Image

Festive feasts

Happy New Year all! One thing that’s not changing in 2021 is my love for cooking. It’s day 10, a Sunday, and here’s a TWIST… at 8:00 p.m., I made a grilled cheese sandwich with dill pickles for dinner. Sunday is the day where I usually put forth effort to make something a little more extravagant. I almost didn’t make the grilled cheese sandwich. I ended up seasoning my 2 bone-in chicken breasts a little later than intended because I’d spent hours packing. Yes, you read that correctly. We’re moving into our new home in a couple of months and I don’t want to wait until the last minute. I was on the fence about what to make with the chicken breasts anyway – chicken tortilla soup, a pasta dish, chicken and rice, or chicken pot pie. I can use each breasts for a different dish.

We had a wonderful Christmas at our household. In my post Fall Food Chronicles 2020 , I indicated that I would be making rib roast for the first time at Christmas. When I think of Christmas dinner, I think people tend to make something special. Well, I was NOT feeling that rib roast and it was probably the most special meat I had in the freezer, so I changed my mind. Chicken enchiladas, shrimp fajitas, and black beans sounded like a winner to me.

Chicken Enchiladas 2 ways ready for the oven: red sauce with corn tortillas and green tomatillo sauce with flour tortillas. LPC

On Christmas day, my niece on my husband’s side visited us from her Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. She didn’t want to be alone for the holidays so she joined us in Austin. She loved my enchiladas. I was especially pleased since I rarely make them.

Vegetables for the shrimp fajitas. LPC

My husband bought a huge tub of pre-sliced vegetables from the grocery store. I don’t normally buy pre-sliced vegetables because it’s much cheaper to buy the produce and slice it yourself. However, one thing I’ve learned in 2020 is to give myself a break. Those pre-sliced vegetables made my life easier on Christmas.

Homemade black beans. LPC

My son, Caleb’s, comment after he confirmed the food was delicious: “Why did you make so much black beans?” I don’t know. I got excited I guess. They were so good. One of my goals for 2021 is to reduce my cooking portions. I have a heavy hand. I inherited that from my mom. You can read about some other goals I’m working on in 2021 here: Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021.

Black bean and cheese quesadillas with jalapeños and avocado. LPC

One thing I’m getting better at is repurposing leftovers. I’m proud that my daughter and I ate up that big ole pot of black beans because I hate to waste food.

Black eyed peas with smoked ham hock. LPC

It’s an American southern tradition to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s day for good luck. There is also a Haitian tradition to make soup joumou on January 1 as this day is also Haiti’s Independence Day from France. On the Haitian American sites I follow on social media, I could see many Haitians were preparing to make this soup. The main ingredient is pumpkin or a vegetable in the squash family. A few years ago, when my mom was still alive, I asked her if she had ever made soup joumou. I don’t recall her making it growing up. My mom didn’t know about the soup which I thought was interesting. I shared some leftovers I made with my mom and she didn’t like it. I think my aunt on my father’s side made a version of this soup. One day, I will ask her. Whatever the case, I decided to go with the black eyed peas instead. They were delicious.

Prime rib roast, well done. LPC

After watching a few YouTube videos, I felt confident about making the Prime Rib Roast. I think I called it Chuck Rib Roast in my Fall Food Chronicles 2020 post. For my first time, it came out pretty good. I’m so glad we had a fairly small piece because it turned out to be a lot. Would I make it again? I can wait until next Christmas, maybe.

Pan fried Brussel sprouts with sautéed onions and pancetta (not shown). LPC
Freshly sliced organic gold potatoes soaking in salted water for potatoes au gratin. LPC

My husband loves to buy me gadgets. One day I will write a blog post of them all to share. I used the mandolin he bought me for the first time to make potatoes au gratin with our Prime Rib Roast dinner and my life changed. Why has it taken me so long to use that thing?

New Year’s Dinner 2021- Prime rib roast, black eyed peas, corn bread, brussel sprouts, and potatoes au gratin. LPC

New Year’s dinner was special indeed. My plans for food in 2021 are to make new recipes, create new recipes, eat simply, eat more plant based, and foster a healthy relationship with food. What about you? What are you cooking up this week?

Image

Hindsight is 2020

What a year…though 2020 has not been a miserable year for my household. We received closure on some very important financial matters that had been looming for years. My small family of four spent more countless hours together in 9 months than we ever have. It’s been mostly enjoyable and comforting. In an unprecedented move, the state agency I work for sent thousands of employees home with laptops in March. I love the experience of teleworking. In April I took the COVID-19 test and the results came back negative. It turns out I came down with a very bad case of bronchitis. You can read about experience in my most read posts of 2020: COVID-19 Chronicles: I took the test and COVID-19 Chronicles: Test results are in. In August, we signed papers sealing the deal to build our new home which is an experience we’re having for the 2nd time in our lives. The plan is for this house to be our retirement home. I’ve written about these experiences all year. Thank you for being there with me as I navigated 2020. If you haven’t been there, WELL, you’ve got some catching up to do on my posts.

