Erica's Blog

The Try Something New Everyday experiment

Today I made Snowman Soup

I like to put together cute goodies to give to my coworkers in lieu of Christmas cards.  In year’s past, I have given the candy cane meaning and the M&M Christmas Story.  This year I found Snowman Soup!

Snowman Soup couldn’t be easier.  All you need is hot chocolate packets, your favorite chocolates, candy canes, marshmallows and goodie bags.

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To put together just insert each ingredient in the baggies.  I used a loaf pan to keep them upright as I loaded the baggies.

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Now…in all the posts I saw about Snowman Soup, the marshmallows just laid mingled with everything else in the baggie.  I couldn’t do it.  I’m sure no one worries about the sanitation of marshmallow…no one except me.  I felt compelled to wrap each marshmallow in cling wrap before putting them in the bags.

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Here’s a close up of the goodies…

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And here’s a close up of the tag I used.

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And the final Snowman Soup!  Happy Future Snow Days!!

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Today I tangled with a Mad Elf

Y’all should feel sorry for this Mad Elf.  He’s been locked away in the bottom drawer of the fridge for almost a month.  The bottom drawer has been used for “unclean” or “limited” foods while I have been on the Clean Eating Challenge.  He’s been face down somewhere between the 3 alarm habenero pepper cheese and some kielbasa I’m saving to make jambalaya with.

I found this beer at Whole Foods during one of my trips a few weeks ago.  The description of the beer on the sign sold me.  Cherries…Honey…Chocolate.  Yes, yes and oh yeah!!

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I scooped up a pint to try one evening after the challenge ended.

Tonight is the night.

I’ve had a Christmas kinda day.  I’ve done holiday shopping, dropped some gifts off at the post office, played Santa delivering some toys to a charity and other holiday errands.  Now it’s time to settle in to crochet on my grandad’s Christmas gift and watch a holiday favorite…The Walking Dead.

Ok, so maybe the latter isn’t so “ho ho ho”…

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I poured the beer in the glass.  It has a reddish brown color…quite festive!! With the first sip, I clearly tasted the cherries and chocolate.  I cannot taste the honey as much but overall it’s a sweet beer so maybe that’s the honey’ s contribution.  This beer is brewed in Hershey, PA…the chocolate capital!!

Final verdict: A delicious seasonal treat!!  Gives ya a warm tingle all over!!  I totally see Santa sipping this after a long evening on the 25th.

I’ll take this Mad Elf over some small, creepy guy hanging out on a shelf any day!

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Today I solved my check engine light

There I was…driving along this afternoon when I heard my vehicle *ding*.

Usually it dings if I need to feed it gas…no biggie.  I mentally started to rearrange my errand list to include a gas station.

I looked down though and saw a horrifying sight!!  The “Check Engine” light…aka the “OMG!  The truck is going to explode and I’m going to breakdown and be left on the side of the cold, dark road!!” light was lit.  See, that would be too long (though accurate) of a label for this light, so the auto industry just settled on the kind, gentle (yet deceptive) “Please check your engine at your earliest convenience” light.

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I’ve had past interactions with this light.  A few years ago, while driving down the interstate, at oh about 65 mph, the steering decided to take a siesta…then the electrical system went out and then the truck decided I didn’t need brakes…and then my panic started…and as I struggle to get off at the nearest exit, THAT’s when the check engine light decided to appear.

How nice.

But I hadn’t heard anything from said light since that incident and I figured we were back to being friends.

The good news…nothing started breaking or smoking or sounding weird.  I still had full control over the vehicle, which I like and see as kind of an important thing.  Maybe it’s just a fluke.  But yeah…my trust is quite weak when it comes to this light so I’m not falling for any of it’s trickery.

I remembered hearing a commercial that one of the local auto stores will check the “OMG! TTIGTEAIGTBABLOTSOTCDR” light…(see, even an acronym wouldn’t work for the title of the light) if it comes on.  Well, you know, granted that the vehicle hasn’t exploded on you or anything.  An awesome peep of a coworker confirmed that I hadn’t dreamt that up and told me she had used them as well.

So after work I restarted the truck…holding my breath, wondering if cracks, hisses or kabooms would start emitting from the truck.  I drove to the Advanced Auto, which luckily is just down the road.

When I arrived, one of the guys behind the desk asked me how he could help me and I explained my “OMG!  The truck is going to explode and I’m going to breakdown and be left on the side of the cold, dark road!!” light was lit.

Yes, I said it just like that to him.

He nodded and grabbed a square unit with several wires.  He asked me several questions as we walked out to the truck.  “How long had the light been on?  Have I heard any strange noises?  Is the truck still driving ok?  How many times have I been stranded on the side of the road (I guess my experience showed)?  How long did it take me to come up with that name of the light?”…you know, the usual auto store questions.

