Thursday, January 28, 2010

"In our rich consumers' civilization we spin cocoons around ourselves and get possessed by our possessions."

There's a dirty, dirty rumor going around that I have will-power of steel. What, with my frugalness and such.

Let me put those rumors to rest.... here's a list of far from frugal things that I can't give up...

1. The iPhone. I heart my phone. It's expensive, even after switching to a lesser plan... Around $150/month for two lines. We kept our number from Florida for our families, so it's still a local number for them. I use the map constantly. The apps... ohmygod the apps. I can check class times at the gym, movie times, restaurant recs, AIM, Facebook, weather, lolcats, Epic Fail, Pandora, IMDB, my white noise for sleeping, FML, Craigslist!!! So much... and the pictures. Lord. Granted, the camera really could suck less (no flash? Really, Apple?!), but when it works, it's a great shot.

2. Disneyland. We have annual passes for the kidlets and myself. Mine I paid for up front, and.... actually is coming up for renewal soon (note to self). But for the girls, we just did the monthly payment option for SoCal residents... Comes to $20, and we go probably once a month. We loved Disney World in FL, and while this is a distant, distant runner up in the awesomeness race, it's a great way to kill a day.

3. Starbucks. I have cut back, from a bazillion trips a week, to just once or twice. But it makes me sad.

4. Perfume. I love love love Michael Kors, and just dropped $70 on some (even after my $25 gift card). But, in just 2 business days, I'll smell oh so pretty. (I mean, I smell fine right now, but. This stuff is pure magic.)

5. Internet. We could have dropped the internet when we dropped the cable... our neighbor has unsecured network, apparently. But... I'm not an interwebs stealer.

6. Going out to eat. I love it. LOVE it. If I could swing it, I'd eat out all day, every day. Sadly, neither my wallet nor my waistline would appreciate it. So... we still do this, once or twice every few weeks. The H prefers to keep it down to once a month. I think Sunday breakfast out is heaven on earth. We compromise and head out about once every 2 weeks. Sigh.

So. That's it. My deep, dark, non-frugal secrets.

Now, if I wanted to, I *could* cut those things out but.... why? Why would I? I mean, I could if I NEEDED to... I have and I would again. But I'd be pretty pissy about them ;)

And in full disclosure... I don't do this out of some sense of nobility, or responsibility, or anything else good. If I had my way, I would own heaps of stuff. HEAPS. I would do LOTS of things, and stay in pretty, shiny places. This is done out of necessity. It's a necessity I've come to terms with, despite my protests.

So... it's not MY ideal situation. I recognize that I have more than enough to survive, and I'm pretty lucky in that respect. I also recognize how shallow and... well, elitest I could be. I'm not even entirely sure I don't WANT to be shallow and elitest.. I kinda think it might be fun. But that's not where I am... THIS is where I am.

And if THIS means that I have 3 great kids, and cars that run comfortably to get me to a job I like, and a home to live in that is SAFE, and food to eat at the end of the day... I'm gonna make the best of THIS.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Especially for Jill....

Pan-fried chicken breast, lazy-mom rice pilaf, in under 40 minutes.

Saute 1/4c onion and 4-5 cloves garlic (I'm stupid heavy on the garlic, because... I love it) in 1T olive oil over medium heat.Add about so much dried parsley....
And about 1/4c chopped red pepper...
When the onions have turned translucent, add the rice, along with 1T butter, and stir all together. Salt and pepper to taste.
When the rice just barely starts to brown, add the water.
My fool-proof rice ratio: 1 c rice, 2 c water. Turn heat up to high, bring to a boil. Stir, cover, and lower heat to low. LEAVE THE LID ON THE PAN. Whatever you do.... do not uncover it. You're using that steam to cook the rice. I promise, it will be fine.

Cook on low COVERED for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove from heat, and leave lid on for an additional 5 minutes. Uncover, and voila. Lovely faux-rice pilaf. The general recipe also works for non-faux-pilaf rice as well.... 1 to 2 ratio, drizzle of olive oil and salt, bring to boil, cover and lower heat, cook on low for 20 min. Perfect rice, every time for me.

