Wednesday Revelations: We Create our Lives

2 August 2013

August, start:

  • fear
  • hopelessness
  • lack
  • terror
  • despair
  • anger
  • loneliness

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August, end:

  • hopeful
  • joyous
  • abundant
  • laughter
  • light
  • friendship
  • dreams come true

And so it shall be.

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1 September 2013

Hope: job opportunities

Pride: healthy, balanced decisions

Joy: birthdays + anniversaries

Closeness: revealing conversations, asking for what we need

Let’s do this September.

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Yoga/beauty/life,

Kait xo

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Money Saving Monday: Eat More, Spend Less Review

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Man what a month it has been!  I travelled a total of 14 days during June and we moved in-between all that craziness!  The beau was gone just as much which means a) we still aren’t completely unpacked and b) we weren’t really doing anything resembling normal grocery shopping.  Since there was only one week when we were here for all of it, we did minimal meal planning and couponing.  It just wasn’t a priority this month.  However, I am super happy to report that despite all of this, we were under budget every single week.  Including splurges.  #win  Just please don’t look at my discretionary spending fund… *whistles*

Anyway, this week there isn’t anything particularly special about our spending.  In addition to the most perfect loaf of bread we picked up in the city, we went to Trader’s on our trip home, bought a handful of things that tickled our fancy (with the plan to go to the store again later in the week) and that was that.  Threw together a greens-grains-beans bowl last night (kale, Bulgar, and chickpeas) and voila!

Instead, this week its a special Money Saving Monday.  A little over a month ago, Emily Levenson, the fab gal behind Project: Food Budget, contacted me to see if I would review her new e-book, Eat More, Spend Less.  Of course I said yes immediately.  I truly loved doing P:FB, both for the challenge and the community.  I learned so much about couponing, self-discipline, meal-planning, my spending habits and motivations, and just being a savvy shopper.  These are the pieces I did my best to weave throughout my P:FB narrative, to inspire you and record my journey.  Therefore, I knew that Emily’s e-book would be a summary of all of that. And in this case, I was right.

Eat More, Spend Less: Mastering the Art of Food Budgeting
By: Emily Levenson, MSW,CHHC

Eat More, Spend Less (EMSL) is the perfect beginner’s guide to food budgeting.  Emily writes with both humor and grace, encouraging readers to have fun with this process and also to forgive themselves on weeks that aren’t “perfect.”  The guide, however, is also a great reminder for those of us who’ve been budgeting for a while now.  Though most of the information was not new to me, it was still good to see so many of hte lessons I’ve learned compiled into one quick read.

At 29 pages, EMSL is  concise and straightforward, all the while providing a plethora of important details and tools.  It is this very mix that makes the book so awesome.  Emily doesn’t just provide instructions on how to, say, set your budget or meal plan, she provides worksheets and examples that guide you through the process.  On ever page I felt like Emily was a spending-savvy girlfriend, guiding me through the maze of food budgeting with patience and without judgment. 

The book itself is divided into six parts:

  • Setting the Stage provides info on why budgeting is important and how it changed Emily’s life.
  • Setting a Budget takes you through the steps to choosing a realistic budget you can (mostly) stick to.
  • Budgeting Tools are the nitty gritty of the book and include tips and tricks for staying on-budget.
  • Budget-Friendly Meals offers guidance on stocking your pantry and a lot more detail on meal planning.
  • Resources include websites and books that will make this process more automatic and simple.
  • Appendix has all your worksheets (tracking your budget, weekly meal plan, etc).

Rather than just give you this information, Emily really narrates a story, one that is directed right at the reader (hence that whole “it feels like I’m hanging with my bestie” vibe).  She doesn’t just write about the benefits of food budgeting, but shares her personal experiences and challenges with it.  The book really goes beyond the basic and heavily discussed ideas about the topic and delves into some reasons that you might not immediately think of.  For example, Emily writes that food budgeting can help build your self-esteem.  Though this wasn’t something I was actively aware of in my own adventures, once I read it I realized that, indeed, setting and rising to a challenge each week was really confidence-boosting!  To that end, I also appreciate the Emily does not shy away from the fact that whenever we’re talking about money, a lot of ‘stuff’ can come up – anger, resentment, guilt, etc.  This fact is acknowledged and the reader is reminded that this is both normal and ok.

