Thursday, January 30, 2014

January Thankful Thursday and Resolutions Recap

I'm linking up with Katie Elizabeth, Mia at Make Me Up Mia, Kristal at The Strong Family, and Carly at Carly Blogs Here for this Thankful Thursday. I've saved up my thankfulness for the whole month and I'm letting it go today. Almost everyday so far this month, I wrote down what I was thankful for that day. Honestly, I forgot a couple of days and had to go back and reconstruct what I was thankful for.

1/1 Waking up next to my handsome husband's smiling face. He does so much for me.
1/2 SNOW DAY! I get to spend all day with Mr. Handsome.
1/3 (Another snow day) Watching a movie with Hubs and having him tell me how much he likes watching movies with me.
1/4 So grateful that I have a warm home and warm food. Keeping those without in my thoughts this coming week.
1/5 We stayed under budget doing our weekly grocery shopping! Money we don't spend on groceries can go towards a downpayment on a house.
1/6 Two things! 50º! It was so warm today. I am thankful all the ice melted off my car and our walkways. And, I thought I had a UTI and I was able to see a doctor right away and get a prescription for some antibiotics.
1/7 Fresh sheets are so nice.
1/8 I got to leave the house and go to the JLP Meeting and now I'm a co-chair for my subcommittee!
1/9 Made a up a new recipe that Mr. H loved.
1/10 Google Hangout with my sisters.
1/11 Skyping with college friends.
1/12 High of 60! We went for a walk because it felt like Spring.
1/13 I opened the windows and cleaned up half the basement.
1/14 Mr. H took such good care of me while my back hurt today.
1/15 I am going to see a psychiatrist on the 30th! Yeah! Trying to make an appointment to deal with my mental health concerns made me start crying last month so I am so happy about this. I thought I had anxiety issues but the survey I filled out now makes me think I might be depressed.
1/16 We've used less electricity so far compared with last year! My suffering hasn't been wasted.
1/17 Got to go shopping with Mr. H after dinner.
1/18 :(
1/19 watched a movie with Ben
1/20 I got into the psychiatrist early. There's nothing wrong with me, at least nothing so wrong that I should be medicated.
1/21 I wrote a cover letter.
1/22 We got to bed early and Mr. H and I got to read next to each other in Bed. Our house is so clean.
1/23 E3 came! I am 10,000 days old and I had cake!
1/24 :(
1/25 E3, Mr. H, and my BIL went to see Catching Fire.
1/26 We went out to dinner at the Sea Dog. I love their patio, in the summer.
1/27 E3 and I taste tested all the doughnuts in town! I love doughnuts. I finally got the ball rolling on getting the big scrape on the side of my car fixed.
1/28 Ben thinks I have what it takes to be a SAHM. I didn't think I had what it took but I really appreciate his support.
1/29 I think I'm almost done with the every week allergy shots!

Progress Towards My Resolutions

Exercise Four Times a Week and
Stamp Every Day on My WiiFitU Calendar
I did not get a stamp everyday since I didn't get a stamp before I hurt my back and there was no way I was going to subject myself to excruciating pain to weigh myself that day. Then my sister came and we were to "busy" for me to play. Then I gave up. I thought getting a stamp everyday would encourage me to exercise more than four times a week. This does not seem to be the case so I am I just going to try to exercise four times a week going forward. I think I may have failed at getting in enough exercise this week. I will have to redouble my efforts in February.


30 min

33 min20 min36 min30 min

29 min
21 min
29 min20 min

20 min30 min20 min

Eat Less Sugar
I haven't started yet but the candy from Christmas is pretty much all gone. We'll see how it goes in February.

Use My Clarisonic Five Times a Week and Floss 80% of the Time
The past week my skin has been so dry and sensitive so I gave it a break from the Clarisonic. Other wise I've done great.
I made a chart with stickers.

Drink 8 Cups (64oz) of Water a Day
Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat Sun
36 oz66 oz42 oz29 oz36 oz
66 oz66 oz25 oz76 oz64 oz75 oz85 oz
64 oz0 oz*66 oz88 oz76 oz65 oz67 oz
64 oz24 oz64 oz71 oz72 oz71 oz48 oz
0 oz63 oz47 oz

*I did drink some water that day I was just in a lot of pain so I didn't record anything.

Practice Gratitude and Minimize Envy
See above. I started having a hard time remembering to write things down.

I called Comcast and managed to save $10 a month on our cable/internet/phone bill. This year we turned the thermostat down to 60º form 64º. Our suffering has not been for naught. Last January we spent about $193 on our electricity bill, we have electric heat, and this year we're on tract to spend $152. See also my review of my new face lotion and toner below. I'm doing freelance work and Mr. H has already done more tutoring work than he did last year.

I'm working on reducing our food costs by buying more in bulk, see my post on meal planning. But I still went over our grocery budget and spent $238. I was aiming for $160 but I would have been happy with $200. We still spent less on groceries than our average for last year. I am going to aim for $180 in February. And our "net worth" is still over $1,000 below where it was when I stopped working at my temporary job. Christmas was expensive but my mom said she'd reimburse me for my plane ticket to the Keys since Mr. H and I hadn't planned on me taking that trip.

Try to Spend Less on Beauty Products
The lotion is great! It is fragrance free so it smells like sunblock and reminds me of summer. It costs less than half as much as the Burt's Bees stuff I was using and it is twice as big. The cheaper toner feels so wonderful and moisturizing on my skin. There's slightly more in the bottle (6.7 oz versus 5 oz) and it costs way more than half as much as the $21 a bottle toner from Origins that I had been using. The only problem is that it's fragrance free so it smells odd because it doesn't have the lovely scent that the Origins United States toner has.

Target Toner for $4.19 and Face Lotion for $6.99

Be Nicer to Mr. H.
I think I'm being nicer. He never thought I wasn't nice to him to begin with so I didn't ask his opinion.

