6.21.2017

Injured List

Sometime last summer between Bikini Body Guide Week 13 and Healthy Body Guide Week 12 I injured my shoulder.  It hurt when I did those push-ups where you stick your butt up in the air, but I didn't think anything of it.  I was working out 5-6 days a week so there were always aches and pains.  I was sore for like two months straight, and I have had painful knees since high school.  I can work through pain, and pain is all I thought it was.  After a while I stopped doing push-ups in the way that hurt, and stuck with regular ones.  I figured maybe I'd just tweaked my arm somehow, and that it would eventually go away.

But it didn't. 

I did circuit training workouts with cardio in between from January through September.  As planned, I went to Hawaii in October feeling better about my body than I had in a long time.  When I returned, I settled into a less intense and less structured workout schedule.  I bought a Yoga strap and was excited about shifting my focus to Yoga, and working on my back flexibility, but by the end of November I could barely lift my purse.  Up until then, my shoulder only hurt when I did those butt in the air push ups (also known as pike push-ups), but suddenly I couldn't lift my arm, or reach for things, without a searing pain ripping through shoulder.  I couldn't sleep on my right side or my stomach.  All arm workouts ceased.  I couldn't even do yoga.

I have bad knees so I can't overwork my lower half.  I didn't know what to do, so mostly, I just walked/ran on the weekends and did one leg circuit training workout per week, until eventually I quit the one circuit too. The only thing I really felt comfortable doing without knowing what was wrong with my shoulder was walking, but also I was burnt out.  The weather was cooler, the days were getting shorter, and my Insomnia continued to be terrible so when my shoulder pain started to take over, I kind of gave up.  If I moved my arm a certain way, or even moved it too fast it hurt.  Even simple things like driving, opening doors, and lifting my arm to wave at someone caused me pain.  I'd started walking around with my elbow stuck to my side because that was the best way to ensure there would be no painful movements.

I can't even snuggle up next to my husband unless I'm on his right hand side.  The last night he was home we went to bed with me on the usual right side of the bed, but woke up with me on the other side wedged between him and the edge of the bed because I needed one last night of cuddles before he left.

I went to the doctor in January and got sent home with a list of shoulder exercises.  I did them diligently every day, and my shoulder started to feel worse.  Then it started to feel better.  Then it started to feel worse.  I went back to the doctor and pushed for a referral to Orthopedics, because in my eyes, this was way past a wait and see situation.  I needed some answers.  Orthopedics sent me for an MRI in March which confirmed a tear in my Supraspinatus rotator cuff muscle.  Physical Therapy started in April. 

There are four rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder.  One along the top, two across the front, and one that runs along the back.  The one I tore is the one that runs along the back of the shoulder.  It affects abduction, so for me it's kind of like having a dead arm.  My arm feels about 50 times heavier than it actually is.  I actually feel gravity pushing against it whenever I activate my muscles to lift my arm.  Depending on the motion I either feel weakness or pain.  Sometimes it aches from my shoulder all the way to my collar bone with no movement, and other times I forget it's injured until I'm trying to pull up my covers while lying in bed or reaching over to hit the switch for the garage door on my way out. 

I wasn't sure how I was going to fit in my daily exercises, but I make it work because a rotator cuff tear is not the kind of thing that will just go away on it's own.  I wish it would.  I do a set of exercises before work, a set when I get home, and the last set before I go to bed.  I do this every single day, because being injured sucks and I don't even want to think about having surgery.  At my last physical therapy appointment they added three additional exercises.  Two months later, there is some improvement, but it also seems to be up and down.  Some days are better than others.  I can sleep on my stomach now, which is pretty exciting, and less things are causing me pain throughout the day, but my arm is still not 100%.  Not even close.  It's very stiff in the mornings and getting in and out of shirts and sweaters still hurts.

