my List Book. And then I realized - why does this silly little notebook matter so much to me? Are other people as dependent on notebooks as I am? I seriously cannot leave for work unless I have both of these in my purse/somewhere else easily accessible:

My two babies.

The one on the left is my food/exercise journal - I do write down everything that I eat/drink (except vitamins and water), as well as any exercise that I do. I also keep my Fritter Finder spreadsheet in it (weird combo, right? It just fits better in this one than the other one):

Fritter Finder (left) and food/exercise log (right).

The other one is my List Book. It has lists of phone numbers, to-do lists, grocery lists, menu plans, jotted down recipes, work-out plans, etc. in it. Seriously, I lose my marbles without this! It's without a doubt the most important of the two.

A sample page from my List Book.

I used to write lists of stuff I had to do or important numbers on scrap pieces of paper - which led to the problem of them either being unmanageable on a bulletin board, or lost in various bags and stacks. Notebooks are the key to my sanity.

Do you carry around a notebook or planner that you can't live without?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

This week is nothing special dinner-wise... we have a pretty full freezer and fridge at the moment, so I think we'll mostly be using up what we've got! As always, check out Org Junkie's Website for more menu-planners!

P.S. The mac & cheese from last week's menu plan was sooooo gooooood that I wrote a whole post about it. I highly recommend it!

Monday: Stir fry of leftover veggies, served with brown rice

Tuesday: Ravioli from the freezer, served with steamed veggies

Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner - omelettes and Morningstar Sausage Patties and toast

Thursday (class night): Crockpot Vegetarian Chili

Friday: We'll have a friend in town, so probably dinner out

Saturday: Twice Baked Potatoes and baked tofu (marinated in bbq sauce)

Sunday: Leftovers - lazy Sunday!

Valentine's Day

Hope everyone had a happy Valentine's Day yesterday! I took a 2-day break from posting to spend a little quality time with Matt, and doing stuff around the house. I also had a group project meeting yesterday for school (seriously, who meets in the late afternoon for a school project on Valentine's Day??). I've been amazed at all the lovely things with friends, boyfriends, and other loved ones that people have been blogging about in the last 24 hours, so I thought I'd share some of the love I sent and received yesterday as well.

Our delicious Valentine's Day feast!

Matt and I had our feast of fondue (with apples and bread), wine, and love! Matt had cleaned off the table and put the candles on before I got home from school, which was a nice little surprise. Matt was also very surprised by his Valentine's Day present - a pair of Coachella tickets! Afterwards we munched on chocolate chip cookies and brownies and he let me watch 27 Dresses.

Some cards of "love" sent all over the world!

I am also a firm believer that Valentine's Day is for celebrating all of the loving relationships in your life - including friendships! So I sent out about 10 Valentine's Day cards on Friday/Saturday. The one going the furthest will be making it's way to my sister in France - might be a little late!

There are so many special people in my life that it really takes more than a day to celebrate them. Hope you all enjoyed your love-filled days as well!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Project 12 Update!

Well, it's been exactly a month to the day since I wrote about my first foray into the self-help world with the help of Simple Steps. And let me tell you, despite the simplicity of each of the items listed for weeks 1 through 3, they are NOT easy to implement when they're all put together! Even though I've been at this for over a month, I'm just starting on Week 3 of the program.

Honestly, the thing that's held me back from starting (and finishing) Week 3 of the program has mainly been the step that requires taking a multi-vitamin every day. I have some vitamin restrictions that drastically limit the brands/kinds of vitamins I can safely take to... pre-natal vitamins. Yeah. And we're not scaring people with that yet. So I'd been putting it off, until a trip during work to the local drug store when Rachel showed me that some old-school Flintstones Vitamins met my restrictions! YES, I have delicious, kid-friendly multi-vitamins!

Did you know they have adult instructions/vitamin information on the label? They're not just for kids!

