Monday, December 31, 2012

Bye-Bye 2012 and Blogger, Hello 2013 and 12 Months of Lent 2.0!

First of all, I have some big news that I'm beyond excited about…are you ready for this? 12 Months of Lent has moved!

That's right, after 4 years with Blogger, I've decided that the start of 2013 and my 5th year of 12 Months of Lent (can you believe it?) is the perfect time to move onto bigger and better things, i.e. Wordpress. I've been a busy little bee (as has Dan who's been amazing at helping me with the backend of things) moving everything over to my new site, which I'm aptly referring to as 12MOL 2.0.

What this means for you is that this is my last post at the Blogger address, so to stay up to date with 12 Months of Lent, please make sure to update your bookmarks, and RSS feeds, and email subscriptions, and all that stuff I barely know anything about. Here's where you can find me from now on:

And that's not all! I finally got around to setting up a 12MOL Facebook page, which I plan on keeping updated with new posts and pictures and all that good stuff. Please take a second to like it, and of course, to share it with anyone and everyone you know.

And I suppose since it's New Year's Eve and tomorrow marks the start of a brand new, odd-numbered year (I have a personal philosophy that odd-numbered years are way better than even-numbered ones), I should give some sort of summary of 2012, or at least as it relates to this blog, right?

I'll keep it short since you're all probably reading this on your iPhones at a bar, so here goes: 2012 was an awesome year for me, both personally, and for my lents. I might have failed to actually launch my design portfolio site like I was supposed to do last January and February (can't win 'em all), but I did an intense 21-day dietary cleanse in March, a technology detox in April, and a cool microphilanthropic month in May. I sat with my 92 year-old grandmother in June and July to record our family's history (which I later made into a book and gave to her this Christmas), got my finances back in order with a wallet diet in August, and embarked on a movie-watching challenge in September and October. Then I topped things off with a reading challenge in November, and my 7 Golden Rules of Christmas this past month—which of course brings me to my final check-in for that challenge.

I'm not gonna lie, I kind of fell off the wagon a bit after Christmas—as hard as I tried to keep it together, Christmas is just killer, especially when you work retail. I didn't let it discourage me or give me an excuse to abandon ship though. I've still been striving to maintain the healthy habits I set up, even after days when I've totally missed the mark.

I read a nice quote from Baron Baptiste today (in reference to his Digital 40 Days Baptiste Yoga program) that perfectly summarizes how I feel about responding to failures and setbacks:

"I often tell my students that it doesn't matter how many times you fall, it's about calmly and kindly getting back up each and every time that makes all the difference. Part of this program is that (much like your day-to-day life) it will present you with many opportunities to jump ship... "I had a stressful day today and don't want to meditate for 5 minutes" or "I don't have the time today for yoga practice or to make myself something for dinner." The good news is this is where the personal revolution occurs: you'll be on the lookout for these kinds of disempowering thoughts and attitudes and experience the power of choosing your next action. If you 'fall off the wagon', simply get back on."

Happy New Year everyone, thanks for all your love and support this year.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Championing My To-Do List, Week 3, A Mini-Breakdown & Christmas

Firstly, I'd like to report that I successfully crossed off every single to-do from last Sunday's marathon of a list. Every. Single. One. When has this ever happened to me before? Probably never—it was awesome (and a little exhausting).

Secondly, as far as my week 3 progress report goes, I fared pretty well. I hit my 4 yoga classes, I meditated every day, I practiced yoga nidra twice, ran twice, cooked 2 meals, didn't use my credit card, but...this is where I failed—I cheated on my no sweets rule. Dammit. It was a crazy day at work, a co-worker brought in a huge batch of my favorite kind of cookie ever (oatmeal butterscotch, omg), and...I just couldn't resist. So close—yet again—but still, I was feeling good. I was conquering the Christmas season.

And then, just like that, I had a mini-breakdown. I had left finishing up Grammy's family history book until the last minute (of course) but luckily the Staples gods were on my side and when I went to have it printed and bound, they were super accommodating and said they could do it right then and there for me. Perfect. No last minute Christmas Eve scrambling for me, phew.

But then the awesome guy I was working with had to help someone else and I got stuck with a lady who really couldn't have cared less about helping me put together a book for my 92-year-old grandmother, and suddenly things changed to "oh, we can't do this for you now, you'll have to come back tomorrow". Hello mini-meltdown.

It was fine though, I knew we had time to swing by the next day before heading down to the Cape, but it definitely threw me into the cranky-Christmas-sucks-stressed-out mood I had successfully avoided until that point. F. And then it certainly didn't help that after leaving Staples, Trader Joes was out of the cat litter I had driven there specifically to get. The mini-meltdown continued on until I yoga-nidraed myself out of it (but it did resurface a bit when I was bleary-eyed and up past midnight wrapping presents).

But everything ended up being fine of course, and I hope I don't sound too whiny—believe me, I'm counting my blessings that those were my biggest problems. I had a great time on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with both sides of my family, the book turned out perfect (it made almost every member of my family cry), and I got one of my all-time favorite Christmas presents (which may or may not be the theme of my January lent—stay tuned).

Mini-breakdown aside, it's been a relatively low-stress holiday season and I'm almost to the finish line of surviving it. One holiday to go and I'm in the clear. Woo-hoo!

The sign on my Cousin Stacy's house

The wreath on my parents back porch

A Dzenawagis family tradition

Grammy's book

Me, my dad, and my brother

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Today's To-Do

This week started out stellar but I definitely have a little catching up to do today (remember that time I accidentally slept until 11 yesterday? Whoops). Here's what's on my agenda:
  1. Hatha Flow @ 9:30 am: Check!
  2. Decadent pancake breakfast with Dan: Check!
  3. Finish and print Grammy's book (Dear Christmas Miracle, I need you now)
  4. Wrap gifts
  5. 2-mile run
  6. Yoga Nidra
  7. Make real meal #2 of the week
  8. Finish up my Christmas shopping after hours tonight at lululemon
Time to quit blogging and get to work, eek!

p.s. Making Christmas cookies is out the window today because I used my bonus sweet cheat Friday night at a friends holiday party when I spotted these bad boys (thank you Stephanie for making my Christmas dreams come true). My friend and old roomie Marissa used to make them all the time and we always referred to them as "bad girl crackers" in our house. Enough said, right? Totally worth it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

"It Is Decidedly So"

One of the best parts about working for lululemon is that I can literally practice yoga, work, enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon at home, and hey—even sleep if I want to—in the same clothes. And I'm sorry to break the news to those of you who aren't ready to hear this, but yoga pants are the new jeans. I basically have no interest in wearing anything that doesn't feature 4-way stretch ever again—can I even remember the last time I put on a pair of jeans? My sources say no.

