Thursday, July 29, 2010

Podcasts Update

I posted a month or two ago about my new found love of podcasts. Shockingly enough, this is a "kick" that I've actually kept up with and it has since manifested itself into a new kick that I plan on sticking to.  Browsing around iTunes, I came across Dave Ramsey's podcast, which is a condensed episode of his daily 3-hour radio show. I'd heard my sister talk about him a few years ago, but I brushed it off as a load of bologna and went on my way. But, after entertaining myself in the car with the 45 minute podcasts everyday, I'm hooked on Dave's common sense approach to money and debt!

Premise = spend less than you make and don't go into debt. Crazy idea right? I'm telling you, LISTEN to his show, just once or twice. It's valuable in a few ways...
1. People call him with CRAZY situations asking for advice, and it makes you feel better about yourself and the fact that you haven't gotten yourself into $50,000 of credit card debt or have a $1000 car payment every month.

2. He's entertaining in his bluntness and has been through bankruptcy so he's not just up on his soapbox looking down on the peons.

3. The Total Money Makeover plan has "baby steps" so you can accomplish one thing at a time and REALLY see the change as its happening... see yourself saving money, paying off your debt, putting money away for retirement, etc.

4. People call into his show to celebrate the fact that they're debt free. It's incredibly motivating.

In the first month after beginning my Total Money Makeover, I saved $650 in my emergency fund. $650! Before that, I was living paycheck to paycheck with no idea where my money was going... Why do you need an emergency fund you say? Well, let's see, my car got broken into last month which meant a new car window, then not two weeks later I got a rogue piece of metal stuck in my tire and had to get a brand new tire (not cheap!), and let's not forget my car craziness of 3 years ago which meant a new windshield...


I swear I'm not being paid for this endorsement despite the fact that my HUGE number of readers would serve as a great place to advertise,  but I'm obviously excited and I feel much more in control of my finances and it's worth being frugal now.  See how excited I am?


(Note: After reading this, it's doubtful that anyone will ever ride in my car again!)

Monday, June 14, 2010

NASCAR Fans Recycle!

This is old news, but I never had a chance to blog about it. Two weeks ago NASCAR came to town and literally took over. The major blocks Uptown were closed for Speed Street. You can imagine the people watching that you can do there! Anyway, there are all kinds of vendors... beer, tobacco, NASCAR paraphernalia... you name it. As I walked around taking in the sights that Friday, I noticed an abundance of recycling cans lining the streets. I was thrilled! And then I read this article: Speed Street saw a 15% increase in recycling this year. (I can't get it to link so the text is below)

When I mentioned this to a Doubting Thomas friend that shall remain nameless, he told me that only 20% of what's recycled actually gets recycled. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that's 20% less that's going to the landfill and 20% that's being reused for all kinds of great things!

Food Lion Speed Street, the annual Uptown Charlotte event known for its racing theme, live performances and bags full of freebies, made recycling a top priority this year – with impressive results. More than 15 percent more waste was recycled than in 2009. Ultimately, just over 40 percent of all waste was recycled – a staggering 18.75 tons of cardboard, bottles, cans and grease that did not end up in a local landfill.
Across the board, recycling at Speed Street saw significant increases from the 2009 event.

Material

Garbage – 2009: 74.51%, 2010: 59.03%
Recycled cardboard – 2009: 15.97%, 2010: 22.45%
Recycled bottles/cans – 2009: 7.23%, 2010: 16.42%
Recycled grease – 2009: 2.29%, 2010: 2.09%

Total tonnage

Garbage – 2009: 74.51%, 2010: 59.03%
Recycling – 2009: 25.49%, 2010; 40.97%
The numbers reflect increased dedication to waste reduction and sustainable practices at high-traffic events. The International Special Events Society (ISES) recognized 2009’s Speed Street as the “Best Green Event” because of its then-nascent recycling program. This effort “paved the way for other Charlotte events to initiate a similar, large-scale recycling effort,” according to JHE Production Group, which organizes Speed Street.

Lesson Learned

Last week, my car was broken into and my purse stolen... talk about a HUGE inconvenience. Of course, the first question on everyone's mind is... WHY DID YOU LEAVE YOUR PURSE IN THE CAR? Well, I was playing tennis in a nice neighborhood and because I always have... when playing tennis, going for a walk, going to the gym. Basically anytime it didn't make sense to take my purse with me to where I was going. I have a big car with tinted windows, no worries right?

Wrong. The only reason I'm sharing all of this information is because I will never make this mistake again. And I hope none of you do either. Times are rough for a lot of people right now and I think that leads to desperation. Who knows who broke into my car or why, but remember me next time you think "it'll be fine".