I had bone in, skin on chicken breast, 'cause it was on sale at my favorite store. You can use whatever seasoning you want. I trust that you know what that is :)

I used garlic salt, pepper, paprika, and onion powder. Season liberally... I try to season under the skin if I remember...

Heat 1T oil over med heat (I use veg or canola for this). When heated, add chicken skin side down.
When that side is browned, flip and lower heat to med low. Cover, and cook until cooked through.
Remove from heat and let rest.... Because these were GINORMOUS, it actually only took 1 breast to feed me, 1, & 2. Baby already ate, and The H will have the other one... or part of it. It's freaking huge.
I served with the faux-rice pilaf and steamed broccoli.

Now... the thing that always jacks up my meals is my timing... for THIS, I seasoned the chicken breast, and let it sit while I started the rice. Chopped the veg's for the rice, sauteed them, etc., and started cooking the chicken when I put the water in the rice. This ended up with perfect timing, everything done at the same time.

And nary a box in sight ;)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

“I'm not into working out. My philosophy: No pain, no pain.”

I am not really a fan of exercising. I mean, I always feel better when I do, but.... I'd really prefer to feel better by sitting on the couch drinking beer and watching Alias for the 47,901,023th time. Sadly, that does not really work out well for me.

My friend Snork had been harassing me to join her gym. I resisted, 'cause... I figured, there's a "gym" at my apartment complex. And a hot tub. Why would I pay to use someone else's stuff if I don't even use MY stuff?

I FINALLY gave in at the end of December. I mean... yoga class, then hot tub? That sounded pretty great, AND, it's only $26 or something a month.

Also, I had this grand idea that I would pop into the location by my office and run during my lunch break. Haaahahhahahaaaa.


Anyway. So I did sign up. And, I'm super, beyond words psyched, to say that I think I like it. I mean, I don't really like sweating, or working hard, but.... I feel so accomplished at the end of the night! Like... the other day, I hopped off the treadmill and proceeded to spend an additional 2 hours doing OTHER STUFF at the gym, and it was pretty great!

I've been trying to head in 3 times a week, at least, and usually it works out okay, 'cause Snork and I try to motivate each other... some nights I'm not feeling it, some nights she's napping... but I don't think we've flaked on it yet. The hot tub incentives help. Plus, I really kid of dig the yoga classes.... I'm pretty bendy already, but the yoga helps. Snork's boyfriend is pretty fun to watch... he's a big fan of corpse, and childs pose. My balance is still crappy... I cannot do this... Like Snork can....
I think I still hate the circuit business... I think Snork and I are opposites, because I think my legs are stronger than hers, but her arms are stronger than mine.
Anyway. The whole business is pretty successful, so far, and I think I had a breakthrough the other day hitting week 2 of the Couch 2 5K program.... I have this idea that I'm going to run a 5K in June... primarily, because of the super-awesome Restaurant Row spread at the finish line. Priorities, people.

“Forget love, I'd rather fall in chocolate.”

Note: If you are "dieting" (like me), or trying to lose weight (also like me), this is NOT the way to do it. At.all. Fair warning.

Molten chocolate lava cakes are, possibly, the world's most perfect dessert. They're warm, and gooey, and yummy, and chocolately, and magical. Plus, super easy. Really. I promise.

I actually stole this recipe from Baker's Chocolate. However... I don't use Baker's Chocolate. It seems mean, I know, but. Whatever. I found better chocolate. And... don't eff around with my chocolate. I used this amazingness this time around... Green & Black organic dark baking chocolate.

So. If you're using Baker's chocolate, it's 4 squares of that... otherwise, it's half of a bar. Combine in a microwave safe bowl with one stick of butter. I tend to chop both up roughly so they melt faster. I'm imaptient that way. Micro that for about a minute, then stir. If it needs additional heating, go for it... 15-20 seconds at a time.
Stir until completely melted and combined. It'll be shiny and pretty and lovely.
Then... The other ingredients. You'll need 1 cup of powdered sugar, 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, and 6 Tbs of flour.
Add 1 cup of powdered sugar. It'll get lumpy and ugly. If you're more ambitious than I am, you can certainly sift it, but. I'm lazy (see microwaving above).
Add the eggs, and the yolks, and incorporate. Then add the flour. All of which I failed to get a picture of. The end result is, you'll scoop the chocolatey yumminess into 4 ramekins, like so. Probably neater than I did.
Bake at 425* for 13-14 minutes. When done, they should still look... slightly undone. Mine cooked a little long, because I let The H be in control while I showered.
Run a knife around the edges, to loosen, then invert into a plate... I hold a plate over the top, and flip it over. Easy.
Serve with ice cream, if you're REALLY giving up on the diet, and voila! If you've baked them correctly (unlike me this time), the outside will be fluffy, and the insides gooey.


