What Do I Deserve?

[This is a post I started writing just a little over a year ago.]

Lately I've been thinking about those little things we do to treat ourselves. And since that grand holiday of Mother's Day recently passed, my ears were buzzing with phrases like "pamper Mother, she deserves it." And during the rest of the year, young mothers are urged to treat herself every once in a while... after all, she does some hard work.

But this concept of treating yourself, because you deserve it, is not just a motherhood thing - it extends to just about everyone. Workers treat themselves to Happy Hour. And at the end of the day, American diners treat themselves to dessert.

There's this conversation I've had more than once with my mother. It's usually about food and around the general idea that it's OK for me to go spend a little more money on food I like so I can eat more. I remember when I graduated from college and started working at a start-up in Austin, she told me that I should eat better and eat out more. Now that I'm done with school and working hard, she said, I can afford to and deserve to spend more money on food. Eat better. Eat healthier.

Sure. Who wouldn't agree that a hard working person deserves a little splurge now and then, right? Or maybe not?

I've come to learn that the US society is made up of a lot of people who believe they deserve and they expect and they are entitled to good things. But are we really? What makes us so deserving? What makes ME so deserving?

Biblically speaking, I believe that we are made in the image of God. Does that make us privileged? No, that makes us blessed. Or maybe you don't believe in God. You were born to parents or a parent. Does that make you privileged? Well, not necessarily. You were given life, and that is a blessing, but it doesn't automatically make you privileged to anything in particular.

If this is true, then what would my life be like if I really lived like I'm NOT entitled or deserving? Would I be more grateful of what I have? Would I waste less and want less?


Curry Me Japanese

I've been in a curry mood, and it probably has something to do with the load of Japanese curry posts at Slashfood.

So for dinner I made some Japanese curry with pork from House Kokumaro Hot blocks, but I was afraid it'd be too hot for the kids so I made them a more generic curry from chicken broth and grocery store curry powder. Then the next day I went out to eat with my coworkers and had some pumpkin Thai curry.

Gee, I wonder if curry ice cream would be any good?


Should I?

I'm thinking about starting up my blog again. I miss writing. Anyone out there?


Fresh Fried Rice

Tonight for dinner I made fried rice. I love fried rice, and so do my kids. It's easy, tasty, and it's Chinese, which is a bonus because Chainwhip always wants me to cook more Chinese.

Traditionally, fried rice is made with leftovers. Leftover rice, leftover meat and leftover veggies. I typically make it with at least leftover rice and maybe leftover meat, but rarely leftover veggies. Tonight though, I didn't make it with leftover anything. It was fresh fried rice. And every time I make fresh fried rice, I feel a little guilty.

Is that odd? Why would I feel guilty for making a new pot of rice for fried rice?

But I do. Feel guilty. Like I cheated the fried rice.

Here's the quickie recipe for the fried rice I made tonight. Sorry, no pictures and no measurements.

Fresh Fried Rice

short grain rice (Yah, no purist talk. This is what I have unless you want brown fried rice, ick.)
frozen mixed veggies
2 garlic chicken sausages
2 skinny green onions
1 egg, shaken not stirred (j/k... just mix it)
light soy sauce
sesame oil

1. Cook your rice with enough time to let it cool and dry off a bit. Oh, use the water to cook your rice. haha.
2. Microwave steam your veggies in a bowl with a little bit of water. Today was the first time I opted for the microwave route, and it turned out fine.
3. Chop your sausages into small pieces. Chop your green onions in to really really small pieces.
4. Dribble some oil into your medium-high but not smokin' pan. Fry your sausages in the oil. This will flavor your oil. I usually use chopped garlic, but heck, my sausages had garlic in them. I also like to fry with bacon - of course then you won't need the oil.
5. Take out your sausages but leave the oil in the pan.
6. Loosen your rice, which should now be warm and no longer steamy, then dump it into your pan. Stir it a bit until the rice is steamy again.
7. Pour your beaten egg over the rice and stir the rice to cook the egg. I learned this from Iron Chef Chen Kenichi.
8. Dump in your microwaved, drained veggies and fried sausages. Stir to incorporate. Sounds so cook-book-y.
9. Dribble in some light soy sauce and a bit of sesame oil for flavor. Taste and add salt if it needs a kick because too much soy sauce will kill your fresh fried rice.
10. Turn off your heat and stir in your green onions.

Yum yum fresh fried rice.


Reduce Your Food Bills

Don't look the other way, we're in a recession, and now is the time to buckle down on your budget because maybe you've lost your job or maybe you're on the precipice of losing your job. Boeing will be laying off 10,000 people, and whatever my cheery supervisor says to me, I can't just sit idly and assume my job is safe.

Chainwhip and I have already added some money saving items to our list, which has been growing since almost half a year ago. We cut our free spending, pushed back our Hawaii vacation to next year, and pretty soon we'll be living cable-less and perhaps landline-less.

