Next Fitness Challenge: 20,000 Steps a Day!

Me in 2012, showing off the first time I hit 40,000 steps, on the Courtois section of the Ozark Trail. I finished that day just over 45,000, which is still my record. 

Me in 2012, showing off the first time I hit 40,000 steps, on the Courtois section of the Ozark Trail. I finished that day just over 45,000, which is still my record. 

Time to get back on track! After taking it easy last week (all summer?), I'm giving myself a challenging goal this week - 20,000 steps a day. 

I've been using a Fitbit One for years to track my steps. My regular daily goal is 10,000, which I hit most days. My weekly average is almost always over 70,000 and sometimes right around 100,000. So I while I'm not doing too bad, but I'm not doing anything amazing, either. 

Fitbit shows you how you rank compared to your friends, both on the app and the site. Until recently, my friends list was cluttered up with people I didn't really know. Some of those people routinely got 200,000 steps in a week, or more. I don't know how they did that, but it seemed so not doable for me that I didn't feel any sense of competition. 

Starting a week or so ago, I've been weeding out all the people I don't know in real life, which left me with a much stronger sense of competition. I don't know if that makes sense, to feel more competitive with people I know than I do with strangers, but that's how I feel. For the first time, I really want to get to the top of that list!

Unfortunately, the person at the top right now is averaging 22,000 steps a day, but I'm betting (hoping) she can't keep that up for long. :) 

What does it take to get 20,000 steps? It equates to approximately 10 miles of walking. Hazel's short, standard dog walk gets me about 4,000. I can easily get 10,000 on a relatively short hike (4 miles or so - I think I take more steps on rougher terrain). Working an 8 hour shift gets me anywhere from 7 to 15,000, depending on what I'm doing.

Running would get me a lot more steps for my time invested, but I haven't been running at all lately. 

The first three days of the week I work early shifts, so I'll take Hazel out after work for however long I need to in order to reach 20,000. On my days off, I'll go hiking (Thursday and Friday, if anyone wants to tag along!). The last two days of the week, I have later shifts, so I'll take Hazel on a long (maybe 5 mile) walk before I go in. 

One thing I've learned with the Fitbit is that getting a lot of steps requires either being on your feet for a long time, like I am at work, or making a concentrated effort through exercise. Activities such as working around the house or shopping do get you some steps, but not as many as you might think. I certainly can't do enough cleaning and shopping to hit 20,000 steps in a day. 

Anyhow, that's my plan to reach 20,000 steps a day. We'll see if I can get there!

Week 49: Exercise - 20,000 Steps

Update: 1% Savings Challenge

Sometimes the dog gets to hang out on the front porch, by herself. But only if she's on a leash and it's raining. Sorry, dog. 

Sometimes the dog gets to hang out on the front porch, by herself. But only if she's on a leash and it's raining. Sorry, dog. 

This week was supposed to be a fitness week. Despite my friend Katy giving me an excellent suggestion - stretching daily - that should have been easy, I have not done a thing. I haven't even wiggled my toes. 

So I guess I've kind of decided I'm taking a break. Skipping a week. The fitness weeks are usually some of my favorites, so I'll go back to it next week. This is the second week this summer that I've done nothing, and the first week I've passively skipped. In case you were wondering. 

In the mean time, I thought I'd write some updates on the longer projects I've taken on this year, such as the 1% savings challenge, the $400 food budget and, more recently, the capsule wardrobe

It was March when I posted about the 1% savings challenge, but we started in January. I guess I was afraid we'd drop the ball and not do it, so I waited until we had a few months under our belts to post about it. As it turns out, I didn't have to worry. We're still on track. As a matter of fact, we've saved a LOT of money, more than the 1%. I'm putting the challenge money in our savings and leaving the rest to sit in our checking account. There was so much in checking, as a matter of fact, that I didn't have to take money out of savings to cover our vacation in May. 

I've also been increasing my 401k contribution by 1% every month, hoping to bring the tax bill down a little bit. I won't say I don't notice the money being deducted from my paycheck, but it's not so bad once you get used to it. And I only notice the most recent amount. It goes down a tiny bit every 2 or 3 paychecks, depending, and I notice, then forget about it. Then it happens again, and I forget about it. I couldn't even tell you what my take-home pay was in January, but I know what it was last month and what it is this month. 

None of this would have been possible, however, if we hadn't committed to seriously cutting back on our expenses. I keep track of everything we bring in and everything we spend, so I already had a spreadsheet with our yearly expenses in every category. Eric and I looked at each category and decided where we'd try to cut, and to what extent. 

The categories we chose to focus on were: clothing, leisure, groceries, dining out, alcohol, and gifts. 

Before I tell you how we're doing, you might want to know how I come up with these numbers. Something tells me that if you're an accountant, this might make your head hurt, but it works for me. I compare the previous 12 months of spending (so right now, 8/7/14-8/6/15) to what I spent in 2014.There are four months of overlap, but it allows me to see the numbers decreasing without having to project into the future, which for whatever reason makes me nervous. Even though we've been spending a lot less than last year, I'd still rather use last year's numbers, you know, just in case we lose our minds and start spending all kinds of money again. 


Our most successful categories have been groceries (down 37%), clothing (down 38%), dining out (down 34%), and alcohol (down 22%). If you like real numbers better than percentages, in 2014, we spent $7374 on groceries. In the last twelve months, we spent $4645. I'll talk about this more in my hopefully upcoming post about the grocery challenge, but I haven't felt deprived at all, not in any of those categories. 


