Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holy Six Pack

And not the beer kind. The kind that is forming on my abdomen! I have never, ever had abs like these, and truthfully, it wasn't that hard. I mean, yes, the 30 Day Shred is effing ridiculous (and this is coming from someone who took about two months to do 30 days of workouts), but the actual ab exercises were never so impossible that I utterly failed. And now, 9 days into the last 10 days of the workout dvd, I can honestly say, I have the shadowy beginnings of a six pack. I also can't believe that tomorrow will mean I have done Level 3 for ten days (in a total of 15 days - but that included Christmas vacation!). While my last post was pretty much a load of kvetching about how hard it was, nine days later, it's definitely doable. I feel pretty kick-ass getting through the whole workout without needing to modify any of the moves. The last set of cardio includes two moves that originally were so hard I could barely do the modified versions - jump squats and rock star jumps. Now I blaze through them, apologizing in my mind to my downstairs neighbors who must think that for twenty minutes every night, someone is either having extremely vigorous sex or a domestic dispute, minus the shouting.

In other updates: the old apartment, you know, the one we're paying rent on even though we moved into our cheaper apartment to save money (don't worry, I know the irony is just killing all of you) - might actually be leased to someone new soon! They are applying, and have a guarantor, so things are looking good... That apartment (and its astronomical rent that we're still paying) aside, I recalculated and found that I am now spending only twenty-six percent of my income on rent, as opposed to the previous forty percent. This leaves me with much more of my earnings to go towards my small school loan (credit card bill is paid off!) and into my savings.

Last update: Christmas was wonderful this year, full of family, snow, and many unsuccessful attempts to control Rupert in a house full of cats to chase and tall people who kept picking him up. I received some wonderful gifts, including two cookbooks (one vegetarian, the other vegan) which I can't wait to delve into, as well as a book on urban gardening so that I'll be able to figure out how to grow my herbs even without a terrace. Add to that the fabulously exciting immersion blender from one of my brothers, and you'll have to agree that I definitely lucked out with gifts this year.

Also, check out the new pages at the top of the blog under the title. Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Death by Jillian Michaels

So, it turns out...Level 3 is FUCKING HARD. And by that I mean, panting, gasping, sweat-pouring, incapable-of-doing-any-set-completely HARD. I did it for the first time on Thursday, had to take Friday off because everything hurt (including my ribs...inexplicably), and then Alix and I did it together this morning. Alix would like me to point out that she jumped from not working out for at least two weeks to doing Level 3, and she did indeed - as Jillian Michaels instructs us to do - want to die. Let's hope upping the routine brings off those few pounds I gained during our lazy two weeks off. Aside from weight changes, I can definitely see some muscle definition. My abs and arms are stronger and more defined - now to just get the top layer of fat on top off so you can see them and I'll be all set. Next in the series of improved health is either to 1) redo 30 Day Shred for 30 days straight - no breaks, whatsoever, or 2) start Cardio Max dvd (also from the Biggest Loser trainers) which is a 6 week program that includes longer workouts. I'm worried about trying to fit longer workouts into my 14 hour workdays, but we'll do the best we can. Stay tuned for some after-pictures in a few weeks!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Risky Business

Today was an epic day. I. Invented. A. Recipe. This is a big deal. As adept as I may have felt in the kitchen before now, it was always as a result of my faith in the trustworthiness of recipes. I followed them to the letter, and most of the time, I liked the results. But lately, as I've been cooking more and cooking healthier, there have been times where I'll come across a recipe and think, "Hmm, that sounds decent, but adding *blank* or removing *blank* or substituting *blank* for *blank* might make it even better!" The results of my additions and alterations were also generally good and all of this confidence-building led up to tonight, where I decided to make something to go with some leftover polenta.

(Side note: When I was in college, I tasted polenta for the first time and thought it was disgusting. Then, a few weeks ago at the bakery, one of the owners made us polenta for lunch. I originally turned my nose up at it, explaining my hatred for it, only to be cajoled into trying it and discovered that polenta is by no means disgusting, it is FREAKING DELICIOUS. Which then inspired me to make my own polenta, so I pulled out my trusty vegan cookbook and found a recipe for Pesto-Infused Polenta with Portobellos. Then I made that, adding my own flare of balsamic vinegar to the cooking mushrooms and we ended up with a meal of pesto polenta with garlickly, vinegary, tender mushrooms to heap on top. The only hiccup to that meal was that because the floor of our apartment slants, the stove is also slanted, and two of the polenta slices slid off the cookie sheet in the oven, falling through the grates and onto the flaming gas. They were recovered, slightly mangled, but still edible. We ate all the mushrooms that night and so I had some leftover polenta to deal with.)

So we've had a 28 oz can of whole stewed tomatoes with basil in the cupboard for over a year. Because of the basil, I've never used it in a recipe - until now. I was determined. I built a dinner around the jar of freaking tomatoes. It was so easy, I can't wait to make up more recipes. First, I sauteed some garlic and onions in olive oil until the onions were soft (I love this beginning to almost any recipe, especially when there are lots of onions involved. Alix can live with my bad breath, I don't care.). Then, I cut up the tomatoes in irregular chunks and added them to the pot over low heat. I also added a can of white cannellini beans (drained and rinsed), as well as salt, pepper, oregano, and hot pepper flakes. I let it all simmer while I pan-seared the polenta with some cooking spray, and voila - dinner! I grated some parmesan cheese on top of the whole mess and the meal was enjoyed by all.

Because today was my day off, I got super industrious and made two kinds of bread. The one that was more effort, a whole wheat egg bread was less than spectacular. It tasted like dense, healthy challah, and we all know that challah is only good if it is fluffy and bad for you. The other bread was from my vegan book, and it was a quick bread that took less than ten minutes to put together, and an hour to bake. It was flavored with molasses, chopped pecans (the recipe called for walnuts, but we didn't have any), and raisins. The bread was dense, dark, not too sweet, and perfect warm from the oven. I'm so excited by all of the delicious vegan things I'm finding I can make without noticing anything "missing"! Even the dinner tonight would have been vegan if the pesto didn't contain cheese (easy enough to leave out) and we hadn't put cheese on top (also easy to leave out).

