Monday, July 16, 2012

Pasta Primavera -- Quick and Easy

I'm trying to add a bit of healthy eating where I can these days.  I mean, let's face it, I love pasta, meat, and I have a insatiable sweet tooth!  Normally, when we would have pasta and shrimp for dinner, we would also add a fattening Alfredo sauce and buttered garlic bread to the menu.

Ooooooh, let's count the calories!  

Lately, we've been leaving off the bread, but I wanted to take it a step further last night.  My husband boiled some fettucini, sauteed some shrimp, and warmed up some Alfredo sauce.  I reached into the freezer and amazingly pulled out a store-brand bag of frozen Italian vegetable mix of squash, zucchini, butter beans, red bell peppers, etc., and made them according to the package directions for using a stovetop.  I seasoned them with an Italian blend from my spice cabinet afterward.  So . . . when it came time to eat, I scooped very little (probably 3/4 of a cup) of the fettucini on my salad-sized plate, about 1/2 dozen shrimp, and a hearty helping of the Italian vegetable blend, totally ignoring the Alfredo sauce.

Quick and Easy Pasta Primavera!
It was sooooo goooood, and sooooo easy, and best of all, it took little effort on my part to make a healthier dinner choice for myself.  I realize Food Network chefs may frown on my little bag of frozen veggies, but it's at least a start.  LOL Small steps, small steps, small steps toward a healthier body.  Go, me!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Concrete Patio Floor Facelift How to Project -- from Drab to Dramatic!

Drab. Drab. Drab.  That's the only word I used to use when I thought about the concrete patio flooring on our front and back porches.

Before picture -- as if you couldn't tell.

However, we were finishing up our goal of becoming debt free and didn't have excess money to spend on expensive improvements.  So . . . I had to be very creative, something I wasn't sure I could be when it came to eradicating the drabness of these floors on a budget by myself.

After "googling" (I just love how that name has become a verb) how to paint/stain a concrete floor, I ventured out to Home Depot for cleaning supplies, concrete stain, brushes, painter's tape, etc.  I ended up skipping the etching process as part of the prep work because I felt our concrete was "rough" enough to take the stain.

Here's a video I posted about it on YouTube:

I'm so pleased with the results even two years later.  We use this space constantly in the spring, summer (well, in the mornings and evenings when it's not too hot), and fall.

After picture -- dramatic indeed!  :)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Piano Player

So . . . my daughter started playing hand bells in the junior choir at All Saints' Episcopal Church last year and wanted to branch out to the piano this year for Christmas.  I suspect it may have had something to do with her best friend Kayla playing the piano, but I didn't mind.  I grew up with a piano in my home but never learned how to play it.  I'm glad Katie was motivated, and at age eleven, I felt she was ready.

We went to a Raleigh Ringers concert in Atlanta earlier this year.
Katie is trying to lift one of the aluminum bells after the concert -- it's heavier than we thought at 18 pounds!

Here's a quick video of three songs and her recital piece -- it's under two minutes.  She positively LOVED The Lion King when she was younger and didn't hesitate to pick "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" as her first recital piece.  :)  Notice during this last piece that she isn't reading the music at all -- pretty cool!!

So, Katie's learning how to play the piano, and I'm learning how to make iMovies now.  We're taking small steps together!  LOL

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Odds and Ends Pictures: What to Do with Them

Pictures.   Pictures.   Pictures.

We all have them -- too many of them, in fact, especially in today's world of digital photography and the convenience of cameras in our cell phones.  Anyway, if you're like me, you have some pictures that might not make the cut into a photo album or scrapbook.  You still like them but have no idea where to put them or what to do with them.  

Take me, for instance.  A friend of mine, Worth (cool name, eh?), posted on Facebook that he was enjoying going through tons of old pictures recently while organizing them, so I decided to take my own trip down memory lane.  I happened to notice while browsing among my bazillion pics in iPhoto that I had three separate pictures where the person in the photo was looking downward when the camera snapped.  I really like all three and came up with an idea to group them together.

All three pictures (see below) are of different events/vacations.  The first one is of my daughter trying on a hand-me-down sweater from an older cousin and is truly one of my current favorite pictures of her, the second one is of me at a beach in northern Oregon, and the third one is of my son in the Atlantic Ocean at Tybee Island, Georgia.  What ties them all together is how we're all looking down in our respective poses.  

