Origami Seed Packets

For the crafty gardeners out there, I’ve scanned and posted two pages from my old Origami-A-Day calendar that feature instructions on how to fold your own origami seed packets. Way cooler than your typical cut and glue versions, and a nice way to while away a LOT of time if you want to make these for wedding favor seed packets.



(Click the thumbnails to load up the full-size pics.)

Origami seed packet #1Origami seed packet #2

NROL Fat Loss II W1D3: BBQ Blow-up

Meal 6 and my workout were thrown off tonight by a visit to my parents’ house after work. I had a helping of my dad’s superior beef noodles and stayed until 10 PM chatting with my mom and watching So You Think You Can Dance. This pushed my calories up to 1640 or so and delayed my NROL workout by 2 hours. I still wound up with a deficit of over 400 calories, but it fell short of my target of 884 calories per day.

Anyhow, this is where things got really ugly.

I got home a bit after 10 o’clock and discovered that DH had NOT switched the slow cooker to Warm as I had asked him to do before I left for work that morning, and the delicious 2 lb Chinese BBQ pork I had prepped was now a crusty, blackened meat-eor half its starting size. This was bad enough, but what really set me off was finding DH at his computer playing World of Warcraft.


It’s true that my anger was out of proportion to the cost of the meal in question ($3.50 for 2 lbs of lean pork loin on sale), but it was more about the fact that Chris was blithely playing the motivation-draining, time-sucking, responsibility-squashing Warcrack when I walked into the house (which, I must tell you, was FULL of the aroma of slow-cooked Chinese BBQ pork) and claimed that he not only forgot — even though he had gone into the kitchen to feed the cats and get himself some dinner — but that he had somehow failed to notice that the entire house smelled like an Asian Smokey Bones BBQ joint.

The roast may have only cost us $3.50, but the thought of my TEN WHOLE SERVINGS of carefully-marinated, quality protein at $0.35/serving turning into a charred contribution to the local landfill was just infuriating to my frugal foodie soul. How dare my normally wonderful husband turn my triumph of culinary tightwaddery into a bona fide Waste of Hard-Earned Money simply because he couldn’t wait to hop online and thwack and zap faux polygon enemies in a faux polygon world?




After sarcastically and pointedly expressing my extreme displeasure, I went back to the kitchen and performed the angriest Flylady sink scrub in recent history, then stomped directly to our patio gym set up and brought in enough weights to do a truly inspiring PMS- and BBQ pork rage-fueled workout.

Lucky for him the inside of the roast wasn’t as bad as I had feared, or I’d still be holding a grudge on our anniversary next week. 😉

(I did forgive the poor guy in the end. And I can guarantee that he’ll never forget to turn off the slow cooker again.)

– Swim (30 min)
– Walk (13 min)
– NROL Fat Loss II Workout B (half of workout)

M1: 1 cup Frosted Mini Wheats, 1/3 c. light soy milk, 1 T. ketchup, 3 egg whites, jalapeno pepper slices
M2: 15 g walnuts, 17 g raisins, 1 small banana
M3: 1 serving Chinese beef noodles (3.5 oz. lean beef, 2 oz. dry weight noodles, 3/4 c. chopped spinach)
M4: 3 slices roast beef, 1 slice pepper jack cheese, 7 baby carrots
M5: 1.5 servings Chinese been noodles (Dad’s version!)
M6: 2 granola choco chip cookies

NROL Fat Loss II W1D2: New and Improved Fat Loss Miracle Plan!

Haha…Just messing with you all.

There’s no miracle plan here. In fact, there is no miracle plan anywhere.

The only plan that consistently works, time after time, is one that consists of:

– Eating nutritious meals within or slightly below your caloric needs consisting of lean proteins, whole grains, and lots of fruits and veggies. Even better if you can divide the meals up over 5-6 servings per day.
– Chugging down enough water (and green tea if you want to get fancy) to float your eyeballs.
– Lifting *challenging* weights on the program of your choice 3 times a week. (Note on effective weight selection: If you don’t look like an enraged gorilla when performing the final 2-3 reps of your sets, then you are not lifting enough weight.)
– Performing some form of cardiovascular exercise, whether it is interval, steady-state, or some mix of the two, at least 3 times a week; more if you are trying to get your body fat down past the average set point for your gender.
– Changing your workout programs every 4-8 weeks to avoid adaptation.
– Doing all of the above CONSISTENTLY for at least 8 weeks before you start tweaking things and feeling sorry for yourself because your best friend, husband, or next door neighbor managed to drop 20 pounds by just giving up soda.

