Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2012 Super Bowl Desserts

It's that time of year again! Time for hilarious commercials, more snacks than you can imagine, a hopefully decent halftime show, and oh, right some football! The Super Bowl is this weekend and I'm pretty excited about the festivities! 

In keeping with my personal tradition, I'll be baking some desserts to represent the teams.

In recent years, I baked cupcakes based on each city's culinary specialties. My favorite being Super Bowl XLIV (2010)'s match-up between New Orleans and Indianapolis. I baked Banana foster cupcakes for New Orleans. And a Midwest favorite, chocolate peanut butter, for Indianapolis. I also made peanut butter banana and chocolate with vanilla buttercream. I was especially proud of the logos made with melted chocolate piped on waxed paper.

I might challenge myself for Super Bowl XLVI by breaking away from the cupcakes. Boston is know for its Boston Cream Pie and New York has its New York Cheesecake. Neither of these desserts are easy to enjoy while watching commercials the football game, so I have another plan.

Banana Cream Pie Cookies by forgivingmartha via Eat Live Run for the New England Patriots.

Cheesecake Close-Up

And Cheesecake Pops by Bakerella for the New York Giants.

If desserts aren't your thing, I have a few suggestions for apps from my arsenal:

To top it off, don't forget your craft beer! Sam Adams for New England (obviously) and Brooklyn Brewery for New York.

What are you bringing to this year's Super Bowl party?

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Monday, January 30, 2012

P-ART-Y Time

As I hinted last week, we hung some new art in the kitchen. What I didn't tell you was that we've been hanging all sorts of art around the house! John and I had an artsy fartsy Christmas and bought each other art or were gifted prints by our siblings.

I asked for some food-themed prints from Etsy seller anek for the kitchen. John picked out the rosemary, limoncello, and basil prints. The frames (with mats included) were on sale at Michael's for $17.50 each (plus tax).

The man cave got some artistic help from Pop Chart Lab. I gave John the beer print and my sister gave him the "Periodic Table of Heavy Metals." You'll also see an appearance by John's new Vital homebrew pint glasses and our new kegerator. Frames were purchased from Target for $17 each (plus tax).

John's sister and her husband gave me this Great Lakes print from Ork Posters. The only frame that fit the print at Michael's was black (on sale for $20.25 plus tax). I really wanted a white frame, so I had my first adventure in spray painting! And yes, I tweeted with @younghouselove about it due to Sherry's love of white spray paint.

I followed all of Young House Love's tips by spraying 8 to 10 inches away from the frame. And I sprayed light, even layers while constantly moving the can. Though I was a rebel and spray painted in our unfinished portion of the basement. With less than stellar ventilation. It's winter in Chicago, there's no way I was doing this outside with the snow!

My only beef was that a tiny can of spray paint from Michael's wasn't enough. Sure it was only $1.80 using a coupon (plus tax), but it only got me 3 thin layers of paint. If this happens to you, make sure you take note of the "recoat window." I could continue to spray paint with another tiny can as long as it was within an hour or over 48 hours. Since I was spray painting at night, I had to wait two days before I could add another coat. I ran out and got the full-sized can from Ace Hardware ($4.50 plus tax) to finish the job once the two days were up.

And here it is, proudly hanging in our bedroom!

House progress had been pretty stagnant for a while, so I'm glad we finally have something to share!

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Friday, January 27, 2012

A Friday's Fancies Swap with Cheers, Bethani!

{av} of Long Distance Loving is our gracious hostess of Friday's Fancies and this week we're swapping blogs. I'm super pumped to be paired with a fellow baker and Etsy shop owner, Bethani of Cheers, Bethani! So please show Bethani some love! And swing by Cheers, Bethani! for my post.

good morning and happy friday!!!! cathy and i took up the blog swap challenge over at long distance loving today, so she's hanging out over my site and i'm entertaining yall today.  we decided to do a style post representing our our individual style.  so here goes nothing...

