Sunday, January 30, 2011

Time to Stop Celebrating Already

Fall Happy Birthday Pictures, Images and Photos

OK Girl, the Holidays are OVER!

I know, I know, the holidays are so 2010!! I drank, I ate, I partied, I enjoyed. As I do every year, with a birthday in January, I don't start to really tighten my belt where food is concerned until after my birthday is over. I typically celebrate with friends and loved ones on my actual birthday, but have a slew of other lunch dates and what not that trail in afterwards. 

Liquid Lunch
If you follow my blog, you'll know that I spent most of my birthday weekend in Monterey with my husband and dear friends. We ate and drank our way through that town in a little over 24 hours that we were there. I tried to be good during the week...but on Sunday, my husband opened a bottle of wine that we bought on our weekend away, which we drank Sunday and Monday. Thursday, my boss bought our office a round of pints from the pub that is (unfortunately/fortunately) adjacent to our office. Then on Friday, I had lunch with a dear, old friend of mine at Ragoots which is an amazing place near my home. Of course a birthday lunch wouldn't be complete without a couple glasses of wine! I had this fabulous Tuscan Linguine that had artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes and other yummy things that I love. I ate the whole thing! I skipped dinner that night because I wasn't even slightly hungry.

Liquid Breakfast
Saturday I had breakfast plans with some other dear girlfriends at Bill's. We decided to have a round of Bloody Marys. They were quite good, so we decided to have another round. Someone happened to mention that it was my birthday, in an offhand way, like "Let the birthday girl order first." I didn't give it a second thought, I mean, what would they do for your birthday at a breakfast joint anyway...surely not bring out cake with a candle in it! I had an omelet with spinach and gorgonzola, and hash browns. We were chatting it up and having a great time and enjoying our omelets when I start to hear a tambourine. I was about to say, "Why on earth would someone have a tambourine in here?", when it got louder, and then I heard another tambourine. Soon our table was surrounded by a group of waitstaff, who also starting banging on white plastic buckets with sticks and singing to me. I may have been crying, I was laughing so hard. I was surely stunned, and a little embarrased but it was so funny! AND, they bring your whole table a round of tequila shots! Can you say, liquid breakfast?? We were feeling no pain. After our "meal" we decided to walk around, and walk it off. Somehow we decided it would be a great idea to go to stop at Aqui, another great restaurant in town, but for their swirl margaritas which are to DIE for. It is a frozen margarita, swirled with sangria. We had a great time celebrating my birthday. I had a blast and I'm not mad at myself, my birthday only comes once a year. I think that is the last time I am celebrating this birthday, and I am going to buckle down.

Betty Ford
I started my morning with egg whites and wheat toast. And I made sure to get out for a run, although it is pretty rainy here. I managed to get 4 miles in and am feeling pretty good. I will be running for the next 4 mornings, and cutting out alcohol in any form during the week. I really enjoy having a glass of wine at night, but don't need the calories or the relaxation it brings when I have so much to folding laundry or core/ab workouts while I watch TV. My running buddy decided on a positive affirmation that would help her get through the extra 1/2 mile we have decided to add to our morning runs. I thought I would share with you the song that runs through my heads when I feel like I want to quit. It's called "I'm a Survivor" by Destiny's Child. It's actually about a woman surviving the break up of her relationship...but I don't think about that. I just like the chorus and apply that to my running.

Have a GREAT week!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Goodness Comes from Your Sole

Today I came home to this flier attached to an empty plastic bag on my front porch. I like the message. While I may not have a lot of extra money to donate to charities, and not a lot of free time on my hands to volunteer, I do have shoes. It breaks my heart to hear about people all over the world who live in poverty and do not own a pair of shoes. This flier says that this charity is affiliated with Green Eyes in Africa. I don't know much about them but their concept is great too. It is a charity that provides "hand to mouth" donations to Africans from the US, and they have no overhead. They also aid in providing sanitation and education.

 I have heard about children in families all over the world that have to share one pair of shoes, and they have to rotate who gets to wear them. It seems so unjust. What is attractive about donating shoes to this organization is really, as the flier indicates, anyone can help! It costs a person nothing to collect shoes from their home in any size or condition and put them in the bag we are provided, and put them on our doorstep by the next morning. They can't make it any easier for us!

Although I did recently donate quite a few bags of clothes and shoes my children had outgrown, I have several pairs of my own shoes that are in great condition but for whatever reason I don't wear them any more. Black converse that I just grew tired of, 2 pairs of Saucony running shoes that had too many miles on them for running but are clean and no where near falling apart, another pair of practically brand new Nikes that I accidently bought in "wide" about 4 years ago and was too lazy to ever take them back...a pair of adorable Keen sandals that my son wore this last summer that were on the shoe rack in the garage, a pair of stylish leather Puma urban sneakers (???) that are also in excellent condition but are just a few seasons too old for me. Someone will be really grateful to have these shoes. It makes me happy to know that someone, somewhere will be wearing my shoes on their feet, rather than have to painfully walk barefoot in all types of weather conditions and terrain. I wonder who will get them? Will they be young or old? Will they be a mother? A student? Married? Optimistic, or broken in spirit? I wonder if they will even for a second be curious to know who their shoes came from, or if they will just be focused on getting through the day...

Today, I am thankful that my family does not have to worry about shoes. Enjoy your weekend all!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Memories of Lattes Swirling 'Round My Head

My New Commute Buddy

I remember the good old days, when meeting up with a friend at Starbuck's or Peet's or any cute coffee joint was a regular occurrence. My hubby and I think back on those days fondly, when money wasn't an issue, and we didn't have to monitor our bank balance like a sleeping newborn. We were wasteful and I'm not proud of that. I can remember comparing prices at different places for whatever item we were shopping for at the time, vs. the distance we would have to travel to get the deal...and if it was $20 bucks or less I'd say, "It's not worth it. I could drop a $20 bill in the street and not even notice." Bleah. Ugly, arrogant me.

