My FODMAP Journey

I have always been a good eater. A member of the clean plate club. A proponent of eating anything and  everything and lots of it. I have never been a picky eater. However, I have always had an issue with slight bloating. It never was horrible, but if I ate a big bowl of cauliflower for lunch, a bowl of chili for dinner and two apples with peanut butter for dessert, I would probably have a slight stomach bulge, or what we would call a burrito baby, and would definitely have tight pants. Usually it was gone the next morning and I could go about my day. 

However, a couple of years ago, I noticed that it was becoming more frequent and more severe and it seemingly didn't really matter what I ate, if I ate or if I didn't eat, how much I ate etc. I was often so bloated that I looked I was five months pregnant (and felt that way too!) and was having severe pains in my upper stomach at times. I went to see a gastroenterologist and she gave me a blood test which came back all clear and then put me on a low FODMAP diet. What the heck is a FODMAP, you ask? FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. So now that we are clear... But wait, what? We are not clear? What is all that gibberish, you ask? 

Disclaimer: I am no doctor, nor chemist, nor biologist. But I took organic chemistry once a long time ago, so I will attempt to break it down. These are short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that the small intestine absorbs poorly, and eating them can cause digestive issues (often due to them fermenting while in the intestine). All of the fancy names have to do with how many units make up the chain. For the purposes of matching the Monash list, let's refer to them as Oligos (which include fructans, not to be confused with fructose), Lactose (Di), Fructose (Mono) and...Polyols (which includes mannitol and sorbitol). Still a bit lost? 

You will be familiar with many of the main culprits: beans, wheat, cauliflower, lactose and garlic, along with many other fruits and vegetables. Some of the items are red, as in do not eat at all, and that is manageable. However, some are yellow, as in you can have 10 grams of it and be okay. However, you may not be able to have 10 grams of one yellow and 10 grams of another without having issues. Plus, who eats only 43 grams of corn? P.S. That is about 2 tablespoons. You can see the full detailed list here (as of 2022). 

From Ecosh

The first step of the diet is the elimination phase. For me, this was an eight week period where I eliminated all of the red and most of the yellow items on the list. To be honest, I did feel better during this phase, but it is a pain in the butt. You can't have garlic or onions or beans or wheat or lactose. I definitely did not eat out except for maybe once (Japanese was really the only thing I could eat, except soy was also not allowed - sashimi anyone?) and was "that guy" at any dinner with friends ("I'll just have a plain lettuce leaf with a whipped air dressing and a glass of water, thanks"). It did keep me from snacking (I ate A LOT of carrot sticks) because my main go to is fruit, which was probably the hardest part of this phase. I love fruit, especially apples, which are on the red list. 

The second part is the reintroduction phase. Do not think that this is all an all-you-can-eat fun party, because its not. This is another eight to ten week phase where you introduce one food from one category for three days straight, ramp up the quantity each day, see how it affects you and then go back to elimination for four days. Then on week two, you try a different category for three days, take four days off, try a new category for three days... you get the picture. The twist is that even if you think that the item does not bother you, you do not continue eating it. Basically except for the three days where you ate it, for the other seven weeks and four days, you are essentially still eliminating that category. You can read more on the Monash website

The reason you do it for so many weeks even though there are only four categories is that you may need to try several things in the same category. For example, garlic, onions, beans, bread and many common vegetables are in the oligosaccharide category. Its best to test out each one separately, as one of them may be the trigger, but you won't necessarily have an issue with all of them. And who wants to give up garlic if they don't have to!?

You also want to make sure you are trying things that are only in one category. For example, apples have both fructose and polyols, so you would not want to see if fructose is your issue by having an apple because if you did have an issue you would not know if it was the fructose or the polyol. You would be better off to have orange juice, a fig, or a mango to see if fructose was the issue (or rum apparently, although I would stick to something you consume often - you do you). For polyols you might want to try a yellow peach, cauliflower or a mushroom. This NHS video is also very helpful in explaining the reintroduction method. 

My nine weeks worth of tests were

Oligos (broken into five): black beans, garlic, onions, bread, artichoke

Lactose (Di): yogurt

Fructose (Mono): mango

Polyols (broken into two): avocado (sorbitol) and cauliflower (mannitol)

Of course all of this is done alongside journaling and really trying to be at one with your intestines, which can be fun but tedious at the same time, and trying to live life. Was that stomach rumble hunger, or should I have not eaten more than 27 grams of cauliflower today? Do I have a tummy ache from the bread, or was it the two bowls of oatmeal I ate this morning with butter and maple syrup? 