I came across a unique photo frame my brother had given me one year for Christmas that has a 3D effect and allows the pictures to slide around.  It had been hiding out in my junk room for years.  I printed out all three pictures and cut them to size for the frame.

I now have a cool way to showcase these commonly themed pictures that I like 
but didn't quite make it into any photo albums.  :)

Other Items:
  • Table from IKEA (Lack table for $9.99)
  • Pot and plant from IKEA (probably $10.00 total)
  • Amber-colored dish is really an ashtray from like 30 years ago that I think I won at Six Flags???
  • Candle is from Bed, Bath, and Beyond from years ago
  • Table runner is actually a gorgeous placemat from Pier 1 Import (sort of recent purchase)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Cranberries

I admit it.  I didn't like Brussels sprouts since early childhood based on the fact that most of my friends didn't like them.  This deep dislike of Brussels sprouts lasted for about 39 years until I finally decided to try one at lunch one day when a coworker brought steamed Brussels sprouts to work one day.

I.    Liked.    Them.

So . . . enter Rachael Ray and her book Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats .

I happened across this recipe for Brussels sprouts with bacon and dried cranberries.  I tried it and fell in love with it!  I mean, bacon makes ANYthing taste great, right?  

The recipe link above has all the ingredients listed for the entire 30-minute meal, so I've sifted through all of that for you so that you can enjoy this scrumptious side dish.  


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (twice around the pan), plus some for shallow frying
  • 5 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped (from 4 sprigs)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 10-ounce boxes frozen Brussels sprouts, defrosted
  • 1⁄2 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (a few handfuls), chopped
  • Directions:

  • Start the bacon–cranberry Brussels sprouts by preheating a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add the chopped bacon and cook until crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onions and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 3 to 4 more minutes.

  • Add the defrosted Brussels sprouts to the bacon and onions, toss, and stir to combine. Add the dried cranberries and the chicken stock to the pan and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the Brussels sprouts are heated through and the cranberries have plumped. Finish the sprouts with the chopped parsley.
I'll be honest, I don't always use the thyme or parsley leaves if I don't have them on hand, and this dish still ROCKS!  
Enjoy!  :)

Necklace Holder -- too cute!

I was browsing around Target yesterday looking for something to hold all of my makeup now that I'm rediscovering it -- you know with my Makeup Renaissance and all.  :)  Anyway, I happened up on the most adorable necklace holders.  I wouldn't pay the price for them (I want to say they were $20.00 -- I can't tell exactly from the picture), but they were too cute not to take a picture of them.

I'll have to keep checking back every couple of weeks to see if they go on sale!  :D

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Running to Stand Still

Responsibilities.  We all have them, some more than others.  

In the past sixteen months, I have experienced helping my stepmother with her massive stroke to which she has never fully recovered and still can’t use her right arm, starting a graduate program, worrying about my chemical/environmental engineer, Georgia Tech-educated brother who was out of a job for almost two years (the company he worked for folded in the economic downturn) and moving him out to Dallas, Texas when he did get a job with the EPA, taking care of my father through aortic valve replacement redo and gall stone surgeries, having my own biopsy of a lump, and working with my doctor to solve the mystery of why I am suffering from amenorrhea for the past nine months. 

Talk about the phrase "when it rains, it pours!"

As a side note, my doctor says I'm quite the enigma!  LOL  Seriously, though, we're trying to find out if it's stress-related, menopause, or something else entirely.  Believe me, I don't want Door #3 in my life.

In addition to all of these experiences, I continued in my roles as wife, parent of two active, honor roll children who are involved in soccer, choir, and music lessons, and educator of high school alternative students.  Indeed, spare time was quite the luxury.  Forget the metaphorical plate holding all of my responsibilities, I had to upgrade to an industrial-sized platter!  However, I still felt the need to challenge myself by enrolling in the specialist graduate program through Piedmont College.  One thing is for certain, the support I've been given by my husband and my developing spirituality have been nothing short of AmAzInG in helping me survive during these stressful months.

My makeshift "study nook" in our bonus room was my home base
for getting my grad work done these past 16 months.
See my blog post on Stash to Study for more on decorating this space.
Well, as we know, time stops for no one, and I have just three more classes remaining of  my last course to attend of my graduate program and will finish on April 24 and graduate on May 5.  I'm so excited!!  Hopefully, things will start to calm down after that!  It's totally been about taking small steps daily these last sixteen months!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Garnier BB Cream -- UPDATED Review -- LOVE it!!