Leisure is up 2%. Leisure has a bunch of subcategories: media (music, books, movies), entertaining and going out, fitness, hobbies and the pool. We spend the most on going out, which includes going out for drinks, concert tickets, museum entry fees, etc. Then we spend a lot on fitness, such as replacing a Fitbit, entering a race, or buying some sort of gear. The other categories don't take much money, although you could argue that our dual Spotify subscriptions are wasteful. However, our musical tastes are just enough different that it's really better this way. I can only take so much Hot Chip and Daft Punk, for example. 

The other category we've failed to bring down is gifts. We went to five wedding last year, three of which we were in. This year, we have one wedding, and although we are in it, our financial obligation is low. So I thought for sure we could bring that number down. But we made some changes to our gift-giving that 1) brought up some accounting decisions and 2) didn't help our spending. 

This change was to favor experiences over things. So for mother's day with Eric's mom, we took the train to Hermann, Missouri, and toured some wineries. For father's day with my dad, we went shooting at the gun club. For Eric's brother's birthday, they played paintball. These were awesome experiences for everyone involved (personally, I would rather clean the house of a hoarder than play paintball again, so I opted out of that one). They were way more memorable than, say, dinner out or a gift certificate, or even a real gift. 

But they're not cheap. There's the cost of the recipient's part in it, and our part. I debated between categorizing our part as "gift" or what it actually was (usually leisure or dining out). In the end, I decided that if we spent money on something we wouldn't have otherwise, it was part of the gift. 

Money well spent? Definitely. Still, money spent is money spent. 


On the other hand, there have been some pleasant surprises! Categories we haven't been paying attention to, much less trying to bring down, have seen reduced expenditures.

Pet care is down 14%. Part of this is a result of not shopping as much and therefore not making as many impulse buys. Seriously, every store has something the dog would love. :) And one of our cats passed away this last year (RIP Leroy), but he spent most of his time at the neighbors, so that wouldn't account for much. The rest? A mysterious side effect of trying to spend less. 

Household spending is down 38%. This is a category I put all our regular, non-utility, non-project expenses in, such as cleaning, kitchen needs including small appliances, laundry, maintenance, and yard care. Again, I think this must be a reflection of less shopping in general, decluttering and the associated downsizing that comes with that, and getting used to "needing" less. I'm no longer thinking about what might look or be best. Now, I think about what we need, what we have, what will do, and go from there. Which usually leads me nowhere. Seriously, we have a lot of stuff!

Personal care expenses are down 20%. I attribute this to the fact that I now wear makeup only a couple times a week, and I've made an effort to use what I have before buying new products (you probably don't really want to know, but I might have been kind of hoarding personal care products). Our big expenses here, though, are really my haircuts and color, and supplements - neither of which has been reduced by much. 

Some other categories have seen changes, but nothing notable (transportation costs up a bit, electricity costs down a bit). We are actively trying to bring down our electricity costs, but we're on budget billing, so it's not easy to track. And transportation costs? If you go places, you have them. 

Feeling Deprived?

Overall, I'm very pleased with the way things are going. Although every cut initially feels like a deprivation, we adapt to them so quickly, I completely forget about feeling deprived and the new spending level becomes the new norm. I'm even considering lowering our $400 grocery budget, because it's started to feel generous.

The only area I struggle with is leisure. The problem isn't my $10 Spotify subscription. It's the concert tickets and going out! I love seeing my favorite performers live. I don't want to miss out. We only go to a few concerts a year, but it adds up. Especially if you tack on drinks beforehand, or souvenirs. I know we could skip those extras, but I'm not ready for that, not yet. 

We do try to stay home when we can, have people over, or go to their houses. But sometimes you just want to go out with friends. It's easier. Often, it's what they want to do. So I'm not to the point of saying "no" to all those things, or doing without experiences I really want to have. 

I know the "experiences over things" mantra works for me in these situations, but again, money spent is money spent. And this is where I'm choosing to spend it. 

Recently, I read a blog post (sorry, not saved) about cutting back, and that blogger brought up the issue of feeling deprived. If I remember correctly, the gist of it was to cut, cut, and cut some more, until you start to feel deprived. If you fail to get used to the deprivation, you've gone too far, and should increase your budget in that area. I like that idea. Because it allows me to continue spending in the leisure category. :)


Eric and I each get an "allowance" of $20, cash, that we can spend however we choose. Maybe it doesn't sound like much, but for both of us, it adds up to $2080 a year, or $173 a month, which isn't exactly nothing. We can do whatever we want with this allowance. Eric mostly spends his on food, from what I gather. He certainly doesn't have to report what he spends it on, so this is what I've put together from things he says and the occasional credit card charge he makes that he later tells me should be deducted from his allowance. 

And I have been spending mine on clothes. We knocked our clothing budget waaaay back, to $50 a month, $25 each, which isn't much. True, we own a lot of clothing already, and I'm only wearing 37 items of clothing total right now, but that's still what I'm spending on. I've purchased exciting things, including new bras (not really fair, considering how expensive bras are and how absent they are from Eric's clothing needs, but whatever), a swimsuit coverup and a maxi dress. I'm not including purchases I make strictly for work, I'm shopping in thrift stores some of the time, looking for sales the other times, and I'm still having trouble staying anywhere close to that $25 budget. Yay, allowance!

If you and your spouse do any sort of budgeting that doesn't allow for expenses you don't have to explain to each other, I highly recommend you add an allowance. 

