Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Picking Out Curtains

That's the sign of commitment right? Picking out curtains. Not that Isaac and I weren't committed before, but we were trying to find curtains for our bedroom.

When we moved into our condo, the paint in the bedroom was atrocious. We started painting there.

The walls went from brown (what I called "vomit brown" due to an ugly brown being painted over vibrant green with no primer) to two walls that are purple (we were aiming for mauve but that's ok) and two walls parchment white.
The walls before. The picture doesn't do justice to how ugly it really was.
We still need moulding at the bottom of the walls (which will be grey). We replaced all of the outlets, light switches, and covers and they are all grey. Maybe a grey line running around the room close to the ceiling? And hopefully black and white art and grey bed set.
Isaac hard at work!
Finished product!
Anyway the bedroom window is against a parchment colored wall so we wanted some color there. We didn't want white sheer curtains because that much white may make the wall look yellow. Also, the window is a funny size so finding curtains that we liked and that would actually cover the window nicely was difficult. In addition the window is very wide and deep set so we had to find something to cover it completely so no one could see in around the edges.

Isaac bought and mounted double rods (one for a sheer curtain and one for a thick curtain). We still didn't find the right curtains.

So we made a trip to Joann. Here are the fabrics we bought.
I will be making our curtains! This is a bit new to me but I will do some research and it will be great! I imagine I will need some weight at the bottom of both so they hang properly. We decided to pick out some sort of decorative fringe for the heavy curtain later.

To make matters better, we got a good price. Both fabrics were on sale. The grey especially. We didn't like the "decor" fabrics and prints (plus you have to special order them all) so we found this in fabric you use to make nice suits. It was originally 15 per yard and was on sale for 8 or 9. And we had a coupon. The sheer was originally 8 per yard and on sale for 5 per yard. We got two yards of each. I am very excited.

That's all that's new in the home-owning department. We should be replacing our hot water heater soon and hopefully we will make some improvements on the master bathroom soon. We will keep you posted!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Insanity: Week Four

Yay! We made it through one month of Insanity!

For anyone thinking about doing this workout one warning: make sure you keep your body aligned.

They tell you these things in the video but you have to remind yourself. My knees and ankles began to hurt after the first couple weeks and it took me a while to adjust my movements to avoid injury.

For me this is absolutely making sure that my knees are over my ankles always. I know it may not always be very lady-like to have your knees spread so wide for those squats, but trust me: it will save your knees. I have to be most careful about this in squats, knee highs, stretches and (oddly enough) the heisman. I noticed that doing this also seems to help my ankles. Be careful out there!

So month one is over! Five weeks to go. This coming week is a new workout called "Core Cardio and Balance." And the workouts will change for the last month. Into new territory!

I have started to notice that my butt and thighs are more toned. I have always had a big butt and thighs (this is where all my weight goes). I measured today and I lost a half of an inch in my hips and my butt. None in my thighs yet. I also gained just a little weight but I think that was the fat converting to muscle. And Krissy told me that my shoulders and arms are getting bigger--she usually stands behind me for our workouts--she could see that while I was stretching. Happy day! Overall I feel very satisfied with the progress so far.

I have noticed that all four of us have lost a little weight and look more toned. We can get through the majority of the warm ups and we do pretty well in the exercises (though we all still have to take breaks). And we feel great! The soreness did start to come back more in weeks three and four but it's not so bad that we can't walk so it's all good.

With so many of us working out together our motivation stays up. It's almost like peer pressure. "Well, we're all going to work out... it is implied that you are lame if you don't..." Horrible right? But we have been enjoying our time together for snacks and hot tub afterwards. And we put 1$ per workout day into our little piggy bank! We are going to do something fun to reward ourselves after all this. Spa day, manicure/pedicure, something.

Jhenn's chalk board piggy bank for our reward! On the other side it says "Shaun T. says 'dig deeper!'"
Good luck to anybody who wants to try it! We recommend it!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lessons For Young Women: Cars

Alright fellow young ladies! We are all going to learn from a huge mistake that I recently made involving my car.