I'm going through a bit of a Makeup Renaissance, if you will, and am like a kid in a candy store rediscovering makeup.  Seriously.  

Anyway, I've been hearing a lot of buzz about BB creams (I've heard that can stand for both "beauty" and "blemish" balm) hitting the U. S. and wanted to give it a try.  My spending-conscious self won't allow me to purchase anything too expensive like Smashbox, etc., so I was very excited about Garnier coming out with their own  BB cream.  It's advertised as a "hybrid" and  is supposed to be several products in one: primer, moisturizer, foundation, and sunscreen.  

I have to say that:

  1. It has a strong scent -- not unpleasant but still strong.  After about four hours, the scent faded.  
  2. It has a definite cream-like texture. However, unlike liquid foundation where you dab it on a little at a time, I was able to slather it all over my face like I do with a regular moisturizer.
  3. I definitely noticed a minimization of pores and a more polished, even, and brighter look.  The packaging says that your skin will appear "airbrushed," and they weren't far off with making that claim.
  4. I definitely needed to use a powder to set it though as I have oily skin.
  5. It has pretty fair coverage, too -- more than I was expecting it to have.
  6. One thing I need to get used to if I'm going to repurchase it is the sorta heavy feeling on my face. For instance, I "feel" its presence on my cheeks. Maybe it's just because it's new and I'm hyper-focusing on it.  Still, this BB cream feels like how a facial sunscreen feels.  UPDATED REVIEW:  I may possibly have applied too much product on my skin considering that I applied it the way I do a moisturizer instead of the way I would apply a liquid foundation.  I'm going to experiment with using a tad less tomorrow.
  7. Based on the description in #6, I'm very interested to see how it holds up in our VERY hot and humid summers.

I definitely think Garnier's BB Cream is a bit heavier than I would like. I bet ya anything that the next time I look in the mirror, I'm going to see that I need to reapply powder. I just feel like my face is oily again. 

Hmmm, let me go check. BRB!  
<pitter, patter, pitter, patter>

Okay, actually, my face wasn't too oily.  I was pleasantly surprised that the BB cream didn't come off too much when I blotted it to reapply powder.   

Overall Impression:  I like the idea behind this product and being able to use it on days when I'm in a hurry.  Using just this one product instead of a moisturizer, primer, and foundation was much quicker.  UPDATED REVIEW:  I wore this product for 11 hours and only had to reapply powder twice.  That's terrific considering that I have oily skin.  My skin maintained a brightened, "airbrushed" quality, and my pores appeared to stay minimized the whole time.  I'm totally sold on this product after seeing those results.

Dressing up Dresser Tops

Although I do not consider myself a natural at decorating like some lucky friends I know, I do still like to try my hand at it.  I used to be an HGTV junkie back when they showed actual decorating shows instead of all the House Hunter-type shows like they do nowadays.  If you're familiar with Decorating Cents, Design on a Dime, or Design Remix, it will give you a feel for the type of low-cost, high impact decorating style I have (or, rather, try to have).

Anyway, when I was cleaning the glass tops of my bedroom dressers one day,  I thought it would be so neat if they had some type of umphh factor underneath the glass.

Enter some old wrapping paper I think my parents had given me.  Somehow I remembered I had it and pulled it out of the deep recesses of our closet.  Even though it was some type of nautical print, the colors matched the decor in our bedroom.  I spread it out on the floor (print side down), carefully lifted the glass top off the dresser, and laid it down on top of the wrapping paper.  Once I traced out the glass, I pushed it off the paper and cut out the pattern.

I thought it looked pretty good and decided to keep it like that.  I finished putting my accessories back in place and called it a day.  :)

One of these days I'm going to spray paint these white frames black and distress them afterward.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Beating the Pollen Season with Local Honey

Ahhhh, springtime.  I love the milder temps (although we had a mild winter to begin with here in Atlanta), the chirping birds building nests, and the budding flowers.  However, the pollen was outrageous this spring with counts as high as 9000 on some days.  Yes, that's right -- 9000 pollen count!  I'm not adding extra zeroes for the fun of it, believe me.  :) Any pollen count over 1500 is considered to be in the "extremely high" category, and we went waaaaay above that.  We are truly in the midst of Pollen-apocalypse here in the deep South!

 azalea blooms

Well, the 9K pollen count wore me down.  You name the symptom, and I had it.  Watery, itchy eyes. Sneezing.  Stuffy nose.  Runny nose.  Sore throat.  Headache.  Blech!  I needed help.  I started out with an OTC medication, but a friend of mine suggested local honey.  I know this blog is about taking "small steps daily," but I was looking for a huge step in getting relief from the evil pollen invading Atlanta.