So, I forgot an important piece of this. BUTTER YOUR RAMEKIN'S BEFORE DUMPING THE CHOCOLATE GOO INTO THEM. Please don't forget that. It'll be ugly if you do.

And, my friend Fataliya at Madness and Kisses wants to make this tomorrow, so... here's something easier to use than scrolling through that madness up there :)

Easy to follow recipe:

Preheat oven to 425*.

Heat 1 stick butter, and chocolate until melted. See above for micro directions, or use a double boiler if you're fancy.

Once melted, add 1 cup powdered sugar, and stir until combined.

Add 2 eggs, and 2 egg yolks. Stir until combined.

Add 6 Tbls flour, stirring until combined.

Butter 4 ramekins, and divide batter into them. Bake for 13-14 min, or until they look "almost" done... should be kinda gooey looking on top, but not melty gross. (how's that for official?)

Friday, January 22, 2010

"As a child my family's menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it."

My kids like any type of chicken that is accompanied by a dark sauce of some sort. I'm not entirely sure why, say, dark sauce is okay, but a garlic butter sauce is not, but.

So I scoped out some saucy-chickeny-recipes, and found this one on that looked promising, mainly because there was (a) no bourbon actually involved, and (b) I had almost everything on hand (or if not, something close).

So. 4 chicken thighs - cut into pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper, and browned in olive oil.

While that is browning, combine in a bowl:

  • Minced garlic - 3 or 4 cloves
  • 1/4 t ginger
  • 3/4 t hot sauce
  • 1/4 c apple juice
  • 1/3 c light brown sugar
  • 2 T ketchup (I know, I know, but don't freak out. I promise it works out.)
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/3 c soy sauce
  • 1 t onion powder

This makes a pretty dark, fairly sweet magical sauce.

After the chicken has browned, remove it from the pan, and add the sauce. Bring to a boil. Re-add the chicken, lower heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.

I fed this to the kidlets with steamed rice and green beans.

The substitutions/changes that I made were:

  • I didn't have apple cider vinegar, so I used balsamic.
  • I didn't have chili flakes, so I used Trader Joes hot sauce.
  • I like garlic, a lot, so I used more than the original recipe called for.

Things I might do differently, should I be so inclined:

  • I'd prefer to make my own ketchup, or use similar ingredients rather than.. ketchup
  • If my family wouldn't freak out, I'd add more hot sauce :(
  • Broccoli instead of green beans (which I only got because Target had these frozen bags on clearance for $0.44!)
  • Brown rice instead of white
  • Maybe sub low-sodium soy sauce, and use fresh grated ginger

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

So, I'm on this frugality kick as of late. And my challenge to myself this week was to not spend any money except for my cash on hand. I took out $40, to cover any miscellaneous gas, dinner with a friend, random grocery needs, my Friday Starbucks, etc.

In order to make this successful, I had to make a plan. I am a sucky planner. I mean, I LOVE planning fun things, like trips. But this
Anyways. This was my menu for the week.
Sunday - Bourbon Chicken, first draft
Monday - Hamburgers
Tuesday - Grilled chicken breast with spinach salad and broccoli (2 & 3 had rice that was leftover from the weekend, and #1 had a sandwich with the leftover buns from Monday)
Wednesday - spaghetti for everyone else, baked potato with salsa and chicken for me (late gym night)
Thursday - Bourbon Chicken (the magical one, I'll post that recipe in a bit)
Tonight - Pizza

Okay. So, I realize a week is 7 days, and this is only 6, but I can't remember what I had Saturday.


Last weekend, I did a mass dumping of all weirdness in my fridge - including the mysteriously vanished Ikea foodsavers that I now need to replace. Sorry, I'm trying to be frugal, but at $4 for a set of 16 pieces, I am not washing some of the funk that was in there.

