Friday, October 19, 2012

A Very Valiente Confrontation

I believe that confrontation, like constructive criticism, can be good for you, within reasonable limits. One time my Friend Whom I Will Call Raw Sugar said to me, "Maybe you could try to make your actions match your words." I seriously carry those words with me everywhere my heart goes. I like to read about self-improvement, growth, minimalism, and God and from time to time I am confronted with an area in which I could use some improvement.
This week I started reading a new blog called Miss Minimalist and I basically devoured the blog in an afternoon and really enjoyed reading the posts. There is one that I am still thinking through and I've been experienced a bit of confrontation and discomfort (in the form of cognitive dissonance) as I mull it over. The post is about Decluttering Your Fantasy Self. Here's a lil' snippet of the post that keeps rolling around in my head: All too often, we hold on to stuff because it represents who we think we should be, rather than who we are. Sometimes our fantasy selves are meant to impress others; sometimes they’re relics of our past; sometimes they’re fantasies about our future.
Oh, how the concept of authenticity and intentional living eluded me in my early 20's!!
My fantasy self is a freakin' bad ass who has good hair, clear skin, wears classic-but-stylish outfits, has a minimally-yet-stylishly-decorated apartment on the Upper West Side, stays abreast of changes within her career field, regularly entertains and makes hand-made thank you cards, cooks a variety of delicious meals for the husband to whom she regularly submits and (enter sexual reference here, omitted in case my mom reads this). She has a well diversified 401(k) and is already planning how to pay for her kids to go to college, because she is already in her second trimester but has only gained 8 pounds so she just looks cute but not fat. Oh and my fantasy self can eat gluten and dairy and has no problem moderating a reasonable intake of dried fruit and candy bars.
Frump Girl,
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
The real me, the authentic me, is Frump Girl. Gluten-Intolerant, takes her jokes too far every.single.time, recently found out she though "gentrified" meant the opposite of what it actually means, constantly has to apologize to her husband for going too far, just ordered burgers for dinner for the fifth time this month, could write in the dust collecting on her never-used wine glasses. The real me really really really loves her job and really wishes she could be as good at it as the excellent people she works with. And the real me is definitely not pregnant.
Minimalism isn't a decorating style or a long list of things you CAN'T own. Minimalism, for me, is about living intentionally and proactively. It's about eliminating all the crap and clutter- physical, emotional, and mental. It's about setting goals and pursuing them instead of waiting for the waves of live to crash over me and wash things away. For me, it's about freedom.
It seems to me that I own a lot of things that I don't use. Things for entertaining, for example. If my Fantasy Self entertains regularly and my "real" self doesn't, that doesn't necessarily mean that I HAVE to get rid of those items. Wouldn't it be more fun and fulfilling to just start entertaining more and actually have friends over, fill my home with company and laughter, and happily serve my guests food displayed nicely? 
I think this will be on my mind for awhile. Intentional living... authenticity... simplicity... wine glasses.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The One Thing I Regret

My mother tells me, from time to time, not to get too crazy with purging because I may really, really regret getting rid of something. The one and only thing I have regretted purging over the last 5 years has been my Topsy Turvy. I am not even kidding- I really, really wished I hadn't gotten rid of this- but not until it had been gone for about 7 years. Luckily, I found a new one at Target last week for $5.99 and didn't think twice about buying it. Since then, I have turved my topsy three times. It makes my pony tail and unwashed-for-three-days hair feel classy and glamorous. Dressy, even.
So, minimalism. I go back and forth about this idea. It seems so charming and elusive. And by that I mean I'm afraid someone will judge me if I tell them I am a minimalist and still own Snoopy Figurines. I'm obviously not comfortable labelling myself as such.
I found a new-to-me blog called Becoming Minimalist and I've been reading through the archives. The writer is a pretty down-to-earth guy, which I prefer to the confrontational-minimalist that I normally picture. Reading the archives gave me a bit of motivation to look around my home and purge, just a little. The Yankee is laid up with a cold and a good cold front came through on Saturday night, so it was a low-key weekend- perfect for a lil' cleaning and a lil' purging. When I purge, I always ALWAYS remind myself of the golden rule for minimalizing successfully when your partner is not a minimalist: do not purge your partner's items. Don't do it- seriously, don't. It's not nice and won't be  appreciated. I won't be doing anything but pissing off my husband by getting rid of his stuff.
Here are the items leaving my home tomorrow:
  • The textbook I used in my high school French Class
  • The workbook and CD's I used in my college French Class
  • The prayer journal with five entries in it
  • Three magazines
  • Three cook books
  • Five elementary-level chapter books
  • A box of Emergen-C that my cousin left when she moved in for a month
  • Five coasters
  • One wobbly, chipped, scratched side-table-ish thing
  • A large mound of recyclable paper
  • One red shirt that I have owned for over 4 years and literally never worn
I can write and write and write about my quest to declutter, unclutter, purge, clean, organize, and get the crap out of my home, but I'm not sure anyone would stay tuned long enough- it would definitely be longer than four paragraphs. I wonder if, when I am pregnant, I will have reverse nesting and really REALLY start throwing things way and be left with six articles of clothing.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Very Valiente Book Review

"Need a bit more simple in your life but unsure where to start? "

