Monday, September 16, 2013

What's Happening Lately: Back to School Edition

So as I mentioned before, I've been away due to achieving the (for a while there) seemingly impossible in the form of a teaching position for the 2013-2014 school year. So far, it's been good! Hectic, exhausting, and stressful as all get out, but good. I'm enjoying where I work, and as frantic and overwhelming as it can be, I love what I do! While I always have a few knuckleheads (its the nature of the beast), so far I'm getting lots of good feedback from admins, fellow teachers, and even the students, who seem to like me and our lessons! :) (I'm teaching 7th grade English and an art elective - so far, so fun!) The stress is mostly caused from spreading myself a leetle thin at the moment because I'm a volleyball addict as well, so I took on the volleyball coach position for our school on very short notice, and now I'm getting ready for volleyball at the last minute while still catching up from being hired just before the school year started! GENIUS. Oh, did I mention progress reports are due this week? *sigh* One of these years I'll catch up.

Regardless, I'm not QUITE ready to resume blog duties, as I still come home most nights around 6pm. So, yeah. Blogging is important to me, but not as important as my actual life and its needs. I'm still finding my housewifery groove - the last few weeks AND weekends have left little time for recuperation, and this was the first weekend where I actually RELAXED. (Unfortunately, the relaxation was kind of ruined by other personal stuff - nothing major, and it'll get dealt with, it just helped me realize how stressed I've been and how poorly I've been dealing with it.)

My goal is to work on entries when I have time, pre-post them, and when I have a decent backlog of non-"What's Happening Lately"-style ones to supplement my "current events" posts, I'll post them! I look forward to sharing my own tips and tricks that I've had to develop as part of my survival and make my day-to-day life easier. Once I'm back on track, I'll let you know! I'm giving myself until October 1st, which I think is very reasonable AND allows me some motivation to plan some fun Autumn-related stuff. It's on the brink of my favorite holiday season, after all - HalloThanksXmas! ;D

See you in October!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Unintentional Vacation - It's a GOOD Thing!

Hey y'all!

I have to take a little time away from el blog-o. Nothing serious, just BUSY.

Life took a crazy turn last week (which, since I wrote all those posts in advance, I didn't have a chance to share and edit), and ended on a good note. I've attained a teaching position, which is great! School starts Wednesday, though, and I have had very little time to prepare for it, so I want to just focus on doing my job well. Children are the future and all that happy crap. ;D

I'll be back in September, aiming to post at least 2-3 times a week again. Promise!

Until then...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Foodie Friday: Healthy Eating Recipes!

Let's be honest: You're here for the recipes, right? ;D I understand. Let's cover the food first, then if you're curious how I'm eating/exercising, that'll be below the "Read More" link!

Here are some of my favorite recipes that are low-calorie, and easily served alongside some veggies (if they don't incorporate veggies already)!

The one pictured above is my own mish-mash that I like to call "Asian Goulash" (even though it has nothing in common with actual goulash). I love Chicken Lettuce Wraps from P.F. Chang's, but it's an awfully expensive option. ;) I found this recipe from YumSugar years ago, and basically mish-mashed the recipe into my own combination of them. If I don't feel like scooping it into lettuce, I'll serve it over rice instead with a little extra sauce. This recipe doubles easily if you have more people to feed; I designed it for one large serving each for 2 people (The Hubs and myself).

Asian "Goulash"

1/2 pound ground meat (I used turkey)
1/2 of an 8oz can of water chestnuts, chopped into bite-size pieces
2-3 celery stalks, chopped into small pieces
1 Tbsp minced garlic (or less, if you're not as into garlic as I am - I loooove garlic)
1 tsp minced fresh ginger OR 1/4 tsp ground ginger
3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, split
1 Tbsp hoisin or oyster sauce (whatever you prefer), split
1 tsp corn starch, split
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
dash of sesame oil (optional)
minced green onions (optional)
lettuce leaves (I love butter lettuce for this) or cooked rice

  1. Chop your veggies and aromatics first! Sprinkle 1/2 a tsp of cornstarch over the ground turkey and mix it up. (The cornstarch will help give the sauce something to adhere to later.)
  2. Mix 1.5 Tbsp of soy sauce and 1/2 a Tbsp of hoisin/oyster (whichever you chose). Go ahead and mix the remaining soy and hoisin, 1/2 a tsp of cornstarch, pepper flakes, and  sesame oil (if including); it'll be your sauce for pouring over the meat and rice. We're prepping all this stuff ahead because the cooking process will go FAST.
  3. Spray a little cooking spray on your skillet. Throw in the garlic and ginger, and stir around a little, about 1 minute. Add the cornstarched-mixed meat, and cook until meat is cooked through. 
  4. Add in the celery and water chestnuts. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring around. 
  5. Pour the soy/hoisin-only mixture over the meat and veggies, and stir around to make sure everything's covered. You're done!
  6. Serve over rice or in washed lettuce leaves, pouring the sauce over it if you desire. (If you don't think you'll want sauce, use it during the cooking process. The Hubs likes having extra sauce so I save half for serving.) Enjoy!
Served over rice, each serving is 352 calories, 9.4g fat, 37.3g carbs (4g of fiber!), and 28g of protein! SUPER-filling.

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

I actually typed the recipe up over on SparkRecipes already. But it's mine! I modified it from a vegan recipe on because I like cheese too much to substitute the fake stuff. ;p

Other healthy recipes I like that I didn't create:
Sausage and Brown Rice casserole (I sub in carrots and cauliflower for the bell pepper)
Slow-Cooker Teriyaki Pork  (I serve it over brown rice and steamed broccoli!)
Fagioli Soup - pasta fagioli soup without the pasta
Cheeseburger Soup - Low carb and deeee-lish!

What's great about all of these recipes is that they HAPPEN to be healthy while also being super-tasty! The Hubs does NOT complain when we eat these, and I don't feel like all I'm eating is lettuce.

If you'd like to know what my general eating and exercise practices are, click on "Read More"!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What Works for Me: Healthy Habits Checklist (Free Printable!)