But wait! you say. Don’t those points sound like they could come from 90% of the diet and fitness books on the bookshelves and Internet today?

Ka-pow! You’ve figured it out.

There is NOTHING new about any of the fat loss plans on the market. All of them pretty much result in the same thing, calorically-speaking: a caloric deficit and an overall improvement in the nutritional make-up of foods consumed. And nearly all of them recommend (surprise, surprise) a regular exercise regimen to complement your diet.

I’ve declared an unofficial moratorium on additional spending on fitness- and nutrition-related reading materials for 2008. This includes workout programs and cookbooks in both paper and ebook format. I’m sure that as soon as this post hits the net half a dozen of my favorite fitness authors will release brand new programs that I will be dying to order, but I’m standing firm on this. I have more than enough workouts to keep me amused at the gym and at home for years, and on the diet front, the only things you really need are two or three healthy cookbooks (this is so you don’t default to chicken breast and broccoli every day and wind up giving up in under a week from boredom), a basic knowledge of portion size, and a willingness to plan and prepare your meals.

I’m all for increasing knowledge and learning new things, mind you, but I’m also a fan of smart spending. At this point, if you are primarily a fitness hobbyist or someone who just wants to get into shape–basically, if you aren’t a fitness pro–and you own four or more diet and exercise books or program manuals, you probably have more than enough information at your fingertips to get good results. This is especially true if said collection includes titles like Body for Life, New Rules of Lifting, New Rules of Lifting for Women, Turbulence Training, Afterburn, Eating for Life, Precision Nutrition, Burn the Fat/Feed the Muscle, Leanness Lifestyle, the South Beach Diet, or the like.

Take a good look at your collection and ask yourself: “What were my results on any of these plans? Have I really given a whole-hearted effort to following and *finishing* any of them? Do I secretly believe that there IS a miracle fat loss plan in some book I haven’t bought yet even though all of the ones I already own just say the same thing over and over (with slight macronutrient differences)?”

When I asked myself these questions recently as part of my Total Money Makeover vow to cut spending on redundant things, I didn’t like the answers. I think it’s time for me to cut myself off from new programs like I cut myself off from buying new off-the-rack clothing for the past year. I sewed myself clothing from my stash of fabric and patterns for a year with a lot of success, and now I’m going to work out and plan meals from my stash, too.

– YF Cardio (31 min)
– Walk (13 min)
– Interval Run (22 min; 60 second sprints = 9.2, 9.5, 9.7, and 10.0 mph; rest = 3.0 mph)

M1: 1 cup Frosted Mini Wheats, 1/3 c. light soy milk, 1 T. ketchup, 1 whole egg, 3 egg whites, 1/2 cup strawberries
M2: 15 g walnuts, 17 g raisins, 1/2 c. strawberries
M3: 3 oz. jalapeno pulled pork, 1 T. jalapeno jelly sauce, 3 c. Romaine and iceberg lettuce, 1 Gala apple, 1/2 c. five-flavor eggplant
M4: 4 slices roast beef, 1 slice pepper jack cheese, 7 baby carrots
M5: 1.5 c. shrimp with broccoli, 1/2 c. five-flavor eggplant
M6: 2 granola choco chip cookies

NROL Fat Loss II W1D1: Waking Up Is Hard To Do

My biggest enemy when it comes to morning workout attendance these days is just plain waking up on time to get to the gym. Sometime in the past year, the 6.5 hours of sleep I have habitually required per night has expanded to 7-7.5 hours.

Unfortunately, that extra hour bites right into my workout time in the morning. Even more unfortunately, I’ve been stubbornly sticking with my old accustomed bed time of 11:30 PM when I know that I need to be counting electric sheep by 10:30 PM.