To wrap this up for now, I know you are wondering what the end result was. I would like to say that one thing really bugged me, I stopped eating it and I am happy and svelte and bloat free. However, that is not the case. I have learned that there are a few things, or high quantities of other things, that do seem to be worse, but there are still times when I do not eat those items and I have issues, so it is still a work in progress. Usually I find out by making a mistake (i.e. do not eat two large bowls of popcorn in one sitting, especially after eating three bean soup) but at least I am on the right path. I am not on full reduction, but something more like a maintenance phase for now. 

Also, like I said, I am not a health professional and I usually am not a proponent of supplements either but I started taking two probiotics that were recommended by a friend of my brothers and they seem to help a little: the first you take right before you eat, and the second you take at the end of the day after you are done eating. They are kind of expensive, and it took about a week before I noticed any effect, but they do seem to help reduce the tight pant syndrome! Sometimes that feeling of tight pants is not just physically demoralizing, but mental too and so in this case, I will try anything! 

Feel free to reach out personally with questions; I am happy to get into (TMI) more detail if needed! 

Have you ever had gastro issues? If so, what did you do to get rid of them? If not, what other issues have you had and how did you overcome them? 


Everybody Meet Bob, Bob Meet Everybody

I mentioned that I got a new mountain bike. I have christened him Bob. As you know, the road bike is Bertha and it just seemed to go together. I have never had a mountain bike before. I have been mountain biking once in Bolivia, when I rode on the World's Most Dangerous Road, which is a downhill ride from about 4,000 meters (13,200 feet) to 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) and is a combination of paved road, dirt road and single track. 

This is Bob! 

In the last several years, I have done a lot more road biking. It has mostly been commuting but I have also added in a few longer rides and have really enjoyed myself. However, I am a woman of the woods at heart so I thought it was time to adventure out to the dirt. First I had to figure out what kind of bike I needed. Have you ever tried to buy a bike? There are hard tail, gravel bikes, bikes with no shocks and bikes with extra shocks. There are aluminum and carbon frames, there are different sizes and shapes and...man, there are so many different options and many of them are expensive! 

What I ultimately wanted was something I could take bikepacking; this is like backpacking but on a bike. You load up the bike and ride off into the woods for a few days and camp along the way. If you know me at all, you know this is right up my alley! So I chose a hardtail bike and I put a price alert on it and when the alert got triggered, I bit the bullet and bought it. Then it arrived in a big box and I had to put it together myself. I know a little from having the road bike but most of this  is new to me. 

So, basically the point of all of this backstory is that I have been having fun. Like I said in this post, we so often get so used to doing things that we know how to do, but this has given me so many different learning experiences! Have they all been fun? No. I luckily put my pedals on the right sides, but did not crank them down so that they would stay on all the time. I already had to fix the shifter and I now am on a first name basis with the local bike shop. 

BUT! Bob and I went out for our first ride this week. The trails are still a tad wet, but oh my gosh, it was SO FUN! I felt like a little kid again. I have to ride up a big hill to get from my house to the trailhead and then I had a few big hills on the trails and they were hard, but I did it! I had to go down rocky and rooted trails and I definitely tested out my brakes, but flying down the hill when you have a more smooth surface is such a thrill. 

I feel like a highschool girl with her first crush! He is so cute! I am in love. K + B forever! Like a highschool girl though, I am sure the sheen will wear off and reality will hit me, but for right now I am on cloud nine! 

Have you ever mountain biked? If so, I need tips! What is the hardest thing you have had to put together yourself (and how many screws did you have left over at the end)? 


Potty Talk

I know that I said I was not going to talk about toilets again, but I lied. Actually I am not going to talk about toilets; I am going to talk about the bidet. 

The bidet has been ridiculed by Americans for years; every time we go to Europe, we laugh about the "two toilets," "the low sink" or the "weird looking drinking fountain." I have to admit to seeing one for the first time a long time ago and knowing what it was used for but not really how it was used. It was in the bathroom of my boyfriend's mom, who was American, but had traveled a lot for work and had lived abroad for a long time. Apparently she liked it so much she had one installed in her house in California. 

I never used hers though. The first time I used a bidet was maybe five years later, when I went to South Korea for the first time. Their toilets not only squirt water, but they have heated water, air and a heated seat too. You could spend a very long time in the bathroom in South Korea. 

I think this one was in China.

Last year I bought a bidet. My bidet is not that fancy. It just attaches to your toilet on the side. It takes about 10 minutes to set up and is not obtrusive or anything. I call it the starter bidet. Here's the funny part; I liked mine so much I bought one for everyone for Christmas. There have been mixed reviews and comments so far. 

