My New Years Resolution Twist

Every year since as long as I can remember, I made a new years resolution I “promised” to stick through the whole year. From giving up soda pop or candy to working out more frequently and eating healthier. Two weeks into January, I’m still respecting my goals and pushing towards it, but by my birthday in March, I’m back to my old ways, already forgetting I even made that goal in the first place.

Now, I don’t think I’m alone here. We all make these goals and wishes- I will diet, I will recycle, I will this, I will that, but once its been a few weeks, we lose any spirit the “new year” brings and revert to our old habits. That is why this year, I’m choosing to NOT have a grand New Years Resolution. Since my trip out to Denver, I’ve focused on slowly improving small aspects of my life. From eating healthier, to being more active on a daily and weekly basis. Trying to improve each of these one by one has made it easier to grow. Since my time out here, I’m cooking more and eating MUCH healthier and not snacking.

So here’s the plan. I still want to rock out 2015, and by doing so, I want to continue to focus on growing, but rather than making some grand plan to how I’m going to improve my life, I’m going to make mini goals throughout 2015. Since I usually forgot about everything after about a month, each one I’ll make a new goal and attempt to continue the last. Let’s see how well I can keep this one up!


 

January: Weekly Meals Under $100

This has already been a goal of mine for sometime, but this month, I’m going to make sure it happens. Whether I use coupons, search for specials, or make my 3 ingredient meals, it’s gonna happen, and I’ll post all the meals to assure you can too.


 

February: Start Reading a New Book Every Month

This used to be a great old habit of mine, but I have gotten distracted with jobs, social invitations, and just general life shit that has gotten me to stop. On my flight home for the holidays I enjoyed two books which made me realize how much I missed reading. Working on this… If you have any solid book suggestions, please comment them!


 

March: Go Somewhere I’ve Never Been

So, I’ve got a big birthday coming in the spring, and I want to make sure i make the best of it. I usually go out with lots of friends, throw a party, etc. I love a celebration, but this year I want to adventure to somewhere unknown. I’ve been looking up a few places around Colorado and I think I’ve found a few spots that will hit the spot.


 

April: Only Check Social Media Once A Day

Working in technology, I have so many stats about how we interact with our devices. The average consumer spends up to two hours of their day on their phone… Seriously? That’s 14 hours a week, at least 56 hours a month.. And thats not including laptops, televisions, and your tablets. We spend so much time staring at screens instead of having real interactions. This goal is certainly going to be a tough one, but I think it can be done.


 

June: Adventure a new hiking trail every weekend

Being in CO, I think its an obligation that  should be enjoying the great outdoors. We are in one of the most beautiful places in the country, and I should be taking advantage to be exploring every part of it.


 

July: Make the Bed Every Morning

I mean I know it only takes a few minutes, but come on, there is no excuse to not come home to a clean bed.


 

August: Stop Checking My Phone when I’m out with friends

You’re with the all the people that matter and this present moment. Think back when your parents were growing up. They maybe had a single house phone that everyone shared. If you were out with friends, you weren’t checking up on the 200 bagillion other people you know… You were enjoying the present and living it up with those who surrounded you.


 

September: Working out 3 times a week

Alright, I know this is extremely below average, but we all have to start somewhere! I used to be so active through school, but in the working world, I just come home exhausted every day and barely have the energy. Exercise releases endorphins that not only make you happy but give you more energy, meaning at the end of the day, maybe I won’t be completely exhausted. Regardless, at least one day a week and Saturday/Sunday, I’ll be found at the gym jogging.


 

October: Start Doing Morning Stretching (and yoga.. if I can remember it)

Being a dancer, I used to stretch out at least 2 times a day. I felt so limber and my muscles never felt too tense. I wish to go back to that. Im a young spritely women, I shouldn’t be a lazy fat bastard when I’m not even 25.


 

November: Make a Turkey

This will be my second Thanksgiving without the family, and hopefully my first time hosting a pot luck event. As the hostess, I’ve deemed to be the turkey as the priority of the meal (duh!) and with that, I must ACTUALLY buy a turkey and somehow figure out how to cook/broil such a monstrosity. Challenge Accepted.


