My Savings Jar

Since January I have been on a journey to lose weight and get fit and healthy.  WIth the help of a wonderful and free tool,, I’ve already lost about 20 pounds.  SparkPeople isn’t the miracle diet lots of people are wishing for.  In fact, it’s just a tool to guide you through lifestyle changes.  It’s a community of people working towards a common goal – better health – and it provides tools and knowledge to help you get there.  But, anyway, the point of this blog isn’t to plug SparkPeople.  It’s to tell you about my savings jar!

One facet of the SparkPeople program is to reward yourself for doing positive things.  I haven’t had a hard time thinking of rewards, but have been having a hard time thinking of rewards that I could afford.  What I’ve really got my eye on is a Garmin Forerunner 305, a watch-like device you wear while running that tells you how far you’ve gone, how many calories you’ve burned, and even lets you load the data onto a website to compare your runs.  When I discovered this device, beams of light shone down from the heavens.  *insert angelic singing here*

You see, a major part of my lifestyle change has been to incorporate running into my routine.  With the help of a little program called Couch to 5K (google it!) I’ve been able to go from barely being able to run a tenth of a mile to running a mile without stopping!  Woohoo!  But my treadmill stinks and doesn’t tell me anything accurately except for the time that’s gone by.  I would love to run outside more but then I’m not exactly sure how far I’ve run.  I can use online fitness maps to guess, but that only works if I’m running on actual roads, not trails.  And even then I don’t know how many calories I’ve burnt or how fast I was running.  So for me this seems like an obvious reward, but one with a hefty price tag.  $300!  It’s currently on sale for around $150, but even that’s too much for me to dish out a once.  So I came up with a plan…

Last month I experimented with making a calendar with little things to check off each day and had quite a bit of success with it, so I made one for June.  For example, today I have to do yoga, meditate, Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred, and drink a cup of tea.  If I check everyone off of my list for the day I can put a smiley face sticker on today (yeah, I’m not a teacher, am I?) AND put a dollar in my savings jar.  I might be cheating a little and using my savings jar for my spare change too, but this will give me incentive to get there faster!  So I made a bit of a mini-collage on the outside of my jar to inspire me and stuck a big old picture of the Garmin in top.  As of today I have $2 and some spare change in my jar.  By the end of today it’ll be $3!  And here are some pictures of my jar.


June 3, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . Fitness, My Lifestyle Change, Running, Savings. Leave a comment.


Life has been crazy the past few months which is why I haven’t updated.  My sister had twins and I’ve been down south helping her out.  I’ll be moving down there in the next few weeks and starting my new job in July, so things will only get crazier.  Sadly, I haven’t made any eggs since the last post, but I’m going to try to make some in the coming weeks.  For now here are some pics of the herbs I planted back in March.  I found out that I didn’t inherit my mother’s black thumb.  Yay!

The bulbs you see in the photos are those infomercial watering bulbs.  My Godmother had a bunch of them and never used them so she gave them to me.  I wasn’t sure I’d use them, but when I was in NC and my parents came down for the last week I was there, my dad put them in so they wouldn’t dry up and they worked BEAUTIFULLY!

All my little pots, lined up in a row. : )

Happy basil!



Here’s a complete list of the herbs I planted:
Marjoram (never used this!)
Mint (didn’t grow so I’m trying again)

May 26, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Gardening. Leave a comment.

Christos Voskres! (a.k.a. Happy Easter)

Sadly with this month being crazy I haven’t made too many eggs.  And my dyes were STILL crazy.  But I got it all straightened out and decided to spend my Good Friday squeezing in one more egg for Easter.  I’m really proud of this one!

Another egg I made about a week ago.  It came out darker than I’d like because my dyes were still funky, but I guess it’s alright.  : )

And because I forgot how beautiful the church is before Easter Sunday…

April 4, 2010. Crafts, Pysanky. 2 comments.

The second half

Here’s the other egg I made for my brother and sister-in-law.

"Babies are bits of stardust blown from the hand of God."

March 15, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . Crafts, Pysanky. Leave a comment.

