What Makes You Happy?

Hello blogosphere! It’s been far too long. My life has been crazy the last few months, or 5. I’ve lost a very beloved family member, rekindled an old romance, moved yet again and started some other great ventures.


Image Source : Mouche.com.au

Now that you’re all caught up, I’ve decided to regain my passion for blogging and get my literary brain ticking again by doing the #blogtember challenge outlined here. I am about a week and a half late but I just figured I would catch up and only do the topics that interest me. It may seem lazy to some but I like to call it selective. I see no point in writing about topics I’m not interested in, wouldn’t you skip those too?

Starting with Sept. 2nd. What makes you happy?

What Makes Me Happy (in photos)

Having a good laugh with my best

Saturday morning breakfast w/my mom

Kayaking with my fur baby

New adventures

My girls


What else can a girl ask for? What are some of the things that make your day?

6 Steps to Pay Off Debt

Over the past few weeks I have made the mistake of using my credit card *shrill*. I have been planning some upcoming trips and using my card to go ahead and purchase everything I’ll need in advance but with it has come that terrifying bill in the mail. I did plan ahead and already have worked out how I will quickly pay it off but it made me sit down to consider what I would do if I did have major debt looming overhead. Here are a few tips to help anyone pay off debt.

6 steps to pay off debt

Image Source : Images Money flckr

1. Pay off your credit cards
There are plenty of sites out there that will talk about credit card churning for the points and for the benefit of improving your credit. I agree with them for the purpose they serve but there is also a danger to doing so. If you are not someone who immediately goes home and pays off your credit card you are likely to end up paying interest on those charges. Once you have a decent amount charged up on your card and it starts taking the interest hits your debt can go spiraling out of control. Take charge of your charges and get them paid off as quickly as possible. My suggestion if you have multiple is to pay off the card(s) with the highest interest rate while paying the minimum and then roll all of the extra money you were paying off the initial one to the next one until you have them all paid off. This is a Dave Ramsey method and has worked for tons of people.

2. Lower your monthly payments
Do you have car insurance? A phone bill? Cable? These are all bills that you could potentially have lowered in order to put towards debts that you cannot. If your contracts are running out soon, call around or skim the internet for better prices. If you are adamant about staying with your current provider call them and ask to speak with a manager and tell them you’re a loyal customer and would like to see if they have a better rate they can offer you. The savings from doing so for any of these contracts can be used to pay down your other debts.

3. Make more money
There are a multitude of ways to bring in additional income. You can go get a second job at a store or food establishment you like. Doing so would not only benefit you in bringing in additional income but also save you money on purchases you would have already made thanks to employee benefits. Any additional money you earn could be automatically deposited into your savings or you can make an agreement to yourself to pay at least a portion of your additional earnings towards getting rid of debt.

4. Make smart spending choices
Do you really need that latte? If you’re spending $5 a day on a fancy latte that means you’re dishing out an extra $1825 a year. $5 a day might not seem like much but little purchases truly add up. If you were to make the same beverage at home for around $1 or less you would save $1460 to put towards your debt per year!

5. Lower your interest rate
If you have been with a company long enough and in good standing you should have no issue with getting them to lower your interest rate. I say so because I have done so recently. All you have to do is call and ask. The worst they can say is no and you can call back in a few weeks or months and try again.

6. Borrow from your savings
If you only have a small amount built up in your savings I would suggest by-passing this option. However, if you are like me and have a surplus beyond what you would need in the case of an emergency then borrow some of that money and pay off your debts. You are going to earn far less interest in your savings than you will be paying on your debt so pay off your debt first and you will be able to quickly replenish any money you have borrowed from your savings.

Suggested Reading : The Total Money Makeover

Healthy 2000 Calorie Meal Plan

The following 2000 Calorie meal plan was designed for myself in particular by a nutritionist but it can be applied to anyone with the same caloric needs. To give an example I am 5’8″, weigh 118 lbs and am a 26 year old female who performs moderate workouts for an hour 3-4 times a week. The goal of this meal plan was designed to maintain weight and build muscle. 