In working out news - Alix is studying for finals and so is off the hook for now. I, however, have no such excuse and so am back to the regimen. I sadly gained back the 4-5 pounds I had lost during the Thanksgiving/vacation laziness, but this is the third day in a row that I have Jillian Michaels-ed it all on my own and I'm keeping track of my food again so we'll do a weigh-in at the end of the week and see where I'm at. All in all, I had a wonderful day off. I'm finishing this blog post just in time to watch the season finale of Biggest Loser...where my bestest friend Jillian will be present, hopefully looking as desperately attractive as she always does. No, I don't have a crush on my virtual personal trainer, what are you talking about?!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stress-Free Vacation (Mostly)

Taking the easy life for the last few days in Vermont has been wonderful. I miss my Monkey so much, but not changing diapers or having to wake up at 4 AM for an entire two weeks have made it worth it. After a flurry of packing on Monday morning (and then an unfortunate pissed off twenty minute wait for a man to come move his double-parked car so we could actually get out of NY), we finally hit the road. Rupert promptly threw up (de rigueur), but since we were stopping quickly by Alix's father's house, we were able to clean up and drive the next six hours without any more emissions. Unless you count Tucker's frequent howls as emissions, in which case, our six hour drive was full of them. We stopped in Northampton, MA as a halfway point and ate lunch at one of my favorite old college haunts, indulging in shawerma on lavash (I know, not very vegetarian of me, but I've literally been dreaming of this lunch since I left college in May). After a quick walk through campus for Rupert to do his business - this included semi-frequent fawning by current students over his excessive cuteness - we were back in the car and heading further north. The snow started about an hour later and continued, getting worse and worse until we finally arrived around 7 pm (although it felt like it was at least midnight). Exhausted, we scarfed pizza and fell into bed.

The next day, though, we were up bright and early to shovel the entire driveway - take that Jillian Michaels! I don't need to do your workout twice a day if I burn 311 calories per hour shoveling snow! We did some grocery shopping and then allowed Rupert out for his first true romp in the snow.

He LOVED it. He couldn't believe how high he had to jump to get through it (a foot of snow is practically chin-level for him) but also how fluffy and utterly romp-able this delectable white stuff is. Alix and I had a blast watching him run off-leash, for once, and having the time of his life. And then, tragedy struck. Rupert, despite having previous experience with water at my parents' house, seems to forget that it is not land and found himself unfortunately tumbled into the semi-frozen pond next to the house. We sprung into calm, efficient action: Alix waded thigh-deep into the freezing water to grab our gasping puppy while I held tightly to the back of her coat to prevent any additional swims. She passed our soaked pup to me and we ran into the house where we dried him with towels and cuddled by the fire until he crawled shamefaced off my lap to go chase the cat. Clearly a full recovery was had.

We did our Jillian Michaels last night and will do it again today, probably twice. We're still doing Level 2 since we took such a long break from working out at all. Also, we're both scared of Level 3. I think I might die doing it and that wouldn't be so fun. The plan is to do Level 2 for the rest of this week and then see how we feel about moving on to Level 3 once we are back in the big city (where there is no snow. Sad.)

As a side note, thanks for reading everyone. I love writing this, and I hope you like reading it. Hope everyone's holiday (and finals!) season is going well so far. XO

Sunday, December 5, 2010

You Wanna Wonton?

Unfortunately, the past week and a half have been fairly unsuccessful as far as the healthy eating and consistently working out goes - it started a couple of days before Thanksgiving and has slid on until now. I spent a whirlwind two days at home with my parents (requiring almost eight hours of driving each way) and Alix and I leave for Vermont tomorrow morning, with a stop in Northampton halfway through so I can weirdly reminisce about a place I loved and hated for the last four years. In the midst of all this traveling (me) and studying for finals (Alix), time has seemed to go by way too quickly. I am already halfway through my two weeks of vacation from nannying! I better make the most of these next few days in Vermont where the regimen is going back into place, big time. Get this - workouts twice a day. No reason not to, since we've no other commitments. And after eating our way through Thanksgiving and its leftovers, we sure need it.

Tonight's dinner was another adventure in my cookbook Vegan Planet. We made Ginger-Scented Vegetable Pot Stickers with a Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce. The pot stickers lived up to their name and tried hard to stick to the pot (the recipe said to use a non-stick pan but since we don't own one, we used what is apparently an extremely sticky pan, with questionable results).

As you can see, the pot stickers on the right look relatively normal. The ones in the top left, however, have been relegated to the time-out corner where they have been instructed to "think about what they've done" and ultimately wound up in the trash. But the others were pretty good! Crispy on the outside, and the tofu, cabbage, ginger, carrot, and garlic filling was delicious and didn't taste like it was "missing" anything by not having meat in it. The best part of the night, though, came as I turned around from picking up my camera to take this picture and saw Rupert licking the messed-up pot stickers (I had, stupidly, put the plate on the coffee table, directly in his line of access). I gasped, yelled a firm "DON'T!" and watched, aghast, as Rupert backed up a step, looked me in the eye and slowly, slowly opened his mouth as wide as it would go and licked his chops, all the way around. The message was clear: "Mom, I don't have to listen to you. But you do make some damn good pot stickers." I laughed so hard that the reprimand was useless. Thank goodness he only licked the messed-up ones, right?

The peanut dipping sauce was truly spectacular. Probably because we both love peanut butter, but it tasted great with the wontons and I can imagine it being delicious with any number of goodies. I love to dip my food in anything and everything (ketchup, pickle relish, ranch dressing, peanut butter, etc) and Alix is not only the opposite, but she thinks my habit is disgusting. So it's saying something that we both liked this spicy smooth cilantro-infused sauce. See here she is, modeling her joy at Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce!

In other news, while I was home, I cooked a batch of Lentil Soup with Chard and Orzo for my parents with some Whole-Grain Herb Bread on the side (both from the vegan cookbook). I do a lot of cooking when I'm home with my parents to give my mom a break from it all and also, because, well, there's not a whole lot else to do. Making bread is especially fun because I have the four hours to devote to it, no problem. As everyone knows, the best and most fun part of baking bread is the moment when you first get to punch it down. (Or maybe you didn't know that, but now you do and you should go learn how to bake bread just so you get to experience it. It's that good.)
Soup simmering, orzo cooking
Herb bread, freshly sliced
My soup and bread were well-received and it made me appreciate how much I love this cookbook for giving me vegan recipes that don't make me feel like anything is missing from them. They just taste like good food, except cruelty-free. Yay!