  Download link: JPG  PDF

So not only am I doing all that healthy eating junk, but I'm ALSO getting my teeth health junk in order, too! Nothing serious, but my dentist would like me to brush my teeth twice a day (I'm a mornings-only brusher) and floss at least once a day (Yup, I'm REALLY bad). I'm naturally blessed with good quality teeth; I'll be 32 this year, and I still have only had one official cavity! My gums aren't great, though, and I went through a deep root planing 2 years ago and I will be DARNED if I have to go through THAT again, ugh. (I'm sure it's nowhere near as bad as a root canal, but it was bad enough to make me want to be better about my teeth!)

I've been pretty good the last week or so, but it's not a habit yet, so I thought it might help to put a little checklist near my bathroom mirror so I can check it off. I wanted it to be reusable, and then I decided I wanted it to be cute, too! So my solution: Make a cute graphic (like the one above - yup, I made that!), and use one of my favorite teacher tricks for cheap whiteboards: Put it in a document protector and use wet/dry erase markers for the writing and checking!

Use the wet-erase marker for the habits you want to work on, and the dry-erase marker for the check marks. This way, you can erase your check marks without having to re-write your goals every day. (Of course, you could always use PicMonkey to "write" it on the image itself.)

I haven't had a chance to take a picture of it in action, but it's nothing fancy, just in the clear sheet protector. :)

Hopefully this checklist helps you keep track of your daily goals! You can do it!

Monday, August 12, 2013

What Works For Me: Healthy Changes

As I've mentioned before, I have health issues that I'm treating. One of the best ways to treat these issues is eating healthy and exercise - you know, the two things that were, like, ZERO fun for me. ;)

I'm a firm believer that people only change when they're ready, regardless of how necessary those changes may be. I notice when I'm open to the change, and I try to seize the moment. As such, I've been slowly working my way towards eating better and exercise over the last year... VERY slowly on the exercise front. Now things are starting to come together, and I'm starting to feel really great about my progress!

Don't worry, this is NOT turning into a health-based blog. (There are way better ones out there!) It's been my focus of late, though, so I needed to "blog it out". All these changes don't make me an expert, but I like to share what works for me because it might work for someone else, too! Here are the unofficial "rules" I live by which are helping me succeed at the moment:
  • Start small, and find compromises when you can! This was the best advice I've read, and I wish I'd saved the blog where I found it! Specifically, the advice was to just focus on giving up something you know is bad for you for now, and as you become accustomed, try giving up another bad thing. It was easy to switch my chemical-laden coffee creamer to all-natural half-and-half (as the entry suggested), but I knew diet soda was going to be harder and I'd have to find a happy medium. My endocrinologist says stevia is ok for my dietary needs - so I've switched to Zevia-brand soda, which is the only one I've found made with stevia. I make sure to have no more than 2 a day, usually as a "treat" with my lunch and dinner. It keeps me sane, it's better for me, and I've noticed that it doesn't dehydrate me as much as other artificial sweeteners did!  
  • Make the end goal reasonable. A specific measurable goal that's reasonable is good: right now my goal is to lose 5% of my body weight overall. The number on the scale is just a measurement tool, though, and it doesn't decide my overall success, especially considering my PCOS makes weight loss veeeeeery slow-going, so I don't want to make the scale my main measurement. My overall goal in this is to improve my overall health; if I only lose 2 pounds, but my endocrinologist sees an overall improvement in my numbers, I'm going to feel successful! Losing 5% of my current weight might make a marginal change in my appearance, but it will improve my overall health a LOT.
  • Find the easiest way to do it. Veggies was the hardest thing to add to my diet when it hasn't been a regular part of it. So I found the easiest ways to incorporate them! Aside from the recipes I linked, I buy a big box of mixed greens and spinach for easy salads, and frozen broccoli or cauliflower that I steam in the microwave for a quick dinner side (I'll dress them with a sprinkle of salt and garlic powder). Those are veggies that I like and don't feel annoyed to eat, and that take mere minutes to prepare. I eat a big salad typically with lunch, and then veggies with dinner (If I'm feeling esp. sassy, I'll have a salad AND frozen veg with dinner!) Do the same with your health bugaboo - find the easiest way to incorporate or address it. 
  • Give in to a craving - within reason. You've probably seen this before, but it's really true; if you are legitimately craving something to the point of distraction, give in and get it out of your system. BUT do it in moderation! Here are my rules for myself when it comes to cravings: I have to have thought about it for at least 3 days in a row, I don't substitute it with something that won't quell the craving, and I have to buy the smallest 1 serving amount of it that I can (and that's ALL I buy).  I love nacho cheese Doritos, but I know I can eat a whole bag in one sitting - so I keep them out of the house. If a craving hits, I'll buy the smallest 1 serving bag I can find, and I'll enjoy it. It gets the craving out of my system, I don't feel like I've deprived myself, and there's no more in the house because I only bought the 1 serving.
  • When eating out, pick one indulgence.  The point of eating out, in my opinion, is to indulge. When you're trying to eat better, though, eating out often is NOT going to help. So I'm trying to eat better when I do eat out by sacrificing something or including something I might not normally. If it's a burger place, I will usually get the burger I want and sacrifice the fries for veggies instead. Yes, I'm still eating a not-great food, but I'm only eating one "naughty" element as opposed to an entire "naughty" meal, and I'm also getting my veggies in with it and the tastes that made me want to eat out in the first place.
  • Don't beat yourself up over a bad day. This is the hardest truth, but it's the most important one. We're human and we're going to make mistakes. I am extremely susceptible to the "Well, I screwed up, might as well just give up entirely" attitude. So far, I've managed to get over myself and just start fresh with the next meal. For example, I'd been craving beef broccoli with fried rice from my fave local Chinese place for a week, so I indulged the other day. It was waaaay too much food, and I felt STUFFED and regretted a little. BUT I recognized that it got the craving out of my system, and I had a very reasonable dinner to make up for it. I moved on from my mistake instead of drowning in it.
  • Figure out what works for YOU - you may have to switch it up until you find your best method! These are all tips that work for me: gradual small changes that add up to good health. Some people, though, can just completely turn a 180 from old habits and thrive! If that works for you, then keep on keepin' on! When something's not working, try something else. My eating changes are all manageable for me, and I can feel the change (and see it - my clothes are a little loose and friends are asking if I've lost weight). This first week of incorporating exercise is working well for me because I know what works for me and my attitudes, and I also know to not push myself, lest I hurt myself and have to stop, which will make me lose momentum; I figure as long as I break a sweat and am slightly out of breath by the end, I did my job for now. As it gets easier, I'll push myself harder. Consider your habits and your natural inclinations, and work with them, not against them.
For Foodie Friday, I'll share my eating and exercising changes, along with my favorite healthy meal ideas; this entry's long enough! Come back Wednesday for another helpful idea in making healthy habits stick!

