Monday, December 17, 2012

Happy Holidays

Hanukkah ended this weekend :) Christmas is right around the corner. And New Year's is just waiting to happen. Whatever it is you are celebrating, we hope you are celebrating it well.

As the new year approaches we all start thinking about what can we do next year?
When you think about what you want to do and achieve next year, don't forget to reflect on what you have already done (or haven't).

What we did:
  • We adopted a stray kitten. And although he destroyed the carpet in his room, we would do it again and again and again. It just means that our home improvement plan (get rid of the carpet in the house) will have to be implemented sooner than later.
What I did not do:
  • Graduate with my PhD. I told myself I would. But it did not happen in 2012. In 2013 it will.
What we plan to do:
  • Set up a retirement account. And if you, dear reader, don't have one yet, you should do that too. Do you know why? Because time is just flying.
Take care!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

o well

Let me apologize for lack of posts. Life has been very busy recently. The husband has a lot of homework (I know we are too old to be doing homework) and I have my dissertation and other projects to work on. There has been little time for writing cooking or let alone grocery shopping. The only reason we will actually run to the store is because we are out of cat food...

I promise we will be back soon with posts and recipes and hopefully a fridge with stuff in it (we are even out of garlic, I don't remember when that happened last)...

On a side note, I got a real job! Full-time with benefits and all. After years and years of education finally a real proper income. :)

Take care and be safe!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Soup, Soup, Cauliflower Soup: Recipe Monday

On Sunday, the temperature suddenly dropped in the heart of Texas and we got the chills. The husband and I spent some time outside mowing the lawn, then grocery shopping, and then it was time for dinner. I felt like soup, well because I WAS COLD. And we had a head of cauliflower in the fridge that needed to be eaten very soon. I had recently read/watched a recipe for Cream of Cauliflower soup over on Food Wishes and I thought I would give it my own vegan twist. The soup was creamy, filling and made me feel so much more comfortable.

Here is what you will need to make this comfy fall soup:

  • a glob of olive oil
  • 1/2 a onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 potato, peeled and quartered
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cleaned (remove outer leaves) and cut into chunks
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or stock
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • a splash of soy milk,about 1/3 cup (or regular milk if you prefer, you can also use cream)
  • salt
  • cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  1. In a large pot, heat up the olive oil over medium heat and add in the chopped onion and celery with a generous pinch of salt. Let the veggies soften for about 5 minutes.
  2. When the onion is translucent, add in the garlic (no need for chopping), potato and cauliflower. Add the veggie stock/broth and the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Then let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes until the potato is soft.
  3. Use a stick blender to puree the mixture to a smooth soup. We don't own a stick blender, so I used a regular blender to puree the soup. For that make sure to follow this method so that you and your kitchen don't get hurt*: Fill the blender only half way, put the lid on but remove the lid cap. Fold a couple sheets of paper towel and place it over the small opening in the lid. Now start to pulse the mixture in very short bursts so that the heat can escape. After pulsing the mixture about ten times you can carefully blend it on a slightly higher setting until smooth. I pureed the soup in three stages. After everything is nice and smooth, pour the soup back into the pot and return it to the stove over low heat.
  4. Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste, add the pinch of nutmeg and the soy milk, stir and then taste to see whether you need to adjust the seasoning.

And there you have it. Serve it with toasted bread and enjoy :)

* The husband and I got burned pretty badly a couple of times when I made broccoli cream cheese soup a few years back. We used the blender and did not remove the little lid cap so the steam in the blender built up and eventually lifted the lid off the blender splashing us (and the kitchen) with hot green soup. It was a mess...   Eventually I stopped making the soup although we both enjoyed it, because it was just not worth the pain and the clean up was awful (when we moved out of the apartment where the exploding soup incident happened, we found soup residue on the inside of one of the cabinets...). With the method described above you should be safe. Just make sure to be careful when pureeing hot soup in a blender!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Net Debt - October 2012

Student loans: -$81,318.21 (-$2,710.61)
Car loan: $0
Revolving Credit card debt: $0.
Mortgage: -$135,393.86   (+$212.22)
Total Debt: -$216712.07 214,213.68 (-2,498.39)

After some further digging around, it seems that one of my student loans have jumped up about $2,700 for no known reason. The only reason I can think of is that I've received a letter stating my loan was sold to another company. I'll have to get back to everyone on this next time around to see if this is the source of the spike.  But this is why it's so important to keep on top of your loans and see what's going on with them all!

We're still plugging away putting money away on the student loan, about $100 a month which isn't much right now, but it all helps and I can't wait until the day it is all done and gone!