Week 3 is already almost half over, so I'm hoping I can get back to the normal week-to-week pace and actually finish this process up. Week 3's steps include: taking a multi-vitamin every day, being aware of posture and breathing (this is hard, I'm such a sloucher!), cleansing and moisturizing daily, and keeping a clear desktop (I'm working on it!). Here are the things that the program has had me actually implement so far - basic, but again, it's a lot to do every day!
  • 8 cups of water every day
  • Walk 20 minutes every day
  • Clean out one drawer/closet every week
  • Save $2 every day
  • Keep a food journal
  • Isometrics every day
  • Follow a to-do list daily
  • Have an efficient laundry system
I'll give another update in a few weeks as I get further into the process. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I just made the Macaroni and Cheese with Cauliflower from this week's menu plan, and it was the best. mac. ever.

A close up of a bite.

The only alteration I made was using McMenamin's Terminator Stout Mustard instead of dijon mustard - and maybe using a bit more bread-crumbs. But seriously? This is my new go-to mac recipe. The cauliflower-pasta-cheese blend is perfect! I highly recommend it.

The Dreaded Taxes

Does anyone actually like doing taxes? I personally don't mind it, although I can think of a million other things I'd rather do. But most people I know detest it and either put it off as long as possible, or hire someone/buy a computer program to do it for them. I think maybe I'll be changing my tune at this time next year, though, when there are more elements that I'll have to consider and keep track of.

I guess I'm still lucky in that my taxes are fairly simple and straight forward - I live in a state without an income tax, and my federal taxes consist only of my W-2, savings account earnings, education credits, and my 1040 Form. I still print the 1040 off of the website, fill it in with a pen while consulting my trusty graphing calculator, and mail it in with an old-school stamp. It's not that I'm not computer savvy, I just find it easier to finish them this way without having to worry about internet connections and program time outs, etc. Until the government makes me go paperless (or they get so unmanageable that I can't do them myself), this is how I will continue to roll.

I actually sat down and banged 'em out (with the help of the not-so-easy-to-navigate IRS website) in an hour last night, and was pleased to find that my return will be approximately $750 this year! Hooray! That's by far the biggest return I've ever had, and I'm not quite sure what I want to do with it when it comes. Realistically, most of it will go into savings and paying off my remaining student loans, but it'd be nice to get myself some sort of treat, too.

What are you going to do with your tax return this year?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Project 14 - Recipe Storage - Part 1

Over at Org Junkie, I've been reading all about organized recipes and cookbooks - this month's focus for the monthly round-up. Most of the time, I get my recipes off the internet or from my favorite cookbooks, but occasionally I write them down from library cookbooks, or clip them out of magazines, or have them emailed to me. This cork-board in my kitchen has become a landing place for all of them, mostly because I have nowhere else to put them:

Kind of unwieldy, no? I swear, I'd never intended for it to get that bad. I just didn't really have a place to put my recipes, and I've found that shoving them in between pages of cookbooks led to me never finding them again. That is, until I went to Michaels, perusing around the dollar aisles to see what I could find. I happened upon these:

For $4, I got a cute little recipe box and 60 recipe cards! Now to successfully transfer everything over.... I'll post a before and after picture when I'm done.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sometimes you just have to get away from it all

I wrote a little while ago about life in general stressing me out. I've been trying to be better at utilizing my time management methods, but one thing that I've been seriously lacking are some decent stress management techniques. So this weekend, I went on an all day "retreat" held by a Catholic organization here in town that focused on relaxation and rejuvenation. Sometimes it's important to just relax, let everything go, and get away from the outside world for a little while.