While this is great for comfort's sake alone, it's also great for motivation. For instance, this morning I had the 6am shift and knew that if I wasn't already wearing my running clothes that it'd be pretty tough to motivate myself to hit the pavement after such an early wake up. So what did I do? Dress like the little runner girl I'm posing as this month and deck myself out so I could stop by the river on the way home and do my favorite 3-mile loop.

But then it was raining when I left the house at 5:30am...and absolutely pouring when I left work at 1pm...and pretty torrential when I finally made it back home. Basically, I was totally rained out.

But of course, just when I had given up all hope of making it out for a few miles, the skies cleared up and the sun peeked it's little face through the rain clouds. Freaking. Perfect.

It went from "Outlook not so good"...

To, "It is decidedly so"

and then of course I stopped every 5 seconds to take Instagram photos. I do what I do...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

This Week = Killin It (NBD)

It's only Wednesday, and so far this week I've meditated every day (I even received a personal meditation and mantra from my teacher to work with), I've already been to yoga twice, practiced yoga nidra once, and cooked my first of 2 recipes. Did I mention that I wrote and mailed out all of my Christmas cards too?

Basically, I'm killin it. Danne. Bam.

And now I'm relaxing by my Balsam and Cedar scented candle and listening to the Hanson Christmas album (don't judge me) while I work on Grammy's Christmas gift—I'm finally putting together the printed book of our family history that I transcribed over the summer (you remember Tuesdays With Grammy, right?). It's definitely the gift I'm looking forward to giving the most.

p.s. Do these pics look familiar? Follow me on Instagram!

White bean and kale stew with a grilled cheese, avocado, pesto, and spinach, sammie.

Christmas card writin' last night

A surprise Christmas package I received from my friend Jocelyn with a gingerbread man tree ornament for me and a cat nip mustache for Fanne (which she's OBSESSED with).           

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Week 2 Progress Report

Well look at that—Christmas is just about a week away, full-blown holiday-madness is among us, and somehow I haven't totally lost it yet. How is this possible? I'm going to go out on a limb and say it has something to do with this month's challenge, no?

In addition to gift making/shopping, Christmas card writing, holiday party-going, and helping the clueless husbands of Boston's MetroWest pick out yoga outfits for their wives, this is what else I spent my time doing last week:
  1. Yoga Practice: I made it out to 4 classes last week. Goal = hit! I tried to squeeze in a 5th like I said I would, but the one that best fit my schedule was full. What can you do? I'm perfectly happy with 4.
  2. Meditation: Every. Single. Day. This was huge for me, and also probably what is helping me to keep it together the most.
  3. Yoga Nidra: I only got to this once last week but my goal was twice. My only miss for the week, sigh...
  4. Running: Against my will, I made it out twice. It was cold, it was getting dark, but what got me out the door was reminding myself that I never come back from a run, or any workout for that matter, and say "man, I really wish I had just stayed home."
  5. Cooking: We did indeed prepare 2 legit meals, one of which was potato latkes for Chanukah (I don't know if the house will ever smell the same again, in a good way, of course).
  6. No Sweets: I did awesome with this one too, completely abstaining from all sweets except for the legal cheat I allowed myself on my birthday.
  7.  Credit Card Freeze: Still chillin'
I'm not gonna lie—it's been hard to fit everything in. Between working full-time, regular life responsibilities, holiday responsibilities and activities, trying to keep up with blogging, and attempting to hit all 7 Golden Rules of Christmas, I'm stretched pretty thin. To all the moms out there: I don't know how you do it, really. You're amazing.

But I'm pretty sure these healthy habits are what's keeping me sane in the first place, so it's well worth the effort if you ask me.

This week I'm again attempting to make every single goal, especially since I was so close last week, so close...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sweet Cheat #1

Remember how I said I'd allow myself 3 "cheats" for my no sweets rule? Here's #1, which I enjoyed last night at my birthday dinner:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Birthday Line-Up

I consider myself to be pretty shy about most things, but definitely not when it comes to my birthday. I'm a huge fan of birthdays in general, and I'm especially psyched to be celebrating mine this year because it's the last one of my 20s (sad face...but also happy face because I plan on welcoming in my 30s from a yoga retreat in Bali. Who wants in?).

I made sure to take the day off, so that in true Danne fashion, I could do whatever I want. Here's my line-up:
  • Sleep in (Fanne didn't bug me until 8:30, what a dream)
  • Breakfast
  • Meditate (I've been so good this week)
  • Goal Setting (what better day to do this, right?)
  • Lunch
  • Mani/Pedi (luxury!)
  • Blog
  • Yoga
  • Dinner at Maxwells 148 (cannot wait)
  • Pinot by the Christmas Tree
29 and feelin' fine...

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Picture It: It's 9am, I check my email from bed to see if I got into the 9:30 yoga class I was on the wait list for, which sadly, I did not. Before the depression began to set in, I hopped out of bed and threw my running clothes on so at least I'd get some sort of movement in. Right as I was lacing up my sneakers—no literally, the exact moment—my friend Ashley called asking if I wanted to go for a run with her.

YES. Serendipity at its finest.

Immediately upon returning home from our brief little 5 mile jaunt (which I'll definitely be feeling tomorrow...and probably the next day too), I rolled out my mat and put on a "Yoga For Runners" class from Yoga Today which made my poor little out-of-shape muscles feel a lot better. Today was a good day, especially for hitting my weekly goals.

So, for my 7 Golden Rules of Christmas, here's how I fared for Week 1:
  1. Yoga Practice: My goal was 4 classes, but I only made it out to 3. I did sign up for a 4th, but was a the weather on Saturday morning and didn't end up making it out. Shame on me. Because of this though, I'm (happily) sentencing myself to 5 classes this week. 
  2. Yoga Nidra: Goal was 2 times and that I did.
  3. Meditation: My goal was every day, my actual was..let's just say, I need to really focus on this one this week.
  4. Running: Hit my goal for this, woohoo!
  5. Cooking: Hit the goal for this one too.
  6. No Sweets: I was pretty on point with this one, however I may have snuck a single Hershey Kiss once or twice. Whatever though, it's still a win in my book because I turned down many cupcakes and candy over the course of the week.
  7.  Credit Card Freeze: It's still in there enjoying its winter hibernation.
My goal for Week 2 is to make every single goal. Can I do this? Yes I can!

And in other news, one thing I actually do love about the holidays is decorating. I did a lot of little things around the house earlier in the week, but today we finally got our tree (and of course busted out the menorah—this is a cashew household after all).

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Be a Bookworm Wrap-Up and December's Lent

And it looks like it's happened again—hello December, where did you come from?