Trying something different

I haven’t made too many new eggs because I was STILL having problems with my dyes!  GAH!  I think I figured it out though.  However, I did make this egg.  I decided to try something different and got the idea of using quotes from another pysanky blog I found here (  It’s not very Ukrainian, but I like it.

I decided to make this for my brother and sister-in-law and want to make another with a baby quote.  They saw my Vision Collage and said if I ever felt compelled to make something for them that I could.  I know they were talking about collages, but my first thought was a grouping of eggs.  So here’s the first one.

The quote reads: "Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies" - Aristotle

March 4, 2010. Crafts, Pysanky. 1 comment.


This morning I woke up to a beautiful winter wonderland!  With whispers of something called a “hurricane blizzard” on the way, I wanted to take some pictures of the calm before the storm!

My favourite type of snow...stuck on each individual twig!

Snowy tree skeleton...

This is not a road. This is my driveway.

February 25, 2010. Tags: , , , . Photography, Snow. Leave a comment.

Ghetto Recording Studio

When your Mac dies, you no longer have Garageband, you have a PC, and don’t want to spend $300 on recording gear, what do you do?

Yes, this is a reel-to-reel that my dad bought in Japan 40 years ago.  Don’t ask me how it works (I don’t understand all the technical mumble-jumble) but my dad somehow used this to hook up a mic and a my midi keyboard (but not as midi?) to my computer.  The nice this is that now that I’m not using my keyboard as midi, I can use the instrument sounds on the keyboard rather than software instruments, which is one thing that annoyed me about GarageBand.

I was so excited when we finally figured out a way to make this work.  I downloaded Audacity, which is free, but was sad to find out when I started recording that I can’t hear my tracks play back when I want to record multiple ones, which really makes no sense…

I’ve been looking into programs that are cheap, or preferably free.  Any suggestions?  I’d like something that allows me to record multiple tracks.  Bonuses if there are loops or beats.  And preferably under $30, if not free.  I know that’s asking a lot, but I’m poor!!!

February 24, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . Music, Recording. Leave a comment.

Help! My pysanky are messed up!

And I don’t know why!  A week ago I went to make an egg and ended up having all these weird swirly marks when I put it in the dye.  I thought it was perhaps the fact that some of the wax splattered, and I tried scraping it off, but it happened to me again today before I even used wax!  Here’s the egg from the first time it happened:

The swirlyness first happened in the  yellow, and I thought maybe my yellow was bad, despite being brand new.  Yellow seems to be pesky like that.  But it happened with the other colors.

I made the blue egg after this, which came out fine.  There was no yellow on that which leads me to believe maybe it IS the yellow, but it’s so strange!  I’ve never seen this happen!

Today I was working on another egg.  Yellow was the first color so I didn’t even use wax before I put it in, but look at what happened!

Awkward white line...:-/

Smudgy, smudge, smudge...

So here are some of my theories:

  1. My yellow dye is bad, despite the fact that it’s brand new, and causes the other dyes to not take in those spots when I put them in afterward.  I say this because the other day when I didn’t use the yellow, it didn’t happen.
  2. I am somehow getting some random substance on my eggs (yeah, I know, that’s specific and descriptive)
  3. The eggs themselves having something on them.  This seems to be a stretch since they were from two different cartons.  But is there something they do in processing them that leaves a film on it?
  4. Something happened from erasing pencil marks with the vinegar solution.  I’ve done this my entire life and never had a problem, so I don’t know why it would be causing problems now.

Any thoughts on the matter?  Responses would be greatly appreciated!  Please and thank you!!!

February 21, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , . Crafts, Pysanky. 2 comments.

Pysanky (Ukrainian Easter Eggs)

Since I was 7 or 8 years old, every year during Lent I would make pysanky, or Ukrainian Easter eggs.  I could write a million things about pysanky, but I’ll save those for another day.  For this post, let it suffice to say that I haven’t made the eggs in years.  During college I was  never home during Lent, and pysanky aren’t something you can do over a single weekend.  It’s a long process with lots of equipment.  So now, after 5 years, I’m starting again.