Last month I was a aprt of a book launch team for Simple Living – 30 days to less stuff and more life. This book was written by a blogger I like, Lorilee Lippincott, who write Loving Simple Living.
Lorilee and her family practice minimalism, which I admire and desire. Even if minimalism isn't exactly your goal, this is  still a great book for anyone who wants to pare down and simplify. if minimalism IS your goal, first, please email me because I really want to talk to you; second, this is a great resource for really assessing why you own what you own and why you choose what you choose. It's a 30 day primer with practical ideas for streamlining and organizing. This is not FlyLady, whom I do love, and Lorilee even states that this is not a book for housecleaning. It's more like a book for putting away, giving away, clearing away. It's not a "get rid of all your stuff and you'll be happy"; it's an "I tried this and it worked and here's why it made me happy." The book gives you a small job to do for 30 days- things like clearing your counters and creating a system to make donating/purging things easy to do.
The book is $2.99 on Amazon for Kindle and you can buy it in PDF format if you have a nook (I do) or don't own an e-reader. How stinkin' great is that price?! $2.99! That's less than a latte (btw, have you tried the salted caramel mocha from Starbucks? Because it's fantastic).
Take a look, give it a read- I think you're really going to like the ideas.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Something to Keep In Mind

Here's a verse that I love:

Servants, do what you're told by your earthly masters. And don't just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you'll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you're serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn't cover up bad work.  -- Colossians 3:20

I think this is good advice even if you aren't a believer. I mean, you could take out the God stuff and still be left with a great idea about how to conduct yourself in a variety of settings, couldn't you? Everyone has an authority in their life that, at a minimum, gives direction in one setting or another. Whether it's your manager at work, team leader, coach, teacher, parent, husband or wife. Even if it's just asking for a favor, we're all interacting in a variety of ways.
When I was in college, I had a job that I sucked at. I mean, I was good at the content of my work and the tasks involved in the job, but I was the jerk employee who never did more than the minimum and was very hostile about it. I wasn't doing anything that I had been studying for and wasn't interested in learning any other role than the one I had. Why would I- I'd be graduating soon and then I'd get a great job where I could drink coffee and sit in an office all day!
And then a curious thing happened- I came upon graduation without a job. I applied for 75 jobs in total before I found my first job in my field. So as graduation loomed, I suddenly became very interested in the company I worked for and (here is the truth) in staying employed. But by then, I'd been a marginal employee on my best days and a crap employee on most days. So when I stayed on full-time, I had a lot of humble pie to eat.
I am so embarassed about how I conducted myself at that job. I hate knowing there is a group of people who regard me as a jerk and have every reason to think that. I don't exactly remember what my inner dialogue was that convinced myself that THAT was an acceptable course of action.
There are times in my job when I am asked to help in areas that really have nothing to do with my "regular" job. I get special projects here and there that make me roll my eyes because I really, really don't want to do them. I keep this verse on the tip of my tongue during those times because I know there are good reasons I was asked to help. I know that all my contributions help my department run better. I also know that sometimes, stuff just has to get done and it's only the jerk who would say "that's not my job so I ain't gonna do it". And soon, that person becomes the unemployed jerk. And I am determined that that jerk shall not be me.
This also works at home, within friendships, in volunteering situations, and just basically in life. I'm  going to remind myself about this more often this week- because it's good advice, no matter what God you follow.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Right about now, I'm flipping my shit

So the Yankee and I am all "babies babies babies" lately. We talk about babies a lot in this house- making them, trying not to break them, ideas for parenting strategies, missing our people- all kinds of things related to babies and baby-making.
Last night as we were drifting off to sleep, I had a few thoughts string together that made me kind of panic a little bit. My questions about babies is this: what the heck do you DO with them? Like one day one, home from the hospital- you bring them home, all cute and snuggly and then what? On day 25, you wake up, get some coffee, and then what? If they aren't mobile, what they heck do they do all day? I know there are feedings and diapers and naps and all, but then what? How many times can you force tummy time on them? How many books do you read to a little being that can't really see and doesn't know how to do many things?
I am still engaged in a fight to the death with my weight. To date, I have lost and gained the same three or four pounds and accomplished as many workouts. Tomorrow starts a new week and I am really, really, really determined to work out at least twice next week. I am also really, really, really determined to eat well. I have to go back to see my doctor at the end of the month and I am afraid to show her my food journal. I do find myself choosing healthier items because I don't want to be judged for my choices. Last time, she told me to cut soy and candy bars, as well as processed foods. She also said that if I want a candy bar, I should eat dried fruit instead. Well I can tell you that I have eaten the fruit AND the candy bars on some days. I mean, dried apricots aren't exactly an acceptable substitute for a 3 Musketeers, are they?
So this week we are starting with a fresh meal plan posted on the fridge, complete with snack ideas and breakfast committments. We're trying some new recipes, including one that includes escarole, which I don't think I have ever had. I am really, really REALLY trying to eat more whole (one ingredient) foods, instead of processed junk. I plan to eat quinoa instead of white rice and lots of vegetables this week. I am doing pretty well at reducing my coffee intake and (except for the candy bars) doing very well at reducing sugar. Cheeseburgers.... not so much.
Feel free to confront me if you see me eating a candy bar this week. But please don't ask if I'd rather have the candy bar or a baby, because that's not fair.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Very Valiente Thought on My Mind

Here's something I have been thinking about:
     It is not my responsibility to ensure that I am not treated offensively
     It is not my responsibility to get even or confront the person with their own behavior
     It IS my responsibility to control my behavior. reaction, and where I choose to let my thoughts   

So that's pretty simple, isn't it?