2020 has revealed some very ugly and unfathomable views and actions of people in America. From my perspective in my 47 years of life, this is the most politically divisive I’ve seen the country. People have gone so far as to ascribe God to a political party as if God is American and takes sides. I generally tend to avoid politics on my blog, but 2020 has shown me anything goes. I still won’t dwell on it in this post. The deaths of people who are black at the hands of law enforcement caused thousands of people (around the world) in sheer FED-UP-NESS to protest, mostly peacefully, during a PANDEMIC. Thankfully, normal, every day people are able to capture the atrocities on their cell phones; otherwise, how would we know and how would we know people are being held accountable? I’m too young to have grown up in the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. While attending my all black high school in Chicago, we learned about civil rights and the works of many notable people who are black during the movement such has Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and many others. I’ve seen countless video footage of speeches and protests. 2020 was eerily similar, which begs the question: how far has this country really gotten?

I feel a great deal of sorrow for all the lives lost and for those suffering. Heroes also emerged in 2020, particularly in the healthcare industry. The grocery, restaurant, and delivery workers also came through for all of us. I know people are ready to put 2020 behind them and move forward. I think it’s healthy in times of uncertainty and global unrest to shrink into your corner of the world…to the things you have more control over. For 2021, I think instead of “goals” and definitely not “resolutions”, I want to use the term “manifest” to describe what I envision for my life. I might change it but it sounds good to me for right now. I’ve been looking ahead to 2021 for a few months now and thinking about what I want to manifest. Some of it is already in process. I find that when I’m thoughtful about what I want to manifest and go as far as to capture it on a Vision Board, it’s more likely to happen. There maybe some research to support this, but I’ll save for another time.

If you have never put a Vision Board together, I think you will find that it will help divert your attention from the sorrow in the world to something that will actually be beneficial to you. Creative activities tend to have that effect. It’s also a great tool to keep you accountable and focused. It takes some planning to create a Vision Board though, so if you’re considering it, I hope you’re up for it.

You’ll need to ask yourself some practical questions and make several decisions on the following such as:

  1. What are your goals or what do you hope to manifest?
  2. What will you use for the board (poster board, cardboard, etc.)?
  3. Where will you get the pictures (old magazines, newspapers, online pictures, etc.)?
  4. Do I have enough supplies (scissors, glue, tape, poster board, glitter, etc.) and where will I get them?
  5. When will I work on my Vision Board and when do I want to complete it?
LPC 2020 Vision Board

I created 2020’s Vision Board in January 2020. I purchased most of the supplies from the Dollar Tree, Hobby Lobby, and I used old magazines for the pictures. Of course at the time, I had no clue how 2020 would materialize. Several times throughout the year, I did review my Vision Board and contemplated progress. I even wrote blog posts about my financial progress which you can read about here: 2020 Personal Finance: You can dig yourself out of a hole and Financial Goals 2020 UPDATE. In 2020, I was most successful in accomplishing financial goals. I also kept up with my exercise goals and cooked/ate healthy most of the time. There are a couple of pictures of women who signified that I would put more thought into my wardrobe selections for a more polished appearance…not that I struggled with that previously. I accomplished this goal also.

There were some things I didn’t accomplish, one of which was travel. You probably can’t tell because of the lighting, but there are two pictures of tropical beaches. My plan was for my family to vacation on a Caribbean Island somewhere. The pandemic threw that dream out the window…at least for 2020. Also, there is a phrase “care more, stress less”. I did demonstrate caring more in 2020 by donating finances to different causes I don’t normally contribute to. This was not planned or reflected in my Vision Board but 2020 inspired me to help more people when I could. However, I still need to seriously develop a plan for managing stress. In my last post, Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021, I shared some of the areas where I struggle regarding stress.

I asked my husband, Bryan, to buy a poster board for me while he was at Walmart, so I have that. I’ll probably start on my 2021 Vision Board in the next week. I’m still asking myself what I want to manifest.

I’d love to know if you plan on creating a Vision Board if you haven’t already. I know some people start early. What do you most appreciate about the experience? What goals did you accomplish in 2020?

Image

Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021

Be proud of yourselves folks. We made it to 2021! Making it through 2020 means you can overcome anything. Well, in Texas, we still have a few minutes, but I’m counting it early. I was trying to explain to someone this morning that 2020 felt like it flew by rather quickly, yet was excruciatingly long at the same time. How could that be?

How could a year that was traumatic for so many people worldwide, be one of the best years of my life? Only God knows. There is not much I control in this world. What I can control are goals I set for myself and my attitude. Every year, I strive to be better and grow, which entails taking inventory of my life. I came up with a short list of things I’m letting go of in 2021 and I’m sharing with you. I hope my list inspires you to let go of some things no longer serving you too.