My dad and my mom both tried it without sitting on it and sprayed the bathroom wall, even though the instructions say not to turn it on if you are not sitting. When my mom first turned it on while sitting, we heard a loud yelp come from the bathroom. It does have pretty strong pressure! My brother went to my parents house and fell in love with the bidet right away. Little did he know he was getting one too! However, his girlfriend is less than thrilled. I think she has this idea that you can get dirty stuff in a clean place by using it? But let me clear up some of the mystery. 

When you turn the water on, the little sprayer wand pops out of its protected home to spray you. So you are not using dirty water to spray yourself. The water pressure (and temperature if set up that way) can be adjusted, as can the angle, so you can aim it where it is best for you. After you are done, you can dry off using TP or a towel that you then wash after a couple of uses. It saves a lot of TP, let me tell you! This is nothing new; people have been doing it for many years, but it is new to me and I have been very happy with my new toy. You know how sometimes someone gives you a gift and you think you are never going to use it and then you get a ton of use out of it? This is one of those things. 

Have you ever used a bidet? If so, what do you think!? If not, what's holding you back? If you don't want to talk about toilets, what item have you thought you were not going to get any use out of and then it became your favorite thing? 


Slovenian Mountain Trail: Logistics, Gear and Planning

Slovenia is a country that I wanted to go to for a long time. There were a few times where I tried to tack it onto the end of a trip to Austria or Italy or Slovakia, but I felt like it would not do it justice for it to only go there for a few days at the end of a different trip. So in September of 2022 I dedicated an entire two weeks to this little jewel of a country. I won’t go into it in too much detail, but the country has a lot to offer, including mountains, cities, beaches, wine and food! 

However, my main focus was to spend some time hiking the oldest long-distance trail in Europe, the Slovenian Mountain Trail (SMT), otherwise known as the SPP-1, the Slovenska Planinska Pot or the Transversala. It is a ~600 km (375 mile) trail from Maribor in the east to Ankaran on the west coast. It goes through several ranges of the Alps, including the Pohorje, the Julian Alps, the Karawanks, and the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. It also goes right past (and to if you like) the highest point in Slovenia, Mount Triglav, which sits at 2,863 meters (9,395 feet). 

The Plan/Logistics: Getting to Slovenia is not hard, but there are no direct flights to Ljubljana, and even if you do have a layover, flying into Slovenia’s tiny capital is not cheap. I ended up deciding to fly to Vienna, where I took a three-hour Flixbus to Graz Austria and then two trains to Maribor to start my trip. You also have the option of taking a five-hour bus directly from Vienna to Maribor. My original plan was to get to Maribor early in the morning and start hiking right away, but due to some travel issues, I arrived there around 5:00 pm, so I stayed one night in Maribor instead. This gave me the chance to buy fuel, which I was planning on either buying in the morning or doing without for the first few days, so that was a silver lining of starting a day later. 

There is no camping allowed in Slovenia; this hike consists of hut-to-hut travel and there are a total of about 60 huts along the way. They suggest that the huts be booked in advance, but most of them do not have online booking and you must call to make a reservation. I suggest becoming a member of the Alpine Club, which costs about $30.00 and gets you 30% - 50% off of hut costs, which is a savings of about $9.00 - $13.00 per hut. Figuring out which hut to stay at each night was actually not as easy to plan as you may think. I could not find one single website in English where you can see how far it was between huts or how much time it would take to get from one to the other. There was a GPX Track on the main Slovenian Alpine Club webpage, and I ended up using that and Gaia to figure out how much mileage and elevation gain was between each hut. I then exported this data to Offline Maps where I could use it to determine my route each day. 

I also came up with a possible daily plan, but I wanted the flexibility of being able to go further if I was feeling good, or to stop if I was not feeling well or if it was raining. So even though I mapped out all of the huts and data for them, I did not make a single reservation in advance. I wanted to go approximately 20-25 miles per day, but was aware that some days may be a little easier than others, so this would need to be flexible. 

The Route: The plan was to go from Maribor to wherever I ended up on day twelve. I knew I wanted to make a stop in Bled for a couple of days, so would get off the trail and take a bus there and back, but other than that, I was not set on getting a certain distance, as I have learned from past trips that things don’t always go as planned. I would know more once I was on the trail, but did not want to pin myself down to one specific plan. I also knew that I wanted a couple of days at the end to visit either the coast or Ljubljana or both. Therefore, my rough plan was to end up somewhere in the Bohinj region where I could hike out and get a bus back to Ljubljana. 

I ended up doing the following. You can find the CalTopo route here.

Day 1: Saturday 09/03/22. From Maribor to Koča na Pesku. Time Elapsed: 10:47. Moving time: 08:14. Miles Hiked: 22.86. Elevation gained: 5,896 feet. Elevation lost: 2,331 feet. 

