Sunday, December 26, 2010

Planning for Christmas for Next Year

So, a few days ago I touched on how I'm already brainstorming for next year. I realized this could sound like I'm never enjoying the moment, always worrying about the future. Really I enjoy planning a whole lot and so that's part of how I enjoy the present. I do need to remind myself to enjoy the now, however, which is why tomorrow's post (Christmas Eve) will be about this year and the fun things we did and the things I wish we would have done differently, etc.

But for now, I love to plan!

Next year, I would like to make more gifts by hand. To do this, I need to get organized now so that throughout the year I can be working on the presents instead of realizing come December 15th that I haven't gotten or made gifts for anyone. That panic that settles in the pit of my stomach is just rotten. And it makes me cranky.

So currently I'm working on my various lists. I have a list of who I would like to have a gift for, a list of who I need to have a gift for, a list of possible gift ideas, and then approximate cost per project. Like I said, I love to plan. I'm trying to decide how many gifts I should get people. I'm also trying to decide if I should do little "gift basket" type things with a little stash of gifts for each person or not. I don't want to go overboard and fall flat on my arse and feel terrible for not getting everything done, but I also want to be able to make something for everyone.

Some of the ideas I know I will do. Some of them are more expensive, but I have ideas on how to make them cheaper. Some of them are probably just not going to happen. For example, I thought it sounded really cool to brew my own beer and give it away as a present, but the startup cost for that is in excess of $100. Especially since I wouldn't be getting the bottles back, that is a huge money sink. If I could find the things I need on discount I might be able to, but it's just not looking too likely.

I would like to make one gift each month. I think that's reasonable. We'll see if I still think that when school starts back up, haha, but for now it sounds good. My thinking if I do one per month, is that each month's gift would have to fit within that month's allotment towards Christmas stuff, so I'm not sure how that would work. Since some presents are just more expensive than others. Hmm, lots to figure out with this.

So for now, I plot and wait.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas with friends and family. We celebrated Christmas with my family last night, had our own small Christmas this morning, and will be traveling tomorrow to see my Hubby's parents. Then on New Year's we are going to my Hubby's grandparents for Christmas.

2 down, 2 to go!

I got some fun stuff so far, including a Pandora subscription from my husband (yay!), but by far my favorite thing is giving. I had so much fun last night passing out gifts to everyone and taking a bzillion photos and making people pose with their gifts. And they actually all humored me, haha.

My dad loved the anise cookies I made him. Thanks, Joy of Cooking for another reliable recipe. And thanks, internet, for the awesome advice to add cinnamon to them. I made some with cinnamon and some without--and by far the ones with cinnamon were so much better.

The other fun thing we got to do last night was I brought stuff to make some of the eggnog I talked about in a previous post. It was amazing. Everyone loved it. Mom said having me around was like having Martha Stewart around... Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, heh... That didn't stop them from drinking it all up, though. And surprisingly, no one freaked about the fact that it was chock full of raw eggs. I thought for sure my Mom would have flipped.

So, what's your favorite thing about Christmas? Did you get any fun presents this year?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Christmas Budgeting

I was going to post about groceries... And then I thought, "That's boring! I'll do it tomorrow."

So then I decided to post about something Christmas-y. I just haven't figured out what yet.

I will post about our Christmas tree and how we paid for it instead. First, I love Christmas trees, especially real ones. And I love glass ornaments. And shiny things. And instead of an angel, I always have grown up with a tacky glittery star lit up with multi-color mini lights, so that is what I wanted when I first moved into my apartment 3 years ago. But as usual, money was tight. So for my very first Christmas in my apartment, I had no tree.

Since my husband (then, husband-to-be) is allergic to pine (tragic!), I knew we would be getting a plastic tree (sad). But really, it doesn't look that bad. I do miss the pine smell though. And the real green of real trees. Anyway, after Christmas we went to Walmart and the Dollar Store and loaded up on Christmas tree stuff. I got my beloved tacky star for $3. I got my tree for $20 or $30. I got lights on sale. I bought real, glass ornaments at the Dollar Store for 2 for $1, and some of the fancier ones were 1 for $1. I also bought some cheapo plastic ornaments which I don't like as much but it's nice for variety.

Overall I think I've spent about $50-$60 on my Christmas tree and it's pretty well decked out. Just yesterday I spent another $1 at the Dollar Store for another beautiful glass ornament I found (score!). I will add it to our tree probably on Christmas day. I think that it might become a tradition each year to buy another pretty ornament, even if it's just a $1 ornament. It's a frugal, fun activity we could do each year to add to our decorations, without breaking the bank. Even if we splurged and bought a Hallmark ornament (ack! those things are like $20 sometimes), it still wouldn't break the bank.

My point in all of this blathering, my point besides just telling you more about me, is that it's very possible to decorate for Christmas on a budget. We don't decorate the entire apartment. Just the tree. Honestly there isn't room for much more besides the tree! I could have saved even more had I searched for a tree second-hand, but I was still fairly new to the whole saving money thing while buying for an apartment (I bought pretty much everything new).

The biggest thing for decorating for Christmas is to buy right after Christmas. Stores, especially stores like Hobby Lobby and other craft-y stores, will be looking to unload all their Christmas merchandise. I might look for a wreath for our door after Christmas this year. I've been wanting one for a while. I've also been wanting some higher quality tinsel (Edit: when I say tinsel I mean garland, but I've always called it tinsel so that's what I still call it). Mine is very 2-D and not very fluffy. And of course, this works for any holiday and not just Christmas.

Finally, my favorite part about buying decorations just after a given holiday is that next year when you go to get them out again, they are brand new and it's like getting presents early!


What about you? How do you save money when decorating for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Yay for Bread

Hmm, the promised bread update "tomorrow" from several days ago never made it from my brain to my fingers, so I'm going to d that now while I watch the beautiful snow fall outside my window and I will cleverly schedule this for tomorrow morning so that I will not have four posts within a two hour period followed by no posts for days, haha.

My sourdough bread turned out good. Not quite as dense as last time which was good, but still really dense. Also not quite as sour, but I figure my starter is still really young so it will fluctuate as it matures.

Also, I made sourdough cinnamon rolls from the recipe in Sunset >something< Bread book. If you search for "Sunset Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls" you'll find it no problem online. They were amazing. Again, whole wheat, I'm trying to reduce white flour except for treats. Both hubby and I liked the cinnamon rolls. I do feel bad about the sugar in them, but it's not that much, and I didn't put icing on them (although it would have been better with it). I'm thinking they would be really good with cream cheese which would provide a little sweetness / moisture without tons of sugar. When I made this recipe it made 11 rolls, though, not nine like it said, so I couldn't use the square pan like the recipe said to. I think I will post a more detailed recipe about the cinnamon rolls later on, for now, just know that they were very tasty.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Budgeting for Christmas

Today I wanted to share with you all how hubby and I decided to pay for Christmas this year. After last Christmas causing our coffers to dwindle and our pockets to empty, we decided that we needed a plan so that we wouldn't be stressed about money come Christmas. Goodness knows there's enough other things to be stressed about!

So we decided roughly how much we wanted to spend on Christmas this year and started saving a little bit every month. We decided we wanted around $300 for Christmas gifts for both of our families. His family is fairly easy because they do a gift exchange, but my family is more chaotic and generally people try to get something for each person. Once we decided how much we wanted, we decided to set up a savings account and set direct deposit at the first of every month for $25.

The one small glitch we had was that we didn't actually set up the account until... August (I know, right. Terrible). We hadn't spent any of the money, but we hadn't specifically separated it from our checking account either. Thankfully neither of us are wild spenders so it was pretty easy to leave that money alone. We both knew what it was for.

We have just about all our gifts purchased and we have about $55 left in our budget. So it looks like we are on target! And it's been soo nice not having to worry about where this money is coming from or if we're accidentally borrowing money from some other needed category. We already have wrapping paper and tape so I think we are ready for Christmas! And not a moment too soon. :o

I think next year I'm going to set a goal to have Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving. This means I'll probably up our auto-deposit a little bit so that I have the money on hand earlier. Shopping around the holidays is just so stressful! I like it when I have space to think to myself in the aisle about whether I want the red or the blue one without 15 people crowding past me. Sheesh.

What about you? How do you budget for Christmas? What do you think about taking a portion of tax return money and setting it aside in a savings account for Christmas / holidays / birthdays?

Homemade Eggnog: This Will Change Your Life

Edit: I'm also tagging this as a "Debunk the Junk" post (which I haven't done one in forever) because I realized how much crap is in store-bought eggnog. Check out the higlights from the ingredients sometime (this is for Farmland Eggnog, others I'm sure are different): HFCS, corn starch, dried milk products, artificial flavors, annatto (to color it yellow)... I don't have anything wrong with drinking store-bought, but it's nice to know I can avoid some of the stuff I'm trying to avoid by making my own.

I've been wanting to make my own eggnog for ages. Ever since I learned you could make your own, I've wanted to. So yesterday at the grocery I made it a point to buy cream, also it was conveniently on sale (score!).

Tonight I found a recipe here and it was fantastic. It used raw eggs though, so be sure to use good quality eggs. If you're uncertain about the quality of your eggs, there are many comments to the instructions about how to "pasteurize" the eggs within their shells, still leaving a liquid egg (I think it's magic, personally), but some of the comments said it also damages some of the flavor / texture. I don't know, I used raw eggs and it worked fine for us.

The other thing I loved about this recipe is that it conveniently lists the ingredients for a big batch and a "single-serve" batch. hubby and I doubled the single batch and it was almost more than we could drink. It would have been enough for 3 people.

As far as homemade compared to store-bought, here are my thoughts:
It took less maybe ten minutes. It's actually faster to make than to go to the store and buy it.
It has a much richer and fluffier texture. You are essentially turning the egg whites into meringue and then folding it back in and it makes for a superb texture. It is so luxurious in the mouth.
It tastes pretty much the same. Granted, it's been a few weeks since I've had store-bought, but I feel like it's a creamy, rich, sweet, nutmeg taste that is comparable to each other. Maybe I'm mistaken tho. It is nice that you get to control the spices you want in it. We went just for the nutmeg, but you could easily add cinnamon or allspice or ginger... whatever floats your boat (or eggnog, in this case).