Last month we were saving for a new garage door opener from amazon, the Chamberlain Whisper Drive Garage Door Opener.  And last month, I found a rock thrown at our car while it was parked in the driveway and while I'm sure it was an accident, the dent is small in the side of the car and wasn't seemed to be aimed at a window to steal things, I decided to push forward the savings and do with what we had and I'll try to offset the rest later. So in the few month experiment, we were able to save $164.93 ($124.93 from CC rewards and $40 from surveys). And I'm confident I could have saved maybe an extra $10-20 more if I was more active with the surveys, however, I was overworked and didn't have the time to continue.  The end result is that the opener actually cost $248, so we 2/3 of the cost in a relative short period, which isn't too bad I think.  In the next week or so I'll install it and we should be good to go!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Homemade Vegan Ice Pops - Recipe Monday

Do you feel guilty when you walk to your freezer with a spoon and take out that half gallon of ice cream? Well, forget the spoon and forget the guilt and make these instead: Mostly guilt-free ice pops with way fewer ingredients (and calories) than your regular ice cream. It's so easy, plus you not only get ice pops you can eat in a few hours you also get a milk shake you can indulge in right away :)

Here is what you will need:
- 2 handfuls strawberries & raspberries (or your choice of fruit - I currently have strawberries & banana ice pops in my freezer)
- a splash of Maple syrup (or honey if you prefer)
- plain soy milk (I am sure vanilla would be great, too or almond milk)

- A blender
- ice pop molds (we bought ours at our local grocery store for less than $5, have a look around)

How to make yummy ice pops and a very yummy milk shake/smoothie, too:

  1. Prepare your fruit. Wash the berries and remove the stems from the strawberries and then cut them in half. Put the berries in the blender.
  2. Add some soy milk (start with half a cup) and start to blend the fruits and milk together until smooth (you may have to add more milk depending on the power of your blender).
  3. Add a drizzle or a splash of Maple syrup depending on how sweet you would like it to be. Then add more soy milk and blend until it has reached the desired consistency. You want it to be smooth and drinkable but definitely not too runny. - Taste as you go.
  4. Pour mixture into the ice pop molds and pop them into the freezer. In a couple of hours you can enjoy your homemade ice pops :)
  5. Drink up the rest of the mixture as a yummy and healthy treat.

This is very easy and if you are willing to experiment a little you will end up with an awesome treat. The smoothie/milk shake on it's own is very satisfying and the ice pops make a great and refreshing treat.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cool Android Apps

I've recently upgraded my phone and got my first smart phone! The phone itself isn't anything fancy, still fairly basic when it comes to smart phones I suppose, but considering that this is my first smart phone, I decided it might be useful for others to know what apps I use... so what I consider the best, is:

E-book reader: Amazon Kindle  - this is an obvious choice for ebook readers as so many people use kindles and it can be placed on so many different devices.

Antivirus: avast! Mobile Security - Smart phones are being a prime target for virus now because they can contain so much personal data, tied to so many accounts, and usually the security is minimal on them. Also, Avast! has the benefit of tracking your phone too.

Tracking your phone: Prey - Prey is an amazing tracking program, I've used Prey in the past and really love and trust the program. It's free up to 3 devices and have it installed on my laptop and my phone.

Games: Chess Free, 100 rooms, Super Sudoku

Storage: (Google) Drive, Dropbox 

What is this?  Images: Goggles  - This is an awesome program! It allows you to take a picture of, lets say a piece of artwork, then it scans it and returns the results. I scanned a piece of artwork by Salvador Dali, and it returned the artworks name (Die Drei Sphinx Von Bikini), the price of a poster of it and where to buy it (, etc), similar images, and even a book that used the artwork on it's cover (Qualitative Research in Health: An Introduction by Carol Grbich)

                       Audio: SoundHound - Also an awesome program, have you ever listened to the radio or have the humm of a song stuck in your head? This program will tell you the name of the song, show the lyrics, option to buy, bookmark, share, search for it on youtube, similar artists, songs appearances!  That's more than I can think of regarding one song! It's incredible!

Knowledge dump: TED - TED is a great source of knowledge in short audio/video clips. Everything from medical & transportation to science and engineering, from kids to the elderly talking, sharing, exposing, experiencing, training. It's a very humbling experience

Looking at the stars: Google sky map

Freeing up space: History Eraser

Saving battery life:  JuiceDefender - This program has given my phone an extra day of life, just by installing it, I've seen no changes in my usage, just an extra day. And one day may not seem like much, but when I go from 2 days to 3 days charging it's nice, especially since my old phone used to go a week between charges

Personal finance:

Checking prices: (Amazon) PriceCheck

Scanner: CamScanner - cool program to scan documents with your phone, and it really looks like it was scanned! From there you can email, fax, share, absolutely wonderful!