In the same spirit, the ‘Tools’ section begins with all your basic, budgeting 101-esque advice.  Meal plan, use a shopping list, buy food in season.  But slowly it shifts to more novel ideas like working splurges into your budget and finding an accountability buddy.  Though unconventional, these tips are so important and vital for budgeting success.  Having my P:FB family was so key for those weeks when I felt I had totally failed or when I just wanted to forget about my budget and go a little cray at the supermarket.   Splurging–on things I’d normally make at home (e.g. hummus) or dessert or the brand I really love–also helps budgeting to feel less restrictive.  And this, ladies and gents, is the second major theme of the book:  budgeting does not have to hurt (too much).  Splurges are good if they are planned.  Going over is ok as long as your overall trajectory is towards spending less.  So on and so forth.

Overall, I’d highly recommend EMSL for anyone who is interested in learning more about food budgeting and/or beginning to budget for themselves.  Between it’s ‘girlfriend guide’ tone and guilt-free message, its the perfect book for exploring the world of saving money on what you eat.  For those who have been in the budgeting world for a while, it might not offer too much new information.  However, as a refresher it is definitely ideal because it reminds readers so well of why they started to budget and what is so awesome about it.  Plus its a gentle nudge to go back to those basic tools that work oh-so-well.

Want your own copy? Eat More, Spend Less can be purchased at Emily’s site for only $8.99!  #bargain

Thank you to Emily for the chance to review this new book and remember why I love couponing and budgeting.  And a special shout-out to my P:FB comrades for all of their continued inspiration and motivation.  You all rock!

Yoga/beauty/savings,

Kait xo

All views expressed in this post are my own.  A copy of EMSL was provided in exchange for writing a review.

25

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In this my 24th year I commit to…

giving it my all.
developing my daily meditation practice.
being committed to myself 100% of the time, regardless of what that 100% means.
earning my MPH with pride and success.
being loved + giving love.
opening myself up
growth. spirit. love. change. amaze.

This post isn’t meant to be a scorecard.

In fact, its just the opposite: an honoring of the past 365 days of growth, hardship, triumph, fear, and joy.

I thought 23 was hard… my body betrayed me and left me breathless, pained, and confused.

Yet I found the light.  I said yes to myself, I cleansed, and I rose out of the ashes.

24 began full of promise.  Hopkins, Baltimore, newness.

One final hurrah with my best friends followed by two glorious months of sleeping, working out, cooking, travelling, and savouring every moment I had with the ones I loved.

I moved, the power went out, classes started, everything changed.  Having anything remotely close to a regular schedule just didn’t happen, not with 8 week terms during which time you spent 2 weeks basically living at school doing for mid-terms and finals.  As I write this I realize that part of the reason this year challenged me so was this very lack of a steady schedule.  Everytime I started to feel comfortable, everything changed.

Tangent: Thank the Universe that’s almost over.  As much as I am terrified for what’s next, I am looking forward to life settling down a bit.  Which, of course, is ironic since I despise the word settle and all it connotes.

24 ended up being just as difficult as 23 but in a completely different manner.  My injuries weren’t physical this year, although my symptoms certainly manifested themselves that way.  Instead, I dealt with an uprising of my Gremlins who had been silenced for so long.  <–Think of yourself on Easter when you can have that thing you’ve been denying yourself.  I did so much self-work during my 23rd year that I started 24 feeling grounded and sure and on top of the world.

As I look ahead to 25, I can’t say quite the same.  I can’t say I’m totally ungrounded as the last few weeks have seen me coming back into myself and living with so much more self-awareness than I have in a long time.  But there are so many questions and my road to recovery is still in its early stages and I’m dealing with the guilt over hiding my truth for so much of this year.  More often than not, I didn’t let myself feel…good, bad, or indifferent.  Instead I isolated and ignored and numbed.

What, then, is my overarching theme for 25?  Hope + trust.

Both are emotions I’ve started to feel again after months of experiencing the exact opposite.  As graduation comes closer, the bank account balance declines, and the question marks stack up, I’ll need these two emotional heroes to buoy me and guide me through.

Selfishly, I can’t help but hope that this year will be a bit easier physically.  But I’m excited as it brings with it the newness of a graduate degree, a new career, and a new way of defining myself as a professional.  I’ve no clue what’s next but I’ve got the love and support of people near and far and the confidence that I will make it through.

Yoga/beauty/birthdays

Kait xo

Integration

Last week I began to integrate all parts of me, even the one I’m not proud of or excited about.  I felt the puzzle pieces falling into place.  I felt myself opening up and accepting even my demons.  Because my shadows and my light make me who I am.  And the harder I try to keep out the parts I don’t want, the more they want to stick.  The more I tell myself that “this illness isn’t who I am,” the more it controls my life.  The more I try to couch what I do in PC terms, the more fake I sound.  Yet the more I say, “yes this sickness is part of who I am” or “I’m a health educator who focuses on sexual health and I’m looking for jobs in education, communication, and program planning”  the lighter + freer+ less symptomatic I feel and the more opportunities come my way.

