Friday, August 29, 2008

Checking in...

What a week! We had a fantastic time at Schlitterbahn, once we finally arrived. It took us almost 4 1/2 hours to get there, thanks to this mess. We were prepared for rain off and on during the day but it never came. The crowds were very small and by 4 pm we were just walking on the rides. As we were leaving the waterpark, Audrey said, "I could live here" in her very matter-of-fact way.

We ended up leaving a lot later than we wanted to so I didn't have time to check into my hotel before the Beth Moore conference. I changed in the car and then Josh suggested I take the contents of my suitcase and dump them in the totebag we had brought to Schlitterbahn so I wouldn't be rolling around the Alamodome like a (very disheveled) flight attendant. So picture me with my wet hair in a ponytail, wet spots on the butt of my cute trouser jeans from sitting on the wet towel, carrying this:

It's ginormous. This gave Candace much pleasure and she commented several times with variations of, "I can't believe you with the Ikea bag," and "You are just cracking me up with the Ikea bag." (It's 4 foot by 2 foot and is very noisy.) But I got her back when at the end of the conference Beth had us join hands with someone and look into their eyes for some good ole Stuart Smalley affirmation. You can know she was just loving that. We might make it a weekly exercise. (I can feel you squirming, Candace.)

The conference was so good--I particularly loved Beth's description of the afterlife and her assertion that we are going to live!--not just exist and be ghosts. It's called eternal life! I'd really like to get it on cd and let Josh listen to it (he has admitted that eternity kind of freaks him out).

We didn't have a ride home but in the hotel lobby ran into Amber and her friends who agreed to let us ride home. We had so much fun and ate about 3 days worth of calories at Pappasitos.

More later (this only covers Friday and Saturday), but wanted to share what we had for dinner last night. The other Cantonese Pork Tenderloin from the freezer, stir-fried in this pork fried rice. I also added corn, carrots, and peas and 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Very good and easy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My favorite things...

Talking with Abbey yesterday I told her about the calendar my mom bought me for Christmas a couple of years ago that I can't live without now. It's a great pocket file folder calendar that hangs on our office wall. I liked it so much I bought three last year as Christmas gifts. It is just the right amount of organization for someone who likes a little order to their chaos, and that's why I think it's worked so well. Most systems I've tried are too organized and I'm not disciplined enough to keep up with it.

So here's how it works for us. When I flip to the new month I look at everything in the pocket, write little notes if I need to, and if it's really important for that week (i.e. a bill) I'll clip it to the front of the calendar. The best part of the calendar is that the months tear off into standard size real file folders, which is great if you are using it as a tax prep file or receipt tracker.

Here's what (was) in my August folder:

-the list of 19 library books I checked out due August 29 so I don't forget any
-my Gap bill of $48.54 due on August 15
-the Schlitterbahn tickets
-the Astros tickets we got in May
-Audrey's school supply list
-the adoption reference letter I'm bringing to Anna next week
-the Cub Club renewal user name and password
-my receipt to submit for reimbursement when we get the August Health Savings account statement
-a penny. no clue why.

Hope this helps if you're like me and have a million pieces of paper that have no home! And now, to illustrate the delicious irony of me giving organizational advice, a picture of the rest of my office.

Uh-oh. I think this just got added to my before and after.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

We tried these muffins last week (another winner from Melissa's notebooks) and they are delicious and a tiny bit healthy! Love them. The only downside is that they don't really dome up to give you a good muffin top. I halved the lemon zest.

Week 6: Monday Menus

I've been slacking on my menu planning and our food bill shows it.

We went to Houston for Sunday and Monday and Black Sarah was waiting for us with homemade pizza dough when we got back to Temple!

burgers at the French Quarter


White Chicken Chili

We're headed to Schlitterbahn with our free tickets from HEB and then I'm staying for the Living Proof Live conference in San Antonio.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The next time I get married...

I'm doing it here. Here are some shots from David and Sarah's wedding last weekend.

The happy couple...

Isn't this view spectacular?

The weather cooled off pretty quickly when the sun went down.

The groom's cake celebrated their first date.

Dad and me with Molly (in a taffeta dress Black Sarah made her). I'm tempted to close comments on this one in case Candace decides to gross me out.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Getting started earlier than I had planned...

Patrick decided to "help" me get started on the playroom but conveniently had to leave before his masterpiece was complete.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The before...

Here we go. This a list of super simple things about my house that have been bugging me. My goal is to get this list done by Labor Day.

How cute is this house plant Blonde Sarah bought me? I love its spikiness. Yet still it sits in its plastic container. So Task #1 will be to buy a cute planter for that.

Next will be my sad, lonely windows in the kitchen. I have some great fabric and I will probably do a mistreatment so I won't spend a ton of time or money on curtains that are very likely (okay definitely) apt to become home to some banana slices or a spray of ketchup.

Ugh. The playroom is killing me. I want to go through and box up or give away more than half of these toys and make all the grandparents solemnly swear to not give us any more. I also want to frame some big prints of the kids above this awesome chest Beth and Glen gave me.

This is the most ambitious. These bookcases are just ugly. I want to put away half the books, get some cute knick-knacks (much to Black Sarah's horror), and paint the backs of the shelves. Notice Audrey "posing like Mommy" in my before shot. I am not very skilled at making things like this look pretty so I will very likely have to call in some reinforcements.

