Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don't Complain

I have been participating in a women's Bible study at our church where we are going through Priscilla Shirer's study Discerning the Voice of God. 

The study has given me much to think about as I seek to listen to God's voice and know His will for my life.  One key idea from last week was a reminder that God does not seek to fill our lives with guilt about our decisions. 

This week's lessons have focused on the fact that God has a plan for our lives and that our goal should be to seek His plan and not our own.  In today's study, Shirer writes, "Don't spend your time wishing you could get out of the season of life you are in; rather, spend your time looking fervently for God's hand in your situation." 

This quote really stood out to me as I have been tempted to complain about some of the little situations occurring in my life.  It reminds me that I should not complain but rather look for how God wants to use these situations in my life to serve Him in obedience.  God works in our lives regardless of how we behave and His plan will always succeed.  I can choose to complain and be pulled along kicking and screaming and missing the blessings that He wants to give me, or I can choose to follow and trust Him and willingly go along with His plans and experience the joy that He has waiting for me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hidden Costs

We recently decided to cancel our Y membership, not because of the cost of the membership itself, but because of the cost of traveling to and from the Y.  Just going three times a week (x2 since we usually go at different times) cost us about $200 a month.  We only live 6 miles from the nearest Y, which does not seem like it is that far, but it adds up.  (This cost includes wear and tear on the vehicles as well as gasoline).

There is also the time cost involved.  My thirty to forty minute workout usually takes about two hours out of my morning because of the travel time and clean up after the workout.  Since the little one takes her nap in the afternoon, this does not leave us much time to do many activities together in the morning.

We are going to make an initial investment into some equipment to use here at the house as well as making us of the great outdoors.  After the second little one comes, I hope to be able to work out more often than just three times a week since I will not have to spend any extra time traveling to and from the gym in order to accomplish this goal. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tackle It Tuesday: Embarassing Admission

Today I cleaned the shelves in our refrigerator.  While I usually do a good job of not leaving leftovers in the fridge until they become science projects, I am embarrassed to admit that there were some items in our fridge that had been there since we moved in to the house five years ago.

These items include some bottles of cooking wine and some jars of jams and jellies that I had purchased to use for different recipes.  I don't know why I held on to these items for so long.  I know that in the past when I have cleaned the fridge I had considered getting rid of these items, but for some reason I could not bring myself to do it.

This cleaning I apparently had a little more motivation to get rid of these items and I finally threw them out.  Perhaps the motivation came from knowing that in a couple of months we may need all the space we can possibly get, even in the fridge. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Going to the Car Wash

Driving down the street, we see dozens of car washes.  Some are completely full service, some are completely self service, and some are a mixture of the two.   One would think that all car washes would be the same, but I have found that there are definitely some car washes that are worth driving a little out-of-the-way.

Typically, I prefer to wash our cars by hand at home, but this summer's heat and being pregnant has caused me to prefer to use a car wash so I can get the job done more quickly. 

We have found the Little Joe's Self-Service car washes to be affordable while still having the needed water pressure to properly clean the cars.  The car wash located on 21st St N between Ridge and Tyler is our favorite one to go to.  Since we tend to do most of our shopping on the west side of town, it is usually on the way to another location so we do not have to waste a trip just to wash one of the vehicles. 

The car wash is maintained well and it only costs $1.50 to begin the wash.  They provide a timer so we know how much time we have left to wash the car and it allows users to add extra quarters to add more time.  They also have covered bays for vacuuming the car that are off to the side of the car washes so that the people vacuuming and drying the cars are not in the way of people who want to wash their cars.  I do not vacuum my car there very often, but the last time I did, I think it only cost 50 or 75 cents and their vacuums have proper suction to really clean up all the sand and dirt.

Not too long ago, I went to a car wash near my parents house since I was right there and did not want to drive to another location to wash the car.  That car wash charged $1 to use the vacuum and it hardly had any suction at all.  Then it cost $2.00 to begin the car wash.  Their system also allowed the addition of more quarters for extra wash time, but it did not provide a timer and it also did not provide a warning beep to let the user know that time is about to run out.  I managed to get the car washed and rinsed with the quarters I put in, but I was not impressed with the results.  I felt that I had to rush through the process to make sure I did not have to add another $2.00.

There are a few car washes on the east side of town that we will use if we happen to be on that side of town and need to wash a vehicle, but by far, Little Joe's on W. 21st Street is our car wash of choice.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Queue

Booking Through Thursday asks
"What are you reading now?  Would you recommend it?  And what’s next?"

I am currently reading two books.  I am still reading Queen Victoria: A Personal History, and I have also started reading Jane Eyre once again.

For people who enjoy reading about some history but more specifically about the actual people involved in the historical events, I would strongly recommend the Queen Victoria biography.  I like the way the author wrote each chapter to stand alone.  While I am reading the book straight through, one does not have to do so.  After reading so much Victorian literature in school, I enjoy reading about someone who was actually alive during that time and comparing her experiences with those of the characters in the novels.  The book tries to portray an honest view of Queen Victoria and does not shy away from showing her not-so-gracious side. 

Speaking of Victorian literature, I recently decided to read Jane Eyre once again.  Having presented a paper on the novel at a conference, I would definitely recommend it to other readers, especially those who want to read more classical literature.  Bronte writes in a very approachable manner.  Also, I enjoy Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels, the first of which is the Jane Eyre Affair, and I wanted to read the actual novel again before rereading this book next.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Weekly Menu

I am really beginning to feel like I am in a rut when it comes to planning our weekly menu.  I even had a dream the other night where my husband complained that we always eat the same types of food all the time (even though he would never make such a complaint).

I hope to begin incorporating a new main dish a couple of times a month, but this week's menu incorporates many of my old standbys.

Breakfast
Eggs x2
Banana Muffins x 2
Yogurt and granola
Cereal
Toast with peanut butter

Lunch
Leftovers x 2
Dine out x 2
Black beans
Macaroni and cheese
Sandwich

Dinner
Lasagna, Italian bread, corn
Roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, muffins
Tortilla casserole, Mexican rice
Spaghetti, corn
Chicken sandwich, peas
Dine out
Smothered chicken, potatoes, muffins

What Are We Supposed to Eat?

Is anyone else afraid to put a bite of food in their mouth?  Sometimes the process of trying to find healthy food to eat that will satisfy whatever craving I currently have is enough to send me back to bed and pull the covers over my head with a bag of potato chips in tow.

It seems like most television talk shows have at least one segment where they discuss the types of food people should and should not eat.  One day they tell us to eat more yogurt, but the next day they tell us yogurt may be bad for us because of all the sugar companies put in it.  Some people say we should eat low fat foods, while others tell us that we need to make sure we get enough of the good fats to stay healthy.  Commercial after commercial tells us to eat more whole grains, but if you look on the package of many whole grain products, you will see the sugar listed as the second or third ingredient (added to make the whole grain more palatable).

Some days I just throw in the towel and eat whatever I feel like eating, but then I end up watching a show like The Dr.'s or Dr. Oz and I feel guilty for whatever indulgence I have just taken.  I want to eat healthier, but I sometimes wish they would place less emphasis on what we should and should not be eating and instead focus on the real issue: self-control.