Follow me on Twitter or Instagram to keep me accountable! I figure if I'm going to talk the talk, I better walk the walk, so I'll be posting picture collages of my meals for the day and logging my exercise! I won't spam your feeds, most likely 1-3 posts a day at the most.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Foodie Friday - 3 Fast Meal Ideas!

As I've mentioned before (multiple times), I am a lazy cook. If I can afford to go pick up the meal, I'm probably gonna go pick up the meal.

Of course, when one is trying to eat healthy, picking up a meal that's healthy-ish and cheap is a near-impossible feat! Good for you food fast tends to be more expensive; seriously, getting a meal-sized salad or adding a side of steamed veggies is more expensive than just eating the fries that come with most meals!Of course, when funds are limited, that's not an option, either. So what's left to do but order the cheap, bad-for-you option? Especially when cooking just takes sooooo long...

Not necessarily!

I've found that, for myself, the less time I have to spend prepping, the happier I am to cook from home. One thing that saves prep time is to buy cheap shortcuts, such as frozen veggies and frozen sides like rice; I try to avoid processed sides like Carb-A-Ronis because there's so much unknown crap in them! Even cheaper is to buy the stuff fresh and freeze it yourself, which I'll do when I can with things like rice or beans.

Here's three of my favorite quick meal ideas for when I want something fast, tasty, and don't want to eat from a fast food restaurant!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

5 Favorite Things (About Sacramento!)

So I live near the state capitol of California - Sacramento! This past July 1st was our 7-year anniversary; we still live in the same apartment, even. (Although that time is probably coming to an end soon - we'll discuss that some other time.)

When we moved here, we thought this would be somewhat temporary; we both grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and figured we'd move back once we were a little more financially viable. We never considered Sacramento a possible permanent home, but now I can't imagine moving back to the Bay. I'm NOT saying I don't miss it like crazy sometimes, but it's become a nice place to visit and reminisce. Sacramento is where The Hubs and I have spent most of our time together, and it feels more like home now.

So here are my 5 favorite things about Sacramento and the surrounding area:
  • The Capitol building. It's GORGEOUS, and I love seeing it from various cross streets. During the day or at night, it's a sight to see. Also adding to its gorgeousness: Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. YUM. Despite his working regularly in close proximity, I've yet to actually see him. Mainly because stalking is illegal and I also know I would make a damn fool out of m'self if I saw him, squeeing like a teen girl at a One Direction concert.
  • The Crocker Art Museum - I lived here for 6 years before I finally checked it out - then I checked it out twice in six months! First time was with my fellow art/theater nerd N, and second time was with The Hubs (they had a fantastic Norman Rockwell exhibit that we were both interested in viewing). It was just the old Crocker mansion, but then they expanded it into a modern building in addition to the original mansion. 
  • The Sacramento Rivercats, our local minor league baseball team - The Hubs is a huge SF Giants fan - and unfortunately, the Rivercats are the feeder team for the Oakland A's (doh!). We don't hold it against them, though. Raley Field, where they play, is a very nice park with good concessions, and I enjoy the little extra entertainments they throw in for the kids and between innings. All this makes for a fun night out during the summer months!
  • Ghostbusters! That's right, who ya gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS! I first saw them during a local 4th of July parade, but I've seen the car driving around at least twice since. It always makes me smile. They're committed cosplayers (so as a huge nerd I LOVE that), and they do charity work. How can you not love that? Plus what other city can claim to actually have the Ghostbusters? ;D
  •  The FOOD. So many great restaurants to check out! Plus fancy grocery stores (I'm such a sucker for that stuff), from chains like Trader Joe's and Whole Paycheck Foods to local favorites like Taylor's Market and Corti Bros. My favorite local restaurants so far have been in Midtown Sacramento, for the most part; our favorite place to take out-of-towners is to Chicago Fire because the buffalo wings are perfect, the pizza is AMAZING, and their chocolate chip cookie a la mode is heaven. We've checked out tons of places that we loved and keep meaning to go back to, but just haven't (we try to keep the pricy meals out limited to once a month indulgences), and with so many options it's too tempting to try something new every time! I'm just happy to have my local sushi favorite, my local Chinese food favorite, and my local sandwich place favorite for quick meals, and then so many options to explore for fancier meals out! Off the top of my head, I highly recommend the Squeeze Inn for burgers, Paesano's for a unique Italian-style meal, the Buckhorn Grill for yummy tri-tip, and Thai House for Thai food.
Ok, 1 more thing that I HAVE to include and is not technically IN Sacramento: 
  • Location, Location, Location! - I love that Sacramento is so close to so many things! Ok, "close" is a relative term. What I mean by this is Sacramento is only a couple hours away from a wealth of different activities. Major attractions like Reno/South Lake Tahoe is only a few hours away, the Napa Valley is about an hour and a half, San Francisco is about 2 hours away (excluding traffic), San Jose is just over 3 hours away (we go there at least once a year to see the SJ Sharks). Then there's local attractions that are less than an hour away (or right in town), like Apple Hill, Historic Folsom, the Jelly Belly factory, the state fair (which just ended!), and Old Sacramento. It's great to have so many interesting options for when you want to get out of town for a day or a weekend! 
I could go on! We have a great theater scene that I'm still discovering, nearby Placer county has lots of unique sites to visit, there's farmland all over the place (if you're into that sort of thing - having taught students in FFA clubs, though, it is kind of neat if you're a city mouse like m'self), lots of local breweries (if you're into that sort of thing)... there's so much about Sacramento to experience! It's only in the last few years that I finally warmed up to the city, and at this point it feels like home. I look forward to raising our family around here!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What's Happening Lately

Confession time: I like to update 3 times a week minimum, but lately my inspiration has only given me two ideas at the most, and then goes back to sleep. PFFT. Maybe if I build a shrine or something, my muse will work a little harder. So when I'm at a loss for what to talk about, I resort to myself and what's going on in my life! Y'know, 'cuz I'm SO fascinating.

