Rockstar Jeans: A Break from the Eternal Struggle

Well, now that we’ve covered women’s sexual health, let’s move on to something else that women’s lives revolve around: SHOPPING, AMIRITE??? </sarcasm>

I’m a small girl. And by that I mean that I have a small frame. I’m not rail thin, but I’m proportionately small all over. This makes shopping for decently-fitting clothes damn near impossible, since I drift between looking like a high school student and looking like I’m dressed in my mom’s work clothes. Dressing “my age” has proven to be a struggle since I stopped wearing JNCOs and sporting mismatched Chucks. One of the worst offenders for me is pants – be they slacks, dress pants, suits, or especially that casual devil: denim.

On the surface, shopping for jeans seems like it should be easy. ‘Go to the store’, they said. ‘Try them on’, they said.

bad jeansbeth-2bthe-2bbritish-2bgirl-2bhow-2bto-2bturn-2bup-2bjeans-2bcelebrity-6

Seriously, finding a good pair of jeans is (to borrow a classic phrase) like trying to find meaning in a Pauly Shore movie or a viable presidential candidate in the current Republican field (HA).

BUT I’VE DONE IT (see, Republicans, maybe it is still possible). And they are pretty and they are frugal and they are from Old Navy. Yes, Old Navy, that fine purveyor of affordable apparel.


They are Old Navy Rockstar skinny jeans. Yes, people may want to think that skinny jeans are ‘over’ but they’re not. Skinny jeans will never be ‘over’ (said someone about bell bottoms at some point). We will all be born, grow up, and die in skinny jeans. What I like about these in particular? They are not leggings in jean’s clothing. They are stretchy and comfortable and still have a bit of actual fabric that leaves something to the imagination instead of looking like I’m wearing denim-colored tights. I can wear them more times than I feel comfortable not washing them before they actually stretch and need a wash. They come in low, mid, and high rise, which is nice for ladies who don’t want to pull their pants up all day. And they come in regular length, tall and (yay!) petite sizes (online only). They also only run around $30 regularly-priced and are usually on some sort of sale.

Old Navy did not compensate me in any way to write this (although my line is open for free jeans, ON). I just wanted to spread the gospel. I’d never actually wear ‘pants’ if I didn’t have to. I’d wear leggings all day, every day, for the rest of my life. But leggings are not pants and should not be treated thusly, so when you’ve gotta wear pants, wear these. 

Agree? Disagree? Share your favorite jeans in the comments below.


Planned Parenthood and Me: A Love Story

Last week, the House voted to defund Planned Parenthood for one year. Of the many things I find shocking and strange about this Planned Parenthood hoopla, the strangest is this: not a single one of my friends - Facebook, work, personal, family - has announced that they depend on, or have depended on, their services. Yet over 5 million women (and men!) go there every year. In my (admittedly-biased, in case you haven’t deduced that from the title of this post) mind, one of the biggest problems facing Planned Parenthood is that while there are plenty of news stories about the technical and financial aspects of the situation, no one seems to want to stand up and say “HEY GUYS, I GO TO THAT PLACE YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.” Maybe women aren’t lining up to preach the Planned Parenthood gospel because they fear the backlash of announcing their sexual status in a world that won’t admit that women have sex. It’s what keeps women silent about the issues that affect them most. (That’s an entirely different tangent.) Women have sex. Men have sex.  Sometimes they even have sex together. Let me share a little tidbit with you: not all of women’s health issues revolve around sex.

I had to write about this because someone has to write about this. By not speaking up, I’m party in allowing ignorance and lies to continue demonizing Planned Parenthood. This is not everyone’s story – it’s just mine.

After graduating college and moving to Chicago, I took a job in a small legal office doing insurance defense work. The salary was (barely) enough to cover the bills, but their small group health plan’s monthly premium was more than a week’s pay. There was absolutely no way I could afford that noise. This was years before the ACA and being fresh out of college and feeling invincible, I went without insurance. But being fresh out of college and broke, I knew that an unintended pregnancy, health issue, or a (GASP) sexually transmitted disease could put me into a highly undesirable situation.