The push to try and take care of the obesity problem in our country seems to be focused on the wrong issue.  Instead of punishing restaurants and forcing them to serve apple and carrot slices instead of french fries, perhaps they should spend more time education the general public and teaching about self-control.  Isn't that the real issue anyways (in many more areas than just eating I might add)?

So as I sit and ponder what to eat for my mid-afternoon snack, I have to decide which direction I want to follow: healthy or satisfying?  I would like to find more snack options that fit both criteria for me and for our daughter as she grows and begins eating more and more different types of food.  Any suggestions?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Less vs Fewer

As a former English teacher, I try not to get to picky about other people's grammar because I know that I still make plenty of mistakes as I write and speak (of course, I always told my students that I taught writing, not speech and that we typically do not speak the way we write--hopefully).  However, there are certain words that I often see misused that stand out to me because I taught specific lessons on those words.

One set of words is "less" and "fewer."  Typically, "fewer" should be used when people want to refer to items that they can count like chairs, speed, typos, and money.  People should use "less" when they want to refer to items that cannot be counted like courage, brains, and chances.

For some reason, the other day I realized that many stores with express lanes use the wrong word on their signs.  They often write "12 items or less" when it should actually be "12 items or fewer."  I guess that explains why some stores avoid this problem all together by simply writing "About 20 items."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Super Exciting Bargains

Months ago I purchased a Groupon for Kid-to-Kid, a local children's clothing resale shop.  I only had until September 9th to spend the Groupon, so today I finally stopped at the store to use it, and I'm happy I did.

When I arrived at the store, I found that they had many clothes on clearance.   At first it appeared that many of the clothes were just 50% off, but then I began to find a number of clothes marked down to 99 cents.  I then made it my mission to only buy the 99 cent items so I could make the most of my Groupon. 

I almost succeeded; I found nine 99 cent items and I picked up three items marked down by 50%.  I bought twelve items for a grand total of a little over $18 (including tax).  Considering that I think I paid $7 for the $15 Groupon and only had to spend a little over 3 more dollars out of pocket, 12 items for around $10 works out pretty well.

All of the items were pants, and they are mostly all for our coming little boy, but it felt good to be able to make such good use of my Groupon.  I don't know how often I will go in to buy clothes from this shop since the regular prices really are not that great, but if a deal like this comes again, I might just take advantage of it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Budget Update: Ugh!

How often do we ask ourselves, do we really need a budget?  All it really seems to serve to do is make us feel guilty for spending too much money. 

These last two months have not been all that great in the budget category.  We planned for some of our extra spending, but we've also had some unexpected expenses come up as well.  Each week when I go in to update our accounts, I try to avoid hitting the budget update button because I do not want to be reminded of the extra money we have spent. 

I am looking forward to the start of the new month this Thursday.  I know that we cannot just throw away our budget because we need a goal to remind us where we need to be. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Question for the Day

On radio this morning, they were discussing the new Faith Hill Barbie doll and the accessories that come with the doll.  This lead them to ask listeners what two accessories their Barbie (or Ken) doll would come with if one was designed after their life.

Right now, I think that my doll would come with an English literature book and a baby since these are the two items that take up the most time in my life right now.

What would come with your Barbie doll?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: History

Today on Booking Through Thursday:
"Sometimes I feel like the only person I know who finds reading history fascinating. It’s so full of amazing-yet-true stories of people driven to the edge and how they reacted to it. I keep telling friends that a good history book (as opposed to some of those textbooks in school that are all lists and dates) does everything a good novel does–it grips you with real characters doing amazing things.
Am I REALLY the only person who feels this way? When is the last time you read a history book? Historical biography? You know, something that took place in the past but was REAL."

My husband enjoys reading history books more than I do.  We have at least one six-foot bookshelf full of history books and historical biographies.   Occasionally I will pick up one of our history books and read it because I like to learn the truth about the periods in history that I often read about in my fiction books. 

Here recently I have been interested in historical biographies, and I have read East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart and I am currently reading Queen Victoria: A Personal History. 

Taking Up My Cross -- Daily

I have been reading through the book of Luke in my quiet times, and today I read where Jesus tells His disciples that in order to follow Him, they must take up their cross daily.  He then goes on to talk about the importance of dying to one's self in order to truly live.

While I have heard this passage many times, I don't think that I had ever truly thought about what it means to daily take up my cross.  Lately I have been struggling with feelings of selfishness when it comes to serving my family.  At the end of the day, I get frustrated because I am the only one making dinner and cleaning up the kitchen, knowing that I will have to do it all again the next day.  I've also been frustrated with my husband when he makes plans to be out of the house on the weekend during the little one's nap time, a time that I might like to use to get out of the house as well.

This passage reminds me that life is not about what I want to do and that I have not been making the choice to take up my cross and serve like Jesus served.  I also realized that I am holding on to some elements of my old-self and that these elements will hold me back from a full relationship with Christ.

We have to make the decision daily to take up our cross.  We cannot just do it on the days we feel the walk will be easiest; we have to chose to do it every day. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why I Switched to a New OB and Why I'm Happy I Did

I will begin by stating that I liked the OB I went to when I was pregnant with little one number 1.  The doctor meet all the necessary criteria: she was female and she was easy to talk to.  I first went to this doctor for a routine exam because I knew that we were going to want to become more serious about having children and I wanted to find a good female doctor when the process began (we were thinking that we would need some medical intervention, but God provided otherwise--another story for another time).

The only problem existed in that the doctor belonged to a busy clinic.  I often had to wait at least thirty minutes before I made it back to the exam room, where I had to wait another thirty minutes for the doctor to see me.  All this for a five minute exam to tell me all looked good.  I think my blood pressure was slightly elevated during all my visits because of all the waiting I had to do.

When it came time for the little one's arrival, my doctor was not the one on call so another doctor from the clinic delivered the baby.  While the other doctor was nice, I would have just as soon had the resident take over and for no doctor from the clinic come at all.  (In fact, the "official" doctor only arrived a few minutes before the little one's arrival, and she just supervised as the resident and a student delivered the baby).

For the second little one, we thought that we might have to change insurance providers, so we decided to check with our regular doctor's office to see if one of the physicians there also delivered babies (our doctor no longer delivers babies).  We made an appointment to see this new doctor and kept the appointment even after we learned we would keep our same health insurance. 

The new doctor impressed us with his openness about being a Christian and we liked him instantly.  He has a great bedside manner and did a great job of making the initial exam as painless and less humiliating as possible.  We decided to keep him as our doctor this go around and have not regretted the decision yet.

When I go in for my regular check-ups, the nurse is often waiting for me when I get out of the bathroom.  I think the longest I have had to wait in the exam room is fifteen minutes, and our entire trip is usually about 20-30 minutes in length total.  When it was time for my 1-hr glucose tolerance test, he had me take the drink home so I could drink it there and just come in after the hour had passed for the lab to take my blood sample.

I also like knowing that he will most likely be the one to deliver this little one.  Likewise, my husband is happier this time around because the doctor's office is not making us pay our portion of the bill in advance.