For some things - like the bourbon chicken - we didn't have quite the right ingredients, so I subbed what I did have on hand, to avoid hitting the market and destroying my resolve.

And it worked!! Success!!

Today is Friday, payday. This is what my fridge looks like:

In there right now, I have... 2 beers (!!), some rum, water, apple juice, milk, some peachy liquor of some kind (!?), eggs, cheese, a bag of spinach, green bell pepper, half of a SmartWater or whatever that I've been semi-drinking for 3 days.

And the freezer.....

Contents: A teeny bag of coffee sample from Cost Plus Worldmarket, an Ikea fishy-shaped ice cube tray, and a bag of frozen edemame.

And the benefit to this is... $2 left in my pocket, and $110 in the bank, after everything has cleared.

That'd be a bit of an improvement over my $5 last week. (I tried to calculate the percentage, but I got confused.)

Plus, adding in the additional cost savings of not having thrown any money away on crap that we didn't eat... well. I'm practically a millionaire now.

I suppose the key to making something USEFUL of this discipline is what I do now. I mean, I COULD use my leftover cash stash to pay for some new makeup. I could take the kidlets out to dinner. I could buy some brown leather boots, that I'm dying for. I could buy a purse. I could... go on and on about what I could do.

So. Is my discipline wasted now if I DO those things? I think so. I mean, I really, really, REALLY want to do stuff, like, ALL of the above. I will probably do a little of some of them. I'm not sure yet. I need to contemplate this.

Feel free to leave suggestions ;)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

“It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it.”

Budgeting must rank amongst my top 3 least favorite things in the world. I dislike it SO MUCH, in fact, that it may actually take all THREE spots, all by itself. I loathe it.

Part of it, I'm sure, comes from the fact that I just despise not having as MUCH money as I used to. It irritates me.

I grew up with parents who had no concept of budgets. At all. If payday was a Friday, we'd be eating steak on Saturday, and down to pancakes (homemade) with no syrup by Thursday. My mom couldn't cook, so. That should tell you how appealing that was.

At some point, we were swimming in cash. We bought what we wanted, went on trips where we wanted, and it was super fun. Seriously, like... super fun.

And I realized one day, that, y'know, I could cut back my "Coach bag of the month" frenzy, and maybe build an emergency fund.

So I consulted some people much smarter and FAR more disciplined than I, and started making some plans. It turned out to be a good thing I did, because a few months later I threw a tantrum at my job and walked.the.hell.out. (note, I do not suggest doing this.)

Fortunately, I had managed to sock away about three months of living expenses. Unfortunately, it took me six months to find a job. A job that was out of state, btw. And, awesome. So in the end, it worked out.

Even my handbag-habit helped out in the end... I re-sold some of my bags to pay bills. This little beauty? She made me a mortgage payment.
Anyway. It's been an adjustment going back to having to watch what I spend. It's annoying. I know there are some people out there who ENJOY this type of thing. I'm certainly NOT one of them.

The last 6 months or so have been rough. I moved the fam cross country, The H was unemployed for three months, catching up on things once he GOT employed. It's been tight. And, pretty tragic.

But, and here's the Awesome, the last 4 weeks, I've at LEAST made the week come in under budget!

I've done a few things to really get this under control lately.
1. Cut cable. It's been about 2 1/2 weeks now, and all is well. Somehow, we have pulled through so far. I'm pretty sure, any day now, #3 will stop asking for "Her Noggin". Sorry, Ni Hao, but you had to go.
2. Library Cards - we can literally hit up the local Barnes and Noble or Borders every weekend. Additionally, 1 & 2 each have book reports every 4 weeks. Oh, and, #1 has a research paper on monsoons (she picked it. She's weird that way.), and needs some books as reference.
3. I'm eating at home and packing lunches. I know this *sounds* pretty much like common sense, but... honestly. I'm a working mom with three kids. There were plenty of nights and lunches where it was just easier to pick up something. This way is easier, healthier, AND I feel better about what my kids are inhaling :)
4. I just stopped buying STUFF. Yep. Just stopped buying stuff. I make my game plan, pick up those things, and get my heiny out of there before I lose my mind.
5. Paying bills first. I know, stupid that this even has to be a consideration. I've been making payments, withdrawing "X" amount of cash, and leaving the debit card at home. And that cash... that's it until the next pay day, end of story.
6. Starbucks. Sigh. My beloved Starbucks has become a once-a-week treat. And, even that day I sometimes cut out if the line is too long. I was assisted by Starbucks cutting the super awesome Caramel Brulee Latte. Punks.
7. Selling some extra STUFF. I listed some stuff that I was decluttering on Craigslist, like my Garmin Forerunner, and a KitchenAid that I bought 2 years ago and used once. I didn't make much, but I did make some, and cleared out some extra space.