Are there any apps out there that you can't live without?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Net Debt - September 2012

Student loans: -$78,607.60 (+$37.23)
Car loan: $0
Revolving Credit card debt: $0.
Mortgage: -$135,606.08
Total Debt: -$214,213.68 (+248.61)

I'm not quite sure how or why the student loan has only gone down $37 this month while last month it went down $63 with the same $100, but at least it is going down. :-)  The mortgage supposedly went down over $3000, so I think I may not have updated it last time around. I'll take the blame for that, but I double checked by looking at the total debt, and since that only changed by around 250 dollars, highly likely I didn't update it correctly last month for what ever reason. Sorry guys!

There have been some unexpected expenses with the new kitty joining the family and the expensive medical bills that came with him, but things are still getting paid down. My wife and I now have a big plan of trying to pay off all of the interest in my student loans within the next two years (while it's on deferment) and trying to tackle my federal student loans before repayment starts. We're doing this because they are sitting at 6% interest and it'll make retirement that much harder if we have to pay that type of interest for the next 10-20 years.

Just like last month, I'm still saving for a new garage door opener and we now have $136.38 ($106.38 from CC rewards and $30 from surveys). Passed the half way mark and still going. We have had a rash of car break-in's where we live, so we may end up purchasing it earlier than expected. Regarding the surveys, they  haven't brought in any more money primarily because I've been super lazy and haven't done any in a long time. But we'll see and I'll try to do some more when I have free time.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day everyone! As the summer comes to an end, I hope you'll enjoy all of the great labor day sales (second only to Thanksgiving black friday sales) that are out there. Soon there will be Halloween, Thanksgiving, and holiday decorations up! Let the festivities begin.  :-)

I find it nice to know what exactly the holiday is for, so ...
Labor day was created in 1887 to celebrate all of the contributions that the average worker, along with worker unions, has given back to us. Things like the weekend (thank you very much guys for this!), the 8 hour work day, minimum wage, sick days, safer work conditions & child labor laws were some of the things that labor unions have given us. So thank you everyone for all of your effort, hard work, and hard labor.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

I broke my leg and all I got was a family that loves me - Rover update

Today was an important day for little Rover, the stray kitten that unexpectedly moved in with us because he broke his leg. Today he had another appointment with his vet for more shots and an x-ray to see how his leg was doing.

Sleepy Rover

Rover's broken leg, x-ray taken 5 days after the injury
Before I get into the vet visit, let me show you what I saw on August 6th. From the picture you can see how bad the break looked. It still nauseates me. The vet who took the x-ray suggested surgery, amputation, or euthanasia. Another vet in the same office suggested to wait. Bear in mind that little Rover was only 3 months old and not even 3 pounds. We decided to wait and got him his shots instead of a costly surgery. The vet that suggested waiting later told us that the chances of a successful surgery were slim because the bones had rotated, which complicated the situation. We took Rover home and set up a room for him: no furniture, only food/water, a bed for him, toys, litter box and a turbo scratcher. A protected environment with little to no chance of re-injuring the leg. The first few days, all Rover did was eat, sleep and play with a small stuffed mouse. Then he started to use his injured leg more and more, first for playing with his mouse, then for walking. First he limped a lot, then the limp became less and less noticeable. And now almost one month after his injury he walks, runs, plays, climbs and scratches like nothing was ever wrong with his leg. We (and the vet) were very curious to see how he was recovering and so the vet took another x-ray today free of charge. And this is what it looks like:

Rover's leg, almost a month after his injury.
It's remarkable and both we and the vet were astounded by how well it is healing and we could not be happier (except of course if our little Feather would finally get over the fact that she has a little brother now and that he is not going anywhere). In 3.5 weeks Rover's leg is almost completely healed and he has gained 1 pound (he eats so much, you have no idea, he eats twice as much as Feather who is a 7 pound adult cat). We are very happy and so is Rover. He is developing great and we both love him.
In two weeks we have another appointment with the vet, this time to get those furry balls taken care of. Yay for neuter surgery!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Brrrr.... Fridge Temperatures

In an effort to try to save some dough (pun intended) during these dog days of summer, I turned to the fridge. :-). Normal people, like myself, buy a fridge and turn it on and never even think about the temperature that the fridge is set at until, perhaps, you realize that food is spoiling. So I began a search to find out what the best temperature is for the fridge to see if it is set too high or too low.

You would think that just a few degrees difference wouldn't really matter very much, yet it does. Too warm by just a few degrees and your food will begin to spoil, bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, and C. botulinum will grow, mold will flourish, and just bad things overall will happen. Yet too cold, you begin to waste energy (think about your home thermostat and how a few degrees will save you 10% of your energy bill),and your food will freeze resulting it going bad quicker because it's not preserving the food.