Day 2: Sunday 09/04/22. From Koča na Pesku to Slovenj Gradec. Time Elapsed: 09:19. Moving time: 06:32. Miles Hiked: 19.85. Elevation gained: 3,031 feet. Elevation lost: 6,166 feet. 

Day 3: Monday 09/05/22. From Slovenj Gradec to Dom na Smrekovku. Time Elapsed: 09:28. Moving time: 07:17. Miles Hiked: 21.25. Elevation gained: 6,070 feet. Elevation lost: 2,935 feet. 

Day 4: Tuesday 09/06/22. From Dom na Smrekovku to Luce. Time Elapsed: 07:11. Moving time: 05:02. Miles Hiked: 14.59. Elevation gained: 2,674 feet. Elevation lost: 5,355 feet. 

Day 5: Wednesday 09/07/22. From Robanov Kot to Sedlu. Time Elapsed: 08:53. Moving time: 04:01. Miles Hiked: 10.20. Elevation gained: 6,703 feet. Elevation lost: 2,604 feet. 

Day 6: Thursday 09/08/22. From Sedlu to Jesezsko. Time Elapsed: 06:34. Moving time: 03:25. Miles Hiked: 11.38. Elevation gained: 2,562 feet. Elevation lost: 5,231 feet. 

Day 7: Friday 09/09/22. Rest day in Bled.

Day 8: Saturday 09/10/22. From Bled to Aljažev Dom. Time Elapsed: 05:58. Moving time: 05:17. Miles Hiked: 17.89. Elevation gained: 2,379 feet. Elevation lost: 895 feet. 

Day 9: Sunday 09/11/22. From Aljažev Dom to Triglavski dom na Kredarici. Time Elapsed: 06:42. Moving time: 06:39. Miles Hiked: 08.12. Elevation gained: 6,345 feet. Elevation lost: 1,468 feet. 

Day 10: Monday 09/12/22. From Triglavski dom na Kredarici to Stara Fužina. Time Elapsed: 08:20. Moving time: 04:07. Miles Hiked: 13.82. Elevation gained: 1,493 feet. Elevation lost: 7,863 feet. 

Day 11: Tuesday 09/13/22. From Stara Fužina to Black Lake. Time Elapsed: 06:28. Moving time: 04:49. Miles Hiked: 14.05. Elevation gained: 3,081 feet. Elevation lost: 2,931 feet.

The Big Three: Since I would be staying in huts, where I would not need a tent, and was not allowed to camp, I left my tent behind. However, I did still carry my Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 degree sleeping bag (29 oz.) and the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite regular size (12 oz.), since I thought that maybe if I got stuck between huts, as an emergency I may need to cowboy camp. I also used my trusty Hyperlite 2400 Southwest Backpack (28.6 oz.) and carried my Cocoon silk liner, since you are required to bring “linen” to the huts. My big "three" weighed about 4.9 pounds. 

Base Pack Weight: Since I did not have my tent, my base weight was only about 15 lbs. I still carried pretty much the same basic things that I always carry, even though I would be in civilization more than I normally am. 

Clothing: September is always iffy weatherwise, so I carried my normal fall gear, which consists of a puffy and rain jacket, rain pants, gloves and a beanie for warmth. However, I did not carry my winter gear, any heavy-duty weather gear or traction. This ended up being perfect, as it did rain quite a bit but was never below freezing. 

Food: Ah, this was a controversial topic. As I would be staying in huts, I could have eaten all my meals at their restaurants. However, I did not want to spend all my money on food, plus I like having the option to eat when I want and not have to wait until I get to the next hut. Therefore I carried enough food for all meals for 10 days and planned on supplementing with hut food for a few of my meals. I brought my normal lineup of bars, nuts and meat sticks for snacks, coffee and oatmeal for breakfast, and rice and beans and soups for dinner. I discovered my new favorite store-bought combo: Bear River potato soup with Knorr Mexican rice sides. Delicious! 

Water: I used my new BeFree 1 liter filter bottle and carried an extra Platypus 1 liter bottle with a 2-liter Platypus for extreme emergencies/backup. There were plenty of options to get water on the trail or at the huts, so this worked out perfectly. I never had to carry more than two liters at a time and most of the time I probably could have made do with only one.  

Total Pack Weight: Including two liters of water, ten days of food and one fuel cannister, my pack weighed a pretty heavy 37 lbs. My pack list for this trip can be found here

The Verdict: I did not use my sleeping bag and pad at all; I could have left them at home. I also did not eat all of my food; I ended up being in towns more than expected and had the opportunity to buy fresh groceries (fruit, cheese and bread etc.) and could have probably brought about half or two thirds of what I brought and would have still been fine. As I mentioned above, I could have brought no food at all and still made do, but I do think that a combo of hut food, store-bought food and food brought from home is the best option. 