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

WICKED!

By a stroke of luck (or perhaps a calculated effort to culture my significant other), Dutch's parents gave him tickets to see Wicked in Charlotte for his birthday. Guess who got to tag along? I hadn't been to a play or a musical in... well, I can't remember the last time. I saw Grease and West Side Story when I was young, but haven't had the money, opportunity, or inclination to see one in recent years, but now I have the itch!

It was witty and entertaining, and of course the music was fantastic. The actress that played Elphaba was AMAZING! I loved her role and her voice.

Now, I'm looking for my next artsy adventure... Any ideas?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Magazine's Best: Recipes

People with a knack for cooking never cease to amaze me, but what's more impressive are those who figure out which flavors will work together. Can you tell I just watched Top Chef Masters?

My grandmother gave me a subscription to Better Homes & Gardens a couple of Christmases ago and while I don't have a home OR a garden, I love the features on people's homes and, most of all, reader submitted recipes. From this month, I'm looking forward to trying the Summer Vegetable Potato Salad. I don't know if you've noticed, but I have the tendency to go on "kicks". I get extremely passionate about something and then it seems to fizzle out. But this recipe is the perfect way for me to search out the closest farmer's market, support local agriculture, and get some time in the kitchen.

For a tried (by me) and true summer salad/relish, make this Corn Salsa with Feta and Walnuts. It is ridiculously easy to make, delicious, and tastes even better the next day. No need to cook the corn and avoid jalapeno hands by wearing gloves while chopping, mine burned for two days!

That's the wonderful and difficult thing about cooking and trying new recipes. Part of me is discouraged because I didn't make it just right and the other part knows what to do next time to make it even better.

Podcasts Day 2

Success! I listened to three Money Girl podcasts in the car on my commute to and from work (yes, I sprinted out of the gate, don't expect such gusto in the coming weeks). I learned about Traditional and Roth IRAs, a subject that never ceases to confuse me, and about the new credit card rules.

I'm glad I started listening today because it reminded me that I needed to rollover my 401k from my previous job. I'd been putting it off because I didn't really understand what I needed to do. But, putting it off wasn't earning money, so I bit the bullet, asked the questions that I'm certain are dumb ones, and got the ball rolling. Cross that off my to-do list! And the credit card podcast prompted me to check out my interest rate and look into other cards that might have better rates and rewards! Free flight?? Yes please!

Next on my learning list is the NC driver's manual. To get licensed in this great state, I have to retake the written test. I won't bore you with that information, but cross your fingers that I pass!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Annnd I'm back! ...again

Worst.Blogger.Ever. That's me. and now you're up to speed.

I have spoiled myself by listening to books in the car. I look forward to trips and even short treks on my lunch break to hear what happens next, but audiobooks can be expensive if you're buying, unavailable if checking out from the library, or inconvenient to return if listening to a Cracker Barrel audiobook. And yet, I like to be entertained in the car and music just doesn't cut it sometimes.

And then I remembered podcasts! I listened to a few Spanish language podcasts before heading to Spain to brush up on some grammar, nevermind the fact that when I was over there I'm pretty sure the way I spoke sounded something like... "I... sandwich." or "Please... wine."

Anyway, I added Money Girl's Quick & Dirty Tips and Stuff You Missed in History Class. Yes, completely nerdy but I feel like I can use my commute to learn something? We'll see how this goes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday's Deep Thoughts

...I have convinced myself that balancing my bank account is more enjoyable when I do it in colorful pens.

...I finally turned right out of my apartment complex and drove further than to simply make a u-turn to go the other direction. I found a Fresh Market and a Pizza Hut. Success.

...I did a rain dance today so that I wouldn't have to play tennis and I could go to the mall instead. Big mistake. (See previous post on abnormal spending). And yes, I considered my walking around the mall exercise.

...I told myself I could eat Five Guys for lunch today since I was playing tennis tonight. See previous statement re: Rain dance. Fail. However, it was delicious.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I spent $100 on what?

My new apartment in Charlotte is in a great... and dangerous location. It's not my personal safety that I'm concerned about, but the well-being of my bank account. I'm within walking distance of some of the best shopping in the Queen City and my wallet paid the price today.

A couple of days ago, my dad suggested that I buy a guest book for my apartment. I thought it was a cute idea and great way to keep track of the comings and goings in my new place.

Enter Paper Source. I stopped in on my way home to poke around and pick up a guest book. However, 30 minutes later, I had 4 items and wondered where the time went. It's the kind of place I could get lost in. While some people might consider what I bought a waste, I don't regret them (I tend to be a 'binge and purge' shopper as my friends call it. Buying a ton and then taking most of it back.