And then here is where my mechanical ignorance shows.  I figured I would act like I knew something about vehicles…so I offered to pop the hood for him…because of course everything of importance is concealed nicely under the hood.  He laughed and said he actually needed access to the cab.  I hung my head in embarrassment, handed him the keys and stood in silence as he plugged in his magical device and waited for it to compute or something.

Unfortunately, today I didn’t dress in my 24 layers of clothes to keep myself warm and within seconds of being outside, I quickly became chilled to the bone.  So much so, my teeth actually chatter.  Believe me, I try to control it but I can only clinch my jaw muscles for so long.  I think he actually heard my chattering and offered that I could stand in the store while he finished up.  And I sure did take him up on his offer!

After a few moments he came in and rattled off some auto lingo that my ears are deaf to.  Something to do with some sensor near the gas tank.  I probably looked alarmed as my face always shows my thoughts…such betrayal!!  He assured me the truck would not explode and leave me broke down on the side of the cold, dark road and handed me the code written on a piece of receipt paper with the homework to google the code.

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Yep, I was quite impressed he remembered the true name of the light. It further cements my theory that calling the light a “Check Engine” light is an industry cover up that Snowden is probably about to reveal {Hi CIA…thanks for stopping by my blog! :)}.

So I searched the code on Yahoo! and came across this explanation:  This indicates that a part of the EVAP control system is no longer functioning correctly. The EVAP system consists of many parts, including (but not limited to) the gas cap, fuel lines, carbon canister, purge valve, and other hoses.

Then I read over the possible solutions:

With a P0441 OBD-II trouble code, diagnosis can be tricky at times. Here are some things to try:

  • Common Chrysler fix – Replace Leak Detection Pump / LDP
  • Repair damaged EVAP lines or canister
  • Repair open or short in voltage feed circuit to Purge Solenoid
  • Repair open in PCM purge command circuit
  • Replace purge Solenoid
  • Replace vacuum switch
  • Repair restriction in Evap line or canister or solenoid
  • Repair resistance in purge connector
  • Replace PCM

Oh yeah…that totally made sense to me.  As much as reading War and Peace in Pali.  This junk is all Greek to me.

It sounds like the truck is irreverably broke.

And there is only one solution.

Head to the dealer…

and buy a Buick Enclave….white opal exterior, gray interior (just in case Santa is reading too!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today I crocheted by flashlight

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, which means I’m one of those millions that are traveling over the river and through the woods heading to an awesome Thanksgiving feast.

But in my travels, I have encountered a problem.

As you know, I have this practically impossible crafting project underway with a tight deadline…it must be wrapped, with a bow, and under the Christmas tree by December 24th…midnight at the latest.  As such, I have grand plans to crank out some stitches on this long weekend.  Right now it looks like a placemat…my goal is for it to look more like a bath towel by the weekends’ end.  I planned to accomplish much of its growth while traveling.

Unfortunately, with this winter time change, my crafting light, aka the sun, disappears around 5 pm.  Which means lost productivity!!!

Nah Nah I say…I got keep the yarn ball rolling!

But I cannot use the car light, because that would blind the driver.   So I tried a small flashlight.  It had a clip that I attached to my shirt so that the light shone down on my work.

Now, this solution failed to be fool proof.  Every bump in the road moved the light off my work.  I also had to sit just a certain way for the light angel to be right so I could determine if I was double crocheting (correct) or octuple crocheting (very not correct).  I would adjust the light to perfectly illuminate my work and could crochet for a bit.  Then the vehicle would hit a bump in the road.  I would arch my back and be able to crochet a bit more…then *bump bump*…arch my back some more (my chiropractor would kill me if he knew)…ok, back in business…*curve* oh crud…now I’m trying to crochet but also move my work to follow the light… *bump bump*…St Louis Arch has nothing on me…*pothole* Holly Fazollis…

But I crocheted a couple more rows so I’ll call it a win :)

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Today I walked the Million Bulb Walk (and Cuddle Duds)

The Norfolk Botanical Gardens creates a beautiful light display in celebration of the holiday season called the Million Bulb Walk.  This is the first year I’ve visited the display.  Normally, you would enjoy the lights from the comfort of your car however for a short period of time they open it for visitors to walk through the one mile path.

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Gingerbread peeps and candy confections welcome you into the gardens.

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Flowers and rainbows begin the light tour.

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No light display could ever be without fireworks!