I could have done more miles on several of the days, but I had a few things going against me; one, I was not sure how the terrain would be so was hesitant to commit to a high mileage day if it was going to be especially difficult. Two, some of the huts were spaced just the wrong distance apart, causing me to choose a too short day or a too long day. Most of the time, I chose option one but this meant that some days were only 10 miles. Lastly, some of the more popular huts were sold out on many of the days so I had to reserve them in advance and then commit to actually staying there even though I could have gone further. I am not really a fan of not being able to camp where and when you want as I often find that you have to either cut your day short or go further than you would like in order to make it work. 

The other thing that I did not take as seriously as I should have was how long the downhills would take me. Normally, if the trail goes downhill, I would assume I could do maybe three miles per hour instead of two, but some of the descents were very steep and/or they were on the side of a mountain and the climb down was treacherous. Therefore, I was a lot slower on the downhills than I expected. For example, one 13-mile day had 1,500 feet of ascent and almost 8,000 feet of descent, and it ended up taking about 8 hours! 

More Information: Flixbus long distance bus. Slovenian Alpine Club. Download the entire trail (with huts) GPX Track. Gaia mapping app. Rome2Rio travel planning and booking. Booking.com for well priced guest houses. 

Stay tuned for the Trip Report!

Have you been backpacking in a foreign country? Or just traveling in general? If so, what was your favorite part of your journey? 


Little by Little, Month by Month

At the beginning of each year, I do a purge, and somehow, although I do this every year (at least once), I still have lot of stuff. In 2014, I talked about going through the fridge and getting rid of expired items. At the beginning of 2015 (right before I moved into my new house) I went through everything again. In 2016, shortly after moving into my new house and moving a lot of things from storage, I did a massive purge and got rid of over 300 items. 

I would estimate that since then, although I have not kept track as well as I once did, I have probably gotten rid of about three to five bags/boxes of things each year. I have probably gotten rid of over 100 books, have definitely pared down my running things (although those race shirts are like gremlins! How do they multiply so darn fast?) and have given away many kitchen items, toys and clothing. I have reorganized my stationary (why do I have so much stationary!) and sorted through all the screws in my WTH drawer. 

However, there is still a lot of work to be done. So this year, just like last year and the year before, each month I will go through one section or room in the house and see what I can pare down. 

January: Paperwork and Files. I always dedicate January to the following administrative items. Finalize prior year and start new year address list and other yearly spreadsheets, make new folders, go through all mail, file current mail, organize in file box, remove older items from file boxes, start new planner, make/update 2023 to do list (this is a running list but I like to start a new file each year). I also update my list of current accounts (for example, in 2022 I switched from Comcast to Sonic and so will change my master sheet). 

2022 - Throwing away user manuals

February: Go Bag. This is kind of an extension of the last one, as I have a go bag with all of my important documents and information in it. So, after updating my master list, I make sure all of the documents and information in my go bag are current and updated. Additionally, this bag has food, some toiletries, flashlight, stove, gas etc. in it, so I make sure that the food does not expire in the next year, the batteries still work, the gas can is still full etc. 

March: Kitchen -- Fridge/ Freezer. This involves throwing away expired items, and eating things in the freezer rather than buying more. This also goes hand in hand with my "no groceries" plan for December, January and February, which consists of only buying veggies and fruit and using up some of the other thing in my pantry and freezer than I already have. PS I have a lot of legumes. 

April: Kitchen -- Pantry. After paring things down by eating them over the first quarter of the year, I like to reorganize everything and get a good handle on what I have left before starting to restock slightly. Also this is a great time to set aside some of the things I can use for camping food in the summer (instant mashed potatoes etc.) so that I don't double buy a bunch of things I already have. 

May: Garage -- Camping Stuff. To prep for summer, I will organize all camping stuff, make sure it's all in top shape, update it, fix it, patch it, go through my food supply etc. 

2022 - going through garage boxes

June: Bedroom -- Clothes. Easy wins are holey socks and underwear (I am getting good at getting rid of these tout suite!) and jeans that are long and need high heels, even though I never wear high heels. More difficult is the bleach stained Nike NYC half marathon shirt I use to sleep in that probably should go but likely won't. I have actually pared this down quite a lot over the years (i.e. I have not bought anything new in a long time) but I am still holding onto some of the oldies but goodies. But really, how many hoodies does one woman need? (the answer is...seven...or eight...or maybe nine? See what I mean!?) 

July: Bedroom -- Shoes -- Yes, I am designating an entire month for shoes. In 2022, I tried to sell some of them, but this was a complete fail. I need to rework my plan to try to sell them, as some are barely used. I anticipate this process may take a little longer than normal as I clearly have some things to learn about it. 