I don't want to live with chronic pain.  I want to handstands and bridges again.  I want to be able to do push ups, and as much as I love to hate it, I even want to do Bikini Body Guide again, but until then, I'll be in the corner working my therapy bands and over the door pulley system from the 1980's.  Last month I realized I'd be on vacation in a bikini in less than two months and had only been running on the weekends.  Oops.  So I started a no impact mostly abdominal/lower body toning workout I can do multiple times per week without moving the upper half too much and only a few adjustments. 

What a difference a year makes.

I'm not sure what I could have done differently, and still don't know exactly what caused it.  I think it's just an over use thing, but I've always been pretty physically active.  I had no reason to believe my body couldn't handle what I was doing, so I don't think there would have been any way to anticipate something like this.

Anyway, the cuff is torn, and it's hard being on limited exercise.  I'm doing what I can do and it will just have to be good enough until I can do more.  Hopefully soon. 


6.09.2017

How We Traveled to Europe on a Budget


I think sometimes we feel kind of weird about talking about how much we spent on things unless it was super cheap.  Like, if someone compliments you on your shirt you could proudly say, "Thanks, it was only $20," but what if it was $125?  Is it still okay to volunteer that information?  I wouldn't know because I've never spent that much on a shirt, but I have spent that much on jeans.  Now I'm going to tell you how much I spent on my first trip to Europe

When we decided on a European vacation in 2012, I was so nervous about how much it would cost.  I googled "average cost of European vacation" and a few sources said about $2,000 depending on where you go, how long you stay, and accommodation preferences, which didn't tell me much.  I fake booked possible flights and possible hotels for possible dates in possible cities, and the numbers scared me.  I wanted to experience that whole backpacking through Europe kind of thing...minus the backpack...because in general I travel with way too much stuff to make that work.  I wanted to be there for at least two weeks and see as many cities as possible, but how do I do that on a budget?

That's where Carnival Cruise Lines came in.

Airfare:
1 round trip ticket:  San Diego to Europe:  $1,026
1 one way ticket:  Barcelona to Paris $126
Total:  $1,152

Train:
1 ticket Thalys High Speed Paris to Amsterdam: $100
1 ticket CNL overnight train Amsterdam to Stuttgart:  $150  (doubled as hotel room that night)
Total: $250

Lodging:
7 nights Carnival Cruise Mediterranean Cruise (Double Occupancy):  $1,172  (total for 2 people!)
     *Ports of call-  SPAIN:  Barcelona, FRANCE: Toulon (Aix En Provence), Cannes, Livorno (Florence & Pisa)
     *ITALY:  Civitavecchia (Rome), Naples.
2 nights Barcelona:  $250  
2 nights Paris: $372
1 night Amsterdam $133
Total (12 nights Lodging for two people):  $1,927


Not included is excursions, food and drink for our non cruise days, and miscellaneous transportation expenses to get from point A to point B via train.  We mostly used trains, but I think there was one or two taxi's involved.  MJ is excellent at navigation so we didn't have to do a lot of the shore excursions which can be pricey.  We only did one, and it was because of a transportation strike on our Pisa and Italy day.  So the cost for one person (assuming hotel is split down the middle) was $1,402 for airfare (flying in from the West Coast)/transportation and $963 for 12 nights of lodging based on double occupancy accommodations for a grand total of $2,365.55 all in.  I know it sounds terribly expensive when you lay it out there like that, but the average cost per night for 13 nights lodging was $158 and we got to experience so much.  I still can't believe how much bang for our buck we got out of that cruise.
Carnival Cruise Ship
So this is how our trip went.  I flew from San Diego to Barcelona, MJ flew from Stuttgart to Barcelona (at a cost of $160 one way) and we met up at the airport.  We spent one night in Barcelona in a cheapie (but very clean and nice) hotel near the airport.  We spent seven nights on the cruise traveling from Spain, to France, to Italy, and then back to Spain.  The ship returns early so we had the day to explore Barcelona and spend one more night there, before hopping on an airplane to Paris for two nights.  We took a train from Paris to Amsterdam where we spent one night, and then an overnight train from Paris to Stuttgart.  We had to fly home out of Stuttgart because MJ was already there for work and that is where his round trip ticket originated from.  I suppose I could have left him in Amsterdam, but nope, I wanted to do that last leg on the overnight train with him and then fly home together.

