Friday, January 30, 2009

One Month In, Trying, Horrible, or Hopeful?

Whoosh, bat an eye and gone is January. Oh but where did January go? Part of my New Year’s Resolve is to spend consciously, I must also reflect consciously about how the spending is going. Like a nice little circle to keep the budget in check, think about where the money is going and then reflect at month’s end if the energy was put in the right place.

Budget, yes I said it.

I am sure many laugh at me, as I am new to this budgeting thing. Heck the concept is not new to me, countless times I’ve wanted to keep a budget, but typically it falls by the wayside. Sort of like all the half empty pretty journals that fill a shoe box in my guest bedroom closet. It’s very loose as far as budgets go, no spreadsheets, just a yellow legal pad, a few categories, and some hope. Hope to do better, to reduce debt and get our spending in check.

Let’s rewind to December 31, 2008. Romantically enough, I sat with a pile of bank statements, my checkbook, a calculator, and bills in my lap. J and I actually had a conversation about money (for us this is huge), where we spend it, how we could do better. We of course hashed out what we could do with out and what we wouldn’t compromise on.

Take for example paper towels. I said, let’s do with out them. My husband suggested we should set ten paper towels out every morning, and when they were gone for the day, that would be it. 10 paper towels a day. We laughed. A paper towel ration. What’s next toilet paper squares? We decided to keep our paper towels, but use rags of old t-shirts and cloth diapers more aggressively and play down our paper towel dependence. For the record, we do buy recycled paper towels at Costco. Is a pack of paper towels every other month weighing down our budget, nah? Time to dig deeper.

Oh yeah, did you catch this was New Year’s Eve. Aren’t we just dripping with party all the time around here? What time would be more perfect than the cusp of the New Year, to get it together. Hey the girls were asleep and I thought it was a very bankable moment, no pun intended.

So at month’s end, how did we do?

Looking at my tech-savvy yellow note pad, the biggest expenditure we have is food. Not even eating out. We spent about $65.00 eating out four times. Not bad at all. But grocery shopping is our area of non-compromise. We are big fans of Whole Foods and it’s hard to turn your back on quality food. Instead, meal planning and thrifty spending to make our money stretch at Whole Foods will become our focus next month. I will revisit my post about saving money shopping at Whole Foods.

As for our “other” category, this is where unconscious spending would fall. I must pat myself on the back. No trips to Target for sponges and Ziplocs and leaving $100 later. Now that is huge for me, a small celebration indeed. Not once did I go shopping for things we don’t need, like clothes or toys. Hello this is the month following Christmas, if I can’t stick to not buying toys in January, we would be doomed! “That’s not in our budget,” rolled off my tongue with ease through out the month. At first my five year old questioned this budget, but became very accepting of it. We diverted our attention from stuff to us, to what we have, and it worked.

One night Sj asked to go out to eat. I gave her my canned response about the budget. So instead she came up with the idea to turn our house into a restaurant. It was lovely to have my daughter take down my order, dress up the dining room, and share in conscious spending as a family, even though she hasn’t a clue that’s what we accomplished.

The best part of celebrating one month down, I didn’t put a dime on my credit card. I am trying to aggressively pay it off and I no longer carry it in my wallet. It warms my heart to feel the promise of staying grounded in my spending.

Next month, I’ll share the emotional gamut I went through with the budget. How I truly am an emotional spender, how I once laughed about retail therapy. But really it’s not a joke, it’s sad to try to escape how you’re feeling with a drink, some dessert, or a credit card. No matter how you look at it, staying present dealing with emotions as they unfold is one heck of a challenge.

Watch out February you may be a short month, but one that will be easy to stray off budget. We have a few birthdays and of course Valentine’s Day. I envision a lovely evening at home and some chocolate fondue with the girls. Very budget friendly and very heart warming.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What's On My Nightstand? Why Charlotte's Web Of Course...

Two weeks ago, I walked into the Education building at the University of Colorado @ Boulder, for my first class of the semester. The building is eerily familiar to me, for I spent most of my days there, a decade ago. Not only was I a full time student, but also a work study in the School of Education. 

I opened the door to my classroom, to be greeted by a familiar face, my professor. Not only is she my professor for the semester, but she was also my advisor and professor my last go around. This professor brings a very unique passion to teaching teachers. She embraced me with a warm hug and I momentarily felt validated in my decision to pursue my Master's Degree. Of course, as with the School of Education, the room was full of classmates that I spent last semester with, with only one new face in the crowd. So they to, offering smiles as I walked in helped reassure me that I am doing the right thing. 