Long story short, I've had the intention of journaling lately but I get so caught up in the details that it takes forever and I found THE BEST substitute (talk to me in a few weeks and see if I feel the same way). The One Line a Day Journal is such a great idea... just a couple of lines to jot down a thought or two about the day. Since I have the worst memory in the history of time, I'm looking forward to seeing how it works out!



Saturday, April 10, 2010

Adventures in Charlotte- Part 1

Pardon my absence for the last few weeks. I was moving, changing jobs, and trying to get settled in the Queen City (still don't know why people here call it that, I'll add that to my to-do list to find out). But I'm finally ready to get back to blogging and I'm so excited to have new restaurants, shopping, and adventures to share! So here goes!

I ate at the Flying Biscuit Cafe yesterday in Ballantyne close to where I work. What a meal! I got the fried chicken plate because that came with GRILLED macaroni and cheese plus a salad AND a signature biscuit (see above). Their biscuits are part dinner roll, part biscuit and we all know I love carbs of all shapes and sizes. I highly recommend! Looking for biscuit recipes? You can find those on their website too!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Back in Action Soon!

New city, new job, new home! I've been obviously missing for the past month or so and I have the three formerly cited new things in my life to thank for my absence from blogging. Expect posts and pictures  soon!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Community Supported Agriculture and Me

In my previous post, I talked about the new direction of our book club and how we'll start doing an activity that correlates with some aspect of the book we're reading. This month, we're reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Skeptical at first, I was worried the book would be preachy and guilt-inducing, but I've been pleasantly surprised. It's thought provoking, educational, and inspiring at the same time. I still have a long way to go until I finish, but I'm impressed so far.

Our activity this month is to watch Food, Inc. Watching this movie has been both on my "to-do" list and my "to-avoid" list. And yes, I'm aware of the contradiction. While I'm interested in learning, it's also kind of scary. I've spent most of my life blissfully unaware of a lot of this information, and with knowledge comes responsibility, right? After watching Food, Inc, I'll no longer be able to avoid  the question of "I wonder where this came from?"

Another offshoot of reading this book is discussion around Community Supported Agriculture. After some research, I've decided that I'd really like to get an individual share from a local farm this spring. The farm is to-be-determined, but despite the fact that I haven't chosen the farm, met the farmer, or eaten the crops, I already feel good for being one step closer helping someone local. I now remember that our family had fresh produce delivered to the house from a local farm in Virginia when I was younger. Although I had forgotten that until recently, I think it shows how important it is to teach principles of all kinds to your kids.

In the spirit of local celebration and conservation, here's a picture of me with the Angel Oak of John's Island. I visited this past weekend to check it off my list and it's a truly beautiful sight.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Book Club: New Direction

Since moving to Charleston in 2007, I wanted to start a book club. I love to read, but I find myself picking up the same kinds of books by the same authors. Chic lit with pastel covers, murder mysteries by authors I recognized, and on the rare occasion, random books endorsed by friends. It seemed like such a risk to pick up a book and read it without knowing anything about it... you invest a lot of time in reading a 300 page book and I wanted to make sure it was time well-spent. A friend introduced me to Goodreads which is a great "virtual" book club, but I only know a couple of people actively on it.

Enter the Book Club (we've kicked around a couple of names with two frontrunners: Novel Vixens and Booze and Books. Votes for a final name are welcome in comments :) ). I finally found a group of people (all of whom happen to be girls, but we don't discriminate) that love to read like I do. We began at my house with Dave Sedaris's Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and have read 6 or so books since then. I can honestly say that I wouldn't have chosen to read any of the others if not for the choices of this group of women.

At our first meeting this year, after almost three hours of discussion related to Push and random tangents alike, we decided that with every book we read, we'll also DO something related to the book. So, if we read a book about Charleston, we'll cook shrimp and grits or go to a local museum. Depending on the book, we'll have to get creative, but I'm looking forward to what books and activities lay ahead!

And for your enjoyment, a random photo of the snowman I built on Saturday thanks to the freak snowstorm in Charleston!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Film vs. Digital: Surprise or Certainty?

I have always loved taking pictures. I maintain that my children (still hypothetical) will be the most photographed of any kids around (unless you consider the Jolie/Pitt clan... which I'm not). Years ago, I would tote around multiple disposable cameras and pay an arm and a leg at a drugstore to get it developed in an hour. Then, I'd spend time flipping through and either delighting in the memories captured or discarding those pictures that were messed up in some way, shape, or form. I developed a love/hate relationship with the element of surprise these photos offered. When I was in high school, my parents gave me a nice camera with multiple lenses and general fanciness that I never fully learned how to operate. I used it frequently, attempting artsy photos and taking it anywhere appropriate, but it was too big for everyday use.

