Life gets ahead of me and I focus on the fact that everything I post needs to be perfect and helpful and life-changing and have perfect photography. But the truth is that life is a haphazard collection of spilled coffee and morning traffic and wishing that you-hadn’t-said-that-one-thing when you were mad. Today is January 9, smack in the middle of the time when everyone’s icebreaker question is “So what are your New Year’s resolutions?”.
And honestly besides an ambitious savings goal, and possibly running a half marathon, I don’t really have any drastic changes I want to make this year. I just want to be happier with what I have instead of dreaming about what life could be.
I’m sure you can relate in the fact that some days you don’t want to open a news site because it is going to be a vile sight. We’ve had a challenging year in the news cycle for sure, but it’s really because of that fact that we should be immersed in what’s happening in Washington and around the world.
I’ve struggled this year with staying up to date on the hoards of news outlets out there. I used to have a paper subscription to the Wall Street Journal, and I tried a one-month trial of The New York Times, but again and again I kept coming back to the fact that I don’t want to pay for news articles when there are endless new sources online that share articles without fees. These are the top three places I’ve personally found for news consumption.
Axios is a site that I visit to get the top headlines listed out in a digestible way that lets you pick and choose which articles you’d like to read in more depth. The site also offers daily themed newsletters that cover every topic from Market Trends to Science to Sports, but I find that I don’t really read newsletters so I haven’t signed up for them.
Five Smart Reads
Hitha Palepu is the CEO, investor, author & blogger behind Hitha On The Go who started Five Smart Reads on her Instagram account. Every morning on her Instagram Story, she links out to 5 of the most poignant stories of the day. I usually open the articles and then save them to my Instapaper account to read later. They are always intelligently curated and range from topics like healthcare and politics to beauty and women in business.
My Amazon Echo
I love my Amazon Echo for a plethora of reasons, but one reason in particular is because I can say “Alexa, what’s my morning news?” and it gives me a rundown of the top headlines from sites like CNN, The Skimm, and Wall Street Journal.
Pancakes are my love language. I make pancakes at least every other weekend, if not every weekend. They are so easy to throw together and you really don’t need a lot of ingredients. Steven is lactose intolerant, so we usually make dairy-free pancakes, but if you’re interested in a great buttermilk pancake, this one is my favorite.
While we were camping this past weekend, I made it my mission to still keep up my weekly weekend pancake tradition. And I’m happy to report that it really was a lot more manageable than one might think!
So how do you successfully make pancakes in the middle of the woods? Let’s talk about it. Also, scroll down to the bottom of the post for the recipe I used!
Prepare The Dry Ingredients At Home
Dry ingredients are only activated once you add liquid to them, so it’s 100% safe to mix them ahead of time. Find a tupperware container that has a secure lid and store the mixture in there.
Store Your Milk In A Mason Jar
Mason jars are used for canning because they are so secure. Pre-measure out your milk and keep it in a mason jar in a cooler! I didn’t do this because I used a dairy-free milk that hadn’t been opened yet (thus could keep at room temperature).
Alternately, you could definitely assemble ALL of the wet ingredients in a large mason jar. Just make sure to keep it in a cooler so nothing spoils.
Find A Small Canister to Store Your Eggs
Eggs are probably the trickiest part of making pancakes while camping. You don’t want your egg to crack and get all over everything. There are two main options: 1) Get a Coghlan Egg Holder that is specifically made for this exact reason. 2) Find a small canister (see mine above) that fits the egg without much wiggle room. You could even crack the egg and keep it in this canister. Either way, make sure to store it in a cooler!
Bring A Mixing Bowl With You
Find a small mixing bowl (with a whisk or fork) that will fit your finished batter. This is really the most crucial step because you actually need to assemble the ingredients once you’re there. I also brought a 1/3 cup measuring cup to transfer the batter to the skillet.
This recipe is adapted (see original recipe here) from the blog Simply Whisked. Melissa from Simply Whisked is my go-to for dairy-free recipes. She’s the best! For this recipe, I just changed the milk to oat milk (I prefer oat milk because I think it makes the pancakes taste creamier).
1 1/2 cup all-pupose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 1/4 cup oat milk
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
Add milk, canola oil, egg and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.
Preheat a non-stick griddle or large skillet to medium heat. (Coat pan with butter or oil if not using non-stick).
Pour ⅓ cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Allow it to cook until bubbles are visible throughout the pancake before flipping.