I stopped hitting the pricey coffee joints on a regular basis toward the end of 2007. Every once in a while, for a treat, I'll stop and get my usual skinny vanilla latte. But its funny now that after I pay, I quietly calculate in my head how many cups of regular drip coffee I could have made on my home machine for that price. Oh my gosh, I say, I could buy nearly a bag of ground Starbuck's at Walmart for that much. It's great now, when I get gift cards for coffee places as gifts, I appreciate them so much more than before. I used to be glad to get them because I was going to those places all the time, and it was great to get my treat for free. Now, I am grateful to get the gift cards...because that actually means I will get to go to those places at all!

Speaking of Walmart, I found this little gem shown in the photo for $5. Isn't it just adorable? I don't know how its possible, but its BPA free, and microwave and dishwasher safe. I had another one before, but the top was made out of some other type of rubbery material that had a smell and taste to it that I didn't particularly care for. This makes my morning cup of coffee cute and girly and happy. They also carried it in blue and green as well in case cute, girly and happy aren't your cup of, ahem, coffee.

Wishing you all a happy day-before-Friday!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Birthdays: It's Not About the Age Anymore

Birthday Girl

I had such a fabulous time this weekend. It was so nice to be able to relax with my husband and our friends in the coastal town of Monterey, CA. We ate at nice restaurants and didn't have to worry about our kids running around or being quiet or eating their food. We drank wine, we walked around town, and didn't have to stop for meltdowns, naps or diaper changes. I slept like a baby with the ocean roaring loudly right outside our hotel. Bliss.

Relaxed couple

Of course I missed my babies, but one day/night away from them isn't bad. It's healthy for my husband and I to bond and regroup as a couple. I think I am a better mom after a little break. They loved the shark and pirate books I brought home for them, and the little replica vintage road cars I bought on the wharf. It was 70 degrees and sunny, so we did our fair share of walking around and window shopping. We even managed to fit in cocktails and the football game.

View from our hotel room balcony

It was great to call and check in with my parents, who were watching them for us, to see how they slept the night before. Monkey asked to talk to me and promptly said, "Happy Birthday Mommy! I miss you!." It was truly adorable. And, since we are only an hour away from Monterey, I was still home by 4pm on my actual birthday so I got to spend the evening with my children. We promptly took them to the park to play for an hour and then had a relaxing dinner at home. I couldn't ask for a better birthday, I had the best of all worlds. I am truly blessed.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Simplifying My Life One Lame Show at a Time

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
 I'm really not terribly opinionated. Well, I have my opinions but I definitely do not try not to push them on other people.  I certainly won't tell you NOT to watch American Idol this year or The Bachelor for that matter.

From Brad Womack's Photo Gallery on ABC
But, I have given up. Part of the new me, the true me, knows better than to spend 2 nights of my life watching AI. I know its all new now that J LO and Steven Tyler are judging and that Kara and Simon are gonzo. I like to be in the know, but I just don't have time. I love Aerosmith's music but Steven Tyler as a judge just isn't enough of a draw for me to watch it!  I might start watching toward the end, when it gets down to the last few competitors...but I have officially canceled my recordings on Tivo that I have had set for the last several seasons.

Same with The Bachelor, isn't it just the same thing every season anyway? New crying, bitchy, bimbos. More exotic vacations that create an unrealistic basis for a real relationship. And I just simply don't have 2 hours to dedicate to the nonsense every week. Again, never say never - I could very possibly tune in toward the end of the season, when the obvious choices have been weeded out. I also canceled my recordings for this show, and I feel almost like a little weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I will no longer turn on my TV and think, "Oh, I am going to have to watch that when I get some time." I have decided getting enough sleep for my morning workouts and trying to better maintain my household are more important. Although, not all TV watching is bad! I did manage to put away some laundry and dust my bedroom last night while catching up on Showtime's Californication and Shameless, which are two of my favorite shows. Since when did I become so boring? I know even having Showtime goes against my "simplify and save" mantra but I truly enjoy so many of the programs. I did, however cancel my HBO after "Entourage" went off season so we are still cutting back.

Are you watching the "new" American Idol? Do you like it? Are you a fan of The Bachelor? Do you actually sit and watch your TV shows or do you try to get other things done while your shows are on?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Resolution Solution

So we are almost a month into 2011. I never make New Year's resolutions as I vow to work on certain things throughout the year, and this year was no exception. However, I don't see any harm in sharing some of these things with others. Sharing things in this blog that I have chosen to focus on - balancing working out, healthy eating, saving money, family and work - has actually helped me achieve this balance. I am fairly certain that I will achieve a better success rate at staying on top of things I tend to be less organized with all year long by sharing them with you.

The first is so easy. I have several dear friends whose birthdays I would like to recognize every year with a card. The sad thing is, each year, the way I recognize it varies. Sometimes if I'm on the ball, I buy a card in advance and mail it to them. Other years when I am not organized or have a lot going on, they get an email. Sometimes its a phone call, and sometimes its a late email or phone call. Just writing that already makes me feel lousy. Honestly, not every one of these friends calls me, emails me or sends me a card on my birthday. Some of them do. And I like it. I would like to makes someone's day that way. So, I want to purchase cards to have cards on hand so that each month I can send cards out to my friends who have birthdays that month.

