The Holidays, Unplugged

I’m sure you are torn between all the sweet deals going on in stores and online to make all that Christmas/Hanukkah loot seem a bit cheaper and the whole buy-nothing-make-something movement.

I get it. Really, I do.

I’m tempted to simply jump on the give experiences not material goods wagon, but I also really want the nice backpack I asked my mom and brother to get me. So I have a solution that will be perfect for whoever reads this:

Do what makes you Happy.

If shopping for everyone on your list makes you and your wallet sob in fear, don’t. Buy cheaper things, buy group gifts for families, or hop on the buy-nothing train. If you feel stupid giving the dry ingredients for brownies in a cute mason jar or candle holders made of tuna cans and clothes pins or coupons for you babysit or wash their car for free, don’t.

As your broke and green lady, I don’t want to buy stuff. As your lazy pal, I don’t wanna make stuff.

So when I found a pricey dress my mom loved, my brother and I split it. For my extended family? They know it is expensive to fly home and are glad to see me once a year. I emphasize that I am the gift. [Insert winning smile]

My friends and I don’t do Christmas gifts unless something really catches an eye and screams your name. Then it’s cheap and it’s clear there is no expected gift in return. We treat each other by taking each other out when it’s out birthday, when we celebrate life events, when we’re a little flush with cash and buy an extra round.  That is what makes us all happy without any pressure.

If it makes you happy to one up your uncle in giving your grandma a cool gift, fine. If that January credit card bill stings through April and you’ve forgotten why by Valentine’s Day…are you really happy?

Joy to the world. Peace on Earth. You are part of this world, you are a citizen of this earth. You deserve joy and peace as well. The first year you let your consumer facade crumble a little may be scary and you may be tempted to feel disappointed in yourself. Don’t. Once you’ve lowered that artificial bar (that no one but you set up in the first place) next year will be easier. Maybe even happier.

You deserve a gift too. Why not just make yourself happy?

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Times Flies And So Will I Soon

I haven’t had much time to myself lately. Now that the weather is finally turning in the direction of fall, electricity bills will naturally start going down. I’m eating with friends at home more, mostly because these wonderful dinners happen on porches.

I’m at a point in my life where my money saving skills are starting to get extreme. I don’t think I can really write relateable material about becoming a homeless couch surfer for 1-1.5 months while I save rent money with the intent of moving around the world. I’m selling my stuff, living out of bags – as of November 1st.

Why the extreme life change? Well, I may be saving money, but it will all be spent on student loans, bills, travel, and moving. My life is heading for a massive change and I must adapt if I want it to be a successful change.

I plan to become an ESL teacher in Korea. That’s the life plan now. With no teaching experience I can only hope that I come across as intelligent, capable, and worthy of the challenge.

I’ve always wanted to travel more, experience more cultures, meet new people, see how I handle language barriers and exotic cultures. I think doing this will make it easier to relate to people so different from me. I’m looking forward to a job that also allows me to actually connect to people, to make a difference.

In my far off dreams, after EPIK, I’d love to do JET (Japan), Open Doors (Chile), and maybe see if China or Vietnam has a national program. Maybe end up in Spain one day.

This isn’t very broke (though it is helping keep me there), lazy (these applications are killer), nor green (I will be flying around the globe after all), but I wanted to share since it is currently taking up most of my time and thoughts. Back to the basic tenants of this site next week, y’all. Promise.

Enjoy the beautiful fall weather while we have it!

 

P.S. One quick update, I am back to using only diluted baking soda and diluted apple cider vinegar on my hair. I had to adjust the amount. I use roughly 2-3Tbsp of each in a quart of water. Add more by the teaspoon if it doesn’t seem very effective. I’m glad I tried again; I can go 3 days before my hair looks a bit unwashed so I only need to wash it 2 times a week. It has lightening in color and has better volume now!

I love My Mom

My mom will be in town this week, so I am struggling to think of anything but what we’ll be doing. Everything in moderation, including moderation. Therefore, this weekend I will not be living cheaply, nor will I be lazing about, though I can still make this a green-ish visit.

We will have no car, relying on public transit. I’ll still be choosing vegetarian meals. And I think it is rather green to be taking advantage of all our community offers: our City Park, a few museums, paddle boats on the lake, people watching through downtown.

I’m looking forward to eating all I want, too. I will certainly be hella broke after this whole weekend. It will be worth it. Living far from my family means I rarely get to see them and it is usually an all day travel nightmare (let’s not even mention airplane pollution).

I’m equally excited for a few days off of work. It’s been one of those weeks and is looking like it will be one of those quarters around here. You know what I’m talking about – when you are so tightly wound you feel like snapping, nothing you do seems good enough, you are eventually so worried and anxious and paralyzed that you start doing worse at work. I need a way to unwind.