As sad as it is, mechanics will try to screw you over. I always hoped these stories were misunderstandings or exaggerations- they aren't. Especially for women and young women. You will be treated like you are dumb, like you know nothing about cars (whether its true or not), you will be talked down to, and you will be dealt with unfairly. I hate for this to be so negative and I hope to live to see the day when this is no longer true. I only hope that you all encounter some honest mechanics as well.

My friend and I were stranded at the grocery store when my car wouldn't start. I called AAA who arranged for a tow truck to tow my car to a shop within four miles (so towing was free, yay). Tow truck guy shows up and asks, "What's wrong with the car?"
"Well, it won't start, but it's not the battery," I say. I've had battery issues before but I knew this wasn't the problem.
He asks, "What sound is it making?"
"The engine is trying to turn over, but it can't quite make it. And there is a clicking noise under the dash."
"It's the battery," he says.
"No, it's not the battery."
He gets in and tries to start it and gets back out. "It's not the battery."
"I know." And I'm thinking "Did I stutter?!"

So my car is towed and the guys at the shop check it out. Turns out two sensors in my engine were failing. This had caused my car model to be recalled ten years ago (I know this because I looked it up myself), but the recall expired so Nissan provided a slightly cheaper kit to fix the problems. Nothing to do about that.

The mechanic also says, "You need to replace your spark plugs." I gave him the go-ahead. I'm thinking, "Well, spark plugs, those shouldn't be too expensive, least of my worries." So he replaced them.

Did you know you have as many spark plugs as you have engine cylinders? I didn't. So I have a four cylinder engine and four spark plugs (apparently all four needed to be replaced which the mechanic did not mention so I hope they all actually needed replacing.)

Later, the sensors are in but not sending correct signals to and from the computer. 100 more dollars to look into that problem. And then I needed to replace the battery. This is finally where I started to feel like I was being tugged along.

I had just replaced the battery about four years ago. He told me batteries usually last 3-5 years. The battery the car came with lasted at least 6, which struck me as odd. My car is not high-end at all and usually the initial things like that are not necessarily good quality. Mechanic tells me he has a battery that's usually 149 but he can give it to me at 108. When I replaced my battery last time I felt like I paid about 110 with labor so I asked if there were cheaper batteries available. He "checked his system" (we were on the phone so I don't really know what he was checking) and said that he had batteries from 135-175. There were cheaper ones but, and I quote, they "aren't worth putting in [my] car." Whatever that means. He wouldn't even offer me anything else so of course I had to take the 108 one. Plus more labor. Let me tell you: there are cheaper batteries out there, but this one better last me at least five years or I am going to be severely upset.

Come to find out around this time that the spark plugs he put in my car were platinum. Another red flag popped up in my head. Is that standard? My ten-year-old car that is not top of the line to begin with needs platinum spark plugs? I did research (later) and found that most spark plugs range from about 5-8 dollars. Platinum? 20 dollars. Each. I could have paid about 20 for all four and paid 80 instead. This is the part that made me the most mad. And damned if those things aren't going to out-last my poor little car. When I trade it in, I'm going to have to ask for them back!

One: I will not be returning to this auto shop ever unless they messed something up.

Two: ALWAYS ask exactly what is wrong, what needs to be replaced and what they are planning to replace it with. And then do your own research. Online, call a friend, heck, call another auto shop for a second opinion. Check auto part stores to see what they have available. Then call they back and tell them yes or no.

Three: Be assertive and involved. I am not assertive and I feel that that came around and bit me in the butt. I do think I surprised the mechanic when I asked about the recall on my car model. He hadn't even mentioned it (probably because the recall expired, but still).

I suppose at some point I could have gotten a man involved, and I had friends and fathers of friends offer. The thing is: it's my car. If I don't know enough about it, I should figure out enough to make things work. This is why I didn't bring a man in to help me deal with all of this. However, I provided a copy of all of their work and parts to a friend who knows more about cars and she gave it to her dad, who was upset. He knows a lot about cars and does a lot of work with them so if he says they were messing with me, I believe him. And as he is not making money off my car and his daughter is one of my best friends, he has no reason to lie to me. It is always good to have a couple of knowledgeable people around you whom you can consult. I still recommend dealing with the mechanics yourself. If we don't, we will never get anywhere.