  1. Offense
    • I was introduced to the book the “Bait of Satan” through my Life Group in the fall of 2020. A Life Group is comprised of a small group of couples from our church who gather for several weeks to study a lesson together. The book really opened my eyes to offense, how it manifests, and destroys relationships. The concepts are totally counterintuitive to how most people (i.e., Christians), including myself, think. This is a must read, especially if you are a Christian.
    • I will forgive people immediately, whether they are aware or not, and move on.
  2. Stressing
    • On my 2020 Vision Board, I glued the phrase “Care more, stress less”.  I’ve been practicing not caring too much about what people think of me for years now. I need to work on the stress less.
    • I need to stop stressing over my work “to do” list. I put in ample hours. It’s a never-ending list. I will put in my daily hours and then cut it off.
    • I need to stop caring so much about my family having a homecooked meal every day or leftovers of a homecooked meal. I live with two teenagers and a husband who loves fast food. They don’t care.
    • I will instead cook smaller portions of mostly healthy meals I want to eat.
  3. Bad sleep habits
    • I will not slouch around until 10:30 pm to get ready for bed.
    • I need to be ready for bed by 9:30 pm during the work week. Period. “Being ready” means I will have taken a shower, my pajamas are on, and I’ll have a book in hand and am in the bed by 9:30 pm…no phone or laptop.
    • Getting enough sleep is a cure for just about everything.
  4. Underestimating myself
    • It doesn’t happen often as I’m usually very confident, EXCEPT in situations where I’m with people who I PERCEIVE are very knowledgeable. I’m surrounded by smart people on a daily basis, but it’s certain people. Time to unpack that and let it go.
    • Also, no more second guessing or doubting myself.
  5. Weight
    • The physical weight that causes me to be overweight and puts me at higher risk for certain diseases.
    • The mental weight of perfectionism.
    • The mental weight of anxiety.
    • The mental weight of things I can’t control.
    • I’m developing a plan to be much lighter.
  6. Guilt
    • For not being the parent I think I should.
    • For not being the wife I think I should.
    • For not being the sister, aunt, friend, cousin, etc….I think I should.
    • For not doing everything everybody else thinks I should.
    • For taking time for myself.
    • I will work on more positive affirmations and self-talk and acceptance.
LPC’s 2020 Vision Board. I’ll start working on 2021’s next week.
This book and study guide continue to blow me away. I have a lot of growing to do. LPC

I’ll follow up with a post on my vision for 2021. What are you letting go of in 2021?

Cheers to another year full of opportunities, the unknown, joy, peace, blessings, and light lessons!

Image

Christmas Eve Message

Today was a pretty uneventful Christmas Eve. I slept in, worked out for an hour, and watched a few videos on YouTube. Then mid-afternoon, I decided to take a nap, headed to my bed and proceeded to spend several more hours watching YouTube videos and scrolling through my social media channels periodically. I felt that my body needed to do nothing and I actually listened. My husband, Bryan, picked up pizza for dinner so I didn’t cook. After I recuperated, I wrapped the rest of my Christmas gifts, straightened up the house a little, and began preparing for our Christmas meal. It’s going to be so good and a departure from what I said I was going to cook in my post Fall Food Chronicles 2020.

Yesterday was Bryan’s birthday. We started the celebration on Tuesday, a few hours after my doctor’s appointment, rather than Wednesday. His birthday is the same day as my mom, Solange’s, who passed away 3 years ago. It was a bittersweet day. Although my mom didn’t celebrate her birthday for religious reasons, it is still and will forever be her birthday. On Wednesday, I actually forgot it was her birthday until Bryan said something indicating he remembered. His memory has greatly improved in the last year. The reason why he has a problem with memory in the first place is due to hydrocephalus.

I felt bad for a little while because I forgot it was also my mom’s birthday. I had received some news that I was preoccupied with. My sister sent a group text to my siblings and myself indicating that she was missing our mom. I expressed how much I missed her too.

I was reminded that aside from this global COVID-19 pandemic, which has many people anxious and on edge, this time of the year, the holiday season, is difficult for many people. It’s especially difficult for those who have lost loved ones and friends, lost jobs, have strained or no relationships with their families, and/or don’t have a lot of money to get their kids what they want, let alone put food on the table. Many people have lost their loved ones due to COVID-19.

Some messages during the holiday season are that this is the season of sharing, caring, togetherness, giving, kindness, and gratitude. But there is also loss, grief, despair, depression, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, hopelessness, helplessness, and people who act unkind, impatient, and entitled.

It bothers me that people, including myself sometimes, lose sight of the real reason for Christmas, which is to celebrate Jesus’s birth. Jesus lived a life we can never fully live up to on this earth. Yet, there is pressure, at least depending on how you look at it, for people to spend money on gifts….a lot of money on gifts. I was at a retail store recently and to see how people were frantically looking for stuff to buy really struck me. Why do we feel so compelled to show people how much we love them by buying things?

