To Do: A Life Bucket List

I recently visited a girl’s blog where she had a life list, a place where she kept track of her life goals and when she achieved them.  Some were big, like graduating from a top tier business school, while some were smaller, like trying rock climbing. I think of it as similar to having a Vision Board, somewhere where you can see your dreams. I have regularly written in a journal since I was 12 years old, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a list of goals like this. I liked the idea of writing them out, and wondered what I’d add to my own list at this point in my life.

Surprisingly, when I sat down to start, I drew a blank and had to go for some low-hanging fruit: travel destinations!  I DO have a ‘top 5 countries I want to visit’ list (one of these, we visited earlier this year– Japan!) so I started with those. After only a few minutes though, I felt very light and energetic as I brainstormed additional things I want to do.

I also started a second list, of things I want to be. It’s a refreshing way to shake myself out of my routine and think of the bigger picture– is there a way I can work toward one of these big goals today or this week? This is a great exercise for bringing one’s day-to-day life in line with the big picture.

Visit Japan: check!
Visit Japan: check!

To Do: A List

  1. Visit Alaska to see wildlife, eat salmon, and see glaciers!
  2. Visit Greece to eat healthy, delicious Mediterranean food and see that deep color of blue.
  3. Visit Italy to eat their food, drink their wine, and see the beautiful landscapes.
  4. Cruise from Hawaii to Australia or New Zealand, visiting other Pacific island nations on the way. Scuba dive in each place.
  5. Publish a book.
  6. Learn to crochet and create adorable crocheted toys for kids. (see image below for an example!)
  7. Create some Hawaiian image-themed items with photos I’ve taken and sell them on Etsy.
  8. Design more earrings, increasing my sales and profit margins.
  9. Learn to make at least one recipe per meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and type of food (dessert, barbeque item, snack, cocktail) that is amazingly delicious.
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/6f/23/52/6f23526f78efbd85e57c730bb764bf53.jpg
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/6f/23/52/6f23526f78efbd85e57c730bb764bf53.jpg

To Be: A List

  1. Author
  2. Creator
  3. Free
  4. Fluent
  5. Wife
  6. Mother
  7. Aunt
  8. Best friend
  9. Innovator
  10. Manager
  11. Penpal
  12. Supporter
  13. Trend-setter

The lists above are the result of about a half hour of thought. I’m planning on editing them and adding many more items to the list. What would you put on your list?

Here’s the original post with the girl’s Life List that inspired me to try this out.

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Graze Box Review #2

ready to toss into your lunch bag
ready to toss into your lunch bag

Here comes the next installment of snacks delivered to our door by graze.com! For more info. on this subscription box, check out the bottom section of this post. If you have any questions about it, please let me know in the comments.

I think there’s a lot of potential for this subscription box.  Each time we get a box, I think there’s a few snacks that we don’t enjoy, and that’s fine since there’s usually 75% or more that we do enjoy. See below for reviews of the snacks we had this week.

  • Strawberries and Cream Granola Topper: LIKE (oat and barley granola, yogurt coated strawberry pieces and freeze dried strawberry pieces) We received this in one of our first boxes so it’s one of our first repeats. Good to toss onto a yogurt.
  • Vanilla Walnut Fudge: TRASH (walnuts, fudge pieces, raisins and vanilla pumpkin seeds)  I’m not a fan of the fudge– too sweet!
  • Vitamin C Crush: TRASH (mango, pineapple pieces and coconut flakes) The coconut flakes are tasteless. I like the mango and pineapple bits, but the coconut kills the party.
  • Southern BBQ Pistachios: LIKE Subtle, enjoyable taste of barbeque flavoring. Some of these were difficult to get to shell off of.
  • Pecan Power: LIKE (pecan nuts, almonds and cranberries) Nice, simple, healthy mix.
  • Cocoa and Vanilla Protein Flapjack: LIKE (rustic rolled oat cocoa flapjack with mixed seeds) These tiny moist granola bars are very filling, so a great addition to have with your morning coffee or to throw in your snack bag for a hike.
  • El Picante: LIKE (hot chili peanuts, jumbo salted corn and mini paprika breadsticks) The second repeat snack for this box, I think we got this in our first ever box. Very tasty mix.
  • Olive and Rosemary Bruschetta: LIKE (kalamata olive crouton, rosemary and garlic flavoured cashews and mini tomato breadsticks) I ate this along with some leftover pasta with garlic flavored sauce, so it was a perfect complement. Quite strong garlic flavor, so be warned that you may need gum afterward. ;P

