Saturday, March 29, 2008

Are You An Ali or A Brittany?

I've been thinking a lot about metabolic differences since watching Biggest Loser a few weeks ago. In that episode Jillian decided to mess around with Brittany's salt intake and see if they could get a bigger result. Jillian was talking about how hard and frustrating Brittany's weight loss had been on both of them. In contrast Ali returned to the show that week having lost more than any other woman. And even though she is now the lightest contestant she has been the Biggest Loser on campus the last three weeks averaging a 7 pound weekly loss.

Now I know Brittany is portrayed on the show as whiny and overwhelmed. All I know is that Jillian told the camera that she has never pushed a contestant harder and STILL she only drops about 2 pounds a week. I believe there are metabolic differences. And I see it all the time around the weight loss blogs that I read. Obviously it is hard to know if everyone is working out as much as they should or eating within their limits but it sure seems to me that some you have a harder time losing than others.

I'm the first to say I didn't have a hard time losing the weight. Is that metabolic? Did I have a stronger resolve? Was I just more accurate? Is it because I had no cheat meals? Genetics? Was I just more committed? Who knows? Not to say I didn't work hard. I did. I didn't take a day off. I worked out like I never had before and I accounted for everything I put in my mouth. For me weight loss was a very predictable math equation: burn more than you consume and lose. But it seems to me plenty of people do that and don't see the same results.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Jon & Kate Plus 8

Am I the only one who loves this show?

I'm relatively new to it and have been working out to a whole bunch of Tivo'd reruns lately. I think, for fairly obvious reasons, I can relate to their relationship dynamic. And I appreciate that they don't hide their flaws. They're doing the impossible and they are doing it with their sense of humor intact.

Any other Jon & Kate fans out there?

Enough Already

You're My Favorite Mistake

These are the perfect cookies to use when doing a nice fancy "Martha Stewart" iced cookie. I thought that leaving the royal icing off might make these a little less addictive... I was mistaken!

Sugar Cookie Cut-outs

3/4 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 & 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 t salt

In large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and the 1 c sugar until creamy; beat in eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, blending thoroughly, to form a soft dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least 1 hour) or for up to 3 days.

On a floured board, roll out dough, a portion at a time, to a thickness of 1/4 inch (just less than a cm), keep remaining portions refrigerated. Cut out with cookie cutters and place slightly apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 8 minutes* or until edges are just beginning to turn golden.

*I like mine soft, so I try and get them out just before they develop any color, I bake them for about 6 minutes.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hoarding 101

I've been thinking a lot about hoarding since this week's Oprah shows. If you aren't a hoarder trying to make you understand would be the equivalent of trying to explain why an alchoholic wants a drink to a teatottler. Part of it I am convinced is wiring. The other part is learned behavior. And a very strong part of it is emotional. I started hoarding as a child.

"Things" have always had immense meaning to me. Some people are compulsive picture takers or movie takers... you know one of these people I'm sure... they have to capture every moment. It can get to the point that they never "see" any part of their child's birthday party they only "view" it through their viewfinder. Those people need to capture the moment.... I need to save it. I cannot throw out a picture. Not even a bad one or a duplicate. I can't throw out a birthday card or a datebook.... or even a freaking business card. Everything is tied to a memory for me.

When I was a little girl my parents divorced. I spent my entire life not being able to be with people that I loved and missing them immensely. When you are a child with separated parents the truth is you must become your own archiver. Your mother isn't saving the cards from your father and vice versa. For me every Valentine or movie stub was a powerful reminder of a good time I had with my Dad and since I didn't get to have that many I held onto them. Well where do you draw the line? I had a good time at the movies with my friend too... so I'll save that stub as well.... hey now I'm collecting movie stubs!... you get the picture. I have one box of mementos (not big) since my compulsion is to save small things I think as far as hoarding goes I lucked out. That is the majority of the stuff I am compelled to save and always picture my grandkids going through the box and saying "a movie for $5!?" and that kind of thing. But that has spiraled into my needing to save all the cards my kids receive (well who am I to decide which will be meaningful to them?!)... and they are well loved so that is a LOT of cards!