Image from Perfect Escapes

The best part of the retreat was getting to try various "centering" activites/treatments that I've always heard about, but never actually gotten to try. There was yoga and massage, obviously (I partake in those two things "regularly" already), but here are some of the new things that I got to try and what I thought:
  • Tai Chi: I, like everyone else, have seen the older women moving slowly in unison in parks during the summer, doing what looks like a cross between dancing and karate in slow motion. I even know a few people that teach it, but I've never tried it. I'm very glad I had the opportunity to participate - it takes concentration and strength to remember what to do and make your body do it so slowly. Not quite the work-out yoga is, but it has many of the same benefits.
  • Reiki: Reiki's a little harder to explain for those of you that don't know what it is. Here's the Wikipedia article if you're interested. I'm still not sure how I feel about this, even after going through a session. Another woman on the retreat claimed she could feel the difference in her knees - I had no such luck. The jury's still out on this one, as I think I'll need another session to really make up my mind about it.
  • Guided Meditation: We did two types of meditation on the retreat - the first involving chimes and Scripture and poetry, the second involving paper, crayons, and an empty mind. I have to say that the latter was my favorite - putting a writing instrument to a piece of paper with my eyes closed and just seeing what my mind came up with was really interesting. Apparently there books on "interpreting" these kinds of drawings, but I prefer to figure it out on my own. The former also had it's good points, although I found myself flinching whenever the chime rang from the noise.
  • Reflexology: I was super skeptical about this, mainly because I have the most ticklish feet ever and it's really tough for me to get pedicures and similar things because I have to focus so hard on not kicking the technicians. However, the reflexologist (is that a word?) assured me that I'd be fine, and got straight to work. I've never been more relaxed in my life! My feet never felt so good! And I was amazed and how I could feel various parts of my body while certain areas of my feet were being worked on. Plus she had this super awesome chair that made me feel weightless - it was hard to get into, but awesome once I was in it!
I had to miss the Qi Gong class to get my massage, and I'm really disappointed about that! I've always wanted to learn more about Qi Gong and see if I enjoy it - oh well, another time.

What I came away with from the retreat were tips and tricks from various disciplines for de-stressing myself at work, and a new appreciation from some other forms of treatment for stress. It was nice to be able to sample so many different things in the same day, without having to set up individual appointments for all of them. Although I think I'm going to be sticking to massage and yoga for the time being, I'll definitely be trying Reflexology and Tai Chi again!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

It's that time again! This week's nothing too spectacular, although I'm really looking forward to our Valentine's Day meal... YUM! Not only are we saving money by having fondue at home instead of at The Melting Pot, we're also keeping within my $150 grocery and $100 food out budget by doing it. As always, check out Org Junkie's website for more menu-planners!

Monday (class night): Didn't get to the Miracle Lasagna last week, so we'll have that first!

Tuesday: Burgers - I'll be having mine with hummus, tomatoes, and maybe some avocado!

Wednesday: Macaroni and Cheese with Cauliflower

Thursday: Baked/Grilled Tofu (marinated in BBQ sauce), with Garlicky Collard Greens

Friday: Stir fry with leftover veggies and brown rice

Saturday (Valentine's Day): Cheese Fondue with apples, bread, carrots, and celery; Chocolate Fondue with brownies, pound cake, strawberries, and bananas. Gotta break out that fondue pot sometimes!

Sunday: Leftovers

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Biggest Loser Update

Well, since Joelle got eliminated this week, I think it's time I give my own Biggest Loser update! We're on week 5 of the 10 week competition, so I'm halfway there! It's been quite the trip so far, and I'm definitely feeling the repercussions of slacking in the first couple of weeks!

As of right now, I am in 5th place among my coworkers. In the 5 week span, I have lost 6.37% of my body weight. I am less than .5% away from the third place person, but a full 2.5% away from first place. This past week, I just barely lost out to one of my coworker "teammates" for the weekly weight-loss champ - I lost 2.62%! Half of the competition still remains, so it's going to be a tough 5 weeks coming up!

Also, Rachel is still kicking butt, and is ahead of me in 4th place. We've got 5 weeks left to dominate, and I think we can do it!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Weekend To-Do List, in Pictures

The end of the work day is fast approaching, and good lord do I have a lot of stuff to do this weekend! Here's what I'm set on accomplishing before heading off to work again on Monday:

1. Do all of my homework, for both of my classes.

2. Do laundry (*sigh*, every weekend!)

3. Plan all meals for this week (including breakfast and lunch!) and grocery shop if I need to.

4. Clean Mojo's bowl!

5. Hit the gym both days this weekend, including one yoga class.

6. Do my taxes!

7. Make (and send) some Valentine's Day cards. (this is the Love, Valentine card collection from Egg Press)

8. Clean the kitchen, and bathroom, and do the dishes.

9. List books and DVDs on eBay and PaperBackSwap.

What's on your plate this weekend?