This frugalness is also paying off in other ways. I'm eating healthier again, and because I'm shopping sales, a lot of our produce is local and in season. I'm pretty stoked about that. I'm getting more creative with our meal planning again, which I think is fun. I'm learning new recipes to use what we have on hand, instead of making a trip to the store to pick up a "few" things (which invariably turns into 5 bags of junk). Or, even worse, just packing it in and going out. In the last week, I've mastered a Sloppy Joes recipe, as well as one for Bourbon Chicken... both were pretty awesome, and someday when I'm not busy panicking because I don't know if anyone will eat this, I'll share those.

In ADDITION to silly things, like having electricity and water, there are other benefits.... like the eating better has inspired me to hit the gym with at least some regularity. The kids are reading more. As a whole, we are interacting more as a family than we did before when we had cable. Oh, AND! I got to re-watch the Alias DVD's I have. Heart Vaughn!
Don't get me wrong, I'm still really not digging this "frugalness" yet. I'd REALLY like to be able to go out and replace the fucktons of MAC I just ran out of... alas, it is being "worked into" the budget, and will happen over the next few weeks. And these are SMALL victories... like, when I say "under budget", I mean my bills are paid and I have $5 left in my account. But... I told someone the other day, the small victories eventually add up to the BIG victories, so don't overlook them. My $5 might be teeny compared to what you've got, but. It's $5 more than I had 2 months ago, so I'm pretty stoked.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

“The Internet is a giant international network of intelligent, informed computer enthusiasts, by which I mean, "people without lives."......

....We don't care. We have each other."

It's no secret to anyone who knows me, that I heart all things interwebs based.

I Facebook like it's going straight out of style. I spend a good amount of time on a particular message board that I love. I blog-hop. I read reviews. I watch tv and movies. I chat with people. I make fun of people. I laugh at LOLCats. Fail has become part of my vocabulary. I plan things. I meet people. I'd be lost without it.

I've never been one to need or necessarily WANT friends. I'm fine hanging out alone. When I moved to Cali, I came here alone - the rest of the fam followed about six months later. I had some time to kill.

One of the chicks on that message board lived here, so we started getting together occassionally for some drinks. That turned into jalking on the beach (wherein we pretended to exercise, but really it was just a long walk to the bar). Now we hang out regularly, gym together, and my kids adore her, and the boyfriend.

I found a super cool hiking group on Craigslist. My first time meeting them, we were supposed to do a group trip to Joshua Tree. We were carpooling, and I met them at some 7-11 off the freeway in OC. I get there, and it's these two dudes hanging out.

I rode out to the desert with two random guys from CL and lived to tell. It was pretty great, even.

I like doing things alone, but stuff like hiking... really is better with a group, especially if you're new at it, like me. So, because of the internet... I got to do something I would have never done otherwise.

My ex-roommates broke my car mirror off a few months back. You know what I found online? A step-by-step way to put a mirror back on a 2001 Dodge Stratus. And I did it. All by myself. Tools, and wires, and all. Me! Me who hates getting her oil changed because it's a "Boy Job". ME!

It's also thanks to the internet that I am in Cali. A recruiter in Long Beach found my resume online, and thought I'd be a great fit. I got the call on a Thursday, interviewed Tuesday, was offered the job on Friday, and moved exactly 1 week later. Done. And I couldn't be happier. I love living here.
I find super awesome books to read on, thanks to their "Other people who picked this also picked...." And then I use these reccommendations to seek out that same book at my public libraries (frugal!).

