From Habits to Bucket List

One whole month into the New Year and I am dominating my fitness resolution. I have been consistently working out at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Earlier this year I signed up for a 6-week bootcamp challenge, and without the structure of the 30-minute classes, I don’t know that I would’ve kept up with the plan (also, the challenge winner gets an iPad and after mine suffered a watery death I am doubly motivated. Keeping it 100). Unfortunately, I am in week five of six and will have to come up with an alternative way to stay motivated and accountable. 

The key will be to not.lose.momentum. One to two rest days a week are fine, but anymore and I will see no reason to ever exert any more effort than absolutely necessary (says the person who will go to the brink of death before getting up for a glass of water. My laziness knows no bounds). 

The “Don’t Break Chain” Method does work wonders. For fitness related goals and the things your mom always nags you about (or in my case, my hygenist). I have flossed and washed my face before bed every single night since 11/23/14. That’s right. Every single night. Sometimes it’s a cursory swipe of a cotton pad soaked in micellar water, but the point is not break the chain. It counts. 

I’ve also removed the “Habits” tracker on my blog’s navigation bar, where I basically regurgitated data from my coach.me (formerly known as Lift) account, because who cares? Only me. I’ve swiped it out with a bucket list. A more fun tracker. Plus I’m on a roll with getting things done so I’m aiming high. 

THE BUCKET LIST

  • Visit Seattle
  • Visit Portland 
  • Visit LA (maybe get a tattoo)
  • Visit China
  • Visit Iceland
  • Drive cross country 
  • Roadtrip in a foreign country
  • Live in a(nother) foreign country for at least a year 
  • Learn to fly 
  • Learn to sail
  • Ride in a hot air balloon 
  • Ride in a helicopter (maybe learn to fly a helicopter?)
  • Catch, gut, cook, and eat a fish
  • Learn to surf
  • Live in a monestary
  • Fast for 30 days
  • Make and wear an article of clothing
  • Run a 5K
  • Run a 5K under 30 minutes
  • Do (unassisted) scorpion pose 
  • Complete the Ultimate Yogi Challenge
  • Relearn how to hula dance
  • Cook every recipe from a cookbook
  • Bake a perfect apple pie from scratch
  • Live in a house with floor to ceiling windows  
  • Grow a vegetable garden
  • Plant a tree
  • Learn to play the piano
  • Give a stranger $100
  • Go snorkeling
  • Go scuba diving 
  • Go snowboarding 
  • Help someone crossoff an item on their bucket list 
  • Be fluent in Portuguese 
  • Take my mom on vacation to Europe 
  • Build a piece of furniture from scratch 
  • Learn to drive stick shift
Posted on February 3, 2015 and filed under Health + Wellness.

January Food Budget

I do not want to write this post. It’s embarrassing. I did not even come close to meeting January's food budget goal. It’s like I didn’t even try (spoiler alert: I did not). Added to the stinging pain of failure - or rather admitting failure - is the fact that money is a deeply personal subject. 

I could, technically, not write this post and ignore that I ever mentioned having a food budget. The internet does it all time, no? Many bloggers, perhaps all, have at some point or another conveniently forgotten to post updates on a new project, goal, what have you. I’d be lucky if two people even read this post. 

Then again, the internet never forgets. 

 

I’m stalling here. Can you tell?

So for January we spent $949 in groceries and $427 in restaurants/eating out (no graph because it would make this all too real).

 

What went wrong? 

1) Not paying attention. While I spent a lot of time meal planning, I didn’t plan with prices in mind. I also never tracked any of the spending during the month. Out of sight, out of mind. Until you have to blog. 

2) Whole Foods. We bought the vast majority of our groceries at WF. Trader Joe’s is always cheaper, but it’s also 20 minutes away. Stop n Shop isn’t too far and offers organic produce, but I would still have to buy meat elsewhere. Ideally I would buy meat at the Farmers Market, but last time I did I spent $30 on bacon. Good bacon, but com’on. Needless to say, I let convenience drive all the decisions. 

The good - and there was some!

1) A lot less eating out. We actually spent $246 on meals out together (across five occasions). I used to eat out at least three times a week. The discrepancy is J spending here and there on little things.  Clearly we’re in this debauchery together, though struggling with different things.  

2) Continued commitment to do better. That’s gotta worth something … 

 

Posted on February 2, 2015 and filed under In My Kitchen, Living.

MINIMALISM TAG

What drew you to minimalism?

My interest in minimalism grew out of my foray into “healthy living.” As I learned more about habits for a healthy body and mind it was only time before I stumbled upon minimalism. It didn’t hurt that in addition to the concept of owning less, I also love the aesthetic of minimalism.

How did you start the de-cluttering process?