Here is the recipe, as we used it, which made enough for about 3 people

Ingredients
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar for egg yolk (this was too much for our tasted, I would try 2-3 tbsps instead)
2 tbsps sugar for egg white (this seemed good because you don't want the fluff to be bland)
1/2 tsp of vanilla
a few good shakes of nutmeg (I didn't measure but I'm guessing 1/4 to 1/2 tsp)
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk

Directions
Mix with a whisk egg yolks, sugar for yolks, vanilla, nutmeg, milk, and cream.
beat whites until soft peaks, add sugar, beat until stiff peaks.
fold whites into yolk mixture.

Comments
Remember, you can always add more nutmeg, never less. Add a little and then work your way up. Also people can sprinkle it into their individual cups and then each person can like the flavor.

Like I said in the ingredients list, we thought 1/4 cup sugar made the base a little too sweet, but obviously what tastes good to us will be different than what you like.

I love, love, love how easy this was to make. I was expecting some complicated series of double-boiler catastrophes ending in a burned sticky mess. I was so glad this recipe was so simple!

Food Waste... Tuesday?

Hmm. I'm a bit late me thinks.

My Food Waste (from last week)
some goats cheese I accidentally bought a long time ago instead of feta. I thought it would work out... definitely was not the same. I kept holding onto it thinking "I'll find a use for it." So when I threw it out it had a nice creative new structure thanks to all the fuzzy mold holding it together in new ways.
I also wasted a roux sauce base that I burnt terribly (I hate the smell of burnt flour). I was more sad about the butter than the flour tho.
I know there was something else I wasted but I can't remember what it was.

I almost wasted a whole butternut squash! I looked down and saw my lovely squash covered in magenta and blue mold (no lie) and I was very upset. But, being thick-skinned towards food spoilage, like the squash itself, I decided it was still safe. So I liberally chopped off the skin and some of the outer portion of the squash and roughly cubed and froze all the tasty meats. I do feel slightly bad as I also didn't save the seeds. I just added it to my compost pile. It was late and I was exhausted and didn't feel like staying up an extra 30 minutes to rinse and roast the seeds.

So, not too bad, and at least I averted a major food waste crisis, but only barely.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bread Update

Well friends. I am finally getting my bread back under control. I've had a string of failures lately and I've been kind of discouraged. Notice the lack of posting about bread failures? That's because I'm kind of embarrassed. Oh well, I guess it still tastes good, right? Just not for sandwiches.

Well, I already wrote about my foray into the world of sourdough--it's going great! I'm about to I just put my second loaf in the oven--much more risen and promising-looking. However, given my track record with fallen loaves, this isn't a sure thing yet. I am excited. I also made criss-cross cuts across the top to make it pretty. :)

I also had my first success in a long time last night with whole wheat bread. I am SO relieved to finally have a usable loaf of whole wheat bread in the house! I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch today to celebrate. It was amazing. It's a bit smaller than I would have liked, but I didn't really care--it was solid! And not fallen. And really soft and chewy, while still totally durable enough to slather chunky peanut butter all over.

So, I like to make my own bread because it's cheaper (when it works, lol) of course, but also because it avoids preservatives / artificial ingredients. Please don't feel like I'm telling any of you (my 3 readers, :) I love each of you) that you need to make your own bread. I'm just sharing my adventure with you.

In my bread journey, I'm trying to transition to more sourdough because of all the information I've been reading about making grains more digestible. It's interesting stuff, really. Because sourdough has live little beasties in it, the beasties eat part some of the sugar and other stuff in the flour, and in turn produce healthy leftover liquid stuff that gives it the sour taste. It's a win-win. If you don't want sourdough, you can soak your flour overnight to give close to the same health benefits of making it easier to digest without so much sour flavor. Also, I love me some sourdough. :) Fresh from the oven, slathered in butter... Oh yes.

Here's a source that helped get me started reading about wheat and different kinds of bread.

Also, I got to share my sourdough starter with someone at work and it made me feel good! Ok, that's probably lame, but I really liked getting to share something with a friend who will (and already has several times) use it and benefit from it. She's already completely showed me up on sourdough bread texture and rise wise, but mine had more of a sour flavor which I liked better.

Oh, ttfn. I will tell you all tomorrow how my second loaf of sourdough turned out!

Groceries :(

Ok. First the good news: I am so blessed with good friends. Last week (ahem, and a half)? The week where I disappeared from the blogosphere? The week where I didn't have time to sleep let alone cook? Yes, that week, some of my friends at the school I work for had lots of extra meals and easily bought my husband and I 5 or 6 meals each. It was such a blessing not to have to eat out every night and not to have use time on cooking instead of homework. And did I say this was free for us? It was such a blessing.

Now, the bad news. I might have gone a tad overboard grocery shopping this week. I was kind of excited. I also realized I haven't posted about my groceries since... mid last month. Fail.

I also lost the piece of paper that I had written my grocery totals on and don't feel like looking it up. So, this is the approximate, guesstimate, sort of close, grocery post list.

whole foods - $30 (2-3x)
whole foods - $85

So, I'm around $180 ish.

I got so excited when I went grocery shopping on Sunday. I bought fruit and more fruit, potatoes and carrots... a nice fresh chicken and amazing eggs from the farmer's market.

It was worth it! I will post about what's been cooking later. I really will. I know I've been scarce even though school is done, that's because I keep doing ridiculous things at work like deleting portions of a website and then having the restore for whatever reason make 30 links broken which I then had to fix by hand.

That's my story.

But my chicken tasted awesome. :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sourdough!

Well,

In my absence, I've started making sourdough. So far, I've made a whole wheat sourdough loaf right now I have sourdough cinnamon rolls rising. I can't wait. Part of my food waste these past two weeks has been from my failed sourdough attempt, but all in all I think I wasted only 2-3 cups on my first attempt. I switched to using whole wheat flour (which supposedly has a higher wild yeast content) and I haven't had any problems since.

So far my starter is only about 10-11 days old, but it already makes such good flavor. The bread I made tasted soo good, if a little dense. I've already shared my sourdough starter and a piece of the bread I made with a person from work and she is now making sourdough today. Score, helping spread healthy eats.

It was actually really fun for me to make my own sourdough starter--I felt like a scientist with this goopy, bubbly, alive mess in this jar. It's also a little bit like a pet right now. Because it's such a new starter, I have to feed it every day while it develops flavor, etc. It's really intriguing.

I might post later about how to make a sourdough starter and the health benefits of sourdough, but for now, I've got to go put my cinnamon rolls in the oven!

Food Waste Friday

Yikes! Not a good 2 weeks for us. I didn't post last week due to intense mayhem, but here's the rundown of all the food that I didn't manage to salvage.

My Food Waste
a failed dinner that would have had lots of leftovers, but it wasn't that good and my husband actually got sick off of it I think. It was kind of a lot.
1/3 of a so-so casserole that we just didn't have the heart to keep eating.
a bunch of flour in a failed sourdough starter
some oatmeal from failed soaking attempts (not too much, but still)

so... pretty much, I've wasted a lot of food. This makes me sad. My cooking was way off track or something because I usually don't have problems with food being nigh inedible. But tonight, dinner was delicious, so I think after finishing the paper I am back to my old cooking self again. Which is good, because I can't afford to eat out!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I'm Baaaa-aaaack

Well, I've been absent for a while--it feels like weeks. That's because I've been going non-stop to meet my deadlines for school. I told myself I wasn't going to blog anymore until I got my act together, haha. So, I turned in my project last night at midnight, did my last piece of homework after that, and now except for one final I AM FREE.


So, coming soon, expect to hear about my woeful eating, some charity of friends, and my latest cooking projects (and maybe, just maybe, I'll get back on track with my posture project.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Not Dead Yet... And a Favorite Quote

Yet being the operative word.

I have had zero energy for blogging, which you'll observe in my extreme lack of posts for the past while.

Posture Updates? None
Random Cooking Stories? Zilch
Healthier Eating Choices? Nada
Grocery Calculations? Zip
Food Waste Posts? HaHaHa

In short, I'm alive, but I just haven't had the energy to share my life much lately. Also, I got sick over Thanksgiving and have been sleeping a lot.

Perhaps tomorrow I will resume posting about.. something.

Until then, I'll leave you with possibly my favorite quote ever, which I'll probably dissect / massacre at a later date.

"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." -- Jim Elliot

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 16

For those of you just joining me, you can find my first post in this series here. Basically, I am on a 1 month journey to perfect better posture!

Well hello there,

I officially am sick of working on my posture. I am sticking it out, but it's really hard. My muscles just don't like it one bit. They would much rather do what they're used to doing--nothing!

I didn't do so good over the weekend, but I did alright. I think I need to put up some post-it notes to remind me to continue to sit / stand up straight during all these different times because otherwise I forget. Also, sitting up straight all through church really hurt! I don't know why though. Maybe I need to start stretching / exercising my back muscles a little bit every night to help with this project...

It's time for a new goal!

Goal 06: Sit up straight while blogging (ha!). (I am currently slouching as I type this)
Goal 6.5: sit up straight from 9am to 10am at work (expanding on goal 2.5).

Let's review my other goals so far:

Goal 01: Sit up straight while eating breakfast.
Goal 02: Stand up straight while brushing my hair and teeth.
Goal 2.5: Sit / Stand up straight at work from 9:00am to 9:30am.
Goal 03: Sit up straight during lunch.
Goal 04: Sit up straight during dinner.
Goal 05: Stand up straight while cooking dinner / doing chores.
Goal 5.5: Sit / stand up straight during church / chapel.

So, that's that. My muscles are so not happy with this project. I'm half done, I can do this.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 13

A new goal today!