Do you ever do this: dwell on past arguments or offenses, rehashing what you should have said, and then predicting what that person would have said in response, going back and forth, getting all worked up and fiesty inside? My mother says that when you're doing that, you're having a conversation with a person when they aren't in the room. Then the next time you interact with that person, you kind of emotionally vomit all over them, spilling at that theoretical rage their way.

Sometimes when I am washing the dishes, my mind goes to my past haunts and I get all bent out of shape over the past. It happens at work too. And all of a sudden I find myself stewing and I seriously hate feeling that way. I hate feeling so much anxiety with no viable outlet. I hate that I spend my time rehashing things in the past or preparing my defenses against some un-suspecting co-worker. I don't like holding on to all that junk.

I like this verse from Ecclesiastes:
Don't eavesdrop on the conversation of others.
What if the gossip's about you and you'd rather not hear it?
You've done that a few times, haven't you—said things
Behind someone's back you wouldn't say to his face?

Throughout my life and throughout the Bible, I've been given peice after piece of advice about not getting offended and not taking things personally. And many times I actually do pretty well at that. But sometimes I don't. Sometimes things catch me off guard, or I try to avoid confrontation and instead my moodiness just sits inside me. Sometimes I have a case of the Mondays even on a Wednesday.

Seems pretty simple- and yet, perhaps it's just easier said than done. But those three lines at the top of this entry kind of came into my mind on Saturday and they have been stuck there like gum in hair. And you know, it's really been a helpful little thing to repeat to myself. It's a bit more helpful for me to repeat this to myself than to take a bunch of deep breaths.
Feel free to confront me if you hearing me sighing in an excessive way. That's a sure sign that I am bent out of shape about something.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


I want to have babies, badly. I love the Yankee so much and want to create something tangible that's a little bit of both of us. I want to be directly responsible for rearing a little life and trying very hard to craft a happy, productive member of society. It's an odd thing: when you announce to whomever you tend to make announcements to that you are going to start trying to have a baby, the underlying message is that you are your partner plan to have copious amounts of sex on a regular basis. No one seems to acknowledge this, but it's the truth, isn't it?

Heh, my mom doesn't really read my blog so I'm not worried about what kind of thoughts that might give her :)

So we're all ready to start trying this fall. October is officially our baby month, so if you'd like to schedule anything and I say no, please know that I am too busy doing what pleases the Lord :) For this reason, I went to see a doctor to just make sure all of my equipment is functioning regularly- only to find out that I have PCOS. So my body is currently making too many "male" hormones (that MUST be the reason for all of my scandalous and innapropriate jokes!). One of the most tangible side-effects of this condition is that making babies can be difficult. As in the conceiving part.

At one point in my life, I was clinically obese- as in a BMI of over 35- and was in a kind of pre-PCOS state. At thats point in my life, my doctor said that if I could manage to get pregnant, I would have in be on bed rest the entire time and inject myself with blood thinners. No thanks. So I lost 65 pounds and thought I had escaped the beast, but it turns out I didn't.

I am still trying to decide how I feel about all of this. I get a bit weepy and pouty sometime, but most of the time I just resolve to make a plan and attack.  The typical first step to treating PCOS is to lose weight, if you have weight to lose. I am still overweight, although not even close to where I was. I hate working out- I mean I HATE working out. And yet I know that it will make such a difference when paired with a healthy, reasonable, sustainable diet. But seriously y'all, if you gave me a choice between a filling and a workout, I'm really not sure which one I would choose.

This is the motivating thought that I keep coming back to: I have loved my babies for years, even though I don't have them yet. I think about what kind of mother I'd like to be and various strategies for dealing with random baby-ish things and I feel love in my heart for little ones that I am still dreaming of. I wholly believe that I will do many things for my children and because of them; if this is what I have to do to create them, to have a shot at holding my beloved little dream-babies in my arms, then this is what I will do.

If I need to lose 30 pounds and stop drinking coffee- I will. If I need to get used to darn old Tony Horton every morning- I will. If I have to incorporate more discipline into my life- I will. Because I really want to be a mother and I really want to carry and birth my own happy, healthy, bi-racial, potentially sassy, hopefully-not-too-wierd children.

But I still hate excercise. Really y'all... HATE IT.

So tonight I am a Happy Girl and by Tuesday I predict I will be a sore girl....

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Very Valiente Thought On Beauty

This is a post about my eyebrows. Mostly.

Growing up, I was a very wierd kid. I mean the kind of kid who ate rocks. It took me a very long time to learn to exist in society. Approximately 26 years, to be honest. I have two cousins who taught me more than they realize about being a lady and being feminine. There are still some things I haven't mastered yet, sadly.

So yes- this is a post about my eyebrows. But it's really a confession about my inner lazy-fat-slob-frump-girl. I feel like The Yankee and I need to have a conversation about my appearance approximately every six months- and a reminder about my humor, at least quarterly.