So the biggest thing that's going on in my life right now is unfortunately my looming unemployment. Well, technically I've been unemployed since January, when my last position informed me they were letting my contract expire, but I still had to finish the school year, obviously. I'm currently 0 for 6 on the interview front, and the school year starts very soon, so I'm having to start with the Plan B.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Foodie Friday - Fast, Cheap, and Easy: Breakfast Options!

So far, every job I've had since we moved here has required me to commute at least 30 minutes (if not more). I HAVE to eat breakfast, and as I value my sleep, I prefer it to be quick to make or reheat and something I can eat while driving. Even better if I can make/prep everything on Sunday night in as little amount of time as possible! Plus the easier and faster I can make a breakfast at home, the less tempting it is to spend money in a drive-thru!

There are a few options I have come up with that work really well for me; I need a healthy-ish carb, protein, and if I can squeeze in some veggies, all the better! I've sorted them between "ridiculously easy", "needs a little prep", and "needs a LOT of prep". Enjoy!

Ridiculously Easy

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What's Happening Lately

I swear, this isn't why I haven't been posting as often.
 Sorry for the relative silence up on this here blog. Lots of reasons why, listed below:
  • It is currently what I refer to as "hunting season"; teaching jobs are only really available from April-August for the following school year, and if you don't get a job before the end of "hunting season" it's unlikely you will be getting a full-time job for the school year. (It can happen, but it's rare; one year I was still getting interviews for jobs in December!) If you do get a job once the school year has started, you hit the ground running which is even MORE stressful. Ugh. I had at least one interview/week for most of May and June, then it dried up, and now it's picking up again... but I still don't have a job. One more opportunity this week; fingers crossed! It's a stomach-turning situation. In my "career" thus far, I have had a total of 3 jobs in 5 years, in a distinct on-and-off pattern (1 year on, 1 year off), and I'm terrified that the pattern will continue. If I don't get a job this year, I'm strongly considering just dropping the profession for a while (maybe forever). Frankly, I'm tired of having my summer's ruined and the constant job/financial uncertainty. I love what I do and really felt I was meant to do it, but the circumstances surrounding it are less than desirable and it's been incredibly emotionally wearing over the years.
  • We've also been out of town! We took a lovely weekend jaunt to Ashland, Oregon for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The Hubs was kind enough to suffer through copious amounts of window shopping in chichi boutique stores, two plays, and some lovely food (well, that part was less insufferable ;D). It was relaxing, gorgeous, and just what we needed! If you live on the west coast (or are willing to travel), here's what I recommend doing:
    • Go to the festival. Duh-doy. It's high-quality theater - great acting, great production values, great play selection. 
    • If you're the outdoorsy type, check out some of the nature options - the Rogue Valley and Mt. Ashland offer lots of hiking, whitewater rafting, and fishing options. There are several companies that offer a range of guided tours - if we'd done one, I'd have a recommendation, but we're not that outdoorsy (although The Hubs went rafting once and LOVED it, so we think next time we come up here we'll plan to do a 1/2 day tour and not see a show that night so we can recover). 
    • If you're the wine type, there are at least a half-dozen wineries offering tastings in a 20-mile radius. I am not able to drink a ton of wine anymore (stupid blood sugar issues!), so I passed up this opportunity. But if you like wine, take advantage!
    • Save your pennies and treat yo' self to a meal at Larks restaurant. It's not a cheap dinner, but it's SO WORTH IT. We've eaten there twice now, and it's some of the best freakin' food we've ever had. We've yet to try dessert there because we're always STUFFED by the time we are done! Which kind of sucks, because oh my GOSH they look scrumptious. The only downside is that they change the menu every so often, so what we had last year wasn't available anymore (but what we had this year was YUM, so no biggie). 
  • Still eating fairly healthy, but it's been tricky (esp. with vacation indulging, but I still managed to eat veggies with most meals). If I'm needing to indulge in something naughty-ish, I try to make up for it with huge vegetable servings. They knock each other out, right? ;D *sigh* I know they don't, but at least I'm getting in some vegetables with my horrific entree. Plus I can really feel the difference when I haven't eaten something good-for-me; I just feel BETTER with fruits, veggies, and whole foods in my system. Now I'm getting ready to add in the exercise element; my friend V and I are talking about being accountabilibuddies! I think it'll really help me, plus while she doesn't live SUPER-close by, she lives close enough that we could meet up 1-2 times a week for a workout "in the middle" of our two cities!
  • While I'm still unemployed (hopefully not for too terribly long), I'm trying to declutter our home. You know, finally get rid of stuff that I keep around for no particular reason because "I'll use it someday!" I'm a classic rat-packer, a.k.a. a hoarder who's self-aware. I'm tired of having too much stuff, so I'm in the process of being brutally honest with myself and tossing some of it. Well, tossing what's worthless and donating what's decent. I'm going to make our local St. Vincent De Paul very happy when I'm done, esp. for the plus-size shoppers! ;D
Let's end this with a gorgeous shot of downtown Ashland to lure you to check it out! I'm hoping to lure my BFF N there for a girl's trip next year - we're both theater/art nerds and I think she'd REALLY like it, plus we've NEVER taken a trip together! Friends for 14 years and it's never happened! A problem that must be remedied immediately. ;D Happy Wednesday!

Downtown, just past the OSF campus, majestic mountains in the background - just a typical view while walking around!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

5 Random Things: Heritage

Whooo, 5 Random Things post! Long time no see, randomness.

This time's theme: Heritage! However I want to interpret it, because reasons.

