Monday, August 24, 2015

Seven positive things I did this week

Sometimes it's pretty easy to get caught up in all of the things we didn't do.  Today, I'm going to focus on the positives. Here are a few positive things I did this week:


  1. Did a bit of decluttering - and got rid of 4 brand new notebooks (donated), 3 tank tops, a sweater, & recycled some paperwork in the boys room.
  2. Called Care.com & requested a refund for $39. (This is the service we used to find & screen a nanny). I forgot to call & cancel, & was charged for an extra month. I called before the fee even cleared (noticed it in my pending charges) & requested a refund, explaining that I hadn't used the service for several weeks. Just received the credit.
  3. Helped my sister out by coordinating some details for our big family relay next week. She's the team captain, & there are a million details to arrange. I could tell she needed help with something, & picked up the work. I bribed everyone to complete their tasks with an offer of free beer at the finish line. My bribe worked, of course. Know your audience. ;-)
  4. I took my boys on a bike ride. Fun & free, plus good for all of us.
  5. I tried a new recipe (Shrimp Stir Fry), using a ton of garden ingredients - zucchini, sweet peppers, green peppers, tomatoes, basil, lemon (from our tree), and a few white eggplant that came from a friend's garden. I used leftover rice & it was amazing! So fresh & light. It will definitely be in the summer rotation, until all of the bounty is gone.
  6. Tracked down Southwest Airlines *again* about the two flights I bought for a trip. I've called multiple times, and each time was told that it was being investigated & I would get a call back. I never got a call back, so emailed customer service, got routed to "corporate", and this time heard back! They credited me $279. Woohoo!
  7. Started working on our 2016 budget expenses. Calculated how much we've spent in each category to date, and did all of the math to understand how we're doing. So far, I can see that we'll be reducing: insurance, gas, kids activities, & auto. And, increasing: dining out, groceries (despite my best effort), & rent. 

So, a mix of fun, work, financial savings, & decluttering! What are some positive things you did this week?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday ramblings

We've had a nice, relatively mellow weekend around these parts. S had a soccer game on Saturday, N had his class picnic today. I also did a 5 miler yesterday (in the heat, since I missed my window in the morning taking S to soccer) & took the boys on a 35 minute (hilly) bike ride today.

M & I also went to an open house a couple of blocks away. We came to a couple of conclusions: we're getting a "great deal" on our rent (quotes used because I just can't swallow $5,200 being a great deal, but we're referring to market conditions in this instance, not my own point of view), and it's going to be a LONG time before we can buy here. Even if I worked indefinitely in my crazy job.

Over dinner last night, M was very frustrated about the price of housing (as was I) & said, "what if we just move back to Seattle & move back into our house?" It was a bit of a throwaway comment, but it definitely got both of us thinking about the possibilities.

By this morning, M had built a weighted matrix of advantages & disadvantages with each decision. We each weighted each attribute and then scored each location, and my assessment had Seattle leading by 50%. M's was much more even. His job situation is fantastic - his career is on fire, & he's enjoying it very much.

This entire conversation is based on the timing of selling our Seattle house. Basically, we can avoid $500K of capital gains if we sell by next September. But at this point, moving back is on our radar again. I have a long list of pros & cons (as does M). We'll decide by the end of the school year (and, honestly, probably sooner, given that we need the house listed by March or April to ensure a close by September). We wouldn't move the kids before the end of this school year regardless.

It would mean being closer to my family, a much, much lower cost of living, and moving back into a house we already own + a vacation house. On the other hand, there are fewer career opportunities (particularly for M) & the weather is obviously not as good. ;-)

Deep thoughts aside, I'm about to make a Chinese feast - orange chicken & shrimp stir fry plus rice. Plus wine! Happy Sunday. ;-)

And, because these guys crack me up, here's a great picture from the first day of school. One of my favorites.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

What do you do when what you're doing isn't working?

This applies to anything, really - weight loss, fitness, parenting, work, marriage. I'm feeling this keenly in multiple areas of my life right now. I'm spread too thin, and it can often feel like none of my efforts in any of the above areas are working. In my case, I think it's fair to say that I'm putting in maximum effort, but not really achieving much output. So, what should I be doing?

A few things jump to mind - you can do either:

  • Option A) Give up. Perhaps a good choice if you determine that the goal isn't really suited to you, and/or after exploring it, you determine that it's not worth the effort.
  • Option B) Change something
Let's take one of the areas above & work through what's not working in my life - fitness, in this case. I do want & NEED to be fit, so giving up isn't one of the options. So, I guess I need to choose Option B - Change something.