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Caterpillars, mushrooms, butterflies and daisies…

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Close up…

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A rose…

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A sunflower…

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This Christmas tree was just one of several that was synchronized to the Linus song and Trans Syberian Orchestra – Christmas Eve/Sarajevo.

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I love shooting stars! :)

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A cutiepie elf!

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A busy elf.

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Wow…what a walk!  I started in Norfolk but ended up in the North Pole!

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Beautiful trees!!

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More beautiful trees!

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Happy Holidays!! :)

After reading this, you may feel like you’ve seen the whole show.  No worries…there’s still a ton for you to see!

P.S.  I did not see one bulb burnt out…I looked…obsessively…believe me, you would have gotten a picture!!

Side Something New:
I knew tonight would be in the 30s and despite my plan to wear jeans and a sweater I also knew I’d be freezing my bootie off.  Earlier I found Cuddle Duds at Walmart and decided  tonight would be a great test of their worth.

Cuddle Duds are new fangled long johns.  No longer do you have to suffer the old timey, waffle fabric long johns.  Now they use microfiber as insulation.  The advantage is a less bulky, more effective method to hold your body heat.

I purchased both the top and the bottoms for $20.  As I opted for the black pair, with just them on, I look like cat woman!!! lol. Meow…I then put my jeans and sweater on.  Immediately I felt warmer and loved that I didn’t feel like the Michelin Man like you do when you have on so many layers.

Overall, they kept me toasty on a fridged walk.  Definately a great investment!!  As I’m losing weight (down 36 lbs!!) I tend to get cold easily.  I’m truly pondering an whole wardrobe of these to get through winter!!  Or Bradley Cooper…either one would probably keep me equally warm ;)

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Today I began a crocheted bedspread

In my family, we draw names for Christmas.  I reached into the hat, chanting “someone easy…someone easy”….and drew my grandad.  Bummer!!  Love him dearly…but what do you give a man who wants for nothing?

I’ve mulled it over for weeks.  I tossed ideas around like a basketball game warm up.  Everything I thought of, I ended up talking myself out of.

We just celebrated his birthday in October and I completely struck out.  He used to like John Wayne westerns and I thought an easy to use, portable DVD player would reignite his love for those movies.  And if it worked out, it would make future gift giving easier.  The family could give additional movies, headphones, etc.  So I found a super easy player…just one button to operate.   I even found a John Wayne movie with 2 movies!  I charged the player up and prepped it with the movie ready to go.  When he opened the gift, he could just press play and see John Wayne shooting his gun, taking the bad guys down, and riding off into the sunset with the little lady.  I knew giving this kind of gift was a gamble…but if it worked, it would be perfect for him!

Yeah…not so much.

He was as kind about it as he could be but inevitably he told me he didn’t want it.  Luckily, I had cooked him a double batch of jambalaya and baked a pie my grandmother used to make for him.  He was just as happy with those as anything he recieved and needless to say, the only part of those returned to me were the empty dishes.

So my gift to him has to be something special and something that serves a purpose.  If I don’t pick the right thing this time, I know it will end up like all the others…living in the same box it originally came in and collecting dust for an eternity.

I mulled all these factors over and decided on a handmade, crocheted bedspread.  My grandmother always made hand work so I know he’ll understand the love and time that goes into it.  Hopefully that alone will encourage him to keep and use the gift.  And winter is coming (think Game of Thrones)…so a cozy blanket will keep him warm on cold, blistery nights at the Wall where he’s ready to ward off beasts and creatures that threaten…oh wait…sorry, kinda got swept away…

Anyhoo, let me throw in a few disclaimers.  I’m first and foremost a tatter…then a knitter…then a cross stitcher…then a crocheter.  So crocheting isn’t my strong suit.  Second,  the largest crafting project I have completed is a scarf (knitted).  The longest (timewise) project I have completed is a tatted doily (30+ non consecutive hours).

So…of course I would decide to take on crocheting a twin size bedspread the month before Christmas.  Piece of fruitcake, right?!

Today I researched different stitch styles.  There’s a whole slew of crochet stitches…probably as many as there are elves in Santa’s workshop.

I settled on the granny square stitch (pun a happy accident) but found a video that converts the end product from square to rectangle, ideal for bedspreads.  Youtube rocks!!!

I acquired the yarn a few nights ago…I just happened to be in the craft store…I kinda go there some…ok, frequently….well, practically nightly.

I love this yarn! It’s truly simply soft…
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The video I found seemed easy to follow however the instructor assumed the viewer had experience in the granny stitch.   Luckily I did.

First step: Chain 58 stitches.  This took me 8 tries.

Try 1…I’m rusty at crocheting but remembered I liked a particular hook brand.  I have both Boye and Susan Bates but couldn’t remember which I preferred.  Of course, I started with the Boye and realized it’s not that one.