Some people unwind by shopping, drinking, eating poorly, among many other vices. I often sleep. I am prone to depression and have been battling a recent bout. When I’m depressed, stressed, anxious, or generally upset I often overeat then sleep. I sleep often and too long, I shut down.

I’m grateful that my mom’s visit is timed to give me a more positive way to unwind. I love my family and am excited to share these experiences. Family will be my anti-depressant this weekend and all the fun stuff I’d let pass otherwise will be exciting to experience.

I’m committed to making lifestyle changes to benefit the earth and its inhabitants. It’s easy to forget to make small changes that benefit me first and foremost. Becoming aware of my feelings and making proactive efforts to work through them is the nicest thing I can do for myself. Lately I’ve been uptight, short, and letting it all slide. My mom’s impending visit and my increased awareness (and support of a few chosen friends) will help me make it through this.

Thank you for reading through this post. It means a lot to me and I hope you remember to put yourself first once in a while too. We both deserve it.

Credit Cards and My New Favorite Book

I went over my budget recently and realized that food is my weakness.

I’m not exactly buying fancy, Whole Foods groceries here. It’s the little, insidious things that really start to add up. I’ll tell my friends no when they ask about dinner or drinks…then I usually cave about half the time. And spend what my mind has already decided I won’t spend.

Why is it so easy? Plastics make it possible.

I keep my credit card purchases within a payable range, I pay mine off every month. I know I’m very lucky that I can do that, but I realize I’m also borrowing against the freedom of my future for instant gratification.

So I cut up my credit card.

Well, I stuck it through the shredder at work. And I’m not calling for a replacement until I need to buy a plane ticket home for Christmas.

I really thought it would be freeing. It is. It is also scary as hell. Credit cards are a great security blanket. “Just in case things are a bit more expensive.” “Just in case we go a little wild.” “Just in case I find something I like.” That ‘Just In Case’ security blanket is slowly draining my wallet….and perversely I’m often thankful for that!

I’m tired of making a budget and not sticking to it. I’m tired of living in fear of going out. When I go out, I have what is in my bank account or cash. This works for me because the day my paycheck arrives in my account I pay any bill that will be due before the next paycheck. I do this IMMEDIATELY.

So how am I enjoying my frightening financial freedom? I’m walking more, playing Ingress. I’m reading many free library books.

I wait to pronounce judgement on a book until after I’ve read it. Then I am offering a fully informed position. Not this book!

I’m currently reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I am inspired. I have actually laughed out loud several times. Each time I pick up this book I can’t decide if I want to homestead or just make one of her incredible recipes (if it’s in season).

I love gardening even though I’m not good at it yet. I love being outdoors more than the bugs who feast upon me. I may ask for this for Christmas so I can stay inspired year round.

The Weekend Foodening

Sometimes I am reminded – forcefully – why having roommates is frustrating. After an hour of cleaning, my kitchen was finally ready for ME to use it.

Getting into the groove in my newly cleaned kitchen, I made the base of dinner ahead of time. Tonight, instead of blowing money on restaurant mark ups, we’re making our own pizza! I made the dough and am bringing red onions and bell peppers as topping options(you do you, let me do me), two friends are providing the sauce and cheese. I used The Pioneer Woman’s pizza dough recipe. Simple, quick, and always good. I can make this in 5 minutes flat now.

Then I went on to make a cucumber and red onion salad that is out of the world. 5 minutes of chopping, 5 minutes of measuring (or eyeballing) and mixing, 20 minutes of sitting for the magical flavor meld….and scene. Today I added a dash of rice vinegar and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds for an exotic touch.

Finally, my coup d’cuisine of the day was a kitchen sink fritatta. I was reminded that roommates are worth it when I went through the fridge and found a few veggies that needed to be used or tossed today. We have a policy that if something is on its last legs and you find it, you get it. Today was a haul! I found some shriveled, sad tater tots. I thought a tater tot omelet sounded like the best idea I could have had today. Then a yellow bell pepper, a jalapeno, and a roma tomato came into my possession.

My kitchen sink fritatta came together as follows (don’t forget to compost scraps!):

finely chop: 1/4 red onion and 1 jalapeno into slivers

dice: 1 bell pepper, 1 tomato

thinly slice: 1 small potato

include: fistful leafy greens (like kale or mustard greens), leftover tater tots, 8 eggs, spices

Preheat the oven to 350*. Warm up a cast iron skillet, add a glug of olive oil, and cook the potato slices until soft. Toss on kale and cooked until it was bright green. Dump in all veggies and cook for 5 minutes, stirring. Mix your favorite spices into the eggs and whisk. I used cumin, garlic powder, cajun seasoning, paprika, pepper, cayenne. Dump the eggs on top and set in the oven for 20 minutes. Pull out and let cool a bit.