Between the hours of 9:00 – 9:30 in the morning Monday through Friday, there’s a 95% chance that you can find me on the Westbound 134 Freeway listening to a podcast and nursing a large mug of coffee. There is no better way to prepare for a day at work than listen to a podcast; I’m sure of it. But at the rate that new podcasts pop up these days, it’s difficult to sift through the junk and find the podcasts that are actually good.
I can’t tell you how many podcasts I’ve listened to for at-most ten seconds and then promptly skipped to a different one. It is possible to create one that is informative and entertaining at the same time, and that’s what I’m looking for when I start a new podcast. These podcasts I’m about to share are five of my favorites right now (the list is always updating, truly!).
Lauren Conrad, the reality star turned entrepreneur, is someone I really admire, who was able to take her platform and turn it into a business venture rather than wasting her fame on other avenues. In this podcast, she interviews friends she’s met in the business and starts the discussion of how they got to be in their particular industry and all of the advice and tips you could ever imagine. I find Lauren to be an incredibly talented interviewer and I always learn so much!
I never miss an episode of the Bon Appétit Foodcast. The editors from Bon Appetit get together and discuss in length the nitty-gritty topics of food that often get overlooked, like the different flavor profiles of marinara sauce and the best way to cook a pot of rice. They also interview cookbook authors and chefs from top restaurants on the reality of working in the food world. It’s basically my dream podcast and I’m never disappointed. New episodes drop every Wednesday!
Young House Love is a home improvement blog. I’ve recently delved face-first into home improvement DIY projects (apparently it’s my new passion?) and their blog is both inspiring and super helpful. Their podcast is single-handedly the most entertaining home improvement podcast I’ve found because they are both hilarious and tell stories of their renovations and offer helpful advice from their ventures. They are currently renovating their home as well as some rental properties so there is no lack of content to discuss.
I. LOVE. THIS. PODCAST. I started listening to it because it was casually recommended to me on a whim, but I fell in deep after the first episode. Ella and her husband Matt discuss health and wellness with actual healthcare professionals, and the amount of important information I learn in every episode is honestly overwhelming (in the best way). They talk about everything from mental health to how food affects your body to menstrual cycles and everything else you can think of.
Have you heard of The Skimm? I bet you have if you’re been involved in the news cycle at all recently. They have a daily newsletter that “skimms” the top topics in the newsroom that morning. They also have two podacsts: Skimm This and Skimm’d From The Couch. I like Skimm’d From The Couch best because they have interesting conversations with the world’s most interesting people. They interviewed the ex-CEO of Planned Parenthood before she was let go from the position, and I highly enjoyed this episode with Mel Robbins.
Fall in Los Angeles consists of 85 degree weather with the occasional rainy night that switches right back into 85 degrees the following morning. I drove past someone in my neighborhood walking his dog in shorts and a t-shirt this morning, which is the perfect example of the Los Angeles life.
And since Los Angeles is so industrialized, you have to get out of town if you want to experience a true change in season. My boyfriend and I love to go to the Oak Glen area, which is about an hour and a half East of East Los Angeles. Today I’m going to share my two favorite farms that we always visit every year to get pumpkins and pick apples.
This is the farm that you didn’t know you needed in your life. I found this farm last year by happenstance through a rogue Yelp search while we were driving through the area. And it’s a serious Southern California gold mine.
There is a massive pumpkin patch (the pumpkins are still on the vine), tractor rides, horses, goats, rabbits, games for kids, and basically anything else you could think of. It’s family-owned-and-operated and a great way to support a community farm rather than buying your pumpkins from the grocery store.
I bought three small pumpkins that I plan to make pumpkin puree out of. (Since I’m out of town on Halloween, I didn’t really see any value in getting larger pumpkins to carve.)
Last year Steven and I pressed our own apple cider at Los Rios Rancho and it was honestly so much fun. And delicious. We got a huge glass tub of our cider to take home with us! We went back this year, but headed straight for the U-Pick orchard this time.
This apple farm-turned family business is your one-stop shop for apple picking and cider-making in Oak Glen. They have cider presses that you can use, an adorable gift shop with rows and rows of apple butter, and a U-Pick orchard where you can gather a basket of hand-picked apples.
Disclaimer: This farm gets busy during the pre-Halloween season so if you hate crowds, this may not be the place for you. The parking is a bit of a pain in the mid-afternoon so I’d recommend arriving early!
I’ve been camping since I was little. My parents taught me how to pitch a tent at a young age and I’ve never looked back. I used to spend a week every summer in the Santa Cruz Mountains camping at a campsite off of Summit Road, and I loved every minute of it.
