Sunday, February 26, 2012

Weekly Menu

Last week I deviated from the menu plan and snuck spaghetti in instead of the Chicken and Stuffing.  Let me tell you, the kids were NOT happy.  The kids aren't quite the fan of spaghetti and meatballs that Mike and I are.  I hear lots of crabbing from the kids about how often we make it.  Oh well, when they start paying for the food and doing the cooking they will get to plan the menu :)

Since the Chicken and Stuffing recipe is Belle's favorite, we're going to go ahead and try it again this week.  I had been hoping to get four family meals in this week but Mike is on second shift three nights so we're having some more planned take-out (versus the unplanned I've been doing!) since it's just the kids and I.

I'm still playing around with my Grocery IQ app.  It's a little cumbersome in that while you can scan the item you want to your list, the price needs to be added manually.  Since I really want to use this as a gauge for how much I'm spending, that was an important feature I want to take advantage of.  Hopefully next week I'll have used it enough to critque it for you.

That's what's on my menu for the week, what's on yours?

Feel free to shar a link in the comment section to your menu.

I'll be posting this at Life as Mom, I'm an Organizing Junkie and Money Saving Mom

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Butterfinger Cupcakes

I have a knack for baking.  When I'm asked to bring something to a potluck it's usually some kind of desert.  I'm also going to admit to a little vanity.  I like that everyone thinks that I'm a good baker and I am always on the look out for recipes to up the baking ante.  I'm also going to admit to the fact that creativity is not a strong suit.  Luckily for me the internet is filled with delicious recipes that have the WOW factor I'm looking for.

This week I stumbled across this recipe for Buttefinger Cupcakes on Plain Chicken, does it not look absolutely delicous?  I don't know when I'm going to bake these but I'm looking forward to the opportunity to wow my friends and family with these.

Photo from Plain Chicken

According to the author she was inspired to create these after enjoying a similar cupcake at Disney.  The dipping of the cupcakes in chocolate will make these a little putzy to make but I think it will be well worth the effort.  You can find the link to the recipe here

Let me know if you make them and how they turn out for you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

January Decorating Project

When I look around my house I see so many things that need to be done around the house but I just never get to. When I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in 2012 I decided to tackle those decorating projects that never seemed to make it to the top of the list. 2011 was my year to organize, 2012 will be my year to decorate!

Back in January I listed 12 decorating projects I wanted to complete in 2012. I chose this first one to tackle because honestly, it was the easiest one to do and was bothering me the most!

Does anyone remember when there used to be phones that hung on the wall? You know, before we carried them around in our pockets? I know I’m dating myself but I’m sure there are some of you out there that remember house phones.

We haven’t had a house phone in over two years, but we still hadn’t managed to get rid of our house phone. This phone was a hunter green (matched my hunter green counter tops – how’s that for coordinating) and hung on our deep red wall. In full view of everyone. Everyone who knew we no longer had a house phone number.

The problem with getting rid of the house phone was that it was connected to the wall. The wall which would have a big gaping hole if removed. The wall that is deep red and difficult to paint. The other problem is that when we had a house phone I had solved my decorating dilemma by hanging up a picture that I absolutely loved and really didn’t want to remove. What’s a girl to do?

I decided to head to one of my favorite decorating stores, Hobby Lobby, and see what they had in the way of solutions for me. I decided that I didn’t need “the perfect solution” but one that I could live with until I stumbled upon something that I absolutely adored.

Before I left I measured the minimum and maximum dimensions I had available. When looking for items to hang on your walls this is important since sizes look very different in a store versus hanging on your wall!

After wondering around for about an hour, picking thing up and putting them down, I came across a picture of the Eiffel Tower that fit my dimensions. My kitchen has a little bit of a French theme to it, so it piqued my interest a bit. I decided to take it home to see how it looked on my wall.

Long story short, the picture is still hanging on my wall and I’m pretty pleased with the overall result. I don’t LOVE it, but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when deciding what to do with a space.

1. What are you trying to accomplish? In my case I really just wanted to get rid of the phone and get a comprehensive look to the wall.

