Thursday, January 27, 2011

No Buy Month - Could you do it?

In my extensive (read: time consuming) blog reading, I came across The Frugalista. I've only been following her for a couple of weeks but her latest post talks about her annual No-Buy Month. During the month of February (maybe because it has the least number of days?), she does not spend a cent on eating out, shopping, getting her nails done... basically, no fun! However this does not extend to rent or bills, so no excuses on not paying those! But she saved $400 last year, how much do you think you could save?

I'll be honest, I'm sure I could do it, and I probably should do it, but I won't do it. Going cold turkey on "entertainment" spending for a whole month would be SO hard. Not to mention, I JUST made a list of all of the workout gear I want (and kind of need) to buy. Okay, a workout bag that holds my yoga mat isn't a need, but swimming gear for my triathlon is!

Could you do it?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My take on the Kindle

Despite the fact that I HAD to have a Kindle for Christmas this past year, I've only read one full book on it since. However, I've started reading Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster (click the picture for a link to Amazon, the book is hilarious) and I've discovered a few pros and cons about it.

Things I love:
  1. I can download the classics, a.k.a. those books I was supposed to read in high school, for free. I'm attempting to re-read several of those to see if my lack of interest was a result of my "oh-so-dramatic, I don't have time to read" life as a high school junior or if I genuinely don't enjoy them. On my 2011 list: Pride and Prejudice (loved it in high school), This Side of Paradise, and Great Expectations. ( Also just came across this article on getting free books for your Kindle if you have one)
  2. Assuming I ever go on a relaxing vacation again, I don't have to take 4 books with me (I'm a fast reader).
  3. I can "highlight" and share passages from the book on Twitter (@lhuckaby) and Facebook. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, I apologize in advance. I'm totally one of those people who's reading, finds something funny or interesting, and totally want to share it with whoever is sitting next to me. In lieu of that, I'll be sharing with the Twittersphere. I'm already having to reign myself in.
  4. I came play games (educational ones of course), surf the internet (do people even use that term anymore?), and read samples of books before I decide to buy.
  5. I can instantly look up the meaning of a word if I'm unsure. This will come in handy when I'm tackling #1 above.
Things that make me miss hrad copy books:
  1. I can't dog-ear or highlight pages, at least not in the literal sense, but I did check out a lot of library books so I couldn't do that anyway. We'll call this one a wash.
  2. Reading footnotes isn't exactly user friendly. You have to scroll down to and click the footnote which takes you to another page, then click back to the book. While this doesn't apply in most books, Jen Lancaster has (hysterical) footnotes on almost every page.
In short, if you're considering buying an e-reader of any kind, I definitely think it's worth it!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Wal-Mart Effect

I haven't shopped at Wal-Mart since the fall of 2007. At one point in my life, it was the only place I bought groceries, toiletries and the like. But I took a course in grad school that focused on Wal-Mart's business, ethics, and public relations practices and I haven't shopped there since.

Before you assume that the class skewed my perception, we watched movies and read books that were both for and against the conglomerate. But, surprisingly, the book that changed my opinion was the most objective of them all. The Wal-Mart Effect.

The book explores real stories of employees, suppliers, and others who had all been affected, either positively or negatively by the store.  It's a really interesting read.

My point is, I've realized what a HUGE effect Wal-Mart has on our economy and our everyday choices, especially those in the lower classes. Which is why I was interested to hear that Wal-Mart is planning to offer healthier food choices.  I'm hoping that it will positively impact the health of Americans, but I'll wait and see.

Guilty Pleasure

I once thought that introducing DVR into my home would cause me to watch a million shows that I wouldn't otherwise and permanently attach me to my couch. However, it's just the opposite. When I have time to sit and watch TV, I only watch those shows that I intended to watch... well, except for that Sunday a few weeks ago when I was sucked into a Jersey Shore marathon...

But I digress. My guilty pleasure is not watching these shows, but reading the follow-up online.

A friend from high school got me hooked on Gossip Girl (ridiculous, but lots of pretty people to look at) then got me hooked on reading the Recap on NY Mag's Daily Intel blog the next day. Basically, these bloggers watch the show and add or subtract points based on the ridiculousness. It is highly entertaining. In fact, I might enjoy it more than watching the show itself. I also find myself thinking, "Oh there totally going to make fun of that tomorrow." It makes a more interactive (read: nerdy) Gossip Girl experience.  The Daily Intel is also an entertaining way to get your daily dose of news stories too.