Being fit, staying in shape, running, & generally being a healthy & active person are all important to me. Not only because it's needed for long-term health/short term energy & the overall way I feel when I'm in shape, but also because it's critical that I manage this to keep my lupus in check. Yet, I'm not currently in what I would describe as great shape. I'm very inconsistent with my workouts, and "something" is not working. 

Breaking it down a bit, what exactly is not working? I find that listing out all of the things that are currently getting in the way of my good intentions is helpful.

My schedule is busy, so finding time to work out is complicated. More specifically:
  1. I'm often too tired from late night calls to get up early & work out.
  2. If I plan workouts during the work day, they are almost always interrupted by work conflicts, urgent things, etc.
  3. Evening workouts are also hard. It's part of my very limited time window with the kids, and/or, I have evening calls as soon as the kids go to sleep. I feel guilty taking away kid/family time
  4. If I don't have evening calls, I'm exhausted from all of the other evening calls, and/or feel super guilty about missing kid time, and want to make it up.
  5. Weekends are filled with kid activities, but I do have success if I get up early enough to get in my workout. 
  6. When I travel for work, jet lag, eating out & generally working 12-15 hours a day makes working out very difficult. 
So, how can I solve this? There are drastic solutions (quit my job & look for something with fewer hours, less travel, & no evening commitments)  to smaller solutions. Honestly, the quitting the job is pretty high on my list of potential solutions, but I'm not mentally (or financially) ready to make that decision right now. So, what else can I do?


  1. Look for smaller windows of time to work out. I often convince myself that if I don't have 90 minutes, particularly at work where I have to shower, that I don't have time to workout. While not awesome to get in a 15-20 minute workout, it's good for my mental health to get in a quick workout. 
  2. Limit my evening meetings to one night per week. Even if I have to work later one night, I'm willing to try to do that vs having multiple nights with late meetings. It's extremely hard for me to manage personally (family, my own mindset, not feeling like I can relax) when I put in a 10 hour day at he office, come home, make dinner, help the kids with homework, and then get on the phone for three more hours. It throws off my entire schedule & is just, quite frankly, depressing. I've said I'm going to do this, and now I'm going to force myself to make it happen.
  3. Wake up early two times per week. This isn't crazy, will still give me days where I can "sleep in" until 6:00
  4. Get in workouts both weekend days, first thing in the morning, regardless. This needs to be my top priority to knock out first thing in the  morning. Otherwise, it gets too hot, my day gets filled with other activities, I get lazy, etc. ;-)
  5. Skip reading, and do yoga one night a week (on a nights without calls) after the boys go to bed. 

I'm already doing a few things that are helping me get in workouts. Here are the things that are currently helping me.

  • Review my work & family calendar over the weekend. Plan early mornings, late nights, & (when possible), book workouts. I need to make the workout booking more of a priority.
  • Keep my hand weights out & accessible. I regularly squeeze in 2-3 minute intervals with the hand weights. It's easy, and keeping the weights out & where I see them (in my case, on my bathroom counter) means they are always top of mind. 
  • Make fitness a part of my life, generally. I register for race, encourage my kids to be active, try to make social activities with friends & family active (we always work out on family vacations, I meet friends for hikes, etc). 

I'm finding the need to step back & evaluate my life in more detail. Do you ever reach that point where things don't feel like they are "working"? If so, what steps do you take to fix it? 




Monday, August 17, 2015

August goals - week 2 check in

I'm a little late, but at least I'm getting it posted. ;-)