For those of you just joining me, you can find my first post in this series here. Basically, I am on a 1 month journey to perfect better posture!

Goal 05: Stand up straight while cooking dinner / doing chores.
Goal 5.5: Sit / stand up straight during church / chapel.

Let's review my other goals so far:

Goal 01: Sit up straight while eating breakfast.
Goal 02: Stand up straight while brushing my hair and teeth.
Goal 2.5: Sit / Stand up straight at work from 9:00am to 9:30am.
Goal 03: Sit up straight during lunch.
Goal 04: Sit up straight during dinner.

Icing on the Cake
So far I've been doing well, one thing I am sometimes forgetting is to square my shoulders. Even though I stand / sit upright without hunching over, sometimes I still slump my shoulders. I'm not recording this as a goal, per say, but it would be nice if I could remember this a bit more often. It might get added to my official goals at a different date, so we'll see.

Food Waste Friday and a Recipe

My Food Waste

This week I haven't wasted anything! I've been so excited about my food waste lately. I've been really keeping it under control. Food waste shouldn't be a problem coming up soon because I'll be trying to eat as cheaply as possible to make up for already blowing my November grocery budget.


Red Beans and Rice
Last night we had one of my favorite dishes of all time: Red beans and brown rice. I make it with bacon, lots and lots of onions, Frank's Red Hot, and Worcestershire Sauce, with a little bit of brown sugar thrown in. Delicious! The original recipe I found online (sorry I can't remember where) had about 5 different kinds of meat which I thought was a bit excessive. So I kept my favorite, lol. It's just such an awesome blend of sweet and spicy with a bit of a vinegar tang.

Here's what you need:
About a cup plus a little bit extra of dried red beans, soaked
2 med / small onions or 1 big onion.. or 2 big onions.. I like lots of onion!
1/2-3/4 diced raw bacon. It's easier to chop if frozen, and it cooks into this wonderful soft bacon-ey awesomeness when chopped before being cooked.
um, 1/4 cup Frank's Red Hot, 2-3 TBSP of Worcestershire Sauce, and 1-2 TBSP of brown sugar.

How to Make:
Cook the red beans, keeping the liquid as well.
Cook the rice
cook bacon while you chop onions, add onions.
cook until tender but not super tender
add red beans and liquid (helps with the awesome sauce)
add seasonings

How to Eat:
Serve over some of that awesome rice you just made!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 12

Today I did pretty well with my goals. I've been doing really well at work for the most part. I've been having a little bit of trouble sitting up straight during dinner though. I am tired! at the end of the day so it's hard for me.

But I've been doing pretty well--and I really can't believe I'm almost halfway there.

Don't forget to tune in tomorrow for my next posture goal.

For those of you just joining me, you can find my first post in this series here. Basically, I am on a 1 month journey to perfect better posture!

Day 11

I did awesome today.

I completed every one of my posture goals.

Cause I'm cool like that.

Except now it's super late and tomorrow's going to be exhausting and.... yeah.

PS, today I am feeling overwhelmed with the task of eating healthily. It seems like it will never be good enough or healthy enough or frugal enough.

For example, I use way too much white sugar. Argh. I'm trying but it's hard.

Does anyone have a good recipe for hot chocolate mix that doesn't use white sugar? Would maple syrup work? Currently I use 1:2 cocoa to sugar with a bit of cinnamon for something new. That's probably my highest intake of white sugar currently...

tired.....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 7--Wait, it's Day 10 Already?

So you remember my lofty month goal to improve my posture? I've been doing well, except at remembering to post! Yikes, seriously, my memory this week.

For those of you just joining me, you can find my first post in this series here. Basically, I am on a 1 month journey to perfect better posture!

So, we're gonna' pretend that I'm introducing Day 7's goal on day 7, because... I haven't posted in forever, but we're gonna call it day 10 (because it actually is day 10, lol. Ok? Ok.

Day 7, Goal 03
Sit up Straight during Lunch. -- I've actually sort of been doing this! No perfect, but ok.

So, I'm supposed to be posting another goal today, as it is Day 10... So here's my Day 10 goal.

Day 10, Goal 04
Sit up Straight during Dinner. -- I've sort of been attempting to kind of do this, lol.

As far as my other goals, I've been doing well! Let's review:

Goal 01: Sit up straight while eating breakfast.
Goal 02: Stand up straight while brushing my hair and teeth.
Goal 2.5: Sit / Stand up straight at work from 9:00am to 9:30am.

Um.. Goal 1 -- owned it. Goal 2 -- um, did pretty well. I forgot to brush my teeth once I think (sad). Goal 2.5 -- Did I really say that? I don't think I would have impromptu added an extra goal on my plate because that's just ridic--oh, I really said that? hrmph. I did ok. I vaguely remembered at 9 to sit up straight, which I did for a few minutes? Do I get at least a few points?

Ok, overall, I've been doing rather well. I've been remembering during the work day to at least try periodically throughout the day and I have felt better overall so I am still definitely excited.

Grocery Fail and Mint.com

Haha. I epically failed at grocery budgeting this month. Worse than my last post said. Yikes.

I apparently clean forgot a whole week of groceries. Yup. I've been pretty preoccupied with work so I guess I forgot that I went grocery shopping!

My grocery total is actually $290. Ouch. And I'm only halfway through the month.

This solidifies my determination to eat as cheaply (while still healthily) as possible for the rest of the week. I know I will still have to spend about $20 for the food I am supposed to bring to Thanksgiving at my parents' place. And, let's be realistic, I'll have to buy milk and eggs and probably beans and rice. Speaking of beans! That will be what we are eating for the rest of this month, lol.

So, I sucked. but, my food waste is still really low to none each week, so I know I'm not buying too much food, necessarily, but that I just need to actually (sigh) start (sigh) couponing and put more beans into our diet or something. I know we've made a lot of changes at once so I knew our budget was going to go up, I just need to re-learn how to shop. Maybe prices are better at the farmer's markets...

Which leads me to my next point: Mint.com

This nifty little site is a (free) site that lets you put all your bank accounts, credit cards, loans, etc, into one place where you can easily see aggregate data about your finances. It pulls in your statements from your checking (and other) accounts and tries to automatically categorize them for you. Some of them were very wrongly categorized, but overall it did pretty well. Also, it has separate categories for "coffee shop," "fast food," and "restaurants" which isn't applicable to us, so we deleted them and are just using one category for "eating out." Some people might want a "coffee shop" category to track how much that morning latte (or whatever) is costing them.

Setting up this site tonight is what let me see the error of my grocery-budgeting ways... and how epically I failed, lol. We haven't put our student loans or anything into it, just our checking account with attached savings. but, it's a really cool site. It lets you pick how much you want to budget for each category (you can make your own custom ones). Eg, our gas budget is $200 a month because DH has a 15-60 minutes drive to work depending on traffic, plus we have an older car ('93 Buick Century, holla!). So now, instead of having to meticulously track our spending in an excel sheet (which er, um.. I mean... of course I always stay on top of that. Yikes). This does all of that for me.

So, even though we're over on our grocery budget, we've spent less than half of our gas budget this month and the month is half over. And I can see this at a glance. Sweet. Out of our $75 eat out / entertainment budget, we've spent $57.


You can also set a monthly category to roll over each month. So, for us, we each have a "fun money" budget of $20 (this is to stave off the insanity that is trying to watch our pennies). If we want to save up for a larger fun purchase, this will let us keep track of it easily.

I'm really excited. Did I mention it's free? Did I mention it's awesome?

Ok, so, working in Technology, I can't write about this without including:

I don't want anyone to think I'm insulting them, but I have to say this. Don't. Be. Dumb. Ok seriously, your bank info is seriously critical. So be careful. Choose a super strong password (Eg, NOT "password" or your kid's soccer team name). Don't log in at the library and then forget to log out (although I think this site's timeout is ten minutes, still...). Ok, sorry, had to say it. I'm good now.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Groceries -- Yikes

Well, I've totally blown my budget for this month. I knew I was going to with Thanksgiving and all, but still.

Here are the numbers:
Aldi = $31.51
Walmart = $39.98
Whole Foods = 64.98

Sub Total = 136.47
Total from Last Week = $92.32

Monthly Total so Far = $228.79

Can I keep under budget? Ha! I don't think so. I am going to try another lean week next week, since we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving with our families, I don't have to make a whole meal, just a casserole and a cheese ball. Maybe I can swipe some leftovers, too. :) I think soup will also be on the menu for the rest of the month.

And here are my excuses...
For starters, at church this weekend they passed out baskets for their donation program to give families in need a real thanksgiving meal with a list of what to buy. So I spent $28.97 on that. I've still got to buy milk and eggs for it, so it should total around $32.

I also stocked up on flour, cocoa, white sugar, brown sugar, and food dye for the impending holiday baking. And... I wasn't organized or motivated enough to hunt for deals or coupons. So, on stocking up I spent $46.93. While that isn't a ridiculous amount to spend on stocking up, still... my grocery budget says "Ouch." To make up for it, I hooked up our printer today so now I don't have an excuse not to be printing coupons from online. Hurray.

And then, our normal groceries for this week came to $56.07. Partially because I really wanted to try some ginger root and partially because I bought bacon (I can't help it, lol). And I bought a jar of turmeric because I've been wanting some to experiment with.

So, what can we learn from all this?
I say to myself: STICK TO THE LIST. And, DON'T BE LAZY. I should have found a flour sale before just buying 3 bags of flour at regular price. I should have skipped both the ginger and turmeric because I don't really need it. I could have gone without the food dye because, again, you don't need food dye. It makes things more fun, but man, was it expensive! (I bought food dye that is made from vegetables and not red #40 or yellow #5 so it came to $16.99 just for a basic red, yellow, blue kit, but I think it will last me a while so..).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 6

Why am I counting days and what are these random goals? Click here to find out!

Today's posture goals are the same as yesterday:

Goal 01: Sit up straight while eating breakfast.