Don't Stop Myself Because of Fear
I checked out a book on accounting to learn more about hanging out my own shingle but I didn't finishing the book (or the other books I checked out about starting a business) before it was time to return them. I've been writing cover letters.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How Fortunate I Am

Last week I was reflecting on how fortunate I am to live now and I much I owe those who came before me for fighting so hard and risking their lives so that I can enjoy the "equal protection of law" promised to all Americans by the 14th Amendment.

Would my dad have stayed here if the Civil Rights movement hadn't made America a place where there were no legal barriers to his success? Or would he have gone home because his concerns about America were greater than his concerns about his native country? Would he have stayed in Maine, where people are super nice, instead of going to Chicago where he met my mom. It hasn't been all easy going for him. When I told him that I was doing work with the Fair Housing Act, he told me about when he was inexplicably turned down for a mortgage. It didn't make any sense at the time since he had a high paying steady job as a surgeon. The only real plausible explanation was that someone didn't like his accent or his funny name and turned him down.

Would my parents have gotten married if the Lovings hadn't taken their case to the U.S. Supreme Court and had anti-miscegenation laws invalidated as unconstitutional 14 years before they married? Even if they did marry and have children, would my parents feel comfortable taking us to Disney World or traveling anywhere knowing they might end up someplace where their marriage was illegal? This apparently is still a problem for couples like my parents and Mr. H and myself. Shortly after we were engaged, a justice of the peace in Louisiana refused to marry a couple like us and I can still remember how indignant and hurt I felt when he said he wouldn't do it because the marriages didn't work out and the children of those relationship suffer because of their mixed raceness.

My first trip to Disney World

If not for the woman's rights movement would my mom have felt capable of going to medical school, where she met my father? Would my mom have felt empowered to delay child birth until after finishing all her training to become a surgeon? If she hadn't my mom might still have had children but life would have been so different without her strength and knowledge. It also would have been very different without the extra income that her job provided. I would never have known the wonderful nanny who helped raise us.

I know I am so incredibly blessed because of my parents' education and their relative wealth. I grew up in a very wealthy area so I never realized how money improved my opportunities because it provided me and my sisters with education experiences that many others didn't have access to. (Also braces to fix my crooked teeth.) My life experiences were pretty normal for most people in the area so I didn't realized that they weren't the norm for the rest of the country.

Seeing the beginning of Western Civilization

I didn't really realize how lucky I was until college when I started talking with my new classmates about their life. I realized that I'd only come so far because my parents worked I've only come this far because I've gotten so much support from my parents. They've always told me I can do whatever I set my mind to and have taught me to work hard for what I want. In addition, they've given me finical support when they think it's appropriate. I am in awe of those who've accomplished more than I have without their parents' help.

I read about social justice on the internet and I found this little exercise that can be used to help illustrate people's different life experiences and you can imagine how some of these differences would result in advantages in school and life.

Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka
Indiana State University
© 2008

Introduction: An activity designed to help the participants gain awareness of the vast range of social class that exists within themselves and others. This has been updated based on the wide range of feedback we received as this was becoming a popular experience.

Explanations and Notes: All of the ‘step taking’ is about things not requiring effort on the students’ part, that were things done by others. While some of these are important to some people, others will be important to others. The list includes experiences, objects, and other things which reflect social class.

Each bolded statement is a step forward I would take. Something that likely helps me that is likely something someone else did.

If your father finished college before you started
If your mother went to college before you started 
If your mother finished college before you started

If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor. (I'm counting my mom as a professor since she teaches and is an administrator at a med school. I assume a surgeon is a physician.)

If your family was the same or higher class than your high school teachers

If you had a computer at home when you were growing up
If you had your own computer at home when you were growing up (Some of my earlier memories involve playing Reader Rabbit on our families first computer and typing gibberish in the word processor. I miss DOS so much. I had my own computer on an off, I was so nerdy and I wanted to be an l33t hax0r so bad.)

If you had more than 50 books at home when you were growing up
If you had more than 500 books at home when you were growing up (I am guessing that we had more than 500 books, they are my Dad's favorite thing in the world and he bought us a copy of the Encyclopdia Britanica before we were born. My parents never said no to buying me books.)
If were read children's books by a parent when you were growing up (I have a video of my mom reading me a book for Halloween and I remember my dad reading me fables.)

If you ever had lessons of any kind as a child or a teen
If you had more than two kinds of lessons as a child or a teen (I should be much more musical and athletic than I am now given the number of lessons I've had. I've had piano lessons, guitar lessons, tennis lessons, swimming lessons, and golf lessons all for nothing.)

If the people in the media who dress and talk like you were portrayed positively (I'm from the Midwest and general speak the like the newscasters thought. I mostly dress kind of preppy now but when I was a child my parents more or less dressed me like everyone else.)

If you had a credit card with your name on it before college (FYI Even if you're just an authorized user on your parents' account it may show up on your record when people go to pull your credit score and that may cause you some problems.)

If you had or will have less than $5000 in student loans when you graduate
If you had or will have no student loans when you graduate (I only have student loans from law school. May parents would have paid for that if they weren't paying for college for E2 and E3 at the same time. They're helping me pay them now since I am not working.)

If you went to summer camp (Once I went to sleep away camp. I went to Park District Day Camps every summer until I was in high school.)

If you had a private tutor (I got a C in Level 4 Spanish my freshman year of high school, so I got a tutor to keep up my GPA until I could drop down to Level 3 my sophomore year.)

If you have been to Europe more than once as a child or teen (I'd only been once before College.)

If your family vacations involved staying at hotels rather than KOA or at relatives homes (My mom was very anti-camping as her family had to camp. We never needed to camp so we never did.)

If all of your clothing has been new (I got no hand me downs since I am the big sister and the oldest cousin here.)

If your parents gave you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them (I miss the VW Cabrio my parents got for me, but only in the summer. My Ford Escape handles so well in the snow. It also a gift from my parents because my mom was worried about me driving the Cabrio to school everyday in the winter. My husband didn't learn to drive in high school because he didn't want his parents to pay for car insurance for him or driver's ed classes, I taught him how to drive and he bought his own car.)