1  //  2  //  3  //  4  //  5

my style is all about comfort, yet looking a little "fancy" for the day. i love the cardigans these days; i can't even tell you how many i have in my closet right now.  i'm the type of person if i find something i like i will buy it in multiple colors. i think dressing up a little every day boosts confidence and makes you just feel that much better about yourself, so i do enjoy putting on my cute earrings and fun tops to go run around with the husband and whoever we may meet up with for fun, food or drinks. 

don't get me wrong, i do rock a baseball shirt and ponytail often too, but those are typically days where i'm just running to the grocery store and that's it.  but even then, i do like putting on my mascara and being a little feminine. 

thanks again to cathy for having me take over her blog for the day!

Thanks, Bethani! Love all the pink :)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Let Her Sleep, For When She Wakes, She Will Move Mountains - Modern Baby Wall Art
From bopeepbaby on Etsy. Via Pinterest.

To keep with my 2012 goal of being an optimalist, I'm going to take a break today. It's been a crazy week and I'm feeling a bit under the weather. So off to focus on other things besides the blog.

See you on Friday for a special Friday's Fancies blog swap!

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Weekend of Pictures

After a commute lasting 1 hours and 45 minutes, I happily shoveled the driveway and sidewalk. I think that counts as a workout :)

Hanging new art in the kitchen.

Goose Island's Queen-OA gluten-free beer. A pink beer that has a tart, grapefruit flavor. It's brewed with red and white quinoa. Tastes almost like a sour beer. Good to enjoy in the winter, but I imagine it will be even better in the summer.

Picked up an empty growler at Goose Island to be used with John's birthday present (a kegging system). The CO2 tanks are being filled and an IPA should be ready in a week!

My Grandma's serger. I finally gave it a run this weekend to professionally finish the edges of my pillow covers!

What were you up to this weekend?

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Feeling Inspired

I like to pretend that I'm stylish, but I'm nothing compared to the many talented and stylish ladies filling the blogosphere with inspiring outfits like these:

A classic shirt with some flair thanks to her skirt.

Nautical and sparkles, what a combination
From jongenandmeisje

And then there's this combination of the classic blazer and chambray shirt with the girly sequined skirt.

From Casual Glamorous 

Do you see where I'm going with this? Yes, it's time to post about my new favorite sequined skirt for the third time! I've only worn it twice. On Christmas to eat brussel sprouts and then to my boss's after-holiday party. As you can see from above, I turned to Pinterest and other lovely style blogs for help.

1) Lauren by Ralph Lauren pearl earrings, 2) Kate Spade Flying Colors bracelet, 3) Chance striped tee,
4) Nine West pumps, 5) Ann Taylor sequin mini, 6) Rebecca Minkoff ostrich embossed Cupid,
7) J. Crew blazer, 8) Old Navy chambray shirt, 9) Rebecca Minkoff black MAB Mini w/ Strap
For this week's Friday's Fancies post, I picked a few classic pieces (black pumps, striped shirt) and punchy accessories (the persimmon bag) to create multiple outfits around the sequin mini.

If we're getting down to specific style blogs, I'm a huge fan of Kendi Everyday and her approachable style. She knows how to mix up an outfit like none other! Which is great for us ladies with a limited budget (remember Friday's Fancies is for fun!). I'm not brave enough for a 30 for 30 remix, but I use some of her tips for shopping my closet when I get into an outfit rut, especially when getting dressed for work.

I'm starting to think outside of the box when I get dressed in the morning. Which means moving beyond the cardigan + black pants + dress shoes formula. For example, I've added colored tights to the mix. And I've started to wear belts with cardigans. Nothing crazy, but those little changes have helped me try something new instead of giving up and buying new clothes.

Where do you look when you're in a style rut?

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Avoiding Plumber's Crack

If you thought this post was going to be about high-waisted pants or jumpsuits, you're going to be disappointed. That's the next style blog over. It's time to get down to business and talk about plumbing. And a few tricks for fixing slow drains without calling a plumber.

Every few weeks, our shower drain would slowly clog up. I have long hair, so we know I'm the culprit. Therefore, I figured it was my responsibility to remedy the situation. My usual approach included bending a wire hanger and shoving it down the drain to fish out the clog. Not the most glamorous thing, but it got the job done. Kind of.