Graze is a subscription service in both the US and UK that is quite customizable: four or eight snacks? weekly, biweekly, or monthly delivery? sweet or savory or mix of both? There are other themes (protein, low sugar, low calorie) as well if you have specific goals. I get the 8-snack box twice a month (which is $12 a pop, or $1.50 per snack), and began my subscription in May 2015. If you’re interested in getting your first and fifth boxes free, if you use my code REBECK4ZB when you sign up, then I get a bonus as well!

Use my code if you would like to try these snacks too!
Use my code if you would like to try these snacks too!

Juice Boost: Healthy Fresh Recipes

Especially during summer heat waves, freshly squeezed juice is the best! Hawaii’s trade winds took a few weeks off (they’re otherwise pretty constant) so we’ve hit some record highs in the past few weeks. Cooking on the stove or baking is on the bottom of my list of things I like to do when it’s so hot, so if we can drink a meal, I’m on board. This first recipe is a meal unto itself:

Michael’s Blend aka Hawaiian Rainbow:

  • one purple Okinawan sweet potato
  • 6 oranges
  • 1 pineapple
  • 1″ fresh ginger root

Peel and slice up all pieces of fruit so they’ll fit in your juicer. Alternate between the juicier fruits and the sweet potato and ginger, to ensure these fibrous ingredients are flushed out of the juicer properly. End with pineapple or orange.

Juice Image
Colors of the Hawaiian Rainbow

This juice is so beautiful when it settles! However, you’ll want to shake or stir it up before serving. The sweet potato gives this juice some real weight, so you don’t need much to feel full.

L’s Vitamin Bomb:

  • 5 oranges
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 1/2″ fresh ginger root 
  • 1 small beet or chunk of a bigger beet
  • 2 apples

L notes that a little beet goes a long way; too much beet gives the juice a very ‘dirty’ earthy taste, so be sure to balance this out with lots of oranges. She makes this juice when she or her boyfriend feel like they’re coming down with a cold, as an immune system-booster.

Do you have any go-to juice recipes? Share them in a comment below!  I’d love to try new ones!

Halfway Through 2015! Update on a New Year’s Resolution

Wagyu beef with garlic chips and wasabi pepper sauce-- from new restaurant #30, Itoh by Nobu in Gora, Japan
Wagyu beef with garlic chips and wasabi pepper sauce– from new restaurant #30, Itoh by Nobu in Gora, Japan

6 months ago, Michael had a brilliant idea.  As 2014 rounded out, everyone was setting new year’s resolutions. “Lose 10 pounds! Don’t eat as much junk food! Finally quit smoking! Stop wasting money! Drink less alcohol!” Many of these common resolutions, while aspiring to to make oneself better, are framed in a way that is negative.

How can you expect to come up with a positive outcome if you start with a negative frame of mind? So, Michael’s new year’s resolution was a way to purposely frame a positive goal.  What was his idea? To visit 100 new restaurants in 2015. It would show him new restaurants, expanding his experience and hopefully discovering new favorites. This effort would also support these  establishments that are local to wherever he is, either at home or while traveling.

I’m not usually one for new year’s resolutions– why wait until an arbitrary date, if you want to change something? Better to start right away, even if it’s on some random date! But this resolution seemed like so much fun! So I adopted it as well and we’ve been keeping track of all our new restaurants.

Now, since the year is half over, I pause to reflect on how it’s going and share some highlights from our culinary experiences. As of June 29, we’re both at 49-50 new restaurants. Right on target!