If there was original art in your house as a child or teen (I do not think so but I have no clue.)

If you had a phone in your room (I am saying yes to this because I had a cellphone in middle school in the late 90s)

If your parent owned their own house or apartment when you were a child or teen
If you had your own room as a child or teen (I shared a room with E2 for a little bit but we all got our own rooms as we got older.)

If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
If you had your own cell phone in High School
If you had your own TV as a child or teen (I got rid of my TV at some point.)

If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College (E3 did. She is smart.)

If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline (My parents took me to Hawai as a lap baby! They are the bravest people in the world.)
If you ever went on a cruise with your family (On the first one I remember I was horribly sea sick at dinner every night and I puked all over me and  my dad at least once while he was taking me to vomit. On the one we went on in Alaska, I was the sickest I have ever been in my life. I still get very sea sick so I am glad that I can opt out of family vacations now. On the last cruise we went on as a family my parents got me perscription stength anti-nasuea meds like the kind my mom used when she was undergoing chemo and I still felt sea sick on the day we were at sea.)

If your parents took you to museums and art galleries as a child or teen (I can't remember ever going to an art museum with my parents but my mom would always take us to the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Alder Planetarium.)
If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family (I had no idea how much our bills were until we got old. My dad is not very good at remembering things and for some reason he was in charge of paying bills so occasionally some would slip by and I'd find out how much the past due payment was when someone called and left a message reminding him to pay up. I also went with him to pay the credit card bill because he'd always leave that to the last minute.)

If you went to a private high school

*If you'd like to use this for teaching or otherwise please be sure to credit the original educators who created this exercise. You can read more about them here: and here

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Six Month Blogaversary!

Today I am 10,000 days old and I've been blogging for half a year now! So I figured I'd share a little bit more about myself and this blog.

For Anyone Who Hasn't Read the About Me
So I was born and grew up just north of Chicago. I have two little sisters, E2 and E3, who are now my best friends. It's amazing how much your feelings for a person can change when they aren't constantly taking things form your room without asking and messing up or hogging your shared bathroom. I went away to college in Maine where I ended up finding Mr. H. We have no idea when we met but we were both in the same groups of friends and he ended up in all the same teaching classes as my roommate sophomore year so I saw him a lot. We ended up dating and we're still together today. After graduating he started teaching and I started law school. His first year of teaching was so much harder than my first year of law school, FYI. I finally graduated law school, got married, and passed the bar. I worked in a temporary position at a non-profit for most of my first year as a lawyer and now I'm looking for a permanent position and figuring out how I might hang out my own shingle.

We had so much fun with photo booth when we started dating.

Why Exile in Vacationland?
I love Maine and I love being here with Mr. H. When our relationship became serious we talked a lot about where to live. We decided on Maine mostly to be close to his parents. It is so much easier for my parents to travel, they are used to traveling and they have enough money to do so. His parents would have a much harder time coming out to visit us in Chicago. The cost of living here is so much less. The Bar here is friendly and welcoming. I didn't think it would be hard for me to get used to living here. I was kinda wrong.

It's been a huge shock going from the one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world (no. 19, no. 3 in the country) to Maine where the state wide population is only 1.3 million. For example, the City I went to college in had half the population of the Village I grew up in. Sometimes I think even miss traffic jams (I think what I actually miss about the traffic are the regular updates on weather and traffic on WBBM 780.) I miss my high school friends. I miss my family. I miss the variety of life in a big city. I can't get gyros! There's no polish sausage! The Chinese food is weird. There's only one mall and I have to drive half an hour to get to it. There is no Nordstrom.

Winter here never seems to end. In Chicago, there is a real spring and a real summer. Here it's cold all year round and there isn't a real summer where it gets warm. It just winter from December to April and then it's Spring and maybe a day or two of summer and then fall and then winter begins again.

I grew up in a mostly white suburb and went to a mostly white and East Asian school school (me and my sisters were the only black people there until a Nigerian family moved into our school district) but a fair number of people where weren't white and Christian around. Plus the city itself was much more diverse. So being different didn't make me stand out. Here that's not the case and it's kind of weird sometimes (like no one ever shouted the N word at me before I moved here or mistook me for the other black person woman my age in town).

People are generally so nice and friendly that it's scary to someone who's used to polite but aloof city folks. I was used to anonymity because I was just one of ten million or so, here everyone knows everyone. I feel left out sometimes because I don't know everyone and haven't known everyone my whole entire life. Also, here I'm always thinking about how I'm acting and if that's appropriate for a lawyer because my future clients probably see me all the time around town. I can never leave the house in yoga pants unless I am on my way to a yoga class, I can't listen to loud music in my car, I can't really have a really bad day in public, I worry about people talking about the groceries I buy.

So while I like it here, it's been hard sometimes and I kind of feel like I'm on a self imposed exile.

#myrealselfie a la College Prepster

Why Start Blogging?
In law school I read blogs and they looked like fun! So I started blogging in fits and starts in law school. Although, as soon as I could I had a Xanga and LiveJournal so maybe I've been blogging in fits and starts for over ten years.

What's your Name?
So, last spring at my temporary job they hired a new paralegal. That process involved looking at what was public about them on the internet. I realized that if you googled my name you could find my blog. I didn't blog about anything particularly embarrassing or bad. But, I still didn't like the idea of prospective employers or clients finding my blog and reading about my struggles to find a good strapless bra, read about my adventures in cooking, or think that I was obsessed with manicuring my nails. I also wanted to be able to share more personal things that I assume other people struggle with but never talk about because it's sometimes embarrassing (like menstruation).

So I made my old blog private, created a new one with a new email address. Here I only go by eHa. I don't even want to use my first name since you could probably figure out who I am by searching just my first name in the state attorney directory. I mostly just want to keep my professional life mostly separate from my personal life.

If you have any more questions, just leave a comment and I'll answer if I can!