Goal 02: Stand up straight while brushing my hair and teeth.

Goal 2.5: Sit / Stand up straight at work from 9:00am to 9:30am.

So far I am doing well. I am so glad I decided to take control of my posture!

Food Waste Friday

My Food Waste

This week I haven't wasted anything yet. I'm pretty impressed with myself. I finished off some bread and other random things. I really need to use up my spaghetti sauce and the rest of 2 leftover casseroles or I will have a lot of food waste to report next week. Ick.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 5

Why am I counting days and what are these random goals? Click here to find out!

Today I am continuing my first 2 goals.

Goal 01: Sit up straight while eating breakfast. I did this!

Goal 02: Stand up straight while brushing my hair and teeth. I did this!

Goal 2.5: Sit / Stand up straight at work from 9:00am to 9:30am. I sort of did this. I wound up not doing it at the time frame, but exerting a more conscious effort to sit up more at work.


And, now I've just got to write my food waste post and schedule it for tomorrow and then it's off to bed for me. I just finally got caught up on a week's worth of reading the blogs I follow so maybe tomorrow I can catch up on real life. haha. It was nice to have a mental break tonight after this bear of a week.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 4

Why am I counting days and what are these random goals? Click here to find out!

Today is day 4 and you know what that means: A new posture goal!

Goal 2 is to stand up straight while I brush my hair and teeth every day. This goal is two-fold because, for whatever reason, I've fallen out of the habit of brushing my teeth everyday. Today that stops. Also, instead of hunching over the sink while I brush or standing on one foot (don't ask), I'm going to focus on correct posture while I do these things.

That was going to be my only goal for today, but since I'm doing so well, and because I've already started standing up straight while brushing my hair, I'm going to add to it this new goal: Sit up straight at work in between 9am and 9:30am. A half an hour at work seems like an age, however, so while I am excited this is going well, I don't want to add too much at once and fall on my face. So we are still taking it slow.

I accomplished Goal 1 today, so let's see if I can do the same with Goal 2!

How are you doing with your goals? What are you striving towards? Have you decided to join me in my fight for better posture?

PS. The reason I didn't post how I did on my goals for this project yesterday is because I have a cascade of projects due at work on this Friday and have been busting my butt to get them all done. I wouldn't even be posting now except that I had already written this post over the weekend.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 2

So far I am doing great (heh, yay positive self-talk) at this whole posture thing.

Yesterday I was sitting up straight on and off all day and today I started off the day right by continuing to sit up straight while I ate breakfast.

Day 2, Goal 1 = Accomplished.

For those of you just joining me, you can find my first post in this series here.

And, just like yesterday, sitting up straight makes my back feel noticeably better just by starting out the day with a little bit of extra effort to maintain good posture.

Come back tomorrow to check on me and my goals, or on Wednesday to see my next posture goal.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 1

Today marks the first day of my new Self Improvement Project (SIP)

Plan for Improving my Posture.

My first goal I actually just accomplished: Sit up straight while eating breakfast.

I can tell you, My back feels so much than it usually does in the morning. Usually by the time I finish breakfast, my back still hasn't recovered from sleep-induced stiffness and I trudge off to the shower hoping it will help. My back still hurts some, but it doesn't feel as bad as normal.

I will be sitting up straight while I eat breakfast for 2 more days before adding another goal, so stop by on November 10th to see my next goal!

Even though I've completed my goal for today, I am still sitting up straight while I type this. I'm sure it won't last to lunchtime, but here's to a great start for this SIP!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Another Self-Improvement Project

I've decided that I should be constantly working on improving myself. Personally, I think everyone should strive to grow and learn throughout their life. That's my opinion though, so please don't feel like I'm going to beat you over the head with it. That being said, I still think it's a good idea. ;)

There are lots of ways to improve yourself. It could be you've decided that you need to stop using certain words or that you need to cut out that extra chocolate bar at work. It could be that you want to add a positive habit such as brushing your teeth twice a day instead of only once. I decided to do my first self-improvement project over the summer (before the blog) and had positive results.

Sooo, starting tomorrow, I am beginning my next self-improvement project.

Here is my Plan for Improving my Posture (PIP for short).

Background
Coming from a family of computer nerds with terrible posture, it was only natural for me to absorb their bad habits. We always slouched at the computer, we slouched at the dinner table, we slouched when we watched tv, we walked with our shoulder curled forward a bit instead of straight. None of us have good posture. So, when I say I have bad posture, don't think Igor, but that's not too far off.

I want to change not only because I will look and feel better about myself, but because it's just better for my physical health to have good posture. I have pretty regular back pain associated with my bad posture along with trouble sleeping sometimes and extreme discomfort sitting still for long periods of time. I don't just want to change, I need to change.

Plan
Starting tomorrow, I will set a small goal for myself regarding my posture. Every 3 days, I will add a new goal on top of the one(s) I am already doing. By the end of 31 days, I am hoping to have terrific posture (or at least something better than my current rank of "abysmal").

Every time I add a new goal, I will write a short post about what the goal is, and I how I am doing on my previous goals.

Feel free to join me in this project and share your story along side mine. Or, comment about a time when you did a self-improvement project: what you picked and how it went.

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out what PIP Step 1 is!

Food Waste Friday

My Food Waste
This week I didn't waste anything!

I'm very excited. I've been really trying to crack down on cooking appropriate amounts of food and I think it worked this week!

Huzzah.

(PS, I realize it's Saturday and not Friday, anymore, but I just didn't have time to post yesterday.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Granola

I made granola this past weekend and I keep meaning to post about it, but haven't had time! Too busy cooking. :)

First off, I made cinnamon apple granola, the recipe for which I got here.

Secondly, it tastes fantastic.

Thirdly, buy your own pre-dried apples! Drying them in the oven takes ages.

And finally, how much did it cost me?

$2.41 -- Almonds -- 2/3 used = $1.61
$7.99 -- Maple Syrup -- 1/4 = $2.00
$4.77 -- Honey Crisp Apples -- 1/3 = $1.59
$1.79 -- Puffed Rice cereal -- 1/3 = $0.60
$1.69 -- Sunflower Seeds -- 1/6 = $0.28
$1.29 -- whole rolled oats -- 5/6 = $1.08
$1.69 -- Apple Sauce -- 13/100 = $0.22
$0.20 -- Various spices
$1.00 -- Electricity

So, my grand total was $8.58.

I got about a quart of awesome granola. that's pretty cheap compared to buying pre-made stuff. Plus, I got to control sugar, fat, etc. I got to make it my own with stuff I like.

I've never made granola and it was lots of fun. I bet it would be a fun project with kids because it's fairly easy and the results are delicious!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Groceries

Last night we went grocery shopping and we spent too much for one week. Granted, some of it will last longer than a week and DH was out of both body wash and shampoo so he bought 2 of each.

Walmart: $11.58
Whole Foods: $80.74

Total so Far: $92.32

Next week should be pretty cheap, though. I'll try to stick to $50 or less and that will put me roughly on target for the month. I'm using a casserole from the freezer and more squash from the closet (it said cool & dark location, ok? Not my choice. haha).

Improvements to our Food this Trip
As for why our Whole Foods bill was so high yesterday, here's the lowdown (funny how improvements and increased expenses always seem hand-in-hand. sad.):

$12.50 to replenish 3 spices I was running low on. I won't have to buy those for probably a year now. These are higher quality spices so I am excited.
$7.99 for 12oz of real maple syrup, which is not a normal expense (but sadly, after tasting it, it probably will become a normal one!). I wanted to try it and it was called for in the recipe I used for granola. real maple syrup is a healthier alternative to refined sugar so I am excited about this new option, even if it is expensive.
$18 for 3lbs of my first real beef. It's really good and I like knowing that it doesn't have nasties in it. hopefully they will have another sale soon and I can make what we have last until then. I'm also going to check out a farmer's market nearby and see what their prices are like.
Half went to a splurge on burgers (which we never have) and it made 4 burgers so two meals. The other half I cooked up and froze right away last night so I would be sure not to waste it. Some of it wound up in the spaghetti sauce, but I have enough for probably 4-6 more meals.
$6 for OV cream to use for the last couple slices of pumpkin pie we have! Yum!
$10 for ingredients to use in my granola (not counting the syrup).

Why Did I Think this Was a Good Idea?

Hello Blogosphere,

So I had this great idea: What if I bake all day on Saturday! I could get so much done.

Well, I've gotten a lot done, but I'm tired. And I've still got a bunch of stuff to finish that's in the "halfway done" phase. I just put one loaf into the oven and I've got more dough rising. The only thing that keeps me working to get so much of this done is that when hubby gets home I want to be free to spend time with him and not have to still be cooking.

I have to keep reminding myself why I put so much effort into my food, sometimes.

1.) I'm striving to provide quality food for my family while on a budget. I don't want crazy chemicals like bleach or rBGH in my food.

2.) See above.

Haha, as you can see, I'm super-coherent right now. I've been learning a ton about food and I always am trying to improve our food while keeping it fun. I don't want to have lentils or black beans every single night--how dull!

Today I:
Baked 6 little rye buns which I am hoping turned out in spite of my errors.
Made a batch of spaghetti sauce.
Made a huge batch of granola! (the ! is because I'm very excited about this, in case you weren't sure)
I'm baking bread to freeze and use in a casserole later.
I've got dough for french bread rising to go with our soup later this week.

I've never worked with rye flour before and I'm almost certain I killed it. Which is sad because it's not the cheapest thing in the world. It was about $2.70 for just under 2lbs. I used most of it. It's awaiting judgement currently so I'll fill you in later.
The spaghetti tastes off so when I reheat it I'll probably tinker with it some more. I think it needs more garlic?
The granola! It turned out way better than I thought it would. I was skeptical because I've never made it before and also slightly intimidated (am I allowed to eat granola that didn't come pre-packaged? Isn't there a rule against that somewhere? lol) I used a recipe I found on Lauren's blog, here. You should go check it out because it's awesome. For some reason, though, I thought it would be a fantastic idea to cut and dry my own apples, a process I started last night which took... forever. And then when I got in a hurry it didn't work as well (go figure). I'm not sure I'll ever make my own apple chips again for this, but it's not necessary for great granola!
The sandwich (erm, casserole) bread looks very promising just now. I used my fancy new hand mixer that came with a bread hook attachment to knead it which resulted in much more developed gluten than I could ever get by hand with this dough. And I didn't have to add hardly any extra flour. I'm excited.
The french bread is the easiest bread I have ever made. It requires so little work because you don't have to knead it at all.