  • Our trip in March to Japan was a great opportunity to go to new dining establishments. We didn’t count every meal, since for breakfast some days we stopped at a neighborhood bakery or just grabbed a bucket of fresh, beautiful Japanese strawberries. We also returned to a few places if we were exhausted from exploring– we went to Mos Burger at least twice, for instance.
  • Living in Honolulu, we have plenty of options. I’m sure that where a person lives would determine the scale of such an effort. A small town may only have a handful of restaurants. But the point of this exercise is to try new things and expand one’s horizons.  If there aren’t any new restaurants to try in the area, then maybe it’s more feasible to try new recipes at home!
  • This goal has helped to perk up my lunch hours at work. I bring my lunch about half the time, to save money and to use up leftovers. But when I know I’m eating out, it’s such a fun exercise to ask for recommendations, check out new reviews and try something new.

Of course, sometimes you’ll just want your old reliable favorite meal when you’re eating out.  And that’s just fine. 100 restaurants in a year equals about 2 new places a week. Plenty of time to also go to regular spots and cook at home! I’ve really enjoyed this process thus far, and look forward to the second half of our challenge!

Graze Box Review #1

This week's box
This week’s box

I am a firm believer in the power of snacks.  My productivity is dependent upon them! Unhealthy snacks abound– they’re easy, they’re cheap, and they’re delicious. I try to generally keep to healthy foods, but it can be difficult. When healthy snacks are delicious as well, then that makes my snack decisions easier! That is where Graze comes in.

Graze is a subscription service in both the US and UK that is quite customizable: four or eight snacks? weekly, biweekly, or monthly delivery? sweet or savory or mix of both? There are other themes (protein, low sugar, low calorie) as well if you have specific goals. I get the 8-snack box twice a month (which is $12 a pop, or $1.50 per snack), and began my subscription in May 2015.

Card with nutrition information for each snack
Card with nutrition information for each snack

The box we received on June 22 includes the following (thanks to Michael for supplying me with some input on the ones he enjoyed):

  • Ramen Noodle Crunch: LOVE (chili and lemon chickpea noodles, soba peanut, chili broad beans and edamame beans) Very crunchy and refreshing taste, without being spicy. I think that comes from the lemon. Bonus that it has a ton of protein in it. It reminds me of all the savory, crunchy snacks in India that are often served with afternoon chai. ❤
  • Soy Roasted Seeds: LIKE Had a light, salty soy flavor.
  • Honey Drizzled Cashews: LIKE Very sweet.
  • Chocolate Pecan Pie: LIKE (chocolate fudge, dates, and pecans) Very nice flavor, sweet and luxurious.
  • Fruit and Seed Flapjack: LIKE These are always a little loose but very chewy and this version of the flapjack was not too sweet. It’s like a snack-version of oatmeal.
  • Tropical Sundae: TRASH (chewy banana coins, pineapple pieces and mango) The bananas are very weird. Delicious pineapple and mango though.
  • Raspberry and Coconut Muffin: LIKE (raspberry infused cranberries, almond slivers, amaretti drops, coconut flakes) Eating handfuls of this all together is delicious. Individually the parts are not too exciting.
  • Key Lime Pie: TRASH (lime flavored raisins, green raisins, mini meringues and vanilla cookie dropsNot a fan of this combo– I do like the bright flavor of lime but the little cookie drops and meringues aren’t very good in terms of texture, and they’re too sweet. I picked out and ate just the raisins.

I haven’t subscribed to any general subscription boxes since I don’t want to accumulate ‘stuff’, but this box is fabulous. I love the variety, the nutritious snacks, the size for the price (not too much, so they won’t go stale and I won’t get sick of it), and I like getting mail. ^_^

They offer quite a few incentives to try their service, like getting your first box free and additional discounts for referring friends.  (Speaking of which, if you’re interested in getting your free box, if you use code REBECK4ZE then I get a bonus as well!)

