Archive for November 2009

thanksgiving – the food

November 27, 2009

Dan and I were extremely proud of the food that we managed to make!  For a very first Thanksgiving, it wasn’t too bad (if I may say so myself).  Here are pictures of our dinner for two:

 

The whole shebang: 

 

Green Bean Casserole (Dan wanted his with cheese):

 

Cornish Hen stuffed with stuffing:

 

All of the sides (stuffing, mashed potatoes, and corn):

 

 

My plate of food!  I definitely didn’t finish it, but we each got our own cornish hen anyway:

 

The pumpkin pie I made!!

 

We had tons of leftovers and will certainly be eating some tonight.  Overall, we’re very proud of ourselves for not setting the whole place on fire or filling it with smoke.  And we’re also glad that nothing got screwed up and everything was edible – we weren’t sure if we were going to end up looking for a Denny’s!

I’d also like to bring up that, with the pumpkin  I made pumpkin puree with last month, I was able to make 6 loaves of pumpkin bread and 1 pumpkin pie.  Not bad for a small pumpkin!

Maybe in the future I’ll throw up the recipe to some of these things (like the pumpkin pie that was made with real maple syrup), but today is not that day.  I’m too tired from my black friday shopping.  I will probably write a little about that tomorrow – lets just say that I’m not quite done yet since a lot of the sales are carrying over into tomorrow. 🙂

what i am thankful for this thanksgiving

November 26, 2009

First and foremost, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  My day hasn’t started out the greatest – I had to go hunting for a newspaper since I decided to grab one on the way back from taking my dog to the park.  That was obviously too long to wait since I got back and they were all gone.  I also got some grapefruit juice in my eye.  So while I am not really thankful for juice in my eye or grapefruit spoons (since mine doesn’t seem to be doing me much good), here is what I am thankful for.

My Family and Friends  –

     I grew up without a lot of confidence in myself, and that lack of self worth still creeps up on me once in awhile.  My family and friends have always been supportive of me, even when my decisions weren’t necessarily the smartest or the most thought out.  They’re the people I have run to when I needed understanding, a listening ear, or someone to listen to a funny joke that I heard.  I am far from all of them this Thanksgiving (except Dan, of course), and I truly miss them while I am here in Minnesota, but I know that they are there for me if I ever need them and, hopefully, they know that I will always be there for them.  And if I ever stop in Michigan, Ohio, Mississippi, or wherever they may be, I hope they also know that I will be visiting 🙂

Dan –

     We have been dating for 1 year, 7 months, and 11 days.  Admittedly, those butterflies and that excitement that I used to feel every time I saw him has kind of faded, but they have been replaced with a sense of security and companionship.  He understands me, he accepts me, and he loves me the way that I am.  He is everything that I ever wanted, and I am so happy that he is in my life. 

My Pets –

     The best thing about animals is that they never judge.  Even if I have an awful day and I look like a mess, they are still happy to see me.  I grew up with Lucy – she has been there for the last 10 years of my life, and she has been there through the great and the not so great times… and I have even confided in her when I didn’t think I could bring myself to confide in anyone else.  And, no matter what time I went to bed, she would go too and I’d never have to sleep alone.  Sure, she’s kind of a diva, but she is my diva and has been my best friend since the day that we brought her home.  I am so happy that she is living with me now.  Prandtl has been around for only 7 months, but her dorky attitude has brought a smile to my face every day.  Sometimes she drives me crazy, but it’s usually because she is trying so hard to please me that she ends up going over the line (like when she doesn’t think sitting next to me is close enough and, next thing I know, she is sitting on my foot and leaning against my leg).  These two have been amazing and I can’t imagine life in Minnesota without them.

My optimistic nature

     Time and time again, I am thankful that I am able to see the bright side of things.  Some call it naivete, but I see it as a way to get through life.  My innate ability to turn negatives into positives have gotten me through tough times. 

Work

     I am thankful that I have a job.  I have a means to make a living.  One day I would like to have a career, but for today, a job is just fine with me.

 

To be honest, I am thankful for every single thing in my life.  I know that many people don’t have anything this Thanksgiving, whereas I feel like I have the world on a platter.  I am thankful for my youth, my education, all of the opportunities that I have had, and the fact that tomorrow could mean anything.  

Perhaps, what I am really trying to say here is, I am thankful for my life.

life beyond school

November 25, 2009

I really think I’m settling into this post-graduate working-full-time thing.  After 4.5 years of no real hobbies, no real interests, and no real… well.. life… I am beginning to enjoy doing things again.   I’m not talking about hanging out at the bar, going to the movies, or shopping at the mall.  I’m referring to things like reading, exercising, cooking, theatre, and the great outdoors.  And while I still find a little fun in drinking beyond remembering and spending large amounts of cash on things that I never really needed in the first place, I feel a lot more fulfilled when I’m working on the latter activities.  I feel like I’m doing something that reaches beyond the next six hours without the nasty hangover that always hangs around the next morning.