10 Things I've Learned from Cutting Back

  1. Numbers are motivating. Seeing our expenses go down is a lot more interesting than seeing our savings increase (not that I don't like that, too, because I do). 
  2. I feel the pain of cutting back for a minute, then it goes away. 
  3. It's liberating to not be in the market for buying most things. 
  4. Now that I'm not eating out all the time, it's super exciting and great when I do. 
  5. I've already got most everything I need.
  6. As a matter of fact, I have too much, and getting rid of the excess feels great. 
  7. There is a lot of food here. If all the grocery stores went away, I bet we could survive for at least a month. Probably more. 
  8. Even a vice liking drinking can be made less expensive without sacrificing quality of experience. 
  9. I really value not sharing a Spotify account with Eric. Also, if he really wants to go see Hot Chip live, I'll go. 
  10. Not spending brings a sort of peacefulness that spending can't touch. I don't understand it or even know how to explain it, but spending less feels much calmer. 

Next Social Challenge: Talk to Strangers

This mushroom grew in a potted cactus on our front porch, which I'm pretty sure is weird loner behavior. 

This mushroom grew in a potted cactus on our front porch, which I'm pretty sure is weird loner behavior. 

Oh, here we are at another social/educational week, and once again I had no idea what to do. So I googled "challenges for introverts," because... right. 

I'm technically not a full-blown introvert. When I take the Myers-Briggs, I usually fall just to the introverted side of the middle, but sometimes I'm smack-dab in the middle. However, I identify with introverts. For instance, one of the challenges on my Challenges I'm Considering list is "go somewhere new everyday." Turns out I pretty much don't want to do that. I can do one - maybe two - new places a week. Where I really want to go is home. Sometimes I can get myself out of the house by going to places I've been before. But new places? Sigh. No thanks. 

Also, I don't particularly want to talk to strangers, but it seems doable. Starting tomorrow, because I already missed today. I talked to customers I didn't know at work, but for the most part we talked about work-related stuff. I did talk to one woman about the bad day she was having (someone hit her car in a parking lot - twice) (same person) (on her phone the whole time). But my job always involves talking to people, so that's not the kind of challenge I'm looking for. 

So, starting tomorrow, I'll see what I can do about talking to strangers. I hope saying hello counts, if I'm not at work. Since I'm making up the rules, I guess it does. It counts. 

If you feel like it, check out this list of 15 awkward social problems only introverts will understand.  I especially love 10, 12 and 14. 

Neighborhood Photos: Houses

I found time to take photos on two days, but didn't find time to blog at all, until today! Anyhow, today's theme is houses (and a bunny rabbit). 

Our neighborhood (bordered by Chippewa on the north, Eichelberger on the south, Kingshighway on the east and Hampton on the west) is made up primarily of single-family homes and two- and four-family flats. Most of the homes are brick, and most are four-squares Arts & Craft-styel, like mine, with wide porches, or Tudor-style, with pointed roofs, round doors, and no porch. In the northwest part of the neighborhood, you'll find a few ranches, some of which are even set back from the road, suburbs-style, which is weird, but no one asked me. 

As you can see in the pictures, our homes are close together. This doesn't bother me at all. It's cozy. And all those brick walls insulate sound pretty well. 

Our house. That white cat on the steps is Alfie. If he was a person, he'd be sitting on the steps all day, every day, talking to anyone who'd listen. You might also notice half of our lawn is dead. That was on purpose. Hopefully this picture will resurface later as the "before" pic in a post about putting a rock wall in our yard. Keep your fingers crossed. 

Our house. That white cat on the steps is Alfie. If he was a person, he'd be sitting on the steps all day, every day, talking to anyone who'd listen. You might also notice half of our lawn is dead. That was on purpose. Hopefully this picture will resurface later as the "before" pic in a post about putting a rock wall in our yard. Keep your fingers crossed. 

Lovely Tudors. Many of these have round-topped doors, which are adorable, but I couldn't live in a house without a porch. Okay, maybe I could, but I don't think I'd like it. 

Lovely Tudors. Many of these have round-topped doors, which are adorable, but I couldn't live in a house without a porch. Okay, maybe I could, but I don't think I'd like it. 

The most interesting house on our block, by far. This beauty has a lot-and-a-half, nice landscaping, and a side entrance. No porch - still a deal-breaker for me. 

The most interesting house on our block, by far. This beauty has a lot-and-a-half, nice landscaping, and a side entrance. No porch - still a deal-breaker for me. 

The row of four-families behind our house. I like them, but I suspect I'd like them a lot less if they were on my block. Four families = lots of cars. 

The row of four-families behind our house. I like them, but I suspect I'd like them a lot less if they were on my block. Four families = lots of cars. 

Many of the two-families like this one have been converted to single-family homes, including the one our next-door neighbors have. This particular home plays host to an unusually large squirrel population, which Hazel loves. Really, really, really loves. 

Many of the two-families like this one have been converted to single-family homes, including the one our next-door neighbors have. This particular home plays host to an unusually large squirrel population, which Hazel loves. Really, really, really loves. 

And the Most Awesome-est Landscaping Award goes to... This house always makes me smile. 

And the Most Awesome-est Landscaping Award goes to... This house always makes me smile. 

And there are bunnies everywhere this year. It could be the year of the rabbit. Except it's the year of the sheep, and sheep are cool, but I haven't seen a single sheep in Southampton. 

Next up: Green spaces and plant life.

Then: Lawn ornaments.

And maybe: Windows and doors, or businesses. 

PS: After I'd committed to this photo week, I happened to read something about Ali Edwards's "Week in the Life" project. 

"Week in the Life" goes way beyond photographing the neighborhood. Instead, you document your week in photos. Everything from the highlights to the people to the mess. Then you make a little photo book, documenting a week in your life. 

I love that idea! On the surface, it seems totally dull. Who wants to see my laundry? My view of the highway when I commute? Cat puke? More cat puke? But I can completely imagine how interesting it could be at some point in the future. I know if I had a "week in the life" book from, say, 1999, I'd be all over it. 

