NROLFW P1W3D3: Project progress reports

Veggie Garden – Lots of baby tomatoes are appearing on my plants. The peppers and eggplants are slower to mature, but one, the Fairy Tale hybrid, is loaded with cute purple flowers. Radishes, mesclun salad mix, pak choi, and beans are all taking off. Mostly I am just watering every 2-3 days now that the heavy work is completed and wait for stuff to be ready to pick. I do have some baby transplants I started from seed on February 28 that need to be repotted or moved to the main garden soon, though. The transplanted Vardaman sweet potato vines have all survived their move and are thriving. All four of my fig trees have started to leaf out again, the baby pineapple is slowly gaining size, and my daylilies have come back to life.

I’m trying not to succumb to green thumb envy since one of the producers in my company with whom I talk about dirt and tomatoes just brought in a huge, beautiful head of broccoli from his own garden today to show off.

On the bright side, my garden is no longer the rattiest in our cluster.

Total Money Makeover/Debt Snowball – Only $6500 left on DH’s student loan (down from a start of over $12k) and $558 left on my car.

I went to the credit union during lunch today and plunked down $2000 toward the principal on my car loan and felt SO much lighter afterwards. One more month and the Camry will be mine free and clear, and I will free up another $354/mo for the debt snowball. DH’s student loan should be paid off in June or July, too, and then we can start padding the emergency fund (need $9000 more) and Roth IRAs (need $9666 more) for 2008 before tackling the second mortgage (~$25k) in 2009.

I found it interesting that dropping $2000 in one go to pay down my car loan left me feeling jubilant and not at all sick, while plunking down $750 for wedding flowers last year made me want to vomit–immediately and for several days afterwards. THAT is how you can tell if you’ve made a good financial decision, folks–the internal Vomit-Meter.

For those of you interested in seeing how Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step #2, the Debt Snowball, can knock out your existing debts in much less time than you think, try out this spiffy Excel debt snowball calculator spreadsheet I ran across this week.

Projected debt-free (except for the primary mortgage) date: February 1, 2010.

Home Office Organization – Er. Yes. Must finish this.

There is a 9″ stack of papers that needs to be shredded, and my craft/sewing/drawing station is still untidy. Also, after some thought, we have decided to move the household finance stuff out of the home office and into the gap between the kitchen and the dining room. On the way home tonight, I’m picking up the final missing component for the IKEA Ivar desk/bill/menu-planning station we are putting together for it. I wind up doing the bills in the living room or dining room table most of the the time anyway since the shredder and mail pile are both on the kitchen counter nearby, and I find it hard to concentrate on math and money counting when Chris is on the other side of the room playing Warcrack and chattering away on Teamspeak with the lights off.

This new workstation will have room for the bill-paying computer, finance-related files and storage, a shelf for my cookbooks, and a tidy set of paper trays. I realize that it would be tidier to keep it all in the home office, but one of the tenets of the organization audio books I listened to was that working with the actual patterns and habits you’ve already established instead of forcing yourself to modify ingrained behaviors would be a lot more successful in the long run.

Moving the office shredder to the kitchen where the junk mail always lands first has already cut down on our old piles of unwanted credit card solicitations and unneeded statements and bills. Moving the actual filing system for the papers we DO want to keep to the same area should take care of the rest of the piles which mostly consist of “stuff to be filed”.

And I’ll be able to watch CSI and DWTS while I fiddle with Microsoft Money. What joy!

NROLFW P1W2D3: Back in the groove

I’m happy to announce that I got myself up this morning and did my scheduled NROLFW 1B workout AND followed up with 30 minutes of steady-state on the recumbent bike even though DH opted to sleep in today instead of coming with me, the lazy $#$@#.

(Actually, he only plans to hit the gym every other day, so I cut him some slack today. However, if he tries to bail out of tomorrow morning, I will have to bring out the Wifely Sneer.)

I was worried about the deadlifts in the workout, but it turned out that not running yesterday or this morning as a warm up left me in pretty good shape to perform the exercise. I still stayed VERY light at only 65 lbs for 15 reps, but I should be able to increase the weight to something more like my old numbers soon.

I also downloaded the Abs Diet Personal Trainer audio workout guide from yesterday for DH to use at the gym. He’s not very motivated by the barebones Turbulence Training manuals with their basic workout log sheets, but he should have an easier time just following along with the guided strength workouts in the download and the guided cardio workouts from Cardio Coach. It’s a quick and easy way to get right into a routine without wasting time wandering around the gym wondering what to do next. The Abs Diet audio includes 12 workouts designed to be performed on M/W/F/Sa and divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.