Familiarity is that silent nudge that pats me on the back. In the circle of familiarity I feel at home, safe, and willing to take risks even if I might not always have the right words to say. At this stage of the game for me, being out of the classroom for five years, being out of college for a decade, it's very easy to second guess yourself. It's very easy to think maybe I should be content staying home and not chasing a degree, maybe I should pursue something else. But I let those negative thoughts pass, I let my confidence build. 

Our professor reads aloud to us, her voice so memorable, her readings evoke emotion. I try to recall the last time someone read aloud to me and I couldn't quite put a memory to it. I read to the girls everyday, all through out the day. There's a wonderful meditative feeling in having someone read aloud to you as an adult, it's almost as if your brain allows you to escape even deeper into the story because you aren't focusing on the words coming up, decoding, fluency. Simply lovely. 

As the night progresses, I realize it's going to be one intense semester. I have numerous children's chapter books to read as well as professional articles and books. I have papers to write, annotated bibliographies to prepare, and a literature based unit to teach to a group of student's weekly. But I know I can do it, I just have to learn to juggle managing my household full time, being a mother full time, and engaging the academic part of my brain that has been on sabbatical for a few years. Well, and blogging, as you may imagine it may have to just take a back burner until I am full swing juggling all that life brings me. Maybe I'll bring back the MeMe in full force, just kidding. 

My first assignment of the semester was to read Charlotte's Web by E.B.White. I decided to seize the moment and read Charlotte's Web aloud to my five year old before bedtime. We snuggle under the covers, get out the book and I read while she enjoys a bedtime snack. Sj has become so enthralled by the story that we've actually started reading the book in the morning and at night. We are just a few chapters shy of the end. 

If you haven't revisited Charlotte's Web since your childhood, I have to encourage you to pick it up at the library on your next visit. As our perspective in life changes our interpretations of literature also changes. The language is profoundly eloquent. The words read with grace and flow. The story of friendship and kindness transcends age. If you have a little one (or two or three) sitting around you, take the journey together. It's a beautiful one. 

The American Library Association announced Monday morning their 2009 Book Award Winners. You can find the list here, which is a wonderful resource for the cream of the crop in literature. 

Friday, January 23, 2009

Homemade Happy Granola Bars

Well, in case you didn't catch my disdain for all that's happening with peanut butter products, please check out this post I wrote yesterday. There were some requests for a Granola Bar recipe. Guess what, it just so turns out that I have one.

This granola bar recipe is from when I was in Jr. High school and had to take Home Economics. Seriously. I've held onto because the bars are delicious. Now, the recipe is going to be my new found favorite because I can't stand the thought of my girls eating mass produced products with cheap ingredients. I can control what goes into them! I may play with the recipe a bit and substitute in Almond butter or add dried fruit.

Happy Granola Bars

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
grease 9x9 square pan
Bake: ***15-20 minutes (cover with foil last 5-10 minutes), makes 16-24 bars

Combine and set aside, Dry Ingredients:
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Cream together, wet ingredients:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup brown sugar

Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, combining with a wooden spoon. When mixed well, add the remaining ingredients. This is where substitutions or additions can occur. Do not omit oatmeal, wheat germ, or dry milk crystals.

Stir in:
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup chocolate or carob chips
1/4-1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup dry milk crystals (can be found in bulk bins at Whole Foods)

Enjoy, please let me know if you experiment with the ingredients, I'd love to know your combination.

***My oven bakes warm and at the shortest time. I've had some feedback that taking them out at 15 minutes they were crumbly. So I suggest baking them for up to 10 minutes longer with foil covering them. It's really dependent on your oven. My apologies!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Corporate Effects of Peanut Butter Recall, General Mills Owns The World!

When I watch the 10pm evening news, I'm not paying full attention. Honestly my iPhone is usually in one hand and I am listening to the news, multi-tasking folding laundry, paying bills. I overhear mention of a Peanut Butter recall linked with salmonella. Eew. Then they say it's just affecting 5 pound tubs of peanut butter. My mind is prematurely eased, as in the next few days a wealth of information begins to unfold.

I start to learn more and more about the products I consume. Then I feel disappointed in what I come to learn about the companies I choose to support.

