Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Save Money Now: 25 Ideas for Saving

I breathed a gigantic sigh of relief when I made my final student loan payment. I worked hard to pay off my credit card debt and worked doubly hard to pay off my car two years early. This was my last debt. What a great feeling to be debt free. 

But that's just me. We still have mortgage debt. And my husband has some credit card debt. 

We're working on it.

We're not alone.

According to Federal Reserve statistics, the average United States household owes $15K in credit card debt, $154K in mortgage debt and $34K in student loan debt.



Overwhelming.

Our long term goal is long term travel. We hope to buy income property here in the States and live comfortably on our retirement once we are in Spain full time. It's a lofty goal.

So how can we make this happen? How can you make your saving goals happen? 

Here are some ideas.


  • Pay down the debt. Pay off debt with the highest interest rate first. Then apply that payment to what is being paid on the next highest and so on. Keep working up until all debt is paid. Or start with the smallest debt and work your way up. And no new credit cards. Pick one (or two) and stick with it. 
  • Create a budget and stick to it.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated and save in gas mileage.
  • Try a savings plan like the 52 week savings plan.


  • Brown bag your lunch and save up to $2500 a year.
  • Consign clothes you no longer wear and items you no longer use.
  • Install energy saving devices in your home.


  • Turn down the heat/ac. Consider an automatic thermostat to regulate your temperatures.



  • Quit cable and use Hulu or Netflix. Try a Roku and stream on your television.
  • Find a meet-up group centered around fitness and put your gym membership on hold. Get outside.



  • Cook at home and take the money you would have spent and add it to your savings.
  • Make your own coffee. 
  • Set up automatic savings from your paycheck to a savings account. It all adds up.


  • Have friends over for a get together instead of going out. There is more than a 300% markup on alcohol in bars and restaurants. The savings on drinks alone makes it worth it to have your wine, beer and drinks at home.
  • Use generic items. You may have some non-negotiables, but most items are just as good as the brand names.
  • Consider a dollar store...you may be surprised by what you can find these days.
  • Use only your bank's ATM and avoid costly fees. Get free checking with no fees.


  • Shop at a consignment store. Or, if you go retail, only shop on sale. Take the money the receipt says you saved and add it to your savings.
  • Use your library instead of buying books. Many libraries have e-books that can be sent directly to your e-reader.


  • Know your prices and only buy things on sale. Save where you can.
  • Walk, bike ride, use public transportation, or carpool whenever possible. It saves energy and money.
  • Have a movie night at home, or if you want to see a first run movie, go to the last matinee of the day. Also, around here, Tuesday is "Cheap Movie Night" where the theater charges matinee prices for prime time showings. Check out your local theater...maybe you can find a deal.
  • Use savings sites like Groupon or Goldstar.com to find deals on entertainment.
  • If you're not using it, shut it off.
  • Give up a vice. It may save you hundreds per year.
Saving today is not easy. But if you save where you can and put that money into  a savings plan, you may be surprised at how quickly it accumulates. 



How do you save? Any great tips? 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Snack of Champions...Shake it Up, Baby!

I'm not a huge fan of bananas. 

But, when my potassium levels dropped, I realized I needed to incorporate more potassium rich foods into my daily diet. 

There are many potassium rich foods, including dark leafy greens, white beans, avocados, and sweet potato. An official list from the USDA is here

And then we have the poster child of potassium...the banana.



I love peanut butter. I eat it like it's my job. And peanut butter goes splendidly with bananas. I can tolerate bananas...if I have peanut butter. 

If you like bananas, or will tolerate them with peanut butter, this snack is for you...

  • Take a bag...any sandwich bag will do. 
  • Peel, slice and place the banana into the bag.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of PB2 powdered peanut butter*. I find this at Walmart, my local food stores and vitamin shops and online at Amazon. There is one infused with cocoa as well...still delicious. 


  • Close your bag and shake it up. Each slice of banana will be perfectly coated in peanut butter deliciousness.


Enjoy!

*PS--Natural peanut butter is best, but it's difficult to coat the bananas well. And this is so easy and portable. If you're not into the powered peanut butter, try natural peanut or other nut butter. Maybe heating to melt it a bit will help with the coverage. 


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Fired Up: 10 ways to heat up your marriage TODAY

I love my husband and I love being his wife. Our marriage is sacred and something I never want to take for granted. I see couples who struggle and I am continually reminded of how lucky and blessed we are 



Being a good wife and partner is important to me. I want the magic we feel now to sustain us throughout our life together. Living in magic is a good place to be

If you are looking for ways to fire up your marriage, here are 10 ways that could fan those flames or even, reignite a spark.