So from what I have read and researched the temperature for the fridge should be set somewhere between 0oC and 5oC (or 32oF and 41oF), with the best being around 3 or 4 Celcius. The variations really come from who you are asking and probably your lifestyle. For those non-scientific folks, the people at howstuffworks say between 35 and 38 degrees F (1.7 to 3.3 degrees C), but the food and drug administration recommend that your fridge be at or below 40oF or 4oC.

For those of you who are prone to power outages, it's good to know that if your home loses power and your fridge is at 4F or higher for less than 2 hours, the food will still be safe to eat according to the FDA, as long as you don't open the fridge constantly :).

Australian food authority:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Refreshing cucumber yogurt soup - Recipe Monday

Cucumber Yogurt Soup w/ Bread and Einstein
Today's recipe is a favorite in our little home. The husband always gets super excited when he sees me getting the ingredients out. Although this is technically a summer soup we make it whenever we want, you know, Texan winters aren't usually that cold :)

I have made this recipe many, many times, first following the instruction my grandma had given me and then following a recipe I found in a German vegetarian cookbook. By now I don't measure anything and follow my gut.  

Here is what you need for this quick, uncomplicated cold "summer" soup which will leave you wanting more - except of course if you are lactose intolerant.

  • Plain Greek yogurt, about 3 cups
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into rough cubes
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced or grated
  • the zest and juice of one lemon
  • salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  • fresh or dried dill to taste (I use about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)
And this is how it's done:
  1.  In a food processor process the cucumber until smooth. 
  2. Transfer the processed cucumber to a bowl, add in the Greek yogurt, garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and the zest of the lemon. Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  3. Gradually add in the lemon juice, dill, salt and cayenne pepper to taste. 
  4. If you think that the soup is a little too thick add in a little cold water (about a 1/4 cup at a time) until it reaches the desired consistency.
  5. Garnish with a slice of cucumber and serve with toasted bread. Serve immediately.
This is great as a light dinner or lunch and makes the perfect appetizer soup. But remember this contains a clove of fresh garlic, so don't eat it before going on a date ;-)

If you want to make it a little ahead of time, don't add the water until right before serving and keep the soup in the fridge so that it is nice and cold when you serve it.

On a side note, make sure you taste it while seasoning it. Add about half the lemon juice first and see whether it needs more lemon or not. Your taste is what matters not mine, and that's why I don't give clear measurements for the spices. As I have said before: Make it your own!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Green products: Bac-Out Stain and Odor Eliminator

When we got our first cat we needed to think about how to clean up certain stains, specifically vomit. Feather, our 5 year old furball, tends to eat too fast or too much and so once a week or so we need to clean up cat vomit. At first we were just using dish soap and a bowl with hot water, and it mostly got the job done but sometimes there was still this cat food smell and color residue. We had read that cats to not react well to most cleaning chemicals and we ourselves try to avoid harsh cleaning chemicals (yes - we are a bleach free household!).

One day we went to Wholefoods because we wanted to look for a green cleaning product that would take care of the vomit stains and the odor associated with it. And that's where we found Biokleen's Bac-Out and we fell in love (as much as you can fall in love with a cleaning product). It is said to contain live enzymes, is safe to use around children and pets (even around super sensitive birds), was not tested on animals and does not contain any animal products (yay). You can use it to clean carpet stains or get odor out of laundry by adding it to the wash. We sometimes use it after washing the litter box with dish soap to get rid of any residual odor. And it works wonders. Sometimes a harsh carpet stain needs to be treated twice, but don't forget it's not bleach. On the plus side: It does not harm the fabric and it does not irritate our skin unlike other products we have used.

You can buy Bac-Out at Wholefoods or other health food stores and you can even order it through Amazon. We love it and are very happy we found it :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rover update :)

This is little Rover. He got some of his shots on Wednesday and tested negative for FIV (feline AIDS) ::happy face:: but he also tested positive for ear mites ::boo:: He is a happy little guy and that's all that matters. We decided to wait and see whether his leg heals or not. Right now it seems to be getting a little better every day. We just need to make sure that he does not jump or climb or play too rough with his mouse... So far it's going well.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rover the Rescue Kitten