I started in late 2012 with a complete overhaul of my closet. I owned so many clothes. Some things fit, many didn’t, and often didn’t actually know what I owned.  Getting ready, laundry, just dealing with my clothes was stressful, so over the course of a couple of days I sorted through hundreds of items. I discarded the old, donated the good, and consigned the rest. The process was surprisingly emotional but I don’t regret getting rid of over 200 items. In fact, it set off a whole chain of decluttering - beauty items, my digital life, books, bathroom and kitchen items. If I could sort and reduce, I did. I still do. It’s always a work in progress.

Have you ever counted all your things? If so, how many things do you own?

I have not. But I also don’t think that minimalism is about owning a specific amount of things. It’s much too personal for that. And while I am motivated by numbers, I’ve never found reducing minimalism to a number to be particularly helpful or inspiring. I consider it minimalist success when there is a sense of effortlessness, peace, and lightness – whether that’s achieved with 5 or 100 items.

What are your tips for dealing with the desire for more?

This is something I still struggle with.  I found that it helps if I delay the purchase. I’m an impulse buyer so giving myself some time (a few days at least and up to a few months) to mull over the purchase helps me realize that I don’t want or need it. Getting rid of the temptation in the first place by unsubscribing to emails or “junk” blogs also helps. I still feel a sense of “missing out” and find some of these things creeping back into my inboxes, which is why minimalism is never an end put a process for me. I’ve also reduced or eliminated magazines (all ads) and don’t watch “regular” tv or cable (more ads).

How do you deal with non-minimalists in your life?

I’ve never had to “deal” with non-minimalists. I’m happy to talk about why I do what I do if people are interested or if someone asks for advice. Otherwise it’s not my place to judge. J I think finds it amusing. He already doesn’t own a lot of things so no tension there. I also think he is happy to reap the benefits of a (more) clutter-free home.

Do you have any guilty pleasures where minimalism doesn't apply?

Food. Admittedly, our pantry is stuffed. Organized but definitely very full. I love to cook so have ended up with one of every ingredient it seems. I love specialty items and gourmet foods as well, which has translated to eight kinds of rice, six kinds of flours, and ten kinds of oils, etc. While I wouldn’t quite “de-clutter” my pantry I am trying to be more thoughtful about what I buy and actually using up what I have.

 

Posted on January 3, 2015 and filed under Living.

Family Traditions

Some of the best family holiday traditions undoubtedly revolve around food. I would say that that's somewhat true in my family. 

Unfortunately I'm not a huge fan of our typical holiday fare. Since I can remember my mom would always make two dishes:

- Bacalao, a cod fish tomato stew that never fails to make the house reek of dead fish while it cooks. How that doesn't turn everyone off it, I do not know.  

- Ensalada de manzana, an apple salad made with Mexican crema which I am not a fan of. 

Full disclosure: I have never actually tried any of these dishes. But the five-year old picky eater in me resists. It's so engrained, it's Pavlovian. 

Every year, twice a year for Christmas and New Year's my mom will make those two dishes and every year, twice a year everyone loves it but me. Then a few years ago my mom came up with her "espaguetti blanco," and a new tradition was born. It's nothing fancy by any stretch. But I love it. And because my mom makes it, it's always extra delicious. 

Because I didn't spend the holidays with my family this year, I decided to recreate a little part of home. The cheesiest part. Smart, I know.  So I asked my mom for the recipe and like anything worthy of being passed down from mother to daughter, it is devoid of any actual measurements. 

The recipe's essentials include lots of cheese, ham, spaghetti, some butter, a little milk, salt and pepper to taste. Assemble, bake, and enjoy. 

It came out great. As great as mom? Almost. But that's always the case. I have time to practice still, zero in on ratios and measurements. Maybe that will be my legacy to pass down. Cups and tablespoons. I kinda like it. 

Happy New Year! 

"white spaghetti"
INGREDIENTES
Un paquete de espaguetti chico para 4 personas.
jamon ya sea de pavo o de puerco
quesos:
Amarillo en rebanadas, blanco en rebanadas, mozarella como lo encuentres y parmesano rayado
mantequilla
leche
sal y pimienta al gusto
“Espaguetti Blanco”

Paquete chico de Espaguetti al dente. En un reflactario de vidrio o de aluminio, se unta mantequilla en todo el recipiente, se pone una capa de spaguetti, una capa de jamon ya sea de pavo o de puerco eso es al gusto, una capa de queso amarillo, queso blanco, mozarella, parmesano, pimienta y sal al gusto, otra capa de mantequilla, otra capa de quesos ya mencionados, y jamon nuevamente, un poco de leche para que se cueza todo, se tapa con aluminio y Se mete al horno a 350 grados, una media hora, hasta que el queso este derretido. Se sirve y se adorna con perejil si quieres, yo nunca lo adorne porque era para nosotros, eso es al gusto y a COMER SE HA DICHO YUMI, YUMI MMMMMMMM!!!!!!