Local honey from Moye's Pharmacy and Earl Grey tea from Teavana

The idea behind eating local honey is like gradually vaccinating the body against allergens in your area, a process called immunotherapy.  In other words, it's like getting allergy shots but a LOT more pleasant.  :) I did some cursory research (which is to say I briefly googled the topic) and found that a lot of people feel immunotherapy works for them.

So . . . off my husband went to purchase local honey at Moye's, a local pharmacy chain.  I must say that we both were suffering and we both feel better now.  I don't know if it's due to the meds I briefly took or the local honey, but I do feel better.  At any rate, I enjoyed sipping hot tea each night with a tablespoon of honey added to it.  Ahhhhh!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Beautique Lip Crayon

Anybody that's read a couple of my blogs recently will know that I'm in the middle of a Makeup Renaissance.  I was in pretty much an eleven-year makeup rut that consisted of a five-minute routine where I quickly slapped on powder, mascara, and lipstick before running out the door.  I've been changing that the past month and have been enjoying plenty of compliments for my efforts.

Well, I was in Sally Beauty Supply yesterday and decided to buy one of those "impulse" items at the cash register.  It was a lip crayon by a no-name company called Beautique.  I figured for a $1.79 ($1.99 without a membership card) I couldn't go wrong.

I chose Iced Pink because I'm into lighter colors as I'm getting older and thought it would be a nude color, and it is but with a hint of pink.  The color stays on quite a while, and it has a moisturizing feel to it.  Looking at the picture below, you can see it has shimmer to it.  Pop a bit of gloss on top and it really shines!

Bottom Line:  I must say that I LOVE this lip crayon and will be scooting over to Sally Beauty Supply to pick up a few more such as Mocha Frost!

Talk about a small step at a low price!  

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butters

Yeah, I know -- this "small step" involved a trip to my local Walgreen's to see what all the fuss was about regarding the newest lipstick Revlon has developed:  Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butters.  I really liked the Peach Parfait color Emma Stone wears in her advertisement for the new product, and plus, I hadn't bought a new lipstick in ages.  So there!  :)

I, of course, couldn't stop at just a lipstick since I feel lip gloss tops off any look, so I also bought a Revlon Super Lustrous lip gloss in Peach Petal.

The Peach Parfait goes on a lot lighter than I thought it would, but I'm actually okay with that.  Since I really haven't used a lipstick in the orange color family in ages, I was kind of nervous about purchasing this color anyway.  Again, the Emma Stone ad won me over.

It turned out on me to be more of a subtle peach color, and I love the lip gloss over it.  Both add subtle peach color.  What do I think about the new Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butters?  I love the name, the packaging, the subtle color, and the feel of the lip "butter".  Honestly, it is almost has a lip balm consistency.

My overall impression?  I would give both products a thumbs up!

In case you're curious:

Shirt:  Merona t-shirt from Target
Earrings:  Kohl's

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Shaking up My Schoolroom

As I was tweeting on Twitter one night last spring, I noticed a barrage of tweets bearing the hashtag #dontfailme (a hashtag, for those of you who haven't discovered Twitter, is a way to “tag” tweets for easy searches and is created by using the # sign with the words running together without spaces or punctuation).  Curiosity won over me as I began to read these tweets, and I soon discovered people were tweeting about a special report CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien hosted entitled Don’t Fail Me:  Education in America.  In fact, so many people tweeted about this topic using the #dontfailme hashtag that it trended on May 15, meaning that it was one of the most popular hashtags being used on Twitter at any given point in time nationwide.  While this phenomenon impressed me, it also made me realize that I am not alone in my concern that education is in crisis mode.  I missed this report on May 15 but made sure to watch the re-airing later that same week.

Education in America:  Don't Fail Me Part 1
You can find other excerpts from this special on YouTube.