 

December: Help put a smile on someones face everyday

Back in Ohio, seasonal depression was a real thing. If you’re not around family or friends for the holidays, this month can be tough! I want to make sure I’m doing my best to make the best of the holiday season by bringing christmas cheer to anyone I can. Whether its complimenting a coworker, or helping someone with their bags, we all could use a little pick me up here or there.


 

 

 

 

12 DIY Holiday Crafts to Gift

Christmas is my favorite holiday. Between the snow capped mountains and holiday cheer, Christmas time brings welcoming feelings to share with friends and family. Now when it comes to the office, it can be a challenge to give something to all those people around you, which is why crafting sweet treats and thoughtful jars filled with love mean more than a cheap something bought from the store. The ideas below are some that from my experience, people have really enjoyed and they weren’t terribly expensive either.

 

1. Hot Chocolate Mix

MJ- hot chocolate

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix by Liz

2. Brownie Recipe Mix

MJ browniemix

Brownie Mix Recipe by Linda

3. Mint Body Scrub

mintscrub

Mint Body Scrub

4. Pancake Mix

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Delicious Pancake Mix

5. Money or Hidden Treat

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A truly special center

6. Cinnamon Scrub

White-Cane-Glimmer-Sugar-Scrub

Cinnamon Vanilla Body Scrub

7. Red Velvet Cake 

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Red Velvet Cake

8. Candy Sleighs

sleigh candy on

Ellyn’s Candy Sleighs

9. Hot Cocoa Cones

hotcocoa

Hot Cocoa Cones by Jess Marie

10. Crayon Ornament

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Crayon Colored Ornament by Falafel and the Bee

11. Metallic Ornament

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Mercury Glass Ornament

12. Tinsel Ornament

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Tinsel Everywhere!

 

 

How To Be an Interior Designer on a Budget

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I’ll admit, I’m some what of a shopaholic, but when it comes to moving, you have to learn frugality. Just because you’re on a budget, though, does not mean you need to skimp on the dazzle. My entire apartment cost less that $1,000. That is everything from my couches, television, plates, mattress, and tables all the way down to my kitchen utensils and Rolex clock on my fireplace.

 

Rule 1: Become a Deal Seeker

If it is full price, you’re not buying it (Exception: You found a sick coupon off their website, because you’re actually prepared). I got my $2,500 living room set from a girl off Craigslist. I had been sharking the furniture section for days. Was it worth it? Absolutely. She even threw in her designer pillows and wooden entertainment system too for the same price, which did I mention was $150? Don’t be afraid to barter!

**I found most of my stuff off Craigslist (People post immediately and about everything from moves to garage sales) & Thrift Stores (Restores, Goodwill, Consignments, etc.)- It may require a bit of a hunt, but you’ll find a diamond here and there.

 

Rule 2: Get Crafty

flowerUp-cycling used products and creating your own works will help you save so much money. Instead of spending $30-100 on a framed piece of art, get creative. Go to a thrift store and find an old frame you like. Measure it, and find a photo you like that you’ve previously taken. I took a photo I took from the Botanical Gardens in Washington D.C. Send it over the the pharmacy to fit the frame. Save yourself a good amount and make your home feel a bit more of your own.

This article I found off Harper’s Bazaar online gives a bunch of great ideas. I know I’m currently trying to find a fun crafty version for a bookshelf!

Here are some great craft ideas for your home.

 

 

Rule 3: Garage Sales ROCKfinalgarage

If you can find a nice home’s garage sale, you just hit the jackpot. I found most of the garage sales in the local paper, but especially off Craigslist. During the fall, many neighbors will even post specific items so you know if that should be a place to go. I got my entire kitchen plating, matching mats, and more for under $30 from a nice girl on the south side of Denver. Not only can you bargain with these people, but if you’re new to the area, it gives you a chance to spend a weekend exploring the neighborhoods around you and getting to know the area. You can plan your entire day off Google Maps, but picking out the houses with garage sales, thrift stores on the way, and maybe even a lunch spot for break time.

 

Managing the Grocery Store

groceries

Here are a few tips I’ve figured out.