  • I am utterly fascinated by genetics. If I had been better at science and I knew what jobs were available to study how we're made up via DNA, I would probably get a job in it. The only thing I really remember, though, is how dominant genes and recessive genes work. Considering brown eyes are dominant and will ALWAYS win over light-colored eyes, the only way light-colored eyes can happen in a child of a dark-eyed parent and a light-eyed parent is if the dark-eyed parent has a recessive gene with their dominant gene. That means my Mexican-American dad with the dark brown eyes has a recessive gene somewhere in his bloodline that allowed me to inherit my German/Dutch-American mom's hazel eyes! WEIRD.
  • Speaking of other weird stuff I've inherited, my curly hair is something of an anomaly that we can't exactly figure out WHERE it came from. Mom's hair is stick straight, and my dad's hair is mostly straight as well (there's a very loose wave in it, but having seen him with long hair I would not call it "curly" or "wavy"). Our suspicion is that I have a trait that skipped a generation - my maternal grandpa had a very distinctive wave in his hair (but it wasn't long enough for us to tell), and my paternal great-uncle also had a wave in his hair... so it's from SOMEWHERE, but we're still not sure from where!
  • I'm totally angling to inherit the ring I borrowed from my maternal grandma for my wedding; she had it made from her engagement and wedding ring. My grandpa and she were married for over 50 years when he died in 2003. My mom currently has it, and as long as I don't piss her off, I should get it. It's more for sentimental reasons than for money reasons; our family has so few passed-down heirlooms that I want all I can get (so I can lock them away forever!)
    The ring - I wore it on my right pinky finger for my "something borrowed"
  • Do you know the difference between ethnicity and race? I didn't for the longest time - I used to get so confused on forms when it asked if I was Hispanic/Latino (which, as a 50% heritage, would be a yes), then ask me what my race is - and my only option was "white, not hispanic". It was like, whaaaaaa? So it turns out I'm racially white and ethnically hispanic/latino and caucasian. SO CONFUSING. Plus according to the U.S. Census, Hispanic/Latino IS considered a different race. WHAT THE HECK. This is the burden of multi-racial kids - having to pick a side. 
  • When I fantasize about what our kids will look like, should The Hubs and I be so blessed as to have them naturally, we have decided that we hope our kids inherit The Hubs' lovely blue eye color and totally adorable dimples along with my eye shape and chubby cheeks. Both of our smiles are nice, so we're not being picky, and we're both brunettes so our kid would be stuck with that hair color (but will probably start out blonde like we both did). It's nice to fantasize about. 
I mean, come on, look at how cute we were - how could our (hopefully future) kiddos NOT be adorable?
Moi at 1-2 years old
The Hubs at 1 year old

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pinteresting: Pill Box Gift

So here's the Pinspiration: Using a week-long pill dispenser as a week-long mini-gift dispenser! I found it on Pinterest, originally posted by The Sweetest Occasion; they used it for Valentine's Day, for 7 days of love.

I thought it was a super-cute idea, but I was hoping to figure out something other than just candy. Then I totally scored when I saw really big pillboxes at my local Goodwill near the cash registers! I picked up two, but I wish I'd picked up more. (I'm hoping my recipients will be understanding and let me steal the containers back so others can enjoy the gift.) Unfortunately, even a "Jumbo" pillbox is still only 1.5" by 1.25", so my options were severely limited. I had to get creative! Here's a similar sized one from Amazon: EZY Dose Weekly Pill Reminder

One reason I wanted to avoid an all-candy (at least in this first round, for my best friend N) is because she's been working on weight loss, and I didn't want to throw off her efforts TOO much; there is candy under ONE day, but it's a small amount, and I'll understand if she throws it away instead of eating it - hopefully it's the thought that counts! ;D

I did keep the little slips of paper idea, and changed it - each day got a loose "theme", and since I love me some alliteration, they all had cheesy names! Having 2 S's was a pain, though - Man, Saturday was FRUSTRATING to figure out, but I'm happy with what I came up with.

The weekdays/message/gift for this particular pillbox:
  • Sippin' Sunday - Relax with a cold drink! (Individual drink packet, low-calorie Raspberry Lemonade)
  • Manic Monday - Something sweet to help you get through Monday! (M&M's)
  • Tricky Tuesday - Give yourself a brain-break with this (slightly) tricky puzzle! (Custom crossword puzzle)
  • Wear it Wednesday - Here's some new bling to wear today! (dangly earrings I made)
  • Treat Yo' Self Thursday - TREAT YO' SELF! ($5 bill)
  • Finally Friday - It's Friday! GO NUTS! (Pistachios)
  • SWEET, it's Saturday - Here's a reward for getting through this week!  (Redbox gift rental code, a fake diamond ring charm - N really loves jewelry, but I can't afford the good stuff ;D)
Now, some of these gifts are specific to my friend N, obviously; for example, the crossword puzzle I made her won't work for everyone else because I made it using our personal history as the clues. If you want to do something similar, I highly recommend using the website Armored Penguin for your puzzle-making needs - you can make crosswords, word searches, and word scrambles!

This is the "prescription" I included; I made it sturdier with some coordinating cardstock and edging scissors. I found the cute prescription image through Google (it's from Testy Yet Trying) and modified it using good ol' Fotoflexer.

Then I used good ol' Microsoft Word, made a table, and filled it with my "clever" messages and some pictures of us to put under the gifts. I used the ruler on the margins as a guideline to shrink the pictures correctly.

Sorry, no sneak peeks of the pictures - N would kill me if one of those pics was made public. ;D
I cut them out using my paper trimmer, put the pictures on the bottom of the boxes, filled the boxes, and folded the messages on top!

The pics I took for N's gift were too blurry - these are for my friend R's birthday (she LOVES Grumpy Cat!)

Also R's version - her gifts were slightly different

Aaaaand the messages (which conveniently hide the gifts!)

Voila! (We're back to N's gift now. Consistency is very important in blogging, as you can see.)

Finally, You have to give them the "prescription"! The way I do it is to print out the picture, cut some colorful card stock paper (if you want to cut the border with edging scissors, I recommend adding an inch to the height and width so you have plenty of room; if not using edging scissors, 1/2 an inch should be plenty to still look nice), and glue it. To tie it around the pillbox like I did, punch a hole in the corner, wrap your ribbon around the box at least twice, then feed one ribbon end through the hole and the other end will overlap one side of the card/hole - tie a knot, curl the ends. (If you REALLY don't get it, email me and I'll try a mini-tutorial of how to tie it.)