Enter the digital camera. How exciting! We can see pictures right after we've taken them! ...and scrutinize every hair out of place and pound added since college. Get a group of girls together and expect to spend a minute or two analyzing the pros and cons of a photo before inevitably deciding to pose again. Again, a love/hate relationship. I've gotten to the point where I enforce (at least with myself) a "no-looking at pictures until the next day" rule. It seems to simplify things and reduce self-scrutiny.

However, as my sister and I embarked on her son and my nephew's first long trip, I decided to bring along my nice film camera. As the snow accumulates around the house we grew up in, I've taken a roll of film of the house and of my nephew. I'm still taking pictures with my digital camera as well, but I'm so excited to see how the other pictures turn out. Now the question is, where do I go to get film developed?!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Making an Impact by Reducing your Imprint

I'm not sure when or why I got so passionate about recycling, there was no cataclysmic moment but I don't understand why anyone would choose not to recycle. I know I don't do as much as I could to preserve, but every little bit helps, right?

That's why I admire my friend Abby so much. She's getting married in September and is making every effort to have the greenest wedding possible. On her blog, Something Green, Abby details the decisions she's making to make her wedding more earth friendly. There are a lot of aspects I hadn't considered and I have a lot to learn from her!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Magazine's Best

I've talked about how much I love flipping through magazines, I don't think you can get the same experience online. Because of that, I have a stack of about 8 magazines to look through. I like to get my money's worth by tearing out recipes, checking out new websites, and being the sucker who buys the beauty products they "test". Here's where I share what I've found with you and it helps me remember what I like and what I don't for later!


Love to bake? Looking for a unique wedding shower gift for a friend? Bakeitpretty.com has some of the cutest kitchen and baking supplies I've seen. Lots of quirky and fun stuff!

Real Simple featured 10 new ways to fix up cheese ravioli.  I make pasta a lot (I love carbs), but it can get boring. I'm definitely going to try a few, First up, Ravioli with Fontina and Walnut Sauce!

I'm always looking for new and different things to do when I get together with friends. I started a book club. I go to supper club. I would LOVE to have game nights... but I can't drum up enough interest. So I came across Sublime Stitching. You can find patterns, tools, and for newbies (like me!) they have kits you can buy to get you started. My mom cross-stitched a lot and I would love to learn the basics. Who's with me?

I also got some ideas of books to read for the year. Check out my Goodreads to see what I added. (Or see the right side of my blog!)


Photo courtesy of chotda via Flickr

Monday, January 25, 2010

Social Media Makeover Part 2

Day 5: Watch this Video
Really entertaining and interesting thoughts on the internet and impact of social media. Vote for Mr. Splashy Pants! Definitely worth checking out! I also learned about Reddit.com. Keep up to date on what's new online.


Day 6: Revamp your RSS Reading
This post offers multiple suggestions to enhance your RSS reading experience. One is to clean up and remove those blogs you don't read which result in 100 unread posts which makes me not even want to try to wade through it all. I realize that I need to be realistic with myself in terms of my time and my interests. Yes there are some subjects that I want to WANT to care about... but I needed to prioritize and streamline. I feel better already.

The second suggestion I followed was to download Better GReader which gives you a lot more options to customize Reader. I'm looking forward to playing with these options.

The other suggestions didn't really apply to me (app for my iPhone? I wish) but they're worth checking out!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Social Media Makeover: Days 1-4

As I said in a previous post, I've decided to embark on a Social Media Makeover with help from The Social Path. And although one of my 2010 resolutions is to blog more often, it's been a slow go so far so I'm starting with the first 4 days.

Day 1: Flesh Out Your LinkedIn Public Profile
This turned out to be a quick fix. My profile was fairly complete and already public but I did update my resume with some additional experience and I learned that LinkedIn HAD public profiles and privacy settings. Who knew?

Day 2: Try Posterous, a better way to blog and bookmark.
Even after reading the post about Posteroous AND reading the FAQs on the Posterous site, I still didn't completely understand the concept. So I followed the instructions and emailed some content (a picture) to post@posterous.com with almost no idea what would happen next. About 10 seconds later I received an email with a link to my Posterous site with the picture posted, just like a blog post... kind of.

I found the most intriguing aspect of Posterous in this section of the FAQs:
Autopost to everywhere
Just set up your other accounts here. The next time you post to posterous, we will instantly autopost everywhere else.

Facebook minifeed or status can be updated with your most recent posts. If you attach photos, we'll automatically organize and post them into your photo albums.