Plan out Recipes ahead of time

Ladies, this is the time to hop onto Pinterest, and search it up. Find a bunch you like, and save them to a board. Then, go back and decide which are best with your specials in the area. This weeks list for me is as follows. I always like to get some recipes and look at how I can maybe change it up as I go.

Recipes
Name Original Link
Zuppa Toscana Soup http://www.cookingclassy.com/2012/12/zuppa-toscana-soup-olive-garden-copycat-recipe/
Slow Cooker Clam Chowder http://thesuburbansoapbox.com/2014/02/21/lighter-new-england-clam-chowder/
Slow Cooker Pork Tacos http://www.keepingyourcents.com/good-eatin-recipe-hop/
Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Casserole http://www.dizzybusyandhungry.com/crockpot-cheeseburger-casserole/
Honey Glazed Baby Carrots http://damndelicious.net/2013/11/25/honey-glazed-baby-carrots/
Brussel Sprouts http://www.keviniscooking.com/roasted-brussels-sprouts-balsamic-vinegar-honey/
Garlic Roasted Potatoes http://damndelicious.net/2014/07/23/garlic-parmesan-roasted-potatoes/
Honey Walnut Shrimp http://damndelicious.net/2013/07/16/honey-walnut-shrimp/#nonCarded=1
Skinny Broccoli Salad http://www.skinnymom.com/2011/11/22/skinny-broccoli-salad/

Organize Your Grocery List

The worst thing that can happen is coming home and realizing you forgot that one key ingredient. A list is a guide to your store time, saving you time and potential grief. This is my weeks groceries (keep in mind, if you’re doing all the recipes I chose above, you may need a few more things. I chose these recipes because I already had certain things- like kale and potatoes)

Groceries
Produce Meat
2 heads fresh broccoli, chopped 4 lb pork shoulder
1 head fresh cauliflower, chopped 1 lb chopped clams
1 Red Bell Pepper 1 50-count bag littleneck clams
1 Green Bell Pepper 1 lb italian sausage
1 Red Onion Bacon
2 Tomatoes 1 lb medium shrimp
Fresh Parsley 1 lb lean ground turkey
2 Anaheim peppers Dairy
Cilantro Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 Large Onion Tricolor Slaw Mix
2 Celery stalks 2 Half & Half
Garlic Cloves Low Fat Milk
Fresh Thyme Shredded Cheddar
Russet or Yellow Potatoes Boxed
1 1/2 lb Brussel Sprouts 12 Corn Tortillas
1 bag baby carrots Cornstarch
Onion 3 (14.5 oz) cans Chicken Broth
1 Medium Tomato Fresh Dill?
Seasonings Consended Milk
Green Olives Mayonnaise
Ranch Dressing Pickles
Salt
Lime Juice

Know the Specials

Sprouts, a great local marketplace around Denver provides a booklet of monthly specials, and another for weekly specials. Take advantage of these! Pick your recipe’s by what’s on sale or in season.

Boxed vs. Fresh

There are times to hit up your local super market and there are items you’re just better off at getting at the Superstore right down the road. I am weary of Walmart produce, but you cant beat most of their canned good or dairy prices. I know, I know, it can sometimes to be a bit of a chore to stop at two store in your grocery shopping, but your wallet will be thanking you.

Walmart:

  • Canned Vegetable, Fruits, Tomatoes
  • Chicken Breasts or Drumsticks (can be down to $1.99/lb)
  • Dressings
  • Dairy Products (Stick Butter, Milk)

Produce Store (I Use Sprouts out here in Denver):

  • Vegetables
  • Onions
  • Meat
  • Fruit
  • Specialty Cheeses

Save Receipts

I just recently began pushing myself to do this, and trust me, it is worth it! First off, you can start budgeting weekly groceries by following your spending behavior. Now if you’re REALLY on top of things, log everything in a spreadsheet. It will allow you to see where you’re spending the most. I also keep receipts so I can remember any good deals from last week.

