Wednesday, March 30, 2011
So it's the last day of our month (fiscally speaking. I love that word.) and we came in ON BUDGET for March! Wahoooooooooooo!
The biggest budget buster for us is always food. And this month we came in a tad under budget on eating out and a tad over budget on groceries which cancel each other out exactly. Love it when that happens. I even squeezed the first 3 month subscription to e-mealz.com out of this month's grocery budget (a stipulation from B Daddy for us giving it a go.)
So we really dug deep into the pantry this last week to make it through and here is a list of all the "staples" I'm currently out of:
And the kicker....COFFEE.
Have I told you how much I love my morning coffee? I don't think I have any friends currently who relate to my relationship with my morning java. It makes me sad. (For them, not me.) I love love love my coffee. I love the way it smells, I love the way it tastes, I love the way it looks when the creamer swirls around and turns it that perfect shade of sweetness. I love its warmth under my fingers as I shuffle around the kitchen. I love the sky blue glazed mug I drink it out of. It is so many wonderful things to me.
I can't wait to hit up the store tomorrow.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Suggestion Numero Dos: Take the first 15 minutes of nap time for yourself.
The laundry, dishes, vacuuming, dinner prep, dusting, straightening, cleaning of the chicken coop, etc. can wait for just a few.
If you've had little ones for any length of time you know that they have a sixth sense for when you have just completed all the items on your to-do list and sit down to enjoy a magazine or catch up on blogs. It's a sure bet that the second your hiney hits the couch cushion a little one will cry out. And then if you're anything like me you get angry about never getting a chance to do something you WANT to do. (Which is completely untrue, but I tend to lose my head a bit each day when nap time comes to an end.)
So I try to take a break as soon as the kids are down for good each day to do something I want to do. Working out and taking a shower do not count. Sitting still is a requirement for this time (at least for me). Sometimes I'll set the timer on my phone so I'm not cutting myself short - it's amazing how long 15 minutes of total indulgence can feel after a full morning of being Mom. And I'm usually pleasantly surprised that I still manage to get a good bit "done" before the kids get up even with this break. And perhaps maybe once or twice that 15 minutes has become 2 hours of blog stalking...but hey, everyone needs a slacker day once in a while.
Let me know if you give this a go this week! And please let me in on your How to Drastically Improve Your Mom Life advice!
Friday, March 25, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
This past week was a kind of wah-wah week for us and e-mealz. There were 2 breakfast-for- dinner type meals (which B Daddy dislikes as a rule) and they both featured eggs. If you don't know about B Daddy and eggs - you can catch up here.
I guess there wasn't a whole lot of good meat on sale at Publix? It was still super convenient and we ate at home Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, which are the nights I tend to whine about cooking since it's the weekend and I want a break.
Here's the recipe for one of my favorite meals we've had so far. It was quick, yummy and made enough for lunch the next day.
Warm Chicken Pasta Salad
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or diced
1 box pasta salad mix
1 bag romaine salad
Olive or vegetable oil
This is so easy it's hardly a recipe. Cook the chicken (I boiled mine), cook the pasta according to the box instructions and mix with the included dressing and spices, then toss both together, serve over romaine lettuce and top with parmesan cheese.
I had no idea pasta salad mix existed and I don't think I would have ever thought to make this at home, but you can get salads like this at places like Panera or Atlanta Bread Company. The verdict? Scrumdiddlyumtious. Sorry there's no picture, I've been lazy with my camera as of late. Have you noticed?
And I know several of you who have signed up for e-mealz as well in the last month! If you have, would you take a second to comment and let everyone know how you like it (or don't) and if it's saving you money? Thanks!!
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I am really starting to miss chocolate. And facebook. I'm such a weenie. But fortunately my kids have been full of compassion and encouragement as I go through this process of self-denial.
Suck it up Mom - only 25 more days.
Hey Mom! You want some? Oh wait...that's right. No chocolate for you.
40 days sounded a lot shorter in my head. But man o man am I going to enjoy some Cadbury eggs come Easter Sunday.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
It's been an entire week now since I gave up facebook and chocolate for Lent. So far I've enjoyed the extra time not "facebooking" has granted me. And in honor of one week down, 33 days to go I thought I'd share my favorite facebook parody video with you guys. Has everyone already seen this? Maybe it's the British accents but it cracks me up every time. POKE!
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Suggestion Numero Uno: Wake up before your kids do!
I can't believe how many veteran moms I know who don't do this one little thing. I got into the habit of waking up before the Squirt as soon as he started sleeping through the night and it is hands down my favorite time of day now. I entirely contribute my ability to lose the baby weight (twice), to maintain a blog, to have a quiet time and to look forward to my kids waking up to this one single habit.
After almost 2 years of starting my day on my own terms, I now can't imagine waking up to the urgency of a crying kiddo each morning.
I try to get up an hour before my youngest is stirring and decide each day how to spend that time. Whether I work out and take a shower, make breakfast and have my quiet time or read blogs and write for my own, I have a chance to accomplish something for ME before doing anything for the kids each day. On the days I don't get up before they do, I tend to slink through the morning, wishing I had a minute to enjoy my coffee before it got cold or that I'd had the chance to brush my teeth before noon.