Voluntary recalls begin popping up in the media and on twitter via Whole Foods tweets. First thing I hear is LARA Bar new flavor peanut butter cookie has been recalled.I know my husband is a huge LARA consumer, so I immediately call him. Yes, as I predicted he ate a bar the day before the recall, a peanut butter cookie bar. He was excited by the new flavor. Yikes. Three days have passed and he didn't fall ill. Yeah!

But then I begin thinking wow, that's rather odd, LARA is a small Denver based company that makes really fabulous products. Why would they be affected by this institutional sub-par peanut butter recall?

Turns out, LARA changed hands last year, guess who owns them now? GENERAL MILLS. My stomach turned. Bummer.

Then I read a Rocky Mountain News article about the acquisition, turns out General Mills owns many organic companies. General Mills owns Cascadian Farms (no surprise to me) and Muir Glen. Oh and just to throw it in there, Hamburger Helper and Cheerios.

They all seem to have the same vision right, top of the line 5 ingredient healthy fruit and nut bars and Hamburger Helper. Seems like a match made in heaven.

Now, let me say, I don't want to judge the choice to sell your company. Larabar was started in a kitchen, it grew so big that General Mills acquired it. Must be fabulous to still have a hand in the company and feel the success.

Only problem is all I can think is Hamburger Helper.

Back to the recall, other bars affected by the voluntary recall are:

Clif Bars, Clif Builder's Bar, Clif Kid ZBaR, Health Valley Organic Peanut Crunch Chewy Granola Bars, JamFrakas, LARABar, Luna Bars, MOJO Bar, Nature's Path Optimum Energy Bars.

Take a good look at that list. Take a good look at your grocery receipt. I consider PCA- Peanut Corporation of America to be a supplier of institutional peanut butter, not peanut butter for companies I support. Quite honestly, companies I pay top dollar for because I assume they aren't getting their peanut butter from the source that Little Debbie does.

I've been fooled. But trust me, I am not going to support these companies anymore. I am doing my homework. If I am going to pay top dollar for these products, I want to know that I am getting highest quality ingredients.

Time to start making my own bars. Ha!

Searchable database of all recalled Peanut Butter Products!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Emotions Transcended Television Broadcast

Oh yesterday, oh glorious day. I realized this morning that if I didn't write a reflection of yesterday's events I probably would regret it in the future. So here I sit thinking about yesterday. The girls and I spent the morning glued to the television coverage. I was thrilled that I could watch with my oldest, as Kindergarten didn't start until the afternoon, so the morning was ours. The history in the making was ours to share. 

I decided to take photos of the girls celebrating because I knew they would want to remember the day. To share with friends and their own children the day Obama was sworn into office. The day American History was changed forever. 

One of the strongest impressions I will take away from the experience was the feeling. The overwhelming feeling of seeing so many thousands of people participating in history. The feeling of HOPE transcended through emotion. After a while the newscasters questioning about I never thought I would see this day, became redundant to me. It made me reflect deeper into what was happening. 

While I couldn't be more prouder of having the first African American President sworn into office, the feelings and emotions that were displayed were profound to me. I could see in people's faces the feeling that their future is going to be different. That America can once again care for it's people and believe in us. That America can be the greatest nation on earth, not through our wealth or our power, but by our character. A character that has been tarnished the world over, not to mention from coast to coast. If we believe again in the power of the people then there is no recession too big to overcome, no bureaucracy too deep to change. Change for the better, change for the people. 

Did you see how full of joy everyone was? Did you see the smiles on the President and First Lady's faces? Did you see the Obamas hold hands, embrace people, show emotion like no other First Family I have ever seen. Their warmth, honor, and graciousness exuded beyond television broadcasting. They're definitely my kind of people. Thank Goodness that emotion has been allowed into the White House, for it's a beautiful thing. 
Time to embrace a new day. A new beautiful day America.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

She Can Do It

Here's a conversation between my daughter and I today, while watching the Inauguration on television:

Mom, have their been any lady presidents? No, not yet. But what about that Clinton Lady, wasn't she President? No, she lost the nomination to Barack Obama, who is now our new President, isn't it wonderful? Yes, it is. I am so excited because now I can be the FIRST Lady President. Yes, you can.

Followed up with hugs and big smiles. In that moment today I truly believed if she really wanted to, she can do it. 

Friday, January 16, 2009

Easy Kid-Friendly Enchiladas!

Last night I purchased a rotisserie chicken, but decided to switch things up a bit. We normally just cut up the chicken and eat it as is. I did some searching online and decided to make Lighter Chicken Enchiladas, from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. I basically had all the needed ingredients and Mexican sounded great.