Then there's Bravo TV. What on EARTH did I watch before Bravo came on the air? I love watching their reality shows and then heading to their blogs to see what they have to say more themselves. My favorites are the Top Chef blogs. I love hearing what the judges thought, why they voted the way they did, and how they react to the craziness that they don't see until the show airs. Not to mention, I discovered that Anthony Bourdain is an incredibly talented writer. The way he describes food and experiences is amazing. I've never watched his show, but I think I'll definitely add his books to my "To Read" list.

Have any guilty pleasures I need to add to my list?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dinner Tonight

I admit, I've never watched much of the Food Network. But I've recently started DVRing Paula Deen and Rachel Ray's shows. RR does get on my nerves from time to time, but her meals are creative. And Paula?? Love Paula! 

Last night, I curled up with a glass of wine and watched Paula's "Lazy Man" meals (Her husband, Michael, was sous chef for the day). When they started to make the Fried Egg & Avocado Sandwich, I was pumped. Not only did it look delicious, but I have everything I need to make it in my fridge and pantry! That never happens!

My fridge typically looks like one that belongs in a bachelor pad... some frozen meals, milk, and beer. But I've had some visitors in the past couple of weeks, so I tried to stock up on some staples.
It's on the menu for tonight, I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Team in Training Fundraising in Full Swing!

Although I haven't started officially training yet, my fundraising for the triathlon with Team in Training is underway! My personal goal is to raise $3000 before the event in June and I have $600 so far, so I'm off to a great start. I'm getting antsy to start training though. Getting back in a pool is by far the most anxiety producing part of the process. Do they make more flattering "racing" suits than Speedos these days? I'm not thrilled about looking like a sausage in Lycra, while I know string bikinis aren't exactly lap pool friendly. If I had a swim team photo from back in the day, I would definitely insert it here. You'll just have to use your imagination.

I swear they have the same pattern suits these days as they did when I swam 15 years ago (eek, that just made me feel old). Like this one... and this is "new" according to the website.

I might have to splurge for Nike's overpriced yet cuter looks. Although, I should probably focus more on training, less on fashion since NO ONE looks cute after face-planting due to exhaustion.

Needing inspiration today?

It's no secret that I LOVE inspirational sports movies. Rudy (one of the originals), A League of Their Own, Remember the Titans, The Rookie, Mighty Ducks, Cool Runnings... just to name a few. I could list them for days.

On my snow day at home yesterday, Coach Carter came on... another fav of mine. One of the best moments (in my opinion) is this part when one of players stands up and recites what I originally thought was a poem, but is actually an excerpt from A Return To Love, a book by motivational speaker and author Marianne Williamson. Regardless I think it's incredibly poignant and so accurate about a lot of people (I'm including myself in this group). Check out the clip and the text below.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking

so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 Goals Update

I know you're all dying to know how goals are coming along in the first week of 2011! I did cook a delicious meal in my crockpot and discovered the next recipe I want to fix this week. However, the Taj MaTeeter was sold out of everything last night when I went shopping (note to self, NEVER go to the grocery store in SouthPark on Sunday night).

I successfully made it to the gym four times this week. I went to two Spinning classes and did this circuit from Women's Health on the other two days. I modified the circuit a bit to keep my heart rate up... adding step ups and push ups, but it's great for those who tend to get bored (like me)! I've also decided I want to look into what it takes to become a spinning instructor. I LOVE the class and have been trying to think of ways to make some extra money without cramping my style too much.

My fun book this month was Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly. I downloaded it for my drive to and from Raleigh last week. I love a good cop story to keep my attention. One of the better books in this series that I've read lately. I'm also reading QBQ by John Miller and Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith. Reading the not "fun" books definitely takes more dedication but I'm hoping to finish by the end of January!

How are you doing with your resolutions?

It's the little things

The little things in life really DO make a difference, in my opinion. For example, one of my ridiculous pet peeves is getting in a long line and and then having no one get in line behind me. For some reason, I feel that my decision to get in the long line to wait for whatever  is only validated if the line continues to form behind me. Weird, I know.

My point is, the 1000 Awesome Things blog celebrates these little things in life that boost your mood just a bit. Here's one of my recent favorite posts. And you can't tell me that you don't love it when this happens.

Just a suggestion to add to your blogroll!