There are all kinds of Bible verses that discuss inner beauty- reminders not to adorn oneself with braids and pearls, charges that beauty is fleeting, and statements about what makes a woman a true beauty. And while those things are very, very true, we must also acknowledge that there is a difference between ugliness from a rotten attitude, ugliness from a geometric abonormality in a person's appearance, and ugliness because you just look like as hot mess. I believe most of my ugly days stem from that third category, with the occasional from the first. I like to believe that I don't fall into category two- and please don't tell me if I do (I can't handle that kind of honesty).

My eye brows are the representation of my cyclical beauty slumps. It's effing hot here in New York and my skin goes from dewey to shiny to oil slick before 9 AM. It's one pony tail day after another here, as The Yankee and I hover, scantily clad, in front of our one lil' window unit. It's very easy and easily forgiven to have low-key beauty days.

I didn't start tending to my brows until right before The Yankee started dating- a little over three years ago. Before that, they normally looked like this ---------------------------------------->
Notice the fan shaped spike above my left eye, which gets a little pirate-y every now and then, thanks to a swat in the face with a plastic swing by my big brother (thanks for that, Bro).

Once I did start grooming them, I made the novice mistake of going too far- and all of a sudden the space between my eyes was getting wider and wider.

I've been letting my brows grow and trying to stay on top of them, but they've gotten a bit crazy. I've gotten a little too casual and lazy about my hair, make-up, and clothes just in general- again, laregly because NYC has not embraced the 1970's gift of central air. So now Pinterest has all these great tutorials for make-up- especially for the eyes- I I can't help but notice them wonderful eyebrows on these ladies. So today I decided to really give it a shot and try to make my brows look nice.

The thing about beauty and make-up and hairstyles is that it takes work and effort. I do care how I look and I do want my husband to be proud of me. My frump days are mostly lazy days, but I am going to get better at it. I hereby promise to shape it up, put on a little lipstick, and get out of my grooming rut.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Very Valiente Pinterest Review

I have high expectations for many things in my life; this inevitably menas that from time to time I am faced with great disappointment. This morning was one of those times.

I require that earth-friendly products work and work well, or else I don't use them. For example, rubbing plain old lemon juice into my grout as a stain remover has never produced anything but sore shoulders. Tying a bag of vinegar around my shower head only gave me a stinky bathroom. But then there was the miracle cleaner that was just wonderful. I also stopped using paper towels and doubled up on microfiber cloths- great choice, no regrets.

So when I came across the idea that baking soda and hydrogen peroxide could work wonders on all manner of greasy, hardened stains I was hopeful. I read all kinds of blog posts touting the great glory of the solution, so I tried it this morning. Just for the record, here is what I was hoping for. There is this:

And this:

For the record, I am a subscriber to "One Good Thing by Jillee" and I really like reading her posts. I saw the ideas on Pinterest first, not her blog.

 So here is where I started. I have a glass dish that I normally line with foil and spray with cooking spray anytime I cook mean or potatoes. Then I just toss the foil after dinner instead of cleaning the dish. Predictably, the cooking spray has hardened into an inpenetrable forcefield of funky chunks:

So I made a little paste, applied it to the pan, let it sit and "work" and the proceeded to scrub with a variety of instruments. I used a toothbrush, metal scrubber, Pampered Chef scraper, and a kitchen sponge. Eventually a lot of the gunk did come off, but it took a lot of work and there were still some bits left by the time I threw in the towel. It left me wondering- if I had just set about scrubbing the dickens out of the pan without the baking soda and peroxide, would I have gotten the same results?

I am totally willing to try this again. I have gas burners with some wierd food residue on them and two Corningware pans that could use some reviving. I give this cleaning solution a solid B.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Very Valiente Good Idea

Here are two of my very own original ideas.

Instead of buying curtain ties, I use the cuffs I cut off the shirts I used to make our quilt.

When I cook ground beef, I use a baster to get the fat out of the pan, instead of pouring it down the drain. Washing the baster afterwards is a first-world inconvenience thast becomes even more annoying without a dishwasher. To give myself a head start, I fill a glass with soapy water and put the baster in it when I am done, sucking soapy water in a few times. The I use a toothbrush to get the gunk out completely.

I am going to attempt to pin these and see if anyone else finds them useful. Happy Saturday everyone :)

A Very Valiente Food Rut Follow Up

Food Rut be gone! The Yankee and I are in the clear, finally eating like People again.We adjusted some budgetary allocations, which reduced our food budget and that turned out to be a great motivator for me.Does anyone elser feel like broke times, or times when you are really watching your spending, leads you to great cooking? I do. For some reason, I simply tear it up in the kitchen when I have a stricter budget. In the past month, we've only gone out to eat twice (once was a gifted meal from a dear woman) and it's been great.

I will admit to one cooking disaster. We're talking food so bad that I simply couldn't convince myself to keep eating it- food so bad it made the Yankee's eyes water! I tried marinading a pork shoulder in this great all-purpose recipes that works on steak, chicken, and pork chops. I am not sure what happened but after 8 hours in my crock pot, it tasted like pickled supper. Blech.

I brought out some of our favorites that I haven't made in awhile, embraced the love of the crock-pot and the casserole, and found some new fun recipes on Pinterest. Here are some things I've been making:

Seems like everyone is pinning these foil packets:

 I made mine with potatoes instead of stuffing and used 1 tbsp of onion and chive cream cheese instead of ranch dressing, and they turned out pretty darn well. The broccoli looked a bit overcooked and kind of brown, but it was still crunchy and tasted fine. Next time, I'll probably steam it instead.