So, we did not plan this. We have one cat that we love and that loves us (me really). Since yesterday we are cat parents to two cats. The newest addition is named Rover, as in Mars Rover Curiosity or as in Roverandom, a story by Tolkien (I LOVE TOLKIEN). Little Rover (and his sister) showed up at a friend's door with fleas and very, very hungry. The kittens are about 3 months old and they had clearly been exposed to humans before. While I would have liked to take in both kittens, Rover needed us more (and I am sure his sister will find a good home soon, too). Frontline (see an earlier post as to where we buy our supply of Frontline for a much better price than say Petsmart) took care of the fleas within a day and I removed a couple dead ones using a flea comb purchased for $6 at Petsmart. He also has an injured front leg :(. I took him to our vet, who took X-rays revealing a broken humerus (which cannot be adequately immobilized with a cast) and suggested three things:
  • surgery to stabilize the bone with a metal plate
  • amputation of the leg
  • euthanasia
The latter was not an option for me, because lets face it: The reason why I became Rover's mom was so that he wouldn't get euthanized. He is a very happy kitten, very friendly, playful and he will grow up to be a cat with a great personality.
The surgery was estimated to be anywhere between $1,400 to $1,800 without pre-OP bloodwork. Amputation was estimated to be between $700 to $900. I did not know what to do. I had just been entrusted with this little guy and at the time of the vet visit he did not even have a name yet (the husband and I decided late last night on Rover). But I knew I could not be responsible for his death. One of the senior vets brought up another option: Wait and see. There are plenty of cases where the bone heals on its own and the cat does not suffer from any disability. Amputation is always an option later on.
After $218 in fees (X-ray and exam) I took Rover home and waited for the husband to get home to discuss our options and decide on a plan of action. We made a pro and con list and we still could not decide. We saw him play with a stuffed mouse and then he passed out on my husband's belly. He ate well and was perfectly happy. And eventually we decided to wait and hope that his little body will recover on his own. Instead we will focus on getting his shots and getting him tested for parasites. Tomorrow he will get his first round of shots...

Some pictures will be posted soon. Promise.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Vegan/ Vegetarian Chickpea Spread - Recipe Monday

Initially I wanted to post a sweet treat recipe and I really really wanted to bake. But it just too hot in Texas to turn on the oven. :( So instead I thought I share a great chickpea spread (that isn't hummus).
Before I jump into everything, let me give you a little bit of a back story. Our weekday dinners consist of homemade bread and spreads (onion and chive cream cheese (vegan or dairy), peanut butter and jelly, nutella (LOVE), cheese (vegan or dairy), and fake cold cuts) along with the occasional salad. Sometimes we go to Wholefoods and buy their mock chicken salad which is to die for both in taste and in price. The other day I found myself searching the web for a mock tuna salad because I used to love tuna salad. I found a couple of recipes, some more specific than others, most claiming to taste exactly like tuna salad, but all of them were attested superior taste and uber-deliciousness. So not following any one recipe but rather a combination from memory I  made a chickpea spread which was quite tasty. We made it two days in a row and finished it all in one sitting. It was NOM!

This is what you will need:
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 tbsp of (vegan) mayo (I used veganese)
  • 1 pickle, finely diced (I used a dill pickle, but you can use whatever pickle you like)
  • some onion, finely diced (to taste, I used about 2tbsp)
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn OR a celery stalk, diced OR a small handful of sun-dried tomatoes OR all of the above together OR whatever additions you like in your tuna or chicken salad
  • a splash of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce (if you are making it vegan, make sure that the Worcestershire Sauce is vegan)
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a food processor, process the chickpeas to your preferred consistency. Transfer to a bowl.
Stir in the mayo, diced pickle, onion, soy sauce/Worcestershire sauce and corn/celery/or what ever you choose to add. Stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

And you're done. It's that easy. Spread it on bread or crackers or use it for dipping your favorite veggies. I assume you can keep it in the fridge for a couple of days, but I haven't tested that yet, as I said we finished it in one sitting.

Make sure to give this one a try. I am sure to make this again soon :)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Amazing Cell Phone Deal from Amazon

Amazon is currently have a gold box deal for a Pantech Crossover phone that runs Android 2.2 (Froyo)  upgradable to 2.3 Gingerbread. Currently there are only 17 hours left for the deal which is 70% off the retail price of $199, so you'll pay only $60. In addition, it comes with $25 refill cared (but no SIM card).

My phone was a prepaid phone as well and this is a significant upgrade if you are in the market.  Here's a little info about the phone from Amazon:

The Android-powered, 3G-enabled Pantech Crossover for AT&T lets you stay connected to friends, family, and coworkers through messaging and social media wherever you roam. It boasts a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard, 3.1-inch touchscreen display, 600 MHz processor, 3-megapixel digital camera/camcorder, Wireless-N Wi-Fi connectivity, and the popular AllSport GPS app.