I am happy that certain circumstances lead us to change doctors.  I know that I would not have changed doctors otherwise, and I am sure I would be experiencing many of the same frustrations had I stayed with the same doctor.  Now that I often have our little one in tow when I go to the visits, I am glad that the process has been simplified and made easier and less stressful this time around.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Question to Ponder

On the radio this morning, they were discussing the show Hoarders.  The DJs began a discussion about the one item they would have a difficult time getting rid of if someone came in and forced them to get rid of many of the extra items in their house.  One of the DJs does not want to give up her Saved by the Bell game and the other had a collection of Coca-Cola Santa cans he insists on keeping.

This made me wonder what unnecessary item I would be unwilling to give up.  Over the past few years, I have been on a real purging kick and finally let go of many of these types of items.  I need to think about this for a while longer, but I was curious to know what your one item would be.

Tackle It Tuesday: What I Should Really Be Doing

Today the little one is at one of her grandmother's house, so I really should take hold of this opportunity to work on the front bedroom. 

We are still in the process of sorting through our books and moving them to other locations in the house.  This weekend we moved the seven foot bookshelf to our bedroom, but it is already nearly full and many more books remain in the front room.

As I sit and look at the huge pile of books on the bedroom floor, I realize that we need to be willing to give up even more books, but how does one decide what books to remove from her library?  I know that there are books in the pile that we will never look at again and we should seek to find a better home for them, but a nagging thought remains that one day we might need that book again. 

With a little less than three months until D-day, we really need to get motivated and complete this process.  Maybe it would be easier if we just hired someone to come in and sort the books for us.

Monday, August 22, 2011

We're Back Online

Yeah!  Our Internet provider finally came out and reconnected our Internet service.  I'm still not happy that it took ten days for this problem to finally be resolved, but I am thankful that it is up now since my online class begins today. 

Neither of us are very aggressive individuals, so that is part of the reason why it took so long for them to restore our service.  When we found out on Thursday that it would not be restored until Monday, neither of us really wanted to call and complain because we feared that it might extend the problem and I really needed it to be restored by today at the latest. 

After two different weeks this summer of not having access to the Internet, I hope that any more problems will remain at bay for quite sometime.  It's amazing how many times I wanted to look up some information but then remembered I could not.  What in the world did we ever do before the Internet?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Our Love/Hate Relationship with the Internet (or at least our Internet Provider)

Last Friday as I was wondering around on the Internet, I lost my connection.  I just assumed the router needed to be reset, so I waited until my husband came home to take a look at the situation.  We had plans for that evening, so it was rather late before he had a chance to take a look at it.

We found out that our Internet provider had come out and disconnected our service.  My husband had called them earlier in the week to try and get a better deal on our phone and Internet service, but not one word was said about disconnecting our Internet.  Of course, we learned all this on Saturday, and they said that they could not send someone out to take care of the problem until today (Wednesday). (Why is it that they can come out and disconnect service the next day but they cannot reconnect it for several days?)

Today, my husband called the provider once again to see when they were planning to come out, and the person he talked to today could not find a record of the plan to reconnect our service.  I have an online class that begins next week, so I currently have to go to my parent's house in order to get into my class and get it ready for the students.

Unfortunately, we only have two options for Internet service in our area, and the second option is not always the most reliable.  My parents have the other service, and I have had to reset the modem more than once in the few hours I have been working on the computer.

While it has been nice to not have the distraction of the Internet around the house, I would rather be able to make the choice to not go online by myself and not have it made for me by our Internet provider.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: National Book Week

Booking Through Thursday proposes the following activity: "It’s National Book Week. The rules: Grab the closest book to you. Go to page 56. Copy the 5th sentence as your status."
"The ship is bought and fitted." -- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I'll admit that I have not actually read this book yet even though it has been on my bookshelf for a number of years. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Weekly Menu - A Reflection

Last night I saw a story on the nightly news about the famine in Somalia.  They interviewed a woman who walked for seventeen days with her four children to reach a relief camp so hopefully they could receive food.  Unfortunately, one of her children died on the journey.  Additionally, so many people are trying to get into the relief camps that they have to turn people away because they just do not have enough resources to take care of them all.

This morning during my quiet time, I began to reflect on how fortunate I am to be able to plan a menu for my family.  I realized how I take the variety of foods in my cupboards for granted.   I also realized how I take the clean water that comes from the faucet for granted as well.  We are so fortunate to live in a country where food is plentiful, even to the poorest of families.

Last night I struggled to plan our meals because I just did not know what meals to select, but this morning I realize just how blessed I am to have so many choices. 

Our Weekly Menu (Dinner only edition)

Chicken Parmesan with four cheese rice
Grilled Pork Chops with mashed potatoes and green beans
?? - Possible dine out night
Enchiladas with chips and salsa
Pizza
Cheeseburger pasta with corn and Italian bread
BBQ chicken with baked potatoes and rolls


Monday, August 8, 2011

Good to Be Home

We had the great opportunity to go to Colorado last week with some friends who also have young children.  All together we had five children present with the oldest being four-years-old and the youngest at nine-months-old.  Fortunately, we rented cabins, so we did not have to worry about disturbing other people in a hotel.

The cabins belong to Friends University here in Wichita and they rent the cabins for a very reasonable price (we rented two cabins for five nights for $600). 

Renting a cabin worked well for the budget since we could store and cook our own food, but I am still wondering just how much of a vacation I really had.  The ladies still had to cook meals and clean up afterwards.  The men tried to watch the children during that time, but often the kids were in the kitchen with us. 

We did experience a vacation from the heat and it appears that the cool weather is following us home.  I look forward to getting back to a routine and enjoying the rest of my break from taking care of my online Lit class. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Weekly Menu - The Lazy Edition

I decided not to create a menu for this week and instead just focus on using up some of the items in our freezer and pantry.  With all the heat and time spent recovering from a sinus infection, I decided to lighten my load as much as possible this week.  Also, my online class wraps up tonight and final grades are due by noon on Friday, so I need to reserve brain cells to get all the grading done quickly.

If only my students would not wait until the last minute to turn in their work, I could be completing the grading right now.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Useful Ipod App: Allrecipes (Pro)

One app that I love having on my iPod touch is the Allrecipes app.  A user of the online Allrecipes for a number of years, it excited me to see an app available for their services.  Now I can access all my saved recipes without having to bring the laptop into the kitchen.

Basic Features


The app comes with three basic elements: DinnerSpinnerPro, Recipe Box, and a basic search.

DinnerSpinnerPro give users three options: dish, main ingredient, and ready in (time it takes to cook).  Users then click on the View Matches button and a list of potential recipes appear.  Recipes can be sorted by relevance, rating, title, or popularity.  I personally do not use this function very often, but for adventurous eaters, it would be a very nice feature.

Recipe Box gives users access to all the recipes they have saved.  The Recipe Box sorts recipes by recent, rating, title, and popularity.  Users also have the ability to search the recipe box by entering any or part of the title and the app will show them the closest matches.  I use this feature most often as I have saved a large number of recipes over the years and I appreciate being able to find the ones I want so quickly.