You might also have seen this Ro-tel recipe for an enchilada skillet dinner.

This was really good. A bit soupy- the recipe calls for a small can of tomato sauce, which I will probably leave out next time. I also used tortilla chips instead of tortillas, because they were on sale. I cooked a whole chicken in the crock pot on day and used the leftover for this recipe on the next.

I also had several friends leave me some suggestions on my Facebook wall, which I'll be trying in June. Happy eating everyone.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Kinda Valiente Dream

The Yankee and I do not agree about the amount of "things" we should own. I am constantly getting the itch to downsize, downgrade, purge, declutter, donate- whatever you call it, I just want to get rid of my stuff. I think it stresses the Yankee out when I purge too often or too much at once. I know it drives my mother batty. I think I'd be happy if we owned a total of 7 pieces of furniture (I count bedside tables as one, since it would be lame not to have a pair). I think our little family would function most efficiently if we owned:

  • A Captain's Bed
  • Bedside Tables
  • Couch
  • Storage Ottoman
  • Entertainment Stand
  • One bookcase
  • Dining Set (this also counts as one "piece")

Think about how open and wonderful our itty-bitty-NYC apartment would look!

Alas... we own books and a small collection of memorabilia, which necessitates more than one bookcase.

The Yankee loves media of all kinds, so we need a place to store 3 game consoles, all of rock band, a video game chair, various video games, and tons of DVDs (I confess, one whole binder is full of holiday movies).

So maybe my home won't look like this anytime soon ever:


But a lady can dream, right?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Very Valiente-est Quilt

So, y'all know I am sentimental (don't you?). I am a scrapper, a photo taker, and a memory keeper. I catalog all sorts of memories in my brain.

I have been saving the shirts that the Yankee and I were wearing during our DTR in 2009 for three years, always intending to do something with them. Either make a cover of a scrapbook or quilt with them, or some other craft. I didn't want them to just sit it a box for a hundred years, but I also didn't want to get rid of them because the memory of the evening is so special to me.

 I found this pattern online:
It's a pattern for frugal quilters with lots of fabric scraps leftover and decided to use it for out DTR shirts. Each one of those strips is 2 inches by 5 inches, which means I had to cut hundreds of little pieces. Then they had to be sewn together into squares, and the squares made into bigger squares.
Here is the progressing of the project:


Quilt squares:

Finished product:

The finished quilt is the size of a normal couch throw blanket. I just couldn't sew any more strips or squares, so when it got to 5 x 7, I threw in the towel. This was not an easy project by any means and I don't recommend it for anyone who doesn't already sew well, for anyone with little kids (because it took about 10 weekends, doing nothing else), or anyone who doesn't really really really want to make a quilt like this.

Every time I use this blanket, I am a happy girl.

A Very Valiente Clean Up

I take great pride in our home. The Yankee and I both take care to keep things neat and tidy, and clean. You are always welcome to check behind my toilet; I assure you, it's clean. I also enjoy being "grean," trying to reduce first, reuse second, and recycle third. I don't use bleach to clean, unless I am cleaning up a bodily fluid of some kind (chicken goo, normally). I don't even use bleach in the toilet, just a pump of dish soap and a daily swish of the bowl.

I used to replace my shower curtain monthly because it would always get so grimy and gross. I've since reduced that to annually, to try to save the earth a lil. I try to clean it periodically, but it never really looked that great.

I'm sure if you're on Pinterest, you've seen the magic cleaning combination of vinegar and Dawn. I am always happy to use green cleaners, as long as they work! So many times I've tried concoctions with mediocre results, only to reach for the CLR to finish the job. So when I saw the combo, I was skeptical at first but decided to give it a try after I kept reading how miraculous it is.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please try this cleaning solution as soon as humanly possible. Try it today if you can because it was no less than amazing. This solution is half hot vinegar and half Dawn, in a spray bottle. You don't have to reheat it the next time you use it, just swirl the bottle a bit.

Here are some before and after photos (do you know how difficult it is to photograph soap scum on a clear or white background?):

Tub- kinda dingy:

Shower curtain- how embarassing

I will admit that when you microwave the vinegar, it will stink to high heaven in your kitchen. When you open the microwave door, your eyes will water and your nose may run. But once you spray it on, give it a minute to work, wipe down with a rag and rinse, the vingar smell dissapates and your bathroom is all clean. The proof is here:

Nice, shiny tub

Completely clean and clear shower curtain:

Again- stinky? Yes.

Spray it on, let it work, wipe it off and rinse. And then write a blog about how great it is.

Happy Girl :)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Very Valiente Food Rut

Los Valientes are kinda messed up about food these days. I used to be the most glorious of food planners. In San Antonio, we ate a variety of colors, flavors, and from various cultures. There are a mutlitude of things I could say about food, but I am trying to keep most of my blogs to about 4-5 paragraphs in hopes that people will actually read them, so I'll try to humorously summarize and propose a solution.

We are in a food rut- a serious one. I make a weekly plan that we stick to for about a day and a half, which means I cook one meal and we take the leftovers for lunch the next day- and then we tank by Tuesday. We are gone from home for about 12 hours a day, which makes cooking very unattractive after an hour and a half of subway-ness. We also walk to the grocery store and back home, which involves two flights of stairs each way. So the plan is to go shopping twice a week, but going to our ghetto food store after work on a Wednesday is exponentially less appealing than cooking.