I’m not sitting on my high horse looking down on everyone else either. I participated and bought my family gifts too, but we had some lean Christmas’s in my life where we got very creative. For us, this pandemic is a walk in the park compared to what Bryan and I have been through. In fact, our circumstances helped prepare us for it. My perspective has really shifted on what’s important in life. What’s important to me is keeping myself healthy so I can care for those whom I love and who love me. It’s also to ‘pay it forward’ and lend a helping hand when I can.

Last Christmas, I budgeted for gifts, but it was a lean Christmas. Bryan hadn’t worked in 3 years due to his health condition. The year before he did work for UPS during the season for about 2 months so we could have a great Christmas. That we did! Bryan had his first grand mal seizure in November 2019. He had another one in January 2020. My greatest lesson in these last few years is how precious life is. All of the other stuff is just extra. To be ALIVE is a blessing. To be able to help others is a blessing. I’m grateful that we had those hard times because I appreciate even more that we’re in a good place now.

My message in this post is for anyone who is struggling or grieving a loved one…cast your cares on God. I know it’s not easy, especially as you live through challenging times. Life is hard…so hard that I work to not let any bitterness or coldness settle into my heart. But if you can find one small thing to be grateful for, it will help. Praying and having people pray for you will help. It may not take you out of your situation immediately, but it will help ease the pain. And you will be better on the other side of it.

From my family to yours, I wish you a warm, bright, PEACEFUL, JOYOUS, and LOVE-FILLED, Christmas! Our gathering is usually small with Bryan, our 2 kids, and myself, so we didn’t have to make any modifications. However, I know many families are missing seeing each other. Hopefully, next year will be different. My family and friends and I have already been making plans to see each other in 2021.

I’d love to hear how you are spending the holidays. If you celebrate, what are you cooking for Christmas dinner? Mine is gonna be so good!

Image

Shaking things up in 2020

Just because 2020 is coming to a close doesn’t mean it’s too late to shake things up in your life and try new things. Every new year, I position myself for growing and conquering new things. I’m a constant learner. 2021 will be no different despite experiencing the worldwide struggles and pain in 2020. In November, I completed a 7-Day Vegan challenge and posted about it for the full 7 days. I immediately followed with a 1-week ‘no spend challenge’. You can read about the impetus for why I chose to do that in the post No spend challenge. I will likely do another ‘no spend challenge’ in January as I build up my savings.

Also in November, I decided to challenge myself by trying new exercises. I don’t mind exercising at home as I’ve done that for years (yes, prior to COVID-19) and have had results. I own a variety of exercise DVDs plus with YouTube, there are many free options for exercise. My goals have been to increase the number of calories I burn, reduce my resting heart rate, increase flexibility, increase my daily steps, tone my muscles, and increase muscle mass.

From my DVD library circa early 2000’s

Since teleworking, I’ve really been enjoying YouTube. I subscribe to a few exercise channels that uplift me, but I still tend to gravitate toward the same types of exercises. My favorite is anything cardio, particularly dance. I also enjoy kickboxing, free weights, and step aerobics.

I exercise 6 days a week in the mornings before work and have done so for years. I’ve said to people many times that exercise functions as my coffee because I don’t drink coffee. Exercise perks me up and helps me feel accomplished. It’s not just a habit, but exercise is an essential part of my self-care practice. I’ve exercised for years without losing loads of pounds because losing weight hasn’t been my primary goal. Being and staying fit and healthy (mind, body, and spirit) is my ultimate goal. HOWEVER, if I’m being honest with myself, I do want to tip the scale in the weight loss direction, even by as few as 10-15 pounds.

There is so much information on the best approaches for weight loss and I’ve got to tell you, many of it is conflicting. For every article I’ve read or video I’ve seen about managing food (portions and types) as the most effective component to weight loss, there are articles/videos indicating exercise is the key. For every point of view that indicates eat less and move more, there are points of view that indicate it’s all rubbish. What about hormones? This is a strong consideration especially for women over 40 like me (I’m actually closer to 50).

What I find the most confusing is that ‘they’ claim science and research is behind it all. Though I spend a lot of time reading about nutrition and fitness, I’m not claiming to be a nutritionist or exercise coach, so you can take my advice with a grain of salt. What I do think is that people need to educate themselves and learn what gets them the results they are looking for. In this post, I’m sharing my approach on determining what works best for me.

Kukuwa Fitness on YouTube from my living room

Earlier in 2020, I found Kukuwa Fitness on Youtube and I instantly fell in love. Every time I did their African dance routines, I was smiling and motivated. It also provided me with a lot of steps which helps me reach my daily step goal. My challenge in November excluded doing my normal routines whether from my video library (except for those I hadn’t done in at least a year), Zumba Fitness, or YouTube. This meant I had to put Kukuwa Fitness on hold because it became part of my routine though I only started with them in early 2020.

Barre on Pop Sugar Fitness YouTube

For this challenge, I wanted to try exercises I had never done before mixed in with different versions of weight training and cardio. So for two weeks I tried new fitness routines.