So some week later this year, I'll schedule a "Week in the Life" challenge. First, there'll be the challenge of documenting, then the added challenge of actually getting a book together. Did I mention I still have vacation photos from May that haven't made it from the camera to the computer? Despite the obvious challenge there, I'm thinking about making this an annual thing. Maybe I should see how year one goes. 

Week 47: Creativity - Photograph the Neighborhood



Next Creative Challenge: Photograph the Neighorhood

I live in South Hampton, the orange-ish neighborhood toward the bottom left. 

I live in South Hampton, the orange-ish neighborhood toward the bottom left. 

This coming week, I'm going to take photos of things I like in my neighborhood. I'll do a different street each day. I might post a picture of one thing, or many things, but at least one. 

I'm going to take the pictures with my phone, because that's easiest, and I'm lazy. When we went on vacation at the end of May, I took some pictures with my small camera and guess what I've done with those? That's right - nothing. 

Since I've been walking pretty regularly, it shouldn't be too difficult to add in some photography and share that here. And I'm looking forward to documenting some of the things I like about my neighborhood.

Each day I'll try to do a theme, such as my block, businesses, houses and/or gardens I like, the perimeter of the neighborhood, art in the neighborhood, etc. You get the idea. 

I don't want to make it so difficult I don't follow through, but I do want to keep it interesting. 

One other time in my life, I documented my neighborhood. That was in the days before digital, so I'd have to break out the scanner in order to share those photos, but after I did it, I wished I'd done that for every neighborhood I've ever lived in. Except one. I spent one year in a neighborhood I'd like to forget completely, but we won't go into that. 

Anyhow, if you like where you live even a little, consider going around and taking some photos of the place, especially the things that "make" the neighborhood for, and things that you like to share with others when they visit, or that you wish you could share. 

Week 47: Creativity - Photograph the Neighborhood

Meditation Experience Update

Hazel being her usual strange self. 

Hazel being her usual strange self. 

With one more day to go this week, and two more weeks to go in the meditation experience (which you can find here), I'm currently caught up on meditations. Twice I missed a day, but then I did two meditations the days after missing, so I'm not letting them pile up. 

This time around, I've found doing two in one day to be much easier. Who knows, maybe I'm getting more used to meditation in general. 

On the other hand, it's been a rough week both at work and outside of work, so meditating on the subject of "gratitude" (the meditation experience theme is "Manifesting Grace through Gratitude") has been kind of difficult. It's notably more difficult to conjure up feelings of gratitude when what you really want to do is run away, so I've been focusing on little things, like the cats, and basic things, like having a comfortable home with air-conditioning. Something tells me this isn't exactly the type of thing Oprah and Deepak had in mind, but it will have to do for now. 

Or, who knows - maybe I'll become less irritated with things because I'm meditating. 

But the meditation itself, which doesn't actually involve thinking about gratitude, is going fine. I guess I am grateful for that. 


Week 46: Mental Health/Spiritual - Meditation Experience

Compliments in Action

Nice moat! St. Louis is home to lots of new water features these days. 

Nice moat! St. Louis is home to lots of new water features these days. 

At the end of May, my Mental Health/Spiritual challenge was to give and receive compliments. This was the week before I went on vacation and included the first couple days of my vacation. 

There were no updates, which may have led you suspect that I a) failed to give/receive compliments or b) had some unexpected results. 

The correct answer is B. First, I realized compliments seem personal when I give them and sharing those I receive feels like bragging, so I didn't do it. 

I tried to make a point to compliment someone every day and as the week went along, the less effort it took and the more spontaneous my compliments became. I find it easiest to compliment things I can see. Physical things such as clothing, jewelry, smiles, cars, dogs, etc.

I remember a time when complimenting anything at all was more difficult for me. I'm a little shy, a little introverted, and I used to be a lot afraid of putting myself, and the things I liked, out there, even good things, like compliments. 

But I worked on it and now I can compliment appearance fairly easily and spontaneously. 

I find it more difficult to compliment actions such as dancing, interactions, nice things done for something else that I happened to observe - at least in the traditional complimentary way.

But I receive a fair amount of those "action" types of compliments and, at least to me, those carry a lot of weight. It means a LOT when someone notices something I do, versus something about my appearance. 

Not that compliments about appearance don't matter, because they do, especially when they come from strangers. A woman complimented my smile as I was crossing the parking lot at work and that was pretty awesome. In retrospect, I wonder why I was smiling as I crossed the parking lot. Anyhow...

I suspect that I simply need to get used to giving out "action" compliments, just like I got used to complimenting appearance and things. I'm completely comfortable complimenting strangers and friends on their appearance, or their "stuff," but not on what they do. I am now working to become comfortable with both. 

Also, I think it's important to note that thanking someone for doing something is not the same as complimenting what they did. "Thank you for cleaning the kitchen" is not the same as "Wow, the kitchen looks great." Depending on the situation, one may be more important than the other. Did someone do something specifically for you? There better be a thanks in there, and there might also be a compliment. Did someone do something awesome that happens to help you out? Give a compliment, followed by a thanks. 

But don't stress too much about it. Say thanks and give as many compliments as you can. You'll feel better and so will the people around you. 

Backhanded Compliments Revisited

My friend Margie recently shared her thoughts about what I wrote in the first post, about so-called backhanded compliments, such as "Wow! You look great! You've lost weight!" I thought such compliments were backhanded because they imply that you didn't look great until you lost weight. 

But the way Margie sees it, it's a compliment on the work you did to lose weight, which makes sense. Most of the time, a lot of effort goes into losing weight. It's not easy to do and it's hard to maintain. REALLY hard. 

Now that I've thought about how she sees it, I think Margie's right. Not that there aren't backhanded compliments, but compliments on losing weight might not be among them. 