So I went to Planned Parenthood. I looked them up and went with a friend who was an unemployed student. It wasn’t the first time I’d been there – in college I’d split my health visits between Planned Parenthood and my free (but limited) campus clinic. But I went because I was 22, alone, and new to a huge city. Because I didn’t even know that community health centers existed. Because I didn’t know where else to go or who to ask. Because I knew they could help me. Because when I thought about women’s sexual health, I thought about Planned Parenthood.

We arrived well before the clinic opened because we needed free services and due to funding, they were only able to see a certain number of new patients of that persuasion on a certain morning of the week. We waited in line outside the building, shivering in the cold, while a man called us “baby killers” from a legally-required distance. Not all of the women got into the clinic that day. We were some of the last and there were plenty in line behind us. I can only assume those other women got the pleasure of that experience the next week, or maybe the next, until they might have finally gotten in or gotten so discouraged they gave up. The latter breaks my heart.

I went to Planned Parenthood for a variety of reasons over the years. I was able to receive care and get birth control there without judgment about my ability or inability to pay. Even after I had health insurance I kept going to Planned Parenthood because I wanted to support their mission. For years, as I navigated poorly-paid nonprofit jobs, I depended on Planned Parenthood for my only annual medical checkup. Like lots of people in my generation, I didn’t have a primary care physician until my late 20′s. Plenty of my friends still don’t.

Yes, Planned Parenthood does abortions (and not with federal dollars). Abortion is legal. That’s important. Feel however you’d like about abortion but contrary to the propaganda pushed by the pro-life crowd, Planned Parenthood is not some kind of abortion-themed Crumbs. As you can see from the image above, they provide a range of services to millions of people. Women have abortions and receive these same services at the same community health facilities, hospitals, and doctors offices that they would be sent to if Planned Parenthood ceased to exist. The fact is, women have been having abortions since women have been having babies. Making legal, safe abortion more difficult doesn’t end abortion. Don’t let heavily-edited and skewed videos from an organization with a clear agenda make you afraid of Planned Parenthood.

I’m not an expert on this topic, I’m just one of the millions of perfectly normal people who support Planned Parenthood. Don’t allow politicians to turn Planned Parenthood into an abortion boogeyman. It’s not. Support health care for everyone. Donate. 




Student Loans: How I Ended Up in Debt With a Full Ride

Student loans are a hot topic. Everyone seems to have an opinion on them, whether they believe students earned the crippling debt and should pay ’til the day they die or that students should have their debt forgiven and frolic in a mountain stream. This is my story. I’m not looking for forgiveness or criticism. This is just how it happened for me. I had a full scholarship for 100% of my tuition all four years of college, a part-time job, and I graduated from my undergraduate program with just over $12,000 in debt. How?

I lived in the dorms my first year, which kept living expenses stable. I had a small amount of money saved from high school part time jobs that got me through most of my freshman year. I didn’t spend a lot of money – I didn’t drink yet, didn’t party, and spent most of my time listening to illegally downloaded music, eating pizza, and watching movies on VHS. Then, at the end of the year, while most of my classmates went home to whichever southern town they came from, I had to move out of the dorms and out on my own.

While I’d started college, my parents had begun the long process of their divorce. They’d each moved out of the house we’d lived in and into their own one bedroom apartments. There was no ‘home’ for me to return to that summer. Both barely scraping by, my best friend and I moved into one bedroom of a two bedroom, un-airconditioned apartment that we shared with an acquaintance. I slept in the bed and he on a mattress on the floor.

When fall came around, I moved into the house I’d signed a lease on with friends the previous spring. My expenses suddenly took a huge leap. My rent was cheap (around $350 per month), but air-conditioning, heat, and utilities for an old house were expensive and making it all work on $5.25 per hour (part-time) wasn’t working. I started paying for expenses out of my student loans. This is what student loans are for, right?

So let’s do some math, shall we?