My boyfriend Steven and I have been talking about going camping since we started dating. And I’m happy to announce that it FINALLY happened. We headed up to Idyllwild this past weekend and pitched a tent for the night. Since this is our first camping trip together, we decided to just do one night, so we could ease our way into it. I’m going to do a full review of Idyllwild soon, stay tuned!
We brought this tent, along with a tarp to go under it. One thing that a lot of people forget about is that you really want (and need) a barrier between your tent and the ground in order to make sure a rock doesn’t rip a hole in your tent. It’s also nice to have tarp section that you can put your shoes so you’re not lugging dirt back and forth into the tent.
What’s For Dinner?
When it came time for dinner, we used Steven’s JetBoil Stove along with a set of Lodge cast-iron pots and plates and bowls. The campsite has a fire pit with a grill over it, but with all the fires happening all over California, there was a clear “NO FIRES” sign at the check-in desk so we had to use the JetBoil. We made burgers and were planning to make s’mores but the whole ‘No Fires’ rule really kicked that dream to the curb.
For night-time activities, we brought this lantern to light the campsite, a chess board (I love chess), of course bananagrams, a deck of playing cards and UNO.
I’ve never necessarily been “bad” at finances. But that definitely doesn’t mean that I’ve been good at them. My motto was always to never spend more in a month than I earned that month. And hey, I did that. But I wasn’t saving. And I wasn’t actually aware of my purchases. I would just swipe my card and check my billing total later. There’s no harm in that, right?
But then I kinda woke up one day and realized that I wanted to actually afford a house some day and I wasn’t intentionally saving money each month. And in California, if you want to afford something more than a broom closet, you need an actual down payment of substance, or you’re kicked to the bottom of the pile.
It took a couple months, but I’m now fully on the ‘Fueled Only By Cash’ train. I go to the ATM at the beginning of each week and take out the exact amount of money that I think I need that week, and I don’t spend more than that. And I don’t buy anything if I can’t buy it in cash. Yes, that does mean that some weeks I’ve looked in my fridge on a Thursday night and realized that I didn’t have any groceries left so I had to search through my pantry for some canned tomato sauce and dried pasta.
On average, I’m saving at least $500 more each month than I was before. Here are five tips if that’s something that you want to do too:
Create A Budget
Having a budget helps you prioritize my purchases and figure out how much cash you need each week. I use the app EveryDollar, where you enter in how much income you expect to receive that month and then you assign a category to each of those dollars that you have.
Keep Your Receipts
I swear this seems silly, but having a paper trail of your receipts makes each purchase more tangible. I organize my receipts on DropBox. DropBox has a neat feature where you can scan your receipt and it’ll convert it into a PDF for you.
Learn To Say No
Let’s be honest – saying no to yourself sucks. It really, really does. But looking at your credit card bill at the end of the month and seeing all of your impulse buys that you didn’t actually need sucks even more. And it helps you think about what you actually need compared to what you want.
Keep Your Cash In Different Envelopes
Don’t keep your grocery cash with your cat litter cash. When you do that, you can’t keep track of how much money you actually have left for certain categories. Even if that means waiting to make a purchase until you can make it to an ATM, do it. I budget $50 per week for groceries, and I keep that money in a separate envelope than I keep my ‘RestaurantCash‘ and ‘Pet CareCash‘.
Invest In A Wallet (With Envelopes In It!)
Having a wallet that allowed me to put cash in different areas was the turning point that really allowed me to dive head-first this new cash management tactic. I use this wallet from Dave Ramsey.
Stocking your kitchen for the first time is, to put it bluntly, overwhelming. You’re standing in your first apartment out of college and how the heck are you supposed to know what you actually need? When you go to Target, they usually have pot ‘sets’ that you buy that include three sauté pans, two pots, a weird mid-sized pan and another pan that you will literally never touch. So, what do you probably do? You buy it.
But in my opinion, it’s much smarter to invest in a couple nice pots/pans instead of buying the cheap sets from the convenience store. So here’s my personal recommendations for your necessary pot/pan investments:
A Non-Stick Sauté Pan
This is your go-to pan for scrambled eggs, sautéed veggies, heating up pasta sauce, etc. It’s your all-in-one dream maker. Feel free to get two sizes for different items, but for sure invest in a larger size one because it can handle anything and everything. Budget Friendly Sauté Pan // Higher Quality Sauté Pan
A Large Stock Pot
This is your pasta pot. Everyone eats pasta. It’s just a fact of life. If you’re gluten-free, you probably eat gluten-free pasta. You need a pot that will hold up for a big family meal or just a weeknight pasta dinner at home. Truth be told, I got mine from the hallway of my old apartment complex next to a ‘FREE’ sign that someone had put outside their door. In general, I’d gravitate towards a stainless steel pot because it will distribute heat and last longer than a non-stick stock pot. Budget Friendly Stock Pot // Higher Quality Stock Pot
Hiking isn’t the first thing you usually think of when you think of Hawaii: you think of blue ocean as far as the eye can see, bottomless piña coladas, and snorkeling. All of those activities are totally valid, but it would be a travesty to go to Kauai without experiencing the hiking trails.
