Monthly Archives: December 2011
I have great news for my last post in 2011: I paid off my smallest debt! Technically, it won’t get paid until next week but the last few dollars are on their way to my bank account. I wrote some last minute articles to make it happen, but the important thing is, IT HAPPENED!
Smallest Debt: $0!!
Now I’ll have to start attacking my next smallest debt, also known as Murder Death Narkill, my Discover card with 15.99% interest. I hope to really make progress on this one because it is my highest interest account.
New Smallest Debt: $5,787
Happy New Year to all and thank you for stopping by this blog, it’s been so much fun! See you in 2012!
The idea of rice and beans gets bandied about often on personal finance blogs. It’s usually discussed in relation to the limits of being frugal, as in, “Well, you don’t want to eat rice and beans for the rest of your life.” Why not? Rice and beans are delicious! If you really think that eating rice and beans is some sort of punishment for having mismanaged your money, I invite you to try some of my favorite rice and bean dishes. You’ll be apologizing in no time for having badmouthed many a country’s beloved national dish.
Gallo Pinto: Costa Rican Rice and Beans
First up are the deceptively simple Costa Rican rice and beans, known as gallo pinto. Gallo pinto uses black beans and white rice that is fluffy and not sticky at all. What I love about gallo pinto is how simple, fresh and flavorful the taste is. Salsa Lizano, the Costa Rican marinade and seasoning, gives it its distinct flavor, as well as onion, garlic, cilantro and red pepper. Some people also add bacon to the breakfast edition (the rice and beans are served mixed together at breakfast, separated at lunch and dinner) and it’s delicious either way. Here’s a good recipe to try at home.
Puerto Rican Rice and Beans
Puerto Rican rice and beans are my boyfriend’s absolute favorite. The secret ingredient is the Goya Sazón con Azafran (saffron seasoning) and sofrito, but they use plenty of other flavors in there as well, and many recipes add some potato in the mix. Puerto Rican rice and beans are very hearty and you will fill up fast, but hopefully not so much that you can’t grab a pincho with it.
Baghali Polo: Persian Rice with Lima Beans
Lima beans in green rice with fresh dill. It’s a feast for the eyes and the stomach. Usually served with chicken or fish, but perfectly delicious on its own. I’ll shout it from the rooftops: Long Live Baghali Polo! Try the recipe at My Persian Kitchen because she makes it easy with step by step pictures (and you’ll even learn how to make the crispy rice known as tahdig). Remember, all Persian dishes are best served with a heaping serving of mast (plain yogurt). My personal favorite is Byblos yogurt that comes in a 4 pound tub and is way cheaper than Mountain High, Dannon, etc. Later I’ll lift weights with the tub filled with water.
Khoresh Gheimeh: Yellow Split Pea Stew with White Rice
I know these names sound strange if you’ve never had Persian food before, but trust me, Gheimeh (the “gh” is guttural) is a crowd-pleaser. It’s a very easy dish, which is not common for Persian food, and the basic ingredients will be easy on your budget: besides seasonings, you need yellow split-peas, tomato paste, onions, meat if desired and potatoes for the french fries that top the stew. The Sadaf recipe is easy to follow and comes out great every time. (Split peas count as beans, right? They cost less than a dollar for a one-pound bag, so it’s the same concept.)
Mujadara: Lebanese Rice, Lentils and Onions
I crave mujadara at least once a week. This is the only dish on this list that I haven’t been successful making at home; the recipe I tried came out bland and dry while the real thing is soaked in olive oil and rich in flavors of cumin and pepper. The more caramelized onions on top, the better. This Food Network version of the dish got good reviews and is worth a shot.
I Want to Eat Rice and Beans Every Day!
So there you have it. Rice and beans come in all flavors and sizes and we can’t forget the frugal benefits of lentils and split peas either. All of these dishes make great leftovers (and taste even better the next day). A money-saving note on rice: buy your rice in a big burlap sack. I buy a 20-pound bag of basmati or jasmine white rice and it lasts me all year. It costs $1 a pound or less. Rice doesn’t go bad, so you don’t have to worry about not using it all at once.
Did I inspire you to show some love to rice and beans tonight? Which rice and bean dish favorite did I miss? Let me know!
So now that I have my introspective, auto-psychoanalysis out of the way, let’s talk fun stuff: Resolutions 2012! It’s great to throw some goals on the board before the year has even started. That way, you don’t even get to sleep in on New Year’s Day because you will be so excited to get started on all those shiny new goals. My goals this year are an extension of the goals I set in 2011. I know I wasn’t blogging yet, but the whole awakening process began at the beginning of 2011, and my main goals were:
My Goals for 2011
- Getting back into a regular exercise routine: I did great on this because I have always been athletic and having no regular exercise just felt gross. I play tennis twice a week, surf irregularly, and workout or run another 1-3 days a week. But I can still do more.
- Eating healthier and making more food at home: I started bringing my lunch to work a lot more often, and now almost never buy lunch. At home, we make dinner maybe 2 nights a week. We can definitely make more food at home, and since I got two awesome cookbooks for Christmas, I have no excuses.
- Paying off debt: I started January 2011 with $41,152 in debt. As of December 31, I will have somewhere around $34,500 in debt (exact number will come in the debt update in January). Not too shabby! And that was with a LOT of trips, fun stuff, and blow money being spent. 2012 will include some belt-tightening to pay off more debt.