Book Review: The Frantic Woman's Guide to Life

Aside from reading other women's blogs and checking out my favorite (now defunct) magazine, I haven't really done much investigation into the methods used by others to organize their homes, lives, and checkbooks. Well, it turns out that the local library has quite the selection of books on this subject! While browsing, I thought this book might help me out, so I took it home:

The Frantic Woman's Guide to Life
by: Mary Jo Rulnick

What I loved about this book: The book is separated into three sections: the first is for year-round issues, the second is for issues by month, and the third is a bunch of extra stuff that may or may not be helpful (i.e. a few recipes, lists of things to take on a car trip, etc.). For the most part, I went through the monthly sections in part two to see what advice I could glean. Each month provides a lot of information about commonly celebrated holidays, issues that generally pop up during that month, and helpful tips on preparation for upcoming months. And, best of all (for my list-making-obsessed self), every month has a checklist at the end of it that contains all of the tips in the chapter.

End of chapter checklist for May.

What I disliked about this book: The author really tries to account for women in all stages of adult life. However, I found that there wasn't a whole lot of special information geared towards women living with boyfriends/husbands that do not have children. It's almost as if the author assumed that all readers were either married with kids, or single. A great example was the February chapter, which featured lots of suggestions around Valentines Day - most of them for celebrations and craft projects with children, or ideas for single women without a significant other to spend the day with. Additionally, much of the advice is for home-owners (which I am not) and didn't really account for women in other situations (like apartments, renters, etc.). It was a little off-putting, but not enough to outweigh the rest of the great advice in the book. Plus, this might (over time) make the book more useful - you could use the advice as it pertains to your life now, and then revisit it with a different perspective when you do have children.

Overall Recommendation: This is a good one! I was sad to have to return it to the library, and am considering looking for a second-hand copy somewhere that I can keep. I need it just for the spring cleaning checklist (it's nearly 4 pages long and contains a lot of things that I would never even dream about cleaning!)! However, I'd suggest checking it out from the library first and seeing how much you like it - if you're not a big list person, then you might not be as much of a fan as I am. :)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I need some suggestions...

Matt and I both graduated from college a year and a half ago. Man, are we proud of those super fancy diplomas we put all of that hard work into! We got them, put them in matching frames, and then... they sat in a closet.

It seems kind of silly that this THING that I put so much work into is sitting in a closet collecting dust, but I have no idea what to do with it! I could take it to work, I suppose, but no one in my office has their diplomas on the wall, and we tend to move offices a lot anyway. I could display them in the living room, but I don't know if that's tacky or not.

If you have one, what did you do with your college diploma?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Grocery Blogging

What better time for a grocery post than during the new Top Chef episode! Seriously, I'm in love with Stefan and Fabio in this season. How can you NOT love watching Team Europe talk smack to each other?

Anyway, I went grocery shopping tonight (finally! It's been on my to-do list since Sunday) at the local grocery store. I started out with a decent list - some staples and some bits and pieces for recipes this week - and I have to admit that I succumbed to a few of the sales. Here's what I came away with:

  • 2 1-pound packages of tofu
  • 5 Lean Cuisines (5 for $10... I don't love them, but they are good for the nights that I have to eat dinner at work) - not on the list
  • Almost 3 pounds of grapes - not on the list
  • A 2.5 pound head of cauliflower - not on the list
  • Can of corn, can of stewed tomatoes, and can of black beans for black bean soup
  • Ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses for lasagna
  • Whole wheat english muffins
  • Veggie broth
  • 1/2 gallon of milk
  • A dozen eggs
Total spent: $43.17. Not too bad. This means I have $106.83 left in my grocery budget for my February Food Challenge. Now you might be wondering - why didn't Becca buy many fresh fruits and veggies? Well my friends, I also got my Fresh Abundance box this week! I haven't shared a picture of an actual box yet, so here it is:

There are all kinds of awesome things in here: apples, oranges, pears, bananas, tomatoes, an avocado, an onion, a red pepper, a head of lettuce, two heads of broccoli, a bunch of collard greens, and a fresh bunch of cilantro. I am so excited about the fresh cilantro I can't even tell you. I've never cooked with it before, and I'm excited to find a recipe to try early next week (recommendations welcome)!