I had to switch up the recipe a bit because I did not have a can of chipotles in my pantry. Although, funny enough I tried to buy them, but Whole Foods was out of them last week. Maybe I knew enchiladas were in my future. Considering I was already switching up the recipe, I decided to make it kid friendly as well.

To make the recipe kid friendly, follow all the steps with one exception:

*Add two tablespoons TOMATO PASTE instead of the canned chipotles.

Continue to cook up the sauce as the recipe states, the cumin added a nice mexican flair to the sauce for the girls. Remove one cup of the sauce and pour over the shredded chicken for the enchilada filling.

Then, I kicked up the sauce for the hubby and I. At this point, I kept the remaining sauce on the stove and added about a 1/2 cup of Chipotle Honey Roasted Green Chile because that's what I had on hand. The folks over at 505 make fabulous organic green chili and salsas! Let it cook for a few more minutes.

I assembled the girls' enchiladas in a baking dish and stuffed small corn tortillas with just the chicken seasoned inside (from the cup with only tomato paste). I topped it with cheddar cheese. Then I placed the remaining chicken enchiladas in a big baking dish and poured all the spicy enchilada sauce over the top, with about 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese. It's nice to control the amount of cheese, a dish like this has such wonderful flavor it doesn't need to be smothered in tons of cheese!

My husband proclaimed the enchiladas were some of the best he's ever had. The girls devoured theirs! Win, win for the entire family! Better yet, dinner was out of the oven in 20 minutes! Give it a try, let me know what you think.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Whopper With Cheese, Hold The Meat Please

For many years, possibly close to a decade I didn't eat meat. I wasn't a selective memory vegetarian, I was a strict vegetarian. Those selective memory vegetarians are the ones that occasionally indulge in meat even though most of the time they tow the line with living meat free. In that case, my response is why label yourself, just eat meat when you want to. Don't make the point of saying your vegetarian when you once a month consume a burger!.

Memories take me back to eating out at restaurants and being so neurotic about my vegetarian ways. I would ask the wait staff if there was chicken stock in the vegetable soup or if my vege burger was going to be grilled right along with the bacon and beef. Most of the time, grilled cheese and fries, or a salad were my go-to's for eating out. Restaurants these days seem to be much more in tune with dietary restrictions, I think living a vegetarian lifestyle is much different now.

My husband (well boyfriend at the time) and I were both vegetarians, so it made life a bit simpler for cooking at home. When we traveled often on lengthy road trips across the country, we always ran into the food on the road debacle. Or shall I say vegetarian food on the road debacle! You know how hard it is to eat vegetarian driving through rural United States? Well, let's just say eating vegetarian on interstate food is quite the challenge. We weren't the type to hunt for food when traveling, we were in-out and back on the road in no time. Quite honestly, we never gave much thought to just carrying a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and jelly. Silly us. Instead we perfected the art of ordering fast food with out the meat.

My favorite, Whopper with cheese, HOLD the meat. We would stuff our burger with french fries. Aah, the good ol' days. Then there was always the double decker taco with "all beans, no meat". That one was always harder to get perfected on the road. Guaranteed threw the employees for a loop every damn time.

Now that we eat meat, the pendulum has swung in a different direction. We rarely ever eat from fast food restaurants that have Kings, Golden Arches, or Bells. After being vegetarian for so many years, I have become a meat snob. Honestly, I don't love beef so when I do occasionally have a burger, it has to be good meat. We do enjoy a Coleman Natural Beef Burger from our local Colorado Good Times Burger chain every now and again.

Which leads me to the photo above. Recently we broke all the rules. While spending the morning at one of our favorite malls, the Colorado Mills, time escaped us. Before we knew it, it was way past lunchtime. The girls were hungry, so were we. The food court at this mall is the worst. The worst. In a pinch, we revisited our roots. We ordered two Whoppers with cheese, hold the meat. We passed on their vege burgers which are on the menu these days, if you hunt for them long enough. A deep fried hockey puck isn't that great. So instead we stuffed our burgerless Whoppers with fries. It brought me right back to the 1990's. I must admit, I kinda liked it.

***Curious as to what meat we ate first, read this!

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Hand Is Extended, Will You Shake It?

The Official Delurking Day:

If you've been around here before, maybe you'd just move in for a hug and brush off the hand shake. As you may know I like an embrace or sometimes more, but no kissing today I promise.