Back to R's box!
Now, as you may have surmised by now, I've shown examples from two separate pillboxes. N's gift was just for fun, whereas R's is for her birthday. It was part of R's overall bday gift - the pillbox was for the week leading up to her birthday, and then she has an actual gift in the bag pictured above. That is what's so fun about this gift - it can fit almost any occasion! It is tricky to come up with/find small stuff, but at the same time the creativity is fun, too!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

5 Favorite Things (Right Now)

I really thought there would be a bigger gap between my last 5 Faves and the next one, but what can I say, I find new awesome stuff quickly!

"Orange Is the New Black" - if you follow me on Twitter this is old news, but OH MY GOSH IT IS SO GOOD YOU GUYS. The characters are diverse, well-developed, and mostly immune from the stereotypes of a female prisoner. It has dark humor and pathos, and is just super-engrossing! Try and pace yourself; I'm already done and now I'm sad. Good thing Netflix has already lined up a 2nd season. 

"American Ninja Warrior" - I am OBVIOUSLY not an athlete, but I am totally into this show. The obstacle courses are insane, and test so many different areas of athleticism. Plus I'm a sucker for the back-stories they give on the competitors. I'm usually all for some schadenfreude, but with this show I want everyone to succeed! It's enjoyable, inspiring brain rot. ;)

Trader Joe's "Hold the Cone!" mini ice cream cones - the perfect little summer treat. I get an ice cream cone that doesn't send my sugars sky-rocketing! It's a nice way to end my day. :)

Striped t-shirts - this summer I needed to stock up on t-shirts that were cute and casual. Without meaning to, I've bought 4 striped shirts. This makes my total of striped shirts now 6. Yes, I tripled my striped shirt wardrobe! I'm just INTO them all of a sudden. Plus the shirts I've bought are lightweight and comfy, so that just makes them even better. :) 

My new nail polish - Isn't it awesome? It looks like glass shards to me! I want to try it over a black polish. 
I found it at a Forever 21, if you would also like to make your nails look like a shattered church window. ;)

I hope you find something you'll also love!

Monday, July 15, 2013

What's Happening Lately

Anotha update about me! I know, BORING, but it's my blog and I'll blather if I want to.
  • For those of you who were concerned after Daisy's gastrointestinal fireworks on the 4th of July, she's been fine ever since. I'm starting to suspect she does it on purpose so she can get a few days of the "bland diet" that we put her on to help her tummy calm down. (It's boiled ground turkey and white rice, but she eats it like it's filet mignon - you can't even see her face, it's buried so deep in her food bowl!) 
  • I'm in the midst of a healthy-eating shift... nothing insane, just recognizing that certain foods make me feel like crud and not wanting to feel like crud anymore. I mean, duh, right? It feels like a drug addiction sometimes, though - slightly hyperbolic to say, I'll admit, but bad-for-you foods activate the same pleasure centers that drugs do. How am I eating healthy? So far I've managed to cut out refined flours, refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, alcohol... you know, everything FUN. ;) I'm at, I'd say, an 85-90% success rate. For example, I had a burger yesterday for lunch, and they didn't have a whole-wheat option, so I forgoed the chips that came with and got a side salad instead. Today's lunch was a sandwich that also comes with a free cookie; I had one half of the sandwich, and the damn cookie because I can't resist a chocolate chip cookie, which is why I avoid them! ;D I'm also easing myself off the artificial sweeteners and diet soda - I had two diet sodas yesterday, which is probably the most I've had all week. I'm much better about drinking water now, and it makes me feel better too! I still drink one diet soda a day, but it's Zevia All Natural Soda. My endocrinologist said stevia is totally ok, so I use it in my iced coffee, and I'm allowing myself a Zevia a day. It helps ease the withdrawal symptoms. Overall, though, while I do miss my breads and baked goods, I feel a LOT better and have more energy. It's like the two are related or something...

    All right, all right, I'll stop. :p
  • Ok, one more thing: Apparently if you eat protein before you eat fruit, the fructose in the fruit takes longer to digest and your blood sugars don't spike so fast. So I cut myself a small slice of a fancier cheese (this week is havarti with dill), grab a handful of pistachios, and piece of fruit. It feels like I'm having a wine tasting-style snack, just minus the wine! I loooove it, yum!
  • I spent my week catching up on some of my favorite comic authors. I like superhero comics, but it's such a lot of history to catch up on and I'm only REALLY into a few of them - I'm mostly a Marvel girl. ;D (I had a friend that was a huge comics geek, and he helped me keep up, but then we grew apart and I had to find my own way.) I tend to prefer the non-superhero comics more; my favorite is Fables, which is basically the story of what if all of the fairy-tale characters were real and living in our world. If you haven't read it, or don't consider yourself to be a comics person normally, then I HIGHLY recommend you give Fables a try. (If you don't want to spend the money, check your local library! That's how I caught up this week!) I also checked out Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan, who also wrote Y: The Last Man(which is amazing and another one to check out if you aren't a "comic nerd"); I liked it and I'm willing to check out the next one. COMICS! HUGE NERD! My secret's out. 
  • The plan this week is to get off my big butt. I say that every week, but this time it's a mission and not merely wishful thinking. ;) I have some fun ideas to try out and a birthday to prepare for, plus a very exciting (I hope) appointment this week (not job-related, it's a different kind of excitement ;D), so I'm actually feeling good about getting out and having fun this week! Whoooo! 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Foodie Friday: Antipasto Salad!

This salad is so easy to make, and tasty, too! Great for a summer picnic, plus it's easy to diversify it according to your own tastes. The only cooking that needs to be done is boiling the pasta, and then there's some chopping that needs to be done, depending on what you want to mix in. Plus you can make this vegetarian, or even VEGAN depending on what you mix into the salad!

I've made this before and posted the recipe before, but that was years ago and sans pictures, so re-post/update! I also promise I'll post something fancier than basic pasta salads one of these days. Maybe not next Friday, but someday, I swear.