Barre on Pop Sugar Fitness YouTube

I’ve never been flexible, but I notice I’m even less flexible as I’ve gotten older. Part of a healthy fitness regimen is to stretch the muscles and allow time for recovery. I used to incorporate Yoga into my weekly routines, but I’ve relaxed that over the years because I’ve gotten addicted to high intensity dance and cardio. I appreciated the lengthening moves in Barre. My body needed that. YouTube was my first introduction to Barre.

Strength Training on Pop Sugar Fitness YouTube

I enjoy strength training with free weights. I even dance with very light dumbbells at least once a week. The routine in the picture worked muscles from different angles which I appreciated. What I noticed with weight training is that I don’t get many steps. I think this is another reason why I favor certain routines – I can clock in more steps with dancing or fast walking rather than being mostly stationary with heavier weights. My Fitbit has been successful at ingraining in me the need to get my daily step goal. I need to figure out a balance because weight training requires proper form and technique. It’s not about getting the steps in. Perhaps on weight training days, I will also walk to get the steps.

Cardio Latin Dance on Pop Sugar Fitness YouTube

Dance is my all time FAVORITE exercise and even with the variety of dance I do, there is the risk of repeatedly doing the same moves. Different moves challenge muscles in different ways. Though I’m very familiar with Latin dance as a previous Zumba Fitness instructor, every instructor has their own style and flavor. This routine was fun and effective in keeping my heart rate high and providing ample steps. Did I mention how much I love Pop Sugar Fitness on YouTube? They have a library of many types of exercises and variations.

Xtreme Hip Hop YouTube

I first came across Xtreme Hip Hop on my Facebook page. Back when step aerobics was popular (maybe late 1990s and early 2000s), I loved it. I was excited to see someone bringing back step aerobics with a new flavor. For Christmas 2019, my husband, Bryan, bought me a new step bench because I had gotten rid of mine years ago. I had talked about wanting to get into step aerobics again. Despite watching for months, November 2020 was my 1st time trying Phil’s routine on YouTube. It was fun and effective at keeping my heart rate high and providing lots of steps.

Rick. B. on YouTube

Walking is a great exercise for getting in steps. I also find walking is great as a recovery exercise. From the spring through early fall here in Austin, Texas, Bryan and I enjoy long walks and hikes on different trails several times a week. Once the weather hits below 70 degrees, such as now, I don’t like to walk outside because I’m sensitive to cold air.

Bryan and I on one of our walks

I recently found a new walking platform on YouTube which helps me complete my daily step goals. I’ve added these walking routines at the end of the day. Even though I exercise in the morning, I’m still not able to get all my steps in by the evening, especially when I’m in meetings all day. A 15-20 minute walking routine in my living room led by Rick helps me accomplish my step goal.

What I’ve presented in this post are just a few of the new routines I tried. I learned the body gets very comfortable with the same old routines. It’s up to me and you to shake things up to get the most benefit from exercise, to increase fitness, and challenge the body. I have many other goals with fitness besides just losing weight.

I found that this challenge inspired me to continue to try new exercises although there are definitely some I don’t like or prefer. It’s about balance and doing routines that will keep you motivated and delivering the results you’re looking for. I hope this post inspired you to be more thoughtful about exercise and try new routines. Keep moving!

Image

Fall Food Chronicles 2020

This is my season! As much as I love warm weather, I really do LOVE a change in season. I think mostly because I like transition, change, new things, and fresh ideas. Growing up in Chicago, fall has always been my favorite season. Not only are the colors outside vibrant and beautiful with the falling leaves, but there’s a crispness in the air that brings about an indescribable ummmph. It’s also sweater weather…..MY FAVORITE. I’m good with layering up as long as I don’t have to wear a coat. I’ve already had to wear my coat a couple of times here in Austin, Texas. Let’s hope not too many more times.

I haven’t posted since the week of Thanksgiving, so you might be wondering what I’ve been up to. Aside from being CRAY CRAY busy at work, I’ve been visiting our new house currently under construction, dreaming about the day we move in, giving and gifting, reading, trying new workouts, and mostly minding my business. In the midst of all of that, you better believe I’ve been cooking, though not too much on the actual turkey day.

Thanksgiving feast 2020

In my previous post Thank-FULL, I mentioned that we were doing something different this year for our Thanksgiving dinner and WE DID. We ordered our food from a restaurant, picked it up, heated the precooked food in the oven on Thanksgiving day, and ATE IT UP THE WHOLE WEEKEND! AND YOU KNOW WHAT!!! IT WAS DELICIOUS! Ok. No more caps….just my excitement from remembering how much I enjoyed it and enjoyed not being exhausted from cooking. I did make 2 sweet potato pies and a big pot of mixed greens though.

Chili cheese stuffed sweet potato with fresh guacamole. LPC

What would fall be without a steaming pot of homemade chili? I decided to do something really different. I enjoy a chili stuffed baked potato on occassion, but I was very curious about how it would taste with a SWEET potato. It’s interesting because I had been craving chili and sweet potatoes simultaneously so I put them together and WHOILA! It was like a party in my mouth, especially with the added touch of guacamole. I’d do that one again. Leftover chili is in the freezer.