As O’Brien’s CNN special noted, the state of education in America is at a critical point now.  Look at any research or data, and you will find any number of alarming statistics ranging from only 16% of high school students enroll and complete Calculus (O’Brien) to approximately 1.2 million students fail to graduate from high school, more than half of whom are from minority groups (Alliance, p. 1).  In my opinion, the purpose of teaching and learning, is a “casserole dish”, if you will, of several ingredients:  developing engaging lessons, giving choices to students of how to present what they have learned, building rapport with students, giving feedback on student learning, and aiding students in developing resiliency.  Though different chefs may present arguments for different ingredients in the educational casserole, I feel the aforementioned ones make the most difference in my 22 years of experience.

While the end product of teaching is to provide society with productive and knowledgeable young adults who can build successful lives for themselves, teachers have to first impart this knowledge.  Schlechty states that it is no easy task as “. . . the world of the young and the world of adults have grown further and further away from each other” (2001, p 20). To educate students in today’s society, I feel you have to develop engaging lessons, give choices to students of how to present what they have learned, and build rapport with students.  

Teachers must keep students engaged as a part of learning.  I also feel it is important to give students choices in how they present the information they have learned.  It helps to make them feel independent and gives them more ownership.  Meeting with my students one-on-one to conference about options available to them and showing them quality examples of previous students’ work helps them decide on what they want to do.  Finally, in terms of teaching students, I believe that teachers MUST develop a rapport with their students.  Baruti Kafele notes that “. . . your students must actually like you if they are to do well in class—and in order for them to like you, you must show that you like them” (2009, p. 9).  Kafele is so emphatic on this point that he even asserts, “even a brilliant student needs a teacher who understands how to make solid connections with him” (p. xiv).  Developing relationships is quite important, and Schlechty documents that in order to provide engaging work, teachers “. . . must understand their students well enough to know which of these qualities are likely to be important to students . . .” (p. 107).  McLeod, Fisher, and Hoover maintain that a teacher’s classroom climate of learning is based on “. . . the relationships that are established between the teacher and students. . .” (p. 62).  As noted by these educators, students do not care what you know until they know that you care.

Teachers teach and students learn, or so we hope.  Even so, some best practices can help students learn better than others.  Brookhart (2008) did extensive research regarding teacher commentary on student work and found that “writing comments was more effective for learning than giving grades” (p. 7).  As an alternative teacher with smaller than average class sizes, I utilize this best practice on a daily basis and find that it does help.  My feedback comes in the form of written communication as well as verbal comments during one-on-one conferences.  The other strategy that I feel is vital is helping students, especially ones that are at-risk, to be resilient.  One of the crises that Kafele (2009) addresses in his book is the “self-crisis,” a term to describe the breakdown of an individual person.  If a student does not have a high self-esteem or a positive self-image or even a certain amount of self-discipline, he/she will not be very resilient, and resiliency is the key to overcoming setbacks, not only in an educational setting, but also in life.

Leading schools when you are not in a traditional administrative leadership position can sometimes lead to roadblocks in terms of school-wide change.  Even though I might not be able to change certain aspects of school organization and culture, I can still control what goes on within my four walls.  Also, by producing clear results via test scores, percentage of students finishing my courses with passing grades, etc. maybe others will take notice from my examples and make small changes in their own four walls.  Small changes can certainly lead to big results when it comes to teaching and learning, and when mixed properly make a darn good casserole!

Alliance for Excellent Education. (2009).  Retrieved from http:/ /www
Brookhart, S. M. (2008).  How to give effective feedback to your students.  Alexandria:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Kafele, B. K. (2009).  Motivating black males to achieve in school and in life
Alexandria:  Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
McLeod, J., Fisher, J., & Hoover, G. (2003).  The key elements of classroom management:
managing time and space, student behavior, and instructional
strategies.  Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
O’Brien, S. (2011). Don’t fail me: education in America.  CNN
Schlechty, P. C.  (2001). Shaking up the schoolhouse: how to support and sustain
educational innovation.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Stash to Study

Forget the omnipresent junk drawer in the kitchen -- I had an entire bonus room full of junk.  Boxes upon boxes of old binders, knick knacks, old picture frames and lamps, outdated comforter sets, broken chairs, my college typewriter, and window treatments I bought but never used found a home in that unused space.  You name it, I stashed it.  It took years to accumulate that much stuff!  I make pack rats feel good about themselves.

