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

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

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

  • 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).

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

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

  • 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. 

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

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

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.