$350 in rent each month, plus around $150 in utilities.  I lived in that house for 2 years, so that’s $12,000. My senior year I lived in a less expensive situation, so add another $3,500 to that.  $15,500 just in basic living and breathing. Let’s say I give myself an allowance for 3 years worth of groceries, gas, shopping, clothing, restaurants, bars, and blah blah blah of $40 per week. That’s another $6,240.

Now, let’s add in the irresponsibility of being in your late teens and early 20s. In my sophomore year, I started traveling to Chicago to visit friends and eventually started a long-distance relationship. I never paid for a hotel, but plane tickets, shopping, expenses for eating and drinking while there – it all added up. Though I wasn’t jet-setting around the world, it still wasn’t the best idea.  If I did this 3 times per year for 3 years with an estimated cost of $350 per trip, that’s $3,150.  Sigh.

Total: $24,890. Approximately.


Remember that part-time job? I kept that for nearly two years and maxed out at $5.40 per hour. I worked 3-4 days per week and brought home about $140 every two weeks depending on my schedule, plus maybe $30 in jar tips. That’s $340 per month. I’ll give myself 4 weeks every year that I likely didn’t work at all (holidays, vacations, just not feelin’ it). That’s $7,480 in my whole career.

In my last year of college, I got a huge raise at a new job: $6.25. I was living! Now I was bringing home nearly $400 per month, but I was also doing a whole lot more drinking and partying with friends. There goes that income. Good job, college me. $4,400 minus about 50% in booze and late night pizza. I also worked as a transcriptionist for a few months. I didn’t work a lot of hours but the hours I did work were well paid. I made about $100 per week for a total of maybe $1,200.

Total income: $13,440. This number is optimistic.

Balance Due: $11,450

I didn’t plan at all for this to come out so evenly, but there you have it. I graduated with almost nothing in my bank account. My graduation gift from my father was enough money to pay my rent in Chicago for the first couple of months while I found a job.

Just for fun, let’s consider how much higher my expenses would have been if I hadn’t been lucky enough to have a scholarship.  Tuition has more than doubled since I attended my large state university, but at the time it was around $3,000 per year plus books, if you didn’t attend a summer session. So I would have been staring down $12,000 in tuition costs plus around $4,000 for books, adding an extra $16,000. It would have been a steal as far as college costs go. That’s a total cost of just over $40,000, y’all.

a toast to my debt

Sure, I could have worked more hours in college and spent less time socializing, drinking, and making poor life decisions. But I also needed time to go to my actual classes, time to study, to see my family, and time to relax. Plus: I was a kid! We make mistakes. I didn’t understand my student loans. I thought I’d have some awesome job right out of college and never worry about my loans. Now, of course, I wish I’d been more responsible, but at least I wasn’t reckless. I had zero credit card debt upon graduating college. It’s just how my cookie crumbled and I’m paying the piper now.

The average student debt when I graduated was around $20,000. My first job out of college in 2006 paid $25,000 per year. In 2014, the average had risen to over $30,000. That’s a truly crippling amount of debt and a tough start to a young professional life, especially in an economy that requires an education more every day. This is 2015, not 1915, and college shouldn’t just be for wealthy folk.  But hey, that’s just my personal opinion.

If you went to college, how did you fare?


Cook Stuff: Noodle-Free Eggplant Lasagna

One of the reasons that you don’t see a lot of dairy products in my recipes is that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a tad lactose intolerant. It’s not a full-blown issue where I can’t have any trace of milk, but it can be a crap shoot when it comes to things like cheese or ice cream. There are some products I know will set it off (ahem, cottage cheese) but since I often don’t know and even more often don’t have the same reaction twice, I usually feel it’s better to be safe than sorry.

That said, I love lasagna. Oh, good lasagna that’s gooey and rich and saucy. I really do and it’s such a bummer that it’s filled with so many delicious cheeses that may or may not cause me gastrointestinal distress. In a perfect world, I’d be able to gulp down the whole pan, Garfield-style.