I made this originally for a big picnic on the 4th of July, but then Miss Daisy got sick and we stayed home.  Luckily, The Hubs loooooves this salad (he hates mayo-based pasta/potato salads), so he helped eat it up within a few days! Hopefully your version will disappear just as quickly.

Antipasto Salad

1 bag tri-color spiral pasta
1 cup of Italian salad dressing (I used Zesty Italian by Sunny Select)
1 can quartered artichoke hearts (non-marinated), drained
1 small can black olives, pre-sliced, drained
1/2 a tube of salami, cut into small bites (usually I cut slices, then cut those slices into quarters)
2 mozzarella string cheeses, cut into small bites

Here's what I mean by "small bites"

Other ideas for mix-ins: pepperoni, roasted red peppers, mini-mozzarella balls, whatever else you like on your antipasto platter


  1. Boil the pasta to "al dente" state - it'll soften more as it absorbs the dressing, so you don't want to boil it too soft to start. 
  2. While the pasta's boiling, choppity-chop-chop your meats, cheese, and veggies (if you don't bother to buy them pre-chopped and canned)
  3. Once the pasta's done, pour into a strainer and rinse the pasta in cold water so it stops cooking.  Put it into your container, mix in your veggies, meats, and cheeses. Pour half of the dressing over your salad, and mix it up good, then pour the rest and mix it up good again. 
  4. It tastes good freshly mixed, but it tastes GREAT the next day! I try to make it the night before so it has time to absorb all the lovely zesty Italian-dressingness.

I may have linked up at: 

By Stephanie Lynn

Skip To My Lou

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pinteresting: Iced Coffee at Home!

Mmmm, iced coffee.

Look, I need my coffee fix, even in 100+ F degree heat. I have a legit caffeine addiction, which is kind of pathetic considering all I drink is 1 cup of coffee a day - but if I don't have that 1 cup every 36 hours or so, my head starts pounding. Most months of the year, hot coffee in the morning is lovely and soothing. In the Central Valley of Northern California, though, summer is typically a June-October affair, with week-long spans of over 100 degrees. We just finished another run - last Friday the temperature dropped to 90 F, and it was as if Spring had returned! It was HEAVEN.

So I needed to switch to iced coffee, and FAST. I had a coupon for Keurig pods, and I do loves me Keurig, so I bought some "iced coffee" pods. It's "iced coffee" because it brews hot coffee over a glass full of ice. So yes, the coffee gets cold, but it's also severely watered down. So it tastes nice, but it loses a lot of the coffee flavor that us coffee drinkers like.

LUCKILY, me of 6 months or so ago thought ahead and pinned a simple method of making your own iced coffee! I saw the Pioneer Woman's method, but her method makes enough for a party (which could come in handy one day) - I don't need THAT much coffee, as I'm the only one drinking it! Luckily, I stumbled upon Seeded at the Table's method, which was essentially the same as Pioneer Woman's, but on a much smaller scale.

So, the simple formula seems to be a ratio of 1:8 coffee to water.  Pictured below is 1 cup of coffee to 8 cups water. I decided to get all fancy and use filtered water from my Brita - next time I might just pay the $1 and get a gallon jug from the store, since I had to re-fill the Brita and wait for it to finish filtering in order to get my full 8 cups. Not fun when I'm impatient. The Seeded method recommended 6-8 hours, or overnight. I went with overnight 'cuz I was going for MAXIMUM LAZINESS. Plus I was using a light-roast brew, so I figured the longer sitting would result in a stronger brew. (It seemed pretty strong to me!)

Pour your coffee grinds in first, then the water, then give it a good stir. Cover it up and let it sit!
Despite the jug label, the coffee is not fruit-flavored.
Once you wake up (or wait your allotted time), pour your mixture through a strainer lined with paper towels, coffee filters, or cheesecloth. I replaced the filter every time I let a good amount of coffee seep through. If you're using a cheap $1store strainer like I am, keep in mind that coffee is an oily liquid and you'll have to rinse off the strainer and dry the bottom every once in a while to let the coffee seep through again. Or get a better strainer. ;p This was the only part of the process that took time - the filtering (both in my Brita filter and out of the coffee grinds); I'd say it took maybe 15 minutes to filter the grinds out.

Ahhhh Black gold, Texas tea, concentrated caffeinated heaven!
 Once you've filtered all the liquid and tossed out those coffee grinds (if you garden, coffee grinds are great for soil!), pour yourself some over a glass full of ice cubes!

The test cup, mixed with stevia and organic half-and-half. BLIIIIISSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. It's so refreshing while also giving me my morning caffeine dose!

The Kitchn also has links to other methods to try, if you'd like; I'll stick with this one for now, 'cuz it's the least time consuming for me. (Although the idea of vanilla ice cubes might be one I need to try!)

I may have linked up at: 

By Stephanie Lynn

Skip To My Lou

Monday, July 8, 2013

5 Favorite Things (Right Now)

Hey all! Hope you had a lovely holiday weekend! Mine was social every day except the 4th - Daisy the dog got sick again on the 4th, and we didn't want to leave her all alone. She got better, though - we think she ate something she wasn't supposed to when we weren't looking or something.


I've been doing the 5 Random Things, and it's fun; if I can come up with a decent theme, it's a fun writing-based "blog filler", plus I usually get to talk about myself! (Super fun for me!)

I've also been enjoying blogs I follow and their own variations on "Friday Favorites" or a weekly links compilation. These are some of my favorite posts, to be honest, because I find even more stuff on the internets to waste time explore!

So I'm thinking I'd like to combine the two, and post my 5 Favorite Things, either random melange of objects, or themed items. Could be books, link, food, etc. WHATEVA, it's my 5 favorite things (right now)!