It's officially a new month so that means I'm officially on to a new challenge. Although I still have a little bit left to read in Wild, I'm perfectly ok with only having read 4 books over the course of the month instead of my original 5. I mean, considering that I'm pretty sure I only finished 1 book in all of 2012 up until this Lent, I'd say that's an improvement, no?

And before I move on, I'd like to give Julie & Julia my 2 12MOL Thumbs Up. Regardless of how many people trashed it on goodreads because they thought the author was too "whiny", "self-absorbed", and "repulsive" (ok, ok, ok, even I agree, that maggot story was totally vile), I really loved it. Haters can hate all they want, but let's be honest—it's a pretty incredible story.

As for Wild, memoir #2 of the month, I'm fairly certain it'll receive my seal of approval as well. I have to say though, when I'm finished with this one I may need a break from books about women who overcome really terrible periods in their lives by creating insane personal challenges/epic journeys for themselves. I'm beginning to think I have a type…

So…what am I doing for December? After tossing around a few different ideas, I decided that I'd create a sort of "holiday survival guide" so I can end 2012 on the highest note possible (instead of fat and broke like I normally do).

The basic gist is this: the holidays are what they are, totally crazy and absolutely exhausting. After all the gift shopping, cocktail party-going, family gathering, and Christmas cookie-consuming, I'm usually totally beat—not to mention disappointed with myself for letting all my healthy habits slip—by the time New Years rolls around.

Not this year!

I'm taking control of the situation and in order to stay healthy, both mentally and physically, this December, I've decided on a few guidelines, which I'm calling "My 7 Golden Rules of Christmas", that I'm 100% committing to this month:
  1. I will practice yoga 4 times a week.
  2. I will practice yoga nidra 2 times a week.
  3. I will meditate every day.
  4. I will go for a run twice a week.
  5. I will cook 2 healthy meals from real recipes each week (ie. all of my meals will not come from the Trader Joes frozen section).
  6. I will abstain from all sweets (I had 6 cavities filled a few weeks ago, whoops), but allow myself exceptions for my birthday (which is next Tuesday in case you were wondering), Christmas Eve (how could I deny myself Aunt Sue's amazing dessert selection?), and Christmas Day. Maybe one more small one if there's something too good to pass up. 
  7. My credit card will remain in the freezer (where it has been since my Wallet Diet in August, go me!).
My goal is to leave 2012 feeling like the best possible version of myself so I don't need to kick my ass come January 1st. I'm even thinking about finding one of those yoga classes on New Years Eve where you enter the new year in savasana—anyone in?

Bye, Be A Bookworm Challenge, Fanne and I will miss you...

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Four Desires

I just kind of breezed over the fact that I read this book without ever really mentioning what it's about, didn't I? There I go again...

To reenforce my learnings from it—and of course to prove to you all that I actually did read it—here's a synopsis in 5 bullets or less (after all, this is a blog post, not a book report):
  • The Four Desires is a book by Rod Stryker, who is a teacher of my yoga teacher, Ben. He is the founder of ParaYoga, the style of yoga that I primarily practice.

  • By reading through and completing the exercises and meditations that Rod leads you through, the book helps you to uncover your dharma (in short: your purpose). *Does it sound crazy to you that you can figure this out from a book? Don't be so skeptical*

  • The exercises have you do things like write your personal Dharma Code (the individual expression of your soul's purpose) and draft a Sankalpa (a chosen resolution/goal to be achieved in the short term), both of which have since become the sort of, "north stars" of my life.
  • Then, he gives you tools to achieve your Sankalpa (like my personal favorite, yoga nidra), and methods to overcome your self-defeating ideas and behavior (which of course, we all have).
  • And bullet #5? I could keep going, but I think the first four should give you the gist of it.
A few of my favorite quotes:

"The term dharma is often thought to be synonymous with profession. People often tell me, "I don't know what my dharma is," but what they really mean is that they haven't yet found the career or line of work that they believe will make them the happiest. Dharma does include what you do for a living, but it addresses more than that: it is about discovering your soul's innate and unique mission or purpose."

"The Creation Equation states that when the intensity of desire, or shakti, plus the intensity of the energy you direct toward achieving it, or vayu, is greater than the intensity of resistance, or karma, it equals attainment of your desire, or prapti".

"What yoga does is to help you remove what stands in the way of your being the bright light and powerful force that you really are."

"One of the underlying teachings of the Bhagavad Gita is that the purpose of yoga is to make the unconscious conscious. It may occur to you to ask why anyone would want to do this, especially if you are under the impression that the unconscious is little more than an endless supply of repressed memories and self-defeating beliefs. The answer is that the yoga tradition teaches that this is only part of the story, that the unconscious includes everything you are not aware of, not just the negative material but some things that are wholly positive."

"For intuition to grow as a force in your life, you have to learn to honor it. One form of neglect is not taking the time to hear it; the other is ignoring what it is telling you to do. This means that for your inner voice to become an increasingly powerful presence, you have to act on its vision."

"Throughout the course of your life, your psyche, holding the causes or seeds of your past, leads you through myriad events, which will lead you to a predetermined fate. It does this by responding to your deepest, most powerful desires and putting you in exactly the right circumstances in which those desires, regardless of whether they are in alignment with your conscious desire, can be materialized."

"Let the wisdom and love in your heart show you what and who you really are, then let it guide you. Present your heart with a vision of what you know it longs for and it will help you fulfill the aspirations that have been in it all along."

You guys still there? Sorry, that did turn into a bit of a book report. To sum it up: Two 12MOL Thumbs Up.

And now I will spend the remainder of my night reading Lost, which I picked up at Barnes & Noble yesterday for a mere $27, eek...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

3 (practically) Down, 1 To Go

Let me start by saying that when I set my original goal to finish Fierce Medicine and The Four Desires (2 books I had already started) within the first week of this challenge,  I hadn't actually checked to see how far along I was in each—a minor oversight. I thought I remembered being about half way through each of them, so I rationed that combined, It'd be like I was reading 1 book in a week instead of 2, right? Totally wrong.

When I finally picked them back up, I was faced with how little I had actually read in each (somewhere around the 50 page mark), so getting through those 2 took a bit longer than expected. Because of this, I decided that I'd reset my reading expectations for the month and stick to finishing 4 books instead of 5 (and perhaps at least starting the 5th if time permits, which I'm pretty sure it won't).

So, where am I at now? Fierce Medicine is done, as is The Four Desires (which I'll post more about later in the week),  and I only have 25 pages left in Julie & Julia, which I practically devoured on my post-Thanksgiving trip out to Ann Arbor to visit Dan's family. I'll give a full review after I've officially checked it off the list, but so far, I've enjoyed it quite a bit—which doesn't really surprise me considering it's about a girl who started a blog about a personal challenge that subsequently got her a book deal. Oh, dreams…

But now off to finish those last 25 pages, and then tomorrow to pick up a copy of my 4th and final book, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which I will furiously read for the remainder of the week.

