Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tasty Tuesdays: Chicken Recipes

One of the delights of cohabitation is figuring out how to cook for two. You've got two people with their own likes and dislikes and you have to come to a compromise. For us, I'm the lover of all Asian food and he's the lover of Mexican food. He also likes to eat chicken (for health reasons) and I'm all about the tofu life (the only meat I'll eat is Korean BBQ lol).

Last year I found a chicken recipe that I made to death (I would just make the chicken and not the pesto part). Now I'm on the hunt for more chicken recipes. As a part of my new years resolution, I'm trying to compile a bunch of recipes that I can actually cook. Here are 10 chicken recipes I'm really looking forward to cooking!

1. Quick Lime Cilantro Chicken (link)

2. Sriracha Lime Chicken Chopped Salad (link)

3. Sriracha Chicken and Broccoli Lo-Mein (link

4. Crock-pot Sweet Garlic Chicken (link)

5. Skinny Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo (link)

6. Chicken Fried Rice (link)

7. PF Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps (link)

8. Grilled Beer Marinated Chicken (link)

9. Honey Balsamic Chicken Tenders (link)

10. Pan Roasted Rosemary Chicken (link)

note: all pictures are property of their respective owners. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Money Mondays: My Student Loan Story & Repayment Plan

Student loan debt is a heavy burden that most millennials are dealing with. Despite making enough money to live comfortably and paying the minimum on your loans, there is still that nagging debt about the size of a mortgage just shouting "I'm collecting interest for doing absolutely nothing!"

When I graduated from pharmacy school in May 2011, I had racked up a decent amount of debt. Despite getting financial aid for my 4 years at UCLA, the total of my undergrad education accumulated to $22,871 ($5,844 was a Perkins Loan and $17,027 was a loan through Sallie Mae). These two loans were in deferment while I went through another 3 years in pharmacy school and luckily they did not accrue interest at that time. My grad school loans were a completely different story. In August 2011, my grad school loans totaled $218,399 with $111,712 being a Stafford Loan (6.55%) and $106,687 being the Grad Plus Loan (7.65% interest). I'm more of a visual person so here's what it looked like.

It was a crazy amount to even fathom owing and it was only going to increase day-by-day since interest starts accruing 6 months after you graduate. I was lucky enough to find a job in June 2011 so that I could make some money as a grad intern while I studied for the boards. By late August I was officially licensed and "making the big bucks" as some would say. As December approached, letters from all the different loans companies started flooding my mailbox. How do you want to pay off your loan? 10 years or 25 years? Standard or Graduated? I knew I wanted to go with the fastest route possible so I went with the 10 yr Standard Plan.

One thing that I wasn't prepared for was not getting full-time hours. I was hired as a floater and 24 hrs was enough to have benefits and be considered "full-time" in my employer's eyes. Therefore, for the most part, I was only working 3 days a week and not really making enough to be on the 10 yr repayment plan. It was extremely stressful because at the time, both of my parents had lost their jobs so in addition to paying off my own debt, I was also paying for our home expenses. They dug into their savings to pay the mortgage but it was my responsibility to pay for everything else. Because of that, I ended up changing my loan to the 25 yr Standard plan. I figured I could always pay more when I had extra money rather than stress myself out trying to make payments. This definitely made it much less stressful.

First order of business was to start saving up for an emergency fund. As a floater, I knew my job wasn't very stable and when you first start out, you're also not very good (just being honest here lol) so you're not being requested very often. So from August to December (when my loans were going to be out of deferment), I saved and saved.

The second decision I had to make was how to plan my attack. There's usually two ways to go about this: either start with the loan with the highest interest (aka the "Math Method") or start with the loan with the smallest amount (aka the "Snowball Method"). Here's a great article on one versus the other that might be helpful. I went with the Snowball Method. I decided to completely pay off the Perkins Loan with the money I had saved up from August to December. One down, 3 more to go.

In August 2012 (one year after graduation), my loans looked something like this.

It wasn't a particularly pleasant sight but the silver lining was that at least the Grad Plus Loan was finally under 100k. By early 2013 I had saved up a decent amount but I was having a difficult time deciding what to do next. Should I just go for it and pay off my undergrad loan completely or should I pay off the Grad Plus Loan with the higher interest? I decided to just eliminate my undergrad loan. The satisfaction of completely eliminating a loan was worth going against logic, I suppose lol.