Unfortunately, there came a time when we ran out of wire hangers, so I knew it was time to try something new. I didn't want to buy chemicals because they're dangerous, can be bad for the environment, and would be a repeat purchase. I needed something like the wire hanger, but better.

Off to our neighborhood Ace Hardware! After consulting with one of the guys there, I picked up a Drain Claw for about $6.50 including tax.

This thing is pretty much the bomb-diggity. And super easy to use!

The Drain Claw is a long, firm, yet bend-y wire with "velcro" teeth on the end. That's the gross-out hair ball catcher.

Simply straighten out the Drain Claw, push it down the drain, wiggle it around, pull it out, and get ready to gasp!

This guy can pull out chunks of hair like you can't believe! And since John wouldn't let me post the actual picture of the hair chunk I dislodged, I drew you one.

Seriously. Yuck!

Unfortunately, I was feeling a little smug in my new found plumbing skills and decided to try them out on the bathroom sink. It seemed to be draining slowly, so I decided to fish around for more yuckiness.

I don't know if it was user error, a faulty product, or a faulty sink drain, but I managed to bust the pop-up in the sink. After hours of searching YouTube, multiple trips to Ace Hardware, and about $30 later, we had a newly installed pop-up and drain for the sink.

But I'm going to show you a quick way to save the hassle and $30. It only takes your two hands (at least for my set-up) and something to catch the water. I used a flower vase from our wedding. I know, really romantic! You can turn off the water to the sink, but I live on the wild side and left the water on. But not running, silly.

After you've placed your bucket (or whatever) below the drain, we're going to unscrew the J bend from P-trap (the rest of the pipes). It's the curvy part of the drain where most of the gunk is probably sitting. And there will be water in there to create a seal that prevents sewer gas from entering your house or apartment.

Unscrew one side and let some of the water drain out.

Unscrew the other end and slowly slide the J bend down.

Once you've dumped the excess water, inspect your J bend and remove any clogs. Hook your J bend back up, making sure all of the pipes line back up. Run some water down the drain to test for any leaks. If something's leaking, the pipes might not be lined up properly or fully tightened.

If you still have a clog, it might be time to bring out the big guns and call a plumber.

Time to share! Have you had any recent home improvement victories or flubs?

PS - This is my own review of the Drain Claw. I wasn't compensated to write this.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Spinach Balls

Growing up, I was that kid that enjoyed spinach. I could never understand why people didn't like it. Nana (my Dad's mom) would bring these to pretty much every holiday and I would gobble them up.

When it came time to decide what to bring to a Chicago blogger meet-up, I thought these would be perfect.

I knew there would be wine and sweets, so I wanted to counter that with something healthy. Don't worry, there's still cheese in them, so they're not toooo healthy!

Which is what Nana was all about. The healthy stuff. There would be spinach balls, chopped veggies, and other healthy appetizers at gatherings at her house. I also remember wrapping nutritional/brewer's yeast for her for Christmas one year. And she loved carrot cake.

I also think I got my love of pink from Nana :)

Thanks to Melissa for organizing the meet-up and to Jillian for hosting. It was great meeting all of you girls!

Jillian of Cornflake Dreams
Lesley of Six Twelve Place
Zoe of Style Foodie
Shari of The Daily Dish

Spinach Balls
Recipe from Nana.

Yield: 3 to 4 dozen spinach balls.

1 package frozen chopped spinach
1 1/2 cup herbed breadcrumbs or stuffing
1 small (12 oz) cottage cheese container
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
6 T olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onions

Preheat oven to 350*.

Microwave spinach to thaw, then strain.

Mix remaining ingredients together with the spinach.

Roll into balls.

Bake on buttered (or lined with parchment paper) cookie sheets for 10 to 15 minutes.

