Category Archives: General

Eat Less, Move More, Spend Less?

So, if you’ve been following my new Twitter feed, I’ve been posting a budget friendly outfit every day. However, taking a full length picture every day is forcing me to confront the fact I really have gained almost 30 pounds in 4 years. I have a more active social life since I moved out to California (more alcohol, cheese, and fries) and I fell out of the habit of dealing with stress by running and into the habit of dealing with it by eating.

I know there’s lots of expensive ways to help me lose the weight, from providing the food like NutriSystem, to support systems like Weight Watchers. Fortunately, in the past I’ve had luck with Spark People, a free website for recording food and exercise. They also have a free app, which I downloaded to my phone so I can enter what I eat as I go through my day. As for the exercise side of things, I found a good deal on entry in a local half marathon this November. I’ve run a few before, so while it’ll take some work I love having a goal when I exercise. Next month I regain free access to the student gym and in the mean time I’ll spend some more quality time with my kettlebell and Jillian Michaels dvd.

And who knows? I could even save some more money along the way, by cutting back on snacks at work, ordering fewer drinks and fries, and splurging on less fancy cheeses.

Got any tips or affordable healthy recipes for me?


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A Summer’s Day on the Farm

I know I talk about Nevermore Farm a lot, so I thought I’d document one of my visits and share it with y’all.

I started out my morning in the greenhouse, watering all the plants found in there. Currently, most of these guys are things being nursed along or have no home elsewhere. The beast of a plant on the lower left is a rose scented geranium, that smells amazing every time I brush past it.

Next I headed to the seedling tent. Last time I went up, I started a number of seed trays for fall plantings, but the one of lettuce completely failed. Note to self: next time check that seed packets didn’t expire 7 years ago. Some of the other trays had a lot of seeds that didn’t sprout, so I spent an hour or so placing 2 lettuce seeds in each of those cells in the black tray, and cabbage, kale, and spinach seeds into their own appropriate trays.  Not the most exciting task in the world, but I’m looking forward to lots of tasty greens this falls, so I’ll count this as worth it.

By that point it was hot outside, but fortunately, Deborah had lots of produce to can inside. I started with the above trays of tomatoes, running them through the white machine on the left, which pureed them and separated them from their seeds and skins. While I worked on the tomatoes in the living room, she had the joyous task of peeling and pitting peaches by hand in the kitchen.

All those tomatoes went into the large pot in the back right, to make a giant batch of tomato sauce. The prettiest of peaches went into the lower right pot with simple syrup for canned half peaches. The not so pretty peaches, which seem to outnumber the pretty ones 9 to 1, went into the two pots on the left to make peach butter, which has to be stirred almost constantly to prevent burning. Fortunately, I’m getting better at using my phone one handed, so I spent a good half an hour or so perched on a stool alternating between stirring the two pots of peach butter and texting.

Was this a thrilling day? No. Was it a lot of work? Yes. Occasionally tedious? Yes. But was it fun? Definitely. With a career that’s currently computer focused, it’s nice to work with my hands, get a little messy, and have tangible results at the end of the day. It’s also really great to to be so involved with producing my own food. Cap it off with spending all that time with a good friend who I can talk with for hours, and it made for a really great day.

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The Cost of Dating

One thing I’ve been trying this summer is online dating. I’m trying to keep it low key, and using a fairly popular free site. But, the dates themselves are getting a little expensive. I’m a fan of meeting a guy earlier rather than later in the process, which means I’ve been going on a fair amount of dates for coffee or drinks and one or so a week adds up quickly. Plus, I live in a small farm town about 30 minutes from a fairly large city, which means most of my dates live in the city. They always seem to suggest meeting at a really awesome place around the corner from where they live, which means I’m out $8 in gas as well as the cost of my latte or wine, and that adds up really quickly.

So, my new policy is that if they’re not willing to meet me in my town or the town that is between us, it’s not worth my time and effort. Also, I’ve switched to ordering iced tea or lager, which tend to be waaaay cheaper than lattes and merlots. Finally, I’m focusing on one guy at a time, though that’s as much for emotional energy as finances.

Am I being a total cheap skate? How does a person on a limited budget survive dating without going broke?

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When I became serious about staying within a budget, I realized that unfortunately I would have to cut back on donations to charity. By the time I paid for my basic needs, set aside 10% for savings, and pay a little extra on my credit cards each month, there’s only enough left for a few extras, and every month it feels like there’s another extra: textbooks, dentist visits, wedding presents. And I have to admit, I felt guilty about having enough for a weekly $2 beer out with friends, but nothing for the collection at church.


But, after much contemplation, I realized that while I don’t have money to contribute, I do have other things that organizations are often in need of: time and certain skills. When my friend invited me to volunteer with her for a free weekend-long science and nature camp for underprivileged elementary school kids, I knew I found a potentially great fit. Summer camp and a free afterschool science program were two of the biggest experiences in my childhood. Camp was so much fun and gave me a love for the outdoors, and that science program helped direct me to the career path I’m on.