- Developing my professional skills: I got my LEED Green Associate credential and I’m taking the LEED AP test the first week of January. I took UCLA extension courses and I want to read more and listen to a lot of free recordings on Energy Star and iTunesU about energy management, sustainability and energy efficiency. I really like what I do so I need to become the best at it. I don’t talk much about my work here but it is really nice to have a job in a field you are interested in. I need to continue expanding my skills and knowledge and start figuring out what graduate work I need to do. On the side businesses, I developed a small passive income stream and I am going to work more on that as well.
- Improving my relationships: As you may have figured out from my previous post, I have both amazing people and difficult people in my life. They are both necessary and there is no doubt I have been influenced by both types. More importantly, we determine the tone of our relationships, not just the other party. I tried in 2011 to improve my relationships by being more considerate as well as mindful of my own needs. I didn’t relax and not worry as much as I could have. I am going to focus on that next year.
Those goals pretty much are going to carry over to 2012. But since I will still be blogging in December 2012 (if the world doesn’t end), I want to make the goals for 2012 a lot more specific. Cue the singing parrots:
Goals and Resolutions for 2012
- Develop my relationships and spend time with the people I love.
- Reduce waste: Energy, water, food, consumer items and paper goods.
- Get to know more people in LA and elsewhere.
- Pay off $20,000 in debt to bring my debt total to under $15,000.
- Wake up 1 hour before I have to get ready for work, Monday through Thursday and write, do errands or work out.
- Exercise 6 days a week.
- Successfully complete the Yakezie challenge. I need to be in the top 200,000 websites by June 5, 2012.
- Develop American Debt Project and my two other online properties into income-generating websites.
- Buy my first place. Ambitious, I know. But you have to have reach goals.
- Contribute 10% of everything I make to savings.
- Start an herb garden in the patio!
- Become a better photographer.
- Writing goals: Submit to Thought Catalog, brainstorm/start book ideas.
- Make at least $5,000 in writing/freelance income. This would pay for my elusive camera, an iPhone in April plus a data plan for 12 months, a trip to Virginia in April for my friend’s wedding and a trip to New Jersey next Christmas (so we can spend Christmas with my boyfriend’s family, which we haven’t done since our first year together) and have about $2,300 left over for savings and debt paydown. I want to make MUCH more than $5,000, but let’s see how I do in January and reassess then.
- Create monthly goals for each month, which I will announce on my blog. Let’s start with January 2011: End the month with $300 in savings.
One More Confession in 2011
I have always been afraid to fail. I have let other people’s expectations, assumptions and opinions carry too much weight. Instead of learning to plan, making connections with new people and being a student of the world, I applied the brakes of self-doubt and second-guessing at every turn. I knew I was fairly smart, I grasped ideas quickly and I was always formulating theories and stories in my head, but putting it all together is an entirely different matter. Seeing a project to completion and sticking to your goals requires commitment and belief in yourself. If I had been awake from the very beginning of my journey, I would have been able to say, “Your expectations are your own. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, but my life is my own to live and I am the one to determine its course. I am not here to impress people or catch a rich husband and live a life of display and material wealth and outward achievements like degrees and titles. And if you try to push me down that path then I will end up in debt over my head and will need to take several years to figure my life out in my late twenties.”
Instead, I was always too polite. I never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings. I am very sensitive to the way people interact, and because I was so attuned to how things might be perceived, I went out of my way to never say what I really thought, never discuss what I really wanted and instead spent a lot of time listening and never disagreeing. Those are two important ideas: listening and never disagreeing. Listening is a powerful skill to have. I’m an adept listener because I am genuinely interested in what others have to say. But I take listening too far. I internalize too much of what I hear and what other people think. So I’m moving on from that. I’ll always listen and I’ll always want to know more, but I am not going to take what other people think to be any more important than my own ideas. And then there is the second idea of never disagreeing. Arguing is a waste of time, so I don’t like to spend time pointing out how others are wrong. You won’t change their minds and they won’t change yours. So it’s easier to just listen to someone’s opinion and then thank them for it politely and move on.
You know what it’s like to be buried under the weight of your own and other people’s expectations of you. There is too much great stuff in this life and too many great people in this world to spend even one minute of it drowning in someone else’s arguments and finding yourself angry, annoyed and exasperated. How can you be creative if you spend all your time arguing or trying to live up to other people’s expectations? How can you do what you want in life if you are trying to do what other people want you to do?
Part of the reason this blog started out anonymously is because I was afraid it would fail. I didn’t want to announce myself to the world only to abandon this project, casting it aside like one hundred other failed ideas. I’ve also always been afraid to associate my ideas and beliefs with myself. Maybe because I am afraid of criticism and rejection. But I am coming to understand how immature that is. So what if people don’t like it? So what if people laugh and point? It’s nice that I want everyone to love and get along and play nicely, but life and a life’s work is not that simple. If I did it and I stand behind it, then one million critics won’t bring me down or make me stop.
I am no longer afraid to fail. I will be OK with failing. In fact, I will welcome it. Failing is an opportunity to learn and come back ten times stronger. I will be OK with doing my best and seeing what happens. I will not hide who I am. I will set goals for 2012 and keep track of them right here on this site.
Repeat after me:
I do not have to spend time with people I don’t want to spend my time with.
Other people are free to live their lives as they please and I will not force my ideas upon them.
In return, no one can dictate the direction of my life but me.