Yes, even logical wenches like me can be pigheaded and prone to occasional fits of denial at times.

I am openly admitting to my idiocy though, and will attempt to tuck myself in with the most boring reading material in the world tomorrow night at 10 PM. (One of Chris’s new 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons core rule books should do the trick.)

I did manage to get in some kickin’ workouts today during lunch and after work. I squeezed in a 20 minute interval run outside at lunch and completed the first Fat Loss II workout from NROL followed by 40 minutes of incline walking while memorizing some new tunes for this Friday’s upcoming karaoke night and observing the usual 8 PM herd of young bucks at my gym do a lot of standing around and not very much lifting. Seriously, I can see the benefit of having ONE training partner to spot you, but there is no point in having two or more fellows just standing around while only one guy is doing any work.

Food was actually on target, too, which was almost a relief after several weeks of winging it on maintenance. I made some seriously good healthy eats this weekend, including a slow-cooked, jalepeno jelly glazed pulled pork, Chinese beef noodles, and a batch of my favorite PWO granola chocolate chip cookies. I always find that eating well is not that hard when you truly look forward to your meals.

TMMO June 2008 Update: So long, student loan…

It is time to rejoice, for my dear husband’s student loan is vanquished at last!

I never even set eyes on our $1200 stimulus check because Chris snagged it from the mailbox while I was at work and deposited it to our shared checking account before I got home. When the check posted the next day, it was immediately sent right back out of the account along with an additional $200 to pay off the last of his student loan.

Easy come, easy go, but I do wish I could have held the check for a minute or two while dancing happily around the house mumbling, “My precccccccccciooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuus!” to myself.

Well, thanks much, GDub. I know that as tax-paying American citizens we will wind up paying for your profligate ways and extravagant borrowing from other nations in the future, but for now I am glad to use your handouts to reduce our debt tally. Someone else will have to stimulate the economy, though. 😛

We are almost six full months into 2008, and we are now about halfway through our Debt Snowball with $24,196 paid off and just our second mortgage left before we are debt-free except for our primary mortgage. At this point a strict Ramsey-ite would continue to work on the snowball and immediately tackle the second mortgage, but we are going to stick with our strategy of putting that off until we complete Baby Steps 3 (fully fund emergency savings) and 4 (save 15% of gross income for retirement).

After doing the math, I’m just not willing to be out of the stock market with our Roth IRAs from January 2008-June 2009, the amount of time it would take us to complete our full Debt Snowball the traditional way. In fact, I’m not even willing to wait until early 2009 to make catch up contributions to our 2008 Roths since we would be missing out on some of the cheapest mutual fund prices in the past few years.

Ramsey claims that women have a so-called security gland that makes them want to have a huge heap of money sitting in plain old savings for emergencies while men want their money to be active and doing something to earn them more money. Apparently I have a combination security/action gland, because I want a huge heap of money in my retirement account actively earning me money via mutual funds. Honestly, stopping my Roth contributions for five months gave me more indigestion and anxiety than any other part of the Total Money Makeover plan.

We are also getting some of our friends on the Dave Ramsey bandwagon. We signed up for a local Financial Peace University session starting next month and running through the end of September, and paid for some friends who could use a no-nonsense, comprehensive personal finance primer to go with us: a newlywed couple who will be house hunting and starting a family soon and a friend whose preventable history of serious financial missteps has been completely maddening to watch for a logic-oriented INTJ like me.

My only concern is that the course coordinators will be annoyingly pushy about the Bible references in the materials or feel compelled to try to convert the irreverent Asian chick with no religious preference on her dog tags and her spiritual-but-not-religious husband. (I have a semi-regular Jehovah’s Witness who swings by on Saturday mornings every month to hand me pamphlets and attempt to talk me into submission. I am tempted to join the Unitarian church in Orlando as a Taoist/Buddhist just to say I have an affiliation.) Ramsey is very open about his Christianity in his radio show and in his books, but he limits himself to specific quotes from the Bible that support his common-sense approach to personal finance without getting preachy or implying that one needs to be a baptized holy roller in order to win with money.