Alas, I enrolled in a graduate program and felt the need to have a home office.  My own niche in the house where I could hide and work (or hide and surf the 'net while taking a break from the work -- ha!).  Enter the junk, er, bonus room.  

From stash . . . 

There was an alcove just beside the stairs leading up to the bonus room that was literally begging "save me" when I went up there one evening to rummage through my stashed stuff for an empty binder for my first grad class, and I decided to claim that small space for my own.  After a full day of moving all the junk from that space (as well as that entire side of the room) to the other side of the room, I was able to create my study.

. . . to study!

Being on a bit of a budget, I didn't buy a thing for this space.  EVERYthing you see in this picture (well, except for my MacBook Pro) was already in that bonus room hiding away -- even the shawl on the back of the office chair.  LOL  

While it's not perfect or totally decorated, it is a terrific space for getting work done quietly.  I used a corner desk that my daughter didn't need anymore and backed a bookcase up to it (it's hard to see in the picture but it's right in the front) as well as some knick knacks and pictures.  I didn't hang the pictures as  I felt this space was temporary -- my goal is to totally purge the junk and make a cool family hang out now that my kids are getting older.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Sometimes the small step you take each day needs to be not only for yourself, but for others.  In this case, to help celebrate a good friend's birthday.  Hey, I didn't say they had to be hard-to-do steps!  :D

I had the best time tonight hanging out with wonderful friends to celebrate my friend Lisa's upcoming 50th birthday.  She chose a newer restaurant The French Market in a nearby town.

The French Market in Locust Grove, Georgia

Lisa lookin' all of 35 years old!

The French Market was such a neat restaurant with a great menu, great bar, great atmosphere, and great service.  It was bustling with patrons, which is a sure sign of its success, and they also had live music.  I also had my first ever fried spinach.  Yes, you heard (or rather read) right -- fried spinach with parmesan cheese and balsamic reduction.  OMG -- it was scrumptious and practically melted in my mouth!  For the main course, I had a very tasty, not too mention SPICY, dish of Cajun shrimp and andouille sausage pasta.  I'm glad they had plenty of chilled water on hand!  And, finally, I chose to go with a liquid dessert this evening:  coffee with liqueur -- and they gave me plenty of it!  

They even had a great store with a French country flair.  Double W00T!

So, so pretty!

Neat make-your-own charm bracelets or necklaces!

Talk about a conversation piece!  :)

Now this is the kind of small step I like taking each day -- thinking of and being with others!

Photography:  I used my iPhone and the Instagram photo app for all pictures with the exception of the first one where I also used the Pixlrmatic photo app.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Latte Factor -- What's Yours?

It is normal to have payments on things such as credit cards, loans, and cars.  At least that is the philosophy my husband and I both had growing up.  As long as you could pay your bills, you were fine -- right?  Wrong.  We lived that way for years (16 years) until we hit a crossroads that made us think differently.

My husband and I decided to downsize our jobs due to our son being born 2 1/2 months premature.  Some things are just more important than careers, and our family was definitely in that category.  However, we wisely realized that we would have to make some financial changes since we'd be taking a 15K decrease in our combined salaries.  We felt like we needed to pay off my car (his was paid off), a loan, and our two credit cards.

To do that, though, meant getting more cash flow, not less!  So, we brainstormed items we bought on pretty much a daily basis that we thought we didn't really need to buy.  Here's our list:

  • Getting chicken biscuits every morning on the way to work 
  • Getting a coffee at Starbucks on the way to work 
  • Ordering lunch out every day at work 
  • Running into a grocery or drug store after work to get something (it's amazing how programmed we are to spend money!)

We figured we'd save about $75 a week on eating our breakfast at home and brown-bagging (it would have been $100, but some of that went into buying things at the store for lunches) it at work and not always stopping by a miscellaneous store on the way home from work.  That's $300 a month that we had just freed up -- that's some serious cash!!

This fledgling idea was the start of us paying off around 100K in total debt over the course of three years.  Being debt free (except for our mortgage) is truly a wonderful feeling, and it starts (of course) with small steps daily!  :)

Note:  We later found out by googling about tips on becoming debt free that we were doing exactly what we should do.  One author, David Bach, coined the concept of what we did as the Latte Factor, and it's described in his book, The Automatic Millionaire.  I didn't read this entire book, but I found the section on the Latte Factor to be reaffirming.