2. Do you have to love it or are you willing to compromise? This is a spot I was willing to compromise on, there are times when I’m unwilling to compromise

3. What size do you need?

I've found Hobby Lobby and Gordman's to be great places to find reasonably priced prints.  The selections change frequently so if you find something you really like I'd snap it up, it may not be there next time.

Here is the picture I ended up putting up.  I repurposed the other picture for a different part of the house that I'll share a diffferent time.

A few years ago I changed all the lights and handles in my house to brushed nickel. I'm debating whether I should switch out my light switches to brushed nickel as well, what do you think?
Have you done any decorating recently?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What a Productive Day!

This was Mike's weekend to work.  I actually like it when he works because I get so much accomplished.  Don't get me wrong, I love having him around.  It's just that when he's home on the weekends I don't want to spend my weekend working around the house, I want to enjoy being with him.  However, since I work so many hours during the week I don't usually have the time or energy to do anything around the house in the evening.  Hence my weekend dilemma - work versus play.

Here was what I accomplished this weekend.

1.  Spent time with family

The kids and I went out for breakfast with my parents.  I was unpleasantly surprised by how expensive breakfast with the kids was but we go out (for breakfast) so infrequently I couldn't turn down the New York Strip with eggs request.  My omelet was pretty good too :)

We also had a baby shower for my cousin's wife.  It's their third baby and a "surprise" (ALWAYS keep your crib - it stops the surprises!) so her friends threw her a shower.  While I'm not a big fan of the games (I did win the word scramble game - I may not like them but I'm awfully competitive!) it was very nice getting to see extended family that I don't usually see.  The meal was pretty good too.

2.  Shopped

This didn't go so well.  I need a formal dress, undergarments, a swimsuit and some pants for our upcoming vacation.  I shopped for about two hours and ended up with nothing.  While the clothes shopping wasn't very productive I did pick up the present for the baby shower.  I'm going to have to find some more time to shop in the coming weeks.

3.  Baked & Decorated for Fat Tuesday

In case you didn't know, this Tuesday is "Fat Tuesday".  Things have been so busy at work that I thought it would be fun to celebrate, my way of attempting to build morale.  I baked a King's Cake, bought decorations and decorated the office for Mardi Gras.  Belle and I had a lot of fun decorating, below is the wall outside of my office.  Everyone has something outside their cube, plus I bought everyone masks and beads.

Here is the recipe I used for my King's Cake.  I haven't cut it yet but it looks really good!  Typically you would have a plastic or porcelain baby inside the King's Cake.  The person who finds the baby gets to throw the party next year.  I didn't have time to buy the baby so I'm going against tradition and not including one.  I guess that means I get to throw the party next year.

Since Michael didn't work this morning (he usually gets stuck working Sunday mornings) I surprised the kids with cinnamon rolls and blueberry muffins.  I was the kid's favorite mother today :)

4.  Cooked

We had an excellent dinner this evening.  At Christmas one of the stores ran a special where you could buy a turkey and get a free ham.  I took advantage of the sale and used our free ham tonight.  We also had corn, salad, sweet potatoes and corn bread - yum!

While I was in the kitchen I whipped up a batch of White Chicken Chili.  This is a recipe I had gotten from Weight Watchers about 10 years.  At that time one cup of chili was worth one point.  I'm trying to eat healthier, this is a good meal for me to take to work for lunch.

5.  A Clean House

OK - I can't take credit for this.  Between the kids and the women I hire to do my cleaning I have a spotless house and folded laundry.  Hey - even Wonder Woman had the other Amazons help her occasionally.  Hiring someone to clean my house was one of the best things I've ever done.  What would you do with four extra hours every other week?

5.  Wrote

While the ladies were cleaning my house, I was ensconced in my bedroom writing.  I was able to pound out a number of posts for the coming week.  Of course not as many as I would have liked but it was a start.  It's much harder getting a week's worth of posts out than I thought it would be.  I need to find a way to carve out a few more hours a week for writing.

As you can tell there really wasn't any relaxing this wekend.  I also didn't get any exercise in, to be honest last week wasn't a strong exercise week.  That will be changing this coming week.

Did you have a productive weekend?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Weekly Menu

I didn't post our menu last week, mostly because I really didn't cook!  Last Sunday I made spaghetti, but other than that I worked late, Belle had a band concert and dance lessons, Michael had school and Mike worked two second shifts.  Not a lot of family time! 

