Friday, December 31, 2010

Crafty Cousins

I love going to Saint Louis for the holidays, but nothing beats coming home.  My bed was so comfy last night that I slept until 10:30 this morning which is perfect since tonight is New Year's Eve, and I want to be able to stay up late!  Listen to that old-lady talk!  But seriously, it can be tough staying up that late.  I stayed up past midnight 7 consecutive nights in Saint Louis which explains why I was EXHAUSTED all day and everyday of my stay there!  All in all, I had a wonderful time and got to spend time with everyone I know and love.  Seriously, everyone.  It rocked. Christmas day was especially fun as my parents hosted a gathering of 20, and we had our annual gift exchange.

Every year the extended family on my mom's side does some sort of gift exchange.  Last year we played rob-your-neighbor with booze.  This year we were challenged with the task of either making or buying a locally-made gift not exceeding $20.00.   How green is this challenge?  I LOVE supporting local artisans and businesses, so I knew I would be buying a gift.  That, and the fact that I have yet to make anything anyone would remotely be interested in having in their home!   I pulled my cousin Lindsay's name and knew exactly what I'd get her: beer and lottery tickets.  She loved it, but didn't win any cash from the lotto tickets.

My cousin Matt had my name, and he made me this stylish and functional table for my patio.  It's made out of an old bed frame and an extra piece of tile.  Impressive, right?  Puts my beer and lotto ticket gift to shame.

There were many other creative gifts given that night:  grow-your-own shiitake mushroom logs (courtesy of my dad), Wisconsin cheese curds (from my cousin who lives in northern IL), and a hand-carved walking stick (from a shop in Kimswick, MO).  But perhaps the most thoughtful, beautiful gift of all was the one my sister received from my cousin Alison: a knitted vest.  How amazing is this garment?  I love the color!  The vest took Alison 10 days to make.  Isn't she talented?  We all told her she should put her stuff on Etsy.  To which she replied, "What's that?"  LOL.  I feel lucky to be related to such an artist!  I hope she gets my name next year! 
 Now check out this beauty. You are looking at a coat rack made out of deer hooves.  This was not part of the gift exchange but rather a thank-you present from my cousin's husband to my dad.  A regular DIY taxidermied coat rack.  Hilarious, right?  Still, it's nice to know someone who knows taxidermy.  It will be a nice way to preserve the dogs when the time comes.
I'm digging the handmade gifts and after seeing the performance my cousins gave this year, I need to step it up a notch.  Next year, I want to give a gift I actually made.  This has inspired a New Year's resolution: learn how to make something.  Will this manifest itself in taking a class at the Career Center or scouring  Young House Love for the perfect project? Either way, I'm ready for this adventure!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

People Towels

The hubs and I are huge fans of Stonyfield yogurt.  Each week at the grocery store we buy a quart of either blueberry or strawberry yogurt.   The yogurt is always creamy and delicious- not to mention buying it supports family farms and organic farming!  While I could support these by buying any organic yogurt, buying Stonyfield allows me benefit from the Stonyfield rewards program.  On each Stonyfield lid, there is a code to register at the rewards website.  Each code is worth a certain amount of points, but it basically amounts to one point for every dollar spent on the yogurt.  The goal is to save up points and order eco-friendly products from the list on the rewards website.  After accumulating a certain amount of points, I click on the reward I want and the company sends me a coupon for it in the mail.  We have MAJORLY benefited from this rewards program- some of the loot we've gotten (at no cost) includes AH!Laska organic chocolate syrup,  Green&Black chocolate, Stonyfield yogurt, and Rising Moon organic pasta.  Until recently, we had only received food items, but yesterday in the mail, I received a People Towel, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.
 image from
This towel came with an explanation that I think states its mission and reason perfectly, so rather than try to say it in my own words, I will quote from the tag on my People Towel: "Doesn't it seem like a waste to cut down a tree to make a paper towel that is used once and thrown away"  (YES, IT DOES!) "By our calculations, the average person uses about 3,000 paper towels in a year, causing deforestation, excess landfill waste, and water pollution."  I'm not sure I totally agree with their calculations- at work I use on average, 7 paper towels each day.  If I work 170 days out of the year, that comes out to 1,190 paper towels, plus about 10 each week at home.... that's 520 a year at home for a total of about 1,710.  We'll add 300 to be on the safe side.  So  I consume roughly 2,010 paper towels a year.  While that's less than the People Towel's calculations, it's still a whole lot of paper towels.  So many in fact, that I think about it each time I use a paper towel.  Darn environmental guilt!  Thus, this People Towel seemed like a good idea.