If you've never gotten up before your kids or you're not a morning person, start with 15 minutes and see how your day improves. I'll be shocked if you don't find yourself more excited to engage with your kids once they are awake and join you for the day.
What do you think? Is this something you do every day? Or something there's no way you could ever do?
Veteran mamas out there - any other simple tips like this for more peaceful days?
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
I was inspired last week by Tsh over at Simple Mom to get going on my spring cleaning. I read her post on Friday morning before the kids got up and by the time #1 was awake, I was knee-deep in a huge pile of clothes, shoes and alas, dust.
Here's what was going on in my half of the closet:
Quite the mess. And yes, that's my wedding dress hanging up in a lovely plastic bag in the second picture. I have no idea who to take it to for cleaning/preserving so I have defaulted to taking it nowhere for 5 1/2 years now. Nice.
The idea from Simple Mom was not just to clean out your closet, it was to actually clean your closet. Like with a vacuum and stuff.
So I pulled everything out, had one of those dear Lord why did I think this was a good idea moments, and proceeded to vacuum, dust and scrub my little heart out.
The other condition Simple Mom put on the task was that you had to try everything on before it went back in. EVERYTHING. And then evaluate it to make sure it fit, it was in good condition (no holes, stains, etc.) and in style.
Yikes. My closet was housing a pre-both-pregnancies wardrobe, a maternity wardrobe and a post-baby #1 wardrobe all at the same time. Let's just say it was not pretty. But I tried EVERYTHING on. There had to have been a dozen items I was hanging on to because they were gifts and I felt bad giving them away. One of which was lingerie. Seriously! I was holding on to lingerie I had never worn because something in me thought the gifter would somehow be offended by my giving it away. I seriously doubt they're going to ask me if I've worn that item lately. Out it went.
I bagged up a lot of lovely things for Goodwill. I also re-discovered several pairs of shoes in the process. Hello Red Wedges!
It was a seriously big undertaking, but I'm excited about my new streamlined closet. I have far fewer things to look through and far more options for what to wear now. I think I've worn something "new" everyday since Friday. It makes such a difference when the only things you see in your closet fit, are in style and in good condition. Which sounds ridiculous. Everything in your closet should always fit that bill.
I even gained a whole shelf for my sewing machine and craft-type supplies.
Are any of you big spring cleaners? Does anyone know a good dry cleaner I can trust with my wedding dress? Is there any point in trying to clean a gown that has had a dirty hemline for almost 6 years now? : )
Thursday, March 10, 2011
After my first full week making dinner via e-mealz.com - I'm a believer.
Any mother of toddlers will tell you that the hours from 4pm-7pm each day are difficult (putting it mildly.) Around here that time of day is affectionately referred to as "Game Time". If only I could huddle up with my fellow mommies each afternoon for a pep talk as the first child plaintively cries out from their crib. From 4pm until 7pm I typically struggle to balance play time with the Squirt, a nursing session with Brit, toddler meltdowns, infant throw ups and maintaining a semi-orderly home for B Daddy to walk into.
Oh yeah - and getting dinner on the table. I like to cook and am generally decent at getting something healthy on the table, but it's not at all atypical for me to be running to the store at 5pm with two bambinos in tow to pick up an ingredient that I somehow didn't realize we were out of. E-mealz has definitely taken away that stressor. This past week I have known what's for dinner each night and I've known I had all the ingredients on hand well before Game Time.
We're doing the 5 day Publix menu plan for 2 people (if the Squirt takes one bite from our plates I am thrilled these days) and 4 the 5 meals have provided enough to pack a lunch for B Daddy the next day. (He's still deciding whether or not that's a good thing, but I'm putting in the in PRO column.)
I only had one mid-week visit to the grocery store and that was for chocolate (see yesterday's Lent post) and the Sunday paper. So we stayed on budget, ate a home-cooked meal 5 nights in a row and I felt way less stressed as the 4 o'clock hour approached each day.
My favorite meal from the past week was French Dip sandwiches and B Daddy's was Chicken Parmesan. Oh yeah...another benefit is the exposure to new recipes and foods it would never normally occur for me to throw together. I'm off to the store to pick up Week 2 food today - I hope the honeymoon lasts. : )
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Today is Ash Wednesday, which (growing up in non-denominational and typically non-traditional churches) has meant nothing to me for most of my life.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, a time of preparation for the believer - through prayer, penitence, alms giving and self-denial - for the annual commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. (According to Wikipedia that is...)
I remember in high school going through a phase where I gave something up for Lent each year, but I think it's because I was dating a Catholic and living in the Midwest (where most folks are "Catholic" the way most Southerners are "Baptist"). I have always appreciated my upbringing in churches where I could understand what the preacher was talking about and enjoyed the music, but as an adult I find myself drawn to liturgical traditions like Advent and Lent. Maybe it's because they are so unfamiliar, but they seem shrouded in mystery and dripping of holiness.
If you're my "friend" me on facebook (which you should totally be by the way) you might have seen that I posted yesterday wondering if I should give up chocolate or facebook for Lent. B Daddy said, "chocolate isn't much of a sacrifice babe. Give up facebook." Such a man.