You can use any leftover veggie. The best part about fritattas are that they can be any flavor profile and are even ‘low carb’ compared to a quiche – which is just a fritatta with a crust.

Life and Literary Journeys: Free!

I hit up my library on Monday after work and have spent the last three days living this wonderful routine:

Wake up, go to work, read on my lunch break, more work, go home, make dinner, clean up, throw on pj’s, grab some water, close my door, and read for hours. I even have some nice chocolate and crappy boxed wine to enjoy along my literary journey.

This is the week I put the brakes on my life and really got a better look at myself and where I am on my life journey.

I cooked dinner, made bread, drank wine, shut off my computer, and enjoyed the hell out of my me time. I’ve been reading nonfiction, young adult (I refuse to call it a guilty pleasure as I feel no guilt about that), fantasy. I have business, linguistic, and comedic books in my stacks of books.

I have three stacks of books I want to get through: library, borrowed from friends, mine I haven’t read and want to decide if I want to keep or not.

I had been feeling stuck and didn’t want to pamper myself with expensive spa treatments or pricey dinners. So I hit my personal reset button. I let a lot build, so it may take me all week of ignoring my friends and staying in. That’s not a bad thing.

Free movies, free books…library is a word that means heaven. If reading is not your tool to unwind, no problem. There are many free activities out there away from a screen to cultivate a little more personal joy in your life. Take a day to do that, I’m sure it’s been a while.

Relax. The world isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 🙂

Your Finances

You know why you’re lazy and all corners of the internet will tell you why you should go green. Do you know why you are broke, though?

Do you even know how broke you are?

Take a moment and write out your income. Then write out your savings, if you have one. Next, list your debts. Finally, categorize your monthly expenses – necessities versus fun, fixed versus varied – which ever way gets you to clearly see what your finances are trying to tell you.

Knowing how broke you are and why are the first steps in not being so broke.

Now, how to deal with being broke? You can go green by buying less. You can borrow, make, swap for something you need….if you are sure you really need it.

Really review every purchase. Did you buy coffee just that one time to treat yourself, or did you block out the three times you ran out quick for coffee because you were late or tired? Be honest with yourself about your finances, no one else out there is.

Buying less is good for you and the earth. What about the economy? Well, if the economy runs only because you buy plastic crap and junk food on a whim, I’m worried succeeding isn’t really success then.

I’m one of those people who can’t quite see how to trim my expenses anymore. I don’t own a car, can’t move to a cheaper place yet (if I can find one). I don’t shop for fun, buy stuff online, or eat out much. I cook and shop in bulk. At some point you can’t cut anymore. At that point, if you are still in dire straights, it’s time to up your income. Besides getting a new, better paying job (as if those were just lying around) dog walking, event food servers, working in a cafe or grocery store can all be part-time gigs. Yes, working 50+ hours a week can suck. So does living in uncertainty from paycheck to paycheck.

The detour to obvious suggestions may not have been necessary, but being aware that there are options out there is.

First things first, know how deep the hole is before you try to climb out. The best place to start is at the beginning. When you get overwhelmed, go for a walk. That is always free.

“Smile, breathe and go slowly”. – Thich Nhat Hanh

A BLBG Workout

I’ll admit it: I pay money to exercise.

Not all of my exercise requires money. I don’t own a car so I walk and bike everywhere, saving so much money in the meantime. If it is less than a mile (12 standard city blocks is pretty close to a mile), why drive? I make it a point to pick up a manageable amount of groceries once a week – saving more money by planning ahead – and walk there and back. If you hate carrying heavy stuff in those reusable canvas bags I’m sure you are using, try bringing a backpack along.

Since I’m obviously so fit from all my walking and biking and eating well, why would I pay to workout? Motivation helps me establish a routine.

It’s one thing to be active, it’s another thing to work out. I am active, but for the longest time I hated working out. Paying for miserable, smelly gyms that I ended up ignoring was never an option. I don’t throw money away. And I was lazy and never got that far anyway.

Then, a friend introduced me to her new workout routine, boot camp. It was relatively cheap, outdoors, involved almost no equipment, and actually gave my friend results she was proud of. She never worked out before. Now? I’m trying to keep up with her.

While it may not be for everyone, I think more people ought to give high intensity interval training (HIIT) a try. Don’t be put off by the name.

We do warm ups (each move for 30 seconds, do two rounds for a total of 6 minutes): jog in place, high knees, butt kicks, side to side heisman, 1-2-3 shuffle knee up, and high mountain climbers – which are high knees and clawing at the sky.