Some of you might confuse hoarding with compulsive shopping. That is not the case for me. I can't get rid of stuff that I am given. I don't have bulging closets or bins off old clothes and purses. I have NO problem cleaning out my clothes every year and now that I am done having kids I have no problem getting rid off their outsized clothes and shoes. But don't expect me to get rid of old gift bags, or ribbons! I could use those again! My hoarding is more based on a twisted frugality. I have a very hard time getting rid of potentially useful stuff.... it just seems wasteful. And although I do drop off huge bags of stuff at The Salvation Army every year (I mean seriously people we purge stuff all the time) we still get stuff as gifts and cast offs ALL the time!

When my grandmother was moving from her last house to her retirement village she had to get rid of a lot of stuff. My grandmother is a hoarder. She has always had large well appointed homes but her closets are stuffed to the tops with little special bundles wrapped in old plastic bags and secured with rubber bands. She didn't throw anything out. When she had to part with a lot of stuff I came down and dutifully loaded up my trunk. Why? Because I knew she needed me too. I knew she didn't want to give this stuff to Goodwill. It was valuable stuff that she had carefully saved to hand down... and I knew she believed I would honor it's importance. Not just it's retail value but it's importance to her. And I do. I really honestly do. So I have a hutch and sideboard FILLED with antique silver and china and crystal. I have a storage room stuffed with boxes of her collections of teak saucers (why?), marble eggs (classy Easter decorations?), decorative plates, heirloom linens, etc. Some of these things are immensely valuable and some of these things were just valuable to her. It is very hard for me to purge these things. I really feel like I am just the curator of her collection and it isn't my place to let it go (although I'm getting ready to purge the teak saucers.... shhh)

I wouldn't say any one "collection" is the problem. In fact when we moved here my box of mementos and my grandmothers tableware didn't seem unreasonable. The problem comes from the fact that Mr F is a hoarder too (although he is loath to admit it). And add to my collections, Mr F's cluttered desk and magazine hoarding, outgrown clothes & toys in holding for Baby, seasonal decorations, bags of hand-me-downs from acquaintances, our massive photo collection... you get the picture. The basement is what happens when hoarding meets ADD. I don't want to get rid of my stuff. Mr F doesn't want to get rid of his. My mother-in-law keeps sending us boxes and boxes of kids clothes and decorations. We don't have a big enough house to store the stuff... and the real kicker is that we don't have a place to sort things (hence the basement issues) and we don't have the time to do it.

Now please don't give us advice on how to organize. We know how to organize. We know how to purge. We know how to buy bins and labels. We have two storage rooms that are organized and sorted and labeled (well good enough). Just because I'm open about our problem area does not mean that I am asking for help and guidance. This is me processing my feelings and my issues. We can tackle this, and we will, when we are ready. Everyone has their strengths and their weaknesses. Letting go of an old shipping box that might be the perfect size to send Christmas presents in is ours.

Holy Moley

Did any of you watch the two part Oprah on the crazy, C-R-A-Z-Y, hoarders? Sweet Jesus. I'm not even sure there is much I can say to describe it to you... you kind of needed to see it to believe it. Luckily you can go HERE and take a peek.

Well there I was watching this in the basement. I was sitting there watching this family and was just aghast at their severe hoarding issues and then I looked around...

um... it seems we've got some issues of our own.

Now I know I've gotten myself in trouble with this before... but I just can't help myself. I refuse to pretend we are something that we are not. We are not neat freaks people. We are hoarders.

Some of you have seen pictures of our *messy* house but the truth is this is what our house looks like right now (at the end of the day no less)...

Typically we actually don't really have a major clutter issue beyond a day or two worth of toys on the floor and a pile of mail to be filed... okay and maybe some stuff on the counters. When I've posted "out of control" shots of our living space it has been when Kid's been on break for a week or some such thing. I do it to motivate me to stop wallowing in all that needs to be done and just get up and do it.

That is the honest to God truth and why I have local friends who think I stage the mess since they've been here many times and never witnessed it (also evidence of what I can do in 20 minutes... so... yes, please do call before you pop in!). And our upstairs is not a cluttered area. We sleep upstairs and that is it. If anything our issue upstairs has more to do with actually "moving in" to those rooms and using them. I can get the upstairs (even on its worst Kid fueled explosion) company ready in under 15 minutes.

But that does not mean we don't have clutter problems.

Welcome to Hell...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Good... and Technically Good For You

Yes these are what you think they are: dark chocolate coated prune bits. They are unexpectedly delicious. Trust me.

