Failure (and new beginnings)

After studying from January 1 to June 29, 2014, I sat for Exam C/4 on Monday June 30. The words on the screen after submitting my exam and bypassing the pesky survey, “A preliminary analysis of your test results shows that you were not successful in achieving the passing score established by the SOA/CIA for Exam C…”, were disheartening to say the least. I noticed that the text was missing the phrase I was actually thinking: “Sorry, you failed.”

The word failure has so much negative energy that they don’t want to  actually say the word. But really, I wasn’t just “not successful”. I failed. I did not pass. They are equivalent.

I will be sitting for the exam again in October. The thing is, I was ready. I don’t feel like I need another 4 months to study for this test. So today I ordered the Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice (FAP) e–Learning Course (commonly known as the FAP Modules). I plan to complete as many of the first 5 modules as I can while studying for my second attempt at C. This is my “new beginning”. I am excited to start the Modules because it will be a break from the same-old, same-old studying for exams. Let’s hope this goes well!

I will be tracking my progress here as I remember. I will hopefully also get back into posting recipes soon. This past month we’ve been eating very simple meals because every spare minute was spent studying. In fact, I think I’ll start with a recipe that’s almost too easy to need a recipe: Cherry Dump Cake. I made it as soon as I got home after failing my exam. It was originally supposed to be a “yay I passed my exam – I deserve a treat” cake, but instead it was a “let’s drown my sorrows in delicious cherry goodness” cake. It was delicious. The lack of leftovers after only being in the fridge for 2 days proves it!



March Madness Bake-Off

So a few people at work decided it might be fun to have a March Madness-style Bake-Off. There are a number of people (myself included) who regularly bring in baked treats for the office: my office-mate and I alternate bringing in monthly treats and send out a Happy Birthday email, naming the employees who have a birthday that month; my direct supervisor bakes THE BEST chocolate chip cookies for her son’s school every few weeks and brings in half the batch; another coworker makes the most beautifully decorated cupcakes and tries out new recipes on us — basically, we’re an office that loves our baked goods.

So the rules were simple:

1. Everything must be made from scratch (within reason – obviously chocolate chips and sprinkles, etc. were allowed, but adding store-bought candy was not)

2. Week 1/round 1 had to be a cookie, week 2/round 2 had to be cake/cupcakes, and week 3/round 3 was “anything goes”.

3. Competitors were given random numbers and the office wouldn’t know who baked what or when each person was going.

4. Voting would be done anonymously via polls.

There were 9 of us for week 1: 3 people each brought in cookies on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The top 2 from each day progressed to week 2, where 2 people each brought their choice of cake/cupcakes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. One winner from each day was chosen and progressed to week 3, where it was a winner-take-all competition on April 2.

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Student Loan Debt + Repayment Progress

Considering that my blog title is TheActuarialChef and not just TheChef, I am thinking that some who read this blog may be interested in more than just recipes. If you’re not interested in anything but recipes, feel free to skip this post.

This is where it gets personal. I’ve contemplated posting vs. not posting this content, but I feel like I have to. Too many times have I thought I was the only one in this scenario. There may very well be readers out there who think they’re alone in this. If I can make even 1 person feel less alone, then this post (and the ones to follow) is a success.

I graduated college in 2011 with a LOT of debt; almost $90,000 if we’re being completely honest. This year, I have decided to track my progress in paying down that debt visually, and share it with you.

Behind the scenes, I have spreadsheets and word documents with relevant (personal) data. But that information is for my eyes only. Here, I’m going to post a monthly debt update/ summary.

Enjoy the fancy graphs and let me know how much more of this type of content you want in the comments below.

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Oatmeal Adventures

In my ongoing effort to eat healthier, I have decided to try eating oatmeal again. I used to eat the instant stuff as a kid and teenage – you know, overly sweet 1-minute breakfast that keeps you full for all of 10 minutes, even if you eat 2 packets.

Or was that just me? Now I feel like a bottomless pit.

Oh, wait, I am a bottomless pit? Okay. All good then. 🙂

Anyway, I came across the Oatmeal Artist. She is a godsend, I swear. She has made me appreciate oatmeal in all its glory again. And this time? This time I’m full for hours.

