Monday, January 28, 2013

8 Tips for Preparing Meals at Home

I've had several conversations with people lately on the subject of eating out too much and trying to cook more meals at home. We all agree; eating out drains the budget like nothing else. You can easily prepare a meal for two for less than $10, but you're likely to spend 4-5 times that at a restaurant. Yes, cooking at home means lots of planning and effort, but if you want to save money, this is a good place to start. Here are some tips for making home cooking more manageable. 

1. Plan your dinners for the coming week. Plan for leftovers too! Keep the list somewhere handy like on your refrigerator. This helps communicate to others in your household also. That way, when the temptation arises to just go out, it's like saying, "We already have plans, sorry." Make sure the list is manageable and full of simple recipes and favorites.

2. Try to food shop during off-peak times (day time during the week or early mornings on the weekends). This saves a lot of time and frustration. 

3. Stock up on your staples. To keep from having to food shop every couple of days, buy items you use all the time in bulk. For me, this includes rice, beans, and vegetable broth. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

8 Rules I Live By

A few of these are rules I try to live by (but struggle to follow sometimes), but most days, I live like this without giving it too much thought. What are your life rules?

The Rules by chrispwalsh, Flickr
1. Be nice. People like nice people, and I don't underestimate the importance of likability. I don't have to be nice every second of every day, but whatever I do, I usually start with being nice. 

2. Work hard. I like to keep busy and make an effort. If I'm going to do something, I dislike half-assing it (I'd rather just not ass it at all). Also, people usually like hard workers.

3. Clean up. I don't leave things in worse shape than before I arrived. 

4. The show must go on. And it does go on. Life doesn't stop when I'm sad or angry; unpleasant things aren't detours. They're all part of the same journey. 

5. Quiet is good.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Getting Away

Yesterday, the boyfriend and I set out for San Francisco. First, we traveled up through the Santa Cruz mountains and north of San Francisco to check out Muir Beach. The drive was nice--much more peaceful than going up 101 the whole way. Then it was over the Golden Gate Bridge (that never gets easier) to get a bit of a scenic drive on Highway 1 (where they film car commercials I'm sure) and then on to the beach.

Since one of my resolutions is to take more photos, I went a little photo happy there. Here are some of my favorites. 

Afterwards, we went back down to San Francisco for some dinner. We ended up at a cute French-Italian cafe before it was time to call it a day and go home. 

It seems like it takes so much energy to get away, to break the routine, but it's worth it. Plus a day trip or weekend getaway doesn't break the bank or create a ton of stress. 

Have you taken any short trips lately? 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

More on Living in the Moment

Psychic by Atomische, Flickr
A while back, I watched a documentary called This Emotional Life (available to stream on Netflix) that focuses in large part on what makes us happy. One part that stuck with me was about predicting future happiness. Basically, we're terrible at it.

We believe what makes us happy now will be the same things that will make us happy in the future. For example, we feel sad for old people who can't or don't regularly drive, have sex, travel, raise children, or work. I think I'd be miserable if I couldn't just get up and go do stuff whenever I felt like it, but the film showed the elderly experience the same levels of happiness and depression that younger people do. Even though they often see their friends, family, and spouses die, they find happiness in other ways.

Another example they gave was at the gym. They interviewed people and asked them, "If you were deserted in a forest, which would you rather have: water or food?" They asked some people this question before their workout and some after. Can you guess how they responded? Hands down, the pre-workout people said food, and the post-workout people said water.

More recently, I read this NPR piece about a similar topic--that we assume the person we are today is pretty much the person we'll be in the future. Even though we can easily see that we've gone through personality changes--sometimes major ones--up until now, we believe we're done with all that nonsense. And, of course, we're wrong about that too. We will continue to change.

I think back on my life choices, and I have to say I was indeed motivated by immediate concerns rather than an accurate prediction of what I would want or need in the future. If I could do it over again, I might not go to college right away. In fact, I'd probably skip college and go to a trade school. Then again, that's the me of today talking--the me who could use some financial and career stability right about now. But who knows what the me of tomorrow will need? 

It makes me dizzy just thinking about it. Of course I'll need food, water, and shelter in my future, but trying to predict anything beyond that is a little silly. When I was 18 and heading off to college, could I have predicted how I'd need to meet my basic needs at age 32? Could I have predicted how I'd need to meet my emotional needs at age 32? 

The bottom line is that our environment, our bodies, and all the unplanned events, big and small, shape us into who we are as we go along. As much as we might think we're doing something good for our future, the decisions we make regarding our happiness are made in the present based on who we are and what we want right now. 

Stop predicting and start living. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

8 Quick Knits for Beginners and Short Attention Spans

I know I've been talking a lot about knitting lately. I go through phases. Running, knitting, etc. Hopefully sewing will be next!

I'm an impatient knitter. I don't knit very quickly, and until recently, I never set aside much time to knit, so long projects turned me off. I like small, simple projects that only take a few hours, but I do like to challenge myself with different stitches and techniques here and there. If my eyes have to be glued to a pattern the entire time, though, I'm probably going to lose interest.

Linen Stitch Cowl
Here are some projects I'd recommend if you're a beginner or someone like me who just likes to keep it basic:

1. Cowls. If you knit them in the round, they're like hats without the decreases, and if you knit them flat, they're like scarves that take a fraction of the time.

2. Bracelet covers. I haven't made these yet, but they're on my to-do list. It's a good way to use up leftover scraps too.

3. Gadget covers, like for your digital reader, cell phone, camera, or tablet.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bag it!

San Francisco Bag, by Project Green Bag, Flickr
Why not start my blogging year with a rant? This year, as we think about all the ways in which we'd like to improve ourselves, let's not forget to think about what's good for others and our environment. 

A few months ago, Monterey instituted a ban on plastic bags and began charging for paper bags. Since I use reusable bags, I was not inconvenienced in any way, and since I fully support accumulating less waste and using less plastic, I was happy about the ban. 

But I often feel like the only one. I routinely hear complaints or heavy sighs when the cashier gently asks if the customer will need a bag.  One problem is that the many tourists here aren't familiar with the local laws. The other problem is that people, tourists or not, are pretty shortsighted. It's, "I'm mildly inconvenienced right now!" instead of considering this is better for our community in the long run.