Now, reader beware…I’m about to get all craftastic-nerdy on ya.  The Boye hooks are great…I love them for thicker yarns as the hook shape allows for more room.  They also just look like a traditional crochet hook and probably my first so definitely a sentimental favorite.  The Susan Bates hook has a sharper, more narrow head which seems to grip the yarn better.  My chain stitches come out more even with the Susan Bates and in the end, the whole foundation of your project is the chain…so even is key.  I’ve tried the Addi hooks.  Love their looks but they seemed too bulky in my hands.  I guess I’m an old fashioned, steel hook girl.
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Once I found my preferred hook, I reworked the chain only to realize I didn’t count (Try 3).  I recrocheted the chain but had split the yarn (downside of using Susan Bates hooks) early on so had to take it out (Try 4).  I then reworked the chain only to not be happy with the tension (Try 5).  I redid the chain concentrating on the tension and the yarn, but forgot to count again (Try 6).

Ok…gonna focus on it all and make this work.
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Try 7 looked great.  *happy dance*  I figured I could move on to Step 2, begin row 2 which is the granny square stitch.  As I added the granny square sttiches, I realized my tension was too tight.  Ugh!! *not so happy dance*  I always knit and crochet tight.  So I took the whole row out, started again and finally recrocheted it to slight perfection.

Finally!!  The first row :)
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And second!
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I worked on the blanket all afternoon and evening…
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Geez…seeing as this is my largest crafting undertaking,  I envisioned it going faster than this.  You know, like I’d be done by now.

And I thought if this worked out well, I have a few other difficult to buy for peeps on my list that could use an Erica-made cozy blanket.  But at this rate, my grandad might have it by next Christmas!!  And the thought of doing others seems laughable now!!

I’m thinking with the holiday next week I can get pretty far on it.  I’ll keep ya up to date on the progress here. :)

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Today I battled a flat tire

I have a zillion million things to do today…that’s an exact figure. And I have been cranking out the work this morning.  Let’s just say, I almost had my 10k steps by 11am.

One task is to do the final mowing of the year.  I’ll admit…this task could have been done ages ago.  And I’ll further fess up…I’ve been procrastinating.  I usually don’t mind mowing.  I pop in some earbuds, cue up some music and bee bop along all the while belting out the tunes…luckily I have no close neighbors and the empty fields that surround my house have yet to complain about my singing.  Secretly, I think they like it…that’s my story anyways.  But since the whole bee sting incident…not once, but twice…that I still, to this day, have a scar from (physically and emotionally).  So, I’ve been a bit leary to mow.

I walked out to the barn and found that the mower had the audacity to have a flat tire.  I raised my fists in the air and said “A flat tire is NOT on my to do list!!”  Argggghhh!!  (I get piratish when life throws me lemons!)

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Ok…this should be no biggie right?!  Just put some air in and be good to go.  There’s a compressor right by the mower so this should be a cinch.  I turned the compressor on, it ran for maybe a minute and then it turned off.  Awesome…it’s up to pressure.  I tried to fill the tire but no go.

I’m a girl and know I have no brains for mechanical, hardware stuff.  It’s Erica Flaw #3,864.  So, what’s a chick like me to do?!  Call Daddio!! The compressor used to belong to him and well, he’s a super handy guy and he’s my superhero so he’ll definately know how to save the day.

He walked me through some problem shooting.  “Check this knob…check this hose…You said it ran?…How long?…What does the gauge say?… Check the breaker…”  I almost felt like I was talking to Geek Squad.  Then he declared “It must have died…”

Died?!!  Uh…NO!!  Unacceptable!!!

He asked if I had a portable air compressor.  There’s a garage overflowing with stuff so something like that should be hidden in there somewhere.  I called the Hubs.  He said we didn’t.

Well, shiver me timbers and blow me down (more lemons…more pirate talk).

So then I called my Uncle.   He has every tool known to man.  Literally, he has 4 garages/sheds which could stock a Snap On truck, a Home Depot, and a Lowes.  I asked him, does he have a portable air compressor?  No.

Out of 3 guys, I’m still stuck with a flat tire and an overgrown, ugly yard.

At this point I decide to take matters into my own hands.  And go to Walmart.

Let me explain how I look today.  I got out of bed, threw my hair up into a headband AND a monster clip, put on a shirt and an oversized sweatshirt, yoga pants…and flip flops.  I didn’t put contacts in so I’m wearing my throw back to a 1950s librarian glasses.  No makeup.  And probably the worse sin of my ensemble…chipped toe nail polish. And I’ve got dirt smudges all over as I have been hauling limbs to the burn pile…a premowing task.  No worries…I will not post a picture out of concern for your eyes.