1. $1000 to start emergency fund
a combination of wedding gift money, personal savings, and bonus
commissions to a shared savings account earning 2.75% APY
2. Pay off all debt (except the home) using a Debt Snowball
Debt Snowball

Debt Snowball
  • Maggie Visa
two $300 payments to clear the balance, then retired card to safe.
  • Discover (Leftover wedding expenses)
balance in full in January 2008; card still actively used for gasoline
ONLY. Balance paid in full each month going forward.
  • Chris Visa
balance in full in January 2008. Card retired to safe.
  • Amex (travel, Ikea couches…)
statement balance in full in January 2008. Card still actively used for
recurring utility bills, but will be paid in full each month going
  • HELOC (new A/C in 6/07)
and I both cut off federal income tax withholding from 9/07 – 12/07
after calculating that we were both overpaying. The excess money in our
paychecks was used to make aggressive $1000 payments on the HELOC every
  • Maggie Car Loan
extra $1500 from 2007 tax refund and $500 from personal checking
account on 4/17/08. Paid final $559 in May 2008. I already made a large
extra payment of $1500 on the car soon after the initial purchase.
  • Chris Student Loan
another $1200 to the monthly payment from the economic stimulus check
on 6/17/08. Chris paid the remaining balance out of his own checking
account. Chris was able to contribute an additional $2100 on top of his
originally-budgeted payments these past few months.
  • 2nd Mortgage
amount: $25310

Putting this one on hold until after the $10,000 emergency savings
account and 2008 Roth IRAs are fully funded. Regular minimum payments
of $205 through 12/2008, then payments of $1941 from 1/2009 until

3. Three to six months of expenses in savings
deposits of $1607/month and one deposit of $458
4. Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
15% of
gross income
retroactively fund both household Roth IRAs for 2008 at $5000/each from
6/08-12/08. Reinstate monthly Roth IRA contributions for 2009 going
forward @ $416.67/month each from 1/2009. Increase 401(k) contribution
to 5% (currently at 4%).
5. College funding for children
kids yet. Need to see if an education savings account can be started
without actual offspring.
6. Pay off home early
refinance into 15 year fixed rate mortgage and/or set up extra
principal only payments of $1400/month to pay off home within 6 years.
7. Build wealth by investing

Free P90X Spreadsheet Log

A few months ago reader Scott Rhamy sent me a link to a P90X workout log spreadsheet he had enhanced and ported over to Google Docs from the original Excel sheet created by Damon which is no longer online.

I haven’t had the chance to look it over very well until now, but since I just loaded up the P90X Chest and Back workout tonight for some variety, I decided to revisit the spreadsheet.

P90X Spreadsheet

After filling in some of my information and digging around a bit, I have to admit that this is one handy spreadsheet. It will track your reps and weights on resistance days and workout completion/heart rate on cardio and flexibility days. There is also a sheet to log your starting and ending fit test scores as well as fields to link to your progress photos on the Picasa online photo gallery. A body fat calculator based on caliper measurements and a circumference measurement table are also included.

For those of you following the P90X nutrition plan, there is also a Diet worksheet that allows you to log the number of portions you eat each day in the permitted food groups. The logs are divided into three phases with the recommended portion numbers adjusted for each phase. Your calorie level is also calculated for you based on your starting weight.

There are no pretty graphs for the more visually-oriented of you, but as a whole, this is a great spreadsheet for logging your P90X workouts, and best of all–it’s free!

To use the spreadsheet, you will need to click on the File button on the upper left and either click “Copy Spreadsheet” to save it under a new name in your own Google Docs account, or “Export” > “.XLS” to save it to your own computer in Excel format.

Check it out!

Scott Rhamy’s Google Docs P90X Spreadsheet

Economic Stimulus Check Recap: Did you spend it according to plan?

Because my husband and I requested a split tax refund earlier this year, we didn’t receive our paper economic stimulus check from Uncle Sam until today, but I know that most of you have already gotten your money and distributed it either to savings, debt repayment, or, in a few cases, out into the economy as GDub had intended. Chris and I are sticking with our original plan to use the money to pay off the last of his student loan this month.

So here are my questions for you:

What did you originally plan to do with your stimulus payment?

Did you actually use the money as you had planned, or did something else come up?