Wishful Thinking

This morning Baby walked into the kitchen and, seeing the pantry cabinet open, made a run for Kid's chocolate milks. She then purposefully walked into the dining room and placed it on her tray as if to say "I'm ready for breakfast Mom".

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I'm not sure how this all happened but I feel like I've gotten myself in a corner that I don't want to be in.
I know I put a lot of information out there into the universe... and really that is my nature... and because I may put out more than the average person, I think people tend to assume I'm putting it ALL out there. I'm not.

My mother thinks I'm a bad secret keeper. To this I replied "how would you know?". She only knows the things I'm willing to tell. There are plenty of things I don't. In fact I may be the very best secret keeper you've ever met. I think my openness lends itself to assumptions. I appear transparent. I sometimes become you... or a LOT like you. Sometimes I am. Sometimes I'm not. Most of the time I'm okay with that. And maybe that has a lot to do with why so many people come here.
I use my blog to process my life and motivate myself. Sometimes this blog becomes a community for other's to do the same. In the spirit of that I started a series of posts on finances. I did this for two reasons: #1 because I thought it was time that I took the same kind of thoughtful responsibility for our finances that I have over my diet & exercise, and #2 because it is a good conversation topic.

The thing about finances is this...
They are highly personal. Not just for me but for everyone. Lots of people read my blog. My niece, my grandmother, my neighbor... hundreds of nameless strangers. I would love for there to be more candid discussions about finance out there. I think a LOT of us feel lost, or confused, or just plain uninformed. I am happy to talk about my experience trying to take more control over this important area of my life. I am happy for you to talk about your experiences with this as well. But I am not asking for your opinion on how we should adjust our budget or find more savings. We have to decide for ourselves which things add meaning to our life and which things are superfluous. Only we can know that for ourselves... just as only you can know that for yourself.

We are not in financial lock down. We are not facing a budget crisis. We are just mindlessly spending. As I have stated numerous times we have no debt, we pay all our bills in full and on time. Do we spend every penny that comes through here these days? Yes. Do I wish we paid more attention to how we spend those pennies? Yes. Is Mr F's current job situation and freelance work payment schedule (or lack there of) sometimes stressful? Yes. Are we broke... or even remotely close to it? No. I have intentionally not revealed our entire financial situation since I don't really need everyone to know our entire financial situation. I only reported our yearly spending on things that I didn't mind revealing and that I thought were relatively judgment free.

Here are the facts:
We make enough to contribute to a 401K, a ROTH IRA, and two 529s every year AND pay all our bills... in fact we even over-pay our mortgage principal every month. We have no debt outside of our mortgage. In the spirit of full (ish) disclosure Mr F had acquired a reasonable amount of debt between 2002-2005 due ONLY to poor money management (it appears we had hired the wrong spouse as our financial manager) and poor spousal communication skills. Upon his being fired from that position that situation has been alleviated. Are we sitting on millions? No. But we do have investments... we just chose to live our life not touching those and pretending they don't exist (which in the current market is best since looking at those statements is depressing) and are letting those stocks do what they need to. Would we like to save more? Yes.

But there is more to our story as I'm sure there is more to yours. Mr F makes the majority of his income through his freelance business. That means that our monthly income can vary by a couple thousand dollars a month... from not quite enough to pay the bills to more than enough. This takes very careful planning on my part when it comes to bill paying and can be quite stressful (Mr F's little foray into debt ever present in my mind). I would like to find the small leaks in our spending so that I can feel that I have a better cushion in our checking account. Just as Mr F's monthly income varies so does his yearly income... by up to many thousands of dollars! Sometimes that is for the better (Yay! Disney!) and sometimes for the worse (Boo... returning Ugg boots). And that is where the stress really comes into play. We make enough... this year. Will we make enough next year? I don't know. We never know.

So that is why we are on this mission. Because I want to be accountable and responsible for our spending. I want to know how and where we spend it so that should we have to start shaving off "wants" I'd know where to shave them. Thankfully we are not at that point yet.

Money Talk Tuesday

Okay so last week I spent a lot of time figuring out our yearly expenses. Let's just say that process was eye opening... both in goods ways and bad. We had never really looked at our expenses in a "big picture" sort of way before and I don't really know how to describe it but to say that things look differently month to month... or feel different. I have to say I was a bit overwhelmed by the largeness of all the numbers and it took me a few days to absorb all that information and come to terms with it.

