Archive for December, 2011

Meatless Meals (I Wish) My Mother Made

This recipe came through my RSS feed from Simply Life. I hadn’t had dumplings in a really long time, and these looked tasty and easy to make. The Big Man put this one together and he said it wasn’t too hard. Very tasty! We never have cow’s milk on hand, so we used rice milk and the dumplings turned out fine. Not sure if there would have been a difference (or what it might be) if we’d used regular milk.

He missed the peas at the bottom of the list. What’s funny is that while we were eating it, I mentioned that I thought it would be good with some peas. And then I was looking at the picture, and I thought I saw peas, so I re-examined the recipe and sure enough: peas.

I remembered to take a picture, but it looked really nasty… You can click through the link to the original recipe to see pictures — she takes wonderful pictures of the food she prepares.

Vegetable Dumpling Soup

Soup Ingredients
2-3 tbs. olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1-2 bay leaves
2 -3 tbs. tomato paste (optional, use if you want a tomato base)
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Thyme, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup frozen peas

Dumpling Ingredients
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbs. cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbs. butter
1/2 fat-free milk
1/3 cup frozen corn, thawed

1.  Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook 3-5 minutes.  Add celery and carrots and cook 3 more minutes, stirring frequently.  Add bay leaves, tomato paste (if using), broth, water and seasonings.  Bring soup to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

2.  While soup is simmering, prepare the dumplings.  Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Cut in butter and mix until butter pieces are about the size of peas.  Add milk and corn and stir just until mixed together.

3.  Return the soup to a boil  Drop dumplings into soup by rounded tablespoons.  Cover, reduce heat and cook over medium-low for about 10 minutes (do not boil).  Serve and enjoy!

Happy New Year!

Another year draws to a close — my first full year on this blog! (I started in March 2010.)

I debated what to do with this post. Quite a few blogs have had a “Best of 2011” post showing up this week. The posts I tend to enjoy the most are often not the posts that get the most feedback or the most hits, so I’m not sure I would do well in putting that sort of a roundup together.

Instead, just a few thoughts:

For 2011 — thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, thanks for sharing. Blogs are just words in space without readers, and comments and shares are the most tangible ways that I know that you’re reading. Regardless, thanks for hanging around this little corner of the ‘net. If you like what you read, let others know.

For 2012 — I have some ideas to organize the myriad of topics here. I’m not sure I’m going to follow through — I don’t necessarily do well with that much organization — but I’m thinking…

Oh — and tomorrow, there will be a new recipe posted 🙂

Fare-the-well, 2011! You have served me well. Looking forward to greatness in 2012!

How Many Paychecks?

The Big Man was looking at our mortgage statement and happened to mention how much interest we’ve paid in 2011. Taking an idea from a few finance blogs I read, I did a quick calculation: how many paychecks did we spend this year on mortgage interest? The answer? Roughly seven. And that’s just the interest — doesn’t count principle.


The exercise in its entirety is usually to calculate how many days’ work it takes to pay for each expense that you have. Some recommend separating interest out from principle in any payments where that applies as well (which I definitely recommend!).

Then the question becomes — it is worth it?

From that perspective, you can start shifting your spending (and saving!) to things that are worth it.

For us… we have only two debts: my student loan and the mortgage. If I had been wiser at either point in time, these would be less of an issue, but I wasn’t, so they are. The interest rates on both are close, though the mortgage is a bit higher. But in this case, we definitely fall into the “debt snowball” mindset: pay off the smallest debt first. So The Big Man and I made a plan last night to try to hack away at the student loan. I don’t know how to calculate how soon we’ll have it paid off with these extra payments, since it’s amortized, but regardless, it will be in less than ten years, which is what the payment schedule says.

For those of you playing at home, I went to teaching part-time a year and a half ago to open Second Chance FitCenter. Since about half-way through my pregnancy, there hasn’t been much action at the FitCenter, though I’m working on picking that up in the coming weeks. A couple of months ago, we added a baby which, contrary to what we were warned, hasn’t been terribly expensive so far … except for insurance. That’s taken another 1/3 out of my already paltry paycheck.