Here's my awesome thing for the day. When your sister buys your nephew an Indian headdress. Awesome!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Meet my new best friend... crock pot! In truth, my sister gave me this crock pot SIX years ago and yesterday was only the second time I've used it. But, in an effort to cook at least twice a week, I pulled it out of its box and tried out a recipe from this month's Real Simple.

To begin with, I'm always nervous about how something I cook will turn out... and with good reason. I was also nervous about leaving an appliance on, heating and cooking all day. I know, I know... but I'm practically a crock pot virgin so I feel as though my nerves were justified due to my lack of experience. But I'm proud to proclaim SUCCESS on not burning my apartment down and a fairly delicious meal.

I say fairly delicious because I'm not a huge fan of "traditional" crock pot recipes... stews, roasts, soups... really beef in general. But one can't argue with the fabulousness and ease of returning home at 6 and finding a delicious aroma and meal waiting for them... almost as if magic elves prepared it! I think one of the best parts of preparing it was mixing the sauce together. I'm following the recipe, not knowing what I'm doing, only to find out that I'd made a barbecue sauce of sorts! I felt so accomplished! Here's a picture of the finished product... not so easy on the eyes but wonderful on the taste buds.

Next up, a lemony chicken concoction. Do you have any tried and true crockpot recipes? ...that aren't pot roast?

Cleaning for a Reason

I came across this website today and I thought, what a wonderful idea. Cleaning for a Reason provides house cleaning services to women currently undergoing cancer treatments. When my mom was sick with leukemia, it was nearly impossible to keep the house clean. Despite the fact that several of us were home, the last thing we wanted to do was spend our time cleaning. We wanted Mom to devote her energy to getting well and we wanted to devote our energy to her.

If you know of anyone who could use the service, it seems pretty easy to sign up. An application and a doctor's note. They accept 50 applications each day.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Fat is Money

Not my title, I promise! posted this graphic detailing the expense of being overweight.

Maybe that will help motivate me for #2 and #3 on my goals for 2011!

2011 Outlook

Wow, it has been a LONG time since my last post! I'm always thinking... "I'd like to blog about this, or that" but I never seem to get around to it. Since it's that time of year for resolutions, I'm (once again) adding a 'blog more often' resolution to my list.

Speaking of resolutions, I've read that writing down your goals is directly associated with success in achieving them. I figure sharing my goals (formerly known as resolutions) with you and the rest of the world is the best way to do just that. Nothing truly groundbreaking here, but I'm hopeful nonetheless!

1. Cook twice each week. It's no secret that I love to eat out. The social aspect of going out is one side of the appeal, and sheer laziness and lack of skill on my part comprise the other reasons it's enticing. But I know I'll only get better and faster at whipping up delicious meals through practice. I broke out my crock pot today for only the second time since I've owned it. Beef brisket with carrots and potatoes is what will hopefully be waiting for me when I get home. I'll let you know how it turns out... for better or worse.

2. Exercise (at least) 4 times each week. I love working out, it's weird I know. But lately, I've had a hard time consistently getting myself to the gym. However, I signed up for the Tri Latta Triathalon with Team in Training, so I won't have any excuses NOT to work out. And I'm excited to get back into swimming, finally use the bike that I bought a few years ago, and raise more money for LLS!

3. Contribute a minimum amount to savings each month. I've never been a good saver, and lately that's scared me. I've figured out an amount that's manageable for me to put away each month and I'm looking forward to having a rainy day fund by the end of the year.

4. Find a church and attend twice a month. This one will be a challenge. Weddings, showers, and visits to friends keeps me on the move (and also makes #3 more difficult), but I'd like to find a church where I feel comfortable and welcome. I suppose it'll be trial and error on the first few visits, but I'm hoping to find a good fit in 2011.

5. Read one book for improvement and one book for pleasure each month. I use the term 'improvement' loosely here. I'm going for books of substance with that term. Books that challenge me. I was inspired by Dave Fleet's post on How to Read 26 books in a year, but I didn't want to overwhelm myself the first time around.

This month it's Selling the Invisible, a service marketing book recommended by the president of my company. I'm a marketing specialist for an architecture firm and we serve public clients. It's difficult to influence school board members and county commissioners by Twitter updates or Facbook pages, so I'm interested to see what the book has to offer. If you're interested, check out the books I'm reading on GoodReads.

6. Blog (at least) once a week. I'd like to become and remain active as a blogger. I'd also like to expand my readership, not that the eight of you aren't enough! Finally, I'd like to make the blog more interactive, so please, comment away!

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2011?