Pisa, Italy

It was a whirlwind.  I'm exhausted just thinking about our crazy schedule.  It was insane.  Up early every day to make the most of the day before having to get back to the ship, then to bed as late as possible because we wanted to enjoy every minute that we could of our experience.  We felt it was in our best interest to make the most of the time we were over there, so we added Paris and Amsterdam after the cruise.  Yes, that meant more money, but the way I see it when it costs a cool G to get somewhere I want to stay there as long as I possibly can.  When we traveled on our own after the cruise we didn't have to be back at the ship at a certain time and it was nice to have a little bit more time to meander the last four nights before catching the overnight train to Stuttgart.  It was basically a quick hits tour of Europe.  We didn't have time to just be in most of our destinations, but I loved that trip so much, and as go, go, go as it was I have no regrets about doing it that way.  We were able to visit four countries (not counting Germany because I only saw the train station and the airport) and ten cities.  Food for most of the trip was taken care of.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Do I want to travel that way again?  Maybe.  Preferably a cruise with less involved ports of call like the islands of Bermuda or the Bahamas.  The kind of places where you want to sit at the beach all day or explore a small village.  However, if you are trying to get to Europe and you need to do it on a budget I would still recommend a cruise.  It was a wonderful experience and a wonderful way to see a lot of Europe, but it did get me craving the experience of spending more time in those places.  I already knew I wanted to go back to Rome because Rome wasn't built in a day and we found out very quickly that it can't be fully explored in one either.  I knew I'd want to go back to Paris because Paris in October can be chilly and rainy.  We didn't have time for the Palace of Versailles, or the opportunity to bask in the glory that is the Eiffel Tower as much as I wanted to.  It's a huge city and I want to see more.  We got our second chance at Rome, over Thanksgiving and we will be going back to Paris.

Our biggest family vacation was Ensenada, Mexico.  We visited family in Michigan and Northern California.  We didn't fly anywhere, and now that I'm older I know why.  It's damn expensive to fly a family anywhere, let alone pay for accommodations.  Families who can still afford to travel are very fortunate.

As an adult my first vacations consisted of road trips to Las Vegas.  Then short cruises, often including my own city as a port of call!  My older sister and I did two of those together, and it was great.  Time away is time away, and we had fun together.  My next biggest vacation was a 7 day cruise in the Caribbean.  I was attracted to the one stop shop package deal that even allows you to book in advance and make payments.  It was a good way for me to dip my toes into traveling without having to spend too much.  I was that person who would travel to Las Vegas, but eat Subway and Panda Express while I was there to save money.  I'm the one who insisted we eat as many meals as possible on ship.  My husband is a heck of a lot more liberal than I when it comes to spending on vacation.  I've had to come a little more towards his side because he is not about nickel and diming his way through a vacation.  


Our Oahu honeymoon in 2010  was my first non road trip non cruise vacation after a very long vacation drought, and I've been hooked ever since.  Every vacation since is right here on this blog and it brings me so much joy to go back and read the posts.  I must have a vacation planned at all times, and I've been lucky enough for that to be the case pretty consistently since then.  There was that stretch of time after our second time to Oahu last October when I had nothing planned.  I went to Germany last minute for Thanksgiving, and when I came back there was another lull in the vacation planning.  Everything was up in the air with MJ being out of the country for the year, but  I am kne deep in vacation planning mode and will finally get to check that one place off my bucket list I've been dreaming of for a while.  I have something to live for again!! Only partly joking, because when I'm in that day to day grind of work, eat, sleep, having a vacation to look forward to means a lot.