So what is Delurking day? Today is the day, your big chance to say hello. I'm friendly, I love comments, and if you have never commented before raise your hand and say something loud and clear. Over in that little comment box. If you regularly comment, join in the fun. If you have something more than hello to say, well then please go right ahead and do that as well. I am hear to listen. Thrilled by the prospect of what you may say because today is the day.

Delurking Day was started by Rude Cactus and that lovely little Delurker Logo, created by none other than the fabulous Greeblemonkey!

On a side note, I have a few things to say about the Golden Globes if you are interested? (maybe my insight will give you that little push to share a comment!)

One, Oh poor Sam Mendes, hold that wife Kate Winslet close because I have a feeling Leonardo DiCaprio is her
one that got away. Poor man, I feel sad for him. Looking at the two side by side, Sam or Leo seems like a no-brainer.

My concern quickly moves to Robert Downey Jr. Oh no, did you see him last night? He had all the signs and demeanor of a man having a good time, complete with some illicit drug use. Ouch. I so hope I am wrong!

Did you see Ben Harper? You know he's married to Laura Dern, who won a GG! Woot! I was thrilled for her and do adore them as a couple. It makes me smile to think Ben likes tall chicks. Ha!

Last but not least Brangelina seemed a bit like wallflowers. They are so saturated in the media, it wasn't even exciting to see them. Seems as if raising 6 kids may be wearing on them as well. They just seemed, blah. Maybe they knew they weren't going to win. Do people know they aren't going to win?

Thanks for playing, thanks for reading, and hoping you are leaving with a smile!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

So Much For Privacy...

Having a little privacy isn't too much to ask or is it? I need your advice, turns out my spur of the moment explanation is driving me bonkers.

Check out my embarrassing dilemma over at Rocky Mountain Moms Blog!

Please leave some words of wisdom, I can desperately use them!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

While My Husband Was Hanging With Celebrities, I Was Ankle Deep In Water!

Seeing my artificial Christmas tree in it's bright red storage bag flashed back a few memories for me. Memories of a year ago, New Year's Day. My husband opened our crawl space doors to find a few inches of standing water coming from our old water heater. Now many of us say, "hot water heater", but that's redundant for the phrase heater is indicative of making the water hot. So after much research I am firm in my water heater terminology being sure to drop the hot off the beginning. 

When things break in my fifty year old house we drive to the local big box hardware store, to check out our options. Rather naively of us, we assume we can pick out a new water heater and have it installed, easy peasy. But for some odd reason, it never quite goes that way for us. The not so funny part about my old water heater was that it was phased out about 10 years ago, due to their explosive nature. Sigh. Our old water heater was called a "low boy" back in the day. It was a stubby version of a tall water heater so it could fit in my four foot crawl space. In case you were wondering my furnace sits on it's side down there. 

It's a wonky creepy world in the crawl space.

After a few phone calls, we discover replacing our original unit is not going to happen. Thank goodness the top rotted out and we didn't have a faulty low boy blow one night. It didn't take long to conclude we had to move to Plan B. Now when I say Plan B that means a myriad of options, some rather humorous. After calling in three plumbers all with different ideas on how to get the hot water back up and running in our house, we decided on of course the most expensive plan of action. But I would like to include, it would have been nothing short of humorous to see a 5'8", 250lb plumber in my crawl space digging a hole 4 feet deep to fit a regular size gas water heater in the space. A video could have made me famous on YouTube. 

We would replace the dangerous leaking non-functioning low boy with a shiny pretty bread box sized Takagi Tankless Water Heater. Ooh, sleek. Think Mercedes of the water heater world. Think great the holidays are over and of course we have a pile of extra $$$ laying around we didn't spend on gifts, lavish food, and holiday cheer. 
So why a Tankless Water Heater?

They heat water on demand. Water isn't sitting around in a tank being heated over and over waiting for someone to use it. Tank water heater systems aren't the most energy efficient. Now with almost all home appliances I would concur that newer tank-style water heaters are definitely more efficient than my old one or the one you may have to replace.

Hot water is endless, hence the on demand.

It's energy efficient and eco-friendly. We only heat the water we use, when we need it. 

Oh and for us, it fit in our crawlspace very nicely. 

Someday the heating system in my house could be converted to run off the Tagaki. Please say a prayer for me that I am not living here when that day comes. Consider it a gift to whomever owns this house next. 

