Monthly Archives: September 2012

Me vs the Dresser

A few months ago, one of my dresser drawers stopped closing: my lovely high-quality Ikea particle board bureau couldn’t take the weight of all my pants in one drawer. The metal track that the drawer rests on had pulled away from the side of the dresser. I told myself that I really should clean out the dresser before I fixed it, so it wouldn’t happen again. Well, I’m finally back to my simplify project, and it was about time to get that drawer off my floor.

I pulled out all my clothes and divided them into 5 piles:

  • Keep
  • Consign (white bag)
  • Donate (brown bag)
  • Craft
  • Rags
  • Trash (trash bag)

(Yes, I know there’s still clothing shoved on the shelf on my closet: that gets tackled soon.)

I trashed things I wouldn’t buy at a thrift store myself, namely bathing suits and underwear, as well as things with stains and holes, like old socks and torn up jeans. Excess tee shirts primarily went into the craft pile if they had sentimental value, otherwise they’ve been set aside for rags. Things that didn’t fit, weren’t flattering or just weren’t my style were divided between the consignment and donation piles based on how nice they were.

Next I grabbed a screw and my screwdriver and repaired the metal thingy the drawer rests on (like my technical terminology?), and refilled my drawers with the keep pile.

With all that, what did I keep? Clothes that fit, look good, that I actually wear, with no holes or stains. They all fit nicely back in my newly repaired dresser, distributed so all my pants aren’t in the same drawer, and with room to spare. Which is great, because next week I plan on tackling the two Rubbermaid bins of excess clothing under my bed.

One of the scary parts of all this is that I haven’t done a lot of clothes shopping in the last two years, which means most of this survived the giant purge when I last moved, and I still don’t like half my clothes.

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Filed under DIY, Simplify

A Little Bonus

Sometimes the financing for grad school can get a little odd. This year’s tuition and fees are being paid for by research, being a teaching assistant, a little bit of work study and a small federal grant. All this patched together actually exceeds my needs each quarter by $175, which means I’ll be getting a bonus check at the beginning of each quarter, on top of my regular stipend.

My first thought was, “Bonus credit card payment!” Then “build up emergency fund!” and “save up for a fabulous meal in Paris!” But then, I realized that the reason I was heading to a meeting in a tunic and leggings is because I ripped a hole in one of my 2 pairs of decent jeans, the other of which is too heavy to wear year round and are wide legged. Also, this morning I was bemoaning the fact that I’m down to 2 bras, a week’s worth of underpants, and a handful of basic tees that don’t have holes or stains.

So, a shopping trip it is! A pair of skinnies, a bra or two, some cute panties and a few t-shirts. I should be able to do that for $175, right? My plan of attack is to swing by my favorite thrift store, then the consignment shop across the street for the jeans and tees, and hit Marshall’s on the way back home for the undies and whatever’s left on my list.

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Filed under Income, Splurges

Healthy Eggplant Parmesan

One of the first ways I enjoyed eggplant was in eggplant parmesan: it’s hard not to love a vegetable that’s breaded then coated in marinara and cheese. However, the first time I made it at home, I was grossed out by frying each of those breaded slices, and annoyed at how long that took and how messy the process was. Since then, I’ve been making tweaks on how to make a delicious, decadent feeling dish, with not too many calories and a minimum of fuss. I have to say, the fuss is still a little on the high side, but it’s worth it for a Sunday dinner type dish. I like to make my own bread crumbs and marinara, largely to control the ingredients and cost. I’ve put both recipes at the bottom. If you have access to the zucchini and bell peppers, I recommend adding them to the marinara: they had so much color to this dish. Now, on to the recipe!
Healthy Eggplant Parmesan

  • 2 medium eggplant, sliced horizontally, 1/4 to 1/2 in thick
  • 1 egg beaten into 1/2 cup milk
  • 1.5 cups seasoned bread crumbs (recipe to follow)
  • 3 cups marinara (recipe to follow)
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  1. Salt eggplant and place in a colander. Set aside for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F and line or lightly grease 2 cookie sheets.
  3. Dip eggplant slices in milk/egg mixture, then in bread crumbs, then lay on prepared cookie sheets.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  5. Top with marinara and parmesan, then return to oven until cheese is golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Serves 4 as a main course. 360 calories, 13.5 g fat, 46 g carbs (11 g of fiber), 18.5 g protein

Bread Crumbs

  • 3 slices whole wheat bread
  • pinch salt
  • pinch garlic powder
  • pinch dried herbs (oregano, basil, Italian mix, etc)

Take 3 slices of stale bread, cut into cubes, then run through the food processor until desired texture is reached. Bake in a low oven for 15 minutes until completely dry, then toss with salt & herbs. Makes about 1.5 cups.

Veggie Marinara

  • 2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 medium red, yellow, or orange sweet bell pepper (a.k.a. not green!), finely diced
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes or 1 14 oz can
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions, and cook until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add zucchini and bell pepper and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook until all the veggies are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in sugar and adjust seasoning to taste. Makes about 3 cups.