It took a while to get started.  When I went to make my first egg I found out all my dyes were bad.  I had to order new dye powder, which took a while to ship.  But now I have everything ready to go, so here’s a little progression of everything I’ve done in the past couple of weeks…

Here’s my workspace!

Where the magic happens

This is the first egg I made.  As I mentioned, my dyes were bad and none of the colors were taking.  The last color I tried was dark green (which you usually don’t do, but since it was already messed up I thought I’d try) and ended up with pukey lavender.  But the design is nice!

Before jumping in the dye

Awkward purple-brown color

These next two eggs I was able to make at my aunt’s house during the Super Bowl, before my dyes came.  I love this purple color!


This next egg I was a bit disappointed with.  Wax kept splattering where it wasn’t supposed to go and I scratched it off, so I got a weird swirly effect when it went in the dyes.  I plan on making this design again, but here it is anyway.

This final egg is my favourite so far.  I love the blue color.

Stay tuned for more eggs and some tutorials!

February 20, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Crafts, Pysanky. 4 comments.

Mushroom Barley Soup from Veselka

About a month ago I was dawdling my way through Barnes & Noble when I saw what appeared to be a book with a giant bowl of borscht on the front.

THE book

Immediately I ran to it and discovered Veselka, the supposed Mecca of Ukrainian food, right in the heart of New York City’s East Village.  Flipping through the pages I was immediately in heaven, my mouth-watering at the thought of there being a place on this planet that serves, in my opinion, some of the best food on this planet, 24-hours a day.

This past weekend my family and I were going to go to Queens to visit my Godparents, and a trip to Veselka was on the agenda.  However, the heavy snowfall in the city meant there was no place for us to park on their street, so we sadly couldn’t go.  Yesterday in the mail, the Veselka cookbook showed up as a surprise gift from my Godmother.  It was like Christmas!  God love her!

Strangely enough I’d been wanting to make Mushroom Barley Soup, so I thought I’d try out their recipe.  I had to make quite a few changes to accommodate what I had in my kitchen,  but isn’t that what every good cook does?  (And I’d like to think I’m a good cook!)

Here’s the recipe as it appears in the book:

Mushroom Barley Soup from The Veselka Cookbook

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large carrots, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, minced
  • 5 cups minced white button mushrooms
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • One 10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup, optional
  • 2 cups cooked barley (3/4 dried)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Melt the butter in a large stockpot over low heat.
  2. Add the carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have softened, about 8  minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms and vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered (though you may want to partially cover the pot with a lid to stop to stovetop from being splattered) for 30 minutes.  Stir in the cream of mushroom soup, if using, and the barley.  Season to taste with a generous amount of black pepper.  Continue to cook until the flavours have combined, about 5 more minutes.  Serve hot.

For starters, I didn’t have any celery, but my dad made me privy to the fact that, in true Ukrainian fashion (“never waste anything!”), my mom kept the leafy parts of the celery in a bag in the bottom drawer of the fridge.  Perfect for soups!  Secondly, I didn’t have enough mushrooms, so I used half fresh mushrooms and half dried mushrooms.  Of course, you have to reconstitute them in water, and you end up with this deliciously awesome mushroom water that’s full of flavour.  Since the vegetable broth I had was loaded with sodium I used 2 cups broth, 2 cups water, and 2 cups of the mushroom water.  At the very end I had to add some fresh dill.  (How can you have Mushroom Barley Soup without dill?!?)  Finally, to allow the flavours to blend, I let the whole thing simmer on low for a couple of hours.  I truly wish that I could send smells and flavours through The Interwebs, because what I have sitting on my stove right now is a deliciously thick and wonderfully mushroom-y pot-of-wonder.

Here are some pictures from the process:

Reconsituting the dried mushrooms

Mmm...mushroom water

The carrots and the celery go in first. Pretty colors!

Adding the mushrooms and the liquids

The finished product!

February 16, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . Cooking, Ukrainian. 1 comment.