You can get basically ANYTHING delivered here, including hamburgers. In San Antonio, we at least had to go retrieve our crap food. Here, all you need is cash and foods of all kinds will be brought to you. And yes, it's as bad ass as it sounds. But we eat burgers and fries at least once a week- which also means no leftovers for lunch the next day, do there is usually crap food for lunch, too.

Here's what happens every.single.weekend (and has happened for the past 2 1/2 years): the Yankee asks me what is for lunch on Saturday and Sunday and I respond that I don't know because I don't normally plan lunches on the weekend. When I say every weekend, I mean this literally happens 104 times each year. Since I don't plan lunches, I don't normally buy lunchy kinds of foods. Since we eat leftovers for lunch during the week (theoretically), I don't buy sandwichy things. We end up eating trash food all weekend as a result of our crappy planning. For example, today I have eaten an entire package of lemon sugar wafers and a pot of coffee using powdered sugar, as well as a Butterfinger, four pieces of white bread... and let's pretend like all the food I ate on Saturday never happened, okay?

This is a small deviation, but I'll bring it back around: y'all know I love to declutter. I hate collecting magazine articles and recipes, because I never read them or make them. This also applies to my Pinterest. I don't want a bunch of photos of things that look cool but I never make or do. That just kinds stresses me out.

In summary, I haven't been mulling over this very much and I don't have a grand theory to put out there as to how to resolve this. Some of the problem is laziness, part if true exhaustion, and part is a lack of inspiration. My only idea is to actually start cooking the stuff I pin on pinterest. This week I am going to make stuff from this board. Maybe this baby step will help me get back on track with good habits. Maybe I can blow the dust off some of my cookbooks next weekend. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Very Valiente Wrestling Match

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. Genesis 32:24

During my horse's ass phase, I wrestled with God ECW-style. I was mad at God for not going along with my carefully crafted plans! I took my life into my own hands, and once I came out of that phase, I knew I had to turn it back over to God. I decided to stop wrestling with God about the direction of my life.

I never anticipated the weighty feelings I have about my past. I am not a killer, drug user, thief, etc. But I treated a lot of people really badly for a long time, in various ways and I carry a lot of guilt and regret about that. I made some terrible choices and banked on being able to simply ask God's forgiveness and press on. I did not even consider consequences. When I went through my journals last weekend, so much of my wrongness and rottenness was in front of my eyes!

As I contemplate the concept of CONTENTMENT this year, I do believe I shall have to confront the weighty feelings about my past that I carry. This week I've spent a lot of time in prayer, simply repeating these words:

thank you Lord that my past is my past
and not my present
for today is indeed a gift
thank you that my past need not be my future
please help me to carry the lessons
without rehashing the details

And you know what? It's helped. The physical effects anxiety and sorrow that creep in when I dwell on old memories longer than a second have been noticeably decreased. I do believe this may be a life-long project, but this small prayer has been my spiritual leatherman this week.

Have a nice weekend, Lovelies.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Very Valiente Recollection Collection

If you've spoken with me for more than about 30 minutes in the past month five years, you know that I have been uncluttering since the spring of 2007. I talk about it, write about, and think about it literally Today I finished reading five years' with of blog posts on Unclutterer, my new favorite blog. I generally prefer to offer items I am getting rid of to people I know, and I normally encourage people not to take my crap if they don't want it. I mean, I don't want it either! Generally when someone has given me a gift that I no longer plan to own, I offer it back to them.

So as I've been conquering my mountains and boxes of clutter, leaving my mother to wonder if I plan on owning any things once I'm done, I've had this stack of journals. The date back all the way through high school and chronicle some really rough times in my life. Sadly, though, they are penned from the perspective of a child. The accounts of the highs and lows of my family and my past are captured in those pages through the eyes of a teenager and then a very young woman. It's true to say that it appears I have recounted the facts of the events and seasons correctly; however, I naturally put my own spin on them. It is also true to say that if I were to tell the stories again, I wouldn't tell them in the same way that I told them in my journals.

So I've lugged this pile from Texas to Georgia and back, and again to New York. They've been bundled and hidden away; the Yankee graciously agreed not to read them. I have been holding onto them thinking they chronicled my story and growth. Today I confronted the pile. I went through them chronologically and skimmed the pages.  First of all, WOW were a lot of the entries just plain boring. I don't think my future heirs really care about a recap of a sick day spent on the couch. Second, they contained a lot of very, very personal details that I wouldn't want someone to read. Even in 20 years, I doubt I'll want any person to know how I felt about some of the events from my past. Third, they referred to people I don't even remember now. Lastly, they contained a lot of emotional baggage. Lots.

So I tossed them out. All of them, except one. I saved one that genuinely tracked my growth out of my horses's ass phase and into living a life of intentional decision making and planning. I also kept the one page I wrote on September 12th, 2011. I kept a portion of an entry that had a bit of reflection that I considered genuine. The rest are currently in my trash can. They are covered in coffee ground and applesauce, soaked with old beef broth that I chucked because it had been in the fridge for awile. The one that I kept is locked away and hidden. And it shall stay there.

One day I will convince the Yankee that we should only own six pieces of furniture. Until then, let the uncluttering continue!

