Thursday, February 23, 2012

Not Another Lent Blog!

Originally, I had a great Lent blog planned since for the first time, I'm giving up something. I already told about giving up buying clothes for the month of February, and over drinks with friends last week, I decided to try giving up something each month for the rest of the year as an experiment. On the chopping block so far- Facebook, meat, pop, jeans (so hard!). For other months, I might add a goal like going running three times a week or reading for 30 minutes at least 4 times a week. I have some more brainstorming to do on this, I'll keep you posted. My goal for the project is to set and accomplish short-term goals for personal growth without seriously affecting anyone else's life in the process (for example giving up my car for a month and needing to bum rides off everyone for everything).

And then my boyfriend (who actually is Catholic) told me he was giving up alcohol for Lent. I decided to tack that on since I'm giving up random somethings this year anyway, I might as well give up alcohol for Lent for moral support. I hadn't originally thought of including alcohol as a give-up for 2012 (maybe because I was very much enjoying a glass of wine at the time I was chatting with friends), but hey, 40 days isn't that long. I'm not a raging alcoholic or anything, but I do like to enjoy a few drinks a week.

So then I was REALLY planning a great Lent blog on the virtues of self-denial and self-discipline when I read "The Opportunity of Lent" from Becoming Minimalist. It's great. It just hits the nail on the head.

It put me in my place that the first "opportunity" of Lent is to learn humility. I quoth- "It is a humbling exercise to battle controlling influences in our lives. We are forced to stand face-to-face with our weaknesses and our humanity. And whether we win or lose over the course of the forty days, even the intensity of the struggle supplies profound humility."

It's not a time to go parading around what we're giving up or that we just happen to be doing great at it. If we can do that, it means we picked something that wasn't a controlling influence on our life in the first place.

The other "opportunity" that struck me was developing empathy. I am not naturally a very empathetic person. When other people struggle with any number of things (addiction, overeating, little initiative, etc.), I tend to respond with an attitude similar to "Just get over it already!!!" This is neither kind nor encouraging to the person struggling. By struggling through a challenge myself, I might (hopefully?) develop a kinder attitude to others.

The one "opportunity" I'd add to Becoming Minimalist's list is forced creativity. By giving up alcohol, I will probably branch out in to some other beverages I wouldn't otherwise drink. On nights I might usually drink a glass of wine, I might opt for a glass of warm cider or soy milk. One of my favorite Happy Hour locations makes their own ginger ale and root beer, but I haven't tried those yet since I'm usually ordering something alcoholic. For the month I'll be giving up meat, I'll have to get creative with some new recipes. For the month I'm giving up jeans (yikes! scary!), I'm going to have to get REALLY creative with my wardrobe.

So there's my Lent blog. You should probably read Becoming Minimalist's Lent blog for a more philosophical & challenging take :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Crockpot Beer Chicken

It all started several weeks ago when my boyfriend Nolan & I went grocery shopping and noticed packages of sweet rub chicken drums & thighs for $.99 a pound. Since that's a pretty good price for chicken, we bought three pounds. I wasn't exactly sure what to do with it, but eventually decided to toss it in my crockpot with a random can of American Light beer I had in my fridge.

That's the recipe. Put some chicken in a crockpot with beer & cook it on low for 10-12 hours. It's delicious. Straight out of the crockpot, it's like butter. It falls off the bone, it's all drippy & tender, yeah...

And when chicken is on sale, you can't beat cooking $3 worth of chicken with a 50 cent can of beer for multiple chicken servings. Yep, when chicken is cheap, you can't beat the price.

Speaking cheap chicken, over the next week, Nolan decided this was an excellent price for chicken and bought nine more 3 lbs packs. 10 packs X 3 lbs each = 30 lbs of chicken. We've had a lot of crockpot beer chicken lately. This is okay, because it's seriously good and very versatile. We've had wraps, enchiladas, tortilla soup, and chicken & bean soup just to name a few.

It lends well to theme and variations.

Theme- a tortilla, chicken, some lettuce/spinach/sprouts/green stuff

Variation #1- mix together some ranch dressing & hot sauce like Frank's, add to the wrap, and BOOM you have a buffalo chicken wrap

Variation #2- add Asian peanut sauce and BOOM you have an Asian chicken wrap

Variation #3- add bacon & ranch and BOOM you have a bacon-ranch chicken wrap

Variation #4- put some salsa on it and BOOM you have a Mexi-chicken wrap

Variation #5- add saurkraut & swiss cheese and BOOM you have something that might resemble a Reuben wrap (I had this for dinner tonight & it was great)

Variation #6- add hummus and BOOM you have a Mediterranean wrap. If you're super fancy, add some kalamata olives.

Variation #7- soak with ketchup and BOOM you have a Mrs. Pig's Bulk Buy wrap

Variation #8- substitute bread for the tortilla, bacon for the chicken, and use lettuce & tomato and BOOM you have a BLT. Except that's not crockpot beer chicken.

Variation #9- add mozzarella cheese & marinara sauce, make it all melty in the microwave and BOOM you have an Italian chicken wrap

Variation #10- put some other kind of amazing salad dressing on it and BOOM you have something more interesting than chicken in a tortilla

Other random tip- I've been using crockpot liners lately for easy cleanup. Once the chicken is cooked, I separate the chicken from the bones, strain the liquid left in the liner, put the bones/skin back in the bag & pitch the whole thing. Very easy.

Any other variation ideas?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Centralizing & Decluttering

On my short stint as an active user on Pinterest, I found a rather good "Declutter & Organize" calendar from My Simpler Life. Beth Dargis gets paid by people to organize people's lives & write stuff like this, so I figured she probably knows what she's doing. I printed off a copy & put it up on my fridge so I will always see the daily task assignment. It's great for prompting ways to declutter!

I was "inspired" to expand the extent of the calendar when I visited my sister in Texas (writer of Life on Olive Street). She started using a housekeeping notebook (or something like that, I'm hoping she writes about it since it's pretty neat). Basically, it's a centralized place for her to keep track of weekly meal plans, shopping lists, task lists, housekeeping duties, coupons, Groupons, and whatever else.

Me being a household of one, I don't need to be terribly diligent about keeping track of everything for the sake of home management, but I do like being organized, sane, and knowing the answer to "when was the last time I vacuumed." This gave me the idea of centralizing various parts of life.
  • Housekeeping- I started writing down when I did my "chores" on my decluttering calendar.
  • Bills & Money- I've designated Wednesday as my "office day". I started saving all my receipts for the week to enter into my budget spreadsheet. I have also dedicated this day to balancing accounts and all that other good stuff. I was greatly aided in this by downloading the apps for my financial institutions on my phone so I can easily look up balances and transactions and manage payments and transfers.
  • Lists- I also downloaded an app for notes & lists on my phone. It's great, no more random post-its in my purse! My lists are all in one place.
Overall, it's helped me be simplified and centralized.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Could you give up X for a month?

Lent is right around the corner. I'm not Catholic, but there's something to be said for the personal challenge of giving something up for a month (or 40-ish days, whatever).

For the month of February, I decided to give up buying clothes. Why? I don't really buy a lot of clothes & I generally hate shopping, but I suddenly found myself buying random clothes I didn't need in December & January. At the end of January, I still wanted to buy more random clothes that I don't need.

But I want more sweatpants! And I think I need a new black cardigan!

Self-control is greatly under-rated in today's society. We are told to give in to our every desire & whim since, hey, we deserve it!

No, we don't. Do we really want our impulses to have that much control over our actions?

It's a good exercise in self-control, commitment, & perseverance to have the goal of "fasting" for a period of time. For me, it's clothes for the month of February.