I hope some of you can learn something from this. I know I did. Always, always check. Mechanics can give you parts and product numbers for everything and you can use that to take to another mechanic or to do your own research.

Good luck! And may you all be blessed with good, honest mechanics.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Easy Southwestern Not-chicken Crock Pot Recipe

A cooking post! Finally!

A friend of mine made a southwestern chicken dish which I modified and made today. Isaac and I enjoyed it very much.

1. Can of vegetable broth
2. Can of black beans
3. Can of corn
4. Small can of tomato paste
5. Half of a bell pepper, chopped
6. Two patties of fake grilled chicken (I use Morning Star's grilled "chicken" patties) cut into cubes

Mix everything together in the crock pot. I added some salt, pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper and a bit of cumin. I left the crock pot on high for about three hours and on low for another couple hours. I made some brown rice (takes about an hour on the stove top) and served the southwestern not-chicken over the rice! Tasty!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Insanity: Week Three

We made it through week three? "How y'all feelin?" As Shaun T. would say.

I should talk about Shaun T. He leads the Insanity work outs. And he always introduces himself as "Shaun T." "Hey this is Shaun T. Welcome to Insanity." In the Pure Cardio video he talks about himself in third person, "Shaun T. is tired." Yeah? So is Samara L. Weird right?

And he always says, "Push it harder! Push it harder!" And "Dig deeper!" And we talk to him. "I can't Shaun T. I'm too tired..." Or, more commonly, "You should just be glad that I'm still moving..."

Here is a video of him yelling at us. He's saying "Let's go!" but that's not really what it sounds like (he doesn't always enunciate very well). Shaun T - Lets Go! Ah, gotta have him yelling at us.

Our endurance continues to increase and we are starting to notice some muscle and toning, yay. Below is a picture of Jhenn's oh-so-awesome legs. Her thighs are getting nice and muscle-y. Apparently she puts on the toned muscle pretty quickly! Jealous.

Jhenn's sexy, sexy legs!
Week three started with the second fit test. The fit test is a series of eight exercises and you have a minute for each to do as many as you can. The exercises include: switch kicks, power jacks, power knees, power jumps, globe jumps, suicide jumps (sounds nice, right? "We're going into suicide jumps. Are you ready?" asks Shaun T.), push-up jacks, and low plank oblique. I know those aren't great descriptions, so here is a picture:

Of course, by the time you get to the end, you are too tired to do much anyway... It is a pretty good measure though. In two weeks I made pretty good progress!

Here is my sheet for the fit tests. That is day one (don't judge) compared with the first day of week three.

And sorry I am a day late on this post.

Friday, January 18, 2013

David Bowie and Other Oddaments

For those of you who haven't heard, David Bowie will be releasing a new album called "The Next Day" in March! On his 66th birthday, January 8th 2013, he released his new single, "Where Are We Now?"

Why is this a big deal? Because he hasn't released anything new in a decade! Not since "Reality" launched in 2003. So the David Bowie fans of the world should be in an excited uproar by now!

He, apparently, worked on this album in secret for two years. Maybe he was trying to keep his fans in suspense. Who knows? I'm glad he is releasing more music!

A friend of mine said that he can't help feeling like this is "goodbye" from David Bowie to the music world. I am not so sure. I think music is in that man's veins. I don't think he can help but let it out now and then. And I certainly hope this isn't the end.

On the plus side, it means that he will probably tour, which means I will need to break the bank to finally see him in concert. I am willing to go into debt if I could get a backstage pass or something. If I could see a show and meet him, I could die happy! Since it may be my only chance to see him perform, I will have to jump on it!

Here is his new single. The video is weird (well, does he have music videos that aren't weird? Let's not get ahead of ourselves), but the song is beautiful. And I so love hearing that voice again! (I mean, I have plenty of his music, but it's nice to hear it in a new song.) Where Are We Now?. Let me know what you think.