This week is still busy but we should be able to squeeze in three family dinners which lately is our norm.  My work schedule is still pretty busy so my game plan this week was to plan meals that I could either make ahead or that someone else could put together so that when I walk in the door we can eat.

Speaking of work, about a month ago they replaced our Blackberry's with IPhones.  I really wasn't on the IPhone band wagon until I had one.  All I can say is "AWESOME!"  I absolutely love my IPhone and now cannot imagine life without it.  Last week our IS department had a training session so we understood the features and some of the apps that were available to us.  One of the apps that the trainer mentioned was Grocery IQ.  I've downloaded it and am starting to play around with it (the company allows us to use our phone for personal apps as long as we aren't charging them to the company or they are innappropriate).  I think it's going to help our list dilemma (i.e. I get calls, texts and scribbled notes with items to add to my list).  Once I master the app I'll write a post about it so you can decide if it's something you would find useful.

Here's my plan for the week:

Ham, sweet potatoes, strawberry salad, corn, corn bread - I do tweak the ham recipe and add pineapple and cloves.
Haddock(stuffed and baked), rice pilaf, salad, glazed carrots
Chicken and Stuffing, applesauce, cranberries, corn, bread
Pizza with friends
Take Out
Fend for yourself   x2

I'll also be making a pot of white chicken chili for my lunch during the week.  I'm trying to eat a little healthier and I absolutely LOVE this chili.  It's very yummy.

That's what is on our menu for the week, what's on yours?  Feel free to post a link in the comment section.

I've be linking this up at I'm an Organizing Junkie, Life as Mom and Money Saving Mom

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Heart Shaped Creme Brulee

I stumbled across this recipe while looking for something special to make.  I absolutely LOVE creme brulee and will need to make this.

Here's the link to the recipe

Valentine's Day Dessert Recipe - Creme Brulee

How and Why I Menu Plan

I haven't always menu planned.  For many years menu planning seemed a little overwhelming and time consuming.  There have been many, many nights where I have stood in front of the refrigerator/freezer/pantry, waiting for a meal to magically rise up and float over to my counter.  Guess what - never happened.

Here are the benefits that I have found to menu planning. 
  • Food does sometimes magically appear on the dinner table.  If I have a plan and articulate that plan to the family, my husband and kids can successfully put the meal on the table alleviating a lot of stress for me. 
  • Saves money.  When I enter the grocery store knowing exactly what I need I'm not wondering the aisles plopping food willy nilly in the cart.
  • Alleviates decision making.  Sometimes at the end of the day I just do NOT want to make one more decision. I know, corn versus carrots isn't life altering but if I've had a rough day it's almost enough to send me over the edge. 
So, you've decided to start menu planning.  Now what?  Here are the steps that I take to plan my menu.
  • "Whatcha feel like this week?"  That's usually the way I start my plan.  Family meals are all about the family.  I like my husband and kids to have some input into what we eat for the week.
  • Check our schedules.  Before I can plan a menu I need to know how many days we're going to be able to eat together.
  • Check my freezer stash.  I like freezer cooking.  If I have a well-stocked freezer I usually make sure that one of our meals comes from our freezer.
  • Check what I have in inventory.  Sometimes I have all the ingredients for a meal already in stock saving me money that week
  • Check out bookmarked recipes.  Any of my regular followers know that I don't always try a lot of new recipes, my family likes the tried and true.  However, as I'm combing through magazines and Pinterest I come across certain recipes that I think my family would like and I'll stick them back for that special week.  
Once I decide what's on my menu for the week I pull out the recipes and check for ingredients.  I've seen blogs where the authors actually pull the ingredients for the week and put them in baskets based on the recipe.  Not something that works for me but it may work for you.

My grocery list is kept on my computer in an Excel file (what can I say, I'm an Excel girl!).  We buy a lot of the same items every week so I keep a spreadsheet of all items we buy laid out in order of the store.  As I identify items I need I highlight them, oddball items are thrown into empty spaces I've left.  Once I've identified our meals for the week I inventory the rest of our food like cereal, granola bars, etc.