Secondly, I would like to organize the maintenance of my house the way I have organized my workout schedule. Having certain things scheduled on certain days works for me. I live in a good sized 5 bedroom 3 bath home. It is a given that I must do some laundry every day in order to prevent me from backlog. It is a given that I must go to work every day, come home, feed my kids, bathe them and put them to bed. It is also a given that I must clean the kitchen every evening after dinner. So, if I can just add 1 cleaning task to my evening it will prevent my weekends from being a clean-fest. I will have to make a list or chart of some sort. This is going to be challenging as I already feel I lack personal time, but I am not striving for perfection. If I can just make it work some of the time I think  I will be happy!

Third, I want to try to get my kids to bed 30 minutes earlier. My 2 year old Buddha naps at least 2-3 hours during the day, and at night he sleeps about 10 hours. My 4 year old Monkey gets about 10 hours at night also, but is very hyper and is just worn out by the end of the day, since he no longer naps. I put him to bed right after the Buddha goes down, but after a little evening chit chat, a book and prayers it ends up being about 30 minutes later. Sometimes in the morning its hard for me to wake him for school and I wonder if he'd be less moody if he got more sleep. In any case, I wouldn't think more sleep would be harmful.

Third, I want to yell less. Enough said. 

So that is my plan for now, I hope for some level of success! How are you doing on your resolutions? Hope your year is off to a good start.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Crib To Bed - Selfish Thoughts

So today we went to IKEA as a family to pick up our Buddha's new bedroom set. I know a lot of kids go from crib to toddler bed, but our family skips that step. Maybe its because we're too cheap, we don't have much free time to spend shopping, or that the toddler bed phase is SO incredibly short (probably some combo of all of the above) but we go straight from crib to the whole shebang. My boys are tall for their age, and are going to grow rapidly taller so we don't even bother with a twin bed. Straight to full size we go. It wouldn't surprise me if by the time they are 15 they are going to need queen size. So might as well start getting our money's worth now....

I will definitely post pictures when its all done, but you know IKEA, I've got to wait for Chip to finish assembling everything. But the reason for my post is not to talk about the cute stuff we bought today but about my concerns regarding the transition from crib to bed.

During Monkey's Short Stint in his Crib

Both of my kids have always been pretty good sleepers - Monkey did a lot of co-sleeping but not the Buddha. From the get-go, he made his crib his own special little place and slept through the night, and napping religiously at the designated times of the day. He never woke up screaming or crying for us to retrieve him in the morning or any time for that matter. When he wakes up, he happily plays in his crib sometimes even up to an hour on days that I need some extra shut eye. I used to feel bad about doing this, but when I see how happy he is when I go into his room, I realize he hasn't been suffering at all. He plays with his cars or stuffed animals and pulls the covers over his head.

From Day 1, Buddha Was All Good Sleeping Solo

He has always been a consistent riser - 7 a.m., sometimes 7:30. Occasionally he will wake up before 7. So, I am wondering what I am going to do with my fabulous fitness plan?

I have been getting up pretty early to meet my running partner 3x per week. There are some days that I can hear Buddha stirring right before I leave, and I know that soon after I leave he is awake. Because he is contained in his crib and has never tried to get out, I have no concerns about leaving him. Remember, Chip works nights so I always let him sleep in and its my job to manage the boys and try to keep them quiet. Monkey is old enough to understand when I tell him Mommy is going running and he may not see me when he wakes up. I will occasionally find evidence that he has gone to look for me, usually my bedroom door and his bedroom door are open when I get back. But he just goes back to his room to sleep. But what is the Buddha going to do when he is in a bed?

There are a few disastrous scenarios I imagine. 1) He gets up, wanders around downstairs, or possibly goes out the front door; 2) I put a baby gate up in the hallway, so that he can leave his room and go visit his brother...possibly falling back to sleep with him OR waking up Monkey; 3) I put a baby gate up in his door way, and he wakes up, tries to get out - screams his head off when he realizes he is stuck and wakes up Monkey and Chip. Our front door is weird. The door handle is one that will open from the inside even if its locked. So, we have a latch we installed up at adult height that we close so that the kids can't get out. But if I go out that door in the morning the latch won't be closed. I could leave out the garage/side door to avoid this issue. I am definitely going to have him try to sleep in his new bed on non-running days. That way I can be there to figure out what might happen.

The other thing I wonder about is how he's going to adjust- right now we put him down in his crib and he goes down happily and without a fight. Will he be freaked out not want to stay in his room? Are we going to have to go all "Supernanny" on him and keep putting him back in his room and walking out? I wonder if my own sleep and already minimal personal time will suffer...and how long it will last. Ugh, I don't look forward to this.

Any suggestions on what I should do on my running mornings as a precaution? Of course, my husband is home but understandably dead to the world at the time we wake up. What issues did you have transitioning your kids from crib to bed? Part of me also wonders if I shouldn't fix what ain't broken. If he is happy in his crib, still has enough room and doesn't try to get out, should we just leave well enough alone.

I don't want to be Sleepless in Northern CA.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Wow, An Award for Me?

I'm flattered! NorcalMom at Lemons to Lemonade gave me this lovely award! I've gone through my life being one of those people who "never wins anything" but since I've started blogging - it's been a year now -  I've won a few giveaways and now this fancy schmancy award. I'm feeling pretty cool now, I've got to say it made my day. 

Here are the rules:
1.  Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
2.  Share 7 things about yourself
3.  Award 5 recently discovered great bloggers
4.  Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!

So here are 7 fascinating facts about me:

1. My parents divorced when I was 2, and have not been in contact with my real dad since I was maybe 5 - even though he attempted to reach out to me a few times about 5 years ago.

2. I have become afraid of heights in my older age. Few things scare me but for whatever reason if I am close to a railing several stories up or hiking on a very steep mountain, my knees start to buckle!

3. Earthquakes do not really bother me. I have lived in CA all my life and when the rattling starts, I just wait for it to end. I lived through the 7.1 quake of '89 while I was living in Santa Cruz and that should have done me in...but it didn't.