The basic Search feature lets users search either using a quick search where the user enters some words that should appear in the title, or they can use the advance search where they can create filters like specific ingredients the want or do not want or certain dietary restrictions.

Additional Feature

The app also comes with a List feature where users can add items to a shopping list to use at the grocery store.  Users can directly add items to the shopping list from the specific recipes so that they can make sure they buy all the proper ingredients at the store.  I do not use this specific feature because I use a different grocery shopping list app. 

There is not much about this app that I do not like.  I may not use all of the features, but I appreciate the ease with which I can access my recipes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Letting Go

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, we are working to thin out our possessions in order to have more room for the newest addition coming in November.  Part of this process involves learning to let go of many items that I do not really need, but want to hold on to.

I have finally decided to let go of my collection of size 10 clothes.  Not long before I became pregnant with Lucy, I had been meeting with a personal trainer and had been losing some more weight.  I don't know the last time I fit in size 10 clothing, so it is hard to think about letting go of the clothes I bought.

After having Lucy, I made it my goal to return to wearing those size 10 clothes, but I was a little slow in my progress.  Then we found out a new little one was on the way, and I knew that it would be even longer before I would fit in those clothes again.

This week I have decided to try and sell many of my clothes on eBay.  Most of the clothes are nearly new, so I am hoping that I will get a fair price for them and help our budget while making room in the house.

Yard Update: On Hiatus

With all the heat we have had over the last week (and month), the yard work has been put on a hold.  I have not even taken the time to go out and pull weeds in my flower garden.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Our Weekly Menu

Wow, last week did not turn out to be an very effective week for sticking to my menu plan.  Perhaps it is the heat or perhaps it is pregnancy brain, but I did not have all the ingredients for some of the meals I had planned.  We did not go out to eat, but I still had to come up with different meals at the last minute a few days last week.

Our Menu

Breakfast
  • Toast with peanut butter
  • Cereal
  • Eggs and muffin
  • Cereal
  • Yogurt and granola
  • Toast with peanut bitter
  • Eggs and pancakes

Lunch
  • Picnic lunch
  • Dine out
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Hot dogs and veggies
  • Chicken Tenders
  • Grilled cheese
  • Leftovers

Dinner
  • Dine out (It's my birthday!)
  • Sloppy Joes and peas
  • Dine out (we're meeting with some friends from college)
  • Chicken Parmesan and cream corn
  • Cheeseburger pasta and green beans
  • Chicken tacos and Mexican rice
  • Smothered steak, mashed potatoes, rolls

Tackle It Tuesday: The Ongoing Project

Since the little one is home today, I am not able to tackle a very large project, so I decided to begin working on sorting my portion of our book collection.

To say we own a large number of books would be an understatement.  I know that we do not own as many books as some people, but we still own enough books to fill three six-foot bookcases and possibly four.  We have done well by not buying many new books over the last few years, but we have relatives who like to give us books and the supply never seems to end.

We have to get rid of some of our books because we need to use the current "library" as the baby's room come November.  This need has provided the proper motivation to finally go through all our books and weed out the ones we really do not need to hold on to. 

As an English major, I own a number of classic literature books.  I held onto many of the books hoping that I might one day have the opportunity to teach an American or British Literature class.  Since I have become a stay-at-home mom, I do not see that dream becoming a reality any time soon, so I have decided to remove many of the books from our collection. 

We also own a number of history books, Bible study aid books, and Christian living books along with a number of biographies.

The process has not been as painful for me as I thought it might be.  If I want to read some of these books again, I plan to make better us of the local library instead of spending money and adding more clutter to the house. 

So far I have managed to sort out enough of my books to only take up two shelves on our five-shelf bookcase (my books were on all five shelves).  Now I need to decide what to do with the books I no longer need.  Some books I plan to donate to one of the local charities, and I am considering selling some books online.  I just do not know if trying to sell the books online will be worth my time and effort, but I guess I need to give it a try or I will never know.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Budget Update: Doing Better

This last week went better budget wise.  Neither of us spent much money and hopefully this trend will continue to the end of the month.  I am determined to stick to our budget for groceries and clothing this month, and I think that I will be able to pull it off.  One area we have already gone over is fuel for the vehicles.  That might be an area where we need to adjust our budget.

I have read about how many people use a simple cash based system to help them stick to their budget, but my husband does not feel that this is the best option for us.  We have a couple of credit cards with which we earn a percent back for each purchase that we pay off each month.  To keep track of our credit card expenses and budget, we enter all our receipts in our budget software.

So far this system seems to work well for us.  I know that using a credit card means that the stores can track our spending habits, but I don't know that I have ever bought an item that I would be embarrassed to say that I bought, so I do not worry about it too much.

Just like a diet, a little success can help one stick to the diet, but there are times when sticking to the diet just seems like too much work.  I've tried to establish some goals for our budget keeping.  Hopefully they will be enough to keep us motivated to stick with it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tackle it Tuesday: Organizing the Little One's Closet

The little one went to spend the day at Grandma's house on Tuesday, so I took that opportunity to reorganize her closet.  Every time I looked into her closet, I knew that I needed to get to work, but I usually only thought about it as she occupied the room.  Also, the best time to tackle such a project would be during her nap time, but of course that would likely interrupt her sleeping. 

Here is a before shot of her closet.  While not in terrible shape, all the miscellaneous items laying around created the appearance of too much clutter.  Also, I wanted to make better use of the space at the top of her closet.

This room will someday soon be the new baby's nursery.  Currently it serves as an office/storage room and a future Tackle it Tuesday project.  The boxes in the middle of the room contain the little one's outgrown clothes and need to find a new home.  Eventually they will either go to someone else's home, or they will go into the attic.
For now, the outgrown clothes currently have a home at the top of the closet.  I cleaned out the baskets on the shelves and made sure they now contain items that we currently use.  I still need to go through the drawers at the bottom of the closet and thin out the extra towels, blankets, and sheets that we do not really need so I can use the drawers to store clothes that the little ones will hopefully wear in the future.




Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vocalpoint: Free Bag of Fresh Express Salad



Click this link to see if you qualify for a coupon for a free bag of Fresh Express Salad.  It should take 5-7 weeks to receive your coupon in the mail.
 

Our Weekly Menu

Here we go again.  Last week I got a little off our plan because we went out of town for the weekend and when we came back home, I did not feel like making the planned meal for Sunday. 

Oh well, that is the point, isn't it?  To have a plan so one doesn't have to scratch her head wondering what to make each night, but if a better sounding dish comes to mind, it is okay to change the plan.

Enjoy your week and stay cool.  I heard yesterday that 15 states were under heat advisories (and I think I live in one of the hottest ones right now).

