Tag Archives: lifestyle

Not A Classy Exit Followed By A Better (Hopefully) Return

January was a rough month for Aloysa’s Kitchen Sink. So was the beginning of February. Hopefully from this moment forward it will be smoother sailing. One can only hope for it, right?

A lot of you asked me what happened, why I pulled the plug so unpredictably. A few of you asked me to come back! I do owe you some answers. At least, I feel that I do.

What happened

I don’t have a thrilling story to tell about Lithuanian mob requesting at gun point to pull the website down because of my post How We Did Business The Mob Style. FBI did not put Beaker and me into the witness protection program, and did not send us to some remote farm in Ohio.

No broken hearted women wrote me hate letters because they felt that I portrayed them in A Good Gym Is Difficult To Find. Just Like A Good Man. Maybe one day I will get hate mail from at least one of these women. It would make a great blog post, wouldn’t it?

My story is pretty trivial. I simply burned out. Don’t you feel it sometimes? When the pressure at work is building up at a hectic pace, and you start to wonder if you are going to have a mental breakdown? When you come home and feel completely drained, and not a single coherent thought crosses your mind? That was me. It didn’t happen in one day. In fact, it was weighing me down for weeks.

I shamelessly gave up on my blog because it seemed to be the easiest way out.

Why I Pulled the Plug

I like closures. I don’t like to abandon anything and let it float in time and space unattended. Is it compulsive obsessive? I don’t know. Perhaps. But don’t get me wrong. It was not the happiest moment in my blogging career. The feeling of closure, the finality of it was painful. It felt irrevocable and complete. Or so I thought.

One great thing emerged from this as I call it “not so classy exit” debacle. Your support, emails and forum discussions made me think really hard. In fact, you made me reconsider a lot of things about blogging and myself as a blogger.

You made me feel as if I was still on the blogging ride, my mind caught in some tremendous gravitational force that pulled me back in, right where I was before I thought I left it all behind.

You probably don’t realize it but you also taught me some valuable lessons:

No one is alone in the blogging world. There is a lot of support, understanding and care.

Expectations should be reasonable. No one is expected to be perfect.

If you need help, ask for it. That’s what friends and guest posts are for.

If you need a break then take a break, have some rest, get away from it all. Financial Samurai said it the best “If you can speak forever, you can blog forever.”  Ditto!

What Future Holds

Even though I am still sorting things out, I am ready for a comeback. I wrote this post with a lot of hope and a feeling of endless possibilities.

Talk It Out: Money and Relationships column will be back, and I hope for its first appearance next Monday. Beaker is excited to continue his series Beaker’s World. There is still a lot to discuss about our trip to China. I missed some great blog swaps and, even though, I cannot promise to make up for it, I will come up with something to compensate for missing all of this.

I cannot promise to post three times a week. But I can promise that I am back to blogging.

Are you in?

2010 Year In Review

Somehow it is difficult to believe that today is the last day of 2010. Time seems to fly really fast lately. Even though I don’t set up goals, I still like to look back and see what I have achieved over the period of one year. Could I have achieved more if I’d set goals and specific measurements? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I don’t limit myself by goals. There is a certain feeling of freedom and of endless opportunities when there are no measurements set in stone.

More Writing, More Reading, Less TV Watching

I am very pleased with myself because this year I wrote so much more than usual. I wrote five chapters of the book and queried some agents (bad idea! exciting time!). The query of unfinished, unpolished, unwritten novel attracted the attention of a couple prominent agents. Nothing happened after that but I concluded that I can come up with some creative plots, ideas and characters, and, yes, I can write. Not very humble, I know, but hey, two agents wanted to see my chapters.

I wrote a short story and submitted it to more than twenty magazines. It never got published but it was great just to write a complete piece.

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: Keep writing (maybe an e-book this time) and reading!


In 2010 I started three blogs and closed them down. After a few blogging debacles, I finally found myself in my current blog. I joined the Yakezie challenge, met quite a few great bloggers and made some friends. My blogging direction emerged, and The Kitchen Sink became a lifestyle blog with emphasis on personal finance. I became a staff writer @Beating Broke. Do I consider all of this an accomplishment? Yes, I do.

The most popular posts of The Kitchen Sink in 2010 (according to the unique page views):

1. Five Reasons To Stop Being Frugal And Get A Life
2. Beware of Men Counting Pennies
3. How A Debtless Aloysa Became Buried in Debt
4. My Life Without Christmas
5. Seperate or Joint? Mine or Yours?