4. I used to figure skate competitively as a youngster.

5. I still not-so-secretly want one more child. But "Chip" is opposed. C'est la vie.

5 Fabulous Blogs I Have Recently Started Following:

Check these blogs out! Hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Have a wonderful and hopefully LONG weekend. I am going to get started on mine!!

Do you have any great plans this weekend? I have a playdate for my son on Monday, and plan to spend the rest of the weekend with family. Hopefully we will buy my 2 year old a bedroom set and get started on his "big boy" room! And of course, run, run run!

Cheers to you all!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Internal Struggle of a Working Mom

To Work, Or Not to Work...That is the Question
I have to admit, there are a few things I like about working outside the home. I get a sense of satisfaction from making my own money. Something about earning a paycheck gives me a sense of freedom. I do enjoy adult conversation, but not nearly enough for me to need to work 40 hours a week away from my kids just for that. For any of you who haven't worked outside the home much, you'd be surprised how many "adults" in the workplace actually act like children. For me, its more about independence. I have worked full-time for about 19 years. I have always worked and for the longest time I couldn't imagine ever not working. Until I had kids. 

I worked full time up until I had my first son in 2006, took a 2 month maternity leave, worked from home my first month back, and then I was in full swing until I was 7 mos. pregnant with my second son in 2008. I was abruptly laid off when my company closed, and I was LOST. So lost, that I went out and bought a maternity business suit and went on a crazy pregnant interviewing spree which I think back now must have seemed sort of desperate. I really should have just kicked back and enjoyed myself immediately and seen it as the blessing it was. But for me, a huge part of my identity was as a professional, and I didn't know what to do with myself without a job. Once I realized that the job market was in a shambles and that everyone I met told me to call them back after I had my baby, I knew I had no choice but to go with the cards I had been dealt. After a month or two, I got into a nice routine, and really started enjoying my time with my 2 year old, and soon after, my newborn.

My Newborn Buddha in the Hospital

My Monkey - Fun at the Mall Before the Buddha Arrived!

My Stint As A SAHM
Things that I loved about not working...Getting really involved with my kids. Not just what I do now, which is feed them, bath them, and put them to bed, wake them, feed them, and transport to school. But having the day to work with them on skills such as reading, math, potty training (my youngest is now 2 and we need to start on this), taking them to the park, going on walks and bike rides. The year that I was off was a priceless time, and I am so glad I took advantage of it. I soaked it in like a sponge. With all the help I have available to me, I rarely ever took anyone up on it. I loved being with my kids and wanted to feel what it was like to manage both of them on my own, to care for them just myself until my husband arrived home from work.  I really miss being in charge of my own house on a day to day basis. I also feel my kids benefitted from the consistency of having the same caregiver every single day. Who is better than Mommy, right?

I Must Say, I've Got it Pretty Good
However, for a working mother, I have the best possible situation. I am lucky that now that I am back to work full time my mother and mother-in-law split the work week. They come to my house, which is a huge convenience factor for me. My days are still pretty crazy though. I get up between 5:30 and 6:30 during the week to work out (depending on if I am meeting my friend for a run or doing a DVD at home). Then wake up the kids, make them breakfast, get ready, get Monkey ready, drop Monkey off at school  and begin my 45 minute commute to work. I do admit, its nice to have just that quiet time. I can listen to whatever music I want, don't have to worry about playing DVD's for anyone, and I can even talk on the phone! The hardest part of the morning is when I leave and my little Buddha is hanging on my leg saying "Mommy, don't go!" His cries and wails ring in my ears for a good several minutes I am on the road, until my coffee kicks in or a good song comes on to distract me. It breaks my heart. Many times whoever is there to watch him that day has to hold him back when I walk out the door. Moments after I'm gone, they say, he is just fine and goes back to playing. Thank God. I usually arrive home at about 6:15, have dinner with the kids, clean the dishes, throw in a load of laundry, then its bath and bed time. Since I get up early to work out, there is not a lot of "me" time at night. I need to be in bed between 9:30 and 10:30 unless I want to suffer the next day. My husband works at night so I'm Hans Solo. I wonder how I find the time to blog and tweet, but I do! It is an outlet I have come to rely on for my sanity, more than ever!

Learning to Let Go
People tell me all the time how lucky I am to have "free" childcare - and of course why shouldn't I work if I have people to watch my kids? But its still tough. I worked full time well into my 30's and had kids later always thinking that eventually I would stay home with them. My husband and I had never planned on the economy going very very south and me not only needing to work but carrying my weight in the income department as well. I MISS MY KIDS. It's hard for me to leave them every day. It's hard for me to hear about struggles a caregiver had with them and not think of how I would have handled it differently. I cringe sometimes when I hear about what my kids ate that day knowing I would not have been so quick with the cookies or would have skipped the fast food.  I am constantly lecturing about not having the TV on so much during the day and hope it is not falling on deaf ears. I hate getting stuck in traffic and missing dinner with my boys.  And, I have worked pretty hard at getting used to losing control over my household. When you have other women running the show all day things just get done differently. But I have to remember how lucky I am to have family that I trust watching my children. Additionally, I have very flexible employers. I work from home on Fridays so I drive Monkey to and from preschool, and always eat lunch with my boys on that day. Since I don't have to commute on Friday, I actually start work earlier and am already home at the end of the day to get dinner going unless we have plans to go out. Some days I will stop and do a quick errand between dropping my son off at school and starting my work day. Anything to keep my weekends free to do fun stuff or things that just need to be done!

What struggles do you face as a working mom, WAHM, or SAHM? Do you ever wish your situation was different...and what would you change? 

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Back to Work I go! Friday's getting closer...I can almost smell it!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hand Me the Hand-Me-Downs!

I drop stuff off at this bin all the time!