Cost Estimate
Frozen spinach - $1.50
Breadcrumbs - $0.75
Cottage cheese - $1.75
Parmesan cheese - $0.75
Eggs - $0.30
Olive oil - $0.50
Onion - $0.25
Total - $5.80

Linking to 33 Shades of Green: Tasty Tuesdays
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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Color Lover

Happy Saturday! I hope your weekend is off to a lovely start. I was surprised with breakfast in bed by John which is the perfect start to the weekend :)

I would have posted this week's Friday's Fancies yesterday, but we were getting the house ready for the appraiser! So far, things are moving in a positive direction for the mortgage refinancing. More to come in the next few weeks.

Gap neon ruffle cardigan and jeans, Kate Spade All Aboard studs,
J. Crew bubble necklace, Hunter boots

So back to Friday's Fancies. This week, the suggested theme was to create an outfit based on the color you're crushing on. At this moment, I don't think I'm craving a particular color. It's a bit gray in Chicago, so I enjoy an overall jolt of color in my winter wardrobe. Neon is currently enjoying a moment in the spotlight, so I decided to create an outfit around bright and happy colors. And yes, it's realistic because we finally had our first real snow of the season. My Hunter boots are getting ready for a heavy rotation.

Beyond the outfit, I wanted to share a quick PSA. Please back up your blogs! I heard that reminder at FINCON11, but never got around to backing mine up until a few weeks ago. And then {av} lost Long Distance Loving for a grueling 28 hours because Blogger thought her blog was spam. It's now back up and running, but she learned the hard way to make regular back-ups. I would never wish that on anybody, so please make back-ups!

As for how, I have the newer version of Blogger. Simply go to Settings > Other. Then click on "Export blog" under Blog tools. Then click "Download." This should save all of the coding for your template, posts, comments, etc. Chelsea has instructions if you have the older version of Blogger and a commenter also explains how to back up with WordPress. It's super easy and will save you loads of heartache.

Have a fantastic rest of the weekend!

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Your New Shaving Buddy

Remember how there was a reader comment about wanting more tips about being green and saving money without being a hippy? Well, friends, that time has come! No, it's not time to talk about plumbing. It's time to talk about something we alllll have to deal with. Shaving!

Shaving is one of those necessary evils, especially if you're a female. Every morning, we have to shave our legs. Unless you're like me and go every other day and wear pants in the winter. (Don't worry, John is fine with it. Most of the time.) But that's besides the point.

Shaving is neither green nor frugal. The average consumer spends hundreds of dollars a year on disposable razor blades and creates an exorbitant amount of waste each year. It's estimated that two billion blades and their packaging are thrown out each year, resulting in two million pounds of plastic waste. Yikes!

But if I stop shaving, that'll make me a hippy, which wouldn't look very good in the workplace. And John definitely wouldn't like that. There's laser hair removal, but that isn't exactly cheap. So what's a girl (or guy) to do?

Enter the Blade Buddy!

The Blade Buddy is a groundbreaking, cost-saving, environmentally friendly product whose uniquely designed silicone pad maintains the sharpness of your disposable razor blades, so one blade gives you a close, comfortable shave for months, instead of days.

When the kind folks at Blade Buddy asked if I wanted to review their product, I was more than happy to oblige! 

Basically, every time you shave, the edge of your razor blade gets microscopically bent, rendering your blade "dull" after only a few uses. Gliding your razor up the Blade Buddy's micro-honing, grooved surface straightens the bent edge back into alignment, restoring the sharpness of your blade. Since I'm not an engineer, let's let this video do the talking:

After using the Blade Buddy and the same disposable razor blade for over a month, I'm pleased to give the Blade Buddy a positive review!

Though I had a few little learning points from my trial run. The first time I used the Blade Buddy was with a less than fresh razor, so I got a bit of razor burn. The website and instructions clearly say to start with a new razor blade, but I figured I'd try it out anyways. Lesson learned, start fresh to stay fresh.

Lenny, my buddy at Blade Buddy, has the following response to my feedback:
The Blade Buddy is really not meant to be used on old blades. While you may find it straightens them to some degree, the best results are found by using a new blade (or blade cartridge), and by using Blade Buddy as part of your regular shaving routine. What I have suggested to some people is to use a new blade until you are ready to discard it WITHOUT using Blade Buddy. This will give you a baseline on how long your blade normally lasts. THEN, start using the Blade Buddy religiously with your next new blade and you can truly measure the added life it gives.
Point taken, Lenny. Wish I had listened to you earlier.

