Category Archives: Cheap College Student


It’s November 14, 2011. I am officially 21 years old.

Not like there was a whole lot of doubt that I would make it to this mark, but it certainly seemed far away for a long time. I’m mostly excited about being able to go to some of the places from which I was previously barred. (Pun is so intended.)

A week full of fun plans kicked off this Saturday with a stay at Acorn’s Resort in northern Kansas. Back in September, Dan and I won a voucher for a cabin and we immediately started making plans for a party. Fortunately, eight of our closest friends were free for the night and willing to join us for a free mini-vacation. Tracker even got to come along!

Although Dan and I had toured a similar cabin back in September, we were impressed all over again to see our accommodations!

The cabin had five bedrooms, a full kitchen, leather couches and two flat-screen TVs. Definitely acceptable.

A little while after Dan and I got to the cabin, my friend Katelyn, who lives back in Lincoln, arrived. She and I quickly changed and took Tracker out for a great trail run. Fortunately, I still remembered the route from the 5K, so we stuck to that.

By the time we got back and showered up, pretty much everyone else had arrived. The boys got to work on the dinner — brats, hamburgers and veggie burgers — while the girls found some other ways to keep occupied.

[Sorry, Scott. You’re not a girl.]

After dinner was served and consumed, it was time for some homemade cookie cake. I would be embarrassed to admit that I made my own cake — but it was so dang good, I’m fine with taking credit.

I made Mama Pea’s chocolate chip cookie cake, but took it over the top by finishing it with my cookie dough frosting.

The rest of the night was devoted to having fun with friends.

We also played a countless number of card games. I caught Dan in the middle of Indian poker.

Everyone stayed up late laughing and chatting except for Tracker, who was turned into a big baby when 10 o’clock rolled around.

The next morning, everyone got up in time to enjoy some pancakes. I mixed up these dry ingredients at home and combined it with milk, the flax-seed mixture and vanilla at the cabin.

Pancakes all around!

Then we got everything back in place, cleaned up and packed up. We hit the road just before noon with enough time for a last group picture.

Now Dan, Track and I are back home. I would feel a little bit more disappointed that this weekend is over, because we’ve been looking forward to it for so long. But, there is still a lot of fun to come this week and I’m equally excited to see what’s ahead!

Question: What did you do for your 21st birthday?


Worth Talking About Wednesday: DIY

I like to keep this blog more or less focused on principles of healthy living. I love writing about running, cooking, baking and being active because I love doing those things — and, through time, I think I’ve garnered a pretty good knowledge base for those subjects. Although that doesn’t make me an expert, I also know what resources can help me back that knowledge up.

On the other hand, I also am willing to admit that I am less knowledgeable in certain topics. For example, eating organic, living sustainably and knowing more about environmentalism are all things that semi-interest me. But, I’m no authority to speak on them.

The same kind of idea applies to crafts. I love finding new ideas, but I am not the most skilled person. In other words, this will never be a craft blog. Yet, I still wanted to take one simple day (thanks to Worth Talking About Wednesday) to devote to a few of my recent crafting inspirations.

Bordered Picture Frames

Although this is technically from Etsy (click on all pictures for links), I think the idea would be simple enough to do. Those could be famous last words, but my idea is this: I would cut, sand-down, clean and paint a few scraps of wood. Then, I would securely attach a simple picture frame to the middle of the board sections.

Vintage Knob Jewelry Organizer

Another Etsy idea! I’ve always loved cute door knobs from antique stores, but I thought they were a little impractical for actual doors. This seems like a fun way to showcase a variety of unique knobs that I find from area antique stores.

I could also seem this working for keys or hats!

Mason Jar Soap Dispenser

Finally, a DIY tutorial! I love the look of mason jars for storing dried goods on my kitchen counter and this seems like a simple way to adapt the idea for another purpose. Besides, I have a really ugly soap dispenser in the kitchen right now.

According to the instructions, it’s basically as simple as drilling a hole, which is the same width as the soap dispenser tube, through the lid of the mason jar. Then, to keep the tube in place, use a little hot glue on the underside of the lid.

Drawer Shelf

Believe it or not, this shelf is actually a cabinet drawer that was fitted with hooks on the back. To me, this seems to be the most involved project of the bunch. Fortunately, I am married to a semi-pro carpenter, so I think we could make it work. The first trick is to find an antique cabinet drawer that’s cheap and would actually work for the purpose. For now, this is on my wish list!