I love hand-me-downs. There I said it. I'll admit, when I had my first son over 4 years ago, I couldn't help but buy stuff for him. We have friends who had boys and we were given a huge stash of lightly used clothing early on. While I was grateful for it, I still had a shower where I received a massive amount of adorable boys clothing in addition to stuff I bought myself. Monkey had SO many clothes, and grew so fast that some of the items were barely worn. When I say barely, I mean, I put it on to take a photo and that was it. Some items he grew out of before he had a chance to wear them.

It seemed only right when 28 months later I gave birth to another boy. I saved everything. Unless it was stained or too worn (which was not often the case unless it was a hand-me-down), I kept it. Of course, Monkey was born in July and Buddha in November so the seasons were a little bit off. But for the most part all the basics were perfectly good for the Bude. I was thankful that I had saved all of these clothes, because when I was 7 mos. pregnant the mortgage lender where I had worked for 4 years abruptly closed down. I was hugely pregnant and jobless. Of course, I had planned to take a maternity leave, but had also planned to return to work in a few months and our household relied heavily on my income. I'll save that whole saga for another post and leave it at that. But the heart of the matter is that I now needed these clothes, more than ever. Even though I bought the Bude a few new items (like, he had to have a new homecoming outfit) he really didn't need anything else. I even re-used Monkey's nursery stuff - furniture AND decor. Sure I felt a little bad that I couldn't/shouldn't go out and give him a whole new room that was just his own, but I knew it was sensible. He wasn't going to know or care that he inherited his brother's nursery. Plus, based on my experience with Monkey, I didn't think he'd be in a "baby" room for long.

Monkey matured very quickly. He was bright and articulate very young and never much cared for his crib. By the time he was 2 he was in a bed and we redecorated his room to a "big boy" room. Turns out things are a little different for Buddha, he is still our baby, loooves his crib likes its his whole universe even though he is a big boy for his age and is probably ready for a bed. We just bought him a mattress, and I've bought bedding, and some other decor items but we have yet to purchase the furniture but are getting close.

But I digress. (I have a habit of digressing). In addition to his brother's hand-me-downs, we also get clothes from a cousin of his who is a few years older. Some of the clothes fit Monkey, but most of the time when we get the clothes they are just a tad too small for him and just perfectly too big for Buddha. I love this. And I love giving away my boys clothes and I know that I have taken very good care of them. I have meticulous laundry habits, except for the fact I hate to iron and pretty much don't do it unless its absolutely necessary. I feel that we are being kind to our environment by not "wasting" perfectly good clothes, by not adding more to the landfills and helping to reduce gasses emitted from manufacturing new clothing items. Whenever I get a hand-me-down with a stain or a tear, or have an item to give away in that condition, I take it to a nearby clothing and shoe recycling bin. These things are amazing, as the fabric can be recycled which helps the planet, if it can't be used for others in the community. I try not to give to places that turn around and sell the clothes, I prefer churches and community organizations that give to the needy, if not someone I know personally.

I don't really use shoes that have been passed down to us, unless they are in "barely used" condition. Especially when the boys were younger, I had read that it was important for children to break in their own shoes so as not to influence how they walked. I think of all the children in our country and other countries who live without shoes, and always donate the shoes we receive or recycle them.

Do you give or accept gently used children's clothing? Do you exchange or share clothing through friends, community, clothing swap parties? 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Very First Post 1/11/10 - Almost My Blogoversary!


How fun it was to go back and read my first post (which I have included at the bottom here)! And even better, I can honestly say in the last year I have made a huge transformation. While I still enjoy desserts and cocktails, and really good meals, I have made many changes. I rarely center my dinners around meat anymore. I cannot remember the last time I had a pork chop or steak for dinner. We used to go to Costco, buy bulk meat, and break it down and separate it into 3 portions (for Chip, Monkey and I as the Buddha was still on the boob) in freezer bags. I know we have saved a ton of money and have been kinder to our environment by cutting this out. Now our dinner "meat" consists of the occasional ground turkey or cut up chicken breast tenders that we mix in a pasta or stir fry. We eat meatless meals very frequently.

I have also fallen into a new fitness groove. OMG, I totally remember being at the point a year ago where I felt so helpless being back to work and not having any time to work out. Now I have resolved to get up early (it took me months to get here, as I am not a fan of mornings), run dark and early a minimum of 3x per week, and do yoga DVD's 2x per week. 


My work situation is alsot different - I have been in a new job for the last 9-10 months, and almost everyone brings their lunch. We all eat healthier because of this, although being in an office all day, I admit sometimes we try to beat the doldrums with occasional (sometimes frequent) snacking. To think of all the money I am saving not spending $7-10 on lunch every day! 


2010 was actually a pretty crappy year for me for other reasons. I experienced a lot of financial stress early on in the year and we went through the loan modification process on our house which was just a bloodbath. So much of my attention had been focused on this that it was so great to come back to this blog and read the good things that happened. I did accomplish something positive. And of course I look at my husband and two happy, healthy kids and know that all is right with the world today. 


Thank you for sticking with me, this blog has been a life saver! And happy-almost-blogoversary to me! Read my first post if you are interested:

The Relationship Between My Body and What the Fork Brings In

I am not skinny. I am not really fat either. My weight has always been what I think is pretty average in my adult years. I love to eat, and I enjoy desserts and cocktails. Fortunately I really enjoy working out which has always helped to balance things out.

I have never had to really exercise incredible willpower to lose weight. I am not bragging, its not easy for me to shed pounds when I need to...its just that I don't have any crazy vices like some people I hear about. I don't stash candy between my mattresses for those times of weakness. I don't have a few good days of dieting and then go on "a bender" where I indulge in so many forsaken foods that I wake up feeling ill... with traces of nacho cheese in the corners of my mouth. I just get to the point where I am disgusted, and then make a vow to do something about it. That usually means I have fallen off my workout wagon and I just need to get back on. I will also adjust my eating habits so I cut out some stuff. But I never go on deprivation diets. I just eat less and pass on dessert and fried foods more.