I won’t copy her recipes here – they’re very simple – instead I’ll link to all the recipes that I’ve tried (the good and the bad) from Lauren’s website. This will be an ever-expanding list, I’m sure.

*Unless otherwise stated, I use half water and half fat-free cow’s milk. Lauren uses half water and half almond milk, but I don’t like almond milk haha.

Banana Bread Oatmeal
This is the first recipe that I tried, and what convinced me that oatmeal is a good thing. Changes I made: I didn’t have rolled/old fashioned oats yet, so I used quick… I had to mix quickly, but it turned out great! (Did not use optional nutmeg.)

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
I doubled this recipe for a Saturday morning breakfast for Ryan and I… unfortunately I was not impressed. The consistency and texture were fine (so I know doubling the recipe didn’t cause the problem), but the flavor of pumpkin pie just wasn’t there for me. It did, however, inspire me to make real pumpkin pie, which was delicious 🙂

Peanut Butter Cookie (Baked) Oatmeal
this. was. amazing. for real. The first time, I made it as written and baked it in my toaster oven – the full 18 minutes left me with a slightly over-done baked oatmeal, but it tasted fabulous. The second time I made it, I reduced the amount of peanut butter from 2 Tbsp to 1.5 Tbsp in an effort to save *some* calories, and only baked for 15 minutes. The peanut butter flavor was still prominent and it was a much better texture. I used quick oats the first time and rolled/old fashioned the second – both worked fine.

Check out Lauren’s recipe list and let me know if there are any oatmeal recipes you think I should try!


Flourless Brownies

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been busy, and got distracted – sorry 😦

I’ve been trying to eat healthier and exercise more to lose a little bit of weight, but there is one thing I can’t give up – baked goods! I LOVE me some cookies and brownies and cupcakes! So I’ve been trying to come up with healthier alternatives. I found this flourless brownie recipe – with a secret ingredient 🙂 – on; don’t be scared off by the original title of the recipe because I promise that everyone I served them to LOVED them!!

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{review} Hershey’s Spreads

Back in December, I was lucky enough to be selected to “Sample and Share” a product on Crowdtap – a product I *knew* I would love – Hershey’s Spreads. Basically, it’s Hershey’s version of Nutella, at least the one I received (Chocolate with Hazelnut). I’m not sure if everyone received the same flavor (or if there is even more than I flavor) but I know mine was SO good.

I went through a phase about a year ago where I ate Nutella on toast for breakfast every single day for two weeks. TWO WEEKS.

With this new Hershey’s Spread, I’m afraid to say that I am back in that phase. It’s just so delicious. Chocolate-y, nutty, smooth spread. No grit to be tasted. Now if I can just get over the fat content! (I’ll be writing a post soon on my New Year’s Resolution – yes, it’s late, I’m sorry 😦 – to eat healthier and exercise more. No outrageous “I must exercise every single day” goals, just a realistic “exercise more”.) Edited to add: Nope, sorry, didn’t happen.

Hershey’s Spreads – Chocolate with Hazelnut (image from

Unfortunately, Hershey’s Spread isn’t available at my local grocery store, so when I run out I have three options:

1) go back to Nutella (which I would not complain about)

2) order Hershey’s spread from somewhere online (I’m *sure* Amazon has it – I just checked  – they do)

3) get back to being health-conscious and limit my fat and calories

I’ll be honest: I’ll probably be boring and choose 3.

Have you tried Hershey’s Spreads? How about Nutella or a store-brand? Do you have a favorite?

Soft Pretzel Bites – 2 ways

Do you ever get a craving for bite-sized food? What about “football food” – snack-sized food traditionally served while watching football (even though I never watch football) – like nachos, pigs in a blanket, or wings? I think soft pretzels are a great addition to that list, and when you make soft pretzel bites instead of full soft pretzels, that’s a winning combination!

Normally I’m all for the classic salted pretzel, but sometimes I want a sweet snack. Like, cinnamon-and-sugar goodness, with a sweet dipping sauce. Ahhh I’m in heaven. And by eating bite-sized pretzel pieces, I feel 100% less guilty. 🙂 Enjoy!

Tip: You can make these ahead of time: simply freeze on a baking sheet before the boiling step. When frozen, transfer to a freezer bag and freeze until ready to use. When you’re ready to make them, proceed as directed (no need to thaw before boiling).

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