It would be easy to say, “We can’t afford to try to pay this off.”

But we can. We’re not trying to pay off the whole thing right now. We’re not even doubling payments. But we came up with an amount that, short of a financial emergency, we should be able to afford every month. And sooner rather than later, the student loan payment will be gone.

And then we’ll tackle the mortgage.

For now, we’ve been rounding the mortgage payment up to the nearest hundred, so we toss a few extra bucks at the principal every month.

In the mean time, we’re saving money as well, in hopes that we’ll have enough saved for a new car (outside of the emergency fund or the summer expenses fund) before one of ours — probably mine — dies.

This doesn’t leave much room for, well, anything. (Our weekly cash has room for a little fun money if we spend it right.) But if we can get rid of the student loan AND not need a car loan, it will be worth it. And I think we can do both.

How many paychecks do you spend on interest? Or on anything? Does this exercise make you rethink where you’re spending your money?


It’s Wednesday! Today’s post is by Nichol.

You know, just a short while ago there was a little blog post up here about resolutions. I didn’t write it, but I agree with it.

I generally make resolutions like “save up $5 a week to buy a new bag” or “shop study more.” If I am serious enough or determined about wanting to do something, or buy something, I’m just going to do it.

That has worked for me so far; let’s see if it continues. Oh, my vague resolution this year is to find a rich husband date more. That and run a mile every day between January 1st and April 30th. It’s an event created by I ❤ to run. Check them out and maybe make a running commitment. I’m starting tonight tomorrow night (starting Wednesday, but wrote this on Tuesday).

What are your big new year plans? Aside from forcibly abiding by the Mayan calendar…

See you next year…maybe…

Make Your Health and Fitness Resolution Stick

As I mentioned the other day, I’m not a fan of New Year resolutions. That said, I know zillions of people — including some of my faithful readers — are going to make them, so let’s talk about them for a minute.

Many people have “get in shape” as a New Year resolution. For a variety of reasons, most of those people fail.

Let’s break it down so if this is your resolution, you can have more success.

Is your goal specific enough? What does “get in shape” mean to you? Get skinny? (It’s easy to be skinny and not in shape, by my definitions.) Run a 5K? Eat healthier food? (What specific foods do you want to get rid of or add?) Gain strength? Gain endurance? How much? How quickly?

Without very specific goals, how will you know if you’re getting closer to them?

Is your goal realistic? In the realm of health and fitness, I’m a fan of setting goals too low and then meeting (or exceeding) them and adjusting from there.

How are you going to accomplish it? What are the options available and which one (or combination of several) are you going to use? Do you have or need someone to help, like a coach, a trainer, your spouse, or a workout buddy?

Why is this a goal? Do you want to look better? Fit into specific clothes? Be able to chase the kids? Race with a neighbor? Just feel more energetic in general? Stave off health problems? If there is no compelling “why,” you’re not going to do it.

Hope that helps!

If you’re looking for external motivation, Second Chance FitCenter will soon be offering the Month-to-Month Accountability Groups online.

Scrap the Resolutions

Are you planning to make a New Years resolution? My biggest question to you is: why wait?

If there is something in your life that you truly want to change, start now!

If there is a list of reasons why you can’t start now, there will be a list of reasons why you can’t start January 1, or why you couldn’t continue as of January 20.

What is it about your resolution that makes you want to put it off for another week or so? Is that something you’re going to be able to get over in a week?

Regardless of when you’re starting, make it feasible. You are very likely to fail if you make your goal unrealistic, or if you have a whole bunch of them. Pick one, make it do-able, and go for it. Don’t worry about making it too small — you can always size up later. Small goals are more likely to be attained, which will make you feel good about getting it done, which might help you to up the ante and continue.

No news to report

It’s Wednesday! Today’s post is by Nichol.

Well, it’s holiday time! I love Christmas. Other than my birthday, it’s my favorite holiday.