August: Kitchen -- Dishes, Pots, Pans, Cutlery -- just like the holey underwear, there are certain kitchen tools that I keep washing and putting back even though they have a chip or a rip. Also, I have collected quite a nice set of SF Giants plastic cups over the years. I will go through all of that and get rid of the unused, duplicates and misfits. 

2022 - washing and culling silverware

September: Living Room, Hallway & Spare Room -- these are probably my three most sparse rooms. However, I do keep my linens in the spare room and have pared them down to basically nothing. It never hurts to reassess though! In the living room, I do a general drawer clean out and shelf minimizing before calling it a day. The hall has two closets, which hold toiletries, light bulbs and towels, so I usually make sure there are no holey towels and take stock of my sunscreen stash so that I know what I am up against come summer (PS I have about 6 different sunscreens as of this writing). 

October: Reading Nook -- Entire Room. This room has three bookshelves and a trunk that holds blankets and crafty stuff. My goal is to have read at least 10 books from my shelves by October and to be able to get rid of them. Additionally, if I haven't read them, maybe it's time to reassess why I still have them! 

2022 - Purging the reading nook of books

November: Health. Although this is not a purge, I always cleanse my body by making sure that I have all of my yearly checkups and if not, I book them for either November or December so that I am using the current year's insurance (for example, with the dentist and optometrist, you only get a set amount per year and if you play it right you can get twice as much by paying for one thing in December and another in January if needed). 

December: Plants. Yes, plants. I have a lot of indoor plants and I love to take cuttings and make new plants over the months, but sometimes I fear that I will be one of those old plant ladies (hey, as long as its not cat lady, I may be okay with that). So I usually put some of the indoor plants out in the garden, repot and gift them, repot if a bigger pot is needed, etc. 

In addition to each of these, I also go through emails, photos and files on my computer for a couple of hours each month and unsubscribe, delete, remove duplicates or fuzzy photos and organize and trim files. As you probably know, this seems to be never-ending and is on my list every year. 

What is your purge system for the year? Do you do it all in one go or try to parse it out into smaller bits? 


Looking Back: 2022 Money Pie

Well jeez, it is that time of year again! Who wants a slice of money pie? As you know, I always do a debrief with myself at the end of each year (and a check in each quarter although I do not bore you with those details) to see where all my money has gone! You can find past years here.

In 2022, overall I spent about $1,000 more than my average per year. I will detail all of the categories below, but the main culprit this year aside from the obvious elephant (Home) was a combination of Dining Out, Entertainment and Travel. I do keep these separate, but I also like to see what they look like combined, as I consider these three categories discretionary versus necessary. I will discuss more about them in a few. 

Here are the categories in the order of largest percentage to smallest. 

Home: 63.7%. Not surprisingly, this category continues to lead the pack and this year's 63.7% was pretty much the same as last year's 64.1%. This category includes mortgage, utilities, taxes and insurance, as well as other misc. items, such as appliances, stuff from the hardware store, home improvement and furnishings. The bulk (73%) of this category consists of mortgage payments, partly because it is large, but I also contribute a little bit extra to my principal each month. 

I did do a few things around the house like fixing my furnace ($150) but nothing big (like last year's > $1,000 tree trimming). I think with this category, no matter what you do to cut costs, there is always something. This year, due to rising costs, my PG&E (electric and gas) bill was basically double last year's bill much of the time. 

Travel: 11.7%. This category includes airfare, car rental, lodging and any groceries, dining out or transportation incurred while traveling. Although most of my travel consisted of tent camping and eating my own meals, some of the other costs incurred during travel were quite expensive this year. I spent about $500 more on my international flight than I did in 2019 so it makes sense that airfare was about 36% of the travel expense (next highest was lodging at 25%)! 

Transportation: 7.2%. This includes Lyft/Uber, public transportation, car insurance, maintenance, registration, gas, tolls & parking. Although gas prices were through the roof this year, I actually spent about the same as I usually do in this category. I definitely spent less on public transportation because I had some credit left over from 2020 on my transit card, and I did not have to do any major car maintenance. 

Groceries: 5.3%. I guess we all have to eat and I definitely did not skimp in this category (however, my dining out category was basically nonexistent). My weakness is Costco; I cannot get out of there without spending at least $100 (and sometimes a lot more). However, their egg prices are still the best ones in town right now (about $12.00 for five dozen). But I never just buy eggs! 

Entertainment: 3.8%. This category usually includes music, theater, and running & camping expenses. This time I added cycling to the mix and I bought both a stationary bike and a mountain bike, so the bulk of the number is split between running (39%) and cycling (38%). Most of my running number is race fees (three races) and shoes (five pairs - when they are on sale, I stock up). 