Project: Food Budget, Week 41

Happy Thursday lovelies. 🙂 I’m writing this post on-the-go so I apologize if there are any errors. I’m not totally used to writing posts on my phone! Probably because I’ve never done it before….

Anyway, this is week one of the cleanse and boy did I miscalculate my food needs. I ended up making two extra trips I the grocery store just for more greens. I kind of forgot how much I consume during the cleanse! Add into that the fact that I’ve been eating more to fuel my hardworking brain and … well you guessed it, I went over a bit again. Thankfully when I budgeted for the year, I did $200/month which actually works out to be a closer to $50/wk so I’m still ok and, to me, that is what counts as I continue acclimating to my new lifestyle. 🙂

I don’t have any photos of the food I made on my phone but I don’t want to leave you without anything to feast your eyes on so I figured I’d tempt you with some delightful dishes I’ve eaten over the past few weeks. Apparently I can’t insert these wherever do keep on scrolling to indulge your senses! 😉

Spending Savings

Whole Foods:$9.58
Wegmans:$25.95
Trader’s:$11.88
Farmer’s Market:$9.50

Total Spending:$56.41

Of that I saved about $15.00.

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The best “MD Freak Storm” dish ever: sauteed arugula, Thai sticky rice, and homemade refried beans.

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Fried deliciousness at Sticky Rice.

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Veg sushi at Sticky Rice.

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Decidedly not-vegan brownie trio from a wine bar in Fell’s Point.

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Burrito with grilled plantains + summer squash + corn from Golden West.

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Curry falafel sandwich from the Gypsy Queen food truck.

Yoga/beauty/savings,

Kait xo

Let the Cleanse Begin…again!

Hi folks!

I hope you had a beautiful weekend.  Mine involved lots of Brothers & Sisters, adeliciousinternational potluck with my classmates, dancing until the early morning hours, late night girl talks, lots of grocery shopping + cooking, a 3am shower, a trip to the farmer’s market, dancing in my car, and fantastic conversations with new friends.

And…restarting the Crazy Sexy Cleanse.

A couple weeks ago one of my good college buddies bought and read the book.  Both of us have similar struggles with our weight + eating and I had been suggesting the book to her since I did my last cleanse.  She wanted to do the cleanse and I offered to do it with her, both for some moral support (it isn’t always the easiest + she isn’t plant-based to begin with) and because I know it won’t hurt me to do it again.

So last night I enjoyed all sorts of Indian, Asian, and American food + dessert + beer (and that dancing) and today I started my day with fresh vegetable juice (carrot/ginger/beet/apple/parsley/kale/celery/garlic) from the farmer’s market, followed by some baked fresh this morning whole wheat walnut bread and sun butter, and topped off tonight with a new-to-me raw kale salad.

I forgot how good it feels to eat this way.

I won’t likely be talking about the cleanse quite as much as last time but I will be following the principles to a T.   For those just joining me, that means: no meat/poultry/seafood/eggs, dairy, sugar or alcohol.  It also means daily meditation, workouts, and dry brushing, as well as using toxin-free health & beauty products and getting enough sleep.  Kris suggests giving up gluten but I’m not quite there yet (personally or budget-wise).  Quite frankly, I think that I probably will feel even better and I’m not ready for that change.  I have no doubt that I’ll get there (and have certainly learned to never say never).

I hope you join me over the next 21 days as I work my way towards a lighter, more cruelty-free life.  My goals with this cleanse are fat loss (not to be confused with weight loss) + more focus.  I’ve been doing much better with the focus thing, often choosing to do that what needs to get done than that which I want to do.  As many of you know, this is a huge step for me and I have no doubt that cleanse will help strengthen this new muscle I’m building…plus a whole lot more.

Yoga/beauty/veggies,

Kait xo

Unconventional Eating

Update: I have power!  It came back on sometime during the afternoon on Tuesday.  Thank you for all your well wishes + concern.  xo

I can’t remember the last time I wrote about food!  Sunday’s last minute trip to Giant (aka Stop & Shop for all my New Englanders) inspired me and explained something I had been struggling to properly answer for a long time.

At the time when I wrote this (Sunday night), my power was still out.  So was Whole Foods’.  For those who know me, this is practically a tragedy in and of itself.  I did a big haul at Wegmans on Saturday but only bought non-perishables (lara bars, trail mix, canned beans, tomatoes, etc).  Since ended up having access to a fridge and a blender (yay!), I figured I’d pick up some green smoothie + salad ingredients for around $10.