But wait - weren't we just discussing the difference between complimenting appearance (the new thinner you) and actions (the work you did to lose weight)? If you get a compliment on how great the new, smaller you looks, go ahead and make the translation. It's probably easier for that person to compliment your appearance than your effort. They probably don't know ho you lost the weight, but I bet they're about to ask. 

Just Say Thanks

A week of complimenting often reinforced my opinion that the best possible response to a compliment is "thank you." I don't mind if you want to tell me where you got that awesome cat t-shirt, but I don't want to hear about how it's the oldest thing in your closet and you're thinking of sending it to the rag pile. Whoever complimented you put themselves and their opinions out there, so be careful not to say anything that will make them feel worse for doing so. 

That hardly ever happens, but it's uncomfortable enough when it does that it bears mentioning. 

Thanks for reading! You have great taste in blogs! :)


Dairy Update

Impossible to resist!

Impossible to resist!

3-2, dairy in the lead. 

This has been much more difficult than I thought it would be. 

First, I forgot to buy milk substitutes for the things I like, such as creamer and cereal milk. I don't know why, exactly, but lately I've had a craving for granola-type cereals. Also, I forgot to buy a dairy-free cereal. 

Then, I ate everything dairy at work one day. I started off great - I resisted eating a cream-filled Dunkin Donut several times. Because the world is cruel sometimes, no one else ate it for a looong time, so I had to walk past it about a gazillion times before it was finally gone. 

But, just when I thought I was safe, someone came in with a huge milk-chocolate-and-fudge covered cheesecake birthday treat for a coworker. At that point, it was clear I'd wasted all my willpower on that damn donut. And I had to eat the cheesecake. Then I ate cheese at a wine tasting. Sometimes, once I've failed, it seems totally reasonable that I should fail spectacularly. 

Three days I ate dairy, two I did not. Today is one of the "good" days, so there's still time, but we're having dinner with friends and I know they won't have anything with dairy because Eric will be there, and they know he can't eat dairy. 

I can't possibly say if not eating dairy makes me feel better, because mostly I've still been eating dairy. 


Week 45: Diet - No Dairy

Next Challenge Reminder: Meditation Experience Starts Monday!

FYI, cats and meditation don't mix. 

FYI, cats and meditation don't mix. 

My challenge next week will be the latest Deepak/Oprah Meditation Experience. This one's called Manifesting Grace through Gratitude.  It's a three-week course, with new meditations posted every day. Last time, the meditation were 20 minutes long and each one was accessible for 5 days, but I'm not sure if it's always that way or not, since last time was my first. Anyhow, you can click through that link to sign up and download the app. 

I keep revisiting meditation because I can't quite seem to make it stick! I manage to practice mindfulness maybe once a week or so, but I rarely sit down to meditate. I'm hoping that by continuing to do these free experiences, I'll eventually make a habit of practicing. 


Week 46: Mental Health/Spiritual - Meditation Experience

Food Waste Friday!

It's time for another thrilling episode of wastefulness! 

Today, I trashed part of a container of blue lunch meat (originally turkey) and a bag of salami left over from last month that I somehow didn't realize was still  hanging around. I composted part of a cucumber. And I froze some old celery and green onions to use making stock.

I also trashed about a quarter of the carrot cake I made for Eric a while back. It was sad, but it was time. I should probably make smaller things when I make baked goods. I think that carrot cake had about a thousand calories per bite, so it was rich.

I used the last bit of some taco meat on a salad yesterday and I'm pressuring Eric to finish off the seafood risotto he made last week. We've got a couple cooked hamburgers, which should be no problem to finish. 

Overall, not too bad, but more than I want to waste. I didn't do much shopping this week, hoping to eat through what we already have, which includes a lot of fruit. Gotta love fruit season!

Now that I've been doing this for a while, I think it really does help. I find myself thinking about what I can eat based on what's going to go bad first, and thinking about ways to keep food from spoiling, much more often than I used to. Cleaning out the fridge used to be pretty depressing, but not so much now. 

Next Diet Challenge: No Dairy

Pizza is much better with cheese. Just sayin.' 

Pizza is much better with cheese. Just sayin.' 

The challenge this week is to give up dairy. 

Theoretically, this shouldn't be that difficult. I was vegan for several years when I was younger. I was lactose intolerant before then, but I didn't realize it until I became vegan. My husband can't eat diary because it causes eczema flareups. 

However - I eat a lot of dairy these days. I don't drink milk, but I like cheese on my pizza, by itself, half-and-half in my coffee, ice cream, milk chocolate... I could go on and on. 

But I've been having some stomach issues and I'm curious if diary is causing them, so I figure this is a good way to find out. 

If you've never given up diary before, it helps to do some research, although modern food labels make it easier. Generally, you can read the line at the bottom that lists common allergens, and "milk" or "dairy" will show up there, if it's in the product. I still read ingredient lists even if milk isn't listed (usually on Eric's behalf), but you can save time by checking that statement first. 

Casein and whey are components of dairy that you'll sometimes see in ingredient lists, so avoid those, as well as the more obvious milk, cheese and butter. 

It's trickier dining out. Restaurants commonly butter buns before toasting them and sprinkle parmesan on appetizers before they hit the table. Steaks are often brushed with butter before they hit the table. Breading might contain dairy. Sauces based on mayonnaise  sometimes contain sour cream or buttermilk. Pies might have butter in the crust. If you really want to avoid dairy, you'll have to ask a lot of questions, or order items that won't contain any of those things. 

Since I'm still avoiding restaurants as much as possible as part of the 1% savings challenge, that part won't be too bad. I think my biggest challenge will be finding replacements for my comfort foods, such as pizza. It's been a long time since I was vegan and I've forgotten what foods used to work in that way!