I’ve spent the last few months helping a group of teens plan hands-on science activities and this weekend we finally got to see our plans in action. 80 kids came up and we did a little science, slept under the stars, made lanyards, played games, ate s’mores, and sang silly songs. I don’t know the last time I was that tired or washed that many dishes in the weekend, but man it was worth it. I’m so glad I said yes and can’t wait to do it again next year.


Does anybody else volunteer? If so, what other programs are out there?

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Dumpster Diving

One of my friends was recently taking a short cut behind a grocery store, when he saw an employee bring out a cartload of stuff to throw in the dumpster. It included a couple cases of cleaning supplies and one of flour where one item in each had exploded in transit, and it apparently wasn’t worth it to the store to clean up what was left behind. My friend proudly left with 2 cases of cleaning supplies and a case of flour, and he was eager to share his bounty.

And while it’s hard to admit, I wasn’t too proud to accept 2 bottles of cleaner and a few bags of flour. Blatant waste makes me angry, the groceries were still in their intact packaging, and any expiration date was far away. Most embarrassingly, my budget is so tight that free cleaning supplies and flour can give me a little breathing room.

What would you guys do in this situation?

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A Slight Setback

I feel like this budget thing often is two steps forward, one step back.

As a grad student, I have health and dental insurance, which I’m grateful for. However, the insurance is not exactly the greatest. This past fall I had to get all four wisdom teeth removed, which maxed out my coverage for the year. Now for most insurance policies, that means in January I could start over again, but with a student policy, my benefits won’t reset until August.

Since my policy wouldn’t cover my six-month check up last month, my dentist gave me a steep discount so I would only pay $25 out of pocket, which was awesome. Unfortunately, the cavity he found was not so awesome, and now I’m out another $120. I finally have an emergency fund to deal with things like this, but I hate to be drawing on it so soon. And I hate feeling like I have to withdraw due to something I could have prevented.

Oh, well. All I can do is suck it up, work on brushing and flossing more, and cross my fingers that I don’t do anything else to mess up my teeth until August 1.

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Eleven Eleven

I was tagged by Zhenya from Being Zhenya in a post called Elevens:

This is how it goes…

  • You must post the rules
  • Post 11 fun facts about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions that the tagger posted for you & then create 11 questions to ask the people you’ve tagged
  • Tag 11 people and link them in your post
  • Let them know you have tagged them.

Unfortunately, I’m new enough to blogging that I don’t have 11 people to tag, but I’ll do the first three.

Fun Facts about Mary:

1. I lived in a tent for 3 months.

2. I tasted fermented mare’s milk once and never will again.

3. I love broccoli the way everybody else seems to love bacon.

4. I worked as a restaurant chef for a year, before deciding that science was a better career for me.

5. I ran cross country in high school for 3 years, and came in last place almost every race.

6. I studied ballet for 12 years, but still trip over my own feet on a daily basis.

7. I once set a course record for highest mini gold score that stood for over a year. (Are you picking up on the fact that I’m not exactly Athletic?)

8. I can touch my nose with my tongue.

9. I’ve been to 4 continents and want to make it to all 7.

10. I was born on a farm.

11. I love to scuba dive.

Now my answer to Zhenya’s questions.
1. If you had to be named after a city, state, or country (etc), which would you want it to be?
I like the name Virginia, which can be nicknamed Ginny.
2. What did you do for your latest birthday?
I had just had oral surgery a few days before, so my friend came over, fed me pancakes, and then I slept on the couch in a Vicodin haze. Don’t worry, I plan on making up for it this year.
3. What is your favorite commercial?
I love the Coke commercials at Christmas.
4. Have you ever been in a food fight? Where and when? And who started it?
Several times: I went to a lot of summer camp and I grew up with brothers.
5. Have you ever sold/donated your blood? If you haven’t do you want to?
I donate blood on a regular basis: the needles are not so fun, but I get to help people and munch on cookies.
6. Which cartoon character do you resemble the most?
Optimistically, Ariel from Little Mermaid: red hair, likes to sing and swim.
7. What do you think Victoria’s secret is?
That Victoria doesn’t like boring panties under a boring outfit.
8. You can select one person from history and have them truthfully answer one question, who would you select and what is the
Marie Curie and how did she do it.
9. If you join the circus, what would you perform?
I always wanted to walk the tight rope.
10. Have you ever eaten a crayon, or glue? Or what strange thing have you eaten?
No crayons or glue, but I did eat paper in elementary school.
11. What is the strangest name someone has introduced themselves as to you? What is their real name?
A girl in middle middle school wanted to be called Twinkle, but her real name was Theresa.

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