So that's my story today. Hope you enjoyed reading about my crazy adventures in the kitchen!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Food Waste Friday

My Food Waste

This was not such a good week.

1 meal's worth of bean soup from the freezer. I really tried to eat it all. I just didn't happen.
a couple tablespoons of canned jalapeƱos from... a long time ago.
a cup and a half of ground beef from the freezer that got freezer burned (I think. It tasted awful).
some frozen celery
If I don't think of a use soon, some of that bland squash soup will also be thrown away. I used a good bit of it--snuck it into the chili I made--but still have several cups leftover.

Oh well. Considering how I've have craptastic vertigo on and off all week, I don't consider this loss too much. I will be sad if I don't get off my bum and use up some of the peppers I have in my fridge: a poblano and a habanero. Yum.

What about you? Do you track your food waste?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dinner, Pumpkin Pie Cont'd, and Vertigo

For dinner we had a casserole from the freezer: Chicken Broccoli Bake. Rather little effort involved. Which is good because I feel like crap today. It tasted good and we have lunch for tomorrow now.

Mmmhhmmm, the pumpkin pie was super-tasty. It didn't quite set all the way, but it definitely gelled enough to cut and serve. It just sort of slumped over once it hit the plate like a tired cat flopping down on the grass.

But it was tasty. I bet if I had used cream it would have set better, but I didn't have any. If I had possessed any tapioca or other thickener I would have used it but oh well. I am pretty happy with it.

DH had a bad day at work and so forgot to get the cream, but it was good without it.

With all my leftover pumpkin pulp I am going to make pumpkin muffins and possible pumpkin bread. I'll probably make the bread since I don't have a muffin tin and then freeze some of the pulp for later baking adventures.

Vertigo = not fun.
Vertigo = can't think.
Vertigo = going to bed stupidly early because can't do anything else.
Vertigo = destroyer of productivity.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Real Pumpkin Pie

So, tonight I made my first ever pumpkin pie. Also, my first ever real pumpkin pie. No canned pumpkin for me, I went crazy on 2 real pie pumpkins and amid the flying pumpkin pulp, managed to collect probably 6-8 cups of the stuff.

It was a lot of fun, and if it tastes as good as it looks, I'll be quite pleased. Again, I'm sad I don't have a working camera or I would show you crappy pictures of an awesome pie! I can't wait to eat it tomorrow after dinner....

I used the recipe from Joy of Cooking (probably my fave ever). It called for almost a stick of butter for the crust (which, incidentally, finished off my old butter and now I can use my OV brand butter), but overall less sugar and eggs in the filling itself. It called for evaporated milk but I didn't have any so I just used regular milk. And I was pretty liberal with the spices (who measures things, anyway. haha).

I do feel good about my ingredients, though. The crust was made with WW flour. the pie with organic pie pumpkins, milk, and eggs, but regular sugar and spices.

If you've never made pumpkin pie before, the filling is pretty much liquid when you put it in. I was worried about that, but it looks like it's thickened up nicely, but I had to bake it about 15 minutes longer than it said to. Or 20. I can't remember. I just "cooked until done," you know?

So... That's really all I had to say... I can't wait to try it!! Hmm... I may to need to go to the store and get some heavy cream for this....

Groceries

I've had three more grocery trips since my last post, I know, terrible, plus a few random other things

Whatever.

$27.59 at Home Depot
$34.58 at Whole Foods
$37.69 at Whole Foods
$46.94 at Whole Foods

Sub Total = $146.80

Previous Monthly Total = 119.65

Monthly Total = $266.45

In my last grocery post, apparently I failed at basic math, or I just didn't have my receipts in front of me, because my total then was not $133, but $119.65. We actually only bought one of the cooling pads in October, so that's probably where the difference came from.


So, at the end of the month, I went over by $16.45. I don't feel too bad about this, considering I stocked up on some squash the last time I was at the store. Also out of this month's budget came my temps and we stocked up on water filters. I don't have a problem with what we spent this month.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Step 0: What I Couldn't Do at the Beginning

At first, I was testing the waters slowly, but the more I read and the more I do, the more I feel the need to dive in. So, here goes! I will be getting rid of preservatives and other nasties. My first target was HFCS, which I've almost completely eliminated from our diet. I doubt I'll be able to do 100% at first with preservatives, but I am definitely going to be much more strict about what I allow into our home. I probably should have done this at the beginning, but I don't know if we could have gone "cold turkey" off our old diet onto a completely different diet. Instead, slowly using up the old and replacing it with better has been a good route overall for us. I just feel a need to step it up.

So, we finally made the plunge today. Remember all that stuff I posted about last week? That and more went to one of two piles today: trash, or for my brother.

Why am I getting rid of all of this food if it's still good? Because they each contain things that I've decided aren't good for us. I mentioned it to my hubby and said he was fine with it, so away it goes. I will have to find tasty substitutions for some of it, especially the salad dressing and the pickles because we both really liked it. I'm also kind of sad that some of my canned goods had preservatives in them. (If you're asking why I am giving some of it to my brother if it has things I wouldn't eat in it, the answer is simple: he's pretty tight on money right now and I'm sure he could use the random boost of food to eat. And this food is still better than fast food or nothing at all.)

In a way, I think clearing out all this garbage will be like starting over. I think it will make it harder for me to buy more crap, since I'm getting rid of so much. The sting of wasting so much money and food will drive me to consider each purchase more, and to make sure I am not buying junk!

To my brother:
3 cans of olives
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 box of chicken helper
6 boxes of jell-o mix
1 box of stuffing
4 boxes of mac & cheese
30-ish packs of kool-aid
10-ish packs of ramen
2 containers of bacon bits
3 bags of microwave popcorn
3 boxes of rice-a-roni knock-off
2 sleeves of crackers
1 bottle of salad dressing
5 cans of condensed soup
random pasta
2 shakers of popcorn flavoring

To the Trash:
1 jar each of chicken and beef bullion cubes
1 jar of opened jelly
1/2 a ramen package
2 open salad dressings
1/2 bottle of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 shaker of sprinkles
1/2 large jar of banana peppers

The two things I don't if I can bear to throw away is most of a bottle of white cooking wine (who knew it had preservatives in it) and what's left of our soda stash. The soda I am keeping for hubby and it's better than normal soda because at least it's made with real sugar instead of HFCS. Just last week I cut out caffeine so I will not be having any more of it myself. If I can get him to agree not to drink soda at work, I won't care of he has a soda once or twice a week from our stash. Plus we can keep it for company.

I feel good about this, although I am a little apprehensive about this final big change.

What do you think? Did you go through a cupboard cleansing to eliminate bad ingredients from your house? Was it hard to throw away so much money?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Umm... What Is It?

Well, I don't know, but it sure was tasty!

I went into this meal on Thursday night thinking "I am attempting to use up some sauerkraut I made forever ago, so if it fails, it was food I already wasn't eating."

Ingredients
2 cups of that and chopped it up.
1/2 a large onion, chopped
a bit of red and green pepper I had chillin' in my fridge
a large can of tomato sauce
1/4 of a Polska Kielbasa sausage, chopped (not "coined") (a little more than 1/2 a cup)

Directions
I made this in a 5x9 bread pan
Mix all of that together and add a bit of vinegar, brown sugar, plain yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and we'll see what we have when it's done!

I cubed some bread I had in the fridge and coated it with melted butter and put it on top when it was already well heated through and cooked it about 15 minutes longer.

It was delicious! Next time I might serve it over pasta. I also liked the kielbasa in this a lot because even though I didn't add very much, it is a strongly flavored meat so you could definitely still taste it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sad Little Squash... Sad Little Me...

Ugh.

I hate it when I am excited about a recipe and I put a lot of effort into it and it turns out like crap. I had this soup recipe from Whole Food's blog about a butternut squash puree soup and it sounded amazing! But when I cooked it all up and dished it out, it was plainer than plain could be. Nothing I did could give it flavor. I added red pepper flakes. Nothing. I added more red pepper flakes. Nothing. I added some random cheese (I bought the wrong kind), and that only made it worse. I tried adding a few olives to my bowl, yuck.

Neither of us could stomach it, although we both tried.

I really don't understand why it was such a failure. The only thing I'm really left with, I think, is using this bland puree soup in a quick-bread or something. I found a recipe for it, but I don't think the puree in the recipe also had things like onions, peppers, and carrots blended in.

That's the part that I really don't understand. I added all these tasty, flavorful veggies, and after pureeing it, all I tasted was a very faintly buttery carrot taste (not in a good way as in, yum, buttery carrots, more as in, ewww, flavorless carrots smeared with flavorless butter). The poblano pepper I added (including seeds)? Not a hint. I can still taste the heat even now on my fingers from chopping it hours earlier, but in the soup you couldn't even tell it was there.

I think next time I make this recipe, I will puree the squash, and leave the veggies intact. Maybe having a different texture to break things up would help. It might also protect the different flavors from getting swallowed up by the squash so much.

Anyway, whenever I have a cooking flop, it always makes me sad. I had grand plans for the chores I was going to get done tonight after dinner and now I just don't know if I feel up to them. I know it's silly, but I hate when a recipe goes awry.

I think I am going to turn this failure into quick-bread tomorrow, but if that also fails I don't know what I'll do. Maybe I'll order chinese food to make up for it. Or make brownies. That's always a safe cooking exploit to boost my confidence (and caffeination) after a failure.