Here's how I plan to make a difference:  I plan to have my People Towel at work to cut down the average of 7 paper towels I use each day to about 2.  However, I have some issues with convenience and cleanliness.  Here are the questions floating through my mind on the way to making this People Towel work for me and the environment:  Will I carry it into the bathroom with me?  Where will it hang?  Will it travel to and from work in my purse?  Will items in my purse get wet?  How often should this be washed?  How is this different from carrying around any ol' towel? 

While I have quite a few questions about using the People Towel, I will give it a try.  Hopefully, through my trial and error, I'll come up with a full-proof water-proof way for people to make use of cloth towels at work because as I've said before, I believe that any action, no matter how small, makes a difference.

CHIPOTLE: Food With Integrity

As part of my cheap-o lifestyle, I bring my own lunch to work.   My lunches always have a lot of variety- sometimes leftovers, salads, almond butter sandwiches, soups.  Always: a piece of fruit.  Everything else is left up to chance. With so much variety in my lunch, I'm rarely even tempted to order food when the rest of my coworkers do.  McDonalds?  NO WAY.  Taco Bell?  No thanks.  Burger King?  Haven't eaten there since 8th grade.  Italian?  Hmmm... tempting, but I brought my lunch, and I want to save my $8.00.  Pizza?  Also tempting.... but I'll save my money.  Chipotle?  YES, double YES.

Yesterday I was offered this wonderful option, and I could not resist.  Chipotle is the one fast food I can eat and feel good about the origins of my food.  According to a statement on their "Food With Integrity" web page, Chipotle supports and sustains family farmers who respect both their land and animals.  Whenever possible, Chipotle uses animals raised without synthetic hormones.  SCORE!  The company also tries to use organic produce whenever possible.  Currently, 40 percent of the beans they use are organic (I wonder which kind- black or pinto?) I truly admire the lengths to which Chipotle goes to respect people, animals, and the environment.  I also respect the deliciousness that is BARBACOA.

The spicy shredded beef is my absolute favorite meat!  I have experimented with many different combinations, but for the best taste I go for a burrito with barbacoa, black beans, corn salsa, tomato salsa, cheese, sour cream, and lettuce.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it!  This is the exact burrito I ordered on Monday, and I could not stop thinking about it all morning. Of course, this made the morning last FOREVER.  When 12:10 finally hit, I sent my kids outside and raced to the lounge.  There, sitting in a bag amongst burrito bowls and tacos, sat a shiny silver foil-wrapped burrito with the name "Brenda" written on it in black marker.  Life was good.  I sat down with excitement in my eyes and took my first bite.  Something wasn't right.  Then it registered, and I exclaimed, "THIS IS CHICKEN!"  Chicken.  Flavorless chicken.  My lunch was ruined.  I ate the burrito the whole time thinking, "This next bite with have flavor."  Nope.  It never happened.  Needless to say, I was peeved about this mix up, and I will  think twice before ordering next time.  I can't think of a time I'll ever want to waste $7.00 and 1,200 calories, yet that's exactly what I did yesterday.

What's your favorite Chipotle combination?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My Favorite Grocery Store

This weekend Kyle and I headed south to St. James, Missouri to spend the night at my parents' cabin in the woods and help them cut down a Christmas tree. We left right after work last night- I skipped out of work at exactly 4:15. I couldn't wait to get out to the country- gravel roads, no television, stars, snow, and my favorite part of it all: I-44 Surplus.
My mom and I discovered this store about 2 years ago and have been obsessed ever since. Imagine if everything in your grocery store was on sale- majorly on sale- like 40 to 80% off everything. Well, that's what this store is like! The first time my mom and I went to the store, we started in the bread aisle. We looked at the prices and thought, "NICE!" Then we walked a little further and saw even more incredible prices which is when I asked my mom, "Is this a food pantry?" The food was so cheap I thought it had to be some type of charity. Turns out, it's not a charity, but more of a 'scratch and dent' type of store. The prices are low because the box might be a little smashed in a corner, a can might be dented, or something might be expired. I try to stay away from the expired food, but I don't mind if the box to my granola bars is a little smashed. Of course, sometimes there is nothing wrong with the packaging at all- it's exactly as you would find it at Whole Foods!

The merchandise at 1-44 Surplus changes every day. There's a variety of everything from all food categories- cookies, cereal, soup, pasta sauce, tea, granola bars, cleaning supplies- everything. I never know what I'm going to find and since I buy mainly organic food- it's a complete treasure hunt. There's nothing better than finding a $7 bottle of Nature's Gate shampoo for $2.99!