Seasonal Wreaths

Tons of good ideas on this link for season wreaths! For some reason, I’ve always been a little intimidated by making wreaths. I think it’s because they can be so complex and seemingly complicated. After reading a few tutorials, however, they don’t actually seem that bad!

Questions: What do you think is worth talking about this week? Have you done any fun craft projects lately?

Walnut pesto

This week marked a sad occasion in our house…

I stripped my poor basil plant.

I have to admit, it was a little depressing to pull all the fragrant leaves off. But, our first hard freeze was upon us and I knew that trying to protect the plant for much longer would have just been delaying the inevitable.

Plus, I had a whole box of pasta just begging for some pesto.

Walnut Pesto

Lightly adapted from Simply Recipes.


  • 2 C fresh basil, packed
  • 1/2 C freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 C walnuts
  • 2 t minced garlic
  • ~1/3 C olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • In a food processor, combine the basil, Parmesan, walnuts and garlic. Pulse until just combined.
  • Slowly pour olive oil in while pulsing the food processor. Use enough olive oil to reach desired pesto consistency.
  • Taste and add in salt and pepper as needed.

A very delicious end to this year’s basil plant, in deed!

Although it is more traditional to use pine nuts in pesto, I truly prefer using walnuts. To me, pine nuts always taste slightly fishy even if they are still fresh. As an added bonus, walnuts are much cheaper to buy than pine nuts.


This recipe got me enough for a big dinner of pasta plus a little extra, which I used to make caprese sandwiches later in the week. For those, I layered fresh mozzarella, freshly sliced tomatoes and some pesto between two slices of bread. Then, I pressed the sandwiches on a grill to make paninis. Dare I say that round two of pesto was even better than round one?

Now onto a big weekend… My sister is in town for her official tour of the University of Kansas!

Deepen your compliments

Depending on how you want to look at it, I was either feeling extremely motivated for crafts or extremely unmotivated for school today. I blame the Maple Leaf Festival

Whatever is the case, one trip to Hobby Lobby later, I was ready for some serious crafting.

First up was a cute, easy idea for a natural-themed vase that I saw on Kristin’s blog.

The only required materials were:

  • Hard, natural grass (bought from Hobby Lobby)
  • One straight, glass vase
  • Glue gun
  • Scissors

First, I measured one piece of the grass against the vase and cut the grass so that it was just a little taller than the vase. Then, I used that grass segment to measure and cut a bunch of other pieces.

By this time, Tracker was starting to get upset that I wasn’t paying attention to her.

Like the mature dog that she is, she expressed this by sitting on my materials.

I pet her for a few minutes. Satisfied, she moved to the couch and let me continue.

After cutting the grass, use the heated glue gun to apply a ~1/2 in. line of glue on the top, middle and bottom of the vase. Working strand-by-strand (or a few at a time), press the grass onto the bottom, middle and top — make sure it’s all aligned and there aren’t major gaps.

Cut more grass as necessary and repeat process for the rest of the vase.

I ended up wrapping a cute ribbon around it. Now, I just need to get some flowers to fill it with. (<<hint, hint, Dan!)

My next craft was much more ill-conceived and therefore not worth as much explanation. Basically, I took these materials…

And made this necklace…

I think it’s cute, but it definitely wouldn’t stand a storm.

Then, rather than get started on my actual homework, I started investigating another topic…

The depth of compliments

Generally speaking, it is so easy to dismiss compliments in adult life. This may be because we are used to hearing positive comments all throughout our lives. Or it may be because we just don’t believe the compliments are true. Either way, the effects they have on us is relatively fleeting.

That’s not the case with children. To them, every single comment is true and all compliments are meaningful. That’s why I believe it is particularly important to emphasize the right things when complimenting children — and not just because of the effects is has on them as children, but also because of the way it molds us throughout life.

I know this subject may seem out of the blue, but I got thinking about it recently because of a Twitter comment that Caitlin made about a couple on Teen Mom: “Gary, Amber and their families need to come up with compliments for Leah other than ‘pretty’ or ‘beautiful.'”

It’s something I had never really thought about before, but I couldn’t help but be struck by how good of a point Caitlin was making. Although the general judgment of many people on Teen Mom is questionable, it’s a very valid point. All too often, we compliment other children on superficial things…

The problem is that by focusing on beauty, children will grow to think their value is directly attached to physical measures.