Update: Jennifer/JMO at Crazy Shenanigans asked "Where's one place that you'd love to live if you could live anywhere?"
I would likely move home and live in the town I grew up in on Chicago's North Shore only I'd like to live closer to the lake. I wouldn't want to live in one of the really big old fancy houses right on the lake but it would be so nice to live within walking distance of the beach. I think I'd also be willing to give Cleveland a try.

I can't imagine living any place without seasons so while it would be tempting to say I'd love to live in Florida or California I couldn't do it. I'd also like to live in a more populous area than I live in now. I much prefer the lake to the ocean. I'm also hesitant to live some place where there are a lot of natural disasters. There are hardly any earthquakes in Illinois or in Maine. There are no hurricanes in Illinois and by the time the hurricanes get to Maine they're weak tropical storms that seem less scary than thunderstorms back home. While there are tornadoes in Illinois there aren't many thunderstorms that spawn tornadoes close into the City. There are no tornadoes in Maine. Blizzards don't faze me. I don't like ice storms and freezing though and there are more of that in Maine. I also hate driving on hills in the snow or at night so I'd be happiest back in the Midwest.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

White Bean and Vegetable Cream Soup

I put "white bean soup" on our meal plan one week. (I put a lot of soup on our meal plan that week since I was in the clutches of the so called Polar Vortex when I drew it up. But it ended up being abnormally warm the rest of the week.) When I went to make dinner I didn't have a corresponding recipe so this kind of happened. I was  inspired by a recipe in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian White Beans, Tuscan Style in which the beans are seasoned simply with garlic, sage, and black pepper. Mr. H liked it so I thought I'd share the recipe--it's like the ham and potato soup from September except without the ham and potatoes.

I wasn't planning to blog this so my photo is the
left over bit of soup that I ended up having for lunch.
So good, even left over.

White Bean and Vegetable Cream Soup

1 qt. vegetable broth (1qt water + vegetable better than bullion)
1 chopped onion
4 diced carrots
1 c. diced celery (one or two stalks)
1 c. frozen green peas
1 c. dried great northern beans, soaked and drained (or two cans drained beans)
1 t pepper
1 t sage

5 T butter or vegetable oil
5 T all purpose flour
2 c. milk

Combine the first group of ingredients in a stockpot. Bring to a boil. Then simmer for an hour or until beans are tender.

Melt butter or heat oil in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook stirring constantly for two minutes. Slowly whisk in milk and cook for 5 minutes until thick. Stir the milk mixture into the the soup and mix thoroughly.

Note: In soups I like my veggies to be really mushy if you don't like that cook the beans by themselves first for 40 minutes and add the veggies for the remaining 20 minutes. Or use canned beans and just cook everything for 20 minutes. You can use any combination of vegetables you'd like I'd try to keep it to about 5 cups of diced vegetables. I'll likely try using olive oil (I used butter this time) and adding in some garlic next time. Also, I think spinach would be really good in this.

The White Beans, Tuscan Style from Bitmann's
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
with fresh bread and diced sweet tomatoes

Saturday, January 18, 2014

It's Almost Been 6 Months?!

Do you have any questions about me that you'd like to have me answer when my six month blog anniversary rolls around? Leave a comment or email me at and I'll post an answer if I can!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lift with Your Knees Not with Your Back

So, we have a basement in which we store things. It got messy between me packing up my summer clothes to store until May, and then breaking them out again to pack for my tup to the keys, and Mr. H getting out our Halloween and Christmas decorations. It was a real mess. Also I tend to horde boxes and mailers. So they were just piling up in a pile in the basement. It was bad. There will be no before picture.

This is the basement cleaned up.
I am kind of embarrassed by how messy it still looks. But, it's an
unfinished basement so I guess it's never going to look good.

Since it was warm and Sunny on Monday, I opened up all the windows including the one in the basement and got started on cleaning. I moved a lot of heavy boxes including a giant tub full of clothes that I am thinking about donating and many boxes of books. Mr. H has a box of children's books for our children. My arm hurt a bit so I was careful not to move my arm in ways that hurt it. I did not pay attention to my back at all.

The next morning my back was sore but not too bad. So I sat around and took it easy. But late in the afternoon I decided to do some laundry. I took some dirty laundry down to the basement and dumped it on the floor to sort. I started to fill up the washer and I got it most of the way full. Then I bent over to pick up my the last bit of dirty laundry for first load and I stood up and I felt some of the worst pain I've ever felt.

It was a 10 or a 9 in terms of the worst pain I've felt and I've grabbed the stainless steel handle of a pan that was in a 425º hot oven. (I was trying to make this I think it ended up tasting all right but I can't remember very well because I block out traumatic events.) I did not feel comfortable in any position but I felt most comfortable holding on to the top of the washer.

So, I dug my phone out of my back pocket (thank goodness I was expecting a phone call and carrying it with me) and I called my mom. We determined that it was unlikely that I had a hernia. (I was concerned because when I was little every time I picked up something heavy my dad would say be careful or else you'll get a hernia.) Mr. H was on his way him so I texted him to let him know I was stuck in the basement. I said "I am stuck in the basement" "I hurt my back" "It hurts" "I am talking with my mon".

I talked with my mom for a bit then I heard someone coming to the back door so I hung up because I thought it was my lovely husband who had come to rescue me. They rang the door bell and I was all WTF I told him I was stuck in the basement. I sent him some more texts "B" "I am in the basement" "Back hurts." He didn't come in. The person was still out side waiting.

The Washer. To the left is the "drying rack" I used as a walker.

I did not feel excruciating pain when I was hunched over and using my arms to support myself. So I used the metal "drying drying rack" (I don't think it's a drying rack but my in-laws gave it to us and said it was) as a walker. It is very light so I carried it a few steps and rested. When I made it to the stairs I used the railing but the whole process was so painful.

And at the door was my BIL with a new backpack for Mr. H and my clean cake saver. I thanked him and apologized for taking so long to get to the door since I had hurt myself. We made some small talk then I got some pain meds and hobbled over to the couch.