In the mean time, I'm going to go try and find something productive to do (pointedly avoids looking at sink full of dirty dishes)... anything except that.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Food Waste Friday

My Food Waste
This week I wasted a little bit of leftover egg from an omelet earlier this week and one frozen container of bean soup (meal for 2) that I just couldn't look at anymore. We ate all 4 of his brothers, but it was just too much. And some frozen celery.

I think that's it. I do have to try to use most of a gallon of milk this week, but worst case scenario, I will just make more yogurt with it, now that I've freed up one jar and I got another jar by finishing off some pickles.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Might Have a Small Problem

I think I like food a little too much. I realized it today. I look forward to menu-planning time. I get excited about what new things I will make. I'm eagerly anticipating the Spring when I will start my crazy process of growing my own food on my balcony. While I'm eating one meal, I think about how to use my leftovers for something else new and interesting (or I'll be excited that I'll have leftovers of the same thing to eat again!).

Today, I am dreaming what I will do with the 2lbs of chopped butternut squash I have sitting in my fridge from Monday's cooking adventure. I am also enjoying leftovers from said Monday adventure for my dinner, actually. I really wasn't expecting to like squash this much.

I found some good ideas from Whole Food's blog here. I'm thinking of doing their soup or their not-salad-even-though-it-sounds-and-looks-like-one option they suggested. Honestly I might have to freeze some of because it's just so much food. But after reading how long they can last before you cut them if you leave them in a cool dark place, I am also thinking of buying a few more before the season is over so I have them for a while. It's really high quality food.

I'm thinking I'm going to come up with something really tasty and bring it as a dish to family thanksgiving. This also gives me an excuse to buy more squash. I'm thinking of buying 3 or 4. Is that excessive? 2 for our own consumption, and 2 for thanksgiving cooking (I have 2 families so one for each).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Omelets for Dinner

Yup. You heard (read) me. Why? Because they are delicious!

I used some of my local, organic, free-range eggs (that really does sound pompous, doesn't it... I don't mean it to be). Anyway, coupled with a LOT of good quality veggies including red onion, red pepper, green pepper, banana pepper, mushrooms, and let's not forget, of course CHEDDAR CHEESE (yes I know it's not a veggie).

We made one large omelet to split between us. It took 4 eggs and probably somewhere between a cup and a cup and a half of veggies and about 3 oz of cheese.

It was a total success, fairly healthy, and quasi-vegetarian (do eggs count as meat?).

I'm Sick of Using it Up

Before I learned about food, I bought a lot of crap. Box kit dinners, frozen dinners, ramen. Then, like now, I frequently stocked up to keep my pantry full. So, after I learned about food, I decided I couldn't, in good conscious, waste all of that food. I had easily over $150 worth of stuff in my pantry that I knew I shouldn't be eating, but couldn't bear to waste. So slowly, as the weeks and months roll by, I've been using it up. Every week I've been trying to fit one or two items into my menu plan to get rid of it, while still mostly eating much healthier. (Oh the irony of using some of my organic milk to make a box of tuna helper).

But you know what? I'm just sick of using it up. I just want to throw it all away. I know, I should take it to a shelter. But I don't even want to look at it long enough to plan the trip to go to the food pantry. At the same time, I haven't looked at this stuff for a long time anyway, when it comes to meal planning because it's just not what I want to be putting into my body. It doesn't even look like food to me anymore.

I have
1 box of Chicken Helper [$1.25]
3 boxes of Rice-A-Roni (off-brand) [$2.50]
1 box of stuffing [$1.25]
3 boxes of mac & cheese [$1.15]
1 box of crackers [$1.50]
some random white pasta [$2]
10 or so packages of ramen [$1.70]
5 cans of condensed soup [$5]
6 boxes of jell-o [$3]
30 packets of kool-aide type drink mixes [$3.50]
2 small jars of bullion cubes [$6]
6 packages of microwave popcorn [free]
2 small containers of bacon bits [$4]
2 containers of salad dressing [$4]

I just don't even care. It's not real food, anyway. But I hate to be wasteful. And this would be very wasteful. And after estimating how much I spent on these items, that's $36.85 worth of food. That's a lot of money to a frugal heart like mine. And that's probably not everything, that's just what I saw / thought of while scanning through my cupboards this morning.

Dilemma:
Give this almost-but-not-quite food to a food shelter because it's better to give this to someone than if they starved or went hungry, or just pitch it because it really isn't food, anyway?

Regardless, I have to go to work now, hurray.

I'd Rather Be Sailing

"This mission sucks." -- Penny, Lost in Space.

I hate my homework. Homework is borderline Satan-Spawn. Seriously.

I'd rather be doing just about anything--including sailing. Which, if you know anything about me, says a lot. I hate sailing. I hate water (I almost drowned when I was ten, good story), I can't swim, plus, I get obnoxiously dizzy doing normal things like standing up or rolling over in bed, let alone being rocked (tossed about) by the gentle (terrifying) lake / sea / ocean waves.

I'd rather be making bread or cooking pasta or sewing or gardening or (and especially) sleeping. I'd rather be cuddling with hubby or even working on my stupid powerpoint for work. I'd rather be watching Oprah, another dead give-away to my distraught-ness at this horrorm-work.

Currently, I'm calculating simple interest. It's really boring, no one actually still uses simple interest to my knowledge, and I know how to do it 5000 times over. So why, then, am I complaining about it? Because I'm tired, I think it's a waste of my time, and I'm pissed at myself for feeling a moral block against copying the answers from the back of the book.

So, to sum up my above points, this mission sucks.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cost Breakdown Yogurt

So, regular yogurt costs about $0.50 per 6-8 oz single serve, or about $3.00 for 32 oz plain or vanilla.

For organic yogurt a single serving costs $0.75 per 6-8 oz cup, or about $4.00 for a 32 oz container of traditional yogurt, or $3.50 for "liquid yogurt." While tasty, liquid yogurt is just weird to me.

A gallon of organic milk costs $6. I bought the liquid yogurt as starter. Keep in mind, I will hardly ever have to buy starter again.

So, $6 / 16 = $0.375 per cup I used 2 and 2/3 so $0.99-$1.00
I used about 2 ounces of starter so $3.50 / 16 = $0.22
plus 1/4 cup of sugar = like $0.05 if that
and a bit of vanilla so, another $0.05

For a grand total of $1.32 for 3 cups, or 24 oz.


$3 * 3/4 = $2.25 which would be the cost of 24 oz of regular, inorganic yogurt.

So, $2.25, versus $1.32. Win.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Yogurt, Cute Shoes, and Croutons

What do these three things have in common?

Well, I'm not really sure, except that they were a part of my day. Also, tasty soup.

I made my first big batch of yogurt--almost a whole gallon. I didn't have enough jars to use the whole gallon. Actually, I probably could have fit the whole thing, but I didn't know how much space I would lose when I added my starter so I over estimated and my jar for my starter next time was only 2/3 full). My hubby was so funny when I was making it. He was on his computer, watching with half an eye, if you will, and randomly interjecting with insight like "is it yogurt yet?" He eventually got up to see what it was I was doing and was very surprised at the simplicity.

"So all you did was heat up milk, add yogurt, and now the whole thing's yogurt?"
"Yup."
"Wow, that's so cool."

That's almost verbatim what happened (but my memory sucks so... maybe this didn't happen at all.. *twitch*).

By the way, this yogurt may be my best batch yet. I haven't tasted it yet, but as I was pulling it out of the cooler today, I noticed it was much firmer than the last batch when I took it out of the cooler. I turned the jar on it's side before putting it in the fridge and it only started to pull away from the side of the jar when it was completely horizontal. This was the jar of starter so it wasn't all the way full so it wasn't like it just didn't have anywhere to go.

We went to Walmart to get shoes for hubby today. So of course, bearing the burden along with him, I looked at shoes and, in order to fully understand his pain, even tried some on. :) I found a super cute pair of... ok, I'm a bit embarrassed, brown loafers and they were soooooooooo comfortable. Seriously. They were also leather, which doesn't matter at all, but was kind of cool. But they were $30. So rather than give into spontaneous purchases, I used my willpower to put them back in their little box and back into their little piece of shelf. But I want them. And if, in a week, I still want them, I may go back and buy them.

Croutons. are. tasty. But they are so overpriced. So this is my second attempt at making them by hand. This time was much better. A bit heavy on the garlic, but in a salad, I think it will be a good contrast. i used half a loaf of the french bread I made last week and put them in a bag so I could shake them up with the olive oil / spices combo to coat them. It sort of worked. I baked them on a much lower temp this time and it worked much better. They are really good!

Ok, that's about it for now. Now I have to try to be productive for an hour or so until bed time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I Survived my Insane Week

Hello everyone,

Updates About my Life
I just wanted you to know, I am still alive.
I turned in my homework on time and got a B. Not bad considering.
I got my big project done for work (except clean up) by my deadline of today.

Food / Menu Planning / Stuff
I've made my menu plan for next week so I can go shopping tomorrow.

I think I will still come in under / at budget even with all the crazy extra things we bought, because I focused on using up a lot of pantry food I've been avoiding.

Overall, not a bad week, from what I can remember--just insanely busy! I still managed to get by with NO food waste. And I finally found a recipe I liked to use some of the sauerkraut I made forever ago. I was terrified it turned out wrong and I would die if I ate it (ok, not really) but I tasted it today after it's been chillin' in the fridge for a few months now and it tastes decent. I am going to use it in some kind of random casserole recipe I found. I'll let you know how it turns out.
I'm still having a hard time sometimes hitting my goal of at least one, preferably two meatless meals per week. This week I only have one planned.
On the other hand, I am getting better about using less meat in the food I do cook.