But one change that has taken me the most effort is reducing our food bill. I stopped buying breakfast at work which saves at least $15 a week, and Johnny stopped buying lunch around work. That means, every morning, instead of hashbrowns, eggs and bacon or hashbrowns, bacon and donut (and coffee), I bring oatmeal, an apple, yogurt and tea. That's good for my overweight coworkers who use to longingly berate my breakfast choices, but boy do I miss my morning pork fat.

I'm also clipping coupons and spending more time staring at those grocery store ads with teeny tiny photos of grocery items while simultaneously keeping a mental list of future meals and costs between stores. It's tough, but Tuesday night I had $130 of groceries in my cart but saved over $40 with sales, coupons, double coupons pushing my bill to under $100. Hooray! But I still think a $100 grocery store trip is expensive.

Here are some KKRRR tips on saving on your food bills...

* Cut the Starbucks. I know you love your latte. I know you're addicted to caffine. But there are alternatives to feed your addiction like drip your own coffee or brew some tea.

* Cook cook cook. Get off your lazy butt and bring your lunch and cook your dinner more often. Not only will you spend less, but you can control what goes into your gut.

* Eat less meat. This is a hard one for you carnivores, but meat is an expensive item, so if you cut down your intake to maybe once a day, then you'll save $$ plus you'll live a little greener. Eggs are a good source of inexpensive protein.

* Entertain by potluck. Sure you'd like to be the generous host who serves everyone a spectacular prime rib roast dinner, but if it's going to set you back hundreds, then maybe you can do that roast and ask others to bring sides.

* Buy on sale and stock up on staples when sales are hot. Plan your meals around the sale items and buy meat in larger quantities and freeze them in smaller portions. Last week I bought a bevy of oatmeal (since I've upped my intake substantially) because they had buy one get one free deals. Cha-ching.

* Pair down your organic food buys. The benefits of organic food is high, but sometimes it might not be worth the cost. Check out this MSNBC article (particularly the 2nd page) to see if you can return to conventionally farmed foods for some items.

* Buy generic. You love your Honey Nut Cheerios, but I've found something better, Mom's Best Natural Honey Nut Toasty O's. Try the other less expensive brands, and you can probably find something that meets or even exceeds your taste bud needs.

Do you have any money saving food bill tips? I'd love to save more.


Work it Out

I'm not big on new years resolutions. Probably because I don't remember what I resolve to do at the beginning of the year. I think a couple of years ago I resolved to get into shape and that's why I have a rotting gym membership at LA Fitness. It's a suspended account, so I'm not paying much monthly. But still, i'm giving money away while my body withers like a wet tissue.

Recently, I hurt my back three times on a little over a month. First shoveling the deck, then picking up my baby off the floor, and more recently, putting my baby down in his bed. For goodness sake! It's not like I'm lifting our gargantuan solid oak dining table! It just proved to me that my muscles and skeletal system are failing me in my daily routine. And that is not acceptable because this bod needs to get me through a few more decades.

So this year, I'm going to cast away my wishful gym membership for a more realistic home workout program. For Christmas, my brother gifted me the second edition of the New York City Ballet Workout DVD. (I already have the first DVD.)

I really like these ballet workout routines, but that's because I took ballet for 13 years. THIRTEEN YEARS! So that gives me a leg up on understanding the movements and awkward ballet positions. The video work and lighting are both stunning. The dancers, are of course, perfectly beautiful, and it's a nice to move to classical music instead of pounding techno. The routines are also fairly non-strenuous, certainly not very aerobic, so these DVDs are good for jump starting my new exercise habit... hopefully.

The downsides to this series is that the first DVD has some instructional mistakes and one routine is missing the second side. Also, for the ballet beginner, the workout might be somewhat frustrating or intimidating. The movements aren't all that difficult, but the form is challenging to emulate.

I also own a library of yoga DVDs by Yoga Zone.

There are a lot of conservative Christians out there who are leary about yoga for all the spiritual implications, but trust me, these DVDs do nothing to instigate the demons. For example, they instruct you in yoga breathing, ujjayi, by telling you to breathe like Darth Vader. Hmm, unless you consider Darth Vader a demon?

The yoga set is nice for variety, the scenery is beautiful, and the instructors are appropriately calm, informal and instructive. They also do a good job at giving alternative positions if you're not flexible. Average flexibility is good to start with, but I doubt my parents, who think Walk Away the Pounds is a great workout, would be able to do these routines.

And just last night I bought two Jillian Michaels kick-my-butt DVDs off of Amazon - The Complete Workout for Beginners - Frontside / Backside and 30 Day Shred.

I bought these because of the rave review from a favorite blogger, Linda of All & Sundry. She reviews 30 Day Shred on her workout site, Bodies in Motivation, and on a Mom site called Work It Mom where she also lists other favorite workout DVDs. We'll see how I like them.

So good luck to me! I don't necessarily want a ripped body, just one that will last me into my golden years.