Packing essentials...

Reunited with my big, fat cat baby

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Thanksgiving Homework

Now that Fanne and I are home from our Thanksgiving linner at Grammy's house (yes, you read that right, I brought my cat to my grandmother's house for Thanksgiving), it's time to get in a little bookworm homework before bed.

Earlier in the week I set some reading goals for myself (in the form of neon post-its) in order to stay on track, and since I'm a little behind—oops, I did it again—it's time to crack open The Four Desires and get to it.

Wishing a happy Thanksgiving to all, and a happy first Black Friday working retail to me tomorrow, eek...

Monday, November 19, 2012

From My Permanent Collection...

See, I've read a book or 2 in my day (and filled up a few sketchbooks and photo albums):

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My "Readers Choice" Pick

You guys are the best...

So, as you remember, in addition to the books I've personally chosen to read this month, I also asked for suggestions from all of you on what to read for book #5. Here are some of the recommendations I received:

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert (already read it and of course totally loved it)
Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden (already read it)
Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver (I have a memory of starting this one a long time ago and never finishing it).
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (already read it)
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgernstern
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker

After a teeny bit of deliberation, I've decided to read Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. I decided on this one mainly because multiple people recommeded it, but also because it sounds pretty awesome. A close second was The Night Circus, by Erin Morgernstern, but my friend Ashley (the one who suggested it) said that it's great on audio book so I might go that route.

Sooooo, thanks guys! And feel free to give me more book suggestions so I can add them on goodreads (which I literally signed up for 5 minutes ago). Are you on goodreads? Let's be friends, I'm: danned

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fierce Medicine = Done! (and a few more words of wisdom from Ana)

Fourteen days in and I've officially finished book one of my challenge: Fierce Medicine by Ana Forrest. Yes, I know, I have a little catching up to do, but I'm hoping I'll be able to breeze through a book or two next week during my Thanksgiving travel time (maybe I'll even challenge myself to keep it analog in the airport. iLike that idea).

So, as for the book—I thought it was great. If you're into yoga you'll probably dig it, if you're not, it has the potential to totally weird you out. She goes pretty far out there (if you know what I mean), and I was totally into it, but I love stuff like that. Anyways, if you're local and you're interested, I can certainly lend you my copy. Two 12 Months of Lent thumbs up!

Here are my last few favorite passages/quotes from the second half of the book:

From the teachings of White Buffalo Calf Woman:

Friends do it this way—that is,
whatever you do in life,
do the very best you can
with both your heart and mind. 
And if you do it that way, 
the Power of the Universe
will come to your assistance,
if your heart and mind are in Unity.
When one sits in the Hoop of the People,
one must be responsible because
All of Creation is related. 
And the hurt of one is the hurt of all. 
And the honor of one is the honor of all. 
And whatever we do affects everything in the universe. 
If you do it that way—that is, if you truly join your heart and mind
as One—whatever you ask for,
that's the Way It's Going to Be. 

" (I) Use this question to judge the correctness of my actions: Does it brighten or dim my spirit?"

"Tears drain our wounds, which can then dry out and heal."

"Sing until you feel empty or charged. Move those stuck emotions. Give voice to your heart, Spirit, longing, grief. Even if your voice is scratched or broken, singing gives that part of you a voice, and that is healing and empowering. It can also be wicked fun."

And I'll leave you with this photo of the best chapter title ever:

Up Next: Finishing up The Four Desires by Rod Stryker (and then on to some non-yoga books, I promise).

Friday, November 9, 2012

Words of Wisdom from Ana Forrest

First of all, this lady's a riot—a very wise and spiritual riot. In between telling stories from her horrific childhood and her path to healing through yoga, I've really enjoyed her unabashed way of looking at absolutely everything in life.

Here are a few of my favorite Ana Forrest "words of wisdom" from her book so far:

"I encourage you to take this wild and exciting path of Truth Speaking because it's unfathomably rich. It's also risky. But what are you risking? All the facades that make your life dull and boring and complacent. By speaking the truth, we learn the difference between our authentic self and our facade. If we put our little masked self out there, the horror is that other people might accept and end up making love to it, while we starve and die of neglect behind it. It's much richer to interact genuinely with the world."

"A lot of our culture's Judeo-Christian beliefts are conditioned against desire. We're taught that to make ourselves so-called better people, we must behave altruistically, which in this case means always putting others first and neglecting our own desires. A lot of us are taught this so we better fit into the fabric of society. No wonder we have so much difficulty discerning our heart's desire; we have to cut through a lot of well-intentioned yet stupid teaching to find out what it is. But if we learn to follow our heart's desire and can get through the initial blowback, if we're taught to follow our Spirit's calling, how could that not be a tremendous gift to our family and community? Yes, sometimes following our heart's desire leads us into some crazy-ass places, but that's just part of it."

"Meditation is simply a way to shift the gears of the mind. We think a lot. And we think that's the only gear that the brain has, but it's more like first gear in a six-gear car. Many people think the goal of meditation is to shut down the mind. Not so; that just sets you up for war. Meditation is about exploring and teaching your mind to do something different; that's much more friendly than saying, 'I'm gonna shut you up!' It's not about putting yourself to sleep; it's about awakening, especially awakening parts of you that have never been asked to awaken before."

"We have the same problem in our culture as we do in our bodies: we take in too much that's non-nutritive, whether it's junk food or junk information, and we attempt to be fed by it. We pour in so much information, so much food, and our bodies and minds and emotions get constipated, clogged, overloaded. What the hell is an energy drink, and what is our cell tissue going to do with it? Of the information we take in, how much of it can we actually live on and how much is crap? There's nothing wrong with crap, but it's an end product. Literally: eat shit and die".

And this is only from the first 133 pages, I can only imagine what's in store for the next 127...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Tuesday Afternoon

What my Tuesday afternoon looks like, alternating between these 2 books:

p.s. Happy Election Day! Did you vote yet? This little Lenter cast her vote first thing this morning. Polls are open until 8pm so get out there if you haven't yet!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

November's Lent: Be a Bookworm

When it's time to pick my Lent for the month, I first look to see if there's something obvious I should do:
Is there something lacking in my life at the moment? 

Is there something I've been meaning to get done but haven't made time for?

When I asked myself this at the end of October, the answer came pretty quickly: Put frankly, I've been totally sucking at reading lately.

For the last few months, sitting down with a good book has fallen to the bottom of my priority list. And if I'm being honest here…I can't even remember the last book I finished. Not good. Plus, I've developed this terrible habit of starting a book, getting about half way through, putting it down, and then starting a new one before finishing the old one. What this looks like for me is a nightstand piled high with a year's worth of half read books. Again, not good.