My allergist told me not to take ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) because it could be contributing to my seemingly random anaphylaxis episodes. But, it hurt so much and I was so sure that the reason it hurt was because of horrible amounts of inflammation happening in my back. So, I took some ibuprofen. I usually take tylenol but that just helps with pain and doesn't help with inflammation. I was fine in terms of allergic reactions.

Mr. H came home soon thereafter and brought me my hiking pack so I would have my epi-pen, an inhaler, and some extra antihistamines just in case. He also brought me water and helped set up my heating pad. (Which was already on the couch because I my arm was sore.) He left to go tutor someone and I just chilled in pain on the coach. Thank goodness for the DVR and texting.

Mr. H came home with a frozen pizza. He made dinner and he finished dealing with the load of laundry I had started. He helped me move into a sitting position so that I could eat it. Standing up and then sitting down again were the most painful thing but I wasn't able to find a position in which I didn't feel at least some pain.

Before Sunset at 3:30

I was able to get up the stairs to start getting ready for bed. I totally crawled up them like a baby. I was so surprised I was able to stand up long enough to brush my teeth. But I didn't think I would be able to make it through washing my face so I didn't. I felt so gross not washing my face but I guess a lot of people don't and their just fine. Then I got into bed and could not get comfortable at all! I tried a pillow under my knees but I don't know how much that helped. I tossed and turned in pain all night. I'd be okay right after I moved but pain would build up and I'd feel like I'd have to move again.

The next day I was able to get out of bed by myself! I was able to shower and get dressed! But I couldn't bend over. It was hard to get socks on.

One of the things I find weird about Maine is that they put a mixture of salt,
sand, and gravel on the roads. In Chicago it's just road salt. The grit
really helps for traction on the ice but it looks hideous.

I went for a lovely walk late in the afternoon since it was warm and sunny. I wanted to stretch my back a little so that it didn't end up all locked up and frozen in place. But I probably over did it. I was only planning to be out for 15 to 20 minutes but I was out for half an hour. Pictures from my walk are scattered throughout.

The melt water cuts channels in the thick ice at the end of driveways.

After I got back I rested and then I made dinner for us and I timed it perfectly! It was ready as soon as Mr. H got home. He brought me dinner on the couch even though I instead that I was much better. I love him so and I am so happy that he's here and so helpful. He tried so hard to be helpful and was so concerned. I am also thankful that my body usually works well to help me get the things I need to get done, done.

Moral of the Story: Lift with your knees, not with your back.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Meal Planning!

Maine is a frozen wasteland in between November and April. For example, after the Christmas week ice storm we had an inch of ice in the parking behind our apartment. So my usual "do something exciting outside and then blog about it posts" will be few and far between. Maybe we'll go skiing. I'd like to take up snowshoeing but haven't yet.

So until then I'd thought I'd talk about meal planning and share the spreadsheet I made to help me do it. I love meal planning since it means I can get started on dinner as soon as I get home (or Mr. H can have dinner ready for me when I get home). It also means that most weeks we only go to the grocery store once. It keeps us from wasting food since I can plan around large produce purchases like a head of cabbage. And, I think it keeps us healthy since it means most of our dinners are made from scratch from real food. Except I hate whole wheat pasta. (I'll make my own condensed soup mix for casseroles even.)

A Meal Plan for Two Weeks
Made One Week at a Time
I have trouble spelling. Please don't make fun of me.

I make a note of which days we won't need to make dinner because we have plans. I usually start meal planning when our grocery store's flyer comes out on Saturday or Sunday so I can take advantage of whatever is on sale. I also check and see what we have in the fridge and the pantry so I can make meals that use up any vegetables that may be hanging around before they start mouldering. (Potatoes are a problem for us.)

I look through my recipe cards and my binder full of recipes that I've printed out to find recipes that use what's on sale and what I have. Sometimes we've bought ingredients for a meal and then we don't have it so I just move that meal to the next week (see the lasagna in the plan below).

This one has a reminder to SOAK THE BEANS.
Also notice that in the first week we have chicken and potatoes
then use of the rest of the potatoes in the ham and potato soup.

We don't always stick to the plan. We frequently switch days because I forget to soak beans or defrost meat. Since we buy dry beans and buy bulk sizes of meat and freeze them in smaller portions. Or sometimes we're too tired even though every things ready so we have a frozen dinner or Vienna Beef Hot Dogs that I've smuggled in from Chicago. (I need to figure out how to smuggle sesame seed buns without them getting smushed in my checked luggage.) Sometimes the plan is vague and just says a type of meat so I choose what to do with it that afternoon.

There's also space to write down when we run out of things like flour, trash bags, or olive oil. Though sometimes I just use it to write down everything needed. We also use that space for things that aren't part of a meal--like fruit for snacks. We buy a gallon of milk pretty every week so that usually doesn't get added to the list. But Mr. H drinks orange juice and cranberry juice every morning with his breakfast so if that's running low I have to add that or else we forget it. We don't usually buy things for lunch since we usually eat leftovers for lunch.

Mr. H was on his own for dinner on Wednesday
because I had a Junior League meeting. I worry about
him when I'm not there to make food for him.

What I like most about making the meal plan is that it helps remind me to defrost things the night before. We'd never be able to save money by buying meat in bulk without planning ahead. Last year, we tried to keep our weekly grocery trips to $50. But our data from Mint shows that we spent about $70 a week on groceries. My trips to Trader Joe's to stock up on wine and frozen dinners were probably to blame. Ooops!

This year my goal is to keep the grocery bill at $40 each week. So far we've keep the grocery bill under $50 but it's not at $40. This year I'm trying harder to buy things in bulk if they're nonperishable or can be frozen. I hope this will help keep the our grocery bill down over all. Though now we have a 5 pound bag of macaroni in our pantry. But it's hard to keep the bill at $40 when you buy in bulk because 5 pounds of macaroni costs a lot more ($4.25) than a pound of macaroni (89¢) but in the long run it's cheaper.