With the store being so far away, I only hit it up once every few months and I buy a lot. Today I purchased 76 items for a grand total of $101.55. The most I have EVER spent at the surplus store, but also the most I have ever gotten. Here's a small selection of the items I purchased today.

Udi's natural artisan granola $1.99- I'm excited to eat this on top of yogurt for breakfast! Chocolate galore- all fair trade and organic: Theo vanilla milk chocolate 2oz. 75 cents, Dagoba dark 2 oz. 75 cents, Divine milk chocolate with spiced cookies 3.5oz. $1.25, Here's a few more REDONKULOUS prices: Late July cookies 39 cents, Pacific Organic soup $1.25, 1 oz. Justin's almond butter 20 cents, Traditional Medicines Breathe Easy Tea $2.75, BreathSavers 39 cents, Annie's Organic Macaroni and Cheese 99 cents. SCORE!
Cleaning supply action. Both my dish soap and glass and surface cleaner were $1.79 each- a savings of almost $2 on each of them from full price at the grocery store! It's pretty obvious why I love 1-44 surplus! Have you ever been to a 'discount grocer' like this?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Spreading Holiday Cheer and Calories

This time of the year is full of holiday parties. As part of my recent transformation from child to adult, I've had to bring food to these events. At first it was a daunting task- I'd sit for hours flipping through my Martha Stewart cookbooks trying to find a recipe that would impress everyone. The problem was- I could never decide. That's when I called in for back-up: mom.

I need only tell her the type of event and the size of the group; she in turn provides me with at least three different ideas about what to make. Notice the word, make as opposed to 'buy' which is not allowed in my family. This year, my mom gave me some ideas for my work holiday party, but I didn't want to make them- I specifically wasn't excited about her 'bacon-wrapped water chestnut' idea (even though they are delicious!). So I thought back to my favorite appetizer when I was growing up- you know the one you stood in front of all night and chowed down on, you know when you were socially awkward and probably had braces. Was that just me?

The food that kept me planted in front of the buffet table was my mom's crab rangoon dip with Parmesan wontons. It's my favorite! So I made it this weekend to share with my coworkers, and it was a HIT! Here's the recipe; it's adapted from the cookbook: Saint Louis Days Saint Louis Nights.

Crab Rangoon Dip with Wonton Chips

3-4 tbsp. melted butter (the real stuff!!! I used organic)
20-30 wonton squares
grated Parmesan cheese (can anyone find this organic? I haven't been able to)
8 oz. package of cream cheese (I used full fat and organic)
2 tbsp. milk (I used 1% and organic)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
6 oz. crab meat (I used Geisha brand from the can- it's already cooked!)
1 tbsp. parsley flakes
sweet and sour duck sauce (this probably negates all the organic ingredients, but oh well!)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Put foil on a cookie sheet then brush butter over the sheet.
3. Cut wontons in half, place on the cookie sheet. (Interesting pattern optional)
4. Brush wontons with butter, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
5. Bake in the oven for 6 minutes or until they begin to brown.

6. Let them cool on a paper towel. They should be crispy!

7. Soften cream cheese in the 'wave for 1 min, or until soft.
8. Add milk and garlic powder, stir until well-mixed.
9. Drain crab meat. Rinse with water, then pat dry with a paper towel.
10. Mix crab meat and parsley flakes with the cream cheese mixture.
11. Spread dip in a shallow (maybe 3/4 to 1 inch deep) serving dish.
12. Pour a thin layer of sweet and sour sauce on top.

Doesn't the finished appetizer look delicious? I could seriously eat this picture! This dish received so many compliments and tons of people wanted the recipe. I plan to make this recipe 3 more times before the holiday season is over- Christmas party, Christmas Eve, and Post-Christmas Party. Can't wait to share it with friends and family.

Gift Wrap Challenge

Did anyone else sell wrapping paper in grade school as a fundraiser? Remember the sample squares in the back of the catalog? They were so shiny and some were even textured! I couldn't get enough of those sparkling perfect squares covered in penguins, pine trees, and the occasional Menorah. Even these days I walk past the gift wrap in Target and think, "Glittery sparkles! So metallic!" The thought of giving gifts wrapped in such beautiful paper gets me all excited. Then I think about the environment. My guilt kicks in. According to one website, the average waste caused by holiday wrapping paper is 8000 tons. That's way too many elephant-sized wrapping paper balls going to the landfill. Too many for me anyway. So this year, I have challenged myself to use non-virgin material to wrap gifts for my family and friends. Here's what I've found to wrap with in the office closet: gift bags, boxes, tissue paper, ribbon, and bows. Throw in a little newspaper from the garage, and BAM! You get the presents above! All of the material they are wrapped in is reused! Well, except for the gift tags, I used those sticky tags charities always send because hey, they're already at my house and the only way to get rid of them is to use them or toss them. I'll use 'em. I've already decided to be 'that girl' on Christmas morning saving ribbons, bows, and bags. Dare I save wrapping paper like my grandma used to? Find out on December 26th! : )