Sautéed shrimp with pigeon peas and rice. LPC

My mom, Solange, surprised me one time when I was in my twenties. I thought I’d tasted EVERY dish she knew how to make and ONE DAY, she layed it on me. She made pigeon peas and rice! I had never heard of pigeon peas. It was so delicious. She showed me how to make it.

Pigeon peas and rice. LPC

I’ve only purchased pigeon peas in a can. A couple of months ago, I purchased a large bag of basmati rice that was on clearance at my favorite grocery store. This was my first time using basmati rice in the dish and it held up nicely. I think I prefer it with jasmine rice though, but IT’S ALL GOOD.

Chicken Tostadas. LPC

We eat a version of tacos for dinner every week. I believe my daughter, Elise, can eat tacos every SINGLE day. She loves simple beef tacos, but I think my chicken tacos are becoming her favorite. I cubed and seasoned chicken breasts, pan fried them, added onions, garlic, jalapenos and plenty of spices, toasted tostada shells in the oven, and added shredded cheese and a lovely pre-shredded cabbage slaw with red onion. Delish!

Steak, organic roasted golden ranch potatoes, and organic mixed veggies. LPC

I mentioned in previous posts that I shop the sales ads at my favorite grocery stores. It’s how I maximize our grocery budget. For the last few months, I’ve been finding great sales on meat despite the fact that groceries have generally gotten more expensive. I purchased a couple of packs of steaks (T-Bone and New York Strip) and I’m so glad I did. As my normal process when preparing meat, I made a flavorful marinade and allowed the steak to soak it up for a day or two. I used my cast iron skillet to develop a nice crust on both sides, then finished it in the oven. YUM!

Roasted chicken, dressing, gravy, macaroni and cheese, and green beans. LPC

Since I didn’t make my dressing recipe on Thanksgiving, I decided to make some for Sunday dinner. I think I can make dressing in my sleep, after all, I’ve been making it for over twenty years. I was talking to one of my mentees about Thanksgiving prep and she mentioned that she had never made a full Thanksgiving meal herself although she’s married with children. She said that her mom has taken on the tradition after her grandmother passed away. I didn’t have that luxury as a married woman because we moved to Texas, away from our families, right after we got married, so I learned to cook all the Thanksgiving favorites.

My prized possession. LPC

I purchased this cookbook at a gift shop in the mall about twenty three years ago and it was been my best friend during the holidays. I’ve always gotten compliments on every dish I’ve made for potlucks from recipes in this book.

Buttermilk fried chicken and green beans. LPC

Sometimes you have a taste for fried chicken…at least I do. I don’t regret for one minute making my fried chicken wings…neither does my family.

Cubed steak with rice. LPC

I attribute all of my cooking to my mom. You may want to read my post Solange taught me how to cook to get more insight into what I learned from her. Cubed steak was another inexpensive meal she made when I was growing up. I rarely make it (maybe once a year), but this is what my husband, Bryan, said he wanted for dinner when I asked last weekend. In case you’re wondering, it was very tasty though Bryan thought it needed more pepper.

Pot roast, garlic mashed potatoes, and roasted mixed veggies. LPC

The secret to flavorful food is to give the meat a running start by seasoning it in advance and just letting it sit in the glorious rub, marinade, or brine for an extended period of time from a few hours to a few days. This does take foresight and planning, but it’s worth it. Bryan put this lovely roast in the crockpot last night on low. When I got up in the morning, the setting had automatically changed to “warm” but I turned it back to low and let it simmer all day. At around 4:30 pm, after my last meeting for the day, I peeled and boiled the gold potatoes and put them in a pot with garlic cloves and water on the stove. I roasted the veggies and baked a few rolls. Dinner was easy, peasy, and decadent.

Baked pears with walnuts. LPC

I do love desserts but want to reduce my sugar intake, so I’ve been thinking of healthier versions of desserts. I’ve been craving dishes like apple crisps. I also love pears and decided to roast them with a bit of maple syrup, fresh lemon juice, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and walnuts. It looks dry, but when I cut into them, the pears were juicy. I served with a dollop of light whipped cream. It hit the spot!

All of these dishes have a slight twist from what I normally make. Perhaps the fall season has gotten my creative juices flowing. I’m excited about our Christmas meal. I’m realizing that I can’t think of the name of the meat we bought because it was my first time buying it, but it’s going to be so good.😁 (Update: chuck rib roast) Can’t wait to share the picture of our meal with you.

What have you been cooking up? What are your plans for the holidays? I would love to hear from you.

Image

Thank-FULL

Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday because of the fall season, cooler temps, comfort foods, and family and friend time. Although the family and friend time will be more challenging this year, I’m looking forward to CELEBRATING. There is much to be thankful for, even in the midst of this worldwide pandemic that’s boggling our minds. If you’re alive and reading this blog post, be thankful. It is very sad that many people have lost their lives, their loved ones, and their incomes and careers. If you’ve made it this far into 2020, despite the circumstances, be thankful.