When I watched this, it struck me how much older he looked. If you aren't familiar with David Bowie, he aged tremendously well before his heart attack in 2007 during his Reality Tour in Germany. Here is one news article about it: The Sun: Bowie had heart attack.

David Bowie before his heart attack on Reality Tour
David Bowie in "Where Are We Now?"
I also thought, while watching the new single, "Wow, David Bowie kinda looks like Clint Eastwood." Which is funny because several years back when I finally watched "Paint Your Wagon," I thought Clint Eastwood looked like David Bowie. Am I on something?

David Bowie several years back.
Clint Eastwood around the time of "Paint Your Wagon."
David Bowie 2013
A recent picture of Clint Eastwood.
 I'm not the only one seeing this, right? Right?

Anyway, just listen to the song, eh?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Insanity: Week Two

We made it through the second week of Insanity! Hooray!

Oh the big black X's! We just live to cross off those days!
This last week my body (mostly my legs) have been less sore but more tired, if that makes sense. At least I can walk these days. My body grew accustomed to the work much faster than I thought it would.

We all continue to notice improvements. We start week three with the fit test and I will post about that next week. I'm a little nervous and excited. For me, the warm up is the best measure of my progress so far. I can already do soooo much more of it than I could when I started. Fast results!

At the end of week one I weighed myself. I will probably do this weekly for the sake of curiosity. I don't actually expect to lose much weight. I may actually gain pounds as I replace fat with muscle. Remember all, muscle weighs more than fat. However, I no longer see the weight I had gained in my face. It came off that quickly! I also took my waist, hip, and thigh measurements at the end of week two. That's where I hope to tone up the most. I feel like I am getting more tone but I haven't seen a lot of physical evidence yet. I don't know if I will be posting my actual weight and measurements, but I will left you know how it progresses!

We continue with our healthy snacks and weekly dinners. We skipped the hot tub a couple days this week, but that's alright.

Here are a couple references that I have used when picking out snacks. Perhaps this will help you out. (I found all of these via Pinterest. Seriously, I am always on there...)


Monday, January 7, 2013

Read a Book! Goals for 2013

I love to read!

Coolest staircase ever! I will do this one day! I found this on Pinterest.
I joined goodreads.com last March, right around the time I began blogging. If you love to read and you are not a member, I highly recommend checking it out! It is a whole online community for book lovers! What could be better? Plus, there are several authors on the site so you can follow them and see what they read. I have found some good books by following the readings and recommendations of a favorite author of mine, Tamora Pierce.

In March of last year, I set a goal to read 20 books by the end of the year. If you come to my blog and look around, you probably noticed my little widget on the right noting my progress. If you click there you can get to my goodreads profile and the books that I have read towards that goal.

Last year in about 10 months I exceeded my goal by 13 books. I do tend to read a lot of young adult books, however (and 3 were audio books which I have mixed feelings about posting... but I did not post the other 4 audio books I got through last year so I guess I'm even?). These are far below my reading level, but they are what I enjoy the most. Life is too short to read crappy books. This does tend to raise my book count. Keeping that in mind, I set my new goal for 45 books to read by December 31, 2013. Think I can do it? I hope so.

Feel free to keep up with my progress and my books. Make goals for yourself. I always encourage reading and there are oh so many good books out there. If you add me as a friend, I can see what you have read and liked. Lots of my friends' books that rate high end up on my "to read" shelf.

Plus as you read and rate books, goodreads will make recommendations. Awesome.

My recommendation from 2012 for people who enjoy young adult books: read Rick Riordan! I have been raving about the Percy Jackson books. I am accepting converts *wink*. Love 'em.

Another cool resource for book lovers: What Should I Read Next? It is a database of sorts. You type in book titles or author names and it will give you a list of similar books you might like. Love it! (I found this site via Pinterest as well. I am on there all the time these days.)

What are your reading goals for this year?

Insanity: Week One

That's right folks, my friends and I made it (mostly alive) through week one of Insanity! Yay!