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: Keep blogging, keep supporting my blogger friends and the Yakezie network.

Paying Off Debt

We were able to pay off $13,000 of our debt. This is a huge success because my spending habits are not the best, and we still love to take trips and go on vacation. Could it have been better? Of course. Could it have been worse? Sure. What matters in the end, we did the best we could and paid off a good chunk of debt.

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: Keep paying!

Healthy Food Choices

This year we improved our food shopping habits significantly. In the past we used to run to the store right after work and decide then and there what we were going to eat that night. Now, we do grocery shopping once a week and come prepared. We go to the store with a list of groceries based on a menu that we come up for a week instead of just having a vague idea of what we are going to eat.

We cook more at home, we reduced the number of out take outs from three times a week to once a week. Huge improvement.

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: We do need to reduce our sugar intake, eat a little bit less red meat and a little bit more fish.

Curb Those Shopping Habits

My spending habits are not the best but I was able to keep them under control this year. Most of the time. J The results speak for themselves: paid off a good chunk of debt, saved up for vacation, stayed UNDER budget during Christmas consumerist frenzy. Could have done better but a certain long and simply gorgeous pair of boots threw me off balance. Oh well… we do live only once.

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: Shopping my own closet a little bit more can be very helpful in 2011.

Happy New Year Everyone! Let all you dreams, hopes and wishes come true. Let all your goals and resolutions be achieved. Salute!

How I (Barely) Survived 3 days of the Weight Watchers

I injured my shoulder a while ago playing ping-pong. You are probably thinking “How in the world can you injure your shoulder playing a harmless game of a ping-pong?” If you have a couple of cocktails and swing too hard, that’s how. I finally dragged myself to the doctor and found out that I cannot lift weights for about 6-8 months after I am finished with physical therapy.

Not being able to lift weights was the worst news I could possibly expect. I got so upset about it that I stopped going to the gym. If you remember from my previous post, I hate cardio. So, pounding endless miles on the treadmill was not really an option for me. In a couple of weeks of not working out, I started gaining weight at a fast and steady rate. I went back to the gym and worked out like crazy on elliptical without reducing any body fat I accumulated over the weeks of self-pity. A cold realization hit me – my dietary habits required a very thorough and close re-evaluation.

So what is a girl to do if she doesn’t want to work out but wants to shed some pounds? Diet! I don’t believe in diets because they limit consumption of certain nutrients (protein, carbs) or food groups. Diets seems to fight against what your body needs to function most efficiently. Also, I believe that diets cause a loss of lean muscle and ultimately reduce our metabolism. Did you notice how fast people put their weight back after they are done dieting?

I contemplated all of this and decided that I need to have a better accountability of what I eat and what portions I consume. So, I signed up with Weight Watchers. I liked the idea of Weight Watchers because the program lets you eat anything you want, it makes you think about your food quality, portion size, and it teaches you to prioritize your food choices. Immediately I learned that I am used to overeating, especially if I eat something delicious. You know how difficult it is to stop eating when something tastes so good, and it seems that you can eat, and eat, and eat … until your belly almost bursts.

We shop for food responsibly and selectively, trying to buy nutritious, quality food. As it appeared after one day of starvation trying to follow the Weight Watchers prescribed 22 points a day, our refrigerator at home did not contain any filling foods such as almonds, carrots, grapes, whole-grain crackers, hummus and low fat cheese. I ran to the store and got carrots instead of my usual Luna snack bar.

On day 3 of my Weight Watchers ordeal I ate a cup of cereal and a toast of wheat bread with a sprinkle of peanut butter for breakfast. On the way to work I was craving a latte and since I am not a very strong person when it comes to food cravings, I gave in to my desire. The latte kept me going for a couple of hours but by ten o’clock I was starving and feeling weak. I ate a bunch of carrots that were supposed to be a satisfying food. Unfortunately for me the carrots did not fill me up. I was still feeling weak. So, I ate six crackers that my co-worker generously gave me after seeing my desperate and hungry eyes.

By lunch time I was dreaming about a rib-eye, French fries and a slice of chocolate cake. Just before I got a chicken pot pie and a piece of apple pie from the cafeteria at work, I cancelled my Weight Watchers membership.

I never was obsessed with food until I signed up with Weight Watchers. Constant point counting and thinking about food made me feel awkward and hungry. The Weight Watchers helped me realized that sometimes we eat too much and not the healthiest foods. But I also realized that if you reduce your food intake, count carrots, crackers and grapes, sooner or later you will start obsessing about food.