I learned to bento from a chick on my favorite message board, and then learned even MORE about it on Then! Thanks to her Bento Locator, I found a great Japanese market super close to me, which I love.

Another chick I met on that message board came out for a "girls weekend" in May, and has been back twice... Once with her kidlet, for The Weekend of Awesome. She's thinking about moving (and I bet she'll find her job online!), and I realllly hope she does, 'cause she's rad.
This past Christmas Eve, I had dinner with those two chicks, and the Russian's boyfriend (whom she met on that same board. Stalker.), and then we spent the night wrapping my kids' presents and drinking beer. It couldn't have been more perfect. Well, except Squirrel could suck less at wrapping. Suck. Less.
A few years back, on a different message board (that I really don't frequent any more 'cause of a change of ownership. Yeah, Bravo, I'm lookin' at you!), I went to Manhattan all by myself to watch a tv show. Yep. That's right. Sure did. But I met some cool folks (Hi, Phil! Call me!), and had a blast... and dude. I took on Manhattan by myself.

Anyway. The point of all this is, plenty of folk think people hanging out online are weird. That's valid. Perhaps we are. But y'know what? I've found people who are ALSO weird, who like the same stuff I do, and we like each other, and have fun. I've done stuff I wouldn't have done otherwise with the help of the web. I've learned to come out of my shell a bit, and make friends. And so it might sound silly, but... I've proven things to myself, and others, about.. what I'm made of.
So. Suck on that, haters :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

“Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.”

I have a very love/hate thing going on with my hair. It started when I was a baby. I had a pretty rockin' she-mullet going on. Later, around the time I started kindergarten, my Venezuelan aunt gave me an equally awesome bowl-cut. That matched her son's cut perfectly. Thanks, Aunt Rosemarie. Thanks.

Back about 3+ years ago, I used to self-color. It was fun. Easy.

Until one day, when I self colored, and my hair turned some gross greenish-blueish-grey color. It was disturbing. I tried calling my sister, since she self-colored all the time... and she suggested throwing a new color on top of that mess.

That's when I remembered she once turned her hair pink.

I called a salon by my then-office, and described the nonsense on my head to them, and they (magically) had an opening available with their best colorist. My description apparently piqued some interest, because when I got there, and gave them my name, I got a, "Oh! With the color situation! Can I see!?" True story.

My "color correction" turned into a 4 hour process to fix the mess I made. This visit turned into a love-affair with my stylist... who faithfully, every 6 weeks, spent 3 hours coloring, high-lighting, low-lighting, and trimming my pretty hair into perfection. And, thanks to her, I discovered that... ta da! I have CURLS!

Sounds stupid, I know. I had no idea. I thought my hair was just frizzy for no reason. But... lo and behold... there are CURLS on this head.

Now that I'm in Cali instead of Florida (land of mugginess and swamp funk), my hair is gloriously almost always frizz-free. It's spectacular.

My sister has always had this insane, thick, shiny bunch of hair, and... being that she's far, far girlier than I am, has always been able to do... stuff with it. That used to piss me off to no end.

A few months ago, I was seriously, SERIOUSLY in need of a cut. I found a stylist here in OC, but... I couldn't afford it. What I want done runs me a couple hundered each visit. So, I talked The Russian into cutting my hair for me. It turned out she's pretty great at it, and my hair was magical. THEN! I even dyed it myself, to amazing results... a lovely chestnut brownish color.

Thanks to my Florida stylist, I now vaguely know how to style my hair, and make curl cooperate... sometimes, it even looks good. Like so:
And so....

I mean, there are still PLENTY of days where it doesn't....

But, fortunately for all of society, those days are not nearly as frequent as they used to be.

Monday, January 11, 2010

“Waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality, nothing will do, and with them everything.”

I have this grand idea that I will someday, live frugally, eat cleanly, and be organized.

I am ridiculously UNorganized. It's sad, really. I routinely leave my daycare payment at home on Monday mornings. I am guaranteed to forget my thoughtfully-prepared lunches in my refrigerator at least 50% of the time. I live in blissful ignorance until it becomes a crisis. Sad.