I won't bore you with what happened in 2013 and 2014. An Excel spreadsheet is worth a thousand words.

note: "Differences" were calculated by subtracting the total owed this year by the total owed last year

I also wanted to mention that the snowballing method just happened to work out for me because the loan with the lesser amount ended up being the loan with the higher interest (after I paid off my undergrad loan) so at this point, it's a no brainer as to which loan I should pay off first.

My ultimate goal would be to completely eliminate my Grad Plus Loan which is a pretty hefty goal. A couple of things I do want to use to my advantage this year are my bonus which comes around mid-March and my employee stock option which I was "gifted" when I first started with the company and is now fully vested. I may also borrow money from my 401k (at half the interest of my loan) to pay off a good chunk of the loan. Just a few things to mull over this year.

I hope this post was helpful to those of you with student loan debt. I do want to note that this method might not work for everyone. I have friends that are using the income-based repayment plan which might pan out better for some people. I believe the income-based repayment plan makes it so you don't pay more than 10% of what you make per month (based on your salary the previous year) and you pay that for 25 years. After 25 years of on-time payments, the rest of your loan is forgiven. I didn't really have the time to calculate out which would be better and as such, went with what I already know.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Money Mondays: Budgeting in 2015

Looking back on the previous year, I was quite disappointed with the amount I saved. I was so focused on getting my loans down that I ended up dwindling quite a bit of my savings to put towards my loans.

This year, my focus will be more on having a balance between paying off my loans and saving money. I was reading an article on Yahoo! Finance about the Payroll Leap Year and in the article it mentions how a financial planner tells her clients to put 50% toward debt, 25% toward savings, and 25% toward fun. She states that the percentages "take the emotional aspect" out saving and paying off debt.

After reading that, I realized it made a lot of sense. I've always had a lot of emotional attachment to my paychecks. I didn't really know how to divvy up my paychecks in a way that felt fair. By doing percentages, you'll have varying amounts depending on how much you worked so it won't be as hard as committing to a whole dollar amount when you have a paycheck that is less than pleasing on the eyes (and wallet).

For us biweekly pay-perioders, we already have our first paycheck in the bank. This means all we have to do is use the magic of Excel to do the divvying for us. All I have to do for the rest of the year is plug-and-chug. The less thinking I have to do (outside of work) the better!

Here's what my spreadsheet looks like:

How are you planning to reach your financial goals this year? 
Share your tips and tricks in the comments below. I'd love to hear about them!

Hope everyone's year is coming to a great start! 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

January: Posts, Posts, and More Posts!

As I mentioned in my "2015 Restart" post, January and February will be the months in which I will prepare for my resolutions. Poor planning usually leads to failed goals therefore, I will spend a good chunk of time prepping so that I can hopefully accomplish all that I want to accomplish this year.

I've been checking Pinterest as well as some magazines I already have around the house for recipe ideas. I've compiled a bunch already and I've started breaking them down into different categories. I'll be posting some of my favorite easy recipes in each of the various categories for my Tasty Tuesday segment.

In terms of finances, I'll be continuing my Money Monday series so keep your eyes peeled for that. Tomorrow's post will be a quick one about how I'm budgeting for 2015.

A new series I will be starting this year which I'm extremely excited to share with ya'll is Wanderlust Wednesdays! We want to start planning for our vacation which we won't be taking until sometime after March and I want to take all of you along on the journey. I'm the type of person that does a lot of planning before a trip and I think this series will be not only helpful for others planning similar trips but it will also force me to do a little more structured research on the destinations I want to visit. Most of the posts will have to do with Peru, which is our top destination for the year.

I hope ya'lls are excited for the posts to come because I'm super excited to get back in the swing of things. I was pretty bad with posting during the tail end of last year but it was unbelievably hectic with all the traveling I did as well as the holidays. Time for a 2015 restart!

Hope everyone is having a great weekend and I'll talk to you guys 
tomorrow about my 2015 financial goals/budget. 

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 02, 2015

2015 | RESTART

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a fun and safe New Years!

Every year since I've graduated and started working full time, I set goals for myself for the new year. I think of it as a kind of syllabus for the year (still in student mode here). I'll be making January and February my month of planning. March will be when I start implementing my new goals. I'll be using 2 separate manila folders to collect workouts and recipes. Once I compile a good amount of workouts, I'll start planning when I'll be doing them throughout the year. I'll probably change workouts every 2 weeks. As for recipes, once I have compiled a good chunk, I'll probably end up bundling recipes with similar ingredients together and do some meal planning. I'll probably be Pinterest-ing quite a bit as well. So let's start off with the 4 main focuses of the year.