I just really enjoy eating well. I like healthy food, but also just really GOOD food. Sometimes I forget to keep my portion size in check. I do go through phases where pizza "just really sounds good" a little too often, or indulge in a bacon avocado cheeseburger (with fries, of course) because I haven't had one in a while. And wine....oh,wine...its pretty darn good stuff. I like reds...zins, cabernets, pinot noirs...and well, you can't squander away a good bottle of wine on a crappy meal. So that leads me to my steaks, pork chops and other yummy things I like to have for dinner. I love baked potatoes, but typically my "sides" for dinners are artichokes (which I do enjoy best dipped in mayo) and asparagus. I like salads, but am typically do lazy during the week to put all the toppings on that I enjoy the most. Which doesn't really make sense because they all come out of a can (garbanzo beans, kidney beans, black olives) for the most part, except croutons...and blue cheese dressing. So I still eat salad but usually something easier, topped with tomatoes and croutons only.

So to fast forward, I am turning the big 4-0 in a couple weeks. I want to turn 40 feeling fit and fabulous. I am the mother of two small children, a 3 1/2 year old boy and a 1 year old boy. While they do keep me pretty busy, I also find that its hard for me to take time to exercise as much as I'd like. I have also gone back to work after being off for a year and have actually put on weight. When I was home I led a much more active lifestyle...walking to the store with the boys in a stroller, taking them to the gym, riding my bike with them in a bike trailer. I also pretty much ate the same boring things all the time. I didn't get out to lunch or dinner more than maybe once every couple of weeks with my friends. Now here I am working in an office, and I am a free woman out on the town with big decisions to make like, "Where are we going to eat today?" and "Oh, you brought donuts in this morning? I think I'll take one, thanks." I have gained 5 lbs in the last few months, and on a short person like me (5'2) it shows. Not to mention the muscle mass I have lost since I have not worked out regularly since I started this job last July. Oh, da horrah!

My husband works most nights so I am left to my own devices as to what to make for dinner. I think I typically make good choices. He is totally supportive of me leading a healthy lifestyle. He is dedicated to working out nearly every day and likes to eat pretty healthy. He has a wicked sweet tooth though, and I try to help him out by not keeping any sweets in the house at all. But he's one of those "binge" people. If he's got a craving, he will dig high and low through every cabinet and the freezer in search of a treat. So, occasionally I throw the chocolate candy from goody bags my son gets at birthday parties in the freezer so if I hubby is having one of his fits, he can find a small something there.

Today a group of five of us from work are starting our version of "The Biggest Loser" challenge at work. We are all geared up to improve ourselves, and hope to support one another. Since we are together 5 days a week, and these are the people I typically make my eating decisions with (good and bad), I think this is going to work out well for us. We all went today to Wolf Fitness Systems to get our body fat tested because one of my co-workers works out there. I have never had my body fat tested before in my life! I thought I was going to get pinched in a few places but it turns out its a little more high tech. John, the owner, put some type of gel on my skin (resembling ultra-sound gel) and put a little sensor gun on specific areas: on my belly, on my waist/hip area, and the back of my arm. After a few beeps, it uploads information into a software and gives your overall body fat percentage. Mine was 28%! I was quite surprised that it was that high, but I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, since my discontent with my body lately is what brought me there in the first place.

I am not a calorie counter, but instead I just hope to keep track of all the exercise I do and put it out "there" (meaning, here) so it will keep me honest. I hope to lose between 7-10 lbs. Our challenge goes from today until March I'm sure there will be ups, as wells as downs. And hopefully all the downs will be the numbers on the scale!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Trimming the Fat and Spending Less in 2011

Our Economy: Who Do You Believe?
Every day I am reading articles about how unemployment is going down, holiday spending was up, consumer confidence is increasing, foreclosures are slowing, loans are getting modified. But everywhere I look, people are still in trouble. Companies are consolidating, laying off, cutting salaries and hours, and people are in big trouble with their homes. And these loan modifications? Sure, they are available, but in reality final modifications are few and far between. All I know is that with my family is still recovering from our excesses of the middle part of this decade, and we aren't taking any chances. We didn't win the Mega Millions this week, and we're still going to work tomorrow.

Where Can You Trim Expenses?
Some say that its a no-brainer to spend less. But when things are tight, sometimes we need to be a little creative. Here are some things that we have done to cut back on our monthly out-go.

Utilities, utilities, utilities!  Call your phone company and find out if based on your usage if you are in the best plan available for you...that goes for your cell phone as well. Better yet, if you don't use your land line as much consider canceling it and using only your cell phone, or doing as we did and going with an alternate service like Magic Jack which runs over your computer and works just as well as my old home phone service. I love it! I still use my same phone, and I don't miss my home phone bills one bit!

Cut back on your cable package. There are so many shows that I "had" to watch that were on premium channels. I have found that my children keep me busy enough, and when I need "entertainment" I read books, plus I try to work out more in the evenings. Also, with services like Netflix - you can check out a whole series for a fraction of the cost of the monthly charge for premium channels. Of course you aren't going to be able to watch the series in real time as it will become available after the current season runs on television. But when I see how many things I record on my DVR and end up watching them a month or two later, I have realized that "real time" doesn't matter to me so much! If you think that Netflix is an "extra" - it all depends on your particular situation. My husband works 4 nights a week, so we aren't going out much. While we have childcare available to us, we really pick and choose what is important enough to take us away from our kids and go out and spend money. We did cut out Netflix down to 1 DVD per month but we have unlimited streaming capabilities...I love it! I even stream work out DVD's like Crunch Fitness Bootcamp and Jillian Michaels yoga. At $12 per month it's cheaper than a class or gym membership! Which lead me to...