While my job is very tedious, I’ll be listening to audio books so that I can at least achieve some sort of personal satisfaction out of the whole thing.  About 80% of the job is copying, pasting, formatting, and searching databases, but for the remaining 20% that requires a little logic, I can just turn on Jake Shimabukuro to help me reason things out.  I will probably try to complete a crossword puzzle every day as well since, to stay functional throughout the day, I have to take a lot of breaks.  Like I said – the job is tedious.  My ability to turn negatives into positives is something I pride myself on.

My budget contains a category where I can start saving to go to the theater, which is probably the most exciting part of my budget as a whole.  Although I am limiting my spending, I am doing it in a way that still allows me to participate in my interests.  And while I have been talking about attending these events for years, I’ve truthfully never really done it until getting here to Minnesota.  So perhaps I’ve had these interests all along, but  I never had the opportunity to act on them because of my financial constraints.  I have always told myself that I will never let my job interfere with my life, and although many things have changed regarding my opinions and interests, that statement has never altered in any way. 

I am just surprised at how well I have adjusted to the real world lifestyle.  I had thought that I would spend some more time moping around, missing college, when in fact I’m sitting here embracing the fact that I never have to go back.  Of course I’m not thrilled about the heap of debt that remains from my time there, but I don’t regret it either.  I have been able to accept that my time as an undergraduate has come and gone and it was a time in my life that I was lucky to have experienced.  After acknowledging how fast those 4 years went, I am better able to embrace the opportunities I have today.

Oh, and one more thing I would like to work on is my writing ability, but that’s what this blog is for.

I mentioned Jake Shimabukuro. I highly recommend “Blue Roses Falling”. It is one of my favorite songs of all time. Here a video of him playing it on youtube.

midnight mumblings

November 23, 2009

I went to bed at about 10pm, but haven’t been able to fall asleep.  Maybe it’s my own fault for taking a 1 hour nap earlier today, but it could also be Dan’s fault because he decided to go to bed the same time I did despite being wide awake and so I was bothered by his tossing and turning.  1.5 hours later, he’s sound asleep while I’m sitting here writing about how I wish I were asleep, too.  Fortunately for me, this week is only a three day week.

I had meant to cook something fancy and different this weekend, but I actually ended up pretty busy the whole time.  Friday night, Dan and I decided to have a “date night” and so we went out to eat and ended up at the movie theatre with the idea of seeing whatever it was that looked good when we got there.  I suggested seeing Twilight and he was willing to go (but not happy about it), but when we saw the line of tweens stretched across the entire theatre, we decided to rethink that decision.  We ended up deciding on The Men Who Stare at Goats based entirely on George Clooney’s presence.  Fortunately our decision worked out and we loved it.  Even better, I was surprised to see that Ewan McGregor was in it!  Anything with Ewan McGregor in it is something that I want to see (yum).  On Saturday I went shopping with Jenny, went to work out, and did a little more shopping with Dan after that.  Earlier today, I went to the dog park, donated to Goodwill, bought groceries for our Thanksgiving dinner, looked at some dog kennels for when Dan and I go out of town, and did a lot of cleaning.  I did make a delicious dinner for myself consisting of macaroni and cheese, broccoli, and chicken, but it wasn’t really fancy enough to highlight here.  I did make up the breading for my chicken though, so my chef skills are getting much better.

Thanksgiving for me is going to be spend here in Saint Paul since my family is in Mississippi and Dan’s is in Illinois.  I would have liked to fly down to see my family this holiday, but my flight benefits with Delta don’t kick in until December 2nd.  And so, Dan and I will be staying here and making our own dinner.  Cornish hens will stand in as turkey for us, and with it we will have mashed potatoes, gravy, twice baked potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, cinnamon ice cream, and pumpkin bread.  I really do think it will be a lot of fun getting all of this ready for us to eat, and the best part is that if we screw something up, we won’t be embarassing ourselves in front of our entire family! 

After the big Thanksgiving dinner that we make for ourselves, we’ll be heading out for black friday shopping.  Our big stop will be at Sears, where we have our eyes on a Samsung TV and a Garmin GPS.  The best part is that Sears opens at 4am while pretty much everything else opens at 5, so we should be able to get some of the really good deals at other stores as well, before they are all sold out.  I’m looking for some new pots and pans, some towels, sheets, and maybe a dog bed.  And honestly, if we find a great couch, I might think about getting that as well.  I’ve always thought of black friday as a shopping day for me, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I like to buy my gift recipients gifts based on thought, not on price tag or gadgetry, and plus I love buying things for myself.  It’s one of my favorite pasttimes.