Chocolate is an indulgence for which I will drive to the store in the pouring rain at 9:30pm in my PJs. 'Nuff said.
Facebook is a link to the outside world for this stay-at-home mama. It's an easy way to feel connected to those near and far. But it's a black hole for me some days. I'll check obsessively out of boredom or for no reason at all. All those minutes add up. Minutes that I could better spend in prayer or in penitence.
After much thought I've decided to give up both. At first it was just the self-denial I was interested in (that seems to be the trendy and/or culturally acceptable part of Lent) but now I'm interested in the other facets of Lent as well. Giving up chocolate will truly be a huge self-denial for me. Giving up facebook will help me devote more time to prayer and repentance. Giving to charity will be done out of my personal "fun" money in March or April instead of coming from the general family budget.
I'm excited! And scared. Yes I totally chowed down on brownies, ice cream sandwiches and downed some hot chocolate last night. (I'm nursing. Needed the calories.) But I denied myself the self-indulgence of a good-bye post on facebook. Out without a bang.
Here's to the next 40 days! Are you observing Lent in any way this year?
Monday, March 7, 2011
I got my first shopping list and meal plan from e-mealz.com last Wednesday and was really glad we signed up for the 5 meals a week plan - we already had dinner plans on Thursday and Friday, so Saturday was the first day I cooked from the e-mealz menu.
My initial shopping trip cost $48.74, $18.04 of which was spent on things other than the e-mealz plan (for breakfasts, lunches, snacks, etc. and I used coupons on most of those things). That means dinners this week will average $6.15 a night - for 2 people. (The Squirt's strict dinner diet of spaghetti and/or chicken nuggets meant we did not bother to include him in our plans.)
The meals include 2 pork dishes, one chicken, one beef and one shrimp dinner, which is definitely more variety than I'd say we usually have in a given week. On Thursday I'll let you know how we liked all meals and if I've been able to stay away from the grocery store.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Yes my tongue was in my cheek as I wrote that headline.
It's been about 6 months since we "finished" the kitchen. Only it's still not quite finished - we just stopped working on it. Maybe it has something to do with the new baby, but most likely it's just the slackerness running thickly through our veins.
But because I love you and because I know you are DYING to see pics - I'll show off the kitchen's mostly finished self. : )
....first let's re-visit what we started with shall we?
Lovely. And I apologize for the blurry second picture. Your eyes are fine.
The positives in the old kitchen were the hardwoods (installed by us. Well not by us...paid for by us is more like it) decent cabinets and new faucet (actually installed by us...wait no, actually my father-in-law did that one I think). We painted the walls when we moved in, but 4 years later I hated the color and wanted to tone it down.
And so, countless hours of sanding, 3 coats of paint, 1 month of construction-zone living and nearly 8 months later...here she is!
This kitchen was done on a pretty tight budget and some of my favorite things were the cheapest! I love the super deep single basin sink that hides a multitude of sins (aka dirty dishes).
I love the shelf we installed (and by "we" yet again I mean a trained professional...this time my amazing carpenter/contractor uncle extraordinaire) below the cabinets. It was originally intended to be mainly aesthetic - we raised and painted the old cabinets instead of installing new ones and realized the huge gap between counters and cabinets wouldn't look right, so a floating shelf was the solution. But it has turned out to be SO functional. Check out how nicely my laptop sits on it- right at eye-level, perfect for cooking from online recipes.
I can't get over how modern and classic the subway tile is either. And it was practically the cheapest option for a backsplash.
Our splurges? The amazing counter-depth fridge, which really does open the kitchen up. (You can see in the before pics how far out the old fridge came.) The antique trestle table which we got for a steal (on Craigslist) and the granite countertops which make me happy every single day.
So that's the kitchen! We still have window treatments to decide on and install and some accessorizing to do, but it's mostly finished and that's probably how it's gonna stay for a while.
Check out the whole renovation process here:
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Have you heard about e-mealz.com? It's a site my BFF Dave loves to promote, so of course I had to check it out. For months now I've been debating giving it a whirl and I was finally convinced to part with my $5 a month and try it out.
We're back on the Dave bandwagon as you know and I'm hopeful that e-mealz.com will help me stay on track with my grocery budget and take some of the time and energy out of grocery shopping with 2 under 2.
Here's the deal: for $5 a month, you receive weekly customized meal plans based on the grocery store you like to shop at (yeah Publix!!) and the number of peeps in your family. There are also plans based on Gluten-free diets, Weight Watchers diets, Low-Fat, Low-Carb, etc. It's kind of ridiculous.
A new meal plan is sent to you each week based on the sales at your store of choice. They say that each week's groceries (for dinner prep) in this plan should run me $35-$45 buckeroos. That's before coupons! If the plan works well for us, I should easily be able to stay in our grocery budget once I add in breakfast and lunch food as well as household items (TP, shampoo, diapers, etc.)
For $5 a month, it kinda sounds too good to be true, so I wanted a way to track how it's going for us and of course needed to share with y'all if it does turn out to be the most amazing thing ever.