1. Finances
  • Loans:
    • Reflections: My goal to be debt free by 33 is coming along swimmingly. I'm not a patient person so before my post today, I was actually quite disappointed with myself because I had originally wanted to finish paying off one of my loans (I have a Stafford and a Grad Plus loan and I wanted to be done with the Grad Plus loan since it's the one with the higher interest). Unfortunately, due to some extra travel (Coachella, Alaska, Seattle, Tennesee for Bonnaroo, New Jersey/New York, Hawaii, and New York again) and splurges (which I'll discuss below), I was unable to pay off as much as I wanted. But after some careful Excel maneuvering, I found out that I paid a total of $36,079 towards my loans which was $18,000 more than what I would've paid if I was just paying the minimum. Another accomplishment I had wanted to achieve was to get to a point in my loan payments where I would be paying more towards the principal vs. the interest and I'm finally doing just that for my Grad Plus loan! 
    • New Goal: Now that I've kind of seen the sacrifices I had to make for the year as well as how much I dug into my savings, I will probably be content with myself if I end up paying the same amount as I did this year towards my loans. I mostly want to use the money I save up this year towards traveling. This past year, I was bitten by the travel bug and it's still going strong. I've seen a few of my friends go to Europe this past year and it really makes me want to go back, especially to Italy.
  • Savings:
    • Reflections: I pretty much emptied my savings this year to pay off my loans so that was the "sacrifice" I had to make this year. I didn't go into my emergency fund but I good chunk of my savings was depleted :/.
    • New Goal: I want to be able to double my emergency fund by next year. 
  • Splurge:
    • Reflections: This year I made the leap of purchasing my first Chanel bag. It's my most expensive purchase to date and I did purchase the bag when I was in Oahu at Ala Moana. I've had my heart set on getting a Chanel bag since I graduated but I could never get myself to buy something so expensive. But I finally went for it because it was only getting more and more expensive. I'm really happy with my purchase but I wish I could wear it out more often. 
    • New Goal: For the new year, I'd like to save up for a second, less expensive Chanel purchase. Also, we've had to downsize from a 2 bedroom to a 1 bedroom, we've been getting rid of a lot of our clothes. Now that I'm a bit older, I'm trying to purchase fewer but better quality clothes. I'm hoping to be able to do a session with a personal stylist possibly at Nordstrom, J. Crew or Topshop. 

2. Food
  • Explore:
    • Reflections: During January we did restaurant week and we realized that many of the restaurants that participate in restaurant week tone down their menus and food for those weeks. All the places that we've been during restaurant week, we've been pretty disappointed minus Amaya at the Grand Del Mar and Eddie V's. That's why we didn't end up participating in September. It was also costing us a fortune since each meal was at least $100. I'm glad we didn't participate in September (minus going to Eddie V's which was only because we had a double date with a friend from out of town) since we did a lot of travelling and we spent a good amount on food when we were gone. 
    • New Goal: Since we are now living in Little Italy, I really want to explore the restaurants that are in the downtown area. I didn't really do restaurant week this past September besides going to Eddie V's but I do want to try a few places this time around in January. 
  • Cook
    • Reflections: Cooking was definitely really hard this past year mostly because I didn't know what to cook and I didn't really have time to cook. Also it was getting really expensive to purchase groceries that I was planning on cooking and then not having the time to cook and throwing, basically money, into the trash. That alone made me even more discouraged to cook. Our fridge for most of the year consisted of only alcohol and condiments. Closer to the end of the year was when I made more of an effort to cook. We purchased meats from Costco and the defrost button on the microwave became my best friend. 
    • New Goal: Every year I tell myself I'm going to start cooking. This year I'm going to once again put that on my list of things I want to do. There's a farmer's market in Little Italy every Saturday so we'll be able to purchase groceries on a weekly basis just steps from our place. It might not be very friendly on the wallet though so we'll have to see. 

3. Fitness
  • Reflections: So beginning of last year I told myself to join one of those pilates/yoga classes. That plan didn't exactly come to fruition or I should say at all. Time and my lack of energy were the biggest contributors to that failed resolution. 
  • New Goal: This year, I'm hoping to get a fitness pass to one of the fitness joints in the Downtown area so that I can just walk there. I know one of them has a Groupon but I think they removed it since everyone's goal is to get in shape but once that dies down, I think they'll put the Groupon back up. 