The obsession that you will develop will not be about good, nutritious, healthy food. You will start noticing pastries, donuts, bagels everywhere. You will stare at happy people eating juicy hamburgers on benches in the park. You will inhale the delicious smell of your co-worker’s lunch and wish it would be yours.

I know people who love Weight Watchers. The program worked for them in the best possible way: they lost weight, they learned all the right eating habits, and they figured out how to prioritize their food choices. However, I have yet to meet a Weight Watcher who didn’t gain any weight back after finishing the program. If you are depriving yourself from things that you like, sooner than later you will attempt to catch up with all the lost opportunities and voilà – you will be back to the Weight Watchers losing weight. Again.

As far as my life goes, I am back to the gym.

Family Lessons in Frugality

I learned the word “frugality” from my American friend. We were at lunch talking about shopping. She said that she likes good bargains, thinks about herself as “frugal” and doesn’t settle for “cheap.” Even though my English was really good by then, I still didn’t know what “frugal” meant. My friend explained that it meant “spending wisely.”

Lately the life style of being frugal has become somewhat of a phenomena. Everyone is having heated discussions about it. Bloggers passionately write about it. People try to accurately define it. Why being frugal is such a popular notion? Probably because it is very difficult to be frugal in a consumerist culture (read about my financial discoveries in Saving Money Today). Then I thought about my own life experience and decided to compare my Russian definition of frugality with American definition.

Russian Frugality

I grew up in the family that was frugal by default. We were poor and used to live from paycheck to paycheck. My grandmother and mother were teachers and got paid twice a month: a small advance in the beginning of the month and a bigger lump amount three weeks later. My family was not cheap by any means. If we needed new shoes or coats, we would invest in quality goods. You have to realize that in the Soviet Union we did not have bargains, coupons or sales.

My grandmother and mother tried to stretch their paychecks as much as they could but the money would usually run out by the end of the month. We would eat better in the beginning of the month, and a little bit worse by the middle of the month. If something broke, it could become a big problem because it meant taking a good chunk of money away from what we usually spent on food. My parents used to borrow from close friends who were a little bit better off then we were. In fact, borrowing money from friends was a very common practice. Majority of the people in the former Soviet Union lived this way.

My family taught me four very important lessons about the ability to stretch money:

1. Get the best quality of clothes and shoes because they will last longer.

2. Don’t invest in cheap products because they will fall apart faster.

3. Try to save a little bit at a time because you will have an emergency spending sooner or later.

4. Evaluate your needs, wants and spend wisely.

Applying these rules are not easy, especially in the US where the consumerist culture encourages spending.

American Frugality

I asked my American friends what their definition of frugality was and this is what I heard back:

– Not being extravagant, spendy or wasteful;

– Balance your lifestyle: get what you need and want without overspending; look for deals and bargains; cut coupons and shop wisely; repair and re-use as opposed to buying new and discarding;

– Live within your means;

– The practice of acquiring goods and services in a restrained manner, and resourcefully using already owned economic goods and services , to achieve a longer term goal (when I heard this I wondered if it was a text book definition);

– Living a bare bones lifestyle (Really? This one made me depressed instantly. Even back home I never lived a bare bones lifestyle);

– Being cheap (I don‘t even want to comment on this one);

– Being mindful and practical (just like my grandmother!);

– A habit of choosing not to spend money that you theoretically could.

No matter how you look at it, frugality is a word with a controversial meaning. But it definitely has a lot of similarities no matter what culture you are from. For some people it means saving, being financially smart with your money, finding a good bargain. For some people it means being cheap, stingy, boring and having no life. Some defend frugality by saying that they enjoy quality and a respect for value. Some attack frugality by saying that a frugal lifestyle means saying “no” to everything that brings enjoyment to your life such as eating out, drinking lattes, shopping and traveling.

Sometimes I am still wondering if frugal people live for bargains or do they simply spend smart? I prefer to think that I practice the latter.

EDIT: This post was included in Festival Of Frugality #253 – Frugal Halloween Costume Edition hosted by Budgeting in the Fun Stuff.

About Aloysa, The Kitchen Sink and the Yakezie

About The Kitchen Sink: the blog celebrates a two months anniversary in October. I am getting to know a lot of you, my loyal readers. When I started this blog I was not sure where it will take me and what I was going to write about. So many subjects I wanted to discuss. A lot of questions I wanted to raise and search for answers. So I created The Kitchen Sink and decided it will be about:

– living a life filled with writing and blogging;

– exploring personal finance;

– trying to live a healthy life;

– traveling, researching, learning and reading.