I don’t have a lot to report this week in lifestyle changes. I did finally move and am moving still. My workouts for the past week have consisted of lugging my belongings up three flights of stairs and lugging trash down three flights of stairs. I do that 6-7 times a day so I’ve given myself the 17th to the 23rd off to get that all finished.

As for eating, I’ve been doing pretty well considering all the wonderful junk that has been coming into the office and across the kitchen counter at my mom’s house. We get all kinds of foodstuffs from out of town family (thanks Aunt Kathy and Steve for the Mrs. Fields cookie tin) and my stepdad always gets goodies from the other lawyers. I have done my best to be conservative, but some things require eating (rum balls!).

I am looking forward to being unpacked and back into a normal routine and hopefully I’ll have more to report next week. Until then, have a wonderful holiday!

Christmas Cards?

Today’s post is mainly born out of curiosity on my part.

Do you send Christmas cards?

I sent Christmas cards for a few years quite a few years ago but haven’t in a long time. I didn’t want to just sign my name and pop them in the mail, but I didn’t have (or make) the time to write a personal message in each one. I considered a “Christmas letter” but decided against it. I was sending cards to people I knew well and people I had much less contact with and couldn’t draft a letter that seemed appropriate for everyone. So perhaps perfectionism killed my Christmas card habit.

I vacillate about receiving them. A lot of the cards we get have pictures, and I do enjoy those. The ones with Christmas letters are typically from people we aren’t in close touch with, and those are OK, too. The ones that are just signed … sometimes I enjoy getting them and putting them up — cards make the family room more festive. Sometimes, not so much. Why am I inconsistent? I have no idea. Chalk it up to being human 🙂

It’s funny, though, because the rest of the year, I really like getting cards, regardless of them having a personal note in them. Perhaps this falls under my distaste for “obligatory” things. For example, The Big Man knows that I like flowers, but not on my birthday, our anniversary, or Valentine’s Day. (And I like cards on my birthday, even though it’s “obligatory.”)

What is interesting to me is how many people I’ve known who completely stress out about sending Christmas cards and making time to do it and getting them in the mail early enough. I guess I don’t understand it because it’s not a high priority for me, but if my life is overwhelming and the to-do list needs to be pared, the cards are gonna go.

It is also interesting to see how many people keep track of who they get cards from so they know who NOT to send them to next year. There’s some mysterious social currency in sending and receiving. I remember as a kid seeing books designed just to keep track of who cards were sent to and received from. (I don’t know if it was my mom or other relatives or both who had them.) One person I know this year is only sending cards to people after she receives one from them. That’s some hard-core tit-for-tat.

What about you? Do you enjoy sending and/or receiving Christmas cards?

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Have you heard of high-intensity interval training? It’s the current big thing. If you are a moderately fit person, it would be appropriate for you to incorporate these ideas into your fitness routine, if they appeal to you.

I just saw this great infographic explaining HIIT. Enjoy!

More Health and Fitness News & Tips at Greatist.

Too Many Cookies

The last few months, my sweets cravings have been back in full force, mostly asking for cookies.

Trader Joe’s has two types of vegan cookies — chocolate chip and trail mix — and both are criminally good. There are a dozen or so in each bag, and bags weren’t lasting a dozen days.

Yesterday, I went to a cookie exchange where I ate a few cookies. Not too many. Maybe four or five. And I brought some home. Well, I was going to bring them home, but quite a few of them didn’t make it. (In my paltry self-defense, I did have two stops before I went home.) The Big Man had a few, but by the end of the night, they were gone.

The good news is that I am sugared-out. I don’t want more cookies. Or brownies. Or cake. Or ice cream. Or candy. I don’t want bread or noodles, either.

That said, if there were still cookies here, I’d throw them away. Just to be on the safe side.

Mainly right now, I just want vegetables. It feels good to crave vegetables again, instead of cookies. This will definitely kick-start healthy eating for me again, even with a few holiday parties on the horizon.

Have you ever cured yourself of a craving with a binge? And how is your December eating going?

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