2,000 to 2,100
kcal diet template
 ½ cup oatmeal (150 kcal, 27 g CHO, 3 g fat, 0.5 g sat fat, 5 g PRO, 4 g fiber)
with 1 tbsp flaxseed (37 kcal, 2 g CHO, 3 g fat, 0.3 g sat fat, 1.3 g PRO, 2 g fiber)
in 1 cup of almond milk (60 kcal, 8 g CHO, 2.5 g fat, 1 g PRO, 1 g fiber);
1 whole large egg (78 kcal, 0.6 CHO, 5.3 g fat, 1.6 g sat fat, 6.3 g PRO)
1 large egg white (17 kcal, 0.2 g CHO, 0.1 g fat, 3.6 g PRO)
cooked in 1 teaspoon of olive oil (39 kcal, 4.5 g fat, 0.6 g sat fat);
1 medium naval orange (69 kcal, 17.6 CHO, 0.2 g fat, 0.1 g sat fat, 1.3 g PRO, 3.1 g fiber)
Snack #1:
reduced fat mozzarella cheese stick (50 kcal, 2.5 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 7 g PRO)
1 large raw carrot (31 kcal, 7.3 g CHO, 0.2 g fat, 0.1 sat fat, 0.7 g PRO, 2.1 g fiber)
 sandwich w/2 slices of wheat bread (228 kcal, 44 g CHO, 2 g fat, 1g sat fat, 6 g PRO, 4 g fiber)
3 oz turkey breast (87 kcal, 3.6 g CHO, 1.5 g   fat, 0.3 g sat fat, 14.4 g PRO, 0.3 g fiber),
1 cup spring mix (7 kcal, 1 g CHO, 0.7 g PRO, 0.2 g fiber), 3 slices of tomato (16 kcal, 3 g                         CHO, 1.5 g fiber),
1 tbsp mustard (9 kcal, 0.9 g CHO, 0.6 g fat, 0.3 g sat fat, 0.6 g PRO, 0.6 g fiber);
1 medium apple (93 kcal, 24.7 g CHO, 0.3 g fat, 0.1 g sat fat, 0.5 g PRO, 4.2 g fiber);
¼ cup roasted unsalted or lightly
salted almonds (207 kcal, 7.1 g CHO, 18.1 g fat, 1.4 g sat fat, 7.6 g PRO, 4.2 g fiber)
 Snack # 2 (pre-workout):
1 Luna bar (~ 180 kcal, 27 g CHO, 5 g fat, 2 g sat fat, 8 g PRO, 3 g fiber) Blueberry Bliss, Chocolate Chunk, Iced
Oatmeal Raisin, Lemon Zest, Smores, or Toasted Nuts & Cranberry or 1
Balance bar (~ 200 kcal, 21 g CHO, 7 g fat, 3 g sat fat, 14 g PRO, 2 g fiber)
Snack #3 (post-workout):
½ cup white rice (121 kcal, 26.6 g CHO, 0.2 g fat, 2.2 g PRO);
1 scoop Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein (130 kcal, 5 g CHO, 1 g fat, 0.5 g sat fat, 24 g PRO, 1 g fiber);
1 cup frozen mixed berries (70 kcal, 17 g CHO, 5 g fiber)
½ cup black beans (113.5 kcal, 20.4 g CHO, 0.5 g fat, 0.1 g sat fat, 7.6 g PRO, 7.5 g fiber);
small baked sweet potato or ½ large (60 kcal, 13.8 g CHO, 0.1 g fat, 0.1 g sat fat, 1.3 g PRO, 2.2 g fiber);
 3 oz LEAN sirloin steak (156 kcal, 4.8 g fat, 1.8 g sat fat, 26.1 g PRO);
1 cup frozen broccoli & cauliflower (25 kcal, 3.5 g CHO, 0.2g fat, 1.3 g PRO, 1.4 g fiber)
Total Calories: 2033.5 kcal to 2053.5 kcal
Total CHO: 260.3 g to 253.6 g (1041.2 kcal; 1014.4 kcal or51.2%; 49.4%)
*Calories of CHO maybe ~10% lower to due insoluble fiber
Total fat: 55.6 g to 57.6 g (500.4 kcal; 518.4 kcal or 24.6%; 25.2%
Total sat fat: 13.5 g to 14.5 g (121.5 kcal; 130.5 kcal or 6.0%; 6.4%)
Total PRO: 126.5 g to 132.5 g (506 kcal; 530 kcal or 24.9%; 25.8%)
Total fiber: 47.3 g to 46.3 g
  • Egg whites, chicken breast, turkey breast, extra mlean ham, and fish such as chunk light tuna, tilapia, cod, and shrimp are lean proteins and are interchangeable (3 egg whites; 3 oz servings meat)
  • Fattier meats (between 5 to 10 g fat per serving) such as lean ground beef, lean roast beef, lean cuts of steak, pork chops or pork loin, and fish such as salmon, sardines, anchovies, and trout are interchangeable (3 oz servings)
Ø I recommended having more fatty fish per week versus red meat in order to increase Omega 3 Fatty Acid intake
Ø 2-3 times a week for red meat will get you enough iron
  • ½ cup oatmeal can be substituted with breakfast cereals at 3 grams or more fiber per serving (hint: not Lucky Charms, Trix, Fruity or Coca Pebbles, Honey Comb, Captain Crunch, Count Chocula, Boo Berry, Pops, Frosted Flakes, etc.)
Ø Shoot for 10 grams of sugar or less per serving
Ø Pay close attention to serving sizes on nutrition label
  • Fruits such as apples, oranges, pears, peaches, nectarines, plums, and kiwis are interchangeable
Ø cherries and grapes too but should be kept at ½ to ¾ of a cup
Ø 1 large banana equals 2 fruit servings
Ø melon and tropical fruit (minus the kiwi) are very sugar dense and so should be treated as 2 fruit servings
  • Berries are all interchangeable and should be had once daily
  •  Light mozzarella cheese stick can only be traded for lactose free yogurt if one daily fruit serving is eliminated (not the
Ø cheese has little to no sugar and is thus lactose free but the lactose free yogurt comes equipped with added sugar so watch out
  • 1 large carrot can be substituted with other
    non-starchy brightly colored vegetables such as 1 red, yellow, or orange bell
    pepper, 3-4 mini sweet peppers or 1 tomato
  •  Greens such as collard greens, turnip greens,mustard greens, green leaf and romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, and kale are interchangeable
Ø spring mix contains a variety
  • 2 slices of whole grain bread can be alternated with 1 large whole grain tortilla, 1 cup long grain brown rice, 1 cup quinoa/amaranth, and 1 cup whole grain pasta
  • ½ cup refined white rice for post workout meal can be replaced with ½ cup white rice noodles, ½ cup white pasta, 1  medium flour or corn tortilla, 1 large piece of white bread, 1 small or ½ large Russet potato, 1 small or ½ large Yukon gold potato, 1 small or ½ large red potato, ¾ cup grits, or 1 cup cream of wheat 
  •  ¼ cup almonds can be substituted with ¼ cup of any type of nuts or seeds
Ø sodium can be a real problem here so purchase unsalted or lightly salted
Ø 2 tbsp of natural peanut butter or almond butter can be used on vegetables or on a sandwich in place of nut serving
  • The selected flavors of protein bars above are interchangeable since they were similar in Calories, PRO, and fiber
Ø try and choose those with 5 grams of fat or less since fat is undesirable in a pre and post-workout meal due to it slowing digestion
Ø also think of it as your multivitamin supplement plus Calories; since it’s jam-packed full of added vitamins coupled with lower fiber content, the micronutrients should absorb well
  • ½ cup black beans may be substituted with kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, navy beans, cannellini beans, etc. (you get the picture)
Ø beans (legumes) contribute a lot of fiber to the diet and you may have some intestinal discomfort at first with this food
Ø it is important as a CHO and PRO source plus it is a good source of iron
  • Small sweet potato or ½ large sweet potato can be replaced with other starchy vegetables such as ½ cup corn, ½ cups peas, ¾ cup butternut squash, 1 cup spaghetti squash, 1 cup banana squash, ½ cup water chestnuts or, ½ cup garlic, 1/4 cup edamame (soybeans; additional 5 grams fat) and 1 cup pumpkin
  • Serving of cauliflower can be replaced with other white vegetables such as 1 cup white cabbage, ½ cup turnips,1 cup white mushrooms, and ¾ cup white onion
  • Broccoli can be traded for any other green vegetable such as 1 cup green beans, 1 small cucumber, 1 cup Brussels sprouts, ½ cup artichoke hearts, 1 cup of any of the above leafy greens, 1 cup watercress, 1 cup bok choy,1 cup arugula, and 1 cup zucchini