I am feeling a bit more tired, so I’m going to try to get to sleep again.  My alarm clock is set to go off at 5:25am (5 hours from now) so I can get a work out on… but we’ll see if I actually get to the gym.

im still broke

November 20, 2009

Today was supposed to be the first day of my budget, and I was excited to finally get into money saving mode, knock out my debt, and see my bank account with some real money in it again.  I was excited to stick to a budget and I was ready to go.  But today, on the first day, I realized that I have hit a brick wall already.

My problem? My income at this point is still $0. 

I was supposed to be paid last Friday, but I didn’t sign up for direct deposit since I was still in the process of signing up for a bank and getting my account all set up.  I also reasoned that, if I were to receive a check in the mail every week, I would have to go to the bank and deposit the money myself.  Then I could get cash at the same time.   So now, one week later, I’ve got nothing.  The next paycheck is supposed to be mailed out today, but I don’t have my hopes up as far as receiving it in a timely manner.  I’m going to add any money I spend as due in the “credit card payment” field since that’s what I’m using to buy things, but I would still rather see everything work out like I wanted it to instead of this halfassed “kind of budget” crap that I’m stuck dealing with.

But, budget or not, I’d still like to be paid.  And I’ve spoken with HR, but they say my check has been mailed.  So now I’m stuck in this waiting limbo.  And, to put a little salt in the wound, I can’t find the direct deposit sheet I received from HR. 

Anyway, I didn’t really have anything else to say tonight.  I guess I just wanted to whine a bit.  Dan suggested I try cooking something new every week and writing a little something about it since my pumpkin bread entry, judging by the amount of views it gets, is very popular.  I love cooking, so it’s a good motivator to get me cooking some new stuff.   Hopefully I’ll get to make something up tomorrow.

budgeting for beginners

November 17, 2009

NOTE: This isn’t going to be a “how to budget” tutorial in case anybody stumbles across this entry in search of budgeting help.  I’m just going to go over my own finances, so don’t yell at me if you try to follow my percentages and don’t get anywhere.

First and foremost, I am in a lot of debt.  College is not cheap.  My student debt is a little over 300% greater than the national average.  I am also carrying around a bit of a credit card debt, but it is not outrageous by any means and I am not concerned with my ability to pay it off.

I am paid weekly, so making a budgeting spreadsheet was a little tricky for me.  I had to divide monthly bills into the number of weeks per month, and I was sure to color code each balance because I will be adding money toward the bill every week until I take the lump sum at the end of month.  Formatting in excel was a pain, but maybe that was because I wasn’t sure of exactly what I wanted before I started.  I’m positive that I will have to work out a few formatting kinks as I go along, but I am pretty proud of the layout and colors I ended up with.  That hardest part will be keeping up with this thing.  Good thing I made it really pretty – it motivates me to use it!

The most surprising part of this whole process was seeing how much money I really have at my disposal.  The last 4 years have gotten me adjusted to never having money.  I was unfortunate in that whenever I did have money, it all went away very quickly because some kind of bill was about to pry it away from my cold, dead hands.  Being broke constantly had its perks – I became very good at spending minimal amounts of money on unncessary things and I am also exceptional at finding awesome sales at the mall. 

Now that I am making the “big bucks”, I have more money to play around with than I know what to do with.  For the month of December, I have budgeted over $300 a week toward my “financial obligations” (student debt, credit cards, savings, retirement) because I have no idea what else to do with the $150 that was left when I got done making up the budget.  Don’t get me wrong – this is great! – but I just never thought I’d be putting so much money toward debts because I didn’t know where else to put it. 

So here’s an approximate breakdown of where I plan on putting all of my dolla’s once December rolls around:

 

Home (rent, parking fee, electricity) – 17%
Transportation (gas, maintenance, insurance) – 7%
Pet (food, vet, toys, etc) – 2.5%
Entertainment (movies, dinner, etc) – 5%
Health (gym, medicines) – 1.5%
Financial Obligations (debts) – 42%
Daily Living (groceries, clothes, hobbies, etc) – 9%
Vacation (this will go down significantly after my commencement) – 10%
Miscellaneous (Christmas, birthdays, etc) – 6%

I feel like I have left something significant out, but I will figure it out as I go along.  In a few weeks, after I get a better idea of what I am spending on a weekly basis, I will be revising this, but I think this is a good starting point.

My biggest challenge is going to be sticking to the budget I have created.  Self control has never been one of my strong points, and I would really like to figure out the best way to keep myself in line.  Giving myself some money each month to “splurge” is a tactic I am considering, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of making a budget in the first place? 

As I said, this budget is going to be revised in a few weeks.  In the meantime, if anyone has any tips on how to better fine tune this thing, pleast let me know.  And I am ESPECIALLY interested in tips on how to stick with it!

everything christopher walken touches turns to gold

November 15, 2009

I couldn’t find the “Cowbell” skit on youtube… but here’s a link: http://morecowbelloriginal.com/