My grocery list:

  • romaine hearts
  • spinach
  • celery
  • 1 avocado
  • yogi detox tea (coupon)
  • non-dairy milk (coupon)

Given that Trader’s was at least a half hour away from the cousins’, I figured I would suck it up and head to the Giant that is right up the road.  I figured the prices wouldn’t be that bad and since the beau had given me some extra $ to shop with (since, you know, I had no power and we assumed I’d be eating out a bit), I figured it wouldn’t matter if it cost a bit more.

I bought everything on that list plus a box of Anna’s Chocolate Thin Mint cookies (accidentally vegan and only $2.49).  I used $2 worth of coupons and the total came to…$20.20.

WTH?

$14 of that was the produce.  Yes $14 for organic romaine hearts, organic spinach, organic celery hearts, and one lonely avocado.  I was shocked.  Then angry.  Then it all clicked.

Now I understand why people think eating healthy is so expensive!  Add “organic” or “veg” into the mix and BOOM!  It makes sense…if you shop at a place like Giant.  The vegan cookies were all at least $4 a box.  The nondairy milk was at least $0.75 more than I can purchase it for at Wegmans or Target or Walmart.  I can see why I hear, “Well isn’t that expensive?” equally as often as, “Where do you get your protein?”

Fact of the matter is, “conventional” grocery stores are set up for “conventional eaters” (aka those on the Standard American Diet).

And we all know I am far from a conventional eater.  I like whole foods.  I like plant-based foods.  I like artificial-crap-free junk food.  I love foods made with only the necessary ingredients (like water, yeast, and flour for bread).  Etc.  Whole Foods and Traders and Wegmans are my meccas (true story: to cheer myself up after bidding the beau farewell, I went to Wegmans…I have no shame admitting this).  Until Sunday, though, I didn’t realize why these places mean so much to me: they are geared towards me and my tribe.  They “get” us unconventional eaters.  And because all of the products in the store are geared towards us, the prices are lower (because the product moves more quickly).

Wegmans, the closest of my three meccas to a regular grocery store, has a saying: “Food shopping will never be the same.”  And it hasn’t been because they’ve found a way to draw in, to appeal to, both conventional and unconventional eaters while keeping prices competitive.  Unlike Giant…or Stop & Shop…or Big Y.  Or anywhere else really.

Now I know…the next time someone asks me, “How I do it?” or “Isn’t that so expensive?” I’ll let them know…not if you go to the right places.

Yoga/beauty/life,

Kait xo

Change Your Vision

What a whirlwind couple of weeks its been.  As I write this, I’m sitting on my not-quite-yet family members’ couch enjoying some solitude + reflection on what many of my classmates (and sometimes myself, although I’ve been trying to catch it!) are referring to as our last day of freedom.

By the time you read this I will be well into my first day of Orientation.  I have no clue what my future holds and am trying to breathe deep and remember that it doesn’t matter because, at the end of the day, I’m not in control.  I’m working on opening myself to all of the goodness coming my way…as well as the (perfect) challenges that will undoubtedly accompany them.

Challenges like saying goodbye to your love…again.

Challenges like getting back to being on a strict budget + schedule.

Challenges like having your power go out mere days before you are set to go back to school.

All of these and more I’ve experienced in the past couple of days (and two weeks).  I’m currently staying with the beau’s cousins who have kindly opened their house to me so I do not melt and do have access to the internet which will really be critical because of that whole going-back-to-school thing.  They gave me a key + free reign to come and go as I please + the downstairs (ridiculously comfortable and large) couchDid I mention they’re getting married this upcoming weekend?

Needless to say, I’m feeling pretty blessed right now.  Yesterday, between the power outage plus saying yet another tearful goodbye at a train/bus/plane station (yes I know…but airport didn’t really flow right there folks) I was not feeling too optimistic.  Its amazing what three beautiful, loving pups, the kindness of near strangers, and a good night’s sleep can do for the psyche.

Today I chose to change my vision.  I didn’t 100% recognize what I was doing until my yoga class this morning when my now fave instructor talked to us about this topic.  She was quoting a story that quite frankly I can’t remember all that well.  What did stick out to me was the choice we had: to change our vision or continue live in conflict.  Each and every one of us has this choice.  And this one not-as-simple-as-it-seems realization totally calmed my spirit + opened my heart to the lesson in this conflict (because, yes, there is always one)

Maybe the Universe wanted me to have a little extra support after the beau left + on my first days of school.  Maybe it wanted to remind me that the simple life is the good one.  And maybe it just wanted to say, “Hey girl…remember that you are not in control of anything but your reaction, your thoughts, your emotions.  Choose to see this in a positive way and so it will be…because, hey, its already done.”