Breakfast
  • Pancakes and eggs
  • Smoothie
  • Oatmeal Raisin Muffin and eggs
  • Cereal
  • Pancake and eggs (I must be craving eggs this week)
  • Yogurt and granola

Lunch
  • Tuna or peanut butter sandwich
  • Grilled cheese
  • Leftovers
  • Chicken Tenders
  • Pizza
  • Spaghetti
  • Leftovers

Dinner
  • American - cheeseburger pasta, corn, rolls
  • American - chicken and rice, peas
  • Grilled - hamburgers, baked beans
  • Italian - chicken Parmesan, cream corn, Italian bread
  • American - grilled pork chops, baked potatoes, brown rice
  • Mexican - tacos, chips and salsa, black beans
  • BBQ - BBQ chicken, green beans, sliced potatoes, rolls

Monday, July 11, 2011

Budget Update: The New Month

After doing so much better last month, this month seems to have gotten off to a high spending start.  With the 4th of July holiday, there were many good sales at the grocery store, so I ended up spending a little more for the first week on groceries than I had originally intended. 

We also took a short trip to Texas this last weekend, so some added costs have come into play with eating out and our hotel stay.  I brought snack food and drinks with us so we did not spend extra money on these items, and we got a terrific price on our hotel room, but it still hurts to see the totals from the weekend with gas and other expenses.

Getting off to a rocky start makes it more difficult to refocus and stay on track for the rest of the month.  I know that it is not too late to stick to the budget for the whole month, but it amazes me how my attitude this month has been affected. 

Thankfully the month is already just about half over, so maybe I can quickly readjust my attitude and get back on track.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Animal Books

Booking Through Thursday asks, "Since my dog is turning 10 today … what animal-related books have you read? Which do you love? Do you have a favorite literary dog? (Snoopy, anyone?"

I have not really read many animal-related books as an adult, but I can remember reading Black Stallion, Black Beauty, Charlotte's Web, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, and The Mouse and the Motorcycle as a child.

Perhaps one of my favorite literary dogs would be Rochester's dog in the book Jane Eyre since he is instrumental in their first meeting.  Additionally, in a related book, The Jane Eyre Affair, the main character has a pet dodo who basically behaves like a dog.

Like many blog posts I have read, I tend to stay away from books about dogs because they usually end with the dog dying.

On a related note, I teach an online Intro to Lit class and my students just finished reading "The Lady with the Pet Dog" by Anton Chekhov and the version by Joyce Carol Oates.  Of course, in both versions of this story, the dog plays a fairly minor role.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yard Update: Pretty New Fence

I did not get much work done in the yard this last week, but my husband began working on replacing the most rotten part of our fence.  He worked in the one hundred degree weather this last weekend to tear down and replace the section of fence that was barely standing up and just did not look good to begin with.  I helped a little by holding posts while he poured concrete, but I did not have to do much sweating.
Here is a before shot of the fence.  Notice the way it leans and undulates.

The husband working hard tearing down the fence and removing the metal posts that held the old fence in place.

The mostly completed project.  In a couple of weeks, the husband plans to replace the pickets that face the street.  Some day in the future we would like to work with our neighbors (when we have some) to replace the rest of the fence.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our Weekly Menu

Last week's plan of selecting meals based on the type of meal went so well, that I am going to try it again this week.  I am also trying to get better about planning our side dishes as well.  The only problem is that we eat so few side dishes that it becomes depressing to see the same veggies repeated so often.

We will be going out of town this weekend, so I did not have to plan meals for a couple of days. 

Breakfast
Pancakes and eggs
Cereal
Toast w/peanut butter and fruit
Muffin and eggs
Yogurt and granola
Dine out x 2

Lunch
Homemade macaroni and cheese
Hot dogs
Leftovers
Chicken tenders
Dine out x 3

Dinner
Mexican - enchiladas with Mexican rice (our schedule changed last week and we did not eat this when originally scheduled)
American - BBQ chicken, corn, whole wheat rolls
Italian - spaghetti, green beans, Italian bread
American - chicken and rice, peas
Mexican - tortilla casserole, chips and salsa
Dine out x 2

Monday, July 4, 2011

Budget Update: Month in Review

Well, overall for the month we spent less money, which is great.  I only went over on the grocery budget by a couple of dollars which is far better than the nearly one hundred dollars the month before. 

I used our budgeting software to run a report of our spending for the year up to this date so we could evaluate our budget and decide if we needed to adjust some categories.  Since we consider diapers to be a clothing purchase, we decided to add to this budget category, and since we now have just one dog, we will subtract from the pet expense budget.

We plan to reevaluate some other budget categories like vehicle fuel and dining and snacks in a couple of months to see if we can drop our spending in these areas.

It has really helped me to stay on top of entering our receipts on a regular basis so that I can see how much money we have already spent.  I find the challenge to stick to the budget an exciting one, but it also leads me to not want to spend any money at all if I can help it, even if the money is in the budget for the purchase.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Useful Ipod App: Groceries

The highlighted app for today, Groceries, is one that I use often, but I am not completely satisfied with it.  I just have not taken the time to search for a different app that has all the features I would like.

Groceries allows users to create shopping lists to use as they shop at the store.  Users can add as many shopping lists as they want to the application with the easy add feature.  I have a generic list for items that I add as I run out or nearly run out of them in the house.  I also have separate lists for the different stores I shop at where I enter the weekly deals. 

The items do not have to be grocery items; users can also add toiletry, cleaning, and other household items.  I have also added items like clothing to my lists because I know that if I do not have an item on my shopping list, I will leave the store without it.

The app comes with many preloaded items that include the aisle in the store where users will typically find the item: for example, the produce aisle for watermelon, tomatoes, apples, etc; the canned goods aisle for enchilada sauce, canned vegetables, and so on.  Users have the option to add different aisles to the aisles list to customize it for the store they most often shop, and they can easily change the aisle of any item in the system.

The app also has an option where users can add the quantity that they typically purchase of the item.  Unfortunately, this option remains with the item until the user changes it manually. That is one feature I wish the application possessed.  I would like the ability to enter the quantity when I select to add the item to a list.

I would also like to find an app that allows users to enter the price when they add an item to the list.  This would be most handy for remembering sale prices on specific items.

As users purchase the items on the list, a simple tap on the screen crosses the item off the list.  Users can choose to have the crossed off items continue to appear on the screen or have them disappear from view.  After users complete their shopping, they can choose to clear all the crossed off items from the list, or they can choose to uncheck the items so they reappear on the list.

In summary, I find this app useful because it gives me one place to enter the items I need to pick up from the store and I find that I am less likely to forget some key item that I needed if I place it on the list.  I just need to be on the lookout for a different app that offers a few more features to make my shopping experience even better.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reading Update: Done with the Queen of the Air and on to the Queen of the Empire

I finally finished reading East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart.  I must say that Amelia was an amazing woman.  After reading the biography, I can see why she successfully accomplished so much in the world of flying.  She possessed the courage to take risks while having the intelligence to not take foolish risks.  One great example comes from the time she learned to fly.  She did not agree to do her first solo until she had the opportunity to work with experienced pilots who could teach her what to do in any emergency.

It's a shame that she disappeared and we do not know what happened to her and her navigator.  Obviously this mystery adds to the public's admiration of her work, but she earned that admiration even before her attempted and nearly successful flight around the world.