If you'd like to use this meal plan yourself, I've uploaded it to google drive and I am sharing it so you can see it. What do you do to manage what you eat? Do you plan ahead or wing it?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Tomato Caper Pasta Sauce

Serves 3 to 4

1 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes
(3 to 4 tomatoes diced)
2 T tomato paste*
2 T capers
1/2 onion diced
1 to 2 T olive oil
3 or more cloves of garlic minced or pressed
(3/4 t. garlic powder)
20 cranks of the pepper mill
1 1/2 t (1/2 T) basil
1/4 t oregaono
3/4 t sugar
salt to taste (3/4 t)

Serves 6 to 8

2 cans petite diced tomatoes†
(6 to 8 tomatoes diced)
1/4 c. (4 T) tomato paste
1/4 c. capers
1 onion diced
2 T to 1/4 c. olivie oil
6 cloves of garlic minced or pressed
(1 1/2 t. garlic powder)
40 cranks of the pepper mill
1 T basil
1/2 t oregaono
1 1/2 t. (1/2 T) sugar
salt to taste 1 1/2 t. (1/2 T)

1. Rinse the capers. 2. Sauté onions in oil. 3. Add the garlic, tomato paste, capers, and diced tomatoes after the onions become soft and translucent. 4. Add spices. 5. Cook until smooth. 7. Heat on medium low for at least ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

*We buy a can of tomato paste when we need it. Then we freeze tomato paste in tablespoon sized lumps on a plate. After they're frozen we put them in a plastic bag and keep them in the freezer until we need more.

†After drafting this post I discovered 28 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, you can use one of those in stead of two of the little cans.

The Ingredients, not including the Tomato Paste
The Capers are Soaking

The Tomato Paste
When we buy a can of tomato paste we generally only need to use one
tablespoon. There is more than one tablespoon of tomato paste in each can.
So we freeze table spoon sized lumps of tomato paste on a greased
plate then put them in a plastic bag once they're frozen. 

Step 2. Onions Sautéing

Step 3. Adding Garlic

Step 3. I added the tomato paste first to try to get it
to melt a bit before adding the other ingredients.

Step 3. The Capers Join the Pan

Step 4, 5 and 6!

I am so proud of myself because I made this recipe up. I bought a jar of capers on a whim and we had some tomatoes that needed to be used up. So I diced the tomatoes and added some onion and the capers and we had this wonderful pasta sauce. I really like the caper flavor it is unique and memorable. If I had a motor and pestle (or some other grinding or pounding tool) I would try mashing the capers before adding them in to the sauce.

Have you ever made a meal without a recipe before? How do you like the step by step photos?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Christmas in the Keys - Recap

A Snap Chat from My Sister
from the Trip Down

My family went to Disney World without me. It's okay. It was the maiden voyage of my mom's midlife crisis RV. I don't like the RV and I don't really like being in cramped quarters with my messy siblings. They were towing my mom's car to drive around once they got there. It's brakes caught on fire near Chattanooga, TN on the way down. At some point the generator in the RV stopped working. I was happy spending Christmas in Maine with my husband, my in-laws, and the cold.

We were all supposed to meet up with my Mom's family (her mom, my grandma and her three siblings) the week after Christmas. My uncle (No. 4) had rented a house in the Florida Keys starting Saturday. I flew down on Friday.

My morning started horribly. As I was going down the stairs in our apartment I slipped and fell I the stairs. (I've fallen down the stair three times since October.) My big suitcase fell on the plastic tub we store our Christmas decorations in. The plastic box shatter but nothing else broke. I caught myself with my left arm and hurt my left wrist. (The previous week I had a ganglion cyst in that wrist drained.) My wrist hurt so bad I couldn't carry my suitcase with it.

There was so much ice on my car the we got an extra late start on getting to the bus station. Mr. H got my bag out of the car for me and walked me in. The 8:30 bus to Logan was full and left with out me! I felt so anxious I was sick to my stomach because the situation it reminded me of when I was supposed to fly to Bora-Bora to join my family but my plane out of Portland had mechanical trouble so I had to be rebooked through Logan and I almost missed my flight from Logan because I didn't get to the bus station in time.

It was okay thought. They had a back up bus ready in 10 minutes. AND, it was the newest bus in the fleet and it wasn't crowded since most of the people leaving at 8:30 got on the first bus. I got to Logan in time to get a holiday doughnut from Dunkin and make use of the free wifi in the airport. I was also able to check my big carry on bag for free because the flight was full and there would not be enough space for everyone's carry on luggage. I volunteered to check my bag and I was so glad because I didn't know if I could make it through ATL with my big bag to my connecting flight if my wrist still hurt.

I made it to ATL with plenty of time to make my connecting flight. I ate lupper (a sandwich and the largest slice of cheesecake I've ever seen) there and evesedropped on the couple next to me. They were having a very serious conversation about something that ended up with the woman in tears. I wouldn't have that kind of conversation in an airport restaurant.

Between ATL and FLL I sat near someone with very strong perfume and I began to itch. I was so worried I would need to use my epi-pen on the plane. I was sitting next to someone else who seemed to be very nervous about flying and was possibly on their first plane trip. So I took my allergy medicine early so that I hopefully wouldn't totally ruin my seat mate's trip. PSA: Please do not wear stung perfume when you will be in enclosed places with strangers some people are very allergic or sensitive to perfumes.

My mom and sisters picked me up at the airport in my mom's RV. Her car was in the shop in Orlando. I thought I would have time to talk with my Dad but he had just left on his flight back to Chicago. (Doctors don't get much time off.) The RV was in bad shape. As I mentioned earlier, the generator wasn't working so there was no light and the fridge wasn't working. Also, it was so messy. I am by far the tidiest person in my family. E2's things were all over. E3 is messier than I but she keeps her mess more contained. I was so happy that we stayed in a hotel that night and that I could shower in a real bathroom the next morning. I was also happy that we would be spending time with my mom's family since both my uncles and two and a half of my cousins are engineers who could fix the RV.