Health: 3.5%. This category includes health insurance, out of pocket costs, massages, medicines and vitamins etc. I don't really pay many or any out of pocket fees that don't get reimbursed, but the premium each month is not super low. However, if I had to pay for my own insurance rather than group insurance, it would be about two to three times higher, so I am happy! 

Misc.: 2.4%. This category includes gifts, haircuts, fees for credit cards, tax prep software and education expenses. I only got one cheap haircut and did not pay for any education this year, so most of this was gifts! 

Shopping: 1.3%. This category includes toiletries, clothing, misc. home items & appliances, pet stuff, electronics and books. The majority of this went to the cat (flea treatment and litter ain't cheap!) and the next biggest expense was the bidet

Dining Out: 1.0%. This category includes eating out, coffee and booze. As you can see, it was my smallest category, which makes sense as I do not really eat out  much. The bulk of it was really two dinners where I treated, but otherwise, this category was tiny. 

However, don't be completely fooled, as I do categorize any dining out that is done on a vacation as "travel."  This is why I like to look at the combined categories of Dining Out, Travel and Entertainment to kind of gauge where I am with my fun spending items. If you look at them all together, they would constitute 16% of my overall spending. 

I also have two categories that I do not put on here since they are not actual money spent, but I do put some money aside for investments each year and some aside for savings. I think that it is very important to do both, even if the amount is minimal, and especially if you can do it before taxes. You can find more info in this post about how I feel about setting money aside. 

Do you do a yearly review of your finances? Do you have a budget? What is your biggest spending category? 


What I Learned: 22 New Things

Happy New Year! Each year, a goal of mine is to try new things! This can be going to a new place, trying a new restaurant or food or activity or learning something new. I don't really have a certain number in mind, but I thought it would be fun to talk about 22 of them, in honor of 2022. Here they are, mostly in the order that I did them.

1. Emigrant Wilderness in the snow: I usually go to Emigrant in the summer for hiking but this time we decided to go for some winter sports. We stayed near Pinecrest and spent one day skiing and one day snowshoeing and then one day taking a hike around the lake before going home. It was beautiful and we liked it so much we may go back this year and do a longer snowshoeing trip! 

2. I threw out all of my instruction manuals. I know this is not that exciting, but I finally decided that if I need to, I can look up product information or instructions online and I do not need to keep the heavy booklets for everything I have ever bought in my life. It freed up my file cabinet a lot and I have not even missed them! I did take photos of some of the more  pertinent details but otherwise I am basically manual-free! 

3. I added a few new travel destinations to my list, which also added a LOT of new things which I will not list separately. Austin: Texas BBQ, kayaking on Lady Bird lake and live music! Lost Coast trail: many miles of hiking in the sand, cool shells and creatures and the rising tide! Amsterdam: bikes and canals and legal drugs, oh my! Slovenia: this deserves a post of its own, but hiking and dragons and sausages abound! Mt. Hood: circumnavigation on the Timberline trail. Washington: Enchantments (a must see!) and section L of the Pacific Crest Trail (the most northern of the PCT). 

Lost Coast

4. I tried some new foods. Shakshuka. This is something that never appealed to me since it involves cooked tomatoes, which I did not really like as a kid. However, as an adult, and when REAL tomatoes are used, I realized that they can be pretty good actually! And this includes my favorite breakfast item, the egg! I would eat it again. Cioppino. Same story regarding the tomato, but this is also pretty good. I would still rather have a bowl of creamy New England clam chowder however. Homemade yogurt. This is so easy and so delicious; I actually prefer it to store bought and it is way cheaper. It does take about 24 hours to make yourself, but I think it is worth waiting for!  


5. FODMAP elimination diet. This deserves a post of its own, but the short of it is that I was having some gastric issues and was put on this diet which consists of several weeks of elimination and then several more of reintroduction. I am still not 100% sure what is ailing me, but have a better idea than I did a year ago. 

6. Ran through Harvard Yard. I have looked at Harvard from the other side of the Charles but had never been on campus. While visiting friends in Sommerville, I took a run and went and explored Harvard. What a beautiful place! I thoroughly enjoyed it and it also gave me a chance to go inside and use the bathroom! :) 

7. Participated in a 30 day fitness challenge. This was a good way to reset my fitness plan, which sometimes gets a little blah. I did this with a few friends and I don't think that any of us actually finished it, but it was really fun trying to! The issue for me was not the exercises themselves, but the regularity of doing it every day. I would find myself forgetting or while in bed at the end of the day realizing I had not done it so then I would tell myself that I would just do two of them the next day....etc. 