More posts will follow about other ways we paid off the 100K.  Please comment or ask questions.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chowing Down on Chick Peas

I have one thing to say:  Chick peas ROCK!    Chick peas were really something I don't believe I've ever eaten before, but I discovered them through a friend of mine last year.  She was actually getting my husband to eat hummus (okay, it was really spicy hummus and it was slathered on top of Wheat Thins).  Anyway, I figured chick peas must be pretty magical if my husband was eating them . . . and they were! Once I tried them, I couldn't stop.

Nowadays I'm all about trying out different chick pea recipes or making my own dishes.  A friend of mine whose blog I follow told me about an entree at a restaurant she ate at recently, and it inspired me to do something similar.

These little chick peas are on their  way to another  recipe hit dish!
All I did was saute a can of rinsed chick peas in olive oil with spinach (I do wish I had baby spinach leaves on hand), grape tomatoes, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.  The only measurement I used was the can of chick peas.  Everything else was strictly done by eyeballing it.   Jeez, I sound like such a pro!  LOL

When I was putting some in a dish to eat for lunch that day, I added some shredded Swiss cheese on top.  OMG, it was delish!!  

If you give it a try, please let me know how you like it -- or better yet, let me know if you add something to it!  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Going Green . . . for Tea

Growing up in the Deep South, I thought I'd always be a sweet iced tea girl.  However, during my college days at Mississippi State University, I developed a taste for hot tea (among other things -- shhhhh!).  My two favorites were Earl Grey and Constant Comment from Bigelow, and I also loved the Oolong tea at Chinese restaurants.

Fast forward 20+ years and enter Teavana.  I had zero idea hot tea could be so . . . specialized, not to mention expensive!  My brother treated me to a beautiful thermos and Earl Grey from Teavana for my birthday recently, and I must say I'm hooked!  

Reeeeally nice thermos from Teavana -- pardon the wine glass! 

With some Christmas money I received a short time after, I ventured into the world of green tea by purchasing Gyokuro Genmaicha, a blend that is made with toasted brown rice.  A friend of mine said he loved drinking green tea with honey and one Splenda packet.  It helped him sleep like a baby at night.  I'll be trying that for sure!  :D

Gyokuro Genmaicha in Teavana canister -- I cannot believe this picture turned out so well!

Drinking hot tea is relaxing to me and just one more small way to remember to take time for myself after a busy day at work and then at home being a mom.  And, by shopping at Teavana, I'm able to get a new toy for my Kalvin the Kat!  

Kalvin the Kat playing in a Teavana bag.
I think it must have smelled like catnip to him.  LOL

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tabata This, Tabata That, Tabata Tired!

Across the workout world (of which I'm really and truly not a part of), the Tabata craze is hot, hot, hot.  Don't get me wrong -- I do like working out, but I'm definitely a fair weather fan of it.  I happened across Tabata via a YouTube search on short exercise clips to try in the mornings before I got ready for work as part of what I'm doing for Lent (see this blog entry).  Tabata is supposed to be a four-minute workout where you exert maximum energy for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds.  Most people choose routines featuring cardio moves, but you can also incorporate plyometrics and weight resistance.  Basically, you pick four exercises to perform and repeat them until the four minutes are up.  Here's some more information.  I, of course, would die if I did a full-fledged hard core Tabata workout, so I am doing "beginner" types of exercises that (hopefully) won't kill me.  Here's one from's newly certified personal trainer Sarah Dussault.

Beginner Tabata Workout Video

It reminds me a lot of bootcamp workouts and interval training except that it is much, much shorter.  I like that there is an endless variety of exercises you can choose to perform and that the calorie burn is inevitable.  Incorporating this workout at the end of a walk/run but before one of my yoga routines is something I like to do if I'm doing an extended workout.  If you try it, let me know what you think.  :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lent: Doing with Instead of Doing without

Lent is the season of remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus, and most often Christians who participate respond by doing without some treat or delight.  However, I decided this year to do something different than foregoing something like eating my fav treat, dark chocolate.  I am adding the small step of daily exercise to better myself.  Believe me, this is a big sacrifice for me since I have been choosing not to make time for it on a regular basis over the past year or so.  I figure making myself a better, healthier person can't be wrong.  And, as an added bonus, I still get my dark chocolate.  Ha!  :)  

Oh, and if you participate, I'm interested in what you're doing for Lent.  
Please let me know -- it may give me ideas for next year!  