About a month ago, I watched the movie The Young Victoria on a day when the little one had a fever and wanted to be rocked a lot.  In addition to providing new insight into her life, it created in me a desire to read her biography Queen Victoria: A Personal History.  This, too, happens to be a book we already owned. 

I just finished reading about her childhood, and so far her story shows how when God has a plan for someone's life, it will succeed not matter the circumstances that surround that person.  Victoria did not have the most supportive and encouraging mother and her father died at a young age.

Her life is one that I do not think I would have any desire to live and makes me grateful for the simple life I had as a child.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Yard Update: I Can't Handle the Heat

We did begin our project to place lava rock around our shed, but you will notice that I said "begin" and not that we finished.  It took a little longer to remove the grass from the area we wanted to place the rock, so we did not complete the project on Saturday.

Matt removed all the grass, and we began digging a trench for the edging, but that is all the progress we made before we had to retreat into the house because of the heat.  I had hoped to go out yesterday to work on the trench some more because the little one was at her grandma's house again, but too many other projects needed my attention. 

Today they forecasted temperatures in the triple digits and along with the high heat, the humidity has decided to stick around.  Since this is supposed to continue through the end of the week, I do not know when I will get back out to work on the yard.  The little one takes her nap during the afternoon, which of course is when the day is hottest.

Fortunately, once we do get back out to work on the project, it should not take us too long to complete, especially once we figure out how to plant the edging in place.  The rock is ready to go.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Our Weekly Menu

I always have a difficult time selecting what to plan for our meals, so I decided to try a new technique.  I began my planning by assigning a specific style of food for each day; for example, we mainly like to eat American, Mexican, and Italian food.  To add a little more variety, I added grilled foods and BBQ foods to my list.  I then went through the week and assigned a style of food for each day and then went through my lists to find the foods that fit each style (this is just for our dinner meals).

It seemed to help with the planning this week, and I hope that it will continue to help in the future.  I plan to save different templates of these types of food assignments so that I can then go back and use the templates I created in the future to make the process go even faster.

Our Menu

Breakfast
Smoothies
Muffins and yogurt
Eggs and Pancakes
French Toast
Toast with Peanut butter and yogurt
Eggs and muffin
Smoothies and toast

Lunch
Macaroni and cheese
Leftovers
Spinach Salad
Chicken Tenders
Hot dogs
Leftovers
Bean and Bacon soup

Supper
American - sloppy joes
Italian - chicken parmesan
Grilled - (still deciding)
Mexican - enchiladas
Eat out
Italian - pizza bake
American - honey Dijon chicken

Monday, June 27, 2011

Budget Update: The Month Is Almost Over

Wow, June is nearly over.  I have been teaching an 8-week on-line this summer and at the end of this week we will be half way done.  Of course, the end of the month also means that I need even more diligence to make sure I do not go over our budget. 

Looking at the numbers on YNAB (You Need a Budget), I am still in the clear for our groceries.  In fact, I still have about a fifth of the grocery budget left to spend.  I plan to do some grocery shopping tomorrow, so I need to be very careful to not go over the magic number.  I really hope to stay within the budget for this month.

I hope that sticking to the grocery budget next month will be even a little easier since I plan to continue to wean the little one off of the jarred baby food and just have her eat the same food we eat.  Since she does not eat very much, I usually just give her some of my meal so I do not even have to do much extra work yet preparing her meals.

Unfortunately, there are other categories where we have already gone over budget.  While we do not eat out much, we have gone over our budget in that area.  Some of that stems from me not always having the necessary food to prepare my husband a lunch to take to work.  That is one area I need to work on next month.

We also have already gone over budget on clothes.  Since I stay at home, I try not to buy myself many new clothes, but my husband does need nice attire for work.  Also, we needed to attend a funeral this month and he did not have a dark jacket to wear, so off to the store we went.  We did, at least, manage to get the jacket and two pairs of nice dress pants for far less than their original price.  It's possible that our clothing budget is not realistic.  We will need to discuss that at the end of the month.

We've done pretty well in other areas like cleaning supplies, grooming supplies and haircuts, household tools and supplies, and furniture and equipment.  We have also been fortunate not to have any unexpected expenses arise this month.

Hopefully, some success this month will lead to even greater success next month.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Feeding the Little One


Perhaps the biggest struggle I currently have with our little one is knowing what to feed her.  I continually hear about younger children who only eat table food, and then I see us still feeding her some jarred baby food. 

Around her first birthday, she finally began at least putting the table food into her mouth.  Before that, she would only eat Cheerios, toast, and cheese.  While she would put some of it in her mouth, she still would not eat much of it, so I continued to give her some jarred baby food to make sure she received enough to eat.

Some of my struggle with this issue lies in not knowing at what age a child really should no longer eat jarred baby food.  All the resources that I look at just say what foods kids should and should not eat at certain ages, but they do not really address how to go about making the transition from jarred food to table food. 

I decided this week to try giving her more table food.  On Wednesday, I gave her a meatball (cut-up of course) and some vegetables.  At lunch she did not do a very good job of really eating much of the food.  She would put it in her mouth and then spit it back out again, so I decided that we would try again at supper, and I did not give her any jarred food.

That night at supper, she did a much better job of actually eating the meat and the vegetables.  On Thursday, we went out of town for the day, so I gave her some jarred food for lunch, but at supper we ate a pancake and some more vegetables. 

This small bit of success has given me hope that we are close to finally making the transition to only eating table foods

Yard Update: Plans for Saturday


Since we have been blessed with the occasional rainstorm, I have not been able to get out and work on the dirt pile quite as often as I would like.  Next week the temperature is supposed to return to the high nineties, so I do not know just how much work I will get done then either.

This Saturday, we hope to go out and create a rock bed around our shed.  This project should solve a few problems.  One, it will improve the look of the shed and the surrounding area since weeds currently grow up around it.  Two, it will give us a place to keep the rocks that we have separated from the dirt, and three, it will empty the two large Rubbermaid containers I have been using to hold the rocks so that I can fill them back up again. 

Tackle it Tuesday: Salvaging Lotion


I just hate it when the pump on the lotion bottle no longer dispenses lotion when I can tell that a significant amount of lotion lives at the bottom of the bottle. 

I usually save the not quite empty bottles with the intent of removing the remaining lotion and adding it to an existing bottle.  The tediousness of this chore leads me to avoid it as long as I possibly can, usually until too many bottles clutter my cabinet and I have to deal with the problem.

Today I decided to try a new technique.  In the past, I would just remove the pumps and shake the remaining lotion into my hand before placing it in the remaining bottle.  Not long ago, I saw that my cousin would cut the tops off of the Bath and Body Works lotion so that she could access the remaining lotion. 

I decided to try this with the bottles of lotion sitting in my cabinet today.  I used a utility knife (very carefully) to cut off the tops and then I used a spoon to scoop out the lotion and place it in the waiting bottle. 



This created far less mess than shaking the lotion into my hands, and I think that I salvaged even more of the lotion.  I need to find a thinner instrument to use to transfer the lotion to the bottle, but overall, the outcome of the experiment left me satisfied.  Maybe I will not wait so long to empty the bottles next time.