The Napali Coast on the North Shore hosts some of the best hikes in the entire world, and I would 100% recommend doing a day hike there if you have the time. But if you’re staying on the South Shore and looking for a more accessible and feasible hike, there’s one hike in particular that I’d recommend in Waimea Canyon.
The hike starts in Waimea Canyon State Park, up about five miles of windy roads. I’m pretty sure I got car sick every time we drove up it because it’s so windy. The trail starts right after mile marker 14! You start the hike on a fire road and hike down to the trailhead.
The hike is about 1.8 miles each way and takes about 2.5 – 3 hours roundtrip.
The Hike Details
The hike leads you to the most incredible views of Waimea Canyon, at a clearing called the Kumuwela Lookout. I honestly had a do a double-take like ten times before I accepted that the views were real – they are INCREDIBLE. Don’t turn around too early, because there is a trail at the end of the lookout that leads to Waipoo Falls. There’s a fork in the trail that leads you to two different sets of falls; turn to the right to go to the top of Waipoo Falls!
To be rip-the-bandaid-off honest, I’ve never paid too much attention to where my money goes or how much I spend each month. My rule has just always been: “never spend more than you make.” I’ve always paid off my credit card bills each month without late fees or overage interest rates and I keep enough money in my account to pay rent on time each month, etc. Those are my basic living expenses and I never thought to plan outside of those.
But recently while my boyfriend and I were on a long drive, he turned on a Dave Ramsey podcast and my whole world was turned upside-down. Dave was talking so bluntly about money and putting complicated processes into such simple terms. His podcast is mainly focused on debt and how to get out of debt, but at the core of it he talks about how to manage your money and how to plan for your future. *Cue the “OH RIGHT, I’M 26 AND SHOULD PROBABLY BE PLANNING FOR MY FUTURE” panic.*
So.. what’s the first step to plan out your finances? Well, it’s figuring out exactly what you’re spending money on each month. And how do you do that? Well, you literally go line-by-line through your credit card bills (A great Sunday afternoon activity!) and mark anything that was not a necessary purchase.
When I sat down and actually looked through my credit card purchases, I saw hoards of items that could have been money going into my savings account. I was spending $12 per month on Hulu, when I couldn’t even remember the last time I watched it. (I signed up for a membership after Netflix took How I Met Your Mother off of their service. Long live Ted Mosby!) Since then, I’ve gone through a budget cleanse and made an effort to be an intentional spender.
If you’re in the same boat as me and taking the steps towards becoming more in charge of your finances, here are five things that may be weighing down your bills each month:
There is a subscription for practically anything you could ever want: I had a wine subscription that delivered four new bottles of wine to my doorstep every month. But subscriptions add up fast. If you have five $10 subscriptions, that’s $50 a month. Go through your credit card statement and make sure you’re not still subscribed to something that you don’t ever use. Since they auto-renew, payments can slip under your radar if you’re not careful!
As a twenty-something who lives in Los Angeles, I can testify that people my age buy coffee literally every single day. And now that it’s pumpkin spice season at Starbucks, that number is doubling as I type this. Cashing in at $4 a cup, that coffee bill adds up fast. Coffee is such an easy thing to make at home before you leave for the day. It just takes the commitment of waking up earlier than usual to brew up your to-go cup.
I am 150% guilty of spending too much money on fancy exercise studios. It comes with the territory when you live in the city that has the most boutique exercise studios per square mile. If you’re running low on budget wiggle room, your fitness membership may be something you take off your plate until you’re in a more stable place to afford it.
Eating Out Every Night
There is nothing wrong with eating out – trying new restaurants is one of my favorite things to do! But eating out multiple times a week can add up, especially if you use Postmates or another service that charges delivery fees. You don’t need to cut this budget item out entirely, but maybe don’t splurge on a nice meal more than a few times a month, or actually drive to get your meal instead of ordering from an app.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but the worst feeling in the world is going to check the payment deadline on a bill and realizing it’s past due. Set up auto pay on all of your accounts to make sure you’re hitting deadlines and not paying any unnecessary fees. The sooner you can catch the late fees, the sooner those late fees can disappear!
Are YOU on top of your money? Do YOU have any advice to budget better?