Jesus said, "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Mark 8:34

Of course, before Ash Wednesday we enjoyed a Mardi Gras celebration at my church, All Saints' Episcopal Churchin Atlanta on Shrove Tuesday.  FYI about Lent and Shrove Tuesday:   Gregory I helped established the type of fast to prepare for Lent.  He wrote, “We abstain from flesh meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, and eggs.”  This was the standard in the Middle Ages and led to the practice of getting rid of milk and eggs prior to Lent by eating pancakes on the Tuesday prior to Lent, known as Shrove Tuesday.  Here are a few pictures from our Shrove Tuesday:

Father Chuck led a short service for the burning of the palms from last year's Palm Sunday.  These ashes were used during our Ash Wednesday service the next day.  The ashes are symbolic of having our sins from the past year forgiven.

All Saints' had a New Orlean's flair with a low country boil.  And, no, that's not apple juice!  :)  There were pancakes, of course, but I stuck with this!  

My son all decked out in Mardi Gras bling!

The kids started an intense game trading masks and necklaces.

My daughter with her choir and hand bell director.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Makeup Haul

Yeah, I know, I know.  Why on earth is this in a blog entitled Small Steps Daily?  Well, small steps are taken every day in pretty much everything we do.  This time I took a small step in personal beauty care.

The last time I bought any make up other than my constant companions of powder foundation, lip gloss, eyeliner, and mascara was about two years ago during a Black Friday shopping spree when I treated myself to a lipstick tube from Kohl's American Beauty line Luxury for Lips in Tickled Pink.  Honestly, my beauty routine took a severe hit once I had my first child 11 years ago.  I stopped using liquid foundation and doing things like painting my nails on a regular basis.

However, my kids are older now, and I'm in my mid-forties looking for a Vitamin B-12 shot, if you will.  I became curious about Revlon's newer PhotoReady line of foundation because I really don't like the powder foundation I'm currently using and searched on YouTube in hopes of a video review of the products.  I hit on the Beauty Broadcast channel created by a newscaster/make up guru Emily Eddington.  She has such a great personality and exudes confidence and expertise on the subject of makeup that I spent a couple of hours exploring her channel as well as her blog.   She totally inspired me, at the age of 44, to update my makeup routine.  So . . . I went to stores like Target, Sally's Beauty Supply, and Walgreens to buy products based off Emily's recommendations.

Makeup Haul

  • ELF makeup brushes -- a lot of ELF products are only a buck a piece!!!  WOW!
    • smaller bronzer brush
    • flat eye shadow brush
  • Revlon PhotoReady eye primer and brightener
  • Revlon PhotoReady concealer
  • Maybelline Dream Matte powder
  • Wet N Wild eye shadow in Comfort Zone
  • Wet N Wild lipstick 547B
  • Wet N Wild nail polishes
    • Wet Cement
    • Under Your Spell
    • 2% Milk -- cute, cute, cute name!
  • China Glaze nail polishes
    • Awakening
    • Avalanche
  • Rimmel Lasting Finish liquid foundation
  • Rimmel Moisture Renew lipstick in Dreamy
  • Rimmel Fix and Perfect primer
  • Rimmel Stay Glossy lip gloss in Non-Stop Glamour
  • Rimmel Soft Kohl eye liner pencil in Pure White
  • Avalon Organics Soothing Lip Balm (on clearance for $1.14)
  • Lip gloss in Strawberry (this was on display at Michael's) -- for my 11yo daughter

What I enjoyed about Emily's videos is that I learned some of the inexpensive, okay CHEAP, brands such as Wet N Wild and ELF had terrific products in their line.  I ended up spending about 85 dollars for 19 products -- that's amazing to me.  Before having children, I would spend 75 bucks just on one bottle of Estee Lauder moisturizer.  Seriously!  

I tried out the new primer (which I had previously NEVER thought of using) as well as the foundation and new eye shadows last night when my family all went out to dinner at a local Olive Garden Italian Restaurant.  I felt so good about myself.  Psychology is an interesting thing, and sometimes you need to take a small step in an unexpected and simple area such as beauty care.  :)  

P. S.  You can tell this haul made quite an impression on me since I decided to blog for the first time since July!  :D