The next morning we started our drive down through the Keys. I got to sit in the front and keep my mom company because I get car sick sitting at the kitchen table in the RV. It started off grey and rainy but the sun came out and it got to be pretty. (I also saw a drive thru liquor store, us Puritans up here in New England don't have anything like that.) Traffic was horrible though. My mom told us (I think I was the only one paying attention) about the times in the distant past when her family had gone camping and snorkeling in the Keys. They had lots of fun I guess. I spent the time on the ride down live tweeting my location and complaining about how I was hungry because my mom forgets that most normal people eat lunch.

My sisters shared a snack with me because I was
complaining. Thank goodness for Epcot's World Showcase.

When we got close to our destination we called one of my uncles (No. 2) and arranged to meet him for lunch at Mangrove Mama's on Sugarloaf Key (So different from our Sugarloaf here in Maine) and I had the only seafood I ate on the entire trip--a crab cake sandwich. And I didn't take a picture of my food. My uncle told my mom to read the owner's manuel for the RV so that she'd know how to fix the RV herself.

Then we got to the house. It was right on the water and had a beautiful view. It was also large enough for our party of seventeen. My mom parked her RV in the driveway and popped it out. I set up camp in the corner of the house's living room so that I could use a full sized shower. Uncle No. 4 helped my mom "fix" the generator. I unpacked and settled in to a corner of the living room. Most of my cousins were in Key West exploring and waiting for my grandma to get in at the airport.

E3 Wore this Skirt to Dinner

We had dinner at Boondocks Grille & Draft House & Miniature Golf to honor my cousin (cousin no 2) who had more or less eloped in Maui. I went over early with my Aunt (No. 4's wife) who watched me when I was a little girl and my mom. We weren't sure if there would be enough space in all the cars we had since my cousins had taken the biggest car into Key West to get my grandma.

At Boondocks

Dinner was interesting. An Eagles cover band played. : / My youngest cousin had a wedge salad for the first time ever and had no idea how to eat it. E3 took pictures of her dismantling it. She though it was cabbage. I had a wedge salad too and the soup of the day. (The soup ended up being really, really salty.) We all exchanged our snap chat user names and had a good old time at the children's end of the table (At 27 I am the oldest child. The youngest is 15.)

We stayed up after dinner talking. It was mostly the children. From the snap chats I saw it was pretty exciting. E2 tried my uncle's (Aunt No. 3's husband's) fancy gin with permission. E3 pretended that the sculpture of a money in the living room was her pet. And, everyone decided that the photographs of the birds on the living room wall were pornography. My mom and I had gone out to the RV to go to bed early. I felt so bad. My mom insisted that I sleep in the "bedroom" and she slept on an air mattress in the "kitchen."

The next morning was interesting. My mom's next youngest brother--his son died almost exactly two years ago. We miss him. But it's been so incredibly hard for his sister my next youngest cousin and her father. After uncle no. 4's family went to church, my cousin and her father started talking and grief and anger poured out. It needed to happen. E3 helped my cousin. My grandma helped my uncle. We thought my grandma was taking sides and being unproductive but E2 got really upset about it. She got so angry she yelled "F*** you grandma . . ." I have never been so thankful that my grandma is in the early stages of dementia. She doesn't remember that part of the morning where E2 yelled at her at all.

My Cousin's Towels Drying on the Fence and Fishing Supplies

I also got to chase my barefoot grandma out on to the gravel driveway as she tried to keep my uncle from driving away. Then I helped her get back in. I followed my cousin out on to the pier and told her I thought she was doing good things with her life even and stayed around after my grandma came out on to the pier to make sure they'd get along after we all felt like grandma was taking sides.

Then my Aunt No. 3 and her husband came back with lunch! Thank goodness for a distraction.

My cousins were reading the Divergent trilogy. That motivated me to solve my ebook reader problems on so I spent half an hour one morning chatting with tech support so that I could read ebooks on my ebook reader. I had, had trouble purchasing new books. I got help solving that problem but then I couldn't read them on my computer, eReader, or iPhone. I started with Divergent again after fixing most of my problems.

I told E2 that she spent too much on my present.

I had sent my immediate family my presents for them early in December so that they could open them before they left or so that they could open them on Christmas day. My mom had saved all of them, even the present for my dad who wasn't there, until I got there. *Sigh.* We opened our presents. My mom had already sent me mine. My sisters had gotten presents for me. E2 wrapped my wonderful present in a garbage bag. E3 bought me a Star Wars book and made me a CD at Disney World and that was wrapped in a plastic bag. I love my family but they are so odd sometimes.

That night we had a sunset cruise booked courtesy of Aunt No. 3 and her husband. We dropped E2 off at the tiny airport on the way to the docks. She couldn't stay longer because she had to be back in Chicago on Monday for the start of her obstetrics rotation, Aunt No. 3's specialty. We were jointed by Aunt No. 3's husband's family. He used to live in the Keys. We sailed on the Appledore which sails out of Camden, Maine in the summer. The sunset was surprisingly nice as was the company.

I Love Feral Chickens!

I went to Key West in the afternoon with my mom, Cousin No. 2 and her husband, Cousin No. 4's wife, and Cousin No. 9. I got to go into my first Lilly Pulitzer Corporate Store and then we walked down Duval St. and looked at all the tacky tee shirt shops, tourists, and odd people. I saw a man walking down the street with a parrot on his shoulder! FYI apparently, you can drink alcohol there on the street! Cousin No. 2 and her husband had two drinks while we were strolling! I was content with soft serve frozen custard--a dipped mint chocolate twist. I only got one souvenir--something to give to Mr. H next Christmas. (I'd share a picture but he might read my blog!)

So Delicious!

We got back and headed to dinner. Aunt No. 3 and her husband were treating us to dinner at this pizza place he kept talking about! He said it was really great and had deep dish pizza. We got there and there was a long wait but some of us, myself included, played a catch phrase like game using No. 2's phone. It was so much fun. Even thought the pizza was not deep dish, he doesn't know what he's talking about. It was good pizza though. We got in side and the walls and the ceilings were all covered with dollar bills.