How I use LearnVest’s One Number Strategy: My Elegant Budget

Pile of pennies
Coin rooster deciding where to put his hard-earned cash

I’m a huge fan of LearnVest, a website about all things personal finance. They have great articles on retirement planning and investing. My favorite concept of theirs is the One Number strategy for creating a budget.  I think it’s an elegant way to create some budgetary guidelines without being too restrictive on your spending. Maybe one week I eat out a lot and go to Starbucks every morning.  The next week I buy a new pair of shoes and bring PBJ to work for lunch.  The next week, I buy lots of fancy groceries so I can bake seasonal cupcakes to bring to a party:

Easter bunnies!
They are in awe of how simple yet effective this budget system is.

These choices are fine within the context of these guidelines, and you don’t need to plan those details beforehand. I love that about this budget system: I just live my life, but every day choices happen within the guidelines, so I know my bases are covered which makes my daily financial decisions totally unstressful!

How I use the One Number strategy:

1. I add my rent, utilities, cell phone, recurring monthly prescriptions and subscriptions, and monthly charitable donations together.  These are my FIXED COSTS.

2. I add my life insurance premium, retirement contributions, emergency fund amount, travel fund amount together to get my FINANCIAL GOALS AMOUNT.

3. I add my annual membership amounts, credit card annual fees, club dues, and an amount set aside for gifts (I set this at like $20 a month, so $240 for a year; I don’t really keep track of this but it seems like a good idea to set some aside for holidays and birthdays). These amounts are added together and then divided by 12 to get my monthly amount for NON-MONTHLY EXPENSES.

4. Finally, I add 1, 2 and 3 together to get a big number. Then I subtract that number from my monthly take-home pay amount to get my MONTHLY ONE NUMBER.  I further divide this number by 4.3 (since some months have more than 4 weeks) to get my WEEKLY ONE NUMBER since I find it easier to keep track of my spending on a weekly basis. LearnVest calls this number a flex spending amount, which for me is just under $150.

The ‘flex’ part of this number is that I can do whatever I want with this money. Since I’ll generally either spend more money on groceries or eating out, that’s a choice I can make within this amount. I set up automatic transfers for certain things like retirement contributions that happen a day after my paycheck comes in. That’s another way that the money in, money out system I use is quite unstressful. One less thing to worry about!

LearnVest’s article on this system can be found here.

Driscoll’s Consumer Advisory Panel Program: a Review

Berries for breakfast
Berry stuffed berries for breakfast (why not?)

In April this year, I joined the Driscoll Consumer Advisory Panel program to get coupons for berries.  With the cost of food in Hawaii as high as it is, any way we can reduce our grocery bill is a win.  We usually buy 2-3 berry boxes per week, so earning coupons for berries is a quick way to save a couple bucks!  That’s already paying for a Starbucks drink!

1-4 surveys completed 50 cent coupons emailed to you
5-15 surveys completed 75 cent coupons emailed to you
16 or more surveys completed $1.00 coupons emailed to you

These surveys are not extensive– mostly multiple choice, I usually finish mine in under 5 minutes, after which your reward coupon is immediately emailed to you for printing.  The information you provide is based on a specific box of berries you have already purchased and consumed.  Questions are about the quality of the berries and how you enjoyed them. You identify which zip code and store you bought them from, and provide the box’s special code.  I take pictures of each label after I eat the berries, so I can refer to the code later when I fill out the survey.

A typical label with code
A typical label with code

The label also includes the size of the box and what type of berry it contained, which is helpful since you’ll need to remember that for the survey as well. At the end of the survey, you can indicate whether you have an issue you’d like to discuss with their customer care department.  I haven’t done that, but I suspect if you had a real problem, they would want to help resolve the issue with you.

I think this program is great! You devote minimal time (5 min) to providing some useful feedback to the company, and in return get a substantial discount on your next berry purchase.  Berries run between $2.50 and $5.00 per box, so $1.00 off is a great discount. Things I have to remember:

  • Making sure it’s Driscoll brand berries (coupons aren’t good for other brands!)
  • Snapping a picture of the label (or complete the survey right away before you throw out the container)
  • Bringing the printed coupon to the store (I find it helps to tuck them next to my credit cards in my wallet right after printing them)

Check out the program if you’re interested. It’s berry easy and a berry good way to save some money while keeping these healthy foods in your diet.