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September 23 Weekly Update

I’m back! The horrible, no good, very bad 2 day long test is over with. While I don’t think I passed all the sections, I won’t find out the results for another month, and I’ll only have to repeat that one section in six months. For now, I can go back to normal life and return to such exciting things as having a clean home, getting some exercise and blogging!

Money

Spending: Not too bad, considering. I did get takeout once before the exam, but I made it last for 3 meals, and when I went out to celebrate with classmates afterwards, I split an entree, and we all went in on the cheapest pitcher. Mmm, PBR.

Earnings: $105 from babysitting! I’m now doing this semi-regular gig for a family with twin four year olds. They’re a handful, but super sweet and pretty independent. Also, I’ve stepped up my online surveys in hope of saving up enough to buy an awesome pair of boots during the after Thanksgiving sales.

School

Did I mention my test is over? Because my test is over! This week classes start again, and I’m only signed up for one data analysis class and a seminar. Otherwise it’s time to tie up loose ends on one project and start writing (ahh!) and get rolling on the other one. I actually went into my lab on Friday and made a great breakthrough, which soothed my bruised ego.

Health and Fitness

I managed to not completely devolve into junk food? I managed to get in my 5 to 9 fruits and veggies every day, which is stark improvement over my behavior during previous times of extreme stress. Also, having a dog is forced fresh air, which is awesome.

Menu

Lunches: Healthy eggplant parmesan (recipe tomorrow!) brown rice and beans with lots of veggies

Suppers: Cucumber and chickpea salad, veggie bowl with pinto beans, fajita veggies & salsa

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Filed under Checking-In, Goals

Gazpacho

I grew up eating tomato soup made two different ways: heated up Campbell’s condensed mixed with water, or for a special treat, mixed with milk. The first time I heard about gazpacho, I was totally disgusted by the thought of cold tomato soup. But, when I saw it on a menu during my first trip to Spain, I figured when in Rome (or when in Madrid, to be exact.) In Spain this is a quintessential summer dish, that exceeds the sum of its ingredients. If you’re still icked out by cold tomato soup, think of it as a liquid salad or savory smoothie.

Gazpacho

  • 2 large tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 medium bell peppers, deseeded
  • 1 medium cucumber, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth and if desired, chill until ready to serve. Serves 4 as a side dish.

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Tomatillo Salsa

As I mentioned yesterday, a coworker gave me 20 pounds of tomatillos and I kept 10 pounds for myself before passing the rest on. I decided to try a new recipe for canning tomatillo salsa that I found from National Center for Home Food Preservation. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but canning requires a certain balance of acids, sugar, and salt to prevent spoiling, so when using a new recipe, I try to find a reputable source. This stuff is ah-maz-ing. The second batch didn’t even make it into jars because I want to eat it now. Fortunately my coworker is bringing me more tomatillos next week. Yay! If you can’t find tomatillos, you can use green tomatoes, which you can ask your friendly local farmer about. As always, if you don’t feel like finely chopping by hand, pulse the veggies in your food processor.

Tomatillo Salsa

  • 5 cups tomatillos, hulled, rinsed and chopped (don’t worry about peeling or seeding)
  • 1 1/2 cups seeded and finely chopped long chiles (like Ancho or Pasilla)
  • 1/2 cup seeded and finely chopped jalapeno
  • 4 cups finely chopped onions
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup commercial lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 4 to 5 pint glass canning jars, with seals and rings

Prepare your jars and lids. Combine all ingredients in a large non-reactive pot (stainless steal or enameled cast iron), bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Hot pack in prepared jars, leaving 1/2 in head space and water bath process for 15 minutes.

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September 10 Weekly Update

Hey folks, I hope y’all had good weekends! Mine wasn’t terribly exciting but terribly productive. I helped put in 400 fall transplants on the farm, cleaned up my house, and got a lot of studying done.

Money

Spending:  I’m doing pretty good on this front. I forgot my car was due for it’s smog test, but the family who I clean for sent me a new check to replace the lost one, so everything will hopefully balance out. Also, I decided to start carpooling with a classmate who just moved to my town, so my gas budget will go down.

Earnings: 1 mystery shop and 1 all day baby-sitting gig. Preschool aged twins are a handful, but entertaining.

School

Big test is coming up next week! Fortunately, we reached a final format for my computer model, so I can take a big step back from that and direct half my time each day to studying.

Health and Fitness

Weight has stayed the same, but that’s ok with me right now. I’ve been doing great with the healthy eating, and went on a run with the pup this morning. Yay for free exercise and a tour of the historic neighborhood in town.

Menu

Lunches: pesto, chickpeas and cherry tomatoes over whole wheat pasta, fajita veggies, tomatillo salsa, and pinto beans over brown rice

Suppers: Gazpacho (recipe tomorrow!) with a side of fava puree, healthy eggplant parmesan (recipe next week if it works!)

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Filed under Checking-In, Goals