1. Be intimate.
Physical intimacy is an integral part of a healthy marriage. You have to physically connect as well as emotionally connect. Intimacy in a marriage is like food for her body...if you don't feed it, eventually it is going to die. 

And don't be afraid to try new things. There's an element of intrigue when you shake up the routine. And in a healthy marriage, it's safe to try those things. Go for it...and have fun!

2. Thinking of You
Put a note in his lunch bag. Or in his pocket. Send him a text. Let him know you're thinking of him. Be playful, or naughty. Either way, it's a win-win.



3. Watch your wedding video or look through your wedding photos.
Remember how happy and in love you were that day. Relive it.




4. Make a play list of songs that are special to you or that put you in the mood for romance.
Start with your first dance song from your wedding. 




5. Hold hands.


6. Do something for you.
Sometimes, the demands of our day leave us feeling like there is no time to breathe. Find time for you. Go for a walk. Eat well. Spend time with friends. Love yourself and you can love others.




7. Take the opportunity to cuddle up whenever possible. 
Again, physical contact is important. How can you feel connected to someone you don't physically touch? Spoon. Join at the feet. Hold hands. Cuddle into his nook. 




8. Disconnected dinner date
Dinner time is cherished time at our house. It's a time for reconnection after our day apart. Have dinner together. No phones. No tv. Just conversation and reconnection.


9. Plan a date night. 
Not sure where to start? Start here. 


10. It's the thoughts that count.
Think of him with love and gratitude. Send him loving energy. Pray for him...for you...for your marriage in whatever shape your prayer takes. 


With half of all marriages ending in divorce, there has to be something missing. Every day will not have rainbows and unicorns, but when both parties are committed, those days oozing love will outnumber any days without. 

How do you keep the spark aflame in your marriage?


Friday, April 25, 2014

5 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintenance is the holy grail of weight loss. 

Having lost and gained hundreds of pounds throughout my life, I am one of those people who can usually lose weight. But keeping it off? Well, that's another story. 

I routinely fall off my own wagon, but it doesn't mean I don't know how to drive. I do know that there are certain habits of success that make maintenance an achievable goal. 

Here are 5.

1. Plan
When you know better, you do better. Knowing your nutritional plan for the day, or even the week, removes the guess work. Your choices are made; make good ones. 




2. Be accountable
Whether you use a paper and pencil or an app like My Fitness Pal or Spark People, track your food. You may not have to do it forever, but knowledge is power. That handful of nuts you grab while cooking may have more of a caloric punch than your anticipated. Know what you're eating. Acknowledge it. Own it.

3. Build community. 
I am so blessed to be part of my local gym community. The instructors, trainers and members of my gym are incredibly knowledgeable and supportive. We are all working toward a common goal. When we miss a class or haven't been seen in a while, we check in on each other. We are connected in person and on social media, like Facebook. We encourage each other and celebrate each other's success. 

Create a community of friends who share your fitness goals. Try a new class. Introduce yourself. If you're not a gym person, see if there's a local fitness club or class offered at a community center or local park. Check out www.meetup.com. Maybe there people who like the exercise you do and are eager to find others who share that fun.

4. Discern between hunger and appetite.
I often mistake hunger and appetite. Hunger is a physical need to eat. Appetite is an emotional desire to eat...also known as head hunger.

I often eat when I am probably thirsty. 

I eat when I'm bored or watching tv.

Tune in to your body. It's normal to get hungry every 3-4 hours. Grazing all day...not so much.



Looking for alternatives to snacking? Start here. 

5. Get back on the wagon.
We all make mistakes. Eating candy after breakfast or in the middle of the day does not mean you have to start over tomorrow. Acknowledge the bad choice and turn it around. Get back up on the wagon and move forward.Take the emotion and shame out of it. Eat to live. 



What are your tips for maintaining a healthy weight?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Avocado Adoration: 10 ways to indulge in this heart healthy affair

I adore avocados. In fact, this love affair borders on addiction, but we won't talk about that. 

I eat avocados every day. My husband laughs that between my, and now my mother-in-law's, love of the "alligator pear," our food budget consists, primarily, of avocados and figs. 

It could be worse. 

My adoration runs so deep that I experience avocado anxiety when we're down to our last one, fearing a deficit of perfectly ripe ones at the supermarket, or worse...



Avocado adoration can be difficult because you're always on the verge of disappointment, until you learn how to play the game. 




The key is keeping some on hand ripening while you keep your perfectly ripe ones in the fridge to avoid spoiling. As you eat them, rotate in the ripe ones. 