I admittedly look like a hot mess.  But I’m so determined to get the yard mowed.  (1) It’s the next item on my to do list and we all know you can’t haphazardly jump around on a to do list. (2) I have failed to tell you cold rain is heading my way.

I calculated the calateral damage of being seen like this.  I figure the worst that could happen I would end up on People of Walmart.  And I would deserve it.

So I scurried into Walmart, headed straight for the automotive/hardware section.  I walked the aisles up and down, parying I would find what I needed so I didn’t have to ask and viola!  I found the portable tire pumps.

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Now, in my head I have invisioned a pump that plugs into an outlet…because that’s what I need.  However, in the real world, one would probably stuck on the side of the road, without an outlet and would need a car charger plug, which is what all of these are.  Ok…I’m flexible…maybe I could drive the truck close to the barn, use the charger outlet and pump the tire.  Then I read they only have 10 foot hoses.

Alrightie, someone’s gonna walk the plank and swim with the fishes… (yah, even I’m over the pirate talk).

Luckily, my Uncle called me just as I was pondering the red manual pump (bottom shelf).  He said he did a have a portable compressor that I could come get!!!

Woohoo!!  Finally things are looking up!!

I headed over to his house, picked up a small, not so portable, but will do the job, if it doesn’t cripple me carrying the heavy thing, air compressor.  He asked me if I had the right hose and adapter.  I guess my blank stare told him all he needed to know and he handed me a hose with the attachment.

I raced home as the clouds started to roll in.  I’m behind on my to do schedule but I believe I’m gonna make this happen.  I hooked everything up, pressed the button and the tire instantly came back to life!!

Insert happy dance here!!

I hopped on the mower and started conquering the grass monster.  I swear with every swipe, old man winter turned the temperature down a degree.  Half way through, I regretted my flip flop choice and even 2 shirts couldn’t keep me warm.  But I refused to get off the mower.

3 hours later the yard was mowed (and I was a popsicle)!!  Oh, it looks 12 million times better!!  And then an hour after, the rain moved in.  Woohoo!!

Erica 1…Mower 0…Lawn 0…
Rematch scheduled for Spring 2015

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Today I took an evening stroll on the beach by myself

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I love the beach at night.  And I’ve been needing this trip for years.  Tonight, I just hopped in my vehicle and ended up at the oceanfront.

There’s just something about the beach in the evening that pushes my reset button.  The crisp, salt filled breeze cleanses my soul…the rolling waves carry away my worries…walking as close to edge of the water without getting wet toesies… well that’s just plain fun!!

I saw this meme on Facebook earlier..

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The answer is yes :)

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Today I started a photo blog

Today I am starting the Clean Eating Challenge.  During the first week, we only eat raw fruit and veggies.  This should prove to be interesting.  I will be documenting everything I eat on separate page.  Yah, I’m skeered but this morning smoothie was pretty good so we will just see how the rest of the week goes.  Because I know I will encounter all new things with eating raw, I’m counting these posts as my something new for this week.

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Today I registered for a Clean Eating Challenge

I could make so many funnies right now like…

Not sure why I need a clean eating challenge,  my dishes and utensils go through the dishwasher regularly.

Or

I always use a napkin.  Rarely do I have food smeared on my face.  (Exception: eating wings.  Doesn’t everyone get sauce from ear to elbow?)

Lastly…

Do they mean clean as in boxing terms?  Clean fight?  I never hit my food below the belt…

Alright…that’s out of my system.

So yes, I signed up for a 3 month clean eating challenge.

One of my friends posted about the challenge on Facebook.  I followed the link and read all the features:
11-12 week program
Weekly educational classes online
Teams and cheerleaders to support you through the program
You earn points for food choices, exercise, sleep
Top earners win prizes at the end of challenge
Average member loses 8-10% of body weight…top losers lose 20%+
They stress this is a food only program.  No pills, no shakes, they aren’t trying to sell you anything.

Sounds like fun!  I’d do about anything for points, especially if I get a prize!  And, uh…top winners lose 20+% of their body weight…sign me up!!!

I clicked on the registration link and learned it would cost $125.  At first I was shocked.  $125!  Right before Christmas season?!  But I thought about it for a bit.  If the program lasts 12 weeks, that’s about $10/week or $1.50/day.  $1.50 is about the cost of a soda.  I’d be willing to chuck my soda budget to get healthy…I mean, I’ve gotta chuck sodas anyway.

And if all I have to do is make sure to wash my food before I eat it, this will be a cinch!!!
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