We do 10 moves total – 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off. 1 minute 20 second break after move #5,  2 minute 20 second break after #10. Then we repeat twice more. Here are some suggestions. Follow these up with some stretches and you will feel quite good about getting fit without buying exercise equipment or inhaling the lingering desperation and self-loathing often found clogging a gym’s atmosphere.

Feel free to add any more moves you want, change it up. What moves really work for you?

My Slow Cooker Saved My Life (Figuratively)

So, as you have likely noticed, I have not been posting much. It’s that lazy part. It gets in the way sometimes. This is especially true around dinnertime.

I love food. I enjoy eating. If I don’t do that regularly, I become quite snappy and grumpy. Hangry is real and it is a fire you don’t want to play with. But as a lazy independent adult who can’t afford take out everyday, I have to fight to keep myself eating healthy and not being in a rut.

A versatile base is key to a somewhat varied diet. And in comes the slow cooker. For meat eaters out there, what could sound better than a few pounds of chicken breasts cooking without you having to even be there?! That chicken can turn into chicken tacos, chicken salad, a buffalo chicken dip…you get my drift.

For me, my personal chicken is beans. Don’t try to understand that last sentence, just go with it! Beans, beans, the wonderful legume that offers vegetarians a complete protein when paired with a carb. It is not true that the more you eat, the more you toot. Your body only gets gas as it initially adjusts to all that fiber you are suddenly consuming. But it is so worth it! Eat your first few bean-heavy meals alone while binging on Netflix and after a few days feel free to rejoin society. Or not, I won’t push.

I’m offering up beans as the cheapest, easiest way to make some yummy meals. You can even participate in Meatless Mondays without breaking a sweat. Tacos, salads, dips, burgers – you name it and you can probably make it with beans. Mexican is my go to, so I usually make a pound of black beans and have a base for quesadillas, tacos, burritos, and salads for a week at least!

Buy a pound of any bean you love, and in general you can follow this easy recipe:

Sort your beans, take out any broken beans and any debris like rocks. Toss into your slow cooker any aromatics you’d like. I use one diced onion and 3 bay leaves. Add your pound of beans. Add water until it is 2 inches above the beans. Put on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8 hours. Beans freeze quite well, so if you made too much, portion out a cup apiece into freezer friendly containers and they will last 2 months or so.

 

Some tips: I don’t add salt until the end. If you are cooking kidney beans, boil them for 10 minutes before cooking. This neutralizes a toxin called phytohemagglutinin that can cause some noticeable gut distress. Finally, this won’t work for lentils. They take far, far less time to cook.

Meatless…It’s What’s For Dinner

Confession time: People think I’m a vegetarian, but I’m not exactly.

I did research into where my food comes from. That’s a pretty hip thing to do these days. We all know what happens to migrant workers picking our fruits and veggies. We’re aware of the horrific treatment of animals from birth to slaughter. Everything is coated in pesticides, pumped full of antibiotics, and uses insane amounts of fossil fuels to get shipped to our local mom-and-pop killing supermarkets. Did I cover everything?

So….what the hell do I eat?

Every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want, so spending wisely is now a two-fold issue. I have decided to make the smallest changes, one at a time, so I can stick with them. After all, as Jon Stewart says:

‘If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values: they’re hobbies.’

You know my mantra by now. My changes are small so I can be lazy, on the cheap because I’m broke, and in general greener.

I am now a flexitarian. I know, that sounds so modern and hipster I want to punch myself for saying that, but it’s the best description. I tell everyone I don’t eat meat. That way I am not pressured to eat meat, say at a grill out. And sometimes I absolutely must have a burger, no matter what anyone else says, so I can have that allowance.

Flexitarianism is perfect for our generation, the fomo generation. We don’t want to miss out on anything, but we want a cause. We don’t like rigid definitions. I know that if I declared myself a full vegetarian, I’d resent it at least for a while. Now, kudos to those who can do this. I would like to get there, one day. Instead of focusing on that one day, however, I focus on my choices one meal at a time.

On to saving money and helping the environment. Skip the expensive convenience food, chop your own damn veggies, and give the meat a pass meals a week. This can make an incredible impact on the food system.

Vegetarian cooking can be daunting if you approach it with your old recipes but no meat. View vegetarian cooking as its own cuisine, just like Mexican, Italian, and Chinese are all different. Find new recipes, don’t believe the marketing hype that you have to add textured soy protein to everything (what the meatless ‘meats’ are made of), and get creative!

I’ll be posting some of my favorite meatless-but-delicious recipes here. Look over your favorite recipes, you may have more vegetarian dishes in your arsenal than you know.