  1. Complete 1000 minutes of cardio, 15 strength workouts, & 5 stretching workouts. I have my relay coming up, & just joined a running club, so this should be doable. - Let's see, I've done 425 minutes of cardio, 5 strength & finally - ONE stretching workout!
  2. Commit to my running club. I've never run in a group before, & I'm a little nervous/anxious that I might embarrass myself. - I've done one group run, but had to cancel the other due to a work conflict. 
  3. Complete my relay, have fun, & relax & enjoy the experience more this year, rather than stressing about the details. - So far, so good. :-) 
  4. Figure out what to get M for our anniversary. I'm thinking of experiences in Hawaii, rather than a gift, so I need to get thing planned. - Haven't made any progress on this since my last check in. 
  5. Stay on track with our budget. - On track except for food! We took the boys out to eat after their triathlon, and we've spent more than planned on groceries. We have one extra shopping day (we buy all of our weekly groceries on Saturdays) than normal. Still on balance, on track. 
  6. Put more thought into our plans for our Seattle house (selling, keeping), plus our long term plan here (renting, buying, etc) - have put no more thought into this. Need to email the accountant!
  7. Menu plan. For reals. For the entire month.- Yes, on track!
  8. Plan a fun activity for Labor Day weekend. - Not yet.
  9. Figure out work & personal travel through the end of 2015. - Mostly sorted, but not completely.
  10. Start planning our 2016 budget, including tweaks to our categories, budget amounts, etc. - Haven't started. 
  11. Call to see if we can reduce our car insurance. - Yes, done & saved a bunch of money! ;-) 
  12. FIND A NANNY!! School starts in 2 1/2 weeks, & I'm starting to panic. - Yes, done!
  13. Seriously get more balanced in the work/life balance equation. It's pretty bad right now. Some goals I'm thinking of related to that:
    1. One night (or less) a week with evening calls. It's super hard to come home, make dinner, squeeze in family time, dreading the knowledge that I have to put in another couple of hours starting at 8:30 pm.  - eh, I'm trying, but recruiting interviews are getting in my way.
    2. Amp up my recruiting efforts. I'm already spending 15 hours/week on this, but i have 3 people manager roles to fill, and once I fill them, my life will be MUCH easier, my evening/morning calls will be reduced, & I can travel less. - yes,I have two promising candidates out of my 3 manager roles. 
    3. Minimize travel to only urgent/super important tasks. - Yes, looking for ways to cut at least one country out of my proposed calendar. 
    4. Work out 5 days/week. This requires getting up earlier, making time for my afternoon runs, etc. I must prioritize my health! - Nope. I've been really needing my sleep from late meetings & haven't prioritized it!
Based on my progress (or, lack thereof), I'm going to email the accountant today about our Seattle house, work on the 2016 budget, come up with a workout schedule for the week, and finalize our Hawaii plans. Fingers crossed! :-) 

How are you doing with your August goals? Any major progress? 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A triathlon filled weekend

The boys completed their first triathlon this weekend. Sadly, I'm also exhausted. Getting prepped, getting up early, running around the course to find everyone, helping in the transition area? Exhausting! :-) They had a blast & are already wondering when they can do another one.


They suffered through the swimming (they both take a couple of swim lessons each summer, but that's pretty much the extent of their swimming experience), but crushed the running & biking legs. It was so much fun to walk, and awesome to see all of the little athletes. Super proud, especially of Nick, who was nervous for the swim. This is totally outside of his comfort zone, but as soon as Sam said he wanted to do the event, Nick insisted that he sign up as well. Adorable, and a great way to close out summer. School starts tomorrow! :-)

And, now for the menu for the week:


  • Sunday - M is grilling burgers + salad & wine. I only drink on the weekends, but enjoy a couple of glasses of wine before we eat dinner
  • Monday - Oven baked risotto, this time with sausage, peppers, & fresh mozzarella. Risotto is one of my favorite ways to use up what's in the fridge
  • Tuesday - leftover homemade chicken pizza. With pesto, chicken & peppers. So much pesto to use up. My basil plant has taken over two planters - it's enormous!
  • Wednesday - leftover burgers
  • Thursday - tacos (meat from the freezer) + homemade guacamole
  • Friday - Not sure yet, but thinking grilled shrimp & pasta

That's pretty much it for us. It's been 100 both days of the weekend, so my workouts have been very limited (yoga yesterday, with the fan blowing on my face) & I'm counting the minimum of three miles I ran back & forth in the heat this morning.