Winning!



So, what do you do with all of these lovely avocados? Here are some ideas.

1. Avocado toast. Spread half of a ripe avocado onto a piece of multi grain toast.  Salt and pepper to taste.

2. Add to a roll-up. Spread a wrap with 2 tablespoons of hummus and add 1/4 to 1/2 sliced avocado. Roll-up and enjoy!

3. Dice avocado onto your salad.

4. Top your scrambled eggs with salsa and diced avocado.



5. Guacamole...'nuff said. Mash with some fresh lime juice and salt and pepper. Consider adding some diced tomato or corn. Just about anything goes. Make it yours.

6. Grill it. Rub with olive oil and place on the grill, cut side down, about 5 minutes. 

7. Bake it with an egg in the middle. Preheat your oven to 425. Scoop out just enough avocado to let the raw egg fit nicely. Add your egg in each half and bake 15-18 minutes, depending on size and desired level of done.

8. Mix diced avocado with black beans, corn, and diced mango for a cool summer salad. Add balsamic vinaigrette table-side.

9. Add to your smoothie with yogurt and fruit.

10. Grab a spoon and enjoy. 



Avocados are good for you. Yes, they have fat, but it is heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fat. And it will keep you feeling full longer. 

They are one of the safer conventionally grown foods because of their thick skin. They have anti-inflammatory properties and twice the potassium of a banana. Add fiber, vitamin E and B vitamins and you have yourself a super food. 

If you haven't tried one lately, try one again. Worst case scenario, you still don't like it. But what if you do? Your heart will thank you. 

Are you an avocado fan? What are your favorite ways to enjoy it?

The Petites Blog Hop, April Edition

Hi everyone! What a treat I have today! Rebecca, from Caravan Sonnet has allowed me to co-host her blog hop today. It's called The Petites and it's for any blogger with less than 400 followers in the area that you link. Join the fun today. 




The Petites Link up is BACK!! TODAY we are starting the ninth month of something that I am VERY excited about (and hope you will be too!)! I LOVE discovering friends in bloggy world and so many of my bloggy friends say the same thing! Today we are continuing a monthly link up {on the 24th of each month} for those of us that are known as small tiny the petites in bloggy world! If you are a blogger who has less then 400 followers via anything "blog related" (bloglovin, twitter, pinterest, facebook page, instagram, etc.) then this is your opportunity to make some new friends, find new blogs, and discover others in the petite section of bloggy world! 

The only rule is that if you are linking up you are a blogger with less than 400 followers in the area that you link up (GFC, Bloglovin, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.)! *smiles*

While it is not required it would be great if you shared the button with others so that everybody can get in on the fun! {You can find the code button picture below!}


You are not required to follow me or your co-hosts but it sure would be nice! *smiles* I would love to connect with y'all and would love to see you on instagram! IF you do become a new follower leave a comment here so I can follow you back! You can follow me on instagram by clicking HERE
 
This month I am delighted to have the Kelly from A Lovely Life, Indeed! She is so sweet and encouraging and I know that you will love connecting with her! You can find her blog HERE, or connect with her on bloglovin, Twitter, or instagram. 
If you follow us please leave a comment so that we can follow you back!  We would really lovely to connect with you! And don't forget to stop on over and visit other blogs and make some new friends who are other petites in bloggy world!

Would you like to co-host? I have openings for co-hosting in May 2014! 
Send me an email at: caravansonnet (at)gmail(dot)com.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Recipe: Quiche with goat cheese and roasted tomato

I hosted Easter this year. 

There were only five of us: my parents, my mother-in-law, my husband and me. 

I decided to serve brunch instead of Easter dinner, thinking that I could experiment with quiche as an occasional alternative to our traditional egg dish: tortilla espaƱola. 

I hit a home run.

I made two quiches for Easter. I made a traditional quiche Lorraine, with bacon and Swiss cheese. 



And I also made a roasted tomato and goat cheese quiche.



It was amazing!


Quiche with goat cheese and roasted tomatoes

  • 1 refrigerated pie crust (the box comes with two). If you can find a frozen shell, you can use that too...you pre-bake the crust, so it's not terribly important.
  • 2 containers of grape or cherry tomatoes (about 2 cups +/-)
  • olive oil 
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups of half and half or whole milk* (I used the half and half)
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled goat cheese
  • Parsley or chives for garnish

Here's how I made it.