I also love pasta. I love it in all of its various shapes and textures. I love it in pasta salads, I love it piping hot in an Italian restaurant, and I especially love picking at leftovers from the fridge the next morning without heating it up. Yeah, I’m one of those people. What I don’t love is the fact that pasta doesn’t have much nutritional value on its own beyond a little bit of fiber (especially if it’s whole grain), a small amount of vitamins, and whatever its been enriched with by the manufacturer. I’m for sure not a carb hater, but I try to stay light on the spaghetti dinners.

Luckily, today we’re making a delicious alternative that cuts down on the dairy as well as those pesky noodles without sacrificing the hearty, gooey, yummy texture I’m looking for. And this one’s not even a crock pot recipe! It’s about time, right? (Also, as a side note, this can easily be made vegan if you sub out the cheese and omit the egg.)

You’ll need:

  • 2 large eggplants
  • A bag of shredded cheese ( I use Kraft because some of their shredded cheeses have 0g of lactose per serving)
  • 1 pound of ground beef (cooked) or tofu crumbles (like Boca or Morningstar)
  • 1 jar of pasta sauce of your choice
  • 1 pound frozen spinach
  • About a half cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 package soft or silken tofu
  • 1 can of sliced black olives (if you’re into that sort of thing)
  • 1 diced tomato
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • Italian spices of your choice (I like McCormicks Perfect Pinch but feel free to make your own blend)
  • Some salt and pepper (just keep it available)


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice your eggplants length-wise into about 1/4 inch strips. Spray a baking sheet with a bit of cooking spray or use a smidge of olive oil just to keep those guys from sticking, then layer your eggplant onto the sheets. Try not to overlap – you want them to roast and lose a bit of their moisture. I like to add a bit of salt and pepper to them at this point, but don’t go overboard. Throw them into the over for about 7 minutes. Then, flip them over and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Keep an eye on them toward the end to make sure they aren’t burning.


While you’re waiting on that, spray your glass baking dish with some cooking spray and pour about a quarter of your sauce into the bottom. Spread it around with a spoon or spatula for a nice even coating on the bottom.

Typically, I like the microwave my spinach because I don’t plan far enough in advance to let it thaw in the fridge. I just dump the whole package in a bowl and heat it up. Here’s the important part and it’s going to sound kind of weird and gross: after your spinach is thawed, you’ll need to get it as dry as you can. Spinach is super watery and will water down the whole shebang if you skip this step. I usually throw it in a colander and squeeze it with my hands, while also pressing down to remove some water. I’ve used paper towels but it’s kind of wasteful and basically just as effective. After you’ve squeezed the life from your spinach, toss it into a medium bowl.


Grab your package of tofu and cut it out of its watery casing. Try to pat off as much excess water as you can, then add it to the bowl with your spinach. Crack your egg in there, too. Some people don’t use the egg but I think it helps keep the lasagna together a bit better. If you don’t use eggs, you can leave it out. Add some salt and pepper and your trusty Italian seasoning and mix well.

In all the time that took you, your eggplant should surely be done. Add a layer of eggplant on top of your sauce in the bottom of the pan. Try to cover as many gaps as you can but try to keep it a single layer and use about half. On top of that, add about half of your tofu/spinach mixture.  Then a bit more than a third of your meat (or fake meat), a third of your shredded cheese and half of your sliced olives (if you’re including them). Voila! Layer One done! Do another layer of the same thing. You’re so good at this.


When you’ve completed your second layer, you’re ready for the final touch. Add the last of your sauce over the whole lasagna, then the last of your meat, whatever olives you might still have, and half of your remaining cheese. Add your diced tomatoes now. Beautiful. Now sprinkle on your last bit of cheese. Isn’t it lovely? Let’s cook this thing.


Cover your lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes. When that’s up, take off the foil and sprinkle on your Parmesan cheese and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Now comes the hardest part: let stand for as long as you can bear. The longer, the better. Try to let it stand for 20-30 minutes. This will help to ensure you get a nice slice of lasagna instead of a goopy mess. Your goopy mess will surely be delicious, but maybe not as aesthetically pleasing.

damn, that looks good.
damn, that looks good.

Eat! You’ve earned it. You waited forever for that thing. Slice it up and enjoy! Makes about 6-8 servings, depending how giant you cut it.