Question.... Do you have 'wrapping paper' guilt the way I do?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Calling All Math Geeks

Standing by the copier one day at work, I heard a coworker say, "This looks awesome." As a person wanting to be awesome, I said, "What is?" It was *drum roll please* CALCULATOR MAGIC. I have no idea how this works, but it blows my mind. Give it a try:

1. Using a calculator, punch in the first three digits of your phone number (Not area code)
2. Multiply by 80
3. Add 1
4. Multiply by 250
5. Add the last 4 digits of your phone number
6. Add the last 4 digits of your phone number again
7. Subtract 250
8. Divide by 2

Crazy, right? Anyone know how it works?

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Is that? Could it be? SWEET POTATO PIE! Kyle whipped up this sweet potato pie almost from scratch (re: crust is store bought). He followed the Sweet Potato Pie recipe from his new cookbook and used his birthday sweet potato. First he cut up the beast of a potato and boiled it.
After the potatoes were soft enough- think mashed potato soft, he took a masher to the tatoes and voila- mashed sweet potatoes!!!
Then he FREAKED OUT because we were missing two of the ingredients, crystallized ginger and dried sweetened pineapple rings. After a panic attack, he drove to the store, got them, and came home. Then, panic attack take two: he put them in the food processor and instead of being diced into tiny pieces as the recipe suggested, they were mixed into a sticky mess. Enter: B to the rescue. I took the mixture off the crust, and we started over with the ginger and pineapple. This time actually cutting them into teeny tiny pieces. Here is a picture of 1/2 cup ginger and 1/2 dried sweetened pineapple spread along the bottom of the crust.
After the ginger and pineapple were in place, the sweet potato mixture was poured on top. The pie was put into the oven for 15 minutes without the crust covered, then 15 with it covered, and finally, it was time to put the marshmallows on. This is my favorite part because it's as close to decorating the pie as you can get! Then pie went into the oven for 20 more minutes. It came out with perfectly brown marshmallows (see beginning of the post). Impressive, huh?
The pie's been out of the oven for at least an hour, so, of course, I've already had a small piece. Before I give my review, I should say that I loathe ginger. From the moment I bit into a massive chunk of it at P.F. Changs when I was 14 and told my mom, "It tastes like I'm eating a candle," I have despised ginger. Now that you know my life story, I can say: the ginger ruined this pie. It was too strong and overpowered all of the other yummy tastes- pineapple, crust, sweet potato, lightly-browned marshmallow. I wish I could say I was able to appreciate those tastes, but no such luck. If Kyle would let be rip out this recipe from his book, I would. Maybe I could just go through the book and cross out the word "ginger" on every recipe?

Going to work out for the first time in a week- wish me luck!

Feathered Christmas Trees, Glittered Ornaments, Green Wreaths- Oh My!

Is it just me or are Christmas tree lots one of the most depressing sights of the holiday season? All of those innocent trees, drying out in the cold winter air. I can't help but think of how many won't fulfill their purpose of bringing holiday cheer and will instead be turned into mulch. I also think of all the gasoline that was used to haul them from where they were grown- way up North- to that lot in front of my local Wal-Mart. If I'm not a fan of tree lots, I must like artificial trees. Not a chance. With their perfectly formed branches and pre-strung lights, they have very little character. Not to mention artificial trees take a gajillion years to decompose in a landfill. YUK!

I'm actually a fan of Christmas tree farms. I love walking through rows of trees. Picking out that 'perfect' tree and cutting it down makes me appreciate it that much more. Plus, all of the trees that don't get chosen at the Christmas tree farm get to live through the winter to continue being part of an eco-system. Think of all the birds that will build nests in their branches? To be honest, we aren't even putting up a tree this year. It's a combination of a. it costs money, b. the dog's would tip it over multiple times a day and eat the ornaments, and c. no kids would be around to enjoy it. But if we were to get a tree, we would scout it out and cut it down ourselves.