I'll post a review of the phone and show you some before and after pictures once I get it.  And I haven't forgotten about the laser DIY projects, they are coming very soon! I just need to buy a laser pointer :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Net Debt - Aug 2012

Student loans: -$78,644.83 (+63.08)
Car loan: $0
Revolving Credit card debt: $0.
Mortgage: -$138,817.46 (+210.55)
Total Debt: -$214,462.29 (+273.63)

The past couple of months I've been putting money towards the student loans to try to keep it at bay however, interest is still accruing so while I actually pay $100, it only goes down $63 worth.  ::sad face::

However, I look forward to the months ahead and really hope to put a significant dent into the student loans as they are my highest interest loans now. I know my goal is high with getting it down to 75k, but if some things pan out for us (getting a second job in the house - no pressure though!), it should be feasible. Not to mention my tuition for school has just decreased significantly due to policy changes. So some of the money I put towards tuition can now go towards the student loan.  ::happy face::

On a side note, I now have $107.41 ($77.41 from credit card rewards, $30 from surveys) towards my amazon experiment which will go towards a new garage door opener. About half way to my goal, I'm guessing by the new year, I'll have a new garage door opener! Patience is a virtue of mine. ::happy face::

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cat Cuteness :)

Nothing better than waking up to a cute face like that. Have a great Thursday and look out for Monday I may have a special treat for you.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fruit Bowl - Recipe Monday

This really is a no brainer. Fruit is good for you and how much you should eat depends on your age, sex, and level of physical activity. Fruit and veggies contain important vitamins and minerals and we all know that we should eat more fruits and veggies. But why exactly if you can pop a multivitamin in the morning? Well, a multivitamin does not provide you with fiber, does it? Nor will it make you feel full or satisfied, or does it? Do you really want to be munching on a highly processed fiber (and calorie) loaded granola bar? Not only do fruits and veggies add their nutritional value, but fruit (and certain veggies) can help relieve your sweet tooth and that's basically what we have been trying to do: We have been trying to replace servings of ice cream with a bowl of fruit.
I understand that for some people eating an apple as is seems kind of boring, I usually throw together a number of different fruits to keep it interesting.

My favorite fruit bowl at the moment uses the following and it really only takes 5 minutes to throw together (serves 2):
  • 1 medium apple (with skin), cored and diced
  • 1 mango, skinned and pitted, diced
  • 1 peach, pitted and diced
  • some walnuts/pecans/hazelnuts/almonds for decoration and extra crunch
I throw them all together and mix them up. If fruit alone is not sweet enough for you, drizzle over some maple syrup (the real stuff) or honey. It makes a great dessert, a wonderful snack, and it makes any breakfast look so much better.

Add whatever fruit you like. Maybe you don't like apples, but love pears. Try different combinations such as mango, banana, strawberry or grapes, oranges, pears. Try different kinds of melon with a few raspberries thrown into the mix. Make it colorful and make it your own.

You might say, fruit is too expensive. And yes, some fruits are very expensive. I have a tip for you: Buy fruit that is in season. I don't buy strawberries in winter because they are ridiculously expensive. There are so many types of apples, some more expensive than others. I really like Red Delicious and they are often on sale at my grocery store. Bananas are usually fairly cheap and they make a great addition to any fruit bowl...


If you want to find out more about why fruit/veggies are important check out the CDC's website on fruits and veggies. They also provide a fruit and veggie calculator to help you determine how many servings of fruits and veggies would be ideal for you. For me they recommended 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables a day (based on a 1800 calorie diet), while the husband should get 2 cups fruit and 3 cups veggies a day (based on a 2400 calorie diet). They also provide a great guide as to what constitutes a cup of fruit/veggies.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How to clean your dishwasher

How to eco-clean your dishwasher….

  1. You will want to start with an empty dishwasher. This will include removing the utensil holder and racks and individually clean them with vinegar (or soap if you are careful to rinse thoroughly). You can clean with vinegar by half filling your sink with water and add about 1 or 2 cups of vinegar to the water.
  2. Carefully wipe down the arm (you can remove it if you are comfortable with it) and use Q-tips (or a toothpick but be sure not to break the toothpick off inside) to clean out the holes of the arm.
  3. Wipe down the bottom and the sides of the washer, clean the grate and filter with a vinegar soaked rag. (Our grate had food, hair and even paper I think stuck to it, how hair and paper got there, I have not the slightest idea.)
  4. If your dishwasher comes with a garbage disposal system, you will want to try to clean that out now as well. This can be done with some ice cubes.
  5. If you did disassemble anything, now is the time to reassemble it and place the racks back inside of the machine.
  6. Next, add 2 cups of white vinegar to the bottom of the dishwasher, close the dishwasher and turn it on to rinse. Stop it midway (do not open the door) and let the vinegar set on the bottom for 20 minutes and really work cleaning it all. Then turn it back on to finish the cycle. If you think it is really dirty, you can let it set overnight and turn it on when you wake up.
  7. Once done, wipe out the inside with dry paper towels or dry rag and don’t forget to wipe down the outside and edges while you are at it.
  8. Lastly, it is a good time to wipe and clean the front of the dishwasher to have a wonderful final shine.