Living frugally... is another sore spot with me. I just don't like it. I like pretty things. I like my hair to be pretty, and highlighty, and my toes to be colorful, and all of that. I like it. And, try as I might, I do NOT highlight as well as my girl did, or paint my toes as well as the nail place does. I just don't. And I like to buy pretty handbags, and lovely shoes. None of which are "frugal".

But, the ONE thing on this list that I am most interested in - and so far successful at! - is eating cleanly.

Mostly, at least.

I cook just about everything we eat from almost-scratch. I don't make my own pasta or anything like Emily, but. Cans and boxes have almost no place in my pantry. It helps that I really love cooking... all of it... the grocery shopping, meal planning, chopping, coming up with new recipes... and I'm getting more into doing this FRUGALLY. I love shopping in season, and I particularly love how affordable produce in Cali is.

My new favorite store is Sprouts. Awesome #5. I used to be a Trader Joes whore, and I certainly still love it for fun, affordable, funky foods. But when it comes to produce, Sprouts and it's affordability win out, hands down.

I walked out of Sprouts on Saturday, with sunburst tangerines, 6 grapefruit the size of my head (3 went to Snork), satsumas, blood oranges, 2 heads of red and green lettuce, kiwi, a fuckton of green bell peppers, mangos, organic broccoli, pears... all for under $10.

Many years ago, I lived with my cousin and her daughter. I was making dinner one time... french fries were involved. From scratch, like... potatoes. And the kidlet looks at me all crazy, and says, "What are you doing with those?" And I explained it, and she looked befuddled.

My kids are the opposite. Now, I pull out a frozen bag of fries, and they look at it funny.

Believe me, I'm far from a health nut. I could stand to lose a good 20 lbs (at least), I've got a can of Pepsi on my desk (opposite from my blood orange), and a bag of chocolate in my drawer. But it's a step, right?

UPDATE: Peppers? Gone. Finished by Sunday afternoon. I knew I should have bought more than 5.

UPDATE UPDATE.... Some mofo stole my blood orange at work. Bastards.

“Ocean: A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man - who has no gills.”

Tidepools. #4.

You'd think they'd freak me out, because... slimy, swimmy, creepy, crawly, tentacled, gloopy things reside in them.

But I adore them. They're the coolest little things ever.

I grew up in Florida, within 15 minutes of some of the top-ranking beaches in the US, and yet, I only went to the beach once or twice every summer. I despise Florida's beaches. The sand is all powdery and gets in everywhere (I mean... E V E R Y W H E R E). There are sandspurs, and stupid tourists, and it's all hot, and muggy, and it could rain and thunder at the drop of a hat, and it was just not worth the hassle to me. Plus, the water. Oh dear lord, that murky, murky water. Yeah, it LOOKS pretty, from aerial shots overhead... all turquoisey/emeraldy blue. But. I promise you, it's not. It's murky, and creepy, there are fish, and crabs, and STUFF that lives in there. STUFF!

And, really, there's only one thing the beaches in Florida are good for... working on your skin cancer suntan. (Nikki, I'm looking at you.)

I'd be willing to bet I've taken kidlets to the beach more often in the 7 months that we've been in Cali, MORE than I'd taken them in Florida cumulatively. True strory.

Sunday was PERFECT beach weather.... 75, sunny... no breeze. Beautiful. Happy January, SoCal. So I packed some sandwiches, and some of my super awesome produce steal from Sprouts, and threw kidlets in the car, and headed out at low tide to check out the tide pools.

We're about 15 minutes from Laguna Beach, which is our favorite spot. Great tide pools, parking is easy, and there's a Starbucks down the street. Win.

I must have hit a super amazing low tide, 'cause we were able to go out much further than I'd done previously. It was no easy task, believe me, scrambling rocks with a 3-year old, but. She had a blast. Every time I asked if she was ready to go back, she said, "NO! I want to go more!". And more we did... as far as we could without REALLY getting in the ocean.

All this was almost foiled by an uber-adventurous #2 who felt it was necessary to rock-hop out as far as she could, until a giant wave pummelled her and almost swept her out to sea. Somehow, I ended up with a heart attack, and she ended up with an ankle scratch.

Anyway. We saw the usual snails, and crabs, and anenomes (which never stop being so freaking cool), but also scoped out some tiny fishies of some sort, and a starfish!