Lastly, in spite of this last week of overeating, I had to buy new jeans (in a smaller size) and my belt is one notch tighter. Let's see what a week of double workouts (bring it on Jillian!) will result in. Maybe this will be one holiday season that leaves me smaller than I was before it all began.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Saying Thank You

There are a lot of things in life that are hard and get us down - things like not having enough money, working super long hours, feeling lonely, realizing how tough a relationship can be, and feeling like everything is one step forward and two steps back (i.e., our dog is apparently un-housetrained again). But you know what? There is a hell of a lot more to life that is - excuse the expression - Fucking Amazing. This is not a huge revelation that everyone stops to think about what they're thankful for on Thanksgiving, but it's a valuable exercise and one I'm not about to abandon even though I'm not at home, going around the table and each of us saying what we're grateful for before the first bite of turkey may be taken. What follows is a brief list of the things, both big and small, that we are grateful for this year.

Our dog and cat, however annoying and frustrating they can be. They make us laugh and they bring us unspeakable joy.

Our new apartment, shortcomings and all. It is home, and will be, for a long time.

Our health, imperfect as it is. We are lucky to have the care we need and the privilege to attain it.

Books, books, and more books! The time to read them, now that college is over.

Boots. Because I love them and they keep my toes warm in this NY weather

Flannel sheets. 'Nuff said.

My jobs - both of them. I love my little guy and I love my new friends at the bakery. I also love the cookies and scones at the bakery job but I may love them a little too much.

All of the opportunities we've been given to further our education.

Our lives that have thus far been filled with so much love and will only be filled with more and more.

Cookbooks. Particularly Vegan Planet, my new current favorite from which most of our recipes are coming.

Each other (duh). There is nothing about my life that would be the same without Alix. She is the reason I am a better person now, the reason I have faith in life and love after losing both for so long, and the best part of my future. I love her, and even though she knows it, now you all know it too. Go crazy with it.

"Love wasn't a thing you fell in, but rose to. It was what stopped you from falling." -Darin Strauss

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Never Going Back Again

Well, the verdict is in...this is a permanent change. This is not a month-long trial. This is not an experiment. This is a lifestyle change that is making us into happier, healthier, more conscientious people. This is a life that I would be proud to raise my children in and an example that I feel like I can set for others. This is about so much more than losing weight or trying to look better naked (don't get me wrong, we're still hoping for both of those things). This is also about doing everything in our power to be alive and well for the next seven decades that Alix and I plan to be with each other. I think the determination set in yesterday when we began Level 2 of our program. It killed us. When Jillian says in the video, "I want you to feel like you're going to die!", I was right there with her. I wanted to collapse into an asthmatic crisis and never get up. But I didn't. I finished the workout and then, goddammit, I got up again tonight and did it one more time. And I'll do it tomorrow. And the day after that. We plan to do Level 2 for ten days and then Level 3 for the rest of the 30 days before assessing our after results and moving on to bigger and better things. New videos, sticking with the vegetarianism (and possibly venturing into veganism...stay tuned on that one), continuing to cook healthy meals, eat responsibly and sustainably, and generally improving on the half-formed versions of who we still are.

The dinner we made tonight was beyond delicious. It was called pappardelle with spiced butter and you can find the recipe here. It was spicy and smooth and loaded with asparagus and neither one of us could resist second helpings.

Anyway, regardless of what challenges come up or what obstacles we will run into (Thanksgiving, anyone?), we are determined to keep this going and I know we will do it. And that makes me proud.

Monday, November 15, 2010

When life gets in the way...

Tonight's work day was EPICALLY long. Not only was I scheduled to work thirteen hours, but then I got out more than a half an hour late because S. (father) got home from work late, thus making me late, and cranky, and tired, and more than a little bit annoyed. Knowing that they appreciate my willingness to stay does not make up for the fact that if I'm supposed to leave work at 8, and it takes me an hour and fifteen minutes to get home, thus getting me in at 9:15, I have to still find time to work out, make and eat a healthy dinner, shower, and oh yeah, maybe say hello to Alix? Did I mention I wake up at either 4:15 or 5:15 AM to get to work in the morning?

Needless to say, the making dinner and working out did not happen tonight. We ordered healthy vegetarian Thai food from the place around the corner, ate less than half of it, and will have the rest tomorrow. We also calculated our calories for the day (an annoying, time-consuming process), and came out around a healthy 1400 or so. Possibly more because of the Thai food, but takeout is a rare occurrence around here so we'll allow it. I snacked on whole wheat bread with the vegan spread, Greek yogurt, an apple with peanut butter, and grapefruit today. I also did a yoga dvd while Monkey napped but I didn't really feel like it did much. My plan for these long work days is to bring my 30 Day Shred or Cardio Max dvd's and do them while Monkey either naps, watches his Baby Einstein videos nearby, or giggles at his ridiculous nanny jumping and sweating all over the living room (probably the last one). To lighten the mood of this cranky post, I'll share the highlight of my evening with Monkey: a poop-tastrophe (poop + catastrophe = poop-tastrophe). Stop reading if you're afraid of poop.