Si tienes alguna duda me llamas.

Saludos a todos, besos y apapachos. TQM

tu mama

Posted on December 31, 2014 and filed under In My Kitchen.

December Food Budget

After the obscenity that was October food spending, J and I decided that we had to rein it in before things got really out of control. We decided this sometime in mid-November, admittedly a little late on reviewing our budgets, hence the December focus. 

We set a goal to spend a total of $700 on all food, which isn't at all unreasonable for two people. Unfortunately, we didn't quite make it. 

We were over by about 50%, so it's probably more accurate to say we didn't make it at all. Though it was a vast improvement from past months (including October 2014), we can definitely do better. Side note, I'm starting to see a pattern here with my last few posts and not meeting the goals I set.  I don't like it. 

Our Achilles' heel is eating out. We definitely use it as a crutch. Don't know what to eat? Let's Foodler! Feeling lazy? Ramen! Scratch that. I hate to suggest that ramen isn't always a good option, so let's go with Italian! 

The lack of planning did us in. The first few weeks were packed with meal planning, home cooked meals, and batch cooking. It was glorious. Then we got back from a week of travel and reverted back to our old ways. 

So now that I've identified the somewhat obvious problem, January will be glorious(ly within budget). January budget is increased slightly to $850 to account for a birthday meal. Is that cheating? Or is it just being realistic? 

Posted on December 30, 2014 and filed under In My Kitchen, Living.

My Morning Routine

MMR

I wake up every morning naturally, after about 8 hours of sleep. I do some light stretching and drink a glass of water with fresh squeezed lemon juice. I meditate for about 10 minutes. Refreshed, I sip my freshly brewed cup of tea while writing my morning pages. Now fully energized, I'm ready for a quick, but effective workout. I shower, make breakfast -usually a fresh green smoothie - get ready, and I'm out the door ready to tackle the day. 

Then I really wake up from that "my life is perfect" dream, having snoozed my alarm once, maybe twice.  Rush to get out of bed, not really wanting to but knowing I have to. I'm already late for work which stressed me out. I take a quick shower, rush to get ready. Maybe make breakfast. Get out the door, harried, not quite ready to tackle the day. 

My morning routine needs some serious work. Most days are not quite as bad as scenario no.2 but nor are they nearly as wonderful as scenario no.1. I've never been a "morning person," but have recently taken an interest in making my mornings more ... enjoyable and productive. 

The first step was getting rid of my alarm clock and substituting it for a light alarm. 

The rest is a work in progress. 

I've been playing around with a number of different things to incorporate into my mornings. I've settled on a few non-negotiables:

  • Consistent wake-up time (7am)
  • No snoozing 
  • No email/games/social media 
  • Workout (yoga 2xs a week)
  • Meditate 
  • Morning Pages

The hardest part is ... all of them. But I'm working on it. 

Posted on December 27, 2014 and filed under Health + Wellness.

Why blog?

I've thought about starting this blog for a while now, motivated by what I think motivates most "personal" bloggers out there - to share our stories. 

At a deeper level, I also wanted to start this blog because I don't see myself in the lifestyle blogosphere. 

Not really. 

I love to read blogs. There are a few I read for work, but the vast majority fall within "lifestyle" categories of health, fitness, style, food, and beauty. Within that, I like to read blogs featuring themes of sustainability, eco-friendliness, and "minimalism." The ones I subscribe to and read regularly are written by smart, fun, and thoughtful women (and some men!). Yet, only a very small fraction are written by young women of color. 

I wondered if data would confirm or disprove my personal experience, but I couldn't find blogger race demographics, only age and gender

I find that incredibly frustrating because representation matters. I'm sure there are others who share these interests. Are we just not blogging about it?

I'd like to think that part of the problem is that I'm not looking in the right places, so I continue to search for great blogs to add to my reader.  If you have any recommendations, leave them in the comments! I thought I'd do something about it too though write a (hopefully) smart, fun, and thoughtful blog. 

Posted on December 26, 2014 .

2015 Fitness Resolution

Is it too early to start on New Year's resolutions? Is it cheating to get started in December? Are Resolutions even worth the trouble?

Apparently only about 1 in 5 people keep their New Year's resolutions all year. And a measly 1 in 10 stick to them longterm.  

I think I actually like those odds. Better than zero. 

Though I have a somewhat long list of "habits" I'd like to change, adapt, improve, what have you, there is one that I'd like to call special attention to. Mostly in hopes that consistently checking-in in a somewhat public space will hold me accountable and motivated. 

So with that, in 2015 I resolve to workout five days a week for at least 30 minutes

As far as SMART goals go, it's not perfect, but it's better than my original "workout," and the improved version "workout consistently." I also find it a vast improvement over the weight loss related goals. I've found when it comes to health/wellness goals, I'm least successful when they are weight bound. 