That's the method to my madness, what's yours?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Weekly Goals

I like having goals.  I view goals as the roadmap to help me get to my destination.  Of course, when taking a trip we sometimes need to veer off course a little which is fine.  If we have a map we can always adjust and figure out a way to get back on track.  Goals are the map that help you get back on track.

My biggest goal for 2012 is to try and live a healthier lifestyle.  What exactly is a "healthier lifestyle"?  When I think about my goals I try to break them down and really identify what it means to me so that I can identify success.  Here is what a healthier lifestyle looks like to me, it may look different to you
  • Regular exercise
  • Healthier food choices
  • Taking care of ongoing health issues
  • Less work, more play
Once I identified what a healthy lifestyle looked like to me I sat down and wrote out what was preventing me from already leading a healthy lifestyle.  The very first one that I tackled was regular exercise since I felt that would resolve some of my other issues.  Here is what prevents me from exercising regularly.

Lack of time
  • I, like many other women, am really busy.  Here's a sample of what I try to squeeze into a typical day.
    • Daily commute of 1 - 1.5 hours
    • 9 - 10 hours at work
    • Errands/running of kids
    • Cooking and housework
    • Writing/networking
    • Spending time with family
  • Notice - there is no exercise listed.  I never made it a priority because all those other things took precedence.  Exercise takes time, there is no way around it.
Lack of motivation
Difficulty getting to the gym
Discomfort from to many people seeing me vulnerable (have you ever tried swimming laps at the YMCA while the swim team was practicing?)
Discomfort resulting from exercise

Once I identified the list of excuses that was preventing me from exercising I started cutting them down.  I find that excuses, no matter how legitimate, are the shield that keeps us from admitting the true reason we don't do something.  Sometimes it's fear, sometimes it's laziness.  It doesn't really matter what it is.  If I can strip away all the noise I'm just left with myself and I really hate having to admit that the only reason I don't exercise is because I'm to lazy.

Here are the steps I've taken to commit to exercising

-Joined a new gym.  I actually have access to two other gyms but they weren't meeting my needs.  I found a new gym that:
  • I passed every day on my way to work - couldn't use the inconvenient excuse
  • Has a movie room.  How cool is that??  This gym actually has a movie theater with bikes, treadmills and elipticals instead of seats.  No commercials and it's actually motivated me to stay longer so that I can see the end of the movie.  Boredom - solved
  • Has a lap pool.  I love swimming, even though I'm not very good.  This gym has a small lap pool that isn't very busy and is tucked out of the way so no one sees you unless they are trying to swim.  Whereas the lap pool at the Y is in an area that is connected to the family swim area, the swim team practices at and EVERYONE who is at the Y can see you.  Vulnerability - taken care of
-Decided that my health was the motivation that I needed.  I want to be able to keep up with my husband and kids while vacationing, I don't want to be in pain all the time, I don't want to take blood pressure medicine, I want to be able to chase my grandkids around.  Motivation - check

-Physical discomfort, this has actually been the hardest for me.  Any time muscles are used that have been dormant for a while there is discomfort that goes along with it.  The past few weeks have been pretty hard on the body.  I'm struggling to work through some knee issues but I'm going to keep plugging along.  I've been using Epsom salt baths, heating pads, ice packs and ibuprofen to work through the aches and pains. 

-Time.  The real crux of the issue.  If I try working at night there is a whole new host of excuses that crop up.  When I look at my day the best time for me to exercise is early morning.  My body clock is set to wake up at 5am.  Most days I would write or putz around the house.  I've committed to using that time to work out.  I pack my gym bag the night before, roll out of bed and go to the gym without showering.  After working out I shower and get ready at the gym making it to work by 7:30 - 8am.

The result has been pretty good so far.  As I stated I'm still working through some physical issues but I'm hoping those will go away soon.  Here are my healthy lifestyle goals for the week:
  • Work out with personal trainer one time
  • Make it to the gym four times
  • Log my food for the week
As you can see these aren't outrageous goals but ones that I'll feel pretty good about if I'm successful. 

What are your goals for the week?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Paying Cash for Braces

Braces are a dreaded necessary for many of us parents with pre-teen to teenage children. Fortunately our older child didn’t require them — but we knew early on that our younger child would need them.