Summer projects

Okay where did our summer go? Fur-fur and I had a long list of projects we were going to accomplish this summer. We had a lot of fun but didn't get much crossed off the list.

The whole reason I started this blog was to participate in BooMama's Before and After. Then it got postponed and a month later I still haven't finished anything on our list! So I'm determined to get cracking.

I'll start today by posting the stuff we did get done. Maybe it will inspire me to further greatness. (Stop laughing.)

Here's my favorite--we sewed on a bunch of cute ribbon and ric-rac on Sydni's curtains to jazz them up a bit.

I did buttonholes in these patio cushions so they could be tied on the chairs and not be blown all over the yard. Buttonholes are really easy on my new machine!

Here's Kendall's very belated birthday present. She's going to be weaned from the pacifier soon so hopefully this will be a good replacement. I thought this one was pretty but not as cuddly as I wanted it.

So I made this one which is super cuddly but not very cute.

So hopefully she can use the fuzzy one at home when she needs soothing and the chenille one out and about when she wants to look her best.

Last but not least, Beth helped me recover my dining room chairs. My good friend Joanna gave me this beautiful dining set but it had tonal cream on white striped fabric seats. In the two years we've had it we've managed green beans, chocolate, and maybe blood stains on the beautiful white fabric. So I found this tapestry at Hancock's on clearance for $5.99/yd and snatched it up. With the staple gun and electric screwdriver the whole thing took less time than an episode of Project Runway.

Tomorrow I'll post my before pictures for the Before and After projects.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Week 5: Monday Menus

better late than never, right?

Last night we had beef soft tacos with queso, salsa, and Spanish rice.

burgers, oven fries, and Zummo links

Burritos (stuffed with leftover taco meat and rice) topped with Ranchero Sauce

Chicken and Rice. Can I say I LOVE Uncle Ben's?

Orzo Risotto with Buttery Shrimp. Melissa lent me 2 binders full of great recipes she's clipped from magazines and I want to try almost all of them!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Eating on a budget

I know my menus lately haven't been super budget-friendly, but they are improving! Believe it or not last year I was spending about $225 per week at the grocery store and I have that down to about $125 now. My vbf encouraged me to share some of my cheap eats. Last month we paid Audrey's annual preschool tuition bill so we were, how do you say?--tightening our belt. Here's what worked for us...
  • Menu planning. This is the number one thing that helped immensely in keeping costs lower. It helped in making sure we use what's already in the freezer and pantry, plus also prevents that 6 pm panic that causes last-minute runs for take-out.
  • Strategic use of leftovers. Monday night's roasted chicken turns into Tuesday night's chicken pot pie. Wednesday's taco filling turns into Thursday's taco soup.
  • Double up. I pretty much don't make anything that I don't make a double recipe of and immediately stick half in the freezer. It's great for stretching dishes because sauces and pastas can really make things go further.
  • Eggs, eggs, eggs. My favorite cheap source of protein. Quiches, fritattas, or good old "breakfast for dinner" is great. Who doesn't love pancakes? Oh, right, me.
  • Go meatless. Twice a week try black bean quesadillas or briami.
  • No leftovers for lunches. I got this idea from my major-mom-crush Kim R. It's much cheaper to prepare lunches (sandwiches, soups, salads, etc) than it is dinner, so the rule in their house is dinner leftovers are for dinner. So she typically cooks for two or three nights, and then has a fend-for-yourself night where everyone scavenges leftovers.
  • Save fresh produce for a special treat. Frozen fruit and vegetables are excellent quality and usually are a better buy.

Any other tips?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Week 4: Monday Menus

Last week we pretty much stuck to the menu...though we did Chick-fil-A instead of red beans and rice. The roast chicken with bread salad I posted was awesome. So so good...try it! The recipe looks a little daunting (four pages long!) but it's very simple, she just explains the procedure very well.

The theme is this week is no oven again. Also a tiny bit healthy. (I have to fit into this dress this weekend!) Black Sarah will be here so grilled cheese and cereal won't do.

Here goes.

Seared Chicken with White Wine Sauce
This is basically just pan seared chicken with some white wine, butter, and chicken broth used to deglaze the pan drippings.

Steaks with Herbed Butter

Grilled Tilapia

Red Beans and Rice

Sandwiches (chicken salad and roast beef)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Frugal Friday Edition #3

Just a couple of things for Frugal Friday...

Amazon is having a great Stride Rite sale. Check out these cute sandals for only $15 (regularly $32.95). When you add them to your cart they ring up an extra 20% off the list price, making them $12! I picked up these for Audrey for next spring (cost less than the cheap ones I got at Wal-Mart!).

Pottery Barn Kids has this stocking and it would be a great baby gift for only $5.99--I would leave it un-monogrammed so it could be used for future younger siblings.
This isn't exactly a steal, but I'm in love with this apron and it's on sale!

Target has lots of shoes 75% off. We found these for $5.50 today.

Also HEB has split chicken breasts at an almost-unheard-of $1/lb. These are skin-on, bone-in, which I actually greatly prefer to boneless skinless for the extra flavor the skin imparts during roasting and the bone during poaching.