On the nutrition front, I tried two new cleanish dishes that I sort of made up on my own–Creole sesame-crusted tilapia for dinner last night (fabulous!) and a breakfast crepe roll up this morning made with two eggs, 1/2 c. ground and quick oats, 1/4 c. light soy milk, a splash of water, and some roast beef and wilted spinach as filler (very filling). I love oats, but I was getting sick of my morning oats and raisins with egg whites, so this crepe thingie is a nice alternative now that I have more calories to play with.

This weekend I will attempt to come up with a more formalized 1700-2000 calorie bulk-prepare-and-freeze menu using only dishes I love.

NROLFW P1W2D2: Back pain and spring cleaning

I unwittingly got in the first of my outdoor bonus activities yesterday for the Pink Dumbbells 2008 Spring into Summer challenge (Sign ups are still open if you want to join up and get some daily motivation as you get ready for summer!) with a HIIT run around my neighborhood. We are having some freakishly cold (Temperatures in the 50s count as cold down here.) weather this week, so Monday morning was perfect for an outdoor run. I think I hit around 2.5 miles overall between jogging and sprinting.

I felt fine yesterday, but this morning I had some lower back pain and stiffness when I was doing my NROLFW workout. The first exercise was squats, and my lower back was pinging me every time I dropped down even though I was only using 100 lbs on the barbell. The rest of the workout was fine, but I’m a little concerned about the lower back pain. I think that running outdoors definitely contributes to it the next day when I need to perform lifts like squats and deadlifts that focus on posterior chain muscles. Like Kyra, I’ve been noticing more back issues these days, so I think it’s time for me to finally choose a primary care physician I trust and have a full physical work up done to let me know where I stand medically.

For the time being, I’m nixing all outdoor runs and sticking to low-impact activities outside like cycling, walking, swimming, and skating. If I get the urge to run, I’ll limit myself to the bouncy treadmills at the gym. I’m also going to integrate 15-20 minutes of yoga into my cardio-only days. I may also have to move my lifting workouts to the evenings. My back is just not warmed up enough in the mornings now to handle the big compound lifts anymore.


I didn’t do any formal exercise this weekend since DH and I were literally buried under paperwork as we decluttered, purged, and finally organized our home office into some semblance of efficiency. I checked out two audio books on organization and decluttering from the library a few weeks ago, and both of us were fired up to get our home in order for spring. We tossed out 6 big trash bags of stuff from just the one room (mostly unneeded paper), and have a big pile of video games, books, computer hardware, and other random things to sell at a garage sale. I did do quite a lot of ladder climbing (step ups?) and lifting, though, so it was more active than my usual work day.

Anyway, I’m two days behind on workouts due to my impromptu Clean Sweep weekend, so I am modifying my schedule a bit this week as follows to bring myself back on schedule for next week:

M: HIIT run (make up for Saturday)
T: Phase 1 Workout A (make up for Sunday); Hip Hop Abs Fat Burning Cardio + Yoga (regularly scheduled cardio workout)
W: Phase 1 Workout B
Th: Intervals + Yoga
F: Phase 1 Workout A
Sa: Intervals + Yoga
Su: Phase 1 Workout B

Food…needs work. 🙂 I’ve been more or less on track for maintenance, but I need to get back into the habit of cooking actual entrees with flavor instead of just tossing together nuked veggies, roast chicken, and fruit or I’ll snap at some point and dive into some serious junk. In the meanwhile, I’m stuck with nuked asparagus, leftover veggie stir-fry in oyster sauce, quick oats, apples, banana, strawberry whey isolate powder, and roast chicken today at the office.

Champion $19.99 Spring Sports Bra Sale

It’s time for Champion’s $19.99 semi-annual sports bra sale again for those of you lucky enough to *need* new sports bras (maybe you’ve lost some pounds since New Year’s and noticed that the gals are now a bit too free in your old ones, or perhaps you’ve been so diligent in working out daily that you’ve simply worn out your old sports bras?).

ALL of their sports bras are on sale for $19.99, including their long-line bras and wicking sport tanks with built-in bras, so take a look and reward your hard work in the gym with something both cute AND useful.

My only complaint about Champion’s sports bras is that they are so well-constructed that the ones I bought 3 years ago are still in such fantastic shape that I have no excuse to buy new ones.

Sigh. Well, maybe when my year-long hiatus from purchasing new clothing is over, I will get one or two of their scoop back sports bras.

Oh, and you can try coupon code XC18BB to get free shipping, too!