Note: If you suffer from mold in your dishwasher, you can place 1 Tbsp of bleach in your dishwasher, however, it is very important that you do NOT mix bleach with vinegar as it creates a toxic chlorine gas.  You will want to do a quick rinse with bleach then once done, begin cleaning with vinegar.

Also, some people have used a packet of Orange Tang Drink Mix to clean as well. The citric acid in the mix is similar to the vinegar and will remove any build-up however, I have not used this method though.

For extra cleaning and help with removing a little bit of grime, you can try placing 1/4 cup of baking soda in the open tray of the soap dispenser and that will help clean the dishwasher very nicely.

And now a word of caution: NEVER use ordinary dish soap for cleaning the dishwasher. Even small amounts will create mountains of thick bubbles and it is no fun to clean up that mess. (I had to learn it the hard way...) You have been warned!

Enjoy the clean dishwasher everyone!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Homemade Chocolate Pudding - Recipe Monday

I love pudding. And when I say love, I really mean LOVE. But I hate pudding mixes with artificial flavors, colors, or worse gelatin. For some time I found myself searching the internet for chocolate pudding recipes and as you can probably guess there are tons and tons of recipes out there. Some use eggs (I found recipes using up to 6 eggs), avocado (as a secret ingredient), others use silken tofu. I don't like eggs. Everything about them grosses me out. I did not have avocados at hand, and well I was doubtful. Silken tofu is hard to come by in a place that will give you ten different kind of tortillas and twenty types of beans, but only one type of Matzos (the cardboard kind). So,well, I gave up until the Vegan Zombie posted a vegan pudding recipe. I modified the amount of sugar used in the recipe quite a bit because I like to eat a bowl of pudding and not just a spoonful. But trust me, the pudding is still plenty sweet...

Here is what you will need:
  • 3 cups of soy milk (plain)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  And here is what you need to do:
  1. Add milk to a saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Whisk in cocoa powder and cornstarch until well combined. Then whisk in the sugar until dissolved.
  2. Keep stirring over medium heat until the mixture thickens.
  3. After it thickens, bring it to a boil and keep stirring for another minute or two.
  4. Remove from heat, pour pudding into ramekins or bowls. Let cool (or eat it when it is still warm if you prefer your pudding warm).
Hope you give it a try and let me know what you think. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Amazon Experiment

The last "major" purchase I did on Amazon was my electric toothbrush (which I love by the way) I purchased it solely with gift cards I received either as birthday presents or side-gigs (primarily surveys). I thought that this was a very interesting experiment since doing so allowed me to not get excited about the next newest and fanciest toothbrush, but allowed me to see all of the features, really look at the reviews, and evaluate what I wanted from it and what it was capable of.

Now I'm doing it again. I am currently saving up Amazon gift cards to purchase a garage door opener. The garage door opener I am looking at is approximately $200 to $250 and I have already saved up to $80 in the past 2 months going about this slow route. Approximately $60 was from credit card cash-back and $20 was from surveys. I imagine that my credit card cash back feature will end up being the main contributor to my goal. While I know the cash back isn't necessarily free money, in fact, I have to spend a lot of money to earn that money, it is money I would have otherwise spent and was returned back to me, so for this purpose I'll consider it "free.” I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Saving Energy with Energy Guard

Several months ago, I signed up to a program called CPS Energy Savers Home Manager (Previously, Energy Guard), with my local energy company, CPS. This program is very nice in that they give you a very nice (and expensive) programmable thermostat that you are capable of programming, and check/change the temperature remotely from the Internet or at home. They also give you access to turn off your water heater remotely and inform you of how much energy your home as a whole is using and when (down to 15 minute intervals).

One additional 'feature' to the program is that during peak energy hours when the grid is in danger of browning out, I give permission to CPS to override my programming and possibly turn off my water heater if necessary and bump up my thermostat. Initially I was very concerned about them just randomly changing my settings and the house feeling very unco
mfortable. However, recently in sunny (and very hot) San Antonio, we were having some record heat and I was able to see exactly how they override the settings, how the house responds, and how our energy bill responds as well.

When this happened outside it was 104F and San Antonio was in danger of browning out. As such, they did bump the 'cooling' up to 85F, which is the recommendation from Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) during times where black/brown outs are likely to help reduce the load on the grid. While this is not the most comfortable temperature, the temperature was still set to 85 until 6PM when it started to cool again because we were coming home. So while I did come home to a warmer house, it was still cooler than outside. Also, an important note is that AC's also tend to be the most efficient when the differential is 20 degree's or less, which setting it to 85F kept it just at that 20 degree mark. Keeping within that 20 degree range allows the compressor to get the necessary breaks to prevent the overheating and properly cycle on and off saving us costly AC repairs down the line.