Monkey gets really cranky and fussy around 7:30-8:00 PM. It is his witching hour, and nothing really helps except walking slowly around the house with him in the sling, being careful to avoid all the awkward corners and furniture alignments that one-bedroom NYC apartments are famous for. He is sleepy but won't sleep, he isn't hungry, but wants his ba-ba (pacifier), he doesn't want to play and will howl indignantly if I so much as think about setting him down (enter, the life-saving sling I now own), and he certainly, most definitely DOES NOT want to go to bed. So there we are, wandering the house, watching the Food Network on mute, when I catch a whiff of something bad. Steeling myself for the wrath that awaits me removing him from his cozy sling, I quickly unwrap him and lay him on the couch to change him. (The changing table has been converted to a bookshelf because he was scaring the bejesus out of me with his ability to almost rocket himself off the end. Hence, the couch is safer.) I grab my supplies, unwrap his diaper, and find, to my horror, that we have a SUTB situation (Shit Up The Back). Waaayyyy up. Envision this: Giggly Monkey is thrilled to have his manly bits uncovered and so is handling them with glee, poop has covered his front, backside, and halfway to his armpits, I am balancing him on his belly on the side of the couch while I carefully, carefully roll the poopy clothes over his head to avoid getting any more of it spread around. I toss the clothes in the hamper (Not. My. Problem.), and come to the executive decision that naked Monkey needs a bath. STAT. So in we go, gleefully splashing in his baby bathtub, getting a good scrub all over and then a cozy towel wrap, a fresh diaper, a lotion rub-down, and some fleecy frog pajamas. A few cuddles later, and my munchkin man is fast asleep....just in time for his dad to come home and wake him up. Again - Not. My. Problem.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Recipes

I made two more recipes from my Vegan Planet cookbook today and both were smashing successes. The first is a breakfast spread to go on toast or bagels (or fruit, I suppose). It's not too sweet, nutty and smooth and delicious, as well as protein-filled, low in fat and animal product free. I had it on a piece of whole wheat toast this morning for breakfast and it was satisfying and more interesting than plain nut butter.

Bagels-for-Breakfast Spread (Sweet)
4 oz soft silken tofu, drained
1 medium ripe banana, peeled and sliced
2 T almond butter
2 T pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to develop. This will keep in the fridge for about 3 days.

Then, for dinner, Alix and I had another recipe from the same book, called Fennel, Pecan, and Watercress Salad with Orange Vinaigrette. It was amazing! The combination of textures and flavors was delicious and it felt good to have something so healthy and satisfying for dinner.

Fennel, Pecan, and Watercress Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
1 navel orange, peeled
2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed
2 bunches watercress, tough stems removed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 T frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 T water
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Remove the pith from the orange, then cut sections from between the membranes and set aside. Halve each fennel bulb lengthwise, then cut crosswise into paper-thin slices. Place in a large serving bowl, combine with the watercress, orange sections, and toasted pecans. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, orange juice concentrate, water, mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until blended and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss to coat evenly and serve immediately

We loved this salad! We didn't cut the fennel very well so the bites were a little awkward, and the dressing was delicious, but a little excessive. When I make it again, I will add more watercress to use the rest of the dressing.

In other news, after working out twice yesterday, we were too worn out to do it today. Tomorrow we plan on starting our second exercise dvd program, called Cardio Max (another Biggest Loser spin-off) in addition to the 30 Day Shred workout. It will be our last day of Level 1, and then we'll be moving on to Level 2 of the Shred program. Wish us luck!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Venturing into Veganism

Today was a good day! After waking up, we had a healthy breakfast of yogurt (sadly, none of the high-fat stuff I have previously advocated) and blackberries, plus a glass of V8 and our handful of vitamins. After a trip to the dog park, we did our fifth 30 Day Shred workout and noticed increased endurance from our first day. While some of the strength moves are still very difficult, the cardio sections barely make us break a sweat and the abs exercises feel productive but not excruciating. Since we didn't work out yesterday (our shopping trip brought us home by 11 PM and we were exhausted), after I got home from work tonight, we did the workout again. It was definitely challenging to do the workout twice in one day, but still doable. I have already been able to consistently increase the number of push-ups I can do with every workout.

After our second session, I made a dinner of Pseudo Caesar Salad from the book Vegan Planet, by Robin Robertson. It was delicious, tasting like Caesar salad without the high-calorie dressing and it was devoid of animal products. I've included the recipe and a picture below, in case you'd like to try it out. With a little help from my mom and some Internet research, I was able to find miso paste at Fairway Market and the recipe came off without a hitch. All would have gone well today, except for the sad, sad fact that I work at a bakery that is famous for their huge, delicious cookies. Between my snacking at work, and the cookie I brought home for Alix, it was our one big slip-up. But improvement is the name of the game - not to mention, thank God I only work at Levain two days a week. We're still not feeling any weight-loss, which is frustrating, but we are feeling stronger from the workouts. I guess we'll have to give the weight more time to come off since we've just recently started eating throughout the day (normal people do that, right?).

Anyway, here's the recipe for the delicious salad. Any encouragement, advice, and support is greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!

Pseudo Caesar Salad
Croutons (or French bread with crusts removed, cut into 1-inch cubes and toasted at 325 for 25 minutes)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T tahini paste
1 T mellow white miso paste (I used "mild" paste because I decided "mild" was more important than "white" and there wasn't an option for both)
2 T lemon juice
1 tsp tamari or other soy sauce
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1/3 c olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head romaine lettuce

In a food processor, combine the garlic, tahini, miso, lemon juice, tamari, Worcestshire, and olive oil until blended. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Wash and tear the romaine, then toss with the croutons and dressing. Serve immediately.

Good Eats (Healthy = Expensive)

The above equation isn't exactly a groundbreaking conclusion, but it is one that we were reminded of anew tonight during our grocery shopping expedition. This was an epic week for shopping, mostly because we're revamping our diet but also because we're still restocking our pantry after the move to the new apartment. We discovered tonight that our local grocery store (Fairway Market) is open until 1 AM, which is amazing because due to my work schedule, we cannot go shopping when normal people do, around 6:00 or 7:00 PM. In addition, Alix's and my anxiety goes into hyper-drive if we are forced to grocery shop in a store packed with angry, bitchy, self-entitled New Yorkers so shopping at 10 PM like we did tonight was perfect. Our second amazing discovery is that Fairway Market, which is huge already, has a second floor full of organic food!! We thought that leaving the land of Whole Foods would mean the end of our ability to purchase organic, but not so. Fairway is overwhelming and large, but navigable when we are some of the only customers, and the staff is reasonably helpful. The only item on our huge shopping list that we couldn't find was white miso paste, probably because we had no idea where to look for it or what it even resembled (it is for a recipe from my cookbook, Vegan Planet). Maybe we'll try another store?

Look how long our receipt is!
We spent $159.17 total, with no meat products on the list. The most expensive thing we bought was a bag of pecans for $9.23, the second in line was almond butter for $6.99, and third was a wedge of cheese for $6.70. The least expensive item was a navel orange for $0.89 , followed closely by individual grapefruits ($0.95 each) and bottles of seltzer ($0.99 each).