Twitter messages will use the title of your post up to 130 characters, and then append a shortened post.ly
url.






Flickr photos will be put automatically in your photostream. If you attach multiple photos, we'll post them all in the order we receive them.








Blogs will be updated with the full content you send us. We'll host your images, music and files, so you don't have to lift a finger.






Although, I also realized the people that I interact the most with on my blog, Facebook, and Twitter are pretty much the same people. It seems like there are those people who are interested and those who are, well, not. So I'll keep playing with my new Posterous account and see how I like it... although another something I've realized is you only get out of it what you put into it (original thought, I know).


Day 3: Switch 10 of your Flickr photos to Creative Commons
I didn't have any pictures on Flickr prior to attempting this makeover. I don't have a lot of nonpersonal pictures that I could share rights with or that people would even want to use. But I did upload two "scenic" pictures from the mountains.

Day 4: Cull your crowd on Twitter
Done. No crown means no need to cull. I don't use Twitter as actively as most, I like to think it has to do with a lack of a fancy phone with internet. Perhaps another initiative?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Gaines Adams Dies at 26

Gaines Adams died today from an apparent heart attack and it is very sad day for Clemson alumni and fans. It's especially difficult for those former Tiger players who played alongside him. As I write this, I still can't believe that it's true. As a student-athlete mentor in college, I worked with an great group of guys, and Gaines was one of the them. He had an incredible spirit and a charming personality. And while I hadn't talked to him since graduation, I consider myself very lucky to have known him.

The news affected me in a way that I didn't expect, especially considering the fact that I hadn't seen Gaines in a couple of years. But that goes to show you the profound effect that he had on people. I've spent today recalling times spent with Gaines that I hadn't thought of in a while. And all of those memories made me smile or laugh. He will be missed and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones.





Photo courtest: chron.com

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Social Media Makeover

David Griner of The Social Path is doing a series of posts in January geared towards a Social Media Makeover. I haven't been following the day-to-day posts because I really wanted to dedicate some time to completing those things that apply to me (Cull my Twitter crowd? No problem.) and time isn't something that I've had in abundance so far this year. Check back for posts on my progress!



Monday, January 11, 2010

New Year's Initiatives

Obviously I'm a little behind on the 2010 posts as this is my first, but better late the never right? (Or insert other cliche about time here) For anyone who knows me, you know that I regularly decide to take on new initiatives, independent of the New Year... some of the 2009's included:
  • Eat at a new restaurant once a week- I haven't done so consistently, but it has pushed me to try new places rather than eating at my favorites.
  • Start a book club- Done and done. We have a group of girls that meets once every month or so for beverages, food, and some chit chat about the book we chose. It may or may not be an excuse to drink wine on a Tuesday, but it does push me to read books that I wouldn't normally pick up otherwise.
  • Brush up on my Spanish- I made mediocre attempts in 2009 but have ramped up efforts in 2010 as I'm going to Spain in May! I've downloaded a couple of podcasts and lessons from iTunesU (which is really cool if you've never checked it out before!) and I think I'll stick with it since I have an upcoming opportunity to really use it.
  • Learn about cars- This was more or less a flop. I bought a book geared towards women... perhaps a little ambitious amongst the plethora of other things I'd like to accomplish.
  • Read the "Intellectual Devotional" daily- I miss school. I love to learn. And this book has a different subject, person, or event everyday. For the two weeks I did read it, I learned a lot.
  • Read books for leisure- Huh? Not so much time for that. 
Not to mention that, as I've blogged about before, I get 6 or 7 magazines a month. I also play tennis and work! Hard to believe I know, but I have to have some way to fund these adventures.

So for 2010, I have these plus a few others. Somewhere along the line, I'm going to have to figure out how to prioritize these. 


  • Be a tourist in Charleston- I live in a city that people scramble to visit every year. It's unlikely that I'll live here forever, so I need to take advantage of it while I can.
  • Blog consistently and with a purpose- I know a downfall of a lot of blogs is a lack of direction. Sometimes I think I have one, and other times I'm not sure. I know I don't have a lot of readers, but I plan on changing that this year!
  • Cook twice a week- I know it doesn't sound like much, but this is (hopefully) a stepping stone to becoming a culinary genius! ...or something along those lines. I suppose I could settle for Preparer of Edible Food.
  • Journal and Keep a Travel Journal- My memory is less than stellar, perhaps due to a lack of focus (see previous posts and above ramblings for reference), so I'd like to journal about those events and trips that are new and different, as well as those little things I'd like to remember about my friends and family.
And although I don't mention them here, I have career goals as well... I guess it's time to get started! Any advice to keep me on track?