In the end, we had to deal with a slightly warmer house for a couple of hours, but to be honest, with the fans going, it wasn't too bad. But I consider the fact that CPS is saving energy, they are also in a way saving my compressor/AC unit because I probably wouldn't have risen the temperature (due to ignorance and laziness), which in the end saved us a few bucks as well. If you live in the CPS energy region and have a well insulated home, like I do, then I think that this program might be one of interest to you, especially if you aren't home during the regular business hours.

P.S. If you have someone who needs the temperature to be lower, the option of overriding it is always there. :-)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Thank you Willis Carrier

Today in 1902, the first 'modern' air conditioning unit was designed for use in a Brooklyn printing plant that set the standard for the following AC units.

Previously, of course, there were the use of iceboxes to try to help cool an area down but for the most part, there was little to do when it became too hot, too cold, or too humid. The first cooling unit was created by Alfred Wolff in 1902 to help cool down the NY stock exchange however, this device had no control over humidity, filters to clean the air, or temperature control. Within the span of a few years, the concept rapidly developed creating zones and eventually led Willis Carrier who patented his "Apparatus for Treating Air" being:

1. Control temperature
2. Control humidity
3. Control Air Circulation and ventilation
4. Clean the air

With this patent, Willis took the title of the creator of the modern AC. Later he created several tables that all HVAC technicians are aware of, for example the law of constant dew-point depression.

So, I would like to say, thank you Willis Carrier for 110 years of keeping us cool.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vegan Strawberry Cupcakes - Recipe Monday

Today we are trying something new: A recipe! Because, well the wife took over :) We will see whether it will become a thing or not. So let's get started.

Here is what you will need to make these super delicious vegan summer cupcakes:
Makes 12 cupcakes:
  • 4 tbsp (vegan) butter or margarine at room temperature
  • 2/3cup sugar
  • 2tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg replacement (I used 2 tbsp flax seed meal and 6 tbsp water, but if you are not vegan feel free to use 2 eggs)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk (such as plain soy milk)
  • 7 oz strawberries (about 8 strawberries), pureed (try raspberries or maybe even peach)
  1. Preheat your oven to 325F and lightly grease a muffin pan.
  2. In a bowl, cream together the butter/margarine, sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.
  3. Mix in the egg replacement, then add in the flour and baking powder and stir until well combined.
  4. Lastly add in the pureed strawberries. The batter will look nice and pink.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
What is great about these cupcakes is that they are easy to make and don't require any weird ingredients... and they are a lot cheaper than anything you can buy at the store. (We buy flour, soy milk and vanilla extract from Costco.)
And if you are worried that these might taste funky, I assure you they taste wonderful. I never use milk or eggs in my baking and no one has ever noticed a difference. I halved the recipe yesterday and made 6 cupcakes, and what can I say... they were gone by bedtime. In addition, they don't need fancy frosting. They are wonderful with just a dusting of powdered sugar or a drizzle of melted chocolate.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Meet the cat

Last month was "Adopt a Shelter Cat Month" at our local Humane Society. We adopted our precious fur ball in March 2010 and we both agree that it was the best decision. It was an expense, of course, but an expense that we are glad we made.

Although she is an indoor cat (always has and always will be, but she loves sleeping on the windowsill when the window is open), we still use Frontline to prevent ticks and flees. Of course there are tons of flee/tick prevention products out there, just as many ways to purchase them. We used to buy 3 months worth of Frontline at Costco, which had the best price compared to other local stores. Now we order 6 months worth of it online through PetCareRX ( They often have coupons and/or free shipping and you can sign up for them and earn reward points for your purchases. And they send reminder emails so we don't run out, which is nice. So far we have only positive things to report. Shipping is fast, the product arrives in excellent condition, and the price is good. I will admit that I was at first hesitant to order her Frontline online, but I am happy we did. Now we don't have to worry about Costco being out of stock, which they frequently were.

Have you made any experiences with online retailers targeted at your ball of fur?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Net Debt - July 2013

Student loans: -$78,707.91
Car loan: $0
Revolving Credit card debt: $0.
Mortgage: -$136,028.01
Total Debt: -$214,735.92

It has been forever since I have last blogged, however, since then I've paid off my car loan debt and now I'm only left with student loan and mortgage. Currently I am paying about $100/mo to pay down the interest and hopefully that will increase in the future! It would be amazing to have my student loans down to 75k before the year is over. I guess we'll see if that's possible and depends a lot on certain things on our side.