Our planned dishes for the week include lasagna, the pecan fennel watercress salad previously mentioned, a vegan Caesar salad, roasted brussel sprouts, pierogies with sauteed apples and onions, pappardelle with spiced butter, and leftover cabbage rolls (I hope to post pictures of all our meals this week for your mouthwatering enjoyment). Since I'm becoming more committed to packing food for my long work days, we bought essentials like grapefruits, berries, apples, the makings of almond or peanut butter sandwiches, celery, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Alix and I agree that eating much more frequently throughout the idea makes us feel weird and whale-like, but the reality is that it's more healthy to eat like this than it is to wait until 8 PM to eat anything, and then eat everything in the house. We're adjusting. Hopefully all this work, plus the workouts, will have some results. Not sure if this is related, but my belt was one notch tighter this morning than it's ever been. Small victories!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Third Time's the Charm

Today marks our third day of 30 Day Shred. For those of you counting, technically this is the fourth day since we started, but we didn't work out yesterday due to television obligations. As a side note, Alix and I watch very little tv but we are committed to two shows - Biggest Loser and 16 and Pregnant (or Teen Mom, whichever season is currently showing). Unfortunately, both are on Tuesday nights which equates to an epic three hours of tv since Biggest Loser is on from 8-10 and 16 and Pregnant is on 10-11. Sometimes we miss Biggest Loser depending on how late I get home from work, and it's undeniable that I am extra tired on Wednesday mornings from staying up so late, but I feel fine partaking of this small weekly pleasure. Anyway, I digress. Tonight was workout number three for us and it was surprisingly easy. I can't believe how much easier it has gotten since the first day! There is one strength move that still kills us: static side lunges with arm raises...with five pound hand weights. Ideally, we would own two sets of weights each, one of 3's and one of 5's, but I'm not really willing to shell out the extra cash and energy to go buy them. Besides, my goal is to work up to the static side lunges being easy-peasy with 10 pounds of added weight. So the plan from here on out is:

1. Don't eat dinner before working out. Tonight involved some serious cramping due to the tuna sandwich and tomato soup dinner that preceded it (Mama, you were absolutely right, I should not have eaten dinner first.)
2. Plan meals better during the day. For me, since I work 14 hour days, I need to pack essentially every meal in order to prevent an epic gorge once I get home. Tomorrow's planned meals are grapefruit, baby carrots with peanut butter, and PB&J. Then, come home, work out and eat dinner. Tomorrow's dinner will be pasta with homemade pesto and crumbled goat cheese feta with sliced tomatoes on the side.
3. Drink more water, pre- and post-workout.
4. Stop weighing ourselves obsessively and only do it once a week. Weight fluctuations are normal and may or may not reflect the work we are putting in.
5. Try out some new recipes from our healthier cookbooks. How does fennel, pecan, and watercress salad with orange vinaigrette sound?
Aiz not chewing...Aiz growing muscles.
6. Grocery shop with discipline! This means buying what we need for our planned meals, healthy snacks, calorie-free or low-calorie drinks and THAT'S IT. No more impulse purchases of challah, Nutella, or whatever else it is we chow on that is now off the meal plan.
7. Keep Puffkin (aka, Rupert) away from the hand weights. Apparently, they look like delicious chew toys.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Shred It, cont'd

So, Alix and I bought the hand weights that you're supposed to use with our new workout dvd today and it turns out - brace yourselves - that it's a lot harder with them than without them. We debated between buying 5's or 8's and dear-God-thank-you we bought the 5's. We did Phase 1 of the workout series again tonight and boy, was it hard. Second day workouts are always worse, because you're sore from the day before. Add in the additional ten pounds for every strength move, and we got one tough butt-kicking. We're recovering on the couch with the window wide open, sweaty hair hanging in our faces, and I'm not kidding when I say that it's actually hurting my arms to type. I knew it had been a while since my rowing days as a college athlete (and even longer since Alix's softball days), but I am more out of shape than I realized. We steeled ourselves for the ultimate test: before and after pictures. I desperately don't want to take the before pictures, but I know that if I do it will only motivate me more to finish the plan and be proud of the after pictures. We learned that side pictures are generally more flattering than front pictures.

Further adjustments to our health plan: we are keeping a food diary, and we are going vegetarian for the month (after tonight, because tonight's pre-planned dinner was cabbage rolls). How about you, readers? Anyone ever successfully put into place a weight-loss slash get-fit plan? How did it go? Any words of advice for us as we begin our journey?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Shred It

At long last, the workout/healthy body part of this life plan is being put into effect. After a serious delay due to a scary surprise health problem and a relocation to save our finances, Alix and I were finally ready to start our proposed plan: 30 Day Shred by Jillian Michaels. For those not addicted to the hit tv show The Biggest Loser, Jillian Michaels is a hard-core, nut-crushing, smoking hot trainer who whips 400 pound people into shape who then made millions of dollars by making dvd's that whip normally flabby people into shape. The workout dvd we now own and started today promises a weight-loss of up to 20 pounds in 30 days. However, we both know that this is marketing at its most improbable and is also not desirable - neither Alix nor I need to lose 20 pounds. So we're determined to actually do the damn thing for 30 days and see where we wind up. Each workout is only 20 minutes and there are three levels. We predict that we'll do Level 1 for a week, Level 2 for a week, and Level 3 for the last two weeks (we're ambitious, competitive, and driven when put to the test but lazy, sloppy, and inert when not). The pressure is on. If I can have abs like Jillian Michaels after 30 days, while also managing to show off some cleavage in a sports bra, then I will be one happy camper. (Can this workout dvd actually give me cleavage too? Because that would be cool.) Additional sources of exercise in our lives include carrying our 32 pound dog up and down 3 flights of stairs every time he needs to use the facilities (yay for a 4th floor walk-up apartment). In my case, I've also taken to carrying my smallest - but rapidly growing - buddy around in a sling instead of putting him in his stroller, which he hates. Monkey loves being hoisted around by his ever-buffer nanny, especially when it's in his cozy little sling nestled up against me. Did I mention he's 20 pounds? Something about this body of mine better be changing with all this effort! Now if I could only stop snacking on cookies while I work at the bakery...but hey, nobody's perfect, right?
Thirty days to look like this? I'll do whatever it takes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Movin' and Groovin'