My motivations are many - be healthier and be stronger. I'm also really lazy when it comes to rigorous physical activity and I'd like to not be. And I wouldn't be honest if I also didn't admit that my trip to the Mexican beaches in February wasn't small encouragement...

Check out my progress and regular updates here

 

Posted on December 26, 2014 and filed under Health + Wellness.

Goodreads 2014 Challenge

Didn't quite make my challenge goal to read 25 books in 2014. 21 of 25. 84%. Solid B

My Favorites

  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green

The Don't Bothers

  • Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
  • Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Most Haunting

  • Pen Pal by Dathan Auerbach

 

I went hunting for that last one, looking for a horror thriller. It took me several weeks before I could stop thinking about it and feeling disturbed. Clearly a masochist, I read Joyland after but Stephen King had nothing on Auerbach. If creepy and haunting is your thing, read Pen Pal. 

My goal in 2015 will again be to read 25 books. I thought about upping it, amazed at others' lengthy list of reads and their capacity to devour book after book after book. Though to be honest,  I can't make a new goal until I reach the first one, right? Plus, I often exhaust myself reading. I always have. I don't know how to pace myself. I never have. 

I love escaping into a good book. Trouble is, I emerge drained, empty, and often, unexpectedly wired. I have gone over 24 hours without sleep, chasing the next plot twist. I have to take lengthy breaks from a good book just to get it together again and come down from the high. 

I'm starting off 2015 with a bang and picking up Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. I quickly skimmed over some reviews and caught a warning not to make this your first Murakami experience. Challenge within a Challenge! But it's not like I have a choice. It's a bookclub book, and bookclub is more fun when you've finished the darn book... 

Posted on December 25, 2014 .

How to Save $250+ On Cyber Monday

The secret? Don’t buy anything.

 

That seems obvious, but when you love shopping a little too much, and the rush of a deal even more, not buying anything during Cyber Monday is near impossible.

I wish I could say that I abstained from a shopping frenzy because I was thoughtful about my actions. Instead it was a series of (fortunate) unfortunate events.

I made it through Black Friday buying only the things I had on my wish list. My goal was controlling and curbing unnecessary shopping. If an item - researched, priced checked, and assessed as a need - stayed on the list for at least a couple of months, I would consider purchasing it. If I was ultimately going to buy something, why not get a deal?

My working wish list was my attempt to ensure I didn’t go crazy accumulating things I didn’t need and ultimately didn’t really want - a mistake I’ve made repeatedly in the past. However, by the time Cyber Mondayrolled around, several items and companies had made their way onto my list, ready to be scoped out and scooped up.

 

Reflecting back, it’s like a junkie wanting one more hit. Or perhaps more like a Lay’s potato chips binge. You can never just have one, right?

 

So Monday came, emails started pouring in with deals, I started googling for specific deals, and soon enough I had a set of beautifully curated tabs with intended purchases. Holding on to the tiniest shred of thoughtfulness, I figured I would reconsider each one carefully to make sure I really “needed” it. Rationalization at its best since I knew full well I didn’t need a single thing.

Then I noticed that one website wasn’t honoring the free shipping offer. By the time they had the decency to post a limp reply to Facebook messages letting customers know no more free shipping (after deleting and ignoring comments), I was done (with them). The experience was soured.

Then I noticed a major online beauty company I had purchased an expensive product from on Black Fridaywas offering an even better Cyber Monday deal on the same product. After spending an hour on the phone when I should’ve been eating dinner, to figure out if I could get a refund, I was done. Every single time I called, the call would drop after several minutes on hold. Finally, I got some canned email response that basically said, “Tough". I get that promotions come and go, but offering a better deal later on during the same weekend, especially when that weekend is known for sales seems like outright duping customers.  The experienced was soured.

My energies then turned to research. Site A has 25% off, but not free shipping unless I buy more items. Site B has 30% off, and free shipping, but only on some of the items I wanted from Site A. Should I buy more to save? Is it really saving? What if I buy some items from Site B and find the others on Site C, which has 10% off? I thought that shopping this weekend for long sought after items would be fun, and yet the whole experience was making me anxious and stressed.  I became too preoccupied with the “deal”. I realized it was never about the product, it was about buying.

 

Defeated, I resolved to buy the one item that was worth it, that I use every day, and that never goes on sale. But by the time I switched to my last tab, it was sold out.

At the end of it all, I was a little angry. Okay, maybe a lot angry. But I’m trying to go back to the sense of peace I first discovered after decluttering my life. Things only provide temporary and very fleeting happiness, if you can call it happiness at all. After checking off a couple of major wishes from the list, I want to take a step back and do a no spend month. In some ways Black Friday was my last hurrah, the chocolate cake before the diet, but you gotta start somewhere…

 

Posted on December 1, 2014 and filed under Living.