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Very Valiente Excursion

This holiday weekend, the Yankee and I drove to Philadelphia for a quick weekend trip. Philadelphia is a very pretty city in the tourist parts with lots of one-way streets (score!) and independently-owned businesses. They also cater nicely to tourists with money to spend.

We planned to leave right after work, but there was an emergency that the Yankee had to tend to, so we didn't leave until midnight. A late start meant late rising on Saturday, so we didn't embark on our exploration until mid-afternoon. We took a bus tour of the city, which was pretty great. There was some random stuff on the tour that we didn't care about, like a museum where you can touch everything, but we also saw Betsy Ross' house and the Rocky Steps. We also saw the Liberty Bell and all the places that Nicholas Cage ran around and dismantled in "National Treasure."

We had a number of lessons-learned on our trip. I consider myself a fairly great budget maker and we are somewhat great budget-stick-to-ers. We were able to pay for the trip entirely in cash (thanks Dave Ramsey!) and stay at a really wonderful hotel. There were a few things that I had not considered when laying out the projected cost of our trip:
1. Tolls. Effing Tolls. Effing New Jersey and tolls. We paid about $50 in tolls that I had absolutely not even thought about.
2. Parking. The Gross family always tended to travel economy-style, which meant staying in hotels without a lot of "extras." These kinds of hotels tend to be located on the out-skirts of the places we visted, which means there is normally a nice parking lot. The Valiente family has tended to select the most baller hotel we can afford, but these kinds of hotels are normally smack-dab in the middle of the action, built vertically and not hortizontally, and happy to park your car for you. We spent over $70 in parking.
3. Breaksfast. The kinds of hotels with parking lots are often the kind with continental breakfasts. Radissons and Hiltons also have breakfasts and are happy to bring them to your room with little bottles of ketchup and itty-bitty salt and pepper shakers. Over $30 on one breakfast. Thank goodness we slept through breakfast on Saturday!

The Northeast tends to kinda hates letting you park or drive anywhere without paying for it. I consider this to be complete and total crap. I work in New Jersey, which means I pay taxes there. Why in the world do I have to PAY to drive on a highway if I've already given the state taxes? In Texas, they pay no taxes and there are hardly any toll roads, except in major cities. Northeast region, I call BS on you.
We ate some pretty fantastic food and enjoyed a gluten-free bakery that was okay. We also got a lot of rest and time to relax. We came home on Sunday afternoon with a list of fun things to do next time we go to Philadelphia- which I hope is soon. I also came home with a bit of sticker shock and will most definitely consider this when we plan our next trip (to Boston in the Spring).

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Very Valiente Commentary on Contentment

Last night over dinner the Yankee said he read the last entry on our my our blog and asked if everything was okay. We had a short conversation processing my views about contentment, which led us down a path of other conversation topics.

In August of 2010, the author of Unclutterer quoted Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man:
Even modern replacements for priests, rabbis, and Zen masters — the positive psychologists — have something to say on this point. That new breed of shrinks has discovered that happy people spend a lot of time being grateful for what they have and savoring their experience. They don’t rush through “now” to get to later. They don’t make taking care of themselves or taking care of their families something they have to get over with so they can get to the good stuff. Instead, they insist that this moment, whatever it is, is the good stuff.
 All my life, I've been in perpetual wait mode. Life consisted of my dad's next deployment, our next move, finishing a grade, finishing college semesters, etc. Then it was waiting to graduate, to get married, then to move to New York. So now we are here. We have some major life goals on the far horizon, but mostly we're just living life. We don't have any real deadlines for our goals, other than the fact that eventually my body won't be suitable for carrying children. It's hard to get out of wait mode, even if I have nothing that I am waiting for.

Please allow me to backtrack a tad and state that I am not unhappy. I have a joyful life that I love. I am, however, restless. I'm generally more comfortable in motion; I don't care to spend a "lazy day" on the couch, watching TV. I prefer to take an alternate route if I can avoid traffic, and I'll call it a short cut. I want to enjoy my life, here and now.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Very Valiente Delegation of Suckitude

Delgation. That's a pretty word for "do this because I outrank you." Kinda. Delegation is important because you don't want a CEO spending time filling out his expense reports when he has a company to run. You don't want the head of an accounting department trying to fix the printer. Or even touching the printer. Delegation is also important because it's also how you teach, which is important for getting promoted; a good way to get promoted is to learn a new role and teach someone to fill yours. Penelope Trunk of Brazen Careerist says here that managers should delegate the good stuff as a way to teach. I agree.

There are a few kinds of delegation: genuine delegation, bitch delegation, dirty delegation, and BS delegation. Let's explore these.

True, genuine delegation means that a project or responsibility is broken up and handed out which frees the person at the top to focus on something else, while allowing others to learn or even stay employed. After all, if the people at the top can do everything (including admin work), then why do they need administrative workers. This might be something like testing a process or assembling binders for a presentation.

Bitch delegation really means assigning bitch work. Crap work. Grunt work. Sometimes this has to be done. Like Judge Elihu Smails said to Danny Noonan, "The world needs ditch diggers, too."

Hanz Finzel gave me the term "dirty delegation" in The Top Ten Mistakes Good Leaders Make. This is when you say something been's delegated, but then you tell the person exactly how to do it and breathe down their necks making sure they follow your process and run everything by you.