Budget Update: Useful Software


This year we began using the budget software You Need a Budget.  For many years, we used Quicken, but at the end of last year, it suddenly froze and we could not access our records.  My husband had the same problem occur at work, and apparently a problem existed in the current software.  We decided to look for a new program instead of trying to continue with Quicken and the possibility that it would freeze on us again.

You Need a Budget works in a similar fashion to Quicken, but we have found some elements work a little better.  Since the purpose of this software centers on keeping a budget, we discovered that running budget reports is easier than in Quicken. 

The layout of the program also allows users to easily and quickly see all their accounts at one glance.  We use the software to keep track of our cash spending, checking account spending, and credit card spending.  My husband also uses the software to keep track of all our investments so we can easily see the location of our resources.

Another element we recently began using is the iPod app for You Need a Budget.  I am now able to carry around our account and budget balances so that I know for sure how much money we have left in the different budget categories.   This is the first month that I have used the app, but it has helped me stay on track so far this month.  I can even enter new transactions while I am out and then just sync it with the main program at home so our accounts are always up-to-date.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Internet Down

So, I woke up this morning a saw a red light shining on our router.  I did not really think much about it since it said power next to it and I did not remember that the light is not usually red.  I found out later that the red light means our router is dead, so we currently do not have Internet access at our house.

Under normal circumstances, this would not be a problem, but I am teaching an online class this summer so not having an Internet connection makes it difficult to grade my students' work.  Thankfully my parents live nearby, so the little one and I are spending the afternoon at their house so I can stay caught up on my class work.

We will hopefully be up and running by the middle of this week and I can return to more regular posts.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Useful Ipod App: Errands

I wanted an Ipod touch to help keep me organized and stay on top of the various tasks that I need to complete around the house.  To do this, I decided to use the Errands app to help manage my daily, weekly, and monthly to-do list.

If I remember correctly, the full app cost $2.99, but the free version works well too.  I went ahead and bought the full version so I could get the updates sooner, but I have not noticed much difference between the full and free version

The app gives user the option to see their to-do list in a calendar format or in a list in the individual folders.  Users also have the option of seeing four tasks per screen or eight as well as the order in which they want the items to sort: due date/priority, priority/due date, alphabetical, or none (manual ordering). 

The app comes preloaded with some folders, but users can add their own.  To enter a task, users can do it from the specific folder they want the task to file under, or they can begin entering it under a different folder and change the folder assignment as they add the details of the task. 

I like to enter my tasks as a checklist so I can enjoy the satisfaction of marking each task as complete.  Users can also select the day they need to complete the task, the time by which to complete the task, an alert to remind them of the task, and a repeat cycle if the task is one they need to do again. 

I usually keep my Errands' list set on the All Tasks folder so I can see all the tasks in each folder that I need to complete.  I also have my app set to show a week's worth of tasks at a time so I can see what I need to do in the future. 

The app helps me keep stay on top of routine household tasks like sweeping the floor, cleaning the kitchen sink, and dusting the various rooms.  I like that I can set each task to repeat so that it will remind me when I need to complete the task again. 

I also use the app to remind me when to change out my disposable contacts and to know what days I can try and tackle some of the one-time projects around the house.

It comes in handy when I am trying to figure out what to do when I have a little extra time on my hand.  I have been amazed to learn how many tasks only take about fifteen minutes to complete.

I know that I could use a piece of paper, but then I would have to rewrite the various tasks I want to repeat, and if it is a task I only want to repeat every three or six months, I might forget about it all together.  Plus, this helps eliminate the clutter of having various to-do lists littering the house.

Tackle It Tuesday on Thursday

Tackle It Tuesday Meme


Now that my daughter is over a year old and with another little one on the way, I decided to finally tackle putting away all her former clothes.  I had already put some of the clothes in boxes, but I wanted to go back through all of them to make sure they were at least separated into the correct sizes, and I'm happy I did.  I found some boxes with multiple sizes mixed together.

Here is the mess after I took all the clothes and boxes out of her closet.  The little one had a ball dragging the clothes all over the living room.

After the little one went to sleep for the afternoon, I first separated all the clothes into the different sizes.  I then went to work separating each size into onesies, dresses, outfits, etc.

I was able to place the NB and 0-3 months clothes in one box as well as the 3 month and 3-6 month clothes.  After that, each size received its own box (my daughter is the first grandchild on both sides of the family, so a want for clothes she has never known).

The boxes are now neatly stacked in the spare room waiting to be taken up to the attic.  The clear box on top contains clothes that would also work for a boy, which is a good start because we just found out today that we need to collect a whole new wardrobe for the next little one.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yesterday's Baking Day

Since the weather was supposed to be a little cooler yesterday, I decided to do a little baking.  I like to try to avoid adding too much heat to the house when the thermometer reaches the century mark as is the forecast for the next few days.

I succeeded in making some wheat sweet dinner rolls and a loaf of wheat cinnamon raisin bread.

The original recipe just calls for white flour, but to make them a little healthier, I like to substitute 1 3/4 cups of wheat flour for the white flour.  These rolls have just the right amount of sweetness to them, and they come out very soft and chewy.  I have made them into cinnamon rolls as well with much success. 
This was my first time to make this bread.  I used the cinnamon raisin bread recipe from the cookbook that came with the bread machine, but I substituted whole wheat flour for the white bread flour.  It tastes pretty good, but I think that I am going to try a different recipe next time just to make sure a better recipe does not exist.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yard Work Update: Yeah for Rain

We received some much needed rain last week (along with some wicked storms and a near tornado).  According to our rain gauge, we receive 1 1/2 inches on Thursday evening and another 1/2 inch on Sunday morning. 

Of course, that meant the ground was too muddy to go in the back yard and separate dirt and rocks, so instead I spent some time early this week pulling weeds out of the front flower beds.  Why is it that my plants struggle to survive in the heat and the weeds seem to flourish? 

Today the ground was just right for digging in the rock pile, so I spent thirty minutes making a very small dent in the pile, but at least it is a dent.  I hope to get out there on a more consistent basis to work on the pile so maybe it will disappear faster.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Little One Is Growing Up

Our little girl turned 13-months-old last Friday, but today is the first time I have been away from her for an extended amount of time (by extended, I mean more than 4 hours). 

Since our next little one is due to arrive in the middle of November, I know that there will be a need for little one number one to stay overnight at the grandparents' house.  To ease into this idea, I decided that she should begin spending an entire day at her grandparents' once or twice a month.  I had a dentist appointment this afternoon scheduled during the her naptime, so I decided that today would be a good day to have her stay at the in-law's house.

I met them at 10:00 so they could take her back to her house.  The plan is to meet them again at 7:30 to bring her back home.  Nearly ten hours without my little girl.  I have to admit that I cried after I dropped her off and I am eager to see her again tonight. 

We are extremely fortunate to have both sets of grandparents live so close.   With her current status as the only grandchild on both sides of the family, both sets of grandparents anxiously wait for their time to spend with her. 

I have gotten quite a bit done, but it is entirely too quiet around this house.