Paris, France
After last years girls trip to Vegas, some of my friends were saying that we should plan a trip someplace further.  Some place international.  I didn't say no, but I never agreed, and eventually I had to say that I'm not available to do those kinds of trips.  I felt a little bad, but the thing is, my husband and I love to travel.  I can't commit to taking trips with them, because I don't have the time or the resources to do it all.  I wish I did! I would be agreeable to a cruise or some other shorter domestic trip, but my husband is my ultimate travel partner and I really want to experience those places with him.  I'm the only married woman in the group, but I think they understand.

If you don't enjoy traveling.  Congratulations! You are saving money.  But if you do, then figure out a way to get out there and see the world.  White sand beaches, turquoise waters, lush rain forests, grand cathedrals, cobblestone streets....there is so much beauty to be discovered and I can't seem to get enough.  I don't even even want to know the grand total of what we've spent on our vacations.  I also don't really care that much.  I care, because I'm wired to be frugal, but I also don't care because it was worth every penny. 

Related:
Europe:  4 Countries, 10 Cities, 15 Days

The Cost of Vegas  

5.25.2017

How Much it Costs to Feed Me

I have a thing for numbers.  Not math.  I hate math.  I suck at math, but when it comes to creating budgets I'm good at it and I'm fascinated (although sometimes disturbed) with knowing how much things cost.  Now that my normal meal plan has been firmly established for well over a year, I thought it would be interesting to see exactly how much it costs to feed me.  I've heard people say that eating healthy is not expensive, but I've never believed them.  Whole foods are not cheap, and when was the last time you saw a coupon for a bag of apples or a pack of meat?  Yes, those things do go on sale, but you will never find 3rd party coupons for them the way you do for things like Zatarain's rice and pasta dinner mix or Aunt Millie's hamburger buns. I got a thick coupon book from McDonald's in the mail full of the usual burgers and deep fried chicken, but they couldn't be bothered to include a single coupon for one of their premium salads.

This list of foods and prices were collected from several receipts over a period of months, and is a comprehensive listing of everything I meal prep and eat on a daily basis.  When I say everything, I mean everything.  My shopping list is saved as a note in my phone and it rarely changes. I eat out on Friday night and Saturday night always.  I'm sorry, but ground turkey and broccoli while I watch my Friday night movie does not cut it.  I don't mind eating the same thing every week, but I have my limits.  I might take a week off here and there, but for the most part I meal prep every week, and this is what I've been eating for the last year and a half. Same old, same old because I'm just not that into cooking. 

Fats
Peanut Butter (40oz):  $5.48  --$1.27 per week
Almonds (@6.99 per lb): $9.50  --$3.05 per week
Weekly Total:  $4.32

Carbs
Whole Wheat Tortilla (12 ct): $2.46  --$1.43 per week
100% Whole Wheat Bread (8oz/18 slices): $2.96-$3.42--$2.66 per week (I eat 5 days per week .95)
Ezekial Bread 4:9 (24oz/20 slices): $4.99  --$3.49 per week (I eat this weekends only $1.50)
Fiber 1 Cereal (16oz): $3.74  --.87 per week
Weekly Total:  $4.75

Protein
Ground Turkey 93/7 (48 oz): $8.96
Boneless Chicken Breast (2.0 lbs @1.98 lb): $9.51 or
Boneless Chicken Tenders (2.0 lbs @4.95 lb): $7.18 x 2 or
Boneless Chicken Tenders (1.25 lbs): $4.95 x 2
Weekly Total:  $23.32

Fruits & Vegetables
Green Onions: $1.18  --0.59 per week
Frozen Bell Pepper Strips (14 oz): $2.18  --$1.09 per week
Broccoli (2.4 lbs@1.26 lb): $3.02
Shredded Carrots: $1.67  --0.84 per week
Baby Carrots (32 oz): $2.34  --$3.07 per week
Apple (@.97 per lb): $2.33  --$2.76 per week
Weekly Total:  $11.37  