Recommended H2O intake
At a 2,100 Calorie diet, and individual should be drinking
2,100 milliliters (ml) of water which equates to 70 ounces (2,100 ml / 30 ml
per ounce [oz] = 70 oz) or 9 cups daily (70 oz / 8 oz per cup = 8.75 cups;
round up to 9 cups)

Mrs. DASH seasoning
 any herbs and spices (salt free)
Condiments (add Calories)

salad dressing (including low fat)
 tartar sauce
 BBQ sauce
 artificial sweeteners
Additional Notes

I attempted to decrease the amount of fiber in this diet to closer to the 25 grams per day as recommended for woman but trying to achieve this while maintaining nutritional integrity was a real chore. I did follow up research and learned that there are several individuals (even credentialed health professionals) that follow diets upwards in the 40 to 60 gram range without adverse effects. This seemed to be the norm especially amongst people follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. To prevent any discomfort, it is VERY important that you drink the amount of water daily as stated above. If the amount of fiber is giving you digestive issue, you can decrease it by peeling off the skins of fruits, subtract beans from the diet, get a juicer and juice your veggies, or change to white bread or refined grains (do this last). To maintain nutritional content of your vegetables, steam or use the microwave instead of boiling, pressure cooking, or frying. Vegetables where the nutritional content actually improves with cooking include tomatoes, carrots, asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, peppers, and cabbage. Also, you may have noticed that PRO is well above the 80.5 grams daily that we discussed but it still falls shy of the 30% marker for overall Calories from protein and therefore no big deal (you will just use the excess as an energy source and it won’t strain your kidneys as long as you have a healthy pair). I hope you find the above template customizable enough based on the substitutions list. To prevent burnout on your new diet plan, I recommend that you allow yourself 2 to 3 cheat meals per week (meaning that you treat yourself to something not on the nutrition plan). Now go and put it to good use!