 

grocery-lists

Why Every Twenty-Something NEEDS a Slow Cooker

Welcome the the 21st Century where the food will cook themselves. Since my journey to independence began, I’ve traditionally been a stove top cooker. Which, yes, it works. It uses a lot of utensils and pots, and usually requires your complete attention from 45 minutes to 3 hours. This is where the true joy of slow cooker is understood. Spend about 15 minutes prepping, combine in slow cooker, and leave for your day as usual. Now I know that by Wednesday, there is no chance I want to come home and spend 2 hours whipping up a meal. Crock pot meals are easily as tasty and far less work.

Here’s why it’s a worthy investment.

You’re not rich… yet

Eating well and on budget surely has it’s challenges. Fortunately there are so many affordable meals that last you for days. Crock pots are really great at turning a whole bunch of cheap ingredients into a delicious, full-flavored meal.

Time is work

For those you who haven’t gotten the process of creating slow cooker meals, it’s about a 20 minute process to prepare your dinner. Last week, I woke up 15 minutes early every day, prepared that days meal, through all the ingredients in the crock pot, set it on low, and went to work without a worry. The best part about a long day at work, is walking into your home and smelling a sweet, magnificent meal awaiting to be devoured. (Some of My favorite Slow Cooker Meals here.)

You’re not a master chef

Yes, I have a man that loves me regardless of my meal flops, but let’s be honest- i want that to be minimal

IT IS AS EASY AS PUTTING THAT GREASY ASS PIZZA IN YOUR OVEN 

Spend the extra 10 minutes before you go to the store. Go past the freezer section, grab a few things and build a meal (at the same cost) as that pizza, but with some actual nutritional value.

Football Party Touchdown

Can you say Buffalo Chicken Dip? One of my favorite old standbys, this recipe is a hit for everyone and doesn’t take a lot of work! If spicy isn’t your style, Pulled Pork Sandwiches might be up your alley.

Your coworkers will envy you

Don’t let your lunch be systematic. My first month at my new office, I stuck to your basic sandwiches or chicken on a mixture of greens. Though you can make a pretty mean salad, it does get a bit old. Once you start making slow cooker meals, you’re bound to have lots of delicious left overs for the next few days.

Finding that Home Sweet Home

Yes, I lived in a Super 8 Motel for almost 2 weeks. Was it worth it? Yes. Am I ashamed of it? Slightly.

One thing you have to realize before moving somewhere new, is obviously living quarters. Unfortunately, when you don’t know the good and bad neighborhoods, it’s a bit weary signing a 12 month lease before even scouting out the place. What I found most effective was coming out here with areas and spots to look into further. Once I got my job, my boyfriend and I really began the search. Here are some key things to remember in apartment decision making

1. Is this place REALLY in my budget?

Don’t sugarcoat it. If you have a budget for $600 monthly, don’t overshoot with a place $150 out of budget and tell yourself “I’ll make it work.” You’re not doing yourself any favors. Pick modestly. Once you get a few more job promotions, look into a place with more swagger.

2. Convenience

This was a tough one, since Kyle and I were working in 2 different cities, so finding a place in the middle was crucial. If you live on the north side of town, don’t move to the southwest side just because their porch “is the best thing ever.”

3. Look for faults

I’m the worst when it comes to apartment searching. I walk in and the place with shiny, pretty light fixtures and a pretty view always gets my vote. Don’t just look for the good stuff, search out the bad stuff- likes cracks in the ceillings, uneven floor tiles. Be Skeptical!

4. Night Owl

Once you’ve narrowed the search, stop back at the potential locations at night! You want to make sure it’s a safe, well lit neighborhood.

There’s An App For That

To Help Your Travels

Apps that make your Road Trip a Bit More Smooth

Most people nowadays have a smartphone. Whether you side with Android or iPhone, everyone has apps that they like and use everyday. Having technology so easily at your fingertips provides the ability to organize and plan out an efficient, cost-effective trip. Through a bit of searching, I’ve created this list of my favorite apps that we utilized throughout the trip and since we have arrived.

Gas Buddy gbuddy1

  • My favorite app of all and here is why:
    • Trip Cost Calculator: I planned all my gas stops via their website BEFORE leaving. (Although we didn’t stick exactly to the stops, it was very insightful to see which cities were cheaper- or the entire state of Iowa) It was also convenient to get a ballpark of total gas price for the drive.