Dairy
Skim Milk (1/2 Gallon): $1.67  --0.84 per week
Fage Total 0% Yogurt (35 oz): $5.98  --$9.57 per week
Weekly Total:  $10.41

Coffee
Stevia (80 ct):  $3.96  --$1.04 per week (I also use this in my Fage)
Creamer (16 oz): $3.18  --0.74 per week
K-Cup (72ct): $35.00 --$3.43 per week
Weekly Total:  $5.21*
*I only use K cups on weekends because coffee is free at work so actual expense is closer to .98 weekly, but I do occasionally stop for $1.25 coffee at 7-11 so I did not adjust.

Wine o'clock: 1 bottle $4.97

Total Spent Weekly $64.35
Total Spent Monthly $257.40

The weekly and monthly totals do not include sales tax.  They also do not include cinnamon to sweeten my Fage or the spices, reduced sodium soy sauce, and reduced sodium Worcestershire sauce ($3.42) that I use to season my meat. It does not include Reduced Fat Ritz Crackers ($1.98) and Pretzels ($1.98) which I like to keep on hand to snack on from time to time.  I almost didn't include my wine because it's not even food, but lets get real, I'm pretty consistent about my weekly wine habit, so even though it might make me look like a wino it made sense to add. 

I know these numbers to be true because I am that person who know exactly how many ounces of everything I eat and can tell you exactly how many ounces are in a pound or how many grams make an ounce without looking it up.  The only thing I did not calculate based on the exact portion size is creamer and peanut butter.  I just eye ball it.  I divided those prices by 30 days because I think I have to replace them about once a month or so.

What this tells me is that eating healthy isn't cheap, at least I don't think it is.  Minus the coffee accoutrements and the wine this is the cost for a healthy diet consisting of 100% whole foods.  Processed food tends to be more expensive.  Right?  So I imagine that my bill would be even higher if I those were a big part of my purchases.

I saved so much money when I didn't eat.  I will never go back to that, but sadly it's true.  It's also sad that I don't even know if I could have afforded $250 a month for groceries back then.  I may have, but it would have been so tight.  I didn't know how to eat properly back then, but even if I had wanted to I'm sure that I would have been put off by how much it costs.

The numbers also tell me that although I did a pretty good job of estimating, I may be a bit under on our joint grocery budget.  When I did Whole30 it cost $520.00 for me alone for 30 days!  I was floored.  After that, I increased our budget from $350 to $500 because we were making changes in our diets and I realized that $350 was not realistic.  If it takes $250 just to feed me, it definitely costs a more to feed my husband because he eats a lot more protein.  He changes his meal plans up a little bit more than I do, but when he returns home it will be interesting to calculate exactly how much it costs to feed him.  And we may have to increase our budget.  Ugh. 

 So how do I stack up? Am I spending too much?

The IRS National Standard for monthly food expense is $345 for 1, $612 for 2, and $737 for 3.  According to the official USDA Food Plan, Thrifty is $164.20, Low-Cost is $207.50, Moderate is $256.30 and Liberal is $327.10 monthly for a female of my age.  For a male & female family of two our $500 budget puts us between low cost and liberal.  According to this Gallup poll from 2012 the American family reports spending an average of $604 per month. In San Diego County a household can qualify for up to $194 for 1, $357 for 2, and $511 per month for 3 through the SNAP government assistance program.

Sometimes when I go through the check out and my total is $85.00, I'm shocked because I realize just how expensive it is to keep yourself fed, and that doesn't even include keeping yourself housed and clothed.  But what else can I do to spend less? 

Giving up coffee and wine isn't an option.