4. Travel
  • Reflections: We did quite a bit of travelling this year so I was very proud of us. Our first venture was to Indio for Coachella which was super fun. We celebrated my cousin's quarter century there so it was really fun. Second stop was to Seattle where we then took a cruise to Alaska and Victoria, B.C. It was our 2nd cruise and even though we were a bit disappointed with the cruise food, it was still a very humbling experience. In June we went to Manchester, Tennessee for Bonnaroo which was also extremely fun. We were extremely happy to have been able to see Sir Elton John and Lionel Richie. In August we flew cross country to New Jersey where we got to see our friend's tie the knot. We got to also explore New York a bit which was nice. My first time in New York was a bust (I pretty much hated it) but this time I fell in love and I was almost debating living there for a bit. In November, I took my annual trip to Oahu and this time I also flew to the Big Island. It was a very interesting experience to say the least and I can't wait until next year to explore a new island. To continue the birth month celebrations, I also crashed my friends' vacation to New York. This time I got to see New York without my beer goggles so my infatuation with New York has kind of died down but there's definitely so much to see there that I would definitely want to go back in the future (now that I've gotten the hang of taking the subway). 
  • New Goal:
    • Places I'd like to visit in the new year:
      • Peru
      • Coachella again or Lalapalooza?
      • Dallas
      • Somewhere in Europe
      • Annual Hawaii trip

What are your goals for 2015? Any trips you are particularly excited about?

Let's make 2015 our best year yet! Love you all!

Here's a look back at 2014!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Adventures: Hawaii 2014 - Oahu Day 3

Day 3 on Oahu was just our shopping day but we cant forget about the most important meal of the day: breakfast! We had made reservations at Ama Ama where we got desserts on the Mouse thanks to Tanya's cousin. As always the food was delicious. Their fried rice and the Strawberry Velvet Pancakes were so freaking good. And that's actually saying a lot because I don't usually like red velvet anything because it's too sweet. But this Strawberry Velvet was just the right amount of sweet.

strawberry velvet pancakes - BOMB DOT COM

two egg breakfast with fried rice instead of potatoes

dessert plate on the mouse!

After breakfast, one of the things I wanted to see in Hawaii that I hadn't seen before were sea turtles. The Ko'olina Lagoon actually had a sign saying that sea turtles do tend to beach themselves there and Tanya had seen them there before so we decided to head over.

turtles need their personal space

However, we forgot to check the tide report and it was low tide so the turtles wouldn't be able to make it over the reef.

We did some reef walking which was super scary because it's EXTRA slippery. It's literally like walking on ice if you don't have the proper footware.

After looking for fishies, we walked to Island Vintage Coffee again and got our usual. We then proceeded to visit the hammerhead sharks and sting rays at the JW Marriott hotel.

i was obsessed with these cardinals lol. they look so cute!

After that we had a decent amount of time left so we decided to finally make use of the lazy pool. No footage from lazy pooling this time because my waterproof camera was out of juice but there's a lot of footage from my 2013 Hawaii Vlog if you're interested.

After some swimming, it was time to head into town where extensive damage was going to be done via credit card at Ala Moana. But first we grabbed some grub at Ono Seafood. This was the first time we had ever gotten a parking spot so I thought I'd document the occasion.

The first time I had Ono Seafood, I liked it but I wasn't super impressed but this time I was totally satisfied. I really like spicy food so last time I got the spicy ahi poke. The spicy ahi poke is very filling because the sauce is creamy and heavy. This time I went with what Tanya always gets (I believe it's the shoyo ahi poke) and it was delicious. It's got a bit of spicyness to it so don't fret if you're a lover of spicy food.

After grabbing the grub to go, we headed to Ala Moana where we sat and ate in the car (classy, we know lol). After grubbing, we did some serious damage. Pretty much bought all of Sephora and made my first Chanel purchase. Mischief managed majorly. Sephora post will be coming up soon (I was waiting for my package to arrive).