Project 13: Stationary Supplies

Despite the fact that I am absolutely horrible at keeping in touch with people, I really enjoy writing and sending letters and cards. Even in the age of email, there's something so fun about getting a physical letter from a far-off place (haha, I just made Spokane sound whimsical)! Unfortunately, I've had my address book, cards, stationary, and card making supplies spread all over my apartment for the last year, making it incredibly difficult to find anything when I needed it. This, of course, meant that I didn't end up sending what I needed to (uh... Christmas cards? Yeah, those didn't happen). So this weekend, I embarked on Project 13: Stationary Supplies, to organize all of my thank-you notes, stationary, cards, etc.

Step 1: Round it all up in one place.
Card making supplies and stationary.

Step 2: Neatly arrange it all in a pretty box.Everything all neatly arranged in it's new home!

Step 3: Put the lid on and store that bad boy!
So much prettier and easy to find!

The most important part of this process was getting rid of all of the superfluous packaging! I didn't realize how much space a little pack of thank-you notes took up because of its little box - and when you have 10 little boxes, so much room is lost! Also, the box I used is a photo storage box from Michaels; when I bought it, they were on sale for under $4 a piece. They fit cards and envelopes very nicely, and come with little dividers that you could use to separate cards by type if you wanted. I highly recommend them.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

February Budget

One of my New Years Resolutions for 2009 is to make a budget and stick to it. Unfortunately, I fell down pretty hard on this one in January. I actually have no idea how much money I spent last month - I could figure it out if I really wanted to, but I don't. It's depressing.

Well, it's time for a change! I'm taking Krystal's February Food Challenge, which for me is going to be $250 - $150 for groceries, and $100 for food out (food at work and meals out). This is going to be a challenge, since we'll be spending a three day weekend in Portland this month, and Valentine's Day always prompts food purchases. Honestly, though, menu-planning and packing a lunch for work seem to have really taken care of a lot of my miscellaneous food expenses, so I think this is totally doable if I commit to bringing my lunch and saving the $100 for a date night or two and Portland!

I'm also going back to the Fritter Finder spreadsheet that I used for several months at the end of last year to keep track of expenses. I've set a goal for myself of keeping miscellaneous spending below $400 for the month - which will be a challenge for sure considering the Portland trip and a few other adventures I have planned for the month.

If nothing else, I figure February is a short month, so it can't be too hard to meet these goals, right? :D

Storing Magazines

I love love LOVE magazines. I love getting them in the mail. I love flipping through the pages and seeing all the glossy photos and the bold headlines. I even enjoy the ads; it's the bright colors, creative photography, and snappy wording that gets me every time. Unfortunately, this means I have a LOT of them, and there is nothing harder than trying to declutter a ridiculously huge stack of magazines.

My magazine storage bin at home.

You're probably wondering - what the heck is that binder in there for? Well, that's my magazine decluttering secret! Every time the bin gets full, I take all of them out and put them "in the binder". Let me show you how it works:

Magazine, binder, three-hole punch, paper, scissors.

Basically, the reason that I usually hold on to a magazine is for an article or two - but what's the point of keeping an entire magazine just for that? If the article is double-sided, I rip the whole page out, hole punch it, and stick it in the binder. If it's a smaller article, only taking up part of a page, I clip it and attach it to a sheet of notebook paper. Then the magazine gets recycled!

Finished product!

It is so much easier to flip through the pages of a notebook looking for an article than shifting through a stack of magazines trying to remember which one it was in. Anyway, I just thought I'd share this little tip with you all - it's helped me keep down the clutter tremendously.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Oops! I totally forgot that I hadn't posted my menu for this week yet! I bought a little magnetized Menu Plan pad for the fridge at Michaels, and didn't even realize that I had yet to transfer it! Oops! Anyway, this week is going to be a kind of eat-what's-in-the-pantry/fridge/freezer week, so not a whole lot in the cooking from scratch department. Don't forget to check out Org Junkie's website for more menu-planners!

Monday (class night): Leftovers (I have Shepherd's Pie, Matt has pulled chicken)

Tuesday: Spaghetti and steamed veggies; garlic bread if I make it to the store before dinner!

Wednesday: Tofu and veggies and brown rice in this stuff:

Thursday (class night): Soup and grilled cheese

Friday: Black Bean Vegetable Soup

Saturday: Miracle Lasagna and some veggies/garlic bread on the side

Sunday: Maybe a trip out for Thai food? Either that or leftovers.