Big Questions: What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

I’ve been going through something of a professional crisis.

Man, saying it like that really minimizes the agony that I’ve been feeling the last couple of weeks.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher. This is probably due to the fact that teachers were the only people I knew with jobs (other than my parents). Being a teacher seemed like a pretty sweet gig: summers and vacations off, playing with awesome kids like me all day, sitting at a desk quietly while I took my spelling test. Damn, that sure seemed like the life.  I also wanted to be an astronaut, a paleontologist, and to drive a submarine down to the Titanic wreckage. I also used to interview myself in the bathroom while taking thoughtful pauses to pretend I was smoking a cigarette. I was a well-rounded child of the 80s and early 90s.


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Money: Growing My Side Business Income

I’m not entirely sure what sparked my interest in making soap. I think I just wanted to make something with my hands and I can’t fix cars. I started with “melt and pour” – melting down purchased soap base and adding fragrances and colors from the craft store. But this wasn’t difficult or dangerous enough, so a month later I switched to making soap from scratch. Being the entrepreneur I am, I began selling my soap at our weekly farm stand. While I didn’t make a whole lot of money, it put a little bit of cash in my pocket to diversify and by the end of the summer I was making sugar scrubs, lip balms, body butters and mason jar soap dispensers. It was some serious growth. My husband even made some simple business cards for me so I’d have something to give out with product.

But… the end of the summer was the end of the business. Continue reading

Cook Stuff: Slow Cooked Apple Cinnamon Quinoa

If you overindulged on cheese dip and jalapeno poppers this Super Bowl Sunday (or Puppy Bowl – that kitten halftime gets me every time!), this hearty breakfast will put you back on track on this week.  It’s warm, sweet, and the protein-packed quinoa won’t send you back to the kitchen in an hour like a bowl of Special K. Apples + quinoa + cinnamon? Yes, please!


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Big Questions: Have I Become More Materialistic?

This wasn’t the easiest post to write. In fact, I thought about it all day yesterday and the furthest I got was “This wasn’t the easiest post to write” and then some random ramblings about fancy things people have. Right now I have a total of 16 saved revisions.

I was the third (and last) child of parents who became less interested as time went on. A lot of my clothes were hand-me-downs from my older sisters. Most of my toys were the same. When I needed new clothes, my mother often took me to a thrift store or a flea market. I wasn’t neglected – I had the things I needed. What I didn’t have were the wants. And when you’re a kid, you have the wants. You need the wants. That’s what Saturday morning commercials are made for.


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Cook Stuff: Super Easy Crock Pot Pumpkin Curry

Man,  I am all about my crock pot lately. And for good reason! It’s effing cold outside and everything that comes out of my crock pot is warm and delicious.  This pumpkin curry recipe is really friggin’ easy, has only a few ingredients, and is really, really, ridiculously good. My version was vegan, but you can sub in chicken very easily.


You’ll need: Continue reading

Goodbye, Side Hustle: Why I’m No Longer a Tupperware Consultant

In February of 2013, I was working from home and found myself with more spare time than I’d had when I spent all day at the office. I decided that a side hustle might be just what the doctor ordered.  Who couldn’t use a bit of spare cash? I jumped whole-heartedly into the world of direct sales.

I frequented the blog of a woman who began selling Tupperware online. Paging through the catalog, I thought “This stuff is so cute and useful. I could totally use this and explain to others how to use this. I could do this.” I didn’t want to sell make up. I didn’t want to sell candles. I didn’t want to sell sex toys or crappy jewelry. Oh no, I wanted to sell high-quality plasticware.

life of the Tupperware party

After paying $30 for my starter kit, I received a giant white box in the mail. Excitedly, I ripped into the packaging and began taking photos of my awesome new toys to text to friends. I called my mother and told her I’d decided to become a Tupperware lady. She laughed. My uncle had a Tupperware business in the 70s and she was still using things she bought from him. I had some favorites right off the bat – mostly the breakfast maker (a microwave omelette maker… still love that). I had catalogs. I had order sheets. I had the drive and will. I could totally do this! Continue reading