Happy Monday friends! 
Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones!

p.s. we've got some big news so I apologize in advance for a lack of posts! we'll pretty much be completely booked all thru December! I'll let you all in the good news as soon as we get everything finalized which should be very soon! Again, thank you all for reading and tagging along in this roller coaster life of ours :D. Love you all!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Adventures: Hawaii 2014 - Oahu Day 2

With the time change from California to Hawaii, it's much easier to wake up early. We were up and ready to tackle the day easily by 7am. But first, let me take a coffee drink selfie.

vintage kona mocha with peaberry chip

It was pouring all over the island and Tanya had forgotten her tennis shoes so we went back to Kaneohe to grab them and since it was actually drier on the "wet" side of the island we decided to do the Pillbox Hike (great Wiki Resource: link).

It was a little muddy from the drizzling earlier that morning but there are ropes on the side of the trail if you need some extra grip. It is not a paved trail so you need to watch for areas of major slippage. We were in a rush to complete the hike since it looked like it was about to start raining again so we actually didn't hike to the actual 3 pillboxes. You can get a pretty good view without even hiking all the way up.

(note: the two photos below were taken at the same spot and no filters were used but I did change the ISO settings which is why they look so different. But it gives you an idea of how gloomy and ominous it was that day)

Right after we finished the Pillbox Hike and got back to our car, it literally started pouring. We drove by so many people taking cover under random people's homes. Due to our stranger danger meter, we decided to not offer any rides.

Originally we had wanted to hike Koko Head again because it is seriously the Everest for someone that rarely exercises lol. But since it was raining, we figured it wouldn't be the best idea. So instead, we decided to tackle another hike. I had mentioned doing the Makapu'u Lighthouse Hike so that's exactly what we did. There's a decent amount of parking but make sure you don't have anything valuable in your car. Right when we arrived, there was a cop interviewing some people and their car had been broken into (window was shattered) so be very careful and exercise common sense!

After that hike we decided to do our usual ritual of getting an Acai Bowl. We headed for Salted Lemon.

Their acai bowl is quick huge so if you're not particularly hungry, I would suggest sharing. My only comment would be that their acai bowl needed more granola! But it was tasty nonetheless.

I had also wanted to go to North Shore and try Matsumoto's Shave Ice since I've never been in all the times I've been to Hawaii so since we still had some extra time, we headed north to do one more hike at Waimea Falls. This really isn't a hike and you also have to pay for entry so it's not something that's a must do. If you are interested in visiting an arboretum or botanical garden, then this is more the place for you. The trail is VERY easy and is good for all ages. You can actually take a dip in the water at the end of the hike at the waterfall which I wouldn't recommend unless you want leptospirosis (there's a huge sign warning you about it) but again, you can YOLO it up all you want lol but I wasn't about to ruin my vacation by getting an infection.

these leaves made me think of a bug's life and bug's land in california adventures

i'm standing there for size reference lol. the tree is gynormous!

After finishing that hike, we headed for Matsumoto's Shave Ice. If you are using an iPhone, be very careful of the directions it gives you when going from Waimea Falls to Matsumoto's Shave Ice. It actually tells you to turn right into a road that does not exist! Luckily there's another rode that takes to you back.

I actually enjoyed Matsumoto's Shave Ice more than Waiola Shave Ice to my surprise. But I will say it was probably because of what I ordered and the presentation. If you are someone that looks at the menu and is completely confused as to what to order, I would order the Hawaiian combo with condensed milk (everything tastes better with condensed milk!). Also spare the extra 30 cents and get the cone holder thing! Your clothes and hands will love you for it 'cause it gets dirty! Plus you won't end up with half your ice on the ground. The Hawaiian combo came out as a rainbow (obviously) and it was extremely tasty! Highly recommend. Unfortunately I don't have a picture because eating shave ice and taking pictures are two things that don't go together but here's a picture of what it kinda looked like. As you dig into it more, it looks prettier and prettier with all the colors.

After driving all over the island, we retreated to Aulani and spent some time in the pool before heading back out for some Curry House. I don't know if it was all the traveling we had done that day or all the hiking but this bowl of Curry Udon with Fried Chicken tasted so BOMB. I've actually been to the same place before but it didn't taste as good the time before. I always say you have to try a restaurant twice before you can rate it on Yelp because of exactly this reason. Everyone has their off days.

After the noodling, we went to Target to do a little shopping. When we got back to Aulani, we watched 17 Again (one of our favorites from pharmacy school) and then fell asleep. 

Day 3 was our shopping day so there weren't very many pictures but I will make that post soon! Thanks for reading (or at least just skimming through the pictures lol)!

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