**Disclaimer: These are all my honest opinions. I was not compensated in anyway for this post**

Goal Updates 4/4

Time for my bi-weekly check in.


Image Source : Celestine Chua Flickr

1. Read at least one new book a month
The month has just begun and I’m on the lookout for a new good book. I was simultaneously reading ProBlogger last month along with my school work and I have almost completed it. It is an all around great reference for anyone starting out in blogging. It covers everything from deciding on a name, choosing your niche, how to set everything up, monetization and much more. The book even includes a link to the ProBlogger website that is exclusive for his book readers. As far as this month goes, I will probably be reading a book that goes over travel (any suggestions?) but I’d also like to read a fiction novel to help me relax. (Once again, any suggestions?)

2. Make $800 in side hustle income by May 1st
I’ve actually been doing pretty great! I’ve made some extra money tutoring algebra, blog consulting, and through my affiliate program. I can’t wait to get my first check! Seeing the profitability of your hard work is really inspiring to work harder. Additional plans I have for further increasing my savings are having a garage sale next weekend, selling on eBay and craigslist for the larger more expensive  items, additional consulting work and starting to look for some virtual assistant work and other online endeavors. This coming month has so much potential, I can’t wait to see how it goes.

3. Work out at least 3 days a week
I’ve unfortunately been losing weight again thanks to some personal stresses but I have been getting in my workouts. I’m trying to stay away from too much cardio so I’ve been doing pilates, some body weight workouts and yoga before bed. Ah, in just one month I’ll be able to do yoga on the beach. Can’t wait.

4. Eat breakfast at home and bring my lunch to work every day
I’m not sure why this has proven to be such a difficult task to me. My main issue is that I don’t want to make a sandwich the night before and have it be soggy but I don’t wake up early enough to fix one in the morning and I have a really hard time getting up when I do without trying to make it earlier. I would be bringing leftovers but in a house with 6 people there’s no such thing.

5. Blog at least 4 days a week
Today is day 4! I am very happy with myself for keeping up with the blog despite the challenges this week and last week have thrown my way. Blogging is such a great way to escape and concentrate on something that is fulfilling. I really suggest anyone that’s intrigued by it to give it a try, even if you only write for yourself and never make it public.

No Spend Challenge

No spend challenge is over! It wasn’t a complete success but it wasn’t a total loss either. I wasn’t able to keep up with not spending on food but I was more conscientious of my gas usage and not spending money or splurging during the day. My only purchases were a birthday gift and an article of clothing I needed for an event. Now that the month is over I’ve made my first big purchase (planned one!) of a new compact waterproof camera to take with me on my travels! And it’s nice to not have such a bulky piece of equipment hanging around my neck.

My Pretty New Toy 🙂

Making Friends as an Adult

Image Source : Valerie Everett Flickr

Image Source : Valerie Everett Flickr

I remember as a child going to the first day of class and feeling like I had been introduced to a whole new world. A fresh new lot of faces every year. More kids meant more friends to be made. As an adult, making friends has become much more challenging.

When we are children we have less filters and lower standards of what we require in a friend. Any new person we meet has the potential to be a friend or playmate. We don’t care what they are wearing or their political views. We just see someone that could bring joy and happiness to our lives.

It seems that as we grow older we become more set in our ways; not only in how we live but also in who we choose to spend our time with. Familiarity and comfort become a scapegoat and opening up to new possibilities and relationships becomes too intimidating.

We as a society have decided that being an adult means being a mom, a dad, an employee, a CEO, a husband or a wife and more than often lastly, a friend. There is little room for old friendships and no time to develop new ones.

As time passes by we wonder why we become so depressed, why we feel so empty, lonely and unfulfilled. Humans need to feel connected. We are social beings. Starving that social need is not healthy or natural.

There was an article written by a group of Stanford and Waterloo professers that stated “When people’s sense of social connectedness is threatened, their ability to self-regulate suffers; for instance their IQ performance drops.” Along with this effect were many other negative reactions that were recognized by those lacking social interaction or connectivity.

So why do we do this? Why do we pick and choose who we can and can’t be friends with based on appearance or religion or political views? Why must we have everything in common and not disagree on anything?  Why are we so scared of developing new bonds with new people? Of course it is possible that things will turn out poorly or it may be a dud of a friendship, but that never stopped us as kids.

I challenge you today to go out and make a new friend. Seek out someone you think you might have at least one thing in common with. You might like their shoes, like a book they’re considering purchasing, hear them mention a topic that interests you. Strike up a conversation with them. Reach out to someone and find a sense of belonging in that moment.