So, this month I'm embarking on a reading challenge. My (lofty) goal is to read one book per week. Here's the breakdown:

Week 1: I'm going to finally finish 2 of the books I've been working on for quite some time. Book 1: The Four Desires, by Rod Stryker, and Book 2: Fierce Medicine, by Ana Forest (or, yoga book 1 and yoga book 2).

Week 2: Julie & Julia, by Julie Powell. As someone who clearly loves personal challenges, it's shocking that I haven't read this one yet. Anyone have a copy I could borrow?

Week 3: I'm going to be good little lulu and read one of the suggested books from our lululemon library: The Leadership Pipeline, by Ram Charam.

Week 4: Readers choice! That's right, I'm looking for suggestions from all of you for what to read, so please leave a comment and let me know what your "must reads" are (keep in mind I only have a week too, so no epic 800 page novels with tiny type please).

And I'm off for a little Sunday night reading...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lent = Out

Well...that's it friends. My 2-month movie challenge ends today. How'd I do? I can't say I got around to watching all 20 on the list, but I didn't do so bad—and I even kind of liked watching some of them, which is a huge step for me. Here's what I did end up seeing:
  1. Citizen Kane 
  2. Usual Suspects 
  3. Pulp Fiction 
  4. Fight Club
  5. The Matrix 
  6. Say Anything
  7. Caddyshack
  8. Animal House
  9. Legends of the Fall
  10. Top Gun
  11. Reality Bites
  12. Dead Man Walking
  13. The Big Lebowski
  14. Rushmore
  15. Rocky
  16. Rain Man
Pretty good for a non-movie person, eh? Here's the few that still remain (note: I have plans to watch Dead Poets Society on Friday night so that'll get scratched off soon).

And I guess I should say Happy Halloween, shouldn't I? I'll be spending the evening dressed up as a yogi in expensive black stretchy pants at lululemon—I hope you're all doing something much more exciting than I am.

The intro to November's Lent: Be a Bookworm, will be headed your way soon, as it something else that I'm super excited about, eee!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy = Top Gun

Let me tell you, hurricanes make this movie crunch I'm in a lot easier.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Final 7, Landmark, and Instagram

I'm bracing for a movie-filled week over here as I make my best effort to watch the final 7 movies on my list in just 7 days. Eep!

Oh, and did I mention that lululemon is sending me to The Landmark Forum this weekend? No big deal, just 3 days of super-intense, emotional, 14-hour sessions that literally leave no time between waking and sleeping for movie watching. Perfect timing.

Wish. me. luck.

And hey, I know I'm a little late to the game here (I've always been a bit of a late bloomer), but I'm finally on Instagram! Follow me: dannedzenawagis

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Little 9am Rocky, No Big Deal

This morning I did something that has probably never been done by anyone else in the world…ever: I watched Rocky at 9am. 

Yep, to make my movie goal for the month it's time to double up, so before work today, I, Danne Dzenawagis, watched Rocky. I almost don't even believe it myself.

9am aside, can I just say that I surprisingly kind of loved it? Not only did I have plenty of nostalgic moments remembering my days in the high school band when the theme song played (all 300 times), but I even shed a few tears at the end (the crying part was a little less surprising for me).

And in addition to Rocky, I've also knocked Rushmore (which was great), and Reality Bites (which was also great) off the list this week.

7 movies left to watch in 8 days? Totally doable, right?

Friday, October 19, 2012


Oh boy, so let's be honest here—I've been 100% slacking when it comes to my movie watching. In fact, if I'm really being honest, I haven't watched one in…over a week. Gulp.

Here's what I have to say for myself (i.e. here's my mediocre excuse): For a good chunk of last week/weekend I was away in NYC visiting Dan's family and friends, then down to Virginia for my old pal Lindsy's wedding, then up to the DC area to visit my other old pal Amanda and her little bundle of adorable/daughter Eleanor, then back for another night in NYC before returning home to Boston. Phew, right?

Then of course when I got back I had about 100 things to catch up on, and a training for work, and so on and so on…

So yeah, now that I've vented my excuses, it's time to get back on it.

10 movies in 13 days, can I do this? Yes I can! Maybe…

A visual journey of what I was doing instead of watching movies:

Watching these 2 lovely ladies tie the knot...
Having a mini 14 Thurston reunion with 2 of my all-time favorite roomies...
Eating as many NY bagels as possible....
and enjoying some seriously scenic highway driving.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Can I Borrow Your Movies?

My only trip out of the house this weekend was to the Watertown Library, where I returned last month's movies and hoped to stock up on some new ones from October's list. Unfortunately, I had a little less luck than last time and only came home with Dead Man Walking (which I watched last night, thanks for the great suggestion Frau!) and Rushmore. Boo.

So, calling all local movie-loving friends, does anyone have any of the following movies available for rental from your personal collection?  

1. Dead Poets Society
2. Reality Bites
3. The Godfather
4. Taxi Driver
5. Mary Poppins 

6. Top Gun
7. The Big Lebowski
8. Rocky
9. Rain Man

*Or, librarian friends, could you teach me how to request movies from the library?*

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Surprise Romantic Comedy Double Feature

For the past week(ish), I've been unsuccessfully battling the super-cold that's going around. While *I think* I might finally be on the upswing, being sick has definitely been a bonus for my movie watching challenge (at least it's good for something).

Earlier in the week I watched Animal House (so, that's where those "COLLEGE" t-shirts come from, I get it now...), 2 nights ago I watched Usual Suspects (see previous post), and last night, I knocked Say Anything off the list. Bam, bam, Danne bam!

My upstairs neighbor was nice enough to lend me his copy of Say Anything (in a book with about 1,000,000 other movies) and when the movie ended, something unexpected happened—after the credits ran, all of the sudden, just like that, When Harry Met Sally (which I've actually seen before) started playing! That's right, a surprise romantic comedy double feature.

Now, I didn't know that I was capable of watching 2 movies in a row, but I did it. For the first time ever, Danne Dzenawagis watched 2 movies in 1 sitting. Woah.

Um, who am I? This must be a side effect of the sickness...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Usual Suspects: SPOILER ALERT

Since everyone else probably saw this movie when in came out in 1995, I'm not really worried about giving it away, but yeah, don't read the caption if you haven't seen it. Or hey, if you want to save yourself an hour and a half and just cut to the chase, this will do it for you:

(In a breathy voice) "Keyser Söze", a name I will annoying utter to Dan for at least the rest of the month, if not longer.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Conversation Of The Week

Last night, before turning out the light:

Danne: "Did you see my October movie list?"

Dan: "Not yet, is there anything good on there?"
Danne: "I don't know...I haven't seen any of them" (laughing)
Dan: "Oh, right..."