Our daughter recently had her braces put on and I’m happy to say that we were able to pay for them with cash. Our ability to do so was the result of advanced planning, research and taking advantage of several programs.

Here’s what we did…

For the rest of the story head on over to Money Saving Mom!

Weekly Menu

As I stated in my last post, life has been a little hectic here at the WWIN household.  I'm very fortunate to have a family that rolls with the punches, loves take out, doesn't complain (to much) when things are going haywire and pitches to help when mom loses and starts yelling at them asks nicely.

The last couple of weeks haven't involved any menu planning and actually required my 21 year old son to do the family grocery shopping.  I have to say he did a pretty good job, so good in fact that he'll be doing more of it in the future!

Now that I feel a little bit more in control, I sat down and planned a menu for the week.

Haddock, rice pilaf, corn, applesauce, bread
Taco bar
Brats, roasted potatoes, glazed carrots, cranberry relish (we're taking advantage of the unseasonally warm weather to grill this week)
Fend for yourself  (X2)

Take out (X2)
Three family meals may not sound like a lot, but based on all of our schedules it's all we can accomplish so I'll take it.  When we aren't all together I don't bother cooking.  I figure that there is always plenty of food in the house and everyone is old enough to make their own food.

Due to the purchase of the haddock and brats, our grocery bill was a little high this week but we are still staying within our monthly budget.  However, I was able to pick up $12 in coupons at the store which I was pretty excited about.  I don't typically cut coupons (our grocery store hangs coupons by the product), but there was a $5 coupon for purchasing 10 General Mills items.  Old El Paso taco seasoning was included in the 10 items.  The price of Old El Paso taco seasoning at our store is $.69.  Buying ten of them cost $6.90, after the $5 coupon I was able to get ten for $1.90.  I was pretty stoked about such a good deal. 
That's my menu for the week.  What's on your plate?  Feel free to share a link in the comment section.

I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

The Sound of Silence


That's all you've been hearing from me for the last couple of weeks.  I need to apologize for not posting but sometimes we need to go into lock down to survive the stress of our lives, which is what I've needed to do the last couple of weeks.

First of all, let me say nothing bad happened.  Everyone is fine, I just was completely overwhelmed with "stuff" and needed to concentrate on completing the "must do".  Sadly my blogging didn't fall into that category.

January was a very rough month for me.  Here are some of the highlights:
  • Two weeks of travel (one personal, one business)
  • Major project at work resulting in more work hours required
  • Upheaval with schedules at home resulting in significantly more running for the momma
  • My commitment to a more healthy lifestyle
  • Not feeling well (combination of working out, travel and catching a cold)
My biggest obstacle to blogging the last couple of weeks was my commitment to a more healthy lifestyle.  As a working wife and mother, who to remind you is NOT Wonder Woman, finding time to blog without disrupting the family is difficult.  Typically I write for an hour or so in the morning before going to work and try to reply to comments and network in the evening.  When I sat down and went through my list of excuses for not exercising, time was at the top of the list.  Morning is really a good time for me to work out, but that cuts into writing time. 

Another issue is my son is taking a number of night classes this semester.  What this means that I need to do the running in the evening that he was doing for me, cutting into my commenting and networking time. 

When life throws us curve balls we need to reassess our situation, hunker down to wait out the storm and figure out a way to move forward with our new normal.  Temporarily putting my writing last was what I needed to do to weather this storm but I've also sketched out a new plan of action so I can continue to consistently post.

Going forward I'll be doing most of my writing on the weekends while still trying to spend some time in the evenings commenting and networking.  I usually have Saturday mornings free so my goal will be to utilize that time for writing.  I've also downloaded the Dragon APP to my new IPhone, (which I absolutely love!) this has been helping me to get down my thoughts regarding posts on my commute to and from work.  My goal is to get at least a week's worth of posts in the hopper by Sunday evening. 

Here are the posts I have written for the week:
  • My Weekly Menu Planning
  • Goal Planning for the Week
  • How and Why I Menu Plan
  • January Decorating Update
  • January Financial Update
Thanks for sticking with me during my leave of absence.  Hope you enjoy the upcoming posts.