We sat out on the patio--there was a "kids" table and a "grown up" table. We made plans for just us to meet up in 2015 for our own parentless vacation. We'll see how that goes. We think it might be a good idea to have our parents along so that they can pay for some things. I hope I don't get put in charge of logistics but I am looking forward to it.

Then we headed back. We opened presents. (Those of us who headed to Key West got to open some of our "presents" early since they would be useful shopping.) Cousin No. 2 gave all the women lovely scarves made by one of her in-laws and gave the boys gift cards. Then I packed up my things so that I'd be ready to leave the next morning.

Bye Bye Key West!

I was dropped off at the airport as my family was on the way to the botanic gardens. I am so sad that I didn't get to go. My Aunt No. 3 is a birder and I had left my bird book behind and I wanted to learn a bit more about the "tropical" birds we saw. Then I headed home. My flight out of Key West was delayed. But I made my connection in ATL and had time to grab a roast beef sandwich at Arby's. I got in Logan in time to catch the bus up to Maine and my husband was there waiting for me with my warmest coat and mittens. It was so cold, 10º, and I was wearing a thin jackie cardigan and shell and just had my quilted jacket over it. We headed to my in-laws to ring in the new year.

Sorry for that novel! But I had to write ALL about the fun time I had. I promise I'm not getting paid by the word like Dickens. Did you have fun over the holidays?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Years Resolutions

I like New Years Resolutions. I like fresh starts on a new calendar (or a new month or new week). But starting up at the beginning of the year seems to lend a powerful synergy to setting new goals. The holiday season also messes up my routine so its a good time for me to restart my habits.

I try to keep my goals achievable while I assume I've gained a lot of weight over the past week (I think I've eaten the equivalent of three pizzas since last Friday). I am not going to resolved to lose 4 pounds instead I am resolving to exercise more and eat healthier because I can control what I do and I what I eat but I can't really control how much weight I lose.

I also like to make my goals specific if I can. Instead of saying exercise more I say exactly how many minutes of exercise I want in my life. Making my goals specific means I know when I am making progress. I also find that visually tracking my progress is really helpful and promising myself small (or not so small) rewards helps even more. Read Resolutions, Charts, and Carrots at Corporette for more on this strategy.

So here are my resolutions and goals for the new year . . .

Exercise Four Times a Week and
Stamp Every Day on My WiiFitU Calendar
I lowered my bad cholesterol significantly just by making some small changes in my diet (bye bye butter) and I hope that adding more exercise into the mix will lower it even more. I'd like each exercise session to be 20 minutes or longer and I'd like to exercise four days a week. I can do it. This is a goal I'll be tracking. If I make it through the first month I think I'll have to get some froyo as a reward.

Eat Less Sugar
I'll log my food intake in MyFitnessPal everyday (except for special days like when I'm traveling or there's a party) and try to make sure I don't go over 25 grams of added sugar 80% of the days (basically every business day). I may wait to start doing this in February after most of our Christmas candy is gone since I wouldn't want to waste that.

Use My Clarisonic Five Times a Week
I have a fancy machine to help me wash my face. It works very well to help keep my skin clear but I am too tired to use it when I'm getting ready for bed. I need to use it more often so I don't feel like I've wasted my money on it.

Floss 80% of the Time
My parents spent a lot of money at the orthodontist so I need to maintain their investment. I have no trouble brushing my teeth every night but I just hate flossing (it's so gross) and I do so between a third and half of the time. I want to floss more often.

Drink 8 Cups of Water a Day
It was so much easier for me to drink water everyday when I was at work. Now that I'm home I don't drink enough.

Practice Gratitude and Minimize Envy
I had been writing down what I was thankful for each day. I stopped. I need to start doing that again. I feel so ashamed because I am consumed by envy. I am so envious of my former classmates who have bought houses, who have dogs, who have children. I want to buy fancy purses, jewelry, nice clothes and am envious of those I know who have them. I have so much to be thankful for but I can't see that because I just think about all the things I don't have. I hope that by focusing on the wonderful things in my life I can help myself be less envious.

Mr. H and I want a house. We have a wonderful landlord. But we have neighbors (old hippies) who like to play loud music, I'd like to be able to paint the walls and pull out the carpet (to get rid of dust mites), and it would be wonderful to have space for children. I need to find a job (or make one), get serious about sticking to our budget, and buckle down and save the rest of the $40,000 we'll need for a down payment. I plan to have my next regular paycheck direct deposited right into our house savings account so that I'm not tempted to touch it and spend it on dresses.

Try to Spend Less on Beauty Products
I probably spend way more than I need to on beauty products. I did some math and my average hair product costs $32, my average skin care product costs $22, and my average makeup product cost $29! I'd like to bring my average down to $10 to $15 by next year by replacing what I do use with drug store brands or cheaper things from Sephora. I'm not going to stress if I can't find cheaper skin care products because my skin can be so sensitive sometimes. But I'd really like to find cheaper makeup since I don't usually wear it every day and I always end up throwing it out because it expires before I can use it up. The first thing I'll need to replace is toner. Any recommendations?

Be Nicer to Mr. H.
I am sarcastic. I don't need to be that way ALL the time. Mr. H shouldn't have to put up with that 24/7.

Don't Stop Myself Because of Fear
This one is a bit vague. There are so many things I don't do because I'm afraid that I don't know how to do them right. I need to stop thinking "I can't do that because I don't know how" and I need to start thinking "How can I learn how to do this?" There are other things I don't do because I am afraid of failing and messing up big time. I'm okay with making small mistakes (I make them all the time) but I am terrified of making a big mistake like getting in trouble with the IRS because my accounting is wrong or being sanctioned by the Board of Overseers of the Bar. I am incredibly risk adverse and I need to stop being so afraid of taking risks. Things probably aren't ask risky as they seem and there are probably ways for me to still take action while minimizing the risk.

Are there any changes you plan on making in your life this coming year?