On an advice website for parents, Nanny Deb, who is on the TV show Nanny 911, suggested: “Each day, make sure your kids hear the following phrases from you: I love you. Please. Thank you. Thank you for being my child. I’m proud of you. I believe in you. I trust you.”

Notice that no where in there is a compliment about how beautiful the child is. Now, I don’t think there is anything wrong with children believing they are beautiful. In fact, I hope all children believe that. What I do find fault with is when children believe that their worth is only related to that beauty. Instead, I hope that children are fostered to be confident in their intelligence, kindness and personalities.

Of course, all this sounds fairly silly for a 20-year-old to be ranting about. But I think it’s important to think about now — no use in waiting until I am a mother to start giving more meaningful compliments. Don’t be surprised if you overhear me telling my dog that she is “so smart.”

Questions: What is the best compliment you ever received? Any good crafts or DIY projects?

Worth Talking About Wednesday, 9/21

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday was extra, extra busy for me. I even wrote out a schedule detailing when I was going to and from classes, when I was eating my meals, when I was working and when I was working out (between 5:15-5:45).

Now, all that I want to do is sit down on the couch with Dan and Tracker and watch DVR’ed episodes of “How I Met Your Mother.”

But, that wouldn’t be fair for you guys, would it? Plus, I’ve spent a week racking up awesome things worth talking about.

Ta Ta Tamer

I’ve been on the hunt for a sports bra that is adequate for my — ahem — body type for a while now. Based on multiple sources, it seems like the best of the best is Lululemon’s Ta Ta Tamer. The only problem is that the bra costs $58.

I know. A bra that costs $58? How is that possible? Those were Dan’s words exactly…

In addition to the rave reviews, there is also a very comprehensive sizing guide and a product warranty.

Still, I must admit that those things weren’t enough to win me over. But, when a $50 Lululemon gift card came my way (thanks, Bliss Connect!), I bit the bullet and paid the extra $8 + $4 in shipping.

Road ID

Last week, I read a post by Ashley of “Healthy Ashley” about a horrible bicycling accident she was in. She laid unconscious on the ground for 10 minutes before someone found her. Even then, she didn’t have an ID, so there was no real way to identify her.

Fortunately, Ashley had her phone and someone was able to call her husband. She has since undergone an emergency surgery and is on her way to recovery, albeit with months of strenuous rehabilitation.

Although it is a scary story, it has helped me realize the importance of carrying identification when I work out. That’s why I went online and finally ordered the Road ID, I’ve looked at multiple times in the past.

No excuses!

Updated: Road ID offered me a $1 coupon to pass along. Just enter “ThanksEmily8826427” when completing a purchase!

Drying Rack

I have a little love-hate relationship with doing the laundry. I actually really enjoy folding clothes (weird, right?), but the frugal side of me hates feeding the washer with quarters.

Brilliantly, Dan’s mom bought us a drying rack. Now I save a good $1.50 a week! Wheeee!

This Quote…

Questions: What do you think is worth talking about this week?

The Great Grocery Reformation

While living alone, I used to totally wing grocery shopping.

I’d basically wander around the store 1-3 times a week and pick up meal basics, such as bread, milk and cheese. However, random non-essentials always seemed to find their way into my basket. Sometimes, I grabbed these things because they were on sale. Other times, I just wanted to try something out. Either way, they were never necessary and always cost me more money.

Although that wasn’t a big deal at the time, since getting married, I’ve tried to be more conscious of how my grocery shopping dollars are spent.

This is partially because I am now buying meat for Dan, which is more costly. However, the main driving force behind my grocery shopping reformation is that I’m just trying to be more responsible with my money — or, rather, with our money. There’s just more at stake.

For those reasons, I’ve picked up a few strategies that have helped me keep my grocery spending about equal to what it was when I was living on my own.

Yes, you heard that right. I’m now feeding an additional man for the price I used to spend on myself. Here’s how…

Every Sunday, I sit down at the computer with my trusty pad of yellow legal paper. Then, I click open my local grocery store’s website and pull up the weekly ad.

In this week’s case, I cross-compared Dillions to HyVee and found that HyVee had the better deals for me.

After jotting down what would be a potentially good buy, I checked out the state of my refrigerator to see if anything I already had could be paired with one of the sale items for an easy meal. The fewer things I have to buy, the better!