I then switched to a new razor blade. After a few uses, I got some razor burn again. Is it possible that I "sharpened" to blade too much, bending the blade in the opposite direction? I'm not totally sure what cause the light razor burn that time, but all is well and good again. I seem to be getting the hang of it and haven't had any issues for the past few weeks. Just use a little bit of shaving cream to lubricate the pad and slide the razor 15 to 20 times up the silicone pad. Easy peasy.

Here's Lenny again:

As far as technique, I don't think I will do a better job in words than the instructions on our website does. My only pointers are to be sure to lubricate the rubber pad (I personally use soap and water), use light pressure when sliding the razor across the Blade Buddy, and to NEVER pull the razor, only to push it in the direction of the arrows.

So....is $20 towards a Blade Buddy worth it? I say yes! The product itself works well and so do the numbers:

A 4-pack of Gillette Venus original razor refill cartridges cost $10. Or $2.50 each.

If you use one cartridge each week, you're spending $10/month or $120/year on razor blades.

If you use the Blade Buddy and replace the cartridge each month (just to be conservative), you're spending $2.50/month or $30/year on razor blades. Using this math, the Blade Buddy will pay for itself after 3 months. Obviously results will vary based on how often you replace your razor blades.

The breakeven point will also vary because Blade Buddy is offering Fiscally Chic readers a special promotion!

Blade Buddy is offering a buy one get one free special to you (which is the same promotion they offered through GMA.com).  In order for that to happen, you should go to the Blade Buddy website, and order your first unit in accordance with the normal procedures.

THEN, go to the "contact us" link on their site, and send a quick note reiterating your name and city, and mentioning the special promotion code "Fiscallychic". They will ship you a 2nd unit free of charge. Just in time for Valentine's Day!

This 2 for 1 offer is active through the end of January 2012.

And for your viewing pleasure, here's one more video from Blade Buddy.

Happy shaving!

Full disclosure time: I was given a Blade Buddy to review for free. All thoughts and comments are my own.
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Monday, January 9, 2012

2011 Reader Survey Results

Hi to all you lovely readers! I hope you had a fantastic weekend. We're in the process of refinancing our mortgage, so it was pretty fantastic for us. Plus, I recorded my first video to share the results of the 2011 Fiscally Chic reader survey. Here it is for your viewing pleasure!

If for some reason you can't watch the video (maybe you're at work) here are some of the highlights:
  • I'll be leading a personal finance webcast at the end of January or early February, so this video is a little practice in front of the camera. More details to come!
  • Based on survey results, a majority of you are 20-something females in the US. You mostly found Fiscally Chic through guest posts and have been reading the blog for 6 months or less.
  • Your favorite posts to read relate to personal finance and saving money.
  • You'd like to see more posts about DIY and craft projects, personal finance, and recipes.
There are also some survey results not discussed in the video. (Mostly because I forgot to talk about them.) The very last question of the survey asked if there was anything else you'd like to add, questions or comments. Most were along the lines of "I love your blog" or "Keep up the good work" (thanks!!!). There were a also few comments that warrant a response:
I would like information on being green and saving money without being a hippy.
You got it! In the video, I said that I have an upcoming post about plumbing. This will cover all three: being green, saving money, and not being a hippy :)
I love the recipes and pictures of the home and the outfits- but the white dress you just chose was not fiscally chic in price!
This comment relates to an outfit I created for a Friday's Fancies post. The purpose of {av's} Friday's Fancies is to dream big and be creative. Create an outfit that inspires you, but might be a little out of your reach. So based on this reader's comment, would you prefer if I created more realistic outfits? Something you might be able to afford?