Other Random Undertakings
I'm making croutons this weekend.
I'm making my first big batch of yogurt this weekend.
I'm actually going to check my bank account to figure out exactly how much I've spent on groceries this month before I go shopping tomorrow, just to make sure I'm doing ok.
I started my compost bin today! I don't have enough stuff in it yet. I'm thinking about asking the grounds crew where I work if they have any yard trimmings I can have. As I live in an apartment, it's going to be hard for me to enough "browns" for my bin.
I also transplanted some of my tree seedlings to bigger containers, and while I was doing so, i found two little seeds sprouting in my bag of dirt I bought from Home Depot the other day. So I planted them, too. What the heck, right? It's not like it's going to be a strain of super-plant that will take overtake my entire apartment building and then the world, right? Can't be...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Food Waste Friday

My Food Waste
So far I haven't wasted anything! I am very impressed by this considering the insanity of this week and the fact that I bought a huge thing of spinach at the beginning of the week. I froze a lot of it for making scrambled eggs at random moments.

Hurray!!! No food waste.

Monday, October 11, 2010

PS!

Yogurt Phase of Step 2 is now complete!!!!

I will probably talk about this more after this week, but my yogurt is awesome.

Sorry I've Been Scarce

So, I have a big project for school due on Wednesday at midnight, and also a huge project for work due on Friday...

This is probably my last post for this week, unless both go smashingly smooth and easy (ha! the odds).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Step 2: Organic Eggs, Yogurt, and Butter

Step 1 was organic milk. After much ridiculosity, I finally bought my milk and I love knowing that I've cut out one more source of bad things in our food. In just that short time we've already used almost a whole gallon -- can you tell I was in milk withdraw from not having it for a week?

Step 2 is to continue down the dairy path: Eggs, Yogurt, and Butter.

Eggs
I actually just used my first organic egg last night in some scrambled eggs I made myself for dinner. The awesomeness that is Whole Foods makes it so easy to get these products that I want. I bought these eggs from a local farmer (ok, so about 100 miles away, not great, but not terrible), through Whole Foods. It was just easy. They look so much different than store-bought. I mean, apart from the fact that they are brown. They're not perfectly shaped, some are smaller or larger. They have these fun little speckles on the shells. Generally the eggs were actually larger than the normal "grade a large eggs" from the store which I thought was interesting.

Yogurt
So far, I really want to make my own. My first attempt didn't go so well. You can read about my ultra noob-ness here. Really, who knew?

When I have my first solid (get it?) success at yogurt, I will consider step 2 essentially complete. I expect I will only continue to improve my yogurt-making skills, but currently I definitely can see I need to work on it.

Butter
I just opened my last box of regular butter, so probably soon I will switch to organic butter. Once again I am going with Organic Valley brand. They sell it at Whole Foods which makes it easier for me.I might even buy some at the store today when we go.

Stay tuned for step 3: Chicken.

PS, random funness, I posted this at 10am on 10/10/10. mwhahaha.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Food Waste Friday

My Food Waste
I wasted 6 cups of milk which should have been yogurt. You can read about my hilarious adventures here and here.

Sorry I didn't get this posted yesterday, craziness ensued (the good kind for once!).

Other than that I haven't wasted anything this week! Woo-hoo. this completes my second clean-out-the-pantry-and-freezer week and we've done well. It's weird seeing our freezer so empty for the first time in so long.

Yogurt Fail-Sauce

Wel'p.

My poor yogurt I made this week wasn't meant to be.

At first, it didn't really ever "gel." So I finally had the guts to open a jar of it thursday night and realized it gelled a little bit, but it was still really runny. It tasted ok but wasn't quite sweet enough for my tasted. So I thought, hey, I'll just reheat it and add more yogurt starter, and do it all over again now that I have a thermometer. This should be cake. Riight.

The cooking process did not leave me hopeful. First, all of the whey got cooked out of it. So it was all these little curds, almost like cottage cheese, only not as pretty, in a pale yellowy liquid. I let it cool to the proper temp and then blended it very thoroughly on the "liquefy" setting on my blender. It seemed to help. I added more starter and a bit more sugar and blended it more. Then I poured it in the jars and let it rest in the coolers.

Friday morning I got out my Frankenstein jars of yogurt and I knew my hopes were dashed. Of course, it had re-separated. It was the right sweetness this time, but it had a nasty grainy texture. I just couldn't eat it. I feel bad because I could at least eat it the way it turned out the first time. Plus I had no idea that a second cooking would completely kill the homogenizing that they do to milk.

So I threw it away. Sad day.

Tomorrow we're going to the store to get more milk and I'm going to make a smaller batch so that if it fails again I won't waste quite as much milk. I am really hoping I get it right this time as I don't have too much starter left. I think it will work. I think with a thermometer for the first cooking, everything should be fine.

Lesson Learned: Don't ever, EVER try to re-cook a failed batch of yogurt. It's nasty.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Reuse

So, yesterday marked our first trip to recycling! We packed up the stuff I'd been saving for probably 3 weeks now and turned it in. It felt good.

So, this is random, but oh well, that's me.

Every time I go out to the car, I see all the trash on the ground. Grocery bags, soda cans, etc. After feeling all good about myself for recycling, I got mad at the people who couldn't take their trash the extra 100 feet to their apartment or the extra 40 feet to the dumpster. So today, I decided, enough was enough. I took a grocery bag of my own down to the parking lot and filled it with trash.

Here are some of the things I found in the precipice-like piece of land next to my parking lot.

2 brake pads (about 15 feet apart and partially obscured by grass)
grocery bags
part of a soda can
some random candy wrappers
styrofoam chunks
part of one slat of the large vertical blinds used for balcony entrances
Part of a wooden pallet (I might grab that later and turn it into a frame for my tomatoes)
a 4x8 foot piece of particle board

I put what I could of it into our bag for recycling, but really most of it wasn't recyclable, and threw out the rest. I wasn't able to get the pallet or particle board. I washed and kept the part of the blind slat. No, not because I'm a pack-rat, because just the other day I had read a post about how useful old blinds were for turning into markers for your garden. So I happily cut it into sections and got about 18 markers--for free!

I know I'm absent-minded enough to forget which pot I put what in, so this will be nice. Especially when it comes to planting different varieties of the same plant like tomatoes.

Does anyone know if you can recycle brake pads?

Feelin' Smug

Edit: I would like to make sure that everyone who reads this knows that I'm not "feelin' smug" because I think I'm better than someone else. I'm feeling smug because I am proud of the progress we've made and the good choices we continue to make.

We've been doing so well lately with our finances. Plus with my raise and us not really expanding our expenses much compared to the raise, it's going super.

Last month we paid about $1400 toward our student loans, but I figured it was just because we hadn't really been paying extra much over the past few months and we had several months of surplus saved up... Turns out, maybe not.

Looking at this month's budget, almost all our bills are paid already, we still have two pay periods left this month, which means next month's bills are covered, and we will probably again be making a payment of over $1,000 this month! Exciting, isn't it?

Well I am excited! If (I realize that's a big if with the holidays approaching), but if we can keep up with this level of intensity, we will be roughly paid down in 40 months, which is 3.5-ish years. Considering we started with nothing, and what we have, we've earned, I feel pretty good about this. The other half of my brain says it's not fast enough, but I try to tell that half to shut the hell up, lol. I do kind of doubt we'll be able to maintain this intensity, though. But we shall see.

I still regret sometimes getting the infernal student loans to begin with, but I am correcting it as best I know how. What I did in foolish lack of planning to begin with, I am making up for now with double the planning, (double the fun! haha), double the restraint (with double-mint gum!) with our finances.

What about you? Do you think student loans are a necessary evil? Or is it possible to avoid them? Do you regret ignorantly (or knowingly) signing off on wearing this horrible ball and chain of debt?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I'm Glad I Burnt Dinner

I haven't burnt food in a long time. Not since I've been on my own. Sure, growing up, with a sad little gas stove that never had the correct air / fuel ratio, with crummy pots an pans, I used to burn stuff. It didn't help that mom was hyper-paranoid about disease from raw meat. I was supposed to burn it. I know, right? Most of our meat, especially pork products, were usually well blackened. MMmmhmm, tasty char.

But seriously, I haven't burnt food in years. I've got my little electric stove which always produces consistent heat and the oven's the same way. Last summer I spent $100 on a good teflon set of skillets / pots. I've overcooked things a bit here and there, but it was still edible, just a bit chewy / rubbery. And even then, it's not that often.

Last night, I burnt about 8 oz of black beans. I'm not really to upset about wasting it, even though I do hate wasting food, because it was only about $0.60 worth of food. Plus, I don't want to go on feeling guilty after something has happened. I do that enough anyways on different stuff.

Anyway, that's only half the story.

The other half of the story is that I'm actually happy that I burnt those silly beans. For $0.60 in wasted food, I got the chance to spend the whole night with my hubby. This is a rare treat with our busy lives. I wasn't up for cooking anything else, so I asked if we could go to Chipotle. We still had money in our eat-out budget (even though, as sad as this sounds, we've eaten out 3 times now since the beginning of the month. Ack), so we went for it.

We got to just talk about different stuff that's been going on, talk about our plans, etc. We got to plan at least a bit of our weekend (which never happens and I like to plan, heh). Friday night we're going to a friend's place to grill out / chill out. but besides that, it was just nice to actually get to talk to each other. Then we got home and got to continue spending time together just talking and cuddling. It was fantastic. I love my hubby.

so yep, I'm really glad I burnt dinner.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Stuff I want to Cook / Bake Soon

ww bagels
soft pretzels
apple pie
more different kinds of homemade pasta
honey cakes
rye rolls / bread
some kind of cheese / veg (spinach?) stuffed pasta
more bean-based dishes
more meatless dishes
hummus
cheesy potato soup
pot roast

Sigh... most of these I can't even think about making till after this week. Which is ok, because I'm using up some of the older random food I have lying around. After that, I can buy stuff to restock.

The biggest thing is that I know this month I will have to get creative, as we spent a lot of our grocery / household budget already and bought hardly any food. We still have a few more things to buy that will come out of this budget as well that are not food.