Gym membership. I am a huge proponent of being active. But you should evaluate your gym to see if you are getting your money's worth. What amenities are offered? Are you taking advantage of all of them? If you can only make it there once or twice a week just to use the treadmill and are paying $50 a month is it worth it to you? I would say walk or run outside for free. Or buy a treadmill to use at home. If you're taking advantage of the classes, the machines, and sometimes even the childcare or personal training and you feel comfortable working out there and you're paying $80 or more a month, more power to you. It's just another expense you can examine.

Look into your internet provider...can you do a bundle? Just be careful and remember that after the "promotional" period is up, your bill will be heading north as well. Or if you are very happy and loyal to your service, can you get a better deal by signing a 2 year agreement? (Make sure it is transferable if you decide to move.)

Eat more meals at home. This is a biggie. And you can't argue with it. Not only is it more cost effective but it is SO much healthier. Even if saving money isn't a goal of yours, for the sake of your health the bulk of your meals should be home-made. You simply can't control the ingredients in restaurant meals, and so many are loaded with way more fat, calories and sodium than a similar meal made by you. When you compare the cost of a restaurant meal to a similar meal made by you at home, sometimes it almost seems criminal. My favorite examples are typically pasta meals which generally run between $10-12  or more depending on the level of restaurant you are at. When you think of how cheap a whole box of pasta is, you have to wonder if the restaurant is peppering your pasta with gold flakes! But I totally get that restaurants have mark ups due to overhead. I'm just saying if you can cut back on that a bit you will notice your dollars will stretch a lot farther into the month!

Eating less meat will save you some dough. Try having "meatless Mondays". Or instead of serving your family big pieces of meat like steaks, cut large pieces down to smaller pieces and mix with other things like vegetables, potatoes or pasta to make your meals more interesting. You can make stir-frys, stews, and yummy pastas.

Try to be less wasteful. Brown bag it and eat leftovers for lunch the next day. Or get creative and turn your leftovers into something new altogether.

Watch your energy usage. Seems pretty basic, but some things are so minor you wonder why you should bother but over time could save you money. Unplug appliances that are not in use! DVD players, coffee makers, toaster ovens, computers. Get in the habit of turning lights out when you leave the room. If it's summer, keep your house closed up as long as possible to keep the hot sun out, and if you turn on your AC make sure all your windows and doors are closed. If it's winter, try to take advantage of any afternoon sun and let it stream in your windows! Keep windows and shades closed once the sun goes down to insulate from the cold outside. And for heaven's sake, wear a sweater or sweatshirt. You don't need to live in an icebox but by no means should you be comfortable in the month of January wearing a tank top in your living room. I keep my thermostat at 67 and wear long sleeves.

Buy in bulk, when it makes sense. In my opinion, if you are a member of a Sam's Club or Costco and you're there, buy what you use if you have room to store it. Having bulk items at home will make your life so much easier because there are things you won't run out of as often that will cause unnecessary trips to the store (which means using gas for transportation, to go to a convenient grocery store to spend money on something that you'll end up paying more for, and seeing other items you don't really need that you'll pick up just because.) When I am at the grocery store picking up items that I don't need in bulk, meaning anything that would expire before I would use it all, I compare the cost per unit (usually ounces) between different brands and different sizes. Sure the humongous bottle of xyz might be on special, but if you are getting 20 oz for $10 let's say, and the 10 oz bottle of xyz is $5 and you don't need the huge size or may not use it all before it expires get the smaller one or multiples of the small one if its a non perishable item.

Don't be afraid to use coupons. Shop around if it's a major purchase and watch for sales. My biggest problem is that I've always been impulsive and impatient. Not so good if you are trying to save money. I have learned so much about myself and tested myself in ways I never thought possible. I used to love going to the mall and seeing what was new, or buying whatever I saw that I liked...but it kind of bugged me when a few weeks later the very item I paid full price for was marked down. Now I know just to wait. I have come to appreciate the hunt and enjoy places like Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, and Marshall's. Some days I do not have patience for it at all whatsoever but on the days I am in the mood I can find some really great stuff! I am in love with Groupon and look forward to my daily email. The deals are amazing and the offerings are for things I really use - even for places like the Gap - so I'm not spending money on things I wouldn't ordinarily buy. I'm saving money on the things I DO buy.

Downsize your STUFF.  Are you the keeper of stuff (clothes that don't fit, furniture or toys that are not being used, things you are just hanging on to for "just in case")? Simplify your life! If some things are in good condition, you can sell them on eBay or Craigslist. Or host a good old fashioned garage sale. Cleaning house cleanses your mind and spirt, and if you can make a few extra bucks - even better.

Can you refinance your home? Mortgages are usually the biggest expense in families. Even though rates are rising, they are still at a historical low. The main problem is most homes are too far underwater or just don't have enough equity to qualify for a refi. Consult your mortgage lender to see if they are offering any refi options for your situation.

Reduce waste and be "green". Use less paper using washable towels and rags. Paper plates? Convenient, but costly and wasteful over time. Try cloth napkins! Less paper in the landfill...and you won't run out of napkins, just wash them! Get a Brita filter and stop wasting money on bottled water. Those bottles take a zillion years to break down. If you need water on the go buy a reusable vessel such as a Klean Kanteen. My hubby and I each have one, and I also have one at the office.

What do you do to try to cut expenses? I am always looking for new ideas. Stay tuned for my next post on hand me downs!