The biggest adjustment to our stretched finances occurred this past week -- Alix and I moved! To a place with lower rent, that is. Instead of our cushy studio in midtown, we now live in a cozy one-bedroom on the Upper West Side whose rent is $600 less than the old apartment. It's true that paying a lower rent comes with side effects: our super speaks almost no English, cannot comprehend why two women live together in a one-bedroom (awkward looks abound whenever he sees us), and is convinced that hot water dripping steadily from our ceiling is a problem that does not require attention until three days later. We also are now the proud owners of a fridge that doesn't open all the way (because it runs into the counter), two closets that are finicky about opening and closing, and a bathroom door that won't shut because it's been painted over too many times. Thank goodness Alix and I are way past the point of needing toilet privacy. If you come to visit us, I'm sorry, but you're going to have to deal with a cracked door. We'll talk louder while you're in there, don't worry. Despite all of it, we're so much happier here, it's only sad that we didn't move sooner. We love our huge windows, high ceilings, view of the church, the fact that we have a BEDROOM (!!!), that there is room for the boys to run, our counter space...the list goes on and on. Between the lower rent and my two jobs (hooray for working 70 hours a week...literally), we're definitely going to make it. That is, if we can find someone to assume the old lease at the midtown apartment...
But it's more fun to look at pictures than think about scary things like paying two leases, right? So here you go:
First, the old apartment (whose pictures are decidedly better, as they were taken during daylight hours)
The terrace where I grew my herbs and tomatoes
Living room area
Kitchen area
Tiny kitchen

Next, the process of moving:
Eating Indian takeout on a Zappos box because we no longer had a table.
Boxes galore

And finally, the new place:

The foyer

The main room

Dining area

Kitchen area...please excuse the mess (those dishes are actually clean, just haven't been put away yet).

And just for fun - the apple pie I made today. Jealous? You should be.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Working Life

Since I'm the only one in our household of four that is currently working,* and this blog is partially about finances, I figure writing about my job is fair game. My job, as I've mentioned before, is to take care of a darling 6-month-old boy while his parents work ridiculous hours finishing their medical school residencies. This, in turn, means that I also work some pretty ridiculous hours that require me to start work at 6 AM most days and work 50 hours a week, plus overtime if I wish. In addition, my hours change weekly and a typical day could be anywhere from 6-4, 6-8 (yes, that's 14 hours), or noon-8. Knowing full well that hours like this were part of the job means I don't technically get to complain about them, but seriously, it's hard sometimes. I long for the monotony of a 9-5 workday that includes both a reliable, unchanging wake-up time and the ability to come home for dinner. Hours aside, I truly love my job. Taking care of my little dude is second nature now. I know his every expression, need, and babble. I make him laugh, I rock him to sleep, I have entire conversations with him, responding to a typical string of constant-vowel combination with things like, "Well, yes, Monkey, that's true, but I also think that the nutritional value of green beans makes them an important part of your diet."
"Gaaaahhh, bsssh, guaah. Bah."
"Mmm-hm, yes, I agree, this breast milk is top-notch. Do you want to play in your bouncy seat?"
"Alright dude, bouncy seat it is."
And so on. My job doesn't feel like work, it feels like being a mom, something I've been dying to do for, oh, about ten years now. I don't have to dress up (in fact, it is undeniably better if I don't), and I don't have to answer to a horrendous boss. Monkey's mom and I are far more like friends than we are a typical employer-employee pair. I know that sounds idyllic coming from a nanny, but it's honestly true. I've worked for other families before that I would not hesitate to compare to the parents in The Nanny Diaries, and the family I work for now is the furthest thing from it. Does it suck waking up at 4:30 AM every day especially when I have insomnia that keeps me from sleeping for more than three hours at a time? And coming home so late at night that all I can do is eat and collapse into bed, barely having a conversation with Alix? Yes, yes it does. But my buddy's smile when he sees me bright and early and the way he burrows joyfully into my shoulder as soon as I pick him up definitely make it worth it.

* * *

It would be nice if this cute little blog post could end there, but sadly, it can't. Despite my working such long hours, our sky-high rent and my medical costs are putting too much of a strain on our budget. So, I did like all poor twenty-something's do, and I got a second job. I start work tomorrow at a famous little bakery on the UWS that makes cookies so good they make you want to take your clothes off. It scares me that I'll be working upwards of 65 hours a week now, but I can't ignore the fact that going into debt was not a part of the post-college life plan. Still, I'm pumped about half-price cookies, working with people my age, and hopefully staying financially afloat.

*This is not to say that I pay for everything. Alix and I split costs exactly down the middle, it's just that she pays with the earnings from her year of working as a paralegal before she started law school. Tucker and Rupert, on the other hand, cost a lot and contribute nothing other than mad cuteness.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Unsolicited Advice

First of all, apologies for the hiatus from posting. We've been dealing with a lot these last couple of weeks, but everything seems to be working out for the best. Since the topics of our blog (saving money, eating healthy, etc) have taken a hit as we've been consumed with the other challenges facing us, the topic of today's post is something different that's been irking both of us more and more: unsolicited advice. I have to believe that everyone is subject to this most unwelcome commentary to their life at some point, but for reasons I still can't quite discern, as young women we seem to receive more advice than most. People particularly love to give us advice about raising "my" child (the baby I nanny for), raising our dog, and maintaining our relationship. Two of our favorite conversations regarding the first two topics are paraphrased below for your amusement:

The background to this scenario is that for the first half of the summer, while Alix and I were both working, I would often have to come home with the baby in his carrier in order to walk the dog around lunchtime. I would take the dog out for five minutes, and attempt to gracefully pick up poop while keeping a fussy, sweaty baby away from the rambunctious dog and said poop. One day while I was doing all of this, a man felt the need to stop me mid-poop pickup and tell me:
"You should really put a hat on that baby!"
"Mm-hmm, thank you for your concern."
A. It was a cloudy day. B. We were in the shade of our 12-story building. C. We were outside for two minutes. D. The baby was pouring sweat in the 90 degree heat and would enter full-blown meltdown mode if I insisted he continue to wear his sun hat, which, thank you very much, I do put on his downy head when there is the slightest chance that sunlight will make contact with his skin.
The man walked off, disgusted by my poor parenting skills, while the dog continued jumping, and I continued scooping, before herding us all inside so the baby could nap. Truly, thank you for your concern.