The ONE and only not so great thing about the Tagaki:

If you like to take hot showers like a teenager every now and again, the kind of hot showers that would run a 40 gallon tank dry, this system may be a problem. For the hot water is never ending. I promise it's only a couple times a year and I am not that environmentally ignorant, but sometimes I need an escape. My shower is sometimes a wonderful escape. 

Just to top my story off, I would like to share a photo from the same day I was sitting hot water less in my house. My husband was away on a film shoot in Vermont, with Jason Biggs and a bunch of rock stars from Barenaked Ladies and the Dave Matthews Band. Life really isn't fair sometimes. Woe was me. Let's just conclude I spent plenty of time breaking in the new hot water heater!

(On a side note, tankless water heating systems are a complex technology. Please make sure the installer (licensed plumber) is trained and certified. If you need a recommendation in the Denver Area, I would be happy to pass along the plumbing company we ultimately chose. They were fabulous, professional, and I didn't see a butt crack through the whole process.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Time For A New Year, New Groove!

As for many of you, this morning is the first morning of the rest of the year. The morning the kids are back to school, hubby is off to work, and the groove that was once flowing in the household may return. When was that groove by the way, maybe mid-November? It had to have been before all the excitement of big meals, arrivals of men in red suits with loads of toys, baking cookies like we were a retail establishment, and chocolate fondue for New Year's Eve. But it's time to get back to business around here. I am so ready. 

Funny enough my daughter's school district didn't think two weeks was a long enough break for the holidays. My kindergartener had the Friday before and Monday after break off as well. For a total of way too many days off. I don't even know if she can recognize her ABC's anymore or count to 10. Wonder how long it's going to take nineteen 5 and 6 year olds to get back into the business of learning groove? 

Now that it's a new year and a new groove, hopefully you'll find me posting around here with more regularity. With that said, I also found myself a new place to share my trials and tribulations of life, over at Silicon Valley Mom's Blog, their Rocky Mountain Moms Blog just launched recently. If you haven't been, stop by. Don't worry, I'll let you know when I'm posting over there. My first post is of a private matter, but I couldn't think of a better audience to share with. 

Wishing you a New Year's Groove like no other! 

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Starting Anew, Welcome 2009

Even though I am not huge on "New Year's Resolutions", I will happily admit I am huge on the New Year. I love the notion of starting anew. New year, another chance to seize the moment. A great way to work through personal struggles, with a fresh beginning. With a New Year, comes some general notions on how I would like to steer the course for the next year. A chance to really take living to the next level (for me!).

Sporadically through out my blog over the last year or so, I've mentioned my desire to budget. Now I never quite envision writing down every nickel and dime we spend or pouring each penny into a spread sheet to see the numbers in a new way. I have always wanted harmony when it came to spending. I don't feel an overwhelming desire to obtain things, but I do have find myself unconsciously spending every month. Admittedly sometimes I dread opening a credit card statement when it arrives in the mail, knowing I would be disappointed by the balance. Or balancing my checkbook once every couple of weeks, rather than daily because I know the feelings that it evokes.

My husband and I, spent New Year's Eve talking about money. Talking about where we would like to be in one year, financially. Setting realistic expectations. Looking hard at the numbers, monthly bills and monthly wastes. Then a few people recommended All Your Worth by Elizabeth Warren, so I stopped by my local bookseller (where I had a gift card, thank you) and picked it up. The universe speaks and I actually listened.

Our goal, to consciously spend. To consciously reduce the one credit card debt we have. It hangs over my head at night, when I know the flow of money for the month is off, whenever I use it knowing damn well I shouldn't be. I don't want it weighing down on me anymore, I know in one year, I will let the burden go.

The second thought for starting anew, as always is working out. I now have Wii Fit, so there are no more excuses (can't afford the gym, need childcare, too cold out to run, feel intimidated). Everyday I can take a minimum of 20 minutes, but hopefully more like 45 minutes for myself. To make my body strong, to improve my posture, and possibly enjoy the perks of dropping a few pounds. I never really care to put a number on weight, I just want to fit into my jeans with out a sigh. I want to enjoy all foods in moderation. Working out is the key to the puzzle that I never consistently place in the picture. It's time, 2009.

What's the overall theme of my 2009 hopes?

Conscious Living

No longer pushing aside feelings for things or food. Being there, feeling it. Learning a new way to love live, for the better, for in my heart I definitely know better than what I've been giving myself.