Thanks again for your participation! Have a great week!
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Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 Goals: Health + Fitness

Nike running shirt, Asics running socks, Champion sports bra,
Saucony running shorts and Omni 10 shoes, Timex Ironman watch

It's the last day of documenting my 2012 goals. And I'm saving the "best" of last: health and fitness. You can't have New Year's resolutions goals without talking about health! I don't care if it's cliche, I'm talking about them anyways.

As I've said before, I have trouble motivating myself to workout if I don't have a goal in mind. The last time I seriously trained (or even ran) was for the Cleveland half marathon in May. Since then, I've found plenty of excuses to skip running: moving, out of town weddings, bachelorette parties, work, I'm tired, and more.

The big "ah-ha" moment telling me I need to get back on the horse came when I had a physical last month. The number on the scale was a little higher than expected and my "bad" cholesterol was also a touch too high. I know cholesterol levels are partially hereditary, but I there are other things I can do to keep it in check. Mainly diet and exercise (duh).

And then while driving to Cleveland for Christmas, I had a craving for vegetables. It may have been the magazines I was reading, but my body knew I was about to enjoy one too many cookies in the coming days. It was telling me to eat a salad. Plus....I wanted to try brussel sprouts! Who does that?!?! Yes, brussels sprouts are the new quinoa or cupcake, but really???

My Mom picked up a bag of brussel sprouts for me to experiment with at home. I tried this recipe for balsamic glazed brussel sprouts (for Christmas dinner, no less!) and even the brussel sprout haters devoured them! I printed out the recipe for everyone in attendance.

With all of this in mind, here's my health and fitness plan for 2012:
  • Work out 3 times per week. This can be running, weight lifting, spinning, yoga, or whatever else gets the blood pumping and sweat pouring.
  • Drink more water. I have a huge water cup at work (maybe 32 oz) so I'm going to strive for one, maybe even two cups of water during working hours.
  • Go veggie every once in a while. The doc said to watch my consumption of red meat, so I'll try to sub in different veggie-focused meals. I've already found friends in quinoa and spaghetti squash.
    • Bonus: Meat is expensive, so eating more veggies than meat is also good for the wallet!
  • Similarly, eat more fish or seafood. Maybe once a week?
  • Set a more consistent sleep schedule. John is better about going to bed and waking up on time. I, on the other hand, have to drag myself out of bed in the morning. It's time to get better about this!
I have a "number" in mind for the scale, but I'm not going to stress about it. The bigger focus is to establish healthy habits again. Plus, I still have a few months until bikini season :)

Have a great weekend! Check out the other Friday's Fancies here!

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2012 Goals: Personal

Next on the 2012 goals docket are the personal goals. These are a little tougher to write because they're a bit more intangible and, well, personal.

Be an Optimalist

One thing that will probably always be a work in process is my struggle with being a perfectionist. I didn't really "get" it until I read Jess's post about the book "The Pursuit of Perfect" back in 2009. I promptly purchased the book, but have yet to finish it. I've tried reading it twice and each time I catch myself feeling bad that I'm not the perfect optimalist, which is kind of twisted. Then I give up the book.

This year, I'd like to read the book from cover to cover, even if it takes multiple attempts and all twelve months. Even if I don't, I will be more forgiving of my shortcomings. And the goal is to become a better version of myself, not a perfect version. Trying to be perfect would be setting myself up for failure.

Be Loving

I love this guy! A lot! We've been married 3+ years and still act like newlyweds. Which means I should show you this picture, taken moments before the one above.

This year I'll continue to nuture our marriage. And I'm sure we'll continue to act like newlyweds :)

Be Balanced

I'm accountant. Debits equal credits. This should be easy, right? Fat chance.

My biggest focus will be on using my free time wisely since I should have a little more thanks to my new job. This will also be excellent practice of work/life balance for when kiddos are around. I want to balance the time between taking care of myself, nurturing my marriage, spending time with friends and family, hobbies, etc. And also make sure some of this free time is spent in prayer.

Be Organized

These are older pictures of our back room, but it still gets the point across. I am the clutter bug in the relationship. I don't expect to get rid of everything this year and magically become a minimalist, but I can try to corral the loose papers and keep things more organized.

How are your 2012 goals shaping up?
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