Quite a wide blog niche you probably think. That’s exactly what I like about The Kitchen Sink. It breaks the rules of the blogging world, does not define a niche and does not limit me to one or two topics. It is a lifestyle blog that is scattered and full of unpredictable things. Just like our lives are.

About Aloysa: Aloysa is my blogger’s name. You know a male name Aloysius? Well, Aloysa is the same name; it’s just a female version of it that I came up with. I am an accountant by day and an aspiring writer and a blogger by night. I work in finance industry and deal all day long with numbers, budgets, debits, credits and journal entries. It is fun stuff but sometimes it gets to me. To get away from it all, I created this blog.

Before all of this happened, I was born and raised in the Soviet Republic of Lithuania (call it the Soviet Union) in a family of teachers. My grandmother taught Chemistry and Biology, my mother was a teacher of Russian Literature. My grandfather (a character worth at least a few blog posts) was a teacher of English and German languages. He should have taught me English but he never did. I guess, he never could imagine me moving to the US many years later.

Our life in the Soviet Union was not all that bad. Like in every culture and in every country, there were good things and bad things. In 1990, when I was close to graduating from the high school, the Soviet Union collapsed and The Soviet Republic of Lithuania became The Republic of Lithuania. It happened very fast: one night everyone went to sleep in the Soviet Union and woke up in the different country with a new government.

Everything was turned upside down. Russian language became a language of the enemy. Russian schools and Russian community struggled to survive in the new hostile world. About five years later, in 2000, I moved to the United States.

About the Yakezie: it is a personal finance and lifestyle blog network that was formed awhile ago. Their motto is “Selflessly Helping Others.” Sounds great to me! The group created the Yakezie Challenge (you can see their badge on my blog) for bloggers. The challenge requires the following:

– write quality content;

– post 2-4 times a week;

– selflessly promote others.

All of these are required in order to challenge and hopefully increase bloggers’ Alexa ranking. Before I stumbled onto the Yakezie I never even heard about Alexa. Apparently it is a very important ranking in the blogosphere. The lower your number (closer to #1), the better it is for your blog. I started my blog two months ago and my ranking is a whapping 2,693,805.

I joined the Yakezie Challenge yesterday. Let’s see where it takes me in six months.

Final word for my readers: I hope that my eye-opening and jaw dropping content will make you come back to The Kitchen Sink again and again. It is a potpourri of intellectualism, culture trends and out-of-the-box stories featuring smart and stimulating plots… Are you still with me? Good! I am joking! But I do hope you will come back, read, enjoy and subscribe. Without you, my readers, this blog would not exist.

You will find in The Kitchen Sink:

1. My book reviews;

2. Ramblings on life, writing and inspiration;

3. Interviews with great, empowering and talented people;

4. Personal finance discussions (I am an accountant after all);

5. Articles about health and fitness;

6. Guest posts that bring a new and fresh perspective.

I want to say a special Thank You to my most loyal and committed readers. Through The Kitchen Sink I met a lot of interesting, talented and inspiring people from all around the world. I hope to meet even more now as I joined the Yakezie Challenge.

You gotta love blogging for the opportunities it gives!

Thank you all for your support, encouraging and moving comments and kind feedback.

Please follow me on Twitter, or subscribe to this blog through email or RSS.

How To Get Stronger, Smarter and Better All At Once

I always thought that making and keeping a commitment to fitness takes years. Not a day, not a week, not even three months – years! I could not be any more wrong. It took two weeks! But let me start from the very beginning…

In high school I hated physical education class and barely attended it. It was a really bad idea because I failed a running test. Instead of running, I walked most of the track and botched the test miserably. My PE teacher called my mother and told her that if I don’t shape up and run or at least attempt to run, I won’t be allowed to take graduation exams (the school system in my country is different from the school system in the US).

At sixteen I was not fit to run. I smoked like a chimney! What running are you talking about? But I had to buckle down and attempt to run. It was imperative to pass the running test and take the graduation exams. A great future laid in front of me and the only obstacle in achieving this future was passing the running test. The physical part of the test, the track, the PE teacher and his stop watch was a nightmare that is impossible to forget. I’ll leave it at that. Lesson One – quit smoking.

Years later, I was in the US attending college. By then I quit smoking and attempted a few work out sessions at the gym with my friends. My best friend used to run on a treadmill, watch TV and tell me about her love life. All at the same time. She was a multitasker. I barely could breath while briskly walking on the treadmill next to her. The whole experience was pretty overwhelming: her fit body, iron lungs and constant talking. I stopped working out. Lesson Two – choose carefully with whom you exercise.