Alix's experience occurred while she was walking Rupert home from our vet's office, a place that Rupert inexplicably loves. He loves it so much, in fact, that he will often put up a huge fuss on the walk home as he strains to walk backwards to his beloved vet, Dr. Walsh. At a particularly trying moment, Alix stood patiently clutching the end of the leash while Rupert defiantly flopped on the sidewalk (this happens more often than you might expect). While waiting for him to move, a large, obnoxious woman came lumbering up to Alix and insisted that "she wasn't handling the situation correctly" and that she "needed to bring a toy along" to entice the dog to walk with her. She then proceeded to attempt to lure our timid puppy towards her, a maneuver that is destined to fail, since Rupert is terrified of anyone obnoxious enough to get in his face. After failing to entice our dog, she took another crack at offering Alix a solution.
"Are you married?" she asks.
"No..." responded Alix, not really seeing where this was going.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" was the immediate response. Without waiting for a reply, she followed with, "The dog must have a stronger bond with your boyfriend, which is why he doesn't listen to you."
Ah yes. Thank you, kind stranger, for your concern, not only with our dog's discipline but with Alix's sexual orientation and relationship status. In a feat of irony, Rupert immediately got up and trotted home with Alix, despite his apparently stronger bond with her boyfriend.
Maybe you should let your boyfriend walk the dog...
Since these two incidences, we've received more advice than we even want to remember. The concerns regarding our relationship probably annoy us the most, since we are happier than literally anyone else we know. We acknowledge this without a sense of superiority, only with frustration at the apparent inability of people to believe that a 22-year-old and 24-year-old can manage a relationship of a maturity and commitment that few other people our age do. Whatever. Maybe thirty years from now, people will stop giving us advice on everything we do. Actually, you know what, they probably won't. Guess we better get used to doling out a steely smile and the stock reply "thank you for your concern."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Brief Thoughts on...Yogurt

We are big fans of yogurt. I hated yogurt as a kid. Hated it so much it made me gag and I would refuse to eat it if at all possible. But then, I got older and discovered a beautiful thing: full-fat, creamy, thick, delicious yogurt. It deserves a choir. It is to be exalted. I no longer gag when I eat yogurt, I do happy dances at the counter with spoon in hand. The important thing about all this is that I am more health-conscious than most people I know. I know a great deal about nutrition and find it incredibly interesting. But I will hold true to this perhaps improbable tenet of what I consider healthy eating: eat the fat. Eating the full-fat or reduced-fat versions of many foods (as opposed to their fat-free counterparts) has a number of benefits. Foods taste infinitely better so you are satisfied with the correct serving size. They have lower levels of weird emulsifiers and artificial flavoring and sweeteners whose names I can only pronounce because I took two years of college chemistry. They make recipes taste complex and delicious while still only using small amounts. We buy our yogurt from local dairies whose products are sold at Whole Foods and get flavors like Wild Blueberry and Lemon Cream. Running at 150-200 calories for 8 oz, they are a delightful indulgence that satisfies like ice cream while still providing the nutritional benefits of live active cultures and calcium-rich dairy. I have to admit though, this last week I got a particular brand of yogurt that was on sale and at 250 calories (!!) a serving, I can't eat it all in one sitting because it's just too rich. I've been working on the same French Vanilla all day and it's still not gone. From now on, I'll stick to the slightly less rich while still incredibly delicious brands we're used to. I can also attest to the fact that it's still possible to drop weight without trying while eating 3-4 of these indulgent yogurts per week. So ladies, raise your spoons to something other than that Yoplait shit.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Home Cookin'

This week our goal was to decrease the amount of money we spend on eating out. This includes not just meals out, but extras like Starbucks, ice cream, etc. To that end, we planned four meals to cook for dinner (we'll eat leftovers the rest of the time) and shopped with restraint yesterday. Our weekly allotment of grocery money is to stay under $100. It's appalling to me that this is how much it costs to eat healthy, local, organic (but still affordable) food in NYC, but that's life. As a kid, I recall my mom spending about $150 a week to feed a family of six but that was ten years ago and in the small town where I grew up, which is about is different from the city as you can get.

Alix and I both have high standards for food. This doesn't mean we spend money stupidly, but it does mean that we buy organic produce from the farmers' market near us instead of the tasteless, albeit cheaper produce from the Morton-Williams grocery store a block from our apartment. The lessons I've learned from books such as Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver make it so that the guilt trip I put on myself for not buying local seasonal foods dictates that our eating and shopping choices be both moral and sustainable. So far, our spending this week has been in line with our goals. We spent about $80 at Whole Foods yesterday, which leaves $20 to spend at the market tomorrow on produce. We will probably get fruit (peaches, Concord grapes, and maybe a watermelon) as well as vegetables (salad greens, radishes, and beets).

Our menu for the week includes the following meals:
1. Sirloin steak with grainy mustard sauce + marinated green beans
2. Tuna noodle casserole + marinated green beans
3. Black bean soup + cornbread + salad
4. Pasta Florentine + peaches

Steak with mustard sauce
The steak and tuna casserole recipes came from a cookbook that Alix got for her birthday: So Easy, by Ellie Krieger. We made the steak last night and it was delicious! I have almost no experience cooking meat so Alix bravely took control of pan-searing the sirloin while I made the mustard sauce (reduced chicken stock with sauteed onions, flour, salt, pepper, and grainy mustard). I had made two pounds of cold marinated green beans the night before so we ate those last night, tonight, and probably tomorrow night too. The marinade is a spicy tangy sauce of onions, garlic, green chilies, oil, and vinegar that is poured over lightly steamed green beans and left to soak in the refrigerator for as long as you want.
Tuna noodle casserole
We made the tuna casserole tonight and were less than impressed. It was more work than we anticipated and the end result was boring and bland. Not so bad that we won't be eating it tomorrow, but not great. We consoled ourselves by getting gelato after dinner. As you can see, we take three steps forward and one step back.

