Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Windmill in the Garden

Chris and I spontaneously went to the park this afternoon, it was gorgeous and we didn't really have any plans for the day. We stopped at the Queen Wilhelmina Garden to try our hand at geo-caching (which failed). While Chris was busy navigating and hunting for treasure, I took some photos of the windmill and the garden.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Second Time Around the Block

Today is my second time riding my bike to work. Today was a little different. It was foggy and a little drizzly. And much colder than Wednesday. But as I type this, the skies are clear and it looks like it will be a gorgeous day. Funny how different the weather can be in 30 minutes time.

San Francisco is a pretty amazing city. We have pretty descent transportation systems that cover most of the city. It could use some updating and improvements, but by and large, it works pretty well. We also have a lot of bike lanes. Many were added or improved within the past two years. And most of them take you around the steep hills you'll find scattered throughout the city. I read somewhere that 7 out of 10 people ride bikes in the city (granted I don't think that is during the week because there are still a lot of cars on the road).

The route to and from my work is mostly flat, there is one main hill I have to deal with. So far, the drivers I have encountered have been very courteous by giving me plenty of room to ride. And the other bikers can probably tell I'm new to this so they just pass me by.

I have gotten caught up behind double-parked cars which is a pain. I've also gotten stuck behind a biker drinking coffee while riding (because I'm quite quick enough to pass yet). I also have to maneuver around buses and this morning had a semi to get around. But other than those little things that pop up during my ride, it is pretty easy.

My body is not used to riding a bike at all; on the way home the other day, I was approaching the hill and could barely breath much less pedal! My legs started shaking too. I decided to walk the rest of the way (only 2 blocks, all up hill). But my legs were so tired I could barely walk! I also am not very balanced; when I signal I'm turning, I get a little wobbly and it takes me a little while to get going again after I've come to a stop. (I know these things shout "Newbie" to those around me!)

This will take some practice! But it will be good for me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

City Girl takes on the Bike

When we first moved into the city, I was really excited about the public transportation and Chris was really excited to bike. And those options worked out really well for both of us. The bus took me within blocks of work and Chris could bike to work faster than he could drive there!

Then I started walking to get in some exercise which lasted about 8 months and then I started experiencing pain in my legs and feet. This meant that I had to take the bus all the time. Then my doctor recommended I bike.

To be honest, I resisted. I had never been really big into biking. I grew up in the country and we only rode our bikes on gravel which was not exactly a good time. I remember attempting to ride on the highway in high school which was difficult with semi trucks driving 55-60 mph. next to me. I actually have not been on a bike since then.

The idea of riding a bike with traffic in the city is just not my thing. I'd rather walk on the sidewalk away from cars that could potentially hurt me. I've heard way too many stories to know that it can be dangerous. And I have a strong dislike of wind in my face and traveling at high speeds (water skiing, motorcycle, down hill skiing, some roller coasters and biking all fall into this category).

But, Chris raves about how much he loves riding in the city and how much faster it is than the bus. And he's always saying that I'll love it. He's very encouraging too when it comes to me needing to get my exercise in a safe and pain free way.

The plan has been that Chris would buy a new bike and I would take his. It might be one size too big but I think it'll work for my "trial period." (If I love biking, I can start saving up for my own.)

Well, Chris hasn't purchased his new one yet, but he also hasn't been needing his bike lately. The bike has been sitting there. Staring at me. Begging me to try it. I eye it every night and think, "Okay, tomorrow I will try it." But then it rains. And then I say "I'll wait until Chris buys his bike and then we can go riding together first." But then I feel like that's just my excuse to wait. And the bike just continues to stare at me.

So, I decided I should at least try it. This weekend I bought myself a helmet. Chris's siblings had gotten me a few things I would need for my bike for Christmas, so I was all set. The only thing I needed was courage.

For the past week, I have asked Chris at least one question every day about the bike or biking in the city. I think he could tell I was getting ready. (He was probably laughing at how long "getting ready" was taking me!) He was so patient and helpful in explaining everything to me.

Last night, he had me sit on the bike to make sure the seat adjustment was to my liking. It felt like such a huge step for me. To sit on the bike! (Ha, I'm laughing at myself now. This is just so silly!) Afterwards he asked me, so are you going to ride it tomorrow?

I said, "Yes! Unless I have nightmares."

And I didn't have nightmares at all, I actually slept really well. So, this morning, I got on my bike and went to work. And you know the saying, "It's just like riding a bike?" Well, it's true. It came right back to me and I think it went pretty well. Granted, I've only done it once and I still have to ride home!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Cookbook in the House

My brother gave me a new cookbook for Christmas. It's called "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love your food, loose the weight " Sparkpeople is a weight loss/change your life by being healthy website that I've been a part of for over a year. It's a great site and I would recommend it to anybody looking for motivation to be healthier this year. (

Last week was the first chance I had to use the cookbook. I was so excited--the cookbook is beautiful with full-page photos and it's layed out really well. The first recipe I tried was coconut shrimp. I have never ever made shrimp before, but was on sale and I had recently seen a demo on how to de-vein and clean them so I thought it was worth a try. And they were delicious! (And de-veining shrimp isn't so bad.)

Last night I made the spinach-stuffed chicken breast with cheese sauce. It was actually pretty easy if you're patient and it was so good! I will definitely be making that again (let me know when you want to come over!).