Gotta love him...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Next 10

I knew you guys would help out with movie recommendations and you definitely did. After spending some time sorting through your suggestions (and adding a few of my own), here are the 10 movies that I've decided to watch this month:

1. Dead Poets Society
2. Reality Bites
3. The Godfather
4. Taxi Driver
5. Mary Poppins (just because it's funny that I'm 28 and haven't seen this yet)
6. Dead Man Walking
7. The Big Lebowski
8. Rushmore
9. Rocky
10. Rain Man

And still leftover from last month's list are:

1. Usual Suspects
2. Say Anything
3. Animal House
4. Top Gun

I did manage to knock Legends of the Fall off the list last night. Holy Brad Pitt, that was epic. Rarrr...

And today, I'm home sick from work with the illness that's been plaguing most of Massachusetts, so I'm thinking I'll get at least 1 or 2 movies in before the presidential debates tonight. Time to rock these bad boys leftover from the 2008 election:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pulp Fiction: The Drinking Game *Update*, and October's Lent

Maybe I should have called it, "Pulp Fiction: The Blackout Game" instead, because omg, they certainly say the F word enough times in that movie. I tried to stick with the rules which included: drinking every time someone gets killed, does drugs, and says "Fuck", "Chopper", or "Motorcycle", but when my beer was already empty about 15 minutes in, I decided to call it quits before I ended up in a pumpkin ale induced coma.

All in all though, I enjoyed the movie a lot more than I thought I would, and was only moderately frightened. I feel like the really uncomfortable scenes were scattered throughout, rather than constantly bombarding you like they were in Fight Club. Plus, the upbeat soundtrack provided some much needed levity.

And um, if you've been keeping tally of my movie watching, you're probably aware that it's October 2nd and I've only watch 5 of my 10 in 21. Whoops? Can I use the excuse that my bestie got married this month and I was a little busier than usual? Or that I started this challenge 10 days late?

Because I've clearly still got some work to do, and because the movie challenge was such a great idea, I've decided to extend this lent into October and add 10 more to the bunch (seems that 2 month lents are the 12MOL trend of 2012).

I haven't decided which movies to watch yet, but I'm open for suggestions. This is your chance guys, what are 10 more "must-see" (more like "must-have-seen") movies that I should add to my list?

Me and bridie, proof that I was indeed busy being a Maid of Honor all September long.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


You know it's gonna be a good movie when...
  1. An amazingly fake dancing gopher is the first character you're introduced to.
  2. Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield are in it. 
  3. The soundtrack is by Kenny Loggins.
  4. One of the main characters is named Danny.
  5. There's a funny puke scene right off the bat.

And this was just in the first half hour—Caddyshack, you did not disappoint. Thanks for being such a riot.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pulp Fiction: The Drinking Game

After my less than stellar review of Fight Club and my girlish appal to the entire concept of such a movie, many of you have warned me not to watch Pulp Fiction. While I'm fairly certain that your judgement on what I will and will not enjoy is probably spot on, somehow your warnings have only made me even more determined to watch it (yes, apparently I'm 5 years old).

Because I'm predicting that I'll be horrified for the majority of it, I figured I should at least have a little fun here, right? Enter, Pulp Fiction: The Drinking Game.

Since I've never seen the movie, I was a little unsure of what rules to set, so I searched around online for ideas. What do you Pulp Fiction buffs think of this one? I'm open for additions/subtractions:
  1. Drink 1 each time Someone gets killed (even if not from a gun).
  2. Drink 1 each time any of the main characters does any type of drug.
  3. Drink 1 each time any main character says “Fuck”.
  4. Drink 1 each time the word, “Chopper” or “Motorcycle” is said.
Sondra and Tony, this sounds like a good pre-wedding activity, eh?

Citizen Kane

My god, I love old movies. And I guess since it's 2012 now and movies aren't really "new" anymore, I should probably specify what I mean by old—I'm talkin' black and white films from the 1940's and 50's, starring the likes of Jimmy Stewart and Katherine Hepburn (just to name a few, of course). The funny old-timey accents, the lingo, the outfits, the hairdos, the wholesome plotlines, the lack of special effects—just everything. Sigh…

So, where I'm going with this is that I watched Citizen Kane last night. Ahhh, that's more like it. I'd rather watch Orson Wells play a millionaire newspaper tycoon than have to sit through Brad Pitt disfiguring a bunch of guys any day. And while Dan and I both generally enjoyed it (although I may have caught him snoozing through a few scenes), we were a little curious as to what makes it widely considered one of the best films of all time.

From a little "Googling", it seems that what makes it so noteworthy is a lot of behind the scenes stuff like the production, cinematography, storytelling techniques, and soundtrack. Or at least that's what Wikipedia says, true or false?

3 down and 7 to go though (eek). I have a busy week of movie watching ahead of me indeed...

and omg, how beautiful is this typography? LOVE.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Today's Movie Haul

Today's movie haul from the Watertown Free Public Library:

How psyched am I that #1, they had all of these from my list, and #2, that renting them was free. Oh yeah, the library...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Just because...

I thought I'd take a quiz to see how many of the American Film Institute's Top 100 Movies I've seen. My score wasn't actually too, too terrible (considering that it's me we're talking about here), but it looks like the final tally was 30 out of 100.

Not too embarrassing, right? The only thing that got me such a "high" number in the first place was my "I'm obsessed with black and white movies from my grandmother's generation" phase in high school. At least there's that.

Now back to more awful movies from the 90's...

Monday, September 17, 2012

"The List"

As expected, I've had plenty of feedback on the list of movies I choose to watch. So much so that I'm beginning to think that movies are as hot button of a topic as politics or religion because people have been pretty intense about their opinions:

"Omg, DO NOT watch that one"
"Wait, why wasn't this movie on the list?"
"You have to watch this one too"
"Who made this list? You aren't going to like any of those"
"Let me make the list for you"

and on, and on…

While I do appreciate all your comments and concerns, let me go over again how this list was made in the first place. My goal was to watch films that I though were sort of essential to have seen, not movies I necessarily thought I'd love. I wanted a mix of cult classics, classics (that's why Citizen Kane is on there), and then just a few others that people are always shocked I haven't seen. And for the record, the following movies aren't on the list because I've already seen them: Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, The Princes Bride, Dazed and Confused, Empire Records, Mall Rats, and Clerks.

So, I'm sticking to my original list, however I have decided to swap out Spaceballs for Caddyshack, because I'm 98% sure I won't like Spaceballs, and about 85% sure I'll like Caddyshack better.

And in other news, I watched The Matrix last night. While it was definitely much more tolerable than Fight Club, and I did enjoy the Jersey Shore-style unnecessary sunglasses wearing, and use of antiquated technology like flip phones and floppy discs, let's be honest—it was kind of ridiculous. Luckily, I was pretty beat last night anyways, so those 2 hours of my life that I lost wouldn't have been spent doing anything better.