While I haven't gotten a tree, I have put up all of our Christmas decor- two Santas, a candle holder, and five ornaments. As an avid garage saler, I have over the years literally seen a TON of Christmas crap for sale in people's garages, on their front lawns, and in the gyms of various churches. There is so much Christmas decor out there for sale on the cheap. The majority of it is tacky, but some of it is cute. Thus, I made an oath to myself and to the environment a that I wouldn't buy a single item of Christmas decor new- ever. I did this is a. to save money and b. to keep junk out of landfills (not to mention all of the pollution caused by manufacturing!). I'm happy to say- I've been true to my oath. Sure, all of the shiny, sparkly, trendy decorations at Marshalls and Target are tempting, but their true 'cost' is not worth it to me. And that's how I keep holiday decor cheap and eco-friendly!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mission: Organization

Kyle and I have lived in our grown-up house for over a year now, but there are hints of 'college living' scattered throughout the place. One major eye-sore was our closet. Look at that crate full of shoes and empty shoe box! UGH! When buying this house, the closet was a major plus. It was HUGE and had all of the shelving I could dream of. However, during the frenzy of moving in, I just kind of put stuff in the closet without much thought. Well, throughout the year it became increasingly clear what a pain it was to store purses and backpacks on the top shelf, which was way of of reach not to mention a backpack would fall on me if a hanger happened to catch on it. Then there was the case of jewelry. It was stored in containers and I NEVER used it. What's the point of having jewelry if I never wore it? I could either get rid of my jewels or find some way to access it on a daily basis. Thus mission organization began...

K and I headed to Target and searched around their Organization and Storage department. We picked up this, a ClosetMaid cube organizer and a drawer to go in it. While Kyle was putting it together I cleared the white wall- goodbye extra-large white crate! Once the cubicle was put together, the fun began. First thing's first- PURSES! The four cubes on the bottom right and middle contain purses. Despite what it looks like, the purses are in there with room to spare (as opposed to stuffed in and practically falling out aka my last apartment!). The left three cubbies contain (in descending order): Kyle's hats, my belts, and a poncho. The top middle cubbie holds my pashmena (sp?) collection. The top right drawer contains mostly cheap jewelry from high school with too many memories for me to get rid of, but also my hair stuff- ponytail holders, headbands, etc. I'm most excited about the top- check out the earring carousel! Looks so much better in the closet than in the bathroom! Also, take note of the necklaces hanging in the left-hand corner. GENIUS!!! I'm happy to say that I've been having fun with my jewelry and actually wearing belts since reorganizing the closet. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
Question of the Day: What's an organization project you're proud of?

Making a List, Checking Thrice

The holidays are upon us and my favorite way to celebrate is to eat cookies, but that's not what this post is about. It's about my second favorite way to celebrate- giving gifts. Every year I go through the same decision making, "Who do I need to buy gifts for?" The usual people are on my list- hubs, mom, dad, bro, sis, McMom, McDad, McSis (gotta love Irish in-laws!), and a friend or two. Then of course, there are the gift exchanges, and this year, in addition to the fam and friends, I have added "co-workers"- six of them. Last year they got me presents and I felt guilty not reciprocating, thus- they've made this year's list. I make the list in a fun little green notebook with butterflies on the front. I write everyone's name and then go back in to write in the gifts I will be giving them this year. Across from that I put the approximate cost of all the gifts. It helps keep holiday spending under control.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


As mentioned before, I'm quite the frugal lady and as you can tell from my garage sale posts, I LOVE a good deal. What do I love even more? Free stuff! Check out this giveaway at Erin's blog. It's for a $45.00 gift card to CSN. I've never bought anything from the site, but it seems to have everything! Of course, I love to think 'If I won...." Here are the scenarios I have: I'd put the $ towards a Christmas present for someone I love or I'd buy decor for mi casa. Part of me wants to say I'd buy something and give it to charity, but I probably wouldn't. Question of the day.... Does that make me a bad person?

Happy Birthday, Old Man Kyle!

Today my hubs turns 26. He has officially entered what some refer to as the 'dark side' of the twenties. The scariest part is that I will be joining him there in a few months! A few people have asked me about the present I bought for Kyle this year. I'm assuming most couples give each other nice, romantic presents. That's not really my style. For the most part, I am frugal with money (I get that trait from my mom)! Being a miser, I try to get Kyle practical presents, but I also want to take it a step further, going for practical AND hilarious. The first gift I bought for K was the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking cookbook. I've had it on the "Kyle Birthday Gift" list since this summer when we went out to visit our BFFs in Colorado. Kyle has coveted this monster of a book ever since his BFF Bryan baked us a chocolate-chip zucchini cake and delicious pizza crust. K got this gift early as I found him searching for it online earlier this month and thought 'HELL NO! This has to be a birthday gift!!!' aka I didn't really have any other ideas. Since getting this present, K has attempted (and failed) at baking three loaves of bread, learned how to use my bright red KitchenAid mixer, baked award-winning pizza crust, and actually carried the cookbook around with him at the grocery store. Love? I think so, which brings us to the next present.