I really enjoy cooking and I try to make good tasting health food. Sometimes it's just good, and sometimes it's just healthy but from what see in this cookbook, it'll be both! This stuffed chicken was!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Vegas, Baby!

As many of you know, my sister Molly got married in Las Vegas. It wasn't a "destination wedding" since her and her husband live there, but for the rest of us it was!  Chris and I arrived just two days before the wedding which gave the us time to catch up with the family and help Molly get ready for her big day.

We all stayed at Southpoint Hotel & Casino which was a pretty nice place. It was off the strip a ways but it had everything you would need (including blinking lights and smoke in the crowded casino). But seriously, it had a movie theater and a bowling alley too!

On Friday night, after the rehearsal dinner we went out on the strip with my siblings and my cousin Stephanie. We had a really good time together catching the free shows. We saw the water show at the Bellagio which was incredible:

On Sunday night we saw the "The Sirens of TI" show (basically pirates) at Treasure Island. There were cannons, a sinking ship, and fireworks. We also went to Gulley's for some two-stepping and line dancing! We hadn't been dancing (other than at weddings) in over a year and I had a great time! I could watch line dancing (well, any kind of dancing really) for hours!

Inside the Venetian is a pretty popular night club (Tao); on Thursday I attempted to have Molly's bachelorette party there but even though we had tickets and got in just fine, it was so crowded and noisy we couldn't even find a place to stand! We left early. I was pretty bummed that my plan didn't work out, but we had fun going back to the hotel and playing games. 

I had never been to Vegas before; I really didn't know what to expect. It was definitely more lively than I had expected. I don't think I expected there to be casinos in every hotel, and I know I wasn't expecting there to be smoke! It has been so long since I had been in a smoke-welcomed building! My eyes were not a fan (the smoke just made them burn). 

I really enjoyed the water show at the Bellagio. Our hotel was really great and the time with family was wonderful . . .  it kind of felt like one of our old family vacations except we weren't camping! 

I'm sure I could fill the rest of this post up with negative things to say about the city and the strip and all the dark things happening there, but really, I don't want to go there at the moment. I was there for my sister's wedding and I really did have a great time on and off the strip!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Molly's Vegas Wedding

My sister got married in Las Vegas last Saturday. The sky was clear and the sun was out, but there was definitely a chill to the wind. The sun hit her back as she walked down the aisle and her cathedral-length veil danced in the wind as my father gave her away. She was beautiful. She is always beautiful.

My other sister and I stood by her side along with four of her other close friends. Eighty guests sat on the white chairs witnessing the union--they missed the glances the bride and groom were giving each other throughout the ceremony. Quick little winks, smirks of love, and grins filled with joy and anticipation.

After the vows were exchanged and kisses given, the party continued in the reception hall. It was decorated beautifully with chair covers and sashes, white linen and candle lit lanterns. Dinner was very tasty and the cake was scrumptous. The dance was a blast.

All of my dad's siblings were there which made it a lot of fun-I rarely get to see my aunts and uncles from his side. I even got to dance with my Uncle Mike! A few relatives from my mom's side made it too! The reception and dance quickly became a family reunion for me. I loved catching up with them all.

The evening moved quickly and soon the bride and groom were leaving. They ran through the bubbles and into their get-a-way car and sped off into the night.

My sister is married. She's a wife now. I have a new brother-in-law. My family is changing.

The High of Couponing

This week I needed to do some serious grocery shopping; our refrigerator was pretty bare when we got back from Las Vegas. I've gotten into a pretty good groove with my menu planning, grocery list making and couponing. Most weeks I can save around $6-$10 more than I did when I wasn't clipping coupons, but this week I felt like I hit the jack-pot! Almost everything I needed to pick up was either on sale, I had a coupon or both! The other bonus was that my husband actually did the shopping for me while I was at work!

When I got home I was excited to look over the receipt -- just to see how everything went and I was blown away! My favorite cereal, Fiber One was on sale and there was a Safeway coupon in the circular plus I had found a coupon online too. My husband bought three boxes for me (cause we have to stalk up when it's on sale), and each box was only $1.25 (instead of $5 each). Amazing!

Pistachios were on sale a few weeks ago but Safeway didn't have them in stock when I went to go pick them up. They were buy 1 get 2 free so I got a rain check. Well, we love pistachios and they aren't cheap so my wonderful husband used the deal twice so we got 6 bags for the price of two and we also had a coupon for a free bag. We bought 7 bags for the price of 2! Awesome!

Campbell's condensed soup was also on sale and I found a coupon. This is one thing I hate paying full price for (since it's not as cheap as it was when I was a kid)! We bought 5 cans for $2. Very nice!

Everything shown in this picture cost me $17.62! If I had bought them while they weren't on sale and without coupons it would have been $62.85 (but I don't know why I would ever do that!)

Getting deals like this just make me want to keep clipping! I wish I could find coupons for everything in my kitchen! I love seeing the results of my planning and shopping trips and knowing that I am saving my family money. It's kind of scary how addicting it can be. No wonder "Extreme Couponing" is actually a TV show!

Needless to say we bought much more than what I photographed. The whole trip cost: $56 and my receipt says we saved $94! And saving 65% makes me really happy!