2 down, 8 to go...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fight Club: A Review By Someone Who Doesn't Like Movies and Who Knows Nothing About Them

So, um, I watched Fight Club last night…


Yeah, well, considering that I'm a total girl and that I hate fighting, violence, and watching or even thinking about anything that's effed up, I'm not really surprised that I didn't love this one. I'm also not surprised that I had to look away for about 25% of it.

It started out good enough. There was a guy who hated his mundane job (been there, check!), he had lots of furniture from Ikea (I love Ikea too, I can relate to this!), then there were funny scenes of support groups and Meat Loaf was there too, and there were even a few notable quotes from Brad Pitt's character like:

"The things you own end up owning you", and "Working jobs we hate so we can buy things we don't need".

And I was introduced to the term, "Single Serving Friend": A friend you meet once, for example on a plane, and never see again. Brilliant.

But then it sort of went downhill from there for me. Lots of fighting and disfiguring and dismembering and other repulsive things that totally grossed me out. I'm pretty sure the horrified look on my face made it look like I was getting the shit kicked out of me too.

I get the whole "abandoning consumer culture" thing, and that's great and all, but for me, the most redeeming part of the movie was when everything blew up in the end and The Pixies started playing. At least The Pixies were there to save me (and Fanne too, who apparently loves movies because she sat 2" from my face the entire time).

So, that's that, I guess. 1 down and 9 to go. I hope my poor, movie-loving boyfriend can handle putting up with my asinine commentary and general disdain for the rest of the month. Oh boy...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My DVD Collection

Just to reiterate how "not a movie person" I am, here's the extent of my DVD collection (I definitely laughed out loud when I saw how pathetic this is):

1. Heima, a Sigur Ros film
2. It's a Wonderful Life, a Dzenawagis family Christmas classic
3. Swing Kids, I wore out my VHS copy of this in high school

I think I used to have copies of Amelie, Lost in Translation, and Garden State as well, but since they've somehow disappeared, my DVD collection officially consists of a whopping 3 movies.  Hahaha, really?

Monday, September 10, 2012

September's Lent: 10 in 21

Ok, ok, ok, so it's 10 days into September and I've been totally 12MOL MIA. I know, I know…so, what's the deal?

Well, what happened was that I started a new challenge for September and about 3 days into it I realized it was kind of a flop. I knew going into it that it was going to be a total hit or miss and, well—it was a miss. Hey, you win some you lose some, right? Moving on...

So, what now? I considered taking a month off but I decided to ask around to see if anyone had any cool ideas for me. The winner? Mr. Dan Kaplan for suggesting a "movie challenge".

This probably sounds way too easy, right? Not if you're Danne Dzenawagis. When I meet new people, there's 2 things that I can say that immediately make them dislike me:

Thing #1: "I hate movies"
Thing #2: "I hate dogs"

Ok, so hate is a strong word and it isn't entirely true in this case. I don't hate movies, I just hardly ever watch them because I have the attention span of a goldfish, and I don't actually hate dogs, I generally just dislike about 99% of them. And I mean, who needs a dog when you have a cat that's the size of one?

But anyways, my challenge this month is to finally suck it up and watch a bunch of the movies that I definitely should have seen at some point in my life. This list was complied over the weekend at our friend Kelly's house with the help of a bunch of movie buffs, including the Sullivan Sisters, who really thought long and hard about what was and wasn't important for me to see based on the list of the 12 movies that I actually have seen.

So, here they are, the 10 movies that I will be watching over the next 21 days. Don't make fun of me, I've never seen any of these. And please don't suggest more, watching this many movies in a month is kind of torturous, this is already way more than I can handle.

1. Citizen Kane
2. Usual Suspects
3. Pulp Fiction
4. Fight Club
5. Matrix
6. Say Anything
7. Spaceballs
8. Animal House
9. Legends of the Fall
10. Top Gun

Thank god there's only 21 days in this challenge, and thank god it's knitting season again so I have something to do while I have to sit through all these. Movie party anyone?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Wallet Diet: Over and Out

Well, it looks like somehow it's September already and that my miserly living, money-saving, Wallet Diet challenge can officially come to a close—or at least, I wish it could come to a close. Through all the scrimping and saving that I did this month, one thing that I discovered was that unfortunately, at this point in my financial times, $100 a week is all I really should be spending if I want to stay on track. Hmpf…

But the good news? It actually wasn't that all that hard to live off $100 a week. Once I regulated my grocery expenditures, stopped eating out, bought a month-long supply of 3 Buck Chuck, found a less expensive litter that I liked (I mean, that Fanne liked), filled up at the cheapest gas station, froze my credit card spending, and generally just curbed my impulse purchases and paid much more attention to where my money was going, I got by on a lot less than I thought I could. I even had extra money each week, which admittedly, all went to lululemon. Hey, we all have our vices, right?

So now what? I'm sticking with this one, at least for a while because it definitely whipped me back into financial shape. My credit card is staying in the freezer, my budget is staying at $100 a week, and I'm going to continue to be critical and smart about my spending.  The Wallet Diet isn't a "fad diet"—it's more like a way of life.

And if you're looking for a little inspiration to kick-start your own money-saving challenge, here's a great list that I found today on the 50 Best Money-Saving Blogs

Next Up? "Do What's Right" September. Crytpic, I know...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Running On Empty (In The Best Way Possible)

Tomorrow is payday and there's $9.16 left in my checking account and I'm about half a hair away from having an empty tank of gas. Some people might be freaked out by this, but for me, it's a sign of a successfully budgeted week (and for the record, I do have a savings account, I only keep "spendable" money in my checking).

Victory! Congratulations Danne, you're getting really awesome at living within your measly means.

Don't tell my Dad, he hates when I run the tank this low...

and there's even $9.16 to spare for the week, woohoo!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Meal Planning 101 With Ashley Sway

A few months ago I was snooping around on my new friend Ashley's Facebook page when I saw a link she posted to her blog. Being a nosy new friend, I clicked on it and started reading swupper, the blog she writes that chronicles she and her husband Hank's weekly meals—and more importantly (and impressively)—meal planning.

While I'm certainly a planner, I've never been a meal planner, so it was fascinating for me to see that people are actually dedicated enough to do this—and stick with it. Since she's so amazing at it, and because this month is all about saving money (she swears that meal planning will save you tons), I thought I'd put together a little Q&A  in hopes that you'll be as inspired by Hank and Ashley as I am.

Danne: You are the most dedicated (and awesome) meal planner I know. Did you grow up in a meal planning household or is this something you've adopted as an adult?