Check out that beast! You're looking at a 3 pound, $6.00 organic sweet potato from the Columbia Farmer's Market. The price tag doesn't qualify this gift as 'practical,' but the sheer size of this monster makes it hilarious. I presented it to Kyle this weekend by having him close his eyes and then putting it in his hands. He thought it was a giant of a Chipotle burrito. Sorry babe, just a colossal tuber! You're probably wondering how this fits in with the baking book... well, Kyle is going to bake a sweet potato pie! Of course, there will be pictures and a review on here when he does. Can't wait! You can check out a picture of Kyle's third gift here. DOCTOR KRACKER! Has anyone tried these? We see them every week in the store, make a few jokes, and krack up laughing. The price tag on these is usually out of the range of what we're willing to spend on crackers- $4.00 for 8 crackers, but I found these on sale at Whole Foods. A sure sign they were meant to be Kyle's birthday gift!

Question of the day...
What's your gift giving style? Romantic? Practical? Lazy?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lazy Sunday

Today the husband traversed mid-Missouri to take part in Stream Team activities along the Bourbouse River. This left me home alone with the fur children all day! Normally, a day like this would be full of snacks and processed foods. However, today was quite the opposite. My breakfast was surprisingly nutritious and filling for being composed of an apple, glass of milk, and two graham crackers. I cannot express enough how perfect an apple is when bought from a local farmer at this time of the year. Just perfect.

For lunch, I made Rainbows and Butterflies Pasta Salad. It was full of veggies and made with whole wheat pasta. I recommend trying this recipe and taking it to work for lunch. It's really something to look forward to and totally loaded with fiber, so it will keep you full. Today the pasta salad was paired with an ice cold glass of water.

After passing up Taco Bell on the way home from church, I got to work on a Spinach and Caramelized Onion Quesadilla. This is a variation on a Robin Miller recipe and makes one serving. It's not perfectly healthy as far as a meal goes, but for a quesadilla, this one has a lot of nutrition!
1 multi-grain wrap (or tortilla)
1/4 medium onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup cheddar cheese
1/4 cup spinach
sour cream (optional)
salsa (optional)
guacamole (optional)
1. In a large skillet on medium-high, caramelize the onion in olive oil and sugar. The onion will be caramelized when it becomes brown. Be careful not to burn it.
2. Cover one side of the wrap with cheddar cheese, a layer of spinach, the caramelized onion, and any other type of food you want to load your quesadilla with- bell pepper, mushroom, chicken, shredded pork, etc.
3. Fold the wrap in half and put it in the skillet, flip the quesadilla when it begins to brown. Be sure to spray the pan with a cooking spray so the quesadilla doesn't burn.
4. Cut into thirds and serve with your favorite condiments: sour cream, salsa, guacamole.

It's no longer going in the trash

Not many people know that I subscribe to Fitness magazine and have for the past three years. I read the magazines religiously- cover to cover and always glean some information to enhance my lifestyle. Everyone knows magazines have tremendous giveaways. Everyone also knows that I love free stuff. Who doesn't? So one day this summer, I created an account with Fitness magazine so I could enter to win free stuff on a daily basis. When entering contests for free stuff, Fitness suggests signing up for their newsletters. Normally, I look at the topics, "Drop a jean size" or "Create a healthy meal plan" and say 'no thanks.' One auspicious day when I was particularly excited about the $25,000 Girlfriends Getaway prize, I said 'yes' to the Daily Fit Tip. Ever since then, Fitness magazine has been sending me tips EVERYDAY on how to be healthier, and EVERYDAY I have been highlighting those emails and clicking 'Delete.' EVERYDAY that is, until today.