BS delegation is the cousin of bitch delegation. BS delegation is when you "delegate"people really really crappy things to do while creatively explaining how it's really their job to do it. The problem with this form is that you're not genuinely "delegating" here. You're really asking for a favor and sometimes just being bossy. It's kind of like saying "that's not my job." Here are some examples of BS delegation:
  • Calling someone into your office and asking them to retrieve a file from you. A file that is located in your office.
  • Walking past the scanner/copier/fax machine and asking someone to scan one single page to you.
It takes people of all levels in a team, department, or company to make the world go 'round. Someone has to make the coffee and someone has to create an operating strategy. Sometimes the person who makes the coffee ends up being one of the movers and the shakers of the company after working his/her way to the top. Delegation is important to this structure. And sometimes it's just plain old BS.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Very Valiente Change of Direction

Last last year I decided that My One Word for 2012 was going to be LESS. I laways give my years a theme. Here's a list of themes:
2010: Getting over the Boogey Man God
2009: The year of getting my s--- together
2008: Survival, plain and simple
2007: The year of getting rid of things
2006: The year everything changed
2005: The year of trying new things
2004: The year of finding a place for everything
2003: This is a complicated year to talk about, so I'll skip this one

So last year was PROACTIVE and this year would be less. Except that in 2007 I decided to stop arguing with God about the direction of my life, so when He pressed upon me that this had better would in fact be a year of searching for CONTENTMENT, I not-as-quickly-as-I-should-have changed my theme.

When I moved to Savannah in 2003, I was so very angry at God with assigning my life to that city. I moved with a rotten attitude and there was nothing that would have changed my mind. This was the beginning of a downward spiral I call my "Horse's Ass Phase." Because I was, indeed, a horse's ass during that time. When I moved to El Paso in 2006, I decided that I would and could be content anywhere that I could praise the Lord and pay my bills (I've added "love my husband" to that). So now that I am living in New York with fewer local friends than I can name on one hand, I am struggling to find contentment here.

It's tempting to say I was content in San Antonio, because I was for the most part. It's also tempting to compare life here to life there and think that I'll never be content here. But that won't work. Not at all. That's a sure-fire way to end up right back where I was: a horse's ass.

So I am re-emabarking on my journey for 2012, in search of CONTENTment. Not sure how I'll find it or make it, but I'll pursue it and lay it (and my prayers) before the Lord and wait expectantly as David described in Psalm 5:3. Perhaps I won't be content by the end of this year, but I find that proactively pursuing a goal is infinitely more fruitful than passively succombing to mediocrity.

Stay tuned and keep reading, won't you?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Very Valiente Collection of Crap

Minimalism is so fascinating to me; I admire and desire it, and yet it has eluded me for the 9 years I have lived outside of my parents’ home. A lifestyle of living with less and enjoying more- seems so delightful to me- sort of serene and easy-to-breathe. A loved one of mine confessed that she almost, kinda, just-a-lil-bit was jealous of the people who lost everything in Katrina- that sometimes she wished she could pare down to almost nothing, lose all her possessions, and be left with nothing but the barest of necessities. Not the “possibly going to die” part, or the disease or anything- she didn’t make light of the situation, I think she was just overwhelmed with the stuff in her life.

So my
One Word this year is LESS. We’ve moved into a home with exponentially less space and I constantly feel overwhelmed by the amount of “things” that are just hanging around, taking up real estate. There was a time when I lived in complete excess, engaging in retail therapy instead of addressing how unhappy I was with my life. But that’s another blog. So I have been in constant declutter/purge/throw-my-crap-the-F-out mode since 2007. In 2006, I moved to El Paso with a 25-foot truck; when I left in 2008, I had a 14-foot truck (but that's another blog). And yet, I still feel crowded and cluttered and stuffy.

So the Yankee reins me in and prevents me from making a pile and lighting it on fire. He also saves his precious mementos from me and my junk box. I tend to go a bit crazy when I get into the mood to organize, and he knows it about me. My mother cautions me about getting rid of something and wishing I had it later. To be perfectly honest, the only item I’ve gotten rid of that I now miss is my
Topsy Turvy, because I could make my ponytails look cuter- but I could also recreate this with a popsicle stick and a piece of string.

Like most people, I struggle with the thought that I’ll get rid of something and either want it or need it later. And I’ll be broke or stuck in the middle of the Zombie Apocalypse and won’t be able to get it again. But it’s been occurring to me lately that just because I enjoyed collecting and owning something at one time doesn’t mean I cannot just get over it. I am a huge fan of Charlie Brown and the Yankee really like Snoopy. But does that mean I can’t just downgrade my loving to liking and boot the knick knacks? I also really like
Cow Parade cows, but do I have to keep my collection? I don’t think so… and yet I’m not quite ready to get rid of them yet.

I like to give my items away to people that I think might like them, or find them useful. My friend who shall be referred to here as “B like a Sharpie,” always delights in getting my crap- and somehow, my stuff looks better in her house. But just because I offer, doesn’t mean any person is ever obligated to take it- I won’t take it personally and it won’t hurt my feelings. I mean, I don’t want the stuff either! So if you get a message in one form or another from me, offering you some stuff, please don’t be surprised. And if you’ve given me an item and you show up and it’s no longer in my home, please just know that I have sufficiently loved it and consequently let it go.