Six years and twenty extra pounds later I started thinking about signing up for a gym. But I made a big mistake. I overestimated cardio, hoping to shred twenty pounds in ten days, and pounded endless miles on the treadmill. Don’t misunderstand me. Cardio is a good exercise that makes your heart stronger. My misconception was that cardio was supposed to burn all the extra fat I acquired during my years in college fast and efficiently. When it didn’t happen, I gave up, accusing genetics of all my weight problems. Lesson Three– cardio is not a solution to your problems.

Then the unexpected happened. My husband started to work out three times a week. He was lifting weights and doing a very little cardio. I suspiciously watched him lose weight, build some substantial muscle and change his body in a surprising way. His transformation inspired me, and I signed up for the gym again. Yes, third time! This time I started lifting weights and since then I never looked back. It took exactly two weeks to see changes in my weight and my body. I finally made a long-term commitment that I was afraid to make for years. Lesson Four – find the right exercise and stick to it.

As a result, I became stronger, smarter and indeed I live better.

Stronger: it doesn’t matter if you are male or female, old or young, don’t be afraid of weights. You simply need to adjust weights, lunges, squats, repetitions to your level and capabilities. You will notice your body getting stronger, leaner, healthier. You will not need to spend long boring hours laboriously pumping away on some treadmill or elliptical. Weight training builds muscle mass and increases your metabolism. What else do you need?

Smarter: my food choices improved significantly and I am eating much healthier. Once I started eating healthy, I found that I no longer crave junk food (oh well… I still do but very rarely). I believe that healthy diet starts with choices we make at the grocery store. Try not to shop hungry to avoid impulse purchases. Try to plan meals for the entire week, so you know what you are shopping for. Please don’t over eat. American portions (I blame my extra 20 lbs on it) are much bigger than European portions. Portion control is essential.

Better: exercise will improve your life. You will make healthier and smarter choices, reduce stress, get adequate sleep and build a stronger immune system. Oh, and don’t forget – you will look better too!

Without Worry

I have spent an awful lot of time in my life worrying. I worried about bills, approaching deadlines, driving in the traffic to work, flu, shrinking budgets, layoffs at work, expenses, the economy, the real estate market and so on. You get the picture. I even worried about my husband driving to work and making it there safely. Do you know anyone else like me? I bet you do.

I worried so much that these worries became debilitating to a certain extent. Sometimes I could not function because I was obsessing about so many things (see my list above). Finally I have decided that I cannot live every minute of my life in a agonizing state of anxiety. I started wondering what I could do to reduce my fixation.

Worry is defined by Webster as “a mental distress or agitation resulting from concern, usually for something impending or anticipated.” After reading this definition, I realized that the worry is about something that hasn’t happened and may or may not happen. When I looked at it from this angle, my fixation appeared rather silly and useless. Still, understanding the pointlessness of worrying wasn’t very helpful. So, I took a different approach.

What I am going to say here is not a ground breaking discovery of the century. In fact, it is as old as the world and you have heard about it numerous times. I started to exercise. Have you ever wondered why therapists, magazines, friends, family always advise you to work out when you are stressed or depressed? Because it works!

I started to work out on a regular basis and let me tell you:

– I sleep like a rock and I feel rested in the morning. A regular sleep pattern means less tossing, turning, obsessing, worrying;

– My mood is significantly better because I feel better; my energy level is increased which leads to the next point;

– I drink less caffeine. I still enjoy my two cups of coffee in the morning but I don’t need an additional cup in the afternoon to boost my energy. Less caffeine means less anxiety.

Another valuable method of reducing stress that I discovered is relaxation. I was one of those people who thought that being told to relax is as useless as being told not to worry. The problem is that many of us do not know how to relax. Relaxation does not come naturally to everyone. I can’t just lay on the sofa and do nothing. But I love to write and read. Writing takes my mind away from all the worries. Reading transports me into a different world. Even if it is for an hour or so, it still does its magic – I go to bed without worries.

There are techniques that turn relaxation into an activity. For me it is writing and reading. For someone else it can be yoga, hiking, watching TV, walking a dog or playing with kids.

I believe that life is meant to be enjoyed, and often the simplest ways to reduce anxiety and stop worrying are very simple and obvious things. You just have to see, explore and find what works for you. You will be surprised with the results. I promise.

How do you relax? What takes your mind away from worries?