Today I looked at the subject: What to Eat in Your 20s, 30s, 40s and clicked on the email all while pompously thinking, 'they're gonna tell me what I already know.' The article started off talking about what to eat in your 20s. Calcium, vitamin D, fish oil, whole grains. Okay, duh, I knew that. I was about to navigate away from that page of common sense, when I decided to read WHY us 20 something women should be getting all of these. Did you know that your 20s are the last decade in which you can build bone without bone loss? I didn't! Oh crap. Now, I had taken Viactiv on and off throughout my 20s, maybe even a straight-up supplement when I was in college, but I never knew that this was the LAST DECADE to build bones. Yikes. Reading on I discovered it is necessary to take in 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. Well, I had always thought that eating the right foods would get me all the calcium I need. To an extent, I was right. One cup of organic skim milk provides 30% of the calcium need of someone on a 2,000 calorie diet. One cup of spinach? 8%. One half cup ice cream? 10%. One juice box full of organic apple juice? 10%. One six ounce serving of Stoneyfield organic yogurt? 30%. I could eat all of that food each day and still only get 88% of the calcium someone on a 2,000 calorie diet needs. By the way, who is this 'someone' on this 2,000 calorie diet? Obviously percentages of what we all need vary depending on our age. So these percentages are most likely a moot point for a women in her 20s. The important thing for us to know is that our bodies need to get 1,000 milligrams. My milk chocolate Viactiv supplement contains 500 milligrams. I plan to take one of these a day and get the other half of my body's calcium needs from servings of dairy and dark leafy greens. Also, for those who are wondering: CheezIts have 0% of your body's calcium needs. There goes that excuse for scarfing them down. ; )

You can take all the calcium in the world, but it's nothing without it's partner in bone development: vitamin D. This wonderful vitamin is necessary for calcium to be used by your body to create bone. In other words, your body needs vitamin D to be able to properly use the calcium. First grade explanation: vitamin D and calcium go together. You need both for your bones to grow big and strong. According to the article, you can get vitamin D from food, but it's not easy to get the vitamin from food alone, so you should take a supplement too. Now, it does not mention getting vitamin D from the sun. However, after reading a fact sheet on vitamin D, I am vindicated. According to the fact sheet, just 5 to 30 minutes being out in the sun as little at two times per week can get you enough vitamin D for the whole week. Sounds a lot easier than stressing about the vitamin D content of food all week long! : ) It is also suggested one takes a daily supplement when unable to get sun exposure i.e. Missourian's in winter time!

Now, I will definitely be paying attention to my vitamin D and calcium intakes. Bones are important to me. The fish oil portion of the article didn't really give me a good biological reason why I should be taking the supplement or stressing about getting it into my diet. According to the article, fish oil should be taken to lower stress and thus enhance happiness. For me, there are other things in my life that lower my stress way more than fish oil, mainly my dogs and my husband. So, instead of taking this supplement/stressing to get it into my diet, I plan on playing with my dogs more and talking to friends on the phone. Both are sure ways to elevate my happiness level!

Whole grains is such an obvious one. Of course refined grains cause mood changes and often times take your energy. My main problem eating refined grains is that they are so good I just have to keep eating them. Whole grains just have so much more nutrition than the refined grains because of that they taste healthy and I am much less likely to overeat on them while watching Arrested Development. Whole grains are just so much better for you and aren't too expensive to get into your diet! After praising whole grains, I must admit to having a pack of all purpose flour in my pantry. It is scarcely used throughout the year; mostly around Christmas time to bake cookies. Everything in moderation.

My life has changed today: I will now open my Daily Fit Tip, unless it mentions dropping a jeans size. Not interested in that, just interested in keeping my body healthy and my mind happy.

I want to know....
What is your favorite way to get calcium into your diet?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Trying New Things

Randomly inspired by one of Kyle's "friends" on Facebook, I checked out this afternoon. I searched through recipes containing the ingredients I already have at home and found four recipes I wanted to try. So tonight we cooked Sweet and Sour Chicken with Brown Rice. It had a good flavor, but it wasn't anything special. It definitely tasted healthy. I don't think I would try this one again; I have a Martha Stewart stir-fry recipe I like better. As always, beer with dinner was a good choice. : )

My name is Brenda, and I'm a garagesaleaholic

Saturday mornings are the best mornings of the week. For me it is the only morning of the week full of choice. I can choose to sleep in or I can choose to wake up early. I can choose to have breakfast at home or grab a burrito at the Farmer's Market. I can choose to take the dogs on a walk or have them lounge around the house with me. Most importantly- I can choose to garage sale or sit at home wishing I was garage saling. I am a garagesaleaholic.

It all started five years ago when I was a fresh-faced twenty year-old or as some people who knew me might say, a cheap a** college student. One Saturday morning on a hot summer day, my high school BFFs and I were cruising north of Saint Louis is Troy, Missouri. We were ready for a day of acting like hicks at the Lincoln County Fair. When we reached the fair, we balked in horror (cheapness) at the admission fee of $25. We just wanted to see some pig wrangling and eat corn dogs. Neither of which was worth that type of dough, so we decided to explore Lincoln County and all it's glory. As we drove down a country road lined with six-foot tall corn stalks, we noticed we were being followed by a semi-truck. This reminded us of the first horror movie we saw together- Joy Ride. After being scared out of our wits, we got onto a street with heavier traffic and low and behold, a garage sale sign. We made our way to the garage sale, which really should have been called a car port sale.