But I can do it for a week, I'm sure. I might have to branch out and try new things, and that's usually a good experience. And maybe I'll solve the mystery of my stomach upset. We'll see!


Week 45: Diet - No Dairy


Missing Updates!

During my lazy month or so, weeks went by in which I posted new challenges, but didn't update at all. If you guessed that the lack of updates indicated a lack of follow-through, you might be on to something. 

I followed through on two weeks. The first was Compliments, which I'll post about separately.  The other was Do Nothing. Total success! I'm good at doing nothing. 

The other three weeks were fails, to one degree or another. 

Week 39, I planned to take 10,000 steps a day, even on vacation. As you can see from the chart, I failed on three days, with Sunday being the worst, barely coming over 3,000 steps. Monday, Friday and Sunday were travel days. We drove the most on Sunday and I got very little sleep the night before. My best day, Wednesday, I almost hit 26,000. That was the day we did some hiking at Mammoth Cave National Park. Although the average comes in over 10,000, my goal was to hit 10,000 every day, which I didn't do. 

Week 40, I tried to stay under my calorie goal with MyFitnessPal. I can't figure out a way to make a fancy graph with MyFitness Pal like I did with Fitbit, so you'll just have to trust me on this one. Monday, I had 298 calories left to eat at the end of the day. Tuesday, I went over by 900 calories. Wednesday, I went over by less than 100. Thursday, over by 200. Friday, over by A LOT. Saturday, over by 350. And Sunday, I was right on. Even without doing the math, that's an overall fail. With the math, I ate 3,000 calories too many. And I've got the extra pound of fat to show for it. Losing weight, or keeping it off, is HARD!

Week 41, I was going to read a short story everyday.  Granted, Alice Munroe short stories are long, but I'm still on the first one. I didn't even attempt to read it everyday. Fail.

Not a great month, but who's keeping score? Besides me? Haha. 



Food Waste Friday!

Not only have I been a lazy blogger, I've been lazy with food, too - even on vacation. 

Eric left some chicken wings in the car, forgetting to grab them when the valet took the car (forced valet parking threw us for a loop more than once). We lost some food to excess water in the cooler when we were at Mammoth Cave, and then some mice were very happy to find our bread, so we lost a little of that, too. Also, we overcooked a few potatoes while grilling. 

We didn't have much spoilage at home when we returned, because I'd cleaned up pretty well before leaving, but over the next couple weeks, I wasted quite a bit of food, mostly because I was too busy to take care of everything. 

Yuck! You can blame me partially for the avocados, but I don't even eat mangoes, so that's all on Eric. 

Yuck! You can blame me partially for the avocados, but I don't even eat mangoes, so that's all on Eric. 

Not one, not two, but three entire pineapples went to waste. I threw out a bag of liquefied red potatoes this morning, but on the bright side, solved the mystery of where that awful smell was coming from. One dry bagel went into the compost. A container of moldy strawberries. Two avocados and two mangoes. A container of grapes. I'm sure there's more that I'm forgetting. 

The lettuce I planted outside bolted, but then a friend took it for her bunnies when I pulled it, so it didn't go to waste. 

It's never too late to start over, right? Hopefully I won't have any waste next week. I'm realizing a lot of this is planning well - don't buy fresh produce if you're not going to be home to eat it, and take extra care on vacation and while travelling. 

Capsule Wardrobe in Operation!

I didn't change a thing about my wardrobe all week, but I wore nothing other than at-home lounge clothes (running shorts and old t-shirts) and work clothes, so I felt alright about that. Especially since there wasn't much time to go through the rest of my clothing. 

My entire summer capsule wardrobe, minus a few work shirts. 

My entire summer capsule wardrobe, minus a few work shirts. 

Wednesday, I finally had time! It didn't take as long as I thought it would (maybe an hour, all together). However, this is something you want to do when you're rested and thinking straight. I don't know about you, but if I'm tired, I want to hold on to everything

I attacked my closet in a good state of mind. I had the number "37" in mind, which is the Unfancy rule. She doesn't include jewelry, accessories, lounge wear, swim suits, bags, etc. Then there's the Project333 number, 33, which includes jewelry and accessories. 

Lately, I've been experiencing a phenomena I'd have to call "expanding stuff." As you may recall from my various decluttering projects, I've gotten rid of a lot of things, probably hundreds, if not thousands of things! I've gotten rid of all the stuff I have talked about (this and this and this and this), plus a lot more I haven't talked about here, including a lot of clothing. I've given clothing to friends, donated clothing, scrapped clothing... I got rid of some things just this last week! But there is still SO MUCH CLOTHING. What the hell is happening? 

So I opened my closet and thought I took a picture, but it turns out I didn't. Because I am a really great photographer, right? So you'll have to use your imagination. Imagine lots of clothing, a full spread of hangers, tall stacks on the shelves, and a plastic storage container full of dress shoes on the floor. 

Dresses and skirts, in three sizes, rarely worn.

Dresses and skirts, in three sizes, rarely worn.

I then looked to my left and saw all these dresses and skirts in what is technically Eric's part of the closet. Sigh. 

I tried everything on and was able to send a few straight to the donation pile, including one I've never worn or liked, and one that hasn't fit in years. Some I like, but they're either one size too big or small. I took those upstairs into my recently decluttered attic. I ended up keeping one dress, although I'm concerned that it won't work for weddings, because it's black. But I'll deal with that when it comes up. 

Empty hangers! Yay!

Empty hangers! Yay!