I especially love this time of year because the spirit of generosity is amplified during the holiday season. People tend to be more giving of their time, resources, and money. I strive to be that way year round, especially in 2020. I learned many years ago that I can’t save the world and there are many things outside of my control. However, I can do things to express my gratitude such as sharing an extra kind word, providing an extra tip to a service professional, or sending a card of gratitude.

Thanksgiving Cards. LPC

I typically send Christmas cards, but not cards for Thanksgiving. My initial plan was to send cards to my team with a few words of appreciation for their their hard work and commitment. We haven’t worked in the same physical space for nine months, so I’ve had to be more creative with how I let them know how much they mean to me. Another trip to the Dollar Store to purchase more cards and a trip to the post office later, we mailed about 30 cards. If you’re in my tribe and didn’t get a card, don’t fret. I’ll likely catch you at Christmas.

My gesture wasn’t expensive (did you catch I bought the cards from the Dollar Store), but I think people appreciate a kind word and a gesture that lets them know someone is thinking of them. I was surprised that it took me about 2 hours to sign the cards for my team and I spent another 3 hours signing cards for family and friends. In the big scheme of things, it took a little bit of time and cost a little bit of money, but it felt great and made my heart FULL.

Gorgeous fall day November 2020. LPC

Without fail, no matter how I’m feeling, good or bad, happy or sad, I always feel better when I do something nice for someone else, no matter how small. And what I perceive as small, may mean the world to someone else, especially considering the isolation that many people are experiencing due to social distancing and other COVID-19 related measures.

My intent in sharing this post is not to boast, but to empower you to do something for someone else. If you’re not sure how to brighten up someone’s day, or if your day needs to be brightened, I encourage you to find a small, inexpensive (or free) way to spread joy and kindness to others. I’d even love it if you shared some ideas on this post.

2020 isn’t over yet, which means there are opportunities for more blessings, more goal crushing, more connections, more reflection, and more expressions of gratitude. Happy THANKSGIVING from my family to yours!

Image

No spend challenge: Day 6

It’s been long overdo, but I decided to see first hand what it feels like to not spend money for one week in an attempt to curb my spending addiction. You can read about the impetus for the challenge here : No spend challenge.

Not many people would probably admit publicly they spend too much money, especially if they do it to impress others and are living above their means. I’ll be the one to raise my hand admitting I spend more than I’d like to with the hope that it inspires others to take a closer look at their behaviors and how it affects their financial outlook, and life for that matter. For those that think this challenge should be easy or it’s not a challenge at all, more power to you. I challenge you to determine if anything I describe in this post resonates with you and then do something about it.

The most glaring thing I noticed from this exercise is how MUCH I think about buying things. It’s a natural occurrence in my head to be thinking about what to buy no matter how small the item. I attribute some of this to being the primary household shopper for my household. Therefore, I’m keenly aware of our household supply and when we need to restock (i.e., eggs, toilet paper, laundry detergent).

I plan the budget, input the numbers on a spreadsheet, track inventory of our supplies, type the grocery and household lists, and make the purchases. I’m constantly searching for the best deals by examining the ads from my favorite stores and timing my purchases appropriately based on sales. It’s a deliberate process that requires detail and attention in an effort to maximize our budget.

Many external forces also contribute to constantly thinking about buying. CONSUMERISM. These forces can be subliminal or overt. Keep in mind we live in a capitalist society here in the U.S. Take a look to see if you can relate to any of the items in the following list. I might be missing some.

  1. People on social media
  2. Ads on social media
  3. General internet ads (ads embedded in internet articles)
  4. Emails from your favorite stores
  5. Texts from your favorite stores
  6. Smart phone apps
  7. Magazines (lifestyle, travel, food, etc.)
  8. Kids asking for stuff or to go places (fast food, “let’s go to Dollar Tree”, etc.)
  9. TV commercials
  10. Youtube videos on shopping “hauls” (Dollar Tree, Target, Aldi, Walmart, Costco, etc.)
  11. Sales flyers
  12. Product samples
  13. Friends/family wanting you to support their business

In the first couple of days of the challenge, ideas would pop into my head of what I needed to buy and then I’d remember that I made this commitment to myself to not spend any money. I’m not going to say that by Day 6, I’m not thinking of buying anything because that’s not true. However, the act of not buying something when I want it, and knowing I can afford it, made me pause to consider how important the item really is. It made me assess needs and wants, which is the basics of budgeting and personal finance.

It’s not a foreign concept for me to substitute or make do without something because for 3 years, I was supporting our household on one income. I had no choice but to focus on our needs primarily. There was little room for wants, but not much. I tapped into my creativity in making do with what we had. Although we’re no longer in that tighter financial situation, we still have financial goals to achieve. One goal is to give more money to causes we support. We’ve done some of that this year already.