Find Gas Near Me: If we weren’t using the route given, the homepage of the app uses GPS to see all gas stations around you with their prices in a list. If you’re on the highway and don’t want to go far from the main road, there is a “Map” option (instead of “List”) at the top to see all the gas stations down the route your headed.

Google Maps

  • If you have an iPhone, download this app instead.
  • It is constantly reevaluating the best route to where you are going, considering traffic, etc. If there is an accident, it’ll show you (BEFORE it’s too late) a route that may save you 5 minutes.

Road Trippers

  • Great for finding food, parks, hotels, and fun stops along the way
  • You can plan your trip (From A to B) and see what is in 0-50 miles from your planned route
  • Add points and have your entire trip routed on a visible map that links to contact info and websites.
  • Searchable Options Include:
    • Accommodation
    • Attractions & Culture
    • Food & Drink
    • Nature
    • Points of Interest
    • Camping & RV
    • Entertainment & Nightlife
    • Services
    • Shopping
    • Sports
    • Scenic  Drives

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  • Maps Engines Lite (Google)

Things BEFORE the Big Trip

Emergencies, Conveniences, & Under the Hood

Before heading out on any long distance trip, there are a few things that might come in handy if you equip your car with.

Covering All The Bases

  • Umbrella: Unless you’re headed to the dessert, a large and purse sized umbrella will come in handy
  • Snow Brush: Not for everyone, but as I head into the rocky mountains, something tell’s me my car sitting in the uncovered, open parking lot in December might need some attention
  • Maps: Technology is great, but its always good to have a map just in case of emergency (car dies, lack of phone signal)
  • Flashlight
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Blankets
  • Mace
  • Tool Kit

    Under The Hood

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  • Oil Change: Our drive was 1,355 miles. My car needs oil roughly every 3-4,000. Do it before so you don’t have to worry about it.
  • Car Tune Up: if you take your car to NTB for an oil change, they’ll take care of a full car check for you
  • Fluids
  • Check Your Tires

Tetris 2.0: Packing for Your Move

 Welcome to the ultimate challenge! 

A game of puzzles, patience, and strategy

Trying to fit everything in your car safely and efficiently can take some time. It took us 3 moves to get it down to a science, but I think we figured out the most effective ways to get the job done.

IMPORTANT: When packing your car for long distance, it is crucial you distribute the weight of your luggage somewhat evenly throughout your car. (If the car is “back end” heavy and it rains, you lose a great deal of traction on your front tires)

Before Loading Up:

  • Everything must be in a bag, box, or container. Having loose items is never a good idea.
  • Containers are your new BFF’s. Seriously. These rectangular beauties will make your game of tetris all that much easier, along with your suitcases.
  • Set everything in one area to get a REAL idea of what everything you need is
  • CLEAN YOUR CAR: GET ALL THE JUNK, TRASH, & STAINS OUT. No excuses.

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Getting Started:

  • Begin with the biggest, squarest things and work smaller
  • Lay them across the bottom (don’t forget- distributing weight is good, so don’t just stack all your heavy containers above each other
  • TIP: Make sure there is room behind the driver and passenger seats. (Reclining for sleep, driver chair adjustment, etc.)

Nearing the End:

  • The final objects you still need to fit (things like backpacks and makeup/shaving kits) are great to fit into the little space between the containers. They are both safe and stabilize the surrounding objects from moving while driving.
  • Long distance drivers should TRY and make their rear view mirror visible.

They’re Out of This World

cartop

cartoppacked

 

So I would just slip this into my other tips of packing, but once you see these photos, you will understand.

Space Bags are the bomb. Why? Because you pretty much DOUBLE your clothing space for packing. (And trust me, I didn’t believe the cheesy infomercials either.) Kyle and I got a car top carrier that literally went from being full from a few winter coats and blankets, to transporting the majority of condensable clothing.

TIP: We did originally try backing them into out suitcases, but found it much more advantageous to save those for the nice clothing. With the majority of our clothes over top, much of the trunk space opened up.

spacebags1 final1