8. Chopped off and donated my hair. This is not a new thing but I did send it to a different charity than I normally do as I was told that Locks of Love, the one I have sent hair to before, actually sells their wigs! Shame on them! So this time I sent it to Wigs for Kids, which I was told does not profit from my donation. They make it really convenient too; you print out a barcode so you can track where it is in the process after you send it. 

9. Tried to sell shoes on Ebay. Total and complete failure. I started with only a few pairs but I did not even get a nibble. I even lowered the price, but still nothing. And then I lost hope and kind of gave up on that project. However, I have a bunch of barely or never worn shoes that I really did not want to just give away. Does anyone have any tips for me about this? 

10. Did an almond croissant challenge. While in Brooklyn, I tried all of the almond croissants at all of the bakeries within walking distance from my hotel. I tried about 7 or 8 different ones! Some of them were just meh, but there were a few that I liked and my favorite was from Julien. Shortly after this, I learned that wheat may be a contributor to tummy issues that I am having, so my croissant days may be limited, so I am glad that I lived it up while I could! 

11. Went camping at Lake Sonoma. This is so close to where I live, yet I had never gone camping at the lake until 2022. You do have to hike or boat in to some of the spots, but we did both and had a great time. Plus, you have to love the California coast, where you can camp outside in April and even get a little hot! 

12. Tried to summit Mt. Whitney in the snow. In April, my brother and I tried to summit Mt. Whitney but there was a late spring snowstorm and we decided to be safe rather than sorry and we turned around early. However, it was really beautiful to see some of the normally bare places covered with snow. 

Photo Rock

13. The year of the bike! In 2022, I waited until everyone who bought a bike during COVID got tired of it and then I bought a used stationary bike. I have used it a handful of times, but now that it is winter and raining, I think it will be getting more use soon. I also bought my first mountain bike and am still dialing in the adjustments and I can't wait to go out on my first ride! I also completed my longest bike ride ever (to date) of 42 miles, surpassing my 2013 record of 40 by two miles! 

14. Cowboy camped in the NV desert. On a road trip to Wyoming, we stopped outside of Reno and lay down by the side of the road under the stars! It was a little windy and dusty, but I actually slept great! 

Somewhere near Reno, NV

15. Backpacked in Grand Teton NP. Although permits were a little difficult to get (you have to get online on a certain day at a certain time and know exactly the dates you want and the campsites you want to stay at) once we were there, this was a great experience. It was beautiful and not as crowded as I expected and the views just kept on coming! I have been to Wyoming a few times and this park once before but I have never done any overnights and it did not disappoint! 

16. I got a new job. This probably deserves its own post, but basically my whole team went from one firm to another. We are still learning some of the rules and systems and things like that, but we are pretty satisfied with how the whole transition went overall. 

17. Summited Mt. Elbert. While not my first Colorado 14er, this is the second tallest mountain in the continental US and the highest in Colorado, so it was fun to check it off my list. Also it was fairly easy (as the 14ers in Colorado sometimes are) logistically. We were staying in Twin Lakes so I just hiked up to the top of the mountain and back down again to our AirBnB! Easy-peasy! 

The Collegiates as seen from the summit of Mt. Elbert

18. Discovered Octowordle. If you love Wordle, you will love Octowordle. You do not need to download an app and it is free and you can play games from the days before, so if you feel like more than one, you can have it! You have to solve eight Wordles at the same time and it is super fun. 

19. Got a bidet. I will not go into too much detail here but I bought a Tushy and I love it. The end. Seriously, it is easy to install and it does the job. 

My Tushy

20. Cross country backpacking Emigrant. I always wanted to do this cross country route near Cherry Creek in Emigrant but it was never on the way or convenient and we finally did it in October. It was great because the water was low so we could basically walk on the creek bed which made cross country travel very easy. Plus it was beautiful and we had the place all to ourselves since it was so late in the season. 

21. Went to a David Sedaris reading. I have never been to a book reading before and I do love listening to Sedaris books as he is a good narrator, so this was the best of both worlds! I also brought my brother and his girlfriend along, and although neither of them really have read Sedaris, they both enjoyed it. 

22. Finished my Death List. Maybe this needs a better name, but it is basically getting all of my "affairs" in order just in case something happens. I have had most things pretty dialed in (advanced directive, POA, beneficiaries) but wanted to put it all on one list so that people can access it easily. I started working on making a more detailed list last year when my grandmother died (nothing like a dose of reality to get you moving, eh?) as her list made it so easy to take care of her affairs after she passed. 

Wow, I did not mean to make the last one so dreary, but it is the most recent! Also, happily, I did a lot more than 22 new things in 2022, but I like the sound of 22 in 22 so I will leave it at that! Here's to many more new things in 2023! 

What new thing did you learn, place did you go or experience did you have in 2022?