Now figuring out one year's worth of expenses does not a budget make. Last year saw the birth of Baby, and a huge weight loss for me, and a surgery for Kid... events that won't be happening this year. I have to buy a whole new wardrobe since I've shrunk out of all my previous clothing, and although I'm pretty cheap when it comes to my threads, buying all new everything requires a bit more cash than say a little seasonal spruce up. Every year has got its blips on the radar. Last year a new furnace and air conditioner... this year a new exterior paint job. It's going to take me a few years of tracking to pick up on a meaningful trend.

As I've said before we are not in a financial crisis. We have our bills and we are fortunate enough to be able to pay them. But I do not feel on top of things, or well informed, or secure. We are paying our bills, yes, but we are spending every dime we make to do so. So I want to change that. When I sat down and really added up how much we spend it seemed so obvious... I mean crystal clear... that we could in fact spend less. We just have to choose to do it. So I've set a new goal. My goal is to reduce our spending by $300 a month. Can I do it? I'm not sure... but what have I got to lose?

I am sure I can't just shave off that much all at once. I'm just going to see if I can plug one or two "leaks" and maybe add one or two more as we go along. By June I'd like to see us spending at least $300 less a month on mindless splurge purchases.

This is how I'm going to do it:

#1 I am only going to Target twice a month to make purchases and I'm going to shop with a list! (we have prescriptions and we have to go that often) I am also going to put back 3 items from my cart before check out to account for impulse buys. I will not get a mocha while I'm there!

#2 I am going to stick to my grocery list and can only keep ONE impulse buy per trip. Seriously. That will probably save me $300 month right there!

#3 Kid & Mr F must limit their date night dining choices to locations that can feed them for under $20.

Got money on the brain? Head on over to Smoochiefrog's Money Monday post.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Day In The Life

This Week The Plan

I feel like a chicken with its head cut off lately. Last week came and went in a blur of sickness and entertaining... a deadly and exhausting combination. Baby's been up the past two nights crying again and I fear she's cutting more teeth. I've found myself desperately wanting a nap or the rare and impossible delight of a full nights sleep (only about 2.5 years to go on that front!). The truth is sometimes I just feel it. Thankfully most of the time I think I function somewhat normally on my usual 2 hour stretches of sleep... I might go as far as to say that I function pretty well on very little sleep. But the point is this... I'm feeling crazy, unsettled, and overwhelmed. Maybe I'm just too tired. Maybe I just can't do everything all the time. I'm feeling backed into a corner today for some reason... everything piling up on me and no end in sight. Most likely I just need to get back on track. Need to stop eating cookies when I'm already full. Need to take a nap if the opportunity ever presents itself. Need to workout. Need to make my plan.

So here it is...


Monday- Chicken Cutlets w/ spaghetti & tomato sauce & salad

Tuesday- leftover Strata & Fruit Salad

Wednesday- Kid F date night

Thursday- Shrimp & Vegetable Lo mein

Friday- takeout

Saturday- Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad w/ homemade bread

Sunday- Tomato & Meatball Soup w/ homemade bread

Diet & Exercise:
This past week I really got sidetracked by my sudden sickness so this week I'm hoping to pull it back together. Thankfully I did not gain any weight... a considerable feat after yesterday's Easter buffet incident! I'm going back to counting calories and trying to cut out the baked goods as much as possible. As for exercise... after last week's Biggest Loser I've decided to try walking backwards on the treadmill!

Cleaning & Errands:

Monday - vaccum, clean kitchen sink, laundry

Tuesday - grocery shopping, finish putting away Kid's off-season clothes

Wednesday - grocery shopping, make returns at mall

Thursday - post office, Target returns

Friday - vacuum, straighten playroom

Things That Are Stressing Me Out:
Dealing with Kid's school for next year
Visiting East Coast?

Early Literacy

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mrs F like you've never seen her...

"Do I look pretty?" I ask Kid after getting dressed up for Easter.

"Yessss!" Kid replies emphatically

"Do you like my lady shoes?" I ask her knowing how much she enjoys when I wear high heels.

"Yes!" Kid says then giving me a good once over she joyously proclaims...
"You look like you are on Dancing with The Stars!"

hmmm... too much makeup?

Happy Easter

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