Our Weekly Menu

Here is our menu for the week.  Right now, I still mainly just plan the main course and leave the sides up to chance.  We are not adventurous eaters, so our sides mainly consist of a rotation of vegetables like corn, green beans, peas, and potatoes.

Lunch
Grilled cheese
Leftovers
Refried beans and tortillas
Chicken tenders
Dine out
Leftovers
Bean and Bacon soup

Dinner
Cheesy chicken
Cheeseburger pasta
Grilled chicken
Papa Murphy's pizza
Sloppy Joes
Chicken Tenders
Chili

Monday, June 13, 2011

Budget Week Two

So far so good with sticking to my plan to stick to our grocery budget.  I did my grocery shopping last Tuesday, and I kept the total just under my goal for the week.  I have also done a good job this last week of only buying what we truly need and not buying any extras.

One issue I came across last week as I tried to prepare the meals I had planned for the week was not having the items in my pantry I thought that I had, so I had to change a couple of meals for the week, but I made a point of using the items I had and I did not go to the store to get what I needed. 

We also have avoided making a big purchases this month, and we are almost half way through the month.  Since we are in process of preparing our house for the arrival of a second little one, we have a wishlist of items that we feel would improve our storage situation (we do not have a basement) as we move our office out of the third bedroom to make room for a nursery.  Even though we have patiently looked at Craig's List waiting for the right items to become available at a lower cost, we do not absolutely need any of these items.  I am hoping that we will be able to hold off on these purchases for a few months and save up some more money in the budget.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Useful Ipod App: Mealboard

I realized that as I wrote about how much I liked my iPod touch, I did not give very many specific details about the apps that I like and why I like them.  As I would tell my students, I need to provide more specific information, so I thought that I would devote Fridays to highlighting apps that I like to use.

For people who like to plan their meals out in advance, Mealboard is a useful app to have.  This app gives users the opportunity to plan meals a week at a time for as many weeks into the future as they want, and it lets users add their personal meals to the different categories.  The app also gives users the option to change the categories to whatever categories they wish.

The app comes loaded with a few recipes and some basic categories like meat, poultry, veggie, salad, pasta, and dessert.  To help with planning different meals each day, I added a lunch and a breakfast category, so instead of having to search for meals under the traditional categories, I can quickly look at my lunch list and decide what we will have for lunch each day. 

Users can adjust what day of the week the meal plan begins on, which I find helpful for planning shopping trips.  Since I usually do my grocery shopping on a Tuesday, I have my meal plan set to begin on Wednesdays.  That way I can look at the upcoming week and know what items I need to buy.

One feature that I do not use is the shopping list feature.  When users enter a meal, they have the option to add the list of ingredients needed and the directions for the recipe.  Users do not have to enter this information, but if they do, they can run a report for the meal week that will tell them all the ingredients that they need for the week.

My planning usually just consists of the main dish for the meal but not the sides because I am doing good just to plan out the main dishes for the week, but users who like to plan every last detail can enter it all into the program.

One last feature that I also have not used is the template feature, which allows users to save a specific week's meal plan as a template to use again later.  I probably should use this feature as it would say quite a bit of planning time if I just had a handful of templates to choose from each week instead of creating new plans each week.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give this app an 8 because it is easy to use and it serves it purpose well.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Selling Books: Not Sure It Was Worth the Effort

With a second little one on the way, we need to transform our current office/storage room into an actual bedroom.  That means we need to go through our five bookcases filled with books and thin out our collection so we can then move the remaining books to new locations around the house.

Until today, we had set aside about three diaper boxes of books (diaper boxes are great all purpose items to have around the house).  I decided to take the books to a local used bookstore to see if they would buy any of them.  I did not figure we would get much out of the books, but I figured a little bit of money would be better than no money at all.

The lady who helped us must not have been having a very good day.  Even though my books and my sisters where the only books she had to go through, we had to wait over thirty minutes for the process to be completed (the store was not that busy either).  I had the little one with me, and she was not to happy to be stuck in her stroller for so long in one place. 

In the end, we received $10 for a few of our books.  The store has a book donation box outside of the store, so we just put the rest of the books in there.  Now I have to decide if I want to take future books to the store to sell or just save my time and donate the books to begin with. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Yard Disaster

Here are some pictures of our yard, some of the work we have done, and examples of much of the work that we still need to do.  This 100 degree heat has not really helped our situation any.  I don't want to go outside to sort rocks in the heat and all our plants are drying up.

As you will see in the other pictures of our backyard, there are four different types of fences.  This awful looking fence in the front of the house is standing up by prayers alone.  We have had to put in metal posts to help support the fence for the time being.  We hope to replace the fence soon with a much more attractive and traditional one.

Here are some pictures of our back yard.  As you can see, the rock pile is still there waiting for me to come out and begin digging and sorting again.  Unfortunately, with all of this heat, the dirt is going to be especially hard and difficult to separate from the rock.  I hope we get some rain soon to soften the dirt.
 
In these two pictures you can see our poor attempt at growing grass.  Part of our problem is that we are horrible about watering the grass seed once it is planted.  We are looking into having a sand well installed so that we can water the lawn without worrying about the cost.  If  you have any thoughts on that issue, we would be happy to hear them.



In the first shot below, you will see some crazy snap dragons that came back volunteer this year even though they are supposed to just be an annual.  The remaining shots are of the various planting beds we have in the front of the house.  The two main beds did not have the paths of rocks until we created the paths a couple of years ago.  I like the paths because they help break up the beds and make it a little easier to manage.  I have just about all the plants I plan to plant in the back bed of the south planting area.  I just hope that they will survive the heat. 




Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Strange Habit

I often hear people joke about their OCD tendencies, and I think that everyone probably has their quirks.  One of my strange habits that I recently realized is that I have a specific way that I like to remove eggs from the carton.

When I use an egg, I begin on the outside of the carton and work my way towards the middle.  Not only that, if I need to use two eggs, I have to take them from the two different ends and they have to be diagonal from one another.  It is a bit of a bother if I have to use three eggs as it unbalances the carton, but at times it cannot be helped.

I have no idea how I started this habit, or why, but it throws me off if someone else takes eggs from the carton incorrectly.  Fortunately, it is uncommon for anyone else to remove the eggs from the carton here at our house.

What strange or quirky habits do you have?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sticking to the Budget

Ugh, the B word.  Why is it so difficult to stick to a budget?  We have not been doing so well these last few months, so we are determined to stick tightly to our budget this month. 

It's funny, I figured that I would do better with our grocery budget as soon as Lucy no longer needed to drink formula, but last month I spent more on our grocery budget than I had before when I was buying her formula. 

One plan I have for sticking to the grocery budget is to only do major grocery shopping every other week and to try and use up the items in my pantry.  I struggle with wanting to keep my pantry stocked, so I tend to forget about or just not use the items that I already have.  Since we do not have a large house or a large pantry, I know that I need to use up the items I have before I buy more.

I have continued to plan our meals at least a week in advance using the MealBoard app on my Ipod touch, but I still buy items that we do not necessarily need for my planned meals.  This is another area I plan to work on to help us stick to our budget better.

So, here's to sticking to our budgets and being good stewards with the abundant blessings that God has given us!