Yesterday I wrote this on my Passion team’s page that I needed a pick me up…that I felt ungrounded…that I only had my computer, my yoga mat, my toiletries, and a change of clothes.  This morning I realized…what else do I need?  Yoga is life…it is everything.  So long as I have my mat + my essentials (clothes, toiletries, and my computer), I can not only survive but thrive.  Looking back the Universe had been whispering these lessons to me for the past several weeks.  Sometimes, we get so stubborn it needs to jog our memories with something more, *ahem*, electrifying.  Like, you know, freak storms.

Lesson received Universe.  Thank you.

Yoga/beauty/life,

Kait xo

For the Love of Sweet Potatoes

Ah…the humble sweet potato.  A fall staple, one of my favorite foods, and my recent re-obsession.

Now I very well recognize that November is more sweet potato season than May but the past couple of days these guys have been the star of multiple meals.  Why the surge in SP love?  Plain and simple : root vegetables are extraordinarily grounding foods. Let me explain.

I’ve been a bit sporadic with my blogging and that is a perfect reflection of the upheaval I’ve experienced in all areas of my life recently.  I blogged about it briefly so you would know I was still kicking. The short, simple, hurried structure very much represented that impact this transition has had on my mental, physical, and spiritual state over the past couple weeks.  In other words, its been pretty brutal.   I feel a bit like I’m floating with little more than a piece of silly string connecting me to the earth.  My mom’s house, where I’m currently residing, is full of boxes.  There is barely enough room to sit on the floor in my room to meditate (I have East-facing windows) and I’ve yet to establish a set schedule for my vacation from life.  All in all, life is pretty chaotic right now.

What I expected to be relaxing and rejuvenating has turned into something more stressful than I imagined.  I’m lucky to be loved by so many who want to hang out, catch-up, and be together…but every fiber of my being is craving hibernation.  I want to sleep late, work out, watch trashy TV (aka re-watch the entire season of Once Upon a Time and order Mad Men) and read even trashier books (the Fifty Shades and Hunger Games trilogies).  I want to cook and spend time with my family and pretend for a little bit that I’m not moving 5+ hours away from home.  <–yes, me the girl who’s eschewed family connections for the entirety of her life  Because fact of the matter is, my next big adventure is equal parts exciting and terrifying.  All major change is.  Anything can happen but one thing I know for sure is that my next step won’t be a walk in the park.

New city. New schedule. New lifestyle.  Back to strict budgeting and stricter time management.  The rewards will be great but I know I’ll have earned them.

So that brings me right back around to this humble little root vegetable.  While I figure out which yoga studio will feed my soul for the next couple of weeks, and which plans I can cut back on so that my time is more my own, I’m doing whatever I can to ground.  And that means eating root vegetables.  And walking outside barefoot.  And drinking calming tea.  And hugging the ones I love.

Now back to those taters… not only do you enjoy the benefits of a grounding vegetable, SPs are also really good for you.  I’m not going to go into too many details but lets just say they are among the highest sources of beta-carotene in the plant world and contain a host of other cancer-blocking, anti-inflammatory, blood sugar-regulating nutrients.  Its important to eat them with a little bit of fat to ensure maximum uptake of the beta-carotene.  Like, you know, the nut butter of your choice.  Its also important to purchase organic whenever you can as root vegetables are particularly susceptible to absorbing all sorts of nasty stuff from the surrounding soil.

Here’s my fave sweet and fave savory ways to prepare the versatile and amazing sweet potato.

Sweet

Bake potato (microwave or oven).  Mix 1 Tbsp nut butter (I use TJ’s sunbutter) with 1 tsp each milk and maple syrup.  Stir in a couple of drops vanilla extract and a few shakes each of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Microwave for ~30 seconds, checking every 10 seconds to ensure it doesn’t burn.  Add more milk if the mixture is too thick.  Drizzle over baked or roasted SP.

Savory

Wash and chop SP.  Toss with cooking spray and some salt and pepper and transfer to a greased casserole dish.  Try not to overlap.  Bake at 400 for ~30 minutes, turning once.  While the SP is baking, make your my fave cheese sauce.  When there is 10 minutes left, pour sauce over SP and continue to bake.  The SP is done when its easily pierced with a fork.

Neither of these recipes are particularly pretty.  Instead they are quick, easy, delicious, and filling.  And what more can a girl ask for when multiple seasons of Don DraperMad Men are calling her name?

Yoga/beauty/grounding,

Kait xo