Baby did not understand why I wouldn't let her reach into the tide pools and pull out whatever kind of sparkly, slimy, squirmy thing she found fascinating, but (sorry, I know it's against the rules!), I did let her pick up a snail and watch it slime on her hand. She thought it was funny. Tickly little things, you know. Despite my best efforts, she wouldn't pick up the colorful sea... plant.. things lining the beach...

After the tidepooling, we scoped out a tiny spot amongst some rocks for our picnic, and let the kids run willy nilly.

They spent a bit of time jumping over rocks to chase this pesky critter away.... creepy red eyeballs and all. CREEPY!

And, because ALL of that wasn't awesome enough.... beautiful snowy mountains on our drive home.

Friday, January 8, 2010

“Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.”

Like I mentioned yesterday, my grandparents were Dutch-Indonesian. They did a lot of the raising of me - mainly because my Opa was a nut who wouldn't let us eat dinner at home, and would hijack us despite my mother's protests. By and large, that was totally okay by me... mom canNOT cook. We grew up living with them off and on, until I was 16. After I got married, and had #1, my tiny family and I moved back in with Oma to help take care of her. After Opa passed, she was... lost. She didn't know how to write a check, she didn't know what a debit card was, she couldn't drive... She needed help, and wasn't willing to leave the house Opa built for her when they immigrated. So. There it was. We had a super awesome time living there, and my husband was totally one of her favorite people ever.

Eventually, we moved out and my parents moved in, and there she the house Opa built, for the rest of her life. She had a ridiculous amount of faith... Like, ridiculous. I could never. I'm too uppity and impatient and cynical for that faith nonsense. But she did... and I wish I could, 'cause she was the most gentle, calming person I've ever known.

She was super awesome, and today is her birthday. I ought remember her more often, 'cause... dude. NOTHING I've had to complain about in my life compares to stuff SHE dealt with. So, in honor... Oma is Awesomeness, and I'm gonna stop whining about my lack of organic potatoes.

Happy Birthday, Oma!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

“There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.”

Awesome thing #2: So Cal

Heaps of my FB friends are melting down because - gasp! - it's cold right now. In all fairness... -19 degrees?! Seriously?! No thanks. 73 and sunny? Yes, please!

I currently live in Southern California, and LOVE it.

Yeah, we have traffic, Hollywood, smog, taxes like no OTHER.... but you know what we also have??

The most beautiful beaches. We spent Christmas Day on the beach, sipping Starbucks Hot Chocolate (or Caramel Brulee, if you're the mommy), jumping in waves, chasing crabs, and digging giant sand holes to... break ankles, or something.

Sunny, clear skies 330 days of the year*. When we DO have rain, it's pretty relentless for a few days, but then? The sun reappears, the smog is cleared out, and we can see the beautiful, snowy mountains hanging out to the north.

Lovely, snow-capped mountains that... y'know, should I lose my mind and WANT to be in the snow, I can within hours. I live in OC, so it's about a 2 hour trip, but it certainly beats the hell out of needing to own and USE an ICE SCRAPER!

A plethora of ethnically diverse areas, including the most AWESOMEST DutchIndo store that I love shopping at. My grandparents were Dutch-Indonesian, and I love scoping out all the goodies they used to bring home after trips to Holland. Spekkoek - while I *could* make it - why would I when I can run up there and pick some up!?

Super great hiking spots. I took up hiking when I moved here, because... I had six months alone, and no kidlets, so... this killed time. In the process, it gave me killer calves! Win!

Disneyland! So, it's certainly no Disney World, but... it'll do.

Super fresh produce, super cheap. I have this grand idea - and I try REALLY hard at it, honestly! - that we will become locavores. I love fresh produce, and it's SO affordable here. Pink Lady apples? 49 cents a pound. Tangerines so fresh they have bright green leaves still!? I think I will!

The super awesome thing is, my kids love SoCal as much as I do... which I was kind of concerned with when I moved them here. But, they've adapted amazingly well, made friends, and dig it as much as I do. They were kinda bummed that we couldn't make it to their cousin's birthday party in Florida, but they're totally psyched to show them how great it is here when they come visit.

*I have no idea if that's an accurate number. I made it up. It sounds about right though.


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