We had no idea this sale would make such an impact on our future. As we looked around, we saw 25 cent everything. The dollars we saved bypassing the fair would go a long way here. I snatched up a gray t-shirt with purple writing that said Trojans on it (as a twenty year-old, this made me giggle) and a polka-dotted belt. My total for these purchases: 50 cents. I was hooked.

Fast-forward five years, and I'm still garage saling. I hope to share some of my garage sale wisdom with you on this blog. My knowledge is far reaching and truly, I could write a book, but the only people who it would interest would be too cheap to buy it.

One piece of wisdom I can impart is my definition of a deal. The idea of a deal has evolved for me throughout the years. It used to mean anything that was a good price, then it morphed into anything that was a good brand and a good price. Currently at this stage of life, a good deal is defined as anything I need and/or will use that is a good price. So check out the deal I found today on the Deal of the Week page.

I want to know.....
What is the best deal you've gotten at a garage sale?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Food Friday

Check out the food I ate today. Looking back on it, I wonder if I've eaten enough calories... Hmmmmm... I don't like to count those. Not going to start now!

Breakfast was 1/2 cup Stonyfield strawberry yogurt with 1/2 cup vanilla almond granola paired with some local watermelon. Delicious and it kept me full throughout the morning!

Time for lunch! Of course, I brought my own lunch to school. I always do... it just varies in quality. Today was a good one- baby carrots with organic red pepper hummus, Missouri watermelon, and a vanilla chip granola bar from Cascadian Farm (my favorite granola bar!!!). Unfortunately, I didn't get to that apple. Maybe later for a snack!

I was so hungry for dinner, but I veered away from my habit of snacking. Instead, I buckled down and cooked! If you've ever looked for an affordable organic pizza, you'll know how hard they are to find. Our main grocery store doesn't even carry one, so we have to make a special trip to buy a Full Circle Organic Cheese Pizza. I love getting the plain cheese pizza for a few reasons. 1. It's the right price point. 2. It's a blank canvas. You can put anything and everything on it! Tonight's pizza had Applegate Farms pepperoni, local bacon, local red pepper, one of my dad's shiitake mushrooms, and (drum roll please) a tomato from our garden! Probably one of our best combinations to date. Go me. I won't bore you with all the veggies in the salad, but I have to point out the tomatoes. A student gave them to me this morning. She grew them in her garden. She's getting an A.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why Would You Do This?

Throughout the 27 days I've been 25 years old, I've begun (began?) to notice things about myself. Some things that need to change and some things that are pretty awesome. Two things in main need of change are my eating and exercise habits.

Before I can make changes, I need to face my current reality. The current reality of my eating habits is as follows: I eat too much incredibly expensive food. You might think, "Incredibly expensive? Stop eating out!" Well, that's not it. My food is expensive because its either organic or local, or for the perfect combination: organic and local! I have no intention of changing the type of food I am eating- I love knowing the farmer who raised my meat and picked my watermelon. However, I need to change the amount of food I am taking in... specifically, the processed foods. An organic cookie is STILL a cookie. Really, it is. 3 organic cookies? Yep, still cookies. : ) So basically, I want to eat LESS processed foods, but continue eating the same amount of fruits and veggies- LOVE 'EM!

The current reality of my exercise situation is far more bleak. To tell you how bad its gotten, I will admit to this: my gym called me this weekend. They noticed I hadn't been coming in recently and wanted to know why. GAH! I cannot tell a lie- I haven't been running outside or chasing my kids around the house. I've been lazy. Straight up, sitting on my bottom, eating aforementioned organic processed food and wasting time... not even watching t.v., just wasting time. WTF? Now, I haven't been completely inactive, I have taken the dogs on good (2+ mile) walks each day of the weekend. However, the effects of this inactivity are a bigger belly (it's bigger than a friend's who is 15 weeks pregnant. Yes, seriously.) Additionally, my arms have zero tone. Just so that I am not completely negative, I will give myself props for my feet. I fit into all of my shoes! This is my current reality.

This blog seeks to document a change in my reality. It will be a process, I do expect slip-ups, but overall, I seek to become a healthy, active person. Naturally, it will be hard work getting back into my grove, but I'll make it fun. The next 338 days of year 25 will rock.