This challenge is only a week so I will spend again eventually. I honestly don’t like that thinking about buying things takes up so much space in my mind because there’s much more to life. Some of the things I’ve done to clear my mind of the bombarding messages to “BUY BUY BUY” is to avoid Youtube videos on shopping hauls. I spend a fair amount of time on YouTube and there are a lot of these types of videos. When I watch them, they give me ideas on things to buy that I don’t need. I also have unsubscribed from some email lists. I need to do the same for texts. Why do I need a text from Dressbarn and Bed Bath and Beyond? Since I also realized that some of my spending is emotional (boredom, happy, anxious), I also made a list with my husband and daughter of activities we could do that doesn’t involve spending money.

This challenge has put things in perspective. It also reminds me of how grateful I am for my loved ones, the life I get to live, and my blessings.

Mantra: I have enough. I am enough.

Image

No spend challenge

You read that right. My next challenge is to not spend any money for the next 7 days. You know something is going to be hard when you DON’T want to do it. I DON’T want to do it, but I need to. The challenge starts today.

It’s long overdue too. I’ve had the sneaky suspicion for the last several months that I might be addicted to spending money. I think my whole family is addicted to spending money. I complain that we should all take a break, but who am I kidding??? It starts with ME.

Now, my husband, Bryan, and I have accomplished A LOT financially in 2020 and you can read about it here: Financial Goals 2020 UPDATE. In fact, we’re in the process of having our new home built.

Me standing on our lot. LPC

Making some financial strides gives me no excuse to let my guard down just cause I’m comfortable. And it’s the seemingly little purchases that can eat away at your finances. My magic number at my favorite grocery store, no matter how few items I have on my list, is $90.

I blame COVID-19 a little because remember when there was no food on the shelves??? There were plenty of vegetables, BUT no toilet paper, paper towels, milk, flour, bread, etc. Food and household items were rationed. Well, I only have to experience something like that one time for me to get on a MISSION to build a well stocked pantry and freezer. A well stocked pantry is what I have now and it spills over into the garage.

Kitchen pantry. It’s way more crammed today. LPC
Kitchen pantry door. Every cubby is filled including the row not pictured at the bottom. The glue in the top left and flashlight underneath the glue have since been replaced with FOOD. LPC

So I’m engaging in a nice dose of restraint for 7 days. It’s been painful thus far. I can probably think of at least 10 things that I could purchase today alone and then remembered the commitment I made. I told Bryan the only way I’m spending money is if it’s a medical emergency. I’m also not including line items I budgeted for in my monthly budget such as gifts. Other than that, for 7 days, I will not spend any money. I want to prove to myself I can do this and I want to break a habit. I need to continue my path of building wealth and nickel and diming myself is not going to cut it.

Mantra: I have enough. I am enough.

How about you? Have you ever done something like this before? How did you feel afterward? Please share tips and encouragement!

Image

Sometimes Vegan Chronicles: Day 7

I made it to Day 7! As I said from Day 1, 7 days is way more digestible (pun intended) than 21. I embarked on a 21-day Vegan cleanse at the end of July and I suffered through. I think mostly because my husband, Bryan, half way participated with me but that’s another story.

The final meal on this 7 day reset was very fitting because soup is my all time favorite comfort food. The name of the soup in the cover photo is Comfort Soup and it’s topped with kale croutons. The ingredients are leeks, potato, garlic, spices and kale. I have a confession though. When I couldn’t find my nutritional yeast (provides the cheese flavor), I decided to add parmesan cheese. Yup, I did. AND it was good despite not being vegan. It was vegetarian!

So how did I do on my goals? Remember, my goals were to have less bloat, sleep better, and have clearer skin. Well, I got 1 out of 3. The timing was a bit off for this reset because I started my period this week…so much for the bloat. Also, as with most women, my hormones were all over the place due to my period and I have the zits on my chin to prove it. BUT I did get a smidgeon more sleep as the days progressed. In full transparency, it probably helped that I took a sleep aide called Z-Quil a couple of nights.

A goal I didn’t mention but ended up happening anyway was to reduce my resting heart rate. It had slowly been rising the last couple of weeks. However, I notice it cycles by increasing and then decreasing every few months. It’s never increased out of range. Since I started the reset, it’s decreased by 3 points. I read that an increase could be early warning signs of heart disease or may have something to do with low iron. Long term affects of radiation treatment can be heart problems. I had radiation as treatment for breast cancer on my left side of my chest. My oncologist also prescribed me iron pills due to anemia. I have an upcoming appointment in the next month with my oncologist so I’ll talk to him about it.

This reset was a good reminder of the importance of eating mostly a plant based diet. It’s also refreshing to make new recipes. Variety is the spice of life for me. I will continue to share my meals with you.

So what’s next? I’ve already started two new challenges simultaneously. One is to revamp my exercise routine and the other is to curb my spending. Read my next post to find out more.