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Monday, April 14, 2014

New Series: Money Monday



Happy Monday morning to you! Let’s talk money today. Money Monday—has a nice ring to it. I’m always mentioning that Steve (My Love) and I are on a strict budget, so it’s about time I tell you what led to our strict ways. 

I’ll start by saying we were young and foolish. We both went to undergraduate and graduate school and we both borrowed too much money in student loans. The loans—that’s the foolish part. I think, like most, we assumed it’d be no big deal to pay back the money we borrowed. We didn't take into consideration the amount we were borrowing, the interest rate, or that repaying the loans would consume most all of our money. We all-around didn't consider any of this. We just moved through life with blinders. 
After I graduated from undergraduate school, my parent PLUS loan went into repayment. I moved to Brooklyn, NY two months after graduation to start graduate school, and I didn't work, so I had to put my parent PLUS loan on forbearance. The interest continued to accrue making the loan balloon. Again, I just turned a blind eye and kept on taking out loans to pay for my education. All the while, Steve was accruing debt while making his way through a Ph.D. program. This was on top of the debt he already had from undergrad—his loans and his parent PLUS loan. Unbeknownst to us, we were digging a huge hole we were going to have to climb out of.
Steve and I aren't city people, so it was very difficult for us to live in Brooklyn. This played into our next unwise decisionunwise at that time anyway. We visited Washington, DC in April 2009, and when it came time for me to search for a job, we decided it’d be a good idea to search in the DC area. I did just that and by the end of July 2009 we were living in Maryland. I started my first real job, and Steve was in the 3rd year of his Ph.D. program and working on his dissertation. Needless to say, we moved having only 1 minuscule income.
In order to increase our income a bit, Steve began working. More money = more problems. We moved from Brooklyn to Maryland without a car because we didn't have one, nor did we need one in the city. Wait, I lied—we would've given anything to have a car in Brooklyn, but neither of us brought our car along when we moved. So, my parents very generously let us borrow their car for a few months when we first moved to Maryland. We really, really wanted cars of our own though. Sooo…you guessed it! We went and made another foolish decision. Um, 2 actually. We bought 2 BRAND NEW cars. Once we added up all of our expenses for the month we had only $200 leftover and somehow we didn't see that as a problem.
I know this may all sound so normal, but it’s not our normal anymore. We've drastically changed our ways, which I will continue to discuss in future Money Monday posts.

Tell me, what’s your normal? 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spicy Southwest Pasta



Another busy work week flew right on by, so I’m using today to relax and unwind. Definitely been feeling a bit exhausted lately—like real physical exhaustion. The good news is that I’m still keeping up with my workouts, and I've been making an effort to read more these last few days. Speaking of, I just sat and read lots of pages while a lovely breeze floated through the window. Hello spring!! I am flying right through my book! Love when that happens.
Since I always know my weeks will be busy, I make sure to keep meals easy-breezy during the week. So it’s a good thing we love pasta because it’s a typical go-to meal for us. I made this pasta meal in a short amount of time just a few days ago. I typically rush home from work, rush to make dinner, and then run out the door to pick-up My Love at the metro. Go, go, go!
This Spicy Southwest Pasta was packed full of flavor! Angel hair pasta slathered in a spicy tomato sauce packed with creamy black beans, diced tomatoes, and sweet corn. Did I mention there is orange in the sauce?! It thinned the sauce a bit and added a layer or sweetness that worked well with the sweet corn bits.
Sometimes I go a little heavy on the red pepper flakes, but this time I got it just right. I did end up adding a touch too much of cumin for my taste, but it added another level of spice that really stood out. Next time, I’d probably toss in a bit of chili powder, but I didn’t have any when I made this, so I can’t speak for how it’d taste. Good though, I’m guessing! Thinking of chili powder makes me miss having a warm bowl of Vegetarian Chili. Is it fall yet?! :o) Uh huh, I'm one of those people.
Go on and enjoy a bowl of this pasta out on the balcony while soaking in the lovely spring air. I’ll have to get outside and enjoy it myself before summer sets in…which is any day now around here.

Spicy Southwest Pasta
Yields 4-5 servings (we’re big pasta eaters!)

Ingredients

1 lb. pasta (I used angel hair)
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 small red onion—diced
4 cloves garlic—minced
32 oz. tomato sauce (I used homemade)
¾ cup orange juice
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1½ - 2 tsp. cumin (I originally used 1 tbsp. which was too much)
1 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can black beans—drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes—drained
2 cups frozen corn

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a boil over high-heat. Carefully break the pasta strands in half, if desired. 

While the water boils, heat a large pan over medium heat. Add the canola oil and diced red onion and cook until translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook 1 additional minute. Add in the tomato sauce, orange juice, red pepper flakes, cumin, sugar, and salt and stir to combine. Cover and let simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes—stirring occasionally.