Next I took everything off the shelves and the hanging rack. I put back the things I knew I wanted to keep and counted - I was in the low 20s at that point. I decided to tackle my shoe cabinet next. First, though I emptied the plastic tub. I donated every single thing in there, mostly heels and bags I'd bought to go with dresses that are long gone. Then I moved my winter boots and summer shoes I didn't think I needed to the tub and took it up to the attic. That left me with 6 pairs of shoes - work shoes, two pairs of running shoes (old and new), flip flops, black flats and a pair of casual shoes. 

The giveaway/donation pile. 

The giveaway/donation pile. 

Thanks to all the room in the closet now, I decided to bring in the two jackets I wanted, and then I took the winter ones upstairs. So now when you look in the hallway coat closet, you have to admit that Eric was right - it was overcrowded with my stuff. 

So now I have 6 pairs of shoes in the shoe cabinet, 3 bags, 2 jackets, 5 work shirts (plus 3 more in the laundry), 10 tops, 1 dress, 5 bottoms, and 3 pairs of work jeans, bringing my grand total, not including accessories, to 38. I could easily part with a couple more work shirts, but I wanted to wait until they were all clean before I decided what else would go. 

I didn't count accessories, but I don't really accessorize much. Occasionally, I wear earrings. I did go through my jewelry last night and I got rid of another small bag, probably 20 pieces, but I'm going to leave the rest there and not worry about it. For some reason, I also had 6 wraps/pashmina type things, which I got down to 2. I like them more than I wear them. 

I took everything I wasn't ready to get rid of yet upstairs into the attic, along with some sweatshirts I definitely don't need now, the dresses, some work shirts and my winter coats. So if I can't make it through with these things, I can go upstairs and get more clothes.

But I honestly think I'll be okay! When I woke up this morning, I felt good about the closet. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes. Like I mentioned with the wedding-appropriate dress, I can see a couple things that might have to change, and I already know I want to replace my (cheap) black flats with something better. Only having one pair of flats, though, makes replacing them an easier decision. I know I won't be adding to the collection, but swapping something out. I don't know if I'll make the swap soon or later - I might wait until I put together my fall capsule, to see how this goes. 


Week 44: Household - Capsule Wardrobe


Next Household Challenge: Capsule Wardrobe

Me and my friend Jody - we've been friends since junior high! And my sundress, which has been traveling with me since 2013, but which I decided to upgrade after this last trip, because it's getting old. 

Me and my friend Jody - we've been friends since junior high! And my sundress, which has been traveling with me since 2013, but which I decided to upgrade after this last trip, because it's getting old. 

You may have heard about capsule wardrobes, Project 333, or some other similar wardrobe-paring program. Even Drew Barrymore put her closet on a diet

But if you haven't heard, the idea is to narrow your wardrobe down to a small number of items, then only wear those things for a three-month season. Depending on who you follow, the number could be 33, 37 or any other number that works for you. 

Generally, the capsule wardrobe is expected to include to everything except workout wear and underthings. It does include outerwear, accessories including jewelry (except wedding rings), shoes, work clothes, clothes you lounge around the house in, etc. 

I'm going to aim for 33 items, because I don't accessorize much. I think I can get through three months without a bunch of jewelry. I wear a uniform at work, with company-issued shirts and my own jeans or pants, so that helps a little, although it also means a chunk of my wardrobe will be shirts I can only wear at work. 

Curious how to go about this? Here are some guidelines from Project 333, and here's another version from Unfancy. I've been thinking about what to include and what to leave out, so I hope the process will be pretty easy. I'll share what I keep later this week. And although this is a weekly challenge blog, I do intend to keep this up for the full three months (and post updates, although I've been terrible at updates lately!). 

What's the point of the capsule wardrobe? For me, it's to simplify. Despite the fact that I've gotten rid of what seems like a ton of stuff, including clothing and shoes, I still have a LOT of choices when I get dressed, as well as some clutter - things that don't fit right, or aren't quite right for other reasons - and I'd like to get rid of that. 

When we went on vacation at the end of May, I tried to take the minimum amount of clothing. My bag was half the size of my husband's. I rewashed a few clothing items over the course of the trip, and I ultimately wore everything at least once, which might be a first. I bought one t-shirt that supplemented what I'd packed, but otherwise, I had just what I needed and nothing more. 

Packing that way felt like a gamble, but when it succeeded, it felt great. I liked having fewer choices when I got dressed. I think I'll like it at home, too. 

If you've ever limited your wardrobe or successfully packed lightly, I'd love to hear about it!


Week 44: Household - Capsule Wardrobe

Juneathon Update, Going in Circles, and a Little Pep Talk

Our belated Mother's Day train trip to Hermann, Missouri - good for making new friends, bad for exercise plans. 

Our belated Mother's Day train trip to Hermann, Missouri - good for making new friends, bad for exercise plans. 

Scorecard for the month so far: 20 activities for 24 days. Two activities occurred on one day earlier this month, which means I've skipped five days. Here's what happened on those five days: social engagements, travel, and (once) too much fun the day before. 

But I've been good this week. And I still have to walk Hazel today. We're going in about an hour, after the threat of thunderstorms has passed, and I suspect I'll be walking again either after Eric gets home. We're back to having only one day off together, which should be good for my writing habits. It's hard to write when there's someone around to hang out with. 

My exercise this week hasn't been amazing, by any means, but it feels good to get back on track. I have logged half a mile, one mile, and (yesterday) 2.75 miles. Hell, I might even run a little today. 

You might recall that back in January, I started Janathon while I was travelling. My first couple activities took place in San Diego, but I got the in despite my out-of-town status. I have five words for how that happened: First Thing In The Morning. 

Guess what I didn't do during Juneathon? Sure, I walked some while I was out-of-town, but not enough to map it with Runkeeper. Some days it wasn't even enough to log 10,000 steps, which is my daily goal. One day, I came in 16 steps shy of 10,000 - I'm sure I could have met my goal that day if I'd been paying attention, because I know I can get 16 steps, even in a hotel room. Sheesh. 