  • Preheat the oven to 400. 
  • I used a 9" deep dish pie plate. If I had a tart pan, I would have used it. But, the pie plate worked just fine. *If you do use the tart pan or tart shell, halve the custard (eggs and half and half or whole milk)
  • Spread the pie dough into your pie plate. Set aside.
  • Halve the tomatoes and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. About 2 tablespoons of oil should be fine. You can eyeball it.




  • Place the tomatoes cut side up on a baking sheet. 
  • Roast at 400 for about 30 minutes.




  • Reduce the heat to 375.
  • Beat the eggs and half and half. Season with salt and pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon of each).
  • Crumble 1/2 of the goat cheese (1/4 cup) onto the bottom of the pie shell. 
  • Add the roasted tomatoes.
  • Add the egg custard on top and sprinkle with the rest of the goat cheese. Garnish with chopped parsley or chives.




  • Bake about 30 minutes, or until the custard has set.
  • Let cool and serve slightly warmer than room temperature.


I served the quiches with French bread and an arugula salad:
    • 1 container of baby arugula 
    • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
    • 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
Dressed with 
    • 1/3 cup olive oil
    • 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon
    • salt and pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon each)


Did you host or attend an Easter feast? What was on your menu?






Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Visit Massachusetts: Boston

Massachusetts has it all. 

Each region of the Bay State has unique offerings that make it a destination on its own. Home to more than 100 colleges and universities, Massachusetts has a youthful demeanor that, like a university’s extracurricular activities board, has something for everyone. 

In this first installment of a new Visit Massachusetts series, we explore the capital city of Boston.



Boston
Boston is the capital of Massachusetts. It has a rich history as a key locale in the American Revolution, and was home to such historical notables as Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and Louisa May Alcott, and more contemporary celebrities as Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and the band Aerosmith. It hosts the longest continually run marathon every April and has a legion of sports fans proud of the legacy of their hometown teams.

Boston is the tenth largest metropolitan area in the United States, but its cozy neighborhoods and walkable city center give Boston a hometown feel. 

Follow the red line along the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile brick path through the city and see historical sites made famous for their role in the American Revolution, like the Old North Church, Paul Revere’s house, the Old State House and the U.S.S. Constitution


Take a Duck Tour and hear the truth behind stories like the Great Molasses Flood of 1919. 



Tour Fenway Park or the Boston Garden and feel the pride we feel in the home teams. Depending on when you go, you may be able to see a game. 



Sample the best Italian food in Boston’s “Little Italy,” the North End, or any of the other diverse neighborhoods and see why Boston is a foodie destination. 


Soak up the culture offered in the city’s museums, like the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stuart Gardener Museum. 



Get to know the city’s penguins and sea lions at the New England Aquarium and channel your inner Einstein at the Museum of Science and the Omni IMAX Theater. 

Explore the waterfront and the Public Gardens. Take a ride on the Swan Boats in the spring and summer, or skate on the Frog Pond in the winter. 



Give your credit card a workout in the high end shoppes of Newbury Street, as well as  the shoppes of the Prudential Center and Copley Place. 



Cross the Charles River and explore Harvard University and the lively Harvard Square. Take the “T” to get around. 



Use your “Charlie Card” for the color coded subway system; both are user friendly and affordable.



If you are lucky enough to visit New England, be sure to make Boston a must-see. Whether you're looking for a family friendly destination or a romantic destination for two, Boston has it all. You'll quickly see why Bostonians "love that dirty water." 

Boston, you're my home. 



Have you ever been to Boston? Where are your favorite places in the city?










Monday, April 21, 2014

Boston Strong and the 118th Marathon

"Today is a holiday in Massachusetts -- Patriots’ Day. It’s a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation. And it’s a day that draws the world to Boston’s streets in a spirit of friendly competition. Boston is a tough and resilient town. So are its people. I'm supremely confident that Bostonians will pull together, take care of each other, and move forward as one proud city. And as they do, the American people will be with them every single step of the way." 

~President Barack Obama


My heart is with Boston today. 

It's with my family and friends who are Boston veterans and newbies alike. You have inspired others as you fought through a brutal winter of training. 

Many of you spent weeks fundraising for a cause that has touched your heart and one that fuels your fire. 

My heart is also with the runners' support people, whose cheerleading will carry their athletes in love. 




It's with the survivors and a city that refused to give up and who refused to give in. 

It's with a community who embraces and embodies strength and spirit and love...the true essence of Boston Strong.


I am proud to be from Boston...maybe not within city limits, but certainly within the limits of heart and mind. 


Wishing you all a glorious run, full of pride in your own personal best, and joy and camaraderie as one of the millions of Boston Strong. 

God bless you all.