The first few days my legs were so sore I could barely walk. Going down stairs was agony. Even the little fit test on the first day made me hurt.

I am proud to say that only one week later I have already noticed improvements! I think we all have. For one, we can move after the workouts and the next day. Second, we can get through more of the warm up than we could at first (I know it's just the warm up but if you haven't seen in, its a whole workout in itself...).

We have a few motivational things to get us through.
1) Probably the most important thing: we have each other to keep us going and we are establishing a routine. Moral support is wonderful!
2) Afterwards we share a nice, healthy snack: bananas, apples with peanut butter, pita and hummus, chocolate milk, protein shakes, cottage cheese, etc.
3) Most days we visit the hot tub in the apartment complex. Very nice.
4) At the week's end once we finish at the hot tub we make and share a healthy dinner. This week Kat made a veggie casserole.
5) At the end of the 60 days we promised ourselves a treat. Maybe a spa day or something similar.
6) And last but not least, getting to cross off the workouts on the calendar with a very decisive black X.
Photo taken by my workout buddy, Jhenn :)
YAY! We feel great about what we are doing and we can't wait to be in amazing shape!

Our tips if you are going to do Insanity:
1) See the list above for additional motivation and tips.
2) Do extra stretches of your own (we think his are bunk, honestly, they don't do nearly enough and no arm or ab stretches. His stretches also require you to support your body weight while you do them and usually our legs are too shaky to get a good stretch. So we do his and then we do more on the ground...).
3) I got this from a co-worker who is super-fit: after you work out and stretch, lay on your back and put your legs up against a wall. This helps get rid of lactic acid (so I am told). It seemed to help some and I guess it can't hurt!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

To 2013!

A new year once again. The time when we have to cross out the year every time we write the date because only after 2012 is on the page do we remember that it is 2013.

So, New Years' resolutions. People are funny about these, I think.

The idea is great. It's a new year! Turn over a new leaf! Gym memberships skyrocket! Dieting is the rage!

And then it's back to normal come March.

I think having a New Years resolution is great, but two things: be reasonable and stick with it.

I am making a promise to myself this year: be better with my money and get in better shape. If you are like me, relative goals work. I am not going to set specific goals right now, I just want to see how far I can get.

Last year I did not have a resolution but both years before that it was to improve my diet (both years in a row because there is always room for improvement and because I always had such bad eating habits. It took a while for me to get to a good spot.) Both years I did improve and looking back, I am proud and satisfied. And maybe a bit healthier. The way I ate was horrifying. I think I made entire meals out of junk food. Those days are, thankfully, over. So now I need to focus elsewhere.

I have been trying to get my finances under control for a long time now. I'm not great with money and I had and still have a decent amount of credit card debt. On top of that I really don't make a whole lot. Being a home-owner and possibly in need of a new car soonish means serious budgeting with my small earnings.

I have cut back my spending a lot within the past several months, which is great, but it never seems to be quite enough.

Most of my spending is when I go out with friends. So I need to place limits. More staying in, less going out. With friends or without. Another goal is that I do not go out more than once per week (unless there is a special occasion, friends visiting or some such). For my friends who are reading this, I hope you understand that I am not intending to blow you off, just to curb my spending. This is gonna be huge. And difficult.

As for working out--I am the lucky kind of person who hides weight well. I don't tend to gain a whole lot nor show what I do. Overall I am pretty slim. I am not doing this to lose weight. I need to be in shape. I have no stamina whatsoever and no strength. I used to, but it is all long gone.

Today a friend of mine and I started Insanity. Yep, that is happening. I also purchased an app called "Couch to 5k." I used it briefly (the free version) last year and liked it so I made an investment. I can't afford gym memberships so I am going to stick with Insanity for now and then do other workouts until it is warm enough to run outside (I will post what little workouts I find; I already have some lined up). That's the plan. I think I can handle it. If I get in better shape and save money, maybe I can start ballroom dancing or vaulting again. That's the idea. I hope you all will hold me to it.

What are your resolutions? And what are you going to do to stick with it?