April Happenings

I’m not ready to go into another challenge just yet, so I’ll just be chilling this month and working on getting into a maintenance groove. After the TT challenge (still need to take pics, but my digicam decided to die on me last week) and office competition (which my team won, by the way!), I am in need of a breather. The last month has been more stressful than it should have been because I was having some minor freakouts about the two challenges, and I am flat out tired of feeling that kind of self-inflicted pressure. I was becoming neurotic AND rebellious at the same time towards the end, which is not fun.

I don’t want to do anything more OCD related to fitness and nutrition than lifting 3x/week, doing cardio/intervals 3x/week, and eating tasty, healthier meals that don’t all have to be 100% clean.

As far as workouts go, I’m moving away from Turbulence Training for the rest of the year and using The New Rules of Lifting for Women and workouts from Jason Ferruggia through December. The weather is starting to change for the worse for inline skating (too hot, too muggy, too much rain that makes the roads slick in the mornings when I normally work out), so I’ll also have to find another form of cardio that I enjoy to supplement my usual treadmill running. DH and I don’t start swimming until June.

Nutrition-wise…I’m going to give the plan from NROLFW a try and also attempt to rediscover my love of cooking yummy stuff by trying out one new recipe a week from my collection of various healthy eats cookbooks.

In other news, I finished my raised bed square foot veggie garden this weekend by filling it with 14 cu. ft. of quality organic top soil and another cubic foot of composted cow doings. Hurray for dirt! So far I’ve planted 40 squares total of veggies, including tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, pak choy, sugar snap peas, chives, and Swiss chard plus the sweet potato patch behind the main vegetable garden. I also plugged in 18 marigold transplants around the veggie bed and in other parts of the garden for some color and moved about 2 dozen seedlings I had started on 2/28 outside to bigger flats.

Then I went inside and used Xara Xtreme (a vector drawing package similar to Illustrator) to make totally obsessive compulsive Spring, Summer, and Fall/Winter layouts for my veggie patch showing what would be planted at what time, complete with color coding. I also drafted up a layout of the south garden/sweet potato area with a long black Bezier curve to show where I’d buried the soaker hose. Talk about the best of two worlds–I got to make some brilliantly nitpicky diagrams AND teach myself how to use a new software package–whee! I capped off my weekend gardening binge by printing out the above and about 30 pages of Florida gardening publications from the local extension office.

The de-cluttering effort is continuing as well. So far the living room, dining room, pantry, hall closet, handbag/purse collection, and bedroom have been done. Clearing out all of the old papers, receipts, expired coupons, hair pins, Lactaid wrappers, and other random odds and ends that have accumulated in the 4-5 bags between I regularly rotate took forever. I felt wonderfully organized and light afterwards, though. Next I will tackle the kitchen cabinets (eek) and the home office/craft room (eeeeeeeeeeeek!).

And finally, Friday night Chris and I met up with some friends at Rising Star, the live band karaoke club at Universal Citywalk that I mentioned a few weeks ago. It was the final night of their Top 10 Karaoke Challenge where the 10 best performers who filled out entry forms over the 4 nights of competition would win 2-park annual passes to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and get to perform at the official VIP grand opening party for the club on April 11. I figured that I might as well enter since I was there (and the entry form was mercifully short) and belted out Bryan Adams’s Summer of 69 and Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot. (Yes, again–not my fault. One of the judges asked me to do it after the Bryan Adams song.)

This afternoon I got a call from a Universal rep telling me that I’d made it into the top 10 (Free annual pass! Yay!) and would get to sing at the media/VIP party this Friday. W00t!

The best part of the whole thing was getting verbal kudos from the band members themselves after I sang. They have to play these songs 5 nights a week for 45 singers each night, so when the guitarist, bass player, and backup singers tell you that you totally rocked a song, it’s pretty darn awesome.

I tell you, it’s a good thing that I didn’t discover my inner rock star when I was younger or I would have flunked out of high school and shamed my parents for eternity.

So true it’s uncanny!

(From Stuff Asian People Like post #52: Higher Education)

…here’s the typical asian grading scale:

A: Average – Asians must always “earn” that A+ or extra credit point on the Calculus test. There is no such thing as “good enough” of a grade.
B: Bad – This is a warning sign. If an asian student earns this grade, they are on track for failure, and will eventually bring shame to their family.
C: Crap – This is the feces that the B-Grade was warning about.
D: Death – If asians show this to their parents, they will most likely be disowned and have their name removed from their parents’ wills.
F: Don’t go there…

The most amazing part about the above is that my parents never had to explicitly tell me any of this out loud. I feel like I’ve always just instinctively KNOWN it since birth. Or kindergarten at least.

I begin to suspect that Mommy Wang possessed some incredibly powerful but subtle talent in telepathy back in the day.