Anyhow, lessons related to fitness I've learned this month include:

  • If other people are involved in how my day goes, I need to make exercise my number one priority in the morning and get it out of the way.
  • Strolling around a city is not really exercise. Also, shooting might be a sport, but it's not really exercise. 
  • Even a tiny bit of alcohol will completely undo my resolution to exercise. 
  • Too much travel and too many all-day social events will make me so tired I won't want to do anything, ever - and I especially won't want to exercise. 

Sometimes it seems like I'm learning the same lessons over and over again. I read a lot of blogs and a lot of them give me the impression that the writers learn their lessons once and never have to circle around again, but that's certainly not how my life is going. 

I've spent some time thinking about the nature of doing "52 Small Challenges," in particular pondering what happens when I'm made it through 52. Come up with 52 new ones? Do the same ones all over again? 

Today, it seems like it doesn't matter either way. I'll be revisiting the same things no matter what. Maybe in a slightly different form, or with a twist, but the same basic things. Sometimes the exact same thing - I'm looking at you, exercise and meditation! And I'm okay with that. It's a process. 

Not to get all morbid, but with the ultimate endpoint being death (and it is, undeniably), I'd rather focus on the process than the end. Life is a process. Try new things. Fail sometimes. Try again. It's okay. 

You know that saying, something like "Idiocy is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results"? I used to think that was smart, but now I'm seeing it as limiting. It doesn't matter if you're doing the same things over and over again, hoping they'll work this time, as long as you're trying something. Sooner or later a new approach will show its face, and you can try that But until then, keep doing something!

I'm going to get dressed, take the dog out and try again to start a running routine. There's nothing to make me think it will work better this time than it did last time and you know what? I don't care. 

Week 43 - Exercise - Juneathon

Next Fitness Challenge: Juneathon

Me and Eric with our friends John and Maddisson, and their kids,  back in 2010, doing the Macklind Mile. 

Me and Eric with our friends John and Maddisson, and their kids,  back in 2010, doing the Macklind Mile. 

This is the last full week of Juneathon! I was doing a great job up until the company party, then I failed again last weekend, too, because between a belated Mother's Day celebration with Eric's mom, and a father's day celebration with our dads, we had a lot to do!

I know my excuse is no excuse, but there it is. Every day I missed, I could have solved the problem by taking the dog around the block first thing in the morning. I know, I know... This is why it's so important to have good habits, but somehow, sometimes, my habits leave a bit to be desired. 

I'm hoping to make it work this week! I took the dog on a short walk after work today, despite the fact that it's about a million degrees outside. Surely I can at least get that much exercise in every day for the rest of the week. I will certainly try, despite my very strong desire to continue doing nothing, unless it's absolutely required of me. 

It helps that we're signed up for a one-mile race this weekend, the Macklind Mile. It's a downhill race right here in our neighborhood, so no driving required. In previous years I've run it with no training whatsoever, so I'm not worried about my performance. Did I mention it's all downhill? 

If you have it in you, join me in finishing up the last week of Juneathon!

Week 43 - Exercise - Juneathon

Next Social Challenge: Do Nothing!

It was foggy when we were in Chicago this past weekend!

It was foggy when we were in Chicago this past weekend!

For my next social challenge, I'm giving myself a break and not doing anything. I haven't been able to get back into my regular blogging habits since we went on vacation, so this week I'm giving myself a pass. I have a couple things I could write about, including my minimalist vacation wardrobe experiment (hint: it worked!), but no time to write. 

I'm still doing Juneathon and have only missed one day (and that might even be a pass, depending on how you look at it). That takes up some time. We traveled last weekend for a work party, and this coming weekend we have plans with our families all day during both of my days off. But after that, my schedule opens up again and I should have more time to write or, at the very least, fewer excuses for not writing. 

So go ahead and give yourself a break, too. Say no to things you don't want to do, and don't ask anything extra of yourself this week. It'll be a nice change. 

Next Creative Challenge: Read a Short Story Every Day

Although I haven't been posting much, I have been doing the challenges, and I promise I'll post an update on everything very soon! Sometimes it's difficult to come back from vacation and get right into the swing of things, but I'm starting to come around again. Most posts soon, I swear!

The next challenge is a creative one and I've decided to read a short story every day. I'm going to read stories by Alice Munro, from her book Family Furnishings: Selected Stories 1995-2014, which my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas. I intended to take it with me on vacation, but ended up taking only my Kindle, because it weighs less than a single book in general, but definitely less than this hardcover I have here. 

This challenge will help me carry on with my previous goals of reading on my lunch break and reading in bed, both of which I've been awful about since returning from vacation and the binge reading I did while I was away.

If you've got a volume of short stories you've been meaning to pick up, now's as good a time as any! 

Juneathon! Day 1

It's time to exercise every day again! You may recall back in January I did Janathon and, although I missed a couple days, still managed to get in 30 exercise sessions. 

Since then, there's been a steady decrease in how much I've exercises, with February, March, April and May coming in at 19, 14, 12 and 10 exercises sessions each. 

I love the idea of doing a month of exercising every day, every six months. Hopefully I won't slack off between Juneathon and Janathon, but it's always good to have a set point to get back on track.

For Day 1, I took Hazel on a one and a half mile walk, her usual route. Nothing too exciting, other than some Monopoly money abandoned in the grass on the side of a yard, which I didn't think to take a picture of. 

If you're thinking about starting or resuming an exercise plan, now's as good a time as any! Let me know if you decide to join in on Juneathon. 

Week 43 - Exercise - Juneathon