It shouldn't be too bad. I've already resigned myself to the fact that I'm probably not buying any more meat until next month's budget, so we will be living off what we have left until then. I don't want to buy cheap meat anymore that has all those crazy hormones. So I will wait patiently and plan every penny.

And I will enjoy my beans this month. :)

PS, DH and I went to Whole Foods for the first time and he actually liked the store! Even though it is "a hippie store." We made fun of the imported water from Norway together (seriously! Talk about food miles. Not Cool, Whole Foods) and sampled some awesome cheese together. It was a good time and I don't think he was turned off to the store because we only spent about $30 there!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My Yogurt is... Yogurting?

Fermenting? Resting? Curing? Well, whatever it is, it's doing it's thing in the cooler and hopefully the result will be tasty yogurt. I made 6.5 cups and split it into 2 jars, and I drank the last half cup that wouldn't fit. It was tasty. I don't have any canning jars so I just used some (very thoroughly washed out and then sterilized) salsa jars.

Hmmmhmm, Salsa yogurt. Just kidding. I added a bit of sugar and vanilla so we'll see how it goes.

Sometime soon I will establish a price point of this yogurt, made with organic milk, vs organic yogurt.

That's all for now. Now I must make myself go write my document for work. I am awesome at procrastinating.


:)

Bee Slayer

I am the bee slayer. Hubby is allergic and so at first site of bee, I must rush in to save him. Which I don't mind at all. His fear is pretty well completely justified considering how allergic he is. But still, poor bee! Yesterday was one such killing.

Which is sad, because I love bees. They are such awesome little creatures. They are what every church should be: unified, diligent, productive, pollinators (spreading the "Seed").

Ok, I know that sounds weird, but it totally makes sense. I hate it when churches are apathetic towards the community or reaching out to people. I hate it when church is passive and not active. It's like we've turned church into a television show you drive to and not a get-your-hands-dirty-helping-people activity center used to reach those in need.

Bees are always busy, they are always working, working, working. They build up their stores for the winter. They are good stewards. Everyone in the hive has a job, from the very young bees to the old, all have a purpose. They are (almost) always unified in purpose. One colony helps countless hundreds and hundreds of plants by pollinating them. this in turn helps the plants' survival, and the animals which depend on that plant. They are one of the reasons the world still turns.

The church should be as integral in their community as the bees. They are always flying around helping plants and animals.

The other thing I thought of was that I need to be like a bee. All of those things I just said I hate about the church? I need to make sure I am not like that. We could all learn something from bees about productivity. A bee colony in decent conditions makes way more honey than it could ever use.

I know this is sort of random, but that's what came to mind today as I squasheded the little guy (technically, girl, but heh).

I hate apathy.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Groceries

Ugh.

I had no time to prepare a monthly menu plan. Plus, I didn't even want to. Finally, I decided to do another week of cleaning out the freezer / pantry, so when I finally made my menu plan, I deliberately only made it for one week and I tried to incorporate as many pantry / freezer items as possible to make sure I am not letting anything go to waste that way. After the sad tortillas in the freezer, I was reminded that stuff in the freezer doesn't actually last forever. Eek.

So, here's what we've spent so far, approximately. There are some very non-food items in here this time around because... I don't know where else to put them. They may wind up getting taken out of our surplus at the end of the month instead of our grocery / household budget. but for now, they are here.

$22 for my Temps -- WOOHOO. (You have no idea how excited I am). Now I can finally start driving and hopefully still make my goal of getting my license before winter. Cross your fingers for me!

$30-ish (can't find receipt at the moment) for a cooling pad for each of our laptops. That's $30 total, not per.

$62.66 @ Walmart -- The filters for our faucet water filter were on sale, so we bought two 2-packs, saving about $4 per filter! Normal price per, $16 and change, price for 2-pack, $24.48. Total savings, $66 - $49 = $17!! Plus, now we have water filters for probably close to a year, as each one lasts about 3 months. We also bought a small cooler for an experiment into the realm of yogurt-making! Hubby is skeptical, my only concern is that I don't want the cooler to melt! We opted to pass the $3 styrofoam ones for the $10 plastic one, hoping it will withstand the temps.

$20.20 @ Whole Foods -- We actually spent almost $30, but $10 of that was for the organic milk and yogurt which was most definitely coming out of last month's budget, I just could never make time to go get it what with life's general insanity.

So all told so far, we've spent about $133, but very little on food. But we have a lot of food already so, we'll be fine.

I'm just stoked to have milk again! :)

Autumn in a Cup!

Ok, so it's Fall. I love Fall. I dunno if it's because I was born in the Fall or what, but I love it. I love everything about it. Partially because Fall and Spring, to me, are practically magic. The incredible transformations that occur in just a short time amaze me every year. How everything works like clockwork together to create a symphony of new sights and smells and sounds. Ahh, breathe in the magic.

Anyhow, I'm off topic. Today I finally got my milk! It's tasty. Ok, it tastes about the same, but that's not why I'm switching.

So what better way to celebrate finally having milk in the house than making... hot chocolate! I didn't want just ordinary hot chocolate, tho. I wanted hot chocolate that tasted like Fall. So I made hot chocolate and for a little bit of Fall kick, I added cinnamon and ginger.

It's amazing!

You will need cocoa powder, sugar, milk, cinnamon, and ginger. It takes a little practice to figure out the balance you like. I went heavier on the cinnamon than the ginger. I bet pumpkin spice would be fantastic in this.

You should probably try it.... now. :) And let me know what you think!

"There Is No Secret Ingredient"

This post is about one of my favorite movies: Kung Fu Panda. Before you laugh, I have legitimate, adult(ish) reasons that this has become one of my recent faves.

Apart from the beautiful art and the fun music, apart from the good story and engaging characters (Broth runs deep through our veins!), I love the message in it.

The message that our self-worth isn't based off of some object we possess (be it a magical scroll or a wad of cash). It isn't based off of our personal hygiene or the years we've spent in training. It's not based on anything. It just is.

We, as people, have an intrinsic value that isn't based upon deeds or possessions--Just being us is what makes us valuable.

Oftentimes in hero stories, there will be the "hero-in-training" who really isn't that good, and is just your average Joe. Then, there will some momentous turning point, some bestowing of a gift upon them, that turns the ordinary, into extraordinary. And only once they get the magical staff or the nifty pendant, are they able to fulfill their hero-ish destiny.

But in Kung Fu Panda, he isn't given an external source of power to draw from. He is given assurance that he, Po, has worth, just for being Po. He learns that "there is no secret ingredient." No magical fairy dust that makes someone special or able to fulfill their destiny. From that point on, he has the confidence in himself--not kung fu or his master, but himself, that he is sufficient for his destiny. When he faces his nemesis, he defeats him, using his unique skills and talents.

(I especially love the part where he is dancing around on the stilts jumbling all the pots together to hide which pot contains the scroll.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Not Productive Enough

Man, I'm trying, I'm just not making it.

I had all these grand plans for this weekend and I've already gotten off to a crappy start. For starters, tonight I was going to power thru for about 3 hrs and bust out a document I need for work soon-ish. so what happened when I got home? I tried to stay awake for a while on "mental break" from work for a bit so that I wasn't just a complete zombie, but I hardcore fell asleep until 9:30. So, while I was supposed to be done with it by then, I haven't even started.

I was also going to call stores until I found that carries Organic Valley dairy products. I called a whopping one store during my mental break before I fell asleep. Lame. But I think Whole foods will carry it and I will be calling them tomorrow at 8 when they open to verify. I haven't had milk in the house in a week and it's driving me crazy! I want my milk! WF's website had a coupon for OV milk, so that is promising, but it was on their main site and not the site for the specific store local to me, so I'm not completely sure.

Just in general, I'm struggling to maintain a high level of productivity tho. It's like every task on my list has been all willpower and a lot of effort. I want to do so much, but only have a limited amount of time. Especially with my job being intense with this big project I'm working on. I only have so much will / spirit / energy leftover after work to devote to taking care of my family outside of fulfilling the bulk of the financial burden (not that it's a contest by any stretch, and my hubby definitely puts in plenty of hours at his job. My job is very mentally taxing tho.).

My tomato seeds are almost ready for drying and storing, which is nice. I got a random (but tasty!) tomato from the craigslister I bought my containers for my balcony garden from and also some pear tomatoes (small yellow tastiness) from my husband's uncle. I'm hoping some of them actually pan out. I think they will because a good number of the random tomato seeds are all at the bottom of my watery moldiness and maybe 1/2 to 1/3 of the seeds from the pear tomatoes are. It should be enough to get my 3-5 plants going. We're only talking maybe 8 seeds need to germinate.

I still need to get my dirt. I want to start composting (hubby is against it, have to try to talk to him at some point about why I'm doing all these hippie things). Need to actually get a schedule for dropping off recyclables (hubby is neutral, but unsupportive, and I can't just take it myself. See 3 paragraphs down from here.). I am pricing out my organic seeds for the spring. I am planning to start ordering them from this month's food budget since it IS a new month and I can.

I've been checking every day for postings on craigslist and freecycle for canning supplies, but nothing yet. I am hoping sometime before April I will find a canner / canning supplies. But that's like 6 months so I feel like that is doable.

My avocado seed is sprouting (his root just stuck his tongue out at me!) and I just planted my second one. I need to get my dirt soon because I've got all my seeds squeezed into such a tiny tight space / small amount of dirt that very soon they will kill each other fighting over it. Another thing where I need hubby for since he is the one with the driver's license.

Speaking of, one of my goals this year, before winter sets in mind you, was to get my license and I still haven't done it! I'm so upset about this because I feel so trapped sometimes. I know we only have one car but I still hate it. I am just going crazy. I want to leave when I want to leave. I want to drive when I want to drive. I hate having to bother him from whatever he's doing just so I can go to the store or window-shop or go to the park or visit with friends.

I was going to talk to hubby about all this stuff tonight but he had to work late and then asked if he could go hang out with friends. Which, how could I say no? He's already... Oh I dunno.

Sometimes I just don't know what to do.

Tomorrow will be better.