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 Off To A Good Start

traffic Pictures, Images and Photos
Speedy drive to work today

Can I Have Just One More Day, Please??
I realize how lucky I have been to have had time off toward the end of the year. I have been at my job about 9 months, working for a small privately owned company. My boss is actually a friend - he is the husband of a college friend of mine. He is my age and has children as well, so the environment around our office is pretty family-friendly. I do already work from home each Friday so that I can pick my older son up from school that day, which is a nice bonus. I have been working hard to prove myself and feel like my contribution is valued, which I guess it is since they let me have a week off! I have accrued the time, and fortunately our business is a little slow at the end of the year so it made sense. It went by slowly and I truly enjoyed my time. However, as Monday approached, I was just dreading it. I slept in for as long as possible on Sunday and despite doing a yoga DVD was otherwise as lazy as could be.

Rough Morning
I should have felt more well rested, but as I mentioned in my previous post we had an unexpected New Year's bash which came on the heels of our fast and furious whirlwind trip to Disneyland - where we walked the park for many hours and stayed until it closed at midnight both nights we were there. Then, getting back into my running routine was of utmost importance this morning so I had the alarm set for 5:30 a.m. My kids were hard to put down for the night as I think they got too used to staying up late and just weren't ready. So, I think I finally got to sleep myself at about 10 ish. Then, about 2:30 a.m my 2 year old Buddha who was sleeping in his big brother's bed rolled out. He was still out but kind of crying in his sleep and Monkey came running out of his room to tell me. I was already on my way, swiftly put him back to bed but had to read my book for about 30 minutes or so before I was tired again. 5:30 a.m. came fast but I made it happen. My running buddy came over, we ran, I woke Monkey up for school, made breakfast, got us both ready, drove him to school and was on my way to work at 8:40 a.m. I was so tired! First of all, it was cold so I had the heater blasting in my car, which almost made me sleepy. I was super ecstatic that there was NO TRAFFIC. It was a slow day and I hit the wall at work in the afternoon. I was drowsy driving home but I made it in one piece.

Tomorrow Will Be Easier, I Hope
Tonight, I am putting my kids to bed early and will not watch any TV or read my book as I have a running date tomorrow morning again. Yeah!! I do hope to eat better. While I had a nicely portioned healthy lunch for myself I could not resist the delicious Tim Tam cookies that my co-worker brought in. They were sent over from Australia and they send him a few packages about 2x per year, so I was treating it like a special occasion. Self-sabatoge! I will do my best to avoid them tomorrow! Off to bed so I can get back in my routine of going to bed early and getting enough sleep!

Hope your New Year is off a great start as well! How was your first day back to the grind? Did you have any challenges?

Fruit Salad, Yummy Yummy!

Need to add a little twist to dinner tonight? As an alternative to green salad, I think salads with fruit are great companions for chicken, pork chops, and fish at dinner time.  Here is a very simple recipe to feed a family of four. I think it pretty well adheres to the guidelines of everyone's New Year's eat healthier. Bon Appetit!

2 red apples
1 green apple (you can experiment but almost any kind works well)
1 Bartlett pear
1 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries
salt to taste

Whisk together the vinegar and orange juice in a large bowl.

Remove the apple and pear cores and chop fruit into bite-sized cubes. Leave the peeling on. Add the fruit and the walnuts to the bowl with the vinegar and orange juice. Add the dried cranberries. Toss well, drizzle with olive oil and then toss again.

Salt to taste. Ready to enjoy, but I like it better a little refrigerated.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Last Day of Excess

Disneyland Christmas Tree

I have thoroughly enjoyed the holidays. I have not written any posts about how successful I have been in meeting my fitness goals because I honestly have hung it up since Tuesday, December 21, 2010. I didn't do this purposely, it sort of just happened. I worked until Wednesday the 22nd, had last minute Christmas stuff to do as we were hosting on the 24th...on the 25th I packed for Disneyland and we were gone until the 29th. I did, however walk for miles and hours and hours both days we went to Disnyland so I wasn't a complete slob. I didn't attempt to adhere to a particularly healthy diet although I didn't go off the deep end and eat endless fried foods and sweets while we were there.

Crowds were out of control, they had to close the park!

When we returned, I had to scramble to get ready for a semi-last minute New Year's party we were having. We knew we were hosting friends at home, but literally did not now until the day before exactly how many people were coming. Everyone pitched in to help and we pulled things off without a hitch. Even with about 13 or so kids under 10 running around my house nothing got spilled, stained, broken or ruined. None of the adults even broke a wine glass. And it wasn't tame, I swear we had fun. I made a huge pitcher of appletini's which were delicious and a hit with the ladies. There was SO much food...everything was great, red wine, beer, champagne, cupcakes, See's candy, shrimp, salami, cheeses (including a brie en croute), meatballs, quiches, etc. I enjoyed all of it, and drank my share of calories as well. I stayed up til  3 a.m.which I have not done in quite some time!  We had friends spend the night so the next morning we nibbled on mini quiches and leftover cupcakes and See's candy. I only cleaned up part of the mess the next day and still have some fine tuning to do. My kids had a lot of fun. They got to stay up late (well Buddha went down at 10 p.m.) and Monkey made it to midnight...barely! He thought everyone chanting the countdown to midnight was pretty cool. It was quite a decadent night for us all the way around!
Some of the kids watching the TV and blowing their horns

Picking up the playroom, UGH.

The ladies!

Remnants of a fun time

LOVE these napkins
So my running buddy and I were supposed to resume our routine this morning. It is pouring pretty hard here today so we cancelled. I am going to try to hit the treadmill at some point after I am done cleaning and also try to do my Jillian Michaels yoga DVD. I'm going running tomorrow at 6 a.m. It will be a shock to my system after sleeping in until 10 a.m. today. Wish me luck!

Happy New Year to you all, I wish you a happy and prosperous 2011. xoxo