Ashley: Thanks. It's something I'm pretty proud of. My parents definitely weren't meal planners. We had a bunch of stuff in the freezer (meat), and my mom bought enough veggies for the week on her weekly grocery run. Each day she would say, "What do you want to eat tonight?", and we would say things like, "Pork chops and broccoli", and there you have it.

Danne: Describe to me the process of putting together your weekly meal plan. When and how do you pick out the week's recipes?

Ashley: Here is what we do during CSA season: Monday night we get an email saying what we will get on the farm on Tuesday. We make a list of the things that we want and then start our planning from there. I take out a piece of paper, write down if we have plans on certain nights, like yoga (which means that the meal needs to be especially quick), or dinner plans with friends/family. I ask Hank if there is anything that sounds good to him. He usually throws out at least one idea. Based on what we are going to get, we plan our menu with a mix of throw together meals and recipe meals. Throw together meals are things like curry, salads, grilled cheese and veggies, etc. Our goal is to use all of the vegetables, which means that our menu is based directly on what we are getting and not just what we want to eat. We hate wasting food, and we rarely ever do. By Tuesday evening we have the menu and grocery list all set. We use an app called Our Groceries that syncs between our phones. We make a shopping list of what we need besides the vegetables from the farm, and we try to make it all at one grocery store. On Tuesday evening, we go to the farm, pick up our vegetables, and head to the one store where we can get what we need. This is usually either Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.

Non-CSA season is a little bit different, but basically the same. If we are doing the shopping on Friday night, then by Thursday evening we have our menu all set and our grocery list made. We have a little bit more freedom on these weeks since we have to purchase everything that we will need. We usually try to narrow it down to two stores, and one of these is almost always Russo's (a great whole sale, mostly veggies, grocery store in Watertown) and the other is either Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. 

Danne: Once you've done your shopping, do you prep your ingredients in advance? If so, how long does it usually take you to prepare dinner on a given weeknight?

Ashley: Our food prep varies. With our CSA we often do a little bit of prep/re-organization when we get home from shopping. As mentioned before, the nights that we do yoga are the hardest. We get home at about 7:30 and want to make something as quickly as possible. This usually means that the night before we at least cut up the veggies that we will be using. Often, on weekends or non-yoga nights, we might cook a bunch of rice or whatever other grains we plan on using that week. We also prep random other things on the weekends. For instance, we usually have cornbread in our freezer, because we often make meals that have barely any carbs and calories. We make a big batch of this whenever we run out, cut it into serving size pieces, and freeze it. We also make our own stock by saving our veggie scraps, chicken carcasses, and Parmesan rinds. Last weekend we learned how to can, and canned whole tomatoes from the plethora we got from our CSA. We also blanched some green beans that we didn't eat, and stuck those in the freezer. Basically, by the end of the week our fridge is totally empty.

It usually takes us between half an hour and an hour to make dinner every night. It can really vary though. Sometimes I think that it takes us as long to cook dinner as we have time to cook it.

Danne: You seem to try out new recipes all the time, where do you find most of them? Any favorite cooking blogs?

Ashley: We have some great cookbooks like Mark Bittman's, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and I have a binder of recipes that look great, or that we have tried and really liked. Or, we will have an ingredient that we are tired of cooking the same way over and over, so I'll check our cookbooks to see if I can find something new. Pinterest is a good source to find new things, but I have found that a lot of it is sweets, which isn't really my thing (not that I don't like sweets, I just don't bake much). I would say that the main place that I find new recipes is from theKitchn. I get updates in my Google Reader and look through them every single day. Other than that, I just keep my eyes open in magazines, websites, and other blogs.

Danne: How often do you stray from your original plan? There must be some nights when you say "Ahhh, forget it" and order a pizza, right?

Ashley: Honestly? Never. Well, to the pizza part. Once in a blue moon I will say to Hank, "You just wanna get Chinese?", and he will say, "I don't know…", and then I will say, "Eh, we have stuff at home we should eat." We do stray though. We often switch around the days that we will make things on our menu, because I didn't think about the fact that a certain ingredient won't last as long as we need it to based on the plan. Also, we often plan one less meal than we need for the week. This allows for frantic eating of leftovers/extra veggies or for an impromptu meal out with friends/family or by ourselves.

Danne: What are a few tips and tricks you've learned about meal planning in your experience with it? Any advice for someone who's just getting started?

Ashley: Here's the thing. If you have a plan, you have all of the food, and you don't want to waste the food, then you will eat at home, eat healthier, and eat cheaper. We also almost always cook for 4 people too so we'll have leftovers for lunch every day. We prep our lunch while we are cleaning up or dinner so it is all set to go the next morning.

We also have a budget for everything in our lives. Our grocery budget is $450/month and our eating out budget is $200/month. If it is getting close to the end of the month and we don't have much money left in the grocery budget we think hard about how to eat cheaply. And if we run out of eating out money then we don't eat out any more. We got our budget amounts from looking back over a few months of grocery receipts and figuring out about how much we spent. Right now we don't spend nearly that much on groceries because of the CSA, and a typical month has us spending a lot less on eating out as well. It all depends, but it is nice to have the fixed amount to help you stay on track with your money.

And like most things, you have to want to do it to be successful at it and to keep with it. I recommend starting small by thinking ahead to the week and jotting down just a few things that you want to eat. Buy the ingredients for those things. Over time, you will figure out the things that you always need to keep around.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vegetarian Christmas

My favorite way to save money this month so far? Accepting the generosity of a coworker who knew I was on a miser mission and offered me her CSA share this week while she and her family are away on vacation. YES.

This afternoon I headed over to Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, and pretty much had the best time ever picking out produce and walking around the beautiful farm grounds. When I came home with my bags overflowing with fruits and veggies and flowers, it felt like some sort of amazing vegetarian Christmas.

Thanks Erin, you're the best!

My bounty

Farms are magical, right Jess P?

Danne = 100% signing up for a CSA next summer

Monday, August 20, 2012

Budget Blackout Period

Did I mention at the beginning of this month that my best friend's bachelorette party was going to fall right in the middle of The Wallet Diet challenge? Yikes, major budget buster, right? In most cases yes, but luckily I knew this was coming up, so I assigned it a separate budget (a lot less fun would have been had if I had tried to work it into my weekly $100), and one of my bestie's pet peeves is "expensive bachelorette parties". Total win. We were able to plan something that was super fun and also super affordable, and I made it out of the weekend financially alive...and maybe a little hungover.

My budget blackout period is over now though, and I'm back on track for week 3. I've been a good little miser too and have only gone over my weekly budget by about $6 to date, and my credit card has remained in the freezer (where I think it might take up permanent residence). Not bad, eh?

The bride to be, in my new favorite photo of all time...

Me and Sondra

Bachelorette cookies made by our friend Amy

and this about sums it up...