  • Relish: My Life in the Kitchen* (physical copy) or Relish: My Life in the Kitchen* (Kindle!) - This is a graphic novel/memoir/recipe collection/foodie fangirling book by the wonderful Lucy Knisley. It's a food-based autobiography - Knisley shares poignant memories that revolve around food, and her drawings and love of food makes it so you can practically taste the food. Bonus: In the case of some food, you can! Once you make it yourself based on her included illustrated recipes, that is. ;D If you'd like a feel for her writing/drawing style, you can read the first chapter here.
    It's a book best read with food ;D

  • A Beautiful Mess App - I adore the lifestyle blog A Beautiful Mess; they've created their own unique look that makes the blog enjoyable from a visual standpoint as well as content standpoint. What they achieved on their photos with Photoshop, they've now made available to anyone with an iPhone! (Android app is coming ASAP) I've been playing with it on my phone, and I loooooove it so far. Totally worth the whole $0.99 I paid - they have even more packages available for purchase (filters, "doodles", font styles, etc.), but the basics that come with so far have proven to be PA-LENTY. (You can see an example of the app's abilities above - the title image for this post was made with the app!)
  •  Gone Girl: A Novel* (physical copy) by Gillian Flynn - GURL. This novel is BONKERS, in like the BEST WAY EVER. In part 2, and the twist was a TUH-WIST. I'd heard previously that there's a major twist, and I totally thought I'd figured it out; turns out I had really early in the book, dismissed it as illogical, then assumed I'd guessed the "real" twist - and go fig, my initial instinct was right! My ego didn't care, though, because OMG THIS BOOK, Y'ALL. OH. MUH. GAWD! I stayed up until 2am finishing it Thursday night because it just got so good and I had to find out how it ended! WORTH THE LOST SLEEP. I can't believe the ending, man oh man oh MAN. Such a good book!
  • Raw white cheddar from Spring Hill Jersey Cheese. This has been my snacking cheese - I just cut a chunk and NOM NOM NOM NOM, along with some cheddar-onion pistachios and some fruit, all bought at my local farmer's market. That's right, I'm spoiled enough to buy this cheese right down the street at my local market. But hey, apparently they sell it online! We've also had the pesto jack, garlic jack, and sage cheddar - they're all so creamy and flavorful! YUM. They also made a smoked jack that we used in mac & cheese that was the perfect amount of smokiness. 
  • "This Is the End" - I saw three different movies last week: A free preview of "The Lone Ranger", "Monsters University", and "This Is the End". "Lone Ranger" was meh (If you need an excuse to get out of the heat, you could do worse - it was definitely worth the price ;D); "Monsters University" was cute but not as great as its predecessor. I wasn't expecting "This Is the End" to be that great, but it had great reviews and I do generally enjoy the cast. I'm actually glad I went in with low expectations, because I enjoyed the movie that much more! It's very funny, and also a leetle bit scary in parts! (It DOES take place during Armageddon, after all.) I literally jumped and clung to The Hubs at one part, it scared me so bad! (I'm also a big fraidy cat, though.) I can't describe my favorite scene, unfortunately, because it's so much better to be seen without knowing. It's towards the end. I laughed a lot!
I hope you find something you will also love amongst my favorite things (right now)!

*Links marked with the asterisk will lead you to - it is an affiliate link, and I will make a very small commission if you end up purchasing something through my link. Just an FYI!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Foodie Friday: Fast, Easy, & Cheap - Steak dinner!

So if you follow me on Twitter, you might recognize the picture below from when I tweeted it/taunted my followers with its deliciousness.

You might also remember that I bragged the whole shebang took about 30 minutes.

Upon reflection, it's about 40 including marinade set-up and chopping/scrubbing the potatoes. Yes, those are oven-roasted potatoes. Still, 40 minutes isn't bad for a steak dinner, am I right?

So how did it take so little time? Constant movement and a microwave cheat.

  1. The steak was a nice New York strip I got during Savemart's $25 for 5 meat sale (which they do about once a month now, and I loooove it because it I usually need to restock right around the time the next sale comes up); I rubbed it with a dry rub, marinaded in this excellent (and easy) marinade, and let it stew for most of the day.
  2. The potatoes are oven-roasted, but here's the trick: They're softened in the microwave first. I got this tip from an old book my mom gave me when I got my first apartment in college; it's "30 Minutes or Less", a cookbook published by California Cookbook in the 90s, but I can't find it anywhere online. Anyway, the recipe is to chop up 5-6 medium-size red potatoes (not the minis), drizzle olive oil over them in a microwave-safe bowl, and nuke 'em for 5 minutes on high. Then throw some seasoning on them (in this case, S&P, garlic powder, and thyme), toss them in a baking pan, and roast 'em at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes.
  3. WHILE the potatoes are microwaving, rinse, dry, and snap the asparagus (and take out the steak to let it rest at room temperature for a little while). Once you throw the potatoes in, lie the spears on a cookie sheet; drizzle olive oil on the spears, sprinkle with S&P, garlic powder, and grated parmesan cheese, and mix it all up so all the spears get nice and coated. Throw it in the oven with the potatoes for the last 12 minutes of cooking time. (If you want to roast it on its own, I prefer to roast it at 400 F for about 8-10 minutes; it lets the tips get crispy without the stalks getting soggy. With the potatoes, it stayed firm but not as crisp as I like it.)
  4. Once the asparagus is in the oven, turn on your Foreman grill so it gets warm for the steak (I KNOW, sacrilege, but whatever, it works for me). Once it's hot enough, throw the steak on there, let it sizzle for about 5 minutes (if you want it medium rare-medium), then take it off the grill and let it sit until it's at your preferred doneness. Obviously, if you have a preferred method of steak-cooking, by all means. I'm still learning, and so far this method has worked OK for me. :)

My final touch was grating this tasty smoked gouda with bacon cheese that The Hubs had purchased onto the potatoes; it was good, not great. Needed a stronger cheese, I think (and crispy cooked bacon - the bacon in the cheese wasn't crispy). Still tasty, though!

So as you can see, it worked out that while one thing was cooking, the other stuff was prepped and then added to the cooking mix. So I was on my feet and moving for probably 20 minutes of the process, but it wasn't necessarily a rush to do. Plus it resulted in a tasty, filling dinner that was ready in about 30-40 minutes! Which is how I like to cook - fast, cheap, and easy. Yum!

I may have linked up at: 

By Stephanie Lynn

Skip To My Lou


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