There are probably a few swaps I could make, but overall the cost of whole foods is the cost of whole foods and there isn't much I can do about it.  I buy Ezekiel Bread and Almonds in bulk at Sprouts.  I shop at my Neighborhood Walmart for everything else because it's close to home and cheap.  I am sure the totals would be much higher if I shopped at Ralph's or Von's.  I admit, Ezekiel bread is kind of a luxury item. Fage is pricey, but it's the best.  Regular carrots are probably cheaper, but baby carrots taste so much better.  The biggest swap I could (and probably should make) is to stick with the whole chicken breasts instead of the pre-cut tenders.  It bothers me that I am paying so much more just because I don't have to cut it, but raw meat is gross, and it's easier to have it done for me.  Those thick breasts take so much longer to cook and I got so sick of eating them that way.  I refuse to buy more than two at a time and since it's just me, I'm allowing myself to do it.  Also, since it's just me I don't feel the need to splurge on a "nice" bottle of wine. 

How do you stack up when it comes to your grocery expenses?  Do tell.  I'm fascinated.

5.10.2017

That Type of Person


I'm the type of person who kind of shuts down when insomnia takes over.  Combine that with being pushed to the limit at work and I'm done.  Motivation is down and inspiration is squashed.  I can't muster the energy for anything extra and that definitely includes all things blogging.  Stringing together coherent thoughts for a post is impossible, and then the longer I go the easier it is not to, and then I feel so bummed out that I'm not blogging that it makes me not even want to read blogs.  A few weeks ago a friend asked me on Friday around 7pm if I wanted to go to an art festival the next day.  I was already in pajamas trying to stay awake on a movie.  If she needed to know right then the answer was no because when I'm that nauseated from fatigue I can't imagine wanting to do anything.  I told her I'd text her the next morning because tomorrow is a new day, and sure enough the sun was shining and I was ready run around like a mad getting all the errands and Saturday stuff done before rushing off to Art Walk where we had a great time. 
What we had for lunch at Art Walk
I'm the type of person who doesn't think anyone cares about the type of person I am.  I think this also tends to contribute to my lack of blogging at times.  When you think about it blogging is kind of bold.  It's hey look at me, look at what I'm doing, and this is what I think! When you are a lifestyle blogger you might blog about things like travel, fashion, or cooking, but a lot of it is all about you.  When you get right down to it blogging requires some level of confidence to assume that people are interested in who you are and anything you have to say at all and the confidence to be okay with it if they aren't.  It's funny how I don't truly realize confidence is exactly what it takes until it's gone, but like those times when I feel too tired for life that confidence comes and goes.

I'm the type of person who feels so deeply.  Sometimes I think I am too emotionally fragile for the world.  I cry on movies, commercials, and TV shows.  I watched a documentary on Netflix called Be Here Now, and I sat on my couch alone in the dark and sobbed for a good five minutes after it was over.  I was so saddened and moved that I thought about it for weeks.  I hate conflict too.  It is entirely too stressful.  If I have to deal with conflict or if people are mad at me I feel physically ill.  Appetite gone.  Stomach in knots.  I hate it that people have to die, that there are so many sick and suffering, and so many people who are just plain evil.  Feelings can be such a burden!  I feel good things very deeply too.  That part I like.

I'm the type of person who loves watching people's dreams comes true and I will use that as an excuse for watching another silly reality TV show.   The Pop Game, features five teenagers are invited to live in an LA mansion and compete for a record deal while their parents/managers bicker and cause drama in the background.  MJ totally judged me for watching it, but what can you do?  Admitting that I watched it (and will watch it again if there is another season) is a little embarrassing, but it was so good.  I sat there and cried (of course) on the last episode because I saw so much growth in each contestant and wanted them all to win because they improved so much and did so good.  Gosh, you'd think I know these kids or something.

So how's that for my first post back in a month?

I actually feel like a human being today instead of a zombie, and I really wanted to take advantage of that and write, even though I didn't have anything in particular to say.  I also might be the type of person who cares too much about what other people think.  I need not allow thoughts that nobody is interested or that I don't have anything important to say prevent me from blogging.  So What.  Right?  So here I am writing without apology, and without regard to how literary or "post worthy" this may be.  Just me, writing what I want (and hitting publish before I change my mind) because it's what I I like to do.

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