Hope you are all having a fabulous & relaxing Sunday. What's your favorite "use it up" dinner? Mine are the risotto & homemade pizza. This risotto recipe is my favorite. I follow the recipe exactly through the baking steps, but the toppings I mix in (after you pull out of the oven) are totally dependent upon what's in the fridge. I've done chicken sausage, butternut squash, chicken, vegetarian with fresh garden tomatoes, mozzarella & basil  . . . there are lots of options!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

August goals - week 1 check in & menu plan

I'm trying to improve my discipline by checking in more frequently on my goals. Otherwise, out of sight, out of mind. :-)

Goals for August:
  1. Complete 1000 minutes of cardio, 15 strength workouts, & 5 stretching workouts. I have my relay coming up, & just joined a running club, so this should be doable - Okay, so I finished 340 minutes of cardio, 2 strength workouts & 0 stretching workouts. I'm on track for cardio, but not for strength or stretching. 
  2. Commit to my running club. I've never run in a group before, & I'm a little nervous/anxious that I might embarrass myself. - it starts on Tuesday!
  3. Complete my relay, have fun, & relax & enjoy the experience more this year, rather than stressing about the details. - Yes, looking very forward to it!
  4. Figure out what to get M for our anniversary. I'm thinking of experiences in Hawaii, rather than a gift, so I need to get things planned. - I've made a little progress, but am not done with the planning. 
  5. Stay on track with our budget. - so far, so good!
  6. Put more thought into our plans for our Seattle house (selling, keeping), plus our long term plan here (renting, buying, etc) - we haven't done much planning, & I need to reach out to our accountant.
  7. Menu plan. For reals. For the entire month. - yes! On track & doing great!
  8. Plan a fun activity for Labor Day weekend. - haven't thought about this yet!
  9. Figure out work & personal travel through the end of 2015. - Yes, my work travel is sorted. All that's left is booking & figuring out the holidays.
  10. Start planning our 2016 budget, including tweaks to our categories, budget amounts, etc. - Not started. 
  11. Call to see if we can reduce our car insurance. - yes! And saved $836!!!! 
  12. FIND A NANNY!! School starts in 2 1/2 weeks, & I'm starting to panic. - Yes, actually! She starts tomorrow. :-) 
  13. Seriously get more balanced in the work/life balance equation. It's pretty bad right now. Some goals I'm thinking of related to that: - generally working on it, but it's a long slow process!
    1. One night (or less) a week with evening calls. It's super hard to come home, make dinner, squeeze in family time, dreading the knowledge that I have to put in another couple of hours starting at 8:30 pm. 
    2. Amp up my recruiting efforts. I'm already spending 15 hours/week on this, but i have 3 people manager roles to fill, and once I fill them, my life will be MUCH easier, my evening/morning calls will be reduced, & I can travel less.
    3. Minimize travel to only urgent/super important tasks.
    4. Work out 5 days/week. This requires getting up earlier, making time for my afternoon runs, etc. I must prioritize my health!

Here's my menu plan for this week:
  • Saturday (yesterday) - beef kebabs, rice & yogurt sauce
  • Sunday (today) - grilled salmon, rice, & peach/fresh mozzarella salad
  • Monday - leftover salmon & rice
  • Tuesday - leftover kebabs
  • Wednesday - Spaghetti & meatballs
  • Thursday - Leftovers (if any), or chicken, edamame & rice
  • Friday - Shrimp pesto pasta
  • Saturday - homemade chicken pesto pizza
  • Sunday - chicken risotto
How was your Sunday? I did an 8 mile pace walk today & I'm SO SORE! 3 miles was straight uphill & my backside is not used to that kind of punishment. ;-) 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A huge money saving win + random weekend updates

I'm admittedly not very on top of our insurance - we have (mostly) great rates & I renegotiated everything when we moved. Earlier in the week I noticed that our auto policy had increased. I called, and the company was increasing our weekly driving mileage, despite the fact that nothing had changed. In fact, M & I drive *very* little - our commute is pretty small. We also have a third vehicle that gets driven 1x/month that had way too much mileage on the policy.

I spent about 30 minutes gathering the odometer readings, mapping each commute, filling out a form, emailing it to the company. I just checked this morning & that effort paid off - a change of $836. WOW! I don't even want to think if I could have adjusted it earlier in the year, but I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Yeah for staying on top of our expenses!!

I also have to train for my relay & work on my distances & pace times. Here's what's on the agenda for today:


  1. Make a menu plan
  2. Laundry
  3. 5 mile pace walk
  4. Lift weights
  5. Yoga
  6. Sign our new lease
  7. Email new nanny all of the details
  8. Plan schedule for the week
  9. Costco
  10. Produce stand
  11. Library
  12. Plan my workouts for the week
  13. Clean up the boys books - they've finished a bunch of new series & we need to go through their bookshelf & decide what to keep/donate
  14. Reconcile our budget
  15. Read my book!

That's pretty much it! What about you? How have you saved money this week? What's on your agenda for today?