And my last thought for the night on being healthy - we are back to taking our vitamins. My mom had me swallowing handfuls of vitamins for as long as I can remember but I grew lackadaisical about taking them while I was in college. After going to the doctor a couple of weeks ago, I was told that my vitamin D levels were extremely low. This has inspired me to start choking down the dreaded pills again. Since I feel like doing something halfway is worse than not doing it at all, I am not content to take just D. I am back to taking the following: calcium, magnesium D, C, flaxseed oil, and a daily multiple. Alix, bless her, indulges me by taking all of them too. We gag and complain and, in my case, spill my juice glass in protest, but they go down. Here's to growing up (and growing healthy)!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Life Ain't Easy...

Although we are attempting to save money with all the best intentions, life keeps getting in the way. Despite the birthday celebrations coming to an end, it seems as if the bills are piling up with increasing intensity. The harder Cait and I try, the more we need to spend.
Over the last three days we've had a series of setbacks:

#1 I, being the klutz that I am, awoke to find that I had placed my cellphone in a full glass of water during the night. Seemingly impossible... but here we are. Not only did I get my phone wet, I marinated it.

#2 Rupert, our lovable, bumbling puppy, needed to take another unplanned trip to the vet. Over the past few months Rupert has fallen victim to some odd yet oh-so-expensive illnesses. This time, he seems to be losing his precious fur. Lucky for us, we paid a few hundred dollars for the vet to tell us that Rupert needed to take a bath with special shampoo.
A good word of advice -- pets are expensive! If you are considering getting one, the cost far exceeds your expectations. Food is only one of many expenses. Don't forget the toys, the leash, the bowls, the toothbrush, the doggie bags ($12.75 for eight rolls!!!!) ... and the list goes on. That being said, while he may be helping us rack up the bills, Rupert brings so much joy to our lives on a daily basis. We love our pets like they were our children (or maybe because they are our children). No cost could make us think they are not worth it.

#3 A smooth transition from one Rupert-related cost to another: less than 3 weeks after purchasing a charger for my computer, Rupert chewed straight through it in one bite. Alas, one more unforeseeable cost.

What do you mean I look guilty? My face always looks like this.
The moral of the story: we cannot plan for every expense because life is highly unpredictable. I guess we will just have to keep trying.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Slow Start

Alix and I, while both highly motivated, are also expert procrastinators. It should surprise no one that knows us that this ambitious plan of ours is starting rather slowly. Or not yet. At all. See, the problem is that Alix just had a birthday. And I, well I'm a sucker for birthdays. We spent her actual birthday at my parents' house upstate where I made her a blueberry pie. Once we were back home though, I wanted to make more of a day of it. I didn't have to work on Monday so we slept in, took the puppy to his favorite dog park, and then went to see the Bodies exhibit at the South Street Seaport. Right before we were about to enter the exhibit, Alix stopped dead in the street, pointing wildly to a spot about twenty feet in front of us and started yelling, "Look! It's here! It's here!" She was referring to the famous Wafels and Dinges cart which has been eluding our grasp since I saw it featured on the Food Network. Our plans to spend no money that day went out the window as we decided to sample the famous chewy warm waffles covered with toppings of your choice (Nutella and strawberries for me, just Nutella for Alix). It was worth every penny spent, and every gooey bite before we entered the shadowy halls to contemplate the waffles' journey through the epic disassembly line that is the human digestive system.

Later, I made the dinner that Alix had chosen: chicken served on a bed of wild mushrooms (from The Silver Palate Cookbook, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins with Michael McLaughlin), steamed artichokes with Hollandaise sauce (from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck) and chocolate chunk cookies for dessert. Nothing about this dinner was cheap or particularly healthy - Hollandaise sauce is butter with egg and a side of butter and, oh yeah, butter - but it was special and delicious. I've been told before that one of my greatest attributes as a cook is that I am utterly fearless. While I have a hard time believing most of the compliments I receive, this one I acknowledge as true. I taught myself how to make bread, pie, and almost everything else I can do in the kitchen by assuming that if one follows a recipe, has good intuition, and isn't afraid of messing up, anything can turn out delicious. This was true of the birthday dinner since everything I made was new to me (except the cookies, those are old stand-by's in our home).
The birthday feast
Next on our mission: order our DVD workout plan with its accompanying diet guide, figure out shopping lists based on said diet plan, and stick to the following budget guidelines:
Rent: 40%
Groceries: 10%
Utilities/Phone/Transportation: 6%
Pets: 4%
Miscellaneous (healthcare, car insurance, extra unexpected costs): 11%
Debt: 15%
Savings: 14%

I realize that's pretty convoluted, but this is a work in progress. Things they do not teach you in a liberal arts education...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Beginning

Hi everyone and welcome to our blog!

Here we will be writing about our adventures in New York and our quest to live healthier, happier lives on a budget. While New Yorkers are famous for continuously complaining about how expensive everything is (the rent! the parking! the food!), the truth is that Alix and I (Cait) are living off of one income and a rapidly depleting savings account, paying a rent we can't afford (go figure) and supporting a sulky cat and a dopey dog. This all sounds so much more tragic than the laughter-filled and love-blessed life that we are lucky to have but since we both want to remain healthy and financially viable into our next seven decades, the time has come for us to tighten our belts a little and make some changes.

The last three months since I moved into Alix's studio apartment in Hell's Kitchen, we've been a bit, shall we say, loose with our money. We appreciated the constant availability of take-out and became all too familiar with We also spent a large chunk of money transforming the apartment from the haphazard bachelor pad Alix was inhabiting into the cozy and furnished home we now share. Finally, we paid precious little attention to our spending habits at places like Whole Foods, Screme (the most delicious and over-priced gelato joint on the West side), and Unleashed (the boys' favorite holistic pet supply store). Now that we're settling into our respective routines - I work about fifty hours a week as a nanny, while Alix will soon be starting her second year of law school - we've decided to address our growing waistlines and shrinking accounts by changing our spending, eating, and exercise habits. We've designed a budget, sworn off eating out, and are starting a crazy workout plan (more on that later). We'll be doing our best to document our adventures here, in an effort to keep us honest and keep you amused. We invite you to read along and share it with us.