The water should be boiling by now, so add the 2 tsp. salt and the pasta and stir to combine. Cook according to package directions (angel hair only takes 5 minutes).

To the simmering sauce, add the black beans, diced tomatoes, and frozen corn and stir to combine. Cover and let simmer for another 5 minutes.

Drain the pasta in a colander and add it back to the same pot. Carefully pour the sauce over the pasta and gently stir to combine. Serve warm.

Source
Adapted from Food.com

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The "Read" in Love.Bake.Read



Gooood evening! I hope your week is off to a good start. Lately, you might be wondering what happened to the "read" in Love.Bake.Read. I haven't posted about a book since February when I wrote about Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Well honestly, it's been a slow-go, but I've been trying to read a little more lately to keep somewhat of a balance in my life. Reading is my sanity—period. I.need.to.read. I used to be able to read every day on my lunch break, but that’s just not the case anymore. I seriously mourn the loss of my lunchtime reading. How to get back to that place…
The last two books I started reading had to be returned before I was able to finish either. Ugh! How annoying that is. The books were I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai  and Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris by Ann Mah. Now I have to put them both back on hold…and wait for them to become available again. Of course, I will finish both of the books, so I can write about them for you, which I love doing.
In the meantime, I started a new book this past Saturday—The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern. She’s one of my favorite authors! My love affair with her books started when I read her first novel, P.S. I Love You. I followed that up with Love, Rosie—a favorite of mine. Let’s just say I've read all of her books, except for her short stories Girl in the Mirror. What I love about Cecelia Ahern’s books is that they all have a magical or whimsical aspect. I am skeptical every time, but I always end up loving each book. If you've never read one of her books you definitely need to. You’ll love her—promise.
So, here’s to hoping I can get back to reading more often. Oh, how I miss it. I feel so incredibly off-balance when I don’t have quiet time to get completely lost in a good book…for hours. There really is nothing like it. Yes, I’m a total bookworm—and I love it!    

What are you currently reading? I'd love to know!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Weekend Things



Are you tuned into the Academy of Country Music Awards right now? I totally am because I'm a country music kind of girl! LOVE! Oh Luke and Blake, how funny are they?! I’m telling you, I really need to move to a lovely little country house atop a hill. I could curl up with warm blanket in front a fire place, good book in hand, hot cocoa by my side, country music playing low. A girl can dream, huh?! Gosh, that sounds incredibly peaceful. Kind of like this viewit always brings me peace.
I've been super excited this weekend for a few reasons—pink cherry blossom trees have begun blooming all around our area. We have so many just outside our apartment building. Soooo pretty! It.is.finally.spring! Now we just need to make our way down to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival happening now. The first time we visited DC was in 2009 for the festival, but the blossoms had already peaked by the time we arrived. Bummer! Hopefully we can make our way to DC this coming weekend to see the pretty blossoms.
Another reason I’m excited—I finally bought some new clothes. It’s been years!! Remember…we’re on a strict budget while we pay off our student loan debt. Target had a great sale, so My Love and I decided it’d be a good time for me to pick out a few things. I bought some lovely t-shirts made from the softest material. Can’t wait to slip those on! I scored some gorgeous turtlenecks with ¾ length sleeves—perfect for autumn time—for less than $5 each. I also bought a few pretty cardigans, some light-weight sweaters, and some much-needed tank tops. I am not at all exaggerating when I say soooo many of my clothes have holes in them. Not even kidding.
What I really need are dress pants, but Target didn't have any low-rise. I tried—and even bought—mid-rise pants, but they give me a muffin-top. Ugh! I returned them because I knew I wouldn't end up wearing them. Suggestions on where to find inexpensive low-rise dress pants? Please, please, please! I last bought dress pants in 2009, but those are also mid-rise and uncomfortable. So, I’m left to wear the dress pants I bought back in 2004. Um yes, 10 years ago. Not a typo. I’m sure you see now why I was so excited to buy some new clothes. 
Oh and I tried this dress on with a gorgeous thick brown belt and a pretty orange cardigan. What do you think?! Yes or no? Personally, I loved it. We were in the checkout line when we realized the dress had a hole in it…ugh! Of course they didn't have any more in my size. Unfortunately, I didn't end up buying any of the pieces…but I’m totally in love with the whole outfit.

One more thing that excited me this weekend—getting a FREE small coffee at McDonald’s during breakfast time. No purchase necessary. Perfect for a strict budget! Even better…I can go indulge in a coffee every morning until the 13th. Yessss, free coffee all this coming week. Yipper!

Hope you also had a lovely weekend!!