Unfortunately, the fridge was looking pretty scrappy today.

There was more to work with in the produce drawer.

I also did a quick scan of the freezer (where I keep a lot of frozen vegetables) and the pantry (where I have more canned beans than I know what to do with). Then, it was time to get planning!

In a few cases, I was able to come up with meals on my own. For example, there were pretty good sales on lean ground beef and avocados at the store. I had a can of black beans in the pantry and cheese in the fridge, so I decided to buy some tortillas and make tacos one night.

After running through those easy options, I took to the internet for some more inspiration.

I found a good-looking recipe for panzanella, which would make for a good use of the cheese I already had and the other ingredients were pretty cheap. What really sealed the deal, however, was this: Dan told me he wanted to have artichoke paninis. I already had canned artichoke hearts and brie cheese, so all I needed was bread and spinach — both of which were ingredients in the panzanella!

That meant I was saving money and preventing food from going to waste. Win-win.

Finally, I went rogue on one recipe. I was craving something with butternut squash and thought it would work well with some quinoa I already had. I flipped open my beloved Flavor Bible and scanned for other ingredients I could match it with.

Ricotta and rosemary stuck out to me, so they went on the shopping list!

At that point, I had enough meals planned for the week. However, Dan and I would get a little hungry by just eating dinner. I scanned the pantry and fridge again and jotted down some of the essentials that we needed to replenish. This week, I had to pick up eggs, cereal, tofu and pumpkin.

Then, I packed up my legal pad and headed to the store.

Unlike before when I didn’t even write a list, I was disciplined about keeping to mine. As a result, the grand total for our week’s meals was… $40.03!

That bought me:

  • 1 bunch spinach (for panzanella and paninis)
  • 1 bunch asparagus (a side for paninis)
  • 2 red onions (for panzanella and butternut squash)
  • 1 avocado (for tacos)
  • 1 lemon (for paninis)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (for panzanella)
  • 1 container low-fat ricotta (for butternut squash)
  • 1 package of tofu (fridge staple)
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (for Dan’s taco)
  • 1 package whole-grain tortillas (for tacos)
  • 1 loaf whole-grain bread (for panzanella and paninis)
  • 1 carton eggs (fridge staple)
  • 1 box Kashi cereal (pantry staple)
  • 2 cans pumpkin (pantry staples)
  • 4 small spices (pantry staples, on sale)

Sadly, there is one noticeable absence from the bunch. There was no butternut squash at the store. Tragic, I know. However, a grocer said they were expecting a shipment in the next day and that butternut squash was set to go on sale on Wednesday.

I decided it would be worth the wait. When I go back on Wednesday to buy the squash, it should only add $2-3 to my cost. That still puts me well below my average expenditure from last year!

Just goes to show that a little planning goes a long way…

Questions: When it comes to grocery shopping, are you a planner or an impulse buyer? What do you spend most of your grocery money on?

I’m definitely still learning about planning effectively, but the money I’ve saved makes it worth the extra effort! I spend most of my money in the produce department. Buying seasonal produce helps, though!

Clinton Lake

I think that Dan and I both agree that Clinton Lake is one of our favorite places in Lawrence. Sadly, many KU students don’t even know about it, even though it’s just a 10 minute drive from campus.

Located at the western end of 23rd Street/Clinton Parkway, the lake is a destination for running, hiking, biking and strolling. With both paved and unpaved paths, the park is accessible all year — seriously.

The easiest path to follow is one that leads from a parking lot, down a hill and to the top of Sanders Mound.

Toward the end, it’s a little bit of a climb.

However, the view is worth it regardless of whether it’s winter…

Or summer…

Still, Dan and I often life to travel off the beaten path and discover some of the backwoods trails of the park at Clinton Lake. Once again, it’s gorgeous all throughout the year.

The park also holds special meaning for Dan and me. It was where Dan first asked me to be his girlfriend. It was where we went on countless picnics in the early days of our relationship. It was where we trained for our half-marathon and went on tons of bike rides…

It was where we escaped from school…

It was where we got some fresh air during cold winter months…

It was where we got our engagement pictures taken…

And, it was where we took Tracker on her first trail runs.

As I said, it’s definitely worth the trip!

— This concludes the public service announcement —

Question: What are your favorite places to be an in-town tourist?