Free Digital ReadyMade Magazine; Spring De-cluttering

One of my favorite magazines (indeed, one of the very few for which I am willing to pay), ReadyMade, has just launched its digital edition with the current April/May 2008 issue on “green design.” ReadyMade is a wonderful resource for do-it-yourself aficionados and handy types who prefer to reuse, refashion, repurpose, and rehab their existing belongings in creative, artistic ways rather than throw more money away on mass-produced stuff that millions of other people probably have, too.

I really like the idea of a digital edition from which I can just print out the projects I want to try versus a paper hard copy that will clutter up my house and kill more trees. If they give me the option to convert my current subscription to the digital format, I’ll switch over without any regrets.

Check out the latest issue here, and as a bonus, you also have full access to the five back issues preceding it if you click on the Archives button at the top of the page. Pretty awesome for $0!

I find ReadyMade’s addition of a digital edition particularly timely and fortuitous since I’ve been listening to the audio book version of Clean Sweep organization expert Peter Walsh’s It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff and was already feeling somewhat conflicted about Walsh’s advice to keep only the three most recent issues of any given magazine title in the house and tossing the rest. I have no problems doing this with my lower priority freebie magazines like Electronic Gaming Monthly, Kiplinger’s, Pink, and Games for Windows, but I still own every single copy of Cooking Light, ReadyMade and Oxygen that I have ever received. The Cooking Light subscription was a one year gift from my sister and has expired, which conveniently removes the onus of figuring out what to do from my plate, but I have over 17 issues left on the Oxygen and an unknown amount of time left on ReadyMade. I’ve decided to take his compromise route and scan to PDF format all of the recipes and workouts that pique my interest from my backlog and forthcoming issues of Cooking Light and Oxygen and to donate the rest via Freecycle. Yes, photos of the fitness models in Oxygen are indeed inspirational, but really, do I truly need more than a few clipped out pictures on the fridge or digital photos on my Treo to keep me motivated? It’s not like muscles and 12% body fat in a bikini look all that different from model to model, you know?

As for the ReadyMades…I am not ready to give up my mini-library of old issues, but at least the magazine only comes out once every two months and WILL have the paperless option now.

While Chris and I are too new in our home and our lives together to have acquired the sort of epic clutter and overwhelming heaps of crap that Walsh’s clients seem to possess, I am fully aware that I have the Asian compulsion to hoard both culturally AND genetically embedded in my psyche, ready to burst out like a parasitic alien monster at the first sign of significant economic upheaval or my 40th birthday, whichever comes first. My mom can’t bring herself to toss any clothes, shoes, or financial papers no matter how old, ill-fitting, or out of fashion, and my dad compulsively buys cheap garage sale and thrift store books that he’ll never read, baseball caps that he will never wear, and random knick knacks and decorative shelf ornaments better suited to the doily-making taste of a geriatric WASP granny than the gym-going, gardening-fanatic, social butterfly and uber-chef that I’ve come to know as my father over the years. They still have broken, 20+ year-old electronics lying around, as well as trophies, certificates, plaques, clunky ceramics projects, childrens’ books, text books, and clothing from my and my sister’s school years. When new stuff comes in, old stuff rarely leaves to make room.

I cringe with guilt every time I think about all the forgotten junk I’ve left in their house over the years throughout my many moves through higher education and military service. Every time I came home for the summer during my college years or took leave between duty stations, I left behind a few more items to keep company with the accumulated possessions of the first 18 years of my life at home. It was never much at one time, but when taken as a whole, my aggregated belongings probably take up at least half of an unfurnished room at my parents’ house.

After listening to Walsh’s chiding, Australian-accented voice for the past few days, I am determined to nip my neophyte hoarding impulses in the bud AND make some serious headway into de-cluttering and organizing my own home. Even more importantly, I am finally going to go to Mom and Dad’s house and aggressively toss out, donate, and/or garage sale off anything that belonged to me and is clearly not serving anyone any purpose NOW. This includes my five long boxes of comic books from the late 80s-early 90s, my old clothes and shoes, all of the long-outdated computer books and text books, the useless spelling bee trophies, the stuffed animals, the random school papers (even the ones with the A+ grades and ego-boosting teacher comments), and any other flotsam that has been left behind. Mom and Dad do have a hoarding problem, but I don’t have to add to it. Maybe my purge will even inspire them to do some editing of their own items.

And if, during my purely altruistic and virtuous crusade to remove my unwanted junk from their house, I should happen to run across the long-lost stash of vintage 1980s and early 1990s clothing patterns that my sister and I left at the house, well, that would just be a nifty bonus.